Report: A-Rod to meet with feds on Friday

As federal officials continue their investigation into Anthony Galea, a Canadian doctor suspected to furnishing PEDs to American baseball players, Alex Rodriguez will meet with the feds on Friday in Buffalo to talk about his connection to the doctor, according to Michael S. Schmidt of The Times. A-Rod and his lawyers will journey to upstate New York to cooperate in the investigation, and it is anticipated the feds will question the Yanks’ third baseman as to whether or not Galea has been sending various drugs into the States. Both Major League Baseball and the Yankees will be awaiting detail of A-Rod’s questioning.

For the Yankees, this story has put them into an awkward position with A-Rod. The slugger told the team this winter that he had no dealings with Galea, but stories this spring have cast that assertion into doubt. For numerous reasons, I hope nothing comes of this investigation except this questioning, but as is often the case with Alex Rodriguez, I’m not holding my breath.

Four more headed to minor league camp

Via Bryan Hoch, the Yankees sent Eduardo Nunez, Reegie Corona, Jorge Vazquez, and Brandon Laird across the street to minor league camp earlier today. The send downs of Nunez and Corona are significant, because it leaves only Kevin Russo as competition for Ramiro Pena and the utility infielder’s spot. Russo is pounded the ball in camp, but he can’t match Pena’s defensive wizardry, and there’s something to be said for being the incumbent. I’ll be surprised if someone besides Ramiro heads north as the backup infielder, barring injury.

Open Thread: Busted

That up there is the bracket of the person leading our RAB Bracket Busters pool thanks to 36 correct picks and 48 total points (somewhat ironically, it belongs to a person who called themselves “Bra(cket) Busters”). It’s only been one weekend, but I encourage them to gloat in the comments. You can see my disastrous bracket here; I’m tied for 13th with 33 correct picks and 43 total points. I guess that’s not too bad, considering, there’s 149 total brackets in our pool.

What are yours looking like? Feel free to tell us all in this, tonight’s open thread. The Nets are the only local team in action, but there’s also a new episode of 24 on. Talk about whatever you want, just be cool.

The RAB Fantasy Baseball League (Part Seven)

I think you know the routine by now. The settings are the same as all the other leagues (click here to see them), except that the max number of moves per week is capped at eight. If you haven’t joined one of the other leagues and want in this one, go to Yahoo! and sign up with this info…

League ID: 500175
Password: riveraveblues

Also, someone dropped out of the fifth league, so if someone wants to sign up for that one, the ID is 442039, and the password is riveraveblues.

The proper evaluation of Joba Chamberlain

This one is a few weeks old, but highly appropriate to our current discourse. (With thanks to Jamal for the pointer.) At Full Count Pitch, Gary Armida discusses the over-analysis of Joba Chamberlain. Everyone’s guilty of it, from the mainstream media right down to the lowest-trafficked blog. Yes, this includes RAB. The whole article is a good read, but this is the big takeaway:

If he continues to show the Yankees signs of being a good starter, he should be given the opportunity to continue in that role. If he shows he can’t, he should be sent to the bullpen. But, a proper evaluation is all about patience and seeing the big picture.

A proper evaluation involves more than one season, especially when that season wasn’t exactly a full one. Joba did go wire-to-wire, but 1) he faced innings restrictions which changed his schedule in August and September, and 2) his worst performances came when he cross his previous innings threshold. Considering his performances from April through July, and the age at which he performed, he should certainly get another look.

Only 161 pitchers since 1980 managed even 140 innings in their age-23 season. Only 98 of those posted an ERA+ over 100. Joba’s struggles in this early stage of his career are not surprising. He deserves more than just one restricted year to prove his value to the Yankees.

This isn’t to say that he should win the fifth starter battle or that he should never go to the bullpen. Circumstances dictate the situation, and right now the Yankees have two promising young starters vying for one open rotation spot. To relegate Joba to the bullpen permanently, at this stage of his career, would be a mistake. There’s plenty more time for a more thorough evaluation.

Oh, and in case you didn’t see, Joba’s line from today’s intrasquad game: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1K. The best part was that of his 74 pitches, 48 were strikes.

Succeeding Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte gets some work in during Spring Training. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Since 1994, the New York Yankees have been the cream of baseball’s crop. They reached the playoffs every year except one, won the AL East 11 times, captured seven AL titles and brought home the World Series trophy five times. Yet, throughout the years of success, the Yankees have not done a very good job of developing pitchers internally.

On Gene Michael’s and Bob Watson’s and Brian Cashman‘s various watches, the Yankees’ system has mostly come up barren when it comes to arms. They brought along Mariano Rivera but nearly traded him before realizing what they had. His emergence is generally considered a fortuitous happening, and the Yankees can take some, but not all, credit for him. If George had his druthers, Mariano would have been elsewhere.

Beyond Mo, though, a handful of others made small impacts. Sterling Hitchcock bounced around the league for a bit but wasn’t much more than a below-average left-hander. Ramiro Mendoza, an unsung hero from the late 1990s, served as the team’s long reliever and spot starter with great success. Only Andy Pettitte has turned into something special.

Number 46 was also one of those Yankee pitchers who was nearly traded, but except for three years in the mid-2000s, Pettitte has been a pinstripe stalwart since 1995. Over 12 seasons with the Yanks, he is 192-109 with a 4.02 ERA and a 113 ERA+. In 40 post-season starts, he is 18-9 with a 3.90 ERA, and last year, Andy won the clinching games in the ALDS, ALCS and World Series.

Yet, Pettitte is no longer a young man. The 2010 season will be his age 38 year, and he is clearly feeling the call of retirement. He wants to spend more time with his family, and after spending a few years going through the “will he or won’t he” dance of re-upping with the Yanks, he confidently returned for 2010. Still, this is shaping up to his informal swan song. If Andy Pettitte retires after this year, few will be surprised.

For the Yankees, then, Pettitte’s looming departure underscores the need to find out what the team has in Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. Right now, the only starters the Yanks have under contract for 2011 are A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia. Burnett will be 34, and CC will be pitching in a potential opt-out year. The Yanks could open up the checkbook for a Josh Beckett or Cliff Lee type, but the team can’t spend $80-$100 million on five starting pitchers.

So with Joba and Phil, as much as I don’t like ultimatums, 2010 is the year to see what these two can do. Joba is off of his innings limit but seems to be losing the fifth starter race while Phil Hughes will be entering his second straight season in the majors after some injury-filled developmental years. It is important to remember, too, that Joba will turn 25 later this year and Phil Hughes will turn 24. We demand results now while forgetting their age.

What the Yankees are looking for is an internal low-cost solution, one that can replace Andy Pettitte and maybe another than can replace Javier Vazquez after this year. Can Joba or Phil be pitchers who are 3.5-5.5 wins above replacement? That’s what Pettitte has done for the Yankees over his career, and it’s not a reach to see either or both reaching that range. It is, of course, a matter of patience and a leap of faith for the team to stick with the pitchers, but as the Yanks try to get younger on the field and leaner in the wallet, those who replace Andy Pettitte could be linchpins for years to come.

Yankees return Hoffmann to Dodgers

Via LoHud, the Yankees have returned Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffmann to the Dodgers. While the team could still send a player to the Dodgers for Hoffmann, based on numerous reports, the Yankees simply do not have a roster spot for him right now. Randy Winn has already made the team, and as George King reported this weekend, the Yankees are planning on taking Marcus Thames, currently signed to a minor league deal, north with them next week. Thames will reportedly play left field when the Yanks face southpaws, but with his suspect abilities in the outfield, I wonder if the team is willing to take that defensive risk two or three times a week.