The Yankees have dealt with more than their fair share of injuries already this year, but Kevin Youkilis‘ recent back trouble takes an especially big bite out of the team’s roster. After all, he was originally signed as the replacement for another injured player, Alex Rodriguez. New York placed Youkilis on the DL yesterday, meaning they will be without their replacement third baseman for at least the next two weeks.
Because of the timing of the injury, the Yankees were left without a suitable roster fill-in. Corban Joseph got the call, but Brian Cashman made it clear they view him as a right-side infielder and emergency option at the hot corner only. Since Robinson Cano never takes a day off, it’s unclear how exactly the left-handed hitting Joseph helps the team right now. He’s one notch above a dead spot on the roster at the moment, a square peg forced into a round bench hole.
In a perfect world, the Yankees would have called up David Adams instead of Joseph. The 25-year-old would have given the team a legitimate option at third base and because he’s a right-handed hitter, he also would’ve helped with their struggles against southpaws. Theoretically, anyway. Unfortunately Adams can not be called up to the show until May 15th because he signed a minor league deal with the club after they released him last month. For whatever reason, those guys are forced to wait 30 days before returning to the show. Clay Rapada is in the same boat. The injury-prone Adams is perfectly healthy, but the rulebook keeps him in Triple-A.
Adams wasn’t the only right-handed option though, the Yankees also could have gone with 28-year-old Ronnie Mustelier instead of Joseph. He plays third base and left field, meaning he would have added some usable versatility and been an option to replace Ben Francisco once Youkilis did return. Mustelier is out with an injury though, specifically some kind of bruise suffered right at the very end of Spring Training. He was scheduled to play in his first minor league rehab game with High-A Tampa last night, but Mother Nature got in the way and the game was rained out.
There is never a good time for an injury, especially one to a player as important as Youkilis. The timing of this injury was particularly bad because the team’s best internal replacements are non-options. Adams is still two weeks away from being big league eligible and Mustelier still has an entire rehab assignment ahead of him before being ready for meaningful games. By the time Adams or Mustelier become legitimate options for the big league team, Youkilis will hopefully be ready to come off the DL. Given the way things have gone for the team health-wise this year, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised the latest injury comes at a time when the team’s best replacements aren’t even truly available.
3B Rob Segedin was placed on the Double-A Trenton DL with a sore right hip, reports Mike Ashmore. He had an MRI today.
Triple-A Scranton Game One (3-1 win over Charlotte in seven innings) makeup of Sunday’s rainout
- 2B Kevin Mahoney: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI — solid game as Corban Joseph‘s replacement
- CF Melky Mesa: 1-3, 2 K
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-3
- 3B David Adams: 2-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — goes without saying he would have up instead of Joesph had the timing been better
- RHP Chien-Ming Wang: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 12/4 GB/FB — 55 of 82 pitches were strikes (67%), and apparently he was sitting 90-91 tonight … he’s been vintage CMW in his three starts so far
I feel like games against the Astros should be a little easier than this. The Yankees labored to a 7-4 win on Tuesday night following Monday’s shellacking, but a win is a win.
Kuroda Walks A Tight Rope
Had he been facing a better offensive team that the Astros, I’m not so sure Hiroki Kuroda gets through four full innings in this game. He was very rough early in the game, putting a man on third base in each of the first three innings while workings at a snail’s pace. Everything was up in the zone, nothing was going where it was supposed to go … it was pretty bad. And yet, Kuroda managed seven scoreless frames on 108 total pitches with a season-high eight strikeouts. He also walked a season-high four.
The key for Kuroda appeared to be his slider, which he started to use heavily around the fourth inning. After putting seven men on-base during the first three innings, he allowed just one base-runner through the next four frames. He retired 15 of the final 16 batters he faced and the final nine overall. By no means was it pretty, but seven scoreless is seven scoreless. I’ll take it every time out no matter how stressful.
Four Crummy Runs
New York’s first four runs all came on crappy little scoring plays. I would be annoyed if the other team scored four runs like that against the Yankees. The first run came on Travis Hafner‘s single to left, which Brandon Barnes trapped rather than caught. The second run scored when Hafner grounded a single to the shortstop side of second base while Houston had the shift on. The third run scored when Brennan Boesch beat out an inning-ending double play by about a quarter of a step. The fourth scored when Jayson Nix reached on an infield single because the shortstop muffed a hard-hit grounder. They all count, but geez. Let’s not call them aesthetically pleasing runs.
