It seems the injury situation has changed the Yankees outlook. Instead of recalling Juan Miranda they’ve added Greg Golson to the roster (via Chad Jennings). I assume Miranda is still with the team, and we might see him activated before the second game. Alex Rodriguez is DHing in the first game, so perhaps they’ll option Kevin Russo after Game 1 in order to summon Miranda before Game 2.
For most of the past two weeks we’ve focused on the bullpen. Opposing teams have seemingly hit the Yanks’ relievers well, which induces a sense of angst among the fanbase. The starters have pitched so well, but it seems as though the lead isn’t necessarily safe once a non-Mo, or even at this point non-Joba, reliever enters the game. That’s mostly perception, I think, but there’s no denying the insecurity many of us have with the current bullpen.
Last year the problem was much worse. In 71 April innings the bullpen allowed 55 runs and opponents hit .267/.350/.498. Part of that was the starting pitching (and, really, it was mostly Chien-Ming Wang). The starters had pitched just 126.1 innings in 22 starts. That left more than three innings per game for the bullpen to cover. The bullpen would also find itself short at times because of Wang’s short starts. Still, there was no questioning the faults with the unit. Pitchers like Edwar Ramirez, Jon Albaladejo, and Jose Veras just weren’t getting the job done.
This year things haven’t gone quite bad. The relievers had to cover only 50 innings in April. The starters, even with Javy Vazquez‘s woes, averaged more than 6.1 innings per outing, which placed less pressure on the bullpen. Fewer appearances meant fewer runs, too, as the bullpen allowed just 24 in those 50 innings, holding opponents to a .237/.312/.366 line. True, there were some troubling performances mixed in there, but overall the situation didn’t look as bad as April 2009.
As we saw last year, the Yankees can rebuild the bullpen on the fly. They added David Robertson, Al Aceves, and Phil Hughes to solidify the unit last year. This year they’re already ahead of the game. Job Chamberlain already performs Phil Hughes’s job, so there’s no need to find a setup man mid-season. That leaves a few spots to fill in middle relief. I think that, after what we saw last year, the Yanks can certainly find the right guys for the job.
Al Aceves might be out for a while, but Chan Ho Park is on his way back. David Robertson might be struggling, but if those woes continue the Yanks can try out a number of arms in the minors, including Romulo Sanchez, who pitched very well in relief of A.J. Burnett on Sunday night. Boone Logan might be terrible, but he has options. Damaso Marte might keep me on the edge of my seat, but he’s still been mostly good (though he could cut down on the walks). And, like Aceves last year, maybe Sergio Mitre can find success as a short reliever as well as a mop-up guy.
If last year taught me anything, it was to not panic over early-season bullpen woes. There’s no guarantee that the team can correct the problem — and really, it hasn’t been a huge problem lately. But I think this current front office has proven that it is willing to make changes to the bullpen when necessary.
Plus, if the starters keep pitching well, the bullpen will play a lesser and lesser role, anyway.
Ken Griffey, Jr. is tired. Despite his and the Mariners’ vehement denials this afternoon, rumors have been swirling this week that the Kid has been sleeping in the clubhouse. After an 0-for-3 tonight in which he saw just 12 pitches, he also appears to be sleeping at the plate and is now batting .200/.264/.225 through 87 plate appearances this year. His days are numbered.
For Yankee fans — this one, in particular — Griffey was a big thorn in the side of the team for the better part of the 1990s until one day, he wasn’t. To start the 2000 season, Griffey woke up in Cincinnati shrouded in irrelevancy, and he hasn’t been the same since. He’ll be toasted by the baseball literati when he retires later this year (or perhaps month), and he’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, untouched by the stain of scandal. But he just missed being the greatest. Those nagging injuries have limited to an average of 102 games a year since leaving Seattle, and today, his 630 home runs are often forgotten.
As Griffey nears the end, I can’t help but think of the days of his torture. In his career, Griffey faced the Yankees 572 times in 133 games and hit .311/.392/.595 with 36 home runs and 102 RBIs. He destroyed the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS when he hit .391/.444/1.043 with 5 home runs in as many games. In many respects, that ALDS was the pinnacle of Griffey’s career. On the grandest stage in baseball, when the Mariners and Seattle as a town needed it most, the Kid came through, and much to my chagrin, he earned that smile.
For Griffey, that series spelled redemption in a personal way too. He absolutely hated the Yankees. His disgust stemmed from an incident when his dad was playing in the Bronx in which Billy Martin would chase children out of the clubhouse, and he always believed that George Steinbrenner did not treat his father well. Griffey got it out on the field and seemingly vowed never to play in New York.
Yet, for all of the Kid’s bluster over the Bronx, Griffey and the Yankees were subject to numerous rumors as the years wore on. After three disappointing years with the Reds, Griffey found himself the object of trade rumors. The Reds wanted more payroll flexibility, and the team explored trading him. Griffey said he would go to the Yankees or the Braves, and Griffey’s grudge, said Jack Curry in 2002, had faded. Bob Nightengale seemed to enjoy dreams of an outfield that would have featured Bernie Williams, Hideki Matsui and Ken Griffey, Jr.
