As the saying goes, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. So pardon me while I throw proverbial wisdom out the window.

Yesterday afternoon, the Yanks’ first fifth starter – one of the three they have in their rotation – took the mound against the Mets, and by a baseball fan’s standard accounting, he had himself a pretty decent outing. Darrell Rasner, coming off a few shaky starts, labored through five innings and left the game down 2-0 in the fifth. That’s a completely acceptable line from one of the many back-end starters on the Yanks, right?

Well, sure, if you don’t look too closely.

On the day, Rasner allowed eight hits and walked three in five innings. The Mets’ inability to get that one big hit kept him and the Yankees in the game longer than anyone would expect with those numbers. And therein lies the rub. While more than two base runners an inning won’t kill a pitcher against the relatively punchless Mets, Rasner won’t always be so lucky, and many of the better AL teams would light him up.

Every time Rasner heads out to the mound, the Yankees are walking a tightrope of inevitability, and in June, the wheels came off in a big way. On the month, Rasner was 1-5 with a 6.47 ERA in six starts. He allowed 58 baserunners in 32 innings for a WHIP of 1.81 and lost to such powerhouses as the Royals, Pirates and A’s.

But through thick and thin right now, the Yankees are stuck with Rasner. While the team would be okay relying on him as a fifth starter behind four other top-line pitchers, the reality is that the Yanks have three good starters and a gaping hole at the end. Here, we see the lasting impact of Chien-Ming Wang‘s and Phil Hughes‘ injuries. Here, we see how the Yanks are getting burned by Ian Kennedy’s ineffectiveness and the Yankees’ brass challenge to him to pitch his way back through the system. With these breaks, the Yanks are relying on a collection of fifth starters – Rasner, Sidney Ponson, Dan Giese – to fill two rotation spots for the time being.

On Friday, the Yanks saw Ponson go through the same high wire act. He pitched six scoreless innings but had put on nine baserunners in the game’s first four innings. I hate to rock the proverbial boat when the results belie the outcome, but the Yanks can’t expect to see themselves in close games if their back-end starters are allowing two or more opposing hitters to reach base each innings. That’s just playing with fire. Other than keeping their collective fingers crossed, the Yanks better come up with a solution and fast. They can easily overcome a 5.5 game deficit, but they can’t afford to watch more ground slip away.

And speaking of rocking the boat…

Today’s lineup was something of a mystery, and as Mike said to me this afternoon, is anyone surprised that the Yanks managed to score just one run?

The Yanks, facing a lefty tough on lefties, put up one of their worst lineups of the season. The outfield featured Justin Christian; the infield Wilson Betemit and Jose Molina. Missing were three of the team’s hottest hitters: Robinson Cano (10 for his last 22 with 2 HR), Bobby Abreu (11 for his last 23 but 0 for 10 against Perez) and Jason Giambi (8 for his last 23). Sitting this lefty triumvirate hurt the team. While I know Joe Girardi didn’t want to see his lefty bats flailing against a tough southpaw, perhaps that was a boat better left unrocked and a close game lost that could have been won.

A promotion but what demotion?

According to The Times and Democrat, a local paper from South Carolina, Brett Gardner has been called up to the Bronx. He will be in uniform for tonight’s Yankees-Rangers game. I don’t yet know what the corresponding roster move will be. We’ll have an update when we know.

Categories : Game Stories
Comments (38)
  • A’s break the bank for Inoa

    Baseball America has confirmed it: 16-yr old phenom Michel Inoa has agreed to a $4.25M deal with Oakland. The top prospect for the upcoming July 2nd international free agent signing period, Inoa’s bonus is a record, blowing the $2.44M given to Wify Mo Pena in 1999 right out of the water. The 6’7″, 210 lb righty has been described as a “once-in-a-generation” talent, but I’m always skeptical about the hype surrounding international free agents, especially ones represented by American agents. The signing will be formally announced Wednesday, and will likely inflate bonuses beyond comprehension. · (52) ·

