Mailbag: Ackley, Didi, Mateo, Tanaka, Bird, Sabathia, Judge

Got ten questions for you in the mailbag this week. The “For The Mailbag” form is gone and it’s never coming back. If you want to send us a question, email us at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. There’s a reminder in the sidebar should you ever forget the email address, but that’s a pretty easy one, right?


Chip asks: Does it makes sense to move Dustin Ackley back to 2b this coming winter so that he can be ready to play there when Spring Training rolls around?

Sorry Chip, I had to shorten the question. Anyway, yes I do think it makes sense and I think the Yankees will have Ackley work out at second base over the winter and in Spring Training because why not? There’s nothing to lose. It’s not a new position, he’s just getting reacquainted with an old position, so in theory it shouldn’t be a huge undertaking to get back into the second base groove. Adding that little bit of versatility can only help.

Now, as for Ackley starting at second next year, I think that should be the Plan C or D, not Plan A. The Yankees have Rob Refsnyder, who is as close to big league ready as he’s going to get, and there are some are some quality second baseman set to become free agents after the season. Ben Zobrist, Howie Kendrick, Chase Utley, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Daniel Murphy are the most notable. Obviously some are more desirable than others. If the Yankees can’t get a good deal on a free agent and Refsnyder isn’t up to the task, then turn to Ackley at second. I wouldn’t make him Plan A. We’ve got more than 2,200 plate appearances telling us he’s a below-average player. Make him earn an everyday job.

David asks: If Didi Gregorius continues to play and improve what do you think the Yanks will do with the “untouchable” Jorge Mateo when he is ready for the Majors – 3rd base, 2nd base, or trade him?

I’m going to cop out and say “worry about this when the time comes.” Mateo is still in High-A, remember. What’s the best case scenario timetable for him? Start next year in High-A, move up to Double-A at midseason, then start 2017 in Triple-A and maybe get called up at midseason? That’s the best case. I think Mateo is more likely to have to wait until 2018 to be a big league option. Gregorius will be just one year away from free agency at that time. Mateo could be ready just in time to replace Didi before he leaves as a free agent. If Gregorius is still worth a regular lineup spot and Mateo is big league ready at some point in the next few years, celebrate. Having too many good young shortstops is a wonderful luxury.

Jhonny asks: Michael Pineda returns healthy. Now you have: Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, Luis Severino. Who’s going to the bullpen? It obviously should be CC, but that’s not going to happen. Thoughts?

No one. I expect the Yankees to use a six-man rotation once Pineda returns. Big Mike is making his second minor league rehab start tonight, so if he makes his next start in the big leagues next week, the Yankees will only have to go a few days with either a short bullpen or a short bench (a short bench, I bet) until rosters expand on September 1st. Then obviously once rosters expand, it’ll be much easier to stick with the six-man rotation full-time. The Yankees have gone to great lengths to give their rotation extra rest whenever possible this year and there’s no reason to think they’ll stop in September. They’ll actually have six healthy starters and expanded rosters will allow them to pull it off. Unless there’s an injury or Severino needs to be shut down for workload reasons, I would be surprised if they didn’t use a six-man rotation in September. Everything they’ve done this year points in that direction.


Jonathan asks: Do you think the decision to not have Masahiro Tanaka undergo surgery had anything to do with his opt-out clause in two years? Possibly to maximize Tanaka’s value before he opts out for a longer deal with another team? How much of a factor do you think the opt-out clause is influencing the Yankees medical decision with Masahiro?

I don’t think it’s a factor at all. Surgery is something you try to avoid and the doctors recommended going to rehab route, so that’s what they did. The doctors couldn’t care less about Tanaka’s opt-out situation. The opt-out is just an unfortunate little wrinkle in this whole saga. The Yankees want as much out of him as possible, but at the end of the day it is Tanaka’s choice, remember. The Yankees can’t make him have surgery any more than your employer can make you have surgery. It’s as simple as multiple world renowned doctors saying he doesn’t need his elbow cut open, so they didn’t cut him open. It’s a boring answer but that’s what happened.

Daniel asks: With the impending 40-man roster crunch, should the Yankees look to move 3-4 prospects in the offseason for an upgrade at positions of need (maybe 2nd or in the rotation)? It seems like it would make sense to deal from their depth at outfield, bullpen, and catcher.

