The TJ Rehab Watch

By in Minors. · Comments (25) ·

One of our more popular features in the early days of RAB was the Hughes Watch, which will be forever immortalized on the left sidebar of the now defunct IGWT. After Hughes graduated to the bigs we debuted the wildly popular Joba Watch, which chronicled the right-hander’s voyage from A-ball to our hearts in five short months. With Joba now firmly entrenched in the Bronx, it’s time to move on to the next Watch subject, although there’s no obvious candidate.

Ideally, the Watch would cover a guy who will spend most of the year in the minors, but will also make his big league debut at some point. Guys like Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez, Juan Miranda, Brett Gardner and Scott Patterson fit the bill, but none of them really seemed Watch worthy to me. Austin Jackson, Jose Tabata, Jesus Montero and Dellin Betances are really talented, but too far away. Then along came an email from longtime reader Greg G., suggesting that the new Watch should follow JB Cox, Mark Melancon, Humberto Sanchez and Chris Garcia on the road to recovery from Tommy John surgery. He hit the nail on the head.

Not only is their recovery from TJ the biggest story of the minor league year, it also fits the ideal Watch mold. Sanchez and Cox should be knocking on the door by July, and Melancon has a chance to join them come September. Chris Garcia is a ways off, but he’ll add that wow factor if he manages to stay healthy. So with that, the TJ Rehab Watch is born. Four Watches for the price of one, everyone wins.

So here’s how it’s going to work: Just like last year the top table will contain the stats for the last game pitched, reagrdless of who was on the mound, and the bottom table will contained combined stats for all four guys. If more than one guy throws on a given night, I’ll add another “last game” table accordingly. I didn’t want to do a separate table for each guy, or one table for each guy and one combined table, or some sort of wacky business like that because a) HTML tables are the fugliest thing imaginable, and b) it would take up too much real estate. The whole point of the Watch is simplicity, a quick and easy way to track the progress of your favorite (okay, my favorite) prospects. Adding more tables ruins the vibe.

I decided on using a pic of Melancon for a few reasons: It was the best action shot of one of the four guys in a Yankee uni I could find, fans generally seem to love the guy (and with good reason), and also because Robert of Baby Bombers was kind enough to supply it. I considered Photoshopping a little montage off all four guys, but again, it’s all about simplicity. The pic can always be changed, in fact we went through quite a few last year on the Joba Watch.

The minor league season kicks off in full force tomorrow, as every team in every full season league, except the High-A California League, takes to the field (the Cal League season starts on Friday). I find it mildly hilarious that two pitchers on completely opposite ends of the talent spectrum – Rick Porcello and Kei Igawa – grace milb.com’s Opening Day graphic. Talk about odd combinations.

Triple-A Scranton looks to end it’s eight-game Opening Day losing streak against Lehigh Valley, the Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate. The Kei-man will take the hill for SWB, so yeah, good luck with ending that losing streak. Double-A Trenton starts the year off against the Binghamton Mets, while Low-A Charleston will look to conquer the Rome Braves. The highlight of Opening Day is the aforementioned Mr. Porcello making his pro debut against the High-A Tampa Yanks. Couldn’t ask for a better way to kick off the year.

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Mike Mussina is, whether we like it or not, a key cog to the Yankees’ success this season. Until the team is ready to move Joba Chamberlain out of that 8th inning role — and if he keeps doing what he did last night, that won’t be anytime soon — Mussina will be starting every fifth day. He needs to give the Yankees innings, and he needs to keep them in the game.

2007 will not be one for the ages for Mike Mussina. He hurled a career, full-season low of 152 innings while turning in a 5.15 ERA, a mark 1.40 runs above his career average. He failed to reach 100 strike outs for just the second time since 1992 and gave up 36 more hits than innings pitched.

If Mussina can keep his ERA around 4.50 this season, the Yankees will win his games. This a team that will score a lot of runs in many different ways, and if Moose can go 5-6 innings and allow 3-4 runs a start, the Yanks can find a way to win. Mussina is optimistic about his season. He knows that he needs to turn in a solid 2008 if he wants a contract somewhere in 2009. Let’s see if he’s true to his word.

The Yankees will go with the same lineup as last night. The Blue Jays have some changes.

