Archive for CC Sabathia
After coming through yesterday’s flat ground throwing session a-okay, left-hander CC Sabathia told Sweeny Murti that he will get back up on a mound and throw a bullpen session tomorrow. It’ll be his first time throwing off a mound since being placed on the DL with elbow stiffness last weekend. Sabathia remains on target to return to the rotation next Friday in Cleveland, the first day he is eligible to be activated off the DL.
3:02pm: Sabathia told Dan Martin that he felt good following today’s throwing session and that he remains on track to start that August 24th game. “It felt really good,” he said. “I didn’t feel anything in the elbow, so I am confident. I’m just looking forward to pitching next Friday.” How he feels tomorrow is important as well, but so far so good.
11:30am: Via George King, left-hander CC Sabathia will throw off flat ground today for the first time since being placed on the DL with elbow stiffness over the weekend. “I have just been getting treatment,” he said when asked what he’s been doing in the meantime. Sabathia insists that he will be on the mound on August 24th against the Indians, the first day he is eligible to be activated, but throwing today is a significant step even if it’s not off a mound. Hopefully he comes through fine and can start working his way back in earnest.
There are very few things in baseball that you can consider guarantees, but CC Sabathia logging oodles of innings has been one of them for the last decade. The big left-hander has thrown at least 180 innings every season since his rookie campaign in 2001 and at least 230 innings every year since 2007. That doesn’t even count his 86 postseason innings either. That elite level of durability is one of the reasons why the Yankees made Sabathia the wealthiest pitcher in baseball history after the 2008 season.
This season has been a slightly different story, however. Sabathia is currently on the DL with elbow stiffness, his second DL stint of the season. The first was due to a groin strain that cost him the minimum 15 days. CC came into the season with just two career DL visits to his credit — oblique strains in 2005 and 2006 — but he’s already doubled that total with roughly eight weeks left in the schedule. A short-term groin strain isn’t that big of a deal, but the elbow problem is. Any arm-related injury is a big deal.
“After Seattle, I was (nervous),” said Sabathia the other day. “I woke up the next day and my arm was kind of swollen, and I didn’t have any range of motion. So I was really nervous, honestly. So we had the test, and once the MRI came back clean, I just knew it was something I’ll have to deal with. I know there’s nothing structurally wrong with my arm.”
No range of motion? That just sounds scary. Sabathia fought the team’s decision to place him on the DL and insists that he will be on the mound August 24th in Cleveland, the first day he is eligible to return. That’s all well and good, but he is at the mercy of his body. If his elbow keeps barking, he won’t be pitching. I have to think finding out that your ace pitcher who has thrown nearly 1,000 more pitches than any other pitcher since his rookie year doesn’t have range of motion in his elbow had to be terrifying for the front office, especially after giving him a five-year, $122M contract this past offseason.
In addition to the injuries, Sabathia’s performance this season is a notch below his usually high standard. His strikeout (8.89 K/9 and 23.5 K%), walk (2.22 BB/9 and 5.9 BB%) and ground ball (48.5%) rates are more than fine, but his 3.56 ERA is his highest since 2005. He’s given up a few more homers than usual (0.95 HR/9 and 12.1 HR/FB%) and isn’t stranding as many baserunners as he has in recent years (70.1 LOB%). Oddly enough, left-handed hitters have hit him harder this year (.314 wOBA) than they have at any point since 2006. Sabathia usually owns same-side hitters with his slider. A 3.56 ERA (3.32 FIP) is still really really good, but it’s not what we’re used to seeing from the big guy.
Sabathia turned 32 last month, so he’s starting to get into his decline years. It’s safe to say that his best seasons are behind him, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to fall off a cliff and be a disaster going forward. He might just be really good instead of dominant. This recent elbow injury is a concern because pitching is such an unnatural act and Sabathia’s career workload is enormous. He’s been an absolute rock ever since the Yankees signed him, taking the ball every five days during the regular season and every four days in the postseason without missing a beat, and they absolutely did the right thing by playing it safe and placing him on the DL. All that wear-and-tear is likely to manifest itself at some point though, and this season may be a sign that the time to pay the piper is on the horizon.
