From the obvious news department: Brian Cashman told Brendan Kuty the Yankees are definitely open to adding pitching help from outside the organization, but the pickin’s are slim right now. “Oh, I’d be open to any external options, but they’re really hard to find this time of year,” said the GM. Not many teams are looking to trade in May thanks in part to the second wildcard spot.
Non-Masahiro Tanaka starters have a 4.95 ERA this season and I’m surprised it’s that low, to be honest. CC Sabathia (knee), Ivan Nova (elbow), and Michael Pineda (shoulder) are all on the disabled list and the Yankees will turn to converted reliever Chase Whitley on Thursday. They don’t need to add an ace, though that would be nice. Someone who goes at least five innings every fifth day with a 4.00 ERA would be a big upgrade right now. · (55) ·
Last season was forgettable in more ways than one, but one thing I did not forget is the way it was written off almost universally as bad luck. They had too many injuries to overcome and really, who could see them coming? Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman and Randy Levine told anyone who would listen how proud they were of the guys for hanging in right until the very end. We heard it at every press conference this winter.
The problem with that whole idea was that many of the injuries weren’t bad luck. Curtis Granderson having bones broken by pitches not once, but twice? Yeah that’s bad luck. Derek Jeter having a series of leg issues after coming back from a fractured ankle? That’s not bad luck at all. Kevin Youkilis‘ back? Travis Hafner‘s shoulder? As predictable as injuries get given their histories. Mark Teixeira‘s initial wrist injury was not expected, but the fact that he eventually needed surgery surprised no one. There was much more than bad luck at play.
This season, the Yankees are going through almost the same thing right now. Michael Pineda has a shoulder injury after missing two years following shoulder surgery. CC Sabathia is on the DL for the third time in four years because his twice surgically repaired knee is acting up. Teixeira’s wrist has been fine, but his legs have been giving him trouble, as they did in 2010 (blown hamstring) and 2012 (calf strain). Carlos Beltran‘s elbow is an issue and, wouldn’t you know it, Frankie Cervelli is hurt again. The only surprise injuries this year are Ivan Nova‘s blown out elbow and Shawn Kelley‘s back, though Kelley landing on the DL is not surprising in and of itself. He has a long history of elbow problems.
The Yankees made their bed with potential injuries this year, and the same is true defensively. By far the most consistent aspect of the team is the defense. It is consistently bad and it hurts them in some way every single game. It’s remarkable, really. They never get away with a mistake. Beltran and Jeter have been poor defenders for years, presumed third baseman Kelly Johnson had only a handful of experience at the position before being relegated to the bench by Yangervis Solarte, who has his own defensive issues. Brian Roberts? The guy barely played the last four years and the rust has been evident, especially when it comes to throwing. The only defensive surprise has been Teixeira’s issues.
When Cashman & Co. sought to fix last year’s roster over the winter, it seems like the focus was simply adding the best players available. That’s good, don’t get me wrong. But there didn’t seem to be much regard for actual needs. The Yankees already had a top notch center field defender and leadoff man in Brett Gardner, yet they added another one in Jacoby Ellsbury. With Gardner and Ellsbury joined by slugger Alfonso Soriano in the outfield, they added another slugging outfielder in Beltran. The lack of power and on base skills still exists. Among the four big offseason pickups, only Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka filled actual positional needs.
The roster puzzle pieces don’t fit well together. The Yankees built an amazing outfield defense with Ellsbury and Gardner while more or less punting glovework on the infield. That unit is supposed to support a pitching staff that focuses on ground balls because Yankee Stadium is tiny and they don’t want to give up many homers. Do you see the problem here? It’s backwards. Either the infield needed to be the strongest part of the defense or the pitching staff had to start allowing the ball to be hit in the air. The Yankees have tried to compensate for the infield defense with shifts, but Mark Simon recently noted they have been hurt by the shift more than any other team in baseball. (Part of that is just how often they use them, more shifts means more chances to get burned.)
I don’t mean for this to come off as complaining, but I guess it sounds like that anyway. The point I’m trying to make is that all the injuries and shaky defense are not bad luck problems, they’re roster design problems. There was this sense of “let’s get the best players we can and figure out how it all works later” throughout the offseason. The roster is prone to injury because there are so many older and/or injury prone players, and it’s prone to bad defense because pitching staff is emphasizing the bad defenders. You need good players to succeed and the Yankees acquired several good players this winter. They were just good players who didn’t address the team’s biggest weaknesses.
