Game 116: Rubber Game

Bat Gary 1-9 and maybe no one will notice. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Bat Gary in all nine spots and maybe no one will notice. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

The Yankees and Red Sox have split the first two games of this game three-game series, which means tonight’s series finale is the difference between being 3.5 games back in the AL East or 5.5 games back in the AL East come Monday morning. There are still 46 games to play after tonight, but at some point the Yankees have to stop treading water, you know? The division title is within reach. It’s not going to win itself though.

Now, the bad news: tonight the Yankees are facing Chris Sale, who has been the best pitcher in the AL all season. His numbers are insane: 2.57 ERA (1.98 FIP) with 36.5% strikeouts and 4.6% walks. HOWEVA, the Yankees have won both times they faced Sale this season. Don’t get me wrong, he pitched great (two earned runs in 15.2 innings), but eking out a win is possible against him. Here is the Red Sox lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Gary Sanchez
  5. 3B Todd Frazier
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 1B Chase Headley
  8. 2B Ronald Torreyes
  9. C Austin Romine
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

The weather was pretty much perfect for baseball all afternoon. Too bad this game had to be played tonight. It’s a little cloudy in New York right now, though there’s no rain in the forecast, and that’s the most important thing. Tonight’s game will begin at 8pm ET and ESPN will have the broadcast. Enjoy.

Injury Updates: Greg Bird (ankle) will begin a minor league rehab assignment Wednesday while Starlin Castro (hamstring) will begin one Friday … Matt Holliday (back) took batting practice today. I guess that means he’s inching closer to a return.

Roster Move: The Yankees sent down Gio Gallegos and called up Caleb Smith, the team announced. Smith was scheduled to start for Triple-A Scranton today, so he’s available for very long relief, which I hope is not necessarily. Joe Girardi said Luis Cessa is tentatively scheduled to start in Masahiro Tanaka‘s place tomorrow.

Shoulder inflammation sends Masahiro Tanaka to 10-day DL

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

1:03pm ET: Joe Girardi described the injury as fatigue, or a dead arm. There’s no structural damage and the Yankees are essentially planning to give Tanaka a ten-day break. He won’t throw for five days before getting back to it. That’s not so bad, as long as that’s all it really is.

12:24pm ET: The Yankees are down another starting pitcher. Masahiro Tanaka has been placed on the 10-day DL with shoulder inflammation, the Yankees announced. Gio Gallegos was called up to fill the roster spot for the time being. The Yankees are already without CC Sabathia (knee) and Michael Pineda (elbow). Pineda is done for the season with Tommy John surgery.

Perhaps the shoulder issue explains Tanaka’s rough start in Toronto three days ago, when he allowed three runs (two earned) in four innings plus two batters. Overall, this has been a poor season for Tanaka (4.92 ERA and 4.65 FIP), though he’s been much better over the last two months or so. He has a 3.33 ERA (3.64 FIP) in his last eleven starts after pitching to a 6.55 ERA (5.68 FIP) in his first 12 starts.

Tanaka’s next start was scheduled for Monday against the Mets, and the Yankees do have plenty of options to replace him. Bryan Mitchell is already stretched out and on the 25-man roster. Caleb Smith and Luis Cessa are sitting in Triple-A, as is Domingo German. All three of those guys are on the 40-man roster and eligible to be called up. None are within the ten-day send down window.

Chance Adams is a possibility as well, though he just started for Triple-A Scranton last night, so he’s not an option for Monday. The Yankees have an open 40-man roster spot. Adding Adams and calling him up at some point in the future would be a piece of cake. For what it’s worth, Smith is lined up to start tomorrow for the RailRiders and Cessa is lined up for Monday. That’s convenient.

There’s no word on how long Tanaka will be sidelined yet. I imagine he’s already had an MRI and all that. Sabathia received cortisone and lubrication injections in his troublesome right knee yesterday, and he’s scheduled to throw a bullpen session tomorrow. It’s possible he could be activated as soon as his ten days on the DL are up, meaning the Yankees would only need someone to make one spot start to fill in for Tanaka before Sabathia returns.

