Yankeemetrics: Mediocrity at its finest [July 29-31]

(AP)
(AP)

Loss for #Yankees, Win for #TeamSell
With this weekend’s series against the Rays representing one final opportunity to convince the front office to keep the band together for a late-summer playoff push, the Yankees inched closer to declaring themselves sellers with another frustrating loss on Friday night.

All 10 of their hits were singles and they scored just one run in a 5-1 loss, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The the only other major-league team this season (through Friday) that had a game with double-digit hits, none for extra bases, and scored one or fewer runs was the Brewers in a 8-1 loss to the Phillies on June 5.

Ivan Nova — who had posted a 2.66 ERA in his previous four turns during a stellar month of July — was predictably horrendous in Tampa against the last-place Rays lineup, allowing five runs on six hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Tropicana Field has become a house of horrors for Nova. This was his first start at the dome since April 19, 2014, his final game before being diagnosed with a torn UCL that required Tommy John surgery. And he now owns a 7.03 ERA in seven appearances (six starts) at the ballpark, the highest among all active pitchers with at least two starts and 25 innings pitched there.

The Rays clobbered Nova, with five of the six hits he allowed going for extra bases. This continues a yearlong trend of tons of loud contact against Nova, who has given up an average exit velocity of 94.9 mph on line drives and fly balls, the second-highest mark in the majors (min. 100 batted balls).

Chad Green kept the Yankees within spitting distance as he relieved Nova in the fifth inning and went the distance, throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings. It was his third straight relief appearance with more than two innings pitched and no runs allowed. Green is just the second Yankee pitcher in the last two decades to put together a streak like that; Ramiro Mendoza had a three-gamer in 2001 and a four-gamer 2002.

You can’t spell ‘Sell’ without a couple ‘L’s’
Saturday’s deflating 6-3 defeat gave the Yankees two losses in two games to the last-place Rays, providing another layer of evidence that this team is not fit for October and needs a re-boot.

arod
(Getty)

The Yankees got off to another rocky start as Nathan Eovaldi surrendered a first-inning home run to Brad Miller, the 20th homer allowed by Yankee pitchers in the opening frame this season; through Saturday’s games, the only MLB teams that had allowed more first-inning dingers were the Twins and Royals, both with 22.

Eovaldi gave up a second homer to the Rays No. 9 hitter, catcher Curt Casali, giving him 21 homers allowed in 116 2/3 innings this year. That rate of 1.62 homers per nine innings is on pace to be the third-highest single-season mark by any Yankee qualifying pitcher, behind Phil Hughes (1.65 in 2012) and Terry Mulholland (1.79 in 1994).

Starting for the first time in a week, A-Rod did little to show management that he deserved more at-bats, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. It was the fourth game in his Yankee career that he came to the plate at least four times and struck out each time; only one other player in franchise history had four such games during their career: Mickey Mantle.

Drew Smyly, with a career strikeout rate of 24 percent (just a few ticks above the MLB average of 20 percent), is an unlikely candidate to be A-Rod’s personal kryptonite. But these are the facts: He has struck out in nine of 12 plate appearances (including playoffs) against Smyly, his highest whiff rate versus any of the 600-plus pitchers he’s faced more than five times in his 22-season career.

Just your average Yankees
On the same day the Yankees put the proverbial For Sale sign outside team headquarters in Tampa, they sunk deeper and deeper into the depths of mediocrity, losing to the Rays, 5-3.

They are now 52-52 this season, which includes a 44-44 record before the break, 8-8 after the break and a 13-13 mark in July. #TeamMediocre

It was their fifth time being swept this year, the same number they had in 2015 … with 58 games and two months remaining. And they’ve now scored no more than three runs in 55 of their 104 games, their highest total at this point in the season since 1972.

Michael Pineda once again delivered a maddeningly inconsistent performance, flashing dominance and looking strong at times (eight strikeouts), but ended up with disappointing results and a crooked final pitching line (five runs on six hits in six innings). It was his third game this season with at least eight punch outs and five earned runs allowed; no other American League pitcher has more than one such game.

Carlos Beltran put the Yankees on the board in the sixth inning with a two-run homer that sliced the Rays lead to 3-2. It was his his 22nd homer in 2016, matching Eddie Murray (1996) for the most by a switch-hitter in his age-39 season or older.

