Game Nine: Jackie Robinson Day

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Sixty-nine years ago today, Jackie Robinson made his big league debut with the Dodgers. Tonight, every player in baseball will wear No. 42 in Robinson’s honor, including ex-Yankee Robinson Cano, his namesake. Robbie and the Mariners are in town to begin a three-game weekend series this evening.

The Yankees dropped two of three to the Blue Jays earlier this week mostly because the offense hit a bump in the road. I mean, they held Toronto to 13 runs in three games, and four of the 13 came in that one inning against Ivan Nova. You’d like to win more than one of three when you keep the Jays in check like that. Anyway, here is the Mariners’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup for tonight’s opener:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. DH Dustin Ackley
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Chase Headley
    RHP Luis Severino

It’s going to be a bit chilly tonight, but man, the weather in New York is damn near perfect right now. Bright blue skies, no clouds, just outstanding weather for a ballgame. Tonight’s game will start a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

YES Update: Good news for you cord-cutters and folks stuck with Comcast: FOX regional sports affiliates, including YES, can now be streamed on Sling TV, according to Ahiza Garcia. It’s $20 a month — there’s a free seven-day trial — so it’s not free, but it’s not too pricey either. You will be able to stream Yankees games on YES, even if you’re in-market and a Comcast customer. Here’s the Sling TV link.

TiqIQ: Yankees Tickets Serving Up Excellent Value Through Remainder of April

After dropping two of three to the Blue Jays in Toronto this week, the Yankees will hope to right the ship with three straight series at home over the next 10 days. The Bombers set to host the Mariners, Athletics and Rays through April 25, and for those thinking of making the trip to the Stadium over the next three home series, plenty of deals are available for Yankees tickets on the primary market.

Robinson Cano will make his latest return to the Bronx when the Mariners visit the Bronx this weekend for a three-game set. Friday night and Saturday afternoon’s games will offer the best price points for fans looking to sit closer to the action, as 100-level seating for both games starts from $117.20 on Ticketmaster. Saturday afternoon’s game lists the cheapest 100-level seat for $133.50.

Friday’s game will offer the best price points for lower-level seating. According to resale aggregator TiqIQ, the get-in price for secondary market Yankees tickets in 100-level seating is $184 – 57% more expensive than on the primary market. If looking just to get in, the cheapest ticket during all three games with the Mariners is $27.80 on Ticketmaster.

The Yankees welcome the Athletics for three games between Tuesday, April 19 and Thursday, April 21. Unlike the preceding series against the Mariners, however, the secondary market will have the best ticket prices for all three games. Yankees tickets on TiqIQ start from just $5 in the 400-level section for Wednesday’s game, making it the cheapest game of the season at Yankee Stadium. 100-level tickets start from $86 on the secondary market across the entire three-game series.

Yankee Stadium will host its final series in April against the Rays between Friday, April 22, and Sunday, April 24. The three-game series will be highlighted by Babe Ruth bobblehead day on Saturday, where the first 18,000 fans will receive a miniature replica of the Sultan of Swat. 100-level seating for the matinee game will be cheaper on the secondary market, with the get-in price starting from $117.20. 100-level tickets on the secondary market start from $131 for Saturday’s game.

With a disappointing road trip now in the rearview, the Yankees will look to regain their footing over their next nine games in the Bronx. They managed to take two games from the Astros in their opening series last week, and did so in rather convincing fashion. The team’s first win of the season came in a 16-6 victory over Astros pitcher Collin McHugh and was quickly followed by an 8-5 win the following night.

Perhaps the Yankees’ greatest advantage over the next 10 days is the welcoming of similarly struggling teams. The Mariners, Athletics and Rays have combined for just a 10-18 record over the first two weeks of play. Whether the Yankees can take advantage of those slow starts remains to be seen, but one things remains clear – fans can find considerable deals for tickets to upcoming games through the end of the month both on the primary and secondary market.

Yankees call up Tyler Olson, option Luis Cessa to Triple-A

Olson. (Presswire)
Olson. (Presswire)

We have our first bullpen shuttle move of the season. Early today the Yankees announced they have called up left-hander Tyler Olson from Triple-A Scranton. Righty Luis Cessa was optioned down to clear a roster spot. Olson’s already on the 40-man roster, so no other move had to be made.

The Mariners are coming to town for a three-game series this weekend, and my guess is the Yankees want the extra lefty in the bullpen for matchup purposes. Seattle has six left-handed hitters in their regular lineup: Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Adam Lind, Seth Smith, Nori Aoki, and Leonys Martin. So yeah, the extra lefty makes sense.

