Via Dan Barbarisi, Pedro Feliciano had surgery on his rotator cuff on September 8th, and he’s got a long rehab ahead of him. The lefty tried to rehab the injury at Dr. James Andrews’ recommendation, but it obviously didn’t work. There’s a legitimate chance that Feliciano will never throw a pitch for the Yankees, other than that one-inning rehab appearance in rookie ball a few weeks ago. Multi-year contracts for relievers, eh? Never a good idea. Maybe they’ll learn one of these days.
One more night of west coast baseball, folks. One more night of these awful 10pm ET starts, then everything goes right back to normal. The Mets are playing the Nats (Peacock vs. Pelfrey), and the Indians-Rangers (Huff vs. Holland) will be on ESPN. If you’re into hockey, the Traverse City Tournament Finals will be on MSG. It’s a prospect-only tournament, Rangers vs. Sabres tonight, if that’s your thing. Talk about whatever you want here, anything goes.
Via John Manuel, MLB has announced that the 2012 amateur draft will be held on June 4th-6th. The actual draft date isn’t terribly interesting (it’s the first full week of June, as usual), but it is interesting in the case of Ryne Stanek.
Stanek, a sophomore right-hander at Arkansas, was born on July 21st, 1991, so he’ll celebrate his 21st birthday 46 days after the draft. MLB rules stipulate that a player must turn 21 within 45 days of the final day of the draft to be draft-eligible as a sophomore. He missed the cutoff by one stupid day. Stanek has legit first round ability thanks to his projectable frame (6-foot-4, 180 lbs.), mid-90’s gas, and three offspeed pitches, but he’ll have to wait another year to cash in on his talent. Poor kid got hosed.
Every team carries one, just in case. But with the way the schedule works, it’s largely a superfluous position. While teams routinely go a week or even two without a day off during the regular season, there is no instance where any team will play in more than three consecutive days during the postseason. That leaves built-in rest days for the starting catcher, which means little to no role for the regular season backup.
In most situations teams opt to carry the backup anyway, but for the most part they’re not on the roster to give the starter a breather in a day game after a night game. They’re around just in case the starter takes one off the thumb, as Russ Martin did a few nights ago. They’re around in case the starter pulls a hammy rounding the bases, or gets hit on the head on a backswing. No team wants to get caught in that situation without an adequate replacement, so they bring the backup catcher along for the ride.
This season the Yankees have zero reason to carry a true backup catcher into the postseason. Earlier this week they placed their regular backup, Francisco Cervelli, on the 15-day DL. As Mike noted in that post, the 15-day DL is largely meaningless in September, since rosters have expanded to 40 anyway. While there might be other reasons for the Yankees to place him on the DL — Mark Feinsand of the Daily News notes that it creates a public record of Cervelli’s concussion — chances are it’s merely a move that allows the Yankees a little more flexibility when they create the playoff roster.
Austin Romine has taken over the backup catcher duties for the moment, and with all the men the Yankees have on the 60-day DL they could easily add him to the postseason roster. But there is no need. They’ll already have two players on the postseason roster, Jesus Montero and Jorge Posada, who can strap on catcher’s gear and fill in should Russ need to leave the game. And since they both fill the same lineup spot, DH, they won’t be playing at the same time. In other words, the Yankees can make a substitution without sacrificing the DH.
If a situation arises where Martin cannot continue, the Yankees can make a mid-series swap and add Romine to the roster at that point. That is, if Martin gets hurt in Game 3 of the ALCS, the Yankees could call in Romine for Game 4. The only catch is that Martin would then me ineligible for the World Series roster. That might be the only reason to carry a backup catcher in the playoffs: to ensure that the starter can remain on the roster in the following round if he sustains a nagging injury that will cost him a few games in the short-term. But that doesn’t seem like a good enough reason to carry a backup when another, more useful player could be available.
Using the above reasoning, here’s how the Yankees postseason roster could play out:
Catcher (1): Russell Martin
Infielders (6): Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Eric Chavez
Outfielders (5): Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Andruw Jones, Chris Dickerson
DH/PH (2): Jesus Montero, Jorge Posada
Starters (4): CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova
Relievers (7): Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett/Luis Ayala/Hector Noesi
The last man in the bullpen is pretty unnecessary, but it’s doubtful that the Yankees carry only 10 pitchers. That means if they wanted to add Romine they’d have to remove Posada, Dickerson, or Chavez from the roster. Since all three of them can provide more value than a backup catcher, it stands to reason that the Yankees should just use the advantage they have — two emergency catchers — and run with that. It allows them to have a stronger and more flexible postseason roster.
