Triple-A Scranton (5-4 loss to Columbus)
- 2B Corban Joseph: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 E (fielding) — 15 hits in his last 42 at-bats (.357) with six doubles and three homers
- RF Thomas Neal: 1-1, 1 2B — left the game with a tight hamstring
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K — stuck in a 4-for-30 (.133) slump
- 1B Dan Johnson: 0-0, 1 R, 4 BB – shades of Jack Cust
- 3B David Adams: 1-4, 2 RBI, 2 K — ten hits in his last 27 at-bats (.371)
- DH Cody Johnson: 1-2, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 1 K
- CF Melky Mesa: 0-3, 3 K, 1 HBP — no contact kinda day
- RHP Ryan Pope: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 39 of 58 pitches were strikes (67%) … making the spot start because of the rainout/doubleheader over the weekend
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 0/3 GB/FB – only 19 of 41 pitches were strikes (46%)
- RHP Cody Eppley: 1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 20 of 33 pitches were strikes (61%)
7:38pm: “False false false,” said Brian Cashman to reporters when asked about the report this afternoon. He confirmed the Yankees never had talks with Valverde’s camp and they didn’t offer him even a minor league contract. Shouldn’t lie about stuff like that Jose, it’s unbecoming.
5:15pm: Via Jon Morosi: Right-hander Jose Valverde said the Yankees were one of two teams to offer him a guaranteed Major League contract this past offseason. The Mets were the other. He eventually took a minor league deal from the Tigers and was added to the roster just yesterday.
Valverde, 35, pitched to 3.78 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 69 innings for Detroit last summer, but he was dreadful down the stretch and basically unusable in the postseason. His velocity, strikeout rate, and ground ball have all been trending in the wrong direction for a few years now, which is hardly ideal. I wonder if the Yankees made the offer late in the offseason, but pulled it after acquiring Shawn Kelley on the second day of Spring Training. Still seems very much unlike them to offer someone like Valverde a big league deal. · (27) ·
The Yankees and Rays have split the first two games of this three-game series, so tonight’s rubber match will determine whether the Bombers go home tonight on the heels of a 4-2 road trip or a 3-3 road trip. They’ve won ten of 14 games since the ugly 1-4 start, and the good news is that Tampa is throwing right-hander Alex Cobb tonight. Right-hander is the key word there. The Yankees don’t pose much threat to left-handers these days, but they have absolutely demolished righties (147 wRC+) in the early going. Hopefully that continues against Mr. Cobb. Here’s the starting nine…
- CF Brett Gardner
- LF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Robinson Cano
- DH Travis Hafner
- C Frankie Cervelli
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- RF Brennan Boesch
- 3B Jayson Nix
And on the mound is the Louisiana-born and Texas-raised left-hander, Andy Pettitte.
Tonight’s series finale is scheduled to start at 7:10pm 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.
Michael Lorenzen | OF/RHP
Lorenzen is an Anaheim kid who spurned the Rays as their seventh round pick in 2010 to follow through on his commitment to Cal State Fullerton. He is hitting .338/.412/.570 with seven homers this year after putting together a .317/.383/.455 batting line during his first two years at school, and he’s also posted a 1.73 ERA with a 29/7 K/BB in 36.1 innings as the Titans closer since the start of 2012.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 195 lbs., Lorenzen is a ridiculous athlete and a potential five-tool guy. His cannon arm allows him to sit mid-90s and touch 100 out of the bullpen in addition to shutting down the extra-base game from the outfield. He runs very well and can handle all three outfield positions with ease.
At the plate, Lorenzen shows big power from the right side but there are major concerns about his swing and ability to make contact long-term. His strikeout rates with Fullerton — 16.0% in 2013 and 15.6% career — are way too high for a top college prospect, and even coming out of high school the concern was his ability to hit. Lorenzen is almost like a poor man’s version of Drew Stubbs, the drool-worthy athlete who does everything you could possibly want other than consistently put the bat on the ball. There are plenty more videos on YouTube, including this one of him on the mound.
Baseball America (subs. req’d) and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Lorenzen as the 25th and 48th best prospect in the draft in their latest rankings, respectively. That’s quite a spread, but it indicates he is likely a sandwich round guy with a chance to go at the end of the first round, right in line with New York’s first three picks (26th, 32nd, 33rd). The Yankees and scouting director Damon Oppenheimer love toolsy up the middle players and they were linked to Lorenzen quite a bit back in 2010, and his stock has only gone up over the last three years. The contact problems scare me, but at least the fallback option here is a power reliever who can miss bats.
