When the season opened, the Yankees made a point of carrying relievers capable of throwing multiple innings in an outing. That meant Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley got the nod over one-inning guys like David Aardsma and Josh Spence. Phil Hughes started the year on the DL and carrying bullpeners who could provide length for the first few weeks made sense. No team wants to wear out their pitching staff in April.
Now that we’re three weeks into the season, the need for multiple multi-inning relievers — and multiple long relievers, especially — isn’t as great. Ivan Nova remains a drain on the bullpen every five days, but otherwise the trio of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte have shown the ability to pitch deep into the game each time out while Phil Hughes can do it on occasion. Sure, having a bunch of relievers who can throw multiple innings at a time is a nice luxury, but it’s no longer a necessity. Quality over quantity should be the focal point when it comes bullpen innings now.
Since his 5.1-inning appearance in relief of Kuroda in the second game of the season — 19 days ago now — right-hander Adam Warren has thrown a total of three innings and 42 pitches. Two of those innings came during a blowout win against the Indians, the other yesterday. He hasn’t warmed up on any other occasion during the last ten days, as our Bullpen Workload page shows. It’s a dead roster spot, especially since Joe Girardi seems to prefer David Phelps in long relief situations. The only way Warren gets into a game right now is a super mop-up situation, a blowout or extra innings.
Phelps hasn’t pitched well early on (6.23 ERA and 3.87 FIP), and it’s not just these last two appearances. The four shutout innings against Baltimore last week is the only one of his five outings in which he hasn’t allowed a run. He is a better pitcher than what he’s shown so far, but he needs to figure some things out. It happens. He should work on those things in low-leverage situations though, not the situations he’s seen recently. It should happen in the innings currently designated for Warren, basically. It’s the bullpen circle of life, especially for a young reliever: if you stink for two or three weeks you lose some responsibility.
Ideally, I think the Yankees should adjust their bullpen situation by sending Warren down to Triple-A and replacing him with a power reliever who can miss bats in the middle innings between the starter and the Joba Chamberlain/David Robertson setup crew. Cody Eppley doesn’t fit the bill — he’s been awful since the start of Spring Training anyway — but Mark Montgomery sure makes a lot of sense for that role. The right-hander has 15 strikeouts and one walk in eight Triple-A innings so far after whiffing 99 in 64.1 innings last summer.
Because Phelps threw 62 pitches on Sunday and will be out of commission for at least one more game (likely two), holding onto Warren for another few days makes sense. Once Phelps is ready to go though, I think he should be put into a more traditional long reliever role while Warren is swapped out in favor of someone who can miss bats. Montgomery is the obvious candidate but not the only option. Maybe Preston Claiborne or Sam Demel is better suited to help the team right now, who knows. Either way, the idea is to optimize the bullpen by replacing the seldom-used second long man with a more useful middle reliever who can miss some bats.
Believe it or not, the Yankees have won just two of their last 14 games at Tropicana Field. That caught me by surprise, but it’s true They’ve positively sucked in that building dating back to late-2011 now. The latest loss was a 5-1 defeat in a game that felt over after the first inning.
One Bad Inning, Again
Much like his last start, CC Sabathia got hit around in the first inning before settling down and pitching deep into the game. The Rays tagged him for a single, a triple, two homers, and four runs in that first inning before the big left-hander found his command surrendered just two singles and solo homer over the next six innings. Sabathia struck out eight and threw 108 total pitches (68 for strikes), including first pitch strikes to 17 of 29 batters faced. He settled down and that’s great, but he has to stop surrendering those first inning runs in the future.
Since we’re in the middle of the Great Velocity Watch of 2013, it’s worth noting Sabathia averaged 91.1 mph and topped out at 93.2 mph with his fastball according to PitchFX. That was his best velocity on the young season, though I suppose that could have something to do with pitching in the climate-controlled dome rather than a chilly, beautiful, fan-friendly, wholesome, America-loving open-air ballpark. Velocity didn’t matter though, Sabathia got clobbered in that first inning because he caught way, way too much of the plate with breaking balls.
Shut Down By A Lefty, Again
The Yankees came into Monday’s game hitting a pathetic .210/.278/.318 (61 wRC+) against left-handers as a team, and that only went down after young Matt Moore got done carving them up for eight innings. He struck out nine, gave up just two hits (both to Robinson Cano), and threw only 37 of his 117 pitches from the stretch. They are woefully non-competitive right now against southpaws. It’s hard to believe a big league team can be this bad against lefties.