Olson, 26, came over from the Dodgers with Ronald Torreyes in a minor trade over the winter. He was actually drafted and developed by the Mariners, so he’s going to face his former team this series. Olson has a 5.40 ERA (6.36 FIP) in 13.1 career big league innings, all with Seattle last season. He made their Opening Day roster out of camp.

The Yankees had Olson working as a starter with the RailRiders — he threw four innings and 69 pitches on Monday — so he’s pretty well stretched out if they need some length. Olson’s skill set is that of a pure left-on-left guy, however. He’s got a funky delivery, a mid-to-upper-80s fastball, and a sweepy breaking ball. Classic LOOGY stuff.

Cessa, 23, pitched well in Spring Training and won a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. He has made just one appearance (two innings) in the first eight games of the season, however. I imagine Cessa will go to Triple-A and work as a starter. He’s a starter by trade, after all. The Yankees picked him up in the Justin Wilson trade.

With Cessa optioned out, Ivan Nova is the only long man in the bullpen for the time being. Well, I guess they could run Olson out there for 3-4 innings if necessary, but hopefully it never comes to that.

4/15 to 4/17 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

Bob Cano. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Bob Cano. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Following that disappointment of a road trip, the Yankees are returning home today for a nine-game homestand. It begins this afternoon with the first of three against the Mariners. Seems like they’re seeing Seattle much earlier than usual, no? I can’t remember the last time the Mariners were in the Bronx in April. (I looked it up. It was 2014, but at the very end of the month.)

What Have They Done Lately?

The Mariners have lost six of their first nine games this season, and prior to winning their last game, they had lost five straight. They’ve been outscored by six runs in those nine games. Seattle has scored three runs or fewer in six of their nine games. The more things change, eh?

Offense & Defense

Seattle has scored 32 runs in their nine games, and they rank 12th out of the 30 clubs with a perfectly league average 100 wRC+. They’re completely healthy on offense too. No one on the DL and no one even day-to-day at the moment. I’m going to do this thing with the ZiPS projections one last time because the season is still young.

2016 Stats to Date 2016 ZiPS
C Chris Iannetta
5-for-22 (.227), 1 HR, 0 SB, 4 BB, 7 K .215/.333/.358 (98 wRC+), 9 HR, 1 SB
1B Adam Lind
2-for-21 (.095), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 8 K .253/.326/.392 (99 wRC+), 11 HR, 0 SB
2B Robinson Cano
7-for-37 (.187), 5 HR, 0 SB, 3 BB, 7 K .287/.345/.447 (118 wRC+), 19 HR, 5 SB
SS Ketel Marte
5-for-29 (.172), 0 HR, 0 SB, 2 BB, 7 K .263/.307/.359 (86 wRC+), 5 HR, 22 SB
3B Kyle Seager
5-for-33 (.152), 1 HR, 0 SB, 6 BB, 8 K .257/.326/.438 (112 wRC+), 22 HR, 7 SB
LF Nori Aoki
10-for-36 (.278), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 4 K .269/.328/.352 (93 wRC+), 5 HR, 13 SB
CF Leonys Martin
8-for-27 (.296), 1 HR, 1 SB, 3 BB, 10 K .249/.299/.372 (86 wRC+), 8 HR, 22 SB
RF Nelson Cruz
8-for-35 (.229), 2 HR, 0 SB, 4 BB, 4 K .263/.327/.494 (126 wRC+), 31 HR, 4 SB
DH Franklin Gutierrez
3-for-15 (.200), 0 HR, 0 SB, 3 BB, 6 K .238/.294/.417 (97 wRC+), 11 HR, 2 SB
BENCH
C Steve Clevenger
0-for-7 (.000), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 1 K .248/.300/.335 (77 wRC+), 4 HR, 0 SB
1B Dae-Ho Lee
3-for-13 (.231), 2 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 3 K N/A
IF Luis Sardinas
3-for-13 (.231), 2 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 3 K .235/.265/.295 (54 wRC+), 2 HR, 12 SB
OF Seth Smith
4-for-15 (.267), 1 HR, 0 SB, 5 BB, 3 K .245/.335/.414 (109 wRC+), 11 HR, 0 SB

Smith and Gutierrez actually platoon at DH. Why they’re not playing those two in right field and Cruz at DH, I’ll never understand. Seager enjoys hitting in Yankee Stadium. He’s 16-for-57 (.281) with four homers in 14 games in the big ballpark in the Bronx. I thought those numbers would be much better. Seager always seems to rake whenever the Mariners come to town.

