Big mailbag this week. Ten questions, so I tried my best to keep the answers short. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything and everything at anytime.
Daniel asks: I know the whole spiel about him being a smart, patient hitter with postseason experience and success as a clutch hitter. But, are you honestly at all worried about the way Carlos Beltran has looked thus far? This is year one.
I’m not worried yet, but I would be lying if I said Beltran’s age and the potential for a rapid decline wasn’t in the back of my mind. His slump can be traced almost exactly to the day he flipped over the wall in Tampa. He went into that game hitting .327/.368/.673 (176 wRC+) in 57 plate appearances, flipped over the wall, sat out a game after having an MRI on his shoulder and wrist (came back clean), and has hit .172/.229/.266 (33 wRC+) in 70 plate appearances since. Maybe the fall fouled him up and his shoulder isn’t 100% even though there’s no structural damage. At least then we’d have an explanation for the slump. I’m not worried yet but I am monitoring the situation. That’s probably the best way to put it.
Uke asks: Assuming the Yankees let Ichiro Suzuki and Alfonso Soriano walk after this season and make Beltran the semi-permanent DH, who could take over the RF AB’s? Do Adonis Garcia and Ramon Flores have a role on this team next year?
These are the Yankees, so we can’t rule out a free agent signing as Plan A. This offseason’s crop of free agent outfielders includes Melky Cabrera, Seth Smith, Colby Rasmus, Norichika Aoki, Nelson Cruz, Michael Cuddyer, and Nate Schierholtz, among others. I don’t think re-signing Soriano will be off the table either. Among internal candidates, I would think Zoilo Almonte is first in line for regular playing time. Slade Heathcott and maybe Tyler Austin could be factors if they get healthy, stay healthy, and play well the rest of the season. Flores has been dynamite in Triple-A — it’s interesting he’s spending time at first base again, they might be letting him get re-familiar with the position before a potential big league role later this year — and he’d be in the mix as well. I’m not really buying Garcia as an MLB option, but that’s just my opinion. Because we’re talking about the Yankees, I’d bet on those right field at-bats going to player acquired from outside the organization.
Anthony asks: Do you think that the Yankees would ever demote CC Sabathia to the bullpen if he continues to struggle? Mike Mussina, borderline Hall of Famer, was once demoted to the bullpen in an effort to figure stuff out. If Sabathia continues to pitch poorly, is it crazy to think he could be in the bullpen for a week or two?
I do think they would send Sabathia to the bullpen — Mussina got clobbered in three straight starts (20 runs in 9.2 combined) and was sent to the bullpen for exactly one appearance before rejoining the rotation back in late-August/early-September in 2007 — but I don’t think they’re there yet, not even after last season. For starters, they don’t really have anyone to take his rotation spot right now. They’d have to wait until Michael Pineda returns. Sabathia’s also four years younger than Moose was in 2007 and I think there’s less of a “holy cow he might be done forever” panic. I think we might see him skip a start first, then a stint in the bullpen. Sabathia’s made adjustments and has had stretches when he’s looked pretty damn good this year (usually four or five innings within a game), but nothing seems to be working.
Shep asks: If you had to pick one player on an MLB roster to be a player-manager, now or in the future, who would it be?
Pete Rose was the last player-manager (1984-86 Reds) and I don’t think we’ll ever seen another one again. There’s too much that goes into managing these days between running Spring Training, keeping tabs on workloads, looking up splits, shift data, the whole nine. Doing all of that and preparing to play seems like too much for one person, even with an excellent coaching staff. That said, if I had to pick someone to do it today, I’d probably go with Yadier Molina. That is based on nothing in particular, he just seems like a good candidate. Justin Verlander maybe? A starting pitcher-manager might work best since he’s sitting on the bench doing nothing four out of every five games anyway. I could maybe see the Mets trying it with David Wright. Maybe. Fun to think about.
Kristofer asks: Given both the uncertainty of the 3B position in the years to come and the fact that the Yankees are willing to extend big money to international players still in their 20s, is Jeong Choi a possibility for them this offseason? How does he project?
