Hughes on track to begin rehab assignment next week

Via George King, Phil Hughes is on track to begin a minor league rehab assignment next week after Tuesday’s bullpen session went well. Larry Rothschild explained that the right-hander will take today off before throwing 30 pitches tomorrow, and assuming he feels good on Friday, Hughes will make a rehab start on Monday (with a bullpen session in between). Great news, though I remain nothing more than cautious optimistic. Hard to be anything more than that give everything that’s gone on this year.

2011 Draft: Day Two Links

Through two days and 30 rounds, the Yankees have yet to select a middle infielder in this year’s amateur draft. In fact, they’ve taken just nine position players total, and only two are projected to stick at an up-the-middle position long-term. That’s unusual, but I’ll talk about that more in-depth in tomorrow’s grand recap. For now, we’ve still got the final 20 rounds to worry about. The draft resumes at noon ET and can be followed on MLB.com’s Draft Tracker. Audio of the conference call is available through that link.  Based on last year, today’s liveblog should last “only” five hours, which sounds great after yesterday’s ordeal. Here’s a collection of links regarding the last two days…

  • Here’s what Keith Law had to say about the Yankees’ haul in his AL Day Two recap (Insider req’d): “I always expect them to shoot more for upside than they do; they did go for some with New Hampshire prep righty Jordan Cote (3) and Virginia prep player Jake Cave (6), listed as an outfielder (he’d be a corner bat with doubles power) but also a prospect as a left-handed pitcher. Greg Bird (5) can hit but is fringy behind the plate. Right-hander Philip Wetherell (8) is probably a reliever in pro ball. Right-hander Zach Arneson (9) from Lewis & Clark State has two average pitches and probably also goes to the pen.”
  • My favorite pick of Day Two: 20th rounder Dan Camarena, a high school southpaw from California. He reportedly sits 88-91 with his fastball and backs it up with a very good changeup and a solid curveball. I’m not sure if he’ll add any velocity given his almost maxed out frame (6-foot-1, 205 lbs.), but Camarena is lauded for attacking hitters and being aggressive. High school kids with three legit pitches are fantastic picks in the double digit rounds, especially ones that could have gone as high as the third or fourth round.
  • Last month, KLaw mentioned 18th rounder Hayden Sharp as a pop-up guy (someone that burst onto the scene this spring), noting that he has run his fastball as high as 98 at times while often sitting 93-96. That’s huge velocity from anyone, but especially from a high school kid with room to fill out his 6-foot-6 frame.
  • Joe and I talked about the concept of drafting makeup guys and how their work ethic could help them improve weaknesses in their game (especially on defense) on yesterday’s podcast, and scouting director Damon Oppenheimer pretty much confirmed that yesterday. He told Jack Curry that “talented kids who are willing to work at defense will succeed.” First pick Dante Bichette Jr. fits that mold, but so do kids like Matt Duran (4th round) and Greg Bird (5th).
  • Speaking of Bird, he played the whole “it’s a win-win situation” card when asked by The Denver Post if he’s rather turn pro or follow through on his commitment to Arkansas. Third rounder Jordan Cote had the same reaction when speaking with The New Hampshire Union Leader. You’ll hear a lot of that, but it’s just agent speak. Kids will cost themselves a few bucks if they come off as overly anxious to sign.
  • As for Bichette, Oppenheimer told Curry he doesn’t “think we’ll have any trouble signing him. He wants to play.” He might be under contract in time for the rookie level Gulf Coast League season, which starts in less than two weeks. Chad Jennings recapped the Joe Girardi-Dante Bichette relationship last night, in case you missed it.

You can see all of the Yankees’ selections right here. Probably should have mentioned that earlier.

Update: After running through Baseball America’s list of the top 200 draft prospects, the following players are still available …

  • Jake Reed, RHP, California HS (ranked 128th overall)
  • Dante Flores, 2B, California HS (148th)
  • Chris Mariscal, SS, California HS (168th)
  • Michael Cederoth, RHP, California HS (169th)
  • Pat Connaughton, RHP, Massachusetts HS (170th)
  • Ricky Jacquez, RHP, Texas HS (189th)

I wrote about Jacquez earlier this spring, and I’m a definite fan. He’s probably going to end up going to school though.