Damon LF
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
Rodriguez SS
Giambi 1B
Cano 2B
Posada C Matsui DH
Matsui DH Molina C
Cabrera CF

Mussina RHP

Blue Jays
Eckstein SS
Stewart LF
Rios RF
Wells CF
Thomas DH
Overbay 1B
Hill 2B
Scutaro 3B
Barajas C

Burnett RHP

Notes: A.J. Burnett is 3-2 with a 3.20 ERA in six career starts against the Yanks. In 39.1 innings, he’s given up just 27 hits while striking out 35…Please consider donating to the Big Three Ks Craniosynostosis fund drive…Last night, we had over 200 posts on the game thread. That’s a RAB record.

Update 6:30 p.m.: Jorge Posada out; Jose Molina in. Jorge reportedly is day-to-day with a stiff right shoulder. He tweaked it yesterday and could not get loose enough to play in today’s cold weather. With 160 games left, there’s no point in running Jorge out there this early if he’s not feeling up to it.

Categories : Game Threads
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As many of you know, I love charting the progress of the new Yankee Stadium through photos. While my first trip up to the Bronx this spring isn’t until Sunday and I haven’t made it up in person since late December, we live in a Web 2.0 world. So let’s head to flickr for some peaks inside the new stadium.

We begin our journey looking east down 161st St. as the new stadium rises above the subway tracks. As we’ve seen before, the new stadium will be a stone’s toss away from the downtown platform of the 4 train, but that first shot really captures of the effect of the stadium rising above everything else.

From inside the current Yankee Stadium, it’s hard to miss construction going on just beyond the outfield walls. But the best views are from that downtown 4 train. Ride the train south from 167th St., and spy the inside of the new stadium and all the construction inside the seating bowl. The field itself won’t be completed until shortly before Opening Day 2009.

Next week, I’ll probably have a whole slew of new photos to toss up for you. While some of us bemoan the new stadium and others await it with eager anticipation, it’s pretty neat watching this thing go up.

The photo above by flickr user 94Aug.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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  • Yanks sign another reliever out of indy ball

    I somehow missed this one the other week, but the Yanks signed RHP Chase Vacek out of the independent United League. He had a good year serving as the San Angelo Colts’ closer (he spent some time in the Royals’ system previously), going 48 IP, 46 H, 23 R, 12 ER, 10 BB, 48 K with 9 saves and 20 games finished. Judging by the number of unearned runs, it’s safe to say he had a less than stellar defense behind him, so those stats are probably a little skewed. The big thing is the K/BB ratio. The Yanks have been stockpiling relievers with very good K/BB recently (Chris Britton, Dan Giese, Jon Albaladejo), and I can’t say I see a problem with that. No risk, mediocre reward move. · (18) ·

  • Blue Jays columnist takes Opening Day loss in stride

    Wait. No, he didn’t. Richard Griffin writing for the Toronto Star complains that the Yankees won due to the timely hitting and stellar fielding of a player who was supposed to be suspended. Where is the baseball justice? he asks. Meanwhile, the next time a Blue Jays pitcher gets suspended for plunking a batter and conveniently serves that suspension while nursing a sore something-or-other, I’m sure no one in Toronto will be complaining. · (40) ·

  • Bill James speaks; everyone listens

    The good folks at the Freaknomics blog recently got a hold of Bill James for some quality Q-and-A time. They opened the floodgates to their readers and received a lot of questions. In typical Jamesian fashion, the baseball analysis guru answered nearly all of them. Take a look; he talks about Yankee prospects, defensive stats and the overall state of baseball analysis. It’s a good read. · (7) ·

With the start of the season upon us, news and analysis about Yankee Stadium is flowing fast and furious. The stories focus on the last gaps of the old stadium and the ongoing construction efforts across 161st St. to the north. While historical retrospects tinged with nostalgia fill the pages of the city’s papers, not all the news is so rosy as the new Stadium goes up.

Much like efforts to save the old stadium, stories about the Yankee Stadium construction’s impact on the surrounding South Bronx neighborhoods haven’t gained much traction. Neil deMause has spent the last few years beating that drum on his own website and in the pages of the Village Voice, but a movement to force more responsibility from the Yankees hasn’t materialized.

Two stories this week shed some more light on how construction is adversely impacting life around the former Macombs Dam Park. Harvey Aarton in The Times noted how the community was never really against the development of new stadium. Rather, they were and remain against irresponsible development. They did not want their park destroyed and feel they are getting a raw deal from the city and the Yankees:

The Yankees got what they had long lobbied for. The city said it would replace every park acre, roughly 24, and would actually add space. This all sounded perfectly reasonable to the outsider, but the fine print diluted the promise. On a miniature scale, this was Central Park being broken up, spread among the boroughs.