Choi, 27, was recently dubbed the “David Wright of Korea,” and Jon Heyman reported that he intends to come to MLB as a free agent next year. No posting system nonsense or anything, he’s a true free agent. Choi is hitting only .268/.343/.383 with three homers in 32 games this season, but it’s early and last year he put up a .316/.429/.551 batting line with 28 homers. He’s hit along those lines since 2010. Keith Law was on our podcast recently and said he heard the David Wright comparisons aren’t accurate at all, and that Choi is more of a utility infielder than anything in MLB. That’s just one opinion and it’s pretty much all we have on the guy. I do think the Yankees will check in on him just because he plays a position of need, but I would expect them to target a known quantity (Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, etc.) if they’re going to drop decent money on help at the hot corner.
Joe asks: Which prospect has come from nowhere to turn heads so far this year?
I don’t think the Yankees have had one of those guys this year, someone like 2006 Edwar Ramirez or 2008 Al Aceves, who just showed up in a box score one day and dominated right away. 1B Mike Ford with Low-A Charleston might fit the bill. He was an undrafted free agent out of Princeton and is hitting .327/.400/.475 so far. Maybe RHP Jaron Long, hitting coach Kevin Long’s son? He’s got a 3.33 ERA (2.61 FIP) with a 20/5 K/BB in 24.1 innings for the River Dogs this year. He’ll probably wind up with High-A Tampa later this year after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio State.
nycsportzfan asks: Hey Mike, was wondering what kinda heater Tyler Webb has, and who has more promise between Webb and Dietrich Enns?
Enns, the team’s 19th round pick in 2012, had that ridiculous first half with Low-A Charleston last season (0.61 ERA and 1.52 FIP in 44.1 innings) before coming back to Earth in the second half, and he’s a low-90s fastball guy with both a curveball and a changeup. Webb has been solid since being the club’s tenth rounder last year, pitching to a 3.62 ERA (~2.25 FIP) in 49.2 innings. He’s another low-90s guy with a slider, plus he supposedly hides the ball well with his delivery. I’m not sure who has more potential between the two — they are both fringy prospects, to be sure — but I think Webb’s two-pitch mix might help him get to the show as a lefty specialist.
Jack asks: Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody, Danny Burawa, Mark Montgomery, Diego Moreno, Branden Pinder. Can you offer your assessment of any of them ever making any significant impact (to the extent that a reliever is able) in the bigs? They all seem to be pretty good prospects (and actually putting up good numbers).
Moreno’s not a prospect. He’ll turn 27 in July and is a pure arm strength guy. The other guys are prospects and you could almost pick names out a hat if you want to rank them. Montgomery’s prospect shine has dimmed following last year’s shoulder trouble, and of course Goody just came back from Tommy John surgery. Burawa has had some non-arm injuries and probably has the nastiest pure stuff of the group — he was pumping 97-98 with a 90 mph slider in camp — though Montgomery’s slider is the best individual pitch, if that makes sense. Rumbelow has mid-90s heat and a good curveball, and so far this year he has 18 strikeouts in nine innings with Low-A Charleston. Pinder’s a fastball/slider pitcher who lags behind the other non-Moreno guys for me. Goody, Burawa, Montgomery, and Rumbelow can definitely be late-inning relievers at the MLB level if everything comes together. They’re not quite what David Robertson was during his prospect days but they’re not far off either.
Drew asks: When was the last time that Derek Jeter batted not in a top 3 lineup spot? Rookie season? Mid-90s?
The last time Jeter started a game in a lineup spot lower than third was July 10th, 1999, when he batted cleanup against the Mets. Here’s the box score. That was a one-game thing. He batted third or higher every other game that season. Before that, you have to go back to the second to last game of the 1997 season, when he batted seventh. Here’s that box score. And finally, the last time Jeter started a game as a nine-hole hitter was the final game of the 1996 season. Here is that box score. My hunch is no, we won’t see Jeter bat lower than third this season.
Liz asks: Given Jeter’s retirement at the end of the season, who do you see stepping in (and up) to fill the Captain’s shoes?
Do you mean the next captain of the team? The Yankees went eight years between Don Mattingly’s retirement and naming Jeter captain, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there was a similar (or even longer) wait this time. I don’t see an obvious captain on the roster right now — what the hell do I know about what goes on in the clubhouse anyway? — and that’s not a knock on the guys on the roster. I just don’t think the Yankees will rush into naming another captain. They’ll want it to be someone who will be around for a while and I’m sure they’re prefer a homegrown player. That’s not a must, just a preference. My bold next captain prediction: John Ryan Murphy. Boom.
