Anyway, so here is an open thread for the night. MLB Network is showing a regional game tonight, plus there is NBA and NHL action on as well. And there’s the NFL draft. Talk about that stuff, this afternoon’s win, or anything else here. Just not religion or politics please. Thanks in advance.
For eight innings, Thursday afternoon’s series finale against the Twins felt like one of those nondescript losses that would soon meld into the giant glob of baseball we all forget each season. Then, in the ninth, the Fighting Spirit kicked in and turned this game into the most exciting win of the young season. The Yankees walked off with a 4-3 win Thursday for their sixth straight win, and their tenth win in the last 13 games. Do we love this team yet?
Shoot Dem Arrows
Let’s start in the ninth inning, shall we? The first eight innings kinda sucked. The Yankees were down 3-1 at the start of the ninth and the Twins went to closer Fernando Rodney, who is somehow still slinging 97 mph fastballs at age 41. The ninth inning started with what should’ve been a routine 5-3 ground out. Didi Gregorius hit a chopper to third, Miguel Sano tripped over his own feet, and the throw short-hopped Logan Morrison at first base. The Yankees were in business.
The next batter, Giancarlo Stanton, also hit a weak tapper. That one was kinda in no man’s land on the infield between short and third. It left Stanton’s bat at 83.6 mph, which was weak enough for him to beat out the infield single without a throw. Really, Rodney could’ve easily had two quick outs with those grounders. Instead, the Yankees had runners on first and second with no outs. Gary Sanchez, do the damn thing:
A laborious afternoon for Jordan Montgomery, it was. His pitch count by inning: 20, 19, 37, 9, 13. Seventy-six pitches after three innings is no good. The Twins got their two runs against Montgomery in that 37-pitch third inning, and it happened with two outs. Montgomery walked Sano with two outs and couldn’t put Eduardo Escobar away after getting ahead in the count 1-2. Three foul balls and two balls later, Escobar poked a two-run homer into the short porch for a 2-0 lead. Blah.
Montgomery’s final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K on 98 pitches. This game was classic Montgomery, in a sense. I’m not trying to knock him. When Montgomery struggles, he tends to run long at-bats and has to battle, but it’s not often things really get away from him. The Twins had some chances to break this game open and didn’t do it. Even on his bad days, Montgomery finds a way to fight through it and keep the Yankees in the game. And with their offense, that’s all you need to do.
The unsung heroes: Domingo German and Dellin Betances. German replaced Montgomery and allowed one run, a Robbie Grossman solo homer, in three innings. He stranded two runners in both the seventh and eighth innings. Guessing the Twins regret not cashing those runners in. Betances struck out the side on 13 pitches in the ninth. Total dominance. Dellin’s either great or awful these days. Dr. Dellin or Mr. Betances. Dr. Dellin showed up Thursday.
Bob Kyle Gibson
Geez, Kyle Gibson was really sharp Thursday afternoon. His slider especially. The Yankees didn’t get their first baserunner until Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk in the fourth, and they didn’t get their first hit until Gardner’s two-out single in the sixth. Gibson’s final line: 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 10 K. That’s a career-high ten strikeouts. The breakdown of his slider:
- Thrown: 29
- Swings: 14
- Whiffs: 11
- Called Strikes: 3
Gibson had an unreal slider back in college — I thought he was going to be a top five pitcher in baseball during his prospect days — but he’s never been able to get that same effectiveness with the MLB ball. On Thursday, Gibson really had the slider working, and the Yankees couldn’t do anything with it. Sometimes a dude just wakes up with great stuff and shuts you down. It happens. Gibson was great.
Of course, the Yankees have an unforgiving lineup, so they forced Gibson to throw 95 pitches in those six innings. Even on their bad offensive days, they don’t let the starter get deep in the game. Addison Reed replaced Gibson in the seventh and the Yankees got on the board thanks to Aaron Hicks’ sac fly. Stanton doubled to start the inning, then moved over to third on wild pitch. Is it just me, or does it feel like Reed allows a run every time he pitches against the Yankees? Not complaining!
Two hits for Stanton (double, infield single) and one each for Gardner (single), Sanchez (dinger), and Gleyber Torres (single). Torres reached on an infield single in the eighth and advanced to second on Brian Dozier’s error. The Yankees couldn’t get him in against Zach Duke — Zack Duke! — though. Oh well. Ain’t mad about it anymore.
The Yankees struck out 12 times as a team. Judge (two), Miguel Andujar (two), and Tyler Austin (three) had seven of the 12 strikeouts. Despite their roster, the Yankees went into Thursday’s game with baseball’s tenth lowest strikeout rate at 22.1%. Gibson got them good Thursday though. The bullpen? Not so much.
