Yankees sign Brian Gordon, may start Thursday

Update (9:27pm): Jack Curry spoke to Gordon, who clarified that his Thursday start is not set in stone. “I don’t know if it’s 100 %,” said Gordon. “I was told be mentally prepared to start on Thursday. That could change.”

Original Post (7:53pm): Via Ken Davidoff and Bob Brookover, the Yankees have signed right-hander Brian Gordon, who had been pitching for the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. He will be added to the big league roster as a condition of his opt-out clause with Philadelphia and start for the Yankees on Thursday. That would be his regular turn, conveniently.

Gordon, 32, has pitched extremely well this year. He owns a 2.55 FIP in nine starts and three relief appearances (55.1 IP) with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, striking out 56 and walked just seven. His 38% ground ball rate is scary though. Gordon has all of four big league innings to his credit, all coming with the Rangers back in 2008. Brian Cashman told Mark Feinsand earlier today that they were leaning towards David Phelps to make that start, but Gordon represented a veteran alternative. Interesting move.

Game 65: Rain

(Photo Credit: Flickr user notladj via Creative Commons license)

It’s raining here in the city, though the forecast seems to indicate that there’s enough of a window to gets tonight’s game in at some point. The Yankees waited until the last possible minute to put Derek Jeter on the disabled list, but no such luck with Russell Martin. He’s still active and hobbled while the bench remains a man short. Anyway, here’s the starting lineup…

Brett Gardner, LF
Curtis Granderson, CF
Mark Teixeira, DH
Alex Rodriguez, 3B
Robinson Cano, 2B
Jorge Posada, 1B
Nick Swisher, RF
Eduardo Nunez, SS
Frankie Cervelli, C

CC Sabathia, SP

Whenever the game starts, you’ll be able to watch it on My9. Enjoy.

Start Time Update: The game will begin at 7:40pm ET. Not bad at all.

Calf strain lands Jeter on disabled list

Update (5:57pm): The Yankees announced that Jeter has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with that strained right calf. Pena takes his place on the roster. The Cap’n made a case to remain active, but the Yankees just couldn’t play any more shorthanded than they already are, not with the NL leg of interleague play coming up this weekend.

Original Post (4:27pm): Derek Jeter will miss at least a week with an injured calf, Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon, but the club will not move to place him on the disabled list until after the short stop meets with doctors at 6 p.m. tonight. No matter what happens with Jeter, the Yanks will recall Ramiro Peña from Triple A Scranton to provide infield depth, but Eduardo Nuñez will receive the majority of the playing time at short during Jeter’s absence.

Jeter left last night’s game in the fifth inning after pulling up lame while running out a routine fly ball, and was seen slamming his helmet as he walked to the clubhouse with assistant trainer Steve Donohue. It’s a shock whenever the Cap’n gets hurt because he’s been remarkably durable during his career. This would be his first DL stint since the infamous dislocated shoulder sidelined him for six weeks at the start of the 2003 season and just his fifth ever. The injury likely guarantees that his string of seven straight seasons with at least 150 games played will end.

For the Yankees, the decision to place Jeter on the disabled list is complicated by the Captain himself. As Jeter admitted, he knows he’s going to be out at least a week with the calf strain, but he is concerned, as Jack Curry noted, that if he is ready to play after a week, he’ll be bored waiting for his DL stint to be over. With the Yanks’ upcoming Interleague swing through NL parks, the club might be better off using the roster flexibility (although Jeter himself begs to differ).

As for Jeter’s pursuit of his 3000th career hits, well that’s going to be on hold for a while. He’s clearly not going to get to 3000 on this homestand. If he goes on the disabled list, he would be eligible to come off on Wednesday, June 29th, the second game of a three game series against the Brewers at home. The Yankees then head out on the road for six games, but it’s worth noting that the first series of that short road trip is against the Mets. Jeter’s six hits away, so it’s still possible that he’ll reach the milestone in New York, just in CitiField. If he misses only a week, he would be able to return to the lineup on the brink of a six-game homestand, and I’m sure the Yankees would prefer to see him reach the milestone in the Bronx.

We’ll update this story once the Yankees announce their moves later this evening.

Cory Wade: Useful or Filler?

