3:24pm: Nunez is day-to-day with a bruised right biceps, the Yankees announced. X-rays were negative. Considering how much pain he was in, that’s not bad at all. Exhale.
2:25pm: Eduardo Nunez left this afternoon’s game after being hit by a pitch in what looked like the right arm/chest. It hit him right by the armpit, it seemed. Nunez was in a lot of pain and had to be helped off the field. Stay tuned for any updates. · (46) ·
The last time the Yankees played a game in Detroit, their season came to an unceremonious and brutally ugly end. The Tigers swept New York out of the ALCS last fall in a four-game series that was a little closer than we might remember — Game One went to extra innings, Game Two was a one-run game for seven innings, Game Three was a one-run game overall — but still a lopsided win for the defending AL Central champs. They outscore the defending AL East champs 20-9 in the four games.
After playing a night game in the Bronx, the Yankees are on MoTown for the Tigers’ home opener this afternoon. It’s not the longest flight in the world, but it still sucks having to play a day game after a night game when you have to change cities. Fatigue in these situations tends to show up the day after, meaning it would probably be more evident in tomorrow’s game than today’s. I dunno, we’ll see. Here’s the starting nine…
- CF Brett Gardner
- 2B Robinson Cano
- 3B Kevin Youkilis
- DH Travis Hafner
- RF Brennan Boesch
- SS Eduardo Nunez
- LF Ichiro Suzuki
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- C Chris Stewart
This afternoon’s game is scheduled to start at 1:08pm ET, though it might be a little later because of the home opener festivities. Either way, the game can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally, and remember to join in this afternoon’s chat after the jump (starts at 1pm ET). Enjoy.
Hiroki Kuroda Update: Kuroda (finger) threw 36 pitches in the bullpen today and everything went fine. The team will wait to see how he feels tomorrow before deciding whether he will make his next scheduled start on Monday.
Four questions for you this week, the first mailbag of the new season. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us any questions or comments or links throughout the week.
Evan asks: How many Yankees do you see getting qualifying offers after this season? I would think Phil Hughes, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, and outside chance of Kevin Youkilis if he continues to hit the ball like he has this spring (unlikely but a possibility). Is it worth getting excited that between this year and next year the Yanks could really build a top-five farm system?
The qualifying offers were worth $13.3M last winter but they will go up this coming offseason. They’re based on the average of the previous year’s top 125 salaries, and salaries are only going up. Estimates for qualifying offers this winter are in the $15M range and that’s a big chunk of change.
Cano is the only no-brainer of the group. He could hit like .270/.330/.430 this year and they would still make him a qualifying offer because of his track record (and the fact that it’s only a one-year deal). I’m of the belief that they’ll sign him to an extension before that times comes, rendering the qualifying offer idea moot, and I thought that even before the recent agent change.
Assuming the other four guys play as expected — league average year from Hughes, 35+ homer pace from Granderson, sub-4.00 ERA from Kuroda, .360 OBP and 20 or so homers from Youkilis — I don’t think any of them would get qualifying offers. Kuroda probably has the best chance, but he would need to repeat last year’s effort again. I do think Hughes will get a nice big free agent contract (four years, $56M?), but teams tend to be risk-averse in these situation. I think the Yankees would pass.
Granderson, assuming he looks like 2012 first half Curtis and not 2012 second half Curtis once healthy, would be awesome on a one-year, ~$15M contract. That’s in a vacuum though, not for a team trying to cut payroll. Given that plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold by 2014, I think the Yankees will play it very safe with the qualifying offers and not risk any huge (and unwanted) one-year contracts. Cano’s the only qualifying offer lock if he makes it to free agency.
Mark asks: Should the Yanks start to rethink their austerity plan in light of the recent extensions just signed by Justin Verlander and Elvis Andrus? Once/if Clayton Kershaw signs an extension with the Dodgers, I’m not sure who the Yanks will be targeting with all their unspent salary dollars after they reach their magical $189 million limit next year.
Yeah, same here. The Yankees are cutting back on spending at a time when the game is flush with cash and other teams are spending more than ever. It’s a poorly timed, poorly conceived, and (to date) poorly executed plan on their part. The Yankees have a natural advantage over the competition because of their market and they’re choosing to ignore it. That’s fine, ownership can do whatever they want, but fans don’t have to like it.
