Via David Waldstein, outfielder Brett Gardner has started a hitting program and could have been activated in time for tonight’s game had it not been rained out. He is still a ways off from hitting in a game and would have been limited to pinch-running and late-game defense only. It sounds like Gardner will be activated one way or the other very soon, which will require a 40-man roster move.
Unsurprisingly, the ugly weather in New York has forced tonight’s series opener against the Blue Jays to be postponed. The two clubs will play a day-night doubleheader tomorrow, with the first game starting at 1pm ET. Andy Pettitte starts the day game and David Phelps the night game, with everyone else getting pushed back a day.
The most significant impact of the rain-out is that is pushes Pettitte’s return from the DL back a day, so he’ll only make three regular season starts instead of four now. Oh well, at least the bullpen gets another night off.
The Yankees have dealt with a ton of injuries this season, an inordinate amount even when you consider the average age of the roster. Some of those injuries have been short-term bumps-and-bruises, others long-term issues that could be career-altering. Alex Rodriguez hit the DL for the fifth time in five years in late-July, after Felix Hernandez hit him with a pitch that broke a bone in his left hand. It was an unfortunate and fluke injury, but an injury nonetheless.
A-Rod had been on a bit of a tear prior to the injury, going 22-for-66 (.333) with five doubles, a triple, and two homers in 17 games (16 starts) before getting hit in the hand. Half of those 16 starts featured multiple hits. Even though he is no longer the 30+ homer, .900+ OPS hitter he was even just three or four years ago, the Yankees missed their regular cleanup hitter. The lineup suddenly lacked middle of the order depth and became very left-handed. The offense definitely lacked some balance while Alex was on the shelf.
After six weeks on the shelf, A-Rod returned to the lineup earlier this month and picked up right where he left off before the injury. He’s gone 15-for-50 (.300) with two doubles and three homers in his 13 games back, reaching base in all 13 and picking up at least one hit in 12. It’s unfortunate that Rodriguez’s return coincided with Mark Teixeira’s calf injury — remember they brought him back after just two minor league rehab games because the lineup was going to be really short without Tex — because the Yankees are still short a power bat, but that just seems to be the way things have gone this season.
The important thing now is keeping A-Rod on the field, which is easier said than done. The Yankees had their final scheduled off-day of the season yesterday, and will wrap up the schedule with 16 games in 16 days. Derek Jeter is still nursing a left ankle problem and will occupy the DH spot for the foreseeable future, meaning Alex is going to have to play third base whenever he’s in the lineup. Joe Girardi has gone to great lengths to give his big right-handed bat regular rest, starting him in four straight games at the hot corner only twice this season: once during the NL park portion of interleague play in June, and these last four games while Jeter was the DH.
There is still no firm timetable for Teixeira to return to the lineup or the Cap’n to return to the field, so A-Rod is going to see a ton of time at third base these next two weeks simply because the team is going to need him. The race for a playoff spot (nevermind the division) is too tight to take his bat out of the lineup, especially when so many of the platoon bats near the bottom of the order have been so unproductive. Rodriguez has been an important player for the Yankees since the day they acquired him, and that will be no different in these next 16 days.
Via Pat Leonard, Derek Jeter’s bone-bruised left ankle may not yet be where it needs to be for him to return to the field. “(The ankle is) not re-injured,” said Joe Girardi on Sunday. “I think it still hurts. I don’t think he is a shortstop yet, right now as we speak. We’re going to have to see how he feels on Tuesday.”
Jeter has been nursing the injury for weeks and has spent the last four games at DH, though he was noticeably favoring the ankle while running the bases on Sunday. The Yankees (theoretically) have a capable shortstop replacement in Eduardo Nunez — who should be getting more at-bats anyway — as well as Jayson Nix behind him, though I guess the concern is that if Jeter is unable to return to the field anytime soon, how will Alex Rodriguez hold up playing third base everyday?
