Most off-days stink, but I think I will enjoy this one just as much as the players. The Yankees have been brutal for a few weeks now, but especially the last week in particular. Even yesterday’s win was exhausting. This is a good night to relax and forget all about baseball for a few hours.
Here is your open thread for the night. The Mets are playing the Braves (Gee vs. Hudson), the Cubs and Cardinals will be on ESPN (Wood vs. Miller), plus Game Three of the Stanley Cup Finals will be on as well. You folks know how these things work by now, so have at it.
During a conference call this afternoon, Brian Cashman provided a bunch of updates on the various injured Yankees. Here’s a recap:
- Derek Jeter (ankle) took his hacks in batting practice and also off a tee and soft toss. The Cap’n fielded ground balls with a little side-to-side movement for the first time (ever! zing!) as part of his rehab as well.
- Alex Rodriguez (hip) will face live pitchers on Tuesday for the first time as part of his rehab. Going from simulated games to minor league rehab games to the big leagues is probably a four-week process for a guy who didn’t have a Spring Training, so yeah, All-Star break if everything goes well.
- Mark Teixeira (wrist) will not be available for at least seven days, and Cashman said he is “leaning personally” towards placing him on the DL. Let’s hope they do that, playing short-handed and potentially bringing him back too soon would suck.
- Michael Pineda (shoulder) will make his next minor league rehab start with High-A Tampa on Thursday. He’s scheduled to throw 80 pitches. Cashman said Pineda has been sitting 92 and touching 94-95 during his rehab so far.
- Curtis Granderson (hand) will have the pin removed on Thursday. No word on how long it will be before he can resume baseball activities, but getting the pin taken out is a start.
- Frankie Cervelli (hand) is still a week or so away from swinging a bat. He has been playing catch and working on receiving drills behind the plate.
- Eduardo Nunez (ribcage) took some ground balls and did some light hitting off a tee and soft toss. It’s possible he could return before the All-Star break, but Cashman didn’t seem confident.
It has been seven years (seven years!) since the Yankees bought local right-hander Dellin Betances away from Vanderbilt with a $1M signing bonus as their eighth round pick. He was a consensus first round talent who fell due to signability concerns, and the Bombers took advantage under the old system. It was a great get at the time.
Unfortunately, the now 25-year-old Betances has made very little improvement in those seven years. The 6-foot-8, 260-pounder still struggles to repeat his delivery because he isn’t a great athlete, and the result has been just awful strike-throwing ability. In almost 600 career minor league innings, he owns a 4.9 BB/9 and 12.4 BB%. Last season it was 6.8 BB/9 and 15.7 BB%, which is why he was demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton at midseason.
During the first month of this season, there was still no improvement. Betances walked 16 batters in 24 innings across his first six starts (6.0 BB/9 and 15.0 BB), which prompted the team to move him to the bullpen full-time. Brian Cashman admitted the move had as much to do with Betances’ lack of minor league options — he used his final option this year, meaning he will not be able to go to Triple-A without first passing through waivers starting in 2014 — as it did his poor performance.
“This is the problem with the development clock,” said the GM. “If he had two or three more options, we would keep working with him as a starter. But with him being out of options after this year, it is becoming more obvious that if he is going to help us, it is going to be out of the ‘pen … Every reliever is a failed starter. Mariano Rivera is a failed starter. He is going to the Hall of Fame, but he is a failed starter. We will see what we have here.”
Relieving isn’t completely foreign to Betances, who did it in the Arizona Fall League last year. That led me to believe he would open this season in the bullpen, but the team decided to give him that one last chance as a starter. He’s been doing the relief thing for a little more than five weeks now — he did spend eight days with the big league team as an extra arm, but he didn’t pitch and I don’t even remember him warming up — and the early results are positive:
Yesterday’s outing — his first on less than two days of rest — was pretty rough, which uglifies the overall pitching line a bit. Otherwise Betances has thrown an acceptable amount of strikes (58% compared to 55% last year) and gotten plenty of swings and misses (12%). He had walked only six batters before yesterday, including just two during one 12-inning stretch, which is substantially better than his career norm. Of course, we’re talking about 19.0 innings. Given his history, it’s impossible to trust that walk rate at this point.
