Thursday Night Open Thread

Once again, the Yankees had an off-day today. They had one Saturday, they had one Monday, they have one today, and they’ll have another one Tuesday. Love to have twice as many off-days in the first eleven days of April than in all of March. The threat of rain in a dome is real. Anyway, the Yankees are off again today. They’ll be back at it tomorrow night in Baltimore.

Here is an open thread for the night. The Mets are playing and MLB Network is showing a regional game. Also, all of the local hockey and basketball teams are playing except the Rangers. Talk about those games or anything else here, as long as it’s not religion or politics. Thanks in advance.

(The Yankees are off today, but it is Opening Day in the minors. The first DotF post of the year will be along later. If you can’t wait until then, here are the box scores.)

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: April 2012

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
Stew. (Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

We are now in April and a new season has begun. That is true today and it was true in 2012 as well. Now that we’re in a new month, it’s time to go through the MLB Trade Rumors archives again. April is usually a slow month for rumors and transactions though. The season has just started and most teams are evaluating their rosters and minor league depth before looking for help outside the organization.

The Yankees remade their rotation during the 2011-12 offseason by signing Hiroki Kuroda and trading for Michael Pineda. They also brought back Freddy Garcia and salary dumped A.J. Burnett. The Yankees didn’t just lose on Opening Day in 2012 — that was the first of these six straight Opening Day losses — they got swept in the first series by the Rays. The cries of panic were quickly erased by a 10-3 stretch. The Yankees went 13-9 in April overall. Let’s dive into the MLBTR archives, shall we?

April 1st, 2012: Minor Moves: Scales, Bulger

The Yankees have signed Jason Bulger to a minor league contract, tweets MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch. He’ll pitch at Triple-A. After signing a minor league deal with the Twins this winter, Bulger disappointed in Spring Training, allowing 10 earned runs on eight hits and five walks in four innings. He last enjoyed success in 2009 with the Angels.

Bulger had some nice years with the Angels back in the day, throwing 99 innings with a 3.64 ERA (4.40 FIP) from 2009-11. He was just trying to hang on by time he signed with the Yankees. Bulger, then 33, spent the 2012 season in Triple-A, where he had a 3.41 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 34.1 relief innings. He walked 21 and struck out 28 as the designated “veteran arm who makes sure the kids don’t get overworked” reliever. The Yankees have a few guys like that this year (Ernesto Frieri, Jason Gurka), though they’re much deeper in young arms than they were five years ago. The odds of seeing Frieri and Gurka in the Bronx aren’t as good as they would have been a few years back.

April 4th, 2012: Giants, Yanks Swap George Kontos For Chris Stewart

2:32pm: The Yankees have acquired Stewart in exchange for right-hander George Kontos, reports MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (on Twitter).

The big-ish surprise trade. Opening Day was April 6th, 2012, and two days earlier the Yankees changed course behind the plate and acquired Chris Stewart to back up Russell Martin. Francisco Cervelli was optioned to Triple-A. It was right around that time we started to learn about the value of pitch-framing, and Stewart was a master at it. Here are the numbers, per StatCorner:

Stewart Cervelli
2011 +16.8 in 460.1 innings +8.4 in 316.1 innings
2012 +14.1 in 395.1 innings +0.2 in 5 innings
2013 +21.7 in 844.1 innings +3.2 in 138 innings

On a rate basis, Stewart was one of the very best pitch-framers in baseball at the time. Cervelli was good, but not as good as Stewart. Stewart backed up Martin in 2012 and hit .241/.292/.319 (65 wRC+) in 157 plate appearances. Cervelli hit .246/.341/.316 (89 wRC+) in 99 Triple-A games.

The Yankees let Martin walk as a free agent following the season and were planning to go with Stewart and Cervelli behind the plate in 2013, but a foul tip broke Cervelli’s hand in April and kept him out most of the season. That gave Austin Romine his first extended taste of big league action.

Kontos, meanwhile, has two World Series rings with the Giants, and has carved out a nice career as a middle reliever. He came into this season with a 2.64 ERA (3.66 FIP) in 264 career innings. I thought Kontos had a chance to be a setup guy and wasn’t too pleased with the trade, but whatever. What’s done is done.

