Offense Rallies Late to Beat the Blue Jays 4-3 In a Rain-Drenched Drama

The Yankees had a less-than-ideal start to 2015 on Monday. After a long 48 hours or so, the team took the field, hoping to have a brighter start than, let’s say, 0-2.  By the top of the eighth, I was ready to end this recap with “Hey, the 2009 Yankees started 0-2!” but the eighth inning rally led to a 4-3 win and a sigh of relief.

(Source: Elsa/Getty Images)
(Getty)

#BIGMIKE

This was not Michael Pineda at his best, but he still did really well – especially considering the cold weather. His fastball hovered around 90~93 mph and he didn’t have the best command to it – but he still stuck to the usual game plan of mixing three pitches. It worked pretty well as he went 6 innings, allowed 6 hits and 2 earned runs but also struck out 6 and walked only one. Imagine when his velocity goes up with warmer weather and the atmosphere will be much easier for the pitchers. Let’s hope he stays healthy.

He got into few (cheap) troubles that led to allowing runs. In the third inning, after a cheap swinging bunt infield single by Kevin Pillar, Justin Smoak hit a screaming line drive double to get the runners on second and third with no out – few feet higher and that ball was a goner. Then, on a Devon Travis grounder, Didi Gregorius overthrew to the first and the run scored, 1-0 Jays. But Pineda minimized the damage since then – using his nasty changeup to strike out Russell Martin and Jose Bautista. That was a thing of a beauty.

In the fifth inning, things got dicey again. With runner on first, Jose Reyes hit a chopper to first base that got away from Mark Teixeira’s glove and Stephen Drew bobbled it. Drew then got the ball and threw to Chase Headley but the runner was safe and Reyes advanced to second. Next batter, the former Yankee Russell Martin, hit a sac fly to make it 2-0. That was not pretty. But again, not too much damage. Let’s hope that the weather is better next time he takes the mound and we’ll get to see a more electric performance from Pineda.

Eighth Inning: The Promised Land

Yankees were one-hit by R.A. Dickey through 4.1 innings and Drew hit a lucky bloop single to get on base. But Didi then grounded out into a double play to kill that rather quickly. Sigh. #The2015Yankees

In the sixth inning, Yankees got a chance. Jacoby Ellsbury got on base with a single and stole a base. Brett Gardner then grounded out and Ells advanced to third. Then Carlos Beltran hit one in the screws but it was right at the CF Dalton Pompey. Ellsbury scored nonetheless. So, yay run! Besides that moment, before the eighth inning, the hitters looked hapless as I remembered they were in the 2014 season.

Then, in the eighth inning, things started to change up. Pinch-hitter Chris Young doubled to start things up, Ellsbury singled to put the runners on first and third, and Aaron Loup hit Gardner with a pitch. Thankfully, Gardy is alright and even better, the Yankees had the bases loaded with no out.

With Beltran up, the Jays manager John Gibbons went with the former All Star reliever Brett Cecil … who uncorked a wild pitch to allow Young to score. After striking Beltran out, Cecil intentionally walked Teixeira. Next batter, Chase Headley, hit a grounder that deflected off of Cecil’s wrist and it somehow escaped into the outfield, giving the Yankees a 4-3 lead. Remember when New York kept hitting home runs to take leads and capitalize the game? This is a far cry from that. But hey, it gave the Yanks a lead so I’ll take it.

Bullpen Notes

Source: (Elsa/Getty Images)
(Getty)

Chris Martin came in after Pineda in the 7th inning and didn’t miss a beat from his solid outing on Monday. You know, I really like the decision to give him a chance. He’s a tall guy with a good fastball and overall stuff that flashes potential. He just hasn’t had much chance to get used to pitching to ML hitters. If his stuff and other intangibles translate well, I think he could be a solid addition. Also, a season of endless Coldplay puns.

