I thought we were beyond this. The whole “should Joba Chamberlain be a starter or reliever?” debate died a slow and ugly death a few years back, after the Yankees took matters into their own hands and officially declared the young right-hander a full-time reliever. There would be no more bouncing back and forth, no more Joba Rules, no more pitch counts, nothing. He will be a reliever and that’s what he’s done since.
Yesterday, despite not being asked any questions about the topic, Joba told reporters he still believes he has what it takes to be a starter in this league. Here is his full quote, courtesy of Mark Feinsand…
“This is probably going to spark a bunch of stuff and (PR director Jason Zillo) is going to be mad at me, but it’s one of those things where it’s like, do you think you have the capability to start? Yes. Do I have four pitches that I can throw for a strike? Yes. Do I have two plus pitches in the bullpen that I can throw at any time? Yes.
“I guess I’m trying to have my cake and eat it, too. I feel like I’m good enough to do both. I’ve proven that I can do both. Whatever it is, if I close, I want to be one or the other. I’ve been in the role of in the bullpen for a while, but am I confident that if I got the chance to start again somewhere – wherever that’s at – I could do it? Without a doubt. I just have to focus on this year and what I can do to improve to help this team win, continue to try to win ballgames for them.”
There are two things going on here, the first of which is pretty simple: of course Joba thinks he can start. Pretty much every reliever thinks he can start, especially relievers who are still a few years away from their 30th birthday. He’s confident in his talent and believes he can handle a more important role, which is perfectly normal. It would be a little disappointing if Joba came out and said he’s content as a reliever and doesn’t think he’s capable of pitching in someone’s rotation. You always want your players striving for more, to be better.
Secondly, free agency is looming and starters make an awful lot more money than their bullpen brethren. It’s not close either. The biggest free agent reliever contract in baseball history (Jonathan Papelbon) is nearly identical to the third largest free agent starter contract given out this past winter (Edwin Jackson), nevermind in baseball history. Being a starter pays much more because they’re simply more important. You know this, I know this, Joba and his agent knows this.
With the obvious caveat that there is still eight months worth of baseball to be played between now and free agency, it seems very unlikely Chamberlain will be re-signing with New York after the season. That makes me sad. He’s made it very obvious we wants to start and the Yankees won’t give him that opportunity. That last part is very clear. Ivan Nova and his 4.41 ERA in 62 career starts is in camp competing for a rotation spot this spring while Joba and his 4.18 ERA in 43 career starts is not. Think about that. Nova has gotten 19 more starts (and counting!) to prove himself than Joba.
Anyway, some team is going to give Chamberlain a chance to start next year. He’s still young enough (only 27) with good stuff and former top prospect shine, which is the kind of package that typically has fans clamoring for their team to swoop in. I’m guessing Joba will get a contract like Carlos Villanueva’s (two years, $10M) with the promise that he’ll compete for a rotation spot in camp with the bullpen as a fallback option. Maybe his quasi-hometown Royals will give him that deal, or maybe it’ll be Padres and their big ballpark. I could see the Rays pulling off a move like that, the Rangers as well. Either way, Joba’s days with the Yankees are numbered because there is still, six years later, a difference of opinion about his role.
The Yankees lost to the Phillies this afternoon, their third consecutive defeat in Grapefruit League play. Ichiro Suzuki went 3-for-3 with a stolen base while Mark Teixeira (double), Travis Hafner (single), and Matt Diaz (single) all had one knock apiece. David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain both make their Spring Training debuts with relatively uneventful (and scoreless!) innings.
The MVP of the day was catcher J.R. Murphy, who came off the bench to hit a two-run homer to dead center and then a double off the wall in almost the exact same spot. On the other hand, right-hander Zach Nuding gets LVP honors by allowing two dingers — including this monster shot by Domonic Brown — and three runs in an inning of work. Oh well, shake it off. It’s only February. Here’s the box score and here’s the rest from Tampa…
- As always, Chad Jennings has the workout assignments for the guys who didn’t play in this afternoon’s game. Andy Pettitte threw live batting practice while Hiroki Kuroda and Boone Logan each threw a side session.
- Within that same piece, Jennings notes that Joe Girardi had no update on Phil Hughes (bulging disk), who continues to work out in a pool. No news is good news, I guess.