April 4th, 2012: Yankees Sign Ramon Ortiz

The Yankees signed right-hander Ramon Ortiz, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. It’s a minor league deal, Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger tweets. The Giants recently released the 39-year-old Praver/Shapiro client.

The Yankees have some nice pitching depth in the minors, which hasn’t always been the case over the years. It’s hardly been the case, really. They used to have to pick up guys like Ortiz to chew up innings in Triple-A. Ortiz, then 39 with over 1,400 big league innings to his credit, spent the entire season with Triple-A Scranton, where he had a 3.45 ERA (4.06 FIP) in 169.1 innings. That was the season Scranton had to play entirely on the road while PNC Field was being renovated, so Ortiz, a 12-year MLB veteran, stuck it out and road buses and lived in hotels all summer. Some guys stick around so long because they truly love the game.

By the way, those 169.1 innings Ortiz threw that season are still the most in the farm system since Steven White threw 175.1 innings back in 2006. Aside from Ortiz, only four Yankees farmhands have reached 160 innings in a single minor league season since White: Shaeffer Hall (164.1 in 2012), D.J. Mitchell (161.1 in 2011), Hector Noesi (160.1 in 2010), and Jason Jones (160 in 2008). Geez, those are some names. Shaeffer Hall was the Dietrich Enns of his time.

April 5th, 2012: Yankees Claim Cody Eppley

The Yankees claimed reliever Cody Eppley off of waivers from the Rangers, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets. The Rangers had designated the right-hander for assignment yesterday.

You never see it coming with these fringe relievers. The Yankees claimed Eppley off waivers the day before Opening Day, and while he didn’t make the Opening Day roster, he was called up in the middle of April and spent the entire rest of the season in the big leagues. He threw 46 innings with a 3.33 ERA (3.66 FIP) and a 60.3% ground ball rate. Eppley appeared in two games with the Yankees in 2013 before being released at midseason. He’s been bouncing around independent leagues and the Mexican League since 2014. The Yankees got their 40-something good innings out of Eppley and that was it, time to move on.

April 6th, 2012: NL West Notes: Padres, Dodgers, Phelps

The Giants originally requested right-hander David Phelps from the Yankees for catcher Chris Stewart, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. The Yankees ultimately sent right-hander George Kontos to San Francisco.

I don’t remember this at all. Phelps had yet to pitch in the big leagues at the time of the Stewart-Kontos trade, though he made his debut in the middle of the 2012 season. It’s easy to understand why the Yankees said no to Phelps but yes to Kontos. Phelps could start. Kontos couldn’t. Also, Phelps had a much cleaner injury history. (Kontos had undergone Tommy John surgery a few years prior.) The Yankees have never really missed Kontos. They would have missed Phelps given the 299.1 league average-ish innings he threw for them from 2012-14 though.

April 18th, 2012: Quick Hits: Lannan, Martin, Nationals, Orioles

The Yankees have no plans to talk to Russell Martin about a contract extension soon, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). Martin will become a free agent after this season, and the two sides briefly discussed a multi-year deal this past offseason.

The two sides did talk about an extension at some point, but nothing came of it and Martin ended up signing with the Pirates after the season. That led to the Stewvelli era in 2013. Here are the catchers the Yankees have lost or traded away over the last few offseasons:

  • After 2016: Brian McCann traded to Astros.
  • After 2015: John Ryan Murphy traded to Twins.
  • After 2014: Francisco Cervelli traded to Pirates.
  • After 2013: Chris Stewart traded to Pirates.
  • After 2012: Russell Martin leaves as free agent.
  • After 2011: Jesus Montero traded to Mariners.

The Yankees did all of that and they still have a budding star behind the plate in Gary Sanchez. Pretty cool. The super early guess here is Romine is sent packing after the season so Kyle Higashioka can take over as the backup in 2018, continuing the annual tradition of jettisoning a catcher in the offseason.

April 19th, 2012: Yankees Sign Nelson Figueroa

The Yankees have signed right-hander Nelson Figueroa to a minor league deal, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets.