Game 95: The Poorly Timed Winning Streak

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees have won four straight games and seven of their last ten overall. That’s usually a really good thing, but when the team is facing critical decisions at the trade deadline and needs a little kick in the rear to go ahead and sell, a winning streak is bad. Not selling will do the Yankees more harm in the future than it will good in the present. Anyone disagree with that? I don’t think so.

Even with these seven wins in their last ten games, the Yankees have gained no ground in the wildcard race. Not one game. They have inched closer in the AL East race, but they have to catch the two wildcard teams (Orioles, Blue Jays) before catching the first place team (Red Sox), and they’ve made no progress on that front. I want the Yankees to win. I really do. I just have no confidence in them doing the smart thing and selling at the deadline if they continue this little hot streak. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. DH Alex Rodriguez
  8. 2B Starlin Castro
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

It is nice and sunny in New York today, so they’re going to be playing baseball under a bright blue sky at Yankee Stadium this afternoon. Today’s series finale is set to begin at 1:05pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Roster Move: Chad Green was called up and Nick Goody was sent down, the Yankees announced. Joe Girardi said Green is here to pitch in relief. I’m guessing that as long as he isn’t needed out of the bullpen today, Green will start tomorrow to give Masahiro Tanaka and everyone else an extra day of rest … Chase Headley (personal reasons) is obviously not in the starting lineup, but he will be at the ballpark today.

2016 Midseason Review: The Role Players

Now that the All-Star break has arrived, it’s time to review the first half of the season. We’ve already looked at the catchers, infielders, outfielders, bench, rotation, and bullpen. Now let’s tackle the role players.

Green. (Presswire)
Green. (Presswire)

As always, the Yankees have had to dip into their farm system for help at times this season. That’s mostly the result of injuries. Sometimes they called up a legitimate prospect and gave him a chance, like Rob Refsnyder, and other times they brought in a journeyman veteran to plug a short-term hole. Either way, they were all Yankees. Let’s review the spare parts.

Chad Green: The Sudden Sixth Starter

Over the winter the Yankees looked at their rotation and bullpen depth, and decided to rob Peter to pay Paul. They traded reliable setup man Justin Wilson to the Tigers for two Triple-A starters because they figured they had enough bullpen arms, but not nearly enough starters. Starters under control beyond 2017, especially.

One of those two Triple-A starters is Green, who has spent the majority of the season with Triple-A Scranton, where he’s been dominant. Detroit’s 11th round pick in 2013 currently leads the International League in ERA (1.54 ERA) and FIP (2.18), and that performance has earned him three big league starts. One went well. Two didn’t.

May 15th @ D’Backs: 4 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HR (MLB debut)
July 3rd @ Padres: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR
July 8th @ Indians: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 4 HR

Seven homers in 14.1 innings is really bad! Left-handed hitters have hit five of the seven homers, which makes sense because Green hasn’t really shown a reliable changeup yet. He did add a cutter while in Triple-A between his first and second starts, which is promising, though clearly the Indians had no trouble with it last week.

Green did throw one perfect relief inning with the Yankees in mid-June, so right now he has a career 7.04 ERA (7.09 FIP) in 15.1 innings. Surely he’s looking to improve those numbers, and my guess is he’ll get multiple chances to do so in the second half. Green seems to have climbed to sixth in the rotation depth chart, ahead of Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino. How about that?

Second Half Outlook: If the Yankees do sell at the deadline, I could see them giving Green an extended look as a starter in the second half. There’s really no reason to keep running impending free agent Ivan Nova out there in the second half if they’re out of the race. More than likely Green will go up and down a few more times and be the team’s sixth starter, giving the regular rotation members extra rest.

Nick Goody: The Last Shuttle Reliever Standing

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees opened Spring Training with a small army of Triple-A relievers ready to go up and down as needed. We saw it last year. It seemed like one or two of them would be given an extended look at some point this season, but that hasn’t been able to happen. They’ve almost all gotten hurt. The list:

The hope was one or two of those guys would step up and become a permanent piece of the bullpen. Instead, they’ve combined for one big league inning (by Pinder) this season. Baseball, man.

Goody is the last young shuttle reliever standing. He started the season in Triple-A but has had a few stints with the big league team, throwing a total of 22 innings across 19 games. Goody has a 4.91 ERA (4.59 FIP) in those 22 innings, and he’s been alarmingly home run prone (2.05 HR/9). His strikeout (27.4%) and walk (5.3%) numbers are great! But there’s more to life than that. Not a good year to be a young reliever with the Yankees.