I feel like we say this every season but it never happens. Trading three or four players for one or two players to simultaneously plug roster holes and clear 40-man roster spots sounds like a great idea, but you have to find another team willing to clog up their 40-man roster with fringy big league players, and that’s tough to do. The only time I can remember this happening was the Mark Melancon-Joel Hanrahan trade a few years ago. The Red Sox traded Melancon and three spare parts for Hanrahan and the no one knew he would be good version of Brock Holt. The Yankees should look to make a trade like this and if they can do it, great. They’re just really hard to pull off. Lots of my stuff for a little bit of your better stuff trades rarely happen.

Justin asks: Coming up the Yankees have a three game series a the Braves, and in September a three game series at the Mets. Can they afford to not have A-Rod in the lineup for those games especially with the division being as close as it is? Is it possible to see A-Rod go to 3B and Chase Headley to 2B during those series?

Possible? Sure, it’s always possible we see Alex Rodriguez at third. It’s just extremely unlikely at this point. The Yankees have been committed to keeping Alex at DH to keep him rested, and given his recent slump, I’m sure they’re looking forward to getting him off his feet for a few consecutive days. Also, there’s zero chance Headley plays second. He’s never played the position ever. Not even in college. Headley was at third, Stephen Drew was at second, and A-Rod was on the bench during the team’s NL park interleague series earlier this year and I’m sure that will be the case going forward.

Ruby asks: With Greg Bird looking like he truly belongs and Mark Teixeira having proven that he still has All-Star abilities, can you see the Yanks trading Teixeira over the winter?  What could the Yanks get in return for Teixeira?

Let’s pump the breaks a little on Bird. I love him as much as anyone, but he’s got a week’s worth of plate appearances under his belt, so I wouldn’t go trading Teixeira just yet. I’m not sure there’s anything Bird can do the rest of the way to convince me Teixeira is expendable. Besides, Teixeira has full no-trade protection thanks to his ten-and-five rights and has indicated he is unwilling to go anywhere else. I joked about trading him to the Pirates — they need a first baseman and a real cleanup hitter behind Andrew McCutchen — on Twitter the other day but that was just a joke during Bird’s two-homer game. I’m not sure how much value a very good yet expensive two-way player has on the market anyway. I feel like the Yankees would have to eat some money to facilitate a trade, and Teixeira has been too good this year to eat money to move him. A-Rod and Teixeira have stayed relatively healthy this year, but what about next year? It’s not hard to see a scenario in which Teixeira gets 120 games, Bird gets 100 games, and A-Rod gets 100 games in 2016.


Mike asks: In last night’s game CC was excellent, but I couldn’t help but feeling that that 7th inning was doomed to end badly. He’s struggled the third time through the order, but, paradoxically, he also leads the team in innings pitched. Does it make sense to pull CC earlier, even when he’s pitching well, before he makes a mistake – or do the Yankees really need him to eat those innings? Feels like a weird Catch 22.

They needed Sabathia to eat innings the other night because the bullpen was taxed — Bryan Mitchell took the line drive to the face the night before. That was an outlier compared to the rest of the season. Sabathia has recorded an out in the seventh inning in just seven of his 23 starts this year — he started the seventh and did not record an out in one other occasion — and after years of being baseball’s preeminent workhorse, he’s averaged just 93.3 pitches per start this year. He’s thrown 100+ just five times. It used to be a surprise when Sabathia didn’t thrown 100+ pitches. The other night was a bit of a special case because the bullpen was taxed. Otherwise Joe Girardi has been quick to pull Sabathia this season because he does struggle the third time through the lineup, and I definitely expect that to be the case in September, when the bullpen will have all those extra bodies thanks to expanded rosters.

John asks: Drew hit a horrible .153 for the first two months of the season, but beginning June 1st his average has been more like .230-.240.  With Brendan Ryan also hitting above .240 and both able to play multiple positions well, do you figure that the team really isn’t looking for an alternative at 2B anymore?  Seems like .240 going forward is adequate, and I doubt anyone good and cheap is going to drop into Brian Cashman‘s lap.

At this point there is no decent second basemen left on the market, so even if the Yankees were still looking for one, the pickins are slim. Chase Utley is a Dodger and I’m not sure he would have been much of an upgrade anyway. The Marlins seem to be holding onto Martin Prado, and besides, he went into last night’s game hitting .269/.314/.348 (82 wRC+). That is pretty crummy. Right now the best option at second base is simply stand pat, stick with Drew against righties and maybe give some of Ryan’s platoon at-bats to Refsnyder in September. Once Zobrist came off the board, there were no realistically available second basemen who could be considered substantial upgrades.