Nelson Figueroa too? Geez, the Yankees signed so many veteran guys to stash in Triple-A in 2012 that I had to go back to look at their rotation to start the season. Here are their Opening Day starting pitchers:

The Delcarmen start was basically a rehab thing. He moved to the bullpen after that one little start, at which point Ortiz took his rotation spot. Figueroa helped replace Banuelos, who got hurt early in the season. Others on the 2012 Triple-A Opening Day roster include Mike O’Connor, Craig Heyer, and Pat Venditte. I had a prospect crush on Heyer for a while.

April 20th, 2012: No More Personal Service Deals & Milestone Bonuses

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have agreed to put an end to personal service deals and milestone bonus clauses, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reports. Existing contracts with these deals or bonuses won’t be affected by the changes, which were agreed to this month.

I don’t remember this. Alex Rodriguez had those home run milestone bonuses in his contract, though he didn’t trigger the first bonus until 2015. MLB and MLBPA changed the rules three years before that was a thing. I know Albert Pujols has an option for a ten-year, $10M personal services contract in his deal with the Angels, which was signed a few weeks before this report. Ryan Zimmermann has a personal services clause in his contract too.

MLB and MLBPA determined milestone bonuses violated a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that says performance statistics can not be used as a basis for incentives. The personal services stuff violated a clause about contracts extending beyond the player’s career as an active player. So, if you’re looking for a way the Yankees can sweeten the pot to lure a free agent in the future, milestone bonuses and personal services agreements are a no go.

April 25th, 2012: Michael Pineda To Undergo Labrum Operation

Michael Pineda has a tear in his right labrum and will undergo arthroscopic surgery next Tuesday, according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (Twitter link). The 23-year-old will likely miss a full year, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch tweets. The Yankees acquired Pineda in an offseason trade that sent their top hitting prospect to the Mariners, but the right-hander has yet to pitch his first inning in pinstripes.

Oh boy. That was a bad day. Pineda’s velocity was down all throughout Spring Training — he came to camp out of shape too — and the Yankees had him start the season on the disabled list with what they called shoulder tendinitis. He made a rehab start a few days prior to this report and left the game after only a handful of pitches with pain in his shoulder. Tests revealed the labrum tear. Brian Cashman called it a “tragic diagnosis” at the time.

Pineda missed close to two full seasons following the surgery — he did throw 40.2 minor league rehab innings in the second half of 2013 — and all things considered, his stuff has come back very well following surgery. He can still get his fastball into the mid-90s regularly and his slider can be devastating. Pineda still doesn’t have a reliable changeup though, and his command is pretty terrible, which may or may not be the result of the surgery. I remember being worried he’d come back throwing 88-89 mph with no bite on his slider. That didn’t happen.

Even with his stuff coming back, the shoulder injury definitely derailed Pineda’s career to some degree. He missed his age 23 season and most of his age 24 season. Those are crucial developmental years, years Pineda could have been working on his changeup and command. There’s no guarantee Pineda would be a better today had he not undergone surgery. The surgery didn’t do him any favors though. Sucks.

April 28th, 2012: Bobby Abreu Links: Angels, Wells, Trout, Yankees

Mike Axisa of the River Ave Blues blog thinks the Yankees might have an interest in Abreu as at least a short-term fix while Brett Gardner is on the DL.  New York tried to acquire Abreu for A.J. Burnett in the offseason, before Burnett blocked the deal to avoid playing on the west coast.

That idiot Mike Axisa has a good idea every once in a while, but this probably wasn’t one of them. Gardner suffered what was essentially a season-ending elbow injury making a sliding catch in the team’s 11th game of the season — he did return very late in September and for the postseason — which sent the Yankees scrambling for outfield help. Here are their games started leaders in left field in 2012:

  1. Raul Ibanez — 65 starts
  2. Andruw Jones — 41
  3. Ichiro Suzuki — 26
  4. Dewayne Wise and Jayson Nix — 9 each
  5. Brett Gardner — 8
  6. Eduardo Nunez — 3
  7. Chris Dickerson — 1

I remember Nunez have some adventures during those three starts in left field. The Yankees rolled with an Ibanez/Jones platoon for much of the season, but Andruw was awful that year, which led to guys like Nunez and Nix playing out there. Eventually the Yankees traded for Ichiro to replace Gardner.

Anyway, I’ve gotten sidetracked. The Yankees and Angels reportedly agreed to a Burnett-for-Abreu trade during the 2011-12 offseason, but Burnett invoked his no-trade clause to block the deal because he didn’t want to go to the West Coast. He was traded to the Pirates, who were not on his no-trade list, a few weeks later.