Cano is off to a slow start in terms of batting average, but he already has five homers in nine games. Last year he didn’t hit his fifth homer until his 75th game. I’m telling you, Robbie’s going to have a huge year and finish in the top three of the MVP voting. Well, maybe not top three, the voting is weird as hell, but I think he’s going to have a monster bounceback season. He’s looked locked in since the start of camp.

New GM Jerry Dipoto focused on improving his team’s defense over the winter, though they remain a bit questionable overall. Cruz is a disaster in right and Lind/Lee is a DH at first base. The numbers do not love Cano at second, though after watching him all those years in New York, I’d be surprised if he’s suddenly bad there. Here is Sean Dolinar’s neat defensive visualization:

Mariners defense

I’m not sure I buy those numbers on Marte and Cano. Everything else passes the sniff test though. If anything, Seager is being underrated.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Nathan Karns (vs. NYY)
The Yankees saw a good bit of Karns last season, when he was with the Rays. Tampa traded the 28-year-old to the Mariners for Brad Miller and Logan Morrison — those two are a combined 4-for-58 (.069) so far this season — in the very first deal of the offseason. Karns had a 3.67 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 147 innings last season, though only his strikeout rate (23.4%) was above average. His walk (9.0%), grounder (41.8%), and homer (1.16 HR/9) numbers left something to be desired. He did have a negligible platoon split, however. Karns works with a 92-94 mph fastball, and his go-to offspeed offering is a low-80s power curve. He also throws a mid-80s changeup. Karns allowed four runs in five innings against the A’s last week, in his only start of the season to date.

Saturday (1pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (vs. NYY)
Well would you look at that, Felix Hernandez is going to pitch against the Yankees. That guy never seems to miss a series against the Yanks. Felix, 30, actually has his worst season in several years last year, pitching to a 3.53 ERA (3.72 FIP) in 201.2 innings. His peripherals — he had a 23.1 K%, 7.0 BB%, 57.2 GB%, and 1.03 HR/9 — were very good in the grand scheme of things, but they were also his worst rates in years. Hernandez, who managed to lose a one-hitter on Opening Day (lol Mariners, lol), might actually be declining a bit. He’s still great, obviously. But there are some signs of slippage. These days he operates with a sinker right around 90 mph, and an array of secondary stuff that includes an upper-80s changeup, a mid-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. When he’s on, Felix is as good as it gets. I don’t care how many possible signs of decline exist. This dude is tough.

Felix. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Felix. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Sunday (1pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (vs. NYY)
The 35-year-old Iwakuma seemed like a nice value free agent this past winter, but then the Mariners slapped the qualifying offer on him, and he failed his physical with the Dodgers, so that was that. Seattle took him back on a one-year contract with a pair of vesting options. Iwakuma had a 3.54 ERA (3.74 FIP) in 129.2 innings a year ago, and he did it with excellent walk (4.1%) and grounder (50.4%) rates. His strikeout rate (21.5%) was average, and his homer rate (1.25 HR/9) was very high considering he plays his home games in Safeco Field. Iwakuma has a small platoon split because his knockout mid-80s splitter is a true equalizer. He sets it up with upper-80s four-seamers and sinkers, and he’ll also mix in a few low-80s sliders and low-70s curves. Iwakuma is definitely not a power pitcher. He’s made two starts this year, allowing two runs in five innings and three runs in six innings, both against the Rangers.

Bullpen Status

Dipoto remade his bullpen over the winter, most notably trading away closer RHP Carson Smith (to the Red Sox for Wade Miley) and setup man RHP Danny Farquhar (to the Rays in the Karns deal). He filled in the gaps with some free agents and minor trades. Most notably, he dropped two years and $10M on ex-Marlins closer Steve Cishek, who was a reclamation project this offseason. Here are the bullpen.

2016 Stats to Date 2016 ZiPS
RHP Steve Cishek
5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K 3.50 ERA (3.14 FIP), 23.8 K%, 8.7 BB%
RHP Joaquin Benoit
2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K 3.28 ERA (3.73 FIP), 23.9 K%, 8.3 BB%
RHP Tony Zych
6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 K 3.51 ERA (3.23 FIP), 23.4 K%, 5.4 BB%
RHP Nick Vincent
5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K 3.22 ERA (3.07 FIP), 26.8 K%, 7.5 BB%
RHP Joel Peralta
4 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K 3.82 ERA (3.46 FIP), 24.0 K%, 6.0 BB%
LHP Mike Montgomery
5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K 4.63 ERA (4.43 FIP), 15.9 K%, 8.8 BB%
LHP Vidal Nuno
3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K 4.56 ERA (4.42 FIP), 19.2 K%, 5.9 BB%

The Mariners have yet to record a save this season. They’ve blown some saves, but they haven’t gotten a save yet. Cishek is the closer for the time being with Benoit setting him up. Zych is the young hard-throwing stud who everyone expects to be the future closer.