Second Half Outlook: Goody is actually on the big league roster right now. He was called up when Green was sent down following his start in Cleveland. Something tells me Goody is going to end up back in Scranton at some point. Then back in New York. Then Scranton. Then New York. You get the point. He’s the very definition of a spare up-and-down arm.

Plans E & F at First Base

At one point in the first half the Yankees had their Plan A (Mark Teixeira), Plan B (Greg Bird), and Plan C (Dustin Ackley) first basemen on the DL. Plan D turned out to be Refsnyder, who basically had an afternoon of prep work at the position before being thrown into game action. The Yankees didn’t want to overwhelm Refsnyder, so a few days after Teixeira’s injury, they called up Plan E: Chris Parmelee.

The Yankees signed Parmelee over the winter after Bird got hurt. He hit .252/.343/.444 (128 wRC+) with seven homers in 43 games with Triple-A Scranton — Parmelee thoroughly outhit Nick Swisher with the RailRiders — before being called up. In his first game in pinstripes, Parmelee went 3-for-4 with a double and two homers. For real! Check it out:

The very next night Parmelee singled in a run in the fifth inning to tie the game against the Angels. No one expected Parmelee to keep hitting like that, but hey, he gave the team a nice little shot in the arm. You need those out-of-nowhere contributions to contend.

The Yankees are not allowed to have nice things though. A few innings after that game-tying single, Parmelee popped his hamstring while stretching for a throw at first base. He suffered a Grade II strain and will be out two months or so. Just like that, Refsnyder was the first baseman again. Plans A, B, C, and E at first base were hurt.

To replace Parmelee, the Yankees signed Ike Davis (Plan F) after he opted out of his minor league deal with the Rangers, and he didn’t even go to Scranton. The Yankees added him to the MLB roster right away. Davis appeared in eight games with the Yankees, went 3-for-14 (.214), then was designated for assignment when Teixeira came off the DL. Davis is currently with Scranton waiting for Teixeira’s next injury.

Second Half Outlook: Parmelee was slated to begin baseball activities a week or two ago and is still a few weeks from returning. The Yankees don’t really have anywhere to play him right now, not unless they trade Teixeira or Carlos Beltran at the deadline. Neither Parmelee nor Davis have much of a role with the Yankees going forward. They’re just injury fill-ins. Parmelee had a memorable moment in pinstripes. Davis … not so much.

The Up & (Mostly) Downers

Johnny B. (Elsa/Getty)
Johnny B. (Presswire)

There are still nine players who played for the Yankees this season that we have not yet covered as part of this crash course midseason review. Let’s wrap up the big league portion of the midseason review with one sentence on each of those nine players. Sound good? Good.

  • RHP Johnny Barbato: For a while it looked like Barbato would stick as a middle reliever, but the bloom came off the rose and he’s now in Scranton.
  • LHP Richard Bleier: The 29-year-old rookie has not only appeared in ten games with the Yankees, he’s still on the roster!
  • LHP Phil Coke: Sure, why the hell not?
  • RHP Luis Cessa: Cessa made the Opening Day roster and keeps going back and forth between big league reliever and Triple-A starter.
  • OF Ben Gamel: His hair is pretty great and pushes the limits of team regulations.
  • RHP Conor Mullee: The three-time major elbow surgery guy got affordable health care for life this year, so that’s cool.
  • LHP Tyler Olson: Olson appeared in one game with the Yankees, then was lost on waivers.
  • C Gary Sanchez: “Hey, Gary, we’re going to call you up for a game and make you face Chris Sale, sound good?”
  • RHP Anthony Swarzak: It’s literally Anthony Swarzak.

Second Half Outlook: Sanchez definitely has a future with the Yankees. He’s the long-term plan behind the plate. Barbato, Cessa, Gamel, and Mullee might have roles with the team going forward too. We’ll see them again in September, if not earlier. Everyone else? They’ll be gone soon enough.

Yankeemetrics: Escape from The Jake [July 7-10]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Derek and Didi
Thursday’s game in Cleveland not only marked the Yankees’ final series before the All-Star break, but was also the start of a crucial, season-defining 14-game gauntlet against the AL’s cream of the crop: three first-place squads (Indians, Orioles, Rangers) and a wild-card team (Red Sox).

