Minor League Links: Daley, Warren, Stoneburner

(Elsa/Getty)

The Arizona Fall League season begins next week, so minor league baseball will resume soon enough. Until then, here is a collection of news and motes from the bush leagues…

  • Via Matt Eddy, the Yankees have re-signed RHP Matt Daley. They originally signed the Queens-born reliever last December, but he missed the entire season rehabbing his shoulder after having rotator cuff surgery last August. Daley, 30, had a decent three-year run as an up-and-down arm for the Rockies from 2008-2010, pitching to a 4.71 ERA (3.86 FIP) in 80.1 innings.
  • Also via Eddy, the Yankees have signed LHP Abel Mora. The Padres released the 20-year-old Manhattan native in May. Mora posted a 52/22 K/BB in 54.1 innings down in the Dominican Summer League last year, though I can’t seem to find much else about him. I suppose there’s a chance he’s something more than filler given his age and left-handedness, however.
  • RHP Adam Warren won the Minor League Gold Glove Award for pitchers. There is just one award at each position for the entire minor leagues, so this isn’t one of those things they break up by level or league. Congrats to Warren.
  • Marc Hulet of FanGraphs posted a recap of Double-A Trenton players he saw late in the season, including OF Zoilo Almonte, OF Ramon Flores, RHP Mark Montgomery, and LHP Nik Turley. The player who received the highest praise is a former personal fave who has missed lots of time due to injury in recent years, RHP Graham Stoneburner. He’s Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter and Hulet likes his potential as a reliever because his fastball runs all over the place and he’s aggressive on the mound. Make sure you check it out.

Thursday Night Open Thread

If Rafael Soriano can’t take a little cold champagne down his shirt, how are we supposed to trust him in the ninth inning of a playoff game?! (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Well, now the reality of the baseball regular season being over has set in. It’s awesome that the Yankees are in the postseason and I can’t wait for the ALDS to start this weekend, but there’s no baseball tonight and only two games tomorrow. It’s kind of a shock to the system after six months of watching entirely too much baseball on a daily basis. MLB.tv is either the best or worst thing that has ever happened to me. I can’t decide.

Anyway, here is your open thread for this baseball-less evening. The midweek NFL game is the Cardinals and Rams (8:20pm ET on NFL Network), so feel free to talk about that or anything else here. Except politics. Thanks in advance.

Yankees considering Pettitte for Game Two, Kuroda for Game Three

Via Mark Hale, the Yankees will consider using Hiroki Kuroda as the number three starter in the ALDS and sliding Andy Pettitte in behind CC Sabathia as the number two. We’ve been assuming it would be the other way around for much of the season. “That’s something that we’re going to have to talk about, absolutely,” said Joe Girardi when asked about starting Pettitte over Kuroda in Game Two. “[Kuroda] had an unbelievable season, and that’s something we’ll definitely consider.”

Pettitte was lined up to pitch today in a potential tie-breaker game, which thankfully was not needed. He would be on eight days’ rest for Game Two and ten days’ rest for Game Three. Kuroda, on the other hand, would start Game Two on normal rest and Game Three on seven days’ rest. Giving him two extra days seems like a pretty good idea given his age (37) and career-high workload (219.2 IP), plus he actually pitched better at home than on the road this year. Unsurprisingly, Kuroda said he would do whatever the team asked.

How to survive a “collapse”

If you waded into the RAB comments a month ago, you’d have thought the Yankees were on their way from first to last. It wasn’t just limited to this site, of course; Yankees fans everywhere complained that this team was done, that they had no chance, that it was obvious to anyone who knew anything about baseball that they were going to miss the playoffs.

Yet here we sit, the Yankees taking a much-needed three-day vacation after having secured the best record in the American League. Funny how that works out: the team that was the best for more than two-thirds of the season ended the season on top, despite hitting a rough patch.

Apologies to those of you who didn’t lose your cool. There were undoubtedly a number of fans who remained levelheaded, and many of them frequent RAB. I’m sure your lives were much more pleasant from August 16 through September 11, when the Yankees went 9-15 and saw a six-game lead turn into a tie for first.