Those four runs stood up for the first seven innings before the Yankees blew things open in the eighth, getting a cheap Yankee Stadium solo homer from Lyle Overbay and run-scoring singles from Chris Stewart and Hafner. Stewart’s was a solid line drive to center while Pronk’s was a bloop job to shallow left. There was nothing funny about those plays, no traps in the outfield or muffed ground balls. Conventional run-scoring plays.
A few hours after I said Eduardo Nunez needed to give the team more on offense, he went 3-for-4 with a pair of hustle doubles. It would be awesome if he started to chip in a little more from the bottom of the lineup. Ichiro Suzuki (three), Robinson Cano (two), Hafner (three), and Stewart (two) all had multiple singles. Nix had his infield single, Overbay the homer, Hafner an intentional walk, and Brett Gardner an unintentional walk to round out the offense. Ichiro and Gardner stole bases.
David Robertson allowed a two-run homer to Chris Carter in the eighth, which temporarily made it a two-run game before the offense tacked a few insurance runs on a half-inning later. Shawn Kelley allowed two runs on three hits in the ninth inning before giving way to Mariano Rivera, who recorded the final out without incident. Not exactly a banner night for the bullpen, but at least the offense gave them some breathing room.
The rubber game of this three-game set will be played on Wednesday night, when David Phelps makes his first start of the season in place of the injured Ivan Nova. Veteran left-hander Erik Bedard will be on the bump for the Astros. Check out RAB Tickets for some last minute ticket deals.
Via Andy McCullough: The Yankees have discussed infielder Chris Nelson with the Rockies recently, but they don’t appear to have a ton of interest in trading for him. He was designated for assignment over the weekend and New York actually showed some interest in acquiring him back during the Winter Meetings. I wrote about him as a possible target just yesterday.
Nelson, 27, put up a .242/.282/.318 (51 wRC+) batting line in 71 plate appearances with Colorado before getting cut. He is one year removed from a 105 wRC+ though, plus he can play all three non-first base infield positions in a pinch. The Yankees desperately need some infield help while Kevin Youkilis is on the DL — Corban Joseph is a utility infielder in theory only given his defensive issues — so Nelson would help them out in the short-term. Even if it’s only a two-week thing while Youkilis is out, he fits their current needs better than their internal options. · (7) ·
The Yankees got walloped by the lowly Astros on Monday night, losing 9-1 to the league’s worst team in their own building. Stuff like that will happen a few times each year, it’s inevitable with a 162-game schedule, but that doesn’t make it feel any better. It’s pretty embarrassing.
Luckily, the Yankees and Astros are back on the field today for game two of the three-game series. New York has a chance to put the blowout loss behind them and get back to winning, something they’ve done very well since that brutal 1-4 start. They aren’t scoring a ton of runs — 3.8 runs per game since the two de-pants-ings of the Indians — but their pitching has been stellar. Well, stellar outside of Andy Pettitte last night. Here’s the lineup that will face right-hander Phil Humber…
- CF Brett Gardner
- LF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Travis Hafner
- RF Brennan Boesch
- 3B Jayson Nix
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is the veteran right-hander, Hiroki Kuroda.
It’s a lovely day in New York, perfect baseball weather. The game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
The 2013 amateur draft will be held from June 6-8 this year, and between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.
Eric Jagielo | 3B
Following an impressive prep career at Downers Grove North High School in the Chicago suburbs, Jagielo was a 50th round pick of the Cubs in the 2010 draft. He didn’t sign and instead followed through on his commitment to Notre Dame, where he’s hit .400/.508/.676 with eight homers this spring after putting up a .291/.379/.486 batting line during his first two years with the Fighting Irish.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 lbs., Jagielo fits the Yankees mold of power and patience from the left side of the plate. He has power to all fields but does the most damage when he pulls the ball to right field, and he’s able to tap into that power because he has a plan at the plate and command of the strike zone. There is some concern about his ability to hit at the upper levels of pro ball because he has a loopy swing and can be beat with good fastballs up in the zone.
Jagielo has played all over the field for Notre Dame in his career — both infield and outfield — but he has settled in at third base and has the quickness, hands, and arm to remain there long-term. A corner outfield spot would be the next logical spot should the hot corner not work out. He’s not terribly fast and won’t be a threat on the bases. Jagielo draws high marks for his work ethic and has been successful everywhere he’s played. There are plenty more videos available on YouTube.
Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Jagielo as the 35th and 40th best prospect in the draft, respectively, in their latest rankings. That puts him firmly in the late-first round/sandwich round mix at the moment, which is right where the Yankees have their first three picks (26th, 32nd, 33rd). It wasn’t until last summer that Scouting Damon Oppenheimer drafted a college bat in the top two rounds of the draft, and that was a college senior (catcher Peter O’Brien) in a draft pool saving maneuver. The Yankees tend to go for athleticism and upside at an up-the-middle position early, which doesn’t really describe Jagielo. Then again, special assistant Jim Hendry did draft him while still working as Cubs GM three years ago. Maybe the team will change course this summer because of all the extra picks.
The Yankees have placed Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day DL, the team announced. The official diagnosis is a lumbar spine sprain. Yesterday’s MRI showed no structural damage, but Youkilis was due to receive an epidural today. Because he played Saturday, the team can’t backdate the DL stint to the original injury last week. Obviously it was a mistake to have him play that game, in hindsight.
Infielder Corban Joseph has been called up from Triple-A to fill the roster spot. The 24-year-old hit .273/.347/.477 (130 wRC+) with four homers in 98 plate appearances this year, his second at the level. Joseph is a second and third baseman by trade, plus the team has had him work out at first recently. He isn’t particularly good anywhere defensively, plus he’s a left-handed bat who won’t help with the team’s continued problems against southpaws, so I really have no idea how they’re going to use him. I guess we’ll find out.
In case you were wondering, Brian Cashman confirmed David Adams is ineligible to be called up until May 15th. It’s the same rule that applies to Clay Rapada — players who are released and re-sign minor league contracts with the same team have to wait 30 days before going back to the show. Adams would have been a much better fit for the roster than Joseph as a right-handed bat who can legitimately play third base. · (51) ·
This season is the opportunity of a lifetime for Eduardo Nunez. The 25-year-old is getting a chance to play shortstop on an everyday basis thanks to Derek Jeter‘s ankle surgery and subsequent setback, and he’s going to continue to play the position regularly because the Cap’n isn’t due to return until after the All-Star break. It sure doesn’t seem like there is a trade in the works to acquire another shortstop either.
The biggest question about Nunez coming into the year was his defense, especially his throwing. His throws were strong but far too often very wild, so much so that the Yankees had to send him to Triple-A last May to sort things out. That demotion may have saved the team a couple hundred grand next year, but that’s besides the point. The club penciled Nunez in as the everyday shortstop during Jeter’s absence this year and that was a very, very risky proposition.
To date, Eduardo’s defense has mostly been a non-issue. He’s committed three errors in 22 games and 178 innings at shortstop, and only one of the three was a throwing error. That came over the weekend when a throw pulled first baseman Lyle Overbay off the bag just a bit. Nunez worked with first base coach/infield instructor Mick Kelleher to shorten his throwing motion in camp and the results have been overwhelmingly positive so far. I think we all still get nervous when a ball is hit his way, but give Eduardo credit. He worked hard and has greatly improved his defense, particularly his throws.
Of course, defense is only half the battle. Maybe less depending on your point of view. Offensive expectations certainly weren’t high coming into 2013, but Nunez hasn’t hit a lick in the early going. He comes into today riding an ugly 4-for-36 (.111) streak, which has dropped his overall season batting line to .169/.273/.185 (32 wRC+) in 79 plate appearances. No, it’s not a huge sample nor definitive evidence of how he will hit going forward, but Nunez has been awful at the plate even considering the low offensive standard for the position (87 wRC+ league average at shortstop). There’s no argument to be made otherwise.
Because he doesn’t offer much power (career .100 ISO) or much patience (career 6.7 BB%), Nunez’s entire offensive game is built around contact and speed. He’s a (very) poor man’s Ichiro Suzuki, someone who just puts the ball in play, runs, and hopes for the best. While hitting .272/.318/.384 (88 wRC+) in 491 plate appearances from 2010-2012, Nunez posted a 10.4% strikeout rate and an 88.2% contact rate. Those are both far better than average. So far this year he’s sitting on a 17.3% strikeout rate and an 83.3% contact rate, which are still better than the league average. Just a touch better though. When it comes to pitches in the strike zone, Nunez is making contact on 88.0% of his swings in 2013 compared to 92.5% from 2010-2012.
