Yankees designate Austin Romine for assignment, John Ryan Murphy wins backup catcher job

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The backup catcher competition is over. The Yankees have designated Austin Romine for assignment, the team announced following this afternoon’s game. “He had a tough spring. You wish the best for the kid,” said Joe Girardi according to Ryan Hatch.

Romine, 26, is out of minor league options, meaning he couldn’t go to Triple-A without passing through waivers. The DFA gives the Yankees more time to figure things out — they now have ten days to trade, release, or waive Romine. If he clears waivers, he can go to Triple-A as a non-40-man roster player.

The move means John Ryan Murphy will be Brian McCann‘s backup to start the season, as expected. The writing has been on the wall since last season. Although Romine spent most of 2013 with the Yankees, Murphy got called up last year when Frankie Cervelli got hurt and then again as the third catcher in September.

The 25-man Opening Day roster is set, for all intents and purposes. The Yankees just have to make it official. Murphy will be the backup catcher, Gregorio Petit the backup infielder, and Chasen Shreve and Chris Martin the sixth and seventh relievers in the bullpen.

2015 Draft: Mike Matuella to undergo Tommy John surgery

According to Keith Law, Duke RHP Mike Matuella suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament recently and will undergo Tommy John surgery. Matuella was a candidate to go first overall in this June’s amateur draft. He’s the second top draft prospect to need his elbow rebuilt within the last two weeks, joining Brady Aiken.

Matuella, 20, had a 1.08 ERA with 24 strikeouts and eleven walks in 25 innings across six starts this spring. He had a limited pitch count in several games due to forearm tightness and a back issue that was eventually diagnosed as spondylolysis, a manageable vertebra defect. MLB.com ranked Matuella as the second best prospect available in this year’s draft before his elbow gave out. Here’s a piece of their scouting report:

Undrafted as a Maryland high schooler in 2012, Matuella since has emerged as the player with the highest upside in the current college crop. He can overpower hitters with his 93-97 mph fastball and make them look bad with his curveball and slider. If that’s not enough, he also demonstrates feel for his changeup and throwing strikes. His 6-foot-7 frame creates difficult plane and angle for his pitches, making him that much tougher.

As I mentioned in the Aiken post, there is plenty of recent precedent for a player with elbow ligament issues to be selected high in the draft. Just last season ECU RHP Jeff Hoffman and UNLV RHP Erick Fedde had Tommy John surgery in May only to be drafted ninth and 18th overall in June, respectively. The Yankees also selected Andrew Brackman with the 30th pick in 2007 knowing he’d likely need his elbow rebuilt shortly after the draft, which he eventually did.

Matuella seems to be exactly the type of pitcher the Yankees tend to target these days. He’s physically huge (listed at 6-foot-7 and 220 lbs.), he throws hard, and he has a history of throwing strikes (career 6.8 BB% at Duke). Unlike Brackman, Matuella isn’t splitting time between two sports and his mechanics aren’t in need of major refinement. The Yankees have the 16th overall pick and plenty of draft pool space. I prefer Aiken over Matuella as a prospect, and while Matuella’s back issue is not insignificant, rolling the dice on either would be a worthy gamble worth for the Bombers, in my opinion.

Spring Training Game Thread: The Last Fake Game

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees are in Washington this afternoon for one last spring tune-up game against the Nationals. They’re off tomorrow then will open the 2015 regular season at home against the Blue Jays on Monday afternoon. I’m so ready for the season. Let’s get these last nine innings over with and get the regular season started already.

Today’s reason to watch: Nate Eovaldi! We haven’t seen a whole lot of Eovaldi this spring. He started a bunch of minor league games last month and some of his Grapefruit League starts weren’t televised. Eovaldi threw something like 20 innings last month but only four of five innings were actually watchable, that’s it. Also, Dellin Betances is scheduled to pitch today. It’ll be his last chance to get his mechanics straightened out before the games count for real.

As I said, the Yankees are in Washington to play the Nationals at Nationals Park. A real live Major League stadium with three decks. It’s been too long. Here is the Nats’ lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup, which is the same lineup I expect to see on Opening Day aside from the starting pitcher:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. DH Alex Rodriguez
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Available Position Players: C John Ryan Murphy, C Austin Romine, IF Gregorio Petit, 1B/OF Garrett Jones, OF Chris Young, C Eddy Rodriguez, 2B Rob Refsnyder, IF Nick Noonan, OF Ramon Flores, OF Ben Gamel, OF Slade Heathcott, and UTIL Jonathan Galvez are all on the lineup card. I’m not sure who’s coming off the bench to play though.