Dylan asks: If Carlos Beltran continues to rake, and is the de facto starting RF next year, do the Yankees call up Aaron Judge to be the 4th outfielder off the bench? I know you always talk about the value to rookie catchers to come up as back-ups, but would the same hold true for OF?

Yeah I think Beltran will be the starting right field next season, at least at the start of the season. Judge is striking out a ton in Triple-A and can use more time at that level. I don’t think he would be a good option for fourth outfielder. Catcher is a different animal. Those guys have a lot more to worry about than hitting. I think there’s a lot of value in a young catcher sitting in on big league game plan meetings and catching the staff in the bullpen and what not. An outfielder doesn’t do any of that. I say let Judge start the year in Triple-A so he can play every single day. He needs at-bats more than anything.

Comeback falls short, Yankees drop opener 3-2 to Indians

Once again, the Yankees did not go down without a fight. A spirited ninth inning rally ultimately fell short and the Indians walked away with a 3-2 win in Thursday’s series opener. Can’t win ’em all.


Not Sharp Nova
Ivan Nova‘s night can be summed up by the fourth inning. He walked the No. 7 hitter on five pitches, gave up a single to the No. 8 hitter, then gave up a run-scoring single to the No. 9 hitter, all with two outs. That made it 3-0 Indians and tells you what kinda night it was for Nova. He was on the edge of escaping the inning but couldn’t make a pitch when he needed to make a pitch. Sometimes that happens.

All told, Nova allowed three runs on six hits and two walks in five innings. It certainly was not his sharpest outing, far from it, and this was just one of those nights, you know? Pitchers aren’t going to be on every time out, especially not when they are 16 months removed from Tommy John surgery. Nova threw 94 pitches, got just seven swings and misses, and allowed a Hughesian 21 foul balls. He benefited from some fine defense and averaged 4.27 pitches per batters faced, which … yikes. Not a good night for Nova. Not a disaster but not good either. Shake it off, try again in five days.

A Long Run
The Yankees scored their first run on a very long Alex Rodriguez home run Thursday night. It sounded like it was shot out of a cannon. Alex’s bat still makes that special sound when he connects. Statcast measured the home run at 426 feet and 107 mph off the bat. That feels low. A-Rod really crushed that pitch. Cleared the first section of seats and landed in the left field bleachers.

I'll remember Alex's dinger. (Presswire)

The home run was their first run but not their only scoring chance against Josh Tomlin. The Yankees got a leadoff double in the third (Chase Headley) and had two on with one out in that inning (Stephen Drew walked), but both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner grounded out to end the threat. Drew drew a two-out four-pitch walk (!) in the fifth before Ellsbury grounded out. They didn’t get much else going against Tomlin at all.

Fighting Spirit
Unlike the last two years, these 2015 Yankees never seem to go down quietly. They had the three come-from-behind wins over the Twins, and, in the ninth inning of this game, they put the tying run at third base and winning run at second after coming into the frame down 3-1. The inning started with an A-Rod single and an A-Rod stolen base — another steal! he still has time to go 30/30, you know — then Carlos Beltran drove him in with a one-out single through the shift.

Following Beltran’s single, Greg Bird walked on five balls — home play ump Dan Iassogna called a 3-0 autostrike on a pitch down, whatevs — and Headley advanced the runners with a grounder to first. Carlos Santana maybe had a chance at the game-ending 3-6-3 double play, but he bobbled the ball and had to settle for just the out at first. That brought up Didi Gregorius, who slapped a 1-1 pitch to left for a routine fly ball and the final out. Yankee Stadium had a pretty loud “Di-Di! Di-Di!” chant going. It was pretty cool. The place would have exploded had he gotten a hit there. Alas.

Remember when Almonte was a second baseman in the GCL? Good times. (Presswire)

Adam Warren chucked 31 pitches in two innings, allowing one hit to the unstoppable Jason Kipnis. Kipnis had three hits, all line drive to the opposite field. Brian McCann threw Kipnis out trying to steal second and Gregorius gets a mention for a fantastic tag — the throw pulled him to the second base side of the bag, and he was able to make the catch and swipe tag Kipnis on the way by, all in one motion. T’was pretty.

Joe Girardi waved the white flag and brought in Chris Capuano to pitch the final two innings. Capuano allowed two base-runners in the eighth, escaped the jam with the help of an Ellsbury sliding catch, then tossed a perfect ninth against the bottom of the order. Any time you can steal some outs with Capuano to rest the other relievers, it’s a plus.