Triple-A Scranton (7-5 loss to Buffalo)
Brett Gardner: 0 for 4, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 SB – 0 for his last 10, but he’s walked 4 times & stole 4 bases during that stretch
Bernie Castro: 2 for 3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI – 5 of his 7 XBH on the year have come in his last 5 games (with a DL stint in between)
Juan Miranda: 0 for , 1 BB, 1 K
Shelley: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 K
Jason Lane & Cody Ransom: both 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 BB – Lane doubled & was picked off first … Ranson hit a 2-run HR
Chris Basak: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 SB
Alan Horne: 0.2 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 0 K – only 12 of 32 pitches were strikes (37.5%) … from Chad Jennings: “It was almost like I couldn’t get the ball there,” [Horne] said. “It didn’t matter what I tried to do. I’d try to add something to it and it seemed like the harder I tried to throw it, the less effective it would be. My breaking stuff was just as slow and loopy as I think I’ve ever thrown it, and I can’t tell you why. Physically I’m fine. They came out there and checked me out and I said, ‘Nothing hurts. I just feel dead. My arm especially. It’s like I have no life, no drive through anything.’ ” … that doesn’t sound good at all, hopefully it’s just a dead arm period and not something much more serious
Steven White: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 3-6 GB/FB
Billy Traber: 1.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HB, 2-2 GB/FB – fugly
Scott Strickland: 2 IP, zeroes, 4 K - he’s next in line for a call-up, no doubt about it

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Categories : Down on the Farm
Comments (33)
  • Kennedy demoted to Tampa

    Via PeteAbe, it turns out that IPK was activated off the disabled list this past Wednesday, and was optioned all the way down to High-A Tampa. Girardi did a nice job picking his words, but what he said about the situation boils down to “he pitched like crap and needs to earn another shot.” Moves like this aren’t unprecedented; both Roy Halladay & Edinson Volquez were demoted all the way down to A-ball after spending significant time in the big leagues, and we know how those two turned out. · (22) ·

1. Damon, LF
2. Jeter, SS
3. A-Rod, 3B
4. Posada, 1B
5. Betemit, 2B
6. Melky, CF
7. Molina, C
8. Christian, RF
9. Rasner, SP

Okay, so where’s the real lineup Joe?

So wait, that’s really it? Let me get this straight: you’re sitting three very good lefty batters in Abreu, Giambi and a surging Robbie Cano against a mediocre southpaw in Oliver Perez, but you started them against a premium lefty in Johan Santana yesterday after they played 3 games in 3 different stadiums in a span of 48 hours. Okay cool, that makes sense.

Wait, no it doesn’t. Whatever, let’s hope Perez has one of those games.

Categories : Game Threads
Comments (256)

Fox sports workhorse Ken Rosenthal has a nice piece up about Joe Girardi’s bullpen management skills, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Tucked away in the middle of the post is this gem:

Critics, pointing to the stalled developments of pitchers such as Ian Kennedy and Jeff Marquez, say the Yankees overrate their prospects, something to which practically every organization could plead guilty.

“I’ve seen a lot of guys who will play in the big leagues and pitch in the big leagues,” says one rival scout who is assigned to the Yankees’ system. “But I haven’t seen an impact player.”

You know what, Rosenthal’s scout friend is right. I do think there is a little wordplay going on here, though. How many true impact players, guys that could come up and make an immediate dent in the bigs, are sitting in the minors right now? Two, three, maybe four? What every team has is potential impact players. Every single team, even the Mets and ChiSox with their barren farm systems.

Austin Jackson, Jose Tabata and Jesus Montero clearly have the talent to be impact Major Leaguers, as do pitchers like Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman and Mark Melancon. These guys are all a year or so away from the big leagues though (especially considering Brian Cashman’s latest words about Melancon), so you can’t consider them impact players yet. It’s a fine line.

Most prospects don’t work out, we all know that, and that’s exactly why it’s important to have depth. You want to know the best way to judge and compare farm systems? Look at the #10, #20 and #30 prospects, not just the top 10. Depth is paramount, and right now the Yanks have a nice amount of it.

Categories : Minors
Comments (11)

Posted by mobile phone:
Short write-up tonight because I don’t feel like typing much on the Blackberry right now…

Andy Pettitte and the Yanks outlasted the rain and the Mets tonight to emerge victorious in Shea Stadium for the second day in a row. Coupled with a Red Sox loss in Houston, the Yanks closed the AL East gap to five. Halfway through the season, the Yanks are seven games over .500 and in the thick of the playoff hunt.

The Yanks were held to just five hits – two of them by the hot-hitting Robinson Cano. While the team struck out 11 times, they drew five walks off Mets pitcher and the three runs proved to be plenty as Andy Pettitte (9-5, 3.98) and three one-hit innings by the pen made it work.

And now some bullets:

-How many of you died with Kyle Farnsworth pitching the eighth in a one-run game? That the Mets had up their middle-of-the-lineup guys just made it worse. While Farnsworth came through in a very high leverage situation, if ever there is a time to go to your best reliever for a two-inning save, that was it.