If their performance over the next few weeks is going to dictate whether they declare themselves as contenders or pretenders in this year’s playoff race, then at least the Yankees began this critical stretch with a bang.

Despite this matchup looking like a complete mismatch on paper — the AL’s best pitching staff (3.61 ERA entering Thursday) versus the AL’s second-least productive offense (.707 OPS entering Thursday) — the Yankees somehow rallied from an early deficit and held off a late comeback bid by the Indians to escape with a 5-4 win.

Didi Gregorius sparked the rally in the fifth inning with his 10th homer of the season, setting a new career-high and further cementing himself potentially as the team’s next superstar infielder. The list of Yankee shortstops (guys who played at least 75 percent of games at the position) to hit double-digit homers before the All-Star break is a short one: Derek Jeter (six times), Roy Smalley (1983), Frankie Crosetti (1936) … and now Sir Didi.

Hanging Chad
In a season filled with inconsistency, it was only fitting that the Yankees failed to build any momentum following their exciting win on Thursday and were clobbered by the Indians the next night, 10-2.

The game was essentially over after the first inning as Cleveland battered Chad Green for three homers and four runs before he could even get three outs. Carlos Santana led off the game with a homer to right field, and then three pitches later Jason Kipnis took Green deep to put the Yankees in an early 2-0 hole.

(AP)
(AP)

Green became just the fourth Yankee pitcher in the last 75 years to give up back-to-back homers to start a game. The last guy to do it was Hiroki Kuroda on Sept. 25, 2014 vs. the Orioles, and the others were Ted Lilly (June 6, 2001 vs. Orioles) and Catfish Hunter (June 17, 1977 vs. Red Sox).

The Indians weren’t done crushing Green’s batting practice fastballs, though. Lonnie Chisenhall went yard later in the first inning, giving Green the honor of being the sixth Yankee since 1930 to allow three homers in the first inning of a game. The rest of this illustrious list: A.J. Burnett (2010), Ron Guidry (1987), Catfish Hunter (same as above), Wade Blasingame (1972) and Hank Johnson (1932).

And Mike Napoli put an exclamation point on Green’s miserable night when he smoked a 3-2 pitch to deep left center field that nearly hit the scoreboard. It traveled 459.6 feet per Statcast, the second-longest home run allowed by a Yankee pitcher since 2008 (when Statcast began measuring batted ball distance).

Green’s final line was seven runs, five hits and four homers allowed in 4 1/3 innings. The last Yankee to surrender at least four homers against the Indians was Scott Sanderson on April 17, 1992, and the last guy to do that in Cleveland was Dennis Rasmussen in 1987.

(AP)
(AP)

Extra, extra
For the second time in three games the Yankees rallied to beat the Indians, 7-6 in 11 innings, stealing another thrilling victory on Saturday afternoon against the AL’s second-best team.

It was the Yankees’ first extra-inning win of the season, making this the latest into the season by date that the Yankees recorded their first win in extras since 1940, when they didn’t get one until July 17 … also against the Indians.

Brian McCann ripped the game-winning hit in the decisive frame with a booming RBI double off the wall in right field to break a 6-6 tie. He earned our ridiculous #Funfact Yankeemetric of the series: The last Yankee catcher with a extra-inning, go-ahead hit in Cleveland was Elston Howard, who belted a tie-breaking solo homer in the 11th inning off Luis Tiant on Sept. 23, 1964 in a 4-3 Yankees win.

Brett Gardner capped off the Yankees second rally of the game with a go-ahead, bases-clearing triple in the sixth inning to stake the Yankees to a brief 6-5 lead. Gardner entered the game with just 10 RBI in 60 at-bats with runners in scoring position this season; his rate of one RBI every six at-bats with RISP was the worst among the 199 players that had at least 50 at-bats with a man on second and/or third heading into the weekend.

Hey there, .500
The Yankees will head into the All-Star break on a winning note, riding the momentum of an impressive — and improbable — series win over the AL Central-leading Indians. By taking of three of four against one of the best teams in the league, the Yankees improved to 44-44, a fitting mark at the mid-point given that they’ve danced around the .500 mark for much of the season.

(AP)
(AP)

This is the 24th straight year the Yankees will enter the second half of the season with a .500 or better record, dating back to 1993. In that span no other team has even posted 20 non-losing first-half seasons, with the Cardinals, Braves and Red Sox each at 19.