Drew reached base three times! Too bad the Yankees couldn’t take advantage. He has now reached base 12 times this month, but who’s counting? A-Rod’s homer, A-Rod’s single, Headley’s double, Beltran’s single, and Drew’s generously scored infield single — it was a hard-hit grounder Kipnis bobbled — were the team’s only hits.

I only remember three hard hit balls going for outs — ex-Yankees farmhand Abe Almonte made a spectacular jumping catch at the wall to rob Gardner of extra bases, and both Beltran and Bird hit line drives at the right fielder. They weren’t getting robbed or anything. So it goes. Baseball, man.

Iassogna’s wide outside corner to lefty batters didn’t exactly help matters, but let’s not blame him for the Yankees not scoring enough runs. It’s just an observation. Girardi was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the ninth inning. Third ejection of the year for Joe.

And finally, the Yankees are now 1-3 against the Indians this year, which bites. They’re 13-13 against last place teams this season. Hope that doesn’t come back to bite ’em at some point.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights for the game and here are the updated standings and postseason odds for the season. Also please check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. By my unofficial count, this is the 40th series of the season for the Yankees, and YES has used 16 different booth combinations. Anyway, here’s the loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This series is just getting started. The Yankees and Indians will play game two of this four-game set Friday night. Masahiro Tanaka and Carlos Carrasco will be the pitching matchup. That should be a fun one. There are still six games left on this homestand — there’s another ten-game homestand right around the corner too, you know — so if you want to catch any of the games live at Yankee Stadium, RAB Tickets can get you in the door.

DotF: De La Rosa dominates in Pulaski’s win

C Miguel Flames and 3B Nelson Gomez, two of the Yankees top international signings last year, got some love in the Helium Watch section of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet Prequel. They’re both playing the Dominican Summer League, but apparently they’re tearing the cover off the ball.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. The game will be made up as part of a doubleheader next Thursday.

Double-A Trenton (7-3 loss to Bowie)

  • CF Mark Payton: 0-4, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K — alternating one-hit games with no-hit games for about a week now
  • SS Tyler Wade: 0-4, 1 E (throwing) — Double-A is hard
  • RHP Taylor Garrison: 3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 3/2 GB/FB — 38 of 58 pitches were strikes (66%)
  • RHP Rookie Davis: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 4/5 GB/FB — 54 of 93 pitches were strikes (58%) … unusual he came out of the bullpen, but Garrison’s coming off an injury, so they probably wanted him to warm up at his own pace and not in the middle of a game

[Read more…]

Game 120: Ivan and the Indians


The ten-game homestand is off to a pretty swell start. The Yankees just swept the Twins, coming from behind in all three games, and they’ve stretched their lead in the AL East back to two full games. (Three in the loss column!) There’s a lot of season left, but gosh, I would have signed up for being two games up on August 20th back in Spring Training in a heartbeat.

Ivan Nova will be on the mound tonight and although the raw results in his last two starts haven’t been great (seven runs in 12.1 innings), I feel like he’s finally starting to settle into a groove following Tommy John surgery. That last start in Toronto was pretty gutsy. That seems to be a common trait among the starters, these dudes really battle when they don’t have their best stuff. Hopefully tonight goes a little more smoothly. Here is the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Stephen Drew
    RHP Ivan Nova

It has been a lovely day in New York. Warm but not hot with a nice little breeze, bright blue sky with a few poofy clouds. The sky looks like a Bob Ross painting. I guess that would make them happy little clouds then, right? Not poofy? Anyway, tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (leg) is doing better but he is still not available off the bench. He hasn’t started any baseball activities yet but should fairly soon … Bryan Mitchell (face) could start some physical activity soon. Nothing major yet, just some cardio work, but that’s a good sign.

8/20 to 8/23 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians


The ten-game homestand continues with a four-game weekend series against the Indians. The Yankees were just in Cleveland last week, when they lost two of three to the Tribe. That was when the Yankees were really struggling to score runs, however. Hopefully things will go a little better this time around.

What Have The Indians Done Lately?

Cleveland lost two of three in Fenway Park earlier this week. They’re 55-64 with a -26 run differential this season, and that has them in last place in the AL Central and well out of the postseason race. The Indians have been a huge disappointment this season. Uuuuge.

Offense & Defense

At 4.00 runs per games with a team 98 wRC+, the Indians are a below-average offensively club this season. And remember, most of that offense came before they traded away David Murphy, Brandon Moss, Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourn. They’ve been disappointing in many ways. Their only injured position player is IF Chris Johnson. He just landed on the DL with a hand issue. That bites. Johnson seemed to kill rally after rally in Cleveland last week.