Update by Mike (5:31 p.m.): Just to be clear, Sabathia did have an MRI and everything came back clean according to Sweeny Murti. He’s on the DL retroactively, so the hope is that he’ll miss the minimum two starts.
Update by Joe (4:23 p.m.): Joe Girardi announced that Sabathia will go on the 15-day DL. He told reporters that the concern was “low level,” though it’s tough to imagine him saying anything more grave. Mark Feinsand tweets: “Sabathia has felt some minor stiffness the past couple starts. It hasn’t gotten worse but it hasn’t gotten better.” The idea is to make sure that he’s fresh and healthy for the stretch run. He can come off the DL August 23rd.
Via Mark Feinsand, left-hander CC Sabathia has experienced some minor soreness in his left elbow since his last start. He threw his regular bullpen session yesterday, though there is still a chance the team plays it safe and skips his next start. “Right now, it’s a low-level concern … Long-term, it’s not a big concern,” said Feinsand’s source.
The Yankees can downplay this all they want, but they obviously have to take a conservative approach here. Especially with such a comfortable lead in the division. Play it safe, please.
Baseball America published a feature looking at the best tools in the Major Leagues today (subs. req’d), polling managers and I believe other team officials in various categories. Robinson Cano was all over the American League rankings, placing second in Best Hitter (behind Miguel Cabrera), second in Most Exciting Player (behind Mike Trout), and first in Best Defensive Second Baseman. Joey Votto was named the Best Hitter in the NL, Andrew McCutchen the Most Exciting Player.
Mark Teixeira (tops in Best Defensive First Baseman), Andy Pettitte (tops in Best Pickoff Move), CC Sabathia (second in Best Slider to Chris Sale), and Derek Jeter (third in Best Hit-and-Run Artist behind Elvis Andrus and Erick Aybar) also cracked the rankings in various categories. The minor league edition of best tools will be out tomorrow.
McDonald was claimed off waivers from the Red Sox a little less than two weeks ago with the idea that he might help against Boston’s left-handed starters in the series prior to the All-Star break. That didn’t work out — he made outs in all four plate appearances in pinstripes — and his time with the club will probably be best remembered for contributing to Curtis Granderson‘s dropped fly ball in last Saturday’s game. Anyway, welcome back CC.
Other than Robinson Cano, left-hander CC Sabathia is pretty much the last guy on the roster you would expect to visit the disabled list. A left groin strain sent him to the sidelines for the first time in six years, but the Yankees will welcome their ace back this evening after a brief little two-week hiatus. He’s thrown a handful of bullpen sessions and one simulated game during the time off, and everything has checked out a-okay. No need for a minor league rehab start or anything like that.
“Hopefully I just don’t come back and mess it up,” joked Sabathia yesterday. “I’m going to throw until they tell me to stop. I feel good. My arm feels good. I haven’t felt (the groin strain) since the first week of the injury … I think the rest was good for my arm, even more so than my legs. I don’t think I’ll have any limitations on pitches. I’ll be ready to go.”
Joe Girardi indicated that he won’t run Sabathia out there for a typical Sabathia-length outing tonight even though he supposedly has no restrictions, so expect something like 100 pitches instead of 120. No reason not to play it safe at this point, especially with a big nine-game lead in the division. Command is the primary concern after a layoff like this and frankly CC has been battling his command all season anyway. Maybe the rest will do him some good in that department, that would be nice.
Sabathia only missed two starts thanks to the All-Star break and the Yankees split the two games — the Adam Warren disaster and a win behind David Phelps in Tampa — which is pretty much all you could realistically ask. In fact the Yankees went 12-6 while Sabathia was out and they stretched the division lead from three games to nine games because the rest of the team really clicked. Almost all of those games were played against division rivals too. Hooray for that.