Neither Montgomery nor Nuno are a true left-on-left matchup guy. They’re both former starters who have been used as long men in the early going. Peralta spent all those years with the Rays, though his days of being an effective late-inning reliever are over. He turned 40 in March and gets by on guts and guile these days.

The Mariners had an off-day yesterday because they were traveling east from Seattle, so their bullpen is pretty fresh. Outside of Zych, there’s not much “wow” factor in this bullpen. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page. The ‘pen is in good shape heading into the series.

Yankeemetrics: Oh (no), Canada [April 12-14]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Blast + bloop = win
The Yankees struck first in their 19-game battle with the Blue Jays, grinding out a 3-2 win on Tuesday night. It also was their best run prevention game of the young season as it marked the first time in 2016 they held their opponent under four runs. The only other seasons in the last 65 years that the Yankees allowed four-or-more runs in each of their first five games were 1998 and 2007.

Brian McCann‘s hot bat fueled the come-from-behind win with a game-tying homer in the sixth inning. That was the 10th run he scored this season, joining Yogi Berra (1950) as the only Yankee catchers with than many runs scored through the team’s first six games.

Jacoby Ellsbury delivered the game-winner with an RBI bloop single in the seventh frame. He’s now already matched the number of go-ahead hits in the seventh inning or later that he had in the entire 2015 season. The last Yankee centerfielder with a tie-breaking hit in the seventh inning or later in Toronto was Bernie Williams on the final day of the 2004 season.

Masahiro Tanaka battled through five innings, and was dominant at times (six strikeouts) while also struggling to command his pitches (four walks).

tanaka vs blue jays

Despite his inefficiency, that effort continued a string of solid starts at the Rogers Centre for Tanaka. He’s now allowed no more than two earned runs and struck out at least six batters in three straight road outings against the Blue Jays. Just two other Yankee pitchers have done that: David Cone (1997-99) and Andy Pettitte (1996-98).

Super-Nova meltdown
Based on his implosion in Wednesday’s 7-2 loss, it seems like Ivan Nova is still trying to figure out this whole bullpen thing. After throwing four scoreless innings in his first relief appearance last week, Nova did a complete-180 and suffered through a disaster outing in his second try.

This was the damage: five hits, four runs, one wild pitch, one hit batter. Seems hard to cram all of that in one inning pitched, eh? Yup. Nova became the only Yankee pitcher since at least 1913 to plunk a guy, throw a wild pitch and give up at least five base-hits while getting three outs or fewer in a game.

Pineda’s results – three runs allowed (two earned) in six innings – were good, not great, but the most troubling takeaway was his three walks. The 27-year-old had never walked more than two batters in a Yankee uniform and his last appearance with three-plus walks was August 15, 2011 with the Seattle Mariners.

His streak of 41 straight starts with the Yankees allowing two walks or fewer was the longest by any pitcher in franchise history over the last 100 seasons. And his streak of 46 straight starts overall with no more than two walks was the seventh-longest by any major-league pitcher in that span.

A-Rod wasn’t the only Yankee to go hitless on the night, but his 0-fer performance might be the most notable — though it should have hardly been surprising given who was on the mound for Toronto. He is now 0-for-12 against Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ, his most at-bats (12) and plate appearances (15) without a hit against any pitcher he’s faced in his career.

Nate the Not-So-Great
So maybe the Yankees left their bats at border control. For the third time in this three-game series, the Yankees offense went into hibernation as they were held to two runs on three hits in the 4-2 loss. They are now 4-4 this season, and have scored a total of seven runs in their four losses compared to 35 runs in their four wins.

Nathan Eovaldi started strong, allowing just two hits and no runs the first two times through the Blue Jays order. Then it all fell apart. Five of the final 11 batters he faced reached base, tagging him for four runs on five hits (three doubles, two homers) before he was pulled in the seventh inning.