New York’s best chance to make this a game came in the seventh inning, when they had runners at first and third with one out thanks to Yunel Escobar’s throwing error. The rally came to crashing halt when Vernon Wells struck out — his third strikeout against Moore, all against a changeup down and away — and Frankie Cervelli flew out to center. The final eleven Yankees to bat made outs. So yeah, more of the same. With all due respect to Moore, who really was fantastic, this currently lineup couldn’t hit lefties if their lives depended on it.
As I mentioned, the Yankees had a whopping two hits on the night, a solo homer and an infield single by Cano. That’s it. Brett Gardner drew a pair of walks, but otherwise the other seven spots in the lineup went a combined 0-for-23 with one walk (Eduardo Nunez) and eight strikeouts. Like I said, non-competitive. They could have started every inning with a courtesy runner at second base and they still would have lost.
Minor note about Sabathia: he took over sole possession of 50th place on the all-time strikeout list in this game, passing former Yankee and elbow reconstruction guinea pig Tommy John. Sabathia has 2,246 career strikeouts.
I don’t know if it was a one-time thing or if they’ve rearranged things at Tropicana Field, but the YES camera angle for this game was just awful. Here, look at this mess. I felt like I was watching the game from one of the catwalks.
The Yankees will look to avoid another pathetic offensive showing against left-hander on Tuesday, when reigning AL Cy Young Award winner David Price gets the ball for the Rays. I wouldn’t hold my breath. Phil Hughes will be on the bump for the Bombers.
Got some news, including a few tidbits courtesy of Chad Jennings:
- RHP Nick Goody had Tommy John surgery and will obviously miss the rest of the this season, probably the start of next season as well. He also missed some time in camp after hurting his ankle in a car accident. I ranked Goody as the team’s 21st best prospect before the season because he had the potential to be a quick-moving power reliever. So much for that idea.
- UTIL Ronnie Mustelier is back playing in games after suffering what was apparently a nasty bruise at the very end of Spring Training. He played three innings in an Extended Spring Training game and probably needs another week or so before rejoining Triple-A Scranton.
- LHP Vidal Nuno and 1B Kyle Roller were named the Triple-A International League Pitcher of the Week and the Double-A Eastern League Offensive Player of the Week, respectively. At some point this summer the Yankees are going to have to give Nuno a shot in the big leagues just to see what he can do. It’s not like they don’t need the pitching this year or going forward.
Triple-A Scranton (8-1 win over Syracuse)
- 2B Corban Joseph: 0-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 3 K
- RF Thomas Neal: 2-3, 3 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 HBP — threw a runner out at third … would he be worse than Ben Francisco?
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI
- C Austin Romine: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 K — very quietly has ten hits in his last 24 at-bats (.417)
- CF Melky Mesa: 2-4, 1 R, 1 K, 1 SB
- RHP Chris Bootcheck: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 4/6 GB/FB — 60 of 91 pitches were strikes (66%) … first run he’s allowed all year
Following tonight’s loss to the Rays, Joe Girardi said Kevin Youkilis could be out “a couple more days” with the back tightness that forced him from Saturday’s game and has kept him on the bench ever since. Obviously they should play it safe so it doesn’t turn into something more serious, but the Yankees are in a real bat spot without his bat in the lineup. · (3) ·
Via Bryan Hoch: Michael Pineda threw one inning in a simulated game today, his first since having shoulder surgery last May. “He threw strikes he threw some really good strikes,” said Joe Girardi, who was in attendance. “I was happy with what I saw. I know it’s a long ways away, but for the first time in a simulated game, it was pretty good … His command was much better (than last spring). The ball was coming out of his hand. He wasn’t forcing it today.”
Pineda, 24, threw all three of his pitchers — fastball, slider, changeup — but Chad Jennings says the Yankees don’t even have a radar gun on him yet. That’s not terribly surprising since he’s still in rehab mode and not “getting stretched out for the season” mode. Either way, good news. Every day Pineda is able to do something like this without suffering a setback represents major progress. The simulated game does not start his 30-day rehab window, by the way. · (19) ·
The Yankees just played three games on turf in Toronto, now they’ll play three more in Tampa. They’re in their home away from home, a place with a huge faction of Yankees fans thanks to transplants and the club’s ties to the Tampa area. It’s not quite like a home game — some games at Camden Yards in recent years really felt like they were being playing the Bronx, no? — but it’s damn close. Here’s the lineup that will face left-hander Matt Moore…
- CF Brett Gardner
- DH Ben Francisco
- 2B Robinson Cano
1B Kevin YoukilisLF Vernon Wells LF Vernon WellsC Frankie Cervelli C Frankie CervelliRF Brennan Boesch RF Brennan BoeschSS Eduardo Nunez SS Eduardo Nunez1B Lyle Overbay
- 3B Jayson Nix
Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and ESPN nationally. The weather in St. Petersburg is gorgeous, but oh wait, they’re playing in a dome. For shame. Enjoy the game.
