I feel like each of the last three losses have gotten progressively worse. First was the 14-inning game and the parade of stranded runners. Then there was CC Sabathia getting beat down and lackadaisical defense contributing to an inside the park homer. Then the usually excellent bullpen walked six guys in an inning, including five straight with two outs and three with the bases loaded. It can’t get any worse than that, right? Nowhere to go but up, I hope.
After these last few losses, I’m not asking for much tonight. A good start from Hiroki Kuroda would be wonderful, just so I know he didn’t forget how to pitch over the winter or something. A few hits with men in scoring position would be cool, though they did go 2-for-5 in those spots last night. Can’t really complain about hitting .400. Not terrible defense, particularly in right field? These last few nights have been an adventure out there. I dunno, just win please. Here is the Angels lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- SS Derek Jeter
- RF Carlos Beltran
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- LF Brett Gardner
- 2B Brian Roberts
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
The weather in Anaheim is just splendid, so don’t worry about a rain delay or anything like that. It’s probably been years since they had to roll out the tarp at Angel Stadium. The game is scheduled to begin a little after 10pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.
RHP Jose Ramirez (oblique) was activated off the DL and added to the Triple-A Scranton roster, according to Donnie Collins. If he pitches well and stays healthy, I think we’ll see him in the big leagues later this year. To make room on the roster, UTIL Ronnie Mustelier was released. Pour one out.
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Indianapolis)
- RF Ramon Flores: 1-4, 1 K — not his biggest game, but after an underwhelming season in Double-A, it’s good to see him get off to a strong start this year
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 1-4, 1 R, 2 K
- SS Dean Anna: 0-4
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — five doubles in his last six games
- CF Adonis Garcia: 2-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — 10-for-26 (.385) in his last six games
- C Austin Romine: 0-3, 1 K
- RHP Chase Whitley: 6.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, 6/2 GB/FB — 60 of 88 pitches were strikes (68%) … easily the best start of his career, though he’s spent most of it as a reliever
- RHP Mark Montgomery: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — only eight of 17 pitches were strikes (47%)
Well, I guess we have to talk about this. In his upcoming book The Closer, Mariano Rivera openly questioned Robinson Cano‘s commitment to being great and said he would take Dustin Pedroia over any second baseman. Ouch. Very un-Mariano-like comments. Here’s are the actual quotes, if you’re curious. Rivera went his entire career without saying something controversial and yet, nine months into his retirement, here we are. Gotta sell books somehow, I guess. I’m disappointed. I was hoping there’s be no Red Soxian smear campaign.
Anyway, here is your open thread until the game thread comes along later tonight. The Mets are playing, MLB Network will air a game (who you see depends on where you live), and there’s a bunch of NBA and NHL playoff games going as well, including the Nets. Talk about Mo’s comments, Cano, those games, or anything else here.
Alex Blandino | 3B
Blandino is a Bay Area kid from Palo Alto. He did not sign with the Athletics as a 38th round pick in the 2011 draft and instead followed through on his commitment to Stanford, where he hit .280/.352/.484 with 15 homers in 93 games as a freshman and sophomore. Blandino’s hit .289/.386/.470 with six homeruns and a 20/19 K/BB in 40 games this spring.
Listed at 6-foot-0 and 190 lbs., Blandino stands out because he has an excellent approach at the plate and an incredibly quick and balanced right-handed swing. The relatively modest performance these last three years belies his offensive potential, which has been hampered by Stanford’s one size fits all offensive approach. (They teach everyone to shorten up and shoot the ball the other way at all times, ignoring a hitter’s strengths.) Blandino squares the ball up consistent and makes hard contact, so there is power in there if a team can get the Stanford out of his swing. Some get through it (Jason Castro, Jed Lowrie), some don’t (Cord Phelps, Michael Taylor). Blandino has a strong arm and good footwork at the hot corner, though there are rumblings he might wind up at second base. Either way, whichever team drafts him will take him for his bat.
In their latest rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’d ) and MLB.com ranked Blandino as the 29th and 78th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. He did not make Baseball America‘s most recent top 50. This draft is very light on college bats yet Blandino could go as high as the top 15 picks or as low as the late second round. Stanford hitters tend to fall in the draft because teams are wary of the bad habits formed — Austin Wilson went 49th overall last year despite top 10-15 tools, for example — so Blandino may or may not be available for the Yankees’ first pick (55th overall). He did perform well with wood bats in the Cape Cod League last summer (.308/.363/.454) and scouting director Damon Oppenheimer has shown an affinity for guys who perform on the Cape, so I’m sure there’s interest.
