Minor League Notes: Montero, Adams, Joseph

I’m not sure any of us are up to talking about the big league team right now given their general awfulness, so let’s instead focus on the minor leagues for a little bit. We have some new information on the injury and winter ball front, so now’s as good a time as any to round it all up. Unless it says otherwise, it comes from Josh Norris’ Twitter account.

  • Jose Pirela has taken Corban Joseph’s place in the Arizona Fall League. CoJo missed Double-A Trenton’s playoff run with some kind of wrist injury, and there were rumblings that he would need surgery to fix whatever’s bothering him. Obviously it’s enough of an issue to keep him away from the AzFL. Pirela hit just .252/.329/.364 this season, but his 57 walks were the third most in the system this season behind Austin Krum (64) and Joseph (58).
  • Remember, Manny Banuelos is going to the AzFL as well. There are still only five Yankee farmhands listed on the Phoenix Desert Dogs roster (one of whom is CoJo), but ManBan brings them up to the minimum six. It’s possible that they will send a seventh player, but they aren’t required to. Chances are it wouldn’t be a substantial prospect anyway.
  • David Adams’ broken foot/ankle has finally healed and he’s started doing actual baseball work. He wasn’t listed on the Instructional League roster, but he’s probably not ready for full blown workouts and stuff. Adams suffered the injury on a slide trying to break up a double play in May, and he didn’t play the rest of the season because the fracture wasn’t immediately diagnosed.
  • Jesus Montero, meanwhile, is leaning towards going home for the winter and playing in the Venezuelan Winter League. He played in the VWL last season but not much and not very well, hitting just .115 with three walks and four strikeouts in nine games. He was coming off the finger injury however, and they play for keeps down there. It’s not about development, it’s about winning, so if you’re not producing you won’t play. Hopefully that’s not an issue this season.
  • The rosters for the various winter leagues in Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic have yet to be released in full, so we have to wait a little while longer to see who’s playing where. The AzFL season starts on October 13th, the other leagues at different points throughout the winter.

The shortsightedness of starting Sabathia

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Joe Girardi announced after last night’s game that CC Sabathia will in fact make tonight’s start on his normal turn rather than be pushed back to Friday, which would have set him up perfectly to start Game One of the ALDS on normal rest. Instead, the Yanks are prioritizing their magic number of one over setting up the playoff rotation. There’s almost no other way to view this move as anything but panic and shockingly bad decision making.

Like I said, the magic number is one. All the Yankees have to do to finally clinch that damn playoff spot is win one of their last five regular season games or have the Red Sox lose one their six remaining games. There’s no need to pray for a miracle here, no need to go out and make such shortsighted decisions. I know that everyone on the team has maintained that they still have their eyes on the division and home field advantage, but get real. The Rays hold a virtual one-and-a-half game lead (because of the tie breaker) and time has simply run out on that front. This recent 6-14 stretch has ruined any AL East crown aspirations.

So what happens now is that Sabathia starts tonight’s game, then has a full eight days off before starting Game One of the ALDS next Wednesday. They could do something ridiculous like have him throw 40-50 pitches on Sunday as a tune-up, but who knows if or how that will work. That’s why starting him tonight is so asinine. Instead of starting him Friday and getting the eight day’s rest out of the way early they’re doing it backwards and rolling the dice that the long layoff won’t effect their ace too much. That seems like a mighty big risk to take given the importance of next Wednesday’s start.

There’s no question that Sabathia could use a little extra rest before the playoffs, everyone can, it’s just a matter of when he gets it. He’s two outs away from last year’s total of 230 regular season innings with one start left. Because of their enormous division lead, the Yanks were able to give all of their starters extra days off last September, with CC’s last four starts coming on no fewer than five day’s rest. There has been no such luxury this year, with just one of his last four starts coming on more than the usual four day’s rest. After 266.1 combined innings (regular season and playoffs) last year, the Yanks have been unable to give their ace a little bit of a breather down the stretch. There’s nothing they can do about it now, they just have to hope for the best next Wednesday.

The alternative to Sabathia tonight would be Javy Vazquez, who hasn’t had a good start in what feels like months. Even if he were to lose they’d still be able to fall back on Andy Pettitte tomorrow to clinch that playoff spot, or Phil Hughes over the weekend. Like I said, all it takes is one win or one Red Sox loss the rest of the way to lock up that playoff berth. If the worst case plays out the and the two teams need to play a Game 163 to determine the Wild Card, well then the Yankees have far, far bigger problems that setting up their playoff rotation.