Take pity on me, for I am an old man. Having not watched an inning of the Angels series, I rely on Jay and Mike to talk about how the Yankees turned things around and escaped Anaheim with a series win.
We also take a long look at the pitching staff, for both the short term and the long term. Plus, the requisite trade deadline talk, which you can expect from here through July.
RAB welcomes Jack Moore to the podcast. I met Jack back when he and I wrote for FanGraphs. Jack’s now all over the place, writing for The Score and Sports on Earth (you should check out his article that should be live Friday morning).
Having founded the Brewers blog Disciples of Uecker, Jack is not only a knowledgeable Brewers fan but also an elite blog namer. If you don’t know much about the Brewers, and I imagine many Yankees fans do not, Jack gets you up to speed heading into the weekend series.
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- RHP Andrew Bailey (shoulder) is throwing but not off a mound just yet. “He’s a ways away,” said VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman. “But we’re going to keep working at it because obviously he could be a big factor for us.”
- LHP Manny Banuelos (elbow) will gradually be stretched all the way out and throw regular, full starts. He’s working three innings at a time now. The Yankees have him on an innings limit and want to have as many available as possible in case he becomes a factor at the big league level later in the season.
- OF Tyler Austin (groin), OF Slade Heathcott (knee), RHP Bryan Mitchell (elbow), RHP Danny Burawa (oblique), LHP Francisco Rondon (shoulder) are all about a week away from returning. LHP Fred Lewis (blister) is further away.
- RHP Ty Hensley (hernia) is scheduled to begin facing hitters next week. Hopefully he’ll be ready when the Rookie GCL Yanks and Short Season Staten Island season start late next month.
- And finally, C/RF Peter O’Brien was promoted to Double-A Trenton following today’s, according to @Draft2Dynasty. It’ll be interesting to see what position(s) he plays and how often.
Triple-A Scranton (8-4 win over Indianapolis)
- 1B Ramon Flores: 2-4, 1 3B, 3 RBI, 1 BB — back-to-back days at first base? hmmm
- SS Dean Anna: 0-3, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1BB, 1 K
- RF Zoilo Almonte: 0-5, 1 RBI, 1 K
- LF Adonis Garcia: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K
- C Austin Romine: 3-4, 3 R, 1 2B — 7-for-22 (.318) with two doubles and a homer in his last six games
- RHP Zach Nuding: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 3/4 GB/FB — 49 of 84 pitches were strikes (58%)
- LHP Cesar Cabral: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 11 of 17 pitches (65%) were strikes
Five years ago today, Alex Rodriguez returned from his hip surgery and PED admission to swat a three-run homer on the very first pitch he saw. It was pretty awesome. Can’t believe it’s been five years already. CC Sabathia also threw a complete game shutout that night after struggling for much of his first month in pinstripes too. Here’s the box score. A-Rod‘s dinger was the first of many improbable and memorable moments as the Yankees stormed to the World Series title. That season was so fun.
The Yankees are off tonight, so here’s your open thread. Day One of the NFL draft is on at 8pm ET (ESPN), plus MLB Network will air a game. The teams you see depend on where you live. There’s also NHL and NBA playoff action, including the Nets. Talk about A-Rod’s homer, the NFL draft, whatever. Have at it.
5:30pm: The Yankees and Turley have indeed agreed to a minor league contract according to Chris Cotillo, so he’s back in the organization. No word on how much longer he will be rehabbing from the arm injury, however.
12:30pm: Via Chad Jennings: VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman said the Yankees expect to re-sign left-hander Nik Turley soon. He was released a few weeks ago to clear room on the roster for Chris Leroux. This is basically a repeat of the David Adams situation last spring, when he was released then re-signed to a minor league deal.
Turley, 24, has not pitched at all this season due to an unknown arm injury. Newman said he has been rehabbing at the team’s complex in Tampa since being released. Turley had a 3.88 ERA (4.30 FIP) in 139 innings at Double-A last season, and I assume he’ll join the Triple-A Scranton rotation when ready. I ranked him as the team’s 23rd best prospect before the season, before the arm injury. · (8) ·
In case you haven’t noticed, the AL East is a dumpster fire this season. Here are the standings before we go any further:
Yuck. All five teams are clustered together in mediocrity. Dan Syzmborski posted his updated ZiPS division projections yesterday based on what has already happened this year, and the system has the Blue Jays in last place at 80-82. It also has the other four AL East teams tied for first at 83-79. Keep in mind that’s not a prediction of what will happen, it’s just an estimate of each team’s talent level. Point is, the division is crazy close.