Available Pitchers: RHP Esmil Rogers, RHP Chris Martin, RHP David Carpenter, RHP Dellin Betances, LHP Justin Wilson, LHP Chasen Shreve, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Nick Rumbelow, RHP Jose Ramirez, and LHP Tyler Webb are all on the lineup card. Again, not sure who’s scheduled to pitch aside from Dellin.

It’s sunny but chilly and windy in Washington. Temperatures are only in the mid-50s. There is no YES broadcast for this afternoon’s game but you can watch live on MLB.tv anywhere or MASN in the Nats’ home market. There is no MLB.tv blackout and this is the MLB.tv Free Game of the Day, so you won’t need a subscription to watch either. First pitch is scheduled for just after 1pm ET. Enjoy.

Girardi confirms Yanks will head into 2015 with co-closers

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

When the 2015 season begins on Monday, the Yankees won’t have a closer. They’ll have two closers. Or they’ll have two half-closers. Something like that. Yesterday, Joe Girardi confirmed the Yankees will start the season with lefty Andrew Miller and righty Dellin Betances as co-closers, something he’s been hinting at since even before Spring Training. The eighth and ninth innings will be based on matchups.

“I really think that if you do it that way, and as long as you’re prepared, it has a chance to be advantageous to you,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings yesterday. “My thought has been more like with a power lefty who strikes out a lot of guys and a power righty, the lineups just might match up where one day he’s the eighth inning guy and then one day he’s the ninth inning guy a little bit better. I think you start managing who you’re going to use (in the ninth) in about the sixth inning, because you try to prepare them.”

This isn’t a situation where the Yankees don’t have a viable closer on the roster. They have two very qualified closer candidates in Miller and Betances — two qualified candidates when Betances is right, that is, and he hasn’t been right this spring — and selecting either one as the traditional closer would have been easy and completely justifiable. Instead, Miller will face the tough lefties regardless of whether they’re due to bat in the eighth or ninth while Betances gets the tough righties.

For what it’s worth, both Miller and Betances have being saying all the right things about the possibility of being used as co-closers since the idea was first broached before Spring Training. Both guys say they don’t care about closing, they just want to win, sometimes the eighth inning can be just as important as the ninth, all that good stuff. Girardi ran the idea by them again earlier this week and both guys are still all for it.

“I’ve talked to both. They’re concerned about winning more than (roles), in the sense of I’m this guy, I’m this guy. That’s the sense I’ve got from them,” added Girardi. “Now, could it iron itself out and you start to do it one way? Yes. But we talked a little bit about it yesterday. I’ll continue to talk about it with my coaches and (pitching coach Larry Rothschild) and his feelings about it as they get a feel, and (bullpen coach) Gary Tuck who’s in the bullpen, what do you think the importance of it is that we actually set a role? But as of right now, we haven’t felt that we have to.”

In theory, co-closers is a great idea. Girardi is meticulous with his bullpen usage, both matchups and workloads, so I have no reason to think he couldn’t pull this off. It’s been done before, most notably by the 2009 Braves with Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez, but it certainly is unconventional and ripe for second guessing. Optimizing reliever usage by putting them in situations where they are most likely to help the team is much better than marrying them to specific innings.

Now, that said, Dellin’s spring performance is a problem we can’t ignore. It doesn’t look like he’s hurt, it looks like his problems are purely mechanical, but Betances has a long history of mechanical issues and he’s yet to sort them out. The Yankees open the season against the Blue Jays and Red Sox, two teams will a ton of very good right-handed hitters, so tossing Dellin out there in the ninth inning with a one-run lead against a bunch of righties isn’t so comforting at this very moment.

Until Betances gets sorted out, David Carpenter might be a safer bet for high-leverage work against right-handed hitters. Girardi told Bryan Hoch he doesn’t consider Chasen Shreve or Justin Wilson to be lefty specialists, though those guys figure to handle the middle innings, not the eighth and ninth. Maybe the co-closer system should be Miller and Carpenter for a little while until Betances is back to where he needs to be. My guess is Dellin will be used alongside Miller as the co-closer until he pitches his way out of the job though.

Open Thread: April 3rd Camp Notes

The Yankees played their final Spring Training game in Florida this afternoon. They lost 8-2 to the Nationals. CC Sabathia allowed three runs in 5.1 innings before hitting his pitch count. All three runs scored in the first inning. He settled in quite nicely after that. Andrew Bailey got two outs and allowed three runs, two of which scored on a three-run homer allowed by Nick Goody.

