Two walk-off wins on the farm

Make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread. Also make sure you check out Mike Ashmore‘s piece on long-time organizational catcher P.J. Pilittere, who spoke about his plans for when his playing career is over and what he’s doing to prepare for it.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (5-4 loss to Louisville in eight innings) faced a (theoretical) big leaguer
Kevin Russo, 2B: 0 for 4, 1 K, 1 E (missed catch)
Chris Dickerson, CF: 2 for 4, 1 2B, 1 SB
Jesus Montero, C: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 K – got a little seven game hit streak going
Jorge Vazquez, DH: 1 for 4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K – last four hits have gone for extra bases (two doubles, two homers)
Mike Lamb, 1B & Greg Golson, LF: both 0 for 2, 1 K – Lamb walked, got hit by a pitch, and scored a run
Brandon Laird, 3B: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 K – pimped the homer off a reliever after whiffing twice in two at-bats against Volquez
Jordan Parraz, RF: 0 for 3, 1 SB, 1 HBP
Luis Nunez, SS: 1 for 1, 1 R, 2 BB
Manny Banuelos, RHP: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 6-4 GB/FB – 65 of 91 pitches were strikes (71.4%) … he was up to 93 on the gun and pitched out of a number of jams, including man on third with no outs (ground out, line out, fly out) … only the third time he’s completed six innings this year, and he might have had another inning left in him … he allowed three hits to lefties, two off a former big leaguer (and Mike Axisa Prospect Crush Hall of Famer) … anyway, it’s another very good start for the youngest pitcher in the league
Logan Kensing, RHP: 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – 16 of 27 were strikes (59.3%) … blew the save and Banuelos’ win
Kevin Whelan, RHP: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2-0 GB/FB – ten of 17 pitches were strikes (58.8%)

[Read more…]

Game 113: Freddy’s Big Test

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Yankees decided not to trade for a starting pitcher before last Sunday’s trade deadline, instead putting their faith in the guys they already have. Freddy Garcia has been surprisingly effective this year, better than league average in terms of both ERA (3.22) and FIP (3.59), but he’s started against the Red Sox twice before this season and has gotten his brains beat in each time (5 R in 5.1 IP and 4 R in 1.2 IP). This isn’t a big game in terms of the standings (yes it’ll determine first place in the AL East for the time being, but both clubs have such a huge lead on a playoff spot that it’s not worth worrying), but it’s important for Freddy to show that he can at least hold his own against a great lineup down the stretch and heading in the postseason. Here’s the lineup that will be backing him…

Brett Gardner, LF
Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eric Chavez, DH
Russell Martin, C
Eduardo Nunez, 3B

Freddy Garcia, SP

It’s an ESPN Sunday Night Game, so that means an 8pm ET start. The weather in Boston isn’t great, but the wet stuff is supposed to hold off until after midnight. Hopefully the game is over by then, but no guarantees with these two teams. Enjoy.

Posada out as DH, at least for time being

Via Joel Sherman, Bryan Hoch and Erik Boland, Eric Chavez will be the Yankees designated hitter “for a while.” If that doesn’t work, the Yankees will call up Jesus Montero, though they have no immediate plans to do so at the moment. “I’m not happy about it,” said now former DH Jorge Posada, “[but] I put myself in this situation.” The team told him they need to put their best lineup on the field, but he’s not a part of it.

Posada had a nice little run in late-May and early-June, but he’s hitting just .237/.289/.364 with only three homers in his last 128 plate appearances. I suspect that Chavez won’t be the DH exclusively, but rather you’ll see a bit of a rotation. Chavez at third while Eduardo Nunez gives Derek Jeter or Robinson Cano a day at DH, or Chavez at first with Mark Teixeira at DH, maybe Andruw Jones in the outfield with Curtis Granderson or Nick Swisher at DH, something like that. Either way, something had to be done.

Sunday Linkage: Bat Boy, Waivers, A-Rod

Never was a fan of 8pm ET starts on Sundays, but what can you do. Here’s a few links to help pass the time this afternoon…

“Kick ass. Pop champagne. And get some ho’s.”