There’s no good time to lose a pitcher like CC, but losing him for two starts sandwiched around the All-Star break with a big division lead is about as good as it gets. Brett Gardner and Andy Pettitte aren’t coming back anytime soon, but at least Sabathia will return tonight and that makes this team even more dangerous. Hopefully there’s no rust and if there is, he can shake it off in short order. The Yankees have the best record in baseball, and they’re about to get one of the best pitchers in the game back into their rotation.
The National League wrecked the American League on Tuesday night, winning the 2012 All-Star Game by the score of 8-0. Starter Justin Verlander gets most of the blame after allowing five runs before his teammates even got to hit in the first inning. Former Yankee Melky Cabrera took home the MVP Award thanks to his 2-for-3 showing. He hit a two-run homer off Matt Harrison. It was the NL’s third straight All-Star Game win.
As for the Yankees, captain Derek Jeter went 1-for-2 with an infield single off Matt Cain. Robinson Cano went 1-for-2 with a ground ball single up the middle (off Stephen Strasburg) and Curtis Granderson went 0-for-2 with a fly out and a ground out. All three started the game at their regular positions and played five innings in the field. CC Sabathia was selected to the game but did not pitch due to his groin strain. Cano left his good friend Melky hanging on the above high-five attempt following his homer, so that was pretty funny.
More importantly, the National League has clinched home field advantage in the World Series. That’s pretty unfortunate. The Yankees are legitimate contenders and should they make it to the Fall Classic, it would have been nice to both open the series as well as play a potential Game Seven at home in the Bronx. Oh well, they’ll just have to do it the hard way.
During the next few days we’ll take some time to review the first half of the season and look at which Yankees are meeting expectations, exceeding expectations, and falling short of expectations. What else is the All-Star break good for?
The Yankees head into the All-Star break with the best record in baseball at 52-33 despite having only played 14 games against teams with a losing record. I guess that’s what happens when all but three AL teams have a .500+ record, including every club in the AL East. Despite that win-loss record, the Yankees don’t seem to have clicked on all cylinders yet. The bullpen carried them in April, the rotation carried them in May and June, and the offense has shown flashes of being dominant but hasn’t really 100% clicked yet. That means there is still room for improvement. Here are the players who have been performing in line with preseason expectations…
At this time last year, the Cap’n was really just starting to get going. He hit a weak .270/.340/.370 in 2010 and was sitting on a .260/.324/.324 batting line when a calf injury forced him to the disabled list last June. The injury proved to be a blessing in disguise for Jeter, who worked with hitting coordinator Gary Denbo at staying back on the ball. He hit .331/.384/.447 after returning on Independence Day and he’s carried that success over into 2012.
Now, obviously the 38-year-old shortstop wasn’t going to hit that well all season, but Jeter has posted a rock solid .308/.354/.411 batting line in the first half this year. He had a huge April, a so-so May, and a poor June before picking things back up in early-July. Derek has already hit more homers this season (seven) than he did last season (six), and he’s on a similar stolen base pace (seven in nine chances so far). As you’d expect, most of his damage is coming against lefties (.381/.405/.552) but at least he’s putting up more of a fight against righties (.278/.333/.353) than he did in 2010 and the first half of 2011.
Curtis Granderson & Robinson Cano
The Yankees two best offensive players last year have continued to be just that in 2012. Cano is right in the mix for the AL MVP award at this point thanks to his .313/.378/.578 line and 20 homers, exactly what we’ve come to expect from Robbie over the last few years. He’s unquestionably the best player on the best team in baseball and is in the middle of a career year, both at the plate and in the field. Despite a slow start in April, Cano continues to be brilliant.