On the other hand, Eo-nigma (?) did strike out eight batters, his sixth straight start with seven-or-more punch outs dating back to August of last year. The only longer streaks in franchise history are by CC Sabathia (twice, in 2011 and 2009), Mike Mussina (2003) and Ron Guidry (1978).

Blue Jays designated hitter (and Yankee killer) Edwin Encarnacion also etched his name in the pinstriped record books. He’s now reached base safely in 26 straight games versus the Yankees, tied with Alex Rios (2006-08) for the best such mark by any Blue Jays hitter ever against the team.

Mailbag: Bench, Shuttle, Rest, Kaprielian, Eovaldi, Pineda

We’ve got 15 questions in the mailbag this week. That’s a lot. The RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address is the place to send us any comments or questions throughout the week. We’ll get to as many as we can.

Hicksie. (Leon Halip/Getty)
Hicks-ey. (Leon Halip/Getty)

Justin asks: Of the Yankee bench players who is most and least likely to make it all the way through the season on the 25 man?

Aaron Hicks and Austin Romine. Pretty easy calls, I think. The Yankees did not trade John Ryan Murphy only to give Hicks a leash of a few weeks or months. He’s here for the long haul and I think he’s going to see a lot more playing time in the coming days. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hicks start four of the nine games on the upcoming road trip.

As for Romine, he is simply keeping the backup catcher’s seat warm for Gary Sanchez. Out of everyone on the bench, he is the one who has to most look over his shoulder because a top prospect is breathing down his neck. It only takes 35 days in the minors to delay Sanchez’s free agency, though I wouldn’t be surprised if he spent the entire first half down there. At some point though I think Sanchez will be up and Romine will be gone.

Nathaniel asks: Not Yankees related, but have you seen John Gant’s funky delivery for the Braves? Is it legal and what are your thoughts?

I did see Gant’s delivery. Here’s the video for folks who have not seen it:

That is totally ridiculous and it seems like a lot of wasted effort, but hey, whatever works. It’s legal because he comes set before beginning his motion and he remains engaged with the rubber the entire time. Gant doesn’t do the double leg kick thing when men are on base. Only from the windup. It’s not a bad delivery, just different, and hey, it makes baseball a little more fun. I’m in favor of that.

Rubaiyat asks: When talking about innings limits, does postseason innings count as well? If the Yankees do go deep in the postseason, then Severino might bump up against the innings the Yankees are hoping he would reach. How would they go about it?

Of course. If anything postseason innings are more taxing than regular season innings because the intensity is ramped up. Those innings absolutely have to be considered. Brian Cashman has acknowledged the Yankees have some workload limit in mind for Luis Severino — he declined to say what it is — and I’m certain that includes the regular season and postseason. I could see them skipping a few Severino starts during the summer, then maybe going to a six-man rotation once rosters expand in September. I would be stunned if they shut him down Stephen Strasburg style. I don’t think any contending team will ever do that again.

Charlie asks: Why are pitchers on the shuttle between the minors and the bullpen considered “fresh arms?” I mean, sure, they haven’t played up at the Bigs yet (or recently), but I assume they are pitching down in the farm system up until they get the temporary call, and then again when they get sent back down. So what makes them fresher than anyone else in the bullpen? Is it just that they’re not facing the same caliber of players or are they rested more by minor league managers who know they are going to be called up as “fresh arms?”

When I say “fresh arm,” I mean someone who hasn’t pitched in a few days. The entire point of the shuttle is to send down a pitcher with a big recent workload and bring up a pitcher who has had the last few days off. Looking at our Bullpen Workload page, James Pazos would qualify as a “fresh arm” because he hasn’t pitched in two days. The Yankees would be able to use him today and tomorrow. They couldn’t do that with, say, Johnny Barbato, who just pitched last night. “Fresh arm” just means the guy hasn’t pitched much recently and is available to throw a lot of pitches right away.

Paul asks: With the plan to rest players already being seen in action, what do you think the approximate target for games played for each player is?

That’s a really good question and I’ve been trying to figure that out. How do these target numbers sound?

Brian McCann: 110 games (119 last year)
Mark Teixeira: 130 games (105 last year due to injury)
Chase Headley: 135 games (148 last year)
Brett Gardner: 130 games (140 last year)
Jacoby Ellsbury: 135 games (106 last year due to injury)
Carlos Beltran: 120 games (120 last year)
Alex Rodriguez: 120 games (135 last year)

Those are games started in the field, not total games played. (For A-Rod it’s game started at DH.) I could see the Yankees pushing Teixeira and Beltran a little harder because they’re impending free agents and they don’t really care about any long-term effects.

