Via Chad Jennings, Andy Pettitte said he felt good after throwing a 35-pitch bullpen session today as he continues his rehab from a groin strain. The final 20 pitches were thrown with the same intensity as a normal bullpen session, an encouraging sign. “I heated it up pretty good,” said Pettitte. “I just felt good.” He estimated that the earliest he could return is two weeks, which I hope is not too soon. The last thing the Yanks need is for Andy to push himself too hard and suffer another setback.
A few morning links for your pleasure:
Growing up in New England there aren’t many baseball phenoms I get to follow. While I now pay extra attention to Jeff Locke (wow does that Nate McLouth trade look bad), I hadn’t heard much about Jeff Allison in a while. Allison was a big story in New England in 2003 when drafted but it was downhill soon thereafter. Allison unfortunately went down the Josh Hamilton path and had serious problems with substance abuse. Here’s a recent story on Allison, and it’s good to see that he has been sober for almost 4 years now. He may never make it to the majors, but he’s come a long way since nearly dying twice of overdoses. If the baseball story never pans out hopefully the human being side will.
There have been approximately 22,000 articles written this week on Johnny Damon potentially returning to the Red Sox, and then Johnny Damon refusing to return to the Red Sox. Some people (idiots) ripped him and called him a coward, while others looked a little deeper. Lee Jenkins had the best take that I read on it, and while Damon didn’t leave New York under the best of circumstances, there was never the animosity that was prevalent when he left Boston. For a guy who has played for 5 teams (so far) in his career, at the end of it I think he’ll consider himself a Yankee.
We all know Stephen Strasburg is heading for surgery and baseball fans everywhere are saddened by it. He simply is a talent that fans could rally around because he is truly a special to watch. Here former phenom Mark Prior addressed the latest news on Strasburg from someone who has clearly been there. Interesting note in the article is that Prior was recently clocked at 92 MPH. Prior, once a Yankee draft pick is still trying to come back and while I would never rely on him, I’d love to see the Yankees take a flyer on him. He is, after all, still just 29 years old.
While I’m not a big Rick Reilly fan he did a good job of telling the story of Jane Lang and her dog Clipper’s recent visit to Yankee stadium. Not much to add to this but to drive home the fact that Hope Week has quickly become one of the best things about the Yankees season. Some of the stories really make you reflect on how good you have things, and this is no different.
For the second straight night the White Sox scored nine runs. But instead of another discouraging loss the Yankees hit John Danks hard, driving him from the game in the fifth. They scored 12 runs in all, including four home runs. That’ll get them a win just about every time.
Biggest Hit: Jorge extends the lead
The Yanks went ahead early in this game thanks to three two-run home runs, but by the end of the fourth the White Sox had hit a few homers of their own. The game was 6-5 when Danks started working the fifth. Nick Swisher Drew an eight-pitch walk. Four batters later, after a Robinson Cano single, Jorge Posada drove a double to right. It was deep enough to score both Swisher and Cano, extending the Yankees’ lead to three. They’d tack on two more before the end of the inning.
The rally coincided with CC’s revival. From the fifth through the seventh he faced 11 batters and struck out five of them. He looked generally good earlier in the game, but Jones and Konerko took advantage of hittable pitches. That will sometimes happen. Thankfully it happened on the right night.
Learn from Mo, for Mo is wise
As he so often does, CC pitched a solid seven which, with the aid of 11 runs, should have meant an easy job for the bullpen. The Yankees used four relievers in the final two innings, and the first three of them gave up runs. Well, technically only Joba and Robertson gave up runs, but Logan allowed both of his inherited runners to score so he’s not so innocent. It wasn’t encouraging, but again it came on the right night.
Mo picked them all up at the end. Robertson had created a save situation, and since he hadn’t pitched in a week it was as good a situation as any to use him. His first order of business was to get rid of that pesky baserunner, which he did by busting Carlos Quentin inside and eventually inducing a ground ball double play. He then toyed with the White Sox for a couple of batters before finishing the game.
Nunez’s big day
A lefty started the game, which meant that Eduardo Nunez took his turn in the uninspiring A-Rod replacement platoon. Both Nunez and Ramiro Pena can field the position with ease, but neither has a bat that remotely approaches a diminished A-Rod. But there are some games when that light hitting player can go on a tear. Pena has done it before. Last night it was Nunez’s turn.
He started the festivities in the second with a two-run homer, the first of his career, extending the lead to three. It was the third straight fastball from Danks, and it actually looked pretty inside. Nunez got around on it and lined it out to left. He then came through in the seventh with a bases loaded single that put the Yanks up by five. In the eighth he singled to lead off and eventually came around to score on a Swisher single. Finally, in the ninth he picked up his first big league walk.
