The Double-A Trenton Thunder have announced that all home games this season will be streamed live on MiLB.tv. The season package is only $40 and includes all levels, so you’ll also be able to see select Triple-A, High-A, and Low-A games as well. In fact, all four games of Low-A Charleston’s series with Lexington this week will be broadcast live, and that’s a team worth watching. The Yankees don’t have a ton of prospects at Double-A right now — Brett Marshall, David Adams, and Zoilo Almonte are the next of the bunch — but you will be able to catch Andy Pettitte’s rehab start this Wednesday. Hooray for that.
Things were not supposed to be like this, not after three turns through the rotation. The Yankees brought no fewer than six legitimate starting pitchers to Spring Training two months ago with three big league ready pitching prospects at the Triple-A level. Mid-way through camp they signed Andy Pettitte simply because they could. He had the itch to play and they weren’t going to tell him no. A month later, Pettitte has gone from feel good story to a pretty important piece of the puzzle.
Those first three turns through the rotation have been pretty ugly. Ivan Nova and his 3.79 ERA/4.04 FIP has been the lone bright spot on a starting staff that currently ranks 29th in ERA (5.84), 26th in FIP (4.52), and 29th in HR/9 (1.76) among the 30 clubs. If you’re a believer in xFIP, then I suppose you’ll be comforted by the fact that they rank ninth with a 3.58 mark. Keep your fingers crossed that their homer rate regressing to the mean, I guess. We know quality starts aren’t the best way to evaluate a pitching staff, though I do think it’s telling that the Yankees have the second fewest in baseball (four) through 15 games. Not easy to win like that.
As if the current rotation situation isn’t bad enough, the Yankees are going to be without Michael Pineda for the foreseeable future. He suffered a setback in his rehab over the weekend and will have his his right shoulder re-examined today. Even if they get good news, the Yankees can’t expect him to contribute anytime soon. David Phelps has impressed in long relief and both Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell continue to bide their time in the minors, but all three remain unproven. Pettitte is the only guy on the horizon with a track record, and even that is compromised by his year-long hiatus.
After throwing five innings in an Extended Spring Training late last week, the plan calls for Pettitte to throw 80-85 pitches for Double-A Trenton on Wednesday. Early reports say he looks like the same old Andy, but this will continue to be a wait-and-see thing. The Yankees have said he will make at least two starts of 100 pitches before considering him for a big league spot just because they have to see how his soon-to-be 40-year-old body reacts. With the Roger Clemens trial set to start in two weeks and Pettitte expected to testify in some capacity, his return could be pushed back to mid-May.
CC Sabathia will right his ship at some point and although I think Hiroki Kuroda will as well, there are reasons to be skeptical about him. Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia have been trash through their three starts and Pettitte is coming for one of their spots. The Yankees shouldn’t expect to receive the Andy of old, but it won’t take a miracle for him to be an upgrade over Hughes or Garcia. Having a second left-handed starter will be nice as well. Pitching depth has a way of disappearing in a hurry, and now Pettitte might have to play a big role in the team’s success this season if some current members of the rotation don’t straighten themselves out.
The Yankees and Rangers have quite a bit of history with each other, dating back to the three late-1990s ALDS matchups and more recently the 2010 ALCS. You can even include the race to trade for and then sign Cliff Lee in there. The Yankees won seven of nine games against the two-time defending AL Champs last season, including two of three in Arlington.
What Have They Done Lately?
At 13-3, the Rangers have the best record the best record in baseball. No club is within 15 runs of their +52 run differential, confirming that Texas has been baseball’s best team through at least the first three weeks of the season. They just took two of three from the Tigers in Detroit, losing only to Justin Verlander. They’d won eight straight prior to that loss, including a two-game massacre of the Red Sox in Boston last week.
Given the injuries to Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, there’s really only one team in baseball that can hang with the Yankees offensively at the moment, and that’s the Rangers. Texas has scored 94 runs through 16 games while the Yankees have scored 90 in 15 games. No other AL team has scored more than 78 runs. At 134 and 128 wRC+, the Yankees and Rangers have the first and third best offenses in baseball, respectively.
Texas has power up and down the lineup, starting in the leadoff spot with Ian Kinsler (156 wRC+). Elvis Andrus (80 wRC+) gives the pitcher a bit of a breather in the two-hole, though he always seems to annoy with bunts and infield hits. Josh Hamilton (223 wRC+) has been the best hitter in baseball not named Matt Kemp this year, and then you’ve still got Mike Napoli (170 wRC+), Nelson Cruz (170 wRC+), and Mike Young (165 wRC+). Napoli recently had a five-game homer streak end thanks to Verlander. Platoon bat David Murphy (135 wRC+) has hit well in limited action, but Craig Gentry (57 wRC+) and Mitch Moreland (28 wRC+) have not.
