Cervelli leaves game after hit-by-pitch

In what has become a rather unfortunate rite of spring, Frankie Cervelli left today’s game with an injury after getting by a pitch in his left leg, just below his knee. Thankfully it’s nothing serious. He iced it down after the game and told Erik Boland “it’s fine. No problem.”

Cervelli suffered a broken bone after fouling a ball off his left foot last spring, shelving him until May. The year before he missed time in camp with a quad strain. Two years before that he had his wrist broken by Elliot Johnson on a collision at the plate. Thankfully this latest March ailment seems like nothing more than the typical day-to-day stuff baseball players deal with.

Betances optioned to Triple-A among trio of roster cuts

Via Chad Jennings, the Yankees have optioned Dellin Betances to Triple-A and reassigned both Mike O’Connor and Juan Cedeno to minor league camp. This is the third round of roster cuts (round one, round two) and effectively reduces to second lefty reliever race to just Cesar Cabral and Clay Rapada. Rapada has been the front-runner all camp, but I’m starting to think Cabral will get the nod. He’s quietly been very effective and is several years younger than Rapada, so there’s at least a chance at upside going forward.

Report: Yankees offered Freddy Garcia to Marlins

Via Danny Knobler, the Yankees offered Freddy Garcia to the Marlins in a trade, but they weren’t interested. Garcia and Ozzie Guillen are close thanks to their time in Chicago together. Freddy has already indicated a willingness to pitch out of the bullpen, but apparently the team isn’t fond of the idea.

It’s easy to see that Garcia is the odd man out of the rotation at the moment, and he only figures to get pushed further down the depth chart once Andy Pettitte is ready to go. That’s assuming everyone stays healthy and effective, which is never the case. I’d rather not see the Yankees count their chickens before they hatch and trade Freddy before the season even starts; he could end up being pretty important within a few weeks. Enjoy the depth, it’s not a problem in March.

The Morning After: Joba Chamberlain

(REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)

The Yankees got some awful news yesterday (really Thursday night), as Joba Chamberlain suffered an open dislocation of his right ankle playing with his son. It’s a really bad fluke injury and I do not recommend Googling it at all. It’s expected to keep him out for all of 2012, but the club is still awaiting test results to determine the extent of the ligament damage and any fractures. Here are some random thoughts and links on the injury…

  • A report yesterday indicated that Joba lost a “life-threatening amount of blood,” but both his agent and father denied that was the case. “There was no life-threatening loss of blood,” said agent Jim Murray while Harlan Chamberlain was a bit more blunt: “That’s [B.S.].”
  • David Robertson was one of those who visited Joba him the hospital yesterday. “He was feeling good,” he said. “[He’s] in good spirits.”
  • The moralizing of the injury was inevitable. People are calling Joba stupid and reckless and while he obviously made a mistake, the guy’s biggest crime was wanting to play with his kid. If trampolines are so dangerous, how come no one is getting upset that he put his five-year-old son in danger?
  • It’s still way too early to know what the Yankees will do with Joba contractually. His one-year, $1.675M contract is not guaranteed as an arbitration-eligible player, so the Yankees could release him anytime before Opening Day and pay him only 45 days termination pay (roughly $415k). If there’s “no trampoline” language in his deal, they could release him and pay him nothing. More than likely I think they’ll wait the season out, see how he’s doing come December, then decide whether or not to non-tender him (he won’t get a raise next year if he doesn’t play at all in 2012). I don’t think they want to repeat the Al Aceves mistake again. Who knows, maybe insurance will cover his salary this season.
  • As for the bullpen, Joba wasn’t going to be back until mid-June anyway. Nothing will change for the first few months of the season, but now they can’t count on adding that power arm at midseason. It creates an opportunity for guys like George Kontos, Adam Warren, David Phelps, and D.J. Mitchell. Chamberlain’s injury opened the door for Hector Noesi last year, and now another young arm will get a chance.
  • Stephen Drew, Jason Kendall, and Kendrys Morales are examples of comparable injuries, as are Yankees farmhands David Adams and Ravel Santana. The recovery time seems to range anywhere from six months to nearly two years. Of course all those guys are position players, and we’re talking about Joba’s push-off leg. If he can’t push off properly, he’ll inevitable blow out his arm at some point.

So that’s really all I have to say. I hope the latest tests show the best case scenario and Joba crushes his rehab and is able to get back on the mound sooner rather than later, but I’m not going to hold my breath. I was really looking forward to seeing him back out on the mound this summer.

Update: Via Sweeny Murti, apparently Joba could be released from the hospital as soon as today. The MRI results are not back yet, but the doctors told him there’s a chance he could be back on a mound by July. Fingers crossed.

