Finally. After an offseason of rumors and a Spring Training of hype and a win in an encouraging first regular season start, Masahiro Tanaka has finally arrived in the Bronx. He will make his second start of the season and his Yankee Stadium debut tonight, as the Yankees look to win this three-game series over the Orioles. The team kept him hidden from AL East rivals in camp to win games just like this.
Tanaka’s first start was a bit uneven, with a two rough innings to start the game and five dominant innings to end the outing. He admitted he was nervous beforehand and I’m sure he feels the same way again leading up to his home debut. How could he not? I’m anxious and all I have to do is watch. Just about everything is a first for Tanaka these days — this is his first start on a five-day schedule, remember — and his first Yankee Stadium start is among the biggest. Here is the Orioles lineup he will be facing and here is the Yankees lineup that will have his back:
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- DH Jacoby Ellsbury
- RF Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- LF Alfonso Soriano
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
The weather in New York has been really nice all day. A few clouds but not too much, no threat of rain of anything. Pretty good night for baseball. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.
David Robertson Update: Robertson threw off flat ground today and felt fine. He is not eligible to come off the DL until April 22nd, so they have plenty of time to ease him back into things. [Sweeny Murti]
A guest post from our friends at TiqIQ:
During his impressive Major League debut, Masahiro Tanaka recorded his first big league victory by pitching seven innings against the Toronto Blue Jays this past Friday, giving up three runs (two earned) with eight strikeouts on six hits. Tanaka’s first start in a Yankee uniform wasn’t all good however, as the first batter he faced (Melky Cabrera) took him deep and there were several hard hit balls in the first two innings. Tanaka showed good poise, though, as he settled down and retired 15 of 16 batters he faced in his final five innings. He didn’t display overpowering stuff, as his fastball was mostly around the low 90s, but he showed off his nasty splitter and good control of the ball. So far it’s a good start for the $155 million dollar Yankee right hander.
The 25-year-old from Japan now has his eyes set for his first start at Yankee Stadium, Wednesday night against the Baltimore Orioles. There is much hype surrounding the young pitcher, and Tanaka will look to show both his doubters and supporters that he is the real deal in front of the home crowd. If he pitches like he did in Japan last year, when he went 24-0 in 27 starts, eight complete games, a ridiculous 1.27 ERA, and 183 strikeouts, he’ll likely receive much love from the Bronx.
Yankees fans who are looking to see Tanaka pitch live at Yankee stadium tonight will be able to do so at a discounted price. The average ticket price for tonight’s game is $77 dollars, 40% below Yankees home season average. The get in price is $8 dollars and New York Yankees tickets are down 13% for one of the most interesting games early on the Yankees schedule. The discounted Yankees ticket prices for their home opening series with the Baltimore Orioles is mostly due to ticket prices usually falling off a bit after Opening Day for the next few games, even if a possible star pitcher will be making an appearance.
Masahiro Tanaka, before signing with the Yankees, spent seven seasons with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, where he recorded 99 career wins with the team, with 53 of them complete games and a career 2.30 ERA. Tanaka has a lot to look forward tonight, and hopes to put on a show for his fans, as he puts his 29 regular season game winning streak on the line. That streak dates back to August of 2012 when he lost to the Seibu Lions.
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Outside of signing lefty specialist Matt Thornton to a two-year contract, the Yankees spent no money on their bullpen this winter. They didn’t bring in a late-inning arm to replace Mariano Rivera, instead bumping everyone up a notch on the depth chart and hoping a youngster like Dellin Betances can fill the void. I can’t say it was the ideal offseason for the bullpen, but it is what it is.
The Yankees lost their anchor the other day as David Robertson went down with a Grade I groin strain. He said he expects to be back after the minimum 15 days because of course he does. Just about every player thinks that when they get hurt. Shawn Kelley went from seventh inning guy last year to closer now, Adam Warren from swingman last year to setup man now. Thornton, Betances, and David Phelps are there to fill in the gaps.
