Sherman: Wang will opt-out only if he has Major League offers

Via Joel Sherman: Chien-Ming Wang‘s agent has told the Yankees his client will only opt-out of his minor league contract on Friday if he has a Major League contract offer in hand from another team. Friday is the second of five opt-out dates in CMW’s contract. The next three are June 30th, August 10th, and August 31st.

Wang, 33, has pitched to a 2.65 ERA (3.40 FIP) with a 58% ground ball rate in 51 innings spread across eight starts for Triple-A Scranton this year. Sherman hears his stuff is nowhere near its 2006-2007 levels — no surprise following the torn shoulder capsule — and he’s unlikely to find that big league job in the next two days. The Mets are one team Sherman says has no interest. So, barring a big surprise in the next 48 hours or so, CMW will remain in the organization for at least another month.

2013 Draft: Aaron Judge

The 2013 amateur draft will be held from June 6-8 this year, and between now and then I’m going to highlight some prospects individually rather than lump them together into larger posts.

Aaron Judge | OF

Background
After turning down the Athletics as a 31st round pick out of a California high school in 2010, Judge went on to hit .345/.451/.529 with 18 homers and 36 steals in 169 games across three years for Fresno State. He put up a .369/.461/.655 line with 12 homers and 12 steals in 56 games this spring.

Scouting Report
First things first: Judge is a monster. He’s listed at 6-foot-7 and 255 lbs. on Fresno State’s site, meaning he’s taller than every outfielder in baseball history other than Frank Howard. For what it’s worth, only nine outfielders in history are listed at 6-foot-6 or taller, and four are active: Kyle Blanks, John Mayberry Jr., Giancarlo Stanton, and Corey Hart. He’s enormous, and with that enormous frame comes enormous power. Judge’s batting practice displays rival Stanton’s, though he doesn’t always carry the pop over into games because he sets his hands high and has a hard time getting under the ball to drive it in the air. He’s especially prone to pitches down in the zone. Judge works counts well and will swing-and-miss a bunch, which is to be expected for a power hitter with a strike zone that big. Despite his size, he’s a very good athlete and a quick runner capable of playing center field. He’s expected to shift to right in pro ball, where his strong arm will suit him well. Between the size, speed, and athleticism, Judge is definitely a physical freak. There are plenty more videos available on YouTube.

Miscellany
Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America ranked Judge as the 17th and 30th best prospect in the draft in their latest rankings, respectively. Right-handed power is hard to find and the Yankees love both up-the-middle athletes and physically huge players (especially pitchers), so Judge seems like someone who would be right up their alley. He offers defensive and base-running value as well, so he’s more than just a meathead masher. Whether the Yankees are willing to use/get a chance to use of their three first round picks (26th, 32nd, 33rd) on him remains to be seen.

Update: Cashman confirms plan is to have Teixeira & Youkilis back with big league team on Friday

1:03pm: Brian Cashman told Josh Norris the plan is to indeed have both Teixeira and Youkilis back with the big league team on Friday. Both have to make it through tomorrow’s game fine first, obviously.

12:39pm: In their first minor league rehab games with Double-A Trenton, Mark Teixeira (wrist) and Kevin Youkilis (back) both went 0-for-2 with a walk in a planned seven innings of play. Teixeira struck out swinging and popped up to the shortstop in his two at-bats, and his only defensive plays at first base involved receiving throws from other infielders. Youkilis popped up to the first baseman in foul territory and was robbed of a base hit on a nice play by the right fielder, fielding just one ball — a soft line drive — at third base.

Both Teixeira and Youkilis will play for the Thunder again tomorrow night, and I assume they’ll play a full nine innings. The official word from the team is that both will be re-evaluated after that game, but there have been hints both could be activated off the DL in time for Friday’s game against the Red Sox.