The Yankees called Jordan Montgomery back up yesterday and he’s going to replace Sabathia. Montgomery is on a 180-ish innings limit this year, giving him roughly 60 more innings to go this year. That seems like plenty to get through the season, no? Hopefully. For now, the Yankees are down yet another starting pitching. Good thing they got two at the trade deadline, huh?

2017 Midseason Review: Holliday and the Rest of the Roster

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So far this season the Yankees have used 43 different players — 23 position players and 20 pitchers — which is the seventh most in baseball. The Mariners lead the way with 47 players and both the Indians and Diamondbacks have been lucky enough to use only 35 players. The Yankees used their fair share of shuttle arms in the first half, though position player injuries also forced them to dip into their farm system more than expected.

We’ve already covered most of those 43 players as part of our Midseason Review. Now it’s time to wrap things up and cover whoever has been left behind. Among them is one regular because I am bad at scheduling. Time to finish off the Midseason Review.

Matt Holliday: As Advertised

When the Yankees signed Holliday in November, he came billed as a good clubhouse guy and a professional hitter with some bounceback potential given his exit velocities and things like that. Nothing was guaranteed, of course. Holliday did turn 37 in January and he very easily could have been at the end of the line. The Yankees bet $13M on a rebound and so far he’s been worth every penny.

Holliday, as the team’s regular DH and occasional first baseman, is hitting .262/.366/.511 (132 wRC+) with 15 homers in 68 games so far, and he’s the No. 1 reason the Yankees have the most productive DH spot in the baseball.

  1. Yankees: 137 wRC+
  2. Mariners: 129 wRC+
  3. Indians: 127 wRC+

Oddly enough, Holliday’s strikeouts are way up this year. His 25.7% strikeout rate is on pace to shatter his previous career high (19.6% as a rookie in 2004). I think there’s a chance Holliday is selling out for power, which might partially explain the strikeouts. Holliday has also been pretty streaky. That’s alright though. He’s been productive more often than not, and day-to-day consistency in baseball is a myth anyway.

Beyond the on-field production, Holliday has also been a positive on all the young players the Yankees are incorporating into their lineup. Aaron Judge went out of his way to praise Holliday at the All-Star Game media day Monday. Here’s what Judge told Brendan Kuty about Holliday earlier this month:

“I just pick his brain on what he does,” Judge said he often asks Holliday. “‘What are you doing in a situation, with a certain pitcher? What are you doing with this guy? He’s a sinkerball pitcher, what do you try to do with those guys?’ I’ve picked up a couple little things.”

“He’s just really committed to his plan,” Judge said. “That’s one thing I’ve noticed. I’ll talk to him (in the early afternoon) and I’ll say, ‘Hey, what are you doing this game? What are you trying to do against this guy?’ Every single time I ask him, ‘What are you working on?’ He’ll say he’s trying to stick to his plan and drive the ball to right field. That’s why he’s so successful. He just sticks to it, no matter the situation.”

An illness, which was recently confirmed as Epstein-Barr, has had Holliday on the shelf since June 24th and holy cow did the Yankees miss his bat these last few weeks. He did play a pair of rehab games last weekend and is tentatively scheduled to rejoin the Yankees for the second half opener tomorrow. That’s huge. Holliday has been everything the Yankees could have expected and more.

The Extra Position Players

Among all the random position player call-ups the Yankees have made this year, whether it was an injury fill-in or a one-day audition, the leader in plate appearances is … catcher Kyle Higashioka. He served as the backup catcher in April when an injury forced Gary Sanchez to the 10-day DL and Austin Romine into the starter’s role. Higashioka went 0-for-18 and started only five games. If that changed your opinion of him, you’re thinking too hard.

Another April injury fill-in was veteran Pete Kozma, who served as the backup while Didi Gregorius was hurt and Ronald Torreyes started at shortstop. Kozma went 1-for-9 with the Yankees and had nothing resembling a signature moment. The Yankees lost him to the Rangers on waivers when Gregorius returned and Kozma is still on their bench because Jurickson Profar played his way down to Triple-A.

Last month the Yankees finally got sick of Chris Carter and finally called up Tyler Austin, who missed the start of the season after fracturing his ankle with a foul ball early in Spring Training. Austin mashed with Triple-A Scranton before the call-up, hitting .300/.366/.560 (151 wRC+). He came up, went 2-for-13 with a home run and six strikeouts at the plate, then landed on the 10-day DL with a fairly significant hamstring strain. The Yankees can’t have nice things at first base.

