Yankees should give Bryan Mitchell an extended chance to fill righty relief void

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So far this month a total of 23 different pitchers have appeared in a game for the Yankees. Twenty-three! That’s a franchise record for a single month. Seventeen of those 23 are relievers. The bullpen revolving door, which has been necessitated by some short outings from the starters, has featured eleven different relievers in the last three weeks alone. It’s been quite a pain keeping our Depth Chart page up to date this month.

Anyway, the Yankees have needed to make all these roster moves because the bullpen is getting worn out and they’ve needed fresh arms. Only ten times in the last 18 games has the starter recorded more than 15 outs, and on five occasions the starter failed to complete five full innings. Nathan Eovaldi‘s disaster start in Miami and recent hiccups by Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda have taxed the relief crew.

“We kind of rotate people in and out here a lot, and it doesn’t mean we don’t believe in them, we’re doing it to kind of protect the arms of everyone,” said Joe Girardi to Dan Barbarisi last week. “I think it speaks highly about our system, that the guys who are starting to rise through the ranks and are really close or, in some cases, some of them are pretty much ready, but there’s people in front of them, and it gives us depth.”

All these recent roster moves have led to several pitchers getting their first taste of the big leagues, but none have been able to stick around all that long. They were called up, soaked up some innings, then were sent down for someone else. It’s good they’re getting to experience the show! But it’s impossible to evaluate someone based on one or two appearances. The Yankees learned nothing about these guys during their brief call-ups.

The one recent call-up who appears to be getting a chance to stick around is right-hander Bryan Mitchell, who is a big league veteran compared to some of the other guys we’ve seen this month. Mitchell made his MLB debut last year and has been up a few times this season, but it wasn’t until ten days ago that he got into a game, when he threw three mop-up innings in a blowout win over the Tigers. (Mitchell got a save for that!)

The Yankees sent Mitchell down for a fresh arm the next day, but brought him back three days later — Stephen Drew‘s trip to the paternity list allowed them to bring Mitchell back before his ten days were up — and he’s been in the bullpen since. Mitchell got four outs in a blowout game last week them got another four outs in a tie game against the Astros over the weekend. His first inning of work in Houston was really impressive. He struck out two and got a weak ground ball out.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Mitchell has been a starter throughout his career, but, with David Carpenter not working out, the Yankees are looking for a right-handed reliever to pair with Dellin Betances. Branden Pinder hung around for a little while and was decent, but didn’t wow anyone. Mitchell had a wow outing in the tie game against the Astros on Saturday, plus he’s had two other strong appearances, which appears to have earned him a trial in an unfamiliar role as a short reliever.

“I’ve been called up several times as kind of a backup and not pitched. So I’m just happy to be getting some time out there on the mound,” said Mitchell to Chad Jennings. “I mean, at this point I’m kind of ready for whatever. Obviously I’d rather be here, so whatever they want me to do, I’m not against it. I’m just going to be ready for anything … There’s only so many spots. I mean there’s, what, seven starters as it is? You’ve got to take what you can get sometimes.”

The Yankees have a history of putting starting pitching prospects in the bullpen to solve their bullpen woes, most notably doing it with Joba Chamberlain in 2007. He’s not the only one though. Phil Hughes did it in 2009, David Phelps did it in 2012, and Adam Warren did it in 2013. The Yankees aren’t unique in this regard, lots of teams break young starters in as relievers, though Girardi hasn’t been shy about using these guys in big spots, like Mitchell on Saturday.

Mitchell’s stuff fits well in a short relief role — PitchFX has his fastball averaging 96 mph so far this year and his curveball is a hammer, plus he doesn’t have much of a changeup, instead using a cutter to combat lefties — and I think he could really excel as a one or two-inning reliever this summer. It’s a new role for him and that will be an adjustment, but, like every other young pitcher, Mitchell would rather reliever in the big leagues than a starter in Triple-A.

Andrew Miller figures to be back soon, and both Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson have pitched well, so Mitchell doesn’t have to take on high-leverage innings right away. Girardi said he won’t use him back-to-back days — “I think we are a ways away from that. When a guy has been a starter his whole career and works out of the bullpen you take it kind of slow just because they are not used to doing it. I think you have to be careful,” said the skipper to George King — but otherwise it’s a great chance to both help the team and expose Mitchell to the big leagues.

