During a conference call this afternoon, Brian Cashman confirmed rehabbing right-hander Michael Pineda showed mid-90s velocity during an Extended Spring Training game today. “He pitched at 93 and was up to 95,” said the GM. “A good physical day.”
Two important pieces of news here: One, Pineda is pitching in actual games. ExST doesn’t start his official 30-day rehab window, but it shows he’s graduated from live batting practice and simulated games to real live games. Two, holy crap velocity. Pineda is one year and one day out from shoulder surgery, and he’s showing similar heat to the 94.2 mph he averaged with the Mariners in 2011. Overwhelmingly good news even if his return is nowhere close to imminent. · (46) ·
David Robertson is day-to-day with “crankiness” in his left hamstring, Brian Cashman confirmed. He had an MRI today and it is not a DL situation.
Robertson, 28, limped off the field last night after apparently catching a spike during the follow through of his final pitch. He said afterwards he was fine, but the team send him for tests anyway. Robertson has pitched well this year (3.86 ERA, 3.54 FIP), and with Joba Chamberlain hitting the DL, the Yankees really can’t afford to lose their primary setup man. · (23) ·
3:38pm: Brian Cashman confirmed Joba suffered the injury warming up on Tuesday. He called it a “mild” strain, for what it’s worth. A decision has not been made about who will be called up, but it definitely will not be Clay Rapada or Chien-Ming Wang according to the GM. Rapada can be called back up to the big leagues starting tomorrow.
2:44pm: The Yankees have placed right-hander Joba Chamberlain on the 15-day DL with a right oblique strain, the team announced. The DL stint is retroactive to April 28th, so he is eligible to return in a week and four days. Obliques are tricky though, he could easily be out longer. David Robertson missed a month with an oblique issue last year, for example.
Joba, 27, warmed up on Tuesday but did not appear in the game, as our Bullpen Workload page shows. I guess that’s when it happened. He pitched in three straight games last weekend and there was no indication he was hurt. No word on who will take his place on the roster just yet, but Cody Eppley seems like a safe bet. Joba has pitched pretty well this year (3.86 ERA and 3.45 FIP), especially of late. Shawn Kelley seems likely to assume seventh inning duties along with Boone Logan. · (59) ·
The Yankees handled most of their offseason pitching business back in November, when they re-signed the veteran trio of Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda. With David Phelps set to serve as the sixth starter and Michael Pineda on his way back from shoulder surgery, the team had some depth. They did, however, spend some time looking for a veteran seventh starter type to stash in Triple-A, just someone to have around in case all hell broke loose. It wasn’t a huge priority, but it was definitely an item on the agenda.
It wasn’t until late-March, near the very end of Spring Training that the Yankees found their seventh starter. They signed former ace Chien-Ming Wang to a minor league contract after his solid showing in the World Baseball Classic and impressive private workouts for the team in Tampa. The sinkerballer has since made three starts for Triple-A Scranton (0.95 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 59% grounders) and declined to use the first opt-out clause in his contract earlier this week. The next opt-out date is a little less than a month away.
Wang, 33, is nowhere near the pitcher he was during his 2005-2008 heyday with the Yankees. Injuries, most notably surgery for a torn shoulder capsule in 2009, have sapped some heat from his trademark sinker, which used to regularly sit in the 93-96 mph range. Reports from his last Triple-A start indicate he touched the 90-91 mph, which is a step up from where he was in his first two outings. The television gun during the WBC in March had him right around 90 mph, but TV guns are not to be trusted.
“(It was a) cold night, but his fastball velocity was only 87-88, with some sink … Not the Wang of old. Threw strikes, but not impressive for me,” said one scout who had seen CMW recently to Andy Martino. Torn capsules are no joke, no one has ever come back from one and had the same kind of success they had before the injury. That’s a list of pitchers that includes Mark Prior, John Maine, Johan Santana, and Rich Harden.
Despite all of that, I find myself cautiously optimistic about Wang’s ability to contribute to the big league team at some point this year. I’m certain that feeling is mostly nostalgia-driven, but he did somewhat resemble the CMW of old during the WBC — thanks to the plethora of quick ground ball outs — and is showing decent velocity in the upper levels of the minors. I’m not sure what more we could ask for at this point.
