Game 20: Sale vs. Tanaka

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

The Yankees have alternated wins and losses since the eight-game winning streak was snapped last week, and if they’re going to put together their first set of back-to-back wins since the streak, they’ll need to beat the best tonight. Chris Sale, Boston’s prized offseason pickup, will face the Yankees for the first time as a Red Sox this evening. He’s been phenomenal in the early going, as usual. This’ll be tough.

On the bright side, the Yankees will counter Boston’s ace with their ace tonight, at least in theory. Masahiro Tanaka has gotten progressively better each time out this season, though he doesn’t seem to be all the way back to his 2016 form just yet. The Yankees will need Tanaka to be on top of his game tonight against Sale. It’s the old Pedro Martinez approach. Match zeroes with Sale then beat the bullpen. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. 3B Chase Headley
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. RF Aaron Judge
  7. 1B Chris Carter
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Better weather tonight than last night in Boston. It’s still cold and cloudy, but it shouldn’t be foggy or wet. Tonight’s game will begin shortly after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Didi Gregorius (shoulder) will be activated off the disabled list tomorrow. Hooray for that … Gary Sanchez (biceps) will begin a minor league rehab assignment next week, likely with Triple-A Scranton next Tuesday, Brian Cashman said. Hooray for that too. Hoorays all around.

Game 19: Measuring Stick?

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

The Yankees are off to a nice little 11-7 start to the season — their +30 run differential is still the best in baseball — and they’ve done it while getting basically nothing from Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Didi Gregorius. I’m excited to see this team at full strength. I don’t know if they’re good enough to make the postseason, but at least they’re far more interesting to watch nowadays.

Anyway, rain turned this three-game series at Fenway Park into a two-game series, and because this is Yankees-Red Sox, everything is overblown. I’ve seen this series called a measuring stick for the Yankees. These two games against the AL East favorite will tell us whether they’re for real or not! I mean, no? One series doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but still, it sure would be nice to pick up a pair of wins in Boston. One game at a time though. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. RF Aaron Judgehow about a couple homers to celebrate his 25th birthday?
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Severino

The weather still isn’t great in Beantown. It was raining on and off all day, though it looks as though there will be a big enough window to get the game in. It’ll be cold and cloudy in the meantime. This evening’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Didi Gregorius (shoulder) is on track to return this coming weekend, Joe Girardi said. He could be back in the lineup as soon as Friday. I’m guessing the Yankees want to see how he makes it through his rehab games tonight and tomorrow before making any decisions … Gary Sanchez (biceps) is throwing from a distance of 120 feet and has started hitting in the batting cage, so his rehab is coming along well.

Torreyes has given the Yanks exactly what they needed during Gregorius’ absence

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees have won nine of their last ten games, and perhaps the most amazing thing about this hot stretch is that they’ve done it without Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, arguably their two best position players. Sanchez hurt his biceps taking a swing two Saturdays ago, the day before eight-game winning streak started. He resumed throwing and swinging Wednesday but is still a few weeks ago.

Gregorius, on the other hand, has not played at all during the regular season due to a shoulder strain suffered during the World Baseball Classic. The injury sucks, but what can you do? Gregorius resumed throwing last week and has gradually increased his workouts. He’s expected to play in his first official minor league rehab game later today. The Yankees could get Gregorius back sometime next week. Hooray for that.

While Gregorius has been sidelined, utility man Ronald Torreyes has filled in at shortstop admirably. He hasn’t been great — he’s hitting .239/.239/.391 (70 wRC+) in 46 plate appearances — but he hasn’t been a total disaster either. Torreyes has generally fielded the ball cleanly, plus he’s come up with some clutch hits. His two-run triple against the Orioles helped spark the comeback the led to the first win of the eight-game winning streak.

I was pretty excited when the Yankees acquired Torreyes last offseason — they traded for him, lost him on waivers, then claimed him back on waivers — but not because I thought he could be a future star or even a regular or anything like that. I thought he could be exactly what he has been for the Yankees: a solid high-energy bench player who could spot start for a few weeks and not kill you at the plate or in the field. Good bench players are tough to find.

That said, we’ve reached the point where Torreyes is starting to get exposed by playing everyday. He’s gone 5-for-26 (.192) in his last eight games and is averaging only 2.97 pitches per plate appearances during that time. Only three strikeouts is good! That’s what Torreyes does. He makes a lot of contact. But he’s not impacting the baseball much, and it’s starting to show up in his numbers. A few clutch hits have prevented him from being a total drain on the offense, so that’s cool.