Carlos Beltran was undoubtedly the Yankees’ first-half MVP, thanks to his tremendous power and consistency at the plate, leading the team in homers, doubles, RBI, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. He is just the second Yankee in his age-39 season or older to finish the first half with a slugging percentage of .550 or better. The other was Babe Ruth, who slugged .562 before the break in 1934.

Andrew Miller has been arguably the most valuable pitcher on the Yankees staff thus far, featuring video game-like stats that haven’t been duplicated by anybody before this year. He is the only player in major-league history to pitch at least 35 innings in the first half and post an ERA below 1.50, a strikeout rate of at least 15.0 per nine innings and a WHIP below 1.00.

Game 87: Sabathia back in Cleveland

(Getty)
This was a long, long time ago. (Getty)

CC Sabathia spent the first seven and a half seasons of his career with the Indians. He won his Cy Young in Cleveland, went to three All-Star Games as an Indian, and led the club to two postseason appearances. And, when they traded him, Sabathia netted the Indians their best all-around hitter, Michael Brantley. The Sabathia era in Cleveland was a rousing success.

Sabathia has now spent the last seven and a half seasons of his career with the Yankees. He hasn’t won a Cy Young award in pinstripes, but he’s finished in the top four of the voting three times, plus he has a World Series ring and three more All-Star selections. The last few years haven’t been pretty. Overall though, Sabathia’s stint in New York has been a huge success. He’s been one of the best free agent signings in team history.

Sabathia returns to Cleveland to start against his former team this afternoon, something he’s done a bunch of times over the years. Since joining the Yankees, CC has started five games at Progressive Field, and in those starts he has a 2.10 ERA in 33.1 innings. Of course, four of those five starts came from 2009-12, back when he was still an ace. Despite his overall strong performance this year, Sabathia is long removed from his days as a No. 1 guy. Anyway, here is the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 1B Rob Refsnyder
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    LHP CC Sabathia

Pretty nice weather day in Cleveland, according to the internet. It’s sunny with temperatures in the upper-70s. Good afternoon for a game. This afternoon’s game will begin at 4:10pm ET and you can watch on FOX Sports 1. Yes, FOX Sports 1. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: As expected, Chad Green was send down and Nick Goody was called up, the Yankees announced. Green told Chad Jennings he will start the first game after the All-Star break for Triple-A Scranton next Thursday. That means a) he won’t pitch in the Triple-A All-Star Game next Wednesday, and b) he’ll still be in line to start the fifth game of the second half for the big league team.

Rotation Update: Michael Pineda, Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka will start the first three games after the All-Star break in that order. They’ll face the Red Sox in a three-game series at home.

Chad Green and optimizing the pitching staff around the All-Star break

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Later tonight, rookie right-hander Chad Green will make his second straight start and third overall for the Yankees. His first start back in May — his MLB debut — didn’t go so well. Over the weekend Green rebounded to hold the Padres to one run on three hits in six innings of work. He fanned eight. That start combined with Nathan Eovaldi‘s recent struggles earned Green another start.

Tonight will be Green’s last start for a while simply because the All-Star break is next week. The Yankees will be off from Monday through Thursday, then they figure to go with their veterans arms right out of the gate to start the second half. That leaves Green somewhere in rotation limbo, which stinks for him because he wants to pitch, but it also presents an opportunity for the Yankees to maximize their pitching staff in the short-term.

In a nutshell, the Yankees can take advantage of the All-Star break by sending Green to Triple-A and calling up an extra reliever. It’s pretty simply, really. Green starts tonight, goes down tomorrow in favor of a fresh reliever, then comes back up sometime after the break. Here’s why it works.

1. Green won’t actually miss a start. As I said the other day, Green should get an extended look in the rotation because he’s pitched well in Triple-A, he pitched well Sunday, and he added a new pitch (cutter) in recent weeks. The guy did everything he had to do to earn a longer look. Green has a chance to be part of the rotation long-term — an ace? no, but a mid-to-back-end guy? sure — and the Yankees should give him a chance to show he belongs.