Update Part Deux: Here’s a great article on Cote from The Concord Monitor. It says he’s already asked the Yankees for more than slot money, which isn’t surprising. Slot for the 118th overall pick is somewhere around $250,000.

Yanks can’t climb out of Garcia’s early hole

Yes Freddy, it says HOME RUN.

This game was pretty much over in the first inning. Freddy Garcia came out of his pre-game warm-ups with nothing, and I mean even less than usual. When he’s not commanding his slop to the corners, he’s a batting practice pitcher, and the Red Sox treated him as such in the series opener Tuesday night. I’m still a little pooped from the marathon draft liveblog, so let’s recap with bullet points…

  • Star of the Game: Hector Noesi. Dude tossed a quality start in relief, allowing just a pair of runs (on a David Ortiz homer) in six innings, and needing just 71 pitches to do so. Another great job by Noesi, who’s been nothing but impressive since coming up (the second time). Give Luis Ayala props for getting out of Garcia’s second inning mess and throwing a scoreless third inning as well.
  • Honorable Mention: Jorge Posada. How about that? He didn’t even start the game, he came off the bench to replace Mark Teixeira after he had to leave the game with a bone bruise on his knee due to a Jon Lester fastball. Jorge went 3-for-3 with a walk, including his first two hits of the year off a left-handed pitcher. Go figure.
  • Blown Chances: After Garcia put the Yankees in a three-run hole before they came to bat, Lester tried to give it all right back. He really did. Nick Swisher had the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom half (one run was already in), but he grounded out to third on a nice play by Kevin Youkilis. The Yankees also left a pair of men on base in the fourth, a man on second in the fifth, and of course two men in the bottom of the ninth.
  • Alex Rodriguez‘s 0-for-5 was particularly ugly, especially his game ending swing, as was Andruw Jones‘ 0-for-4. Otherwise they got two hits from Derek Jeter (one should have been an error), two hits from Swisher (including a two run double), a hit from Russell Martin, a hit from Robinson Cano, and walks out of Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner. The Yankees did have a dozen baserunners in nine innings, so they certainly had their chances.
  • Garcia’s utterly ineffective 1.2 IP were the fewest by a non-injured Yankees’ starter since the Orioles smacked Phil Hughes around in May of 2009. I guess they were due for a true stinker. Here’s the box score, here’s the WPA graph. Go get ’em tomorrow.

Game two of the series is on tap for Wednesday night, when A.J. Burnett gets the ball against Tim Wakefield. Perhaps the Yankees will decide to beat their division rivals this time.

Teixiera leaves game with right knee contusion

Update (10:44pm): Joe Girardi said after the game that Teixeira has a bone bruise and he’ll likely need a few days, though he doesn’t think the disabled list will be necessary.

Update (8:23pm): X-rays were negative, and Tex has a right knee contusion. He will be re-evaluated tomorrow. And exhale.

Original Post (7:29pm): Mark Teixeira left tonight’s game after being hit by a pitch in the right knee tonight. He was in obvious pain and had to be helped off the field. Jorge Posada took his place on the bases and at first base. Stay tuned for updates…

Relievers give it up on the farm

Four Charleston River Dogs are heading to the Low-A South Atlantic League All-Star Game: Slade Heathcott, J.R. Murphy, Kyle Roller, and Mikey O’Brien. Poor Nik Turley. Also check out NoMaas’ interview with Murphy. Good stuff as usual.