The homestand is over and the Yankees are on their way to the West Coast for three games against the Angels. Friday night’s series opener is a 10pm ET start. Luis Severino and left-hander Andrew Heaney are the scheduled starting pitchers for that one.
MLB has finally ruled on Tyler Austin’s suspension. This afternoon the Yankees announced Austin’s five-game suspension has been reduced to four games. He will begin serving it tomorrow. Joe Kelly’s six-game ban was not reduced.
The Yankees must play a man short while Austin is suspended, and since they’re carrying eight relievers, either a roster move is coming or the Yankees will play the next four games with a two-man bench. Not ideal. Neil Walker will presumably step in at first base.
If the Yankees do make a move, they won’t be able to call up Tyler Wade because of the ten-day rule. The only other healthy 40-man roster position player in the minors is Kyle Higashioka. I’m guessing the Yankees will ride it out with a two-man bench this weekend. We’ll see.
Update: I just remembered Brandon Drury is on the way back. He could be activated off the disabled list with a reliever going down at some point this weekend.
Logan Gilbert | RHP
The soon-to-be 21-year-old Gilbert grew up outside Orlando and he is currently the staff ace at Stetson. So far this spring he owns a 2.69 ERA with a 101/15 K/BB in ten starts and 70 innings, and since joining the rotation full-time last year, he has a 2.32 ERA with a 208/41 K/BB in 159 innings. Gilbert was an All-Star in the Cape Cod League last summer, throwing 31.1 innings with a 1.72 ERA and a 31/4 K/BB against top college competition.
Gilbert is long and lanky at 6-foot-5 and 195 lbs., and there’s some thought that, as he matures, he’ll add even more velocity to a fastball that sat in the mid-90s last year. As it is, he’s already hit 97-98 mph, though this spring he’s sat more in the 92-94 mph range. A quality changeup and a relatively new slider give Gilbert a chance for two swing-and-miss secondary pitches, plus he throws a curveball as well. Gilbert has a deliberate delivery but has had no trouble throwing strikes. He’s also a sneaky good athlete who does a nice job holding runners and fielding his position, which is uncommon for a top amateur pitcher. Gilbert has also been praised for his competitiveness.
Both MLB.com and Baseball America rank Gilbert as the 16th best prospect in the draft class while Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranks him 28th. The Yankees hold the 23rd overall pick. Gilbert’s stock is trending down at the moment because his fastball has not yet crept back up into the 94-96 mph range, though the secondary stuff is there and Stetson has a track record of producing impact big league pitchers, most notably Jacob deGrom and Corey Kluber. The Yankees have had success getting pitching prospects to add velocity in recent years and they could bank on their development staff getting Gilbert back to where he was last year, when he looked like a potential top ten pick.
The Yankees have already been connected to Dominican catchers Antonio Gomez and Agustin Ramirez, and, according to MLB.com, the Yankees are also expected to sign Dominican outfielder Kevin Alcantara and Cuban righty Denny Larrondo. Alcantara, Gomez, and Larrondo are ranked as the 10th, 11th, and 29th best international prospects by MLB.com, respectively. Ramirez is unranked.
Here are pieces of MLB.com’s scouting reports on Alcantara and Larrondo:
Alcantara has above-average speed — he’s been clocked consistently in the 6.4-6.6 second range in the 60-yard timed run — and it shows up on both sides of the ball. Alcantara is also a gamer. He performs well at the plate in a live setting and projects to hit for more power in the future. Scouts also rave about his good bat speed and high contact ratio. He hits the ball hard and often tops the 100-mph mark in exit velocity.
Overall, Larrondo is an elite athlete with a projectable body and a quick arm. He has tight spin on his emerging curveball, his second-best pitch. The teenager is an aggressive strike-thrower with a working changeup that is expected to improve once he signs with a team and receives daily instruction in a club’s academy … The right-hander has touched 94 mph with his fastball and usually sits in the 91-to-92 mph range.
Ready to feel old? Alcantara and Larrondo were born in 2002. 2002! Alcantara turns 16 on July 12th, so he won’t be eligible to sign on July 2nd, the first day of the international signing period. He’ll have to wait another ten days for his 16th birthday before he can put pen to paper. Larrondo turns 16 next month. Gomez is the old man of the bunch. He turned 16 in November.
The Yankees have a $4,983,500 bonus pool for the 2018-19 signing period, though Jesse Sanchez says the Yankees are “expected to be aggressive in the upcoming signing period,” which could mean they’re planning to trade for more bonus money. Teams can trade for an additional 75% of their bonus pool. The Yankees can max their bonus pool out at $8,721,125 this year.
