Three weeks after having surgery to repair a slightly torn meniscus in his right knee, Alex Rodriguez resumed baseball activities in Tampa today. Sean Kernan reports that A-Rod did some running, made 25 throws from 125 feet, took some ground balls (27 from his knees, 14 regular), then took 66 swings (32 one-handed off a tee, 34 off soft-toss). There is still no set date for him to begin a minor league rehab assignment, but I figure that’s at least a week away, maybe more.
The Yankees announced that they have signed third round pick Jordan Cote, though terms of the deal were undisclosed. I’m sure we’ll find out the size of his signing bonus soon enough, but there’s a pretty good chance it’ll be seven figures.
Cote, a 6-foot-5, 205 lb. high school right-hander from New Hampshire, was the highest ceilinged prospect the Yankees selected this year. Baseball America (subs. req’d) says his “fastball sits at 88-90 mph and touches 92, [but] adding strength and pitching in warmer weather should help bump his velocity, especially because he has great hand speed.” He also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup, but each needs work. “Cote has drawn comparisons to Chris Carpenter,” added BA, and “one scout said Cote has the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the Northeast.”
Update: Cote signed for $725k according to Keith Law, a very fair price. Honestly thought it might be double that.
It seems silly to talk about another starting pitcher when the Yankees already have six starters for five spots, but it’s pretty clear right now that Triple-A Scranton right-hander Adam Warren is next in line should they need someone from the minors. Brian Cashman called Warren “a legitimate starting choice for us right now” minutes after Sunday’s trade deadline, and he was on call last weekend in case Ivan Nova‘s ankle wasn’t healthy enough to start one game in Saturday’s doubleheader. Given his proximity to the big leagues, let’s look to see what he can offer to Yankees.
Warren turns 24 later this month, and everything you need to know about his background and decorated college career can be found in his prospect profile. He signed as a college senior out of a major program in UNC, so the Yankees had no problem sending him to High-A Tampa in his first full professional season in 2010. Warren made 15 strong starts with Tampa (2.72 FIP) before finishing the season with ten starts for Double-A Trenton (2.56 FIP). Between the regular season and playoffs, he threw 146.1 IP in 2010, which was actually down from 154.2 IP in 2009.
The Yankees bumped Warren up to Triple-A Scranton this season after just 54.1 IP with Trenton, a move I thought was a little aggressive. His early-season performance wasn’t all that great. Warren allowed three or more runs in seven of his first eight starts, or three fewer times that he did in 25 starts last year. His strikeout rate has fallen from 22.3% of batters faced in 2010 to just 15.5% this year while his walk rate climbed from 5.8% to 8.6%. According to StatCorner, his swinging strike rate this year 8.2%, which is just a touch above-average for a starting pitcher. Warren’s ground ball rate has gone from 55.1% with Tampa to 48.1% with Trenton to 38.8% with Scranton. All together, it adds up to a 3.95 FIP in 119.1 IP this season.
Baseball America ranked Warren as the team’s 12th best prospect before the season (I had him tenth), saying his fastball sits “90-94 mph with a high of 96″ and “late life.” They note that it’s a swing-and-miss pitch because of his command. A curveball, cutter/slider, and “fringe-average at best” changeup round out his repertoire. That last bit is important. Since Warren’s changeup isn’t a true weapon, he’s struggled against lefties. They’ve hit .280 off him with a 33-25 K/BB in 55 IP this year (righties are hitting .226/ with a 46-19 K/BB in 64.1 IP), a similar split to last season. That’s not to say he can’t improve the pitch, but it’s not there at the moment.