Abreu, then 38, hit .208/.259/.333 (62 wRC+) in eight games with the Angels before being released on April 27th. The player called up to take his roster spot? Mike Trout. A good decision, that was. Abreu then hooked on with the Dodgers and hit a serviceable .246/.361/.344 (100 wRC+) in 92 games. Ibanez hit some enormous home runs late in 2012 and Ichiro played well after the trade. Good thing the Yankees didn’t listen to me and sign Abreu, huh?

Yankeemetrics: Play Ball! (April 2-5)

It's not what you want (Source: Getty)
It’s not what you want (Source: Getty)

Baseball is a Marathon, not a Sprint
The ‘good’ news after the Yankees Opening Day debacle is that there was only one way to go after such a depressing game – up – since you probably could not have scripted a much more disastrous start to the 2017 season.

The bad news after the Yankees Opening Day debacle was that I had to write the first sentence of this post … and the next sentence: for the first time in team history, they’ve dropped six straight Opening Day contests.

Despite the unsightly outcome, there were some notable positive nuggets to report as the team took the field on Sunday afternoon:

  • For the first time in more than eight decades – since 1932, to be exact – the Yankees had four players under the age of 25 in the Opening Day lineup (Ronald Torreyes, Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge). The quartet back in the ’30s included a couple Hall-of-Famers: Lefty Gomez, Bill Dickey, Frankie Crosetti and Ben Chapman.
  • The 24-year-old Bird was the franchise’s youngest Opening Day first baseman since Don Mattingly in 1986.
  • Sanchez joined Derek Jeter (1998-99) as the only under-25 Yankees to hit second on Opening Day over the last 40 seasons.
  • Judge (who turns 25 at the end of the month) was the youngest Opening Day corner outfielder for the Yankees since a 23-year-old Hensley Meulens in 1991.

Things quickly spiraled out of control after the first pitch, however, as Masahiro Tanaka delivered one of the worst Opening Day performances by any pitcher in franchise history.

Tanaka became the only Yankee ever to allow at least seven earned runs and get fewer than 10 outs on Opening Day. And his 2? innings tied Ron Guidry (1983) and Mel Stottlemyre (1973) for the fewest by a Yankee Opening Day starter in the last 100 years.

Along with poor fastball command, Tanaka’s splitter wasn’t fooling the Rays. Though he did get a respectable five whiffs and had good location on the 15 splits he threw, burying the pitch at the bottom of the zone …
masahiro-tanaka-2

… the Rays did damage on the five splitters they put in play, crushing two singles, a deep sac fly and a homer off the pitch.

While Tanaka got clobbered on the mound, there were a couple encouraging results from the bats on Sunday.

Sanchez might have gone 0-for-5 but his first-inning groundout was a rocket, with an exit velocity of 115.7 mph. It was the second-hardest hit ball recorded by Statcast (since 2015) for any Yankee, behind only an A-Rod homer on May 1, 2015 measured at 116.5 mph off the bat.

Starlin Castro did something that Robinson Cano never achieved in pinstripes – a three-hit Opening Day performance (the most recent Yankee second baseman to do it was Tony Womack in 2005) – while Chase Headley joined A-Rod (2006) and Wade Boggs (1994) as the only Yankee third baseman in the last 90 seasons to have three hits on Opening Day.

Best hi-five ever (Source: AP)
Best hi-five ever (Source: AP)

Second time’s a charm
The Yankees bounced back from their Game 1 disaster with an impressive blanking of the Rays on Tuesday. The 5-0 win was just the second time in the last quarter-century that the Yanks pitched a shutout in either their first or second game (also 2002), and was the team’s largest shutout win this early into the season since they beat the Twins 8-0 in the 1988 opener. Last year’s first shutout didn’t come until May 4.

The offense was ignited by a most unlikely source, when the (listed) 5-foot-8 Ronald Torreyes – who had one homer in 161 at-bats in his first two seasons in the majors – drilled a two-run shot to left center field to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. He’s got a long ways to go to catch the franchise leader in homers by a player that short – of course, it’s Yogi Berra (5-foot-7) with 358 career bombs.