Lindor. (Presswire)
Lindor. (Presswire)

The biggest difference between the Indians the Yankees saw last week and the Indians the Yankees will see this week is 2B Jason Kipnis (142 wRC+). He was on the DL with shoulder inflammation when these two teams played a week ago but was just activated Tuesday. Kipnis has been the Tribe’s best player this year. OF Michael Brantley (139 wRC+) always seem to kill the Yankees and 1B Carlos Santana (107 wRC+) is still quite productive. SS Francisco Lindor (99 wRC+) has been both slightly below-average overall and on fire of late — he’s got a 130 wRC+ over the last 30 days.

C Yan Gomes (77 wRC+) and IF Jose Ramirez (54 wRC+) are having poor years, though Ramirez did tear up the Yankees last week. They couldn’t get him out. 3B Giovanny Urshela (85 wRC+) plays third everyday and the quartet of UTIL Ryan Raburn (131 wRC+), UTIL Lonnie Chisenhall (85 wRC+), UTIL Jerry Sands (91 wRC+), and former Yankees farmhand OF Abe Almonte (122 wRC+) rotate around Brantley in the outfield. IF Mike Aviles (67 wRC+) is the backup infielder and C Roberto Perez (106 wRC+) is the backup catcher.

As I said last week, the Indians are a below-average defensive club, especially now that Kipnis has returned and will take playing time away from Ramirez. Lindor and Urshela are great on the left side of the infield and Almonte is strong in center, but otherwise every other regular on the roster is a below-average defender. Cleveland is one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball. They were the worst before calling up Lindor and Urshela.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (vs. NYY)
Boy do the Yankees catch a break this series. Four-game set with the Indians and they’re missing reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, who started last night. Missed him in Cleveland last week too. Pretty great. Tomlin, 30, has missed most of the season with shoulder trouble and has made just one start since returning, holding the Twins to two runs in 6.1 innings. He had a 4.76 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 104 innings last season, with a good strikeout rate (21.1%), a great walk rate (3.1%), and well-below-average grounder (37.5%) and homer (1.56 HR/9) numbers. When healthy, Tomlin operates with an upper-80s four-seamer and mid-80s cutter — PitchFX says his velocity in his first start off the DL was in line with last year — which set up his mid-70s curveball. He’s rarely thrown his low-80s changeup since the start of last season.

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. NYY)
The Yankees will miss Kluber again but they will get stuck facing Carrasco one more time. The 28-year-old has a 3.63 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 24 starts and 151.1 innings this year with phenomenal peripherals: 27.1 K%, 5.2 BB%, 50.8 GB%, and 0.83 HR/9. That’s as good as it gets. Righties (.300 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.264 wOBA) both this year and last year, so the reverse split is probably not a fluke. Carrasco sits in the mid-90s with both his two and four-seam fastball and in the upper-80s with both his changeup and slider. Carrasco also throws a low-80s curveball on occasion. He throws everything hard. The Yankees scored two runs (on solo homers) in eight innings against Carrasco last week. Tough assignment.

Salazar. (Presswire)
Salazar. (Presswire)

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (vs. NYY)
Salazar, 25, is another hard-throwing Indians pitcher. He’s pitched to a 3.15 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 22 starts and 139.2 innings in 2015, and he’s done a better job neutralizing righties (.274 wOBA) than lefties (.291 wOBA). Salazar has a great strikeout rate (27.7%), a below-average homer rate (1.16 HR/9), and average-ish walk (7.3%) and grounder (44.5%) numbers. His four-seamer sits mid-90s and will touch 98-99, and his changeup is a mid-80s offering. Salazar also throws a mid-80s slider but not often, less than 10% of the time this season. The Yankees scored just one run in 7.1 innings against Salazar in the series last week.

Sunday (1pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
I’m pretty sure Bauer is the most enigmatic pitcher in baseball. He’s an extreme great stuff/bad results guy. He has a 4.62 ERA (4.58 FIP) in 24 starts and 142.1 innings this year, and he’s allowed at least five runs in five of his last seven starts. Bauer, 24, has a slightly above-average strikeout rate (22.9%) but below-average walk (9.6%), grounder (38.2%), and homer (1.45 HR/9) rates. Lefties (.337 wOBA) have done more damage against him that righties (.306 wOBA). Bauer throws low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamers, upper-80s cutters, mid-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and upper-70s curveballs. He favors the four-seamer over the two-seamer but has thrown all six pitches at least 9% of the time in 2015. The Yankees punished Bauer for six runs in 3.1 innings last week.