Brett Gardner isn’t a young player anymore. The soon-to-be 30-year-old outfielder has played in parts of six big league seasons now and outside of his injury-sabotaged 2012 campaign, he’s been an everyday player since 2010. The Yankees have given the speedster a number of opportunities to serve as their regular leadoff hitter, but he either hit his way towards the bottom of the order (2011) or got hurt (2012). Given the team’s expectations and the other players on the roster, he was going to have to rake right away to remain in the leadoff spot and that just didn’t happen.
Things are different this season, however. Derek Jeter‘s ankle injury caused his to miss Opening Day and his setback will keep him on the shelf through the All-Star break. Ichiro Suzuki didn’t hit a lick during the first three weeks of the season, so Joe Girardi really didn’t have another legitimate leadoff option on the roster. Gardner was given the leadoff spot almost by default, and after a slow first week he’s turned things around and proven to be an asset atop the lineup.
“Any time you get off to a slow start, you look to get it going. I felt like I swung the bat pretty well in Detroit, just didn’t have anything to show for it,” said Gardner to Mark Feinsand following the 4-for-5 day against the Indians that helped get him going in the right direction. His overall season line sits at an almost perfectly league average* .250/.322/.400 (99 wRC+) following a torrid .300/.368/.480 hot stretch since the start of that Cleveland series.
For the first time in his career, Gardner finally has a clear path to regular playing time as the team’s leadoff hitter. He’s been solid but there is definitely still some room for improvement, especially since he’s seeing a career-low number of pitches in the strike zone (52.3%) while swinging at a career-high number of pitches out of the zone (25.6%). Swing rates stabilize rather quickly (takes only 50 plate appearances), so this isn’t necessarily a sample size issue. Gardner has to get back to laying off pitches out of the zone like he has in the past. He’s also stolen just one base through 19 games, and that needs to change in a hurry. I know stolen bases are down around the league, but he has to run. It’s what he does.
Gardner is the only player on the Yankees who has played every inning of every game so far this season — Robinson Cano got the final two innings off during one of those blowout wins against the Indians — though earlier this week Girardi seemed to indicate his first day off could be coming soon. It won’t be more than a routine day off though, a “maintenance day” to use a hockey term. Gardner is playing (and hitting!) against both righties and lefties, and he’s finally starting to establish himself as the team’s everyday leadoff hitter after being unable to seize the job in recent years.
* Gardner is hitting .250/.322/.400 and non-pitchers are hitting .252/.320/.403 across MLB. You can’t get much closer than that.
Via Joel Sherman: Michael Pineda “topped out in the low-90 mph range and threw well” during his first simulated game earlier this week. That is pretty darn encouraging considering it was his first real game action and that he’s not even a full year out from surgery yet. For what it’s worth, Joe Girardi told Chad Jennings the Yankees did not have a radar gun on the right-hander the other day. Who knows.
Pineda, 24, threw a handful of live batting practice sessions in recent weeks before the simulated game. He only threw one inning, but that’s not at all surprising. His workload will gradually increase in the coming weeks. Sherman says the Yankees are hopeful Pineda can begin an official 30-day minor league rehab assignment in early-May, and if all goes well he could jump right into the rotation in early-June or be optioned to Triple-A for
more seasoningservice time issues. I think Ivan Nova’s performance is going to play a big role in that decision. · (60) ·
Poor Aprils are nothing new for Phil Hughes. The right-hander pitched to a 9.00 ERA in April 2008, a 13.94 ERA in April 2011, and a 7.88 ERA in April 2012. He went into last night’s start against the Rays with a 6.95 ERA with a 5.36 FIP in 90.2 career innings during the season’s first month. I guess it’s just one of those things, maybe the Southern California guy doesn’t like the cold weather or something.
Anyway, Hughes had an excuse for his slow to start to this season. He missed all of Spring Training with a bulging disk in his back and the Yankees activated him off the DL sooner than expected because the bullpen was a mess and David Phelps was needed in relief. In his first two starts, the 26-year-old Hughes looked very much like a pitcher who was shaking off the last bit of rust at the end of camp. The result was nine runs in seven total innings, plus two losses in the standings.
Phil’s last two starts have been much, much better. Two runs in seven innings against the Diamondbacks last week, then another two runs in seven innings against the division rival Rays last night. In those 14 innings he allowed 12 hits (two solo homers) and two walks while striking out a dozen. Solid but not spectacular, similar to his performance from mid-May to mid-September last year. As I mentioned in the game recap last night, Hughes pounded the zone against Tampa — first pitch strikes to 24 of 27 (!) batters faced, 78 of 109 total pitches for strikes (72%) — and that’s encouraging.