Granderson has shown that last season’s power spike was no fluke, carrying a team leading 23 dingers into the break. He ranks fourth in the AL in long balls and is just a touch behind last season’s pace, when he went deep 25 times in the team’s first 85 games. Granderson’s .248/.352/.502 batting line is second only to Cano in its gaudiness, and he’s currently walking in a career best 13.1% of his plate appearances, the eighth best walk rate in the league. His strikeout rate (25.9%, eighth in the AL) is also a career high, but you take the bad with the good. When Curtis stops hitting the ball out of the park and getting on-base, the whiffs will become more of an issue.
CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda & Ivan Nova
Given the uncertainty surrounding Phil Hughes, these three came into the season as the guys Joe Girardi would rely on for quality outings once every five days. Sabathia has battled his fastball command all season long but he still carries a 3.45 ERA and 3.21 FIP into the All-Star break. His strikeout (8.83 K/9 and 23.1 K%), walk (2.44 BB/9 and 6.4 BB%), and ground ball (49.8%) rates are right in line with last season, his best in New York. A minor groin strain landed Sabathia on the DL for the first time in pinstripes but he’s expected back right after the break.
Kuroda got tagged with the inconsistent label early on but has been a rock since late-April, allowing no more than two earned runs in ten of his last 14 starts. His 3.50 ERA is the 13th best in the junior circuit and the peripherals are solid as well: 4.07 FIP, 6.92 K/9 (18.4 K%), 2.67 BB/9 (7.1 BB%), and 47.4% grounders. Kuroda’s given the team exactly the kind of stability they expected when they signed him to that one-year, $10M pact last offseason.
Following last night’s grind-it-out win, Nova has already struck out more batters this season (100) than he did a year ago (98) in 55.1 fewer innings (232 fewer batters faced). An early-season bout of homeritis — 12 homers in his first nine starts but just five in his last eight — has his ERA at 3.92 (4.32 FIP), but that has been coming down steadily over the last two months. Nova is missing bats (8.16 K/9 and ), limiting walks (2.69 BB/9 ), getting ground balls (48.3%), and soaking up innings (110.1 IP, 11th in the AL). He’s taken a nice big step forward in his second full season.
Andruw Jones, Jayson Nix & Chris Stewart
The Yankees aren’t usually known for their bench players, but this season they’ve gotten some fantastic work out of their reserves. No one is having a truly awful year off the bench, especially after Andruw Jones clubbed four homers in the two-day span this weekend. He’s hitting .244/.326/.535 with 11 homers overall, including .253/.305/.529 with seven homers against lefties.
Nix took over once Eduardo Nunez‘s defense landed him back in Triple-A, and although his .221/.284/.412 line is nothing to write home about, he’s done most of his damage against lefties .256/.293/.436 in sort of a platoon/rest the regulars role. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by his defense, particularly at short. He’s not great, but he’s not an embarrassment. Offensive expectations for Stewart were so low that his empty .256/.276/.293 batting line feels like a win. His defense hasn’t been as great as advertised but overall, he’s a solid backup that has probably gotten a little too much playing time in the first half (has started 30% of the team’s games).
David Robertson, Boone Logan & Clay Rapada
The bullpen has continued to be a strength for the Yankees, just as it has been for the last three or four years now. They’ve pitched to a 3.20 ERA (3.37 FIP) as a unit, and it’s even more impressive when you consider that Mariano Rivera threw only 8.1 innings before blowing out his knee shagging fly balls in May. Robertson missed a month with an oblique strain but his strikeout (14.59 K/9 and 38.1 K%) and walk (4.38 BB/9 and 11.4 BB%) rates have actually been better than his breakout campaign a year ago. He’s run into more trouble than usual lately, but he wasn’t going to sustain what he did last year anyway. Robertson remains highly effective and one of the game’s most dominant late-inning relievers.
Logan stepped up in a huge way when Robertson hit the DL and the workload has been catching up to him of late; he’s pitched in 43 of the team’s 85 games, the most appearances in baseball. His 3.77 ERA (3.55 FIP) is backed up by a sky-high strikeout rate (11.90 K/9 and 30.6 K%) and he’s held left-handed hitters to a .235/.293/.397 batting line. His lefty specialist counterpart has been effective since being plucked off the scrap heap, as Rapada has held same-side hitters to a .150/.246/.217 line that is essentially identical to his .152/.250/.219 career performance. If anything, you can probably make a strong argument that he’s exceeded expectations, same with Nova, Cano, and Kuroda (considering the league switch).
