Yankees name Moseley Sunday’s starter, other rotation changes coming

Via Bryan Hoch, the Yankees have announced that Dustin Moseley, not Phil Hughes, will start Sunday night’s game against the Red Sox. Hughes will instead start on Wednesday, and that will be his final start of the regular season. He’s at 169.1 innings right now, so that last start will get him right around 175, where we all expected he’d finish. Hard to complain about this (unless you have tickets to Sunday’s game), might as well save those bullets for a game that counts.

Update: Ben Shpigel says that the team is planning some more changes to the rotation as well, but nothing will go into effect until after they clinch a playoff spot. CC Sabathia‘s next start would be pushed to Friday (as opposed to Tuesday), lining him up perfectly for Game One of the ALDS. Based on that, it seems clear that Hughes will be the fourth starter in the postseason and not the third.

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The battle no one wants to win

Who wants to join D-Rob in the bullpen this October? (Photo Credit: Flickr user notladj)

With a lineup of All Stars (plus Brett Gardner) and the starting rotation all but set (not necessarily the order), the Yankees don’t have too many decisions to make before the the playoffs begin. The core setup crew is set, so the only thing left to sort out is the spare relievers and the bench. The bench isn’t too big of a deal since those regulars will (should) play every inning in October, but the bullpen isn’t necessarily that easy.

Jack Curry tweeted last night that the team intends to carry an 11-man pitching staff in the playoffs, which is fine. They could probably get away with ten, but there’s certainly no need for a dozen in a short series. Nine of those 11 spots are accounted for: CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Mariano Rivera, Kerry Wood, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, and Boone Logan. That leaves five guys fighting for those final two spots: Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, Ivan Nova, Javy Vazquez, and Dustin Moseley. We should probably throw Royce Ring into that mix as well since a second lefty specialist would be far more useful than a second longman.

Joe Girardi‘s been riding Gaudin really hard the last two weeks (he’s appeared in six of the last twelve games), so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the righty is getting every opportunity to win one of those spots. Mitre has pitched twice in the past 26 days and as far as I know he didn’t even warm up in last night’s rainy game (in fairness, I suppose Girardi was holding him back in case he needs a longman tonight). One of those two times he pitched came in the last Sabathia-David Price game, and that was only after all the other bullpen options were used up. Moseley is far too hittable (10.7 H/9 career) and doesn’t miss nearly enough bats (4.3 K/9 this year) to warrant any kind of action in a playoff spot, so there’s no sense in even carrying him on the roster.

Javy, well at this point he shouldn’t be pitching any kind of meaningful innings. It’s not that he can’t handle the pressure or anything stupid like that, it’s just that his stuff has deteriorated so much that you can’t trust him to get outs with it. I know he’s pitched well in his few long relief outings late in the year, but I think there’s also too much of a stigma there to take him. That’s probably not fair to him, but it is what it is. The nothingball will be the scapegoat.

Given how well he’s pitched early in his outings, Nova’s going to get one of those last two bullpen spots almost by default, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He’s been extremely effective early in his outings (.563 OPS against the first time through the order, .731 the second, .952 the third) which suggests he could be effective in one or two inning relief stints. Perhaps he takes over the job as that trusty righty outside of the normal setup crew that Girardi is trying to force feed Gaudin. World Championship teams always have an unexpected reliever step up big in October (hellooo Damaso Marte), so maybe Nova’s that guy this year. We can dream.

In the end, I’d expect Nova and Gaudin to get those final two spots, though a case could be made for Ring as a second lefty (assuming he gets in some more games and pitches well over the next week-and-a-half, of course). Once the Yanks clinch a playoff spot, which will hopefully happen before everyone returns to work on Monday, don’t be surprised if they lift Nova from the rotation and have him pitch out of the bullpen two or three times in the final week of the season just to get acclimated to the role.

So far no one has really stepped up and grabbed one of those spots by the horns. They’re trying their best to give it to Gaudin, but he doesn’t seem to want it (13 baserunners, six runs, three homers in his last 5.2 IP). Mitre can’t even get into a regular season game, never mind a playoff spot, and every time Moseley pitches he shows why the Angels non-tendered him last season. In reality, whoever the Yanks ends up taking probably won’t see much action in the postseason and will be of little consequence, but stranger things have happened.

