Game Five: The Day After

Last night's game in picture form. (Presswire)
Last night’s game in picture form. (Presswire)

Last night’s 19-inning marathon gave me a hangover. That game was all sorts of awful. If you want to blame the offense, you can do that. If you want to blame the pitching, you can do that too. Defense? Base-running? Blame worthy as well. If you’re the type that needs to assign blame to everything, last night was the perfect game for you. Lots of options.

Anyway, none of that matters now. It’s a new day and a new game and boy would it be nice to see the Yankees pick up a win on Saturday afternoon. Or even just hold a lead. They’ve had the lead for exactly one half-inning out of the 45.5 innings they’ve played in 2015. As best I can tell, no team has had a lead for less time this year. Even the 0-4 White Sox held a lead for one full inning at one point the other day. Here’s the lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Chris Young
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Alex Rodriguezyup
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. RF Garrett Jones
  7. C John Ryan Murphy
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 2B Gregorio Petit
    RHP Adam Warren

As expected, the Red Sox activated Joe Kelly (biceps) off the DL so he could make this afternoon’s start. He’ll be on a 90-pitch limit. Knuckleballer Steven Wright was send down to make room on the roster. Here is Boston’s lineup.

It’s a nice clear day in New York but windy as hell. Nearly lost my hat when I went out to get breakfast this morning. This afternoon’s game will begin just after 1pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and Fox Sports 1 nationally. Enjoy.

Roster Move: The Yankees have called up lefty Matt Tracy to bolster their worn out bullpen, the team announced. Tracy was scheduled to start for Triple-A Scranton today, so he’s good for 80+ pitches if needed. I hope they aren’t. Ivan Nova was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot and Chasen Shreve was optioned to Triple-A to clear a 25-man roster spot. Shreve was awesome last night. Unfair game, this baseball.

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Yankees finalize Opening Day roster with latest round of roster moves

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

3:25pm: The Yankees have officially announced their Opening Day roster. It is exactly as presented below. No surprises.

10:00am: The Opening Day roster has been slowly coming together over the last several weeks, and yesterday afternoon the Yankees made the roster all but official with their latest round of moves, including Austin Romine being designated for assignment. Here is the 25-man roster the Yankees will take into the regular season tomorrow:

CATCHERS (2)
Brian McCann
John Ryan Murphy

INFIELDERS (7)
Stephen Drew
Didi Gregorius
Chase Headley
Garrett Jones
Gregorio Petit
Alex Rodriguez
Mark Teixeira

OUTFIELDERS (4)
Carlos Beltran
Brett Gardner
Jacoby Ellsbury
Chris Young

STARTERS (5)
Nathan Eovaldi
Michael Pineda
CC Sabathia
Masahiro Tanaka
Adam Warren

RELIEVERS (7)
Dellin Betances
David Carpenter
Chris Martin
Andrew Miller
Esmil Rogers
Chasen Shreve
Justin Wilson

DISABLED LIST (4)
Chris Capuano (quad) — retroactive to March 27th
Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) — retroactive to March 27th
Jose Pirela (concussion) — retroactive to April 2nd
Brendan Ryan (calf) — retroactive to April 1st

Pirela was placed on the 7-day concussion DL while Capuano, Nova, and Ryan were all placed on the regular old 15-day DL. Petit takes Romine’s spot on the 40-man roster, which is full. The Yankees can transfer Nova to the 60-day DL whenever they need another 40-man spot since he’s not expected to return until June. Romine, Petit, and the DL assignments were the moves announced yesterday.

Despite those injuries, the Yankees made it through Spring Training as the healthiest team in the AL East, just as we all expected. The rest of the roster is pretty straight forward. Warren was named the fifth starter a few days ago and it was clear Shreve and Martin were going to make the Opening Day roster once Chase Whitley was optioned to Triple-A. Joe Girardi is planning to use Betances and Miller as co-closers to start the season, which is pretty cool. Hopefully it works as planned. Carpenter and Wilson figure to be the sixth and seventh inning guys.