The Yankees are catching a little bit of a break this series because Adrian Beltre suffered a hamstring injury over the weekend. He’s currently listed as day-to-day but will have an MRI at some point. Beltre hasn’t done much against the Yankees in recent years — just .234/.260/.340 in 28 plate appearances since the start of 2010 — but he’s a great player and having him on the sidelines is a plus for New York. Young or utility infielder/former Yankee Alberto Gonzalez will fill in at third for the time being. Texas is second to the Yankees in homers and third behind the Athletics and Yankees in steals. It’s a great offense and New York is really, really going to need its rotation to settle down.
Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Derek Holland
When you throw a two-hit shutout in the World Series, people will take notice. In reality, Holland’s march to stardom began in the second half of last season as he pitched to a 2.77 ERA with a 3.1 K/BB ratio in his final 15 starts. He’s performed similarly in his first three starts of 2012, including seven innings of two-run ball against the Red Sox in Fenway Park last week. Holland is a fastball heavy southpaw, using his low-90s sinker roughly 70% of the time. His changeup, curveball, and slider make appearances when he’s ahead in the count, allowing him to miss plenty of bats (8.85 K/9 and 25.3 K%). Holland’s allowing some more fly balls (34% grounders) this year but he’s also limiting walks better than ever before (2.66 B/9 and 7.6 BB%). The Yankees hit the eclectic left-hander pretty hard three times last season, but that was before things clicked and he went on that huge second half run.
Tuesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Yu Darvish
Something tells me this game is going to be a pretty big deal in Japan. Lots of people are going to be late for work on Wednesday morning. Anyway, Darvish has been up and down in his first three MLB starts, allowing five runs to the Mariners in his first start (5.2 IP), two runs to the Twins in his second start (5.2 IP), and one run to the Tigers in his third start (6.1 IP). He’s had the same problem that plagues most Japanese pitchers when they first come over, and that’s nibbling too much and not challenging hitters. Darvish has walked at least four in all three starts and his 13 free passes currently leads the league. His K/BB ratio is nearly 1.0 thanks to his 14 strikeouts. His stuff is as expected, a 90-96 mph fastball with a knockout mid-80s slider and a slower mid-70s curveball. He’ll cut and sink his fastball as well. With all due respect to Detroit, the Yankees will be the best lineup Darvish has ever seen in his life.
Wednesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. TBA
They haven’t officially announced it yet, but the Rangers are likely to start Scott Feldman in this game after Saturday’s rain out threw a wrench into their rotation schedule. He figures to be on a relatively short leash after throwing no more than 20 pitches in either of his two appearances this season, though he did work as a starter and get stretched out in Spring Training. I can’t imagine he’s good for 100+ pitches, though. Anyway, Feldman has used five different pitcher as a starter in the past, including two fastballs (cutter and sinker), two breaking balls (curveball and slider), and a changeup. He’s more of a low walks/ground ball type, though his strikeout rate has ticked up with more bullpen work in recent years. The Yankees have hit him very hard in the past, but that doesn’t really matter now.
Other candidates to start Wednesday’s game are left-hander Robbie Ross and right-hander Alexi Ogando. The Rangers could always call up a minor leaguer as well, but that seems unlikely. Feldman is the clear favorite for the spot start. For what it’s worth (next to nothing), two of the three best starts of Hughes’ career — based on Game Score — have come in Texas.
Yesterday’s rain out gave the Yankees’ bullpen an impromptu day off, so they’re pretty well rested. David Phelps needs at least one and probably two more days off after throwing 66 pitches on Saturday, but everyone else is good to go. Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, and Cory Wade have each had two straight days off.
The Rangers played a doubleheader on Saturday and extra innings yesterday, but their bullpen is actually in pretty good shape because Neftali Feliz threw an eight inning, complete game loss in the second game of the double dip. Koji Uehara threw 25 pitches in the first game on Saturday, and yesterday the end-game trio of Ogando, Mike Adams, and Joe Nathan each threw no more than 18 pitches. Ross threw 13 pitches as well. Mark Lowe hasn’t pitched since Tuesday, and I have to think Feldman is off limits for the first two games of the series so he can start the finale.
Overall, the Texas bullpen owns a 2.33 ERA and a 2.39 FIP, both top five marks in baseball and right there with the Yankees. Nathan has absorbed two of the team’s three losses and hasn’t been the old, automatic version of himself since coming back from Tommy John surgery last year. For the latest and greatest on the Rangers, I recommend checking out Baseball Time in Arlington and Lone Star Ball. Both are high-quality reads.
