Two weeks from today, teams will be able to call up extra players from the minors and expand their rosters to up to 40 players. The debate about September call-ups and whether it’s right to play the final month of the season with a different set of rules will fire back up, but I’m in favor of expanded rosters. The minor league season is over, give some guys a chance to come up and experience MLB life, and reward the teams with depth. That one team chooses to call up fewer players than another is their problem. The roster size limit is the same across the league.
At this moment right now, the Yankees only have seven players on the 40-man roster who are not in the big leagues and are actually healthy. The seven: LHP Manny Banuelos, RHP Matt Daley, RHP Bryan Mitchell, C Austin Romine, C Gary Sanchez, UTIL Zelous Wheeler, and OF Zoilo Almonte. Both OF Ramon Flores (ankle) and RHP Preston Claiborne (shoulder) are currently playing in rehab games in the rookie Gulf Coast League and could be healthy in time for the start of September.
RHP Jose Campos had Tommy John surgery and OF Slade Heathcott had knee surgery earlier this year, so they are definitely not call-up options. RHP Jose Ramirez went down with … something early last month. He has a long history of injury problems, though I’m not sure what’s wrong with him this time. Either way, he is out and has yet to resume pitching in rehab games. C John Ryan Murphy was placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL just last week after taking a foul tip to the face mask, which implies a concussion. No word on how long he will be out. Surely the Yankees will play it safe.
Daley, Mitchell, Romine, Wheeler, and Almonte all seem like locks to be called up in September, mostly because they were all up at different points earlier this summer. That gives the Yankees two extra arms, a third catcher, another utility guy, and a platoon outfielder. Claiborne will definitely come back up if he’s healthy in time. I don’t believe Sanchez or a healthy Flores will be called up but Banuelos is up for debate. Last month I would have said no way, but he’s pitched much better of late. Right now, at this moment in time, I think he would get called up even if it’s only to soak in the big league atmosphere, not pitch. The Yankees did that with Andrew Brackman back in the day.
It seems likely the Yankees will cut ties with Rich Hill and call up one of their younger lefty bullpen options like LHP Tyler Webb or LHP Jacob Lindgren come September, and I suppose Daley and/or Wheeler could be easily cut loose to clear more spots. Maybe they prefer Scott Sizemore to Wheeler or something. Calling up prospects who will be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season is always a popular idea but it doesn’t happen all that often. The one times the Yankees have done it in recent years was with Romine and Murphy, and that was because they wanted to carry a third catcher in September. There is some risk to adding, say, Tyler Austin to the 40-man a few weeks before necessary, and teams are generally risk averse. The Yankees especially so.
Campos, Heathcott, and Ramirez are dead 40-man roster spots because of their injuries — Ramirez could return soon, obviously — limiting the team’s flexibility. They have the option of calling them up and transferring them to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot, but then you run the risk of having the player sit on the big league disabled list accruing service time next year if he has a setback over the winter or in Spring Training, or if his rehab just takes longer than expected. The only time I can remember the Yankees calling up an injured player for the sole purpose of putting him on the 60-day DL to clear 40-man spot was Justin Maxwell in 2011. He was not a prospect and no one cared about his service time. Calling up injured players and placing them on the 60-day DL is another one of those things we talk about that rarely happens.
So, unless the Yankees go against the grain to clear some 40-man spots, they only have five obvious September call-up candidates on the 40-man roster. Six if you count Banuelos, more if Claiborne and/or Ramirez and/or Murphy get healthy in time. Hill will probably turn into Lindgren or Webb as well. Only four of those extra players are position players and two of those four are catchers (assuming Murphy gets healthy), meaning if Joe Girardi wants to make wholesale changes in blowout games, he’ll still need to keep two or three regulars on the field. (Remember, they only have a three-man bench right now.) That’s not ideal, but that’s the way the roster works right now. Injuries have left the Yankees really short this year and that carries on down into the minors.
Since joining the rotation a little more than a month ago, Shane Greene has been arguably the Yankees’ best starting pitcher. The rookie right-hander has a 2.93 ERA (3.25 FIP) with good strikeout (21.4%) and excellent ground ball (55.3%) rates in seven starts and 43 innings, and he’s shown no signs of slowing down either. He’s made it very easy to forget his ugly five batter, three walk MLB debut out of the bullpen back in April.
The Yankees called on Greene last month because they really had no other choice. CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda were all hurt and Chase Whitley was crashing back to Earth. That was before Masahiro Tanaka went down too. Greene had mediocre Triple-A numbers overall (4.61 ERA and 3.41 FIP) but he had strung together a few strong starts, which was enough to get him a shot given the state of the rotation. He’s obviously taken advantage of the opportunity.
