DotF: Torres injures elbow during Scranton’s doubleheader

OF Clint Frazier cranked his 12th home run of the season last night — and his third in the last six games — and goodness, it was a bomb. The video is above. That kid’s bat is not not slow. Here are some notes:

  • I missed this yesterday, but Josh Norris broke down Aaron Judge‘s swing development over the years with Triple-A Scranton hitting coach P.J. Pilittere, who worked with Judge at various stops in the minors. The videos are pretty interesting. Judge went through a lot of changes before finding something that worked.
  • RHP Domingo Acevedo was sent back down to Double-A Trenton, the team announced. I guess his Triple-A Scranton stint was a one-start cameo to provide support amid all the shuttle action. My guess is Acevedo will be back with the RailRiders before long though.
  • So long, LHP Jon Niese. He has been released, reports Matt Eddy. Niese had been down in Extended Spring Training working to build arm strength following knee surgery, and apparently the Yankees weren’t happy enough with his progress. ExST is ending next week and there’s nowhere to send him, hence the release.
  • The Staten Island Yankees begin their season Monday and Robert Pimpsner has the roster. The notables: IF Oswaldo Cabrera, LHP Jeff Degano, RHP Juan De Paula, RHP Drew Finley, SS Wilkerman Garcia, 3B Nelson Gomez, RHP Jorge Guzman, OF Leonardo Molina, and RHP Jio Orozco. Cabrera, Molina, and Orozco are being sent down from Low-A Charleston. De Paula came over in the Ben Gamel trade and Guzman in the Brian McCann trade. Guzman can really bring it.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (6-2 win over Buffalo in seven innings)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 2-3, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 BB, 2 SB — hitting streak is up to 16 games
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 3-4, 2 R, 1 RBI, 2 SB — 10-for-27 (.370) in his last six games, and he went hitless in two of those games
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 15-for-47 (.319) with nine doubles in his last 12 games
  • LF Clint Frazier: 2-4, 1 RBI
  • 2B Gleyber Torres: 1-2, 1 2B — left the game with an injury after a play at the plate (here’s video) … the Yankees say it’s a hyper-extended elbow and that x-rays came back negative, though Torres will have more tests Monday … the West Coast trip from hell has extended into the minors
  • RHP Chance Adams: 5 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 2/5 GB/FB — 61 of 90 pitches were strikes (68%) … 25.5 K% and 10.1 BB% this year after 29.1 K% and 7.9 BB% last year

[Read more…]

March 28th Camp Notes: Lineup, Ellsbury, Warren, Torreyes

The Yankees lost tonight, in their final home game of the Grapefruit League season. Aaron Judge clocked a solo home run as he continues to battle for the right field job. Tyler Wade also had a single, though his chances of making the Opening Day roster aren’t nearly as good as Judge’s. Gary Sanchez had a hit and a walk, and he also made an error. So did Greg Bird.

Earlier tonight I noted Masahiro Tanaka was four outs away from tying 2014 Justin Verlander for the most innings thrown in a scoreless spring since at least 2006, and it took exactly two batters for him to allow a run tonight. Single, double, run. That’s how the game started. My bad, yo. Tanaka finished the night with two runs allowed (one earned) in five innings. He struck out six. Dellin Betances came out of the bullpen and allowed a two-run homer. Here is the box score for tonight’s game. It wasn’t televised, so there are no video highlights. Here are the rest of the day’s notes from Spring Training:

  • Interestingly enough, Joe Girardi said tonight’s lineup could “very well could be similar” to the Opening Day lineup. The top of the lineup was, in order, Brett Gardner, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Matt Holliday, Jacoby Ellsbury. Girardi said he likes Ellsbury in the fifth spot because he’s done well in RBI situations — he hit .298/.372/.442 (117 wRC+) with runners in scoring position last year — and has some pop. [Erik Boland, Brendan Kuty]
  • Girardi also said Adam Warren will begin the season in the bullpen (surprise surprise) and that they still haven’t made a decision about right field. The Yankees are learning toward Ronald Torreyes at shortstop though. I’d bet on Pete Kozma being the utility infielder in that case. I doubt they would let Wade sit on the bench like that. [Boland, Bryan Hoch]
  • Welcome back Jon Niese and Caleb Smith. Niese has signed a new minor league contract with the Yankees after being released a few days ago. It was reported the plan is to send Niese to Extended Spring Training to build arm strength. Smith, meanwhile, was returned by the Cubs as a Rule 5 Draft pick. [George King]
  • The starting pitchers the rest of the week: Jordan Montgomery (Wednesday), Luis Severino (Thursday), and Michael Pineda (Friday). I imagine that means CC Sabathia is throwing a simulated game either Wednesday or Thursday. He’s starting the second game of the regular season and Pineda is starting the third. [Hoch]
  • Shane Hennigan has the day’s minor league lineups, if you’re interested in such things. The minor league regular season will begin next Thursday, April 6th. Can’t wait.