  • Triple-A Scranton lost. Nothing too exciting on offense, just doubles by Jorge Vazquez and Brandon Laird. Andrew Brackman allowed four runs in 5.2 IP, though the good news is that hit 96. Kanekoa Texeira stunk in relief then exited with an injury, so Ryan Pope and George Kontos cleaned things up. Jesus Montero is still out with an eye infection and did not play.
  • Double-A Trenton lost, walk-off style. Cody Johnson continued his hot streak with another homer, and Ray Kruml tripled. That’s pretty much it offensively. The Ghost of Kei Igawa gave up just one run in 6.2 innings, but Fernando Hernandez blew it when he gave up a two run homer to this guy.
  • High-A Tampa won. Abe Almonte, Rob Lyerly, and Kevin Mahoney all had two hits. Walt Ibarra drove in two and doubled. Josh Romanski was fantastic, striking out seven and allowing just four baserunners (three hits and a walk) in six scoreless innings.
  • Low-A Charleston lost. Slade Heathcott, Rob Segedin, and Ramon Flores all had one hit, but J.R. Murphy went hitless and Gary Sanchez did not play. Mikey O’Brien gave up one run in five ugly innings, then Tommy Kahnle relieved him and walked the farm. Yuck.

Game 58: Home again

(Photo Credit: Flickr user inilovely via Creative Commons license)

It’s been a while since the Yankees last played a game at home, or at least it feels that way. Nine game west coast trips are good for making you feel disconnected from the team. Anyway, the Red Sox are in town, which means rivalry! Media coverage! 2004 references! Entirely too much Kevin Youkilis face time! Hopefully this one doesn’t last four hours, that’s all I ask. Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, DH
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Russell Martin, C
Nick Swisher, RF
Andruw Jones, LF
Eduardo Nunez, SS

Freddy Garcia, SP

The game is scheduled to begin a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Shameless Plug: Need to rant after the game? Listen, or better yet, call into Take On Russ at myfoxny.com (201-330-3466) after the final out is recorded. Salzberg’s a friend of Ben’s family, so we’re just helping spread the word.

Series Preview: Boston Red Sox, Take 3

(From Flickr user chipgriffin under a Creative Commons license)

Part of baseball’s early-season draw is how quickly things shift around. When the Yanks and the Sox first met, the Sox hadn’t yet won a game on the season. By their second meeting in mid-May the Sox had powered back and were 17-20 for the opener. A sweep put them at .500 for the first time on the season. At the same time, the Rays sat atop the division. Since then Boston has continued playing excellent baseball, going 16-6. The Yankees haven’t been too shabby, either, going 13-9. Of course, three of those losses came at the hands of those very Red Sox in what was part of the team’s low point in the season. This time around the Yankees have a two-game advantage in the loss column and could use a few wins to help balance out their 1-5 record against the Sox this season.

What Have the Sox Done Lately?

Since completing the sweep against the Yanks the Sox have gone 13-6. Their last two series have been sweeps at home. They dropped the first series to the White Sox, and then played an exciting, high-scoring series against the A’s in which they won all three. Of course, their pitching staff did surrender 17 runs to the anemic A’s offense, so things might not be rolling along quite smoothly right now. They will, however, send out two of their three best against the Yanks, including Josh Beckett, who is seemingly unhittable when facing the Yanks.

Red Sox on Offense

(From Flickr user MissChatter under a Creative Commons license.)

The Yanks and Sox enter this series with identical team wOBAs; they’re tied atop the league at .344. The Sox have a somewhat different attack, though. They’ve done it more with singles, while the Yanks have walked and homered their way to the league lead in runs per game. It actually makes sense that the Yankees have scored more runs than the Sox despite having the same wOBA, and despite the Sox having played two more games. At a time when power is down across the league, run scoring is heavily coordinated with power numbers. The Red Sox do have plenty of power, with a .165 ISO. But the Yankees lead the league in that category by a large margin.

The Sox have three players with a .380 or higher wOBA, and they’re three guys you might immediately suspect: Adrian Gonzalez (.409), David Ortiz (.427), and Kevin Youkilis (.383). They’re also providing the bulk of the team’s power numbers, as they’re the only ones with ISOs over .200. Jarrod Saltalamacchia does come close at .192, but that’s been the only way he’s provided value; despite the high power numbers, which do skew wOBA higher, he’s at just .316 this year, or exactly league average. The Sox have also received an unexpected contribution from Jacoby Ellsbury, who has shaken off his injury riddled 2010 to produce a .369 wOBA this year. He has stepped in big time for some of the underachievers.