Curtis Granderson Update: Granderson hit off a tee and soft toss today for the first time since suffering his fractured forearm. He continues to play catch as well, though there is no firm timetable for his return. Granderson said he thinks he’ll need 50-75 at-bats before he can rejoin the team — he missed all of Spring Training, remember — but the good news is he should be able to take advantage of the informal nature of Extended Spring Training and get like, ten at-bats a day.
Late Kevin Youkilis Update: Youkilis was a last-minute scratch because his stiff back starting acting again during batting practice.
5:41pm: Christian Red, Mark Feinsand, and Michael O’Keeffe report that Cano’s name is not listed in any of the Biogenesis documents obtained by MLB. Cruz’s name appears briefly and she purchased something other than PEDs.
4:04pm: Via T.J. Quinn & Mike Fish: MLB is investigating Robinson Cano for potential ties to Biogenesis, the South Florida clinic that allegedly supplied performance-enhancing drugs to various athletes. Sonia Cruz, a spokeswoman at Cano’s foundation, is listed on the clinic’s client list for a weight-loss program. Cruz denied Robbie had any connection to Biogenesis, which Cano just reiterated to reporters in Tampa.
Long story short: MLB is investigating Cano because Cruz, Melky Cabrera (his best friend), and Alex Rodriguez (his teammate) all showed up in the various Biogenesis documents. It’s is a pretty loose connection obviously, but a connection worth investigating apparently. My only concern right now is Cano’s image more than anything. It doesn’t take much for fans to label someone a PED cheat — a label that sticks forever — and I really hope that label doesn’t applied to Robbie after this flimsy little connection. That would be a damn shame (unless he actually did them, of course). · (91) ·
Following a disappointing off-season and a 1-4 start, everyone has to be pleased with the Yankees’ 10-7 record. For the past 12 games they’ve shown plenty of life and have received contributions from newcomers and holdovers alike, even unlikely holdovers like Francisco Cervelli. The team has, in short, been incredibly fun to watch — against right-handed pitching, at least.
Given the roster composition, along with the absences of Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez, we expected the Yankees to struggle against left-handed pitching. But in the early goings it’s been especially painful:
Against RHP: .303/.369/.540 – .908 OPS in 449 PA
Against LHP: .210/.279/.318 – .596 OPS in 221 PA
The only two regulars hitting lefties remotely well are Vernon Wells and Brett Gardner. Two guys expected to contribute against left-handers, Kevin Youkilis and Ben Francisco, have a combined 4 hits in 35 AB, with a Youkilis double as the lone extra base hit. Ichiro — Ichiro! — has out-hit every non-Wells RHB against lefties, and he’s just 4 for 14 with a double. Perhaps most sadly, Robinson Cano is just 4 for 26 with 10 strikeouts against lefties.
The good news is that some of this will likely even out. Youkilis in particular has hit lefties well in the past, a .918 OPS in more than 1,200 career PA. But even if he, Cano, and even Eduardo Nunez improve against left-handed pitching, the Yankees still have issues. In particular, they’re starting Ben Francisco as the designated hitter. Little good has come of this, and little good may come in the future.
For the first few years of his career Francisco was an average hitter, but in the last few he’s taken a nosedive into mediocrity. He’s certainly not as bad as his .111./238/.111 line suggests, but he might not be any better than his .242/.317/.373 line from the past two years. There’s also the issue of his history, which suggests almost no platoon split. In fact, he has hit for similar averages and OBPs against righties and lefties in the past, but with less power against lefties. He’s certainly not someone you think of when searching for a platoon DH.
The question facing the Yankees is, what are the alternatives? They brought Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz into camp as potential threats against left-handed pitching, and they cut both in favor of Francisco. Diaz was scooped up by the Marlins but Rivera remains on the free agent market, but he seems an unlikely target; if the Yankees thought they could perform in the role of platoon DH they would have kept one of them over Francisco.
That leaves slim pickings for an upgrade. Few, if any, teams are willing to make deals at this point. Even the worst teams (non-Houston division) fancy themselves contenders. Even if an eventual non-contender has a right-handed bat that the Yankees could use, a deal remains unlikely for at least a month or two. The good news, if it counts as any, is that any Francisco replacement does not need to actually play a position in the field. Francisco has logged all of three innings in the outfield this year. They just need someone who can swing a bat.