The move to the bullpen doesn’t have to be permanent. Mitchell can go back to starting next year, and hey, if he has success in relief this year, it could open the door to a big league rotation spot next season. That’s what happened with Joba, Hughes, Phelps, and Warren in recent years. Success in relief then another shot at the rotation. For now, Mitchell can provide some stability and halt the bullpen revolving door, and perhaps be a solution to the righty relief problem. I think he has the tools. Now it’s just a matter of getting the opportunity.

Cafardo: Yankees among teams looking at Jeff Samardzija prior to trade deadline

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to Nick Cafardo, the Yankees are one of several teams looking at White Sox right-hander Jeff Samardzija leading up to the trade deadline. It’s a long list of teams that includes contenders like the Royals, Tigers, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Angels, Orioles, and Cardinals. There figures to be a lot of competition for any competent pitcher at the deadline because there are so few sellers right now.

The ChiSox are 32-42 with a -81 run differential and are way out of the postseason race. GM Rick Hahn seemed to indicate a few weeks ago that if things don’t turn around in a hurry (they haven’t!), he would look to sell at the trade deadline. “You need to start seeing some results on the field before you have to start making changes. There’s no real strategic advantage for laying out specifically what’s going to happen and when,” said Hahn to Daryl Van Schouwen.

The Yankees have shown a lot of interest in Samardzija in the past, dating back to at least the 2013 Winter Meetings. They also exchanged trade proposals with the Cubs last July before Samardzija was dealt to the Athletics, and then discussed him with Oakland again this past offseason. Special assistant Jim Hendry drafted Samardzija when he was Cubs GM and Larry Rothschild was his pitching coach with Chicago from 2008-10, so the Yankees have some firsthand knowledge about him.

Samardzija, 30, is having a rough season so far, pitching to a 4.56 ERA (3.66 FIP) with an MLB-high 123 hits allowed in 108.2 innings. His strikeout (19.0%) and ground ball (39.9%) rates are way down from the last few years as well. Samardzija is still throwing hard though, and he did have a 2.99 ERA (3.20 FIP) with a 23.0 K% and 50.2 GB% in 219.2 innings last year, so it’s not like you have to squint your eyes and look back real far to see the last time he was great.

The White Sox gave up an average-ish everyday player (Marcus Semien) and three good but not great prospects to acquire Samardzija this past offseason. He’s going to be a free agent after the season, and even with the down year my guess is the ChiSox will extend him a qualifying offer. Worst case scenario is he accepts and you’ve got a 31-year-old workhorse on a one-year contract worth $16M or so. Plus Samardzija would have trade value again next year. A qualifying offer seems like a safe bet, actually.

In that case, the White Sox have no reason to accept anything less than a prospect on par with a supplemental first round pick in exchange for Samardzija. I’m guessing it’ll take more than that to acquire him though. It took four prospects to get a half-season of Matt Garza a few years ago, remember. On the rental pitcher scale, Samardzija’s trade value lies somewhere between Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake.

Interestingly (or maybe weirdly is a better way to put it), Cafardo says the Yankees are among the teams monitoring Clay Buchholz prior to the trade deadline as well. He’s actually had a good year (3.48 ERA and 2.67 FIP) but I can’t see that happening. I know the Yankees and Red Sox got together for the Stephen DrewKelly Johnson trade last year, but that was a spare part trade. I can’t see the BoSox shipping Buchholz to the Yankees even if they do tear it down and sell in the wake of their (latest) disaster season. Weird rumor.

Anyway, the Yankees currently have six starters for five rotation spots but not really. CC Sabathia has not pitched well this season and both Michael Pineda and Adam Warren have workload concerns. Then there’s Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow. So yeah, the Yankees have a full rotation on paper, but you don’t have to try to hard to see a scenario in which they need to add a starter at the trade deadline. Samardzija figures to be one of the better hurlers on the market this summer, so of course the Yankees are keeping tabs on him.

Yankees must make tough, yet necessary decision with CC Sabathia

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees lost to the Angels last night, mostly because the bats didn’t show up, but also because CC Sabathia allowed four runs in 7.1 innings against one of the lowest scoring teams in baseball. And the worst part? When Sabathia walked off the mound after being pulled in the eighth, I found myself saying he wasn’t all that bad. That’s where things are right now with the team’s former ace.

Last night’s loss has Sabathia sitting on a 5.59 ERA (4.58 FIP) in 95 innings. The 5.59 ERA ranks 94th out of the 98 qualified starters in baseball this season. That’s after Sabathia ranked 76th out of 81 qualified starters with a 4.78 ERA back in 2013, his last full healthy season. He now has a 5.06 ERA in his last 352 innings dating back to Opening Day 2013. No, ERA isn’t the only or best way to evaluate a pitcher, but the goal is to keep runs off the board, and CC hasn’t done it for three years now. We should all be able to agree on that.