Open Thread: 3/23 Camp Notes

Chavez got through this in one piece. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees played two games today, one at home against the Twins and one on the road against the Phillies. Ivan Nova pitched better than his line (7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K) indicates against Minnesota, getting a lot of weak contact and whiffs on his offspeed stuff. Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano threw flawless innings as well. Eduardo Nunez was the star of the day, smashing a pair of doubles and hitting everything hard. The Yankees rallied from a four-run hole when Mason Williams drove in the go-ahead run with an infield single. Here’s the box score for this game, which they won 6-4.

Hiroki Kuroda allowed one run in 5.2 IP against Philadelphia, getting 15 of his 17 outs on the infield. Brett Gardner (double), Frankie Cervelli (single), Robinson Cano (double), and Eric Chavez (single) had the Yankees up 3-0 before Vance Worley even recorded an out. Cano had three hits, Cervelli had two, and Doug Bernier had two more as well. He’s been mashin’ all spring. New father David Phelps allowed two runs in his 3.1 IP. The Yankees won this game 5-3; here’s the box score. Here is the rest of the news from Tampa…

  • Derek Jeter played three innings in the home game this afternoon by design. Joe Girardi said during the broadcast that Jeter will play five innings in a game at some point this weekend. This was the Cap’n’s first game back following his calf problem.
  • Andy Pettitte faced six batters and threw 26 pitches in a live batting practice session this morning. “Everything was good,” he said afterward. “I’m pleasantly surprised. I don’t want to get over-excited because I haven’t done anything yet, but I expect to be back to where I was.” [Erik Boland & Jack Curry]
  • David Robertson faced seven batters in his 29-pitch session this morning. He struggled to find the strike zone, but that’s not exactly something new for David. He could get into a game for the first time since injuring his foot relatively soon. [Curry]
  • Manny Delcarmen (lat) also threw batting practice today. He has yet to get into a game this spring. Michael Pineda and Phil Hughes each threw their regularly scheduled side sessions. [Chad Jennings]
  • Of course, the big story of the day was Joba Chamberlain‘s horrifying ankle injury. I hope he crushes his rehab and we see him back on the mound for the Yankees as soon as possible.

Here’s your open thread for the night. The Rangers, Devils, Knicks, and Nets are all playing tonight, plus MLB Network will air a game a little later on. You folks know what to do, so have at it.

Austin Romine and D.J. Mitchell win 2011 Kevin Lawn Awards

Via Mike Ashmore, Austin Romine and D.J. Mitchell have named the 2011 Kevin Lawn Award winners. That’s a fancy way of saying they were named the Yankees’ minor league hitter and pitcher of the year for last season. Romine produced a .332 wOBA in 85 Double-A games last year before brief promotions to Triple-A and the big leagues. He also won the award in 2009. Mitchell pitched to a 3.18 ERA (3.96 FIP) in a farm system-leading 161.1 IP for Triple-A Scranton last summer. Congrats to both.

The Yankees and their young pitchers

(Warren by J. Meric/Getty; Phelps by Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com; Mitchell by Martin Griff/The Times of Trenton)

Following the conclusion of the chapter about the Yankees in the 2012 Baseball Prospectus Annual — a tome edited by The Pinstriped Bible’s (and now Bleacher Report’s) Steven Goldman, and, given his expertise, presumably also featuring his contributions to the chapter devoted to the Bombers — I was inspired to do some research in response to the seemingly endless number of accusations leveled at the team regarding its supposed reluctance to deploy its young pitchers in favor of established veterans.

Now, anyone who reads Steve over at the Pinstriped Bible with any regularity — and lest this post come across as derisive, I’ve long been a big fan of Steve’s work, and have enjoyed his intellectual, verbose and witty take on the state of the Yankees at the Pinstriped Bible ever since I discovered the wonderful world of Yankee blogs back in 2004 — is no doubt familiar with this particular war cry, which seemed to come to a boiling point in the aftermath of Brian Cashman signing journeyman Brian Gordon to spot start against the Rangers on Thursday, June 16, instead of letting one of Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, David Phelps or D.J. Mitchell make their first career Major-League start (and in the case of the latter three, first Major-League appearance). Brien Jackson of IIATMS wrote an eloquent rebuttal at the time (and as also noted by our own Moshe, the Gordon decision was likely entirely driven by not wanting to add a player to the 40-man roster just to make  two starts), but in light of this favored Goldman criticism littering not only the team overview in the Annual, but basically the capsule for every pitcher in the Yankees’ system, I was curious to see just how much water it actually carried.