Dellin Betances came in the eighth inning and had very mixed results. While a lot of people were focused on his velocity, the command was the real problem. He walked two and allowed an unearned run. This is clearly not the same Dellin we saw last season, when he hit the strike zone to get ahead and threw nasty benders to wipe’em away. Hopefully he figures a thing or two out very soon to go back to how he was. On a more positive note, a YES gun did have one of his fastball to 96 mph, which isn’t bad at all especially considering the weather.

Because Dellin pitched in the eighth, Andrew Miller came in the ninth by the process of elimination. Boy, he looked good. He located his fastball well and the slider was nasty, as advertised. He induced two grounders and a swinging strikeout to earn his first save in Pinstripes. I’ll take that any game of the season.


So this one almost looked like another lethargic Yankee loss but thankfully, with some luck, scrappy hitting and opponent’s mistakes, New York came away with a victory. Hope that positive vibe carries on to tomorrow, as CC Sabathia will take the mound against a much younger lefty Daniel Norris. Hope for a series win and maybe a lack of banter about CC’s velocity.

Game Two: Big Mike and the Blue Jays

BIG MIKE IS HERE

Okay, now the 2015 season is really ready to begin. Opening Day and the annoying yet necessary post-Opening Day off-day is over. Now baseball’s back for real. The Yankees resume their series against the Blue Jays tonight and will play again tomorrow night. And then again the night after that. And then again after that. The day-to-day grind is back.

The Yankees dropped their season-opener Monday is sorta lethargic fashion. Toronto jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the third inning and took the wind out of the Yankee Stadium sails. Three measly hits on offense didn’t help either. That’s just one game though. Tonight’s an opportunity to put that in past and get that first win of 2015. The Yankees have the right guy on the mound too, arguably their best pitcher in Michael Pineda. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. DH Alex Rodriguez
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Big Mike

It has not been a pretty day in New York. It’s cold, cloudy, and rainy. Has been since yesterday. The forecast says there is only a small chance of rain tonight, 10% or so, but temperatures will be in the low-40s and there will be plenty of wind gusts. Not the best baseball weather, but that’s life. This evening’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Austin Romine clears waivers, outrighted to AAA Scranton

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Here is some slightly surprising news. Catcher Austin Romine has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. Romine was designated for assignment over the weekend after losing the backup catcher job to John Ryan Murphy. He is out of options and had to go through waivers before being assigned to Triple-A.

It appears the Yankees played the timing well. Romine was designated Saturday, giving the team ten days to trade, release, or waive him. They placed him on waivers Monday according to George King, a day after clubs had to set their Opening Day rosters. Teams had already selected their backup catcher and committed to that guy’s contract before Romine hit waivers. Sneaky!

Because Romine has less than three years of service time and has never been outrighted before, he was unable to elect free agency after clearing waivers. He’ll go to Triple-A and play regularly — the preliminary RailRiders roster lists Eddy Rodriguez and Kyle Higashioka at catcher, and I suspect Higashioka will now be bumped down a level — and be the de facto third catch in case of injury.

Romine, 26, is a career .204/.247/.281 (41 wRC+) hitter in 181 big league plate appearances and a .243/.303/.365 hitter in 445 career Triple-A plate appearances. The various stats say he’s been a quality pitch framer and ultimately his value comes from his defense, not his bat. Glad to see Romine’s still around. Catching depth is always a good thing, especially when they already know the pitching staff.

Isikoff: Cuban star Yulieski Gourriel wants to play for the Yankees, but won’t defect

Now here’s an interesting story. Cuban infielder Yulieski Gourriel, who has long been one of the best players in the country, wants to play for the Yankees because his favorite player is Alex Rodriguez, according to Michael Isikoff. Gourriel, however, is unwilling to defect and betray the government. He’ll only come to MLB if the U.S. lifts the embargo and the Cuban government lets him leave.

Gourriel, 30, played in Japan last season and was supposed to do so again this year, but the Yokohama BayStars terminated his contract last week, according to Ben Badler. Gourriel is reportedly nursing a hamstring injury and didn’t report to the team. Cuban players are allowed to play overseas during the Cuban league offseason, though the government negotiates the player’s contract and takes a nice big cut.

