Game Nine: Jackie Robinson Day

Namesake. (REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

The first two games of this series have been complete opposites. The Yankees were in total control in Friday’s win while the Angels returned the favor in Saturday’s loss. Both clubs will try to take the rubber game tonight, on Jackie Robinson Day. I highly recommend checking out Craig Robinson’s infographic on Robinson’s career, a great reminder that he was both a historic entity as both a man and player. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibanez
Russell Martin
LF Brett Gardner

RHP Ivan Nova

Tonight’s game starts a little after 8pm ET and can be seen on ESPN. Enjoy.

Austin’s bat drives Charleston to another win

Triple-A Empire State (7-2 loss to Syracuse)
2B Kevin Russo, DH Jack Cust & RF Dewayne Wise: both 0-4 — Cust and Wise both struck out twice
SS Doug Bernier: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
3B Steve Pearce: 2-4 — 12 for his last 33 (.364)
1B Brandon Laird: 1-4, 1 2B — seven hits in his last 24 at-bats (.292), and five of them are doubles
CF Colin Curtis: 1-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB
C Craig Tatum: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 PB
LF Ray Kruml: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI
RHP Ramon Ortiz: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 7/6 GB/FB — 50 of 75 pitches were strikes (66.7%)
RHP Jason Bulger: 1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 WP, 2/1 GB/FB — 19 of 36 pitches were strikes (52.8%)
SwP Pat Venditte: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/3 GB/FB — 25 of 39 pitches were strikes (64.1%) … he pitched exclusively left-handed today for an unknown reason
LHP Mike O’Connor: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 0/3 GB/FB — eight of 11 pitches were strikes

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Pettitte throws four scoreless in latest minor league start

Andy Pettitte made his second minor league start today, throwing four shutout innings for the High-A Tampa Yankees at the home base, GMS Field. He allowed two singles, didn’t walk a batter, and struck out three. He also generated seven ground balls — one resulting in a double play — while not allowing anything to be hit in the air. Josh Norris spoke to a scout who was at the game, and relayed this report…

There’s no word on how many pitches Pettitte threw, but he was scheduled for 50 or so. The Yankees have Andy on a regular five-day schedule now, so he’ll likely make his next start on Friday and throw 65-70 pitches. They did give him an extra day of rest last time though, so maybe he’ll get pushed back to Sunday. Either way, Pettitte appears to be three or four starts away from being an option for the big league team, assuming all goes according to plan and he doesn’t run into any physical problems.

2012 Draft: Midseason Prospect Rankings

Both Baseball America and Keith Law recently released their midseason top draft prospects lists, and both have Georgia HS OF Brian Buxton and Florida C Mike Zunino in the top two spots. Buxton has emerged as the top prospect in the draft, as he “has all tools, an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale with an 80 arm (reportedly 95-98 mph off the mound last week) and big future power” according to KLaw.

The Yankees hold the 30th overall pick, and right now Baseball America says Georgia HS RHP Luke Sims is the 30th best prospect in the draft thanks to his “above-average fastball-curveball combination.” Law ranks Texas A&M OF Tyler Naquin as the 30th best prospect because he has “[one] of the best outfield arms in the draft … with a stronger-than-expected hitting performance.” A lots going to change between now and June, so don’t get too hung up and who ranks where. Both articles are subscriber-only, by the way.

Scouting The Waiver Market: Rich Thompson

The Yankees aren’t exactly hurting for bullpen help at the moment, but they’re always looking to add depth to the organization. The Angels, despite their early-season bullpen concerns, cut loose a nice young arm before yesterday’s game by designating Rich Thompson for assignment. The 27-year-old Australian-born right-hander pitched to a 3.00 ERA (3.27 FIP) in 54 IP for the Halos just last season, but they’d apparently seen enough after he allowed four runs in 2.1 IP this year.

Now that Thompson will hit the waiver wire, let’s take a look to see if he’s someone the Yankees should have interest in acquiring…

The Good

  • Thompson owns a legitimate put-away pitch in his big breaking, mid-70s curveball. The pitch has allowed him to post a 9.09 K/9 and a 23.2 K% in 104 big league innings. Thompson also throws a low-90s fastball and a mid-80s cutter, typical reliever stuff. His walk rates are solid but unspectacular: 3.20 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%.
  • It’s only 207 batters faced, but Thompson has held big league lefties to a measly .243/.312/.378 batting line with a 22.7 K%. He’s shown a similar split throughout his Triple-A career as well.
  • Thompson’s medical history is relatively clean. He missed three weeks with shoulder inflammation and two weeks with a strained pectoral, both back in 2010. He’s been healthy throughout his career otherwise.

The Bad

  • Thompson’s fastball velocity is trending downwards, averaging just 88.9 mph in the early going this year. His effectiveness against lefties is negated by his struggles against right-handed batters, who’ve tagged him for a .265/.320/.502 batting line with a 23.7 K% in the bigs.
  • As you might expect with a slugging percentage that high, Thompson can be prone to the long ball. His career ground ball rate and homer rates are 38.2% and 1.56 HR/9, respectively. Last year, his only full year in the show, it was a more manageable 40.9% and 0.83 HR/9.
  • Thompson is out of options, so he can’t be sent to the minors without first being passed through waivers. That’s why the Angels had to cut him in the first place.