Greene’s path to the big leagues and pro ball in general was a rather unique, which makes his story and success that much more interesting and amazing. I’m going to save some time and quote myself from last winter’s prospect profile:
Greene was a mop-up man [at the University of West Florida] as a freshman … He blew out his elbow late in the season and had Tommy John surgery in May 2008 … The Argos took his scholarship away following the injury, so Greene transferred to Daytona Beach Community College. He didn’t pitch as a sophomore and wasn’t on the draft radar at all. Greene was throwing a bullpen session at his high school when he asked a Yankees scout (who was there to see someone else) to watch him throw and put in a good word with the University of Central Florida. The team ended up bringing him to Tampa for a workout three weeks before the 2009 draft … The Yankees liked what they saw during the workout enough to select him in the 15th round (465th overall) even though he had not pitched in an actual game in over a year.
Even if he crashes back to Earth in his next start or never throws another MLB pitch for whatever reason, the Yankees have already gotten a huge return on their investment in Greene. We’re talking about a late round pick who signed for only $100k, a relative pittance. Just getting a guy like that to the show — especially after drafting him even though he hadn’t pitched in a real game in a year due to injury — is a huge success.
Greene’s climb up the minor league ladder was not fast. He spent parts of two seasons with both Low-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, and it wasn’t until his sixth pro season that he reached Triple-A despite being a college draftee. Greene’s stuff improved as he got further away from elbow reconstruction but a general lack of control held him back. He had a 4.4 BB/9 (10.4 BB%) across two Single-A levels in 2011, then a 5.1 BB/9 (12.5 BB%) at High-A in 2012. Greene looked like a classic big arm, small command guy.
Then, last season, the now 25-year old Greene broke out with a 1.7 BB/9 (4.5 BB%) split between High-A and Double-A. Forget about cutting his walk rate in half, he cut it by almost two-thirds in an offseason. This year Greene has a 3.5 BB/9 (8.8 BB%) in Triple-A and a 2.9 BB/9 (7.7 BB%) in MLB. (The AL average is 2.9 BB/9 and 7.7 BB% this year, coincidentally.) That’s not as good as last year but it’s a major improvement from two or three years ago. That ability to harness his stuff and throw consistent strikes has taken Greene from interesting prospect to bonafide MLB rotation member.
There is no “the light bulb just came on” story here. Greene didn’t magically wake up one day with the ability to throw strikes with his mid-90s sinker and upper-80s slider. He cut his walk rate so much last year thanks to mechanical tweaks implemented by some of the Yankees’ minor league pitching gurus. George King (subs. req’d) explained last September:
Greene, 24, is armed with a 90-94 mph fastball, but it was an adjustment he made working with pitching coordinator Gil Patterson and Greg Pavlick, a senior pitching instructor, that helped him turn the corner.
“He was helped with the delivery where he kept his head more in line with the plate,” (VP of Baseball Ops Mark) Newman said. “He made a commitment to throw strikes and not throw the ball to the edge and nibble.”
Pavlick has been with the Yankees for more than a decade now, but Patterson is a relatively new hire. Well, a new old hire. He coached in the team’s minor league system from 2005-07 before leaving in 2008 for a similar position with the Athletics. The Yankees brought the very highly-regarded Patterson back and hired him away from Oakland in November 2012.
The club has gotten a lot of heat for their unproductive farm system over the last year or so, so much so that they essentially audited their staff and policies and implemented some procedural changes over the winter. In reality, the changes started both with the re-hiring of Patterson as well as the firing of long-time pitching honcho Billy Connors in September 2012. No personnel changes were made last winter, but two pretty big ones were made the year before.
There is no possible way of knowing how Greene would have developed without the help of Patterson (and Pavlick) — would he have made those same mechanical adjustments and improved his command anyway? Would he have never figured it out? Would he have done something else entirely and become even better than he is right now? We’ll never know. The timeline fits so wonderfully though. The Yankees bring back Patterson, he tinkers with the live-armed Greene, and suddenly he throws strikes and is awesome. It’s a great story, especially if it’s actually true.
Many fans, myself included, were underwhelmed and unhappy when the Yankees announced they were only making procedural changes to their player development system over the winter. After all, we don’t know what those changes are and we can’t actually see him at work, so they don’t really exist to us. The Patterson move flew mostly under the radar for the same reason: we don’t actually see him at work. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have an impact though. He helped Greene clean up his delivery and get over some serious control problems, which has turned him into an important member of the MLB rotation. Every time he takes the mound, it is the organization’s recent player development changes at work.
Record Last Week: 2-3 (13 RS, 25 RA)
Season Record: 63-59 (481 RS, 518 RA, 56-66 pythag. record) 7.0 GB in ALE, 3.5 GB of WC
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Astros (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. White Sox (three games, Fri. to Sun.)
