Now this was a game that made staying up late worth it. The Yankees very nearly shut the Mariners out on Wednesday before Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer in the ninth (his first in Seattle as a Mariner!), so they had to settle for a 4-2 win instead. I’ll take it. Let’s recap the team’s second straight win:
- Cy Tanaka: We’ve seen Masahiro Tanaka be very good this season, but I think this was his best outing of the year. My favorite part was when the Mariners were sitting on the splitter the second and third through the order, so Tanaka started painting the corners with fastballs for called strikes. It was awesome. The Cano homer ruined the shutout, but otherwise Tanaka still held Seattle to six scattered hits in his second complete game of the season, striking out eleven and walking one. The Mariners had one batter reach third base before the dinger, and that was in the eighth inning. Ain’t even mad about the homer. This guy is amazing. Just a brilliant performance.
- Three Runs, One Swing: Jacoby Ellsbury singled in the Yankees’ first run in the third inning, but the big blow came in the fifth, when Mark Teixeira went down and golfed a pitch out to right-center for a three-run homer. The three runs felt like 30 with a) the way Tanaka was pitching, and b) the way things have been going for the offense lately. Brian Roberts (single) and Brett Gardner (walk) set up the first rally, Gardner (single) and Ellsbury (single) the second.
- Leftovers: Gardner, Derek Jeter, and Ellsbury had two hits apiece. The top four hitters in the lineup went a combined 6-for-16 (.375) while the rest went 4-for-20 (.200) … Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 15 games … Jeter stole two bases for the first time since September 2009 and only the second time since August 2006 … for exactly one batter in the ninth inning, Tanaka led all of baseball in ERA. That was before the homer. He still has an excellent 2.02 ERA. That’ll do just fine.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees will look to wrap up their first sweep of a three-game series this season when Chase Whitley and Roenis Elias square off on Thursday night. Their only sweep this year was a two-gamer over the Cubs at Yankee Stadium back in April.
According to Andrew Marden, Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole says OF Aaron Judge will be promoted to High-A Tampa after the Low-A South Atlantic League All-Star Game next week. Judge played for Batesole in college, but still, take that with a grain of salt. It passes the sniff test though.
Double-A Trenton (10-4 loss to Richmond)
- CF Mason Williams: 2-5, 1 R, 1 K — his bat is starting to come around a bit
- 1B Frankie Cervelli: 0-2, 1 R, 2 BB — played seven innings at first as the Yankees try to improve his versatility before he comes off the DL next week
- LF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
- C Peter O’Brien: 0-3, 1 BB– C Gary Sanchez was supposed to start behind the plate, but he was a late scratch for disciplinary reasons according to Nick Peruffo
- RF Tyler Austin: 0-4, 3 K
- LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, zeroes, 5 K, 1 WP, 1/0 GB/FB — 23 of 36 pitches were strikes (64%) … 47/11 K/BB in 32.1 innings
It’s the best day of the week. Masahiro Tanaka is on the mound for the Yankees tonight, in the middle game of their three-game series against the Mariners. The Yankees won last night, and when you’re trying to start a winning streak, there is no one better to give the ball to than your ace. Assuming he is a real ace, of course. Two runs might actually be enough when Tanaka is on the mound, though I hope the offense gives him a bigger cushion. Here is the Mariners lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- DH Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Brian Roberts
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
It is, surprise surprise, cloudy and cool in Seattle. There is no rain in the forecast and, even if there was, Safeco Field has a retractable roof. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 10pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.
Notes: Carlos Beltran (elbow) played light catch for the first time since the bone spur in his elbow started acting up, as expected … Shawn Kelley (back) has been activated off the disabled list and Matt Daley was sent down to Triple-A … David Huff was acquired from the Giants for cash and Wade LeBlanc was designated for assignment. Huff is available tonight.