Lineup help coming, but at all the wrong spots

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Later this morning, Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis will play their first minor league rehab games with Double-A Trenton. Teixeira has been sidelined since early-March with a wrist injury, Youkilis since earlier this month with a back problem. Both players will spend today and tomorrow with the Thunder, and the Yankees have been dropping hints that both could be activated on Friday if everything goes according to plan. Obviously they’ve yet to say anything officially.

The Yankees have scored a total of five runs in their last three games, and for the month of May they’re averaging just 3.7 runs per game. The AL average is 4.5 runs per game this year. Getting Teixeira and Youkilis back on the same day would be a major boost to the lineup, at least in theory. The problem is that neither guy fill a position of real need right now. Lyle Overbay and David Adams have been competent at worst and rock solid at best at the corner infield spots, where Tex and Youk will ply their trades. They will be upgrades, but first and third bases are hardly problem areas right now.

The true problem areas are catcher, shortstop, and right field. Here, look at this mess (stats don’t include last night’s game, which don’t make it any better anyway):

  • Catcher: .239/.300/.380 (92 OPS+) in 183 plate appearances
  • Shortstop: .213/.289/.290 (69 OPS+) in 196 plate appearances
  • Right Field: .225/.277/.342 (66 OPS+) in 204 plate appearances

That’s three below-average to well-below-average spots in the lineup on any given night, not counting the black hole Vernon Wells has become. The lack of offense at those spots isn’t a “surprise, injury!” thing either. The Yankees willfully replaced Russell Martin and Nick Swisher with inferior players this offseason, and Derek Jeter‘s injury was known way back in October. The team decided Eduardo Nunez and various scraps would be good enough should the 38-year-old icon not heal exactly on schedule.

There is no immediate help coming to shore up those three positions. Jeter has yet to resume baseball activates following his setback and isn’t expected to return until sometime around the All-Star break. Curtis Granderson saw a specialist about his fractured left pinky yesterday and will be shut down a minimum of four weeks, meaning he’ll likely miss at least six weeks when you include rehab games and all that. Frankie Cervelli will head to Tampa later this week to continue rehabbing from his fractured hand, but he has yet to begin throwing a ball or anything like that.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Assuming Youkilis and Teixeira make it through their Trenton assignments okay and are indeed activated on Friday, I think the Yankees will clear room on the roster by optioning Brennan Boesch and a pitcher to Triple-A Scranton. It makes sense to get the 13-man pitching staff down to a normal dozen, and I guess it’ll be one of Ivan Nova, Shawn Kelley, and Preston Claiborne who goes down. Seems obvious it should be Nova, no? The other two have been solid and Nova could start every five days in a non-results-oriented environment to work on things.

That leaves the Yankees will a four-man bench of Jayson Nix/Reid Brignac, Adams, Overbay, and the backup catcher. Nix, who has a handful of big league appearances in left and right fields, would be the de factor fourth outfielder. Overbay would be a spot starter at first base and DH as well as being Joe Girardi‘s go-to lefty bat off the bench. Adams would be the backup second and third baseman, and would probably see plenty of action against lefties.

Carrying what amounts to three first base/DH types in Teixeira, Overbay, and Travis Hafner is far from ideal, but I get the sense the Yankees want to keep Overbay around until they know Teixeira’s wrist is in the clear. Not only did Girardi say they plan to ease Teixeira back into the lineup earlier this week, but wrists are tricky and generally easy to re-injury. I doubt they want to dump Overbay only to have Teixeira go down a week or two later. It’s an imperfect roster, but I assume it would only be a short-term thing.

The returns of Youkilis and Teixeira will improve New York’s offense, especially against left-handed pitchers. Like, super duper improve against lefties. It would help if they played positions other than first and third, but that’s life. The Yankees need all the lineup help they can get right now and aren’t in a position to beg. There are no solutions for those catcher, shortstop, and right field problems on the horizon though, so the offense will continue to be a problem even after the two big corner bats return in a few days.

Mo blows first save of 2013 as Mets walk-off with win

For the first time this year, the Yankees have lost three consecutive games. They were the final team to do so in 2013. It’s the latest into a season they’ve without a three-game losing streak (51 games) since … wait for it … 1955. Yeah, it’s been a while. The Mets walked off with their second straight 2-1 win on Tuesday night.

