Trenton walks off with a win as Romine’s streak comes to an end

Mike Ashmore has a full transcript of Nardi Contreras’ chat with reporters yesterday, so don’t miss it. It’s a must read. Also, Justin Snyder’s been bumped up to SWB.

Triple-A Scranton (4-2 win over Durham)
Greg Golson, CF & Reegie Corona, 2B: both 1 for 5, 2 K – Golson threw a runner out at second … Corona scored a run
Eduardo Nunez, SS & Chad Huffman, DH: both 0 for 3, 1 BB, 2 K – Nunez got caught stealing
Juan Miranda, 1B: 0 for 2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 K – good to see him back … he took a pitch off the elbow a few days ago & missed a couple of games … have to imagine he’ll get a chance to fill in for Nick Johnson, even if it’s just a platoon role
David Winfree, RF & Robby Hammock, 3B: both 2 for 4 – Winfree hit a bomb & drove in three
Jon Weber, LF: 0 for 4, 2 K
P.J. Pilittere, C: 2 for 4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 CS, 1 PB – still no definitive reason on why Jesus Montero was lifted from yesterday’s game … anything you see is just speculation at this point
Jason Hirsh: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 5 K, 6-4 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) – just 58 of 105 pitches were strikes (55.2%) … just one of those days
Zack Segovia: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3-2 GB/FB – 20 of 27 pitches were strikes (74.1%)
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1-0 GB/FB – 11 of his 13 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Aceves pulled with stiff lower back

Update by Mike (8:46pm): Aceves will be out for two or three days, which isn’t all that bad. Phew.

7:24: Aceves exited with a stiff lower back. He’s had back problems before, as recently as Spring Training.

6:51pm: The injury bug continues to bite the Yankees. While pitching in the bottom of the sixth, Alfredo Aceves finished his delivery awkwardly and injured himself. The team has yet to announce what happened, but Joe Girardi and the trainers pulled the versatile reliever without hesitation. We’ll update this post as news comes in.

Open Thread: Pray for rain

Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP

Well that was an ordeal. The Yanks and Sox just completed a game that took roughly four hours to play, not including the hour-plus rain delay smacked in the middle. We’ll have our regular recap up later tonight, but thank goodness that mess is over with.

Anyway, here’s your open thread for the rest of the night. There’s NBA and NHL playoff action on, plus some late baseball games if your on the west coast or something. It’s Saturday though, go out and do something you’ll forget in the morning.

Game 29: Just stay healthy

"No way bro, I think you could pass for 6-foot." (Photo Credit: Kathy Willens, AP)

Update (6:07pm): The game is set to resume at 6:20pm ET, and the broadcast is going to shift over to FX.

* * *

The Yankees’ roster has taken a pretty big hit in the form of seven small hits over the last week, as player after player after player succumbs to some kind of injury. Reinforcements have been called up from Triple-A and sent back down in favor of even more reinforcements. Throughout this chaos, there’s been one constant: winning.

The Yankees have won seven of their last eight games, and that’s because of the pitching. The four non-Javy Vazquez starters are a combined 16-1 with a 2.16 ERA over 23 starts, and they’re taking the ball deep into games. Believe it or not, the highest ERA (NJVD) belongs to today’s starter, CC Sabathia with a 2.74. I know if I signed a guy to a $161MM contract, I’d expect more than just the fourth highest ERA on my pitching staff.

Now that my lame attempt at humor is out of the way, here’s today lineup…

Jeter, SS
Gardner, CF
Teixeira, 1B
A-Rod, 3B
Cano, DH
Swisher, RF
Winn, LF
Cervelli, C – fourth game in a row & his 8th start in the last 14 games … oh to be young again
Pena, 2B

And on the mound, Carsten Charles Sabathia.

The weather is Boston isn’t pretty, but it looks like there’s enough of a window to get this one in. First pitch is scheduled for 3:10pm ET and will be broadcast nationally on FOX. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: In case you’ve missed our earlier coverage, Kevin Russo has replaced Nick Johnson on the active roster, and Johnson may be out for a while. We anticipate a few more changes over the next few days as the Yanks will look to shore up the DH spot once Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada are both up to speed. Posada expects to DH tomorrow when the weather in Boston has cleared, and earlier today, Joe ran down some potential moves the Yanks could make this week.

Johnson to miss several weeks with inflammation

Via Marc Carig, an MRI revealed tendon inflammation in Nick Johnson‘s right wrist. He received a cortisone shot, and is expected to miss several weeks according to GM Brian Cashman. Hopefully several weeks translates into two to four, and not say, six to eight. Once Juan Miranda heals up (he took a pitch off the elbow a few days ago, and hasn’t played since), I expect that he’ll come up for his first extended look at the big league level.