Bullpen Status
Francona’s club is down to a normal seven-man bullpen. Closer RHP Cody Allen (3.94 ERA/2.08 FIP) has been much better the last few weeks after a really rough start to the season. Former Yankees farmhand RHP Zach McAllister (3.09/2.76) has settled in as Allen’s primary setup man, and RHP Bryan Shaw (2.68/4.32) also sees some late-inning work. LHP Kyle Crockett (2.61/4.46 in limited time) is the lone southpaw.

RHP Austin Adams (3.96/3.63), RHP Jeff Manship (1.23/2.79), and RHP Ryan Webb (2.45/3.72) fill out the rest of the bullpen. Aside from Manship, all of these guys throw hard. The Indians love their power arms. Crockett has pitched the last two days and both Shaw and McAllister pitched yesterday, by the way. Our Bullpen Workload page can keep you updated on the tired Yankees’ bullpen. Check out Let’s Go Tribe and The DiaTribe for the latest on the Indians.

Yankeemetrics: Bird goes boom, sweep Twins (Aug. 17-19)

(Elsa/Getty Images)
(Elsa/Getty Images)

Thank you, NunEEEEEE
In what might turn out to be one of the wildest and most bizarre games of this 2015 season, the Yankees walked off with a 8-7 win over the Twins on Monday night.

Brian McCann put the Yankees on the board first with a three-run homer in the opening frame, and then after the Twins rallied with four runs of their own, he put the home team back on top again with a two-run single in the third. McCann finished with five RBIs, becoming the first Yankee catcher to drive in at least five runs in a game against the Twins franchise since Yogi Berra on April 17, 1956 (when they were known as the Washington Senators).

Because of Bryan Mitchell’s scary injury in the second inning, the Yankees were forced to use a parade of relievers to finish the game, with none pitching more than 2 1/3 innings. This is the only time in the last 100 seasons that the Yankees have won a game using at least seven pitchers, who each got no more than seven outs.

The Yankees won the game when Eduardo Nunez muffed a grounder with the bases loaded and threw to first base anyways for the out, thereby allowing Brendan Ryan to trot home from third for the victory. Oh Nuneeeee, the gift that keeps on giving for Yankee fans.

Per the play-by-play data at’s Play Index, this is the first time the Yankees won on a walk-off RBI ground out (that’s how it was scored) since May 16, 1985 against the Rangers. That victory 30 years ago was courtesy of a bases-loaded ground out by Dave Winfield that scored pinch runner Rickey Henderson from third base.

“Home runs are great, grand slams are awesome.” – Mr. Alexander Enmanuel Rodriguez

Another night, another comeback win for these 2015 Yankees. This time the hero was a slumping A-Rod (3-for-37 in his previous nine games), who drilled a home run with the bases loaded in the seventh inning to turn a 4-1 deficit into a 5-4 lead and an eventual win over the Twins on Tuesday night.

It was his 25th career grand slam, extending his major-league record, and the fourth time A-Rod has hit a grand slam in the seventh inning or later to give the Yankees a lead. In the last 75 seasons, no other Yankees has hit more than two homers like that with the bases loaded.

The four-run homer was also A-Rod’s 25th home run of the season, the 15th time in his career he’s reached that mark. The only other players in major-league history with at least 15 25-homer seasons are Babe Ruth, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.

The win guaranteed a series victory for the Yankees, their first in the Bronx against the Twins since 2011. In that span, the Yankees had won at least one home series against every other AL team.

Bird droppings
The Yankees comeback train kept on chugging along on Wednesday afternoon as the team rallied for yet another win over the Twins, sweeping them at home for the first time since May 2009.

Greg Bird had himself a day, hitting his first two career homers and driving in all four of the Yankee runs. He’s the third Yankee in the last 100 years with a multi-homer game within his first five career games, joining Jesus Montero (2011) and the immortal Shelley Duncan (2007).

In that span, he’s also the third Yankee first baseman with two or more homers in a game at the age of 22 or younger. The others you might have heard of: Joe Pepitone (1962, 1963) and Lou Gehrig (1925).

Since RBI became an official stat in 1920, Bird is just the second major-leaguer to have at least four RBI in a game this early into his career (first five games), and drive in all of his team’s runs. The other was Vada Pinson, who tallied four RBI in his second career game, a 4-1 win for the Reds over the Pirates on April 18, 1958.