The Yankees enjoy a much needed — for the bullpen, anyway — day off today before heading to Boston for a four-game set this weekend. They’ll play one tomorrow, two on Saturday, one on Sunday, then will have four days off for the All-Star break. Everyone will get to recharge the (physical and mental) batteries before getting into the dog days of summer and the stretch drive. The break gives everyone a rest and just as importantly, it gives the Yankees a chance to manipulate and optimize their roster in the short-term.
It seemed like a curious move at the time but the picture became clear once we had a second to sit back and think about it. The Yankees claimed outfielder Darnell McDonald off waivers from the Red Sox yesterday, adding a right-handed bat known for hitting lefties (career .345 wOBA vs. LHP) and capable of playing all three outfield spots. He’ll be in uniform at Fenway Park tomorrow.
The move wasn’t made to replace Dewayne Wise or Andruw Jones, the move was made to add McDonald to them. Although the team has not confirmed their plans, they’re almost certainly going to option David Phelps to the minors and roll with a five-man bench over the weekend. Phelps started yesterday and wasn’t scheduled to pitch this weekend, so the Yankees won’t miss him. With Boston scheduled to thrown three southpaws — Franklin Morales, Felix Doubront, and Jon Lester — in the four games this weekend, expect to see McDonald in left and Jones at DH with both Wise and Raul Ibanez available off the bench.
Once Phelps goes down he is ineligible to return for ten days, but that won’t be an issue since Sabathia is expected to come off the DL right after the break. The big left-hander played catch yesterday and will throw his first bullpen session since hitting the DL tomorrow, and so far all indications are that he’s a go once his 15 days up. Phelps will be able to continue to work as a starter in Triple-A, accumulating innings and threatening to take Freddy Garcia‘s roster spot.
The Yankees can push Sabathia back to the fifth game after the All-Star break, which is Tuesday the 17th. They play three games against the Angels and will likely see C.J. Wilson at some point, so McDonald should be useful for at least one game that series. They’ll then play the Blue Jays, who have three lefties — Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, and Aaron Laffey — in their rotation. Odds are in favor of them seeing one of those guys in the series opener, which McDonald could start before being released to clear a roster spot for Sabathia in the second game, getting the Yankees back to a 12-man pitching staff and four-man bench.
The 26th Man
Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Yankees (and Red Sox) will be allowed to carry a 26th man for both games on Saturday. It has to be the same player for both games and he must be sent back to the minors the next day. George King says the Yankees will bring back Cory Wade for the day, giving them seven available relievers on Saturday. Wade threw a perfect inning on nine pitches in his first Triple-A outing yesterday as he tries to get his location back to where it needs to be.
The Yankees will still have the option of swapping out a regular 25-man reliever between games if they want. Say Cody Eppley ends up throwing 30 pitches in the first game, they could then send him down before the second game for someone like Justin Thomas — who was going to be recalled prior to the Chad Qualls trade — for the nightcap. The third lefty reliever could come in hand against the Sox, but it also may be overkill. It is an option though, and I figure they’ll at least have an extra Triple-A arm waiting at the hotel in case they need to make a between-games move.
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These four games in three days against the Red Sox are happening in isolation, at least as much as any early-July series could happen in isolation. Both teams are off today and the All-Star break follows next week, so both clubs will be rested with the opportunity to manipulate their roster. It’s almost like a little playoff series, but between a first place team and a last place team. The Yankees added a right-handed bat to combat Boston’s three lefties and won’t have to worry about the pitching staff being short-handed this weekend, which is pretty sweet. There would also be something deliciously ironic about McDonald getting a big hit or two this weekend after Boston him cast him aside.