According to Donnie Collins, Betances was sitting 93-95 mph with his fastball while topping out at 98 in his last outing over the weekend. That is a tick better that his velocity as a starter but not a huge spike. Besides, raw stuff was never the question here. Betances always threw hard and missed bats. The problem was staying around the plate, like basic strike-throwing. I’m not even talking about being pinpoint and dotting the corners, just getting around the general area of the zone was an issue.
I do wonder about the mental aspect of going from starter to reliever as well. Perhaps Betances has a hard time focusing and pacing himself as a starter — Tim Lincecum said that was the case for him a few weeks ago — and the bullpen makes life easier. He can focus on his two best pitches and adopt a simple grip it and rip it mentality without worrying about being efficient or having to turn a lineup over multiple times. I have no idea if this is the case, I’m just spit-balling here. There is a mental aspect to this that has to be considered though.
Relievers can survive with below-average command, especially when they can pump mid-to-high-90s heat with a swing-and-miss breaking ball. They aren’t ideal late-inning guys, but the middle innings need love too. Betances has another two and a half months to get acclimated to the bullpen and show the Yankees — and the other 29 teams, for that matter — he is worth keeping on the 40-man roster over the winter and carrying as a sixth or seventh reliever at the outset of 2014. The odds are against it working, but Betances has shown some improvement as a reliever. He’s gone from no-shot to long-shot.
Fresh off three offensively inept losses to the Athletics last week, the Yankees called up outfielder Thomas Neal from Triple-A and inserted him right into their lineup during the first two games of the Angels series. The move wasn’t just a response to the 18-inning marathon game either — Neal told Chad Jennings he received the call at 2:15pm ET on Thursday, more than an hour before the marathon game started. The team made the move as a direct response to their struggling offense.
It was just one very small move, and the Yankees shouldn’t stop there. Despite yesterday’s six-run outburst, this is still a club that struggles to put more than four runs on the board on any given night, and lately scoring more than two runs has been a chore. With so many high-profile injuries and scrap heap replacements, the Bombers actually have some roster flexibility and can replace players without having to worry about salaries or contract statuses or egos.
In no particular order, here are four moves the Yankees can make to potentially improve the position player side of their roster. None of these moves are going to transform the offense into a juggernaut, not even close, but even slight upgrades are worth making at this point.
Bring back Brennan Boesch
Boesch, 28, hit .283/.341/.458 (117 wRC+) with 16 homers as recently as 2011. He had surgery to repair the UCL in his right thumb (so the thumb on his front/power hand) following that season, and the lingering effects contributed to his .240/.286/.372 (77 wRC+) line in 2012. The Yankees picked him during Spring Training and outside of a one-week stint with Triple-A Scranton last month, Boesch has not played regularly or been able to get into a groove this season. He managed a .275/.302/.529 (123 wRC+) line during his sporadic appearances with the big league team, and now’s the time to see what he can contribute with regular at-bats. The club’s corner outfielders have been just awful overall this year.
Now, there’s a small problem: Boesch is currently on the Triple-A DL with a shoulder injury. Ken Davidoff said it was a minor issue in multiple articles last week and indicated he could return relatively soon, however. As soon as Boesch is healthy and ready to be activated, the Yankees should call him up and stick him in the lineup everyday. Against righties, against lefties, at home, on the road, whatever. Let him sink or swim. There’s a non-zero chance he can contribute to the team both this year and in the future — Boesch is under control as an arbitration-eligible player through at least 2015 — and this is the time to see what he has.
Swap David Adams for Ronnie Mustelier
It feels like an eternity since the 26-year-old Adams burst onto the scene and went 10-for-31 (.323) with two doubles and two homers in his first eight big league games. Since then, he’s gone 6-for-44 (.136) with one double to drag his season batting line down to .213/.234/.333 (49 wRC+). He also has yet to draw a walk in 77 plate appearances. Adams has gone from everyday third baseman to seldom-used platoon infielder.
