Game 131: Tanaka Tuesday

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The last two games have thrown a wrench into the Yankees’ plans to get back into the postseason race, though at least tonight they have their best starter on the mound. And their best relievers are well-rested too. With any luck, the Yankees will only have to use two pitchers this evening. Here is the Royals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Brian McCann
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Now, the bad news: it’s been raining in Kansas City. The forecast says there will be scattered thunderstorms for most of the evening as well. It’s not supposed to dry up until 10pm ET or so. We might be in for a delay, but hopefully not. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 8:15pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Roster Move: The Yankees have called up Chasen Shreve, the team announced. Kirby Yates was sent down to rookie Pulaski to make room on the roster. Pulaski’s season ends Thursday, so the Yankees will be able to call Yates back up Friday and circumvent the ten-day rule. Rosters expand Thursday.

Sorting through the Yankees’ long list of September call-up candidates

No Al this September. Only Ref. (Greg Fiume/Getty)
No Al this September. Only Ref. (Greg Fiume/Getty)

One week from tomorrow all 30 clubs will be able to expand their active rosters and carry up to 40 players. Most clubs carry fewer than 40 players once rosters expand, and that’s their choice. Roster size is not an unfair advantage if one team calls up ten extra players and another only calls up three. That’s long been a pet peeve of mine, calling September call-ups unfair. As long as everyone plays by the same rules, it’s fair.

Anyway, the Yankees have been one of the most aggressive teams when it comes to expanding their roster in recent Septembers. Last season they called up eight players on September 1st. Eight! I’m not sure we’ll see a first wave of call-ups that large again, but you can be sure the Yankees will add some extra arms and position players on the first day possible. They always do and there’s no reason not to. Let’s run down this year’s September call-up candidates.

The Locks

Generally speaking, the first wave of call-ups are players who have been up-and-down a bunch of times throughout the season and are still on the 40-man roster. That means Nick Goody, Richard Bleier, Chasen Shreve, and Rob Refsnyder are safe bets to come up on September 1st. Ditto Ben Gamel, though he hasn’t spent as much time on the big league roster this year as those other guys.

The Yankees are already carrying three catchers, so those five guys above may be the only players called up right away on September 1st. That would give the Yankees three extra bullpen arms — Bleier is working out of the Triple-A Scranton rotation at the moment, so he’d give the club a long man, which they lack right now — plus an extra infielder and an extra outfielder. That covers all the bases on the first day of expanded rosters.

The Maybes

By maybes, I mean players who may not be called up right away on September 1st. They’ll have to wait a few extra days or weeks for whatever reason, usually because the Yankees want them to work on things in Triple-A. This group of players includes Johnny Barbato, Ben Heller, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino, and Mason Williams. All five of those guys are on the 40-man roster. Here’s why they’re a maybe and not a lock for an instant September 1st call-up:

  • Barbato: Barbato started the season in the big league bullpen but has spent much of the year in Triple-A, where his control has been an issue. He was up briefly earlier this month and did not retire any of the four batters he faced. The Yankees could keep Barbato down a little longer so he can continue to working on his location.
  • Heller: Acquired in the Andrew Miller trade, Heller was actually up with the Yankees for a few days earlier this month, though he did not appear in a game. Heller has pitched well and is fairly new to Triple-A, though as a reliever, that’s not a big deal. I think the odds are better than 50/50 that he will be called up on September 1st, but it’s definitely not set in stone.
  • Mitchell: Blah. Mitchell pitched so well in Spring Training and looked poised to assume a big role in the bullpen, then he broke his toe covering first base and has missed pretty much the entire season. Mitchell is on a rehab assignment right now, and while that might be enough to get him ready for game action, the Yankees could send him to Triple-A for more consistent work rather than let him sit in the bullpen unused for long stretches of time.
  • Severino: No, I don’t think Severino is a lock for a September 1st call-up. The Yankees sent him to Triple-A with clear instructions to work on his changeup and so far he’s made one start since being sent down. He’ll make two more before September 1st. Hey, maybe that’s enough to make the team believe Severino trusts and will use his changeup, but I’m not sure I buy it. He might be down there a little while longer.
  • Williams: Williams missed most of the first half of the season following shoulder surgery, though he did return about a month ago and has been playing regularly. More time in Triple-A to make up for the lost at-bats seems like a smart move. Williams won’t get at-bats sitting on the MLB bench. Remember, the Yankees kept Slade Heathcott down much of September last year so he could play everyday following his quad injury. Doing the same with Williams makes sense.