Last year the Yankees aggressively traded for bonus pool space in anticipation of pursuing Shohei Ohtani, and when that didn’t work out, they shifted gears and signed other players with that money. The Orioles are notoriously inactive internationally, so don’t be surprised if the Yankees make some bonus money deals with the O’s. Last year they sent fringe prospects Matt Wotherspoon and Yefry Ramirez to Baltimore for $1.75M.
Win or lose today, the Yankees have already had a very successful homestand. They’ve won seven of the first nine games and outscored their opponents 65-31. After two middling weeks to begin the season, the Yankees have snapped out of their funk and now look very much like the team everyone expected them to be this year. They’re not perfect, don’t get me wrong. But they are very, very good.
This afternoon’s game is a chance to finish the four-game sweep of the Twins, who are now 0-7 in their last eight games at Yankee Stadium, including the 2017 AL Wild Card Game. They’re 1-12 in their last 13 games in the Bronx. Geez. Playing the Yankees must be a total nightmare for Twins fans. I couldn’t imagine. Anyway, happy 26th birthday Aaron Judge. Go sock some birthday dingers. The lineups:
New York Yankees
1. LF Brett Gardner
2. DH Aaron Judge
3. SS Didi Gregorius
4. RF Giancarlo Stanton
5. C Gary Sanchez
6. CF Aaron Hicks
7. 1B Tyler Austin
8. 3B Miguel Andujar
9. 2B Gleyber Torres
LHP Jordan Montgomery
1. 2B Brian Dozier
2. DH Joe Mauer
3. 1B Miguel Sano
4. 3B Eduardo Escobar
5. C Mitch Garver
6. RF Max Kepler
7. LF Robbie Grossman
8. SS Ehire Adrianza
9. CF Ryan LaMarre
RHP Kyle Gibson
Lovely afternoon for a ballgame in the Bronx. The sun is out and temperatures will be in the mid-60s. Good weather for a sweep. Today’s homestand finale will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network out of market. Enjoy the game.
The Yankees wrap up their four-game series with the Twins this afternoon, then they’re heading out on a seven-game West Coast trip through Anaheim and Houston. Well, Houston’s not on the West Coast, but it’s in a different time zone. Close enough. Anyway, I have some thoughts on the Yankees’ current state of affairs, so let’s get to ’em.
1. Aaron Judge is hitting .345/.481/.655 (205 wRC+) and the crazy thing is that it feels completely normal. It doesn’t feel like he’s playing way over his head, and I don’t get the sense everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop. This feels like Aaron Judge being Aaron Judge. We saw him hit like this for a long stretch of time last season and he’s doing it again. In fact, you could make a pretty strong argument he’s actually getting better. Zach Kram wrote an article earlier this week looking at Judge’s declining strikeout rate. The season is young and we’ll see where things stand in a few weeks and months. Right now though, Judge is showing last season was in no way a fluke. He makes ridiculously hard contact, he’s incredibly disciplined, and he knows how to make adjustments. And now that Judge has a full season in the league and is that more experienced, he might be taking his game to another level. He really is this damn good. It’s so awesome.
2. Speaking of Judge, is it just me or is he talking to umpires more this season? He’s still getting hosed on low strike calls, but last season Judge rarely said a word to the home plate umpire, probably because he was just a rookie. This year he’s the reigning AL Rookie of the Year and the reigning AL MVP runner-up. He’s established and when he says something to the umpires, it should carry more weight now. I feel like Judge is talking a bit more so far this season. He’s not going on tirades or throwing his helmet. Nothing like that. But if there’s a call he doesn’t like, he’ll have a quick word with the umpire, and that’s that. A respectful chat, basically. Will it help in any way? Who knows. I’d like to think that, the more Judge talks to umpires, the sooner they’ll realize they aren’t calling a fair bottom of the zone, and make the adjustment. I’m not going to hold my breath though. I’m just glad Judge is chatting with the umpires more and letting them know he doesn’t agree with their call. There’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. Judge is doing it the right way.