As always, the 25-man roster is going to change throughout the course of the season. Quite a bit too. Petit figures to be replaced by Pirela or Ryan, whoever gets healthy first, and those bullpen spots belonging to Shreve and Martin could be revolving doors given the team’s relief pitcher depth. That includes Capuano, who could wind up working in relief if Warren fares well as the fifth starter. For now, this is the group of Yankees to start the new season.

The easy to forget but still really important Ivan Nova

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Since Spring Training officially opened last week, all eyes have been on Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. Well, at least the eyes that weren’t glued to Alex Rodriguez‘s every step. Tanaka and Sabathia are by far the biggest pitching stories in camp since they are both being counted on as rotation anchors and are coming off pretty serious injuries. It has not yet been a week, but so far, so good with those two.

Early in the morning yesterday, before Sabathia threw his second bullpen session of his spring, rehabbing righty Ivan Nova was at the team’s complex throwing his third bullpen as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery. It was a relatively light throwing session — 25 pitches, all fastballs — and he’ll likely throw another all fastball bullpen before introducing offspeed pitches. When the team breaks camp in early-April, Nova will stay behind to continue rehabbing in Tampa.

The Yankees have taken it very slow with Nova’s rehab so far — he had surgery in late-April, and according to Mike Dodd’s classic Tommy John surgery rehab article, Nova should have been throwing bullpens by October or November — and that is by design. A lot of pitchers have rushed back from elbow reconstruction in the last year or two only to need another procedure almost immediately. Cory Luebke and Daniel Hudson didn’t even complete the rehab from the first surgery when they blew out their elbows again. Brandon Beachy made it back for 30 innings. The Yankees are playing it safe.

“One good thing, you know you’re not going to be ready in April,” said Nova to Chad Jennings yesterday. “So you prepare yourself to be ready whenever they tell me. I don’t have to be thinking right now that I’ve got to be ready in April, so that’s kind of fortunate. I’m just taking it day by day, and I know that — I believe — a month before they think I’m going to be ready to go to the big leagues, they’re going to tell me. So that’s the time when I’m going to really prepare for that day.”

Because he’s been out of action for so long — Nova made only four starts last season before getting hurt — it’s been pretty easy to forget he exists. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. That doesn’t make him any less important to the team, however. The Yankees have a risky rotation led by Tanaka and Sabathia, so getting Nova back healthy at midseason will be a boost to the starting staff. Hopefully an extra boost, not a “oh goodness we need him back as soon as possible” sort of boost.

Last year Jeff Zimmerman ran some numbers on performance before and after Tommy John surgery and confirmed that yeah, pitchers tend to struggle immediately after having their elbow ligament replaced. Their ERA increases 5.8% relative to projections, their walk rate increases 5.0%, and their strikeout rate drops 4.4%. It’s not until two years after surgery that they really get back to being themselves. Using that info, here’s a quick and dirty look at Nova’s projected performance for 2015:

ERA K% BB%
2013 Actual Performance 3.10 19.8% 7.5%
2014 Actual Performance 8.27 12.5% 6.3%
2015 ZiPS Projection 4.08 19.6% 7.2%
2015 ZiPS + TJS Penalty 4.32 18.7% 7.6%

Nova has been a perfectly league average pitcher overall so far in his career (career 100 ERA+!) though it’s been a roller coaster. He’s had some great years and some really bad years, including his brief four-start cameo in 2014. ZiPS, unsurprisingly, pegs him as a true talent league average pitcher for this coming season (99 ERA+) but it doesn’t know he had his elbow rebuild. Add in the Tommy John surgery penalty from Zimmerman’s research and he’s a projected below average pitcher, more like a 93 ERA+ guy.

What does that mean? Not a whole lot, really. I just think it’s important to remember the road back from Tommy John surgery can initially be a little bumpy. Pitchers on average have seen a slight performance dip, but each pitcher is a little snowflake that is different than everyone else. Thanks to the team’s conservative approach to his rehab, Nova could shake off the usual pre-Tommy John issues and return in June, picking up right where he left off in 2013. That would be sweet. Or maybe the performance dip hits him extra hard. We’ll find out when he gets back.