Triple-A Scranton has the best record in all of Triple-A baseball and will clinch a postseason spot fairly soon. Likely before the end of the weekend. That means extra at-bats for Williams and extra starts for Severino and Mitchell. Those playoff games are valuable. They give Severino time to work on his changeup and Williams and Mitchell a chance to play following their injuries. Those guys don’t figure to play much in the big leagues if they get called up on September 1st. Keeping them down is an opportunity to continue their development.

The Rule 5 Draft Guys

Mateo. (Presswire)
Mateo. (Presswire)

The Yankees have already gotten a head start on their Rule 5 Draft protection work by calling up Heller, Tyler Austin, and Aaron Judge. They still have many other players who need to be protected, but remember, those decisions don’t have to be finalized until late-November. Calling a player up in September isn’t necessary to avoid the Rule 5 Draft. Teams will sometimes call players up in September if they’re planning to add them to the 40-man after the season, just get their feet wet in the show.

We can drop the Rule 5 Draft eligible players into three buckets: definitely going to be protected, possibly going to be protected, and not going to be protected. Usually only the “definitely going to be protected” guys get the early September call-up, and even then it’s not a given. Space on the 40-man roster can get tight. Let’s go ahead and drop the Rule 5 eligible players into those three buckets:

* Higashioka and Culver are not only Rule 5 Draft eligible, they’ll become minor league free agents after the season if they aren’t added to the 40-man roster.

My hunch is the Yankees will protect Higashioka, Enns, and Webb in addition to Andujar and Mateo after the season. That means Cave, Gallegos, Lail, and everyone else will be left exposed. Cave was a Rule 5 Draft pick last year, and if he gets popped again, he’ll be able to elect free agency rather than come back to the Yankees if he doesn’t stick. I don’t think that’s reason enough to keep him. Not with Gamel and Williams already on the 40-man.

Okay, so with that in mind, the question now becomes: why should these players be called up in September? Mateo’s speed could allow him to be the pinch-runner specialist. Then again, he was suspended for violating team rules not that long ago, and would the Yankees really reward him with a September call-up after that? Eh. I see no reason whatsoever to call up Andujar or Higashioka. Fourth string catchers and third basemen are not necessary. Those guys can wait until the offseason to be added to the 40-man roster.

That leaves Enns and Webb, two lefty pitchers. There’s always room for more pitching in September, so call-ups are possible, and in fact I think they’ll happen. Maybe not until after the Triple-A postseason, but eventually. Webb’s a pure reliever who could audition for a 2017 bullpen spot a la Phil Coke in September 2008. Enns has starter stuff and it I’m interested to see whether the Yankees give him a start in September. (Probably not.) I’m sure they’re looking forward to using a sixth starter on occasion next month, though Severino may be next on the depth chart.

Webb. (Presswire)
Webb. (Presswire)

The Others

Who are the others? The non-40-man veterans in Triple-A. Chris Parmelee, for example. He was up earlier this season before getting hurt, and in fact he had a two-homer game with the Yankees. That was neat. Do the Yankees really need another first baseman with Austin, Refsnyder, and Mark Teixeira on the September roster? Not really. But maybe they’ll throw Parmelee a bone.

Other others include Donovan Solano, a utility infielder having a real nice season in Triple-A, and Cesar Puello, a former top Mets prospect who is having a productive season with the RailRiders after dealing with a back injury last year. Coke was up earlier this season and is still in Triple-A. Actual prospects like Clint Frazier, Jordan Montgomery, and Jonathan Holder are in Triple-A but are not yet Rule 5 Draft eligible, so don’t expect them to get called up in September. It’s one thing to call someone up a month before they need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft. It another to do it a year early.

My guess is none of these others get called up September. The Yankees have more appealing options at their positions and there’s just not enough 40-man roster space to go around. Those guys will play in the Triple-A postseason and either go home once the playoffs are over, or head to Tampa to stay sharp in case there’s an injury and they’re needed at the MLB level. That’s pretty standard for these types of players in September.

