Phelps strong, but not strong enough as Trenton’s winning streak ends at ten

Here’s the latest on the all the roster machinations. Keith Law posted an updated list of the top 25 prospects in the game, removing players who are in the bigs to stay even if they haven’t exhausted their rookie status yet (Jason Heyward, Justin Smoak, Wade Davis, etc.). Jesus Montero comes in at number nine after ranking tenth before the season. However, two players ranked above him in the preseason are no longer eligible, so in the grand scheme of things KLaw dropped him one spot.

Triple-A Scranton (3-0 loss to Indianapolis)
Kevin Russo, 3B: 0 for 4, 3 K
Reegie Corona, 2B, David Winfree, RF, Chad Huffman, 1B & Reid Gorecki, CF: all 0 for 3 – Corona walked & K’ed … Huffman K’ed once, Gorecki twice
Eduardo Nunez, SS: 1 for 4, 2 K
Jon Weber, LF: 0 for 2, 1 BB
Jesus Montero, DH: 0 for 2, 1 BB, 1 K – he’s DH’ed in four of his last eight games
Chad Moeller, C: 1 for 3, 1 2B
Jason Hirsh: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HB, 8-7 GB/FB – 70 of his 111 pitches were strikes (63.1%)
Royce Ring: 1.1 IP, zeroes, 4-0 GB/FB – 14 of 21 pitches were strikes (66.7%) … I’d say he was effective

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Yankees recall Melancon, option Golson

Via Bryan Hoch, the Yankees have recalled righty reliever Mark Melancon prior to tonight’s game. Greg Golson goes down in his place. The Yanks are now carrying 13 pitchers, so presumably Melancon’s time with the big league team is presumably limited. Maybe if we cross our fingers and wish really really hard, he’ll stick around and Boone Logan will be optioned back down. I’m not going to hold my breath though.

Game 39 Back for more

Photo Credit: Julie Jacobson, AP

So, last night was fun, eh? Ben and I both left the Stadium last night with sore throats and tired legs from screaming like madmen and jumping around like lunatics. But it was totally worth it. Nothing like watching the Red Sox fans that were gloating in the top of the 9th inning walk down the tunnel with their tails between their legs fifteen minutes later.

Anyway, I’m not sure how likely they are to play tonight, but here’s the lineup anyway…

Jeter, SS
Gardner, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, 2B
Cervelli, C
Thames, RF
Miranda, DH
Winn, LF

And on the mound, Carsten Sabathia.

First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET, but it’s been raining all day. It looks like there’s a window to get this one in, but who knows with weather forecasts. If they do in fact start playing, it’ll be a mad dash to get the lead before the 5th inning ends. The game is on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally.

Should the game be delayed or postponed or whatever, use this as your open thread for the night. You’ve got NBA and NHL playoff action on, plus the Mets are in Atlanta. Enjoy.

Update (6:34pm): No surprise here, but the game has been delayed. No word yet on the start time.

Update (7:11pm): Tentative start time in 8pm ET.

Tampa area high school named after The Boss

Although his appearances at Yankee games are limited mostly to Spring Training and the World Series these days, George Steinbrenner was on hand this weekend for the dedication of George M. Steinbrenner High School. Although he didn’t speak at the ceremony, he sat front row with his wife Joan and sons Hank and Hal, and received standing ovations from the crowd and school officials. Most know him as the brash owner of the Yanks, but The Boss pumps thousands of dollars into the community each year through donations and what not, often with zero fanfare. I’m happy to see him recognized for it.

What ails the captain

Photo credit: Kathy Willens/AP

As a group of 17-year-old Red Sox fans sitting behind me last night started chanting “Yankees suck,” Derek Jeter struck out against Daniel Bard on a 97-mph fastball that was probably ball four. In a fit of disgust, I posted to Twitter a sarcastic rant, “Remember when Derek Jeter was good? Yeah, me too.”

Admittedly, that comment was borne out of my disgust with the 9-7 Boston lead, the state of the Yanks’ bullpen and the team’s inability to push more than two runs across the plate after the first inning. At the same time, though, Derek Jeter has now been to the plate 176 times this year and is sporting an OPS of .709, .135 points below his career mark, and those small sample size excuses are turning into larger sample sizes from which we can derive some insight.

So what’s happening with Jeter? Well, for starters, his batting average on balls in play is well below his career mark. His BABIP is currently .286 while his career mark is an impressive .358. Bad luck could explain, in part, why Jeter is hitting just .268/.313/.396 through his first 36 games of the season.

Yet, BABIP doesn’t tell the entire story. If we drill down on Jeter’s plate tendencies this season, a few alarming trends emerge. Since 2002, Jeter has swung at just 19.8 percent of pitches out of the strike zone. This year, however, Jeter has swung at 33.3 percent of all pitches out of the strike zone. His overall contact rates have remained constant, but he’s definitely chasing more pitches out of the zone.

