Just last week, the Yankees scored 45 runs on a seven-game road trip through Tampa and Boston, scoring at least five runs in five of the seven games. The rebuilt lineup started the season slowly but that wasn’t going to last forever. The Yankees were getting on base, smacking homers, stealing bases, coming up with timely walks, hitting good pitching (14 runs in 9.2 innings against Jon Lester and David Price), and hitting bad pitching (11 runs in 6.1 innings against Erik Bedard and Felix Doubront). It was great.
The first four games of this homestand have not gone as well. The Bombers scored eight total runs in three games against the Angels over the weekend (still won two of three!) and last night they were shut down by whatever’s left of Chris Young’s career. Two of their last four runs have scored because of defensive miscues — Nick Maronde wild pitch, Mike Zunino throwing error — so they’ve needed some help getting on the board these last two games. It’s annoying but every team goes through (multiple) stretches like this each year.
The Yankees haven’t been scoring lately simply because the top half of the lineup is in a collective funk. Here is what they’ve done over the last seven days, which includes that 14-5 beatdown of the Red Sox:
- No. 1 Hitter Jacoby Ellsbury: 4-for-20 (.200), two walks (.273 OBP)
- No. 2 Hitter Derek Jeter: 5-for-24 (.208), two walks (.269 OBP)
- No. 3 Hitter Carlos Beltran: 4-for-24 (.167), two walks (.259 OBP)
- No. 4 Hitter Alfonso Soriano: 4-for-23 (.174), one walk (.192 OBP)
- No. 5 Hitter Brian McCann: 2-for-20 (.100), one walk (.182 OBP)
The fivesome has combined for seven extra-base hits during that time, all doubles. Obviously some parts have been mixed in the last few days (Brett Gardner leading off yesterday, for example), but that has been the team’s most used one through five lineup combination so far this season according to Baseball Reference. You’re not going to score many runs when your top five hitters do that. Guys like Brian Roberts, Mark Teixeira, and Yangervis Solarte are not going to carry a lineup all by themselves.
McCann had a good 6-7 game stretch a few weeks ago but otherwise he has not hit this year and it’s starting to get annoying. He isn’t striking out much — his 13.3% strikeout rate is well below the league average and his lowest rate in seven years — but he also isn’t walking much either (4.4%). Considering he walked in 9.7% of his plate appearances last year and in 9.4% for his career, I don’t think this will last. McCann is being victimized by the fourth highest infield pop-up rate (9.6%) among baseball’s 193 qualified hitters, which is by far a career high. Pop-ups are basically automatic outs. It seems like McCann is juuust missing and popping up some pitches he should be creaming. Since he isn’t struggling to make contact and his ground ball rate hasn’t spiked like it does for most players when they start to lose bat speed (his grounder rate has actually dropped this year), it seems like it’s only a matter of time before he breaks out.
Ellsbury and Beltran were hitting earlier this season, quite a bit too. They just hit the skids recently. It happens. Perhaps Ellsbury’s sore hand explains his slump, who knows. Soriano has long been one of the streakiest hitters in baseball, we all know this from his first stint in pinstripes, and right now he’s not hitting. A few weeks ago he was, also quite a bit. Jeter … I don’t really know what to expect from him going forward. He isn’t hitting for any power whatsoever but his overall .352 OBP is more than respectable. I’d be happy if he maintains that all season at his age and after all those injuries. Baseball is hard enough as it is. It’s extra hard for a soon-to-be 40-year-old coming off some serious leg problems.
When the Yankees struggled to score at the start of the season, I said it was way too early to worry and it was. They started hitting a day or two later. The same is true now. The top half of the lineup has stunk for a week now and the team has struggled to score runs on the homestand, but it is only a handful of games. McCann is the only one of these guys who hasn’t hit much all season but it’s not like the Yankees will bench him. That’s be pretty silly. They just need to work through it. Otherwise Ellsbury, Jeter, Beltran, and Soriano have just stopped hitting at the same time. It stinks but it won’t last forever. It’s just baseball.