Personally, I hate relying on players coming back from major injury, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. New York’s rotation is what it is and I am comfortable saying with great certainty they are looking for upgrades at all times. Hopefully one pop up at some point. “Chris Capuano, fifth starter” is really “Chris Capuano, just keep us afloat until something better comes along.” That sometime just might end up being when Nova returns in May or June (likely June). Hopefully not, but it’s possible.

“I know they expect big things from me,” said Nova to Bryan Hoch yesterday. “I know I’ve had an up and down career so far, but I know what I’m able to do. I just have to put things straight and hopefully by the time I have everything in line, I can contribute to the team and win some games.”

Girardi’s Press Conference Notes: A-Rod, Rotation, Spring Competitions

Spring Training is officially underway. Pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa today and the first actual workout is scheduled for tomorrow. Plenty of players have already been down at the complex working out for days if not weeks.

Joe Girardi held his annual start of Spring Training press conference this morning, and, as you can imagine, there were a ton of Alex Rodriguez question. But thankfully, there were some actual baseball questions too. It was a nice change of pace. “Name tags are an option,” joked Girardi because of all the new players in camp.

Video of the press conference is above. Here’s an abridged version and some thoughts.

On A-Rod

  • On the apology letter: “A person’s approach is the way they feel most comfortable doing it, whether that’s how you or me or anyone else would have done it … I think he apologized to the game. Steroids have hurt this game. It has changed the way we look at a lot of things … (The apology) was Alex’s choice and it was the way he was comfortable doing it and we’ll deal with it.”
  • On balancing workload and preparation: “I think you’re talking about him possibly DHing on a lot of days in Spring Training. That’s not quite as taxing as playing everyday in the field. He’s going to need to get his a-bats.”
  • On possibly playing first base: “That will be a conversation I have when he gets here. I want to see his face (and his reaction). He said he’s willing to do whatever he can to help us.”
  • On expectations: “I haven’t really put any numbers on it. I said this earlier: I think it’s fair to give him a fair number of at-bats before you start to judge where he might be at just because he’s played 44 games in two years and did not play last year, and I think it’s going to take him a good part of Spring Training just to get his timing down.”
  • On being a distraction: “One of the things I learned in 1996 when I came here is this is a different place. It’s different when you put on a New York Yankees uniform. You are with one of the most recognizable companies in the world. That’s part of the gig here … For the new players that are here, they’re going to get it right away … If you’re with the New York Yankees you need to learn how to deal with situations like that.”

Girardi also said the Yankees could opt to send A-Rod to minor league camp some days so he could get more work in. Minor league camp is pretty informal, he could leadoff every inning and get way more at-bats then he could in regular Grapefruit League games. Long story short, Girardi has no idea what to expect from Alex on the field and they need to see him in camp before finalizing any plans.

These press conferences are usually a little light and upbeat, especially early in Spring Training, but Girardi seemed pretty serious when asked about A-Rod being a distraction. His answer about players needing to be able to deal with it while playing for the Yankees was firm. He didn’t beat around the bush. Girardi knows it’s going to be a distraction and he expects his players to deal with it like professionals.

On Priorities In Camp

  • The rotation: “I think getting the rotation ironed out, seeing how all these guys fit and how it affects the bullpen guys who will begin Spring Training as a starting pitcher, who can possibly push their way into the rotation.”
  • The lineup: “Figuring out our batting order I think is something important. There’s some people we don’t know exactly where they’re at.” (Meaning A-Rod, physically.)
  • Picking a closer and possibly using co-closers: “I think you could do that. Would you like to iron it out? Sure. I think you have to see how people react in those situations. A number of guys I think are capable of closing, but I think (both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller) are more than capable.”
  • Competition in general: “I think there’s probably a little more open competition (than most years). I’ll try to reiterate to our players on a constant basis you’re not going to impress me the first day of camp, not going to impress me first week of camp.”

Girardi mentioned most of the competition in camp will be for specific roles and not necessarily roster spots. Aside from the last bullpen spot, the roster is mostly set right now. They have just to figure out who goes where in terms of the batting order and bullpen, specifically.