Right now, it’s the kind of arsenal that can work at the back of a big league rotation. Warren could be a serviceable option for the Yankees if needed, though he profiles better out of the bullpen, where he could focus on his two best offerings and scrap the miscellany. Perhaps that 90-94 touching 96 turns into 93-95 touching 97 in relief, who knows. Although Cashman referred to the Warren as a rotation candidate “right now” and the Yankees lined him up to start last Saturday if needed, it’s worth noting that David Phelps was ahead of him on the depth chart. Phelps was going to come up and start earlier in the season, but the Yankees (wisely) went with Brian Gordon for the two spot starts instead. Not long after that, Phelps went down with shoulder tendinitis and hasn’t been back since. Warren was next in line. He doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster until after next season, so there’s no urgency to get him on the 40-man roster. For now, he’s the seventh starter, but a good one compares to the other seventh starters around the league.
About two weeks ago I wrote a post about the upcoming schedule and how the Yankees needed to take advantage of some weak competition and pad their lead on the playoff spot. Fourteen straight games against sub-.500 teams – including ten at home – was a recipe for success, and the Yankees have answered the call. They’ve won ten games in that stretch so far, with a chance to make it 11 tonight. Even if they lose tonight, I consider a 10-4 stretch to be a big-time success.
That 14-game stretch, which began at the outset of the ten-game homestand, has increased the Yankees chances of making the playoffs from 89.3% to 98.6% according to Cool Standings, and their lead on a playoff spot has grown from 5.5 games to 8.0 games. The Angels have won seven of their last 13 but have lost 2.5 games in the standings. That must be comforting for them. The Yankees have won with pitching and offense during these 14 games, posting a 3.63 ERA while hitting .329/.395/.521 as a team. They’ve outscored their opponents 101-50. They’ve also gotten healthy during that stretch, with both Eric Chavez and Rafael Soriano returning from long-term-ish injuries. Alex Rodriguez will begin baseball activities in Tampa today, so he’s inching closer to a return as well.
Following tonight’s series finale against the White Sox, the Yankees will play six games against the two teams they have to be most concerned about right now: the Red Sox and Angels. Making the playoffs is always priority number one, but winning the division is always a goal and beating Boston is pretty much a necessity to achieve that goal. Plus they really need to beat the Red Sox just for the sake of beating the Red Sox. That 1-8 record against them this year is a big eyesore. Next week’s series against the Halos is much more important in the grand scheme of things, a sweep either way will drastically impact the wildcard race, anything else will just maintain the status quo.
Once those six games are over with, it’s another prolonged stretch against mediocre to bad clubs. The Rays are fading fast (they’re only 1.5 games up on the Blue Jays these days), then it’s 15 straight against the Royals, Twins, Athletics, and Orioles. For all the talk about how many road games the Yankees have left (31 vs. 22 at home), a whole lot of those games away from the Bronx are against those bad teams. Plus the Yanks have one of the best road winning percentages in baseball, so it’s not like games away from Yankee Stadium are a chore. The Yankees have beefed up their win total over the last two weeks, and they’ll have a great chance to do it again later this month.
Yesterday, Joe wrote about using the big wildcard lead to play around with the roster somewhat. They can find some extra rest for CC Sabathia and Bartolo Colon, perhaps see what J.C. Romero has to offer, maybe even give Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos a chance to strut their stuff. These are the dog days of summer, when all the games kinda blend in with each other and it feels like we’re just going through the motions, but for the Yankees it’s a chance to improve on what they already have.
The Yankees are hot hot hot right now, and the White Sox pitching staff felt their wrath on Wednesday night. This one got out of hand early.
First Inning Fun
You know what my new favorite thing is? Seeing the look on the other team’s manager’s face when the Yankees are pounding away on offense. Especially when you have two unlikable guys like Buck Showalter (last series) and Ozzie Guillen (this series), that makes it even better. After Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter led off the game with bunt singles, Ozzie had that look on his face in the dugout, and it was pure awesome. Following Curtis Granderson‘s bloop single to load the bases with none it, that look turned into thaaat look. You know what I mean.
Mark Teixeira drove a first pitch Gavin Floyd fastball into deep center for a sacrifice fly, and Robinson Cano followed that up with a three-run homer on a cutter that caught too much of the plate. The Yankees had a 4-0 lead with one out in the first, and the one out came on a well struck ball hit to the wrong part of the park. We were all pretty happy with the early lead, but they didn’t stop there.