Bird’s sixth inning two-run blast was the game-winner, and put him in some more good company, too. The only other Yankee first baseman in the last 40 seasons with a go-ahead homer in the sixth inning or later against the Twins are Tino Martinez (1996) and Don Mattingly (1993, 1985).

Yankees have no shortage of candidates for September call-ups this year

Didi and Slade. (Presswire)
Didi and Slade. (Presswire)

Twelve days from now, the Yankees and every other team in baseball will be able to expand their rosters and carry up to 40 active players. September call-ups are somewhat controversial, lots of people don’t like seeing the final month of the season played with different rules, but I’m a fan of expanded rosters. Players get worn down during the course of the season, so the extra bodies in September are welcome.

For the 2015 Yankees, expanded rosters will be about much more than adding a third catcher or some spare arms for blowouts. They will be in position to add some real weapons to the roster even though most call-ups will be used in limited roles. Still, adding the extra players will be very beneficial. The Yankees have used their depth quite a bit this season and next month they’ll be able to have everyone on the roster at once.

During an interview with YES over the weekend, Brian Cashman said the player development staff has been told to prepare for mass call-ups on September 1st, so the Yankees won’t waste any time. They’re not going to wait for the Triple-A postseason to end or anything like that. The big league team is the priority and the Yankees are going to call guys up as soon as possible. Here’s a breakdown of who we will and could see next month.

Locks To Be Called Up

During that YES interview, Cashman said “any and all” of the relievers who have been shuttled up and down this summer will return in September, and it’s a long list. Caleb Cotham, Nick Goody, Branden Pinder, and Nick Rumbelow are the notables. (Rumbelow is up right now but that could change in a day or two the way things have been going this year.) Those are four extra arms on the 40-man roster who will be able to soak up any miscellaneous innings.

On the position player side, Slade Heathcott and Jose Pirela are safe bets to be called up to serve as the extra outfielder and extra infielder, respectively. Both are still on the 40-man and were up earlier this year — Pirela was sent down due to performance, Heathcott got hurt — and both offer different things. Heathcott adds speed and defense, Pirela offers versatility and another right-handed bat. Heck, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if Heathcott snuck onto the potential postseason roster as a pinch-running specialist.

Called Up If Healthy

Lindgren. (Presswire)
Lindgren. (Presswire)

Bryan Mitchell was just placed on the 7-day concussion DL after taking a line drive to the face, though earlier this week Joe Girardi told Chad Jennings there’s a chance Mitchell will be back in the bullpen within a week. That sounds … optimistic. Either way, Mitchell will be on the roster in September if he’s healthy. No reason to expect otherwise. He’s been on the 25-man roster for a big chunk of the year already.

Righty Chris Martin and lefty Jacob Lindgren are both on the Triple-A DL with elbow problems and figure to return in September, if healthy. Lindgren had surgery to remove bone spurs and the Yankees have said they expect him to return this year, so it’s just a question of whether he gets through his rehab in one piece. The nature of Martin’s injury is unknown. We’re just going to have to wait and see whether he’s healthy and able to pitch in September.

The Obligatory Third Catcher

Cashman confirmed the Yankees will call-up a third catcher because duh. Every team brings up a third catcher. The only catcher on the 40-man roster aside from Brian McCann and John Ryan Murphy is Gary Sanchez, who has hit a bit of a wall with Triple-A Scranton after crushing the level immediately after his promotion. Austin Romine has had a nice year too, but he’s not on the 40-man roster. My guess is Sanchez gets the call as the third catcher but rarely catches, sorta like Jesus Montero in 2011. (Also, Romine would require clearing a 40-man spot.) That is especially true if the race for a postseason spot goes right down to the wire, as expected. Sanchez might only catch in blowouts or after the team clinches all it can clinch.

Likely To Be Called Up, But Not Locks

There’s really only one player in this category: Rob Refsnyder. He’s had a good year in Triple-A, not a great year, and his brief four-game cameo in pinstripes earlier this year was a bit of a mixed bag. Some good, some not so good. There have been unconfirmed reports floating around that the Yankees were less than enthused with Refsnyder’s attitude during his call-up — not so much that he didn’t work hard, but that he was arrogant and acted entitled — and I suppose the club could keep him down in September as something of a wake-up call. My guess is Refsnyder comes up and takes second base platoon at-bats away from Brendan Ryan. I just wouldn’t put his chances at a call-up at 100%. Maybe it’s more like 95% or so.