The Post published an exclusive article by Luis Castillo today, not the player but the former Yankees’ bat boy. He worked for the team from 1998-2005, and was part of the last group of bat boys that did not have to sign confidentiality agreements. He’s got a memoir called “Clubhouse Confidential” coming out, but revealed some of his favorite moments in the linked article. Castillo wrote about Derek Jeter‘s nicknaming habits, being Alex Rodriguez‘s personal assistant, Hideki Matsui‘s battle cry before Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS, and lots more. Check it out, it’s a must read.

Yankees aggressively blocking players on waivers

The trade deadline has passed but teams can still make deals once they go through the trade waiver process. It’s usually not much of an obstacle, but it’s part of the process. Peter Gammons says the Yankees have been the “heaviest on blocking claims,” starting pitchers in particular, meaning they’re claiming players off trade waivers to prevent them from going to other teams. Teams can pull a player back if they’re claimed on trade waivers, but the risk is that they can award you the player and his contract (see Rios, Alex). The Yankees definitely aren’t putting claims in on players with bad contracts (like Carlos Zambrano), but they’re probably gobbling up everyone else. Whether or not they make a trade for one of the guys they’re claiming is a different matter all together.

A-Rod unlikely to be suspended for poker allegations

Surprise! MLB will not suspend A-Rod for this latest round of poker allegations according to Todd Venezia. No wait, that’s not a surprise at all. Instead, Alex “will be warned again and not lightly” according to one of Venezia’s sources. I’m sure that will teach him a lesson.

The Mythical #2 Starter

I don't think CC could beat the chilies. But Burnett was a Cy Young winner back in Toronto, so.... (photo by Stefano A, used under a Creative Commons license)

A few days ago, Mike made some great points about A.J. Burnett’s performance up until now. Even including his total meltdown on Wednesday, he argues that Burnett been a decent back-end option for the strange and wonderful lineup that is the pitching rotation of 2011, and I agree. Yet, it seems there’s no end to the masses of people who have a serious bone to pick with him. Because I’m a really nice person, I will gladly stand up in his defense. And hey, everyone hates me anyway, so why not?

Observe, this frequent complaint which I see posted over comments, threads, chats, tweets, and so forth. I would like to say I hear this in the streets, but I live in the bay, and their failed pitcher, Barry Zito, is making way more than ours. At least A.J.’s not Zito!

Anyway, figure A: A.J. Burnett does not perform up to the standards of a number two starter.

Can I just ask what the hell a number two starter is?

If all you have to do is pitch after CC, then these are the people who have been number two starters this year: A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. If all that it takes to be “a number two starter” is that you start after the number one starter, then everyone is a number two starter. Burnett is perfectly capable of starting the day after CC. And I’m sure if you asked Hector Noesi, Brian Gordon (when he was in the States) or Manny Banuelos to start after CC, they would have the stuff to be a number two starter as well. If all you have to do to be a number two starter is start the second game of the season, here are some other number twos: Daniel Hudson, Edwin Jackson, Brad Penny, and Paul Maholm. Being or not being a number two starter is a stupid insult. You might as well say A.J. Burnett has bad shirts (which, but he way, he does).

The other option for qualifying as a “number two starter” is that you have to keep certain numbers and Burnett hasn’t done it. Keep in mind other number two starters, such as Jeff Francis and Chris Tillman, would also have to stick to these numbers. If that’s the case, he’s just not a number two starter anymore. That’s okay! Closers get demoted when they struggle, and it can happen to starters too. It’s okay to think that Burnett isn’t as good as we thought he’d be (were you expecting he’d keep the career high in strikeouts?), and it’s okay to demote him mentally based on that. But it seems like there’s a whole lot of extra angst over this fact.