Don’t get me wrong: that time was no fun. But it involved a series of events over which we had no control. While we do get invested in the sport — some of us more than is healthy — it’s sheer insanity to let it affect other facets of your life. The fact that the Yankees had played so well up to that point — they had the best record in the AL by 2.5 games — should have bought them a little slack as they hit a rough patch. That they were missing some key players, including their ace and two middle of the order hitters, should have bought them even more.

Honestly, it was relatively easy to weather this storm. All you need to do is fine something else remotely interesting to take your mind off matters. I suggest some of the more blatant trolls on RAB try this. Not only will you feel better in the head, but you’ll be much more pleasant in the comments sections. We’d all appreciate that.

Read a book. It’s the great cure for nearly any stressful situation. Just find a book, any book, and start reading. I guarantee it’ll help you get over your favorite baseball team losing a few games. You might even learn something in the process. Plus, you could uncover some lines that prove prophetic.

“The Yankees cannot lose.”

“But I fear the Indians of Cleveland.”

“Have faith in the Yankees my son. Think of the great DiMaggio.”

“In the American League it is the Yankees as I said,” the old man said happily.

“They lost today,” the boy told him.

“That means nothing. The great DiMaggio is himself again.”

– Ernest Hemingway, Old Man and the Sea

I imagine the last part of that conversation coming on Saturday, after the loss to Toronto, only replacing DiMaggio with Cano.

Immerse yourself in another hobby or — gasp — work. When the Yankees were losing games it actually became easier to focus on work. Yeah, weird, right? But without the pressing need to finish by 7 so I could flip on the game, it became easier to sit down and really dig deep into something. I got to test out an all-in-one PC from Lenovo, which was fun as anything. I also got to some serious writing, which is typically quite difficult during baseball season. But it could have been building model solar systems, cracking passwords, or any number of hobbies.

Remember the past. You don’t even have to look to previous seasons to see how a team can wax and wane during a season. The Yankees went 11-15 from April 24 through May 21 before going 25-7 from the 22nd through June 27th.

Do — anything, really. Sorry for coming off as condescending, but it’s really straight forward stuff. If the Yankees bother you that much, turn your attention elsewhere. They’ll be there when you get back. It doesn’t make you a bad fan to turn it off when it makes you upset. What makes you a bad fan is watching, getting mad, and making a fool of yourself in front of others. Sure, it might just be an internet message board or social media service, but you’re still acting the fool. To me that’s far more egregious than turning away and avoiding those ill feelings.

As we’d say back in the olden days:

/rant

Honestly, the past few days have been quite wonderful. They’ve been somewhat stressful, because there remained the chance the Yankees would play the play-in-game, or even a playoff for the AL East crown. But that’s just part of baseball’s normal excitement. Plus, when Raul Ibanez hit that homer in the bottom of the ninth, was there any doubt left in your mind that they’d take the AL East?

It was a rough month in the middle there, for sure. There’s nothing not frustrating about a 9-15 stretch that eliminates a six-game lead. But that doesn’t invalidate the previous 114 games, nor does it mean the slide will continue for the final 21 games of the season. And, of course, the Yankees went 16-5 in those final 21, which brought their final record closely in line with the .592 winning percentage they had before the collapse began.

Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches. It’s baseball. It happens.

The pitching staff and the ALDS roster

(Al Bello/Getty)

Earlier today we looked at the position player decisions the Yankees will have to make for their ALDS roster (meaning the last two bench spots), so now let’s take some time now to look at the guys on the mound. The Bombers have carried eleven pitchers in pretty much every postseason series under Joe Girardi and I see no reason to believe they’ll do something different now. Of those eleven spots, only two are really up for grabs. Here are the nine locks…

LHP CC Sabathia
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
LHP Andy Pettitte
RHP Phil Hughes

RHP Rafael Soriano
RHP David Robertson
LHP Boone Logan
RHP Joba Chamberlain
LHP Clay Rapada

It doesn’t matter who the Yankees play in the ALDS, both the Orioles (Jim Thome, Chris Davis, Nate McLouth) and Rangers (Josh Hamilton, David Murphy, Mitch Moreland) have a number of quality left-handed batters. Carrying both Logan and Rapada is a given.

