Kat O’Brien, on her first day in Tampa, checked in with Chien-Ming Wang, and the Yanks’ ace said he took his playoff failures pretty hard. It took Wang a month to get over the losses, and he says that his arm was dropping so that he couldn’t get on top of his sinker. With the youngster breathing down his neck, Chien-Ming Wang will, I predict, turn in a big season in 2008. · (33) ·
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Pitchers and catchers will soon officially be in Tampa strutting their stuff with the hopes and promises of a new season filling the air. Times like this make us wonder how we ever managed to dread the dog days of summer. Just like the big league squad, the minor league affiliates are full of optimism with the new season on the horizon.
Overall, the farm system is in pretty good shape. There’s high end talent mixed with high probability talent, and the pitching crop at the upper levels is starting to be complimented by the position player crop at the lower levels. There’s an alarming lack of lefthanded pitchers, ditto power hitting prospects. The Yanks have surplus from which to make trades, and a good amount of guys that could be cheap injury fill-ins at the Major League level this year. Gone are days of Aaron Small, Matt Childers, Donovan Osborne and Terrence Long. There’s also a bright new crop of kids set to come up from Latin America this year, led by SS Jose Pirela and OF Kelvin DeLeon.
Unfortunately the Yanks didn’t pull off any neat trades this winter like last year (unless you count that Tyler Clippard-Jon Albaladejo blockbuster), so this year’s prospect list doesn’t include any new and fancy names. As always, the delicate balance between ceiling and probability are the main criteria for the rankings, but other stuff like performance, track record, position and handedness (tie goes to the lefty) also play a role. I had some trouble trimming the fat at the end of the list, so I decided to write-up a few extra players that just missed the cut.
The real Top 30 comes out tomorrow, but for now here’s five guys on the outside looking in. Fun starts after the jump.
On the eve of Spring Training, Buster Olney reports that the Yankees are concerned about Andy Pettitte and expect the lefty to start Spring Training a bit behind in his physical preparations. As expected, the staff feels that the Mitchell Report distractions have hindered Pettitte’s off-season routines.
Andy Pettitte no longer has to go to Washington, and instead, he is scheduled to report to the Yankees’ training camp in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday. But staff members expect that Pettitte will be behind in his preparation for the 2008 season, because of the off-field issues that have dominated his offseason.
The Yankees won’t get a first-hand read of just how far Pettitte will be behind until they see him throw later this week, but the status of the team’s No. 2 starter is a major concern within the organization…
In past years, Pettitte has worked out during the offseason — sometimes with Clemens and McNamee — before starting his throwing regimen in early January. The Yankees’ staffers don’t know exactly where Pettitte is in his training, but they will operate under the assumption that he will be behind Chien-Ming Wang, Mike Mussina, Hughes and their other starters.
While on the surface this seems as though it’s something of a big deal, it’s hard to tell what the real story is here. Olney doesn’t seem to get a source close to Pettitte to confirm or deny that the Yanks’ number two starter hasn’t been throwing. And even the anonymous Yankee “staff members” who are concerned don’t bring many concrete worries to the table.
Olney notes that an injury to his son pushed Pettitte’s training schedule back as well, but who knows? If anything, this is simply a story that we’ll keep our eyes on once pitchers and catchers report and throwing schedules come into focus.
Jorge Posada thinks the Yankees are underdogs this year. Since the Red Sox won the World Series, they’re the team to beat. “Yeah, well, they won. Now it’s up to us to take that away,” he said. · (8) ·
I’m going to do an impersonation for you. Let’s see if you can guess who it is.
Yesterday, I wrote that Joba Chamberlain could start the season in the bullpen. Today, Joel Sherman confirms, via a team official, that that will be the case. He’ll prepare in Spring Training as a starter, but will move into the setup corps once the season commences.
1. Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina, Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy would stay healthy to form the rotation. All five would be needed from the outset because the Yanks have just two scheduled off-days from March 31 through May 4.
2. Chamberlain stabilizes the area the Yankees profess offers their greatest uncertainty in 2008: Their setup crew in front of Mariano Rivera. The Yanks envision Chamberlain dominating in the eighth based on his 0.38 ERA and .145 batting average against in 19 regular-season games as a reliever last year.
