ST Game Thread: I Wanna Hirok

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Yankeeland is still reeling from the Andy Pettitte signing, but in a good way obviously. There are completely meaningless games still to be played though, and today Hiroki Kuroda — the guy who took Andy’s locker at GMS Field — is getting the start. I’m sure those two will work the locker situation thing out, but it’s more important for Kuroda (and Pettitte) to work on getting ready for the season. For a veteran guy like Hiroki, today is all about going through the motions and refining command; he doesn’t have to find velocity or work on a new pitch or anything. Here’s the lineup…

LF Brett Gardner
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH Raul Ibanez
RF Andruw Jones
1B Eric Chavez
SS Eduardo Nunezwill wear a protective batting glove on his injured right hand
C Frankie Cervelli

Available Pitchers: RHP Mariano Rivera will actually pitch today. He was accidentally listed on yesterday’s schedule. RHP Cory Wade, LHP Boone Logan, RHP Dellin Betances, RHP George Kontos, LHP Juan Cedeno, LHP Mike O’Connor, and SwP Pat Venditte are all available. I really hope Venditte gets in the game.

Available Position Players: C Jose Gil, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Doug Bernier, SS Jayson Nix, 3B Bill Hall, LF Cole Garner, CF Dewayne Wise, RF Chris Dickerson, and DH Colin Curtis will replace the starters. C Mitch Abeita, IF Walt Ibarra, and OF Abe Almonte have been brought up from minor league camp for the day.

Today’s game starts at 1:05pm ET and can be seen on YES locally or MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

The Morning After: Andy Pettitte

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Remember what it was like when the Yankees had rotation problems? That was only twelve weeks ago, and since then they’ve added Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda while subtracting A.J. Burnett. Yesterday they put the cherry on top, dragging Andy Pettitte out of retirement and signing him to a minor league deal worth $2.5M with no incentives. To call it surprising would be an understatement.

The 39-year-old Pettitte is very much a unique case. This isn’t Bartolo Colon v2.0, a guy who’s trying to come back after major arm problems at an advanced age. Andy voluntarily left the game a year ago and simply got the itch to pitch again. The Yankees have always left the door open and the two sides eventually figured things out once he decided to return. For more on the signing process and stuff, check out my recap post at MLBTR. Here are some random thoughts and musings…

  • One important thing to keep in mind: this is a comeback attempt, Pettitte isn’t guaranteed to do anything. He could get a month into workouts then decide it isn’t worth it and go back home. He could return to the team and pitch horribly due to age and rust. That would be worse.
  • Another important thing to keep in mind: Brian Cashman told Pettitte not to come back after the Pineda and Kuroda moves. Andy keep working out on his own and still wanted to sign. Pretty clear indication that he wants to do this and still thinks he can pitch at a high level.
  • Cashman said yesterday that they offered Pettitte a one-year deal worth $10-12M in December, and I’m almost certain that would have meant no Hiroki Kuroda. I do not believe they would have spent all that money on those two and then kept Jesus Montero. It would have been Pineda and Pettitte instead of Pineda and Kuroda.
  • I don’t know what the Yankees will do with their rotation whenever Pettitte is ready to go — Cashman made it clear yesterday that he’s going to be a starter — but there’s no rush to figure this out. They can wait the six or eight or however many weeks, then sort things out. It’s cliche, but these things tend to take care of themselves.
  • That said, I think it’s pretty obvious that Freddy Garcia is trade bait right now. He has some trade value because his contract is so much more favorable than Joe Blanton’s or John Lannan’s, and he’s at least their equal on the mound. I wouldn’t expect a ton in return. Maybe some salary relief and a Grade-B prospect.
  • The Triple-A starters — specifically David Phelps, Adam Warren, and D.J. Mitchell — are getting hosed, but that’s part of the game. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see at least one of these guys this summer, most likely in relief now. I’m also pretty sure one will get traded at some point, but I thought that before Pettitte came back anyway.
  • I am skeptical about how much Andy can actually help the team after a year away from the game, but he did go out on top after 2010. This isn’t a Jorge Posada situation. Posada was forced into retirement because his skills had obviously faded. Andy was still an above-average hurler when he decided to hang ’em up, and that’s slightly encouraging. The year off might even be a good thing for his arm and body.
  • One more little note: As soon as Pettitte appears in a big league game, he’ll reset his Hall of Fame clock. Right now he’s scheduled to appear on the ballot in 2015, but if he pitches this year it will get pushed back to 2017 at the earliest. I don’t expect him to get in, but who knows how much closer he’ll get to 300 wins now.