The ten-day rule — once a player is sent down, he has to wait ten days before being called back up (unless there’s an injury) — complicates things but it is not a deal-breaker. The Yankees could send Green down tomorrow and bring him back in ten days to make a start without any problem. Here’s a rough pitching schedule:

Friday, July 8th: Green starts @ Indians
Saturday, July 9th: CC Sabathia starts @ Indians (Green sent down, day one of ten)
Sunday, July 10th: Masahiro Tanaka starts @ Indians (day two of ten for Green)
Monday, July 11th: All-Star break (day three of ten)
Tuesday, July 12th: All-Star break (day four of ten)
Wednesday, July 13th: All-Star break (day five of ten)
Thursday, July 14th: All-Star break (day six of ten)
Friday, July 15th: Sabathia starts vs. Red Sox (day seven of ten)
Saturday, July 16th: Tanaka starts vs. Red Sox (day eight of ten)
Sunday, July 17th: Michael Pineda starts vs. Red Sox (day nine of ten)
Monday, July 18th: Nova starts vs. Orioles (day ten of ten)
Tuesday, July 19th: Green returns to start vs. Orioles

See? Nice and easy. The Yankees have the option of starting their four veterans in any order from the 15th to the 18th — I assume they’ll want to give Tanaka an extra day, so he probably won’t start the 15th — before bringing Green back to start the fifth game of the second half. Eovaldi could also be a factor here too. He could start in place of Nova or start on the 19th with Green’s return waiting one extra day until the 20th.

Point is, the Yankees have some options with how they can line up their rotation after the All-Star break. Every team does. The break is a chance to step back, catch your breath, and get your pitching in order. Everyone gets a nice breather. The All-Star break gives the Yankees the opportunity to send Green down and have him make his next start while dancing around the ten-day rule.

2. An eighth reliever is better than an unavailable starter. Once Green starts tonight, he’s won’t be able to pitch for a few days. That’s just the way it goes. Sending Green down allows the Yankees to bring up an extra reliever, who for all we know may not even be used this weekend. You never know though. Blowouts and extra innings happen. You’d rather have the extra reliever and not need him than need him and not have him.

Keep in mind this extends beyond the weekend. The Yankees would be able to carry this eighth reliever until Green returns after the All-Star break. The extra reliever would be available for two games this weekend plus another four games to start the second half. The high-scoring Red Sox are coming to the Bronx next weekend too. They can score runs in a hurry and having the extra arm could come in handy. Same with the first game of the Orioles series.

3. Who could the Yankees call up to temporarily replace Green? Almost anyone. Kirby Yates and Nick Goody are eligible to be recalled because their ten days will be up. There’s also Johnny Barbato, and heck, even Luis Severino. I wouldn’t count on Severino though. The only guy they couldn’t call up is Luis Cessa, who was just sent down Tuesday. Otherwise pretty much everyone is fair game. Finding a spare reliever for a few days won’t be a problem.

4. What does Green do in the meantime? Good question with a good-ish answer: he gets to play in the Triple-A All-Star Game. Would Green rather be on the MLB roster collecting service time and big league salary? Of course. But this is the life of a rookie with a few days in a show. You go up and down a few times until you’ve established yourself as one of the 25 best players in the organization.

Green was indeed selected to the Triple-A All-Star Game along with RailRiders teammates Aaron Judge, Ben Gamel, and Gary Sanchez. The All-Star Game is Wednesday in Charlotte, so Green lines up perfectly to pitch that day. In fact, he should start for the International League. He still leads the league in ERA (1.54) and FIP (2.17), after all. The temporary demotion gives Green the opportunity to pitch in the Triple-A All-Star Game, which would double as a tune-up appearance to help him stay sharp before coming back in a few days.

* * *

I don’t know about you, but this seems like a completely obvious move to me. So obvious that I don’t expect it to happen. The Yankees have had chances to pull similar roster maneuvers in recent years but declined to do so. I do think there’s something to be said for keeping Green on the roster through the All-Star break to let him know he is a big league player. Positive reinforcement like that can do wonders for a player’s confidence. (Scott Boras just ripped the Brewers for making a move like this with Zach Davies.)

In the cold and heartless “baseball players are robots, not human beings with thoughts and emotions” world, sending Green down for a spare reliever following tonight’s start is a perfectly sensible move. Being demoted is never fun, especially when it’s undeserved, but it does happen. The weirdness of the All-Star break and Green’s flexibility (read: ability to be sent to the minors without going through waivers) give the Yankees the option of beefing up their bullpen these next few games without having the young righty miss a start.