Mustelier, on the other hand, has put up an unimpressive .280/.319/.408 (96 wRC+) line in 166 plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton this year, at least unimpressive compared to the .314/.371/.488 (~140 wRC+) line he managed between Double-A and Triple-A last summer. The 28-year-old Cuban defector has picked it up of late following a slow start, hitting .324/.359/.468 over the last month. He plays third, he plays left, he plays right, he’s hit ever since signing two years ago. The defense is not great (or even good), but if not now, then when?
Of course, we run into another problem: like Boesch, Mustelier is hurt at the moment. He is currently sidelined — not on the DL, just day-to-day — with what amounts to a minor grain strain. I don’t know what the timetable is for his return, but I assume it will be relatively soon since they’ve yet to put him on the 7-day minor league DL. By swapping the two, Adams can go back to Triple-A to get regular playing time and rebuild his confidence while Mustelier gets the opportunity to play third everyday.
Drop Reid Brignac for Alberto Gonzalez
Brignac, 27, is the best defensive shortstop in the entire Yankees organization. He is also hitting .182/.217/.261 (18 wRC+) in 94 plate appearances overall this year, including a .100/.122/.125 mark since joining New York. Big league pitchers are hitting .138/.165/.186 (-9 wRC+) this year, for comparison. There is a minimum standard of acceptable offense and Brignac does not meet it, even at the low standards of shortstop.
The Yankees actually dumped the 30-year-old Gonzalez for Brignac last month, opting for better defense and the left-handed bat. Gonzalez has gone 8-for-35 (67 wRC+) in limited big league time this year, and at Triple-A Scranton he currently owns a .269/.355/.312 (85 wRC+) line. Neither of these guys can hit, but Gonzalez can’t hit slightly less. He’s no slouch with the glove either, in fact he’s probably the second best defensive shortstop in the organization. There isn’t much sense in keeping Brignac around for platoon reasons when he can’t hit at all. Gonzalez could provide a slight upgrade overall, and even if he doesn’t, no big deal. The Yankees really wouldn’t be any worse off.
Swap Austin Romine for … someone
Three (three!) competent big league backup catchers were designated for assignment last week, meaning they are freely available to the other 29 teams. One of those catchers (John Baker) has since been claimed by the Dodgers, but the other two (Ramon Hernandez and Kelly Shoppach) are still out there for the taking. Hernandez has hit .208/.291/.438 (103 wRC+) in 55 plate appearances for the Rockies and Dodgers this season while Shoppach put up a .196/.293/.346 (82 wRC+) line in 125 plate appearances for the Mariners.
Romine, 24, has been an absolute disaster even by backup catcher standards, going 7-for-53 (-24 wRC+) with two doubles. Both the 37-year-old Hernandez and 33-year-old Shoppach represent upgrades, allowing Romine to get the regular playing time he desperately needs in Triple-A. Shoppach is particularly appealing because he a) has hit .239/.333/.428 (112 wRC+) against left-handers since 2010, and b) is familiar with CC Sabathia from their years together with the Indians. As we saw with Romine, the Yankees are obviously concerned about the pitcher-catcher relationship. Shoppach and Sabathia already have a bit of a rapport, which should ease the transition. The backup catcher is pretty much the 25th man on the roster, but an upgrade is an upgrade.
* * *
Obviously these moves aren’t as simple as swapping one guy out for another. Each requires a 40-man roster move and that can get complicated, especially when making multiple moves at the same time. The 40-man is full right now, but guys like Chris Bootcheck, Melky Mesa, Neal, and Brignac are easily cuttable. Remember though, the team is expecting five (!) players to return from 60-day DL at some point this summer barring setbacks. Clogging up the roster with someone like Mustelier might not be ideal. Then again, neither is struggling to score four runs a night.
Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees and supplemental first round pick Ian Clarkin have agreed to a $1,650,100 signing bonus, which is exactly slot money for the 33rd overall pick. This was the pick the team received as compensation for losing Rafael Soriano to free agency. The deal is still pending a physical, which he will take today.