Once Gregorius returns, the Yankees can slide Torreyes back into the reserve infielder role he fills so well, and enjoy an upgrade on both sides of the ball at shortstop. Didi has made steady progress in his two years with the Yankees. He was a better player in September 2015 than he was in April 2015, and he was a much better player in September 2016 than he was in April 2016. I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes his game this season.

This isn’t intended to be a knock on Torreyes, because he gave the Yankees exactly what they needed at shortstop while Gregorius was out: competence. He made all the plays he was supposed to make on defense and he chipped in some big hits. We’ve seen some bench players thrust into everyday duty by injuries in recent years who were overmatched. Jayson Nix. Chris Stewart. Brendan Ryan. Ben Francisco. So on and so forth.

That didn’t happen with Torreyes and he deserves major props for holding down a tough position as well as he has. The Yankees are a much better team with Gregorius in the lineup though, and now that he’s inching closer to a return, it’s exciting to think this team could be ever better going forward. Then when Sanchez returns? Oh boy.

Game 14: Severino’s turn to keep the winning streak alive

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The winning streak sits at eight games, and tonight the Yankees will turn to the youngest player on their 25-man roster to try to extend it to nine. It’s easy to forget Luis Severino is still so young, isn’t it? He turned only 23 in February. The second youngest player on the 25-man roster is Jonathan Holder. He’s eight and a half months older than Severino. Crazy.

Anyway, Severino has looked pretty good in his first two starts this season. Certainly better than he looked at any point last year. It’s hard to overstate his importance to the Yankees going forward. They have little in the way of established pitching under contractual control beyond this season, and Severino has by far the highest upside among their healthy pitchers. Hopefully he continues to make strides tonight. Here is the White Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. RF Aaron Judge
  6. 1B Greg Bird
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. 3B Ronald Torreyes
  9. SS Pete Kozma
    RHP Luis Severino

It is on the chilly side in New York this evening, but at least the sky is clear. Typical April baseball weather. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Didi Gregorius (shoulder) took simulated at-bats today and he is scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment with High-A Tampa on Friday … Gary Sanchez (biceps) is swinging a bat using his left hand only. He is expected to begin throwing this week, perhaps as soon as tomorrow.

Game 11: Jackie Robinson Day

(Getty)
(Getty)

On this date 70 years ago, the great Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier and made his big league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He hit .297/.383/.427 with 31 doubles, 12 homers, 29 steals, 74 walks, and 36 strikeouts that season and was named Rookie of the Year. (There was only one Rookie of the Year award back then.) I don’t think there’s any question Robinson’s debut is one of the most important days in not only baseball history, but American history. The man is a true hero.

“You reflect on what Jackie went through, and the struggles that he went through for equality, and it makes your struggles feel like, ‘Really? You’re worried about this and you’re worried about that?'” said Joe Girardi this morning. “(He represents the idea) that we’re all created equal and we’re supposed to love our fellow man at time where our world seems to be in a uproar. I think we can learn a lot from Jackie and how he handled situations with grace and always took the high road.”

The Yankees are going for their sixth straight win this afternoon and have their only African American starting pitcher on the mound. Pretty cool CC Sabathia gets to wear No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. Sabathia has been the team’s best pitcher two turns through the rotation and as bad as the Cardinals have been this season, we saw last night they don’t go quietly. He’ll have to be sharp today to stretch that winning streak to seven. Here is the Cardinals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Hicks
  3. DH Chris Carter
  4. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. C Kyle Higashioka
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

There are some clouds in the sky in New York this afternoon though there is no rain in the forecast, so that’s good. Not the best baseball weather, but it’ll do. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game, folks.

Injury Updates: Matt Holliday was a late scratch from today’s lineup with lower back stiffness … Gary Sanchez (biceps) has started light workouts — he’s swinging a bat underwater, specifically — but is still roughly two weeks away from throwing … Didi Gregorius (shoulder) is progressing well with his rehab and he could begin playing in minor league rehab games as soon as this coming week … Aaron Judge is fine. Just a day off and a chance to get Hicks in the lineup, according to Girardi.

Game Eight: Montgomery’s Debut

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The fifth starter competition is officially over, just a little earlier than everyone expected. The Yankees were planning to wait until April 16th to use their fifth starter, but after Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia had to work hard in their starts over the weekend, the club decided to give them an extra day. Jordan Montgomery arrives today as the fifth starter. It will be his MLB debut.