The preliminary schedule for the 2012 season was released earlier today, but let’s take a step back to discuss some stuff affecting the Yankees right here, right now…
Burnett’s New-Old Mechanics
Lost in last night’s win and A.J. Burnett‘s eleven strikeouts is that it looked like he was injured at one point. Burnett was visibly bothered by something in the third inning, when he loaded the bases and allowed the tying run. He was moving his arm around and appeared to be wincing after each pitch, but he stayed in the game after a visit from the trainer. He finished strong, striking out seven of the last dozen men he faced.
After the game, Burnett said there was no injury, he was just uncomfortable with his mechanics. That’s why he reverted back to his old motion mid-game. “I kind of went back to my old delivery in the middle of the game, but kept the things we worked on with that,” said A.J. “I was a little uncomfortable trying to get loose and trying to get the ball out like that, so [Larry Rothschild] was like, ‘Whatever it takes.’ I was more aggressive, and I think the work we put in allowed my hands to stay in the right spot when I went back. It was confidence. Confidence and pitching with conviction.”
Within this notebook, George King mentions that the Yankees have flipped Bartolo Colon and CC Sabathia in the rotation. Sabathia will now start on Friday in Toronto, Colon on Saturday. As I wrote two days ago, there’s basically no easy way for the Yankees to line Sabathia up for September 30th, the date of Game One of the ALDS.
Looking at what’s left of the schedule, the Yankees could have CC start one of the doubleheader games on the 21st (normal rest), then throw an abbreviated start (or something like that) on the 25th (three days rest). That would line him up for Game One. They could also have him throw that abbreviated start on three days rest on the 20th, then start him on the 25th (normal rest) and in Game One (normal rest). I’d much prefer the latter. Something has to be done though, unless they plan on running someone else out there to open a five-game series.
A-Rod Could Return Friday
Alex Rodriguez‘s sprained left thumb started giving him trouble again a few days ago, and the team originally said he would need three or four days on the shelf. Yesterday was day number four, but Joe Girardi said before last night’s game that a Friday return “is reasonable for Alex.” The idea is that with Thursday’s off day coming up, they’d give him a few extra days just to be safe since this injury is clearly nagging. A-Rod will do some kind of hitting work before tonight’s game just to test the digit, either batting practice or something else.
Major League Baseball has unveiled the preliminary schedule for the 2012 season, and the Yanks’ highlights include six games against the Braves, a trip to the new ballpark down in Washington, DC and a pair of Subway Series weekends in June. They open the season on the road in Tampa Bay, close at home against Boston and play the Red Sox 12 times after the All Star Break. Luckily, September 2012 will not feature any West Coast road trips.
The schedule, which you can download here as a PDF, contains few surprises. After a March Opening Day and a rainy April this year which saw the Yanks play a disproportionate number of home games, the season starts on April 6 with the Yanks in Tampa Bay for three straight games. April 6, by the way, is also the night of the first Passover seder. The Bombers then journey to Baltimore before returning home to open the season against the Angels on Friday, April 13, and they play just 11 home games in April. Other series include a four-game set against the Twins, three each in Boston and Texas and a homestand with the Tigers and Orioles.
The highlights of May’s slate include a home series against the Reds to open Interleague Play (May 18-20) and a four-game set in Kansas City (May 3-6). For those who can spare some time away, take a trip to KC for some excellent beer, barbecue and baseball. The four-day jaunt to KC comes amidst various homestands. The Orioles open May at Yankee Stadium before the Bombers head to Kansas City, and Tampa Bay and Seattle pay a visit from May 8-13. Road series include a pair in Baltimore and Toronto and a road trip to Oakland, Anaheim and Detroit (May 25-June 3).
June is again dominated by Interleague Play. After another visit from the Rays — the Yanks play 12 against Tampa Bay before the All Star Break — the Mets hop over the Triborough Bridge for a three-game set (June 8-10). The Yanks then play three in Atlanta (June 11-13) and three in Washington (June 15-17) before the Braves come back to New York on June 18 for three more games. Other than for the Subway Series, I’ve never seen the Yanks play an NL opponent in two series like this. The Washington series is a prime roadtrip opportunity for New York fans. After a set in Citi Field (June 22-24), the Yanks host the Indians and White Sox to close out the month.
In July, the Yanks get some time off. Every team will enjoy a four-day All Star Break this year as Kansas City takes centerstage for the Mid-Summer Classic. Before the break (July 9-12), the Yanks will travel to Tampa Bay and Boston. Afterthe break, they host the Angels and Blue Jays before decamping for Oakland and Seattle (June 19-25. The month ends with a home series against the Red Sox and a trip into town by the Orioles.