While the pickings are slim, they aren’t nonexistent. Three names stand out as players who could actually help this team against left-handed pitching.
If the Yankees prefer a player who can also stand in the outfield, Almonte might be their man. After a quality season in AA last year, which included 21 homers and 23 doubles in a pitcher-friendly park, he has gotten off to a torrid start in AAA, .275/.424/.412. Impressively, he has walked 14 times to just 9 strikeouts after walking just 25 times with 103 strikeouts last year. It’s still early, so we don’t know if Zoilo has improved his approach or has just had a hot couple of weeks. But he’s a switch hitter who can play defense, meaning he might have some value to the major league club.
When an injury prone player is healthy and producing, the time might be ripe for promotion. Adams has always possessed talent, but ever since an ankle injury in 2010 he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. Although he did accumulate 383 PA last year, he had one day off and one day at DH per week. It kept him healthy, but also kept him off the field for a good deal of time. Still, he produced. And in the early goings this year he’s producing even more, .342/.444/.500 in 45 PA. Might it be time to eke out anything they can get at the major league level? It would be a shame to see them DFA Francisco in a few weeks, only to see Adams also succumb to injury. Might as well call him up now while he’s actually playing.
A strong spring had people wondering if Mustelier could contribute to the big league club, but a bone bruise on his knee in late spring has kept him on the shelf. I haven’t read anything about a potential return date, so for the time being Mustelier is not an option. But when he returns it’s difficult to see him as being a worse option than Francisco. He makes contact and has decent power, and perhaps he won’t be overmatched by MLB pitching. But for now that’s something in the distance.
I wrote a whole paragraph about Casper Wells and his quality numbers against left-handed pitching — which could become even better on a non-Seattle team. Unfortunately, between composition and publication the A’s acquired Wells from the Blue Jays. So there goes that idea. I have to think, given Wells’s superiority over Francisco, that the Yankees would loved to have acquired Wells. He might be the last decent RHB available until June.
Later in the year the Yankees will have more opportunities to improve against left-handed pitching. A Mark Teixeira return will be a start. If Curtis Granderson can show some power against LHP that will help some more. An Alex Rodriguez return is too far into the future, and too uncertain, to consider at this point. The Yanks will have some decent trade chips in July, but for now they’ll have to go with lesser options to fill the void. Almonte or Wells could make a positive impact on a team that is just reeling against left-handed pitching.
I wasn’t planning to continue the series previews this year, but apparently they were pretty popular. I wasn’t aware of that. So, back by popular demand…
This six-game road trip features six games on artificial turf, as the Yankees now head to Tampa for three games with the Rays after playing three games against the Blue Jays in Toronto. The Bombers and Fightin’ Maddons are meeting for the first time in 2013.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Rays are 8-10 with a -7 run differential this season, but they did just sweep a three-game series against the Athletics this weekend. After scoring 53 runs in their first 15 games (3.53 per game), they scored 17 runs in the three games against Oakland (5.67 per game).
Despite the big weekend, the Rays still own a below-average team 90 wRC+ that ranks as the eighth worst in baseball. Their only injured offensive player at the moment is DH Luke Scott, who has yet to play in a game this season.
Tampa’s overhauled offense features two familiar faces in the middle of the lineup: 2B/RF Ben Zobrist (122 wRC+) and 3B Evan Longoria (142 wRC+). They’ve batted three-four pretty much everyday so far. Platoon bats 1B James Loney (146 wRC+) and former Yankee DH Shelley Duncan (106 wRC+) are off to nice starts. 2B Kelly Johnson (102 wRC+) and CF Desmond Jennings (101 wRC+) have basically been average in front of Zobrist and Longoria.
Manager Joe Maddon’s parade of part-timers includes IF Sean Rodriguez (89 wRC+) and IF Ryan Roberts (68 wRC+), who will start against lefties. OF Matt Joyce (62 wRC+) and OF Sam Fuld (-31 wRC+) get the call against lefties. SS Yunel Escobar (40 wRC+) plays everyday while pitch-framer extraordinaire C Jose Molina (85 wRC+) gets most of the starts behind the plate. C Jose Lobaton (10 wRC+) backs him up. Overall, the Rays are middle of the road when it comes to hitting homers (17), but they’ve been one of the league’s most prolific base-stealing clubs (13).