The final two position players both played only one game in the big leagues this year, for very different reasons. After Holliday landed on the disabled list, the Yankees called up third base prospect Miguel Andujar for a day, and he went 3-for-4 with a double in his MLB debut. He became the first player in franchise history to drive in four runs in his big league debut.

The Yankees sent Andujar down to the minors the next day because they didn’t have regular at-bats to give him and there’s no point in making the kid sit on the bench. Andujar is really breaking out in the minors this year — he’s hitting .302/.336/.476 (121 wRC+) between Double-A and Triple-A — but he needs to work on his third base defense, so that’s what he’s doing. I’m glad the Yankees have resisted the temptation to move him to first to plug a short-term hole.

The other one-game position player in the first half was outfielder Dustin Fowler who gave us, hands down, the saddest moment of the season. In the first inning of his first big league game, Fowler crashed into the side wall in foul territory chasing a pop-up, which ruptured his right patella. It was an open rupture, meaning it broke through the skin. Yikes. Fowler had emergency surgery that night and is done for the season.

Fowler came up to replace Andujar after hitting .293/.329/.542 (137 wRC+) down in Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees called him up before Clint Frazier. They like him that much. Fowler’s injury is so sad. I feel terrible for the kid. The good news is he is expected to make a full recovery in time for Spring Training. Plus he’s on the big league disabled list collecting service time and big league pay, so his bank account is doing better. But still, you know Fowler wants to play. What a terrible and sad moment.

The Extra Pitchers

For the first two months or so of the season, the Yankees did away with the bullpen shuttle. The days of calling up a new reliever every day to make sure Joe Girardi had a fresh arm in the bullpen were over. The Yankees stuck with their guys. Then the bullpen melted down and started blowing leads left and right, and the Yankees started shuttling guys in and out regularly. Such is life. The shuttle returned last month.

The one shuttle reliever who made the Opening Day roster is Bryan Mitchell. Back-to-back rough outings (seven runs in 2.2 innings) earned him a demotion to Triple-A at the end of April. He came back up briefly at the end of May and again at the end of June. So far this season Mitchell has a 5.06 ERA (4.02 FIP) in 16 big leagues innings and a 3.60 ERA (2.27 FIP) in 35 Triple-A innings. He’ll be back at some point in the second half, I’m sure of it. Mitchell’s time to carve out a long-term role with the Yankees is running out though.

Luis Cessa, who was in the running for an Opening Day rotation spot, has made three starts and three relief appearances for the Yankees this year. The three starts came when CC Sabathia was on the disabled list and they did not go well (eleven runs in 13.2 innings). The three relief appearances were better (two runs in eleven innings). The end result is a 4.18 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 23.2 innings. I like Cessa — I seem to the be the only one who likes Cessa — and hope we see more of him going forward.

Four shuttle relievers have made their MLB debut this season: Gio Gallegos, Domingo German, Ronald Herrera, and Tyler Webb. They’ve combined for the the following line: 31 IP, 32 H, 20 R, 18 ER, 16 BB, 30 K. Replacement Level ‘R Us. German showed the most potential among those four. By far, I think. He also returned from Tommy John surgery a little more than a year ago and needs to pitch, not sit in the big league bullpen as the eight reliever. He’s in Triple-A where he belongs. Also, Ben Heller spent a day with the Yankees. He faced three batters: grounder, walk, walk-off single off his butt. He does have a 2.68 ERA (3.11 FIP) in 37 Triple-A innings though.

* * *

The Yankees have used 43 players this season and over the last four years they’ve averaged 56 players per season, so recent history suggests we’re going to see several new faces in the second half. New faces from outside the organization or the farm system. Probably a little of both.