In 62 games with the BayStars last season, Gourriel hit .306/.349/.536 with 22 doubles and eleven home runs. He also hit .343/.432/.577 for Industriales in Cuba. Gourriel is a career .330/.412/.570 hitter with two MVP awards in parts of 14 seasons in Cuba. He’s been a beast. Badler (subs. req’d) called him the best player in the country last August. (Recent Dodgers signee Hector Olivera was sixth.) Here’s a snippet of the scouting report:

Gourriel is a lightning rod player for scouts, many of whom see him as a disinterested, Jekyll-and-Hyde player who can blow you away at times and make you scratch your head at others … Gourriel could step in and be an immediate all-star in Major League Baseball …  Gourriel has terrific bat speed, good hand-eye coordination and barrel control, which helps him make consistent contact. He does chase pitches at times but generally has a sound hitting approach, staying within the strike zone and using the middle of the field, with 65 raw power on the 20-80 scale.

Gourriel has played both second base and shortstop in the past, though he’s settled in as a third baseman recently. “Every time you see (Gourriel), you see something special,” said Rangers play-by-play man and Cuban baseball guru Eric Nadel to Isikoff. “He rises to the occasion in international tournaments. He’s no secret … He’s legitimately a Major Leaguer in any league.”

Back in December, President Barack Obama said he was taking steps to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, and reportedly the two countries started to discuss lifting the 50-year-old embargo in late-January. I have no idea if or when it will be lifted, and until it happens, the Yankees have no shot at acquiring Gourriel. “(We) are ready when they say we have permission to play. We are ready for the lifting of the blockade. Then we can come play,” he said to Isikoff.

I thought it was pretty neat Gourriel’s favorite player is A-Rod. They’re similar in a lot of ways — Gourriel is the biggest name in Cuba and he’s a very polarizing player, with lots of fans and lots of people who love to hate him. He’s already 30, so his best years are likely behind him, and since it doesn’t seem the embargo will be lifted anytime soon, it’s unlikely Gourriel will ever wear pinstripes. It sure would be fun though. He’d be one exciting player to follow.

How Pineda can become the next Yankees ace

(Presswire)
Is the next Yankees ace on the mound tonight? (Presswire)

Michael Pineda may be the No. 2 starter according to Joe Girardi‘s binder, but after Masahiro Tanaka‘s unimpressive Opening Day performance and lingering concerns about his UCL injury, could Pineda jump up to the front of the rotation?

Based on his outstanding spring and last year’s record-setting performance, the answer just might be yes. Pineda last season became the first Yankees starting pitcher to finish with a sub-2.00 ERA (min. 10 starts) since Ron Guidry in 1978, and his .200 batting average allowed was the lowest by a Yankee starter (min. 75 innings) since Dave Righetti in 1981.

Perhaps the most impressive number was 8.43, his strikeout-to-walk ratio. That was the best single-season mark by any Yankee in franchise history with at least 75 innings pitched.

Yet, it’s important to remember that those numbers came in a very small sample size (13 starts, 76 1/3 innings) and there’s still a few holes in his “ace” resume. So before we put the crown on Pineda – and as we await his first start of 2015 – let’s take a look at one key thing the 26-year-old needs to do in order to take the next step during his second year in pinstripes.

***

Although there’s no consensus definition of an ace, it usually is a pitcher that you can count on to go deep in games, a true workhorse who can give the bullpen a rest for the night and turn over the opposing lineup multiple times.

Pineda last season averaged fewer than six innings and just 87 pitches per start, a mark that ranked 80th out of 91 AL pitchers with at least 75 innings pitched in 2014. He recorded an out in the seventh inning or later in just five of his 13 outings, and only twice threw at least 100 pitches in a game.