The below chart lists the number of starters Age 25 or below by team that made their Major League debuts in the last decade. This data was compiled utilizing Baseball-Reference’s Play Index.

As you can see, the Yankees, with nine hurlers, ostensibly fall in the middle of the pack when it comes to letting youngsters make their MLB debuts as starting pitchers. Toronto has debuted the most starting pitchers under 25 during this time frame, with 16, and Seattle the least, with five. The MLB average? 10, or just one more than the Yankees have. This means that, on average, an MLB team will debut one starter under age 25 per year.

There were also cries of despair a little over a month after the Gordon incident, when it looked like Adam Warren might get a shot to start the second game of a doubleheader against the Orioles, but that plan was ultimately scuttled when Ivan Nova — who to that point had already somewhat established himself as a viable, under-25-year-old pitcher — was deemed fit to start. Now I’m not trying to argue that Warren, Phelps, et. al. shouldn’t have been given the opportunity to start one of these games, but rather, in a historical context, Goldman was twice looking for the Yankees to do something — let an under-25 pitcher make his MLB debut as a starter — that many teams let happen maybe once a season.

Further expanding on that point, it seems to me that if the Yankees truly believed that if one of Phelps, Warren or Mitchell were indeed ready to toe the MLB rubber last June, then they would have had that happen. Not that I don’t want to see a young kid be given a chance to succeed, but on the flip side, no one knows these players better than the Yankees. There’s an assumption being made here that just because the AAA pitchers have youth on their side they are going to automatically perform as well or better than hypothetical alternatives.

As much as everyone’s been talking about the starting pitching depth the Yankees have, both at the Major League level and at AAA, it’s being conveniently overlooked that the Warrens, Phelps and Mitchells of the world have all continually been scouted and described as #4/#5-type starters at best. For all the hand-wringing the Brian Gordon decision seemed to result in last year, clearly Cash felt that particular move gave the Yankees a better chance to win at that moment in time than bringing up a kid with back-end starter potential. Gordon gave the Yankees two starts, and they went 1-1 in those contests. Could one of the kids done the same thing? Perhaps, but what happens to, say, Warren’s development if he comes up and pulls a Chase Wright, whose career essentially ended after he gave up four consecutive home runs to the Red Sox? The only reason they went to guys like Wright and Matt DeSalvo that season to begin with was because they had no choice, not because they were stud prospects lighting the world on fire at AAA and forcing their way into the MLB picture.

For all the talk about stalling development, it seems like Warren, Phelps and/or Mitchell would’ve been given a chance in the Majors by now if the team deemed them ready or felt like any of them had an opportunity to be a legitimate part of the future. Ivan Nova — who the team apparently thought so little of that he was actually left unprotected in the 2008 Rule 5 draft — turned his career around and impressed Yankee brass enough to deservedly get his shot. Even Hector Noesi — though many would have liked to have seen him start earlier in the season last year — got his shot in relief. There was a fair amount of statistical evidence that supported these promotions.

The Yankees have also given Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain every chance in the world to prove themselves at the MLB level — Joba for one has never been back to the minors — even if I haven’t always been a massive fan of the way the team has handled each pitcher’s development — underscoring that when the team believes it has elite, young, sub-25 talent on its hands that need to be in the Majors now, they will get their opportunities.

While there’s certainly value in back-of-the-rotation starters, that type of pitcher is less valuable to a team like the Yankees that typically requires frontline starters to compete in the gauntlet that is the American League East. I don’t think it would surprise anyone if any or all of the members of that triumvirate found success in the National League.

Here are the nine under-25 starters that have made their MLB debuts as a Yankee during the last decade:

Rk Gcar Player Age Date ? Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit GSc WPA
1 1 Ian Kennedy 22.256 2007-09-01 TBD W 9-6 GS-7 ,W 7.0 5 3 1 2 6 1 96 63 0.090
2 1 Tyler Clippard 22.095 2007-05-20 NYM W 6-2 GS-6 ,W 6.0 3 1 1 3 6 1 95 65 0.166
3 1 Phil Hughes 20.306 2007-04-26 TOR L 0-6 GS-5 ,L 4.1 7 4 4 1 5 0 91 37 -0.133
4 1 Chase Wright 24.068 2007-04-17 CLE W 10-3 GS-5 ,W 5.0 5 3 3 3 3 1 104 45 0.030
5 1 Jeff Karstens 23.332 2006-08-22 SEA L 5-6 GS-6 5.2 6 3 3 2 2 2 93 45 -0.027
6 1 Sean Henn 24.011 2005-05-04 TBD L 8-11 GS-3 ,L 2.1 7 6 5 2 0 0 72 19 -0.462
7 1 Chien-Ming Wang 25.030 2005-04-30 TOR W 4-3 GS-7 7.0 6 2 2 2 0 0 81 55 0.259
8 1 Brad Halsey 23.126 2004-06-19 LAD W 6-2 GS-6 ,W 5.2 5 2 2 1 3 1 108 53 0.125
9 1 Brandon Claussen 24.058 2003-06-28 (2) NYM W 9-8 GS-7 ,W 6.1 8 2 1 1 5 1 105 55 0.216
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/21/2012.