But Griff’s next trip to the Bronx wouldn’t come in 2003 via a trade. In fact, Griffey didn’t set foot in Yankee Stadium again until 2008 when he came with the Reds and then later the White Sox. Even in the twilight of his career, he still managed to hit .348/.423/.522 with one final Yankee Stadium home run that year.
This year, the Mariners come to town at the end of June, and Ken Griffey’s place on the team isn’t that secure to expect him to stop by for one final visit to the Bronx. Even if we never see him again with that menacing lefty stance, taking aim at the short right field porch, I’ll always remember the Kid for 1995. It seems like a generation ago that Griffey plagued the Yankees, and his final days on the field are ticking by.
Triple-A Scranton was rained out. They’re going to play two tomorrow.
Double-A Trenton (2-1 win over New Britain) that’s their sixth win in a row
Justin Christian, LF, Austin Romine, DH & Brandon Laird, 3B: all 0 for 4, 1 K – Romine scored a run … he hasn’t caught in a few days either, I wonder what that’s about
Austin Krum, CF: 2 for 4, 1 CS
David Adams, 2B: 1 for 4, 2 K – still OPS’ing over .900
Dan Brewer, RF: 1 for 3, 1 K
Jose Gil, C & Luis Nunez, SS: both 0 for 3
Marcos Vechionacci, 1B: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI – that’s his third homers of the year, he had two all last year
Jeremy Bleich: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HB, 8-4 GB/FB – picked a runner off first … that’s his best start since his first one of the season … he needed an outing like this, just to build some confidence
Cory Arbiso: 1.2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 3-0 GB/FB – dude’s allowed three hits in 12.2 IP this year
Grant Duff: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1-2 GB/FB
Well, there was just too much rain in the Motor City, so tonight’s game was postponed. The Yanks and Tigers are going to play two tomorrow, the first at 1:05pm ET and the second at 7:05pm ET. Not sure what this means for the roster moves, but Javy Vazquez will get the ball in game one, Phil Hughes in game two.
For now, just sit back and enjoy this nice refreshing open thread. The Mets are playing the Nationals, plus there’s NBA and NHL playoff action. Also, ESPn is showing some E:60 thing about Mariano Rivera and where he grew up in Panama and stuff at 7pm ET, so don’t miss it. You know what to do .
Via Sweeny Murti, Joe Girardi indicated that Al Aceves‘ back is still an issue, and that he expects the righty to be placed on the disabled list. Marc Carig adds that he has a bulging disc in his back and is returning to New York, presumably for tests. My grandfather had a bulging disc in his back a few years ago, and all I remember was that he basically couldn’t do anything until he had surgery to correct it. Pretty painful and debilitating.
The Yankees also have yet to call up Juan Miranda despite indications that he was on his way to join the team. Considering the timing of this whole thing, it sounds like they were going to option out a pitcher for Miranda, but with Aceves’ back continuing to be an issue, they’re going to hold off and keep the extra arm around for another night.
Did you miss him?
It’s been more than a week since the Yankees’ ineffective fourth starter took the mound, but he’ll (hopefully) make his return tonight after two high intensity side sessions. “Usually my bullpens are nice and easy,” said Vazquez. “These I pushed it a little bit.” Of course, pretty much everything looks and feels good in the bullpen, so we’re not going to know if the extra work and extra rest does any good until a real live batter with the intention of beating the Yankees steps in the box.
There are two things I’m going to watching for tonight, and they aren’t mutually exclusive. First off all, I want to see how Javy works his fastball. Not necessarily the radar gun readings (though I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing some consistent 91-92’s), but how he uses it. He’s throwing 49.9% fastballs this year, which is actually how much he threw it in 2009, but the big difference is when he’s going to the pitch. When he falls behind 2-0, Vazquez has thrown his heater 61% of the time this year, and in 3-1 counts it’s 71%. Last year those totals were 54% and 62%, respectively.
A large part of his success last year came from pitching backwards; when Vazquez threw offspeed pitches in fastball counts and fastballs in offspeed pitch counts. Now he’s being a bit more predictable. Most batters will sit on a fastball up 2-0 because the pitcher wants to throw a strike, and so far Vazquez has been giving it to them. More so than he did last year, anyway. Of course the simple solution is to stop falling behind hitters, but that’s easier said then done. Sometimes you throw strikes and the umpire just doesn’t call it.
The second thing I’m going to pay attention to is how efficient Vazquez is with his pitches. Last year the threw exactly two-thirds of his pitches for strikes, but this year it’s down to 61.6%, and thus his pitches per batter faced has climbed to 3.98 from 3.79. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but it’s very real and it does exist. The more pitches you have to throw to a batter the more likely you are to make a mistake, especially with slightly diminished stuff like what Javy has this year.
Using his fastball and throwing more strikes are part of the equation, the other part has to do with Vazquez rebuilding his confidence. I hate to play the part of psychotherapist, but I find it hard to believe that someone could take the pounding Javy’s taken so far and feel good about themselves. Phil Hughes has talked about it ad nauseum this year, that the difference between then and now for him is the conviction with which he throws his pitches. Vazquez needs to get a little of that back, but it won’t be easy. I don’t know what comes first, pitching effectively or confidence, but that’s not for me to figure out.