Via Diario de Cuba (translated article): The Yankees have interest in Cuban outfielder Daniel Carbonell. They scouted him during a workout in February and more showcase events are planning for the coming weeks. Ken Rosenthal says MLB recently declared Carbonell a free agent after he established residency in Mexico, so he can sign at any time.
Carbonell, 23, is said to be a speedy switch-hitting center fielder with some power, according to Rosenthal. He hit .288/.378/.405 with two homers, six steals, ten walks, and eleven strikeouts in 127 plate appearances in Cuba last season before defecting. Here is the requisite over the top workout video. Because of MLB’s silly rules, Carbonell will be subject to the international spending restrictions if he doesn’t sign by July 2nd. Expect him to have a deal worked out before then. · (44) ·
The Yankees have been without Michael Pineda for five games now thanks to his pine tar related suspension, and they’re going to be without him for at least another month. Pineda suffered a Grade I strain of the right teres major muscle in his back on Tuesday while throwing a simulated game in Tampa, the team announced last night. He was working to stay sharp and stretched out during the suspension.
Before we go any further, here is where that teres major muscle is located, since I know you’re all wondering:
It’s technically not part of the shoulder but it sure looks close enough to me. Close enough that the Yankees will probably be extra cautious during Pineda’s rehab given his history of shoulder problems. The perfectly healthy Clayton Kershaw suffered the same injury right before Opening Day and he just made his first minor league rehab start the other day. That 3-4 week timetable the Yankees gave for Pineda sure seems pretty optimistic to me, but I’m no doctor.
Either way, Pineda is going to be out for the foreseeable future, meaning David Phelps is in the rotation for another few weeks. Vidal Nuno has already made two starts, one because of a doubleheader and another because of Ivan Nova‘s season-ending Tommy John surgery. In the span of about two weeks, the team’s sixth and seventh starters have become their fourth and fifth starters. That’s never good, especially since this isn’t a short-term thing. Help is not on the way for another few weeks.
Despite his pine tar indiscretions and limited pitch count, Pineda was pitching like an ace for the Yankees early this season and that will be very missed. Phelps has been pretty miserable so far this year, allowing seven runs on 18 base-runners and three homers in only 11.2 innings. He wasn’t any good as a starter last season either (4.93 ERA in 65.2 innings), so it’s not like he has some great track that’ll make us feel all warm and fuzzy. Going from Pineda to Phelps is a huge downgrade. At the same time, going from Nova to Nuno might actually be an upgrade because Nova was so terrible before blowing out his elbow.
The bigger issue is that the Yankees don’t have their usual stable of reliable veterans to fall back on. Masahiro Tanaka is the truth, man. That guy’s a stud. CC Sabathia isn’t though. He was nice enough to remind us of that last night. His two previous starts were pretty darn good, yet last night was the reminder that his adjustment from power pitcher to crafty veteran will not be smooth. After years of being a workhorse, the Yankees might have to treat him as only a five-inning pitcher to maximize his effectiveness. Hiroki Kuroda has had an uneven start to the season and we’re still waiting for him to turn it around.
It wasn’t more than two weeks ago that the Yankees’ rotation was the clear strength of the roster. Tanaka and Pineda were pitching like aces, Sabathia was starting to find himself, and Nova was healthy with some reason to believe he’d turn his rough start around. Now? Now it’s Tanaka and pray for rain. And that’s scary. The strength of the club is suddenly a weakness, and a poor rotation can undermine a team’s chances of contention pretty quickly. This game, man. It’s cruel. Things can change in an instant.
With two long relievers in the rotation, the Yankees have been carrying guys like Chris Leroux and Bruce Billings in the bullpen. That isn’t going to cut it. The core relievers are going to get worn out in a hurry. Al Aceves has been very good in limited Triple-A time (1.98 ERA and 2.43 FIP in 13.2 innings), and even though he hasn’t been an effective big leaguer in two years, he’s a better option that Leroux, Billings and Shane Greene, none of whom have had MLB success. Trying to squeeze something out of Aceves in long relief seems like a better plan than trying the same with Leroux. At least it does to me. I’d like to see those two trade places.