Chad Green is worth a longer look in the Yankees’ rotation

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Thanks to CC Sabathia‘s balky knee, rookie right-hander Chad Green was called up to make a spot start for the Yankees over the weekend. The team didn’t want Sabathia hitting and running the bases in San Diego, so they called up Green and pushed everyone else in the rotation back a day. They like to use a spot sixth starter whenever possible and Sunday was a perfect time to do it.

Green rewarded the club’s faith in him by holding the Padres to one run on three hits and no walks in six innings. He struck out eight and generated a healthy eleven swings and misses out of 75 total pitches. Green could have remained in the game to pitch the seventh, but his lineup spot led off the inning, so Joe Girardi opted to pinch-hit and try to create some more offense with his team up only 2-1. Makes sense. Blame the NL, I guess.

Sunday’s start went far better than Green’s first start with the Yankees, when the Diamondbacks hammered him for six runs (four earned) in four innings back in May. That was his MLB debut and he looked jittery at times, which is understandable. He’s not the first guy to struggle his big league debut. Green shook that rough debut off, pitched well Sunday, and earned himself another start Friday.

“Compared to my last start, it was different. From the first inning on, it just felt like another game. As soon as I got the first pitch out of the way, I felt a lot better after that,” said Green to Randy Miller. Joe Girardi declined to say whether Green is in the rotation for good yesterday — “Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves,” he said to Chad Jennings — but he’s going to start again Friday and clearly the opportunity exists to stick a while. There are plenty of reasons to keep Green in the rotation too.

1. He dominated in Triple-A. This is sort of a prerequisite for a call-up. Unless it’s an emergency situation, you have to pitch well in Triple-A to earn a promotion, and Green did exactly that. He currently leads all qualified International League pitchers in both ERA (1.54) and FIP (2.17), and by decent margins too. Wade LeBlanc is second in both categories (1.71 ERA and 2.47 FIP). Being great in the minors doesn’t guarantee big league success or even a big league roster spot, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Green took care of business in Triple-A. He made the Yankees take notice.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

2. He’s added a cutter. During his debut against the D’Backs, Green struggled against Arizona’s left-handed hitters because he doesn’t have much of a changeup. He was out there with his fastball and slider only. On Sunday, he showed off a new cutter that he picked up in Triple-A to help combat batters of the opposite hand.

“From my last outing, I added a cutter. I’ve been working on that the past couple of weeks. I think that made a big difference, being able to throw that for strikes,” he said to Miller. Green threw 17 cutters (12 for strikes) on Sunday after throwing zero cutters in his first start. (He threw zero in his first start because he didn’t have the cutter at the time.)

How about that? Green came up, realized he needed something to better handle lefties, then added a cutter. Player development in action. Green has shown the ability to make adjustments and take to instruction in a relatively short amount of time. That’s a reason to keep him around. To keep learning and to continue his development.

3. It’s time to start thinking about the future. This is the big one. By all accounts Green is big league ready. He has good stuff, his command is solid, and he did what he had to do in Triple-A. The Yankees exist in a perpetual state of “what’s best for me right now,” but that’s going to have to change at some point reasonably soon, preferably before the trade deadline in a few weeks.

Not counting Green, the Yankees have five starters in their rotation eligible to become free agents at some point in the next two years. They’ve been trying to acquire a young starter controllable beyond next year for that reason, and you know what? They may have done that with Green. Unless he starts getting hammered every fifth day, the Yankees owe it to themselves to run him out there and see what they have. Green might be able to help them win now. More importantly, he might be able to help him win in the future.

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Friday’s start is going to be a really good test for Green. He’s going to face the first place Indians, a team with a good offense and a ton of quality left-handed batters. The only lefties in San Diego’s lineup Sunday were Yangervis Solarte, Alex Dickerson, and Ryan friggin’ Schimpf. The Indians figure to have Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor, and Lonnie Chisenhall in their lineup Friday, among others. Those guys are all quality hitters.

The All-Star break is coming up next week, so the Yankees can let Green make this start Friday, then take a step back next week and reevaluate their rotation options. Nathan Eovaldi is in the bullpen right now, Ivan Nova has not been good most of the year, and who knows what Michael Pineda will do from one start to the next. Even if Cleveland works him over Friday, there are still reasons to keep Green in the rotation going forward. He’s put himself in position to earn a longer look for a team in desperate need of young building blocks.