3. The Yanks see the Chamberlain/Rivera tandem helping them be a dominant late-inning team over the first two months of the season. At some point in June, the Yanks would send Chamberlain to the minors for 3-4 weeks to stretch him out to 5-6 innings in preparation to be a full-time starter in the second half.
4. The Yanks hope is that over the first two months other relievers show enough fortitude/reliability to be moved into the eighth inning. Only Kyle Farnsworth and LaTroy Hawkins are guaranteed jobs. The Yanks think Girardi, who was a Cub teammate of Farnsworth for three years, might help the talented righty find greater consistency and grab the eighth inning.
Sherman also notes that Humberto Sanchez and Mark Melancon could be ready to go by the time Chamberlain is transitioning to a starting position.
This does seem like the ideal plan. Let’s hope it shakes out that way.
I bet this isn’t what Bud Selig and George Mitchell had in mind when the Mitchell Report hit the streets in December.
After nearly two months of back-and-forth posturing in the press and the halls of Congress, it’s come down to two men. Only Brian McNamee and his one-time client and current arch-rival Roger Clemens will testify in front of the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday. According to numerous reports, Andy Pettitte did not want to testify in public against Roger Clemens, and the committee was satisfied with the deposition testimony it received from Chuck Knoblach and Kurt Radomski, the other New York-based trainer named in the Report. Somewhere, Paul Lo Duca just breathed a giant sigh of relief.
In related news, Jim Baumbach and Robert E. Kessler of Newsday reported that Pettitte’s testimony confirms McNamee’s story and contradicts Clemens’ vehement denials. For Clemens, this will be utterly devastating, and Andy Pettitte, who has long idolized and respected Roger, must not feel too great about the current situation.
From a Yankee perspective, this circus is either ending or just starting. For better or worse, Roger Clemens is now forever linked to the Yankees because of the Mitchell Report fallout and the time of his supposed drug use, the bulk of which is reported to have occurred during his time in the Bronx. If Pettitte’s testimony, part of the public record, shows Clemens’ recent denials to be a façade, the media circus will swarm around Tampa next week like no other. If not, this strange tale of drugs, syringes and gauze will play out in Congress.
For Clemens, this news on the eve of the hearing cannot be good. On Wednesday, two men — one player out of the 89 named in the report — and one trainer will face down a Congressional committee annoyed by the way this drama has played out. One of them will emerge from the committee room most likely the subject of a perjury inquiry and a disgraced man. I wonder what odds Protrade would give on that one.
Finally, there’s always Bud Selig standing in the corner. With this latest development, the Mitchell Report and its original intentions have been launched out the window. No longer is this about stopping steroids in baseball. No longer is that incomplete document that randomly named 89 out of what has to be hundreds of drug users the focus of attention. Rather, it is about only the biggest name in the document and the saga that has played itself out on TV stations and newspapers across the country. It’s about a recorded phone call, eight-year-old syringes and gauze, spousal accusations and firm denials.
Somehow, I bet this isn’t what Bud Selig envisioned three years ago when he commissioned the report, and I bet it’s not what he envisioned when he released this document to the wolves two months ago. A Mitchell Report without names would have served its purpose better than this document, and as the charade continues tomorrow, I have to wonder whether or not this whole thing — this report, this committee hearing, this attention to something that no one can change — is really in the best interest of baseball.
Andy Pettitte has asked to be excused from the upcoming Congressional hearing on steroids in baseball. Pettitte does not want to testify against his friend Roger Clemens, and the House Oversight Committee seems willing to grant that request. More on this later. · (16) ·
Anthony McCarron of the Daily News profiles the Yanks’ new pitching coach. The coolest part of the article is that McCarron referred to Phil-Joba-IPK as “The Big Three,” a moniker I do believe we originated here at RAB.
(hat tip to Patrick) · (13) ·
Here is a fun post from Chad Jennings and the SWB Yankees blog. Jennings checks in with the 14 members of the 2007 Scranton club who are no longer with the organization. Outside of Tyler Clippard, who should win a job in the Nationals’ rotation this year, things do not look good for the other 13 members of this elite club. Andy Cannizaro, we hardly knew ye. · (9) ·