The 40-Man Roster Situation

Alright, so after all of that, my sure to be wrong prediction is the Yankees will call up 12 extra players in September. The 12:

  • Up on September 1st (5): Bleier, Gamel, Goody, Refsnyder, Shreve.
  • Up later in September (7): Barbato, Enns, Heller, Mitchell, Severino, Williams, Webb.

All but Enns, Mitchell, and Webb are on the 40-man roster, so the Yankees will have to clear three spots. They can slide Nathan Eovaldi to the 60-day DL to clear one 40-man spot. That’s easy. Righty J.R. Graham, who has amazingly managed to remain on the 40-man roster since coming over in a minor trade with the Twins in mid-May, is an obvious candidate to be designated for assignment. That’s the second 40-man spot.

The Yankees can go a few different ways for that final 40-man spot. They could designate someone else for assignment, maybe Anthony Swarzak or James Pazos. I don’t think that’ll happen though. In fact, Pazos is probably going to be called up in September, so it’s really 13 call-ups, not 12. I suppose someone like Bleier or Blake Parker could be cut loose next month, or even Tommy Layne. There is some dead weight here.

Swarzak. (Elsa/Getty)
Swarzak. (Elsa/Getty)

The other option is to call up Jacob Lindgren or Nick Rumbelow and place them on the 60-day DL. Both are currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. It sounds easy enough, though there are some complications with this. Both Lindgren and Rumbelow got hurt while in the minors, and calling them up to place them on the 60-day DL means they can not be optioned down again next year. They’d accrue service time on MLB DL instead.

Maybe that’s not such a big deal, especially in Rumbelow’s case. He had his surgery in April and may only spend only a month or two on the DL next year. Lindgren just had his surgery and would spent the entire 2017 season on the DL. Calling them up and placing him on the 60-day DL to clear up a 40-man roster spot is doable, but it throws a wrench into next year’s plans. Me? I’d just cut ties with Swarzak. I do wonder if the Yankees would drop Pazos from the 40-man roster given his control and injury issues this year though.

* * *

The Yankees are committed to their “play the kids” plan right now, so much so that Alex Rodriguez has been released and others like Teixeira and Brian McCann have had their playing time reduced. There’s no reason to think that won’t continue in September, and if anything, more kids may get chances next month. Expanded rosters will give the team extra arms and whatnot, and it’s an opportunity to give these youngsters even more of a chance to show whether they belong in the team’s long-term plans.

(Update: Heller was called up yesterday. Adjust accordingly.)

Game 120: End of the Homestand

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

This homestand felt longer than it really was, didn’t it? This was only a six-game homestand, but before that three-game swing through Boston, the Yankees had a five-game homestand. So eleven of their last 14 games have been in the Bronx. I have no idea where I’m going with this. Moving on …

The Yankees suffered a pretty brutal loss last night and the best thing about baseball is that it gives you a chance to turn the page quickly. They’re back at with the Blue Jays this afternoon, in the series finale. A win means a series win and a loss means a series loss. The Yankees need as many series wins as possible right now. It’s already Game 120. There’s not that much time left. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. DH Gary Sanchez
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 1B Tyler Austin
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. CF Aaron Hicks
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s a wonderful day for baseball here in New York. The unbearable heat and humid has finally subsided, so it’s a pleasant 84 degrees this afternoon with a nice breeze. Nice day to spend at the park. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Catcher Update: Joe Girardi told reporters Sanchez will be the primary catcher going forward and Brian McCann will be the DH. Just like that, McCann goes from being a good hitting catcher to a subpar DH.

Roster Move: The Yankees sent Chasen Shreve down to Triple-A Scranton and recalled Kirby Yates, the team announced. Anthony Swarzak remains on the roster for reasons I can’t understand at this time.

Game 110: CC Sabathia’s Short Leash

One of these guys actually gets to play once every five days. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
One of these guys actually gets to play once every five days. (Getty)

The Yankees and Indians will play the middle game of their three-game series this afternoon, and on the mound are two pitchers who won the Cy Young award with Cleveland: CC Sabathia and Corey Kluber. Kluber remains one of the best pitchers in baseball while Sabathia is in the middle of a nice bounceback season (4.15 ERA and 4.20 FIP). CC hasn’t been great, but he’s been much better than I expected.