These are the sort of things that can’t be ironed out until the very end of camp too. Early on, players need to get their timing back and get back into the swing of playing. They’re not — or shouldn’t be, anyway — trying to put up big numbers the first few weeks of camp. After a few weeks of games the coaching staff will be better able to slot people into roles. Right now, they have to focus on getting ready. Late-March is when Girardi has to put together the roster puzzle.

On The Rotation

  • On CC Sabathia: “Until you really get him into the rigors of pitching every fifth day, and possibly going three or four turns on regular rest, you’re not really sure how that knee is going to fare. We feel good about it and we feel good about where he’s at.”
  • On Masahiro Tanaka: “I think you can say the same thing about Tanaka. What he’s went through is not really uncommon. There have been a lot of pitchers who have pitched a substantial amount of time (with the same injury) before something had to happen.”
  • On keeping tabs on Tanaka in the offseason: “They would communicate through (head trainer) Stevie Donohue. I would keep in contact with Stevie and see how Masahiro was doing. Its difficult because he’s not pitching in games in the offseason. A lot of us feel great in the offseason. It’s the second week in camp we start to feel sore.”
  • On Nathan Eovaldi: “We expect him to be one of our starters and be extremely productive and mature as a pitcher and develop as a pitcher. (He’s a guy) who can be a workhorse for you and give you valuable innings. We expect him to be a big part of our rotation.”
  • On a potential six-man rotation: “It’s something that we will talk about. As far as having a six-man rotation all the time, no. But if you get into long situations where you play 18 games in a row, could we inject a (sixth starter) to give the guys extra rest. Absolutely.”

Girardi also mentioned they are pleased with Ivan Nova‘s progress during his rehab from Tommy John surgery and there are no restrictions for Tanaka’s spring work. He’ll prepare like any other season. He didn’t say if the same is true for Sabathia because no one asked.

It was pretty clear from his tone that Girardi knows there is a lot of injury risk in the rotation and guys might not make it through camp in one piece. He also seems to know it’s pretty much out of his hands. The team followed doctor’s orders with Tanaka and Sabathia and if they say they’re healthy, they have to proceed accordingly. I like the idea of mixing in the occasional sixth starter earlier in the season much better than a straight up six-man rotation too.

Miscellany

  • On leadership without Derek Jeter: “I think within a clubhouse you can have one person who is considered the leader, but I think there are fractions of that as well (meaning a bullpen leader, a rotation leader, etc.) … I think you’ll have guys step up in different areas. I think there’s enough veteran presence and leadership qualities that guys will just handle it.”
  • On expectations: “I think you come into Spring Training every year with the goal to win and be the best you can be as a club. There are a lot of things we need to iron out. Probably more than I can remember. Some of it because of injury and some of it because of new faces. I think this team has a chance to be really good.”
  • On other teams in the AL East: “Oh I think you obviously pay attention to what other teams are doing. What you realize over a 162-game schedule is there’s a lot of things that have to go right for you to be the winner at the end … Sometimes just everything pretty much goes according to plan.”

Yeah, the Yankees are due for one of those years where everything goes pretty much according to plan.

Injury Updates: Tanaka, Sabathia, Nova, Bailey, Heathcott, Barbato, Hensley

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

Here are some injury updates with pitchers and catchers only ten days away from reporting to Tampa for the start of Spring Training 2015. The updates come courtesy of Brad Lefton, Dan Martin, Chad Jennings, and the Associated Press.