Montgomery wasn’t exactly a prime contender for the fifth starter’s spot in Spring Training, but he outpitched everyone ahead of him in the pecking order, which is why he’s getting a shot today. The Yankees still have Chad Green and Luis Cessa in Triple-A, plus Bryan Mitchell is in the bullpen, so Montgomery will have to pitch well to keep this rotation spot. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 1B Chris Carter
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. C Kyle Higashioka
  9. SS Pete Kozma
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

Not the best weather in the Bronx this afternoon. It rained on and off for much of the morning, though that’s cleared out now. It’s still cloudy and windy though. This afternoon’s game will begin at 1pm ET — I have no idea why this is a 1pm ET start, it’s not a getaway day for either team — and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Greg Bird (ankle, flu) is doing much better. He’s out of the lineup today because the Rays are starting a left-hander, not because he’s still hurting or sick … Didi Gregorius (shoulder) started taking swings recently, so he’s progressing with his rehab … James Kaprielian (elbow) had his visit with Dr. Neal ElAttrache yesterday. Still no update though.

Roster Move: To get Montgomery on the 40-man roster, the Yankees have … done nothing yet. Still no announcement. They’re waiting until the last minute, apparently. designated Johnny Barbato for assignment, the team announced. Chasen Shreve was sent down Monday to get Montgomery on the 25-man roster.

Saturday Links: Tanaka, Extensions, Jeter, Torreyes

Can he DH? (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Can he play a little outfield? (Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees and Orioles continue their three-game series with the middle game later this afternoon. Until then, here are some bits of news and notes to check out.

Yankees shoot down Tanaka opt-out report

The Yankees have shot down a report that said they would not pursue Masahiro Tanaka should he exercise his opt-out clause after the season. “It ain’t on my radar screen right now — an entire season to play. Secondly, anyone that knows me knows that I don’t get emotional or personal about business. Any decision then will be made on a solid analysis of all the relevant data, per usual,” said Hal Steinbrenner to George King. Brian Cashman and Randy Levine rejected the report too.

The original report sounded like the Yankees trying to negotiate through the media and it didn’t really pass the sniff test. Why make a free agent decision in April? If Tanaka opts out, it will be because he stayed healthy and had a very good 2017 season, in which case he’d be in high demand. Why close the door on that guy in April? There’s also this: If the Yankees truly do not intend to pursue Tanaka after he opts out, they should trade him as soon as possible. Can’t let him go for nothing but a dinky draft pick.

Yankees not yet thinking about extensions for young players

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees are not yet considering long-term contract extensions for young players like Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez. “It’s a bit premature,” said Cashman. One of the reasons? The luxury tax. Signing any pre-arbitration player to an extension now means their luxury tax number would be equal to the average annual value of the contract. Sanchez and Bird will both make six figures in 2018, which will help the Yankees immensely with the luxury tax situation. They’re desperately trying to get under the threshold.

“It can be an issue. I am not saying we have confronted the issue with Hal, but that would be a hurdle to get past. I am not saying it is unsurpassable, but that is my best guess,” said Cashman. Interestingly enough, Cashman also seemed to indicate the Yankees are more open to discussing an extension with Didi Gregorius. Gregorius can be a free agent after the 2019 season. Bird has to wait until after 2021 and Sanchez (and Aaron Judge) until after 2022. I wrote about this early this week. Signing these guys now could save millions down the road, but it would also make it more difficult to get under the luxury tax threshold next year.

Jeter involved in bidding for Marlins

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

Since retiring, Derek Jeter has become a husband and he will soon become a father. Now he wants to own a baseball team. According to Charlie Gasparino, Brian Schwartz, and Tim Healey, Jeter is involved with a group led by longtime investment banker Gregory Fleming that is bidding for the Miami Marlins. Two other ownership groups are in the running too. MLB has to be kept in the loop during the process and the league is aware of Jeter’s involvement.

“There are many groups who are interested. We field offers often. The difference now is those offers are being looked at very seriously,” said Marlins president David Samson. Owner Jeffrey Loria reportedly had a handshake agreement in place to sell the team for $1.6 billion a few weeks ago, but that fell apart. Jeter has made it no secret he would one day like to own a team, and getting involved as the face of an ownership a la Magic Johnson and the Dodgers would seem to make the most sense.

Torreyes is keeping No. 74

I thought this was a fun little story. Ronald Torreyes gave up his No. 17 to Matt Holliday this year — Holliday wore No. 5 with the Rockies and Athletics, and No. 7 with the Cardinals, and those numbers weren’t going to happen with the Yankees — and, in exchange, Holliday bought him a new suit, according to Dan Martin. Torreyes then picked No. 74 because that’s the number the Yankees gave him when he joined the organization last year.

“Last year, 74 was the number they gave me when I arrived for Spring Training. This year, I used it again and had good results with it (in the spring), so I decided to keep it,” said Torreyes to Martin. That’s pretty neat. Better than the time the Yankees ripped No. 29 away from Francisco Cervelli and gave it to Rafael Soriano. I enjoy seeing young guys in the lineup with uncommon numbers like 74 and 99. Gives them a little personalty.