Looking Ahead: Cliff Lee

If the byline looks a bit unfamiliar, that’s because we’ve brought aboard a couple of guys to help out on weekends. Welcome JMK from Mystique and Aura and also the RAB comments.

Photo Credit: Charlie Neibergall/AP

It’s never too early to speculate on whom the Yankees will target during the free agency period. Popular logic suggests Cliff Lee will be among the bigger names this winter, and for good reason. With only three rotation spots filled next year – who can tell what role Joba Chamberlain will find himself in next year or Pettitte’s retirement status or if Javy figures it out and returns – Lee might just fit the bill as the perfect #2 starter in 2011.

With the extensions of Josh Beckett, Matt Cain, Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez, the next best options in the FA pool are Brandon Webb, Ben Sheets and Javy Vazquez. With fewer elite pitchers entering free agency these days than ever, the chance to lock up one of the best pitchers to be available for the foreseeable future, coupled with the likely impending need in the rotation, seem to indicate that Lee in pinstripes next year is as good a guess as any.

Though Mr. Lee is undoubtedly one of the best pitchers in the game right now and the Yankees are likely to have a spot needing to be filled, he’s not without questions. The Arkansas native has only really been an “elite” starting pitcher since 2008; he’d also likely sign somewhere around the range of a 4 or 5-year, $80-100 million contract, which at the tail end would mean the Yankees’ top 3 starters will be in their mid-30’s, all making around $20 million each. That’s generally something you’d like to avoid, particularly as many of the key members of the team are already on the wrong side of 30, with long contracts limiting flexibility.

His injury history, too, isn’t spectacular, though nothing suggests chronic problems or elbow concerns. His eye-popping numbers of late are also a bit skewed by his high LOB%, which is very unlikely to sustain itself. They’ll level off at around 70% (they’re currently in the high 70’s), which will increase his ERA. His strikeout rate, while good, isn’t fantastic, either.

Now, for the good news — Cliff Lee is really, really, really good. I can’t stress that enough. I was even reaching looking to find noticeable flaws in Lee’s game. Cliff Lee may not be Nolan Ryan, but his strikeout rate — around 7 per 9 — doesn’t make him John Lannan. It’s not a concern. And despite some of the minute issues I may have, he’s easily the top free agent available and I think has demonstrated that he’s likely to be worth every penny, provided he’s blessed with good health.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s hard not to like AJ Burnett, but his Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde act makes him a better fit as a #3 starter. You’d really prefer more consistency out of your #2 starter, especially on a team that makes the playoffs as often as the Yankees. In contrast to Burnett, Cliff Lee doesn’t have such eccentricities. In 2008 and 2009 Lee threw up a combined 13.8 WAR and he was amazingly consistent as well, throwing 10 complete games within that span and generally suffocating opposing offenses. For a sense of perspective, Roy Halladay has a WAR of 14.7 within the same time period. Clearly Halladay is a better pitcher with a longer track record, but the age, similarities in performance and stuff, and likely contract demands make the two a fairly good comp. Again, he’s really good.

On top of that, just like Halladay, the Yankees have also expressed interest in acquiring the 31-year-old lefty before, at the trade deadline in 2009. When asked to surrender Joba or Hughes and more, the Yankees understandably balked. Now, with Hughes seemingly firmly entrenched in the rotation and Lee almost certain to test the market, the strategy to not surrender prized young arms seems to have been the right one.

To boot, Lee is likely to age well as he starts to leave his peak. With a repertoire of four pitches – the best is said to be a nasty circle changeup – all of which are refined options he can command well, he shouldn’t have much trouble adjusting, even if his fastball drops a bit. I also haven’t seen worries about his pitching mechanics, although they’re a bit unorthodox. Larry LaRue, beat writer for The News Tribune had a little preview on Lee’s arsenal earlier this year.

“As for pitches. Lee relies on a fastball that sits around 89-92. He’s doesn’t throw exceptionally hard, but his fastball moves and when he’s right he can keep put it on the corners whenever he wants. Lee also throws a cut fastball that is usually around 85-87. It rides in on right-hander hitters and if he’s throwing it well you’ll see him break plenty of bats. Lee also has a curveball that’s more of an overhand variety. It isn’t quite as nasty as Erik Bedard’s curveball, but Lee’s can be effective, particularly to lefties.