  • Masahiro Tanaka (elbow) adjusted his usual offseason program and has not been throwing with as much intensity as he had in the past. “Right from the beginning of camp last year, all the pitchers were throwing in the bullpen, but they were just easing into it, so there’s really no reason for me to push myself to throw full throttle before I even get there this time,” he said.
  • CC Sabathia (knee) is working out and throwing regularly at Yankee Stadium. “I don’t think we have anything to worry about how his arm works or how his knee works. Not anymore,” said Brian Cashman. Sabathia is expected to be a healthy player come the start of Spring Training.
  • Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) has been throwing on flat ground and recently said his elbow feels great. He should start throwing off a mound very soon if he hasn’t already. Nova is currently on track to rejoin the team in June after having surgery late last April.
  • Andrew Bailey (shoulder) is expected to be a healthy and active pitcher in Spring Training. He missed all of last season following shoulder capsule surgery. “He’s in a throwing program, and there’s been nothing adverse reported from him,” said assistant GM Billy Eppler.
  • Slade Heathcott (knee) is also expected to be fully healthy for Spring Training. He had knee surgery last offseason and another one in June. “His progressions are moving forward really positively. The last checkup we had, he’s able to do full baseball activities, it’s just (a question of) how regular and how long of a duration,” said Eppler.
  • Johnny Barbato (elbow) is healthy and will start the season on time after missing the second half of 2014 with an elbow strain. “He was cleared and good to go,” said Eppler while noting Barbato healed up in time to pitch in Instructional League for the Padres last fall. The Yankees acquired Barbato in the Shawn Kelley trade.
  • And finally, Ty Hensley (face) has already resumed throwing bullpen sessions after he was viciously attacked during the holidays, according to his Twitter feed. Hensley’s jaw had to be wired shut due to the attack so he’ll likely lose some weight. He might have to rebuild some strength before the Yankees turn him loose this summer.

Ranking the 40-Man Roster: Nos. 17-19

Over these next two weeks we’re going to subjectively rank and analyze every player on the Yankees’ 40-man roster — based on their short and long-term importance to the team — and you’re inevitably going to disagree with our rankings. We’ve already covered Nos. 20-25, 26-31, and 32-40.

Mitchell.. (Presswire)
Mitchell.. (Presswire)

As we jump into the top half of our 40-man roster rankings, we are now looking at players who are projected to have significant roles with the 2015 Yankees as well as the 2016 and beyond Yankees. At least most of the time. There is still one exception to the “significant role with the 2015 Yankees” thing and we’ll cover him today.

Today we’re going to cover spots 17 through 19, which include two starters who are not expected to start the year in rotation, but seem likely to wind up there come the second half. The other spot belongs to the team’s best prospect on the 40-man roster. All three are important pieces to the future of the franchise. To the next batch of rankings …

No. 19: Bryan Mitchell

2015 Role: I don’t want to say sixth starter, but it’s something close to that. Mitchell made his MLB debut last season, including a spot start against the Orioles during a doubleheader, and he handled himself well. That doesn’t guarantee success this coming season, of course, but it’s better than getting lit up and leaving everyone with a bad taste in their mouth.

Mitchell will presumably get regular work in Spring Training and could win the final bullpen spot as a long man, I suppose, but an assignment to Triple-A Scranton seems more likely. That way he could remain stretched out and available for whenever the Yankees inevitably need another starter. Given the state of the rotation, there’s a good chance Mitchell will make double-digit starts in the big leagues in 2015.

Long-Term Role: Middle to back of the rotation starter. The 23-year-old Mitchell is well ahead of where Shane Greene was in his development at the same age, and he has similarly nasty stuff in his mid-90s fastball and curveball, though he’s not a finished product. They sort of project to be the same type of pitcher though. Workhorse starters with A+ stuff but maybe not A+ results all the time.

Mitchell was drafted out of high school as a raw hard-thrower and has worked hard to improve his control over the years. He had a 13.6% walk rate in Low Class-A, a 9.3% walk rate in High Class-A, a 9.8% walk rate in Double-A, and an 8.9% walk rate in Triple-A, so he is moving in the right direction. There is more work to be done and it appears much of it will happen at the big league level. The Yankees need Mitchell to help both now and in the future.

No. 18: Gary Sanchez

Sanchez. (Star-Ledger)
Sanchez. (Star-Ledger)

2015 Role: Doesn’t really have one outside of being a September call-up and the emergency extra catcher. A lot would have to go wrong for Sanchez to get a chance behind the plate before rosters expand, I think. His defense, specifically his receiving — he has thrown out 42% of attempted base-stealers the last two seasons and that’s outstanding — is still a work in progress and so is his bat, really. Sanchez will spend the season as the regular catcher with the RailRiders.