The Yankees have some questions at the back of the rotation right now thanks to Ivan Nova‘s triceps and the general uncertainty surrounding David Phelps and Vidal Nuno. Add in Andy Pettitte’s and Phil Hughes‘ recent back trouble, and it’s not a stretch to think the team may have to call on Wang at some point this summer. Will he show enough to earn that shot, and furthermore, will he stick around long enough to take advantage of it? If he continues to pitch well in Triple-A and settles into that 90-91 mph consistently, I have to think some teams will come calling with big league offers when that next opt-out date comes around in a few weeks.
Something about Wang being back healthy and back in the organization makes me irrationally happy. Irrationally happy and hopeful. I know he’s so very unlikely to help the team in a meaningful way this year — he hasn’t been an effective big leaguer since hurting his foot in 2008, remember — but the fan in me wants to see him and that sinker in pinstripes having success. At the same time, I know that if Wang does resurface in the Bronx, it’s because something will have gone wrong elsewhere on the pitching staff. CMW is pitching well enough and showing encouraging velocity in Triple-A right now, and as tough as it is, we have to be careful not to get our hopes up too much.
Via Josh Norris: Right-hander Jose Campos confirmed he missed most of last season with a small fracture in his elbow. The injury was originally described as some kind of sprain or bone bruise. Obviously it was more serious than that. Despite the injury, I ranked him as the team’s seventh best prospect before the season.
Campos, 20, told Norris he feels he’s 90% of the way back to being where he was before the injury, when he was arguably the most electric pitching prospect in the system. That remaining 10% is mechanical refinements, he said. Campos made just five starts (4.01 ERA, 3.24 FIP in 24.2 innings) before getting hurt last year. He’s been limited to three-inning outings early in 2013, pitching to a 6.00 ERA (5.37 FIP) in 12 innings for Low-A Charleston. · (15) ·
No team has been more beset by injuries this year than the Yankees. They’ve used the DL ten times already, the most in the big leagues. Some injuries are more serious than others, and some absences are more noticeable than others. Still, ten players on the DL one month into the season is a little extreme.
With a lineup that is averaging just four runs per game since the blowout Indians series (team 106 wRC+ overall), it’s clear the offense doesn’t pack as much punch as it once did. The Yankees can’t hit lefties at all — .225/.300/.365 (78 wRC+) as a team — and the injuries are a major reason why. The pitching staff has been pretty awesome (4.22 runs per game, 3.64 FIP), and that’s why the club owns the second best record in baseball at 17-10.
Some of those injured players are getting closer to a return, and a month gives us a good enough to look to determine which guy the Yankees have missed the most. With all due to respect to Kevin Youkilis, Ivan Nova, and Frankie Cervelli, this is limited to players who started the season on the DL and would have unquestionably made the 25-man roster if healthy. That means no Michael Pineda and Cesar Cabral, basically, and it leaves us with four prominent position players.
The Yankees lost their top power hitter five pitches into his Grapefruit League season, when an errant J.A. Happ pitch broke Granderson’s forearm and put him on the DL for more than two months. Curtis played in his first Extended Spring Training game just yesterday, getting two at-bats before it started raining. The Yankees have hit an MLB-best 38 homers this season, so they haven’t been the powerless punch and judy offense so many (including me) expected. Still, losing a legitimate 40-homer hitter is a blow to any team.
October ankle surgery turned into an April setback, which will force the Cap’n to the sidelines until the All-Star break. Jeter hit .316/.362/.429 (117 wRC+) last season and that’s close to impossible to replace at the shortstop position – the team’s shortstops are currently hitting .214/.289/.264 (52 wRC+) – but the Yankees especially miss his right-handed bat against lefty pitchers. He hit .364/.399/.542 (157 wRC+) against southpaws in 2012, and boy would that fit nicely atop the lineup these days.
The Bombers knew about A-Rod‘s hip injury in December, so they were able to secure a more than capable replacement in Youkilis. That said, the old and broken down version of A-Rod produced more in 2012 (.272/.353/.430, 114 wRC+) than the totally awesome and rejuvenated version of Youkilis in 2013 (.266/.347/.422, 108 wRC+). The difference is especially noticeable against lefties, where A-Rod massively outproduced his third base replacement (152 vs. -40 wRC+). Rodriguez’s right-handed bat would fit perfectly into the middle of the lineup, especially against southpaws.