As he flails at pitches low and outside, his batted balls are suffering as a result. His line drive rate is down from his career mark of 20.5 to 13.9 percent this year. His ground ball rates have spiked to 68.1 percent, well above his career mark of 56.2 percent.

For Jeter, slow starts are nothing new. As Joe explored a week ago, Jeter suffered through a slump in 2009, and his awful beginning in 2004 is fresh on our minds. But here, we’re seeing a player who is close to 36 and has long relied on a high BABIP to sustain his excellence suffering through a bad spell of pitch recognition and contact rates. The trends are alarming.

It may very well be too early to grow too worried about the captain. Jeter has always managed to escape his slow starts in the past, but age isn’t on his side. As his plate appearances creep up toward 200 and beyond, Jeter’s slow start will look a little worse. The Yanks can afford to have a lead-off hitter with a .313 on-base percentage for only so long, and of course, his contract situation looms large. With 25 victories, second most in all of baseball, the Yanks can seemingly bury their problems, but Jeter deserves a close look this year. His start has been, needless to say, less than ideal.

Following up on Hughes

Prior to yesterday’s game I said that it would be a pretty big test for Phil Hughes because it was going to be the first time all season that he’d be facing a team for the second time. While his final line was pretty ugly (5 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR), the Yanks’ starter was only one pitch away from escaping the game with just two runs allowed, but it was clear the Red Sox were a little more prepared this time around.

As a reminder, here’s Hughes breakdown from his May 7th start against Boston…

Last night he threw 52 four-seam fastballs, 30 cutters, 14 curveballs, and three changeups, so he did go to his offspeed stuff a little bit more than he did a week or so ago. Here’s the breakdown from last night’s game…

So there’s quite a bit going on here. For the most part, Hughes attacked Boston’s hitters the same way the first time through the order. He basically replaced two four-seamers with one cutter and one changeup. The result was three singles and a run, but 49 pitches thrown to the first nine hitters. That’s more than five pitches per batter. The Red Sox swung and missed just twice, and fouled off 17 (!!!) of those 49 pitches, which is one more pitch than they fouled off in his entire May 7th start. They had an idea of what was coming, but they were just missing. A lesser pitcher might have gotten knocked around a bit more. That’s a testament to the quality of Hughes’ stuff.

The second time through the order is when Hughes and Frankie Cervelli really changed up the scouting report and went heavy with the breaking balls. The result was just two baserunners – a seven pitch walk to Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz’s homer. He needed just 33 pitches to navigate Boston’s lineup the second time through the order (3.67 pitches per batter), drawing three swings and misses and five foul balls. Still a lot, but basically in line with his rate from his May 7th start.

The third time through the order was flat out ugly. With two outs in the 5th, Marco Scutaro stepped to the plate for the third time, singling to center on the seventh pitch of an at-bat that featured three consecutive foul balls on a 1-2 count. Pedroia followed with a double to left, and that came after ten pitches and five foul balls. Hughes was at 96 pitches by then and was visibly gassed. J.D. Drew fouled off two of four pitches before homering, and Kevin Youkilis ended the inning on three pitches. Those four batters saw 25 pitches, fouled off ten of them, and swung and missed a total of zero times. Joe said it this morning and it’s worth repeating: Hughes had trouble putting hitters away last night, especially in the 5th inning when his pitch count got up there.

Whether or not this impacts how Hughes pitches in the future, when he starts facing the rest of the league for the second and third time, is anyone’s guess. It’s very possible that it was just a bad night and he didn’t have his best stuff. It was bound to happen at some point. The Red Sox do have a really good lineup (they’re 2nd in the league in homers, runs, and OPS, and 4th in OBP), so we have to give them credit for making him work. I can’t imagine the A’s or White Sox will put up as much of a fight when they get their second crack at Phil, though.

While frustrating, starts like last night are beneficial to the development of a young pitcher. I call them “character builders,” which is my cheesy way of putting a positive spin on a bad outing for a young pitcher. It’s true, though — guys learn a lot about what it takes to be a big league pitcher when they struggle. I’ll be paying attention to how things go the next time Hughes faces a team that’s seen him already, that’s for sure.

Granderson begins taking fly balls

With the hurdle of running pain-free behind him, Curtis Granderson began taking fly balls on Sunday for the first time since injuring his groin earlier this month. He did everything with about 75% intensity, including running down balls and changing direction. “Everything felt good,” said the Yanks’ centerfielder. “The endurance is just not there.” Most importantly, Granderson has felt nothing but normal soreness since resuming baseball activities last week.

With Granderson, Nick Johnson, and now Nick Swisher nursing injuries, the Yanks’ lineup is noticeably missing a lefty bat. The sooner Grandy gets back and healthy, the better. He’s going to need a minor league rehab stint to get himself game ready, so I’m hopefully that Granderson will be back within two weeks. Maybe that’s just me being optimistic.