Clarkin, 18, is a left-hander out of a San Diego high school. He sits in the low-90s with his fastball and also offered one of the very best curveballs in the draft class. His changeup is advanced for a prepster. Read more about him right here. As you probably remember, Clarkin declared his hatred for the Yankees in a pre-recorded video that was aired during the draft broadcast before saying he would need “life-changing money” to sign. Unsurprisingly, $1.65M has a way of changing minds. I’m pleasantly surprised the Yankees got him signed for slot this quickly.
Keep tabs on the team’s draft pool with our 2013 Draft Pool page. · (70) ·
Record Last Week: 1-5 (18 RS, 30 RA)
Season Record: 38-31 (270 RS, 266 RA, 35-34 pythag. record), 3.0 games back in AL East
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Dodgers (two games, Tues. and Weds.), vs. Rays (four games, Thurs. to Sun..)
Top stories from last week:
- The Yankees were off on Monday before opening a three-game series against the Athletics. Oakland bested CC Sabathia in the series opener before pounding Phil Hughes in the second game. The series ended with an embarrassing 18-inning loss to wrap up the sweep.
- Three games in Anaheim followed the sweep in Oakland, and the Yankees dropped the opener for their fourth straight loss on Friday. A fifth straight loss following the next day, but New York got off the skid and held on for a much-needed win yesterday.
- Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (wrist) received a cortisone shot and is day-to-day with inflammation. Derek Jeter (ankle) has been cleared to resume baseball activities. Alex Rodriguez (hip) has resumed running the bases. Kevin Youkilis (back) has been placed on the 15-day DL. Frankie Cervelli (hand) has started playing catch. Michael Pineda (shoulder) threw 74 pitches in his latest rehab start. First rounder Eric Jagielo (hamstring) will miss a few weeks.
- The Yankees shook up the roster a bit on Friday, calling up outfielder Thomas Neal and right-hander Chris Bootcheck. Adam Warren was sent down following the marathon loss. Eduardo Nunez was placed on the 60-day DL and Cesar Cabral was outrighted to Double-A, meaning he cleared waivers and is officially Yankees property. The Rule 5 Draft rules no longer apply.
- Among the top ten round picks to sign this week were Jagielo ($1.84M), third rounder Mike O’Neill ($501k), fourth rounder Tyler Wade ($371k), fifth rounder David Palladino ($371k), sixth rounder John Murphy ($20k), and eighth rounder Brandon Thomas ($75k).
- The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks showed informal interest in acquiring A-Rod over the winter. The Yankees made two offers to free agent catcher David Ross over the winter, but they did not pursue Yasiel Puig. They also “already have interest” in Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco.
- For the second straight year, Robinson Cano will serve as the captain of the AL squad for the Homerun Derby.
- Orlando Hernandez will make his Old Timers’ Day debut this coming weekend.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
You didn’t think it would be easy, did you? The Yankees snapped their five-game losing streak on Sunday afternoon, but not before nearly blowing a six-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. This team, man. New York ended their ten-game West Coast trip with a 6-5 win.
The Ace We Need, Not The Ace We Deserve
For at least one start, CC Sabathia looked like his old dominating self. The left-hander held the Halos scoreless for the first eight innings on four singles and two walks, retiring eleven straight and 22 of 26 after the first two men he faced reached base. Only once did Sabathia throw more than 16 pitches in an inning, only twice more than 14. From the second through eighth innings, he threw 61 strikes compared to only 21 balls. Only four of the 24 batters faced during that time saw a two-ball count, and only one saw a three-ball count. Dude was on point.
According to PitchFX, Sabathia averaged 92.7 mph and topped out at 95.1 mph with his fastball. I don’t know if that was his best velocity of the season — I think he has averaged higher, but I don’t think he’s topped out any higher — but it was certainly more than he showed earlier in the year and more than enough to succeed. It also continued a positive (if not inconsistent) trend in the right direction. Aside from the velocity though, Sabathia seemed to have his changeup working better than he has at any other point this season. It was consistently down and away from righties and his most effective offering by linear weights (1.6 runs better than average for the start).