Free agency as we know it is changing due to these extensions, but I do think someone like Scott Boras will see this as an opportunity. He could be the only guy with star players in free agency the next few years, creating a quasi-monopoly on high-end talent. Teams will still want to acquire star players every winter and if only one or two are available in free agency, the bidding war will be fierce.
If the Yankees do decide to reinvest some of the saved cash in the team down the line, I’m not sure where they could spend it outside of really overpaying free agents or their own players. Then again, I don’t expect the Yankees to reinvest that cash anytime soon. This strikes me as a pure money-saving move on the team’s part.
Jeff asks: Assuming he has no setbacks, what’s a best case scenario for Ty Hensley in regards to innings pitched this year?
Well, the Yankees are Team Setback, so I’m not sure that’s a safe assumption. Hensley had surgery to repair an impingement in his right hip earlier this week — that means the head of his femur was misshaped (I learned that thanks to Alex Rodriguez) — and his reportedly timetable is 2-3 months. Given his age and prospect status, I’d bet lots of money on the Yankees being conservative with his rehab.
So, let’s say he takes the full three months and returns to the mound in early-July. Hensley would likely join either Short Season Staten Island or Low-A Charleston, who would then have about ten weeks left in their season. Starting every fifth day with an average of five innings a start puts him in line for 60-70 innings this year. Add in a playoff start or two and maybe he gets up to 75. That’s not too bad, but I’ll take the under just because I expect the Yankees to be conservative. If Hensley can get 50 innings under his belt after surgery this summer, I’ll consider it a win.
Travis asks: Do you think the Yankees are gun shy about bringing prospects up (position player prospects)? I feel that ever since the Melky Cabrera promotion, they have been hesitant.
Yes and no. I say no because the Yankees haven’t had too many position player prospects worth calling up — every club has Melky Mesa and Corban Josephs, they aren’t special — in recent years. The only real egregious example was Jesus Montero in 2011, when it was obvious the team needed a new DH by like, mid-May. Obviously Jorge Posada was a legacy player that situation was more complicated that the typical call-up.
That said, I do agree they are gun shy about promoting prospects to the big leagues in general. I think there’s a fear of failure on the team’s part, which might stem from the Ian Kennedy/Phil Hughes disaster in 2008. That seems like the traumatic event that scarred the team, so to speak. I’m not saying they should have used Adam Warren instead of signing Hiroki Kuroda or anything like that, but for a team that has preached player development and austerity in recent years, they sure do have a knack for not giving young players a chance unless it’s an absolute emergency.
Before the game I asked the Yankees for two simple things: don’t fall behind by four runs after two innings and take the lead at some point. They did both and more on Thursday night, winning their first game the season thanks to their two most veteran players.
Andy BAMF Pettitte
I was listening to the radio broadcast on my way home, and Suzyn Waldman said Andy Pettitte was 17-3 in 27 career starts in which the Yankees were on the verge of getting swept. Yeah I know, pitcher wins and all that, but I think that stat makes a point. Pettitte is someone the Yankees have leaned on to stop losing streak a whole bunch of times over the years. They did that on Thursday and once again, he came through.
In his first April start since 2010, Andy threw eight-innings of one-run ball and was never really in much trouble outside of the first and seventh innings. He pounded the zone — 64 of 94 pitches were strikes (68%) and he threw first-pitch strikes to 20 of 29 batters faced — with a wide assortment of pitches, mixing four-seamers (25 thrown) with two-seamers (14) and sliders (22) and curveballs (17). He also threw a handful of cutters and changeups. That’s a great way to keep hitters off balance. Seventeen of his 24 outs were recorded on the infield and nine of the 24 were recorded on three pitches or less.
Starting pitching is supposed to be New York’s strength but neither CC Sabathia nor Hiroki Kuroda pitched all that well in the first two games of the year (obviously Kuroda’s start was cut short due to injury). There was Pettitte, once again, to restore some order on Thursday. This isn’t some feel-good story where “hey great, Andy’s back.” That was last year. This is serious “the Yankees need him to be good if they want to compete” stuff. Andy was dynamite against the Red Sox and the team absolutely needed it. What a stud.
What’s This, A Lead? Are They Allowed to Do That?