The career evening raised his line from .250/.250/.300 to .333/.360/.500.
Graph and Box
That’s how I like my away game graphs. Nice and towards the bottom.
The Yanks get Gavin Floyd tomorrow at 2 p.m. Ivan Nova gets his second major league start.
Update (11:17pm): Tex said he injured the hand yesterday on a dive and tried to play through it today, but it was too sore. Joe Girardi gave it the old day-to-day and said Nick Swisher will sub at first for the time being.
8:44pm: It’s a bruised right thumb for Tex, though we don’t know when or how it happened. Hopefully it’s just a bruise and nothing more serious.
7:50pm: Mark Teixeira was pinch hit for in the 3rd inning of today’s game for an unknown reason. There wasn’t any kind of obvious play where he may have injured himself, so we’re just going to have wait and see on this one. Fingers crossed.
It’s Saturday night, so sue me for taking the easy way out…
- Triple-A Scranton lost the first game of their doubleheader. Kevin Russo, Greg Golson, and Jesus Montero all singled and struck out. Colin Curtis had a pair of hits, including a double. The Ghost of Kei Igawa struck out ten in 6.2 innings of work, but he also allowed four runs.
- Triple-A Scranton won the second game. Jorge Vazquez provided all the offense with a solo homer and a run-scoring hit later in the game. Curtis and Brandon Laird each had a single, Golson a single and a double. Montero did not play. Jon Albaladejo blew the save in the 8th, then got ejected after he flipped his lid.
- Double-A Trenton won. Austin Krum tripled, Rene Rivera doubled, and Austin Romine tripled. In his second AA start, Manny Banuelos struck out five and allowed zero runs in five innings. He walked three, gave up three hits, got three outs in the air, and another three on the ground.
- High-A Tampa won. Bradley Suttle drew a walk, but Melky Mesa left the game after being hit by a pitch. He did stay in to run the bases for himself, and didn’t exit until the next half-inning. Zoilo Almonte and Addison Maruszak each had a pair of hits, and Jack Rye doubled and drove in a pair. Sean Black allowed just two hits and struck out five in 5.1 scoreless frames. Pat Venditte blew the save when he allowed an inherited runner to score, but he still managed to strikeout four in 2.2 innings.
- Low-A Charleston lost. Slade Heathcott drew a walk in five trips to the plate only to be one-upped by J.R. Murphy, who walked three times in four plate appearances. Rob Lyerly and Craig Mahoney each had two hits, with one of Mahoney’s being a double. Luke Murton went deep for a solo shot. Nothing exciting on the mound at all.
- Short Season Staten Island lost. Cito Culver went hitless, but Rob Segedin had two knocks including his first professional homerun, so congrats to him. Gary Sanchez singled and walk while Kelvin DeLeon did the same, just replace the walk with a double. Nik Turley struck out five and allowed three runs in five innings of work.
- Rookie GCL Yanks lost. Mason Williams, Angelo Gumbs, and Ben Gamel all singled for their only hit. Williams also drew a walk. Zach Nuding, this year’s 30th rounder, made his pro debut, allowing two runs to match his two strikeouts in two innings. This was the final game of their season, which is now over. They did not qualify for the playoffs. In fact, they had the worst record in the division at 24-32.
Pitching has not been pretty lately. Save for CC Sabathia, of course. He’s been a rock in the rotation all year, despite a somewhat rough patch earlier. The other guys in the rotation picked him up then, and now he’s returned the favor tenfold. The Yanks need him to keep it up tonight, in need of a win after a rough series against the Jays and then last night’s loss to the White Sox.
Offense would help, too, but unfortunately the Yanks have to contend with John Danks. They made him work last time, so there’s hope that they can get something going tonight. Granderson takes the night off, which is probably a good idea considering the tough lefty. He’s been better, and he did hit a couple of lefties in Toronto, but no need to push it.
And on the mound, number fifty-two, CC Sabathia.
Felix Hernandez recently became the 3rd youngest player since 1950 to reach 1000 career strikeouts. While the offseason extension he signed may have put a damper on the King Felix to NY dreams, he still will hit free agency at the age of 29. Next time around don’t expect much of a team friendly deal though, and the Yankees will certainly be in the mix barring a disaster for Felix on the way.
What are the odds of this disaster? As a young guy with a ton of pitches already on his arm, is he more predisposed to injury or burning out too soon? I decided to take a look at other pitchers who reached 1000 strikeouts before their age 26 season. Since 1950, 11 pitchers have done this. Let’s take a look at who they are and how they performed until they were 25 and how they performed from 29 (when Felix will likely become a FA) to 35.