Starting Pitching Matchups
Monday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Matt Moore
The 23-year-old Moore is off to a very strong start, allowing just two runs in 18 innings across his first three starts (1.00 ERA and 3.36 FIP). The strike out (10.0 K/9 and 27.8 K%) and ground ball (52.5%) rates are strong, but he has been a little too liberal with the free pass (5.50 BB/9 and 15.3 BB%). Like everyone else it seems, Moore’s velocity is down compared to last year, but he’s still sitting in the 91-94 mph range with the four-seamer. He’ll mix in the occasional two-seamer, but otherwise his primary secondary pitches are a low-80s slider and a mid-80s changeup. The Yankees have seen the southpaw a few times now, and they’ve both hit him hard and been shutdown. Little of both.
Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP David Price
Price, 27, is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, but he’s had two good (not great) and two poor (one awful) starts in the early going (6.26 ERA and 4.49 FIP). Outside of some early homer problems (1.96 HR/9), the left-hander’s peripherals are right in line with what he’s done in recent years: 8.22 K/9 (20.8 K%), 2.74 BB/9 (6.9 BB%), and 49.3 K% grounders. Price remains a low-to-mid-90s fastball machine, throwing a ton of four-seamers, two-seamers, and cutters. An upper-70s curveball is his top offspeed pitch, but he’ll also use mid-80s changeups and sliders. We’ve all seen plenty of Price through the years, both the fans and the Yankees players. Should be no surprises here.
Wednesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Alex Cobb
Cobb has been a trendy breakout pick this year, and he’s managed a 2.53 ERA (3.21 FIP) in his three starts so far. He hasn’t missed a ton of bats in his relatively short big league career, something that has held true so far this season (6.33 K/9 and 17.2 K%). His walk (2.53 K/9 and 6.9 BB%) and ground ball (45.2%) rates are very strong, however. Cobb uses his two- and four-seamer almost evenly, and both sit in the 88-92 mph range. His best pitch is a knockout mid-80s changeup, which he’ll use in any count against righties and lefties. He’s very similar to the departed Jamie Shields in that regard. An upper-70s curveball rounds out his repertoire. The Yankees have seen Cobb a handful of times these last two years and he’s handled them well each time.
Despite their strong rotation, the Rays rank among the AL leaders in total relief appearances (53) because of all the mixing and matching. Closer RHP Fernando Rodney has been very good again despite an early-season appearance that wrecked his pitching stat line (4.76 ERA and 5.67 FIP). Setup men RHP Joel Peralta (2.25 ERA and 2.02 FIP) and LHP Jake McGee (7.36 ERA and 5.89 FIP) have both been dynamite — McGee allowed five runs in two-thirds of an inning on Opening Day and has been whittling down his ERA ever since. He’s been untouchable of late.
Low-leverage guy RHP Brandon Gomes (4.70 ERA and 4.98 FIP) threw two innings yesterday and is presumably unavailable today. Former Yankee RHP Kyle Farnsworth (4.50 ERA and 7.02 FIP) will see some late-game action, then they have LHP Cesar Ramos (8.31 ERA and 6.02 FIP) and long-time big leaguer RHP Jamey Wright (2.06 ERA and 3.86 FIP) filling out Maddon’s seven-man relief unit. Outside of David Phelps, everyone should be available for Joe Girardi in the series opener tonight. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent usage details. For the latest and greatest on the Rays, we recommend DRays Bay and The Process Report.
Record Last Week: 4-2 (28 RS, 26 RA)
Season Record: 10-7 (88 RS, 73 RA, 10-7 pythag. record), 2.5 games back in AL East
Opponents This Week: @ Rays (three games, Mon. to Weds.), vs. Blue Jays (four game, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- The week started with an off-day before the Diamondbacks came to town for the first interleague series of the year. The Yankees won both the first game and the second game of the series in come-from-behind fashion, but they were unable to complete the sweep on Thursday.
- The Yankees then headed up to Toronto for a three-game set with the new-look Blue Jays, and they blew their division rivals out in the series opener. They took the second game of the series in extra innings but couldn’t finish the sweep yesterday.
- Injury News: Derek Jeter (ankle) has a new fracture and will be out until after the All-Star break. He does not need surgery. Both Curtis Granderson (forearm) and Mark Teixeira (wrist) have been cleared to swing a bat. Michael Pineda (shoulder) is scheduled for his first simulated game since surgery this week. Kevin Youkilis (back) is day-to-day with some stiffness. Cesar Cabral (elbow) and Clay Rapada (shoulder) continue to rehab in Tampa.
- The Yankees will stick with their internal infield options following Jeter’s setback.
- The NHL is planning to have two outdoor games at Yankee Stadium next January.
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