Just a heads up, earlier today the Yankees announced a bunch of new amenities and concessions will be available at Yankee Stadium this summer. All the details are right here. The build your own nachos stand sounds relevant to my interests. Oh, and no, the beer selection has not improved all that much. Better than nothing, I guess. · (69) ·
The Yankees blew a six-run lead this afternoon, dropping their fourth-to-last Spring Training game to the Blue Jays by the score of 10-6. Brett Gardner (0-for-1, two walks), Derek Jeter (1-for-2, one walk), Carlos Beltran (2-for-3), Alfonso Soriano (1-for-2), Kelly Johnson (1-for-2, one walk), and Brian Roberts (1-for-3) all had productive days at the plate. Frankie Cervelli went 0-for-3 and Dean Anna went 1-for-2 with a walk. He has quietly been very good the last week or so.
Preston Claiborne took another beating in a spring full of them, allowing six runs on two singles, two doubles, a walk, and a hit batsman. He recorded zero outs. “The stuff has not been the same for whatever reason,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings after the game. I wonder if Claiborne is near the front of the designate for assignment line. Chris Leroux allowed his first runs of the spring (two of ‘em) in a three-inning stint. Fred Lewis got roughed up for two runs on two hits and a walk in two-thirds of an inning. Dellin Betances struck out one in a perfect innings of work. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here’s the rest from Tampa.
- Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) went 1-for-4 with a walk in a minor league game, the Yankees announced. He played five innings in center field and said he felt great. Brian Cashman said Ellsbury will play one more minor league game before returning to regular Grapefruit League play. They fully expect him to be ready for Opening Day. [Dan Barbarisi, Wally Matthews]
- David Robertson, meanwhile, allowed one run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning in a minor league game, according to the team. It was the first time he pitched on back-to-back days this spring. Both David Phelps and Adam Warren will come out of the bullpen in tomorrow’s game. Girardi said the bullpen decision will be announced tomorrow or Friday. [Chad Jennings]
- Brendan Ryan (back) will definitely start the year on the DL, Cashman said. Soriano’s right shoulder is barking, and apparently it has something to do with missing so much time due to the flu earlier in camp. It only bothers him when he throws and it hasn’t kept him out of games. [Barbarisi, George King]
- Roster move: Austin Romine was optioned down and sent to minor league camp, so Cervelli is officially the backup catcher. By my unofficial count, there are still 44 players in big league camp. [Jorge Castillo]
Here’s your open thread for the night. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on MLB Network tomorrow morning at 9am ET. They’ll carry the Rays and Orioles live tonight. The (hockey) Rangers, Knicks, and Nets are playing as well. You folks know how these work by now, so have at it.
According to the AP, the Yankees will open the season with an estimated $204M payroll, the second highest in the game behind the Dodgers ($235M). This will be the first time since 1999 that New York will not have baseball’s highest Opening Day payroll. The Astros ($45M) and Marlins ($48M) have the lowest and second lowest payrolls, respectively, and the league average salary is in the $3.95M to $4M range.
The payroll estimations cover everything — the 40-man roster, players on the DL or restricted list, pro-rated salaries, payments from other teams, so on and so forth. The Yankees opened last season with a $228M payroll according to Cot’s, though that is an outlier because they took on salary late in camp (Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay, etc.) to cover for injuries. The team’s average Opening day payroll from 2008-12 was ~$208M, so it has not increased as league revenues and other payrolls around the game have gone up. The luxury tax is doing what it was intended to do. · (33) ·
It took a little longer than we all would have liked, but Michael Pineda has finally earned a spot in the Yankees’ rotation. He was officially named the fifth starter yesterday, sending David Phelps to the bullpen for the time being. Pineda didn’t win the job by default, he won it fair and square by pitching well in camp and, most importantly, showing he was healthy. His delivery was free and easy, unlike two springs ago.
“He threw extremely well. It was what we wanted to see from him. He improved with each outing, and at times was dominant. We really liked what we saw,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings. “We weren’t sure what we were going to get from Michael. You look at a lot of other years, maybe one of those guys makes it as your fifth, because they all threw extremely well. But Michael, we thought, probably had the best spring.”
Pineda is still so young, turning only 25 back in January, but he also missed most of the last two seasons following shoulder surgery. That’s a lot of missed development time and lost experience. Losing your age 23 and 24 seasons hurts, no doubt about it. Pineda hasn’t had a chance to improve his changeup and he hasn’t had the opportunity to gradually build up his innings total like most young pitchers. The Yankees, however, do not seem all that concerned about him physically.