As we’ve seen the last few weeks, the Yankees are no doubt a flawed team. They need another starting pitcher and another infielder, and another bullpen arm wouldn’t hurt either. Playing better defense would help too. More than anything, they need players like Carlos Beltran, Derek Jeter, Brian McCann, and CC Sabathia to improve their performance going forward.
The Yankees are a flawed team and that’s okay because the other four AL East teams are flawed too. We’ve learned a lot these last five weeks. Here’s what we know about the division a little more than one month into the season.
Overall Batting: 94 wRC+ (17th in MLB) and 4.32 R/G (9th)
Overall Rotation: 4.42 ERA (24th) and 4.32 FIP (25th)
Overall Bullpen: 3.81 ERA (16th) and 4.38 FIP (27th)
Defensive Efficiency: .683 (29th)
The O’s went into the offseason needing a starter and they still need a starter. Ubaldo Jimenez (5.19 ERA and 4.83 FIP) has not worked out so far — turns out making a bunch of starts against the Astros, White Sox, and Twins late last year didn’t mean he had turned his career around — and the Miguel Gonzalez (5.28 ERA and 4.86 FIP) magic has finally worn off. Bud Norris, Chris Tillman, and Wei-Yin Chen are solid but nothing more. The middle relief unit is also a mess, though the trio of Tommy Hunter, Zach Britton, and Darren O’Day have been outstanding. The other four guys are the problem. Now that Manny Machado is back and Chris Davis (oblique) will soon come off the DL, Baltimore will out-hit many of their pitching problems this summer. That strategy can work, we saw the Yankees do it from 2005-07. They do lack high on-base players to fully capitalize on their power, however.
BOSTON RED SOX
Overall Batting: 100 wRC+ (13th) and 4.15 R/G (16th)
Overall Rotation: 3.85 ERA (15th) and 3.83 FIP (14th)
Overall Bullpen: 3.14 ERA (9th) and 2.91 FIP (3rd)
Defensive Efficiency: .693 (22nd)
On paper, the Red Sox are the most complete team in the division. They’re average or better in every phase of the game, including defensively now that Shane Victorino (hamstring) is off the DL and Jackie Bradley Jr. has replaced Grady Sizemore as the regular center fielder. Bradley and A.J. Pierzynski are the lineup weak spots, Edward Mujica and Craig Breslow the bullpen laggers, and Felix Doubront the rotation drain. Jake Peavy’s walk and homer problems suggest he might perform worse going forward as well (3.09 ERA and 5.07 FIP). Otherwise Boston has productive players in just about every roster spot, a deep farm system, and a pretty big wallet. If they need help, they can go out and get almost anyone they want. The Red Sox are not as good as they were last year, nor are they as bad as they were for the first few weeks of this season.
New York Yankees
Overall Batting: 101 wRC+ (12th) and 4.27 R/G (10th)
Overall Rotation: 4.27 ERA (22th) and 3.88 FIP (16th)
Overall Bullpen: 3.91 ERA (19th) and 3.52 FIP (12th)
Defensive Efficiency: .690 (25th)
Outside of Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees have not had another reliable starter all season. Maybe Hiroki Kuroda will be that guy after his very good start against the Angels earlier this week and maybe Michael Pineda will be another one when he returns from his shoulder muscle problem. The back of the bullpen has been excellent. The lineup is being held back because of several underperformers, specifically Beltran and McCann. The Yankees have a ton of money, it’s just a question of how willing ownership is to use it to add players at midseason. The farm system is improving but it still remains to be seen whether other teams want some of their prospects in trades. But you knew all that already.
