Archive for Brent Lillibridge
Thanks to all the injuries, the Yankees used a franchise record 56 players this season. Fifteen of those 56 players appeared in no more than ten games, which isn’t much of a surprise. The last spots on the bench and in the bullpen were revolving doors all summer. Most of those miscellaneous players were awful, enough to help push the Yankees out of the postseason picture. Here are the worst players to walk through those revolving doors.
The signs were there, we just didn’t want to see them. The Yankees released the 26-year-old Adams in Spring Training to clear a 40-man roster spot for Vernon Wells (!), but no team took a chance on him and New York re-signed him to a minor league contract a week later. When Kevin Youkilis went down with his inevitable back injury, Adams got a chance to play third base on a regular basis. Things went quite well at first — 13-for-44 (.295) with two homers in his first eleven games — but they crashed in a hurry. Adams fell into a 4-for-51 (.078) slump and wound up back in Triple-A before resurfacing later in the season. Overall, he hit .193/.252/.286 (45 wRC+) in 152 plate appearances, though he did play solid defense at second and third bases. Adams had a pretty great opportunity this summer, but he couldn’t capitalize.
Almonte, 24, got his chance when the Yankees finally got sick of Wells and benched him in mid-June. Zoilo’s big league career started out well — he had three hits (including a homer) in his first start (video), reached base three times the next day, then doubled twice the day after the that — before he cooled off and got hurt. Almonte put up a .236/.274/.302 (55 wRC+) line with the one homer and three steals in 113 plate appearances before an ankle sprain effectively ended his season in mid-July (he did return in late-September, but played sparingly). The fun was short-lived.
You may not agree, but I think Boesch was a pretty significant loss this past season. The 28-year-old managed a .275/.302/.529 (124 wRC+) batting line with three homers in 53 sporadic plate appearances and appeared to be a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium’s short right field porch, but he was sent to Triple-A Scranton when Curtis Granderson came off the DL (the first time). He lasted a little more than a week in the minors before suffering what proved to be a season-ending shoulder injury. The Yankees released him in mid-July when they needed a 40-man spot. Had Boesch been healthy, there’s a good chance he would have been given the opportunity to play everyday following Granderson’s second injury considering how poorly Ichiro Suzuki hit for a good part of the summer. Boesch is a flawed player but his lefty pop would have been useful. For shame.
Bootcheck, 35, emerged as the ace for Triple-A Scranton this past season (3.69 ERA and 4.20 FIP in 136.2 innings) and he managed to appear in one game with the big league team. On June 14th, he allowed one run on two hits and two walks in 1.1 innings against the Angels. Bootcheck got his chance because Adam Warren threw six innings of relief (in the 18-inning game against the Athletics) earlier on the road trip and wasn’t going to be available for a few days, so the team needed a replacement long reliever. He was designated for assignment at the end of the trip when Warren was again available.
Is it possible to be a poor man’s Brendan Ryan? Do those exist? If they do, I nominate the 27-year-old Brignac. He was with the Yankees from mid-May through mid-June, during which time he showed off a slick glove and hit an unfathomable .114/.133/.136 (-38 wRC+) with 17 strikeouts in 45 plate appearances. Brignac played 15 games in pinstripes and he reached base multiple times in only one of them. It was ugly.
For a few weeks, Claiborne looked like the next great homegrown Yankees reliever. He started his big league career with 14 straight walk-less outings and allowed just one run in his first 20 innings in pinstripes. Claiborne, 25, had settled into a seventh inning setup role, but he allowed 13 runs and 38 base-runners in his next 25.2 innings and earned a trip back to Triple-A. When he resurfaced in September, he allowed nine runs and four homers (!!!) in five innings. Fatigue was the oft-cited excuse for his fade, but Claiborne threw only 61.1 innings in 2013 after throwing 82 innings in 2012 and 81 innings in 2011. It’s possible, sure, but I have a hard time buying it. Claiborne finished the season with a 4.11 ERA and 4.14 FIP in 50.1 innings, but outside of those first 14 appearances, he was very untrustworthy.