The final line was two runs on five hits and three walks in eight innings, but both runs scored after Sabathia left the game. We’ll talk more about that in a minute. The big man has now allowed eight runs in 29.1 total innings (2.45 ERA) in four starts following a loss this year, which is exactly what he is expected to do: stop losing streaks. This wasn’t his best start of the year — only the fourth best by Game Score, actually — but it might have been his most important. The Yankees have been playing terribly and Sabathia, the guy they count on to be their ace, put his foot down and took care of business on Sunday. Bravo, CC. Bravo.
All With Two Outs
Offensively, it was more of the same right in the very first inning. The Yankees put runners on second and third with no outs, but the 3-4-5 hitters failed to bring even a single run home. Pretty much the same frustrating stuff we’ve seen for two weeks now.
The third inning went much differently, at least eventually. New York again had runners on second and third with no outs only to have Ichiro Suzuki (strikeout) and Robinson Cano (fly out to shallow left) make outs without bringing a run home. We were all prepared for another blown opportunity, but instead Travis Hafner cranked a two-out, two-strike, three-run homer to dead center off Jered Weaver. He went into the inning riding an 0-for-23 slump. Yuck.
Those three runs felt like three million runs, but the Yankees didn’t stop there. Vernon Wells followed the homer with a single to left, then he came around to score on Lyle Overbay‘s double to dead center. Peter Bourjos nearly made the play, but the ball clanked off his glove. Jayson Nix followed with a single to left to plate the team’s fifth run of the inning, all with two outs. The five-run frame was Bombers’ first 3+ run inning since the six-run third inning against Aaron Harang in the first game of the road trip, and also the first time they scored more than four runs in the last eight games. Not innings, entire games. It was awesome.
GET THE LAST OUT DAMMIT
Six-run lead, Sabathia cruising, both David Robertson and Mariano Rivera well-rested and available … this one was in the bag, right? Sure, no sweat. Five runs later, everyone was sweating. Sabathia put the first two batters of the ninth on base, then David Robertson allowed two of the three men he faced to reach to give the Angels a run and the bases loaded with one out. With the tying run on deck, it was officially a save situation. That meant it was time for Rivera.
Coming into this season, Mo had a .264 BABIP in over 1,200 career innings. He excels at weak contact, specifically soft pop-ups and ground balls via broken bats. That’s his thing. Coming into Sunday’s game, Rivera had a .338 BABIP in 2013. An awful lot of bloop hits have been falling in of late, and that’s exactly what happened in this inning. The first batter he faced grounded out to first to drive in a run, but more importantly the 26th out was record. That’s when it happened. Bloop to right, two runs score. Bloop to left, one run scores. Just like that, it was 6-5 with men on first and second. Since that wasn’t ridiculous enough, Mo then walked Mike Trout on five pitches to loaded the bases.
Thankfully, Albert Pujols put together one of the worst at-bats you’ll ever see. He took the first pitch down and in for a strike, then fouled off the second pitch, also inside, for strike two. With the count in his favor 0-2, Rivera fed Pujols a two-seamer up and in that the Hall of Fame-bound first baseman half-swung through for strike three. The best closer of all-time stranded the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second by striking out the best hitter of his generation on three pitches. Had another bloop fallen in … I probably would have lost it. A win is a win, but let’s not do that again. Like, ever.
The Yankees tacked on what turned out to be the winning run in the eighth, when Wells hit a sacrifice fly to deep right-center. Of course, he also grounded into an inning-ending double play to end the rally in the first. For the first time since Wednesday, the Yankees scored in more than one inning in a game. Remember, they played an 18-inning game on Thursday.
Brett Gardner has been the team’s best player for about two weeks now, and on Sunday afternoon he went 2-for-4 with a double and a stolen base. His season batting line is up to .286/.352/.454 (119 wRC+), and he very quietly has a solid case for next month’s All-Star Game. I doubt it happens, but he’s in the conversation. Nix went 3-for-4 with a double and was the only other player in the lineup with multiple hits.
Robertson was hit by a comebacker in the right thigh/knee, but he stayed in the game after throwing a few test pitches. The ball deflected away and into right field, and he seemed to limp a little bit as he went to backup the plate. Robertson did strike out certified Yankee killer Howie Kendrick right after that, so it couldn’t have hurt too bad. Sabathia also took a comebacker to the behind and was fine. Waved the trainer off before he even got to the mound. Exhale. And then exhale again.