Earlier this afternoon the Yankees officially activated Brendan Ryan off the 15-day DL, just as we all expected. He had been working his way back from a back injury in the minors — seven rehab games plus who knows how many more in Extended Spring Training — and he takes Michael Pineda‘s spot on the roster. Pineda’s suspension expired, so he was placed on the 15-day DL with his back/shoulder injury. The Yankees got their 25th roster spot back and no other moves were required to accommodate Ryan.
The Yankees were forced to play with a three-man bench these last ten games due to Pineda’s suspension, so getting back to a normal four-man bench and 25-man roster will be nice only because it gives Joe Girardi some more flexibility. How he uses Ryan remains to be seen because, frankly, he’s a pretty limited player whose true value is very much up for debate given the sketchy nature of defense stats. He is a no-hit, all-glove shortstop, after all. I think we can all agree Ryan has zero value if he isn’t playing in the field and that’s something of a problem because the Yankees have shown no indication are willing to cut back on Derek Jeter‘s playing time just yet.
As I mentioned this morning, Jeter has not played a single game at DH this season. He’s been the starting shortstop exclusively. Given his age and shaky defense, that’s probably not something that should continue all season. He’s going to wear down if his recent slump isn’t an indication he has started to already. Using Ryan to give Jeter a day off his feet, either as the DH or a full day on the bench, is the most obvious way to use him. How often will that happen? Once a week feels like the bare minimum. Twice a week wouldn’t be a bad idea.
The Yankees could use Ryan at second and third base once in a while — he hasn’t played a position other than short since 2009, for what it’s worth — but beyond that, he’s not very useful. That’s pretty much exactly how the Yankees used Dean Anna for the first few weeks of the season, but Anna was a career minor leaguer who could be buried on the bench for days on end and no one would care. Ryan’s making decent money ($2M) and his defense is an asset. Finding that balance between using him enough that he has an impact but not enough that he gets exposes will be tough.
Will Girardi and the Yankees be willing to use Ryan as a defensive replacement for Jeter in the late innings? I’m tempted to say no way, but I think there’s a chance it will happen. Girardi did pull Jeter for pinch-runner Ichiro Suzuki earlier this season, something that never would have happened in the past. Maybe we’ll see Ichiro pinch-run for Jeter, then stay in the game to play right with Ryan coming off the bench to play short. That could be one way to make the substitution without being so abrupt. Pulling Jeter for Ryan in a straight “your defense sucks” move seems a bit harsh. I don’t know. We’ll see.
Getting Ryan back tonight will help just because he’s another warm body and the Yankees will finally have a full roster. He won’t fix the team’s main problem right now — get a damn runner in from scoring position already! — but he’s going to help somewhat. The needle will move a little bit. It’s a weird situation because Ryan has a very specific skillset and they don’t line up well with the iconic Jeter, not unless the Yankees commit to reducing Derek’s time in the field. Right now Ryan is just a relatively expensive infield caddy.
2:24pm: Pineda told Andrew Marchand he is scheduled to start a throwing program on Friday, for what it’s worth.
2:05pm: As expected, the Yankees have activated Brendan Ryan off the 15-day DL, the team announced. Michael Pineda was reinstated from the suspended list and placed on the 15-day DL with a “right shoulder muscle injury” in a corresponding move. He has a teres major muscle strain, which is right where the back meets the shoulder, basically. Ryan takes Pineda’s spot on the roster and no other moves are required. · (11) ·
Back in the fall, we first heard the Yankees are planning to blow past their international spending pool when this summer’s signing period opens on July 2nd. They’re said to be ready to spend upwards of $15M on bonuses despite being slotted for only $2.2M. They would pay another $15M or so in taxes and lose the right to sign a player for more than $300k in the next two signings periods.
Now, thanks to Ben Badler, we finally have some details on the specific players the Yankees are targeting. It’s a subscriber-only article, so I can’t give away too much, but here are the important details:
- OF Juan De Leon: “premium bat speed from the right side of the plate … potential for plus power in the future” (video above)
- SS Dermis Garcia: “some of the best raw power in the 2014 class” (video)
- 3B Nelson Gomez: “has shown plus raw power … has an above-average arm and good hands” (video)
- SS Christopher Torres: “switch-hitter who projects to stick at short” (no video)
All four players are 16 years old and from the Dominican Republic. Badler says they are all expected to command $2M or so bonuses, though Garcia could wind up with $3M. There are also some scouts who question whether Torres is really worth that much money. De Leon is said to be the team’s “top priority.”
Assuming the Yankees do sign those four players to roughly $9M in bonuses, they’d still have another $6M to spend before hitting that rumored $15M number. I would expect a chunk of that to go towards pitching. The Rays, Red Sox, and Brewers are planning similar spending sprees according to Badler, though not to the same extent as New York.
The Yankees have been very good at finding cheaper international prospects like RHP Luis Severino ($225k), SS Abi Avelino ($300k), and SS Thairo Estrada ($49k), so the $300k limit over the next two years won’t completely derail their international operation. Besides, there’s a decent chance MLB will implement an international draft soon. This might be the team’s last chance to spend like crazy.
The Yankees have lost four of their last five games and seem to find a new way to give away a game each night. Last night it was the usually excellent bullpen walking five (!) straight hitters with two outs, the last three to force in runs. It was pretty ugly and a new low in a week that has been full of new lows. It’s hard to look much worse than the Yankees have these last few days.
One constant through the recent five-game stretch has been the complete inability to capitalize on run-scoring chances. I don’t have the energy to go back and look at how many times they have had men in scoring position with less than two outs and failed to generate even one run. Last night they had the bases loaded with no outs in the eighth inning of a tie game and didn’t score at all. A strikeout and a double play sent them back to the dugout empty handed.
The double play ball came off the bat of Derek Jeter, who has always had a knack for the unfortunately timed twin-killing. Even when he was at his absolute peak, he was always banging into double plays at inopportune times. It was pretty much his only flaw offensively. Last night’s rally killer capped off a solid 2-for-4 night for the Cap’n, a night that raised his season batting line to an unsightly .250/.318/.290 (71 wRC+). I swear, it felt like just a few days ago that he had a .380+ OBP. Things change in a hurry this time of the year.
Now, obviously there is lot to consider with Jeter. He will soon turn 40 and the history of shortstops that age is basically nonexistent. Jeter is very much unique in that regard. He also missed just about all of last season with some major leg injuries, so timing and rust could be an issue. Maybe he’s worn down already. Jeter has not spent a single game at DH and has played shortstop almost every single day this year. It could just be an early season slump, which happens to everyone at some point. One good week and he’d be back up to 100 wRC+ before you know it.
The facts are the facts though. There are 186 hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title right now and Jeter ranks 160th with that 71 wRC+. His .040 ISO ranks 185th, better than only Ben Revere (.036), who hasn’t hit a homerun since he was in Triple-A in 2011. Among players with at least 50 at-bats, he has seen the highest percentage of fastballs according to Baseball Savant. The Rays are arguably the most well-prepared team in the game, and this past weekend they threw Jeter 31 fastballs out of 38 total pitches. They know he can’t handle the heat anymore, so they exploited that weakness. Jeter went 0-for-11 in the series and killed two rallies in the 14-inning game on Friday.
Jeter doubled down the left field line last night and it was only his fourth extra-base hit of the season. All four are doubles — one legit blast off the wall, one legit blast to the warning track that hopped over the fence, and two ground balls down the line. He was almost thrown out at second on one. Here’s a GIF if you don’t believe me. Jeter has not been able to drive the ball with any authority, at least not consistently. He’s also been terrible on defense, but that’s nothing new at this point. The Cap’n has become an all-around liability.
So, where do the Yankees go from here? The easy answer is to drop Jeter in the lineup. Joe Girardi told Dan Barbarisi he has not yet considered it — “We address our lineup every day, but I haven’t yet. He’s not the only guy struggling,” he said — which is no surprise. Jeter never moved down in the lineup when he struggled through the 2010 season (93 wRC+) and it just feels like it is too early in the season for the team to consider that. Remember how long it took them to de-emphasize Jorge Posada in 2011? Posada actually hit worse than Jeter early that season and, as good as he was, he didn’t have nearly as much clout in the organization. Dropping Jeter to eighth or ninth does not seem imminent.
“There are other guys that are struggling in our lineup and we still put them fourth, fifth, third. We’re still doing that. I think it’s somewhat early to do that,” said Girardi while acknowledging “Derek is pretty easy to talk to. I’ve shared ideas with him before about things that I possibly might do and it’s never been a problem. Derek is about winning. Derek is probably going to tell you, ‘If you think that’s the best thing to do, then do it.’”