Because Nova is not coming back this season, Brian Cashman can begin looking for more permanent rotation help right away. Good luck finding a seller this time of the year though. Upgrading over Phelps and/or Nuno may be more difficult than we realize, especially since it is only late-April/early-May. Not many clubs are looking to shed spare starters right now. And besides, in recent years the Yankees have shown a willingness to be patient and try their internal options before going out into the trade market. I have no reason to think they will do something different now. Adding a starter is definitely more of a priority than it was two or three weeks ago, however.
Pineda’s suspension was only supposed to be a short-term thing that gave him an early-season breather, left the team a player short for ten games, and forced Phelps to make one spot start. Instead, the Yankees lost their second best pitcher to injury while he wasn’t even on the active roster. Nuno and Phelps are actually pretty good options compared to other number six and seven starters around the league, but they still aren’t guys you’d want in the rotation long-term. The Yankees suddenly have a rotation problem and will have to hope the guys already on the roster (and the offense!) can soften the blow while they wait for more options to become available.
11:13pm: The Yankees say Pineda will be out at least 3-4 weeks. I have to think they will be extra careful to make sure he doesn’t somehow hurt his shoulder compensating for the back, so don’t be surprised if he’s out longer than that. See you in June, Big Mike.
11:00pm: The MRI revealed a Grade I strain of teres major muscle in Pineda’s back, the Yankees announced. It’s the same injury that has kept Clayton Kershaw out all month. Pineda will be re-evaluated by team doctor Dr. Ahmad in New York tomorrow. Sure sounds like a DL trip is forthcoming.
4:03pm: Michael Pineda felt some stiffness in his right lat during a simulated game in Tampa earlier today and left after one inning, Joe Girardi told reporters. He is heading for an MRI and his next start is in jeopardy. Pineda is eligible to return from his ten-game suspension on Monday. Girardi confirmed David Phelps would remain in the rotation if need be.
The good news is that the injury doesn’t involve Pineda’s surgically repaired shoulder. Andy Pettitte missed a start with a stiff lat last season and Johnny Cueto missed more than half the season with a lat strain, so this could be nothing or something pretty big. The suspension buys the Yankees some time, which I guess is good, but losing Pineda for any more time beyond that would be a big blow to rotation that is already without Ivan Nova. · (82) ·
I guess the good news is that the Yankees didn’t get blown out by the Mariners on Tuesday night. The so-called Bronx Bombers had this “win or get blown out” thing going for a little while. Robinson Cano‘s new team won the series opener 6-3.
More Offensive Struggles
Did you realize the Yankees came into this game having scored more than four runs just twice in 13 home games? It’s true. They haven’t scored more than four runs at home since the second-to-last game of the Red Sox series, Brian McCann‘s two-homer game. That was eight home games ago. They also scored only eight runs total in the three games against the Angels this past weekend. Easy to forget they were knocking the cover off the ball up in Boston not that long ago. Baseball, man.
The Yankees actually jumped out to a two-run lead early on against the Mariners, getting a Mark Teixeira solo homer in the second and a gift run on a throwing error in the second. Brett Gardner attempted to steal second against the Chris Young-Mike Zunino battery and he did, though Zunino threw the ball into center and Brian Roberts trotted home from third. That play was on the shortstop, Willie Bloomquist. Bad throw but one he has to knock down and keep on the infield.
It was tough to get something going against Young and his 85 mph nothing ball, but the Yankees did push a run across and bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth. Fernando Rodney then struck out both Derek Jeter and Carlos Beltran, so that was that. Teases. The bottom four hitters in the lineup went a combined 5-for-13 (.385) with three walks, so they were doing some damage, but the top five hitters went 3-for-21 (.143) all together. Those are the guys who need to produce and right now some of them simply aren’t. The Yankees will continue to have trouble scoring runs until those guys get going.
The first four innings of this game were vintage Andy Pettitte. CC Sabathia wiggled around some trouble with an array of well-placed offspeed pitches and some solid defense behind him. Things came undone in the fifth inning — there’s that one bad inning again — when the Mariners put together a four-run rally thanks in part to a pair of infield singles. The first was overturned on replay and Roberts failed to cover first on a sac bunt attempt for the second. Just like that, Seattle was in business.