The Yankees went 4-6 on the ten-game trip, which isn’t nearly as bad as it felt. They were outscored 37-30 during the ten games, and they only hit four homers on the trip. Cano and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back dingers off Harang in the first game, Cano took Jarrod Parker deep in the seventh game, and Hafner took Weaver deep in the tenth game. As a team, the so-called Bronx Bombers are on pace for 169 dingers this year. That would be their lowest total since 1997.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
The box score and video highlights are at MLB.com and the other stats are at FanGraphs. ESPN is the place to go for the updated standings. The Rays last and the Orioles beat the Red Sox, so the Yankees are two back of Boston, one back of Baltimore, and two up on Tampa in the loss column.
Talk about a perfectly timed off-day. Even with the road trip-ending win, the Yankees need a day away from the park to forget about how crappy things have been going of late. The Dodgers are coming to the Bronx for the first time since the 1981 World Series (!) for a quick little two-game set starting Tuesday. Phil Hughes and left-baller Hyun-Jin Ryu is your pitching matchup for the opener.
Update: The Yankees have promoted RHP Rafael DePaula to High-A Tampa, reports Ben Badler. This has been inevitable for a few weeks now, he simply dominated Low-A ball.
Turns out that RHP Jose Ramirez‘s promotion to Triple-A Scranton is permanent, VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed to Josh Norris. It was originally expected to be a one-time spot start with LHP Vidal Nuno on the DL and RHP Chris Bootcheck in the big leagues. Ramirez had a 2.76 ERA (4.26 FIP) in 42.1 innings for Double-A Trenton this year, his first time at the level. So yeah, aggressive promotion.
Just as a reminder, the Short Season Staten Island season starts tomorrow. The two GCL Yankees teams start on Friday, and yes, they will play each other.
Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Lehigh Valley in 11 innings, walk-off style)
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 3-6, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — 13 hits in his last 30 at-bats (.433)
- SS Albert Gonzalez: 3-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI — I know about the left/right stuff, but he has to be better than Reid Brignac, no?
- RHP Ivan Nova: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 9/5 GB/FB — 65 of 103 pitches were strikes (63%)
- RHP Dellin Betances: 0.1 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HB, 0/1 GB/FB — only seven of 17 pitches were strikes (41%) … first real bad outing as a reliever
Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. I hope you enjoyed the day with family and a much-needed/unecessarily stressful Yankees win. If you haven’t talked to your dad yet today, make sure you get on that. There are lots of us you can’t but wish we could.
Here is your open thread for the night. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is the Giants at the Braves (Lincecum vs. Teheran), plus you’ve got Game Five of the NBA Finals as well. Talk about either of those games or anything else here. Have at it.
The road trip along the Pacific coast has been a nightmare. The Yankees scored six runs in the third inning of the trip, but have been held to just 18 runs in the 87 innings (!) since. That’s a 1.86 ERA for opposing pitchers, and I’m not even going to bother to go back and look to see if any of the runs were unearned. It’s too depressing.
The ten-game trip mercifully ends today with one last game against the Angels in Anaheim. The Yankees have lost five straight but they could head home tonight on a relative high note with a win this afternoon. It won’t be easy with Jered Weaver on the bump for the Halos. Here’s the lineup Joe Girardi is running out there against Jeff’s younger brother:
- CF Brett Gardner
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Travis Hafner
- LF Vernon Wells
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- 3B Jayson Nix
- SS Reid Brignac
- C Chris Stewart
As you might expect, the weather is perfect in Southern California. First pitch is scheduled for 3:35pm ET and can be seen on YES. Try to enjoy.
Injury Updates: Alex Rodriguez (hip) ran the bases for the first time since surgery yesterday. It was only 75% effort, but it’s still a step forward … Frankie Cervelli (hand) could begin swinging a bat sometime this coming week … Curtis Granderson (hand) will see the doctor at some point in the next few days, but it’s unclear if he’ll have the pin removed from his hand at that time.