3. Sonny Gray struggled again last night, this time with Austin Romine behind the plate, so we can stop pretending Gary Sanchez is cause of Gray’s problems and start discussing this somewhat intelligently. To me, Gray looks healthy. The stuff is fine. He just can’t throw strikes. I don’t think it’s an unwillingness to throw strikes. I don’t think he’s scared to throw strikes. He just can’t do it. The command is not there at all. The Yankees didn’t take Masahiro Tanaka out of the rotation when he struggled early last year — Tanaka was sitting on a 6.34 ERA (5.68 FIP) as late as June 17th last year — and I don’t see them taking Gray (7.71 ERA and 5.03 FIP) out of the rotation right now. One reason is the lack of alternatives. Luis Cessa is hurt, Domingo German has pitched once in the last two weeks and isn’t really stretched out (love that eighth reliever spot!), and I have no interest whatsoever in seeing A.J. Cole or David Hale throw meaningful innings. Chance Adams? Eh, maybe. He has a 4.82 ERA (4.80 FIP) with a 12.5% walk rate in Triple-A right now. Replacing Gray with Adams feels like making a move for the sake of making a move, not an actual solution. Stick with Sonny for the time being and let him work through it, then reevaluate in a few weeks.
4. Over the weekend Aaron Boone did something Joe Girardi used to do all the time that annoyed me to no end. Chad Green warmed up in the seventh inning in case Luis Severino ran into trouble, and after Severino finished the inning, Green sat down and David Robertson pitched the eighth. Why not just use Green in the eighth inning since he’s already warmed up? If you trust Green enough to pitch out of a potential jam in the seventh inning then you should trust him enough to start the eighth. Instead of warming up one reliever and using another, you could just use one reliever and keep the other guy fresh for the next game. This is one of those Girardi moves that I hoped would go away with the managerial change, but I guess not. It’s still early though. Maybe Boone will change his bullpen approach going forward. For now, it sure seems like assigned innings are alive and well.
5. Given the nature of his injury (shoulder and biceps tendinitis), it’s fair to wonder whether Tommy Kahnle’s extended 48-pitch outing three weeks ago contributed to him landing on the disabled list. His velocity had been down even before that game. It’s not like he was fine up until that point, then it dropped off. Here’s his game-by-game velocity with the 48-pitch outing highlighted:
Kahnle’s velocity was already down and he was still left out there to throw 48 pitches in a high-stress outing. Not great. Also, Adam Warren threw 2.2 innings and 46 pitches last week even though he’d been nursing a lat injury since the opening series. We don’t know whether the extended outings made existing injuries worst. It’s hard to think they helped things though. As manager, the blame would fall on Boone. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild would deserve some blame too because he should be in Boone’s ear saying hey, this is too much. Again, we don’t know whether those long outings were the straws that broke the camel’s back, or if Boone & Co. even knew Kahnle and Warren were hurting. It doesn’t look good though, two not 100% healthy relievers throwing 40+ pitches and multiple innings, then landing on the disabled list.
6. Miguel Andujar is hitting the snot out of the ball and Brandon Drury started a minor league rehab assignment last night. Rumor has it he could rejoin the Yankees as soon as this weekend. What happens then? The Yankees will cross that bridge when they come to it, but it is something they will have to figure out sooner rather than later. The Yankees made it pretty clear in Spring Training they believe third base is Drury’s best position, though that was when no one really knew to what to expect from Andujar. Will Andujar’s performance make them more willing to consider Drury at other positions? Say, first base and left field? I guess putting Andujar at first base is another option, though he has so little experience there. A crash course at the MLB level isn’t the best idea. I’d rather not screw around with the kid when he’s so locked in at the plate. Let Andujar play third base and figure out another plan with Drury. Given the current roster, first base is a potential landing spot, and a little left field wouldn’t hurt either. I think there’s a path to both guys getting four or five starts a week. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
7. I like what Boone did defensively during CC Sabathia’s two starts against the Blue Jays. Toronto loaded their lineup with righties — righties with a tendency to pull the ball, at that — so in Sabathia’s first start, Boone had Brett Gardner stay in left field with Judge in center and Giancarlo Stanton in right. He didn’t want Stanton’s inexperience coming into the play given the likelihood of balls being hit his way. And, last week, Boone played Ronald Torreyes at third over Andujar even though Andujar has been hitting so well. Torreyes is the more reliable defender and he wound up making five or six plays (and one error) during that start against the Blue Jays. The Twins had some lefties in the lineup against Sabathia the other night, meaning there probably wouldn’t be as many hard hit balls to the left side of the field, so Andujar played third. I like it. I’m curious to see whether this continues going forward. Perhaps Andujar hits so much that you can’t take him out of the lineup for defensive reasons, and perhaps Stanton gets so comfortable in left field that he can play out there against a righty heavy lineup. For now, I’m cool with stacking the left side with the best defenders when Sabathia is on the mound against a right-handed heavy lineup.
8. With so many stats available nowadays, it can be easy to forget this game is played by human beings. Sometimes they feel larger than life, but they’re not. They’re just people. The Danny Farquhar incident over the weekend was a scary reminder of that. On a lighter note, Gleyber Torres had a look of excitement and also relief on his face after his first hit the other night. Look: