The Yankees have placed Shawn Kelley on the 15-day DL with a “strained lumbar spine,” the team announced. Outfielder Zoilo Almonte was called up from Triple-A Scranton to fill the roster spot. The DL stint is back-dated to last Tuesday, so Kelley is eligible to be activated one week from Wednesday. The Yankees currently have a six-man bullpen (assuming Al Aceves is starting Thursday) and a five-man bench. Weird.
Kelley, 30, missed a few games last week with tightness in his lower back. It apparently went away over the weekend — he warmed up in Sunday’s game but did not pitch — but returned yesterday. He was not available last night. In 16 games and 15.1 innings this season, Kelley has a 3.52 ERA and 2.38 FIP. He has a long history of elbow problems (two Tommy John surgeries) but this is his first back trouble.
Almonte, 24, will give the team some extra outfield depth now that Carlos Beltran has a bone spur in his elbow and Ichiro Suzuki‘s back is sore. The Yankees aren’t going to carry a six-man bullpen forever, and with Chase Whitley in line to be called up on Thursday, Almonte’s stint in pinstripes may be short lived. He has hit .273/.324/.470 (121 wRC+) with six homers in 33 Triple-A games this season.
With Kelly out, Adam Warren will likely take over as David Robertson‘s primary setup man. Dellin Betances also figures to take on some more responsibility as well. The only Triple-A pitchers who are currently on the 40-man roster are Jose Ramirez and Shane Greene, so the Yankees are running out of arms. Hopefully Kelley returns next week and we never hear of his sore back again.
An MRI revealed a bone spur in Carlos Beltran‘s hyper-extended elbow, according to Meredith Marakovits. Apparently it is an old bone spur not even Beltran knew about. He received a cortisone shot and they are hopeful that will alleviate the pain and allow him to avoid the disabled list. Beltran will rest the next two or three days, and if the cortisone shot doesn’t work, he will need surgery and would presumably miss several weeks.
Beltran, 37, hurt himself while taking swings in the batting cage between at-bats last night. I guess he aggravated the old bone spur somehow. CC Sabathia pitched for years with a bone spur in his elbow until it started to act up during the 2012 season. He had surgery that October and the recovery time was 6-8 weeks. That doesn’t necessarily apply to Beltran, however. Pitcher vs. position player, every person is different, yadda yadda yadda.
In 33 games and 140 plate appearances this season, Beltran is hitting .234/.286/.430 (89 wRC+) with five homers. He has been in a big slump for weeks now, ever since he flipped over the wall trying to catch a foul ball in Tampa. Who knows if that fall or the bone spur were behind the slump. With Ichiro Suzuki also banged up, the Yankees figure to use Alfonso Soriano in right field for the time being. Zoilo Almonte was just called up to add an extra warm outfield body.
Ever since Mariano Rivera first announced he was planning to retire last Spring Training, it was pretty much assumed David Robertson would take over as the team’s closer. Sure, these are the Yankees and there was always the chance they would sign a free agent closer, but Robertson was the obvious choice. He had proven all he needed to prove as a setup man, and if the Yankees weren’t going to give him the opportunity to close, another team would have when he became a free agent after the season.
Minus a little 15-day groin related hiatus, Robertson has been excellent in the ninth inning, just as he was excellent in the eighth. He’s gone 6-for-6 in save chances, struck out ten and walked two in nine innings, and allowed only two runs. Each run came with a multi-run lead and did no damage other than to Robertson’s individual stats. I know more than a few people were nervous about him in the ninth inning because … he blew a save after Rivera got hurt in May 2012? I think that’s what it was.
Robertson has inherited the closer’s gig from Mariano and he’s been dynamite these first few weeks. He’s also inherited something else: Rivera’s workload. The last few years, basically since Mo turned 40, the Yankees took it very easy on their all-world closer. From 2009-12, he recorded more than three outs just 18 times in 200 total games. Only five times did they ask him to get more than four outs. Joe Girardi did run Mo into the ground a bit last September (five games of 4+ outs) because they knew he was retiring. There was no long-term concern. Rivera also rarely appeared in back-to-back-back games or pitched three times in four days.
From 2010-13, when Robertson really emerged as a dominant late-inning force, the Yankees asked him to get at least four outs 34 times in 269 games. Joe Girardi was a little more liberal with his top setup man, often asking him to pitch out of a jam in the seventh inning before tacking on the eighth for good measure. It worked damn well and it gave the Yankees a big advantage in the late innings of close games. Girardi has not yet asked Robertson to throw more than one inning this year but that’s a function of it still being early in the season more than anything. He was ready to do it last night.
“I was going to use a four-out save with Robertson tonight,” said Girardi to Andrew Marchand after last night’s loss. That comes just a few days after he told Bryan Hoch he feels “more comfortable using [Robertson] for an inning right now … it’s just something I’m more comfortable doing.” Not having Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, and Shawn Kelley essentially forced Girardi to consider using Robertson for more than one inning last night. He really had no choice.
The Yankees have lost their last three games despite either having a lead or being tied in the seventh inning or later, situations that would have called for Robertson in the past. Meanwhile, Robertson has pitched only twice in the last ten days and three times in May. He’s appeared in six of 18 games since coming off the DL, a 54-appearance over 162 games pace after working on a 72-appearance pace per 162 healthy games from 2010-13. He’s been marginalized as the closer, especially of late.
Now, this isn’t to say Girardi should be more liberal with Robertson and use him in tight non-closing situations — that would be awesome, but every manager does the same thing these days, they’ve become slaves to save stat — but it goes to show just how much losing Rivera has hurt. Kelley, Warren, and Betances have been great, but they’re no Mo. They’re no Robertson either. The club replaced their closer just fine, but they lost an ultra-effective presence in the eighth and sometimes seventh innings.
Robertson used to be one of the Yankees’ greatest weapons because he and Rivera shortened the game. They were as good as any setup man/closer combination in baseball. Now that Robertson is married to very specific situations, the most important innings are often falling on the shoulders of lesser relievers, and it has hurt the Yankees these last three games in particular. Losing close games in the late innings with Robertson doing nothing more than warming up rarely happened from 2010-13. That’s where the Yankees most miss Rivera.
Via Bryan Hoch: Francisco Cervelli’s strained hamstring is “not yet 100%, but it’s getting closer.” He has been running on a treadmill and is scheduled to run on the field for the first time today. He could start hitting as soon as this weekend.
Cervelli, 28, suffered a Grade II hamstring strain last month and was immediately placed on the 60-day DL. He is not eligible to be activated until June 14th, at which point the Yankees will need to clear a 40-man roster to accommodate him. John Ryan Murphy has played very well in his limited time as Brian McCann’s backup and looks very much like a keeper to me. It’ll be interesting to see how this situation sorts itself next month. · (14) ·
It was what, three or four weeks ago that the starting rotation was the clear strength of the Yankees’ roster? Even with CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda struggling through the early part of the season, everyone felt great about what they were seeing from Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Ivan Nova has not gotten hurt yet and I think the general belief was that he’s be fine in time. The rotation looked like a real strength.
Now, as the Yankees approach the quarter point of the season, the rotation is in shambles. Nova blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. Michael Pineda got suspended and then hurt his back, and just yesterday we learned he’ll need longer than the original 3-4 week timetable to return. On Sunday, the Yankees lost Sabathia for at least two weeks due to fluid in his twice surgically repaired right knee. The official word was knee inflammation.
Regardless of whether Al Aceves or Chase Whitley or someone else starts in place of Sabathia on Thursday, the Yankees will already be using their eighth different starting pitcher of the season. Aceves was with Triple-A Scranton ten days ago and the Orioles in Spring Training, not re-joining New York until he opted out of his contract with Baltimore when he was informed he did not make the team. Whitley is in his third year at Triple-A and was passed over in the Rule 5 Draft in December, but hey, he struck out eleven last time out. He’s as good a candidate as anyone to join the rotation.
We know Nova is done for the year and Pineda has already been pushed back once. Given the nature of his injury and its proximity to his surgically repaired shoulder, expect the team to be very cautious in the coming weeks. Sabathia has shown throughout his career that he never makes excuses and will pitch through pain. He did it when he tore his meniscus in 2006 and 2010, he did when the bone spur in his elbow acted in up 2012, and he did it last September when he blew out his hamstring. Say what you want about his performance on the mound, but Sabathia has always been super accountable and a team first guy. That he finally said something about the knee indicates it was really bothering him.
“That’s why I didn’t want to say anything,” said Sabathia to Chad Jennings, referring to the Nova and Pineda injuries. “But I think I was doing more damage to the team than helping the team by trying to hide it … I didn’t know what was making it swell up. Obviously, you know, it got pretty big on me after the start Sunday and after the start last night. So of course, I was getting a little nervous … I’m not going to make excuses or anything, but I felt it yesterday, and I just wanted to say something and let Stevie (Donohue) know.”
David Phelps and Vidal Nuno have only made a handful of starts between them, and they’ve yet to throw even 90 pitches in a start. Part of that is not being stretched out, part of it is being ineffective. Phelps threw 87 pitches in his first start but only 70 last time out because he was getting roughed up. Nuno has thrown between 69-82 pitches in each of his last four starts, so if he’s still building his pitch count, it’s been a slow process. It seems more likely Joe Girardi & Co. are limiting Nuno’s exposure, which makes sense considering he’s been hit hard the second and third time through the lineup this year. Nuno’s margin for error is pretty small as it is. Giving hitters a third look at him seems like a bad idea.
Maybe the knee injury was the cause of Sabathia’s ineffectiveness and he’ll return from the disabled list and be a serviceable starter, perhaps even something more. Maybe Pineda’s injury was just a bump in the road and he’ll return next month and dominate again. Maybe Aceves really is as good as he looked last Sunday and will solidify the starting staff. That’s a lot of maybes, and when we’re talking about pitchers, two of which are hurt, counting on those maybes to work out is risky business.
The pitching staff is stretched thin as it is and the Yankees are starting to run out of internal options. Trading for a starter seemed kinda silly weeks ago, but it’s suddenly looking like a necessity. No one is ready to start selling pieces yet, so the team is going to have to ride out Nuno and Aceves for another few weeks. That really scares me with an inconsistent offense (especially since Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann are invisible) and a ghastly team defense (particularly on the infield). That rotation has suddenly turned into a glaring weakness and the Yankees are running out of options.
Another day, another loss. The Yankees dropped their third straight game on Monday night, blowing a pair of three-run leads to the Mets in the Subway Series opener. The final score was 9-7. The Yankees have lost eight of their last 12 games and 12 of their last 21 games. The descent into mediocrity is full speed ahead.
The Mets jumped out to a quick one-zip lead in the first inning by manufacturing a run: Eric Young Jr. singled, stole second base, moved to third on a ground out, and scored on a ground out. Good ol’ fashioned baseball. The Yankees took a more blunt and direct approach to answering that run in the second inning, scoring four on one swing with a grand slam. Everything that led up to the grand slam is what made it kinda fun.
To lead off the second inning, the ultra-slumping Brian McCann laced a single over the shift and into right field. Alfonso Soriano followed that up with a single to center (more on that in a bit) and then Yangervis Solarte dunked a single into shallow center to load the bases with no outs. McCann and Soriano played the role of table-setter that inning. After Kelly Johnson struck out and Brian Roberts lined out, leadoff hitter Brett Gardner played the role of cleanup hitter and swatted that grand slam into right field, just in front of the bleachers. They almost blew it, but Gardner picked them up.
Six days after having his best start of the season (by far), Hiroki Kuroda reverted back to his hittable, not foolin’ anyone ways. The damage (four runs in six innings) could have been a lot worse if not for a weak Mets lineup and some hard-hit balls right at defenders. Kuroda’s biggest mistake was a 3-0 fastball to Curtis Granderson, who we know will jump all over a 3-0 fastball in the right situations. The Grandyman hit it out to right for a two-run homer (just like old times!) to knot the game up at four in the fifth inning.
Kuroda’s problem in this game seemed to be his fastball more than anything. His splitter was pretty good (though he didn’t throw many) and when he missed with his slider, he tended to miss down and out of the zone. The fastball was not pretty though, it was either right over the middle or way off the plate. Location location location. Was this a bump or the road back to being produce? Or was his last start against the Angels the exception in a mediocre season?
Retake The Lead
A half-inning after Granderson tied the game, the Yankees retook the lead by taking advantage of the Mets’ biggest weakness: they’re the Mets. With Bartolo Colon clearly tiring and making more mistake pitches, manager Terry Collins left him out there to allow a ground rule double (Soriano), a run-scoring single (Solarte), a run-scoring triple (Johnson), a fielder’s choice (Roberts, out at the plate), and a single (Gardner). After Colon was removed from the game, Gardner stole second and Roberts scored from third when Travis d’Arnaud threw the ball into center field. Just like that, the Yankees put three runs on the board.
Cause of Death: Bullpen
It seems like Joe Girardi is trying to figure out if Alfredo Aceves is anything more than a mop-up man. He brought Aceves in the late innings of a tie game against the Brewers, and in this game he used him as his seventh inning setup man because both Adam Warren and Dellin Betances were unavailable due to recent workloads. The result: three base-runners in five batters, including a two-run homer by Eric Young. He came into the game with seven homers in 1,399 career plate appearances.
Matt Thornton, who was on the mound when McCann threw out Daniel Murphy trying to steal second to end the seventh, retired Granderson leading off the eighth. Then he allowed a double to pinch-hitter Eric Campbell — the hard-hit grounder deflected off Solarte’s glove and Campbell hustled to second in his second MLB game — and the game-tying single to lefty hitting Lucas Duda. I’m starting to think the Yankees signed Thornton so we’d all appreciate Boone Logan a little more. I know I do.