The obvious answer for the recent turnaround is simply rounding into game shape after the injury-interrupted Spring Training. Hughes did all his preparation work in simulated games and minor league contests, so he didn’t face any big leaguers or throw with any fans in the stands. nothing like that. Hardly ideal conditions really, but the back issue forced the team’s hand. For what it’s worth, Phil made no excuses about his slow start and said he was ready to go when the team stuck him in the rotation sooner than expected.
“I wouldn’t have come up in Detroit if they didn’t feel like I was ready,” said Hughes to Mark Feinsand following last night’s game. “I certainly feel like I’ve made positive steps forward since then. I was ready then, I just didn’t execute that well against Detroit and obviously terribly against Baltimore … These games count whether you got a full Spring Training or not. The first two were tough, the next two were better. Hopefully that trend continues.”
This season is a big one in a lot of ways for Hughes. The elephant in the room is him impending free agency, as his performance in the coming months will dictate whether he gets a decent contract or really breaks the bank. The team also needs him to pitch well every time out because they can’t lean on their offense as they have in the past, especially against left-handers. Not that this April has been great overall, but another truly awful showing in the season’s first month would have hurt both his free agent stock and the team’s place in the standings.
I don’t think Yankees fans are ever going to be able to separate the reality of what Hughes has become from the disappointment of what he was supposed to be, but he’s settled in as more than serviceable number four starter in recent years. Someone who will occasionally flash brilliance while generating his fair share of frustration. He shook off those dreadful first two starts to turn in two really strong outings in the last week, and that’s the kind of stuff that can get hopes up. Phil has taken some positive steps forward lately, but the Yankees don’t need him to emerge as an ace. Those days are long gone. They just need him to give them enough of a chance to win every give days, and right now that’s exactly what he’s doing.
The season is young, but that was definitely the most satisfying win of 2013 in my opinion. Two comebacks, a ninth inning rally to win, a strong performance from the starter … that’s as good as it gets right there. The Yankees squeaked by the Rays by the score of 4-3.
One And Not Done
A 32-pitch first inning usually isn’t a good sign, but luckily that was not the case on Tuesday. Phil Hughes labored through the opening frame as the Tampa batters fouled off 15 total pitches (ten with two strikes) and had runners at second and third with no outs, but he escaped the jam allowing just one run on a sacrifice fly before settling down over the next six innings. Only three of the next 20 batters the right-hander faced managed to reach base.
I thought the most impressive part of Phil’s night was the way he just brutally pounded the strike zone. He threw a first pitch strike to the first 15 men he faced and to 24 of 27 (!) batters faced overall. Thirteen of those 27 batters saw a 0-2 count. Seventy-eight of 109 pitches were strikes (71.6%). PitchFX says Hughes averaged 93.0 mph and topped out at 94.6 mph with his fastball, so he was pumping some gas in there. Tampa’s batters swung and missed eleven times overall, including five times at that little baby slider he’s throwing. His only mistakes were the two leadoff walks — both came around to score — but otherwise I thought Phil was really good. Love the aggressiveness.
It’s no secret the Yankees struggle against left-handers, and twice on Tuesday they found themselves down a run with David Price on the mound. The first time they tied the game came on Vernon Wells‘ fourth inning single, but that inning could have been a lot bigger. They had men on the corners with no outs before the single and men on first and second with no outs after the single, but Ben Francisco (fly out) and Lyle Overbay (double play) snuffed that one out. That sucked.
The second game-tying rally came four innings later and it was basically the same situation, men on the corners with no outs. Ichiro Suzuki deftly advanced to third on Jayson Nix‘s dinky little ground ball single through the left side to set things up. He was running on the play — I assume it was a stolen base attempt and not a hit-and-run — and just kept going. Very heads up. Gardner tied the game with a first pitch ground out to second, but again the Yankees couldn’t capitalize any further. Tying the game is great, but they could have done a little more.
And The Yankees Take The Lead
Price was still on the mound come the ninth inning, but Robinson Cano forced him out of the game by ending a seven-pitch at-bat with a leadoff single to left. In came closer Fernando Rodney, but his first move was to intentionally walk pinch-hitter Travis Hafner. I always worry about pitchers losing the plate after they intentionally walk a batter, and sure enough Overbay took four balls to load the bases as the next batter. It was a tough at-bat though, Rodney wasn’t exactly wild.