Only three games left this spring! The Yankees will be on the road to take on the Blue Jays tomorrow afternoon. There’s no broadcast for that one, but, on the bright side, it will be the final Yankees game you can’t watch this year. Thursday’s and Friday’s game will be available either online or on television.

Open Thread: March 26th Camp Notes

This afternoon’s win — they’ve almost become a formality for the Yankees this spring, haven’t they? — featured two more home runs, raising their Spring Training total to 47 homers in 31 games. They hit 20 in 32 games last year. I do love dingers. Aaron Hicks and Ruben Tejada did the honors today. Hicks and Aaron Judge both had two hits on the afternoon. Greg Bird had one.

Bryan Mitchell started and allowed three runs on six hits and two walks in three innings, though someone in attendance told me Tejada misplayed not one, but two grounders in the two-run second inning. Aroldis Chapman got two outs without incident while Ben Heller allowed two hits and a walk in 1.1 scoreless innings. Today’s game wasn’t televised, so there are no video highlights. Here is the box score and here are the day’s notes:

  • The Yankees have released Jon Niese, the team announced. He’s going to look around for a big league opportunity but could return to the Yankees on another minor league deal. The plan would be for Niese to go to Extended Spring Training to continue building arm strength. Releasing and re-signing Niese would allow the Yankees to avoid paying him the $100,000 retention bonus. Players with six years of service time on a minor league deal get the bonus if they’re not on the MLB roster by a certain date. I count 38 players still in big league camp. [Joel Sherman]
  • Shane Hennigan has the minor league lineups for the day. Blake Rutherford, who is apparently nicknamed “The Barrel” around camp, added 13 pounds over the winter. “He’s still growing, and I think he put on some weight during the offseason, good weight. There’s line-drive, gap power now, but his ability to make consistent contact out front, I think you’re going to see those balls start to loft,” said Low-A Charleston manager Patrick Osborn. More strength is good. Not so sure about that nickname though. [Josh Norris]
  • Bryan Hoch has the day’s pitching assignments and hitting groups. Chad Green started a minor league game while Michell started today’s Grapefruit League game. I think Mitchell has a leg up on a big league rotation spot, though there are only so many innings to go around this late in camp. Green and Mitchell both had to pitch today, so one went to minor league camp.
  • Jordan Montgomery will start Wednesday and Luis Severino will start Thursday. That means neither guy will be on normal rest for Opening Day next Sunday, so they wouldn’t be available out of the bullpen. Could mean they’re both in the Opening Day rotation, could mean nothing. Intrigue! [Mike Mazzeo]
  • The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow and there’s not going to be much going on at the complex. Tomorrow is everyone’s last chance to chill out for a bit before the regular season begins. The Yankees return to action Tuesday night against the Tigers. I assume Masahiro Tanaka is starting since it would line him up for Opening Day. That game won’t be televised.

Here is an open thread for the rest of the weekend. MLB Network is showing spring games live and on tape delay throughout the rest of the day. The (hockey) Rangers, Devils, and Nets are playing, and there are a pair of March Madness games on too. Anything goes here, except religion or politics.

Going beyond the top relievers [2017 Season Preview]

(Gett Images)
Layne. (Getty Images)

Over the last few days, we’ve covered the four key cogs in the Yankees’ bullpen machine: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard. If healthy, each will take up the main roles in Joe Girardi‘s ‘pen and be called upon for the most important innings this season.

But the bullpen features far more than four guys. There will be at least seven on opening day. The Yankees had 20 different relievers pitch in at least one game last season. They had 26 the year before (24 if you take out position players).

So let’s take a look at the rest of the bullpen. Chances are, far more than the guys listed below will log time in relief, but these are the ones that jump out with a chance right now.