I’ve always liked Thompson and I think he’s a poor man’s version of David Robertson. They’re both relatively undersized fastball/cutter/curveball right-handers with big strikeout rates and less than desirable walk rates. Robertson is obviously much more successful, particularly when it comes to keeping the ball in the park, but Thompson is cut from a similar cloth. Guys that can miss bats out of the bullpen are right up the Yankees’ alley.

The out of options thing is a problem because there’s no room for Thompson in the bullpen at the moment. Ideally the Yankees would claim him off waivers then stash him in Triple-A, but it’s not that simple. Their best bet would be to claim him and then immediately remove him from the 40-man roster, hoping he gets through the rest of the league unclaimed. It’s the same thing they did with Craig Tatum; get him in the organization but off the 40-man and in the minors. If the Yankees can pull that off and add Thompson to the depth chart, great. If not, well no big deal. He’s better than your typical waiver wire fodder, however.

Angels rough up Hughes in blowout

Hiroki Kuroda was great on Friday, and Phil Hughes was the exact opposite on Saturday. The game was essentially over by the fourth inning as the Angels sailed to a 7-1 win.

(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Inefficient and Ineffective

In his first start last week, Hughes couldn’t make it through the fifth inning for pitch count reasons. In his second start on Saturday, he couldn’t make it through the fourth because he was both inefficient and ineffective. The Halos roughed him up for six runs in 3.2 IP, with five of those runs coming on two homers. Chris Iannetta’s two-run blast was a total Yankee Stadium cheapie, a fly ball down the line in right that hit the top of the wall above the 314 ft. sign. It probably traveled 314 ft. and two inches. Seriously.

The other homer was a mistake to Howie Kendrick, Phil’s final pitch of the afternoon. He tried to throw a front door cutter for a called strike three — just as he had two batters earlier with Peter Bourjos — but the pitch was too far over the plate and hammered to left. A no-doubter. Mark Teixeira was unable to turn a hard-hit grounder into an out one batter earlier, compounding the problem. It happens, but we’re used to seeing Tex make plays like that. The other run came on a double to Albert Pujols, which is just something that guy tends to do.

Hughes threw 84 pitches to 20 batters and only faced six batters with no one on base — four of those six were the leadoff man of the inning. The only significant difference between this Hughes and the Hughes of last year is his ability to miss bats with the fastball. Today he got five swings and misses out of 32 four-seamers (15.6%) compared to 6.63% in 2011. Night and day difference. With Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda on the way, Phil has something like 3-4 starts left to prove that he deserves to remain in the rotation.

Phelps Makes His Case

(Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com)

Replacing Hughes was David Phelps, who continued his stellar early season work. He retired the first four men he faced before finally allowing his first big league hit and run, a solo homer by Vernon Wells on a hanging slider. Phelps walked Iannetta one batter later, but he then retired 12 of the final 13 men he faced. He struck out four, walked two, and allowed the one hit while throwing just 78 pitches across 5.1 innings. Only four of the 19 men he faced hit the ball out of the infield.

The Yankees do have Pettitte and Pineda coming back sooner rather than later (hopefully), but Phelps certainly made a statement against the Angels. He pitched with confidence and showed that he can turn over a big league lineup multiple times, maintaining his stuff despite a relatively high pitch count. If the Yankees need a spot start at some point — or need to take Hughes out of the rotation before Pettitte/Pineda is ready — Phelps cemented his status as the first in line for a starting job. He was fantastic on Saturday.

Leftovers

The Yankees had C.J. Wilson bent over a few times but he did not break. The left-hander stranded runners on the corners in the first, a man on first in the second, and men on second and third in the fourth, fifth, and sixth. The only run came across when Robinson Cano grounded a seeing eye single through the left side after Eduardo Nunez and Derek Jeter singled. Ten of the final eleven Yankees made outs, the one exception being Alex Rodriguez with two outs in the ninth. He reached when Erick Aybar booted a ground ball. That was it offensively.

Jeter did lead the game off with a hard-hit ground ball single off Pujols’ glove, his sixth first inning leadoff hit in eight games. At .361, he’s the only starter on the team hitting over .250. Russell Martin did draw a walk, raising his team leading OBP to .448.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

ESPN will carry the rubber game on Sunday night, when Ivan Nova gives it a go against Jerome Williams. If you want to attend, RAB Tickets can help get you in the door.

Austin’s bat powers Charleston to win

David Adams has been battling a stiff neck, and now he’s on the DL. Like I said the other day, at least it’s not his ankle. Luke Murton takes his roster spot.

Triple-A Empire State (6-3 win over Syracuse) first “home” game of the season, this one in Syracuse
LF Kevin Russo: 2-4, 2 RBI — not hitting for much power, but he’s a singles machine
C Frankie Cervelli: 0-5, 1 K — just two singles and two walks in seven games
1B Steven Pearce & SS Ramiro Pena: both 0-2, 1 R — Pearce walked twice and struck out twice … Pena walked and got hit by a pitch
DH Jack Cust: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — six for his last 12
CF Dewayne Wise: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — still hittin’
3B Brandon Laird: 1-4
RF Colin Curtis: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 K
2B Doug Bernier: 3-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI — nine for his last 23 (.391)
RHP Adam Warren: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 10/5 GB/FB — 57 of 89 pitches were strikes (64.4%) … picked a runner off first … much, much better than his first start
LHP Juan Cedeno: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 14 of 25 pitches were strikes (56%)
RHP Cody Eppley: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — ten pitches, seven strikes

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