DotF: Mateo stays hot, Sheffield hurt in Trenton’s win

Some notes to get us started:

  • So long, Tommy Layne. He has been released, the Yankees announced. Layne was pitching well with Triple-A Scranton, but the Yankees need roster space as players get healthy and get promoted, so the 32-year-old journeyman gets the axe.
  • The Yankees have acquired IF Jonathan Diaz from the Blue Jays, the team announced. Diaz spent all of last season with the RailRiders. Scranton is short on position players due to injuries and all the recent call-ups. Diaz is just a warm body to fill out the roster.
  • 1B Mike Ford was bumped up from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, it was announced. IF Billy Fleming and LHP Daniel Camarena were sent the other way. Also, RHP Gio Gallegos has been activated off the disabled list. Whatever was bothering him couldn’t have been that bad.
  • Great stuff from Michael Peng on RHP Jorge Guzman, one of the players who came over in the Brian McCann trade. “We are teaching him not to throw but how to actually pitch, how to read hitters and how to throw different pitch sequences. And to me, seeing him learn these different things has been the biggest adjustment he has made. He seems seems to pick on the things we’re trying to teach him,” said Staten Island Yankees pitching coach Travis Phelps.

Triple-A Scranton (3-1 win over Buffalo)

  • LF Jake Cave & 2B Donovan Solano: both 1-4, 2 K
  • 1B Mike Ford: 0-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • DH Miguel Andujar: 0-3, 1 BB
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-3, 2 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K, 1 HBP — 8-for-22 (.364) with one double, two triples, and three homers in six games at Triple-A … he’s hit seven homers in his last 21 games after hitting four homers in 123 games last year and seven homers in 106 games the year before
  • SS Cito Culver: 1-3, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 E (fielding) — he’s hitting .262/.332/.492 this year, you know
  • 3B Abi Avelino: 0-3, 1 CS
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 12/1 GB/FB — 60 of 85 pitches were strikes (71%) … Good Bryan showed up tonight

[Read more…]

DotF: Fowler homers, Wade’s hitting streak ends in AAA win

In case you missed it earlier, SS Gleyber Torres needs Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. He hurt it during a play at the plate over the weekend. Sigh. At least it’s not his throwing elbow. Here are some more notes:

  • In the wake of the Torres injury, 3B Miguel Andujar has been promoted from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. Andujar was due for a promotion anyway. He’s been with the Thunder for a year now and has been mashing of late. Also, RHP Domingo Acevedo is back with the RailRiders too. He made a start over the weekend and was sent back down, though apparently that was only a temporary paper move to clear a roster spot.
  • 1B Tyler Austin told D.J. Eberle he still doesn’t feel right at the plate. “I feel like I’m making strides every day at the plate and defensively. I think its more of just getting reps, picking up spin of the ball and swinging at pitches in the zone. I feel like that’s the big thing for me right now and I’m trying to do every time I go up there,” he said. Austin has hit .323/.390/.538 (154 wRC+) in 26 games since coming back from the broke ankle.
  • RHP Gio Gallegos has been placed on the Triple-A Scranton disabled list, the RailRiders announced. I’m not sure what’s wrong with him. Gallegos hasn’t pitched since being sent down the other day. Depending when the injury happened, the Yankees might have to rescind his recent demotion and place him on the big league disabled list instead. That means service time and big league pay for OG Gio.
  • OF Billy McKinney and LHP Justus Sheffield were named the Double-A Eastern League Offensive Player of the Week and Pitcher of the Week, respectively. McKinney went 10-for-26 (.385) with three doubles and three homers last week. Sheffield allowed one run in 13 innings in two starts.
  • RHP Matt Marsh has been suspended 50 games after a second positive test for a drug of abuse, MLB announced. He probably got caught smoking pot. The Yankees signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2014. Marsh made a few appearances as an extra arm in Spring Training this year.
  • And finally, the Florida State League All-Star Game is coming to Tampa. The game will be played at the newly renovated George M. Steinbrenner Field next season, the FSL announced. Neat.