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Given the state of their bullpen, we shouldn’t write off any pitcher with big league experience that joins the Yankees on a minor league deal over the next few weeks. Randy Flores was the first such move, and apparently he has a mid-June opt-out that is rapidly approaching. The Yankees added lefty Greg Smith and righty Cory Wade yesterday, both of whom are with Triple-A Scranton for the time being. Smith is little more than a fill-in starter for a team with half its rotation in the big league bullpen, but Wade has the potential to be useful in middle relief.

Wade’s story isn’t terribly long or interesting. The 28-year-old was a tenth round pick of the Dodgers out of Kentucky Wesleyan College in 2004, and he reached the show in 2008 after moving to the bullpen full-time in 2007. Wade threw 71.1 IP across 55 appearances (the Joe Torre Plan( following a late-April call-up, posting a rock solid 3.78 FIP. He struck out just 6.43 batters but only walked 1.51 unintentionally per nine innings that year, getting a ground ball 40.8% of the time. Wade struggled (4.40 FIP, 5.53 ERA) in 27.2 IP with the Dodgers in 2009 and was sent back to the minors. He had shoulder surgery in March 2010 and pitched some late in the year, but was non-tendered after the season. The Rays picked Wade up over the winter and stashed him in Triple-A until he informed them that he planned to use his opt-out clause this past weekend, which is why he was available in the first place.

The shoulder surgery was not any kind of major reconstruction, just an arthroscopic procedure that cleaned things up. Wade was never a hard-thrower before, sitting mostly 88-91 with his fastball in the past and his velocity has reportedly returned to similar levels following the surgery. His bread and butter is a mid-70’s curveball with both vertical and horizontal break that he spots well on the outer half of the plate to both righties and lefties. You can see it in this video (first out). He’s also uses an 80 mph or so changeup as well, making him a rare three pitch reliever.

Wade’s strengths are his lack of a significant platoon split (thanks to the changeup and curve) and his ability to limit walks (1.72 uIBB/9 in the bigs, 1.83 in the minors). His weaknesses are that he hasn’t shown much strikeout ability in the big leagues (6.27 K/9 but 8.15 in the minors) and is prone to the long ball (0.91 HR/9 in the bigs, 1.09 in the minors). That tends to happen to fly ball pitchers (just 39.3% grounders) with less than stellar fastball velocity. Wade was his usual self with Tampa’s Triple-A affiliate this year (8.35 K/9, 1.47 BB/9, 0.98 HR/9 in 36.2 IP), so it doesn’t appear as if the surgery had any ill effects.

Those are two nice strengths but also two serious weaknesses, keeping him from being anything more than a middle innings guy at the big league level, particularly in the AL East. That said, Wade is certainly better than the Buddy Carlyles and Amaury Sanits of the world, so he’s a fine pickup that the Yankees can stash in Triple-A and evaluate for a little while before deciding if he’s worth a call-up. With Joba Chamberlain done for the year and Rafael Soriano not yet throwing, the more options the Yankees have available to them, the better. Wade’s about as good as minor league signings get this time of year.

Colon’s Injury: Blessing In Disguise?

Any time a team loses its number two starter, it’s going to hurt. Most teams simply don’t have the depth to replace a pitcher of that caliber, and the same is true of the Yankees. They lost Bartolo Colon for at least two weeks when he strained his hamstring covering first base on Sunday, though it could easily be more given the nature of his injury and his less than ideal physical condition. My hope is that he can start one of the first five games after the All-Star break, though I tend to set expectations low. Now, excuse me as I put on my blind optimism hat for a second, but is it possible that Colon’s stint on the disabled list could actually be a good thing?

Of course it’s going to completely stink in the short term because Bartolo was legitimately pitching like an ace. His 3.34 FIP and 1.6 fWAR puts him in the company of guys like Jamie Shields (3.50 FIP, 1.7 fWAR), Tim Hudson (3.41 FIP, 1.4 fWAR), Chad Billingsley (3.40 FIP, 1.4 fWAR), and Ricky Nolasco (3.55 FIP, 1.4 fWAR), four guys any of us would happily take in the Yankees’ rotation. However, Colon has also thrown 78.1 IP this year, and the only reason it’s that low is because he started the year in the bullpen. Since officially moving into the rotation on April 15th, his 67 IP are right up there with noted workhorses like Mark Buehrle (67.2 IP), Ted Lilly (66.1 IP), and Dan Haren 68.2 IP). Point being, Colon’s thrown a ton of innings lately.

