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) ·
The Yankees have won four of their last five games, including the first game of this three-game series against the Orioles. The pitching has been very good for the most part, and the offense has done just enough these last few days. I’m really disliking this “no homers” thing though. I’m ready for some dingers.
With left-baller Wei-Yin Chen on the mound for the Baltimore, Kelly Johnson is getting the day off. That means today’s first baseman is … Francisco Cervelli. It is his first professional game at the position, though he did say he played there a bit back when he was 15 or 16 years old. What could go wrong? Oh, and by the way, interim closer Shawn Kelley isn’t available today because of his recent workload. Here is the Orioles lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- RF Carlos Beltran
- DH Alfonso Soriano
- C Brian McCann
- 1B Frankie Cervelli
- 2B Brian Roberts
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
RHP Ivan Nova
It was raining all night and for a good chunk of the morning, but it stopped a while ago and there shouldn’t be any trouble starting the game on time. The forecast for the rest of the afternoon says it’ll be cloudy but dry. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 1pm ET, and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.
Tuesday: Cabral has officially been called up, the Yankees announced. Lots and lots of lefties.
Monday: Via George King: The Yankees are planning to call up left-hander Cesar Cabral to replace David Robertson, who was placed on the 15-day DL with a Grade 1 groin strain earlier today. Three lefties in the bullpen is not ideal, especially since two of them (Cabral and Matt Thornton) are pure specialists, so Vidal Nuno is going to have to take on some more responsibility. He figures to be asked to get both righties and lefties out now. · (33) ·
Through the first seven games of 2014, the story of the Yankees’ season has been the offensive struggles of the new-look middle of the order. Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, and Alfonso Soriano have yet to produce with any kind of consistency, and as a result the team has had some problems scoring runs. Eventually those guys will come around and the Yankees will score more runs. At least I think they will. They’re not hitting early in the season and things tend to stand out during the first week of April.
Those offensive issues are overshadowing another early theme: the starting rotation has been commanding and dominating the strike zone. In the first seven games, the Yankees’ starters have a 35/7 K/BB in 43 innings, which works out to a 5.00 K/BB ratio. Only the Giants (5.14) have been better. Furthermore, Ivan Nova issued five of those seven walks in his lone start, during which he was very wild and had no feel for his curveball. Exclude him, and the other four starters have a 34/2 K/BB in 37.1 innings, or an absurd 17.00 K/BB ratio.
Obviously that’s a small sample and we’re cherry-picking by excluding Nova, yadda yadda yadda. Still, 34 strikeouts and two walks in 37.1 innings is pretty ridiculous. I mean, yeah, a 17.00 K/BB ratio is unsustainable over a full 162-game season, but I’m not looking to draw any conclusions from this. I just wanted to point out how stellar the starters have been at commanding the zone. It’s a real thing that happened and it’s pretty amazing. These guys aren’t giving out free passes at all.
Now, here’s the thing: this isn’t happening by accident. The Yankees have sought out strong K/BB pitchers in recent years. In the three years before coming to New York, CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda had 4.51 and 3.36 K/BB ratios, respectively. Masahiro Tanaka had an absurd 7.06 K/BB ratio during his final three years with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Pineda had a 3.15 K/BB during his one season with the Mariners. Nova is the only real exception; he came into 2014 with a career 2.26 K/BB ratio. From 2011-13, the league average for starters was a 2.47 K/BB ratio, for reference.
I think pitching coach Larry Rothschild has something to do with this as well. He came to the Yankees with a reputation for improving strikeout and walk rates — I keep pointing back to these studies, which are definitely due for an update (that’s a post for the offseason, I think) — and he’s continued to do that in New York, for the most part. Sabathia is one example: he had a 20.6% strikeout rate and a 7.4% walk rate in the two years before Rothschild, and a 23.4% strikeout rate and 5.8% walk rate in the first two years with Rothschild. The Yankees target pitchers who command the strike zone well, then they turn them over to their pitching coach, who helps maximize that ability. It’s wonderful.
