Postgame Notes: Rookie Hazing

(Photo via the Yankees)

The story of the night is clearly what happened on the field, but that’s between the Rays and Red Sox. The Yankees (finally) got busy with their annual rookie hazing tonight, dressing the kids up as various 80’s and 90’s musical megastars. Jesus Montero broke out the parachute pants and was MC Hammer. Brandon Laird was Slash from Guns n’ Roses. Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances were Milli Vanilli. Hector Noesi dressed up like Prince and George Kontos was a different George, George Michael. Austin Romine drew the short straw; he had to dress up like Madonna and go out on a date with Alex Rodriguez. Okay, I made that last part up, but Romine was definitely the material girl. Phil Hughes zipped him up.

I’ll be honest, the Yankees are getting soft. Who cares about dressing up in the middle of the series? They’ve got to get these kids dressed up when they’re hanging cities, preferring to or from Toronto so they have to go through customs. Weak  sauce, Yankees. Someone needs to step up next year and take the bull by the horns.

Anyway, there’s wasn’t too much to talk about as far as the actual game, so let’s recap…

  • Russell Martin asked home plate ump Paul Schrieber if he stretched before the game, because he “seemed kind of tight.” Schrieber was not too pleased, so that’s what led to the  ejection. I’ll  give Russ some creativity points, but the zone really wasn’t that  bad.
  • Other than possibly Phil Hughes, none of the team’s playoff pitchers will pitch on Wednesday. Joe Girardi wants to give them two full days off before the ALDS begins. A player might manage that game, but only if it doesn’t mean anything in the wildcard race. Based on what happened tonight, it absolutely will, one way or the other.

Game 160: Bittersweet

Just as charming inside as it is outside. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The end of the regular season is very bittersweet. No one wants to see it end because man, it’s baseball and we don’t want it to go away. But then again, wooo postseason baseball! This game means nothing to the Yankees but everything to the Rays. Just sit back and enjoy it. The games will get a lot more stressful in a few days.  Here’s the lineup…

Derek Jeter, SS
Curtis Granderson, CF
Robinson Cano, 2B
Alex Rodriguez, DH
Jorge Posada, 1B
Eric Chavez, 3B
Russell Martin, C
Eduardo Nunez, RF – have fun with the roof, Eddie
Brett Gardner, LF

Hector Noesi, SP

First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and can  be seen on YES. Enjoy.

Pregame Notes: Going through the motions

Air conditioned batting practice. What a country.

When we looked at the schedule a few weeks ago, this series seemed like it had the potential to be pretty important, and that’s why I’m here for the three games. Things have since taken a drastic turn for the better, at least for the Yankees. These games mean nothing to them, it’s all preparation for the playoffs and hoping that no one gets hurt. Of course it means everything to the Rays, who are holding onto playoff hopes by the skin of their teeth.

Anyway, there wasn’t much going on before the game, just like you’d expect with a team that’s had a playoff berth wrapped up for close to a week now. Here’s some miscellaneous items worth mentioning…

  • Joe Girardi did say that he’s going to play his regulars this series, but he obviously won’t push it. His focus is on Friday. There’s no Mark Teixeira or Nick Swisher in the lineup tonight, but all of the other regulars are a go. Alex Rodriguez is at DH and Eduardo Nunez gets to have some fun with the roof in right field.
  • Both Jorge Posada and Jesus Montero were doing various catching drills on the field earlier this afternoon, making throws to second and blocking balls in the dirt. Gotta figure they were prepping for a potential emergency catching situation in the playoffs.
  • Batting practice was optional after the late night, but most of the regulars are on the field taking their hacks. Andruw Jones man, that dude puts on a  show.
  • I didn’t hear anything about it before the game (could have easily missed it), but Buster Olney says that Raul Valdes has an “excellent chance” to make the postseason roster as the second lefty. I’d rather see them just take a better pitcher even if he is right-handed.
  • Still no word on who will start Wednesday, but it won’t be any of the regular starters or even a B-list reliever. That figures to be a September call-up bullpen game.
  • I really can not stress this enough: Andrew Brackman is gigantic.