CC Sabathia put together one of his best season-opening performances, scattering three hits and two walks across five shutout innings. The only other time he didn’t allow a run in his first start was back in 2004 against the Twins.

It had been 15 years since a Yankee starter threw five-or-more scoreless innings in either the team’s first or second game: In 2003, both Roger Clemens (6 innings) and Andy Pettitte (7 innings) held the Blue Jays without a run in the first two games of the season.

Sabathia also notched a significant milestone with his 224th career win, tying Hall-of-Famers Jim Bunning and Catfish Hunter for 66th on MLB’s all-time wins list.

Little Mike, No Offense
Thanks to another frustrating outing by Michael Pineda and a lackluster effort by the offense, the Yankees lost 4-1 in the rubber game of this three-game set. This is the fifth time in the last six years the team has dropped its opening series of the season.

(Source: Getty)
(Source: Getty)

Michael Pineda didn’t make it out of the fourth inning, producing an all-too-familiar statline. The good: six strikeouts, no walks; The bad: eight hits, four runs. Sometimes you can predict baseball.

Three of the four runs he surrendered came with two outs, continuing yet another perplexing trend from 2016 — his inability to finish off innings. Last year Pineda allowed the most two-out hits (80) and second-most two-out runs (52) in the majors … and seems to be on track to repeat that performance in 2017.

Not only did Pineda extend his personal winless streak to a career-worst 11 starts dating back to early August of last year, he’s gone eight starts in a row without a win against Tampa Bay, the longest such streak by any Yankee. Among all pitchers, only Jeff Suppan (10 straight from 1999-03) and Sidney Ponson (9 straight from 2000-02) have recorded longer winless streaks versus the Rays.

The lone offensive highlight came from the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury, who took Alex Cobb deep in the second inning to knot the score at 1-1. It was his 33rd homer since coming to the Bronx in 2014, but just the second one that’s tied up a game.

James Kaprielian heading for MRI on pitching elbow

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Once again, James Kaprielian‘s elbow is acting up. The Yankees placed their top pitching prospect on the minor league disabled list with elbow pain earlier today, the team announced. He’s going for an MRI and a dye contrast MRI. The Yankees will know more once the tests are done.

Kaprielian, as you know, missed most of last season with a flexor strain. He did return in time for the Arizona Fall League and reports said he looked very god. PitchFX clocked his fastball at 95.7 mph on average with a max of 99.1 mph out in the desert. Kaprielian threw 45 total innings between High-A and the AzFL in 2016.

“It’s a concern,” said Brian Cashman to Erik Boland. Cashman also confirmed Kaprielian first complained of discomfort two days ago, so this is a relatively new injury. The discomfort is in the same spot as Kaprielian’s injury last year. Pitching is terrible. Don’t ever pitch.

The Yankees took it slow with their 2015 first round pick in Spring Training, opting to have him throw simulated games for the first few weeks before letting him make a two-inning Grapefruit League appearance. Kaprielian threw four-plus innings in a minor league camp start last week and told Josh Norris he felt good.

Hopefully this is nothing serious. Needless to say though, elbow trouble in back-to-back seasons is not good. Kaprielian is New York’s best pitching prospect in terms of stuff and command, but health is a skill and he hasn’t shown it as a pro yet. Even a minor injury is a red flag at this point. Sigh.

The bullpen has been lights out, and a thin rotation means the Yankees need it to continue

So much bullpen. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
So much bullpen. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Isn’t it funny how one thing can happen in Spring Training, then the exact opposite happens once the regular season begins? Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird tore the cover off the ball this spring, so of course they’re off to a combined 2-for-26 (.077) start during the regular season. Masahiro Tanaka was lights out in camp, then he couldn’t get out of the third inning on Opening Day. Chase Headley was invisible in March, and he’s been a one-man wrecking crew in April.

Through three games this season the offense has been at best inconsistent and at worst flat-out bad. Sanchez and Bird (and Matt Holliday) doing nothing in particular is the biggest culprit. No doubt about that. The rotation has been mostly poor too. Even in Tuesday’s win, CC Sabathia could only go five innings. None of this is surprising, of course. Young hitters have their ups and down, and the rotation looked questionable all offseason.