It’s hard not to love the contract itself. Pettitte isn’t soaking up a 40-man roster spot at the moment and he won’t get a dime of that $2.5M until he’s added to the roster. Chances are it’s pro-rated as well, he won’t even get the full amount. The Yankees now have a ridiculously great piece of rotation insurance stashed away with zero risk involved. The fact that he’s a fan favorite (and left-handed!) is just icing on the cake.

Open Thread: Andy

Oh happy day. Forget the camp notes, nothing important happened anyway. I don’t know what the Yankees are going to do with their rotation once Andy Pettitte is ready to go, but I don’t really care. Enjoy the moment. I’m pretty sure everyone loves him and is thrilled to see him back.

Here’s your open thread for the night. Talk about whatever you like. Enjoy.

Banuelos, Sanchez among first round of roster cuts

Via Chad Jennings, both Manny Banuelos and Gary Sanchez have been reassigned to minor league camp. The first wave of roster cuts also includes pitchers Adam Miller, Dan Burawa, Ryan Pope, Brett Marshall, Graham Stoneburner, and Chase Whitley. Position players Corban Joseph, David Adams, J.R. Murphy, Kyle Higashioka, Zoilo Almonte, and Melky Mesa have also been sent to the back fields. David Phelps, Adam Warren, and D.J. Mitchell have been impressive so far, and they’ll each get to stick around a little longer.

2012 Season Preview: Control Freaks

(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

There are few things in baseball more frustrating than watching a pitcher with no control. Even when he’s ahead in the count, it’s a struggle to finish off hitters. Thankfully, the Yankees have put something of an emphasis on control. They’ve acquired some guys who throw strikes and keep a game moving. They also shed one of their most notorious base on balls issuers, A.J. Burnett. That should help boost the staff by itself. Here are some of the other guys who avoid issuing the free pass.

CC Sabathia

Like many pitchers, Sabathia developed control as he matured. It’s easy to forget that he debuted as a 20-year-old, pitching a full season for the Indians in 2001. Unsurprisingly, he walked 4.74 per nine, which was about one and a half more than the league average. It took him a few years to harness his arsenal, but once he did his career took off.

In 2007, when he won the American League Cy Young Award, Sabathia walked just 1.38 batters per nine innings. Only two pitchers, one of whom was Greg Maddux, walked fewer batters per nine innings. Sabathia’s control continued into his landmark 2008 season, as he walked just 2.10 per nine — and just 1.72 per nine once with the Brewers.

In the last three seasons it might appear as though Sabathia hasn’t displayed quite the same level of control. Yes, his walk rates are still low — usually around 2.5 per nine — but they’re not otherworldly low as they were in 2007 and 2008. Yet those raw numbers don’t take into account his move from the AL Central to the AL East. He’s facing some of the toughest hitters in the game, and he’s faring as well as one could expect. That low walk rate has perhaps allowed him to succeed where a similar pitcher with less control might fail.

Hiroki Kuroda

In the last three seasons, only seven qualified pitchers have walked batters less frequently than Kuroda. That’s great news for the Yankees. Their pitchers ranked right in the middle of the pack in terms of walk rate, and they lost one of their best control pitchers, Bartolo Colon. Kuroda steps right into that role, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him replicate Colon’s 2011 — while pitching a few more innings, of course.

Yet as we saw with Sabathia, the change of divisions could have an effect on Kuroda’s walk rate. From 2006 through 2008 Sabathia was right around, or below, 2.00 walks per nine, and dipped well below that during his short stint in the NL. With the Yankees he’s averaged 2.58 walks per nine. Last year Kuroda’s primary opponents in the NL West had walk rates of 8.8, 8.7, 8.2, and 7.4 per nine. The non-Yanks AL East went 9.3, 9.0, 8.5, and 7.3 percent. That might make it tougher on Kuroda, but it underscores the importance of having control guys in this division.

Cory Wade

In the middle relievers preview I couldn’t help but marvel at Wade’s walk rate. He might not have much major league experience — just 138.2 innings spread over three seasons — but he’s still managed to keep his walks low. Despite a 2009 season in which his control struggled, likely due to a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery, he still has walked only 2.14 per nine in his career. Last year he got it below 2 per nine, as he did in 2008. That’s a breath of fresh air for a reliever these days; it seems that the great majority of them have trouble consistently throwing strikes.