Dr. James Andrews confirmed CC Sabathia’s original diagnosis of right knee inflammation earlier today, Joe Girardi announced. Sabathia will have fluid drained from the knee and rest for a few days before throwing. Sounds like he won’t miss much more than the minimum 15 days. · (5) ·
As expected, right-hander Chase Whitley will start Thursday’s game in place of the injured CC Sabathia, Joe Girardi announced. Alfredo Aceves has pitched in relief in each of the last two games, taking him out of the running. The Yankees will need to make a 40-man roster move to accommodate Whitley, but that won’t be difficult. Aceves can dropped from the roster and Bruce Billings (forearm) could land on the 60-day DL.
Whitley, 24, had a 2.39 ERA (1.72 FIP) in 26.1 innings across six starts and one relief appearance for Triple-A Scranton this year. He was originally drafted as a reliever and spent most of his career in the bullpen, up until late last season. Whitley has not thrown more than 88 pitches in a start this season (more than 78 pitches only once), so it’s probably not reasonable to expect 100+ pitches out of him Thursday. Given the current state of the pitching staff, he has a chance to stick around for a while if he pitches well. · (8) ·
I guess the good news is that no one got hurt for a change. The Yankees dropped their fourth straight game on Tuesday night, falling 12-7 to the Mets. It’s their sixth straight loss to the Mets dating back to last season. This game was competitive for about an inning.
Vidal Nuno has now made five starts this season, and he’s looked like a competent Major Leaguer in two of them: his first start against the Rays and his last start against the Angels. The Yankees were down four-zip before Nuno recorded his second out on Tuesday night thanks to a hit batsman, a walk, a single, and a three-run homer by Curtis Granderson. Granderson has not forgotten how to hit the ball out of Yankee Stadium. At least not hanging breaking balls, anyway.
Nuno threw 37 pitches before the Yankees came to bat and 78 total in the game. He ended the night having allowed seven runs (six earned) on four hits, four walks, and the hit batsman in only 3.1 innings. Mets hitters fouled off 19 total pitches, including ten with two strikes in the first inning. Phil Hughes Syndrome. They swung and missed once. Once! Out of 78 pitches! Nuno has little margin for error as it is, and on nights when he can’t locate precisely, he allows seven runs in 3.1 innings. He’s the very definition of replacement level. The Yankees have a ton of pitching injuries right now and they are more or less out of rotation options at this point, so Nuno will get the ball again in five days.
Who Needs A Bullpen When We Have Each Other?
Alfredo Aceves went from rotation candidate to designate-for-assignment candidate in the span of three days or so. He took over for Nuno and allowed four runs on four hits and one walk in 1.2 innings, throwing 52 pitches. Daniel Murphy’s three-run homer off the right field foul pole in the fifth inning put this one out of reach. There’s a decent chance Aceves will be dropped from the roster in favor of a fresh arm before Wednesday’s game. Pretty clear the 2009 magic ain’t coming back. Matt Daley struck out three in three scoreless innings, sparing the rest of the bullpen. He threw 44 pitches and chances are he will be off the roster tomorrow as well. Such is the life of an up-and-down middle reliever.
Five More Runs
It feels like the Yankees have struggled to score runs lately, but they’ve scored at least five runs in five of their last six games. The highlight of Tuesday’s offensive attack was Brian McCann‘s two-run homer in the first inning, which turned a 4-1 game into a 4-3 game. He had three hits and a walk in this game. McCann has quietly put together a four-game hitting streak and is finally starting to show signs of life with the bat. They need that badly.
Mark Teixeira singled in the team’s first run and Brett Gardner remained hot with two more hits. He’s gone 20-for-57 (.351) in his last 15 games. The Yankees had seven hits and six walks against right-hander Zack Wheeler, who was left out there to throw a career-high 118 pitches in only 4.1 innings by manager Mets manager Terry Collins. Collins was clearly trying to make sure Wheeler got through five innings so he’d qualify for the win. Yikes. That’s a lot of stressful pitches.
The daily defensive miscue came in the fourth inning, when Yangervis Solarte stopped a hard hit ground ball but threw the potential double play ball into right field. That led to two more runs for the Mets. To be fair, the rally started when Nuno walked the number nine hitter (Ruben Tejada!) to leadoff the inning. Every game there’s a botched defensive play that comes back to bite them. Never fails.
Meanwhile, Solarte had two hits and a walk, including a garbage time solo homer. He currently leads the AL with a .336 batting average. Alfonso Soriano singled in a run as well. The Yankees had ten walks as a team (seven strikeouts), including three by Jacoby Ellsbury and two each by Derek Jeter and Kelly Johnson. Brian Roberts and McCann drew a free pass as well. The Bombers had at least one base-runner in eight of nine innings and at least two base-runners in six different innings.