The only constant for the Yankees so far this season has been the bullpen. They’re carrying eight relievers and all eight have appeared in a game already, and they’re all tossing up zeroes. Here is the game-by-game bullpen work so far:

IP H R ER BB K GB/FB
Game One 5.1 5 0 0 1 7 8/6
Game Two 4 2 0 0 1 6 6/2
Game Three 4.1 0 0 0 2 4 5/4
Total 13.2 7 0 0 4 17 19/12

The bullpen has been phenomenal through three games, protecting the one lead they’ve been given and keeping the score close in the two games they were trailing. Adam Warren has been the super early pitching MVP so far. He’s faced 14 batters total in his two appearances, retired them all, and allowed only three balls out of the infield. Warren really should be in the rotation, but I digress.

The bullpen won’t be perfect all year, we know that, but the Yankees do figure to continue to rely on their relief crew heavily. Tanaka’s short start Sunday was an outlier. That was only the fourth time in his 76 starts with the Yankees that he failed to complete five innings. Sabathia might be a five-and-fly pitcher at this point of his career though. And who knows with Michael Pineda? Same with Luis Severino tomorrow and whoever ends up being the fifth starter.

“That has to change. You knew early on that you weren’t going to get a ton out of them, but you can’t live like that,” said Joe Girardi to Mike Mazzeo following last night’s game, referring to the two short starts within the first three games of the season. The problem is there’s no real reason to expect it to change. Last season the Yankees didn’t get many innings from their non-Tanaka starters — Tanaka averaged 6.44 innings per start in 2016 while all other Yankees starters averaged 5.47 innings per start — and the personnel is the same.

The Yankees are prepared for these short starts, at least early in the season, because they’re carrying two long men in Warren and Bryan Mitchell in the bullpen. Three off-days within the first ten days of the regular season will help too. As rough as Tanaka’s and Pineda’s short starts were this week, they pitching staff is fine. The Yankees are not in a “crap our bullpen is shot for the next few days” situation. They have eight relievers and the off-days.

For now, the Yankees can survive these short starts. Their bullpen has been dynamite, and while the result is one win in three games, you can’t blame the relievers. They’ve held up their end of the bargain. I expect the offense to come around at some point, sooner rather than later. I don’t expect the non-Tanaka starters to provide much length though. The bullpen has been great and the Yankees will need it to continue being great to stay in the race this season.

Yankees fall to the Rays 4-1, lose their first series of the year

Well, the Yankees dropped the first series played in the 2017 season. On a bright side, the last time Yankees had a season opener in the Trop, they got swept (2012) so, uh, improvement? It was not an ideal series but they got plenty more games to go. Their losing formula tonight was simple: Michael Pineda got knocked around and the bats went silent.

Michael Pineda, like a deja vu

Mike Pineda allowed 27 homers last year, which was a 1.38 HR/9 rate. It’s not exactly dreadful but you want to see many fewer gopher balls from the starter.  He started this season the way he left off. Three pitches in, Pineda left a fastball up against Corey Dickerson, and he drove the ball over the left-center wall. 1-0 Rays. At least it wasn’t after two outs, right?… alright that’s not really a consolation.

Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Pineda got into another jam in the second inning. After allowing a leadoff single to Steven Souza, he allowed a loud single to Logan Morrison – it was a flyball that hit the third catwalk and was automatically called a single. Aaron Judge could’ve caught it if not for that (I think). Stupid Tropicana Field. Anyways, Pineda struck out Tim Beckham for the first out of the inning. They got the second out on a force out at the home plate. However, with two outs and runners on second and third, Derek Norris hit a single to bring both of them in. 3-1 Rays. Starlin Castro got a little glove on it, but the ball was hit too hard.

Big Mike had a nice bounceback inning in the 3rd. However, naturally, he got into another jam in the fourth. Pineda’s final line: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R (3 ER), 0 BB and 6 K’s, good for a 7.36 ERA and a 0.99 xFIP. That is the quintessential frustrating Big Mike numbers right there. He also got a decent amount of whiffs, getting 13 overall (8 of them from his slider). He got hit hard many times yet he struck out Evan Longoria twice. Enigma!

It’s only Pineda’s first start of the year. With his talent and the upcoming free agency, I’m sure he knows that he should be better than what he showcased tonight.