Sabathia struck out Stefen Romero for the first out and got Cano to ground out to first for the second out, so it looked like he was about to escape the jam, but then he caught too much of the plate with a two-strike fastball to Corey Hart. Hart doubled into the right-center field gap to score two runs and turn a one-run Yankees lead into a one-run Mariners lead. Justin Smoak poked a single to right one batter later to score Hart. Add it all up and you get four runs. Sabathia’s final line was those four runs on nine hits in five innings plus two batters. He struck out six. CC’s last two starts were really good. This one? Not so much.
Dellin Betances and Preston Claiborne combined to allow two insurance runs in the seventh inning. Betances put ‘em on and Claiborne let ‘em come home. Betances struck out four and did escape a first-and-third, no outs situation, but he needed 40 pitches to get five outs. Chris Leroux made his Yankees debut in garbage time, allowing two bloop singles in a scoreless inning. He’ll be the guy you forget on the Sporcle roster quiz at the end of the season. The four pitchers combined for 12 strikeouts and no walks.
Teixeira’s homer was his second in as many games. It was also his 81st homerun at the new Yankee Stadium, which is the ballpark record. He broke a tie with Cano with his solo homer in Sunday’s game. Here’s the full list, if you’re interested. Yangervis Solarte and Roberts both doubled for the team’s only other extra-base hits of the night.
And finally, Cano went 1-for-5 with an infield single, a stolen base, and two strikeouts in his return to the Bronx. He was indeed booed in his first at-bat, rather loudly by all 37 people in attendance. There was also a “you sold out!” chant. All that was missing was Randy Levine holding up TRADER sign in the owner’s box.
Same two teams tomorrow night, assuming the weather holds up. The forecast is looking pretty grim right now and in fact the Mariners have reportedly been told to check in to see if the game is postponed before coming to the ballpark on Wednesday. If they do play, it’ll be David Phelps against rookie lefty Roenis Elias. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch the game live.
Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Durham)
- RF Ramon Flores: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 12-for-29 (.414) with three doubles and one homer in his last seven games
- SS Dean Anna: 1-5, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 E (fielding)
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K — no homers today, just a double
- DH Ronnie Mustelier: 2-4, 1 R, 1 2B
- C Austin Romine: 0-4, 1 RBI, 1 K — hitting only .108/.195/.135 in 11 games so far
- RHP Shane Greene: 3.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 6/1 GB/FB — 34 of 47 pitches were strikes (72%) … he was sitting 92-96 with a slider at 87 according to Josh Norris … a scout told Norris that Greene is simply too predictable, hitters can sit on his fastball
- RHP Chase Whitley: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 6/3 GB/FB – 49 of 78 pitches were strikes (63%)
After spending parts of nine seasons in pinstripes and more than 12 years in the organization, Robinson Cano returns to Yankee Stadium tonight as a visiting player. He bolted town for an extra three years and $65M over the winter, and hey, I don’t blame him. I would have taken it too. The Yankees confirmed they are not planning any kind of video tribute, which is pretty lame. Throw in the likely anti-climatic mix of boos and cheers and it’ll almost be like every other night in the Bronx.
More important than Cano’s return is the team’s play. The Yankees have won ten of their last 14 games and the Mariners pretty much stink, so this series is a good opportunity to fatten up the record a bit before heading out to the West Coast early next week. Plus, you know, they have to show Robbie what he’s missing. Here is the Mariners lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- CF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- RF Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- LF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Brian Roberts
LHP CC Sabathia
It has been raining in New York for most of the afternoon but it looks as though there will be enough of a window to get the game in. Or at least part of the game. This one might not go the full nine innings. We’ll see. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.
Ivan Nova Update: Nova (elbow) underwent Tommy John surgery as scheduled today, the Yankees announced. Everything went as expected.