Basically, “a number two starter” means absolutely nothing. The baseball schedule gets crazy enough that starting after CC Sabathia, while it’s cool because the bullpen is usually rested, is something that will happen to everyone. There are pitchers better than Burnett on this staff, I know. If you want to call Colon or Garcia or even Ivan Nova the number two starter, fine, whatever. But it’s a stupid role to assign to anyone. There’s aces like CC, Verlander, Weaver, and so on – and then there’s everyone else. If you’re pitching every five (or six?) days, it shouldn’t matter when. Is Burnett second best? Obviously not. Is he better than last year and a dependable back-of-the-rotation arm? Absolutely. Burnett isn’t going to be winning any Cy Young Awards out there, but he keeps the Yankees in the game most of the time, and that’s what’s important.

Personally, I don’t think he needs anymore hate. Suggesting Burnett is in the same category as Pavano, calling him a total waste, or saying that he should be released immediately seems a bit extreme to me.

Feel free to get on him for terrible outfits though.

Cervelli, a pattern emerging?

I believe it was back in August of 2009, that the mainstream media was trying its hardest to blow the rift between AJ Burnett and Jorge Posada way out of proportion. Although the two players both adamantly denied tension or conflict within the clubhouse, the perception was evidently convincing enough that Jose Molina ultimately wound up doing the majority of the catching for Burnett through the remainder of the year. Then in 2010, Cervelli’s name seemingly popped up on the roster each time Burnett was scheduled to pitch. At the time, many of us pondered the effectiveness of such an arrangement.

This year, Yankeeland has been spoiled by some fine defensive work behind the plate, compliments of Russell Martin. More importantly, the pitching staff has evidently built a solid rapport with the former Dodger backstop. Posada, meanwhile, is no longer contributing as a catcher as his responsibilities continue to be reduced. However, as the season continues to progress, Girardi appears to be assigning personal catchers once again. Except this time, CC Sabathia is the benefactor of Cervelli’s catching services.

By my count, Cervelli has been listed as the starting catcher 26 times this season. Of those 26 instances, he’s caught Sabathia 11 times. This represents roughly 42% of Cervelli’s opportunities. Comparatively, he’s caught Colon five times, Nova five times, Hughes one time, Burnett two times, and Garcia two times. Basically, he’s caught Sabathia almost as much as everyone else combined. Of late, Cervelli has caught the big guy in each of his past four outings (and seven of his past eight starts). From June 25th up until yesterday, the only game Cervelli did not catch Sabathia was on July 10th.

Admittedly, some of this is perfectly explainable I believe, through coincidental circumstance of typical season play. Specifically speaking, Phil Hughes missed substantial time on the disabled list which would of course limit the number of opportunities for Frankie. Similarly, Colon was out of action for about a month with a hamstring injury. Additionally, Nova spent some time on the disabled list and then in the minors. It’s reasonable to expect Cervelli to have worked more with Sabathia as he has simply had the most appearances of anyone in the rotation thus far.

Obviously, I’m certainly not Joe Girardi, nor am I privy to all of the details he contemplates when putting together a roster. While I don’t agree with necessarily assigning a catcher – if that is in fact the reality – I do understand (at least to a degree) why he might choose Sabathia as the designated pitcher for such a plan. Unlike in years past when Cervelli was assigned to work with a particular pitcher out of necessity (i.e. conflict between said pitcher and Jorge), this year the entire staff seems to run smoothly with Martin.

Simply put, perhaps the line of thinking is that Cervelli might as well be paired up with the pitcher most likely to mitigate the other team’s offense. With the offensive depth of the Yankees, Cervelli’s lack of production with the bat becomes a little less pronounced when the opposing team isn’t generating a lot of runs. One other possibility of such a relationship could stem from the mere fact that Sabathia is just a very good pitcher who isn’t particularly reliant on a specific catcher.

A-Rod could begin rehab assignment on Friday

Via George King, Brian Cashman said that Alex Rodriguez could begin a minor league rehab assignment on “the 12th,” which is this coming Friday. A-Rod increased the intensity of his workouts yesterday, running both before and after drills, including side-to-side and backwards. He also took 43 swings in actual batting practice, not just off a tee or soft toss. The number of rehabs games he needs will be determined by how he feels in those games, but based on how these things usually go, three or four games is a fair estimate.