Unlikely To Be Called Up

Among the healthy 40-man roster players, the only one who I think has less than a 50/50 chance of getting a September call-up is Tyler Austin. Another righty bat would be neat, but Austin’s had a very rough year and was recently demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton. Players who have struggled like Austin usually don’t get called up unless there’s no other option. There’s a “reward” aspect to being a September call-up, and he didn’t earn this year.

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

The biggest name among non-40-man players is Aaron Judge, the team’s top prospect. The Yankees added both Refsnyder and Greg Bird to the 40-man early and called them up this year, but they were both performing in Triple-A. Judge has been striking out a ton of late and he won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible for another few years, not another few months. I would be surprised if the Yankees tied up another 40-man spot by adding Judge. His time will come eventually. Just probably not this September.

Other non-40-man players I don’t expect to be called up in September: Ben Gamel, Brady Lail, James Pazos, and Johnny Barbato. Lail and Barbato just reached Triple-A and there are too many arms ahead of them on the depth chart to add them to the 40-man roster early. Gamel’s had a breakout season and I wouldn’t necessarily put his call-up chances at 0%. Heathcott will fill the “extra lefty hitting outfielder” role though, and I’m not sure the Yankees should clear a roster spot to add another. Pazos could be a victim of the number’s crunch more than anything. There simply might not be any room for another lefty reliever.

The Non-40-Man Wildcard

The non-40-man player who I think has the best chance of being called up in September is Andrew Bailey. He’s working his way back from shoulder surgery and been able to stay healthy for a few weeks now, plus he’s pitched effectively in all sorts of situations (back-to-back days, multiple innings, etc.) in the minors. The Yankees have put a lot of time and effort into helping him rehab these last two years, remember.

Cashman admitted Bailey was recently held out of a Triple-A game in case he needed to be called up to help the tired bullpen, but that didn’t happen. Bailey wasn’t needed. That they’ve already come thisclose to calling Bailey up this month leads me to believe they will bring him to the show once rosters expand. Bailey hasn’t pitched in MLB since getting hurt in July 2013. It’s been a long and difficult road back. Hopefully he stays healthy these next two weeks and gets the call in September.

The 40-Man Situation

The 40-man roster is full right now. It’s actually extra full. The Yankees have four players on the 60-day DL (Sergio Santos, Diego Moreno, Mason Williams, Chase Whitley) and none of them will be ready to be activated in September following their season-ending surgeries. The Yankees will need to clear a spot to call up, say, Bailey or Romine, and there are a few ways to do that.

First and foremost, the Yankees could call up an injured 40-man roster player and place them on the 60-day DL. Martin (elbow) and Domingo German (Tommy John surgery) are two candidates for that move. The Yankees haven’t done the call-up/60-day DL thing often — they did it with Justin Maxwell and Heathcott a few years ago, that’s pretty much it — but it is an option. Not wanting German to accumulate service time is understandable. Martin though? Who cares. Of course, he’d have to actually be hurt to pull this move. Can’t 60-day DL a healthy player.

Figueroa. (Presswire)
Figueroa. (Presswire)

The Yankees could always outright or designate a player for assignment to clear 40-man space. There just aren’t many obvious candidates. Perhaps they’ll decide to cut Chris Capuano again in September since they’ll have all the extra relievers and won’t necessarily need a long man. Cole Figueroa could also get the axe, especially if Refsnyder does get called up and/or Dustin Ackley gets healthy. Martin? He could lose his 40-man spot if healthy as well.

Capuano, Figueroa, and Martin are the three main 40-man casualty candidates. It would be a surprise if the Yankees dropped someone like Austin, Pirela, or Cotham from the roster. Those guys are probably the next three in line, if anything. Aside from Bailey and maybe Romine, the Yankees don’t figure to need any 40-man spots this September, though they could clear two with the call-up/60-day DL move. We’ll see.

* * *

Once September rolls around, the Yankees will obviously add a bunch of pitchers and a third catcher, plus a few extra position players. The extra arms will be a huge help, the bullpen has worked a ton this year, and Refsnyder could really help if he gets those platoon at-bats instead of Ryan. If not him, then Pirela. Also, Heathcott could be a factor as a defensive replacement/pinch-runner.

No one in their right mind is an expecting major impact from a September call-up — guys who do what Francisco Rodriguez did in 2002 are extremely rare — but they can help in limited roles. Those extra pitchers and platoon bats and pinch-runners are valuable in their own way. Given how tight the AL East race is at the moment, every little upgrade helps. September call-ups this year will be about more than resting regulars in blowouts.