Everyone was in “let’s swing at everything so we can get out of Tampa” mode on offense. Chase Headley went 2-for-2 with a double while Mark Teixeira, Chris Young, and Brian McCann each went 1-for-2. Teixeira doubled. Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, and Garrett Jones all went 0-for-2. Rob Refsnyder and Ramon Flores had two-baggers off the bench. Here is the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the rest of the day’s notes from Spring Training:

  • Slade Heathcott was named the 2015 James P. Dawson award winner as the best rookie in Spring Training, so congrats to him. Masahiro Tanaka won last year, Vidal Nuno the year before that. In fact, Heathcott is the first position player to win the award since Jon Weber in 2010. Jon Weber!
  • The backup catcher decision is coming tomorrow, according to Joe Girardi. John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine both caught today, though Murphy started and caught Sabathia. Will Romine still be in the organization 24 hours from now? [Marly Rivera]
  • And finally, Sabathia is taking over Derek Jeter‘s old locker at Yankee Stadium, which is prime real estate because the locker is extra wide and near the exit. “Everybody’s making a big deal about the Derek locker — I mean, I know, it’s important to the fans. But I don’t think we need to designate it ‘the locker,'” said clubhouse manager Rob Cucuzza. [Barbarisi]

Here is tonight’s open thread. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on both YES (10:30pm ET) and MLB Network (6am ET tomorrow). MLB Network is showing the Braves and Orioles live right now and the Cubs and Diamondbacks live later tonight. The Knicks, Nets, and Devils are all in action as well. Talk about whatever. Have at it.

A Haiku for the Rest of MLB [2015 Season Preview]

Does Donnie like Haikus? Of course. (Presswire)
Does Donnie like haikus? Of course. (Presswire)

Opening Day is now only three days away. We’ve spent the last four weeks previewing the Yankees and the upcoming season, and yesterday we broke down the rest of the AL East. Today we’re going to wrap up our 2015 Season Preview series with a quick preview of the other 25 teams in baseball. After all, the Yankees are going to have to try to beat those teams this season too.

If you’ve come here looking for a serious preview post, you’re not going to get it. It’s Friday afternoon, Opening Day is right around the corner, and this year’s preview series is over. Instead, we’re going to have some fun and preview those other 25 teams in Haiku form. I encourage you to tell me how much my haikus suck and to make some of your own — pro tip: use the Haiku Counter to make sure you have the right number of syllables — and leave ’em in the comments. Enjoy.

Atlanta Braves
Traded their best bats
For a whole bunch of pitchers
They know scoring’s down?

Arizona Diamondbacks
Is Nuno their ace?
The answer just might be yes
Payback for ’01!

Chicago Cubs
Bleachers aren’t ready?
No prob, Bryant won’t notice
He’s in Iowa

Chicago White Sox
D-Rob and Melky
Back together in ChiTown
Growing ugly beards

Cincinnati Reds
Good enough to win?
Nah, not in that division
Can we have Cueto?

Cleveland Indians
Brantley is awesome
Kluber is really great
World Series pick? Eh

Colorado Rockies
Troy’s still a Rockie
Kyle Kendrick, OD SP?
Wait for ski season

Detroit Tigers
Miggy, Price, V-Mart
Lots of stars and real big names
Bullpen still a mess

Houston Astros
I don’t understand
You won “process World Series?”
That doesn’t exist

Kansas City Royals
Pennant last season
Volquez is replacing Shields?
For real? Yeah, for real

Los Angeles Angels
They have that Trout guy
I wish the Yankees had him
It’s Teixeira’s fault!

Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw is the best
Donnie Baseball gets his ring?
If not, just blame Puig

Miami Marlins
Paid Giancarlo
They’re going for it again
When’s next fire sale?

Milwaukee Brewers
They all hate Ryan Braun
But not as much as A-Rod
This team is boring

Minnesota Twins
Phil’s still homer prone
Nunez’s helmet still falls off
Just like the old days

New York Mets
Take back New York, huh?
Orange and blue like the Knicks
But with fewer fans

Oakland Athletics
Ballpark is ugly
Beane traded everyone again
What’s a Stephen Vogt?

Philadelphia Phillies
Rebuild? Finally!
Cole will be traded real soon
Then skip to next year

Pittsburgh Pirates
Cervelli pumps fist
McCutchen cut his dreads
A World Series team?

St. Louis Cardinals
Contender again
Such a boringly good team
Gets boring haiku

San Diego Padres
Kemp, Upton, Myers, Shields
But what about Yangervis?
Solarte Partay!

San Francisco Giants
The World Series champs
But it’s an odd number year
So no repeat then

Seattle Mariners
You can have Robbie
You are still stuck with Jack Z.
Yankees win the trade

Texas Rangers
Could this be the year
That Elvis Andrus will hit?
Hah, made myself laugh

Washington Nationals
Awesome rotation!
Future Yankee Bryce Harper
Has nice ring to it

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