You can’t win a game if you don’t take the lead, and the Yankees took their first lead of the season — and first since Game Five of the ALDS — on Lyle Overbay‘s first pitch, two-out, two-run single in the second inning. Of course, they might have taken the lead one batter earlier had Eduardo Nunez‘s double to right-center field not hopped over the wall for a ground-rule double. I’m not sure if Travis Hafner would have scored from first on that play, even with two outs, but it sure felt like a bad hop that robbed New York of a run. Needless to say, Overbay’s solid single to left-center was a huge pick-me-up (and relief).
Brett Gardner extended the lead one inning later, when he jumped all over Ryan Dempster’s first pitch of the third inning for a solo homer to right. It was a total Yankee Stadium cheapie, first row of seats and everything. He had two hits and a walk, which is exactly what I was talking about earlier on Thursday. The table-settlers have to get on-base for the big boys in the middle of the lineup. Gardner scored a run on his own with the homer, but getting on-base in general is the most important thing for him. That solo shot gave the Yankees a three-zip lead and for the first time in a long time, things seemed to be going right for a change.
Thanks to last season’s knee injury, Mariano Rivera went 336 days between pitching appearances at Yankee Stadium. The offense handed him a three-run lead and although Mo surrendered a run in the ninth inning — walk, double moved the runner to third, ground ball brought him home — he looked like the same old Rivera. That means cutters to both sides of the plate, including a backdoor job to Jackie Bradley Jr. to freeze the rookie for strike three and the 27th out.
It hadn’t really hit me yet that this is Mo’s final season until he was actually out on the mound in a regular season. I saw the press conference and the Spring Training appearances and all that, but seeing him on a big league mound was a different animal. I still don’t think it has fully hit me yet; I was thinking about what it will be like to watch him throw his final pitch in a few months, and man is that going to suck. I’m going to enjoy every single Rivera appearance this summer regardless of what the team does. He’s a treasure.
Frankie’s “Great Play”
I have to talk about this because it bothered me. The Red Sox had runners on first and second with two outs in the first inning when Pettitte bounced a first pitch curveball to Jonny Gomes. The ball scooted through Frankie Cervelli‘s legs and to the backstop, allowing the runners to advance. The lead runner (Shane Victorino), tried to catch everyone napping and hustled around third and tried to score. Cervelli picked up the ball and raced back to the plate, diving to apply the tag for the out at the dish. It was a crazy play and a great play, but a great play borne out of Frankie’s laziness.
If you haven’t seen the play, here’s the video. The pitch goes through Cervelli’s legs and he completely lollygags it when he goes to retrieve the ball. The only reason Victorino went home was because Frankie half-assed it and he thought he could beat him to the plate. He almost did beat him to the plate, in fact. The lack of hustle will be completely forgotten (and largely went unnoticed) because hey, great play!, but seriously. Let’s run through the checklist quickly…
- The Yankees lost the first two games of the season and neither was particularly close.
- The Red Sox were threatening to take an early lead yet again.
- Cervelli spent all of last season in the minors, in part because of his defense.
- Cervelli has a golden opportunity to win the starting catching job outright considering his competition.
If there was ever a time to hustle after a simple wild pitch, this was it. Francisco, run after the damn ball next time. Good grief.
Now that I’ve sufficiently torn into him for a lack of hustle, it’s time to praise Cervelli for one hell of a game at the plate. He saw 17 pitches in three plate appearances and actually hit a homer in addition to drawing a walk. The homer was a bomb too. It was no Yankee Stadium cheapie like Gardner’s, it landed right at the back wall of the visitor’s bullpen in left-center field. I have to think it was the farthest ball he’s ever hit at the big league level. Nice night at the plate, but still, run it out next time Frankie.
Gardner got caught trying to steal second base in the very first inning, which was rather annoying for a few reasons. One, Robinson Cano didn’t get a chance to bat with a man on-base. That’s the main thing. Two, catcher David Ross has thrown out 44% (!) of attempted base-stealers the last four years. Three, Dempster just walked the first batter of the game. You gotta let him show he’s not having an off-night and won’t work himself into trouble. Nitpicking, I know, but if the Yankees are going to rely on speed and smallball tactics this year, they’ve gotta be smart about it. No need to force the issue that early in the game.
While on the subject, the Yankees made three outs at second base in this game. Gardner was caught stealing, Nunez was caught stealing, and then Gardner was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. A full inning’s worth of outs on the bases. Yuck. Smallball shouldn’t replace smartball.