Teixeira hurt his wrist in mid-May while with preparing for the World Baseball Classic with Team USA, so the Yankees didn’t have much time to find a replacement. Lyle Overbay has been decent overall (98 wRC+) and much more than that against righties (.322/.375/.610, 163 wRC+), but he’s also been useless against lefties (-63 wRC+). Despite his decline, Teixeira was very productive last year (.251/.332/.475, 116 wRC+), especially against lefties (.269/.333/.531, 129 wRC+). Once again, that ability to mash southpaws is something the Yankees miss in a big way right now.
* * *
Four players who, in recent years, occupied the top four spots in the lineup. All are missed in their own way, but some are definitely missed more than others.
This three-game series against the Astros was a lot more difficult than it needed to be. The first game was a blowout loss while the two wins that followed were both unnecessarily close. Wednesday’s final was 5-4 in favor of the good guys.
Great Start, Bad Finish
In a not-so-shocking turn of events, David Phelps really struggled once the lineup turned over. Coming into Wednesday’s start, opponents posted a 96 OPS+ (2.76 K/BB) against Phelps the first time they faced him in a game and a 105 OPS+ (2.24 K/BB) each time thereafter during his young career. The Astros went 1-for-9 against the New York starter the first time through the lineup on Wednesday before locking in and going 7-for-13 with a walk for the duration of his outing. That’s an extreme case of struggling after the lineup turns over, but it’s not uncommon for the right-hander.
Those struggles led to Phelps blowing a four-run lead in the fourth inning, a rally that included a bases loaded hit-by-pitch and two run-scoring balls that didn’t leave the infield (infield single, fielder’s choice). Only one of the nine Astros to bat in the inning saw a hitter-friendly 2-0 or 3-1 count while three of the seven base-runners reached in two-strike counts, so Phelps was getting ahead but failing to put guys away. Four runs in 5.2 innings from the sixth starter is fine, but I do think the Yankees should at least consider starting Vidal Nuno the next time this rotation spot comes around. Barring something unexpected, I expect them to continue to run Phelps out there as Ivan Nova‘s replacement though.
The game remained knotted up at four until the sixth inning, when the Yankees weirdly manufactured a run. It all started with an Eduardo Nunez double into the left field corner, and a pitch later he was at third base thanks to a wild pitch. Lyle Overbay walked to put men on the corners.
Contact and speed-machine Ichiro Suzuki was the plate with one out, so the chances of an inning-ending double play was basically zero. The inning did indeed end on a double play though, but not before the run came around to score. The slow grounder to second allowed Overbay to get caught in a run down long enough for Nunez to trot in home well before the tag was applied for the final out. Not exactly a conventional way of producing a run, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Of course, Phelps couldn’t blow a four-run lead if the offense hadn’t actually scored four runs first. They were all over starter Erik Bedard, plating one run in the first (Jayson Nix single), one run in the second (Chris Stewart sac fly), and two runs in the third (Robinson Cano and Ben Francisco solo homers). Bedard put ten men on-base in four innings of work and the left a pair of runners on-base in both the second and fourth innings. They had opportunities to put this one to bed super early.
It took a month, but Brett Gardner finally has more stolen bases (four) than homers (three). He swiped both second and third base in the eighth inning, but the Yankees were unable to push across an insurance run. Not coincidentally, Joe Girardi let Stewart bat in an obvious pinch-hitting situation only to watch him make an unproductive out. He grounded to third with the infield in and men on the corners with one out, two innings after striking out on three pitches with men on the corners and no outs. There are lefty bats on the bench for a reason, you know.
Ichiro was the only Yankee with multiple hits (triple and single), but Nix (single and a walk), Francisco (homer and a walk), Nunez (double and a walk), and Overbay (double and two walks) all reached base multiple times as well. The 3-4-5 combination of Cano (homer), Vernon Wells (single), and Travis Hafner (walk) each reached base once. Stewart was the only player who failed to get on-base.
Big ups to the bullpen. Boone Logan cleaned up Phelps’ sixth inning mess before tacking on a scoreless seventh, then David Robertson and Mariano Rivera did their thing to record the final six outs. The three relievers combined to allow two singles — both runners were erased on double plays — while striking out four in 3.1 innings. Great job both those three.