Do those target numbers sound good? Whatever the numbers are, I’m sure the Yankees will be flexible and adjust depending on how players are performing. If, say, Ellsbury is tearing the cover off the ball in August and the Yankees are in a tight race, those 135 games could become 145 games in a hurry.

Michael asks: In one of this week’s DotF, you noted that Gabe Encinas’s “prospect expiration date has passed.” Out of curiosity, does every prospect have a different expiration date in your mind or do you give every player (barring injuries) until, say, 23 years old to start figuring AA out? Are you ever surprised by late bloomers? Does Gabe have a chance to be one?

It’s different for every player because every player is different. A blanket “one size fits all” approach never works in baseball. You can’t say “you need to be in Double-A by age 22 or you’re behind schedule.” No. Doesn’t work like that. For a guy like Encinas, who has a huge fastball but questionable secondary stuff and command, the fourth year in Single-A pretty much confirms it’s just not happening like you hoped.

As for late bloomers, you’re always aware it’s possible because the player has talent. There’s a reason he was drafted and given the opportunity to play professional baseball. The natural ability is there and yes, sometimes it takes guys a little longer. Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom were late bloomers. They didn’t establish themselves at the MLB level until they were close to 27. Encinas has a chance to do that — he’s going to continue to get opportunities because he throws hard — the same way any prospect has a chance to figure out it late.

Ackley-ey. (Stacy Revere/Getty)
Ackley-ey. (Stacy Revere/Getty)

Mike asks: Given that Ackley’s arm isn’t strong enough for him to play third, how did he manage to play a couple innings in right field for Seattle last year? Did Seattle have an outfielder with even less arm in left? Is Ackley a viable backup right fielder for New York, or purely LF/1B/2B?

The short answer: the Mariners. Who knows why they do things. They’re currently playing Nelson Cruz in right field and Franklin Gutierrez at DH. I don’t get it either. Besides, it’s not like Dustin Ackley played a ton of right field last year. He played two innings across two games. The first time he replaced Cruz in right in a blowout, and the other time he started the game in left, then slid over to right because Rickie Weeks had pinch-hit for Seth Smith, and Weeks had only worked out in left field after spending most of his career at second. The Yankees could run Ackley out to right field if necessary, but Hicks is clearly the No. 1 option there.

Frank asks: I’m not sure if this a dumb question, but since there are a lot if SS prospects in the organization, can the Yanks FO move some of the players back and forth from a minor league club to another? For example, can Wade be moved to AAA for 2 weeks or so then Mateo fill in at AA, and subsequently Holder would get a taste of High A. This way the prospects would get a taste of each level. Or is this just too complicated?

There’s no reason they couldn’t move players around. There’s no limit to the number of transactions a team can make or anything like that. Clubs usually don’t move prospects around until they meet development goals, however. That’s why guys will spend a full season at a level even though they’re hitting something like .330. The team wants the player to work on certain things, and they promote them when they feel they’ve met those goals. Promotions are a “reward” for development, not necessarily good numbers. You won’t see teams move prospects around just to give a player a little taste of a different level for the heck of it.

Vidhath asks: Just found out that Jaron Long was released. Seemed a bit surprising to me, since he was relatively young and made it to AAA for the first time after a steady climb. Was his stuff that bad that they thought he wouldn’t have a chance in the majors?

That’s exactly what it was. He lacks stuff. Baseball Prospectus (no subs. req’d) got a look at Long in 2014, and he topped out at 88 with below average curves and changeups. “Long does not have the stuff to pitch in the majors. His below-average FB and CH lack the necessary impact to provide any value as more than an org filler or desperation call-up,” said the write-up. I remember seeing him in a Spring Training game last year and thinking the same thing. He didn’t even have one worthwhile pitch. The stats would lead you to believe Long could help at some point, but once you see him in action, you realize the limitations. Matt DeSalvo was the same way back in the day.

Samuel asks: We hear Rumbelow is being stretched out and then first game it’s attempted he needs TJ. Is there a connection at all or am I grasping at straws?

I don’t think there’s a connection. Nick Rumbelow didn’t even get a chance to really stretch out. He got hurt warming up for his second inning of the regular season. Multiple inning appearances were not new to him — Rumbelow got four or more outs 21 times last year — so it’s not like he was being pushed into uncharted territory. If he had gotten hurt in the middle of his fifth inning or something like that, then yeah, there might be a connection. This just seems like one of those things. Elbow ligaments snap. It happens.