Outside of Ian Kennedy and Chien-Ming Wang, none of these players went on to anything approaching sustained success as a Major League starter.

The list unsurprisingly expands if you change the input to relievers under 25 making their MLB debuts, and if you take the list and add the pitchers who have since spent their careers starting or are expected to primarily start — Ross Ohlendorf, Nova, Noesi and Dellin Betances — the Yankees’ total rises from nine to 12. And I realize we can play that game with every other team, but the overarching point is that it’s simply not true that the Yankees are afraid to give their young pitchers a shot.

Rk Gcar Player Age Date ? Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit WPA
1 1 Andrew Brackman 25.292 2011-09-22 TBR L 8-15 6-7 1.1 1 0 0 1 0 0 32 0.000
2 1 Dellin Betances 23.183 2011-09-22 TBR L 8-15 8-8 0.2 0 2 2 4 0 0 27 -0.004
3 1 Steve Garrison 24.316 2011-07-25 SEA W 10-3 9-9f 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 9 0.000
4 1 Hector Noesi 24.112 2011-05-18 BAL W 4-1 12-15f,W 4.0 4 0 0 4 4 0 66 0.450
5 1 Ivan Nova 23.121 2010-05-13 DET L 0-6 7-8f 2.0 2 0 0 0 1 0 30 0.002
6 1 Michael Dunn 24.104 2009-09-04 TOR L 0-6 7-7 0.2 0 2 2 3 0 0 19 -0.002
7 1 Mark Melancon 24.029 2009-04-26 BOS L 1-4 7-8f 2.0 1 0 0 1 1 0 22 0.024
8 1 Anthony Claggett 24.277 2009-04-18 CLE L 4-22 2-3 1.2 9 8 8 2 2 2 60 -0.108
9 1 Humberto Sanchez 25.113 2008-09-18 CHW W 9-2 8-8 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 11 0.002
10 1 Alfredo Aceves 25.267 2008-08-31 TOR L 2-6 8-9f 2.0 0 0 0 0 3 0 19 0.014
11 1 David Robertson 23.081 2008-06-29 NYM L 1-3 6-7 2.0 4 1 1 0 1 0 33 -0.025
12 1 Ross Ohlendorf 25.034 2007-09-11 TOR W 9-2 9-9f 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 11 0.002
13 1 Joba Chamberlain 21.318 2007-08-07 TOR W 9-2 8-9f 2.0 1 0 0 2 2 0 33 0.006
14 1 Jose Veras 25.289 2006-08-05 BAL L 0-5 7-8f 2.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 24 0.005
15 1 T.J. Beam 25.293 2006-06-17 WSN L 9-11 6-7 ,H 1.1 3 2 2 0 1 1 33 -0.065
16 1 Jorge De Paula 24.299 2003-09-05 BOS L 3-9 8-9f 2.0 0 0 0 0 0 0 23 0.003
17 1 Jason Anderson 23.295 2003-03-31 TOR W 8-4 9-9 0.0 2 2 2 0 0 0 8 -0.015
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/21/2012.

Whether or not they merit that shot is clearly a different story. In the cases of Warren, Mitchell and Phelps, simply being young doesn’t necessarily mean “better,” especially if the Yankees ultimately don’t see these players fitting into their long-term plans.

There have also been some rumblings about how the return of the 40-year-old Andy Pettitte to the rotation will further impact the development of the AAA contingent (my pal Brad Vietrogoski has a typically well-thought-out response to that development), to which I say, great — hopefully the rotation crunch will motivate Warren, Phelps and Mitchell to pitch their butts off, throw to mid-2.00 ERAs in the International League, and absolutely force the Yankees to have no choice but to give them a chance. I’d love to see them make it to the Show, but make it because they absolutely deserved/earned it, not just because they’re young. We’ve seen the Yankees bring young guys up when they weren’t ready and after a couple of turns, the results were less-than-pretty and derailed careers. Maybe, just maybe, the team is learning from its mistakes.