All that work is why this DL stint could be a blessing in disguise for the Yankees. Those 78.1 IP this season are already more than Colon threw in 2010 (0 IP), 2009 (62.1 IP), 2008 (39.1 IP), and 2006 (56.1 IP), and he’s just 21 IP shy of his 2007 total. It’s been a while since Bartolo has endured this kind of workload, and who really knows how that stem cell treated shoulder will hold up. Simply put, a few weeks of rest at this point of the season could be just what this 38-year-old needs to remain healthy and effective down the stretch, when the Yankees are really going to need him.

This isn’t just about Colon either. His absence will afford the Yankees the opportunity to give some of their younger arms a taste of the big leagues, even if it’s just Hector Noesi experiencing life as a Major League starter for the first time. It’s better to let him start that learning process now than in August and September, when the margin for error is smaller just based on the number of games left on schedule. Heck, if Noesi pitches well, it could also boost his trade value and make him that much more desirable to other teams in a midseason trade should the Yankees decide to go that way. The same holds true for David Phelps or Adam Warren.

There’s always a chance that Bartolo comes back from the injury and simply doesn’t pitch as well as he had been. If fact, there’s probably a better chance of that happening than him coming back and dominating again. This level of performance is just so improbable, but he’s been defying the odds all season and I wouldn’t be surprised if he continued to do so after this little vacation. It’s hard to spin injuries into a positive, and if Colon’s bum hamstring has any benefit to the team, keeping him fresh for the stretch drive is it.

After 49-pitch sim game, Hughes to make Sunday rehab start

Via Sweeny Murti and Dawn Klemish, Phil Hughes threw 49 pitches (36 strikes) across 3.2 IP in a simulated game in Tampa today. He struck out six and reportedly hit 91-93 mph consistently, saying afterward that he felt “a lot better.” The next step is a 65-pitch rehab start with Short Season Staten Island on Sunday, officially starting his 30-day rehab clock. That game will be played at gorgeous MCU Park in Coney Island (home of the Brooklyn Cyclones), so it’s a great chance for those of you in the area to catch Hughes on the cheap. Check for tickets right here.

Series Preview: Texas Rangers

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For the third and final time this season, the Yankees will get a chance to exact some revenge against the team that ended their season last October. Sure, a bunch of regular season wins won’t ever make up for an ALCS loss, but it’s all we have right now. The Yankees have already won four of six games against the Rangers this year, taking two of three at home in April before doing the same in Texas in May. What does the June series have in store?

What Have The Rangers Done Lately?

The first time these two teams met, the Rangers were arguably the hottest team in baseball. The second time they met, the Rangers were stuck in a crazy tailspin. This time around, Texas is sort of in between a hot streak and a slump, winning just two of their last seven games but also winning ten of their last 16. Their lead in the division is just 1.5 games over the Mariners, but their run differential is third best in the league and 38 runs better than anyone else in the AL West.

Rangers On Offense

That's a weird place to rest. (Photo Credit: Flickr user Keith Allison via Creative Commons license)

The Yankees got lucky the first two times they played Texas this year because Josh Hamilton was on the disabled list for both series, but now he’s not. His .363 wOBA is nothing special and he’s hitting a 2011 Robinson Cano-esque .268/.307/.512 since coming off the DL last month, but you know what? I don’t care. Hamilton is still one of the best players in the world and can absolutely mash anything no matter how poorly he’s performed over the last month. He’s a game changer on the same level as Miggy Cabrera or Adrian Gonzalez or Jose Bautista; he impacts the game just by standing in the on-deck circle.

Nelson Cruz was also on the shelf the last time these two clubs met, and he’s hit just .241/.259/.590 since coming back. He’s also struck out a dozen times in his last 30 at-bats, a rate that would make Mark Reynolds blush. Michael Young is actually batting cleanup these days, and he destroyed the Yankees in their six games this season (.435/.480/.696). He’s cooled off considerably of late (.241/.288/.315 in his last 118 PA), but I can’t imagine he’ll be an easy out. Hamilton, Young, and Cruz occupy the three, four, and six lineup spots, respectively, while Adrian Beltre slots in at the five-hole. He’s hit a gaudy .293/.353/.496 since the last time these two teams met, so that’s one lefty and three dangerous right-handed batters right in the middle of the lineup. I guess that’s better than four lefties given Yankee Stadium‘s dimensions.