Vince asks: there has been a lot of speculation that the yankees will let chapman walk w/o even trying to keep him. why would they trade for him if thats the case? its not like they were just a closer away from winning it all.

Because he can help them win this year. The “they are not a closer away from winning it all” logic is silly because you can apply that to any transaction ever. Why trade for Starlin Castro when they are not a second baseman away? Why would the Red Sox sign David Price when they aren’t a starter away? It’s a team sport and you need to build the puzzle. Aroldis Chapman is a piece of that puzzle. A very good piece of that puzzle. Simply put, the Yankees are a much better team with Chapman on the roster. No, he may not be the piece that gets them over the top, but he moves them closer to the finish line.

Didi-ey. (Stacy Revere/Getty)
Didi-ey. (Stacy Revere/Getty)

Marc asks: True or false: Yankees could potentially have the best defensive infield in baseball.

Eh, I’ll say false. They do have an above-average defensive infield, though I think Castro is still a little rough around the edges at second, and by time he figures that out, Teixeira will probably be gone. If Starlin makes big strides in the first half, then yeah, the Yankees might have the best defensive infield in the game down the stretch. Who are the other candidates? The Royals and Giants for sure. The Rockies and Marlins are sneaky good too. For now, I’ll say the Yankees have a top ten defensive infield but not top five. Castro’s inexperience is the only major drawback now that Headley seems to have remembered how to throw.

Eric asks: Do you think a combination of the injuries suffered recently (Rumbelow, Mitchell) and potential success by relievers like Kirby Yates and Johnny Barbato change the bullpen shuttle plan in any fundamental way? It seemed like last year the shuttle was used to such an extreme due to depth and lack of a player emerging from the herd of young relievers. Maybe we only see it this year if the bullpen is extremely taxed.

Success by Barbato and Yates would change the shuttle dynamic more than the injuries, I think. The idea of shuttling out relievers and always having a fresh arm or two is great, but ultimately the Yankees are going to go with the roster that gives them the best chance to win. If Barbato emerges as someone worth keeping around — I’m much more confident in him doing so than Yates — then the Yankees will keep him around. None of the shuttle guys did that last year. The injuries to Rumbelow and Bryan Mitchell stink, but that’s why you build depth. If anything the personnel has changed as a result of the injuries, not the plan.

Chris asks: Hi Mike, I just finished reading your draft thoughts and then read your post prior to the 2015 about James Kaprielian. To sum up, it seems that despite the polish, it was thought he did not have a lot of upside. Now that Kap has been able to maintain more zip on the fastball, do you still feel that he does not have a lot of upside, with the exception of potentially being a fast mover through the system? Or has he changed your opinion? It seems to me that with the sustained increase in velocity, on top of the polish, that he could potentially exceed those expectations from spring of 2015. Your thoughts?

The extra velocity definitely changes his ceiling. He went from 89-91 as a sophomore to 91-93 as a junior to 93-95 as a pro. That’s a huge jump. I want to see Kaprielian sustain it throughout the summer before fully buying in, but this is definitely encouraging. Before the velocity bump he was considered more of a mid-rotation starter. With the extra velocity, Kaprielian has a chance to pitch closer to the front of the rotation. Maybe not a true ace, but more of a No. 2 than a No. 3. Like I said, I want to see him hold the velocity a little longer before we start rewriting scouting reports, but this is definitely a positive sign. It’s not often a college starter shows up in pro ball and adds velocity. If anything, the opposite usual happens because they go from starting once a week to once every five days.

David asks: Gun to your head do you extend big mike or nasty nate today assuming they want a similar deal. Both seem doomed to meet their respective ceiling. Mike has the more recent injury history but also better success. Nate seems more durable but could end up in the pen.

My head says Nathan Eovaldi, my heart says Michael Pineda. I think Pineda has a better chance to pitch at an above-average clip long-term, but I also think he’s a much bigger risk because of his shoulder surgery. Eovaldi is so far removed from his Tommy John surgery — it’s been nine years now — that I don’t think his risk of a second Tommy John surgery is considerably higher than Pineda’s risk of a first Tommy John surgery. The new ligament has held up under all those triple digit fastballs. I would have to go with Eovaldi over Pineda because of health. If you want to go with Pineda over Eovaldi, I wouldn’t argue much. I think there’s a good case to be made for both guys.