Joe Girardi announced this afternoon that Jacoby Ellsbury is day-to-day with a sore left hand. The hand has been bothering him for a few days but tests came back clean. He was scratched from tonight’s lineup and Girardi hopes he will play tomorrow.
Ellsbury broke a small bone in his left hand during Game Six of the World Series last year according to Peter Gammons, so this soreness is a concern only because of the recent fracture. Tests did not show structural damage though. Hopefully he’s back in the lineup tomorrow or the next day. · (18) ·
By Jason Klein, TiqIQ
The Seattle Mariners (10-14) make their way onto the Yankees schedule for this first time this season as they travel to New York to begin a three-game set with the first place Yankees (15-10). When they do, it will mark the Bronx return of Robinson Cano, don’t ‘cha know?
Apparently, many fans don’t know…or care.
If the plunging ticket prices for the series are any indication, perhaps Yankees fans are indifferent when it comes to the All-Star second baseman who bolted for Seattle and a 10-year, $240 million contract this offseason. Expected spotty weather and weeknight games with an average Mariners team could also be factors.
Yankees tickets for Game 1 at Yankee Stadium are trending downward on the secondary market -54% as first pitch approaches. Fans looking to get in and see pinstriped ace, CC Sabathia (3-2, 4.78 ERA) take on Chris Young (0-0, 3.50 ERA) can do so for just $4, well below the $45 average ticket price. With temperatures expected to be in the mid 40’s by first pitch, and a chance of rain, prices could continue to drop as gametime approaches
Despite an average price of $71 on the secondary market for Wednesday night’s game, fans can still get in the building for only $5. Prices are trending down 27% for the middle game of the series when Seattle’s Roenis Elias (1-2, 3.54 ERA) opposes David Phelps (0-0, 3.86 ERA). Phelps will be making his first start of the season, filling in for Michael Pineda who was suspended last week after rubbing pine tar on his neck during a game with the Boston Red Sox.
The biggest bargain of the series comes during the final game when Mariners ace, “King” Felix Hernandez (3-1, 2.40 ERA) matches up with Hiroki Kuroda (2-2, 5.28 ERA). Fans can avoid an average price of $67 by scooping up a ticket to get in the door for just $3 on the secondary market. With still two days to go, prices for Thursday’s series finale are down 21% in the past week.
Cano enters the series with a .301 batting average, 1 HR and 11 RBI. When the former Yankee superstar makes his way out of the visitor’s dugout for the first time tonight, he’s expected to hear a mix of boos and cheers from those in attendance, many of whom got great deals on secondary market tickets prior to the game.
For the first time in his career, Robinson Cano will be a visiting player in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees’ best player from 2010-13 returns to New York this week after leaving the team for the greener pastures of Seattle and the Mariners over the winter. The Bombers made his a strong offer but the M’s blew it right out of the water. Such is life. This will be kinda weird.
What Have They Done Lately?
As expected, the Mariners are still terrible even with Cano. They did just take two of three from the Rangers but have won just four of their last 13 games overall. At 10-14 with a -8 run differential, the only thing keeping Seattle out of the AL West cellar is the Astros.
Both in terms of runs per game (3.85) and wRC+ (79), the Mariners have been one of the worst offensive teams in baseball this season. It’s kind of amazing Cano left the 2013 Yankees (85 wRC+) for a team that is somehow worse offensively. Anyway, Seattle’s only injured position player is 1B/OF/DH Logan Morrison (hamstring), who won’t be coming off the DL this series.
Just like last season, 3B Kyle Seager (123 wRC+) has been the Mariners best position player in the early going. Cano (100 wRC+) is off to a slow start, but come on, you know as well as I do that he’s going to rake before long. 1B/DH Corey Hart (117 wRC+) has been productive around miscellaneous nagging injuries and 1B Justin Smoak (101 wRC+) continues to do just enough to keep people interested. This season it was a huge opening series against the Angels. Eventually they’ll move on.
