Game 53: Due For A Win

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The Yankees have alternated wins and losses for a week now, which I guess means they’re due for a win this afternoon. Go home, nothing to see here, game is already in the bag. If only, huh? The offense has come back to life — the Yankees have scored 40 runs in their last six games — and now it’s time to get the pitching back on track.

This afternoon the ball will go to rookie Jordan Montgomery, who hasn’t pitched all that well in three of his last four starts. General baseball randomness, or the league catching up to him? Whatever it is, he and the Yankees could use a good outing today. I’m not sure how many more duds Montgomery can manage with Chance Adams looming. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

The Rogers Centre roof is going to be open this afternoon, which means it’s a lovely afternoon in Toronto. Today’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET and both YES and MLB Network will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) has been shut down. His headaches have returned. He’ll see a neurologist when the Yankees get back to New York on Monday. I guess this solves the “Hicks has to play every day” problem for the foreseeable future. This stinks though. Brain injuries are no joke. Hopefully Ellsbury is okay … Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) threw a light 15-pitch bullpen session today. Joe Girardi estimated a return date of June 15th.

Game 48: Beat the O’s

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

This afternoon’s Memorial Day matinee at Camden Yards begins a stretch of 13 games in 14 days against AL East rivals for the Yankees. Two weeks from now, we should have a better idea of their status as a division title contender. The Yankees already have the fourth best postseason odds in the league (by a mile), but give me that division title. Not another wildcard game. This stretch is pretty darn important by late-May/early-June standards.

The Orioles come into this series having lost seven straight games — they’ve been outscored 38-17 in the seven games — and 13 of their last 16 games overall. They are weak and vulnerable right now. The Yankees are catching them at a good time. Then again, intra-AL East games never seem to be easy regardless of the opponent’s record. Just keep winning series. Here is the O’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

It is cloudy in Baltimore today, though there’s no rain in the forecast until much later tonight, so the Yankees and Orioles should have no trouble getting this afternoon’s game in. Today’s game will start a bit after 1pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) played catch again today … Greg Bird (ankle) took live batting practice in Tampa. The tentative plan is to get him into minor league rehab games later this week … Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) is still shut down. He has not yet been cleared to resume baseball activities.

Game 46: My Kingdom For Some Runs

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Over the last five games, dating back to Masahiro Tanaka‘s blowup in Tampa, Yankees starters have allowed six runs (five earned) total in 33.1 innings. None of the five starters allowed more than two runs in their starts. And yet, the Yankees went only (“only”) 3-2 in those five games because the offense is slumping so hard. The Yankees scored only 13 runs in those five games, and they’ve scored only 23 runs in their last eight games. Geez.

Things could turn around in an instant, of course. Tanaka threw literally the two worst starts of his MLB career back-to-back, then bam, he dominated and struck out a career high 13 last night. The offense has scored 13 runs in their last five games and they’re perfectly capable of putting up 13 runs in five innings this afternoon. I hope it happens. Few things in baseball are less enjoyable than a lack of offense. Here is the A’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. CF Aaron Hicks
  8. 1B Chris Carter
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

Not a bad afternoon for baseball in the Bronx. It is cloudy out, but it’s a pleasant 72 degrees and there’s no rain in the forecast. Today’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) played catch today for the first time since going on the disabled list. He reported no issues … Greg Bird (ankle) is still on track to head to Tampa tomorrow and begin playing in minor league rehab games. His rehab work has gone well the last few days … Jacoby Ellsbury (concussion) is following the concussion protocol and there’s not much he can do right now. He’s shut down until the doctors say he can resume baseball activities.

Game 44: Waiting For The Offense To Come Back

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Last night’s loss stunk, huh? Bullpen meltdowns are going to happen from time to time. Whatever. I’m more annoyed by the recent lack of offense. The Yankees have scored only 19 runs in their last six games, and only nine runs in their last three games. That’s not going to fly. The Yankees are still second in baseball in runs per game (5.53), so they have the ability to score runs. They’re just in a little bit of a funk right now.