“He does not have an innings limit on him,” added Girardi. “We will watch how he’s doing and we’ll make judgments on what we have to do. This is a guy that has been to 175 innings before, so we know that he’s capable of handling that. It’s just, we’ve got to see how he’s responding.”
Pineda threw only 40.2 innings last season (plus an unknown amount in Extended Spring Training) but he did throw 171 innings for the Mariners back in 2011. I’m not sure how relevant that number is now after the shoulder surgery and completely lost 2012 season. It seems like the Yankees would want to ease him back into things given the nature of his injury, and despite Girardi’s comment, I think they will. It would really surprise me if they ran him out there with no regard for his workload.
While Pineda’s surgically repaired shoulder is the real concern here, fatigue can be just as problematic. His shoulder might be totally healthy, but he may still simply run out of gas in August or September following the long layoff. I don’t think you can throw 171 innings one year, 40.2 innings over the next two years, then jump right back up to 180+ after that. Maybe Pineda can, who knows. Late-season fatigue is a concern and that’s why guys like Phelps and Adam Warren will be important.
The Yankees went through an innings management nightmare with Joba Chamberlain a few years ago and more recently we’ve seen Stephen Strasburg’s workload become a daily topic. The Nationals were up front with everything and they had to answer questions about it every time he pitched. Maybe the Yankees are trying to avoid that distraction. If there’s no limit, there are no questions to answer. Pineda’s workload obviously has to be monitored given his injury and layoff, the Yankees just seem to be playing it cool.
The Yankees are across the bay in Dunedin to play the Blue Jays this afternoon, their fourth-to-last Grapefruit League game. A handful of regulars will play in the day game following the night game, and Chris Leroux is making the spot start as the rotation gets lined up for the start of the regular season. Here are the Yankees and Blue Jays lineups. This afternoon’s game is available on MLB.tv only, not YES or MLB Network. Talk about it here if you’re watching. · (17) ·
As Spring Training winds down, expect there to be a small run of transactions as teams finalize their rosters. Out of options players will be dealt, veterans on minor league contracts will be released so they find a big league job elsewhere, all sorts of stuff. Two years ago the Yankees pounced on this late-spring market to get Chris Stewart from the Giants, for example.
The Rangers have suffered a ton of injuries in recent weeks, losing guys like Jurickson Profar and Derek Holland long-term. Others like Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Elvis Andrus are banged up and expected to miss Opening Day. Starting catcher Geovany Soto will miss 10-12 weeks after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus early this week, meaning Robinson Chirinos and J.P. Arencibia will be their catching tandem at the start of the season.
According to Buster Olney, the Rangers called around to check in with clubs with extra catchers, including the Yankees and Frankie Cervelli. They are far from the first team to show interest in him this spring. With the bullpen more or less sorted out — we don’t know the exact names yet, but there are plenty of candidates to choose from — the Yankees figure to seek an infielder in any trade involving Cervelli, especially with Brendan Ryan‘s back acting up. Therein lies the problem:
Those are the infielders on Texas’ 40-man roster. The non-roster guys are pretty bad, as non-roster guys tend to be. Andrus, Profar, Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, and Mitch Moreland are not worth talking about for obvious reasons. It would be nice to have a true backup first baseman, but Moreland doesn’t make much sense for the Yankees, especially not with a $2.65M salary. He doesn’t fit the roster well.
That leaves journeymen Andy Parrino and Adam Rosales, as well as actual prospect (!) Luis Sardinas. Both Parrino and Rosales are cut from the no hit, good glove cloth, but with Andrus and Profar hurt, the Rangers need both of them. Sardinas, 20, hit .288/.342/.348 between High-A (96 games in 2013) and Double-A (29 games) last year and is slated to return to Double-A this year. Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Sardinas as the team’s seventh best prospect a few weeks ago and said he has the contact and defensive chops to play short everyday, as long as he improves his plate discipline and gets stronger.
Given the infield situation, it makes sense for the Yankees to look at acquiring a young infielder. I can’t imagine the Rangers (or any team) would give up a prospect of Sardinas’ caliber for an out of options catcher — Stewart-for-George Kontos is a nice estimation of Cervelli’s trade value, no? — though I suppose they may be desperate in the wake of Soto’s injury. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Sardinas would not improve the 2014 Yankees though, and probably not the 2015 team either. As Olney says, there isn’t much of a fit here even though Texas needs a backstop. They don’t have the infield depth to give up because of their own injuries. It seems like Cervelli’s value to the team is greater than anything the they could get in a trade.