Two things the Yankees can not change are their ballpark and their division. They’re stuck with Yankee Stadium’s short porch, and they’re stuck playing in the hitter happy AL East. They can control their pitching staff though, at least to some extent, so they’ve targeted pitchers who don’t hurt themselves with walks and generally keep the ball on the ground. (Grounders are actually something of a problem considering the infield defense.) The rotation has taken the whole “no walks” thing to an extreme in these first seven games, and while they won’t keep up this pace all year, this group has pounded the zone early. It’s a big reason why the Yankees acquired these guys, and it’s a big reason why they’ve won four of their last five games.
Baseball returned to the Bronx on Monday, and the Yankees celebrated their home opener with a 4-2 win over the division rival Orioles. After dropping the first two games of season to the Astros, the Yankees have won four of their last five games. How about that?
Welcome To The AL East
The Yankees knocked Ubaldo Jimenez out of Monday’s game after only 4.2 innings, and I think they only had one really hard hit ball during those 4.2 innings. That was Derek Jeter‘s double off the left field wall in the fifth. He actually thought it was a homer (so did everyone else) and started to jog to first, but he hustled it into a two-bagger once he saw it clank off the wall. The Yankees forced Jimenez to throw 107 pitches to get 14 outs, slapping seven singles in addition to the double. They also worked him for five walks.
The Bombers scored their four runs off Ubaldo in four different ways. In the third, Jeter banged into a 1-6-3 double play that scored Yangervis Solarte, who drew a walk to leadoff the inning and moved to third on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s single. In the fourth, Solarte came up with a two-out, two-strike single to right to plate Alfonso Soriano, who singled earlier in the inning and moved to second on Kelly Johnson‘s walk. Nick Markakis came up just short on his diving catch attempt. In the fourth, Ellsbury singled in Jeter after the double. Johnson drew a bases loaded walk to force in a run later in the inning. Three of the four runs were helped by walks. Walks walks walks.
I want to single out Roberts, who neither scored nor drove in a run, but played a big role in the game nevertheless. He saw 19 pitches (!) in his three at-bats against Jimenez, drawing a walk to load the bases immediately prior to Johnson’s bases loaded walk in the fifth. Nineteen pitches in three trips to the plate! Roberts took a full inning off Ubaldo’s day all by himself. He isn’t hitting much (.150 AVG through the first seven games), but he’s drawing walks (.346 OBP) and is a pain in the ass at-bat in general. I’ve said this more than a few times already, but these are the types of at-bats the Yankees were not getting last year, especially from the bottom third of the order. Roberts did not do any damage directly on Monday, but he sure made life tough for Ubaldo.
Ho Hum, Kuroda Was Very Good Again
Like I’m sure many of you, I was a bit concerned about Hiroki Kuroda coming into the season because of his age and late-season fade last year, but after two starts, those concerns are pretty much gone. Kuroda has looked like the 2013 first half version of himself, showing good velocity and being unpredictable with his breaking pitches. He did allow eight hits in 6.1 innings of work, including three doubles, but they were mostly scattered. The bullpen picked him up when the first three hitters of the seventh inning recorded base hits.
Here is Kuroda’s pitch breakdown from Brooks Baseball:
- 47 sinkers, 32 strikes, four swings and misses, averaged 92.8 mph and topped out at 93.7
- 24 splitters, 13 strikes, five swings and misses, averaged 86.2 mph
- 16 sliders, nine strikes, five swings and misses, averaged 84.4 mph
- three curveballs and two four-seam fastballs as well
Kuroda’s final line was two runs allowed on those eight hits in those 6.1 innings. He struck out four, and like just about every Yankees’ starter these days, he did not walk anybody. Fifty-six of his 92 pitches were strikes (61%), and until those three batters reached to start the seventh inning, he was cruising right along without much an issue. Outside of CC Sabathia‘s disaster on Opening Day, the Yankees have gotten pretty strong work from their rotation this year.