One of the last two spots should quite obviously go to David Phelps for two reasons. One, he’s simply performed the best out of everyone else in consideration for a postseason roster spot and deserves it based on merit. Crazy idea, rewarding the guy who’s earned the spot with his performance. Two, he’s stretched out all the way to 80+ pitches and can be a true long-man out of the bullpen. I hope the Yankees won’t need to use him in a long relief situation in a playoff series, but it’s good to have that guy available anyway.

The candidates for the final spot are Ivan Nova, Derek Lowe, and Cody Eppley. I can’t see Cory Wade or Freddy Garcia getting serious consideration given how they faded and performed poorly enough to lose their respective jobs during the regular season. Nova is the same boat, pitching so poorly in the second half that he lost his rotation spot to Phelps this past week. Considering that he has basically zero bullpen experience and didn’t even make a tune-up relief appearance — remember A.J. Burnett made a relief appearance in Game 162 last season in advance of his playoff bullpen role — before the season let up, I can’t see Nova making it. He strikes me as a guy the Yankees send to Tampa to workout and remain stretched out in case he’s needed at a later point.

That leaves us with the veteran, playoff-tested Lowe and the rookie right-handed specialist Eppley. I think we can all see where this is going. Joe wrote about Lowe pitching his way onto the playoff roster yesterday, and given how Girardi has used him the last few weeks — for multiple innings in the important situations — he appears to have a big leg up on that final pitching staff spot. I don’t even think this is a situation in which he would just make the roster and only pitch in emergencies/blowouts (think Chad Gaudin in 2009) either, I think Girardi trusts Lowe and will use him in relatively important situations. The Yankees know he can handle big situations from first hand experience, and again, there is some value in that.

Moreso than the last two bench spots, the final two bullpen spots seem to be open only in theory. Lowe and especially Phelps have outperformed the other pitching candidates and the way they’ve been used in recent weeks suggests that they’ve climbed in the pecking order. Those two simply deserve to be the on the roster over guys like Nova, Garcia, and Eppley. It’s seems pretty clear to me that they simply deserve it over the other guys, and looking at those eleven names makes me feel pretty good about the staff the Yankees will carry into the postseason. That’s a very strong rotation and a deep bullpen, certainly better than what they took in the ALDS a year ago.

Position players and the ALDS roster

(Chris Trotman/Getty)

The new playoff system is both fun and weird. It’s fun because so many races went down to the wire but weird because the Yankees, who finished with the best overall record in the AL, still don’t know who they’re going to play in the first round. They do know it’ll be either the Orioles or Rangers, but that doesn’t help all that much. The opponent will surely impact New York’s ALDS roster decisions to some degree, but for the most part we can piece things together right now.

The Yankees have carried 11 pitchers and 14 position players on their postseason rosters these last few years, opting to shorten the pitching staff by one so they could carry a designated pinch-runner or something like that. I see no reason to think they’ll do something different this year. I mean yeah, they could probably get away with ten pitchers in the ALDS given the off-day between Games Two and Three, but I doubt they’ll go that far. Anyway, a dozen of those 14 position player spot are all but accounted for already:

C Russell Martin
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Robinson Cano
SS Derek Jeter
3B Alex Rodriguez
OF Ichiro Suzuki
OF Curtis Granderson
OF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibanez
C Chris Stewart
IF Eric Chavez
IF Eduardo Nunez

Nunez will make the roster as the backup infielder because of Jayson Nix’s hip injury, and there’s a decent chance he’ll start some games at DH against left-handed pitchers. Chavez will serve as the primary left-handed bat off the bench, meaning one of the two vacant spots is likely to go to a right-handed hitter. The only two options for that role are Andruw Jones and Casey McGehee, neither of whom sounds all that appealing. Jones has been dreadful in the second half, to the point where Joe Girardi started benching him the last week or two in favor of Nunez. The team never really showed much faith in McGehee after acquiring him at the deadline, though he’s almost certainly a better offensive option than the shell of Andruw.