Prior to this 19 runs in six games stretch, the Yankees scored at least seven runs in their four previous games, and one of those four games came against tonight’s opposing starter, Royals righty Jason Hammel. The Yankees scored five runs in six innings against Hammel last week. I could go for a repeat performance tonight. Runs are cool. I like runs. Here is the Royals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    RHP Luis Severino

Not a bad weather day in New York. It was cloudy much of the day, and the same will be true tonight. Cloudy and cool. Tonight’s game will start at 7:05pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Greg Bird (ankle) continues to progress with his rehab. He is hitting, fielding grounders, running the bases, the whole nine. Joe Girardi said the tentative plan is to send Bird to Tampa on Sunday, have him play in one Extended Spring Training game, then begin a minor league rehab assignment with High-A Tampa. My guess is he’ll play a good amount of rehab games to make sure he gets all the way back on track after his miserable start to the season. We might not see Bird until the Yankees come back for their next homestand on June 6th … Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) will see a doctor for a checkup Friday, and if all goes well, he could begin a throwing program Saturday.

HOPE Week: Today the Yankees held an event at the Saturday Night Live studios to help benefit Comedy Kids, an organization started by two young boys who tell jokes to raise money for pediatric brain cancer research. Awesome stuff. Here’s a video.

Game 41: Sabathia Sunday

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So the last three games haven’t gone well. Sucks. The good news is there’s another game today, so there’s a chance to get back into the win column. A win today avoids the sweep and sends the Yankees home with a 3-3 road trip. Not great, not awful. Could be worse.

CC Sabathia is on the mound this afternoon and he was very good last time out, though that was against the free-swinging Royals, the worst hitting team in baseball this year. The Rays have some thump, annoyingly. This will be a tough one for Sabathia. I believe in the big man though. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s nice and sunny in St. Petersburg today, and dark and gloomy inside Tropicana Field. First time this series the teams probably wish they could play outside. Alas. This afternoon’s game will begin a little after 1pm ET. YES has the broadcast. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: Aroldis Chapman (shoulder) will see a doctor tomorrow for a check up. He went on the disabled list last weekend, and the Yankees said he will be shut down at least two weeks, so a throwing program isn’t imminent … Greg Bird (ankle) continues to increase his running. He could beginning hitting this week.

Roster Update: The Yankees have called up Bryan Mitchell and sent down Gio Gallegos, the team announced. I had a feeling that was coming. They need a fresh long man. Mitchell was scheduled to start for Triple-A Scranton today, though he’s only gotten stretched out to 60 pitches or so since being sent down, so he won’t be able to go super long.

Saturday Links: Happ, Zimmer, Sanchez, Mock Drafts, Girardi

The Yankees and Rays will play the second game of their three-game series later this afternoon. Here are some links to check out until then.

Yankees passed on Happ, Jimenez, Zimmer

This is pretty fun and interesting. According to Joel Sherman, during trade talks last year, the Yankees and Cubs agreed that New York would receive either Gleyber Torres, Ian Happ, or Eloy Jimenez in the Aroldis Chapman trade. Also, during talks with the Indians about Andrew Miller, it was down to Clint Frazier or Bradley Zimmer. Both Happ and Zimmer were called up within the last week, and both have hit their first MLB home runs already.

Sherman says the Yankees passed on Jimenez because he was furthest away among the three Cubs prospects, and they passed on Happ because he’s not expected to be much of a defender. Torres had the best all-around ability. The Yankees went Frazier over Zimmer because he’s two years younger and has fewer exploitable holes in his swing. (Zimmer had a 30.7% strikeout rate between Double-A and Triple-A last year. Yikes!)

I really do like Happ, though I am totally cool with passing on him for Gleyber. The Yankees picked correctly in both cases, in my opinion. Torres is a budding superstar. Frazier has a much better chance to be an impact bat long-term too. Something tells me we’ll all have one eye on Happ and Jimenez and Zimmer over the next few years. Either way, the trade deadline last year truly was a franchise altering event. The Yankees are in much better shape long-term right now than they were 12 months ago.