Kevin Youkilis and Hafner each had a single and a strikeout while Cano and Ichiro Suzuki each drew a walk. Vernon Wells took an 0-for-4. Cano is in an early-season funk in the sense that he’s chasing pitcher’s pitches on the outer half and pulling them right into the teeth of the shift. It’s basically exactly what happened in the postseason last year plus a new shift. Hopefully he’ll knock himself out of it soon.
Very quick turn around for the Yankees, who fly to Detroit tonight and play the Tigers at 1pm ET tomorrow. Nice one, schedule makers. The pitching matchup for that one will be Ivan Nova and Doug Fister.
Might as well start the season with some notes…
- According to his Twitter feed, RHP Ty Hensley is already riding a bike after having right hip surgery yesterday. I guess it was just an arthroscopic procedure rather than a full blown incision? Either way, good news.
- Baseball America’s Minor League Opening Day Roster Analysis (no subs. req’d) says Austin Aune is already transitioning from shortstop to the outfield. That kinda stinks. Last year’s second round has some big power, but his bat is much more special at shortstop. For shame.
In honor of minor league Opening Day, here are the full lineups. I am planning to modify (i.e. shorten) DotF this summer just because I don’t have as much time as I once did, but Opening Day is a special occasion. Hooray minor league baseball.
Triple-A Scranton (8-4 loss to Pawtucket in ten innings)
3B David Adams: 2-5, 1 2B, 1 BB
2B Corban Joseph: 2-5, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K — he and Adams picked up right where the left off last summer
LF Zoilo Almonte: 0-4, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 E (fielding)
1B Dan Johnson: 1-4, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 SB — he’s been MVP of this league in the past
CF Melky Mesa: 1-6, 1 RBI, 5 K — yikes
DH Cody Johnson: 1-4, 2 BB, 2 K
C Austin Romine: 1-3, 2 BB, 1 K – please stay healthy, please stay healthy…
RF Thomas Neal: 0-4, 2 K
SS Gil Velazquez: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB
LHP Vidal Nuno: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 4/3 GB/FB — 55 of 79 pitches were strikes (70%) … rock solid yet again
RHP Sam Demel: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K — 19 of 35 pitches were strikes (54%) … recently claimed off waivers and outrighted off the 40-man roster
RHP Mark Montgomery: 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — six pitches, five strikes
LHP Juan Cedeno: 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2/0 GB/FB — only three of nine pitches were strikes
RHP Preston Claiborne: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 0/1 GB/FB — 15 of 25 pitches were strikes
RHP Jim Miller: 1 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2 HR, 2/0 GB/FB — 16 of 27 pitches were strikes (59%) … losing sucks, but I’d like to thank him for not letting this one go deep into extra innings
The first two games of the season have not gone according to plan, to say the least. The Yankees have been outplayed by the Red Sox in pretty much every facet of the game (hitting, pitching, defense) and are a well-deserved 0-2 to start the year. Things could always be worse, I guess.
For the sake of lowering expectations, there are two things I would like to see the Yankees do in tonight’s series finale against Boston. One, it would be cool if they weren’t done four runs after two innings. That one seems simple enough, yet they were unable to do it Monday or Wednesday. Two, it would be even cooler if they actually held a lead at some point. Remember, they didn’t hold a single lead in the ALCS last year, so you have to go back to Game Five of the ALDS for the last time the Yankees had more runs than their opponent.
If they do one of those two things, I guess I’ll be happy. If they do both, then I’ll be even happier. If they do all that and manage to win … well, I don’t want to get greedy now. Here’s the slightly shaken-up lineup…
- CF Brett Gardner
- 2B Robinson Cano
- 3B Kevin Youkilis
- DH Travis Hafner
- LF Vernon Wells
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
1B Lyle OverbaySS Eduardo Nunez SS Eduardo Nunez1B Lyle Overbay
- C Frankie Cervelli
And on the mound for his first April start since 2010, left-hander Andy Pettitte.
It’s cold once again in New York, but it’s not as brutally freezing as it was last night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05pm ET and the game can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy.
The Yankees have given David Aardsma his unconditional release, manager Joe Girardi confirmed this afternoon. The right-hander was designated for assignment last week to clear a 40-man roster spot prior to the season. The release indicates he went unclaimed on waivers.