In August, the Yanks play 15 games — up from just nine this year — as the Mariners start the month in town (Aug 3-5) before the Yanks head to Detroit (August 6-9) and Toronto (August 10-12). That too is a prime series for road trippers. The drive from Detroit to Toronto is a very manageable one. Playoff contenders Texas and Boston visit New York starting on August 13, and the Yanks hit up the Windy City on August 20 and Cleveland on August 24. Toronto and Batimore close out August in the Bronx.
The stretch drive features some manageable travel for the Yanks. From September 3-13, the Yanks play three in Tampa Bay, four in Baltimore and three in Boston. It’s a prime block of days for another Yankee Stadium concert. On September 14, Tampa Bay drops in for three, followed by visits from the Blue Jays and A’s. A mid-week road trip to Minnesota begins on September 24, and the Yanks spend the final weekend of he regular series in Toronto for four games. The ultimate end to the 2012 campaign, though, is a three-game set against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium from October 1-3.
By and large, the schedule is far more balanced than last year. From August 1 through the end of the season, the Yanks play 29 home games and 30 road games. They don’t spend too much time during the cold and rainy spring in the Bronx and have no zany road trips too late in the season. Now who wants to meet up in Washington in June?
Fifteen years, three months, and 28 days after he recorded career save number one, Mariano Rivera notched career save number 600 last night. It came with very little fanfare given the historical significance, as he became just the second man in history to compile that many saves. An individual save, or even a collection of saves over the course of a season is generally meaningless, but racking up 600 of them over a 16-year career indicates durability and longevity in a job known for the exactly opposite. Of course, there’s a chance that all of this might not have been.
It seems like every all-time great has an “almost traded” story, and Rivera is no different. He has several, in fact. The Yankees tried to swap him for David Wells in 1995, and two years later they were willing to put him in packages for Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. Mo already had one year of closing under his belt by the time the last two deals were discussed, and the team’s plan was to acquire a high-end starter and sign a free agent like Roberto Hernandez to close. Even before the trade talk, Rivera successfully came back from major elbow surgery, a Tommy John surgery-like procedure that reinforced the elbow ligament. That’s an obstacle we often understate.
Criminally underutilized by Buck Showalter in the 1995 ALDS, Joe Torre took the reigns the following year and used Rivera in a way that would have caused most men to crumbled. Mo threw 107.2 IP over 61 relief appearances in 1996, a workload completely unheard of these days, but he excelled. A 2.09 ERA and a career high 10.9 K/9 earned Rivera both Cy Young and MVP votes (finished third for the former, 12th for the latter). The Yankees went on to win the World Series with Rivera’s help, then installed him as their closer the next year.
That first year in the ninth inning went very well (1.88 ERA), but a blown save (in the eighth inning) of Game Four of the ALDS ended his season on a sour note. As silly as it sounds now, that homerun by Sandy Alomar had people wondering if a quiet fisherman from Panama was a viable closer for a perennial contender. Rivera proved all the doubters wrong in subsequent years, and his postseason track record is the stuff of legend: 139.2 IP and a 0.71 ERA. He’s allowed four postseason runs in the last nine years.
Of course, Mo has had some pretty high profile blow-ups as well. Years after the Alomar homer, he blew the save and took the loss in Game Seven of the 2001 World Series, in part because of his own defensive miscue on a would-be sacrifice bunt. Ironically, the finishing hit was nothing more than a weak little broken bat looper, one of Rivera’s trademarks. He also blew back-to-back saves in the 2004 ALCS. When you make that many appearances in the playoffs, slip-ups are bound to happen, but thankfully Mo’s slip-ups have happened with great irregularity.
“I think people will realize it when he’s no longer here,” said Derek Jeter after last night’s game, speaking about how important Rivera is (and has been) to the Yankees. “Yankee fans have been spoiled, baseball fans watching him, us as teammates. You don’t see this. We don’t take him for granted, but I think a lot of people may.”
Whether you realize it or not, we’re all part of the group that takes Rivera for granted. It’s human nature, he’s been so automatic for so long that we can’t help but expect greatness. That’s why when he goes through his annual struggles in April and August, people are quick to question his greatness or even call him finished. At 42 years young, Mo is as dominant as ever. His strikeout rate is close to a whiff per inning (8.5 K/9) after a drop last year, and his walk rate is the second lowest of his entire career (1.1 BB/3). With 3.0 bWAR to his credit, he’s already surpassed last year’s value (2.9) and figures to pass 2009’s value (3.1) before the end of the season.
The Yankees are close to clinching yet another playoff berth, and once the postseason begins, they’ll have one advantage over any team they face, the one advantage they’ve had for the last decade and a half. Rivera is unmatched in the ninth inning and has been for basically his entire career. As unfair as it seems, we expect greatness from Mariano, but only because he’s delivered time and time again. Six hundred saves is a nice round number, but he didn’t need that milestone to validate his greatness.