“(Robertson) started off great, and he’s our best pitcher,” said Kelley to Chad Jennings following Monday’s game. “It forces all of us to throw another inning later, so obviously that’s not good for the whole pen, but injuries are part of it and we’ve got to overcome it. You saw today what we’re capable of, and hopefully we can string it together until he gets back.”
The first game without Robertson went fine as Warren and Kelley preserved a two-run lead in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Vidal Nuno took a pounding in mop-up duty yesterday, but that’s what he’s there for. Ivan Nova failed to get out of the fourth inning and someone had to take one for the team. Robertson’s injury doesn’t necessarily push someone like Nuno into a bigger role; the last bullguy in the pen tends to stay the last guy in the bullpen. The injury tests the late-inning guys, and right now Thornton is the only one with any kind of meaningful late-inning experience.
Of course, experience doesn’t mean a whole lot in the bullpen. Does it help? Sure. But relievers come out of nowhere every year to dominate. Experience is preferred but far from a requirement. The ability to miss bats and the willingness to be aggressive are more important, and, for the most part, guys like Kelley, Warren, and Phelps have that. (Being aggressive doesn’t automatically mean throwing strikes. Throwing strikes is hard, remember.) Until Robertson comes back, those guys will do the heavy bullpen lifting.
To me, Joe Girardi is the key while Robertson is out. He can’t control what someone does on the mound, but he can control when and how his relievers are used, something he is very good at based on what we’ve seen the last six years. Girardi knows Thornton is only a lefty specialist at this point of his career and he knows Warren is at his best in one-inning bursts, so that’s how he’s using them. He doesn’t ask his pitchers to fill a role they are not equipped to fill unless he has absolutely no choice.
Kelley, Warren, and especially Betances have big opportunities with Robertson out. This is a chance for all three to show they are up to the task of being go-to late-inning arms, which would benefit both themselves and the team. Girardi’s responsibility of putting these guys in the best possible position to succeed — it would be nice if the offense gave the staff some breathing room once in a while — while be even greater these next few weeks. A Rivera and Robertson-less bullpen is scary, so this will be a great test of the relievers left standing.
The Yankees have called up right-hander Shane Greene, the team announced. Third catcher Austin Romine was sent to Triple-A Scranton in a corresponding move. The club is now carrying an eight-man bullpen and three bench players, but I assume that is only temporary. No 40-man roster move was required.
Greene, 25, has never pitched above Double-A. He was with Scranton to start the minor league season but had not yet pitched. Greene gives the team some long relief protection with Vidal Nuno down for a few days following his extended outing yesterday. I ranked him as the team’s 26th best prospect before the season. His two-seamer does this. · (24) ·
In my opinion, the 2013 draft was the Yankees’ strongest in several years. Obviously having three first round picks helped — their natural first rounder plus compensation picks for Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano — but they landed three legitimate first round talents with those picks, plus they unearthed some gems in the middle rounds. The farm system has been in need of impact talent, and they definitely added some last summer.
Thanks to their offseason spending spree, the Yankees forfeited their top three picks in this June’s draft. That means their first rounder is gone, ditto the compensation picks for Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano. Their top selection right now comes in the second round, the 55th overall pick, but they could always surrender that to sign Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales. Heck, they could sign both and forfeit their second and third round picks. I’d bet against that though. Here is the team’s draft pool situation, courtesy of Baseball America (no subs. req’d):
- Second round, 55th overall: $1,018,700
- Third round, 91st overall: $585,100
- Fourth round, 122nd overall: $424,000
- Fifth round, 152nd overall: $317,500
- Sixth round, 182nd overall: $232, 600
- Seventh round, 212nd overall: $178,300
- Eighth round, 242nd overall: $157,000
- Ninth round, 272nd overall: $146,500
- Tenth round, 302nd overall: $137,600
That all adds up to $3,202,300 for the top ten rounds, or $3,359,212 if you include the 4.9% each team is allowed to exceed their pool before getting slapped with the really harsh penalties, specifically forfeiting future first rounders. The Yankees did exceed their draft pool last year, but only by 1.4%. Exceeding by the pool by no more than 4.9% results in a tax of 75% on the overage, which is a pittance for most MLB clubs.