Mariano Rivera

Need we say much about Rivera’s pristine control? The man hasn’t walked more than two batters per nine since 2005, and even then he was just a hair over that mark. For his career he has walked 2.04 per nine, and in the last five seasons he has walked 1.3 per nine. One. Point. Three. In the last three seasons he has walked the second fewest batters per nine, just 0.02 behind Edward Mujica.

Since 1950, only four relievers have walked fewer batters than Rivera. Surprisingly, one is the Twins’ Matt Capps. The others: Dennis Eckersley, Dan Quisenberry, and Dick Hall. Of them, only Quisenberry is within 300 of Rivera’s relief innings pitched.

* * *

Finding pitchers who can retain control while facing AL East hitters is no easy task. Last year the Yankees walked the fewest batters in the division, at 3.13 per nine. (Though the Rays were right there, just fractions of a point behind.) The Orioles, Red Sox, and Blue Jays were all in the bottom third of the league in walk rate. Thankfully, the Yankees do have some proven control artists to help prevent issuing free passes.

Andy Pettitte to attempt 2012 comeback in the Bronx

It came out of nowhere, which makes it all the better. Minutes ago Jack Curry reported that the Yankees have signed Andy Pettitte to a one-year, $2.5 million minor league deal that does not include any incentives. Joel Sherman has since confirmed the report. At 1 p.m. the YES Network will have more details. Chances are Pettitte won’t be ready for Opening Day — he does need to get into the swing of things — but he’ll be around for the 2012 season. Forget Michael Pineda. Forget Hiroki Kuroda. This is the most exciting news of the off-season.

Update by Ben (1:03 p.m.): According to multiple reports, Pettitte got the itch to rejoin the club when he visited Spring Training a few weeks ago. After considering a return throughout the off-season, he reached out to the club recently, and the team responded in kind. As Sherman reported, Yankee sources said, “It’s Andy Pettitte; if he wants to come back, we say yes.”

For now, Pettitte’s comeback attempt — and that’s what this is — will have little impact on the starting rotation. Pettitte, who turns 40 in June, will have to work his way back into game-ready condition, and the Yanks plan to give him as much time as he needs. He should probably be viewed as an option come mid-May or even early June. Much depends upon the current condition and the shape of his left arm and legs.

When or if Pettitte is ready to return to the Majors, the Yanks will have the luxury of seven viable starters. He could slot in behind CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda while taking pressure off of the young Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda with Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes in the wings. Pettitte’s return would also make Garcia, signed to just a $4 million deal, a potential trade chip.

It’s something to think about how, just over two months ago, the Yanks were facing a shortage of starting pitchers but now find themselves awash in arms.

Update by Mike (2:01 p.m.): In an appearance on YES, Brian Cashman said the team offered Pettitte a substantial contract back in December, around $10-12MM. He decided to work out on his own to see how he felt before accepting, but basically told the team to plan on now having him. Following the Pineda and Kuroda moves, Cashman told Pettitte to stop working out because they didn’t have room for him. Andy kept going and here we are.

ST Game Thread: Three For The Price of One

(All photos via AP)

This was all written well before the big news broke.

You can make a case — albeit a flimsy one — that the Yankees three most important pitchers will appear in today’s game. CC Sabathia, the team’s unquestioned ace, will get the start and throw his four prescribed innings before giving way to either Mariano Rivera or Phil Hughes. I’m guessing it’ll be Mo since a) they’ll want him to face big league hitters, and b) he has serious pull and will get to leave the park a few innings sooner. Hughes, the club’s enigmatic young hurler, will get his four innings in as well. Should be a fun game, especially with Bryce Harper playing for the other team. Here’s the starting nine…

CF Curtis Grandersonbirthday boy turns 31 today
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Andruw Jones
DH Raul Ibanez
C Frankie Cervelli
LF Bill Hall
SS Doug Bernier

LHP CC Sabathia

Available Pitchers: RHP Rafael Soriano, LHP Mike O’Connor, RHP Adam Miller, RHP Chase Whitley, RHP Ryan Pope, and LHP Cesar Cabral are all available in addition to Mo and Hughes.

Available Position Players: C Gus Molina, 1B Brandon Laird, 2B Corban Joseph, SS Jayson Nix, 3B J.R. Murphy, LF Cole Garner, CF Justin Maxwell, RF Colin Curtis, and DH Eric Chavez will replace the starters.

This afternoon’s game starts at 1pm ET and can be seen on YES . We’re going to chat during the first few innings, so I’ll see you after the jump.

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