In other news, Joel Sherman says the Yankees are not interested in infielder Kevin Frandsen, who recently elected free agency after being outrighted by the Phillies. He forfeited $900k in salary by doing that. Might end up regretting that one. I wrote about the 31-year-old Frandsen as a trade target last summer, mostly because he can fake the three non-shortstop infield positions and hit southpaws (career 108 wRC+). Is he better than Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte? Eh, maybe. Is it worth a 40-man roster spot to find out? I don’t think so.
The Ryan injury made the need for another infielder a little greater, but the Yankees brought in Solarte and specifically Anna for this very situation. Cervelli to Texas for an actual infield prospect would be great but it just seems so very unlikely. At the same time, another veteran journeyman like Frandsen might not be worth the trouble. The Yankees stocked up on similar players this winter and while there’s never any harm in adding another body, there’s no desperate need for a player of that caliber. Despite their recent history of late spring moves, I would be surprised if the Bombers make a trade or some kind of notable infield addition in the next six days.
The Yankees lost their fifth-to-last Grapefruit League game on Tuesday night, getting shut out 6-0 by the Phillies. Joe Girardi cycled through nine pitchers in nine innings, including Adam Warren (two walks, one strikeout), David Phelps (one unearned run), Vidal Nuno (two solo homers), David Robertson (one walk), Matt Thornton (perfect inning, one strikeout), and Shawn Kelley (one strikeout). Apparently if you showed up to the park, you got a chance to pitch.
Brett Gardner had a big day, going 3-for-3 and throwing a runner out at the plate. Well, kinda. Domonic Brown made a boneheaded base-running play and got hung up between third and home. Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, and Kelly Johnson all went 1-for-3, though Johnson misplayed two balls for errors. He has five this spring. Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, and Alfonso Soriano went a combined 0-for-10 with five strikeouts. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here is the rest from Tampa.
- Jacoby Ellsbury (calf) got six plate appearances in a minor league intrasquad game, going 1-for-4 with two walks and a strikeout. He has been running the last few days but did not run hard in the game. He’ll play in another minor league game tomorrow. Ellsbury is confident he will ready for Opening Day while Girardi feels “pretty good about it.” [AP, Chad Jennings, Erik Boland]
- Girardi said he will be “really surprised” if Brendan Ryan (back) doesn’t start the season on the DL. Still nothing on the bench and bullpen announcements. Tyler Austin (wrist) played right field in a minor league game today, his first game action of the spring. [Boland, Jennings]
- More from Jennings: Both Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka will pitch Friday. Kuroda will only throw two innings in his final tune-up, Tanaka more because he has a longer layoff before his first start. Kuroda, Tanaka, and CC Sabathia all threw their scheduled bullpens.
- David Herndon can opt-out of his contract on Sunday if he’s not added to the 25-man active roster. He’s had a nice spring and reportedly intends to use the opt-out if not added to the roster so he can look for a big league job elsewhere. Could influence the bullpen decision. [Chris Cotillo]
- The Yankees are planning to use more infield shifts this season in an effort to compensate for their range-challenged infield. They haven’t been very good at shifting the last few years, so hopefully that will change. [Pete Caldera]
- Another roster cut: John Ryan Murphy has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. There are still 45 players in big league camp by my official count, so these next few days will be a little busy.
The Yankees will be on the road in
Bradenton Dunedin to play the Pirates Blue Jays tomorrow afternoon. A handful of regulars will make the trip to play the day game after a night game, including Jeter, Beltran, Johnson, Roberts, Gardner, and Soriano. Chris Leroux, who has quietly been excellent in camp, will make the spot start. Dellin Betances and a gaggle of minor league relievers will follow.
The Yankees announced their season-opening rotation earlier today, with Michael Pineda not so surprisingly winning the fifth starter’s job. Adam Warren will move back into the bullpen when the season begins next week but he is making the spot start tonight as guys get lined up during the final week of Spring Training.
The Phillies made the short trip across the causeway from Clearwater for tonight’s game. They brought their A-lineup since this is the final week of camp, so Chase Utley and Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz and all those guys are playing. So is former Yankee Bobby Abreu. Right-hander Jeff Manship will be on the mound as Philadelphia gets a spot start of their own. Here is the lineup Joe Girardi is sending out there. I have to think that’s the Opening Day lineup, only with Jacoby Ellsbury batting leadoff and playing center field and Brett Gardner hitting ninth.