Those averages are slightly skewed because of his April 23 appearance when he was ejected in the second inning for using pine tar, but it doesn’t hide the fact that Pineda didn’t give the Yankees length as a starter and Girardi rarely felt comfortable extending him beyond the sixth frame.

While some of that might be due to the fact he was coming off major shoulder surgery at the start of the season and then spent two-plus months on the disabled list with a back injury, there’s also evidence that he wasn’t as effective in the later innings and when facing hitters multiple times through the order.

Pineda held hitters to a .185 batting average with 48 strikeouts and four walks the first two times through the order. The average MLB starter allowed a batting average of .250 in those situations, so it was clear that Pineda was dominant early in games.

But when the lineup turned over a third time, those batters tagged him for a .246/.281/.443 line in 64 plate appearances. Frankly, those numbers more resemble an average major-league pitcher (.268/.327/.421) than an ace. Most of that damage was done by lefties, who slugged .543 and had a line drive rate of 23 percent when seeing him for the third or fourth time in a game.

Most concerning might be that his signature slider became increasing ineffective as he faced hitters a second and third time during a game:

MICHAEL PINEDA SLIDER BY TIMES THROUGH ORDER IN 2014

BA Slug pct ISO
1st 0.135 0.212 0.077
2nd 0.200 0.314 0.114
3rd+ 0.240 0.480 0.240

Pineda also inevitably was hit hard when he pitched beyond the sixth inning. Four of the 16 earned runs he gave up in 2014 came in the seventh frame or later, across only 4 1/3 innings pitched. That’s an 8.31 ERA for those counting at home.

Batters were 8-for-21 with three doubles and two homers against Pineda after the sixth inning (.381/.435/.810), and it should be no surprise that he failed to hold his velocity on his four-seamer as he went deeper into games:

Pineda velo by inning

There is little doubt that Pineda has shown a ton of promise during his short stint as a Yankee, and appears to be on the cusp of being the next Yankees ace. However, the 26-year-old still has a ways to go before he can be viewed as a top-of-the-rotation starter.

Not only must Pineda prove that he can remain healthy for an entire season, he has to develop the stamina to give the Yankees length on a consistent basis and learn to pitch effectively in the later innings after batters have seen his stuff during a game.

Thoughts following Opening Day

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Opening Day and the traditional post-Opening Day off-day are in the rear-view mirror. The grind begins for real tonight, when the Yankees resume their series with the Blue Jays and play five games in the next five days. That’s both the best and worst thing about baseball. They play every damn day. Here are some thoughts prior to tonight’s game.

1. I was pretty pleased with the reception for Alex Rodriguez on Monday. Some boos, sure, but mostly cheers — he got the loudest ovation during the baseline introductions by a not small margin (video) — all throughout the game. Both before and after his at-bats. It helped that he was the team’s most productive non-Brett Gardner hitter, so let’s see what happens when he goes 0-for-4 with three strikeouts for the first time before saying the fans are on his side. Alex is going to get booed unmercifully on the road this year. It’s unavoidable. A little fan support at home would be nice to see this summer. Let’s face it, this Yankees team isn’t particularly fun to watch aside from a handful of individual players, so a productive A-Rod will make the season more enjoyable. To me, anyway.

2. On that note: how long until A-Rod is hitting third, fourth, or fifth? I have close to zero confidence in Carlos Beltran rebounding, only slightly more confidence in Mark Teixeira rebounding, and only slightly more confidence than that in Brian McCann rebounding. Alex had the best at-bats on the team Monday, which, while just a one game sample, was a continuation of what we saw in Spring Training. Even if Alex is a 10-15 home run guy across a full season at this point of his career, he still looks like he might be able to hit .280 with enough walks to get his on-base percentage up to .340 or .350. I’m not sure I can say the same for Beltran, Teixeira, or McCann. I think A-Rod is hitting in the middle third of the order by May 1st. If Rodriguez shows he can still handle low-90s fastballs and work a walk, it’ll make him one of the better offensive threats on the roster.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