Future Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven is 1st on the list. While he was still a very good pitcher, he saw decreases in his K/9 rate (to 6.7) and K/BB rate (to 2.79). Also, his ERA+ dropped from a stellar 132 to a decent 118. His best years certainly came before hitting 29 but he was very productive into his mid 30’s.
Everyone is aware of Dwight Gooden’s problems and his career certainly peaked early, but if his early workload was a factor(likely), it was only one of many. Doc certainly battled his demons throughout the years. Ages 29-35 were not pretty for Doc, with a 6.1 K/9, 1.44 K/BB and a 96 ERA+. He was done at the age of 35.
Sam McDowell’s last good year as a major league pitcher came at the age of 28 (after a league leading 305 innings at 27). He was done at 32. From 29-32 he was bad, with a 6.9 K/9, 1.23 K/BB and 87 ERA+. After a very solid start to his career, McDowell was out of the game at an age where Randy Johnson had just 104 wins.
Fernandomania is next. Even though he came along later than most of the guys on this group, Valenzuela still came up in an era where pitch counts were mostly ignored. While he also battled some conditioning issues, I think the workload certainly caught up to Fernando. After a stunning start to his career, Fernando’s last good season came at 25 and was less than mediocre after the age of 29. From 29-35 Fernando had a 4.8 K/9 ratio, 1.38 K/BB ratio and 91 ERA+. He retired at 36.
While Don Drysdale is in the Hall of Fame, his late career was not great and he retired at 32. From 29-32 his K/9 ratio was 5.8 with a strong 3.17 BB/9 ratio and about a league average ERA+ of 105. Leading the league in starts for 4 straight years from 25-28 (eclipsing 300 innings every year) certainly couldn’t have helped him in his twilight. He basically did nothing after the age of 28 that bolstered his Hall of Fame chances other than compile a few more wins.
Frank Tanana was a great young left handed fireballer (I’ve heard Jon Lester as a good comp.) who was one of the best pitchers in baseball before he hurt his arm. He came back and reinvented himself as a soft tosser. While he was pretty successful afterwards, he never again approached his early career success. From 29-35 he had ratios of 5.9 K/9, 2.12 K/BB and a 107 ERA+.
Denny McLain had some Gooden like off the field issues, but was out of baseball at 28 primarily due to serious arm problems. At ages 24 and 25 he threw 661 innings combined and threw just 384.1 the rest of his career. He appeared to be on his way to the Hall of Fame (114-57 thru 25) but clearly never came close. He never even reached his age 29 season, but from 26-28 he struck out just 4.3 batters per 9 with a 1.46 K/BB ratio and a 73 ERA+. The workload certainly got to McLain soon after he was old enough to rent a car.
Larry Dierker’s career got started at 17 (and think of how impressive what Jesus Montero is doing in AAA at the age of 20). Shockingly enough (or not shocking at all), Dierker was done at 30. At 29 and 30 Dierker had a 4.7 K/9, 1.34 K/BB and an 87 ERA+. Good thing he threw those 305 innings at the age of 22 though.
Former A and Yankee Catfish Hunter is up next, and while he stuck around long enough to be enshrined in Cooperstown (his worthiness is another discussion) Catfish’s career also ended early and his career as a great pitcher ended as soon as he hit 30. He actually wasn’t a great pitcher from 19-25 but racked up a ton of innings getting him plenty of strikeouts. His best years came from 25-29 but was about average after that. From 29-33 he struck out 4.5 batters per 9, had a 1.84 K/BB ratio and a 103 ERA+ that includes his 144 ERA+ at 29.
Last on the list is Joe Coleman who was done at 32 and threw just 378 innings after 29. He had a 4.9 K/9 and a 1.25 K/BB to go along with a 101 ERA+. At 18 he threw 93 innings between the minors and majors. At 19 it was 208. Too bad Tom Verducci wasn’t around to save the day.
I didn’t know what I was going to encounter when I started this post, but maybe Nolan Ryan should take a look. A lot of these guys burned out early and it would be interesting to see what they could have accomplished with today’s workloads and pitching programs. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a lot of these guys were out of the game so early, and none of them could match their early successes. While I don’t think too much can be culled from these comparisons I think it’s interesting nonetheless. Clearly Felix has been groomed differently as a big money bonus baby whose every move and pitch has been tracked since he signed. Still, there is no guarantee he will be healthy down the road, and some believe you only have so many bullets in an arm before its shot. I hope Felix is sitting there as a big free agent at 29 because that will mean continued health and success for him. If he ends up on the Yankees down the road, lets just hope he breaks the mold of the list of guys above.