“The story was always about the fragmentation of the park,” said Geoffrey Croft, the president and founder of the NYC Park Advocates, a nonprofit group. “And when I started looking at the replacement scheme, it never added up.”

These advocates believe the Yanks could have spent two years in Shea as they did in the mid-1970s and rebuilt Yankee Stadium on the site of the old ballpark. Of course, then the team would have sacrificed the increase in parking lots surrounding the new area. Maybe these neighborhood activists are onto something after all.

An article in yesterday’s Metro tells a similar story.

Also on Tuesday was a Clyde Haberman column about merchants cashing in on the final years of Shea and Yankee Stadiums. Of course, merchants will cash in, and fans — like me — will buy Final Season memorabilia. Interestingly, the merchants are awaiting the big guns: They want to be able to sell bits and pieces of the old stadiums. With lockers potentially fetching $10,000 and bricks going for $300, there’s real money to be made here.

As the season progresses, we’ll hear a lot about stadiums and history, about construction and community. I think it’s interesting to see how the various pieces of business and culture and neighborhood politics mesh and clash in small area tinged with baseball history in the South Bronx.

Categories : Yankee Stadium
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  • Trenton downs Scranton 3-2 in exhibition game

    Chad Jennings – who else? – has the scoop. Scranton had each of it’s pitchers throw an inning, and the game was called when they ran out of the relievers in the 8th inning. Colin Curtis and Cody Ehlers had RBI singles off Edwar for Trenton, while Matt Carson took Heath Phillips deep for a solo shot. Scranton’s run came via an Eric Duncan RBI ground out, and Brett Gardner scoring on a passed ball. Scott Patterson tossed a perfect inning, and reportedly screamed “they took Albalawho over me?!?” when he walked off the field. DotF returns Thurday. · (9) ·

As Mariano Rivera fanned Lyle Overbay and a Yankee win grew closer, I thought to myself, “This game was a perfect textbook example of a Yankee win.” Their starter threw seven strong innings; the offense came through at the right time; and the Joba-Mo tandem shut down the Jays to record the final six outs of the 3-2 Opening Day win.

As Rivera got the second out, Paul O’Neill read my mind. “That’s just textbook Yankee baseball,” he said, while Michael Kay yammered on incessantly sitting next to him. Of course, textbook baseball here isn’t much of a stretch. The Yanks won, and they won efficiently.

So let’s enjoy the moment in first place and wrap up the game.

The Good: Yankee pitching. While Wang had a few problems locating his pitches, he needed today’s outing. As much as those two disastrous postseason starts were last year, he needed to have it tonight. He needed to come out and remind everyone how he’s won 38 games over the last two years. When he missed tonight, he missed down, and he managed to go 7 innings on 92 pitches. He got six outs in the air and 13 on the ground.

Joba came in and did what Joba does best. After a bumpy Spring Training, Joba proved why LaTroy Hawkins — “Spring Training don’t mean shit” — was right. With a stellar fastball and some great off-speed pitches, Joba ended his appearance with an impressive K of future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. The first pump returned; baseball is back.

And, oh yeah, that Mariano Rivera fellow is pretty good too.

The Bad: If we’re going to nitpick and find bad in this game, it’s probably Jason Giambi at bat. He was downright cat-like in the field, but the bat seemed a little slow at the plate. He’ll come around.

The Ugly: Opposing pitchers’ numbers against A-Rod. The reigning MVP was 2 for 3 with a first-inning double and the Yanks’ first RBI of the season. After crushing the ball during Spring Training and dominating the league last year, A-Rod and his $27.5 million a year are still on fire.

Player of the Game: While YES gave their Player of the Game Award to Chien-Ming Wang, I’m going with RAB whipping boy Melky Cabrera. He made two outstanding catches in the fourth inning and brought the Yanks even with the Blue Jays by homering just over the right field wall. That’s a good start to the season for the soon-to-be-suspended center fielder.

Big Three K Craniosynostosis Challenge: With 2 Joba strike outs, we’ve raised a pledged $6.67 for the Jorge Posada Foundation. That’s a good start.

Thanks to everyone who chimed in on the game thread. We’ve cleared 200 comments on a post for the first time in RAB history. Welcome to 2008. How’s 162-0 sound?

Categories : Game Stories
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