The Yankees are still out on the West Coast for another few days, so the regular game thread will be along in a couple hours. Use this as your open thread in the meantime. The Mets are playing, ESPN is airing the Red Sox and Orioles, and the (hockey) Rangers will try to avoid being swept in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Finals. Talk about those games or anything else right here.
Another day, another new long man. The Yankees have re-acquired David Huff from the Giants and designated Wade LeBlanc for assignment. They swapped the French David Huff for the real David Huff. Go figure. They traded Huff to the Giants for cash over the winter. He will be in uniform tonight.
Huff, 29, had a 6.30 ERA (4.33 FIP) in 20 innings for San Francisco this year. They designated him for assignment the other day, so I’m guessing this was either a straight waiver claim or cash trade. Huff had a 4.67 ERA (4.95 FIP) in 34.2 innings for New York late last season, as I’m sure you remember. This move is about trying to get some better production out of the long man spot, that’s all. · (25) ·
As expected, the Yankees have activated righty Shawn Kelley off the 15-day DL, the team announced. He missed about a month with a back problem. Fellow righty Matt Daley was optioned to Triple-A Scranton to clear a roster spot. Jose Ramirez remains with the team and figures to get a long look in a middle relief role in the coming weeks. · (4) ·
In case you missed it yesterday, Mississippi State LHP Jacob Lindgren (second round) is traveling to Tampa to take his physical tomorrow, which is a pretty strong indication the Yankees have a deal worked out with their top pick in last week’s draft. The team has also reportedly agreed to a contract with Connecticut HS RHP Austin DeCarr (third round) for double slot money, or roughly $1.17M. He is also on his way to Tampa for a physical.
The signing deadline is Friday, July 18th. You can see all of New York’s draft picks at Baseball America and keep tabs on the draft pool situation with our 2014 Draft Pool Tracker. It is available at all times under the Resources tab, underneath the street sign in the banner. Here is another batch of signing notes (draft round in parentheses):
- South Carolina LHP Jordan Montgomery (4) has agreed to sign and is on his way to Tampa to take a physical, according to Patrick Ebert. He’ll then head to Short Season Staten Island. Slot money for the 122nd overall pick is $424,000.
- Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer confirmed to Josh Norris the team has agreements in place with James Madison 2B Ty McFarland (10), Washington State C Clay Slaybaugh (26), Jacksonville State OF Griffin Gordon (27), and Houston-Victoria RHP Andre Del Bosque (38). Slot for McFarland is $137,600.
- Pittsburgh RHP Joe Harvey (19) has signed for $60k, reports Chris Cotillo. Any money over $100k given to a player taken after the tenth rounds counts against the pool, but there are no savings for signing a player below that amount.
- The Yankees have agreed to sign Liberty RHP Matt Marsh as an undrafted free agent, according to Norris. He had a 1.53 ERA with a 34/2 K/BB in 29.1 relief innings over the last two years.
As a reminder, Texas OF Mark Payton (7), UC Irvine 1B Conner Spencer (8), and Vanderbilt SS Vince Conde (9) are all playing in the College World Series and can’t sign just yet. Otherwise the Yankees reportedly have agreements in place with each of their picks in the top ten rounds.
In the span of three weeks from late-April through mid-May, the Yankees lost three-fifths of their Opening Day rotation to serious injury. Ivan Nova is done for the year following Tommy John surgery, CC Sabathia is out for at least another few weeks with a degenerative knee condition, and Michael Pineda has already suffered a setback while battling a muscle problem in his shoulder. The Yankees will be lucky to get either Sabathia or Pineda back before the All-Star break at this point.
The injuries have forced the team to dip deep into their pitching reserves. With Adam Warren entrenched as a late-inning setup man, the Yankees pulled both Vidal Nuno and David Phelps out of the bullpen and called up converted reliever Chase Whitley. Those three plus Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda have made up the Yankees’ rotation for about a month now. Needless to say, Nuno being third on the team in innings pitched (58) through 63 games was not part of the plan.