Carl Crawford still leads that pack of underachievers with his .299 wOBA, but it is certainly trending upward. In May he had a .349 wOBA, though he still wasn’t all the way back. He walked in just 2.6 percent of his plate appearances last month, but rode a .352 BABIP to a quality month. So far in June he’s 7 for 17 with two doubles, a homer, and a walk. Dustin Pedroia is angling to take Crawford’s place as the disappointment du jour, with a .321 wOBA on the season. That trended downward in May, as he produced a .309 wOBA. Power has been Pedroia’s bugaboo all year; he had just five extra base hits in May, and has just 12 on the year (.089 ISO).

While Jed Lowrie’s numbers are still good, especially for a shortstop, he dropped precipitously in May. After a .410 wOBA in April he produced a mere .303 mark last month, which included a power outage: just seven of his 24 hits went for extra bases, and none were home runs. He’s gotten off to a poor start in June, too, going 3 for 18 with a double and a walk (though it was intentional). Rounding out the list of disappointments, J.D. Drew has been pretty bad all season, producing a .295 wOBA. He started off OK in April, but hit just .188 with three extra base hits in May. One guy who could take playing time from him, Mike Cameron, has also performed poorly in 2011.

Red Sox on the Mound

(From Flickr user kdirk under a Creative Commons License)

Tuesday: LHP Jon Lester. It has been something of a rough start for Lester, who is currently sporting four-year highs in ERA and FIP. When you glance at his peripherals, though, it’s not that surprising. His strikeout rate is down and his home run rate is up, while he’s walking batters at roughly the same clip as last year. He hasn’t recorded an out in the seventh inning since May 3, and has gotten pretty roughed up in that span. In 29 innings during those five starts he has allowed 21 runs, striking out 29 to 16 walks and five homers. Opponents have a .406 OBP against him in those games as well. One of them came against the Yankees, when he gave up four runs, including two homers, though the Yanks pitching staff gave that one back. In his most recent outing against the White Sox he allowed seven runs in 5.2 innings. That’s not to say the Yankees will have an easy time with Lester. It’s just the’s slightly less intimidating than usual.

Wednesday: RHP Tim Wakefield. This was supposed to be Clay Buchholz’s start, but he’s taking more time so that his injured back can heal. In his place is a familiar face for the Yankees. In a way this might be a break. Wakefield has been knocked around the last two seasons, pitching to a 5.11 ERA in 183 innings. He has been a bit better thisyear, but that has come more from hit suppression than from his peripherals. Yet we know that Wakefield can get the Yankees at any time. He’s faced them for just two innings this year, though they were two perfect. In his last three starts he has thrown 19.2 innings and allowed seven runs, which isn’t all that bad. Of course, one of them was against the Cubs, and that skews the numbers just a little bit.

Thursday: RHP Josh Beckett. There was no way the Yankees were getting through a three-game set with the Red Sox without facing Beckett. He has been stellar in general this year, with a league-leading 2.01 ERA and 205 ERA+. He also has a shiny 2.91 FIP to go along with it, mainly because he’s gotten back to what made him successful earlier in his career: suppressing the home run. He’s not striking out as many, and he’s walking a decent number of hitters. But that HR rate is bound to spike at some point, and what better place for that to happen than Yankee Stadium? It seems that Beckett has gone to ludicrous speed when facing the Yanks the last two times, so we’ll see if he can again rise to the occasion. On the other hand, the Yankees have knocking him around plenty since he came to Boston, and it feels as though we’re due for another one.

Bullpen: The Sox bullpen hasn’t been that solid this year, producing a 4.26 ERA, which ranks in the bottom half of the league. Yet their 3.46 FIP ranks towards the top of the league. The back end of the pen has been great, with Dan Bard recovering after a rough stretch and they recently got Bobby Jenks back from injury. Jon Papelbon started the year by lighting the world on fire, but he has given up six runs in his last three outings, which makes him seem more vulnerable. I still don’t buy it. He’s looked mostly lights out, and I’m not as confident now as I was last year that the Yanks can walk off against him if necessary.

Recommended Red Sox Reading: Last time we recommended the excellent Red Sox Beacon blog, run by friends of RAB Patrick Sullivan and Marc Normandin. They have since moved, though, to Over The Monster. Make sure to check them out there.