Who knows, maybe Sabathia went to Girardi and rest of the decision makers and demanded the ball for tonight’s game. He’s proven to be a rather dogged competitor that always puts the team first, but that’s a situation where the parents have to take the lollipop away from the kid. They have to do what’s best for the team rather than meet CC’s wants, and in this case the most important thing for the Yankees is to get their playoff rotation in order. Starting him tonight does the exact opposite.

The Yanks have been playing like garbage for close to three weeks now and like a .500 team for two months, and it’s turned up the heat in the kitchen a little bit. They still have a 99.8% chance of making the playoffs, and get that final 0.2% seems to have consumed the decision making. Girardi’s managerial style has flip flopped between resting players for the long haul and slamming his foot on the pedal to win this month, but this is a scenario where he and everyone else involved needs to lay back and look at the big picture. The lack of … I almost want to call it planning and foresight, is stunning.

A lot of things have gone wrong over the last few weeks, particularly with the starting pitching. Vazquez lost his job to a rookie that struggles to complete five innings, A.J. Burnett has been historically bad, and Andy Pettitte’s return from a groin injury has been half good, half awful. They have one sure thing in the starting rotation right now, and that’s CC Sabathia, but they sure are doing one hell of job in trying to screw that up too.

ALDS/ALCS tickets on sale tomorrow morning

The Yankees announced today that tickets for ALDS and ALCS home games at Yankee Stadium will go on sale to the general public tomorrow morning — Wednesday, September 29 — at 10 a.m. The tickets will be available for sale online at Yankees.com and via Ticketmaster at (877) 469-9849. The Yankees Clubhouse Shops and Ticketmaster outlets will not be selling tickets.

While the team hasn’t said how many tickets are available, numbers are expected to be limited, and thus, the team is instituting a cap on the number of tickets per game anyone can buy. In fact, people expecting to buy tickets for both series will have to use different Ticketmaster accounts and charge cards. The Yankees say those buying tickets will be limited to two tickets to one ALDS game or two tickets to one game of the ALCS. Anyone exceeding those limits will have their tickets canceled without notification from Ticketmaster or the team.

Furthermore, Ticketmaster is going to sock buyers with fees. ALDS tickets will not be held at Will Call, and buyers must use the “print-at-home” option. World Series tickets, if the Yanks make it, will go on sale at a later date, and the team urges fans to check out its postseason information page for policies on refunds and the playoff schedule.

* * *

On a personal note, I don’t expect much from this presale. Most of the reasonably priced seats have gone to season ticket holders in the various presales, and only the more expensive seats generally remain for this public sale. Last year, however, I took my chances and bought a standing room-only seat for Game 2 of the ALDS. My spot was on the 200 level past third base, and I had a blast that night. Various fans would stop by to chat and my fellow standees were die-hard fans as into the game as anyone. That it ended on a Mark Teixeira walk-off after Alex Rodriguez‘s dramatic ninth inning home run was the icing on the cake.

So the lesson is to be creative. That ticket cost me $25 with a few bucks tacked on for service fees. It was well worth it.

Baseball America’s Top 20 New York-Penn League Prospects

Baseball America’s look at the top prospects in each of the various minor leagues continued today with the short season New York-Penn League, and I bring bad news: the Yankees were shut out. Yep, not a single Staten Island Yankee was able to crack the top 20, and this really shouldn’t be a surprise. The team went very high school heavy early in the draft and their top picks from 2009 skipped right over SI. The only players on the team that can even be considered prospects are Eduardo Sosa, Kelvin DeLeon, and Mikey O’Brien, but none of those guys are standouts. Late adds like Cito Culver and Gary Sanchez weren’t eligible for the list since they spend so little time with the team.

The Low-A South Atlantic League list will be revealed on Thursday, and the Yanks won’t be shut out of that one. Slade Heathcott, J.R. Murphy, and Jose Ramirez are all very strong prospects and should place somewhere.

For A.J., the 2010 clock is running out

A.J.

Once upon a time, A.J. Burnett was having a very good 2010 season. Through May 6 — six starts — Burnett was 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA and a 2.85 FIP. His strike out totals — just 28 in 40.2 innings — were down, but he was keeping both runners off base and the ball in the park. Just one of the first 164 batters to face him homered.