The other spot figures go to a speedster, and I have to think Brett Gardner is the favorite for that job over Chris Dickerson, especially now that he’s been cleared by the doctors and has no restrictions with his surgically repaired elbow. Carrying Gardner as the speedy fourth outfielder might mean that McGehee, an infielder, will get the nod over another outfielder in Jones. Then again, the Yankees could lean towards the playoff-tested veteran and take Andruw for that other open spot instead. They’ve seen what he can do in the postseason first hand, and as I said yesterday, I do think there’s some value in veteran experience.

Now that the Yankees are healthy, or at least as healthy as they’re going to get, the starting lineup is pretty much set. Girardi is unlikely to pinch-hit for any of those guys other than maybe Ibanez against a really tough lefty, so any substitutions figured to come in pinch-running spots or late-inning defensive replacements. Or injury, that’s always an unfortunate possibility as well. I’m about 99% certain that Gardner will occupy one of the final two bench spots while Jones-McGehee is more along the lines of 50-50. Either way, that guy would be the proverbial 25th man on the roster and thus unlikely to see meaningful playing time in a best-of-five series.

Thoughts following Game 162

(Al Bello/Getty)

I don’t think many of us sat here at the midpoint of the season and thought the race would go down to the wire, but the Yankees finally did manage to clinch the AL East title (and the best overall record in the AL) with last night’s blowout win over the Red Sox. Winning the division is so important now with the new playoff system, and securing home field advantage in the ALCS is just icing on the cake. I, for one, and stoked.

1. Three days is an eternity in baseball, which is why having to wait until Sunday to start the ALDS is quite annoying. You can’t help but worry about hitters losing their rhythm or pitchers losing their feel, stuff like that, though I always think we make more of the time off as outsiders than the players do. Three days off is basically the All-Star break or a rainy weekend with a scheduled off-day mixed in. I’m guessing the Yankees will have today completely off before working out at the Stadium tomorrow and flying to either Texas or Baltimore sometime early Saturday. Not really a big deal, and I’m sure the older players can use the rest after the division race went down to Game 162.

2. This really flew under the radar given Robinson Cano‘s scorching hot finish, but Curtis Granderson hit nine homers in the team’s last 23 games. He didn’t hit for average (.232) and did strike out a ton (195) this year, but he hit for enormous power and that’s what the Yankees need him to bring to the table. Now that everyone’s healthy and Ichiro Suzuki took off, Granderson is hitting lower in the order and is suddenly the best seven-hole hitter in baseball. It’s a great spot to sabotage some fastballs.

3. Freddy Garcia was the number three starter last postseason (he ended up starting Game Two because Game One was suspended due to rain) and this year he’s what, number seven on the rotation depth chart? CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte is a better 1-2-3 than what the Yankees had in 2009, and Phil Hughes might be the best fourth starter in the postseason. Actually, Anibal Sanchez (or Max Scherzer depending on how the Tigers line up their rotation) is the best fourth starter, but the crop is grim after that and Hughes stacks up well against anyone. The other number four starters in the AL are Ryan Dempster (or Derek Holland), Joe Saunders, and I guess Dan Straily. I’ll take my chances with Phil against any of those guys.

4. That said, I think starting pitching is really overrated these days. Don’t get me wrong, it’s obviously important, but pitching is less than half the game (half is run creation, half is run prevention, and the latter is broken into pitching and defense) and the rotation is only one piece of the puzzle. Look back at the last I dunno, ten or twenty World Series winners and almost all of them were well-rounded teams. Good offense, good starters, good bullpen, all of that. Hell, good role players will often decide a series as well. That’s sort of where the game is right now, you can’t just ride three great starters to a championship, you’ve got to be able to do more than just pitch as well. Depth is paramount.

5. As phenomenal as Rafael Soriano has been this season, this postseason will have a very different feel for me knowing the security blanket isn’t sitting out there in the bullpen for those scary late innings. We’ll get to see how the other half has lived all these years, the half that didn’t get to enjoy Mariano Rivera nailing down pretty much every big game in the playoffs. That’s the one advantage the Yankees have indisputably enjoyed these last 15 years; no matter who they were playing, we all knew they had the better closer. Soriano’s great, but it won’t be the same.