The Yankees are 6-10 when Sabathia starts this season and 35-26 when anyone else starts. Sometimes that happens because a guy isn’t getting any run support and is a tough luck loser a bunch of times, but that isn’t the case here. Sabathia has pitched poorly and his starts are rarely winnable. He’s the weak link in a six-man rotation that will soon be trimmed down to five. It couldn’t be any more obvious.

There is no indication the Yankees are considering removing Sabathia from the rotation — late last night the team announced Nathan Eovaldi, not Adam Warren, will start Wednesday, indicating Warren’s going to the bullpen — and that’s a problem. His enormous contract is dictating his roster spot, not his performance, which to be fair is not unique to the Yankees and Sabathia. It’s happening elsewhere around the league. Still, the AL East is incredibly tight …

AL East Standings 062915

… and it sure looks like it will remain that way all season. This is going to be a really fun race, and the Yankees are hurting themselves by keeping Sabathia in the rotation. It’s going to hard enough to contend against the Orioles, Rays, and Blue Jays as it is. But doing it while running one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball out there every fifth day? When a better option — Warren has a 3.59 ERA (109 ERA+), lowest in the rotation! — is available? It’s illogical.

Removing Sabathia from the rotation is a difficult move from a personal standpoint — he’s done a lot of good for the Yankees over the years and, by all accounts, he’s a leader in the clubhouse, and it’s never easy to demote a player like that to a lesser role. It’s embarrassing. It’s also necessary sometimes. The Giants sent Tim Lincecum to the bullpen last summer and are likely to do it again in the coming days, for example. The Yankees are at that point with Sabathia.

Perhaps there’s a compromise to be made here. Perhaps the best move in the short-term is a phantom DL trip to give Sabathia a little 15-day vacation. Who knows, maybe he’ll welcome it and see it as an opportunity to work on some things. It’s not just a physical break either, it’s a mental break from what I’m sure has been a very tough season (tough few seasons, really). A two-week breather could do some good. Of course, unless the DL trip is a magic cure and helps Sabathia turn the clock back to 2012 or so, all it does it delay the inevitable. It’s not a real solution.

Either way the Yankees are rapidly approaching a breaking point with Sabathia. Actually, I’d say they’re already there and have been since Ivan Nova returned and legitimately gave the Yankees five starters better than Sabathia. This is an organizational failure. It’s not on Joe Girardi. It’s on Brian Cashman and perhaps those above him if Hal Steinbrenner & Co. want Sabathia in the rotation because of his contract. Girardi can’t be expected to make the decision and carry out the plan on his own. Not with someone like Sabathia. The brain trust has to be involved.

For now, Sabathia is not helping the Yankees win games and they don’t have the luxury of giving him time to straighten things out. They’ve already given him too much time. Sabathia is not much of an asset to the Yankees any more, he’s a sunk cost, and if the team wants to put itself in the best position to return to the postseason, he shouldn’t be in the rotation at all. The sooner they’re willing to swallow that pill, the better off they’ll be.

Offense lifeless again in series opening 4-1 loss to Angels


Source: FanGraphs

Outside of the beatdown they laid on Brett Oberholtzer the other day, the Yankees’ offense has been dormant during the current road trip. They were held to one lonely run in Monday night’s 4-1 loss to the Angels, their sixth loss in their last nine games. It’s a West Coast night game, so this one gets a bullet point recap:

  • Beat by Trout: Mike Trout is the best player in the world and it was obvious on Monday night. Not only did he hit the go-ahead solo home run, he also robbed Chris Young of two extra-base hits with men on base. Young crushed both balls to center and Trout was able to reach out and run both down. He legitimately saved three runs with those catches. The man is a game-changer. What can you do?
  • Sad-bathia: For the sixth time in his last eight starts, CC Sabathia failed to give the Yankees a quality start. A quality start isn’t even good! It’s a 4.50 ERA. Sabathia allowed four runs in 7.1 innings to the Angels on Monday night, with two runs coming on solo homers by Trout and C.J. Cron. Trout? Fine, whatever, he’ll do that. But Cron? Yuck. It certainly wasn’t a disaster start, we’ve seen plenty of those this year, but Sabathia couldn’t contain a below average offense while working with a pretty big strike zone.
  • NOffense: Yes, Trout robbed some hits, but the Yankees also went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and had all sorts of opportunities to score. Runner at second with no outs in the first, runner at first with no outs in the second, bases loaded with two outs in the third, runner at second with one out in the fifth, runner at first with no outs in the sixth, runners at first and second with no outs in the seventh, runner at first with one out in the eighth … nada. Zero runs scored from those opportunities.
  • Leftovers: Sabathia now leads the league with 19 home runs allowed … Brett Gardner went 3-for-5 with two doubles and is up to .305/.377/.502 (144 wRC+) on the season … the rest of the offense went 5-for-27 (.185). Carlos Beltran and Didi Gregorius each had two hits … and finally, home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez had a huge strike zone. Look at this mess. Good grief.