Aardsma, 31, was cut loose because the team preferred relievers capable of pitching multiple innings. He pitched well in Spring Training despite missing a few days with a groin problem, but hip and Tommy John surgeries have kept him on the shelf for the last two years. I assumed some team could claim Aardsma off waivers given his $500k base salary, but I guess no one wanted to roll the dice. Maybe the medicals are worse than we realize. · (19) ·
Hiroki Kuroda is currently scheduled to make his next start, manager Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon. The right-hander said he still has some soreness in his right middle finger and will know more about his status after throwing a bullpen tomorrow.
Kuroda took a line drive to the finger tips last night and left the game with a contusion, but post-game x-rays showed no broken bones. It’s just a bruise, which is why the team is optimistic he will be on the mound in Cleveland on Monday. It’s not set in stone, however. · (10) ·
The 2013 amateur draft will be held from June 6-8 this year, and between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.
Billy McKinney | OF
A Texas kid out of Plano West High School, McKinney played for the Texas Scout Team Yankees last fall — the Yankees use the club to familiarize themselves with Texas high school prospects (2012 second rounder Austin Aune played for the squad a year ago) — and starred at the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association World Championship in Florida back in November. He’s committed to TCU.
McKinney, who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 195 lbs., stands out for his offensive potential from the left side of the plate. He consistently gets the fat part of the bat on the ball thanks to his smooth and easy left-handed swing. McKinney is a line drive gap-to-gap hitter with some power potential, and the hitting tools all play up because of his advanced approach. He’s one of the best pure hitters in the draft class, high school or college.
Although he plays center field in high school and shows good speed with an okay arm, McKinney might end up in a corner outfield spot down the line as he fills out and slows down. Regardless, his bat is his calling card and the reason teams are looking at him prior to the draft. Here’s some more video. Love that swing.
Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked McKinney as 23rdth best prospect in the class in today’s updated rankings while Keith Law (subs. req’d) had him 27th last month. He looks to be very much in that late-first round/supplemental round mix at the moment, and we know he’s on the Yankees’ radar since he played for their Texas Scout Team just a few months ago. The Yankees love pure high school hitters like J.R. Murphy and Tyler Austin even if their position is unsettled, so McKinney sure seems like someone they could target with one of their top three picks (26th, 32nd, 33rd).
Given their newfound austerity and the fact that more and more star players are signing long-term extensions, the farm system will be more important for the Yankees going forward than it ever was before. If they plan to remain competitive year after year — I don’t expect those intentions to change, they are the Yankees after all — they’ll need a deep and steady pipeline of young prospects to plug into the roster and trade for established big leaguers.
Because of the way the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement changed the system, the Yankees are going to have to simply out-scout and out-develop other teams. They will never have access to top amateur talent as long as they remain competitive, so finding those diamonds in the rough and turning them into useful players will be extra important going forward. I’m not very confident the current regime can actually do that, but they have made some player development changes in recent years — most notably re-hiring pitching coordinator Gil Patterson — so maybe things will change. We’ll see.
When writing about the draft in recent years, in tended to put together posts focusing on prospects who were grouped together somehow. High school bats, players with good makeup, pitchers who had success in the Cape Cod League … whatever. They were almost always players I liked for whatever reason. I want to get away from that this spring and instead highlight individual players who fit what appears to be the Yankees’ draft philosophy. That means players with good makeup, athletic high school position players, hard-throwing college arms, and big-framed high school pitchers.
I still have my personal favorites and I’m sure I’ll wind up writing about those guys as well, but I plan to pump out shorter player profiles like this one I did last year for outfielder Ty Moore last spring. The Yankees wound up drafting him in the later rounds but did not sign him. Those shorter posts make it easier to be a little more specific and provide more information about a player while also being easier to reference in the future. Plus there will be more of them; instead of one big post every so often there will be smaller posts regularly. I dunno, maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like getting away from group posts of four of five players in favor of more short, individual player posts is more informative and enjoyable. At least it is on my end.
Anyway, the Yankees have three relatively high picks and a lot of draft pool money available this year. It will also be their last chance to add multiple high-end prospects to the farm system with a single draft for a while. They don’t really have any qualifying offer-worth players on the roster scheduled to become free agents in the next few years (outside of Robinson Cano, obviously), so they’re stuck with the picks they have. The draft will be fun this season as fans thanks to those three high picks, but its importance to the club can not be overstated. They need to bring in quality and quantity this year.