Robertson appeared to roll his left ankle on his final pitch — he limped off the field — but after the game he said he tweaked something in his left knee. He got some treatment following the game and is fine. Exhale.
The Yankees have an off-day on Thursday, their first in 16 days. That dates back to before the start of the Diamondbacks series. The Athletics are coming to the Bronx for a three-game weekend set starting Friday night, and the series-opening pitching matchup will be CC Sabathia against right-hander A.J. Griffin. RAB Tickets is the place to go for the latest deals on tickets for that series.
The Yankees are in desperate need of infield help these days due to injury problems (and bad timing), so on Wednesday they added some depth by acquiring Chris Nelson from the Rockies for cash or a player to be named later. Frankie Cervelli has been transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot, and I assume Corban Joseph will be sent back to Triple-A to clear a 25-man roster spot.
Nelson, 27, was designated for assignment by Colorado last weekend. The Yankees had interest in him both at that time and during the Winter Meetings in December. He hit .242/.282/.318 (51 wRC+) in 71 plate appearances before the Rockies took him off the roster, but just last year he hit .301/.352/.458 (105 wRC+) in 377 plate appearances. Nelson is a career .279/.322/.416 (86 wRC+) hitter in parts of four big league seasons, and the right-handed bat doesn’t have a massive left/road (84/87 wRC+) or home/road (97/72) split.
Although Baseball America ranked him as the 26th best prospect in the game as a shortstop in 2005, Nelson is mostly a second and third baseman these days. He can fill-in at short in a real pinch, but otherwise the defensive metrics rate him as average or a tick below. He doesn’t steal or run the bases particularly well either. Nelson is out of minor league options — he can’t be sent to Triple-A without first passing through waivers — and there really isn’t anything about his game that stands out.
The Yankees just need a warm body on the infield for the time being, and Nelson is exactly that. He fits the roster better than Joseph because he’s a righty bat and can actually play third base. More than likely, he’s just a two-week stopgap until Kevin Youkilis is ready to be activated off the DL. It might even be shorter than that if the team is planning to give Ronnie Mustelier a shot as soon as he finished rehabbing from his bone bruise. New York needed infield depth and that’s what they got, nothing more. Nelson’s a band-aid.
According to Joe Girardi, UTIL Ronnie Mustelier (bruise) will return to Triple-A Scranton and play tomorrow. He’s been playing rehab games in Extended Spring Training and was supposed to play for High-A Tampa yesterday before it rained. Mustelier could (should) be a big league option after getting a few days work of at-bats just to get up to speed.
Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off-day.
Double-A Trenton (2-1 loss to New Hampshire)
- LF Ramon Flores: 0-3, 1 BB — eight walks and seven strikeouts in his last six games
- DH Tyler Austin: 2-3, 1 HBP – had been in a little 3-for-15 (.200) slump
- C J.R. Murphy: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 E (missed catch)
- CF Slade Heathcott: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB – threw a runner out at the plate
- RHP Jose Ramirez: 5 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HB, 5/2 GB/FB – 51 of 76 pitches were strikes (67%) … first start of the year and it was a dandy
- RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 12 of 18 pitches were strikes
The Yankees and Astros have split the first two games of this three-game set, so New York needs s win tonight to avoid what would be an undeniably disappointing series loss to the worst team in the league. Tomorrow is an off-day, and off-days are always better when they following wins.
Because tomorrow is an off-day, the entire bullpen should be ready to go behind David Phelps, who is making his first start in place of the injured Ivan Nova. Something like ten pitchers have already set a career-high in strikeouts against Houston this year, so can Phelps top the nine whiffs he recorded against the Blue Jays five days ago? I’ll settle for two or fewer runs instead. Here’s the lineup that will face veteran left-hander Erik Bedard…
- CF Ichiro Suzuki
- 3B Jayson Nix
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Vernon Wells
- DH Travis Hafner
- RF Ben Francisco
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- C Chris Stewart
And on the mound is the 2005 Missouri High School All-State MVP, David Phelps.
Yet another gorgeous night in New York. The game is scheduled to start at 7:05pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy.
Mark Teixeira Update: Teixeira (wrist) hit in the batting cage today for the first time since suffering his wrist injury. Joe Girardi said he was still limited to dry swings, but Teixeira confirmed he was actually hitting baseballs on Twitter.