Tuesday: Cabral has officially been called up, the Yankees announced. Lots and lots of lefties.
Monday: Via George King: The Yankees are planning to call up left-hander Cesar Cabral to replace David Robertson, who was placed on the 15-day DL with a Grade 1 groin strain earlier today. Three lefties in the bullpen is not ideal, especially since two of them (Cabral and Matt Thornton) are pure specialists, so Vidal Nuno is going to have to take on some more responsibility. He figures to be asked to get both righties and lefties out now. · (33) ·
Through the first seven games of 2014, the story of the Yankees’ season has been the offensive struggles of the new-look middle of the order. Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Alfonso Soriano have yet to produce with any kind of consistency, and as a result the team has had some problems scoring runs. Eventually those guys will come around and the Yankees will score more runs. At least I think they will. They’re not hitting early in the season and things tend to stand out during the first week of April.
Those offensive issues are overshadowing another early theme: the starting rotation has been commanding and dominating the strike zone. In the first seven games, the Yankees’ starters have a 35/7 K/BB in 43 innings, which works out to a 5.00 K/BB ratio. Only the Giants (5.14) have been better. Furthermore, Ivan Nova issued five of those seven walks in his lone start, during which he was very wild and had no feel for his curveball. Exclude him, and the other four starters have a 34/2 K/BB in 37.1 innings, or an absurd 17.00 K/BB ratio.
Obviously that’s a small sample and we’re cherry-picking by excluding Nova, yadda yadda yadda. Still, 34 strikeouts and two walks in 37.1 innings is pretty ridiculous. I mean, yeah, a 17.00 K/BB ratio is unsustainable over a full 162-game season, but I’m not looking to draw any conclusions from this. I just wanted to point out how stellar the starters have been at commanding the zone. It’s a real thing that happened and it’s pretty amazing. These guys aren’t giving out free passes at all.
Now, here’s the thing: this isn’t happening by accident. The Yankees have sought out strong K/BB pitchers in recent years. In the three years before coming to New York, CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda had 4.51 and 3.36 K/BB ratios, respectively. Masahiro Tanaka had an absurd 7.06 K/BB ratio during his final three years with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Pineda had a 3.15 K/BB during his one season with the Mariners. Nova is the only real exception; he came into 2014 with a career 2.26 K/BB ratio. From 2011-13, the league average for starters was a 2.47 K/BB ratio, for reference.
I think pitching coach Larry Rothschild has something to do with this as well. He came to the Yankees with a reputation for improving strikeout and walk rates — I keep pointing back to these studies, which are definitely due for an update (that’s a post for the offseason, I think) — and he’s continued to do that in New York, for the most part. Sabathia is one example: he had a 20.6% strikeout rate and a 7.4% walk rate in the two years before Rothschild, and a 23.4% strikeout rate and 5.8% walk rate in the first two years with Rothschild. The Yankees target pitchers who command the strike zone well, then they turn them over to their pitching coach, who helps maximize that ability. It’s wonderful.
Two things the Yankees can not change are their ballpark and their division. They’re stuck with Yankee Stadium’s short porch, and they’re stuck playing in the hitter happy AL East. They can control their pitching staff though, at least to some extent, so they’ve targeted pitchers who don’t hurt themselves with walks and generally keep the ball on the ground. (Grounders are actually something of a problem considering the infield defense.) The rotation has taken the whole “no walks” thing to an extreme in these first seven games, and while they won’t keep up this pace all year, this group has pounded the zone early. It’s a big reason why the Yankees acquired these guys, and it’s a big reason why they’ve won four of their last five games.
Baseball returned to the Bronx on Monday, and the Yankees celebrated their home opener with a 4-2 win over the division rival Orioles. After dropping the first two games of season to the Astros, the Yankees have won four of their last five games. How about that?
Welcome To The AL East
The Yankees knocked Ubaldo Jimenez out of Monday’s game after only 4.2 innings, and I think they only had one really hard hit ball during those 4.2 innings. That was Derek Jeter‘s double off the left field wall in the fifth. He actually thought it was a homer (so did everyone else) and started to jog to first, but he hustled it into a two-bagger once he saw it clank off the wall. The Yankees forced Jimenez to throw 107 pitches to get 14 outs, slapping seven singles in addition to the double. They also worked him for five walks.