It’s easy to say the Yankees will grab whatever top talent falls into their lap for that 55th overall pick, and while that’s probably true, they have shown a tendency to take “their guy” in the early rounds. It’s not just SS Cito Culver and 3B Dante Bichette Jr., either. The Yankees took both OF Slade Heathcott and 2B Gosuke Katoh higher than projected. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make it tough to pin down the players they could be targeting.
In the past, the Yankees were all about high school position players and polished college pitchers. The gears have shifted the last two years, as they’ve taken high school arms (RHP Ty Hensley, LHP Ian Clarkin) and college bats (3B Eric Jagielo, OF Aaron Judge, C Peter O’Brien) in the early rounds. In fact, they took two college hitters (Jagielo and Judge) in the first round last summer after taking one college hitter (OF John-Ford Griffin) in the first round from 2001-12. Is this a new trend, or a blip in the radar? I think it’s the former, but again, this makes it tough to pin down who they are looking at.
The Yankees are reportedly planning a huge international spending spree, and that’s how they will add the bulk of their young talent in 2014. Draft talent has come off the board much more linearly — the best players go early and very few fall into the later rounds, and those that do usually end up not signing — since the spending limits were implemented, so club can only add so much talent this draft. This year’s class is very deep in college right-handed pitchers and I do think the Yankees will look to replenish the pitching pipeline this year, at least in the middle rounds, but that’s just a hunch.
As I’ve done the last two years, I’m going to put together short posts for individual prospects in the weeks leading up to the draft. Here’s the Jagielo post from last year, for example. I used to group players together based on similar traits (college bat, power arms, whatever) but I think the individual posts work better. Because the Yankees don’t have a first rounder this year, I won’t be focusing on the top talents. There are plenty of places you can read about those guys. I want to look at players who could still be around when the Yankees pick. It’ll be difficult this year, but I think that will make it more fun too.
Back in January, the Yankees signed a nondescript journeyman named Yangervis Solarte to a minor league contract. It was reported that he would compete with guys like Eduardo Nunez and Dean Anna for a bench spot in Spring Training, but come on. Yangervis Solarte? When I posted the news of the signing, I wrote “he’s likely at the very bottom of the infield depth chart.” You know why I wrote that? Because he was.
Then, in Spring Training, Solarte became that guy. The random player no one knew anything about who had a huge spring. Solarte hit .429/.489/.571 with two homers in 47 plate appearances during Grapefruit League play, and most years that would mean nothing. The Yankees tend to have very few roster spots up for grabs in camp. This year was different though, and Solarte played his way into consideration for a bench job –Brendan Ryan‘s injury certainly helped — a bench job he eventually won. He didn’t just take Nunez’s job, he took his 40-man roster spot and uniform number. Scorched earth.
Solarte made his Yankees debut as a pinch-hitter in the team’s second game of the season, banging into a rally killing double play in his first at-bat. He got the start the next day and went 3-for-3 with a double. He went 2-for-5 with two doubles the next day. Then 2-for-3 the next day. Then 1-for-3 with a double the next day and 1-for-3 with a walk the day after that. Yesterday, Solarte went 2-for-4 with two doubles. He got into the lineup and he hasn’t given Joe Girardi a reason to take him out.
So, now that the hot spring has turned into a hot start to the season, we’re sitting here wondering if Weird Al Yangervis (h/t @rxmeister28) is legit. And who knows, really? I don’t know, you don’t know, the Yankees don’t know, no one knows. I mean, obviously Solarte will not continue to hit .458/.519/.708 (248 wRC+) all season because no one does that. I’d be happy with literally half that production (124 wRC+). But, eventually balls like this …
… will not find a hole on the infield. Balls like this …
… will not drop in for a base hit. Balls like this …
… will not plop out of the outfielder’s glove. Let’s not kid ourselves here. Solarte has definitely been lucky these first eight games, and yes, it’s luck. That word is thrown around way too often to explain random events in baseball, but a pop-up falling between a bunch of infielders? Luck. A soft line drive clanking out of a Gold Glove right fielder’s mitt? Luck. Let’s call it what it is.
