Tyler Kepner tells us that Jason Giambi asked out of the Yanks’ trip to St. Petersburg today, citing a minor lower back issue. The Giambino has been known to aggravate his back in the past, especially when manning first base. He’s been doing this a lot during the spring. Hopefully, a day or so of rest gets him back on track. · (17) ·
A little over two weeks ago, Theo Epstein criticized Mike Mussina over his complaints — from 2004 — about the Yankees’ ill-fated trip to Japan to opening the regular season. At the time, Yankee fans were a little surprised about Theo’s seeming breach of protocol. A GM’s criticizing another team’s player for comments about an unrelated incident are exceedingly rare in sports.
Today, the shoe is squarely on the other foot, and I have to wonder if this isn’t some sort of karmic retribution. The Red Sox, you see, now view their upcoming trip to Japan as a huge inconvenience. Josh Beckett, their ace, is out indefinitely with back problems and will miss the trip. Daisuke Matsuzaka’s wife is expecting, and he may miss the trip as well. The trip — two 18-hour plane rides in four days plus two baseball games that actually count — disrupts the rhythm of Spring Training and generally messes with athletes used to routine.
Publicly, in the Boston Herald, the Red Sox are saying that they’re excited to go. They say they could sit back and complain, but they’re just going to tough it out instead. Of course, reading between the lines, complaining is exactly what they’re doing, and I don’t blame them. In this case, I completely sympathize with the players.
As for Mr. Epstein, I think he should take this one as a lesson. Internally, I’m sure there will be a lot of Boston-based grumblings about this trip both before and after. Mussina just happened to share his with the world. For that, he does not deserve the criticism he received. Enjoy your flights, Theo. I hear crossing the international date line twice in 96 hours does wonders to the body.
Via Mike Rose filling in for Kat O’Brien:
Andy Pettitte has been scratched from his start Wednesday with minor muscle irritation in his left forearm on the outside of the elbow.
Manager Joe Girardi heavily emphasized that the ailment is minor. Pettitte is not being sent for any tests, and Girardi said he would start if it were the regular season. In fact, Pettitte pushed to make the start Wednesday against the Rays.
“They’re extremely cautious here, and I guess it’s a good thing,” Pettitte said.
Pettitte said he first felt the irritation after his last bullpen session while playing catch. He said he was not concerned or would have stopped pitching. However, he told the Yankees what he was feeling and Wednesday morning they told him they would skip his start. The Yankees are treating the elbow with hot and cold bath, light microcurrent therapy, massage and stretching.
I’m sure this has nothing at all to do with throwing a Minor League pitcher out there to bear the brunt of the Cervelli retaliation. Nope. Nothing at all.
In all seriousness, Pettitte should be fine, but that elbow is always a red flag.
I was all set to write a post about how the Yankees’ season hinges on pitching, but Rob Neyer apparently beat me to it. Well, tough luck, Rob. I’m writing mine anyway.
Earlier today, David Pinto released his New York Yankees Rotation Evaluation. Using the Marcel Projections, Pinto estimates that the Yanks’ top five starters — omitted the bound-for-the-bullpen Joba Chamberlain — will pull down an ERA of around 4.14 in 689 innings.
This is of course wildly optimistic and leaves a lot of starting pitching innings to be filled by hurlers who are not one of the Yanks’ top five pitchers. It also relies on the assumption that Mike Mussina will throw to a 4.59 ERA, an improvement approximately 0.66 runs over his 2007 effort. Stranger things have happened.
And here is where Rob Neyer takes over. After reading Pinto’s post, he and I had the same idea. Take it away, Rob:
Aside from Pettitte and Wang both being good, though, I find it essentially impossible to predict what’s going to happen here. In fact, that’s my prediction: Every prediction will fail. Too many moving parts. Between Mussina’s recent struggles and the young starters’ lack of experience and non-history of durability, how can anyone know, really?
…For all the talk about the Yankees’ six starters, would anybody like to bet they’ll get by with only six? Last year nine Yankees started more than five games. The year before that, seven; the year before that, nine. We may guess that in addition to the six guys we’ve heard so much about, at least two others will play significant roles in the rotation.