Since then, Burnett has, with the exception of a few good starts in July, been utterly abysmal. He’s 6-15 over his last 26 starts, and he’s averaging just over 5.1 innings per start. After last night’s 2.1-inning, seven-run fiasco, his ERA over those 140 innings is 6.30, and he’s allowed 23 home runs and 64 walks while striking out just 111 guys. Opponents have an OPS against him of approximately .860. In other words, A.J. Burnett’s opponents are putting up better offensive numbers than Mark Teixeira.

Clearly, the Yankees have an A.J. problem, but what that problem is, as Jack Curry said last night on the YES Network, no one knows. “The Yankees haven’t been able to figure A.J. Burnett out,” he said during the postgame show, “so I’m not going to be able to figure him out.”

Through some of the tools available to us, we can see that A.J.’s results haven’t been so poor. His fastball velocity is down a little over a mile per hour which by itself shouldn’t create these problems, but the Pitch f/x data says his heater is too flat while his breaking pitches aren’t moving as much as they had in the past. But as Jack Curry said, figuring out the why and how of it should net someone a Major League consulting job.

After the game, Burnett’s comments boarded on flippant, but I can’t hold his statements against him. This is a professional athlete, 33 years old, struggling through his worst stretch of play. He can either be defiant, depressed or in denial, and right now, he appears to be suffering through a mixture of the three. “You have to get caught up in it,” Burnett said. “It’s a big game, a big night, but the way my season’s been, I’m not going to let it affect me. I’ve been through way worse than tonight.”

Today, tomorrow, next week, the question will focus around the American League Division Series. Because of the schedule, the Yankees do not need four starters. They can run out their Game 1 starter on three days’ rest for Game 4 and throw their Game 2 starter in Game 5 on full rest. Between Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett, someone will be the odd man out. “I would expect to start in the postseason,” Burnett said last night. “I just want the ball. Whatever Joe decides, it’s Joe’s decision.”

Enter denial. As the Yanks’ pitching stands today, A.J. Burnett will not and should not get the ball during the ALDS. While it’s true that regular season success (or failure) doesn’t predict post-season results, Burnett has done nothing to earn a key October start. Last night, he couldn’t locate his fastball and left his breaking pitches up over the plate. When he fell into hitter’s counts, the Blue Jays’ sluggers made him pay. On the other hand, Phil Hughes was nothing short of spectacular on Sunday night, and if the decision comes down to handing the bill to one of them to stave off elimination, Hughes is my guy.

That said, Burnett will probably have to pitch this October if the Yankees are to advance to the World Series. The ALCS schedule returns to the familiar 2-3-2 format this year without an extra off-day, and unless the Yanks are willing to run CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hughes out there on three days’ rest for an entire seven-game set, Burnett will have to make an appearance. Maybe he could dominate the Twins in the ALDS as he did last year; maybe he could shut down Tampa Bay. My confidence in him though is at a low, and while Game 2 of the 2009 World Series will go down in Yankee lore, A.J. Burnett cannot coast on that legacy any longer.

Going forward, the Yankees will have to assess Burnett’s future. They still owe him $49.5 million over the next three years, and he won’t be traded unless the Yanks eat a significant portion of that deal. Based on his 2010 season alone, he’s nothing better than a fifth starter, and as like the rest of us, he’ll be a year older next year. I shudder to think what that future might bring, but if it involves April 2010 A.J. Burnett, count me in. Everything else has been one long, vivid nightmare.

Yanks can’t overcome Burnett’s latest meltdown

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Nathan Denette)

In what has become and all too familiar scene this season, A.J. Burnett put the Yankees in an almost immediate hole, a hole too deep for the offense to dig out of. Sure, they showed some signs of life in the later innings, but they then it was too little, too late. A September to forget continued with a 7.5 loss to the Blue Jays.

No Good, Very Bad A.J.

Honestly, I don’t really want to recap Burnett’s latest stinker. He got tagged for seven runs on seven hits (three singles, two doubles, two homers) and a walk in just two-and-a-third innings of work against his former team, reducing the Yanks’ win expectancy to just 2.9% less than a third of the way through the contest. Every ball was scalded too, don’t think he was victimized by a few bloopers or anything like that. A.J.’s season record now sits 10-15 with a 5.33 ERA, awful numbers for anyone allowed to make 32 starts and throw 180.2 innings, nevermind a guy paid $16.5M annually to be a number two starter on a championship team.