The veteran pick-up

Frieri circa 2014. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Frieri. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Last week, the Yankees added Ernesto Frieri on a minor league deal. Frieri didn’t pitch at all in 2016 after an awful spring with the Phillies, but he played for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic. While there, he tossed two shutout innings against the Dominican Republic, even striking out Nelson Cruz.

Frieri, just 31 years old, was a pretty solid reliever from 2010-13, highlighted by a 2.32 ERA and 23 saves with the Padres and Angels in 2012. However, he was barely usable in 2014-15 with the Angels, Pirates and Rays with his ERA ballooning as high as 7.34 in 2014. At his best, he utilizes his mid-90s fastball to get hitters out, mixing in a slider and the occasional change or curve.

He’s a real wild card for the Yankees’ pen. There’s a solid chance he’ll make the team (seven batters into spring, he has six strikeouts and one HR allowed) but what he does from there is anyone’s guess. His velocity seems to have returned after falling a bit in 2014-15 and could be the secret to an improved Frieri.

The lefties

Girardi loves his southpaws, so one has to figure there will be at least one on the roster at all times, if not two. That’s not including Chapman, who won’t be used as a matchup lefty and is the definitive closer.

First up is Tommy Layne. Layne, 32, is a classic LOOGY, much better against lefties than righties. He tosses a lot variations of fastballs alongside a slider and curveball to produce some strikeouts. He was perfectly fine in 29 games for the Yankees in 2016 and it’s not outlandish to expect him to have another mid-3.00 ERA with a few too many walks and struggles against righties. Again, classic LOOGY.

Behind him lie a few different options, namely Chasen Shreve and Jon Niese. Niese, 30, has started most of his career and has succeeded at primarily keeping the ball on the ground. He’d provide a solid option as both another lefty and as a long man, two roles Girardi has said he sees Niese filling. He is coming back from a knee injury that he struggled with last season, so a healthy Niese would be an interesting piece.

We all know about Shreve. He was dominant for a couple months in 2015 with his low-90s fastball and changeup before becoming a liability late in ’15 and shuffling between the bullpen and the minors in 2016. The 26-year-old southpaw isn’t a LOOGY with the changeup as an out-pitch, but hitters appeared to figure out his off-speed offerings over the last couple seasons.

Two pitchers who reached Triple A last season are also in the mix for roles this summer, if not earlier. Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns each played roles in Scranton’s success last fall and looked solid in Double A Trenton before that. Enns was added to the 40-man roster this winter. Lefties hit Enns slightly better than righties last season and the soft-tossing southpaw may not be best suited for a role as a LOOGY.

Montgomery — who is potentially in play for a spot in the rotation on opening day, let alone a relief spot — isn’t on the 40-man roster yet. Similar to Enns, Montgomery had a reverse split last year, although neither lefties or righties hit him well. He throws from a high arm slot and has a solid change-up and would be a solid long reliever if he isn’t a starter.

Righties with a taste

Heller (Getty Images)
Heller. (Getty Images)

Both Ben Heller and Jonathan Holder got chances last September to help the Yankees bullpen and neither particularly impressed. Heller, a 25 year old who came over in the Andrew Miller trade, throws in the upper 90s with his fastball and mixes in an effective slider. Despite his 6.43 ERA in seven big league innings, he’s certainly someone to keep an eye on because he has the stuff to be effective. He’s posted strong strikeout numbers everywhere in the minors, solid enough to mask occasional issues with walks. I’d expect him to be one of the first relievers called up this spring, if not someone on the roster opening day after a lights-out spring (one run, 8 ks in 9 2/3 innings with 6 BB).

Like Heller, Holder couldn’t seem to have his strikeout numbers translate in his short big league stint (8 1/3 innings). He also uncharacteristically struggled with control. Still, his fantastic strikeout rates (101 Ks in 65 1/3 innings last year over three levels) are the reason he was added to the 40-man roster early at 23 years old. He’s likely behind Heller but still a solid option this spring/summer.

Long man

The Yankees’ have a series of young pitchers competing for the final rotation spots right now and only two will walk away with said spots. Therefore, the rest will be relegated to Triple A or to spots in the bullpen. Frieri’s addition to the team makes it less likely the team brings two of those losing out north — or actually south 20 miles from Steinbrenner Field to Tropicana Field — for opening day.