Shawn Kelley was unavailable because his back still isn’t right, forcing Preston Claiborne into a tie game in the eighth inning. Naturally, Claiborne allowed the go-ahead two-run homer to Chris Young on his second pitch of the night. That gave the Mets the 9-7 lead and the score would not change after that. Girardi said he was planning to use David Robertson for four outs, but I guess five would have been just too much with the game on the line. He’s pitched twice in the last nine days, you know. Closers are for closin’.
The Yankees put together a little teaser of a rally in the ninth on a Derek Jeter walk and a Mark Teixeira pinch-hit single. It would have been a double had Teixeira not been dealing with a groin injury. McCann banged into an game-ending double play — Duda made a really nice play to turn the 3-6-3 twin-killing — so Teixeira’s inability to get to second really came back to hurt them.
The most consistent thing about this team is the bad defense. It hurts them every single game. Solarte booted that hard-hit ground ball in the eighth, and while it was far from routine, that’s a ball a big league third baseman has to keep on the infield. McCann also threw a ball into center field on Murphy’s stolen base attempted in the ninth, allowing him to advance to third. It didn’t come back to bite them, but still.
Solarte and Jeter led the offense with three hits apiece while Gardner had the grand slam plus a single. Jacoby Ellsbury‘s slump continued with an 0-for-5 plus two strikeouts. He has four hits in his last 32 at-bats (.125). Beltran went 0-for-3 before leaving the game with an elbow injury, though his replacements (John Ryan Murphy and Teixeira) went 1-for-1 with a walk. Soriano had two hits, Johnson and Roberts one each.
The other day we heard the Yankees were no longer shifting behind Kuroda because it makes him uncomfortable, but the Yankees shifted on Granderson early in this game. I didn’t notice if it was only him. Maybe it was a one-time thing because Granderson’s an extreme pull hitter? I guess I’ll have to pay more attention going forward.
And finally, the second inning single was Soriano’s 1,000th career hit in the AL. He is the seventh player in history with 1,000 hits in both leagues and the only player in history with 1,000 hits, 100 homers, and 100 steals in both leagues. Pretty neat.
Same two teams tomorrow night, when they’ll play the second of two games at Yankee Stadium before the series shifts over to Citi Field. Vidal Nuno and Zack Wheeler will be the pitching matchup. RAB Tickets can help get you in the door for that game or any game on this homestand.
11:03pm: Ichiro clarified that it is only his back. His knee is fine. He tried to get loose today but couldn’t.
10:55pm: Ichiro Suzuki is day-to-day with knee and back problems, according to Joe Girardi. He did not hit today and was not available for tonight’s game. Ichiro hurt himself trying to make that sliding catch in Sunday’s game. With Mark Teixeira banged up and Carlos Beltran heading for an MRI on his elbow, the Yankees are suddenly short three position players. · (20) ·
Shawn Kelley was not available for tonight’s day due to lingering tightness in his back, Joe Girardi announced. “He does not have the flexibility to finish his pitches,” said the skipper. No tests are planned at the moment. Kelley did warm up in yesterday’s game, but apparently something is still not right. With David Robertson married to save situations, the bullpen is really short right now. · (12) ·
10:52pm: Beltran suffered a hyper-extended elbow while taking swings in the batting cage between at-bats, according to Joe Girardi. He is heading for an MRI.
9:41pm: Carlos Beltran left tonight’s game for an unknown reason. He started the game at DH and was lifted for pinch-hitter John Ryan Murphy in the seventh inning, which is not normal. Beltran has not been hitting much since he flipped over the wall in Tampa, and while an initial MRI came back negative, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he was still banged up some way. Stay tuned. · (15) ·
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 loss to Durham)
- 1B Ramon Flores: 0-4
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 2-4, 1 RBI
- 2B Dean Anna: 0-3, 1 BB
- LF Zoilo Almonte & SS Zelous Wheeler: 1-4, 1 2B — Wheeler stole a base
- C Austin Romine: 1-4, 1 R, 3 K
- RHP Chase Whitley: 1 IP, zeroes, 2/0 GB/FB – five of seven pitches were strikes … seems likely he will be called up to the big league team in a few days, and since Alfredo Aceves pitched in relief tonight, Whitley will probably start in place of CC Sabathia on Thursday … Jon Heyman says he even took batting practice today in preparation for the game at Citi Field
- RHP Brian Gordon: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 8/3 GB/FB — 64 of 109 pitches were strikes (59%)
- RHP Brett Gerritse: 2 IP, zeroes, 6/1 GB/FB — 17 of 27 pitches were strikes (63%) … up from High-A Tampa to help cover for some injuries