(Elsa/Getty)
Cap, tipped. (Elsa/Getty)

Blown
I don’t get upset when Mariano Rivera blows a save and takes a loss. The other team beat the best and they deserve some credit. David Wright and Lucas Duda had solid game-tying and game-winning singles following Daniel Murphy’s bloop-ish ground-rule double, so a tip of the cap to them. Mo was a perfect 18-for-18 in save chances coming into this game, and as Joe Girardi said afterwards, “you knew at some point (a blown save) would probably happen.”

This was the first time in his career (!!!) that Rivera failed to retire a batter in a save opportunity. First time ever! It’s the third time he’s done it overall, with the other two times coming in 1995 and 2008. The Yankees had been a perfect 28-0 when leading after eight innings coming into this game. Like I said, it happens. Mo has earned a perpetual pass in my book.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

At Some Point You Have To Score More Than One Run
Eighteen innings in the series, two runs scored. The Yankees needed an outfielder miscue to score their only run for the second straight game, as Marlon Byrd misplayed Brett Gardner‘s leadoff single and allowed him to advance to second. Lyle Overbay plated him with a two-out single later in the inning. That was it, there’s the run.

The Yankees actually had some chances against Matt Harvey, stranding runners at first and second in the third, a leadoff runner at first in the fifth, and runners on the corners in the eighth. Their offense consisted of seven singles and zero walks, and yes, I know Harvey is excellent, but this lineup sucks. Especially now that the blush is off the Vernon Wells rose and Ichiro Suzuki has to play everyday.

Gardner (Temporarily) Saves The Day, Again
This one wouldn’t have left the yard, but for the second straight night, Gardner made a brilliant running catch in left-center field to rob Murphy of an extra-base hit. This one came after a real tough at-bat with no outs and a man on first in the sixth inning, so at the very least the ball would have put men on second and third with no outs had it dropped. More than likely, it would have scored the runner (Ruben Tejada) from first. To the video:

That is every bit as good as Monday’s homer robbery. Maybe it won’t get the same recognition because hey, robbing homers is cool, but the degree of difficulty is basically the same. Gardner had to run full bore with no time to slow down and settle under the ball. He caught the ball towards the end of his glove as he was twisting around and crashing into the wall. Pretty spectacular.

Leftovers
Ho hum, another day another stellar effort from de facto staff ace Hiroki Kuroda. The veteran right-hander limited the Mets to four singles in seven shutout innings, walking zero and striking out seven. He threw 72 of 110 pitches for strikes (65%), including first pitch strikes to 20 of 25 batters. Sixteen of his 21 outs were recorded on the infield. Kuroda deserved better.

Another gem of a game for Chris Stewart, Miracle Catcher™. He took a nice 0-for-3 with two strikeouts at the plate (willing to give him a pass because of Harvey) while committing his second passed ball in as many nights. It didn’t cost them in this game. What did cost them, however, was Stewart’s inability to corral Gardner’s throw home on Wright’s game-tying hit, allowing the go-ahead run to move into scoring position. As Girardi said after the game, that ball “has to be stopped.”

I thought Reid Brignac quietly had a nice game. He went 1-for-4 at the plate and made a handful of nice, rangy plays at shortstop. Balls Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, and Jayson Nix couldn’t dream of getting to. Brignac also made a nice tag on a pickoff play at second to end the sixth inning — he blocked the bag and Tejada didn’t get his hand on the base until well after the tag. The ump initially ruled him safe too, but then changed it up and correctly called him out. Nice little game for Brignac.

David Robertson rebounded from Monday’s rough outing to throw a perfect eighth with one strikeout between Kuroda and Mo. Gardner was the only Yankee with two hits, and he hit the ball hard in all four plate appearances against Harvey. He’s been playing very well on both sides of the ball of late.