C Mike Zunino (91 wRC+) has a ton of power but his 21/1 K/BB is pretty funny. Others like OF Dustin Ackley (74 wRC+), SS Brad Miller (46 wRC+), OF Michael Saunders (66 wRC+), and former Yankees farmhand OF Abe Almonte (53 wRC+) have been predictably awful. Almonte was the guy the Yankees traded for Shawn Kelley. OF Stefan Romero (64 wRC+), OF Cole Gillespie (-15 wRC+), UTIL Willie Bloomquist (30 wRC+), and backup C John Buck (54 wRC+) fill out the bench.
Tuesday: LHP CC Sabathia (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Chris Young (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
When Randy Wolf made the Mariners out of Spring Training but opted out of his contract because the team tried to re-negotiate the terms (true story), the club picked up the 35-year-old Young. The 6-foot-10 right-hander has a 3.50 ERA (5.25 FIP) in 18 innings across three starts and one relief appearance this year, walking (5.50 BB/9 and 14.3 BB%) more batters than he’s struck out (5.00 K/9 and 13.0 K%). He also continues to be one the most extreme fly ball pitchers in baseball (25.0% grounders). That’s been true his entire career. His reverse split — righties has a .341 wOBA, lefties a .307 wOBA — is a sample size issue and not consistent with the rest of his career. Young is a pure two-pitch pitcher these days, throwing a mid-80s fastball about 75% of the time and filling in the gaps with upper-70s sliders. He survives because of his funky delivery, which hides the ball very well.
Wednesday: RHP David Phelps (vs. SEA) vs. LHP Roenis Elias (No vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Elias, 25, defected from Cuba a few years ago and made the rotation in Spring Training (despite never pitching above Double-A) thanks to the Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker injuries. He has a 3.54 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 28 innings across five starts, pairing a strong ground ball rate (50.6%) with mediocre at best strikeout (6.75 K/9 and 18.1 K%) and walk (4.50 BB/9 and 12.1 BB%) rates. Righties (.332 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.299 wOBA) in his brief MLB career. Elias uses a low-90s fastball to set up his mid-80s changeup and upper-70s curveball, both of which are quality offerings. Since no one on the Yankees has ever faced him before, Elias has the element of surprise working in his favor this week.
Thursday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
You didn’t think the Yankees would get through a series against Seattle and not face Felix, did you? You should know better by now. The King is as good as ever this year, with a 2.40 ERA (2.41 FIP) in six starts and 41.1 innings. His peripherals are, as the kids say, stupid good: 10.23 K/9 (28.7 K%), 1.52 BB/9 (4.3 BB%), and 47.7% grounders. That’ll work just fine. He also has a tiny platoon split, so left or right, it doesn’t matter. Felix, 28, probably has the nastiest stuff in the game, starting with a low-90s fastball that runs back in on righties. His upper-80s changeup is unhittable, his mid-80s slider is unhittable, and his low-80s curveball is unhittable. It’s all unhittable. The guy is a video game. Felix’s career numbers against the Yankees aren’t as ridiculous as you might expect but they’re still excellent. In an age in which Clayton Kershaw and Jose Fernandez are all the pitching rage, Hernandez is every bit as good as those guys and he’s been doing it a lot longer.
Like the Yankees, the Mariners were off on Monday, so new manager Lloyd McClendon’s bullpen is pretty fresh. RHP Fernando Rodney (2.72 FIP) is the closer and remains a high-wire act. Former Yankees farmhand RHP Danny Farquhar (2.75 FIP) and RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (5.38 FIP) have been his primary setup men. Farquhar is one of the guys the Bombers traded to Seattle for Ichiro Suzuki a few years ago.
McClendon has three lefties in his bullpen: LHP Joe Beimel (3.18 FIP), LHP Charlie Furbush (4.46 FIP), and LHP Lucas Luetge (9.51 FIP). RHP Dominic Leone (3.58 FIP) and RHP Yoervis Medina (5.47 FIP) fill out the rest of the eight-man relief crew. The schedule has allowed them to use a four-man rotation the last turn or two, so they’ve been carrying the extra reliever in the meantime. That’ll change next weekend. For the status of the Yankees bullpen, check out our Bullpen Workload page. For the latest and greatest on the Mariners, check out USS Mariner and Lookout Landing.