The Forgotten Relievers

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

As predictable as it was, the trio of Kerry Wood, Joba Chamberlain, and David Robertson have emerged as Joe Girardi‘s trusted righthanded setup crew over the last few weeks while Boone Logan has taken advantage of Damaso Marte‘s injury to become his go-to-lefty. With the Yankees still in the division race and a few wins away from clinching a playoff spot, he’s leaned heavily on those four plus Mariano Rivera in the late innings of close games. Heck, even Chad Gaudin seems to emerged as that next guy, the one who’s just outside of the regular setup crew that sees plenty of work in what we’ll call “various” situations.

It’s still September though, and the Yanks have a full arsenal of relievers on hand aside from those six mentioned above. They’ve called up three extra arms this month, and remember, they had a 13-man staff before that with Lance Berkman on the disabled list. The call-ups and spare long men haven’t seen much action at all (as you’d expect), so let’s recap where each of those guys stand…

Jon Albaladejo

The Triple-A relief ace hasn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 12th, which is when he worked the final 1.1 innings of a game in which the rest of the team was busy getting shut down by Cliff Lee and the Rangers. Since being recalled at the start of the month he’s appeared in four games, throwing three innings and allowing a pair of hits and a walk while striking out three. Those three baserunners each reached in his last appearance, so the three before that were pretty solid except for some hit by pitches. Albie seems to be the favorite among the extra, sparsely used relievers, probably because he has seniority.

Sergio Mitre

Girardi’s love affair with Mitre always seemed questionable at best, especially since their relationship dated back to their time in Florida and Serg never really did anything on the field with the Yanks to stand out. He last appeared in a game on Sept. 13th, when he gave up the walk-off homer to Reid Brignac, the only batter he faced. Prior to that he had appeared in just one game since August 27th, and two since August 20th, so that’s three total appearances in the last 32 days. Clearly, he’s just a “break glass in case of emergency” long man right now.

Dustin Moseley

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

To be perfectly honest, I had completely forgotten that Moseley existed until Ben mentioned his name last night. The last time he pitched was his start in Texas against Lee, the same date as Albie’s last game, when he pitched admirably for six innings before turning back into Dustin Moseley in the seventh. His only other appearance this month came on Sept. 4th, which is when Girardi brought him in with runners on the corners and two outs against the Blue Jays only to watch him give up a double to Lyle Overbay to tie the game. You remember that, it was the mother of all second guess moves.

Royce Ring

Recalled last Wednesday, Ring has yet to appear in a game for the big league team. The lefty last pitched on Sept. 9th, when he faced two batters in Game Two of Triple-A Scranton’s playoff series with Columbus. He walked one and got the other to ground out. Ring is the definition of a LOOGY, so his appearances-to-innings pitched ratio is well below one this year. At some point Girardi will call on him to get a lefty out, maybe even tonight since Logan has faced multiple batters in each of the last two games.

Romulo Sanchez

Sanchez was promoted over the weekend and Girardi hasn’t called on him yet. Before that he was recovering from an apparently minor elbow injury that had him on the Triple-A disabled list, so he hasn’t pitched in an actual game since August 24th, his only outing in the last 32 days. For a guy that’s wild as it is, I can’t imagine that’s a good thing. Luckily he won’t be seeing any high leverage work anytime soon.

(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Javy Vazquez

Oh Javy, how the mighty have fallen. It’s seems like ages ago that the righty posted a 2.75 ERA during an 11 start stretch from mid-May to mid-July, but now he’s so out of favor that he’s nothing more than a highly paid mop-up man. Vazquez hasn’t pitched since starting in Texas on Sept. 10th, when he allowed four runs in five innings of work. He has warmed up a few times since then, but Girardi seems completely disinterested in using him. Given his disappearing fastball and hit-me-breaking ball, can you blame him?

* * *

The Yanks’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to just five, so any combination of Yankee wins and Red Sox losses totaling that number will put the Yanks in the postseason for the 15th time in 16 years. Barring another epic slump, they’ll clinch that spot by the end of the weekend, giving Girardi a chance to rest his regulars and line up his rotation and all that. That’s when Albaladejo and Ring and Mitre will really start to see some action, and chances are Moseley and Vazquez will make some spots starts as they try to line up CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, A.J. Burnett, and Phil Hughes for the ALDS.

Pettitte to start in Baltimore on Sunday

It’s not terribly surprising, but it’s good to know that Andy Pettitte‘s return to the starting rotation will officially happen this coming Sunday in Baltimore, the team announced. He will be limited to 90 pitches. Andy has been out since July 18th due to a groin strain, and his absence has been extremely noticeable. It’s good to be getting him back.