Triple-A Scranton (6-1 win over Syracuse)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 0-2, 1 R, 2 BB, 1 SB — he hit .419/.458/.595 with five doubles, two homers, seven walks, and ten strikeouts during his 18-game hitting streak
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K, 1 SB — eleven homers in 63 games this season after 12 homers in 132 games last year … 20.3 K% and 5.2 BB% this year after 15.0 K% and 3.8 BB% last year
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 0-4, 2 K
  • RF Clint Frazier: 2-4, 1 3B — here’s video of the triple, which probably would have been a short porch homer at Yankee Stadium
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-4, 2 R — Triple-A debut after hitting .288/.332/.422 (107 wRC+) with nine homers and a 13.5% strikeout rate in 139 games and 591 plate appearances at Double-A
  • LF Jake Cave: 3-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 CS
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 5/6 GB/FB — 71 of 100 pitches were strikes … one earned run or fewer in three of his last five starts … he did it seven times total in his previous 29 Triple-A starts
  • LHP Tommy Layne: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 12 of 15 pitches were strikes
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB — 12 of 21 pitches were strikes (57%)

[Read more…]

Game 65: Make it out in one piece

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Unfortunately, there are still three games to play on the road trip. It’s been a disaster. Losing games is one thing. That happens. Losing games and losing players — key players — to injury? No. No no no. Enough of that. Hopefully the Yankees can get through this game in one piece. That would be nice.

Anyway, the Yankees are trying to avoid their first four-game losing streak of the season tonight. The Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Astros, Dodgers, Rockies, and Diamondbacks. The only teams in baseball who have yet to lose four straight at some point this year. That’s a good list. I want the Yankees to stay on that list. Here is the A’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. LF Rob Refsnyder
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. DH Matt Holliday
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 1B Chris Carter
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. SS Ronald Torreyes
  9. CF Mason Williams
    RHP Luis Severino

The rest of the Yankees are in Clearwater for today’s other split squad game. As for the weather, it’s clear and windy again in Oakland. Same weather as last night, basically. Tonight’s game will start at 9:35pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Try to enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Adam Warren has been placed on the 10-day DL with right shoulder inflammation, the Yankees announced. Brian Cashman said it’s not serious, though Warren needs a break … Aaron Hicks (Achilles) and Gary Sanchez (abductor) are day-to-day, which is good news … Greg Bird (ankle) is going to see a specialist. His knee is fine. They shut down his rehab because of the ankle. An MRI and a CT scan came back negative … Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius are fine. Just an off-day against a tough lefty.

Roster Moves: Obviously Williams is with the Yankees now. He and Kyle Higashioka were called up. Gio Gallegos was sent down to clear a roster spot. Seems like the Yankees are just trying to get through the weekend, then they’ll get everything straightened out after the off-day Monday.

Game 50: How about a series win in Baltimore?

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Yesterday I mentioned the Yankees have not won a series at Camden Yards since September 2014, but I was wrong. They haven’t won a series in Baltimore since September 2013. Yikes. That was ten series ago. The last time the Yankees won a series at Camden Yards, Phil Hughes started the final game. Yeah, it’s been a while.

Tonight the Yankees are looking for a second consecutive strong outing from Masahiro Tanaka following back-to-back disaster games. He was awesome last time out, though the A’s don’t have the most imposing lineup. The Orioles should provide a bit more of a challenge. Just win the series, dudes. Win series and good things will happen. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

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

Another cloudy night in Baltimore, though there’s no (heavy) rain in the forecast. Last night there was a ton of rain in the forecast and it never showed up, so who the hell knows. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET. You can watch on WPIX. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Greg Bird (ankle) played a three-inning simulated game at first base today. He is scheduled to begin an official minor league rehab assignment tomorrow and play six innings with High-A Tampa … Didi Gregorius (hand) is still sore after being hit by a pitch last night. He could have played tonight, but they’re giving him a day to receive treatment and heal up. X-rays last night were negative.

Roster Update: The Yankees have sent down Bryan Mitchell and called up Gio Gallegos, the team announced. Gallegos now takes over as the “pitches once every ten days and everyone wonders why he isn’t throwing more strikes” reliever.

All-Star Game Voting: Earlier today MLB released the first AL All-Star Game voting update. Here are the results. Mike Trout is the league’s leading vote-getter with 776,937 votes. Judge is second with 730,438. Pretty cool. Castro currently has a slim 536-vote lead over Jose Altuve at second base. Holliday (third), Gregorius (fourth), Gary Sanchez (fourth), Headley (fifth), Gardner (11th), and Jacoby Ellsbury (12th) are among the notable vote-getters at their positions. Here’s the All-Star Game ballot.