Cobb got’em cold

Brian Blanco/Getty Images
Brian Blanco/Getty Images

After giving up a 1-0 lead, the Yankees answered right back. Jacoby Ellsbury, leading off the second inning, hit a 91 mph fastball middle-in into the right field seats for a solo homer.

Well, that ended up being the only run the Yankees scored all game. Alex Cobb, who made a comeback last year from Tommy John surgery, had an ugly 8.59 ERA in 22.0 IP in 2016. However, the dude is talented. Prior to the surgery, he had a solid 2014 season in which he marked a 2.87 ERA in 166.1 IP. 2017 may well become Cobb’s comeback year. Not a lot of shame in getting shut down by him. Yankee hitters got flummoxed by his offspeed pitches (changeup and curve generated 12 whiffs combined). New York also went 0-for-9 in RISP chances, including 0-for-4 combined from Greg Bird and Aaron Judge. You have bad games like this. It happens.

Ellsbury got a base hit off of Rays closer Alex Colome to try to start a ninth-inning rally. However, Castro promptly grounded out into a double play to immediately kill the momentum. Chase Headley hit a single to reach the base but Judge flew out to end the game.

Bullpen warriors 

Another game, another scoreless outing by the Yankee bullpen. Tonight, they went 4.1 IP scoreless thanks to Tommy Layne, Adam Warren and Chasen Shreve. That’s a major silver lining from this game, if you ask me. However, if the starters don’t get it together and Joe Girardi has to run the bullpen like this frequently… it could turn ugly.

Anyways, focusing on what happened today: Adam Warren, how about that guy? He’s looked pretty awesome as a “guy to burn some innings out of the bullpen when the team is losing.” It’s not the sexiest job but it’s pretty vital to the team. Tonight, he threw 2.1 perfect innings while striking out four. He generated 8 whiffs in 32 pitches (so, hitters swung and missed on one out of every four pitches he threw), which is great. I don’t think I was ever enamored with the idea of having Warren in the rotation but he’s a blast to watch in certain bullpen roles. I’m a fan.

Miscellaneous

Gary Sanchez and Bird are combined 2-for-26 to start the season. It’s not what you want but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just one series. Just so happens that it’s also the very first of the year, which means that that’s all the numbers we have to see in evaluating their (very, very young) 2017 season. They’ll be fine.

On the other hand, Chase Headley is pretty hot to start this season. He’s 7-for-11 so far with two extra base hits (a double and a homer). I don’t think he’ll have an All-Star worthy season but it’d be good to have a solid-hitting Headley all season — just a wishful thought.

Another guy off to a hot start? Jacoby Ellsbury. He went 3-for-4 tonight, bringing his average up to .455. It’s way too early to read into this but I recall the hitting coach Alan Cockrell wanting Ellsbury to move his hitting point up front. It is something to follow and see as the season goes on. Would be a cool thing if that adjustment makes Ellsbury’s contract someone bearable for 2017.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Here’s a box score from ESPN, video highlights from MLB.com and WPA graph from Fangraphs. If you watched this game, you probably have the idea of what the graph looks like.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees get another off-day tomorrow prior to their weekend series in Baltimore. If you’re going to Camden Yards to see any games this weekend, I’m jealous of you.

Game Three: Big Mike and the Rays

BIG MIKE IS HERE

I’m feeling optimistic today, so I decided to bring back the whole Big Mike Is Here shtick. If you’re not going to be optimistic about a guy prior to his first start of the season, when will you? Michael Pineda has a lot on the line this year, specifically money. It’s his contract year. I know I’m rooting for him to have a big walk year. It’ll help the Yankees win and help Pineda secure a nice contract in free agency.

The Yankees and Rays have split the first two games of this three-game series, and the two games were close to polar opposites. Masahiro Tanaka got knocked around on Opening Day, then yesterday CC Sabathia and various relievers held Tampa to five singles — four of which did not leave the infield — in the shutout win. Winning series is the name of the game. Keep winning series and you’ll be in a good place come September. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. 1B Greg Bird
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s another clear, warm, and humid night in St. Petersburg. The weather inside Tropicana Field is always pleasant though. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on FOX Sports 1. There’s no YES broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Didi Gregorius (shoulder) started his throwing program today, not yesterday. The program runs two weeks. After that he’ll go on a minor league rehab assignment.