Cruz, 29, was the team’s fifth different starting shortstop in their first 84 games, but he actually wound up playing more games at third (13) than short (five). An all-glove, no-hit type like Ryan and Brignac, Cruz hit .182/.224/.200 (13 wRC+) in 59 plate appearances while playing excellent defense after being picked up off the scrap heap. He was the best non-Ryan infield defender the team employed this past season, I thought. Cruz’s season came to an end in late-July thanks to a knee sprain, and the Yankees eventually designated him for assignment to clear a 40-man spot for Reynolds.
Remember Eppley? He was actually on the Opening Day roster, believe it or not. His terrible Spring Training (12 runs in eight innings) carried over to the regular season, where he allowed four runs in 1.2 innings before being sent to Triple-A Scranton when Phil Hughes was ready to come off the DL in early-April. Eppley, 28, continued to stink in Triple-A (18 runs in 19 innings) and was eventually released to clear a 40-man spot for Claiborne. He was a nice middle relief find for the Bombers last season, but things went so wrong this year that he was pitching in an independent league by August.
The Yankees took a “throw a bunch of stuff against the wall and see what sticks” approach to filling their right-handed outfield bat spot, eventually settling on the 32-year-old Francisco. He was released by the Indians in Spring Training and managed to beat out guys like Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera. Francisco lasted 48 team games, hitting .114/.220/.182 (13 wRC+) in 50 plate appearances overall while going 3-for-34 (.088) against southpaws. On the bright side, he did hit the team’s shortest homerun of the season. I guess that’s something. The Yankees designated Francisco for assignment on May 26th, when they claimed David Huff off waivers from the Tribe.
Gonzalez, 30, had two stints with the Yankees this season. He appeared in three games in mid-May and ten more from late-June through mid-July. The Former Attorney General went 6-for-34 (.176) in his limited time, but he did go 2-for-4 with a double and three runs driven in during a game against the Twins on July 2nd (video). Gonzalez also offered a nice glove, though not as nice as Brignac’s or Ryan’s.
Yes, Ishikawa was a Yankee this season. They nabbed the 30-year-old off waivers in early-July, watched him go 0-for-2 with two strikeouts on seven total pitches in his only game in pinstripes, then designated him for assignment to clear a roster spot for Derek Jeter, all in the span of six days. When’s the Yankeeography?
Joseph, 25, had two stints with the big league team in 2013, going 1-for-6 with a double, a walk, and a strikeout while starting both ends of a doubleheader against the Indians in mid-May. His season ended later that month, when he needed surgery to repair his shoulder. The Yankees removed Joseph from the 40-man roster last week, though he remains in the organization.
Part of that left side of the infield circus, the 30-year-old Lillibridge spent a little more than three forgettable weeks in pinstripes in late-July and early-August. He went 6-for-37 (.171) with eight strikeouts while playing okay defense in eleven games with the team, though unlike many other guys in this post, he did have the proverbial One Big Moment. On July 23rd against the Rangers, after Eduardo Nunez tripled in the tying run against Joe Nathan in the ninth inning, Lillibridge singled in Nunez for the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run (video). He drove in a run with a fielder’s choice earlier in the game. Lillibridge was designated for assignment when Alex Rodriguez came off the DL.
This was a really bad year for Marshall, who had a poor season with Triple-A Scranton (5.13 ERA and 4.62 FIP in 138.2 innings) and didn’t stand out in his three-appearance cameo with the big league team. The 23-year-old allowed six runs and 21 base-runners in a dozen garbage time innings, walking as many batters as he struck out (seven). He did manage to save the bullpen by holding the Red Sox to one run in 4.1 innings during a blowout loss in one of those appearances, however. Marshall also got to pitch in front of his family near his hometown in Houston during the final game of the season (video), so that was neat.
Miller, 31, struck out 92 batters in 63.1 innings down in Triple-A this past season (3.55 ERA and 3.22 FIP), but he got hammered in his only big league game, allowing three runs to the Red Sox in a four-out appearance on September 7th. The Yankees were desperate for bullpen help at that point and he was a warm body. Apparently the team saw something they liked though, because they re-signed Miller to a minor league deal recently.
The 2013 season was an overwhelming success for the 22-year-old Murphy, but not because of his big league performance. He hit .269/.347/.426 (117 wRC+) across two minor league level before joining the Yankees in September, when they added him to the 40-man roster because he was going to be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season anyway. Murphy went 4-for-26 (.154) in 16 games during his late season cameo and looked fine defensively.