And yet, despite some ugly bumps in the road, the three replacement starters have actually done a pretty good job for the Yankees. At least on a rate basis. Here’s how the three have fared since moving into the rotation:
|Starts||Innings||IP per Start||ERA||FIP||K%||BB%||Opp. OPS|
Phelps has taken a pounding his last three starts (18 runs in 17.2 innings), but, even with that, the three replacement starters have a 4.13 ERA and 3.56 FIP in 119.2 innings. That’s pretty good. The average AL starter has a 4.08 ERA and 3.92 FIP this season, so these guys are in the neighborhood of league average. League average is good! Especially when taking about a team’s sixth, seventh, and eighth starters.
The issue isn’t necessarily their performance on a rate basis. The problem is the third column in the table, their innings per start. (I guess that’s technically the fourth column. Whatever.) These three are barely averaging 5.1 innings per start, which is a total drain on the bullpen. In their 22 combined starts, they’ve failed complete six innings 14 times. They’ve failed to complete five innings six innings. On average, Joe Girardi has had to ask his bullpen to get 11 outs whenever these guys pitch. That’s too much. We’re talking about three rotation spots here.
The Yankees have gotten 343 innings out of their starters this season, ninth most out of 15 AL teams. Their relievers have thrown the fifth most innings at 191.2, primarily because these three are not taking the ball deep into the game. Part of that is simple ineffectiveness, part of it is getting stretched out (Nuno and Phelps had to build up their pitch count when they first moving into the rotation), and part of it is Girardi’s reluctance to let them face the opposing lineup a third time. It’s all understandable, but it doesn’t lessen the demand on the bullpen.
I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating: with three five-and-fly starters in the rotation, the Yankees need a veteran long man Girardi can abuse. Someone he can use for 40 pitches one night, 25 the next, and 55 two nights after that. Alfredo Aceves was that guy for a little while, but he stunk and now it’s Wade LeBlanc. I love Jose Ramirez and want to see him get a chance as much as the next guy, but not under those circumstances. Let someone who doesn’t have a future in the organization deal with that workload. It sounds cruel, but that’s baseball. Aceves and LeBlanc aren’t stupid, they know this might be their last chance to stay in MLB, so they’ll take the ball whenever asked.
The Yankees have gotten generally solid work from Whitley, Phelps, and Nuno, and, more than anything, the best way the team can help them is by scoring more runs. Score some more runs and Girardi will probably be more open to letting them face the lineup a third time, sparing the bullpen a bit. (Remember, the team handled Pineda careful early in the season, so he won’t exactly soak up innings whenever he gets healthy.) It would be nice if these three guys could start recording another two or three outs per start, but, considering the circumstances, they’ve been solid. The rotation situation could have really spun out of control following the injuries. These guys didn’t let it.
Via Marly Rivera: Carlos Beltran will start a throwing program today as he begins to work towards returning to the outfield. He’ll be wearing a brace to prevent him from overextending on throws. “It’s there. I still feel a little pain,” said Beltran to Brendan Kuty. “But it’s something I have to deal with it. So, right now, I’m not really thinking about it.”
Beltran, 37, is 3-for-18 (.167) since coming off the disabled list after missing close to a month with a bone spur in his right (throwing) elbow. The Yankees have limited him to DH duty because they don’t want to risk re-aggravating the bone spur, but ideally that wouldn’t go on forever. Getting Beltran back into the outfield, even on a part-time basis, gives Joe Girardi more flexibility with the lineup, something the Yankees could really use. · (25) ·
A little more than a month ago, I wrote about Rob Refsnyder and the long-term future of the second base position in the Bronx. The Yankees lost Robinson Cano and replaced him with the epitome of a stopgap in Brian Roberts, so the job is wide open going forward. By virtue of playing the position and starting the season at the Double-A level, Refsnyder is the logical candidate to get the first opportunity to be Cano’s long-term replacement.