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- DH Carlos Beltran
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- RF Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Kelly Johnson
- 2B Brian Roberts
- CF Ichiro Suzuki
Available Position Players: C Austin Romine, 1B Russ Canzler, 2B Eduardo Nunez, SS Dean Anna, 3B Scott Sizemore, LF Yangervis Solarte, CF Adonis Garcia, RF Zoilo Almonte, and DH Zelous Wheeler will be the second string off the bench. C/1B Jose Gil, 1B/C Tyson Blaser, and OF Antoan Richardson are also available.
Available Pitchers: RHP David Phelps, LHP Vidal Nuno, LHP Matt Thornton, RHP Shawn Kelley, RHP David Robertson, RHP Matt Daley, LHP Fred Lewis, RHP David Herndon, RHP Shane Greene, RHP Jim Miller, RHP Danny Burawa, and RHP Yoshinori Tateyama. So everyone, basically. Everyone’s available.
It’s cool and cloudy in Tampa but there’s no threat of rain. They’ll have no trouble getting tonight’s game in. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES, MLB Network, and MLB.tv. Enjoy, meaningful baseball is right around the corner.
The rotation order for the start of the 2014 season is set. Joe Girardi announced on Tuesday that Michael Pineda will be the team’s fifth starter, falling behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, and Masahiro Tanaka. Girardi also said Pineda “does not have an innings limit on him,” which is surprising following shoulder surgery. Maybe that’s just their attempt to avoid a Strasburg-ian season-long distraction.
With Pineda in the rotation, both David Phelps and Adam Warren will shift into the bullpen, though they will not necessarily be long relievers. Girardi confirmed Vidal Nuno will also be considered for a relief role. Because of the way the schedule shakes out, the Yankees will need Pineda right away this year. No off-days to skip his spot. Tanaka and Pineda will make their first starts of the season in Toronto from April 4-5, then their Yankee Stadium debuts from April 9-10 against the Orioles and Red Sox, respectively.
Pineda, 25, has missed most of the last two seasons following shoulder surgery, but he came to camp healthy this spring and pitched very well, allowing only three runs (two earned) with a 16/1 K/BB in 15 innings across four appearances. His fastball has sat mostly in the 88-91 range, but he’s touched 92-94 and his slider has been ridiculously sharp. Pineda did not magically develop a changeup while on the DL the last two years, so that part of his game is still very much a work in progress.
The Yankees have used at least eight starters every year since 1975 and I have no reason to think 2014 will be any different. No team gets through the season with five guys. Phelps, Warren, and Nuno will all presumably start games at some point, just like they last season. Hopefully the team doesn’t need to dip any deeper into the pitching well beyond those three. Obviously Sabathia and Kuroda are a bit of a concern given their 2013 performance and age, respectively, but the other three starters are all young and full of potential. It’s exciting.
Over the last 15-20 years or so, no division has been as consistently tough as the AL East. The Yankees and Red Sox have dominated the top two spots, and in recent years both the Rays and Orioles have become more serious threats. The AL East has produced 15 of the 21 AL wildcard teams since the system was introduced in 1995, giving you an idea of how many great teams it’s housed. How is the division competition looking heading into 2014? Here’s a breakdown.
Notable Additions: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, OF Nelson Cruz, RHP Ryan Webb, RHP Suk-Min Yoon, OF/DH Delmon Young
Notable Losses: RHP Scott Feldman, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP Jim Johnson, OF Nate McLouth
This isn’t a loss in the sense that he was on the team and now he’s not, but it’s certainly worth mentioning that third baseman Manny Machado will start the season on the DL following offseason knee surgery. He should return sometime in April.
The Orioles played the market well and landed both Jimenez and Cruz on favorable contracts. They sorely lacked an ace and while Ubaldo might be the most unpredictable pitcher in the game, he can be absolutely dominant for long stretches of time. Baltimore got a weak .245/.293/.405 (87 wRC+) batting line out of their DHs last season, so Cruz and even Young should help correct that problem. Between Cruz, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones, the O’s have three guys who could legitimately hit 30+ homers. They hit 24 more homeruns than any other team last season and added yet another power hitter this winter.
Even though Johnson always seems to blow games against the Yankees — he blew four of his last nine save chances against them and also took a loss after entering a tie game — the Orioles are worse off in the late innings without him. Webb is underrated and I’m sure Tommy Hunter will be fine in the ninth inning, but Johnson was a very good workhorse reliever and that will be missed. Baltimore is better than they were last season because of Jimenez and Cruz, though I’m not sure if they’re good enough to make a serious run at a wildcard spot. I guess it depends on how long Machado is out, which Jimenez shows up, and how the bullpen shakes out without Johnson.