The Bombers scored their four runs off Ubaldo in four different ways. In the third, Jeter banged into a 1-6-3 double play that scored Yangervis Solarte, who drew a walk to leadoff the inning and moved to third on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s single. In the fourth, Solarte came up with a two-out, two-strike single to right to plate Alfonso Soriano, who singled earlier in the inning and moved to second on Kelly Johnson‘s walk. Nick Markakis came up just short on his diving catch attempt. In the fourth, Ellsbury singled in Jeter after the double. Johnson drew a bases loaded walk to force in a run later in the inning. Three of the four runs were helped by walks. Walks walks walks.
I want to single out Roberts, who neither scored nor drove in a run, but played a big role in the game nevertheless. He saw 19 pitches (!) in his three at-bats against Jimenez, drawing a walk to load the bases immediately prior to Johnson’s bases loaded walk in the fifth. Nineteen pitches in three trips to the plate! Roberts took a full inning off Ubaldo’s day all by himself. He isn’t hitting much (.150 AVG through the first seven games), but he’s drawing walks (.346 OBP) and is a pain in the ass at-bat in general. I’ve said this more than a few times already, but these are the types of at-bats the Yankees were not getting last year, especially from the bottom third of the order. Roberts did not do any damage directly on Monday, but he sure made life tough for Ubaldo.
Ho Hum, Kuroda Was Very Good Again
Like I’m sure many of you, I was a bit concerned about Hiroki Kuroda coming into the season because of his age and late-season fade last year, but after two starts, those concerns are pretty much gone. Kuroda has looked like the 2013 first half version of himself, showing good velocity and being unpredictable with his breaking pitches. He did allow eight hits in 6.1 innings of work, including three doubles, but they were mostly scattered. The bullpen picked him up when the first three hitters of the seventh inning recorded base hits.
Here is Kuroda’s pitch breakdown from Brooks Baseball:
- 47 sinkers, 32 strikes, four swings and misses, averaged 92.8 mph and topped out at 93.7
- 24 splitters, 13 strikes, five swings and misses, averaged 86.2 mph
- 16 sliders, nine strikes, five swings and misses, averaged 84.4 mph
- three curveballs and two four-seam fastballs as well
Kuroda’s final line was two runs allowed on those eight hits in those 6.1 innings. He struck out four, and like just about every Yankees’ starter these days, he did not walk anybody. Fifty-six of his 92 pitches were strikes (61%), and until those three batters reached to start the seventh inning, he was cruising right along without much an issue. Outside of CC Sabathia‘s disaster on Opening Day, the Yankees have gotten pretty strong work from their rotation this year.
No Robertson? No Problem
Following the game, we learned David Robertson had to be placed on the 15-day DL with a Grade I groin strain. That means everyone in the bullpen will move up a notch for at least two weeks. Injuries stink but they are a part of life. Joe Girardi excels at bullpen management and he pushed all the right buttons on Monday.
As I mentioned before, the bullpen picked up Kuroda in that seventh inning. Matt Thornton was brought in to face Ryan Flaherty with runners on first and second with one out, and he retired the lefty with a weak ground ball to second base. It’s clear Girardi is using Thornton as nothing but a matchup left-hander and that’s great. He has no business facing righties at this point of his career. David Phelps, who has really struggled so far this year, came in after Thornton and got a weak ground ball back to himself from the rookie Jonathan Schoop to end the threat. I still don’t want to see Phelps in big spots just yet, but he did the job on Monday.
with Robertson out, Shawn Kelley was the closer du jour, pushing Adam Warren into the eighth inning. Warren walked the first batter of the eighth — his first base-runner of the season — before escaping the jam with a fly ball (Nick Markakis) and two strikeouts (Adam Jones, Chris Davis). The recovery was impressive after the walk. Warren’s been pretty good as a short reliever so far (ahem). Kelley recorded with first career save with two easy fly balls and a ground out on nine total pitches. Piece of cake.
The Orioles helped the Yankees by making two outs on the bases: Nelson Cruz forget how many outs there were in the second inning and was doubled off first base on Steve Lombardozzi’s fly ball. It wasn’t even close, Cruz was still near second base by time the ball got back into the infield. Brian McCann then picked Schoop off at second base with a snap throw to end the top of the fifth.