No Robertson? No Problem
Following the game, we learned David Robertson had to be placed on the 15-day DL with a Grade I groin strain. That means everyone in the bullpen will move up a notch for at least two weeks. Injuries stink but they are a part of life. Joe Girardi excels at bullpen management and he pushed all the right buttons on Monday.
As I mentioned before, the bullpen picked up Kuroda in that seventh inning. Matt Thornton was brought in to face Ryan Flaherty with runners on first and second with one out, and he retired the lefty with a weak ground ball to second base. It’s clear Girardi is using Thornton as nothing but a matchup left-hander and that’s great. He has no business facing righties at this point of his career. David Phelps, who has really struggled so far this year, came in after Thornton and got a weak ground ball back to himself from the rookie Jonathan Schoop to end the threat. I still don’t want to see Phelps in big spots just yet, but he did the job on Monday.
with Robertson out, Shawn Kelley was the closer du jour, pushing Adam Warren into the eighth inning. Warren walked the first batter of the eighth — his first base-runner of the season — before escaping the jam with a fly ball (Nick Markakis) and two strikeouts (Adam Jones, Chris Davis). The recovery was impressive after the walk. Warren’s been pretty good as a short reliever so far (ahem). Kelley recorded with first career save with two easy fly balls and a ground out on nine total pitches. Piece of cake.
The Orioles helped the Yankees by making two outs on the bases: Nelson Cruz forget how many outs there were in the second inning and was doubled off first base on Steve Lombardozzi’s fly ball. It wasn’t even close, Cruz was still near second base by time the ball got back into the infield. Brian McCann then picked Schoop off at second base with a snap throw to end the top of the fifth.
Ellsbury was thrown out trying to steal second base in the fifth inning thanks to a fantastic throw by Matt Wieters, but the replay showed he slid in just under Flaherty’s tag. It was very close but it did look like Ellsbury was in there. Girardi did not challenge though, and four of the next five batters reached base (two singles, two walks). Fallacy of the predetermined outcome, yadda yadda yadda, but Girardi should have challenged in hindsight. Could have really blown the game open there.
Ellsbury had two hits to continue his little hot streak. Soriano also went 2-for-3 with a walk and appears to be coming out of his funk. Gardner and Jeter each had one hit, Beltran and Solarte both singled and walked, Johnson drew two walks, Roberts drew one walk, and McCann went 0-for-4. He was the only starter who failed to reach base. Solarte creamed a pitch in the eighth that looked gone off the bat, but Markakis caught it on the right field warning track. Almost his first career dinger. Almost.
Funny moment: the Bleacher Creatures were chanting “So-Lar-Te! So-Lar-Te!” as part of the roll call for about a minute before Jeter told Solarte to wave. Rookie mistake.
Same two teams tomorrow afternoon in the second game of this three-game series. I guess that’s the alternative to not having the day after the home opener off, playing a day game so scheduling a doubleheader is easier. Who knows. Ivan Nova and Wei-Yin Chen will both be making their second starts of the season in the matinee. If you want some last minute tickets, check out RAB Tickets.
Losing David Robertson to a Grade I groin strain really stinks, but otherwise the home opener went splendidly this afternoon. Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera were on hand for the ceremonial first pitch — I’m going to have to start a petition to get Bernie Williams some well-deserved respect — plus beating Buck Showalter and the Orioles is always fun. The first pitch video is above, if you missed it.
This is your open thread for the night. This afternoon’s game will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET, though I don’t know if they’ll show any of the pre-game ceremonies again. The Devils and Nets are playing, plus the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game is on as well. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s game, or anything else right here.
Minor League Update: There will be no Down on the Farm post tonight because none of the affiliates are playing. High-A Tampa had a scheduled off-day and Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, and Low-A Charleston were all rained out. Here’s the scoreboard if you don’t believe me. DotF returns tomorrow, assuming someone actually plays.