3. Remember a few years ago — gosh, it’s been about eight or nine years now — when A-Rod dropped two foul pop-ups in one game? I’m pretty sure it was in Anaheim. Alex was slapped with the “he struggles with pop-ups” tag after that and it’s stuck even though he’s never really had any other problems since. Just the random dropped pop-up once or twice a year like every other player. I get the feeling that’s what’s going to happen with Didi Gregorius after his foolish attempted steal of third base on Monday. It was a terrible play, those extra 90-feet aren’t worth the risk down five runs, and Didi admitted as much after the game. “It was a bad mistake by me, I’ll admit it. I’ll admit that it was my mistake and it won’t happen again,” he said to Chad Jennings. And yet, I think that’s going to stick with him. He’s trying to do too much because he’s replacing Derek Jeter, he’s not a smart base-runners, he’s too aggressive, yadda yadda yadda. We’ll hear it all in the coming days and weeks. And, you know what, that might be true! If he does it again and again, then it’ll be a problem. Sometimes things are just an isolated incidence and a baseball play though. A young player making a mistake. Not everything is a referendum on a player’s style or mentality. Gregorius made a really bad play and it’s okay to leave it at that.

4. Man, the latest news on Ty Hensley is just awful. That poor kid can’t catch a break. He had no arm problems up until this recent Tommy John surgery — the shoulder “abnormality” the team found in his physical didn’t affect him on the mound — it was just a lot of unfortunate injuries. Hensley’s going to go into 2016 having thrown roughly 42.1 innings from 2012-15. That’s development time he simply can’t get back. He’s been dealt a crappy hand by the pitching gods and yet I have no reason to believe Hensley will do anything other than work his tail off to get healthy and get to MLB. If you follow him on Twitter, you know Ty has been relentlessly upbeat through all of this and he’s incredibly easy to root for. As a fan I so very much want to see him on the mound at Yankee Stadium one day. I’m rooting like hell for the kid.

5. Unfortunately, Hensley’s injury is just another reminder of how awful the Yankees’ first round picks have been the last, like, 15 years now. We can spend all day arguing whether someone was the right pick at the time. What we can’t argue is how few of them have worked out. Here are New York’s first and supplemental first round picks this century, via Baseball Reference:

Year Rnd OvPck Name Pos WAR G Type Drafted Out of
2013 1 26 Eric Jagielo (minors) 3B 4Yr University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN)
2013 1 32 *Aaron Judge (minors) CF 4Yr California State University Fresno (Fresno, CA)
2013 1 33 *Ian Clarkin (minors) LHP HS Madison HS (San Diego, CA)
2012 1 30 Ty Hensley (minors) RHP HS Edmond Santa Fe HS (Edmond, OK)
2011 1s 51 *Dante Bichette (minors) 3B HS Orangewood Christian HS (Maitland, FL)
2010 1 32 Cito Culver (minors) RHP HS Irondequoit HS (Rochester, NY)
2009 1s 29 *Slade Heathcott (minors) CF HS Texas HS (Texarkana, TX)
2008 1 28 Gerrit Cole (minors) RHP 2.9 42 HS Orange Lutheran HS (Orange, CA)
2008 1s 44 *Jeremy Bleich (minors) LHP 4Yr Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)
2007 1 30 Andrew Brackman (minors) RHP 0.1 3 4Yr North Carolina State University (Raleigh, NC)
2006 1 21 *Ian Kennedy (minors) RHP 10.9 179 4Yr University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
2006 1s 41 *Joba Chamberlain (minors) RHP 8.2 329 4Yr University of Nebraska at Lincoln (Lincoln, NE)
2005 1 17 *C.J. Henry (minors) SS HS Putnam City HS (Oklahoma City, OK)
2004 1 23 *Phil Hughes (minors) RHP 10.5 215 HS Foothill HS (Santa Ana, CA)
2004 1s 37 *Jon Poterson (minors) C HS Chandler HS (Chandler, AZ)
2004 1s 41 *Jeff Marquez (minors) RHP 0.0 4 JC Sacramento City College (Sacramento, CA)
2003 1 27 Eric Duncan (minors) 3B HS Seton Hall Preparatory School (West Orange, NJ)
2001 1 23 *John-Ford Griffin (minors) OF 0.2 13 4Yr Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL)
2001 1s 34 *Bronson Sardinha (minors) SS 0.0 10 HS Kamehameha HS (Honolulu, HI)
2001 1s 42 *Jon Skaggs (minors) RHP 4Yr Rice University (Houston, TX)
2000 1 28 Dave Parrish (minors) C 4Yr University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)