Ellsbury was thrown out trying to steal second base in the fifth inning thanks to a fantastic throw by Matt Wieters, but the replay showed he slid in just under Flaherty’s tag. It was very close but it did look like Ellsbury was in there. Girardi did not challenge though, and four of the next five batters reached base (two singles, two walks). Fallacy of the predetermined outcome, yadda yadda yadda, but Girardi should have challenged in hindsight. Could have really blown the game open there.
Ellsbury had two hits to continue his little hot streak. Soriano also went 2-for-3 with a walk and appears to be coming out of his funk. Gardner and Jeter each had one hit, Beltran and Solarte both singled and walked, Johnson drew two walks, Roberts drew one walk, and McCann went 0-for-4. He was the only starter who failed to reach base. Solarte creamed a pitch in the eighth that looked gone off the bat, but Markakis caught it on the right field warning track. Almost his first career dinger. Almost.
Funny moment: the Bleacher Creatures were chanting “So-Lar-Te! So-Lar-Te!” as part of the roll call for about a minute before Jeter told Solarte to wave. Rookie mistake.
Same two teams tomorrow afternoon in the second game of this three-game series. I guess that’s the alternative to not having the day after the home opener off, playing a day game so scheduling a doubleheader is easier. Who knows. Ivan Nova and Wei-Yin Chen will both be making their second starts of the season in the matinee. If you want some last minute tickets, check out RAB Tickets.
Losing David Robertson to a Grade I groin strain really stinks, but otherwise the home opener went splendidly this afternoon. Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera were on hand for the ceremonial first pitch — I’m going to have to start a petition to get Bernie Williams some well-deserved respect — plus beating Buck Showalter and the Orioles is always fun. The first pitch video is above, if you missed it.
This is your open thread for the night. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET, though I don’t know if they’ll show any of the pre-game ceremonies again. The Devils and Nets are playing, plus the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game is on as well. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s game, or anything else right here.
Minor League Update: There will be no Down on the Farm post tonight because none of the affiliates are playing. High-A Tampa had a scheduled off-day and Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, and Low-A Charleston were all rained out. Here’s the scoreboard if you don’t believe me. DotF returns tomorrow, assuming someone actually plays.
Following this afternoon’s game, Joe Girardi announced that an MRI showed a Grade I strain in Mark Teixeira’s right hamstring. He has already been on the DL for three days now. A Grade I strain is the least severe, but that doesn’t mean he is guaranteed to return after the minimum 15 days. Hamstrings are quite tricky.
Teixeira, 33, went 3-for-12 (.250) in four games before landing on the DL. Kelly Johnson has taken over at first base for the time being. The Yankees called up a third catcher (Austin Romine) to replace Teixeira because, well, their 40-man roster is a mess and they don’t have any better options. Russ Canzler is the starting first baseman at Triple-A Scranton, but the Yankees would have to drop someone from the 40-man roster to call him up. Hopefully the injury does not linger and Teixeira returns soon. · (4) ·
Brian Cashman has turned the recently-DFA’d Eduardo Nunez into a minor league pitcher. As the Yankees announced a few minutes ago, the team has acquired Miguel Sulbaran from the Twins in exchange for Nunez. Sulbaran is a 20-year-old lefty pitcher who has put up decent numbers with both the Twins and Dodgers since arriving in the U.S. in 2012, and he has yet to pitch above Single A.
Sulbaran was the player to be named later in the Dodgers’ deal for Drew Butera last year, and at the time, Dodgers’ bloggers seemed to rue the trade. That said, Sulbaran is a 5’10″ lefty who sits in the 89-90 mph range with breaking pitches described as “average.” Maybe he could one day be a bullpen arm, but for now, he’s org filler in acquired exchange for a bench player who was opportunities with the Yankees. · (41) ·
The Yankees have placed David Robertson on the 15-day DL with a Grade I groin strain, Joe Girardi announced. He hurt himself at some point during Sunday’s outing. Grade I is the least severe strain, but that doesn’t mean he will automatically be ready to go once the 15 days are up. Girardi declined to give a timetable for his return.
I assumed Robertson did not pitch Monday because he had a long-ish outing on Sunday and had pitched in three of the last four days, but unfortunately not. Shawn Kelley picked up an easy save in the home opener on Monday afternoon, but Girardi stopped short of declaring him the interim closer. He did acknowledge Kelley will see most save chances, however. Adam Warren is also in the late-inning mix.