The Yankees only have 16 games left to play this season, but seven of the 16 will be against the Blue Jays. The first three of those seven will be played this week in the Bronx. New York leads the season series 6-5.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Jays have lost four of their last six games by losing the first two games and winning the third in a pair of three-game series. Injuries have hit them hard, and they’re just 16-29 in their last 45 games. At 66-79 with a -37 run differential, Toronto is fending off the Red Sox for the AL East cellar.
With a team 93 wRC+ and an average of 4.5 runs per game, the Blue Jays have been just a bit below an average offense this season. Of course those season numbers aren’t really an accurate representation of their injury depleted lineup, which is still without Jose Bautista (134 wRC+). You might remember him suffering what proved to be a season-ending wrist injury taking a swing against David Robertson earlier this year. Toronto still has Edwin Encarnacion (154 wRC+) though, and he’s currently second in the league with 40 homers. He’s basically the new Bautista.
Brett Lawrie (98 wRC+) recently came off the DL and is their second best healthy hitter right now. Colby Rasmus (88 wRC+) and Adam Lind (86 wRC+) have their moments, but both can be neutralized by left-handers. J.P. Arencibia (86 wRC+) recently came off the DL as well, and if nothing else he can hit the ball out of the park. Rajai Davis (86 wRC+), Kelly Johnson (84 wRC+), Moises Sierra (83 wRC+ in limited time), and Anthony Gose (81 wRC+ in limited time) haven’t been all that productive. Yunel Escobar (74 wRC+) is in some hot water and it’s unclear if the league will suspend him at some point. We’ll find out this afternoon.
Yorvit Torrealba (67 wRC+) and Jeff Mathis (74 wRC+) highlight the rest of Toronto’s position player crop. Omar Vizquel (38 wRC+) is the punchless utility infielder, and the lot of September call-ups includes Adeiny Hechavarria, Yan Gomes, and Mike McCoy. The Jays are healthier than the last time they played the Yankees, but they’re still missing a lot of their typical punch.
Tuesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Ricky Romero
The nightmare season is almost over for the 27-year-old Romero, who has pitched to a 5.87 ERA (5.15 FIP) in 29 starts and 167 innings this summer. Two starts ago he allowed seven runs while recording just three outs. The strikeout (6.09 K/9 and 15.0 K%) and ground ball (53.1%) rates are career-lows while the walk (5.07 BB/9 and 12.4 BB%) and homer (1.08 HR/9) rates are career-highs. Yeah, it’s that bad. Romero is the same guy stuff-wise — low-90s four-seamer, low-80s changeup, upper-70s curveball — but his location is just terrible. The Yankees have both pounded and been shut down by the southpaw this year.
Wednesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Henderson Alvarez
Alvarez, 22, has the lowest strikeout rate (3.31 K/9 and 8.5 K%) among qualified starters in baseball this year, by nearly a full whiff per nine too, and yet he managed to set a season-high with six strikeouts against the Yankees a few weeks ago. His performance is in line with what you’d expect from an AL East pitcher who allows so much contact (4.91 ERA and 5.33 FIP), though he does mitigate the damage by limiting walks (2.72 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%) and getting grounders (57.3%). Alvarez uses two fastballs (low-to-mid-90s two- and four-seamers) to set up his two offspeed pitches (mid-80s slider and mid-80s changeup). The Yankees have seen him twice this year, once hammering him and once getting kept in check.
Thursday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Aaron Laffey
Injuries have forced the 27-year-old Laffey into the rotation this year, and the former Yankee has pitched to a 4.55 ERA (5.55 FIP) in 87 total innings for the Jays. He doesn’t strike anyone out (4.66 K/9 and 12.2 K%) but will get some grounders (49.6%), though he is homer prone (1.55 HR/9) and will occasionally walk himself into trouble (3.31 BB/9 and 8.7 BB%). Laffey is a soft-tosser as you probably remember from last season, routinely sitting in the mid-80s with the four-seamer and cutter while mixing in low-80s sliders and changeups. Classic kitchen sink approach. He’s faced the Yankees once in relief this year, with little success.