TAMPA BAY RAYS
Overall Batting: 108 wRC+ (7th) and 4.24 R/G (11th)
Overall Rotation: 4.44 ERA (25th) and 3.76 FIP (11th)
Overall Bullpen: 4.17 ERA (23rd) and 4.23 FIP (22nd)
Defensive Efficiency: .701 (18th)
For the first time in a long time, the Rays have serious pitching problems. Matt Moore is lost for the year with Tommy John surgery, and both Jeremy Hellickson (elbow) and Alex Cobb (oblique) are still weeks away from returning to the rotation. They’ve been stuck relying on Erik Bedard, Jake Odorizzi, and Cesar Ramos to make starts. Those guys wouldn’t be anywhere near their pitching staff the last couple of seasons. The offense is fine but the bullpen is weak because it’s been worked hard thanks to the shaky rotation, though replacing Heath Bell with Brad Boxberger will help somewhat. Unlike the other teams in the division, Tampa doesn’t really have the financial wherewithal (or the prospects, at this point) to go out and make a trade to improve their weakness. They’re just trying to get by until Hellickson and Cobb return, hoping they’ll be the difference makers.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Overall Batting: 111 wRC+ (4th) and 4.88 R/G (5th)
Overall Rotation: 4.04 ERA (19th) and 3.75 FIP (10th)
Overall Bullpen: 4.94 ERA (27th) and 4.23 FIP (23rd)
Defensive Efficiency: .692 (24th)
You didn’t need the updated ZiPS projections to tell you Toronto is the weakest team in the division. They have a top heavy lineup with several black holes (second and third bases, in particular), one and a half starters (Mark Buehrle and Drew Hutchison, maybe R.A. Dickey on a good day), and a disaster of a bullpen. They gutted the farm system last offseason and are reportedly up against their payroll limit. Money is so tight that several players offered to deferred salary this winter if it helped the team sign then-free agent Ervin Santana. That blows my mind. In a division of flawed teams, the Jays have the most and biggest holes. That doesn’t mean they can’t make life miserable this season though. They’re always a pain.
* * *
The AL East has been the best division in baseball over the last 15 years or so, and I don’t even think it was close. At first it was just the Yankees and Red Sox, then the Rays got in on the fun, then two years ago the Orioles started making noise.
Instead of evolving into a division of powerhouses, it’s currently a division of mediocrity. It’s a collection of good but not great teams right now. The opportunity is there for any one of the five clubs to run away with the division but right now no one seems to want it. A blockbuster trade or unexpected development (like, say, a prospect coming up and having immediate impact) could decide the AL East.
The Yankees will be making some additions to Monument Park this summer. The team announced they will retire Joe Torre’s uniform No. 6 later this year, as well as honor Goose Gossage, Paul O’Neill, and Tino Martinez with plaques. Bernie Williams will be honored in some way next year. Here is the ceremony schedule:
- Martinez – Saturday, June 21st
- Gossage – Sunday, June 22nd (Old Timers’ Day)
- O’Neill – Saturday, August 9th
- Torre – Saturday, August 23rd
No date has been set for Bernie’s ceremony next year, and there is no indication whether he will have his number retired or simply receive a plaque. No. 51 has been out of circulation since Williams left and it should be retired, in my opinion.
Torre, now 73, was unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame by the Expansion Era Committee over the winter. He had one heck of a playing career and did manage four other clubs, but he is going to Cooperstown for his success leading the Yankees through their most recent dynasty.
Torre managed the club from 1996-2007, and during that time the Yankees won ten AL East titles, six AL pennants and four World Series championships. They went 1,173-767 (.605) under his watch. Torre is second on the franchise’s all-time wins and games managed (1,943) list behind Joe McCarthy.
The divorce was ugly, especially once Torre’s book The Yankee Years was published. The two sides have repaired their relationship over the last few years and Torre is now a regular at Old Timers’ Day and other team events. I’m glad they worked it out. Torre is very deserving of having his number retired.
With No. 6 being retired and Derek Jeter‘s No. 2 certain to be retired at some point in the future, the Yankees are officially out of single digit numbers. They are all retired. Here’s the list:
- Billy Martin
- Jeter (eventually)
- Babe Ruth
- Lou Gehrig
- Joe DiMaggio
- Mickey Mantle
- Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey
- Roger Maris
The numbers 10 (Phil Rizzuto), 15 (Thurman Munson), 16 (Whitey Ford), 23 (Don Mattingly), 32 (Elston Howard), 37 (Casey Stengel), 42 (Mariano Rivera and Jackie Robinson), 44 (Reggie Jackson), and 49 (Ron Guidry) are also retired. Williams, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada are strong candidates to have their numbers retired. Add in Torre and Jeter and maybe it’ll be one number retirement per year from 2014-18? We’ll see.