There is no word on who will be called up to fill Robertson’s roster spot. Preston Claiborne and Cesar Cabral are both on the 40-man roster and seem like obvious candidates, and others like Matt Daley, David Herndon, Fred Lewis, and Danny Burawa impressed in Spring Training and could get the call. None of those guys are on the 40-man roster, though.
Robertson, 28, allowed one hit and one walk in three innings before getting hurt, going 2-for-2 in save chances. Girardi is very good at getting the most out of his bullpen, and he’ll have to continue to do just that with his best reliever on the shelf for the foreseeable future.
According to his representatives at the MCA Agency, the Yankees are one of several teams with interest in free agent right-hander Brian Omogrosso. He recently elected free agency after being outrighted off the 40-man roster by the White Sox, and has been throwing for teams in Phoenix. The Rangers and Blue Jays are among the other clubs with interest.
Omogrosso, 29, has a 5.54 ERA (4.52 FIP) with a 8.2 K/9 (19.5 K%) in 37.1 career big league innings, all with the ChiSox from 2012-13. His career Triple-A numbers aren’t anything to write home about (5.20 ERA and ~3.26 FIP), but his strikeout (9.8 K/9 and 25.0 K%) and walk numbers (2.7 BB/9 and 6.9 BB%) are strong. Baseball America ranked Omogrosso as the 17th best prospect in Chicago’s system before the 2012 season, saying he throws in the mid-90s with a hard slider, but his “peak value is probably as a seventh- or eighth-inning reliever.” Here’s video. Sounds like the Yankees are looking at him as a power depth arm for Triple-A. · (17) ·
After six games on the road, the Yankees are finally back in the Bronx. The team kicks off a nine-game homestand with their home opener this afternoon, assuming the weather cooperates. The forecast calls for showers later today, but it appears they will hold off long enough to get the game in. It will be cloudy and smell like smoke, however.
Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will throw out the ceremonial first pitches to Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter before the game. The Core Four, you see. I guess Bernie Williams drew the short straw. Jeter should get a massive standing ovation before his first at-bat since this is his final home opener. He’ll get cheered all season long, no doubt about it, but I think today’s ovation will be the biggest until his final home game. Should be fun.
Modest goal for today: get the leadoff guy out. The first batter of the first inning is 6-for-6 with two singles, a double, and three homers against the Yankees this season. Seriously. After giving up three leadoff homers in 2012 and 2013 combined, they’ve allowed three in their first six games of 2014. I’m not asking too much, am I? Here is the Orioles lineup and here is Joe Girardi‘s starting lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- RF Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
Like I said before, it’s cloudy but the rain is supposed to hold off until later this afternoon. Not the best baseball weather, but they’ll live. The Yankees say pre-game ceremonies will begin at 12:44pm ET, and first pitch is scheduled for 1:08pm ET. You can watch today’s game live on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.
After opening the season with six straight games on the road (in parks with roofs, no less), the Yankees are finally back home in the Bronx. Their first homestand of the year opens this afternoon with the AL East rival Orioles in town for a three-game set. Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera will throw out the ceremonial first pitches to Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter in the home opener this afternoon. Neato.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Orioles beat the Tigers yesterday, but they lost four straight games before that. Baltimore is 2-4 with a -9 run differential, which … doesn’t really mean much of anything these days. It’s too early to worry about win-loss records.
Few teams boast as much power as the Orioles. They led baseball with 212 homeruns last season, but because they don’t have many high on base players, they only had a team 100 wRC+ and averaged 4.60 runs per game. This year, they’ve swatted only three homers, so they’re sitting on a team 68 wRC+ with 20 runs in six games (3.33 per). They are currently without 3B Manny Machado (101 wRC+ in 2013), who is recovering from offseason knee surgery. OF Nolan Reimold (52) is out with a neck problem as well.
Manager and former Yankees skipper Buck Showalter has three legitimate 30+ homer bats in the middle of his lineup. 1B Chris Davis (167 wRC+ in 2013/95 wRC+ in 2014) led the world with 53 homers last season. Adam Jones (118/88) hit 33 of his own, his second straight year over 30 and third year over 25. OF Nelson Cruz (122/143) has hit two of their three homers this season, and last year he slugged 27 dingers before his 50-game Biogenesis suspension. SS J.J. Hardy (99/101) can hit some balls over the fence as well. He is day-to-day with back spasms.