Like the Yankees, the Jays had Monday off and come into the series with a fresh bullpen. Manager John Farrell has a strong righty-lefty setup duo in Brandon Lyon (3.03 FIP) and Darren Oliver (2.91 FIP) in front of closer Casey Janssen (3.22 FIP). Southpaw Aaron Loup (1.98 FIP) has emerged as a dominant specialist, and Steve Delabar (4.26 FIP) has been surprisingly strong since coming over at the trade deadline. Long-time Blue Jay Jason Frasor (3.84 FIP) will also see some late-game work. The rest of the bullpen features deadline pickup Brad Lincoln (3.75 FIP) and a bunch of September call-ups: Chad Beck, David Carpenter, Joel Carreno, and Chad Jenkins.
Although Joe Girardi’s core relievers had yesterday off, they have been worked hard of late as Ken Davidoff explained. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the exact details, but I don’t think you need me to tell you that David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, and Rafael Soriano could use a few innings on the sidelines in blowouts this week. For the latest and greatest on the Blue Jays, we recommend Drunk Jays Fans and Tao of Stieb.
The Yankees improved their rotation this past weekend pretty much the only way a club can improve at this point of the season: they got a player back from the DL. Ivan Nova returned from his shoulder problem to throw six innings of one-run ball in an important game against the Rays on Saturday, striking out eight and looking an awful lot like the guy he was in the second half of last season. Considering how poorly Freddy Garcia had been performing in that rotation spot for the last few weeks, Nova’s performance was a big lift.
Tonight, the Yankees will welcome another player back from the DL. Forty-year-old Andy Pettitte will return to the rotation after spending close to three months on the DL with a fractured left leg, a fluke injury suffered when Casey Kotchman hit him with a one-hop ground ball. He’ll be limited to 70-75 pitches after throwing just three simulated games and zero minor league rehab games, but returning tonight ensures that he’ll be able to make four regular season starts before the club potentially heads into the postseason. These four starts are essentially tune-up starts, which can be a scary thing in the middle of a pennant race.
Prior to the injury, Pettitte was arguably the team’s best pitcher. He owned a 3.22 ERA in nine starts (58.2 innings) with peripherals that made wolverines purr — 9.05 K/9 (25.2 K%), 2.30 BB/9 (6.4 BB%), and 58.3% grounders. That’s video game stuff. Andy was pitching better at age 40 and coming off a year-long retirement than he was during the prime of his career. Now is it reasonable to think he’ll maintain that performance after the injury? Almost certainly not. It’s entirely possible that he comes back as, well, an ineffective 40-year-old who sat out a year and missed an additional ten weeks with injury. I have a hard time betting against Pettitte, though stranger things have happened.
Anyway, an added benefit to getting Andy back in the rotation is that it pushes David Phelps into a relief role. Phelps didn’t pitch all that well in his latest stint as a starter (5.01 ERA and 5.20 FIP in 32.1 innings), though most of that damage was the result of two subpar outings against the Orioles. We already saw the 25-year-old get some big seventh inning outs in relief on Sunday, and now he’ll be able to take some of the load off Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Boone Logan, and the other middle guys leading up to Rafael Soriano. If Joe Girardi takes advantage of Phelps’ ability to throw multiple innings out of the bullpen, the Yankees will be even better off.
Good or bad, Pettitte returns to the rotation tonight. The club may have rushed him back from his injury and they may suffer for it, but at the same time they didn’t have much choice. The rotation had been struggling in recent weeks and the Yankees have welcome two starters back from injury in the last four days. I’ll be happy to watch Pettitte on the mound against the Blue Jays this evening just because hey, it’s Andy Pettitte, but I’ll be even happier if he proves to be the pitching boost we all hope he can be.
Yankees team president Randy Levine recently sat down for a chat with MLB.com’s Barry Bloom, and the two spoke about a wide range of topics. The new playoff system, the club’s injuries, the 2014 payroll plan, the impact of the New Stadium, a potential sale of the team … all of that and more were discussed. I’d provide a recap of the interview, but MLBTR beat me too it. I’ll just point you to that instead. Levine didn’t say anything juicy or controversial, so you’re going to be disappointed if you were looking for someone to call the team out for their recent poor play. Still, check it out though.