Meanwhile, the team also announced that A.J. Burnett will start Friday’s game and CC Sabathia will go on Saturday. Both Javy Vazquez and Dustin Moseley have been bounced from the rotation and will work in long relief. At this time last year, the Yanks were giving all of their guys extra days of rest in preparation for the playoffs, but there’s no such plan this year. Sabathia will start on his usual four days rest despite tomorrow’s off day, and that lines him up for a rematch with David Price next Thursday.

Yankees two-hit in Texas

It was bound to happen at some point. After avoiding it for the first five-plus months of the season the Yankees were swept in a three game series this weekend. None of the games was particularly inspiring. They were in all of them and scored their season-average number of runs across the first two games, but bullpen woes meant that no lead was safe. Moseley took one on the nose in this one, though he pitched as well as the Yankees could have expected. Cliff Lee made it all moot, though, as he had trouble with just one Yankees hitter in his eight-plus-inning, one-run auditionperformance.

Best photo of Jeter available (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Rather than dwell on the team’s poor hitting in this one, let’s look at the one bright spot. Derek Jeter came to the plate four times and had four excellent at-bats. The rest of the team had maybe one among them. In those four plate appearances Jeter saw 27 pitches, or just a hair under quarter the number Lee threw all game. That’s all the more impressive considering his third PA, a double that drove in the Yankees’ lone run, lasted just one pitch. The first and last were nine pitches and resulted in walks. The second lasted eight pitches and ended with a ground out.

Jeter went 1 for 2 with two walks and an RBI double against Lee. The rest of the lineup went 1 for 25 with one walk. This might not be Jeter’s finest season, but yesterday he looked like an All-Star while the rest of the team tripped and stumbled towards the end of the series. If he starts looking like this more often it could lend some consistency to the offense down the stretch and into the playoffs.

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

Dustin Moseley deserves some credit, too. He has thrown just 10 pitches since August 30, but he kept the Yankees in this one. Through six he was downright excellent, almost matching Cliff Lee frame for frame.

Moseley through 6: 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
C, Lee through 6: 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

That all changed in the seventh, of course. Moseley had thrown just 79 pitches through six, and Girardi “loved the way he was throwing the baseball.” But his first seven pitches resulted in a walk, and considering his like workload in the past two weeks a move might have made sense there. Moseley did get the next two guys, but thanks to a smart tag-up at first by Ian Kinsler the Rangers were able to capitalize on a single. A stolen base and another single ended the day for Moseley.

The Yanks now fly to Tampa and try to escape this week-long funk. They’ll have their best guy give it a go tomorrow night, but it will be ace against ace.

Yanks guarantee series win over Toronto

Both times the Yankees faced the Blue Jays in August they lost the series 2-1. There are worse things than 2-1 series losses, especially to a team that has played like the Jays. It’s not like they lose a series to the Indians or Royals. With yesterday’s victory the Yankees locked down another series.

Biggest Hit: Mr. Automatic

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

What type of runs would you like? Do you like yours when down in a close game? How about game-tying? I hear that go-ahead runs are just the tastiest. Except walk-off, of course. Walk-off runs are the juiciest runs of them all. Marcus Thames has cooked up all of them this season. Yesterday he prepared us a helping of go-ahead runs.

The game took some early turns. Neither starter got through the fifth. Javier Vazquez did make a bid, but Joe Girardi removed him in a first and third, two outs situation in the fifth. In a scenario that we will discuss in a moment, the Blue Jays tied the game. It stayed that way for a couple of innings. Until Marcus Thames came to the plate, that is.

Thames actually led off in the bottom half of the fifth, but he realized that he had plenty of time. Instead of pulverizing a Jesse Carlson slider he merely grounded it to third. It was a gift by appearances, but Thames was just biding his time. In the seventh he recognized that the situation had become dire. Carlson retired six straight and his successor, Jason Frasor, added two to the tally. But then Robinson Cano snapped the skid with his second up-the-middle single of the game. Thames would not let the opportunity pass.

Frasor threw his first pitch, a slider, towards the inside edge. Thames swung, but he managed only to foul it away. Carlson, fool that he is, tried the same thing again, but this pitch he left right in the center of the plate. Thames put a mighty swing on it and drove it to the bit field in left-center. But it could not contain Thames. He sent the ball into the visitor’s bullpen, putting his Yankees ahead.