Levine to Cash: We want you back

It might not come as much of a surprise, but the Yankees want to bring back their general manager. Throughout the 2011 season Brian Cashman has fielded questions about his job status, because his contract expires after this season. He has expressed an interest in staying, though some in the media have interpreted his increasing candor as a sign that he’ll leave. But both Cashman and team president Randy Levine have expressed interest in a reunion.

“Clearly, we want him back,” said Levine.

“They know that I would like to come back,” said Cashman.

Previously this season, Hal Steinbrenner has been mum about Cashman’s future with the club, opting to deal with the issue when the season ends. Whether he shares the views of his team president remains unseen.

Can Phil Hughes re-emerge in the bullpen?

(AP Photo/ Bill Kostroun)

It appears the Yankees are getting a head start on their postseason roster construction. Earlier today ESPN NY’s Andrew Marchand reported that Phil Hughes will work out of the bullpen during the season-ending series in Tampa Bay this week, and will likely fill the same role in the playoffs. The decision further limits the Yankees’ options for Game 3 in the ALDS and then Games 3 and 4 in the ALCS. But it does present them with an intriguing addition to their already strong bullpen.

Hughes’s success in the bullpen is unfamiliar to no one. After an up-and-down start to the 2009 season, the Yankees moved Hughes to the bullpen, where he won the setup role on merit. Throughout that summer he decimated opponents, holding them to a .172/.228/.228 slash line while striking out 65 and walking just 13 in 51.1 innings. That earned him a spot in the rotation for 2010, and for a while he shined. Through his first 11 starts he had a 2.71 ERA and even through his first 23 he kept his ERA under 4.00. But a propensity to surrender home runs, plus an inability to put away batters with two strikes, doomed him to a mediocre finish.

After more of the same this year, perhaps it is time the Yankees moved Hughes back into the role in which he dominated two seasons ago. Many of his problems have stemmed from diminished stuff, whether it’s the cutter in general or the manner in which he loses velocity on his fastball throughout a start. A move to the pen could re-focus him on those aspects of his game that made him so dominant in 2009. There are no guarantees, of course, but it does seem as though he’d at least maintain a high fastball velocity while in the pen, which would solve one of this most glaring issues.

At this point, there seems to be no downside. There is little chance the Yankees would allow Hughes to start an ALDS game anyway, so placing him in the bullpen gives him a chance to contribute. There are still questions about the Games 3 and 4 starters, given the September performances that Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have turned in. Having Hughes as something of a caddy will only help the bullpen absorb innings if one or both of them pitches poorly. If he does play the caddy and the Yankees advance, perhaps they would then consider him for a starting role in that round.

All of this we saw coming from miles away. In fact, it’s somewhat surprising that the move didn’t come earlier, when the Yankees were trying to transition out of a six-man rotation. Hughes might not have been the weakest link, but his bullpen experience, combined with the Yankees unwillingness to remove A.J. Burnett from the rotation, made him the obvious candidate. Now it will happen, and just in time for some big performances. They won’t need him in the later innings, since those are well covered by David Robertson and Rafael Soriano. But one more arm in the bullpen, especially one who can throw multiple innings, might be a boon this October.

Weekend mailbag spillover: Roy Oswalt

Man we’re an overzealous group. The 2011 regular season hasn’t officially concluded yet, the postseason is right around the corner, and yet the questions regarding next year’s rotation continue to fly in! It’s all good though; that’s part of being a fan and it makes for entertaining conversation! Anyway, RAB had a number of questions submitted regarding Roy Oswalt and whether or not he’d be a good fit for the Yankees rotation come 2012. Remember to use the always handy Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you want to send in any questions.

As it currently stands, Roy Oswalt is in the process of concluding his five year, $73M contract.  There is a $16M mutual option for 2012 with a buyout cost of two million (which I imagine the Phillies will likely take advantage of).  That’s not to say though, that the Phils wouldn’t be interested in bringing him back on a more team friendly contract if that option were possible — although a lower cost would certainly warrant more potential suitors.  Unfortunately for Oswalt (who’s now 34 years old), he’s faced some setbacks this season due to back injuries.    However, the right-hander has mentioned that he’d like to continue pitching beyond this year, after speculation regarding his retirement arose while he spent significant time on the  disabled list earlier on in the season.  Should the Phillies allow him to test the open market this offseason, he’ll likely qualify as a Type-A free agent.