- Following the game, Joba told reporters he still thinks he can be a starter. “Do I think I have the capability to start? Yes. Do I have four pitches that I can throw for a strike? Yes,” said the right-hander. No doubt that’s on his mind with free agency nine months away. [Andy McCullough & Erik Boland]
- Nik Turley will start against the Orioles at home in George M. Steinbrenner Field tomorrow afternoon, and that game will be broadcast on YES.
Here is your open thread for the evening. The Rangers, Islanders, and Nets are all playing tonight, so talk about those games or anything else here. Enjoy.
Ben Badler at Baseball America posted a list of the 20 best prospects in the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues today (no subs. req’d), though it’s just an alphabetical listing and not an actual ranking. RHP Rafael DePaula unsurprisingly made the list after his dominant showing this summer, and in the subscriber-only write-up Badler says he “has an electric fastball that sits at 93-96 mph and touches 98-99 (plus he) mixes in a sharp, power curveball that should be an out pitch and shows feel for a changeup.”
The only other Yankees farmhand on the list is SS Abi Avelino, who New York signed for $300k back in 2011. Badler says he “could be an above-average defender at shortstop (because) his actions are clean, his hands and feet work well and he has good body control.” Avelino’s offensive approach is described as “a simple, line-drive swing with good bat path that helps him make plenty of contact … He squares up balls regularly but doesn’t have much power, so his offensive game will be more about getting on base than extra-base hits.” Both Avelino and DePaula should make their stateside debut in 2013, the former with the Rookie GCL Yankees and the latter with Low-A Charleston. · (16) ·
It feels like right-hander Jose Ramirez has been the Yankees’ organization forever, but he’s only been pitching in the United States since 2009. Injuries have hampered his progress, but he 23-year-old showed some big time stuff last year and really climbed up various prospect lists. I ranked him as New York’s 12th best prospect but Keith Law is a much bigger fan — he ranked Ramirez as one of the 105 best prospects in all of baseball.
Ramirez threw two hitless and scoreless innings against the Phillies on Tuesday, walking Ryan Howard and otherwise getting a plethora of ground balls. He threw a ton of fastballs as you’d expect from his first Spring Training outing, but he did mix in at least one slider and a handful of changeups. The defense made a few nice plays behind Ramirez as well, including that Robinson Cano catch you see above. More .GIFs after the jump.
It was obvious Mark Teixeira‘s importance to the Yankees increased as soon as they made it clear they were willfully downgrading their offense. New York signed Teixeira to that fat eight-year contract — fourth largest contract in baseball history when it was signed — assuming he would anchor the middle of their lineup for years to come, but he simply hasn’t lived up to those expectations. Teixeira was great in 2009 but has faded in recent years.
Despite that fade, Teixeira has never actually been bad with the Yankees. Last year was his worst in the Bronx but he was still a comfortably above-average hitter, producing a .251/.332/.475 (116 wRC+) line with 24 homers in 123 games. That last number was the problem though, the games played. Outside of a quad-related DL trip back in 2007, Teixeira had been a lock for 150+ games played from 2005-2011. Last summer he missed a few days with a wrist issue and more than a month with a calf strain. Let’s not forget the early-season cough as well, which didn’t keep him on the sidelines in the traditional sense but surely impacted his production. If we go back to 2010, there was the broken toe in September and the hamstring strain that ended his season in Game Four of the ALCS.
Thanks to Curtis Granderson‘s injury, Teixeira’s importance to the Yankees has increased even more. They were able to withstand his declining production the last three years before their lineup (and bench) was deeper and better able to compensate. That’s not the case anymore. Derek Jeter is coming off his ankle surgery and both Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner are injury risks, meaning the lineup is even further at risk of losing its more productive players. The Yankees not only need Teixeira to stay on the field for 150+ games in 2013, but they also need him to halt his decline and improve on his offensive performance. Maybe being healthy instead of battling through a cough and a wrist problem and a calf strain will help him do that.
“Stay healthy and have fun. That’s my number one goal because I know if I stay healthy the numbers are going to be there,” said
Captain Obvious Teixeira to Mark Feinsand earlier in camp. “I’m going to help my team win. Have fun, because it’s a long season, there’s a lot of ups and downs and I’ve spent my entire career just trying to stay consistent. I know there are going to be low points, I know there are going to be high points. If I can have fun during both of those then I’ll be able to have a great season overall.”
Teixeira isn’t old, he’ll turn 33 about two weeks into the season. He plays a less-demanding/non-premium position and isn’t at an age where he’s at serious risk of falling off a cliff. His numbers — specifically his batting average and by extension, his on-base percentage — have declined because he’s gotten more pull/fly ball happy, and that’s not the best combination for maximizing offensive value. It’s been three years since Teixeira was the all-fields monster he was earlier in his career, so it’s time to stop expecting that guy to come back. Getting 150+ games of better than league average production, especially in the power department, out of Teixeira is the most important thing in 2013. If he continues to battle injury and/or sees his performance slip further, the Yankees will have a very hard time compensating.
During a recent radio interview, Johnny Damon said he had interest in a reunion with the Yankees for what I think is the third year in the row. “You guys know that I would have tons of interest to go to New York,” he said. “But I just don’t think they would be interested … They have had plenty of opportunities and I kept raising my hand, wanting to go back and, you know, hopefully it would be a perfect fit. It always had been. Have me for six weeks and then send me off on my merry way. That’s fine.”
Damon, 39, hit .222/.281/.329 (71 wRC+) with four homers and four steals in 224 plate appearances for the Indians last season before getting released. He hasn’t hit much since leaving the Yankees during the 2009-2010 offseason and he’s much more of a DH than an outfielder these days, but at this point the Yankees have nothing to lose. Damon said he’s cool with being cut loose when Granderson returns and it’s not like there’s a standout internal candidate, so what the hell, bring him to camp and see what he has to offer. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman responded to Damon’s comments by saying “we will focus on what we have at this time.” · (46) ·
Pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa two weeks ago today, and during that time the Yankees have lost Phil Hughes to a bulging disk in his back and Curtis Granderson to a broken forearm. Hughes is working his way back slowly but could be back on a mound within a few days while Granderson will be sidelined until at least early-May. Considering that those two are among the youngest regulars on the projected roster, these last two weeks have certainly been disheartening. Here’s a collection of random thoughts…
1. A few hours before Granderson got hurt on Sunday, I wrote a nice big post for Monday afternoon explaining why moving him to left field wasn’t a slam dunk upgrade. It was absolutely worth trying of course, but factors like his inexperience — hasn’t played left regularly since 2003 and remember, left is the infamous “sun field” at Yankee Stadium during day games — and the potential for his bat to suffer could take away from the defensive upgrade. The inexperience is a very real thing while possible offensive decline is more theoretical than anything, but it is something the Yankees would have had to monitor in camp. Confidence was another thing; being “demoted” to left in his walk year couldn’t have been an easy thing for Curtis to take. Maybe he would have used that as motivation to kick ass and prove everyone wrong, but who knows. I think Granderson is likely to return as a center fielder when he’s healthy because the Yankees will emphasize getting his bat is ready as soon as possible rather than saving a few runs on defense. We’ll see.
2. My darkhorse/never-gonna-happen left field candidate? Corban Joseph. He can hit because he has an idea at the plate — his recent comments to Chad Jennings were encouraging — with some pop from the left side, but his defense has always been a question. Joseph isn’t quick enough to play an average second base and he doesn’t really have the arm for third, so a corner outfield spot might be his best long-term position. Baseball America said “he has taken fly balls in the outfield during pregame drills” in their 2013 Prospect Handbook, so at least he has a tiny bit of experience tracking a fly ball. Thirty-two Grapefruit League games wouldn’t be enough to fully transition Joseph from the infield to the outfield — right field might be better since it’s the smallest part of Yankee Stadium — but it’s probably worth a shot. Like I said, however, it’s never going to happen. Would be interesting to see though.
3. Since Chris Stewart and Frankie Cervelli are both out of options, an injury is pretty much the only way Austin Romine could make the team. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, he could use the regular playing time in Triple-A, but I doubt the Yankees would put one of those guys on waivers and sacrifice depth at this point. One thing I will be keeping an eye on in camp is Cervelli’s throwing, which was downright awful from 2010-2011 despite a very good minor league track record. Surely you remember all those errant throws into center field. Frankie threw a runner out at second trying to steal on Saturday and made a nice throw on a steal attempt yesterday even though the runner was safe. Cervelli told Jennings that he was “rushing” his throws and developed some bad habits from 2010-2011, but he corrected them last year and threw out 30% of attempted base-stealers in Triple-A. If he has in fact gotten over those bad habits and is able to contribute more defensively, he’d be the clear starter for me. None of these guys can hit much, but Cervelli is right in his prime years (27 next week) with a tolerable career .339 OBP. The lesser of two evils, I suppose.