Donaldson’s long ball sinks the Yanks 4-2 in the series finale

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

In a matchup of young starters, Marcus Stroman and the Blue Jays came up victorious. Nathan Eovaldi showed flashes of brilliance early on, locating his fastball well and his secondary pitches fooled hitters, but a few mistakes to good hitters proved costly as he came away as the loser. With the exception of the fourth inning, the Yankee bats went mostly silent against Stroman, and New York dropped the series finale in the Rogers Centre.

Grounderfest in the Six

Marcus Stroman, only 24 years-old, is the Blue Jays ace and he will give Yankees fits for a long time. He can cut, sink, locate, etc., basically a lot of things you want from a pitcher. He also seems to be friendly with the 6 God so that’s pretty neat. Earlier today, the Phillies’ Vincent Velazquez struck out 16 in a C GSHO. Stroman mowed down the batters in a different way: weak contact.

The Yankees rallied to score a couple in the fourth. A-Rod got hit by the pitch and Mark Teixeira dunked a single to right. With one out, runners on first and second, Brian McCann hit a grounder to Ryan Goins, but the second baseman couldn’t handle it, loading the bases. With the count full, Carlos Beltran hit a grounder that he just beat out to avoid a double play. Also, the run scored and New York took a 1-0 lead.

They weren’t done scoring. Stroman walked Chase Headley to load the bases again, bringing up Starlin Castro. During the Castro at-bat, Stroman threw a sinker way low and Russell Martin – who was brilliant with blocking low pitches all series – let it pass towards the side for a wild pitch. 2-0 Yanks.

That was about the only blemish in Stroman’s outing. After walking Jacoby Ellsbury in the fifth, he did not allow a baserunner, retiring 11 straight batters until the end of his outing. Did I mention how efficient his pitching was? Stroman had a 17-2 GB/FB ratio, which is pretty darn neat. He pitched eight full innings and threw 98 pitches (66 for strikes). New York’s woes in RISP situations continued as well, as the lineup went 1-for-5 in scoring chances.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Temporarily Nasty Nate

Eovaldi had his splitter working tonight – at least early on. For the first four innings, he was the pitcher that many envisioned to be – a power guy with deadly secondary stuff.

For the first four innings, Eovaldi struck out five – all of them on breaking pitches (four splitters and a slider). His fastball worked pretty well to set the knockout secondary pitches up, which is pretty much a recipe for success for most ML pitchers. It was reminiscent of a lot of his outings during his hot second-half stretch in last season.

Boom (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The bottom of fifth was a different story. With two outs and runner on, Kevin Pillar hit a double that put runners on second and third. Next up: Josh Donaldson. The reigning AL MVP tends to punish mistakes. Eovaldi hung a splitter up the zone and Donaldson did not miss any of it. He crushed it into the center field second deck for a 3-2 Jays lead – a sight that you’ll see in multiple end-of-the-year highlights for sure. 89 mph in, 111 mph out. Eovaldi hung another meatball up the zone the next inning. He threw a slider up the zone that Troy Tulowitzki didn’t miss for a solo homer. 4-2 Jays.

He entered the seventh inning, got two outs, but surrendered another XBH to Donaldson – a double. Joe Girardi pulled Eovaldi out of the game, ending an enigmatic start. Eovaldi’s line: 6.2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 K’s. The strikeout numbers are nice but the homework for Nasty Nate is to allow less mistake pitches.

Rest of the Game

Johnny Barbato relieved Eovaldi in the seventh and got out of it. He also pitched a scoreless bottom of the eighth. Overall, he picked up two strikeouts in 1.1 IP, bringing season totals to 4.2 IP with 7 K’s and 0.00 ERA. He may not be pitching in a glamorous role now (at least for this season, with Dellin BetancesAndrew MillerAroldis Chapman in back of the bullpen) but he’s slowly earning brownie points. As Mike pointed out earlier, he’s looking more like a keeper in the roster.

In the ninth, the Jays put in 21-year-old Roberto Osuna to close out the game and he was brilliant, retiring all three Yankee hitters for a save. 4-2 Toronto victory.

Leftovers

The four-five-six hitters of the Yankee lineup had a hit each. The rest? 0-for-18 with two walks and a HBP. It’s not what you want. A-Rod’s slow start worsened with his 0-for-3 performance, lowering his season avg. to .120 (.507 OPS).

Box Score, WPA, Highlights and Updated Standings

Here’s tonight’s box score, highlights, WPA and updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees come back home tomorrow and start a series versus the Mariners for this weekend. I’ll be at the Sunday game, excited to see Robbie Cano back in Bronx and hopefully much nicer weather than the opening series!