At the same time, Solarte’s MLB-leading (!) six doubles are not luck. Five of the six have either clanked off the wall or landed on the warning track. The other was a bloop that a diving outfielder just missed. Solarte has a little bit of pop in his bat — I’m not sure how much harder he can hit a ball than five doubles, it looked like he got a hold of each one — and he can turn on a mistake pitch. Some of the singles have been lucky. The doubles? Not so much.
Solarte, who is only 26 and had never played in the big leagues before this season, did not make the team just because of his hot spring. He made the team because he’s a switch-hitter who makes a lot of contact (one strikeout in 27 plate appearances so far) and can play reliable defense at second base, third base, and in left field. He can even fill in at shortstop in a pinch. Is he a great defender? No. But he is adequate, something you could not say about the man he replaced.
How long will Solarte’s hot start last? Who knows. It could end today, it could end next week, it could end in July. I’m not ready to declare him a long-term piece for the Yankees but he is playing very well right now and the production is in the bank. It happened and it helped the team win games while Mark Teixeira has been hurt and the middle of the order has gotten off to a slow start. He’s been just what the team needed.
Solarte should play everyday until he stops hitting, and moving him up a spot or three in the lineup isn’t a bad idea either. Even if he turns into a pumpkin tomorrow, the club has already gotten more out of him than they could have reasonably expected, and he’s been a huge boost early in the season.
Well, that wasn’t pretty. The Orioles pounded the Yankees on Tuesday afternoon, taking advantage of some shoddy defense and ineffective pitchers to grab a 14-5 win. Yes, 14-5. That’ll put a dent in the ol’ run differential.
Bad Defense, Bad Pitching, Bad Day
You’re not going to believe this, but a team playing a catcher at first base, a career minor league journeyman at third base, a 36-year-old with a long injury history at second base, and a 39-year-old coming off a major ankle injury at shortstop struggled defensively on Tuesday. Ivan Nova was terrible, giving up rockets all over the field, but his infield defense betrayed him badly against the Orioles. Really bad.
In the first inning, a potential Delmon Young double play ball got by a diving Derek Jeter, who showed off his fall-down range all day. Quite literally too. Chris Davis followed that with a sac fly, then Adam Jones crushed a two-run homer into Monument Park. If Jeter makes the play, does Nova throw a scoreless first inning? Eh, maybe. That’s a pretty big assumption based on how he was pitching.
In the second inning, Jonathan Schoop pulled a double down the left field line, right by Yangervis Solarte. It was hard hit but Solarte looked really awkward on the play. I’m pretty sure a full-time third baseman reels that ball in, or at least knocks it down and holds Schoop to a single. Ryan Flaherty came in to score on the play. That also wouldn’t have happened had Solarte kept it on the infield.
Jeter let another potential double play ball scoot by in the fourth inning, this one off Schoop’s bat. That loaded the bases with one out, and two runs came around to score on Nick Markakis’ sac fly and Young’s single. Later in the inning, Brian Roberts couldn’t make the play on a Davis ground ball because it was hit slowly and he was in shallow right field on the shift. A run scored on the play, making it 7-1 Orioles.
The infield defense sucked (no surprise), but that doesn’t absolve Nova of all the blame. He was up in the zone all afternoon and gave up plenty of hard-hit balls. Ten hits in 3.2 innings is not all on the infielders. Nova was charged with seven runs on the day (all earned), and he’s now allowed 23 base-runners in 9.1 innings this season. That’s … a lot. Nova has really labored in his two starts. No easy innings at all.
Too Far To Comeback
The Yankees scored a quick two-out run in the first inning (Jacoby Ellsbury single, Carlos Beltran double) to answer Baltimore’s three-run top of the first, but they didn’t score again until the fourth inning, when it was already 7-1. A six-run deficit is too much to overcome when you need three hits to score one run, as this offense does these days.