Sanchez among top 25 under 25

A few days ago Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked the 25 best players in baseball under the age of 25. Not surprisingly, Bryce Harper claims the top spot. Manny Machado and Carlos Correa are second and third. Yeah. The Yankees have one player on the list: Gary Sanchez, who ranks 14th. He’s one spot behind Alex Bregman and one spot ahead of Dansby Swanson. Here’s the write-up:

Sanchez had a rookie season — well, half-season — for the ages last year, with 20 homers in 53 games, good enough to get him second in Rookie of the Year balloting and push the Yankees to trade Brian McCann and give Sanchez the starting job behind the plate. Sanchez has improved enough as a receiver to stay back there, though he is probably always going to be a bat-first, throw-second, glove-third kind of guy. I’m sure the Yankees will be fine with that.

Aaron Judge, who turned 25 last month, was not eligible for the list. I’m sure he would have made it had the list been players age 25 and under. The list is very position player heavy — Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, Julio Urias, and Michael Fulmer are the only pitchers — and I’m guessing Luis Severino wasn’t particularly close to making it. That doesn’t surprise me. Sanchez is the only catcher in the top 25, and that is pretty darn cool.

Baseball America’s mock draft v3.0

Baseball America released their third mock draft of the year earlier this week, and now they have the Twins selecting Vanderbilt RHP Kyle Wright with the top pick. California HS RHP/SS Hunter Greene, the top prospect in the draft class, is projected to fall to the Padres with the third pick. The mock draft has the Yankees taking Alabama HS OF Bubba Thompson with their 16th pick. Here’s the write-up:

New York has been linked to preps this spring such as Huntington Beach first baseman Nick Pratto and Alabama prep outfielder Bubba Thompson, who’s likely to go in the 16-23 range. Pratto’s relatively modest spring offensively has pushed him down lists a bit.

The draft is a little more than four weeks now, so things are still pretty wide open. So far the Yankees have been connected to mostly high school players, though that doesn’t mean much. Last year they were mostly connected to high school arms and college bats before the draft, then bam, they went with a high school bat. Hopefully things get narrowed down a bit over the next month.

MLB.com’s mock draft v1.0

In other mock draft news, Jim Callis dropped his first full mock draft of the year last week. He has the Twins taking Louisville LHP/1B Brendan McKay first overall. It seems Minnesota has been connected to all the top prospects except Greene. Weird. Anyway, Callis has the Yankees taking California HS 1B Nick Pratto withe their first rounder.

One of the most rumored mid-round marriages is New York and Pratto, though this is more a floor than a ceiling for the best high school bat available. Burger and Canning are other potential targets.

Here’s my write-up on Pratto. Also, here’s my write-up on UCLA RHP Griffin Canning, who Callis connected to the Yankees as well. Burger is Missouri State 3B Jake Burger, who is one of the top power hitters in the draft. He’s probably going to end up at first base though, and it’s unclear if his less than picturesque swing will allow him to handle pro pitching. Meh. Doesn’t seem like the kind of player the Yankees usually target in the first round.

Girardi on new competition committee

Earlier this week MLB announced the relaunch of the competition committee, a 16-man committee that is “charged with studying all aspects of the game and advising the Commissioner and Club Owners on on-field matters.” They’re going to look for ways to make baseball better, basically. I guess automatic intentional walks and talking about pace of play constantly isn’t working as well as hoped.

Anyway, Joe Girardi is one of four current big league managers on the committee, along with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, and Orioles skipper Buck Showalter. Here is the press release with all the committee members. I do like that commissioner Rob Manfred is open to new ideas and seems genuinely interested in improving the game. I have no idea whether the new competition committee will result in any tangible improvements, but hey, at least they’re trying.

Thoughts following Aroldis Chapman’s shoulder injury

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The (first place!) Yankees have suffered their third notable injury of the still relatively young 2017 season. After playing without Gary Sanchez (biceps) and Didi Gregorius (shoulder) in April, the Yankees placed closer Aroldis Chapman on the 10-day disabled list yesterday with left rotator cuff inflammation. He’ll be shut down at least two weeks, and Brian Cashman acknowledged Chapman could miss a month. That bites. Time for some thoughts.