Hughes was a disappointment relative to expectations but he still managed to turn into a serviceable big leaguer — he had a 95 ERA+ in 780.2 innings with the Yankees, including one electric season in relief (2009) and two solid seasons as a starter (2010 and 2012). Joba was the poor man’s version of Hughes, basically. Kennedy and Cole have had all their success with other teams. (Kennedy signed with the Yankees and was traded for Curtis Granderson, Cole didn’t sign and went to college.)

It’s still too early to judge the 2013 class and I like Ty so I’m going to say it’s too early to judge 2012 as well, but from 2000-11, the Yankees got Hughes, Joba, and a trade chip (Kennedy) out of 17 first and supplemental first round picks. That is flat out terrible. Yes, I know the Yankees never get to pick high and I know they forfeited all sorts of high picks to sign free agents, but that excuse doesn’t last forever. We’re talking about a 12-year period with little impact produced. The non-Hughes, Joba, Kennedy, and Cole guys combined for 30 games in MLB. A team can’t go that long with that many unproductive top draft picks, no matter how large their payroll.

 

TiqIQ: As Resellers Look to Capitalize on Yankees-Red Sox Games, Yankees.com Has Cheapest Available Tickets

The rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees is one of the best in sports. Even though the Red Sox and Yankees both missed the playoffs in 2014, the archrivals are sure to draw huge crowds when they face each other for the first time this season on April 10-12 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Fans wanting to score tickets for those games might think their best bet is the secondary market, but they should think again.

Many of the tickets for those three games currently available for purchase directly from the Yankees ticket office are considerably less expensive than the same or comparable seats on the secondary market. This seems unusual as fans often believe tickets cost less on the secondary market, where ticket buyers and season ticket holders try to resell their tickets, than on the primary market.

While fans have been trained to target resellers first to get the best deal on tickets, Yankees fans who want to see their team play the Red Sox in the first homestand of the year should reconsider.

For example, at the time of this writing, Field Level seats (Section 130, Row 21) for the opener of the three-game Yankees vs. Red Sox series are available for $100 apiece directly from the Yankees box office. Meanwhile, a Field Level seat for the same game on the secondary market is currently listed at $118 for comparable seats.

200-Level seats (Section 234, Row 2) for the same game can be purchased from the team for $55. Tickets are listed for 55% more ($85) from ticket resellers in Rows 1 and 2.

Fans wanting to sit in the Terrace Level (Section 333, Row 7) would be looking at a price of $32 per ticket from the Yankees. The secondary market has prices at $32 on the low end, but most are $40 and up.

Finally, seats in the Grandstand Level (Section 431B, Row 1) offered by resellers are going for $35, which is more than 50% more for the the same tickets being offered by the team ($22). Similar deals are available for the Saturday Yankees-Red Sox game as well.

The difference in price between the primary and secondary markets does not only apply to the upcoming games the Yankees will play against the Red Sox. These deals are consistently available throughout the Yankees home schedule in April and May.

Derek Jeter has retired and the Yankees missed the postseason the last two years, a rarity for them. Similarly, the Red Sox are without an ace pitcher and they are coming off a last-place finish in 2014. Still, fans can expect big crowds when these two teams meet in the Bronx in April. For those wanting to be among them, then buying tickets directly from the Yankees is the way to go.