Joba out a few days with oblique issue

Via Brian Costello, Joba Chamberlain is going to be out a few days with a minor oblique issue. The team hopes he’ll be able to get back into a game on Wednesday or Thursday. Sergio Mitre was lost for a few days with a similar issue as well. Hopefully the Yankees’ fifth starter won’t miss too much action, the season’s less than three weeks away There’s no rush, Joba’s just a fungible middle reliever and will only need a handful of appearances to get back into game shape. Better off letting this heal up before forcing the issue.

The RAB Radio Show: March 14, 2011

We’re back after a brief hiatus with some looks at developments in Yankees camp. They sent a few pitchers to minor league camp, which is standard for this part of the spring. Do these moves give us an idea of the Yankees’ big picture?

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Yankees get Kontos back from San Diego

(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The Yankees waved goodbye to their two Rule 5 Draft picks (Robert Fish and Daniel Turpen) over the weekend, but today they welcomed back one of their own. The Padres have announced that right-hander George Kontos has cleared waivers and been returned to New York. The Yankees must reimburse San Diego half of the original $50,000 Rule 5 Draft fee, and I believe he’ll be off the 40-man roster now.

You’ll be familiar with Kontos if you’ve been reading this site long enough. The 25-year-old was originally a fifth round pick back in 2006, though he missed the second half of 2009 and the first half of 2010 after having Tommy John surgery. The former starter shifted to the bullpen after returning, pitching to a 3.93 FIP in 57.2 IP (counting the Arizona Fall League). He owned a 3.54 FIP before going under the knife. Baseball America ranked Kontos as the Padres’ 27th best prospect in the latest edition of their Prospect Handbook, saying he projects out as a middle reliever.

It’s not terribly surprising that San Diego didn’t have room for Kontos; their bullpen is stacked top-to-bottom with quality arms for every role imaginable. He didn’t pitch well in limited Spring Training action (3.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 2 K), so expendable he became. Kontos will join guys like Ryan Pope and Mark Prior as upper level bullpen fodder throughout the season. The Padres were unable to carry Ivan Nova as a Rule 5 guy a few years ago, and now he’s very much in the running for a Opening Day spot on the 25-man active roster.

As for Lance Pendleton, the other guy the Yankees lost in the Rule 5 Draft, he’s got a decent shot at making the Astros in some capacity, likely in middle relief or mop-up work. He hasn’t been great in camp (6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 3 K), but Houston has some room to carry the local kid and would benefit from giving an extended look through at least April. If Pendleton does end up back with the Yankees, then great, it’s another arm for the stable.

2011 Season Preview: Mariano Rivera

As we count down the days and weeks leading up to the season, we’re going to preview the 2011 Yankees by looking at each of their core players and many, many more. A new preview will go up every day, Monday through Friday, from now until Opening Day.

(Kathy Willens/AP)

One day Mariano will grow old. Years ago writers tried to predict his decline. A blip on the radar would inspire articles questioning whether he could continue dominating hitters. It still hasn’t happened. In fact, there have been fewer articles predicting his decline in recent years than there were wen he was in his mid-30s. He’s been that dominant in the past few years. 

In some ways, Mo’s 2010 was better than his 2009. His strikeout rate dipped, but so did his WHIP and home run rate. His numbers won’t stay this way forever, but he’s given no indication that he’s ready to slow down. 

Best Case

(Tony Gutierrez/AP)

Is there really a ceiling for Mo? Sure, he won’t pitch 80 innings and allow two earned runs, but his ceiling isn’t too far off from that. In an absolute best case, he’s probably good for 70 innings and a 1.50 ERA. That’s around his performance from 2008, when, at age 38, he produced the best ERA+ of his career. If anyone can repeat that task three years later, at age 41, it’s Mariano.

To hammer home the best case scenario, we can put Mariano’s performance at age 40 into context. Since 1980 there have been only 34 instances of a relief pitcher aged 40 or higher throwing 50 or more innings. Of those, only 19 have produced an ERA+ of 120 or higher. Mariano’s 238 ERA+ from last year ranks first on the list. That he could top that at age 41 boggles the mind.

Worst Case

Even the worst case scenario for Mariano this year isn’t devastating. Sure, there’s the minute possibility that he falls off a cliff, but that’s the case with every player. It’s the same thing with injuries. Any player at any time can suddenly decline in production or get hurt. But we’re looking for a more realistic worst case, rather than one that has Mo giving up homers and then getting hurt.

Mo’s worst case involves a few more blips than he’s had in the past few years. That is, maybe three weeks where his cutter isn’t cutting and he blows a few saves. Think 2007, but with a small blip mid-season and then another one later on, rather than him just starting slowly. The worst case also involves a few injuries. We know Mo is prone to soreness and spasms that keep him out for a few games. If things go wrong that could happen a few more times than it has in the recent past.

What’s Likely To Happen

The most likely scenario for Mo is far closer to his best case than his worst case. He’s been incredibly consistent in the past eight seasons, keeping his ERA under 2.00 in all of them except 2007. Even then he regained his dominant form after a rough April. Even at age 41, his most likely scenario has him pitching around 65 innings to a 2.00 ERA. Few closers will ever match that kind of production, never mind doing it year after year.

If this preview seems a bit lacking, it’s because there’s no need to dive into the case of Mariano Rivera. Since 1996 he has been the most beloved Yankee, and his folk hero status has only grown with time. What I find most striking is that while he is at an age where pitchers are watching games on TV, Mariano remains dominant. We’ve been lucky to watch him for the past 15 years, and I don’t think we can be reminded of that too frequently.

Mitre scratched with left oblique soreness

Updated (11:40 a.m.): Per Mark Feinsand, Sergio Mitre has been scratched from his start tonight and could be on the shelf for a while with what the Daily News scribe is calling “some type of ribcage/oblique type injury.” Mitre later said he woke up with soreness in his left oblique but expects to be pitch again by Thursday. Mitre missed considerable time last season with a left oblique strain, but his latest injury is reportedly in a different spot.

In the short term, the Yankees will instead send Manny Banuelos to the mound tonight to face the Boston Red Sox in their game airing on ESPN at 7:05 p.m. In the long term, though, an extended Mitre injury could all but end the rotation competition at least for April. If Mitre is out for a few weeks, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova will share the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation while the odd man out will inherit the long relief role. If Mitre makes it back to the bump later this week, the race for the rotation continues.

To calm the masses ahead of time, Banuelos’ start is not an indication that the Yanks are considering taking the 20-year-old north. He was scheduled to pitch in relief today anyway, and the club wants their Number One pitching prospect to accrue more than just 15 innings of AA ball before he’s old enough to drink. He’ll arrive in the Bronx soon but not that soon.

Fan Confidence Poll: March 14th, 2011

Record Last Week: 4-5-1 (28 RS, 45 RA)
Spring Training Record: 7-10-2 (59 RS, 90 RA)
Schedule This Week: @ Red Sox (Mon. on ESPN), Tues. OFF, @ Orioles (Weds. on YES), vs. Rays (Thurs.), @ Blue Jays (Fri.), vs. Blue Jays (Sat. on YES/MLBN), @ Phillies (Sun. on MLBN)

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