Contact and swing rates — his swing rates on pitches both in and out of the zone haven’t changed much this year — stabilize relatively quickly, so this isn’t necessarily something that will simply revert back to his career averages over time. Nunez is hitting way more fly balls (42.6% in 2013, 34.5% from 2010-2012) and fewer ground balls (40.7%, 47.4%) this year, which is the exact opposite of what you want to see from a speed player. Fly balls turn into outs more easily than grounders, plus they completely eliminate the speed aspect. There’s no pressure on the infielders to make a play quickly, stuff like that. Yes, his .204 BABIP this year is way low for any player, especially one who came into the year with a .291 career mark, but the reduced contact and ground balls rates indicate the problem is something more than dumb luck.
Hitting coach Kevin Long has reportedly worked with Nunez on his balance at the plate recently, specifically by widening his base and eliminating some of his stride. It goes without saying that balance is important, especially for a contact guy who needs to be short to the ball. Eduardo should see his numbers improve in part due to simple BABIP correction, but that alone won’t turn him into the average or even slightly-below-average hitter the Yankees need him to be. Maybe Nunez is being exposed with regular playing time or maybe he’s just in an early-season funk, but his production has been a drain on the offense from the bottom of the lineup. If he doesn’t show improvement in the coming weeks, the Yankees are going to have to consider finding a replacement.
Via Andrew Marchand: Robinson Cano confirmed his new representatives at CAA Sports and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation have yet to begin contract talks with the Yankees. Jon Heyman says the team “prominently mentioned” David Wright’s eight-year, $138M contract with the Mets as framework for a deal.
Cano, 30, is hitting .324/.378/.608 (165 wRC+) in 111 plate appearances so far this season. I don’t think he hooked on with Jay-Z to leave New York, and I do expect the two sides to sit down and hammer out a new contract before the end of the season. Wright’s contract seems like a pipe dream though. My hunch is they work something out in the eight-year, $190M range. It would top Derek Jeter’s total guarantee and be the second biggest deal for a middle infielder in history behind Alex Rodriguez’s pact with the Rangers. That’s just a guess though. · (19) ·
The Yankees have a knack for holding fake Spring Training competitions, and Austin Romine was on the outside looking in at this spring’s catching competition. Frankie Cervelli and Chris Stewart were going to open the year as the team’s catching duo while Romine headed to Triple-A, which was for the best given his back trouble these last two seasons. He missed a lot of development time and was in need of regular at-bats.
A little less than four weeks into the season, the 24-year-old Romine is with the big league team thanks to Cervelli’s fractured hand. He started his first game last night after two on the bench, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a hit-by-pitch at the plate while struggling to get on the same page as Andy Pettitte. There were an awful lot of shake-offs and mound conferences, which is not the norm with Pettitte. He’s very much a “get it and throw it” guy.
“I don’t want to throw too much at him too quickly,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings over the weekend when asked about Romine and the pitching staff. “I want him to get familiar with the guys that are here. He has a sense of who they are. He’s had a chance to catch all of them at some point in Spring Training, whether it was a side or a game in the minor leagues, but you want him to be familiar with the guys.”
Girardi previously indicated he will figure out the catching workload as they go in the wake of Cervelli’s injury, which is what he said about Cervelli and Stewart prior to Opening Day. Frankie came out of the gate hitting well and had unofficially taken over as the starting backstop less than two weeks into the season. Romine has the same opportunity staring him in the face — if he hits, Girardi has shown he will pencil him into the lineup on a near-everyday basis.
“Anytime you get any type of (playing time), you have to show them what you can do,” said Romine to Jennings after being called up. “I’m going to take whatever time I do have here and I’m going to show them that I can do it. I can handle it back there, I can handle pitching staff and I can swing it at the plate.”
Romine managed a .271/.341/.377 (~101 wRC+) batting line in 508 minor league plate appearances from 2011-2012, and Baseball America wrote “scouts used to project him to hit 15-20 homers annually due to his raw power but didn’t see the same snap in his bat in 2012″ in their 2013 Prospect Handbook. Tomine told Mark Feinsand he ditched his leg kick and worked on shortening his stride with Triple-A hitting coach Butch Wynegar this month, which may have contributed to his .333/.391/.405 (129 wRC+) line before the call-up. It was only 46 plate appearances though, so I wouldn’t get too excited.
Much like Cervelli before the injury, Romine has a golden opportunity to take the catching job and run with it. There’s an obvious need behind the plate both this year and over the next several years, assuming the team is putting all of its eggs in the Gary Sanchez basket. Cervelli will be out a minimum of six weeks, and Romine is going to need to massively outplay Stewart during that time if he plans on sticking around the rest of the year and put himself in the running for the long-ish tern catching job. This opportunity probably came a few months too soon, but he’ll have to make the best of it.