Top stories from last week:
- The week started with what was supposed to be a three-game series against the Orioles in Baltimore. The pitching staff blew a lead in Monday’s blowout loss, then Tuesday’s game was rained out. It will be made up on September 12th. The bullpen blew another lead in Wednesday’s loss.
- The Yankees were off on Thursday and then they headed to Tampa for three games with the Rays. They dropped the opener because the offense was a no-show. Derek Jeter‘s late hit gave his team a win on Saturday, then they held on for another win yesterday.
- Injury Updates: Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) threw off a mound for the first time and “felt very good.” Andrew Bailey (shoulder) has suffered a “few setbacks” and will not pitch this year.
- Both Michael Pineda and Brian McCann were activated off the disabled list last week. Austin Romine and Chris Leroux were sent down to make roster space. Bryan Mitchell was sent down earlier in the week as well.
- The Yankees are viewed as “major players” for Cuban free agent Rusney Castillo. He has received several offers and is expected to pick a team in the coming days.
- Hal Steinbrenner was non-committal when asked about the future of Brian Cashman, whose contract is up after the season.
- Starting tomorrow, there will be metal detectors at the various Yankee Stadium entrances.
- MLB COO Rob Manfred has been elected baseball’s next commissioner.
Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?
Triple-A Scranton (6-5 win over Pawtucket)
- LF Jose Pirela: 1-5, 2 K
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — 16-for-43 (.372), so he’s starting to heat back up after a little slump
- CF Zoilo Almonte: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP
- 1B Kyle Roller: 0-4, 1 BB, 2 K
- 3B Zelous Wheeler: 1-5, 2 RBI, 2 K – capped off the five-run ninth inning rally with a two-run go-ahead single
- RF Taylor Dugas: 2-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — started that ninth inning rally with a one-out walk
- LHP Matt Tracy: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 3/2 GB/FB — 63 of 98 pitches were strikes (64%)
- RHP Brandon Pinder: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/3 GB/FB — 13 of 17 pitches were strikes (76%)
- LHP Tyler Webb: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — ten of 13 pitches were strikes (77%) … 89/20 K/BB in 64.1 innings
Here is your open thread for the last few hours of the weekend. The ESPN Sunday Night Game is the Athletics and Braves (Lester vs. Minor), plus FOX is carrying a preseason NFL game. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or whatever else is on your mind right here.
Two wins in a row! That’s always fun. The Yankees should do it more often. They took Sunday afternoon’s series finale from the Rays by the score of 4-2. Let’s recap the win:
- All With Two Outs: For the first 4.2 innings, Jeremy Hellickson kept the Yankees completely off balance with a mix of changeups and sneaky fastballs. They didn’t even hit the ball hard. That all changed in the fifth with a two-out walk by Stephen Drew. Martin Prado picked up his team’s first hit with a double into the left field corner (hard hit!), putting men at second and third with two outs. Brett Gardner plated both runners with a single back up the middle, then Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury strung together two more singles to score the third run. Two-out rallies are so great.
- Return of HIROK: Hiroki Kuroda allowed a first inning run(s) for the fifth straight start. Thankfully it was just one run (on two singles and a ground ball) on Sunday. He settled right down and retired 17 straight after that, getting the ball into the seventh inning. Matt Joyce’s leadoff double in the seventh ended the consecutive outs streak, and he eventually scored on Evan Longoria’s single. Kuroda did not make it out of the inning — Shawn Kelley bailed him out with a strikeout — but holding Tampa to two runs in 6.2 innings is plenty good enough. He only struck out one but did limit the Rays to four hits and a walk. The extra rest seemed to do Kuroda some good.
- Late Innings: Like I said, Kelley bailed out Kuroda in the seventh, striking out Brandon Guyer with runners on the corners to end the inning. Mark Teixeira whacked a solo homer in the top of the eighth to give the Yankees a much-appreciated insurance run right after the Rays cut their deficit to one. It was his 20th homer of the year. Dellin Betances pitched around an infield single in the eighth and David Robertson retired the side in order in the ninth for his 33rd save in 35 chances. He has successfully converted 21 straight saves, the longest active streak in MLB.
- Leftovers: Prado had himself a great day both at the plate (single, double) and in the field. He made several stellar stops at second base … Chase Headley also had two hits (singles) and several great defensive plays … every starter reached base safely at least once except for the just off the disabled list Brian McCann, though he reached on an error … the run-scoring single in the fifth was Ellsbury’s first hit in a week, since his solo homer against the Indians last Sunday.
For the box score and video highlights, head over to MLB.com. FanGraphs is where you can find some more stats and ESPN is where you can find the updated standings. The Yankees are now seven games back in the AL East — they are back in second place, percentage points ahead of the Blue Jays — and 3.5 games back of the second wildcard spot. FanGraphs has their postseason odds at 10.3%. The Yankees are off on Monday — third off-day in the last week — and will welcome the Astros to the Bronx for three games starting Tuesday. Lefties Chris Capuano and Brett Oberholtzer are scheduled to start the opener. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game live.