-Nice Golden Sombrero for Carlos Beltran today.

-Robinson Cano is now at .244. Melky is now at .249. We should have a pool predicting which day Cano passes Cabrera. Could it be today? Tomorrow? Inevitably, it will be soon.

-Another two K’s and a save for Mariano. That guy’s pretty damn good, eh?

Categories : Game Stories
Comments (27) now has a magazine, which you can purchase here. It’s chock full o’ stats, reviews, player interviews (including an upcoming one with Pat Venditte), all sorts of cool stuff. Make sure you check it out.

Some quick injury news: Al Aceves was placed on the 7-day DL with a minor groin issue, and Kevin Whelan is out with an elbow issue. It sounds like Tommy John surgery is inevitable.

Triple-A Scranton
Game 1
(2-1 loss to Buffalo in 10 innings, walk-off style) this was the completion of yesterday’s game that was suspended in the 9th because of fog
Brett Gardner, Jason Lane & Chris Stewart: all 0 for 4 – Gardner walked & K’ed … Lane drew a walk & K’ed twice … Stewart K’ed once
Cody Ransom: 0 for 5, 2 K
Juan Miranda & Eric Duncan: both 2 for 5, 1 2B
Shelley: 0 for 2, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 1 SB – threw a runner out at first from RF as part of a double play
Matt Carson: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 CS
Jeff Karstens: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 6-10 GB/FB – 65 of 93 pitches were strikes (69.9%)
Heath Phillips: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K – allowed a walk-off single after Morgan Ensberg bunted the winning run into scoring position … I’m not joking

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Categories : Down on the Farm
Comments (22)

Nine innings from now the Yanks season will be 50% complete, and at worst they’ll be 43-38, 7 GB of the division lead and 6.5 GB of the Wildcard. After their 81st game last year, the Yanks were 40-41 and 10.5 GB of first place Boston, 7 GB of Wildcard leading Detroit. It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but it’s improvement.

De facto ace Andy Pettitte toes the rubber today, taking on Johan “WE SHOULD HAVE TRADED KENNEDY AND TEH MELKY FOR HIM!!11one!!” Santana. Andy’s been dandy of late (I hate myself for typing that), allowing only 18 baserunners and 1 run against 19 strikeouts in 21 IP since Jose Guillen owned him in that forgettable beatdown at the hands of the Royals. Johan’s allowed 19 baserunners and 10 runs in his 2 starts (13 IP), both against AL opponents. There’s only five guaranteed years and $128M (minimum) remaining on his contract.

You probably have already heard that David Robertson has been summoned from Triple-A Scranton. Check this out: Robertson was Yarmouth-Dennis’ closer during the 2006 Cape Cod League season, and in the title clinching game he threw 3 perfect innings to close out the win. He struck out the final batter of the game, some kid from Texas named Bradley Suttle. The opposing starter that day? Jeremy Bleich. See, the world does revolve around the Yanks.

The lineup:

1. Damon, LF
2. Jeter, SS
3. Abreu, RF
4. A-Rod, 3B
5. Giambi, 1B
6. Posada, C
7. Cano, 2B
8. Cabrera, CF
9. Pettitte, SP

Notes: LaTroy Hawkins has been designated for assigning that pink backpack the rookies take out to the bullpen to Robertson … Hah! See what I did there? But seriously, Igawa was sent back to Scranton, Oneli Perez and his six-fingered hands were DFA’ed to clear up spots on the 25-man & 40-man roster, respectively for D-Rob … Ross Ohlendorf will work out of Scranton’s rotation for the time being, but the Yanks still view him as a reliever long term … Matsui had his knee drained again, Cashman said surgery was a possibility … Cash also said that Phil Hughes is 2-3 weeks away from pitching in games, and that he might not necessarily return to the big league team this season … Brian Bruney is a week away from pitching in games

Update: The start of the game is being delayed by the threat of rain. Pete Abe says they’ve just begun to take the tarp off. I live about two miles geographically from the Stadium, and the sun’s out here.

Categories : Game Threads
Comments (209)
  • Yanks promote Robertson

    This should make everyone happy: the Yanks have called up reliever David Robertson from Triple-A Scranton. The righty has certainly earned his chance, allowing just 48 baserunners in 51.2 IP this season. He’s struck out 187 men against just 54 in 136 career IP. Robertson last pitched on Thursday, throwing 24 pitches in 2 shutdown innings, so he should be good to go today. No word yet on a who’s going down. · (51) ·