In terms of results, Roy has pitched to a 3.86 ERA/3.50 FIP/3.96 xFIP this season, spanning over the course of 133 innings pitched (good for an 8-11 record for the preordained NL World Series representative).  He’s averaging 6.02 K/9 (down from his career average of 7.35) and 2.17 BB/9 (which is basically right in line with his career average).  He’s also mitigated the long ball quite well (0.68 HR/9) in what is otherwise considered to be a fairly favorable hitter’s park.  He’s also maintained his reputation of forcing a respectable number of ground balls (44.8 GB%).  Oswalt’s .321 BABIP is certainly higher than his career norm of .297; that said, he’s done a pretty good job of stranding opposing baserunners ( 73.4 LOB%).  In terms of pitches, he primarily throws a plus fastball (11.6 wFB in 2011)  which hovers around 91 miles per hour, and a change up (which hasn’t been quite as effective this season, -4.1 wCH) approximately 20%  of the time.  He’ll also mix in a slider or curveball  occasionally, although neither pitch has been particularly impressive this year.In general, Oswalt’s been a fairly reliable (if not excellent) starter for the vast majority of his career.  Over the past ten seasons, he’s only failed to produce at least 30 starts twice.

For what it’s worth, he’s also been an All-Star three times and a Cy Young candidate six times.  That said, I would probably be in favor of the Yankees passing on Oswalt.  His contract would probably have to be reduced to approximately $8-10M (perhaps with some incentives), in order to make his likely 2-2.5 WAR justifiable.  Injuries can absolutely plague any pitcher, but by age 35, I’d assume the Yankees would be especially leery of those nagging back injuries that have become quite persistent over the years.  While I typically do not put a whole lot of stock into the whole NL pitcher narrative, there is that to consider as well.  Mostly what deters me from Roy, though, is the prospects that would have to be surrendered for what would undoubtedly be a short term agreement.

Yanks place five on BA’s Top 20 NYPL prospects list

(David Schofield/

Baseball America’s look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league continued with the Short Season NY-Penn League today, and the Yankees are very well represented. Mason Williams unsurprisingly topped the list, and in the subsciber-only scouting report, they say he “stays through the ball well with a simple lefthanded swing.” His “quick hands generate surprising bat speed,” which should allow for average power down the road. “Williams has plus to plus-plus speed that plays on the bases and in center field, though he’s still refining his basestealing ability and his outfield routes,” they added. “He has a solid-average arm and projects as a plus defender in center fielder.”

Cito Culver, the team’s first round pick last year, placed sixth. “He stood out most with his defense, showing smooth actions, average range and a well above-average arm at shortstop,” said the write-up, which also backed up previous reports that he’s a switch-hitter but better from the right side. Tyler Austin was two spots behind Culver at number eight, and is lauded for his plate discipline and ability to handle offspeed stuff. “He has above-average raw power and is capable of hitting balls out of the park to all fields,” said BA. The move to third base (from behind the plate) has been successful so far, but they note that Austin has to improve his footwork and become more aggressive.

Ranking 14th is Angelo Gumbs, last year’s second rounder. “[An] athletic, high-energy player with electric bat speed and a quality all-around toolset,” Gumbs has the bat speed and strength to hit for good power. A former shortstop and centerfielder, he’s working on learning second base, though some think he’d be better off in the outfield because his strong arm is a waste on the right side of the infield. The fifth and final Yankee farmhand on the list is Branden Pinder, a 16th rounder this year that ranked 19th on the list. “He streamlined his repertoire in a relief role, attacking hitters with a lively 93-94 mph fastball that topped out at 96.” Pinder is also said to have a sharp slider and a long delivery with good deception.

Very nice showing for the Baby Bombers, who won their league title this year. The next top 20 list of interest to the Yankees is the Low-A South Atlantic League, which will be  revealed on Wednesday. I’m not sure if Slade Heathcott, Rob Segedin, and J.R. Murphy spend enough time with Charleston to qualify for the list, but Gary Sanchez, Ramon Flores, Nik Turley, and Tommy Kahnle all have a chance to make an appearance.