Burnett lines up to make one more start this season, Game 162 on Sunday, but there’s quite literally nothing he could do to regain the confidence of the fan base at this point. If Joe Girardi and the rest of the Yankee brain trust are foolish enough to trust this guy in a playoff game, then they deserve what they get.

No Good, Very Bad Offense

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

Oh yeah, let’s not forget how punchless the lineup looked on this fine evening. Marc Rzepczynski, he of the 5.75 ERA coming into the game, didn’t just keep the Yanks at bay in his five innings for work, he dominated them. Nine of the 15 outs he recorded came on strikeouts, and one point he struck out five straight and seven of nine. Curtis Granderson tagged him for a two run homer in the fifth, but Derek Jeter killed what could have been a rally two batters later when he grounded into his 21st double play of the season. Rzepcynski walked three batters and allowed two hits in the inning, but gave up only two runs. Story of September.

Mark Teixeira made it seem like a game with a three run homer in the seventh inning, but otherwise the offense did nothing of note. Of the final four Yankee batters to come to the plate, three were ahead 2-0 or 3-0 in the count, and all three made outs. Again, story of September.

Okay, Pretty Good Bullpen

I guess the one bright spot in this game was the work of the bullpen after Burnett departed. Jon Albaladejo cleaned up A.J.’s mess than chipped in a scoreless inning on top of that. Dustin Moseley gave Girardi two scoreless, David Robertson four somewhat scary outs (he did give up some hard hit balls), Boone Logan two pitches and an out, Chad Gaudin three pitches and out. Once Burnett was out of the game, Yankee relievers allowed just two hits and two walks in 5.2 innings of work. So yeah, hooray for that.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Nathan Denette)

Austin Kearns picked up two hits and a walk, but he also struck out for the 14th straight game in which he’s played. I’d call that rather dubious. With 14 strikeouts as a team, this was the 25th time this season the Yankees struck out at least ten times in a game. It’s the 15th time it’s happened since July 31st, a span of just 54 games. I blame Kearns and only Kearns. Am I doing that right?

Hard to believe, but Grandy’s slugging percentage (.474) is dangerously close to Mark Teixeira’s (.488) even counting both player’s homers from this game. Who saw that coming two months ago?

This was New York’s 14th loss in their last 20 games, and they’re now just 27-26 in their last 53 games. Prett-ay, prett-ay awful if you ask me. They’re playing like crap and seem to be bottoming out at the worst possible time. Good thing a playoff spot in pretty much in the bag.

The Rays lost to the Orioles, so the Yanks still trail Tampa by half-a-game in the AL East with five to play. It’s effectively a one-and-a-half game lead though because the Rays hold the tie breaker. The Red Sox pounded the White Sox, so the magic number to clinch a playoff spot remains at one

WPA Graph & Box Score

Thanks, A.J. ESPN has the box score, FanGraphs some other cool stuff.

Up Next

We’ll have more on this tomorrow, but the Yanks will send CC Sabathia to the mound on Tuesday in what can only be described as a panic move. It’s tough to say otherwise since it throws Sabathia completely off schedule to start Game One of the ALDS. And the best part? Toronto’s throwing Kyle Drabek, a pitcher the Yankees have never seen before. That usually ends well.

Game 157: Don’t let up

It's okay, you can look now Grandy. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Following two intense series against division rivals and last night’s ulcer-inducing win, I kinda figured that Joe Girardi would take his foot off the gas a little bit and rest his players tonight. A playoff spot is all but locked up (for real this time), and quite a few players on the roster could use some time off to rest or heal up. They could have rested tonight, then come out to play the next two games before Thursday’s off day.

But nope, Girardi is still playing to win with six games left on the schedule and what is essentially a one-and-a-half game deficit in the division (Tampa holds the tie-breaker). It’s not quite the A-lineup, but it’s pretty close for this time of the year. I kinda like it, they still need to get out of this funk and that won’t happen on the bench. I just hope no one gets hurt.

Jeter, SS
Swisher, RF – I really would like to see him rest that knee
Teixeira, 1B
Rodriguez, 3B
Cano, 2B
Thames, DH
Kearns, RF- when did Brett Gardner turn into a platoon player?
Granderson, CF
Cervelli, C

And on the bump, it’s Allen Burnett.

First pitch is set for a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the (hopefully) stress free environment.