Record Last Week: 4-2 (44 RS, 33 RA)
Season Record: 9-6 (90 RS, 73 RA, 9-6 pythag. record), tied for AL East lead
Opponents This Week: @ Rangers (three games, Mon. to Weds.), Thurs. OFF, vs. Tigers (three games, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- A four-game series with the Twins opened the week, but they pounded Freddy Garcia and the offense couldn’t mount a comeback on Monday. CC Sabathia and Chris Stewart carried the Yankees to a win the next day, but Hiroki Kuroda got hit around in Wednesday’s loss. Curtis Granderson clubbed three homers in the series-ending win.
- The Yankees headed up to Fenway Park on Friday, and they spoiled the park’s 100th anniversary party with a 6-2 win while wearing 1912 throwback uniforms. Saturday’s game featured a huge nine-run comeback and 15 unanswered runs in a 15-9 win. Yesterday’s series finale was rained out.
- Injury News: Brett Gardner was placed on the DL with a bone bruise and a strain in his right elbow. Michael Pineda suffered a setback during his rehab and will have a dye-contrast MRI on his right shoulder today. Joba Chamberlain has resumed light workouts.
- Alex Rodriguez’s homerun milestones apparently do not count towards the luxury tax. The Yankees do not plan to discuss a contract extension with Russell Martin during the season.
- Andy Pettitte went five innings in his latest minor league game and will start a Double-A game on Wednesday.
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The Yankees had nine games postponed by rain last season, the most in the majors. They had their first weather-induced postponement of 2012 on Sunday, and I think the baseball gods just decided to have mercy on the Red Sox given their recent performance. Either way, we’ll get to enjoy Saturday’s amazing comeback while the Sox have to wallow in the stench of defeat for another day. That works for me.
After the postponement was announced, Joe Girardi confirmed they’ll simply push their starting pitchers back a day. That means CC Sabathia on Monday, Hiroki Kuroda on Tuesday, and Phil Hughes on Wednesday against the Rangers. The Yankees have the option of throwing Ivan Nova on Wednesday instead of Hughes, though it doesn’t sound like that will happen. No decision has been made about Freddy Garcia, but I have to think they’ll use Thursday’s off day to skip his next start.
The bullpen was actually in pretty good shape despite Garcia’s short start on Saturday, though the extra day of rest will only help. Mariano Rivera and David Robertson will each have two straight days off, so we could see them in all three games against Texas knowing that they’ll get a breather come Thursday. Girardi also confirmed that they’ll still with 13 pitches through the series with the Rangers, so Cody Eppley survives the roster crunch for another few days. He was originally drafted and developed by Texas, so I’m sure the trip to Arlington will be special for him.
It’s unfortunate the Yankees won’t get to beat up on these Red Sox one more time because they’re definitely down and out at the moment. Plus their bullpen is trashed after Saturday’s game. Now this game will be delayed until at least July, when things could be much different. That’s life though. The Yankees will instead enjoy the breather and head to Texas for their biggest test in this young season.
Josh Norris recently sat down for a long chat with pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras, who spoke about the Triple-A arms, Jose Campos, promotions, and much more. Make sure you check it out.
Triple-A Empire State (6-5 win over Norfolk)
CF Colin Curtis & C Craig Tatum: both 0-4 — Curtis walked, Tatum whiffed
2B Jayson Nix: 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 BB, 1 K — first game of the season after spending some time on the DL
RF Dewayne Wise: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — 13 for his last 29 (.448) with five doubles and a homer
1B Steve Pearce: 2-3, 1 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K — 12 for his last 27 (.444) with five doubles and a homer
DH Jack Cust: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — first homer of the season
3B Brandon Laird: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 SB
LF Kevin Russo: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
SS Ramiro Pena: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 E (throwing)
RHP Dellin Betances: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 1 Balk, 3/3 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) — 36 of 59 pitches were strikes (51.0%) … he walked two of the first three batters he faced and the two final batters he faced with two walks to 19 batters in between … that’s a dozen walks in eight innings across his last two starts
RHP Nelson Figueroa: 2.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 22 of 34 pitches were strikes (64.8%)
RHP Chase Whitley: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 0/2 GB/FB — half of his 18 pitches were strikes
RHP Kevin Whelan: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K — eight of 11 pitches were strikes
The Yankees and Red Sox were rained out tonight, leaving us with a baseball-less Sunday night. There is an NHL playoff game on in a little bit (Kings-Canucks), but the Knicks have already played and there’s nothing going on locally. It will be nice to relax though, Sunday night Yanks-Sox games aren’t exactly good for the nerves right before the workweek. Feel free to talk about whatever your heart desires in this open thread tonight, but here’s a discussion question just for the heck of it…
If you could change one thing about the Yankees, what would it be? Could be a player, a bullpen role, the front office, Yankee Stadium concessions, anything.