This whole mess would be easier if Jeter just volunteered to move lower in the order or into a reduced role like, say, Paul Konerko did over the winter, but I have a hard time seeing that regardless of Girardi’s comments. Jeter has too much pride and the Yankees have always catered to him — remember the raise they gave him this past winter? — and, in his mind, he’s still a world class player. Athletes are never good at admitting when their skills are no longer what they once were. At the same time, Girardi recently said he “wasn’t hired to put on a farewell tour,” and that winning comes first. Well, aren’t we at the point where batting Jeter so high in the lineup and playing him every single day is not giving the team the best possible chance to win? It sure feels that way.
Jeter is not the first aging former superstar to scuffle through a poor final season. I’ll never forget Cal Ripken Jr. dragging himself out onto the field to hit .239 with a 70 OPS+ his final season. He also spent most of that year batting seventh, not occupying a prime lineup spot like he had most of his career. Jeter is an all-time great player and maybe the best Yankee many of us will see in our lifetimes. That has earned him a lot of leeway — I thought he was done before 2012 and he sure proved me wrong — but the team needs to be honest with itself and trust what they’re seeing. He can’t catch up to a fastball, he isn’t hitting the ball with authority, and he isn’t making even the routine plays in the field anymore. The end of a star’s career is almost always messy, but the sooner the Yankees understand and accept they are a better team with Jeter playing a lesser role, the better off they’ll be.
I really regret staying up for that. I should have known better. These games against the Angels in Anaheim never ever ever go well. The Yankees dropped the series opener to the Halos by the score of 4-1 because their key relievers had their first total meltdown in a few weeks. I’m not kidding when I say total meltdown either. These West Coast games end crazy late, so let’s recap with bullet points:
- Five Straight Walks: I don’t think I can ever remember seeing a team walk five straight batters, including three with the bases loaded. Then again, I didn’t think the 2014 Yankees could sink to a new low, but here we are. An obviously not sharp Shawn Kelley walked the bases loaded in the eighth (one intentional walk) before he, Matt Thornton, and Preston Claiborne each issued a walk to force in a run. It was awful. The Angels batted around without getting a hit. Think about that. The relievers were due for a clunker, but my goodness. Give up a grand slam. I wouldn’t mind that nearly as much.
- Unexpectedly Excellent: One run in 5.1 innings doesn’t do David Phelps justice. He was screwed over by his defense and it could have easily been six shutout innings against the best offense in baseball (by wRC+). Phelps allowed two singles, one bad defense aided triple, and one walk before hitting his pitch limit (82). Fifteen of his 16 outs were recorded on the infield. He was very, very good. Just what the Yankees needed to see from him.
- Blown Chance: After looking lifeless at the plate for more than two weeks, Derek Jeter went 2-for-4 with a single and a double, both well hit. Jacoby Ellsbury moved the Cap’n over to third with a ground out following the seventh inning double and the vintage 2009 version of Mark Teixeira drove him in with a single. Tex has been awesome. Of course, Jeter banged into an inning ending double play in the eighth, the team’s best chance to take the lead. They had the bases loaded with no outs and failed to score. Par for the course.
- Leftovers: Joe Girardi and Kelley were both ejected by home plate ump Laz Diaz for arguing balls and strikes. Girardi was livid, he really got his money’s worth … Phelps hit a runner at first with a pickoff throw three times, including Mike Trout twice. I think that was his passive aggressive way of getting back at them for reaching base … the Yankees had six hits, though only Jeter had more than one.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. These same two teams will play the second game of the series on Tuesday night, when Hiroki Kuroda gets the ball against C.J. Wilson.
Here is tonight’s game thread, if you’re looking for it.
According to Ben Badler, the Yankees have produced the (tied for) fourth most internationally signed prospects in Baseball America’s 2014 Prospect Handbook with 12. That is total prospects they originally signed regardless of whether they are still in the organization, so the Yankees get credit for Arodys Vizcaino. The team is said to be planning a huge Latin America spending spree later this summer.
Triple-A Scranton (7-6 win over Indianapolis)
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 1-5, 1 RBI
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 2-4, 1 K — 15-for-45 (.333) with five doubles and three homers in his last ten games
- 1B Russ Canzler: 3-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI
- DH Ronnie Mustelier: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B
- C Austin Romine: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — he needed a big game like this in a worst way
- RHP Shane Greene: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 4/3 GB/FB, 1 E (pickoff) – 43 of 67 pitches were strikes (64%) … according to Donnie Collins, he was 93-95 with his fastball and up to 90 with the slider