Almost two years ago to the day (August 2nd, 2009), Melky Cabrera hit for the cycle against the White Sox in this same park. No one on the Yankees hit for the cycle in this game, but they combined to do it as a team in the third inning.
The inning started with a single from Cano and then Eric Chavez‘s first homerun as a Yankee. It was 8-1 at that point, but then Jorge Posada doubled, Russell Martin walked, Gardner singled, and Jeter singled. It was now 9-1 with two men on base for Teixeira, who lined what looked like a solid single to center. Alex Rios, who is having a season every bit as bad as Adam Dunn, leaned down to make the catch, but he simply whiffed. The ball got by him and rolled to the wall, scoring both Gardner and Jeter and sending Tex to third. It was his first triple since 2009, and it completed the team cycle in the inning. It also pushed the Yankees lead to 12-1, and by the end of the inning, it was 13-1.
OMG A.J. WTF
You know, I try to write something nice about A.J. Burnett, then he goes and does this. He allowed a run in the first on a sacrifice fly before pitching around two singles in the second and one single in the third, but then he completely collapsed under the weight of that 12 run lead. The ChiSox scored five runs in the fourth, three on a Carlos Quentin homer, then another run in the fifth before Joe Girardi mercifully pulled his starter from the game.
Eight of the last 12 men Burnett faced reached base, three on extra base hits. All told, the White Sox touched him up for 13 hits in just 4.1 IP, scoring seven runs. This is the same White Sox team that picked up a total of 13 hits in their last two games combined. They got that in less than five innings against Burnett. It’s the first time A.J. failed to complete five innings this season, and he’s now given up 25 runs and 57 baserunners in his last six starts (35.1 IP). It’s too bad he makes so much money, otherwise he’d be the one looking over shoulder in this six-man rotation business.
Although things got kinda sorta interesting in the middle innings, but the Yankees offense restored order and blew the game open in the seventh inning. Everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit and one run scored, though most guys had multiples of each. The top three hitters in the lineup combined to go 12-for-17 with eight runs scored and seven driven in. Jeter had his fourth career five-hit game and his second in the last month. He’s hitting .333/.380/.495 in 109 plate appearances since coming off the disabled list, which is pretty damn good.
Gardner (three), Granderson (four), Cano (three), and Chavez (three) all had multiple hits. Grandy hit his league-leading ninth triple, and he’s got an outside chance at being the first player since Jim Rice in 1978 to lead the AL in triples and homers. There’s way, way too much offense to recap, so I suggest clicking the box score link below and reading through it. I do want to mention that Chavez is growing a mustache now, and between that and his swing, he’s totally got a Don Mattingly thing going on. It’s pretty uncanny.
Another nice job by Cory Wade, who cleaned up Burnett’s mess in the fifth without allowing an inherited runner to score before tacking on a scoreless sixth. I liked the move to sign him, but he’s exceeded even my expectations. Luis Ayala chucked two scoreless frames, and Rafael Soriano sat down all three guys he faced in the ninth. Yankees pitchers haven’t walked a batter in 30 innings now, not since Freddy Garcia walked Nick Markakis in the third inning of Sunday’s game. That’s pretty amazing.
Floyd gave up a career-high ten earned runs, and he became just the second White Sox pitcher in the live ball era to give up ten runs in less than three innings. It’s the second time in his last five starts he allowed seven or more runs, and the third time in his last eight starts that he allowed six or more runs. The Yankees have won six games in a row now, outscoring their opponents 56-35. Like I said, hot hot hot.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
The Yankees will go for the rare sweep of a four-game series on Thursday night, when Ivan Nova makes his latest case to stay in the rotation against Phil Humber. That’s another night game because apparently every team but the Yankees is entitled to a getaway day. Lame.