And of course there’s the changeup which Adam Moore called “filthy” and “borderline unfair.” It’s a circle change (you can see the grip in the photo at the top) that has plenty of downward movement. And because of Lee’s simple and consistent mechanics and arm motion, it’s nearly impossible to pick up early. You will see several guys making that lunging swing for balls tonight. But it isn’t just about swings and misses with that pitch. You’ll often see plenty of swings where guys are out on their front foot and rolling over on the change up for easy ground balls.”

I’ve talked about how different Lee has been since his masterful Cy Young season in 2008, but how did he improve so much from earlier? Is it even sustainable or are we likely to see him fall back to his awful, injury-plagued 2007 or his good and mediocre years that preceded it? The team’s been burned before by throwing big money on long deals to inconsistent guys past 30. Considering the construction of the team and the money at stake, this isn’t a guy you can whiff on. So is Lee just a flash in the pan likely to drop off a few years into the deal or implode entirely?

Having looked at the data, I think he’s the real deal. His GB rate improved from the mid 30’s to the low-to-mid 40’s, and he also saw his HR/FB rate drop from the range of 8-12% to 5-6% the last few seasons. Much of this can be attributed to the addition of the cut fastball, better velocity on his 4-seamer and a curveball that is effective against lefties. He’s been able to elicit more swings on balls outside the zone over the past few years than earlier in his career, a harbinger moving forward. In fact, even in his mediocre-to-good seasons in the mid-00’s, he was close to or below average in O-Swing %. That’s definitely something he’s put behind him, which is even more impressive considering his walk rates are microscopic these days. Don’t get me wrong — ideally you’d like more than two seasons on which to hold your hat on, but his peripherals are trending positively and he hasn’t had flukey BABip luck in that span.

Obviously there are a myriad of factors that could make this potential pairing more or less likely to happen. Maybe Javy turns it around, dominates and re-signs at the conclusion of the season. The team could also place “the starter in the bullpen” Joba back in the rotation, filling a potential hole. Maybe Andy comes back again. Hell, at this rate Phil Hughes might become a #2 starter by the end of the year, negating some of the need for a big FA starting pitching acquisition. The M’s could also fall out of the AL West race and end up trading Lee; who knows, he may even sign a long-term deal if the suitor is right. The Yankees could instead target Carl Crawford and fill left field for years. (I’d be highly surprised if the team could retain Jeter, Rivera and sign Lee and Crawford in the same off-season.)

Basically, there are too many variables to play out. But in the end, Cliff Lee, even depite a relatively short track record as an elite pitcher on the wrong side of 30, with some injury hiccups, and likely to have big contract demands, should be the guy to sign next year if he keeps this up and he’s available.

Yankees recall Kevin Russo; Posada still out; Cano in

Via Ben Shpigel, the Yankees have recalled infielder Kevin Russo to help out as injuries thin the roster. The corresponding move hasn’t been announced, but we can safely assume Nick Johnson will be placed on the disabled list with a sore right wrist. The 25-year-old Russo has hit .302-.383-.425 with Triple-A Scranton this year, and he’s played every position except left field, first base, pitcher, and catcher.

The Yanks needed an extra infielder with Robbie Cano hobbling, and Russo also brings a little extra versatility to the table. Joe ran through the team’s roster options this morning.

Update by Ben (12:17 p.m.): While we don’t yet have further details on the extent of their injuries, Joel Sherman tweets that both Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada are out of the lineup today. Cano’s day off isn’t much of a surprise, but Posada’s is. The catcher yesterday seemed to express the belief that he would play today, but it appears that his calf isn’t up to par yet. Even though the Yanks could really use his bat, Joe Girardi is sticking with his plan to rest Posada today. Both Jorge and Robinson — who says he’s feeling better despite a slightly sore and swollen knee — expect to be back tomorrow.

Update (1:14 p.m.): Per Mark Feinsand, Cano may play after all. The Yanks’ second baseman is going to take a few swings in the cage and get some treatment on his sore left knee. If he’s feeling OK, Girardi will slot him into the lineup as another lefty against Clay Buchholz. We think it might be wiser to give Cano a day off, but if the Yanks feel he won’t jeopardize further injury by playing, the team could use his bat.

Update by Mike (1:19pm): Just to tie a bow on it, Johnson is in fact on the disabled list.

Update by Ben (1:59 p.m.): Our 15-hour national nightmare is over: Robinson Cano is in the lineup as the Yanks’ DH. That is, if rain doesn’t cancel the game. Stay tuned.