The team’s three-run fourth inning came on a leadoff homer (!) from Alfonso Soriano, a double off the left field wall by Solarte, and a ground out by Brett Gardner. First baseman Frankie Cervelli and Roberts also singled in the inning. The Yankees left a runner on third base in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, and two runners on base in the sixth. Some days, five runs just aren’t enough.
Once again, the two offensive stars were Ellsbury and Solarte. Ellsbury went 3-for-4 with a double and a stolen base — he stole third base three times in one inning, but the first two attempts were spoiled by foul balls — while Solarte went 2-for-4 with two doubles. He currently leads the league with six two-baggers, though that could change following tonight’s games. It feels like the only time the Yankees score is when these two do something.
Vidal Nuno really took one on the chin in long relief, allowing seven runs on eight hits in 3.1 innings. He threw 67 pitches and I think he’s going to find himself in Triple-A tomorrow, swapped for a fresh arm. Preston Claiborne and Shane Greene are the obvious 40-man roster call-up candidates. The just called up Cesar Cabral got one out and Dellin Betances recorded the final five outs.
The Yankees tripled their season homerun output in this game. Soriano hit the team’s second dinger of the season, a solo shot leading off the fourth, and he pimped it pretty good. Kelly Johnson swatted a garbage time solo homer in the eighth for New York’s third longball of 2014.
Nova did not walk anyone in his disaster start, meaning the Yankees have now gone a full turn through the rotation without any of their starters issuing a free pass. The last starter to walk someone was Nova, back against the Astros in Houston. Pretty awesome.
These teams will play the final game of this three-game series on Wednesday night. Yes, the run of day games is over. Masahiro Tanaka will make his first start at Yankee Stadium in the rubber game, matching up against the righty Miguel Gonzalez. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch the game.
Courtesy of Matt Eddy, here are all the players who opened the season on the minor league disabled list. Some of them are actually hurt, some are on the phantom DL as teams manipulate their rosters.
Triple-A Scranton Game One (5-0 loss to Rochester in seven innings)
- DH Jose Pirela, C John Ryan Murphy & 3B Zelous Wheeler: all 0-3 — Murphy and Wheeler struck out
- 2B Scott Sizemore: 1-3, 1 2B, 2 K — 6-for-12 with five strikeouts after this game, so it’s pretty much been either a hit or a strikeout so far
- RF Zoilo Almonte: 1-3
- CF Ramon Flores: 1-3, 1 2B
- RHP Bruce Billings: 4 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 54 of 85 pitches were strikes (64%)
- LHP Fred Lewis: 1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 11 of 17 pitches were strikes (65%)
- RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — 14 of 23 pitches were strikes (61%)
The Yankees had one of those rough blowout losses this afternoon, the kind of game that happens to every team a few times each season. They’re inevitable and I think they’re actually pretty easy to put in the rear-view mirror. Close losses always sting a little more than blowouts. What are you going to do? The Yankees will shake it off and come back looking for the series win tomorrow.
Here is your open thread for the night. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET, if you want to live through that nightmare again. The Mets are playing the Braves, and later tonight MLB Network will air the Angels and Mariners. The Nets, Islanders, and (hockey) Rangers are all playing as well. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s loss, or anything else right here. Have at it.
Via George King: The Brewers have special assignment scout Dick Groch following the Yankees early in the season, leading to trade speculation. Milwaukee was scouting the team’s catchers in Spring Training and the Yankees were said to be monitoring Rickie Weeks. Groch worked for New York years ago and was the scout who originally signed a youngster named Derek Jeter.
Weeks, 31, lost his starting second base job to Scooter Gennett and is now just a bench player for the Brewers. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez could also make sense for New York, though he is owed a ton of money this season. The Brewers have gotten off to a nice little start this season — they swept the Red Sox in Fenway Park over the weekend — so I don’t think they’ll be selling anytime soon. Still, the fact that they have one of their top talent evaluators assigned specifically to the Yankees is a bit interesting. · (29) ·