This is where things got both interesting and annoying. Joe Girardi elected to stick with backup catcher Chris Stewart with the bases loaded and one out, skipping over an obvious pinch-hitter in Brennan Boesch. Stewart popped up into foul territory on the second pitch and suddenly the rally was on the verge of being squandered. Instead, Ichiro turned on a first pitch fastball that PitchFX measured at 99.6 mph (!) for a two-run single to center. We saw Ichiro swing at a first pitch fastball following two bases loaded walks in Toronto, presumably because he was hunting a first pitch fastball, and this time he managed to win the game with a similar approach. Pretty awesome.
Mariano Rivera‘s first pitch of the ninth was hit deep into the stands for a solo homer by Evan Longoria, but he settled down and retired the next three men he faced for the save. David Robertson was especially filthy in the eighth, striking out two and getting some silly swings on his curveball. He was pretty dominant and it was good to see him bounceback strong after blowing the lead against the Blue Jays last time out.
Cano, Ichiro, and Nix all had two hits while Nunez, Wells, and Stewart chipped in one apiece. They were all singles, the Yankees didn’t have a single extra-base hit on the night. The only walks went to Hafner and Overbay in that ninth inning rally. Despite their struggles against lefties, Price didn’t really settle down until the sixth inning, when he started a stretch of eight in a row retired.
Know what I loved? Eduardo Nunez stole second base in the first inning after singling with one out. It wasn’t the steal itself that I loved, it was that he didn’t mess around and he ran on the first pitch, getting to second quickly and giving the middle of the order plenty of opportunities to drive him in. They didn’t score that inning, but still. Brett Gardner could learn a thing or two from Nunez, he never seems to run early in the count.
The win is New York’s third at Tropicana Field since July 2011, a span of 15 games. That’s … bad.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. If you’re monitoring the standings on a day-to-day basis this year in the season, just stop. It’s way too early for that. Seriously.
Rubber game on Wednesday night, when Andy Pettitte will square off against Alex Cobb. The most important thing: Mr. Cobb is a right-hander. Hooray for that.
OF Jake Cave has been added to the Low-A Charleston roster according to Josh Norris. The team’s sixth round pick in 2011 missed all of last season with a knee injury. Cave’s a great athlete, but there are some concerns about his swing and ability to hit long-term.
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Columbus)
- 1B Corban Joseph: 1-4, 1 2B — first career appearance at first base … he’s never going to be able to play shortstop, but there are still three other infield spots he could work on
- CF Zoilo Almonte: 0-2, 1 BB, 1 K
- DH Dan Johnson: 1-1, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 BB — first homer of the year
- 3B David Adams & CF Melky Mesa: 0-3, 2 K
- C Austin Romine: 0-3, 1 K
- RHP Dellin Betances: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HB, 7/5 GB/FB — 60 of 90 pitches were strikes … every once in a while, he does this
- RHP Preston Claiborne: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 12 of 17 pitches were strikes (71%)
Three weeks into the season, the Yankees are hitting a gaudy .301/.366/.536 (147 wRC+) against right-handers compared to a wimpy .195/.266/.303 (54 wRC+) against left-handers. That’s Nick Swisher or Paul Goldschmidt against righties and Brian Dozier or Donovan Solano against lefties. It’s Chase Utley vs. Yunel Escobar, Evan Longoria vs. Ichiro Suzuki, Ian Kinsler vs. Chris Nelson, night vs. day, good vs. evil.
The Yankees are an entirely different team against left-handers than they are against right-handers, and tonight they’ll face one of the two or three best lefties in the world: reigning Cy Young Award winner David Price. Even though he’s only 27, we’ve all seen a ton of Price over the years and there are no surprises here. His array of high-octane fastballs could overwhelm New York’s hitters just like Matt Moore’s last night. Price is off to a relatively slow start though (6.26 ERA and 4.93 FIP), so hopefully he remains off his game for at least one more night. Here’s the starting nine…
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Vernon Wells
- DH Ben Francisco
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- C Chris Stewart
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 3B Jayson Nix
And on the mound is the future San Francisco Giant, Phil Hughes.
Tonight’s game is scheduled to start at 7:10pm ET and can be seen on My9 locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy.
Mark Teixeira Update: Teixeira said his injured wrist is having trouble loosening up when he swings a bat. He is still expected back during the original ten-week window, but his wildly optimistic return date of May 1st ain’t happening (to no one’s surprise).
Derek Jeter Update: Jeter had his follow-up visit with the doctor in North Carolina, and he is back to wearing a walking boot to help his new ankle fracture heal.