Long-Term Role: Impact bat. Hopefully at catcher, but if not, at first base or even DH. Either way, Sanchez is a bat-first prospect and that’s why he is so highly regarded. When Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked him as the team’s fifth best prospect a few weeks ago, they said he has “the potential for a .280 average and 20-25 home runs annually,” and that’s what the Yankees are hoping to see within a year or two.

Sanchez has shown quite a bit of improvement at making contact and controlling the strike zone as a pro — he had a 25.0% strikeout rate in Low Class-A, a 19.2% strikeout rate in High Class-A, and an 18.2% strikeout rate in Double-A. As with Mitchell, he’s trending in the right direction. Sanchez has power and a strong arm, so the physical tools are there. And he just turned 22 last month, making him the youngest player on the 40-man roster.

The Yankees very clearly value defense behind the plate. It all started years ago, really. They acquired Jose Molina from the Angels in the middle of the 2007 season and the only poor defensive catcher they’ve had since was Jorge Posada. Despite that gaudy caught stealing rate, Sanchez could find himself in another organization if the Yankees don’t like his defense enough. He could wind up being used as trade bait a la Jesus Montero.

Nova. (Presswire)
Nova and his braces. (Presswire)

No. 17: Ivan Nova

2015 Role: Rehabber, at least at first. Nova had Tommy John surgery in late-April and isn’t expected back until May or June of this year. He hasn’t had a setback or anything, the Yankees are just playing it a little safe. A lot of pitchers have recently needed a second Tommy John surgery soon after the first one — Kris Medlen, Jarrod Parker, Cory Luebke, Daniel Hudson, and Brandon Beachy just to name a few — and a lot of people (including Dr. James Andrews) say it may be because they are pushing too hard during the rehab of the first procedure. That’s why the Yankees are taking their time with Nova.

Once healthy and rehabbed, Nova will be expected to jump right back in the starting rotation and contribute. Every team needs more than five starters in a given season and these Yankees figure to be no different considering the injury risks present in the current projected rotation. If Nova comes back in May or June and the team doesn’t have an obvious spot for him, that’s a good thing. Let him get healthy first, then worry about where he fits. My guess is it won’t be a problem.

Long-Term Role: Like I said, Nova will jump right back into the starting rotation once healthy and he’s expected to be in the rotation in 2016 as well. That’s the extent of Nova’s ties to the Yankees though. He will become a free agent after the 2016 season and either he could decide to go elsewhere or the team could decide to move on.

That decision is still a long ways away, of course. Nova has to finish rehabbing his rebuilt elbow, get over the initial strike-throwing issues that so commonly plague recent Tommy John patients, then show in 2016 he is back to where he was before surgery. Now that I think about it … what was Nova before his injury? There were times he looked like an ace and other times he was throwing batting practice. We still don’t really know who the real Nova is at the MLB level. Isn’t that weird?

Coming Friday: Nos. 15 and 16. A young player about to get his first extended taste of big league action and a versatile reliever.

Yankees sign Ivan Nova to one-year, $3.3M contract, avoiding arbitration

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

The Yankees have signed Ivan Nova to a non-guaranteed one-year contract, avoiding arbitration, the team announced. Non-guaranteed contracts are standard for arbitration-eligible players. Joel Sherman hears Nova will earn $3.3M this coming the season, the same as last year. MLBTR projected a $3.3M salary as well.

Nova, who turned 28 on Monday, didn’t receive a raise this offseason because he only made four starts last year before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Those four starts were really bad too — he had a 8.27 ERA (6.91 FIP) with 40 base-runners allowed in 20.2 innings. Nova had his elbow rebuilt in late-April and isn’t expected to return until May or June of this coming season.

Friday is the deadline for teams and players to submit salary figures for arbitration, but the Yankees rarely let it get that far. They tend to sign their players before figures are exchanged. With Nova and Esmil Rogers both signed, the team’s only remaining arbitration-eligible players are Nathan Eovaldi (projected for $3.1M), Michael Pineda ($2.1M), and David Carpenter ($1.1M).