The Yankees have played 15 series against AL East opponents this year and so far they’ve won five. Five! They split one and lost the other nine. They’ve only won one of their last eight AL East series as well. That explains why they are closer to last place (6.5 games) than first place (seven games).
Yesterday’s win snapped a five-game losing streak and gives the Yankees a chance to clinch a rare series win over an AL East rival this afternoon. Hiroki Kuroda is starting on extra rest after showing clear signs of fatigue in his last two or three starts, particularly once his pitch count gets up to around 80. Hopefully the extra rest does him some good. Here is the Rays lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- DH Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- RF Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Chase Headley
- SS Stephen Drew
- 2B Martin Prado
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
It’s another rainy day in St. Pete. The Tropicana Field dome was definitely a big help this weekend. First pitch is scheduled for 1:40pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.
As expected, the Yankees have activated Brian McCann off the 7-day concussion disabled list. Austin Romine was sent back to Triple-A Scranton in a corresponding move. McCann missed one week plus a day after taking a foul tip to the face mask. Good to see it was a relatively minor concussion and not something that lingered for an extended period of time. · (18) ·
Rehabbing right-hander Andrew Bailey will not pitch for the Yankees this season, Joe Girardi confirmed to Chad Jennings. Girardi said the two-time All-Star and 2009 AL Rookie of the Year has suffered a “few setbacks” this summer as he works his way back from a torn shoulder capsule. Bailey had been throwing bullpen sessions in Tampa, last we heard.
The Yankees signed Bailey to a minor league contract over the winter knowing he was unlikely to pitch before September, if at all. The contract includes a club option and was always geared towards 2015. Bailey, 30, has thrown only 44 innings from 2012-14 (4.91 ERA and 4.68 FIP) due to a series of injuries, including the torn capsule and a torn thumb ligament. Torn capsules are very serious. No pitcher has ever returned from one and pitched like they did before getting hurt. The Yankees took a low-risk flier on Bailey and, given the nature of the injury, it’s no surprise he won’t be able to pitch this year. · (13) ·
After the Rays rallied to the tie Saturday afternoon’s game in the seventh inning, it sure felt like the Yankees were headed for another ugly come-from-ahead loss. Instead, Derek Jeter came through with a huge hit in the ninth inning and the Bombers snapped their five-game losing streak. They beat the Rays by the score of 3-2 in the second game of the series. Let’s recap the sorely needed win:
- Two Strikes, Two Outs, Two Runs: The Yankees scored a total of seven runs during the five-game losing streak, so going up 2-0 in the second inning felt like a minor miracle. Drew Smyly got two quick outs in the second before walking Chase Headley, allowing him to steal second base, then catching way too much of the plate with an 0-2 pitch to Martin Prado. Prado yanked it out to left for a two-run homer, his second dinger in pinstripes.
- Greene Machine: Once again, Shane Greene was outstanding. He didn’t get a decision because of defensive funny business and spotty bullpen work, but he struck out ten and held the Rays to two runs in six innings. At one point he retired nine in a row. Greene threw 102 pitches and got 18 swings and misses, which is awesome. Had Headley taken the out at first on Kevin Kiermaier’s bunt in the seventh (no outs were recorded), maybe Greene escapes with only one run allowed. Either way, he was excellent, much better than the pitching line indicates.
- Late Innings: I’m not quite sure why Joe Girardi went to Shawn Kelley two on and no outs (and a one-run lead) in the seventh instead of Dellin Betances, who threw the eighth once the score was tied, but it happened and it helped the Rays tie the game. The Yankees retook the lead in the top of the ninth thanks to a big error by Logan Forsythe, who threw a ball into the stands on Brett Gardner‘s infield single. Gardner would have been safe anyway, but the error allowed him to advance to second. Jeter tried to bunt him to third, failed, then laced a two-strike single to right against the hard-throwing and awesome Jake McGee to score the go-ahead run. Huge hit. Game-winning hit.
- Leftovers: David Robertson, who has not pitched in nine days, retired the side in order in the ninth for his 32nd save in 34 chances … Mark Teixeira had two singles while Gardner (single), Jeter (single), Prado (homer), Frankie Cervelli (double), and Brendan Ryan (single) had one hit apiece … Headley drew the only walk. He’s reached base in 20 of his 22 games as a Yankee … technically, the bullpen was perfect, nine up and nine down. Kelley did allow an inherited runner to score with two ground outs though.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Orioles lost and the Tigers won, so the Yankees are seven games back in the AL East and four games back of the second wildcard spot. FanGraphs has their postseason odds at 8.6%. The Yankees and Rays will wrap up the series on Sunday afternoon, when Hiroki Kuroda and Jeremy Hellickson get the ball.