Here are the box score, video highlights, updated standings, Bullpen Workload, and Announcer Standings pages. The Yankees and Angels continue this series Tuesday night, when Ivan Nova and Andrew Heaney toe the slab. Hopefully the bats show up.

DotF: Ellsbury goes hitless in first rehab game with Tampa

According to Joel Sherman, RHP Luis Severino is next in line to be called up whenever the Yankees need another starter. Severino has a 1.73 ERA (2.45 FIP) in 36.1 innings since being promoted to Triple-A Scranton and hasn’t really been challenged yet, though, to be fair, the Yankees have moved him through the minors so quickly that he’s yet to go through a league multiple times. Also, Sherman says C Gary Sanchez, 3B Eric Jagielo, and 1B Greg Bird are expected to be promoted to Triple-A in the coming weeks.

Triple-A Scranton (8-1 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 0-3, 2 BB, 1 K — threw a runner out at third
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • LF Ramon Flores: 1-4, 1 BB
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-4, 1 K, 1 HBP — five hits in his last eleven at-bats (.455)
  • C Austin Romine: 1-4 — 14-for-35 (.400) during his nine-game hit streak
  • LHP Jose DePaula: 2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 30 of 53 pitches were strikes (57%)
  • RHP Danny Burawa: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 22 of 33 pitches were strikes
  • LHP James Pazos: 2 IP, zeroes, 4 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 21 of 34 pitches were strikes (62%) … 17/0 K/BB in 16.1 innings since coming back from his mystery injury
  • RHP Jose Ramirez: 2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 24 of 42 pitches were strikes (57%) … eight runs allowed in his last 19.2 innings at this level

[Read more…]

Game 78: LAnaheim

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees are on the West Coast for the final time this season even though it’s only June. That’s always nice. They just split a four-game series in Houston, and while that would have been disappointing the last few years, that’s a good outcome now because the Astros are good. Baseball is 2015 is weird, man.

CC Sabathia is getting the ball in tonight’s series opener against the Angels. Needless to say, Sabathia has to start pitching better. The Yankees are keeping him in the rotation because of his contract, which is dumb, so he needs to improve on his 5.65 ERA (4.49 FIP) to give the team a chance to make the postseason. I love Sabathia, he’s an all-time fave, but man he is just brutal right now. Here is the Halos’ lineup and here is the Bombers’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Chris Young
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 2B Jose Pirela
  8. C John Ryan Murphy
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    LHP CC Sabathia

Pretty much a perfect night for baseball in Anaheim. Temperatures in the low-80s, nice and sunny, no humidity, just gorgeous. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 10:05pm ET and can he seen on YES. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: We had a bunch of injury updates earlier, in case you missed it. Most importantly, Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) started a minor league rehab assignment with High-A Tampa. I assume the goal is to get him back off the DL when the homestand starts Friday.

Awards Update: Brett Gardner was named the AL Player of the Week, MLB announced earlier today. He’s the third Yankee to win the Player of the Week award this year, joining Mark Teixeira in April and Michael Pineda in May, and it’s Gardner’s third time winning it. He was also named Player of the Week in June 2013 and August 2014. Yay Brett.

Monday Night Open Thread

Earlier today MLB released the final All-Star Game voting updates. Here are the AL and NL. No Yankees are in position to start the game, not even close really, but at least some Royals players are falling out of the top spots at their positions. Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, and Nelson Cruz are in line to start the game now. That’s better than Trout and eight Royals, which was the case a few weeks ago. Voting ends Thursday. Here’s the ballot. The All-Star Game starters will be announced Sunday and the rest of the rosters Monday.

Here is your open thread for the night. The Yankees are playing the Angels later tonight, so the regular game thread will be along in a few hours. ESPN is showing the Rangers and Orioles, and that’s about it. Talk about that game, the All-Star Game voting, or anything else right here.