At the time of that post, the 23-year-old Refsnyder was hitting .267/.344/.384 (109 wRC+) though 23 games with Double-A Trenton. He shook off a very slow start (5-for-35 with 15 strikeouts) and his numbers were climbing up towards respectability. Since that day, Refsnyder has gone an absurd 55-for-142 (.387) to raise his season batting line to .342/.385/.548 (158 wRC+) through 60 Double-A games. He had multiple hits in 15 of his last 17 games at the level. He was kinda hot.
The Yankees promoted Refsnyder to Triple-A Scranton yesterday and he went 2-for-4 (of course) in his first game with the RailRiders, so the move up a level didn’t slow him down. The promotion was obviously well-deserved and the timing matches up perfectly with last season — Refsnyder was promoted to High-A Tampa after 59 games with Low-A Charleston in 2013. The Yankees let him spend two months at each level to get his feet wet before promoting him in each of his two pro seasons.
Now here’s something I wrote in that Refsnyder post early last month:
Any time a player gets to the Double-A level and has success, especially a player drafted out of a major college program, he puts himself on the map for a potential big league role. Obviously the season is very young and Refsnyder still has another 120-something games left in his season, but I’m encouraged he shook off the really poor start and has started to hit like he did last year. The Double-A level has always been something of a separator between actual potential big leaguers and regular ol’ prospects. You know what I mean. Refsnyder is starting to separate himself a bit.
Refsnyder clearly separated himself from the wannabe prospects in the weeks since that post, and at this point we have no choice but to talk about him as a potential big league option. Not just next year either, I mean later this season, after a few weeks in Triple-A. Cano played only 24 games in Triple-A before being called up in 2005 because Tony Womack was terrible. Roberts hasn’t been quite as bad as Womack, but he’s not someone the Yankees should hesitate to replace either.
Aside from position, Cano and Refsnyder have very little in common and are not at all comparable. It would be unfair to compare the two. Cano was a second year big leaguer when he was Refsnyder’s age, for example, so they have entirely different career paths. The better comparison — and again, I mentioned this last month — is probably Brett Gardner, who was also a mid-round draft pick who made it to Triple-A Scranton in the second half of his second full season. (Gardner was a third rounder, Refsnyder a fifth rounder.)
Gardner was blocked when he reached Triple-A in the second half of 2007. The MLB outfield at the time was Hideki Matsui, Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, and young Melky Cabrera coming off a .360 OBP in 2006. Gardner had to sit in Triple-A until the middle of 2008 before getting a chance, and when he didn’t immediately produce, he was back in the minors. Refsnyder does not have the same kind of positional logjam standing between him and MLB. Roberts is as disposable as they come. A promotion depends on his performance more than anything.
For what it’s worth, PECOTA’s 50th percentile projection pegged Refsnyder as a .235/.319/.344 hitter at the MLB level coming into this season. That’s an estimate of his current talent level, not a prediction. Roberts went into last night’s game hitting .239/.317/.350 on the year, which is right in line with Refsnyder’s projection. Refsnyder’s defense is still a work in progress — he played second in high school and outfield in college, so he’s been back at the position for less than two full years — and if they’re going to hit roughly the same, Roberts is probably the better all-around option.
Of course, PECOTA didn’t know Refsnyder would tear the cover off the ball in Double-A for a few weeks. And, of course, projections don’t mean much of anything. The Yankees will have another few weeks to see how Refsnyder performs at Triple-A and another few weeks to see if Roberts can get on any kind of hot streak. If Refsnyder continues to hit and Roberts continues to do whatever he’s been doing most of the year, the only way the team could justify not making a switch is by saying Refsnyder needs more time to improve in the field (which he does).
The promotion to Triple-A puts Refsnyder on the cusp on MLB, and, given his progress to date, the time to give him a shot at the big league level is coming sooner rather than later.