4. By no means am I calling Ivan Nova a slacker, but I do think David Phelps has a bit of a leg up in the fifth starter’s competition because he is so far ahead in camp. He had already thrown a few bullpens by the time pitchers and catchers reported, and he was the first projected big leaguer to a) face hitters, and b) actually get into a Grapefruit League game. Phelps told Jennings he “pushed (himself) a little more in the offseason … because (he’s) trying to make an impression,” which is exactly what he did last year. As you probably remember, Phelps opened some eyes in camp last spring by showing some serious competitiveness and more velocity than he had in the past, and it helped him win that final bullpen spot. Talent always reigns supreme, but the Yankees have emphasized makeup and work ethic in recent years in an effort to get as much as they can out of that talent. Phelps is making one hell of an impression.
9:15am: The Yankees are officially calling it a “sore left oblique,” but Youkilis told reporters it was just a stitch in his side — near the top of his hip and not so much his oblique — yesterday and he’s totally fine today. “No concerns,” he said. We’ll see.
8:51am: Joe Girardi told reporters this morning that Kevin Youkilis will be shut down for a few days with some kind of left oblique issue. Apparently it was described as a “cramp” and Girardi said they’re just being cautious. The Yankees will re-evaluate their third baseman in a few days before sending him back out on the field. For what it’s worth, a left oblique strain sent Youkilis to the DL for two weeks back in 2009. · (35) ·
The Yankees lost to the Orioles this afternoon in a generally uneventful contest. Brett Gardner was the headliner for New York, going 3-for-3 with a bunt single. He slid head-first into first base in his first at-bat of the day, roughly 24 hours after Curtis Granderson fractured his forearm. Hopefully someone smacks some sense into him. No need to do that in February, especially after your 40-homer teammate got hurt.
Anyway, Jayson Nix had a pair of knocks behind Gardner and that’s pretty much it. Frankie Cervelli went hitless in three at-bats and was the only other projected big leaguer to play. The good news is that no one else got hurt today, thankfully. Here is the box score and here are my Corey Black .GIFs from earlier. As for the rest of the day’s news from Tampa…
- CC Sabathia (elbow) faced hitters in live batting practice and started throwing sliders, which is a big step following his surgery. “It was fine,” said the left-hander afterwards. He’ll do it again in two days. [George King]
- Mariano Rivera (knee) threw 32 pitches in his second round of live batting practice, saying everything went well afterwards. A simulated game could be he next step. [Meredith Marakovits]
- Chad Jennings has the rest of the day’s workout assignments. Ivan Nova, David Aardsma, and Clay Rapada also threw live batting practice while David Phelps threw in a bullpen. Phil Hughes (bulging disk) did some light work in a pool and will go for a checkup on Wednesday.
- No surprise here, but Joe Girardi said it is “fair to assume” Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott are not in the outfield mix despite Granderson’s injury. [Andy McCullough]
- Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner, Eduardo Nunez, and Kevin Youkilis are on the travel roster for tomorrow’s game against the Phillies in Clearwater. Right-hander Jose Ramirez gets the start. That game will air on MLB.tv but not YES.
Here is your open thread for the night. None of the basketball or hockey locals are in action, but MLB Network will air a pair of Spring Training game, so hooray for that. Who you see depends on where you live. Talk about that stuff or anything else here. Go nuts.
Via Chad Jennings: Brian Cashman confirmed that prospect/suspect Dellin Betances will open the season as a starter for Tripe-A Scranton, just like last season. He’s expected to join Adam Warren, Brett Marshall, Vidal Nuno, and Shaeffer Hall in the rotation. Hall could get stuck spending a third year with Double-A Trenton if the Yankees sign a veteran depth starter.
Betances, 24, was so awful as a starter for Scranton last year (6.39 ERA and 5.88 FIP) that he had to be demoted to Double-A, where he was slightly less awful (6.51 ERA and 4.15 FIP). Betances pitched in relief during the Arizona Fall League and it seemed like he would continue to pitch out of the bullpen going forward since his command and mechanics have shown negligible improvement during his 6+ year pro career. The Yankees will burn Dellin’s final minor league option this year, meaning he’ll have to pass through waivers to go to the minors starting in 2014. It’s make or break time, if he doesn’t show any improvement early in the season they should stick him in the bullpen quickly and salvage whatever value they can. · (25) ·