Neal, 26, was the organization’s #Free[RandomGuy] this past season. You know what I mean, right? The random Quad-A player sitting in the minors who would be so much better than whoever they have at the big league level if they’d only give him a chance! Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, Neal put up a .325/.391/.411 (130 wRC+) in 297 plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton before going 2-for-11 (.133) with really bad defense during a four-game cameo in pinstripes in mid-June. He was designated for assignment when Granderson came off the DL (the second time) and was subsequently claimed off waivers by the Cubs.
Nelson was something of a pioneer this past season. He was the first of many players the Yankees acquired in an effort to solidify the left side of the infield, coming over from the Rockies in a minor trade in early-May. Nelson, 28, played ten games in pinstripes, all at third base, and went 8-for-36 (.222) with eleven strikeouts at the plate. He actually went 0-for-10 in his first three games and 8-for-26 (.308) in his last seven. The team designated Nelson for assignment when they called up Adams, and he was then claimed off waivers by the Angels. Naturally, Nelson returned to the Bronx with the Halos in mid-August and hit two homers (including a grand slam) in one game against the Yankees. Go figure.
I wish I had kept track of home many times Zagurski warmed up but did not appear in the game in September. The guy was up every game it seemed. Zagurski, 30, spent most of the year bouncing between organizations before getting the call as an extra lefty late in the season. In his only appearance with the team, he faced three batters and allowed two runs. That appearance made him the franchise-record 56th player used by the Yankees in 2013. Let us never talk of this season again.
The Arizona Fall League season begins on Tuesday — the Yankees are sending seven players (roster), most notably OF Mason Williams, OF Tyler Austin, and LHP Vidal Nuno — while the various Caribbean winter leagues are still about a week away. Those rosters have not yet been released. Here’s a smattering of minor league notes for the time being:
- In a subscriber-only piece, Matt Eddy looked at the best defensive players in the minors at the four up-the-middle positions. OF Mason Williams ranked 12th (out of 20) among center fielders by Eddy’s method while OF Slade Heathcott was an honorable mention. C Gary Sanchez was eighth among catchers thanks in part to his 45.9% success rate at throwing out attempted base-stealers. He “receives 80 throwing grades [on the 20-80 scale] from some scouts.”
- LHP Mike Zagurski was removed from the 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, reports Andy McCullough. He refused the assignment and elected free agency. The Yankees have one open 40-man spot now. Zagurski, 30, spent most of the year in Triple-A but was actually with the team in September. He appeared in one game and allowed two runs.
- RHP Jim Miller, IF Alberto Gonzalez, and UTIL Brent Lillibridge all elected free agency, according to Eddy. None of the three were on the 40-man roster but they all played for the big league team at one point or another this summer. Gonzalez appeared in 13 games, the most of the bunch.
- The Yankees have re-signed C Jose Gil, RHP Diego Moreno, and LHP Francisco Rondon, among others, to minor league contracts, reports Eddy. They became minor league free agents after the season. Moreno came over in the A.J. Burnett trade and Rondon, while still fringy, is the best prospect of the bunch.
The Yankees have outrighted utility man Brent Lillibridge to Triple-A Scranton. He cleared waivers and accepted the assignment, so he’ll remain in the organization as a non-40-man roster player rather than become a free agent. Lillibridge had a few big hits during his short time with the Yankees, but otherwise he’s not much more than the 25th man on the roster despite being able to play all over the field. It’s nice that he’s sticking around in Triple-A just in case there’s another roster need at some point.
The Yankees made a series of roster moves this afternoon, so let’s recap:
- Derek Jeter has been placed on the 15-day DL with his Grade I calf strain. That makes three DL stints this year, or two fewer than the number of games he’s played. The Cap’n correctly said “whole season has been a nightmare” yesterday.
- Alex Rodriguez has been activated off the 60-day DL. Pretty amazing that he received the longest non-lifetime ban in MLB history this afternoon yet will make his season debut tonight. But I was told he would never play again.
- Brent Lillibridge has been designated for assignment to clear both a 25-man and 40-man roster spot for A-Rod. He somehow played eleven games and got 37 plate appearances (1 wRC+) in pinstripes. And yes, that’s a 1 wRC+.
- David Adams has been called up from Triple-A Scranton to help out the bench. He essentially replaces Jeter on the roster. Adams has yet to arrive and meet the team in Chicago, but I’m sure that will happen soon enough.