BOSTON RED SOX
Notable Additions: RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Edward Mujica, C A.J. Pierzynski
Notable Losses: RHP Ryan Dempster, SS Stephen Drew, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
I assume the Red Sox will not re-sign Drew at this point, which means they lost three key up-the-middle position players this winter. Grady Sizemore has had a great spring, but replacing Ellsbury with him is the poor man’s version of replacing Robinson Cano with Brian Roberts. Jackie Bradley Jr., last spring’s MVP, is the backup plan there. Pierzynski takes over for Salty, and rookie Xander Bogaerts will replace Drew. He’s a stud and appears poised to be a force for years to come.
Boston has earned some leeway after winning the World Series, but they lost a lot of good players this winter and are counting mostly on internal solutions to replace the lost production. That’s dicey, especially when talking about prospects. If Bogaerts or either of the center fielders don’t produce, the Sox will be left scrambling. Luckily for them, the pitching staff is deep and stalwarts like Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are still around to anchor the lineup. The Red Sox have a great farm system and a ton of money, so they have the wherewithal to address any needs at midseason. That said, they won the division by 5.5 games last year and the gap appears to have closed a bit.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Notable Additions: RHP Grant Balfour, RHP Heath Bell, C Ryan Hanigan
Notable Losses: RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP Fernando Rodney, DH Luke Scott, RHP Jamey Wright
The Rays will be without Jeremy Hellickson for a few weeks following offseason elbow surgery. They still have David Price and Alex Cobb to front the rotation, but Matt Moore is having a real problem throwing strikes this spring. Like 15 walks in 14.1 innings problem. Chris Archer had a strong rookie season and rookie Jake Odorizzi will replace Hellickson for the time being. Tampa always seems to crank out quality young starters, but with Moore struggling and Odorizzi projecting as more of a back-end arm than anything else, their staff seems more vulnerable than it has been at any point in the last five of six years.
After getting great production from one-year gems like Casey Kotchman and Jeff Keppinger, the Rays doubled down on James Loney and re-signed him to a three-year, $21M contract this offseason. That is the largest free agent contract the team had handed out since the current ownership group took over in 2005. Full seasons of Wil Myers and David DeJesus should boost an offense — DeJesus isn’t great, but remember, he’s replacing Sam Fuld — that ranked third in baseball with a 108 wRC+ last summer. Going from Rodney and Wright to Balfour and Bell is probably an upgrade, especially in terms in 2014 performance. Rodney and Wright are 37 and 39, after all. Tampa improved this winter after winning 92 games a wildcard spot a year ago, so of course they’ll be right back in the thick of the race this year.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Notable Additions: C Dioner Navarro
Notable Losses: C J.P. Arencibia, OF Rajai Davis, RHP Josh Johnson
It’s unbelievable the Blue Jays did nothing this winter, isn’t it? They made all those moves last offseason and were such a colossal disappointment in 2013, yet nothing. They signed Navarro, who was nearly out of baseball three years ago. GM Alex Anthopoulos appeared to be playing the board a bit with the pitching market, presumably hoping to grab Jimenez or Ervin Santana on a cheap contract, but instead came up empty. The rotation includes the reliable Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, the unpredictable Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ, and righty Drew Hutchison fresh off Tommy John surgery.
I guess the good news for Toronto is that their offense is dynamite, at least when healthy. Edwin Encarnacion might be the most unheralded great hitter in the game (82 BB, 66 XBH, 62 K in 2013) and Jose Bautista is still a force, so the middle of the order is set. Colby Rasmus has a ton of power and others like Melky Cabrera, Adam Lind, and Brett Lawrie will contribute from time to time. Jose Reyes is dynamic but also prone to injury, and sure enough an MRI revealed a minor hamstring strain just yesterday. He might not be ready for the start of the season. Ryan Goins, who is slated to be the regular second baseman, will move over to replace Reyes to short if need be. He might be the worst everyday player in baseball. In the conversation, at least. The Blue Jays are banking on health and steps forward from guys like Hutchison and Rasmus to improve the team, and even if they get that, they still might only be the fourth or fifth best team in the division.
* * *
On paper, I think you can argue the Yankees are anywhere from the best to fourth best team in the division. They’ve obviously upgraded but so have the Rays and Orioles, all while the Red Sox lost some key pieces. The top four teams in the division are more scrunched together this season, which means the race will be more tougher and more exciting deep into the season. Injuries and unexpected performances, both good and bad, will play an even bigger role in determining the AL East this summer. The division is again very good and there are four teams to be reckoned with. (Sorry, Blue Jays.)