A curious pitching change

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Over the course of a season the manager makes hundreds of pitching changes. There is no way that they’ll all work. Most of the time, if he’s a good manager, he’ll make the right call. But most is just more than 50 percent. There are plenty of times when the manager will make a good call that fails. Other times he’ll make a plain bad call. It happens. Joe Girardi mostly makes the right call. Yesterday he made a suspect one.

Javier Vazquez was not pitching like he had during his previous two relief outings. His fastball didn’t crack 90. He didn’t have the command necessary to compensate for his diminished velocity. He threw too many damn sliders, a pitch that just hasn’t worked this year. It amounted to three runs through four innings, both on second inning home runs. But Vazquez had settled down, allowing no runs in the third and fourth before retiring the first two batters in the fifth. But then he walked Jose Bautista. No biggie. It became a biggie, apparently, when Vernon Wells followed with a single.

That brought Overbay, who had homered earlier in the game, to the plate. Joe Girardi bound out of the dugout after the single, so it was clear that he in no way would let Vazquez face Overbay again. That might sound like a reasonable position, especially considering how Javy looked, but there were a few things to consider here. First, the tying run was 270 feet away, so it would have taken a big hit to score him. Second, the homer earlier on the game came on a slider. Letting Vazquez pitch to Overbay, but forbidding him to throw a slider, was probably the right call. But Girardi went to Dustin Moseley. I fail to see the upgrade.

Maybe if he’d gone to Robertson, or Chamberlain, or even Logan, I wouldn’t have thought it such a bad call. But Moseley? Maybe he could have brought Moseley in to eat an inning or two after that. The big guns in the pen have been worked hard lately. That tends to happen when you win a lot of games in a short span. If Girardi wants to go with the long man in the sixth with a two-run lead, so be it. But Moseley with the tying runs on base? It just seems odd coming from a guy who, just a month and a half ago, used Robertson in the third inning in a crucial situation.

This doesn’t make Girardi a bad manager. No one will make the right call 100 percent of the time. But this seemed like a fairly obvious one. Don’t go to Moseley with the tying run on base unless it’s of the utmost necessity.

Wrap-around lineup

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

For much of the season Brett Gardner has hit ninth. That makes him a “second lead-off hitter,” whatever that means. Really, it means he’s hitting ninth. I don’t know why Girardi does it, but he likes having that second leadoff hitting advantage. But ever since A-Rod‘s injury Girardi has found a spot in the top of the lineup for Gardner. Which makes sense. He takes pitches, he gets on base, and he’s a threat to steal. That means not having a wrap-around lineup. Unless you do.

Francisco Cervelli had another pleasantly surprising day. He doubled twice and came around to score both times, first thanks to a wild pitch and second thanks to a Derek Jeter chopper that — to invoke Michael Kay — fortuitously ricocheted off the third base bag. As Chad Jennings relays, it was the first multi-double game of Cervelli’s career. It’s always a little easier to score runs when the bottom of the order produces. Cervelli deserves much praise for his recent timely hits.

Graph and Box

If I just saw this graph and the final score, I’d probably think that this was a pretty good game. And I’d be right.

More green lines at FanGraphs. Fogies can get their fix with the traditional box.

Up Next

It’s never a bad game when you’re looking at not only a sweep, but a ninth straight win. Phil Hughes goes for it, while Brett Cecil tries to stop it. It’s Day Game No. 4 of 5 from the Bronx.

Rotation Shuffle: Moseley out, Vazquez back

Javier Vazquez will take a turn in the starting rotation, replacing Dustin Moseley on Saturday against the Blue Jays, Joe Girardi announced this afternoon. The decision came as little surprise as Moseley has gotten hit around over this last four outings while Vazquez has made two impressive bullpen appearances, flashing better stuff and velocity. Since beating Boston on August 8, Moseley is 2-1 but is averaging fewer than five innings a start. He’s walked 13 and struck out 11 while giving up five home runs en route to a 6.41 ERA. Meanwhile, since losing his rotation spot amidst a dead-arm period, Vazquez has thrown nine strong innings in relief. He’s allowed two runs on four hits and two walks while striking out eight. We questioned whether Vazquez truly tweaked his mechanics or was experience the placebo effect of a new role role, but no matter the answer, the Yanks feel comfortable enough to move him back to the rotation after a two-week stint in the pen.