The Yankees have placed Derek Jeter on the 15-day DL with a Grade I right quad strain, the team announced. The move is retroactive to July 12th, so he can be activated one week from tomorrow. That doesn’t mean he will be healthy enough to return then, however. Utility man Brent Lillibridge has been recalled from Triple-A Scranton to fill the vacated roster spot.
Jeter, 39, went 1-for-4 with an infield single in his first and only game back from the left ankle fracture(s) last week. He hurt the quad running out a ground ball in his third at-bat and left after his fourth at-bat. The 29-year-old Lillibridge has hit .355/.425/.742 (209 wRC+) with seven homers in 22 games for Triple-A Scranton since being acquired from the Cubs in a minor trade last month. The Yankees will have to make a 40-man roster move to accommodate him. Corban Joseph is a 60-day DL candidate following season-ending shoulder surgery.
Watching the ninth inning unfold from the cozy confines of Section 420B last night was a surreal experience. Still smarting from Rafael Soriano‘s sub-par pitching, we watched Derek Jeter eke out a base hit, and the stadium turned alive. When Curtis Granderson, the team’s leading home run hitter, bunted, we all groaned, and after walks and pitching changes, Brent Lillibridge single-handedly saved the game for the White Sox twice.
After Lillibridge’s lucky diving catch of what I first assumed to be a game-winning double off the bat of Robinson Cano, I sat in my seat in stunned silence. For a regular season game in April, I was annoyed. No, I was mad. I was mad at Soriano for blowing yet another game in April for the Yanks. I was mad at Lillibridge, a guy who barely looks like he needs to shave, for making two great catches, and I was mad at the Yanks’ offense, suddenly quiet, for putting up no fight against Gavin Floyd and the White Sox.
As we all tend to do so in a one-run game lost on a dime, I wanted to blame someone. Rafael Soriano, of course, seemed like the natural scapegoat. Entrusted as the high-leverage Bridge to Mariano, Soriano needed to get three outs. The first one was a strike out, and it all unraveled from there. He hit Carlos Quentin, and then he gave up the world’s most obvious “here it comes” home run to Paul Konerko. Goat, I thought.
But it wasn’t just the home run that caused the Yanks to lose. After the ninth inning, Soriano still seemed to be the perfect scapegoat. Had he not hit Carlos Quentin, the White Sox would likely not have used Brent Lillibridge as a pinch runner, and Lillibridge, a middle infielder by trade, would not have been in a position to make those catches. With the fallacy of the predetermined outcome firmly in mind, I don’t think Quentin makes the catch one both of those bullets that should have won the game. Again, Soriano’s fault with a side of Lillibridge to blame. (But who can really blame someone for making those catches? Once the emotion settles, just tip your cap.)
So who was this Lillibridge punk that ruined what should have been a perfect inning capped with a Yankee comeback? He’s a 27-year-old middle infielder with a career 51 OPS+ in 317 plate appearances spanning part of four seasons. Tonight was his eighth appearance in right field, and after emerged as one of the Braves’ top prospects in 2008, he has yet to fulfill his potential. How he came to be on the White Sox will bring some mixture of joy and dread to Yankee fans’ hearts.
On December 4, 2008, Lillibridge, one season removed from being named Atlanta’s sixth best minor leaguer and a potential future lead-off hitter, found himself bound for Chicago in a multi-player deal. The youngster, along with Tyler Flowers and two minor leaguers went north in exchange for Boone Logan and Javier Vazquez. The rest, as we know, is history. The Braves traded Logan and Vazquez to the Yanks a year later in exchange for Michael Dunn, Melky Cabrera and Arodys Vizcaino, and Vazquez flamed out in New York.
Essentially, had Chicago not traded Vazquez to the Braves, Lillibridge wouldn’t have been on the White Sox. He wouldn’t have been in right field in the ninth inning, and he wouldn’t have robbed the Yanks of a pie-filled victory. It was simple: It was, as it always is, Javier Vazquez’s fault. While walking out of the stadium, I realized I could blame Javier Vazquez, and the loss seemed easier to take. I might have gone home an unhappy fan, but in the great game of finger-pointing, I was a satisfied camper. It was, is and always will be Javy’s fault.