Martinez spent seven years in pinstripes and had more than his fair share of huge moments, particularly in the postseason, but giving him a plaque seems like a stretch to me. They re-issued his No. 24 almost instantly. O’Neill played nine years with the Yankees and won a batting title while with the team (.359 in 1994), though his No. 21 has been mostly out of circulation since his retirement, outside of the LaTroy Hawkins fiasco. Gossage played seven years in New York and is wearing a Yankees hat on his Hall of Fame plaque. Giving him and O’Neill plaques works for me.
The Yankees, particularly Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, indicated over the winter that the team is planning to beginning honoring its recent history. Rivera’s number retirement last September was the first big ceremony and we now know there will be several more over the next two years.
The Yankees are done with the West Coast portion of their six-game road trip and will rest today before beginning a three-game series against the Brewers in Milwaukee tomorrow night. Hooray interleague play, if that’s your thing. Here are some scattered thoughts on the off-day.
1. The Angels series was a big positive for the Yankees, beyond the whole won two of three thing. David Phelps, Hiroki Kuroda, and Vidal Nuno pitched very well, their best outings of the season (against a very good offense), and the team needed to see something that indicated the rotation was not in complete tatters. It’s only one start each, I know, but there were signs of progress, especially for Kuroda. I thought his stuff was fine in his first six starts, he had just no command of anything. The command appeared to come back Tuesday night and that was good to see. He was vintage Kuroda that game. I guess it took him a little longer than usual to get a feel for his offspeed stuff. The Yankees could probably still use another starter with Ivan Nova out for the year and Michael Pineda on hiatus, but at least now it doesn’t feel like all pitching hope is lost.
2. The Yankees will play their next 12 games and 15 of their next 19 games against National League clubs. Ten of those 15 games are on the road too, so they’re going to lose the DH spot for a good chunk of the next two weeks. I think Joe Girardi will simply rotate Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, and Carlos Beltran into the starting lineup during the NL park games rather than sitting one guy in particular during that stretch of games. There’s really nothing else they can do unless someone gets hurt, which hopefully won’t happen. Furthermore, the Yankees will play 13 straight games against teams that either are bad or figure to be bad this year (Mets, Pirates, Cubs, White Sox) following this series with the Brewers. Yeah, there are lots of road games coming up (14 of the next 20!), but this is one of the softer stretches of the schedule this season. Good time to get on a roll and bank some wins.
3. The All-Star Game fan voting has started already — it actually started about two weeks ago, which is crazy early — and as of right now I think three Yankees will be elected to the Midsummer Classic: Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, and Derek Jeter. Jeter could go about 0-for-200 between now and mid-July and he’ll still probably win the fan vote in his final season. MLB might even rig the vote to get him there because last year’s ratings were almost a record low, and Jeter is one of the few players who transcends the sport and has significant marquee value. Either way, it seems like those three are the team’s only serious All-Star candidates. Maybe David Robertson if he rattles off about 25 saves with a sub-1.00 ERA in the next two months. The days of having like, five or six All-Stars every season is long gone. Those years were fun.
4. After a slow start to the season, Brian Roberts has hit very well of late. Basically since he returned from his little back problem last month. On the other hand, Yangervis Solarte has slowed in recent weeks after his hot start to the season. (He actually had a real nice series in Anaheim.) He wasn’t going to hit like Tony Gwynn all summer, unfortunately. These two have basically reversed their April roles, when Solarte was damn near carrying the offense and Roberts wasn’t doing much from the bottom of the order. It would be cool if they both hit at the same time, but I guess you take what you can get. I still think those two as well as Kelly Johnson would get exposed with regular playing time, so rotating Johnson in a bit more in the coming weeks would be a wise idea. I know they’ve faced a lot of lefties of late, but I don’t think Johnson should automatically be glued to the bench against southpaws. At least he’ll get to play a bunch these next few weeks just because of the interleague games and the need to pinch-hit and all that.
5. Speaking of Solarte, it has only been five weeks but I think we’ve seen enough from him to know he’s a useful big leaguer. When the season started we had no idea what he could be, and the super hot start made it even tougher to judge him. The Yankees grabbed this guy off the scrap heap and he had basically no track to support any kind of projection about his future as an MLB player (other than “he doesn’t have one”). Solarte is a switch-hitter who makes a ton of contact, can play second and third, fill in at shortstop in a pinch, and even play some left field. He did it in the minors and he did it in Spring Training. There’s a spot for a guy with that skillset on the roster, as a bench player at the very least. I mean long-term too, not necessarily just for the remainder of the season. He can help in 2015 in beyond. Solarte’s no star but he’s been an excellent find for the Yankees.