Following this afternoon’s game, Joe Girardi announced that an MRI showed a Grade I strain in Mark Teixeira’s right hamstring. He has already been on the DL for three days now. A Grade I strain is the least severe, but that doesn’t mean he is guaranteed to return after the minimum 15 days. Hamstrings are quite tricky.
Teixeira, 33, went 3-for-12 (.250) in four games before landing on the DL. Kelly Johnson has taken over at first base for the time being. The Yankees called up a third catcher (Austin Romine) to replace Teixeira because, well, their 40-man roster is a mess and they don’t have any better options. Russ Canzler is the starting first baseman at Triple-A Scranton, but the Yankees would have to drop someone from the 40-man roster to call him up. Hopefully the injury does not linger and Teixeira returns soon. · (4) ·
Brian Cashman has turned the recently-DFA’d Eduardo Nunez into a minor league pitcher. As the Yankees announced a few minutes ago, the team has acquired Miguel Sulbaran from the Twins in exchange for Nunez. Sulbaran is a 20-year-old lefty pitcher who has put up decent numbers with both the Twins and Dodgers since arriving in the U.S. in 2012, and he has yet to pitch above Single A.
Sulbaran was the player to be named later in the Dodgers’ deal for Drew Butera last year, and at the time, Dodgers’ bloggers seemed to rue the trade. That said, Sulbaran is a 5’10″ lefty who sits in the 89-90 mph range with breaking pitches described as “average.” Maybe he could one day be a bullpen arm, but for now, he’s org filler in acquired exchange for a bench player who was opportunities with the Yankees. · (41) ·
The Yankees have placed David Robertson on the 15-day DL with a Grade I groin strain, Joe Girardi announced. He hurt himself at some point during Sunday’s outing. Grade I is the least severe strain, but that doesn’t mean he will automatically be ready to go once the 15 days are up. Girardi declined to give a timetable for his return.
I assumed Robertson did not pitch Monday because he had a long-ish outing on Sunday and had pitched in three of the last four days, but unfortunately not. Shawn Kelley picked up an easy save in the home opener on Monday afternoon, but Girardi stopped short of declaring him the interim closer. He did acknowledge Kelley will see most save chances, however. Adam Warren is also in the late-inning mix.
There is no word on who will be called up to fill Robertson’s roster spot. Preston Claiborne and Cesar Cabral are both on the 40-man roster and seem like obvious candidates, and others like Matt Daley, David Herndon, Fred Lewis, and Danny Burawa impressed in Spring Training and could get the call. None of those guys are on the 40-man roster, though.
Robertson, 28, allowed one hit and one walk in three innings before getting hurt, going 2-for-2 in save chances. Girardi is very good at getting the most out of his bullpen, and he’ll have to continue to do just that with his best reliever on the shelf for the foreseeable future.
According to his representatives at the MCA Agency, the Yankees are one of several teams with interest in free agent right-hander Brian Omogrosso. He recently elected free agency after being outrighted off the 40-man roster by the White Sox, and has been throwing for teams in Phoenix. The Rangers and Blue Jays are among the other clubs with interest.
Omogrosso, 29, has a 5.54 ERA (4.52 FIP) with a 8.2 K/9 (19.5 K%) in 37.1 career big league innings, all with the ChiSox from 2012-13. His career Triple-A numbers aren’t anything to write home about (5.20 ERA and ~3.26 FIP), but his strikeout (9.8 K/9 and 25.0 K%) and walk numbers (2.7 BB/9 and 6.9 BB%) are strong. Baseball America ranked Omogrosso as the 17th best prospect in Chicago’s system before the 2012 season, saying he throws in the mid-90s with a hard slider, but his “peak value is probably as a seventh- or eighth-inning reliever.” Here’s video. Sounds like the Yankees are looking at him as a power depth arm for Triple-A. · (17) ·