The key to Sabathia’s effectiveness is a short leash. Opponents are hitting .303/.372/.495 against CC after pitch No. 75, and we’ve seen Joe Girardi leave Sabathia in a little too long in recent starts. He allowed two runs in five innings against the Mets last time out, then gave up three runs in the sixth. He allowed two runs in six innings against the Orioles two starts before that, then allowed two more in the seventh. The start before that Sabathia allowed two runs in five innings against the Red Sox, then allowed three runs in the sixth.

Girardi had a short leash with Sabathia last season, or at least a shorter leash, but this year he seems to be trying to squeeze that extra inning out of him more often than not. For most of Sabathia’s career, he was up to the task. Not anymore. Girardi should be on high alert once Sabathia gets to 80 pitches or so, especially in close games. Here is the Indians’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. DH Brian McCann
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. C Gary Sanchezday game after a night game? let’s get weird
  8. RF Aaron Hicks
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s hot and humid in New York today, and the forecast says there’s rain on the way a little later this afternoon. Hopefully it holds off long enough for them to play nine innings. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Update: Johnny Barbato has been sent down to Triple-A Scranton and Chasen Shreve has been called up, the Yankees announced. Barbato did not retire any of the four batters he faced with a seven-run lead last night. That’ll do it.

Game 100: Can the Yankees get to four games over?

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Last night the Yankees finally broke through and improved to three games over .500 for the first time this season. Tonight they’re trying to move to four games over .500, which is a bit of a conundrum for #TeamSell. Aroldis Chapman has been dealt and that’s great, but there are others on the roster who are more useful to the Yankees as trade chips than players in the second half. Anyway, here is the Astros’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

It is hot, humid, and raining on and off in Houston this evening. I assume the Minute Maid Park roof will be closed. Tonight’s game will begin at 8:10pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Adam Warren has arrived and is available tonight. Chasen Shreve was optioned down to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man roster spot, the Yankees announced. There’s no need for a 40-man roster move because Warren takes Chapman’s spot. Also, Anthony Swarzak is wearing No. 41 now. Warren has his old No. 43 back.

Game 83: Tanaka Tuesday

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

Folks, I have bad news. The Yankees are playing another game tonight. I know, it sucks. The Yankees can’t score and they have like one good pitcher, and he needs an extra day of rest to actually be, you know, good. Luckily, that guy is on the mound tonight with an extra day rest, so there’s a chance tonight’s game will be marginally entertaining. Small victories, I suppose. Here is the White Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Carlos Beltran
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. SS Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  8. CF Aaron Hicks
  9. C Austin Romine
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It’s cloudy in Chicago and there’s a small chance of rain pretty much all night. Hopefully it won’t be anything that interrupts the game. That would suck. Tonight’s game will begin a bit after 8pm ET. You can watch on YES. Try to enjoy.

Roster Move: The Yankees have called up Chasen Shreve and sent down Luis Cessa, the team announced. Good. Cessa needs to pitch to continue his development, not sit around so he can throw two mop-up innings every ten days.

Game 69: Trying for a Father’s Day sweep

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have played four four-game series this season and they’ve won all four. They’ve swept two of them (Athletics, Angels) and have a chance to sweep a third this afternoon against the Twins. Not coincidentally, the A’s, Angels, and Twins have the three worst records in the AL. The Yankees sure do know how to beat up on bad teams.

On the mound this afternoon is Nathan Eovaldi, who is currently in a Mr. Hyde phase of his Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde act. He’s allowed at least five runs in each of this last three starts after allowing seven runs total in his previous five starts. It sure would be nice if the Twins propelled Eovaldi into another stretch of dominance. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7.  SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Ike Davis
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

The internet tells me the weather is very nice in Minneapolis today. Sunny with temperatures in the low-90s. This afternoon’s series finale will begin a little after 2pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Mark Teixeira (knee) continues to run and take batting practice. The plan is to have him play three rehab games with Triple-A Scranton from Tuesday through Thursday this week, then rejoin the Yankees next Saturday.

Roster Move: Chase Shreve (shoulder) has been activated off the 15-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Scranton, the Yankees announced. I thought Shreve would rejoin the bullpen as soon as he was ready. He needs to go to Triple-A though. He’s been wretched the last few weeks.