What a great way to end the series. The Yankees beat the Angels by the score of 9-2 on Wednesday night, giving them their first series win in Anaheim since June 2011. Jorge Posada had three hits in that series. Considering the ugliness of Monday’s walk-induced loss, rebounding to take two of three was pretty awesome. It’s late, so let’s recap the with bullet points:
- Five-Run First: The Yankees scored more runs in the first inning than they did in eight of their last ten games. The five-run outburst was fueled by two walks sandwiched around an error (Mike Trout and Collin Cowgill nearly ran into each other and the ball was dropped). Mark Teixeira doubled down the left field line to drive in the first two runs, Yangervis Solarte plated the third on a sac fly, then another error on Brett Gardner‘s weak grounder led to the fourth run (Hector Santiago threw the ball into right field). Brian Roberts capped off the rally with a two-out, two-strike bloop single. Why can’t every first inning be like that?
- Yeah Jeets: Roberts hit his first homer of the season on Tuesday night, meaning Derek Jeter was officially the last regular without a dinger. He took care of that in his second at-bat, swatting a solo homer just over the left-center field wall. It was either a hanging cutter or slider. Hanging something or other. It had that slider/cutter type of movement. The only players on the roster who have yet to go deep are Ichiro Suzuki and Brendan Ryan. Ryan just came off the DL and hasn’t even had a plate appearance yet.
- Numero Nuno: Things looked dicey in the second inning. The Yankees had spotted Southern California native Vidal Nuno six runs in the first two innings, but he put the first two runners on base and went to a 2-0 count on the third hitter. The Halos pushed a run across with a ground out and did load the bases with two outs, but a pop-up in foul territory helped Nuno escape the jam. That was the only time he was in trouble all night. Nuno retired the next 13 and 14 of the next 15 men he faced to finish the night with one run allowed in 6.1 innings. He struck out three, walked one, worked quickly, and threw strikes, which is exactly what he’s supposed to do with a big lead. Well done, Vidal.
- Tacked On: Dellin Betances survived a bases loaded situation in the seventh, but Trout was on deck, so it was a bit of a reminder that the 6-1 lead wasn’t completely safe. The Yankees responded with three tack-on runs in the eighth, getting help from walks and shoddy defense. John Ryan Murphy had the big blow, a two-run single to left. A five-run lead is kinda safe. An eight-run lead is really safe. Betances allowed a run on two hits and two walks, needing 38 pitches to get five outs. Dr. Dellin and Mr. Betances. The latter showed up on Wednesday. Preston Claiborne got the last three outs without incident.
- Leftovers: Because these are the Yankees, they did manage to blow a bases loaded, no outs situation in the fourth inning. Carlos Beltran hit into a 3-2 force out (beat the return throw), then Teixeira hit into a 3-2-3 double play … Jacoby Ellsbury, Jeter, Solarte, Gardner, and Murphy all had two hits apiece … the Yankees drew five walks, their most since drawing five in the first game of their last series with the Angels … there were no hilariously awful defensive plays, which was nice to see for a change.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are off on Thursday and will open a three-game series against the Brewers in Milwaukee on Friday night. Masahiro Tanaka and Yovani Gallardo is the scheduled pitching matchup.
Here is tonight’s game thread.
Both 1B Greg Bird (back) and IF Anderson Feliz (unknown) were activated off the DL and added to the High-A Tampa roster, the team announced. Hooray for that.
Triple-A Scranton (3-1 win over Indianapolis)
- 1B Ramon Flores: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 K — played 23 games at first in 2011 but this is only the third since
- SS Dean Anna: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 HBP
- RF Adonis Garcia: 2-4, 1 K, 1 SB — 12 hits in his last 30 at-bats (40%)
- RHP Brian Gordon: 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 8/6 GB/FB — 55 of 85 pitches were strikes (65%)
- RHP Jose Ramirez: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 1 HB, 0/1 GB/FB — seven of his 13 pitches were strikes (54%) … season debut after being sidelined by an oblique problem … the team has moved him to the bullpen permanently, remember
- RHP Matt Daley: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/0 GB/FB — nine of 15 pitches were strikes (60%)