1. Chapman admitted yesterday his shoulder has been barking for a few weeks now, including during that ugly outing in Boston, but he pitched through it and assumed it would get better with treatment. It sounds kinda dumb and risky — why pitch through discomfort in your throwing shoulder?!? — but my guess is this sort of thing happens all the time. Stick any pitcher in an MRI tube and you’ll find some inflammation or tendinitis. No one is ever truly 100% during the season. Chapman said it wasn’t until Friday that the discomfort became too much to bear, which is when he finally said something. It’s pretty amazing he was still getting his fastball up into triple digits even with a balky shoulder — since the Boston game, Chapman has thrown roughly one-quarter of his fastballs at 100+ mph, topping out at 101.6 mph — which is another reminder this guy is a physical freak. He’s so strong and athletic that even a bum shoulder couldn’t stop him from throwing harder than, like, 99% of all pitchers.

2. I absolutely believe Chapman’s current shoulder woes could be the product of his postseason workload last year. The World Series hangover phenomenon is very real. Chapman threw a lot of intense innings last season — he threw 73.1 total innings in 2016, one out short of his career high, and he did that despite being missing April with his suspension — and also had a much shorter offseason. More work, less time to recover. Chapman wouldn’t be the first pitcher to suffer through a World Series hangover and he won’t be the last. I’m not saying Cubs manager Joe Maddon was wrong to ride Chapman so hard during the postseason. I would want Joe Girardi to do the exact same thing in that situation. It’s just that the workload happened and Chapman may be dealing with the consequences now. The Yankees were well aware of the risks when they signed him. Hopefully spending a few weeks on the disabled list will knock this all out and Chapman will feel as good as new when he returns.

3. It goes without saying the Yankees should be ultra-cautious with Chapman and I’m sure they will be. He is six weeks into his massive five-year contract, and they don’t want to push him too hard and risk a potentially minor injury turning into something more severe. It’s better to lose Chapman for a few weeks now than many weeks later, you know? Chapman said yesterday what he feels now is similar to what he felt in 2011, when he missed roughly six weeks with shoulder inflammation. I guess that’s kinda reassuring? He’s been through this before and knows what to expect, plus, when he returned from the disabled list in 2011, he showed no ill-effects. He went back to being a flame-throwing monster on the mound. Still, aside from the Greg Bird situation, the Yankees are almost always conservative with injuries, especially with pitchers, and I’m sure that will be the case here. Chapman is too important and owed too much money to rush him back.

4. Girardi confirmed yesterday Dellin Betances will take over as the closer and that doesn’t surprise me at all. When faced with similar situations in the past, Girardi has typically bumped everyone in the bullpen up a notch on the depth chart, and that’s what’ll happen here. I know Betances struggled as the closer last September — weird how everyone seems to have forgotten he was nails as the closer in August, isn’t it? — but I believe that was more workload related than role related. Betances has been throwing high-leverage innings for the Yankees for more than three years now. No reason to think he’ll suddenly stop getting outs because he’s pitching an inning later than usual. Losing Chapman bites because he’s great and the Yankees will be without a top notch reliever. They won’t suffer in the ninth inning though. Betances will be fine. The difference will show up in the middle innings, when someone like Adam Warren won’t be available because he’s taken over as the seventh inning guy.

5. That all said, I wonder whether it would be smart to let Tyler Clippard close rather than Betances. Clippard could start the ninth inning fresh with no one on base, allowing Betances to remain a setup man and potentially put out fires in the seventh inning on occasion. Clippard could do that too — he’s gotten four outs twice in his last five appearances — but, frankly, Betances is the more dominant pitcher, and I’d rather see the Yankees avoid bringing Clippard into an inning with men on base given his extreme fly ball tendencies. That’s asking for a multi-run homer, especially at Yankee Stadium. Clippard as closer and Betances in the fireman setup role may be the most optimal bullpen deployment. Then again, Betances has hit a wall the last two Septembers, so maybe limiting him to one-inning closer outings now allows him to remain effective deeper into the season. Hopefully Clippard and Betances (and Warren) are lights out and who pitches when isn’t a big deal. I just worry we’re going to see seventh or eighth inning leads evaporate with Betances sitting in the bullpen, being held back for the save situation.