Still, there is likely one spot, if not two, for those who lose out. Let’s say Luis Severino and Bryan Mitchell get the rotation spots. It’s easy to see Luis Cessa take the long-man role while Chad Green and Montgomery go to Triple A. The latter two would still be likely to see time in the majors and could be see it quickly considering the bullpen shuttle of recent years.

40-man roster and beyond

Barbato (Getty Images)
Barbato. (Getty Images)

There is a gaggle of relievers that got opportunities to show off their stuff this spring with the Yankees, way too many to go through in detail. Johnny Barbato and Gio Gallegos are both on the 40-man and closest to the majors.

Further down the 40-man, Yefrey Ramirez and Domingo German both have strikeout worthy stuff, but they’re starters at the moment and haven’t pitched above Single A. Ronald Herrera, acquired for Jose Pirela a couple years ago, has all of five innings above Double A.

Off the 40-man roster, it’s worth paying attention to a few names. Nick Rumbelow, outrighted off the 40, is coming off Tommy John surgery and once showed promise for a middle relief role. Joe Mantiply — a southpaw who was claimed off waivers, DFA’d and then re-signed to a minor league deal this winter — has solid strikeout rates in the minors but hasn’t thrown much above Double A. Finally, J.P Feyereisen was acquired in the Miller deal with Heller and co. and was solid as a fireman for Double A Trenton in the MiLB playoffs last year. Could be something down the road and I wouldn’t be shocked if he is seen in the majors for a stint this summer.

Yankees smart to look at Niese as a reliever, but they should keep an open mind about starting

(Jennifer Stewart/Getty)
(Jennifer Stewart/Getty)

The Yankees made what will likely be their final free agent signing before Opening Day this weekend, inking veteran southpaw Jon Niese to a minor league contract. He pitched with a bad knee for much of last season and it showed in his numbers. A healthy Niese — he passed his physical yesterday, so he’s healthy — could be a nice little pickup. The minor league deal means there’s no risk anyway.

Niese, who is still only 30 and will spend the entire 2017 season at that age, has been a starting pitcher most of his career, though he’s also pitched in relief. The Mets used him out of the bullpen during the 2015 postseason, and last year the Pirates moved him into a relief role because he pitched so poorly as a starter they had no other choice. Point is, Niese has experience as a starter and reliever, and versatility is always appreciated.

The Yankees, however, are looking at Niese strictly as a bullpen option in Spring Training, Joe Girardi confirmed yesterday. Despite the wide open fourth and fifth starter spots, the veteran Niese isn’t a consideration for the rotation. That surprised me. Here’s what Girardi said, via George King:

“(The bullpen is) how we envision using him,’’ Girardi said. “He’s one of those guys, if he’s in the bullpen, he can do left on left or he can give you distance. As of right now, we aren’t looking at him as a starter. We have the five guys vying for the two spots. We would look at him more long and short.’’

On one hand, I’m glad the Yankees are sticking with the youth movement and prioritizing the young pitchers in the rotation race. On the other hand, why wouldn’t you at least see what Niese looks like in Spring Training games before ruling him out for a starting job? What if he comes out firing BBs with a healthy knee and forces the issue? No one thought Bartolo Colon would throw well in Spring Training 2011, then his first pitch was 95 mph.

Ultimately, Girardi’s words don’t matter that much. They don’t lock the Yankees into anything. If Niese comes out and looks fantastic in camp, the Yankees always have the option of re-evaluating things and looking at him as a starting pitcher. Plans change. For what it’s worth, Niese is willing to do whatever. “I’m here to pitch to the best of my ability and make the team … Whatever the role, I want to make the ballclub,” he said to King.

I’m excited to see the young pitchers this year — and let’s be realistic, all those guys will get chances this season, that’s the way the pitching cookie often crumbles — though I also think the Yankees should keep an open mind about using Niese as a starter. If he’s healthy, he could be pretty useful in that role given his ground ball tendencies. Also, he is only 30, so if he has success as a starter, the Yankees could look to keep him around in 2018 (and beyond?).

Furthermore, the young guys are all going to be on some sort of workload limit. I don’t know what the exact innings number will be — Luis Cessa let the kids with 147.1 innings in 2016 — but the number definitely exists. For all of them. The Yankees will have to monitor their workloads all summer, and not everyone will be able to follow the 2015 Luis Severino blueprint. Niese could help manage those workloads by making spot starts and whatnot.