The other notables in the lineup are OF Nick Markakis (87/59) and C Matt Wieters (86/165), who embody the team’s development problems. Both guys had big seasons earlier in the career but then plateaued and never improved. (Wieters has the team’s other homer.) IF Steve Lombardozzi (67/84), IF Ryan Flaherty (83/-64), and IF Jonathan Schoop (128/-53) are splitting time at second and third. OF David Lough (96/9) is the primary left fielder with Cruz at DH, plus both OF Delmon Young (98/35) and OF/1B Steve Pearce (115/-100) serve as righty bats off the bench. They haven’t hit this year, but the Orioles can change the complexion of a game with one swing of the bat.
Monday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
The Orioles were patient and played the market well this winter — whether that was by design is another matter entirely — landing the 30-year-old Jimenez on a favorable contract right as Spring Training opened. He had his best season in years in 2013, pitching to a 3.30 ERA (3.43 FIP) in 182.2 innings for the Indians. His strikeout rate (9.56 K/9 and 25.0 K%) was excellent, his walk (3.94 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) and ground ball (43.9%) numbers less so. Jimenez actually had a reverse split last summer, holding lefties to a .296 wOBA while righties got him for .318 wOBA. Ubaldo is a true five-pitch pitcher, meaning he uses all five pitches fairly regularly. His low-90s fastball sets up his mid-80s splitter, low-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and upper-70s curveball. Jimenez allowed four runs in six innings to the Red Sox in his first start. He can be dominant, but he also might be the most unpredictable pitcher in the game.
Tuesday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Chen, 28, is now in his third MLB season. He had a 4.07 ERA (4.04 FIP) in 137 innings around an oblique injury last summer, with poor strikeout (6.82 K/9 and 18.2 K%) and ground ball (34.4%) rates. He did limit walks though (2.56 BB/9 and 6.8 BB%). Chen has the standard issue four-pitch mix, so a low-90s fastball, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and low-70s curveball. The changeup is his top secondary pitch, though righties (.330 wOBA) still give him a harder time than lefties (.306 wOBA). Chen got knocked around in his first start of the year, allowing four runs on 12 hits to the Red Sox.
Wednesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (Career vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Man, Gonzalez dominated the Yankees back in 2012. He started three games against New York that year (postseason included), allowing only five runs on 15 hits and one walk in 20.2 innings. He struck out 25. Domination. Thankfully, that changed last season, when the 29-year-old allowed 16 runs with a 19/13 K/BB in 29 innings against New York. Gonzalez had a 3.78 ERA (4.45 FIP) in 171.1 innings overall last summer, though his peripherals were mediocre: 6.30 K/9 (16.9 K%), 2.78 BB/9 (7.4 BB%), and 38.9% grounders. He has a reverse platoon split — lefties have a .305 wOBA, righties a .325 wOBA — in parts of three big league seasons. Gonzalez’s break and butter is a nasty split-changeup hybrid that sits in the low-80s. He sets it up with a low-90s fastball and also throws a low-80s slider and mid-70s curveball. That split-change keeps him in MLB. Gonzalez got creamed in his first start of 2014, allowing seven runs on nine hits (including two homers) in 3.1 innings.
With Jim Johnson currently blowing games for the Athletics, RHP Tommy Hunter (3.68 FIP in 2013/1.68 FIP in 2014) has taken over ninth inning duties for Baltimore. Considering how the Yankees always seemed to get to Johnson, that’s probably bad news for New York. Hunter threw 14 pitches yesterday.
RHP Ryan Webb (3.60/8.33), RHP Darren O’Day (3.5/2.18), and RHP Evan Meek (4.59/4.18) are all part of the setup crew, as is LHP Brian Matusz (2.91/5.58). LHP Zach Britton (4.80/2.93) and RHP Josh Stinson (5.40/4.00) are long relievers. Everyone in Baltimore’s bullpen is well rested. It’s too early in the season for guys to have big workloads, even over just the last few days. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ relievers, then check out Camden Chat for the latest and greatest on the O’s.