Oh by the way, Mariano Rivera passed Dennis Eckersley on the all-time appearances list in this game. He has now appeared in more games than any right-hander in baseball history. Think about that.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
One thing I hate about WPA is the lack of context. At the highest point, the Yankees had an 85.2% chance of winning according to the stat. That doesn’t account for Rivera being historically great, however. I feel like the win expectancy, even with the little one-run game, was like 95%. Oh well. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. Both the Red Sox and Orioles lost, so the Yankees remain tied atop the AL East in the loss column (percentage points behind Boston) and three up on Baltimore.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Technically, this series is over and the Bombers got swept. In reality, it’s just moving across town. The Yankees and Mets will play game three of this makeshift four-game series on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium, when David Phelps gets the ball against fellow right-hander Jeremy Hefner. For last-minute deals to that one, check out RAB Tickets.

Flores & Sanchez homer in wins

RHP Danny Burawa has been placed on the Double-A Trenton DL with left knee bursitis, according to Josh Norris. Meanwhile, Norris says SS Cito Culver was placed on the DL recently with an ankle injury. It’s not considered serious and he’s expected back soon.

Triple-A Scranton (10-8 loss to Norfolk)

  • 2B Corban Joseph: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB
  • RF Thomas Neal: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 E (fielding) — 13 hits in his last 31 at-bats (.419)
  • LF Zoilo Almonte: 3-5, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K — 13 hits in his last 32 at-bats (.406)
  • 3B Ronnie Mustelier: 0-4, 1 BB
  • CF Melky Mesa: 2-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • RHP Brett Marshall: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 4 K, 1 WP, 5/3 GB/FB — 48 of 93 pitches were strikes (52%) … ugly season continues
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 2.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 27 of 51 pitches were strikes (53%) … first appearance with more strikeouts than walks in a little less than two weeks
  • RHP Cody Eppley: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 0/1 GB/FB — only 11 of 24 pitches were strikes (46%), though one of the walks was intentional

[Read more…]

Game 51: Harvey Day

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees are the only team in baseball to have not lost three straight games at some point this season, but they’ve dropped the last two and are staring at a meeting with Matt Harvey tonight. Harvey is in the conversation for the best pitcher in baseball this year — you should read this — so it will be a tough matchup for the Bombers regardless of how they’ve been playing of late.

The baseball gods may have mercy on the Yankees tonight, however. It’s raining in New York and the forecast doesn’t look good for the rest of the night, leading to some speculation the two teams may be preparing to play a two-stadium split doubleheader on Wednesday. That would be a lot of fun, mostly because it wouldn’t inconvenience me at all. If I had to shuttle between stadiums, it would be a different story. Here’s the lineup that is scheduled to face Mr. Harvey…

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 2B Robinson Cano
  3. LF Vernon Wells
  4. 1B Lyle Overbay
  5. 3B David Adams
  6. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  7. SS Reid Brignac
  8. C Chris Stewart
  9. RHP Hiroki Kuroda

Like I said, it’s raining and the status for tonight’s game is in question. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on both My9 and SNY locally as well as ESPN nationally. Enjoy the game, if they do play. If not, enjoy the baseball-less night.

Injury Updates: Andy Pettitte (trap) threw 75 pitches in a simulated game down in Tampa and came through just fine. Seems like he could rejoin the team as soon as next week … Curtis Granderson (pinky) saw a specialist and will be shut down for a minimum of four weeks, so add in a rehab assignment and he’s looking at close to two months on the shelf … Frankie Cervelli (hand) will see a doctor later this week before heading to Tampa to continue his rehab … in case you missed it earlier, Joba Chamberlain (oblique) was activated, Michael Pineda (shoulder) was shut down with a cracked fingernail, and Kevin Youkilis (back) will start a rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton tomorrow.

Update (7:12pm): We are officially in a rain delay. No word on a start time, but apparently there will be a playable window in the not too distant future.

Update (8:03pm): First pitch is scheduled for 8:40pm ET.