My guess is Niese is going to be have to blow people away to get rotation duty at any point this year. If you’re expecting him and the kids to give you similar production, the kids should be the priority. And they will be with the Yankees. I’m pretty sure about that. I do think the Yankees should keep an open mind about Niese as a starter this year, but for now, looking at him as a bullpen option is an okay move. Development of the young arms is more important long-term.

Update: Yankees agree to minor league deal with Jon Niese

(Getty)
(Getty)

Monday: Ken Davidoff has the financial details. The deal will pay Niese a $1.25M base salary at the big league level, with another $750,000 available in incentives. He has separate incentives based on whether he is a starter or reliever, though the max value of the contract remains $2M either way.

Sunday: The Yankees have added some veteran rotation depth. According to multiple reports, the club has agreed to a minor league contract with left-hander Jon Niese. He is reportedly in Tampa and either has taken his physical already, or will do so soon. Niese’s season ended in late-August due to knee surgery, so the physical isn’t necessarily routine.

Niese, who turned only 30 in October, had a 5.50 ERA (5.62 FIP) in 121 innings spread across 20 starts and nine relief appearances for the Pirates and Mets last year. As I wrote in our Scouting the Market post a few weeks back, Niese pitched through knee pain for much of the season. He said it started bothering him in June, and, well:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9
First 12 starts 71 3.93 5.10 15.8% 7.7% 55.0% 1.52
Last 17 games
50 7.74 6.35 16.5% 9.8% 45.8% 2.34

It’s impossible to know how the injury — Niese had a torn meniscus and had the knee scoped, so he should be good to go by now — affected Niese on the mound, though the timeline matches up. Niese said it started bothering him in June and that’s when his performance went in the tank. The minor league deal means it’ll cost the Yankees nothing to see if he can return to his 2012-15 form (3.79 ERA and 3.78 FIP) with a healthy knee.

The Yankees will reportedly look at Niese as both a starter and reliever, which makes sense. They have two openings in the rotation and a few more in the bullpen. The club has been looking for another lefty reliever pretty much all winter, and while Niese has spent most of his career as a starter, he has relieved in the past. He was in the bullpen for the Mets 2015 postseason run, for example.

I’m a fan of the move. I don’t expect Niese to come in and throw 180 innings far-above-average innings, but he’s been a ground ball lefty throughout his career, and those guys are always welcome at Yankee Stadium. The minor league deal is no risk. Healthy Niese could prove to be a nice little pickup.

Open Thread: February 20th Camp Notes

I missed this last week, but the Yankees have announced single-game tickets for the 2017 season go on sale next Monday, February 27th. The Mastercard pre-sale period begins this Wednesday, February 22nd. Baseball is coming, folks. Make sure you get your tickets. Here are the day’s notes from Tampa:

  • Jon Niese passed his physical and his minor league deal is official, the Yankees announced. There are now 67 players in big league camp, though Richard Bleier remains in limbo after being designated for assignment. Niese said he was surprised he had to settle for a minor league deal, and added he signed with the Yankees because he sees a good opportunity to make the team. Joe Girardi said Niese is competing for a bullpen spot, not a rotation spot. [Jack Curry, Erik Boland]
  • One more note on Niese: he’s an Article XX(B) free agent because he has six years of service time and signed a minor league deal. That means two things. One, the Yankees have to pay him a $100,000 bonus at the end of Spring Training before sending him to the minors. And two, his contract automatically includes a June 1st opt-out if he is not on the big league roster.
  • Here, via Brendan Kuty, are the day’s pitching assignments, hitting groups, and fielding groups. Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa both threw simulated games while Michael Pineda, Tyler Clippard, Justus Sheffield, and Chance Adams were among those to throw live batting practice. Greg Bird took someone deep during a sim game (video).
  • Hensley Meulens, the former Yankee, said Didi Gregorius is going to play second, short, and third with the Netherlands during the World Baseball Classic. He’ll also get at-bats as the DH. Meulens is the team’s manager. The Netherlands has Jonathan Schoop at second, Andrelton Simmons at short, and Xander Bogaerts at third. [Jon Morosi]

This is the open thread for the evening. The NBA is still in their All-Star break and none of the local hockey teams are in action, so all you’ve got tonight are a handful of college basketball games. Talk about anything here as long as it’s not religion or politics.