Preston Claiborne allowed a run in the ninth inning because that’s what Preston Claiborne does. The Yankees have now allowed double-digit runs six times this season after doing it only seven times last year. They really need another starting pitcher. Two, preferably.
And finally, Joe Girardi was ejected after the bottom of the fifth for arguing balls and strikes, specifically a called strike three to Johnson. I don’t blame him for looking for a way out of this one early.
The Subway Series shifts to Flushing. The Yankees and Mets will start the second leg of this home-and-home series in Citi Field on Wednesday night, when Masahiro Tanaka gets the ball against rookie righty Rafael Montero. Montero will be making his MLB debut. If you want to catch that game or any game on the homestand, check out RAB Tickets.
Some quick notes:
- RHP Danny Burawa (oblique) was activated off the Triple-A Scranton DL, according to Chad Jennings. IF Corban Joseph was also activated off the temporarily inactive list.
- RHP Chris Leroux is dealing with some kind of injury according to Nick Peruffo. He is in Tampa rehabbing at the moment.
Triple-A Scranton (8-4 loss to Lehigh Valley)
- CF Ramon Flores: 1-5, 2 K, 1 CS
- SS Dean Anna: 3-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 E (interference) – snaps an 0-for-13 skid
- LF Adonis Garcia: 3-4, 1 RBI
- 1B Kyle Roller: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K – first career Triple-A homer
- C Austin Romine: 0-4, 1 K
- RHP Zach Nuding: 3.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 Balk, 3/2 GB/FB — 60 of 91 pitches were strikes (66%)
- RHP Jose Ramirez: 1.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K — 20 of 30 pitches were strikes
- RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, zeroes, 4/0 GB/FB — eleven pitches, six strikes
These last few days have been very rough on the Yankees, and not just because they’ve lost three straight. Players are getting hurt left and right. CC Sabathia is on the DL. Shawn Kelley is on the DL. Carlos Beltran has a bone spur in his elbow. Ichiro Suzuki‘s back is sore. Mark Teixeira says he feels like he has “cement blocks” for feet. That’s just the stuff we know about too. It’s ugly.
The Yankees have lost five straight games to the Mets dating back to last season, including each of the last three at home. They are 9-9 and have been outscored 87-69 (!) in the Bronx this season. That has to stop. Opposing teams are way to comfortable visiting Yankee Stadium right now. The Yankees have not yet lost four games in a row this season and it would be wonderful if they avoided that fate tonight. Here is the Mets lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- RF Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- 2B Brian Roberts
LHP Vidal Nuno
It’s a little cloudy and cool in New York right now, but there are no showers in the forecast. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin a little at 7pm ET, and you can watch on both My9 and WPIX locally as well as MLB Network nationally, depending on where you live. Try to enjoy.
Michael Pineda Update: Pineda (shoulder) played catch this afternoon and continues to progress with his throwing program. No word on when he will get back up on a mound.
Rotation Update: The Yankees will indeed call up Chase Whitley to start on Thursday, according to Ken Rosenthal. Al Aceves remains in the bullpen. A year go, I would have never thought Whitley would make his MLB debut as a starter.
The Yankees have placed Shawn Kelley on the 15-day DL with a “strained lumbar spine,” the team announced. Outfielder Zoilo Almonte was called up from Triple-A Scranton to fill the roster spot. The DL stint is back-dated to last Tuesday, so Kelley is eligible to be activated one week from Wednesday. The Yankees currently have a six-man bullpen (assuming Al Aceves is starting Thursday) and a five-man bench. Weird.
Kelley, 30, missed a few games last week with tightness in his lower back. It apparently went away over the weekend — he warmed up in Sunday’s game but did not pitch — but returned yesterday. He was not available last night. In 16 games and 15.1 innings this season, Kelley has a 3.52 ERA and 2.38 FIP. He has a long history of elbow problems (two Tommy John surgeries) but this is his first back trouble.
Almonte, 24, will give the team some extra outfield depth now that Carlos Beltran has a bone spur in his elbow and Ichiro Suzuki‘s back is sore. The Yankees aren’t going to carry a six-man bullpen forever, and with Chase Whitley in line to be called up on Thursday, Almonte’s stint in pinstripes may be short lived. He has hit .273/.324/.470 (121 wRC+) with six homers in 33 Triple-A games this season.
With Kelly out, Adam Warren will likely take over as David Robertson‘s primary setup man. Dellin Betances also figures to take on some more responsibility as well. The only Triple-A pitchers who are currently on the 40-man roster are Jose Ramirez and Shane Greene, so the Yankees are running out of arms. Hopefully Kelley returns next week and we never hear of his sore back again.