Atop the order is Ian Kinsler, who has one hit in eight at-bats since coming back from paternity leave on Saturday. His .349 OBP and .166 ISO are fine numbers, but he doesn’t hit for average at all (just .231). Elvis Andrus is coming into the series pretty hot (.327/.364/.442 in his last 13 games), but manager Ron Washington pulled him off the field on Sunday for a lack of effort. Mitch Moreland (.396/.433/.566 in his last 15 games) and Yorvit Torrealba (.367/.375/.467 this month) are coming into the series hot while David Murphy (.211/.269/.284 in his last 30 games) most certainly isn’t. The new center field platoon of Endy Chavez and Craig Gentry has been hot (.286/.435/.596 in 64 PA) and cold (.235/.361/.294) in limited playing time, respectively. The Rangers’ .334 team wOBA is a distant third to the Red Sox (.352) and Yankees (.349) in the AL.

Rangers On The Mound

Tuesday, RHP Alexi Ogando: We’re all waiting for this two pitch (fastball, slider) reliever turned starter to regress, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Ogando’s 3.57 FIP (2.10 ERA) is propped up by a stellar walk rate (1.99 BB/9) and decent strikeout (6.64 K/9) and homer rates (0.89 HR/9). Of course a .210 BABIP and a 8.1% HR/FB ratio (just 36.5% grounders too) help matters, as does an 88.2% strand rate. Don’t get me wrong, Ogando’s been very good for Texas this year, just not as good as his ERA suggests. The Yankees hung five runs off him in 6.1 IP back in April, though a blister kept him out of the May series.

Wednesday, LHP Derek Holland: A personal fave, Holland is the opposite of Ogando in that he’s been better (4.05 FIP) than his ERA (4.41) would lead you to believe. He gave up five runs in 7.1 IP against New York back in April, then four runs in three innings (five walks) in May, so I’m sure he’s hoping the third time is a charm. Holland is a fastball-changeup guy with two usable breaking balls (both curve and slider), and he gets a good amount of strikeouts (7.71 K/9) and ground balls (46.9%) while limiting walks (3.20 BB/9). He’s just inconsistent like most young starters.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user mjl816 via Creative Commons license)

Thursday, LHP C.J. Wilson: As good as Wilson was last season, he’s been even better this year. His upped his strikeout rate a bit (7.78 K/9) while shaving a full walk off his walk rate (3.09 BB/9), though he’s paying for a decreased ground ball rate (46.4%) with more homers (0.75 HR/9). Still, a 3.47 FIP (3.04 ERA) is excellent. Wilson is a (rare) legitimate six pitch pitcher, using three low-90’s fastballs (two-seamer, four-seamer, cutter), a changeup, a curveball, and a slider at least 10.0% of the time each. The Yankees haven’t seen Wilson yet this year, though they did put 18 men on base and score nine runs off him in a dozen ALCS innings last autumn.

Bullpen: With some help from yesterday’s off day, the Rangers’ bullpen is pretty well rested. Neftali Feliz has seemingly gotten over his control problems to post six straight walk-free outings, though he’s still been touched for five hits and two runs in 6.1 IP during that time while striking out four. Feliz is righting the ship, but a guy with his stuff really should miss more bats (8.3% whiff rate). Darren Oliver (3.12 FIP), Mark Lowe (3.60), and Arthur Rhodes (5.96) handle the majority of the setup duties.

Derek Jeter punching bag Dave Bush (4.81 FIP) handles the majority of the long relief work, and southpaw Michael Kirkman (5.10) fills in the gaps. The new addition since the last time the Yankees saw Texas is Japanese import Yoshinori Tateyama, a 35-year-old righty with the traditional Japanese hesitation in his delivery even though he’s more of a sidearmer. He’s struck out eight and walked none in 10.2 IP since being called up, using his fastball-curveball combination in low-leverage situations. The Rangers’ bullpen has an MLB worst 4.90 FIP, more than a quarter of a run higher than anyone else. With any luck, the Yankees will see lots of these guys these next three days.

Recommend Rangers Reading: Baseball Time In Arlington and Lone Star Ball