The Yankees have done a real good job of accumulating talent. They’ve got six starting pitchers who have demonstrated — some for many years, some for a few months — abilities that sometimes lead to Hall of Fame careers. But if the Yankees wind up winning 95 games (again), we’ll look back with admiration for Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman‘s ability to take advantage of all those talents through six months of twists and turns and sprains and tender elbows.
Neyer, of course, nails this analysis. But beyond Neyer’s “twists and turns and sprains and tender elbows” comes the fact of Major League life for young pitchers: the specter of inconsistency. While Phil Hughes struggled with a return to form last year following his leg injuries, he’s been utterly dominant this Spring. Meanwhile, in their brief Major League careers, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy have yet to falter.
But they will, and it won’t portend the end of the world. We’ve seen it during Spring Training, a fine time indeed to see struggles. While Phil has been mowing them down and reminding everyone, albeit in limited time, why the organization has long loved his stuff, Joba and IPK had rough early outings followed by better second outings. The two will only get stronger as time wears on, but at some point during the season, they will turn in clunkers.
It is quite possible that the Yanks end up with two candidates for Rookie of the Year in 2008. Joba and Kennedy could be battling out with Evan Longoria when September rolls around. But can the Yanks at the same time expect perfection each outing? No, and that’s why predictions are dicey.
In the end, the kids will be all right, and for years to come, they should remain that way. But Yankee success in 2008 will depend entirely on the consistency of the pitching. In baseball, this is always true, but with three young guns on the way up, this lesson will be on display for all to see. It will be a great ride, but it could get a little bumpy. Now, let’s just get to Opening Day all ready.
Here’s something interesting about A-Rod: If Alex plays 154 games or more this season for the Yanks, a feat he has achieved each year in pinstripes, he will have logged more games as a Yankee than as a Mariner. Hard to believe, no? I still think of him as a Mariner first, but after this year, his longest tenure will in all likelihood be with the Yanks. · (11) ·
Via Jason comes word that Johnny Damon’s right foot is the first of his many nicks and bruises bound to accumulate over the season. An MRI and X-Rays on the foot came back negative, and Damon is listed as day-to-day. These minor injuries that Damon seems to attract are exactly why the Yanks were not as keen to trade Hideki Matsui as many of their fans were this winter. · (8) ·
Chad Jennings at the SWB Yankees blog has up a Where Are They Now? post about former Yankee farmhands. With Tyler Clippard and his spring WHIP of nearly 2.00 destined for AAA, Jennings checked in with Matt De Salvo, Josh Phelps, Ron Villone, Andy Phillips and T.J. Beam, among others. My favorite piece of news is that Kevin Thompson has a legitimate shot at sticking around with the Pirates. Yikes. · (6) ·
Sure, it’s only Spring Training, but the Yanks could really use a good outing from their anointed ace Chien-Ming Wang today. Wang is making his third start of the spring today, and his last outing was alarming. He lasted less than one inning and gave up a whole lotta runs and hits.
Today, Wang faces a Blue Jays lineup consisting of guys who will be on the team come Opening Day. He is slated for around 50 pitches, and it would be great if he could last four innings. Following Wang will be Darrell Rasner, Kyle Farnsworth, Heath Phillips, Jonathan Albaladejo and Ross Ohlendorf. The game is on YES and MLB.tv at 1:15 p.m. and the slow Spring Training version of Gameday will be available here.
In other Yankee news, five players were reassigned to Minor League camps. Juan Miranda landed in AAA, and Austin Jackson, Collin Curtis, Jose Tabata and P.J. Pilittere were sent down as well. No big surprise there.
ESPN, the oh-so-pro Red Sox sports network, plans to pay tribute to the final season at Yankee Stadium through a series of 30 vignettes focusing on famous moments in stadium history. The first ten will debut on March 22 and air during the lead-up to Opening Day, and the next batch are set to hit prior to the All Star Game. Considering ESPN’s penchant for running the same commercial over and over again, I’m guessing we’ll all be sick of these promos rather quickly. · (13) ·