An MRI revealed a bone spur in Carlos Beltran‘s hyper-extended elbow, according to Meredith Marakovits. Apparently it is an old bone spur not even Beltran knew about. He received a cortisone shot and they are hopeful that will alleviate the pain and allow him to avoid the disabled list. Beltran will rest the next two or three days, and if the cortisone shot doesn’t work, he will need surgery and would presumably miss several weeks.
Beltran, 37, hurt himself while taking swings in the batting cage between at-bats last night. I guess he aggravated the old bone spur somehow. CC Sabathia pitched for years with a bone spur in his elbow until it started to act up during the 2012 season. He had surgery that October and the recovery time was 6-8 weeks. That doesn’t necessarily apply to Beltran, however. Pitcher vs. position player, every person is different, yadda yadda yadda.
In 33 games and 140 plate appearances this season, Beltran is hitting .234/.286/.430 (89 wRC+) with five homers. He has been in a big slump for weeks now, ever since he flipped over the wall trying to catch a foul ball in Tampa. Who knows if that fall or the bone spur were behind the slump. With Ichiro Suzuki also banged up, the Yankees figure to use Alfonso Soriano in right field for the time being. Zoilo Almonte was just called up to add an extra warm outfield body.
Ever since Mariano Rivera first announced he was planning to retire last Spring Training, it was pretty much assumed David Robertson would take over as the team’s closer. Sure, these are the Yankees and there was always the chance they would sign a free agent closer, but Robertson was the obvious choice. He had proven all he needed to prove as a setup man, and if the Yankees weren’t going to give him the opportunity to close, another team would have when he became a free agent after the season.
Minus a little 15-day groin related hiatus, Robertson has been excellent in the ninth inning, just as he was excellent in the eighth. He’s gone 6-for-6 in save chances, struck out ten and walked two in nine innings, and allowed only two runs. Each run came with a multi-run lead and did no damage other than to Robertson’s individual stats. I know more than a few people were nervous about him in the ninth inning because … he blew a save after Rivera got hurt in May 2012? I think that’s what it was.
Robertson has inherited the closer’s gig from Mariano and he’s been dynamite these first few weeks. He’s also inherited something else: Rivera’s workload. The last few years, basically since Mo turned 40, the Yankees took it very easy on their all-world closer. From 2009-12, he recorded more than three outs just 18 times in 200 total games. Only five times did they ask him to get more than four outs. Joe Girardi did run Mo into the ground a bit last September (five games of 4+ outs) because they knew he was retiring. There was no long-term concern. Rivera also rarely appeared in back-to-back-back games or pitched three times in four days.
From 2010-13, when Robertson really emerged as a dominant late-inning force, the Yankees asked him to get at least four outs 34 times in 269 games. Joe Girardi was a little more liberal with his top setup man, often asking him to pitch out of a jam in the seventh inning before tacking on the eighth for good measure. It worked damn well and it gave the Yankees a big advantage in the late innings of close games. Girardi has not yet asked Robertson to throw more than one inning this year but that’s a function of it still being early in the season more than anything. He was ready to do it last night.
“I was going to use a four-out save with Robertson tonight,” said Girardi to Andrew Marchand after last night’s loss. That comes just a few days after he told Bryan Hoch he feels “more comfortable using [Robertson] for an inning right now … it’s just something I’m more comfortable doing.” Not having Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, and Shawn Kelley essentially forced Girardi to consider using Robertson for more than one inning last night. He really had no choice.
The Yankees have lost their last three games despite either having a lead or being tied in the seventh inning or later, situations that would have called for Robertson in the past. Meanwhile, Robertson has pitched only twice in the last ten days and three times in May. He’s appeared in six of 18 games since coming off the DL, a 54-appearance over 162 games pace after working on a 72-appearance pace per 162 healthy games from 2010-13. He’s been marginalized as the closer, especially of late.
Now, this isn’t to say Girardi should be more liberal with Robertson and use him in tight non-closing situations — that would be awesome, but every manager does the same thing these days, they’ve become slaves to save stat — but it goes to show just how much losing Rivera has hurt. Kelley, Warren, and Betances have been great, but they’re no Mo. They’re no Robertson either. The club replaced their closer just fine, but they lost an ultra-effective presence in the eighth and sometimes seventh innings.
Robertson used to be one of the Yankees’ greatest weapons because he and Rivera shortened the game. They were as good as any setup man/closer combination in baseball. Now that Robertson is married to very specific situations, the most important innings are often falling on the shoulders of lesser relievers, and it has hurt the Yankees these last three games in particular. Losing close games in the late innings with Robertson doing nothing more than warming up rarely happened from 2010-13. That’s where the Yankees most miss Rivera.