Archive for Kevin Russo
On May 1, Curtis Granderson injured his groin in a game against the White Sox, and the Yankees fell to 15-8 on the season. Since then, the Yankees have gone just 13-11, and even though Granderson is hitting just .225/.311/.375 on the young season, he brings depth to the Yanks’ lineup and bench. His return from the disabled list — rumored to come tonight — is a welcome development indeed.
When Granderson is activated, the Yanks will have their center fielder back. Granderson told reporters that he is at around 90-95 percent. “The groin is actually good. I haven’t felt anything with it,” he said. “If you dig in and touch it, it’s still tender to the touch. But I don’t feel anything with it.”
The Yankees, notoriously tight-lipped, haven’t yet decided on a corresponding roster move. As far as I can tell, the team has three options. Because Joe Girardi prefers a full bullpen, they will ship Kevin Russo back to the minors, designate Randy Winn for assignment or send Ramiro Pena down to AAA. Let’s evaluate.
1. Send Kevin Russo back to AAA
Our first option remains both most likely and least popular with the fans. By virtue of a few clutch hits and some solid work in left field, Kevin Russo has turned himself into a household name. He could still find himself ticketed to Scranton.
Why Russo will go: With Granderson’s return, the Yankees will have their three starting outfielders, Randy Winn, and — gulp — Marcus Thames as their five outfielders. For his defensive capabilities, Russo is a better long-term option than Thames ever will be, but he’s hitting just .250/.286/.350 and has a career Minor League OPS of .763. By sending him down, the Yankees can give him some every-day experience and work on his infield and outfield skills. He’ll remain under team control and would probably be the first guy up in case of emergency.
Why Russo could stay: Randy Winn looks like toast. Ramiro Peña, not known for his offense, hasn’t hit a lick this year. If anything, Russo is the best of three less-than-desirable choices.
2. Designate Randy Winn for assignment
I have to admit that I’m no fan of Randy Winn. I expected him to be a decent enough outfielder with some bat, but he’s shown no ability whatsoever this year. He hits like Melky and seems to throw like Johnny Damon, and his bad play in the Citi Field games did little to endear him to fans. The Yanks are paying him a guaranteed $1.1 million with some performance bonuses, and they could easily just cut him loose.
Why Winn will go: Handed the left field job when Curtis Granderson went down, Winn did everything in his power to lose it. He’s hitting a weak .213/.300/.295 this year and can’t seem to get around on a fastball. On the bright side, he has a 1.4 UZR in left field but with an arm below average. He is easily replaceable.
Why Winn will stay: With that positive UZR, the Yankees could utilize Winn as a late-innings defensive specialist. They don’t particularly need his bat with Granderson’s return to the lineup, and once the team cuts Winn, they won’t be bringing him back. With Russo or Peña, the team can simply summon either player from AAA and be none the worse for it. The Yankees like their old veterans, and Winn fits that bill — at least for a few more weeks.
3. Send Ramiro Peña to AAA
The Yanks’ final option would involve sending out their lone back-up middle infielder to AAA. The all-glove, no-hit 25-year-old could head back to Scranton to take some innings at the corner outfield positions with an eye toward replacing Randy Winn if he can handle the job.
Why Peña will go: If you thought Randy Winn’s bat was slow, get a load of Peña’s. He’s appeared in just 18 games this year and has come to the plate 42 times. Whatever offense he might have is just withering away, and he’s hitting .211/.244/.237. He somehow managed to hit .287 last season, but his minor league career triple slash — .255/.315/.320 — is more in line with his 2010 numbers than his 2009 campaign. In a very small sample, his defense has been nothing spectacular this year, and he is, simply put, dead weight on a roster with too much dead weight.
Why Peña will stay: Only one trait is keeping Ramiro in the Bronx: He can play short stop. The Bombers do not appear to believe that Kevin Russo could man short should Jeter go down, and the team would prefer to keep their only versatile back-up infield at the big league level. It’s flimsy reasoning at best, but it should be enough to save Peña’s job for the next few months as Russo learns short.
As roster moves go, the one the Yanks must make later today is rather inconsequential, but it certainly provides us with a glimpse into the inner workings of a GM’s mind. Someone will have to go, and while three candidates could be shipped out, which one goes will have an impact on the make-up of the current Yankee roster.
Last time the Yankees faced the Twins, they were coming off a minor losing skid, having dropped three of four to the Tigers. For the first two games the Yankees had it together, and they clinched a series win before melting down on Sunday. This time the Yanks were coming off two straight series losses, including losses in six of their previous 10 games. Once again they’ve used the Twins as a prop. They finished what they started earlier in the day, and then came back to win a whole game, played all at once.
Biggest Hit: Swisher goes where few have gone before
Andy Pettitte kept the Twins’ offense under control for most of the game. After allowing a run in the first he worked through the Twins lineup with aplomb, throwing 72 of his 94 pitches for strikes. Heading into the bottom of the seventh he had a lead, but one pitch changed that. With a 2-0 count on Delmon Young, Pettitte delivered a fastball outside. Young smacked it over Brett Gardner‘s head. Running from first base, Michael Cuddyer read it all the way and came all the way around to score. That tied the game and put pressure back on the laboring Yankees’ offense.
As Justin Morneau displayed on Tuesday, hitting the ball to right at Target field is not like hitting the ball to right at Yankee Stadium. Not only is the fence 20 feet deeper, but it’s probably four times as high. It must be tough for a lefty to hit one out there. Morneau might agree, as nine of his 11 home runs have come on the road. The Yankees needed a run in the ninth, especially after what Pettitte had done in the eighth. With Brett Gardner and then the top of the order due up, the Yanks stood a decent chance.
Gardner worked the count full before popping one up right around second base. Jeter saw a hanging breaking ball high in the zone and had the right idea. The pitch was just a bit too high for him, though, and he just got under it. That brought up Nick Swisher with none on and two out.
Jon Rauch stayed away from his fastball when dealing with Swish. His first-pitch curveball crossed the top of the zone for strike one. The next pitch, another curveball, fell a little low, though it was a well-placed pitch. Rauch went to the changeup next, and he left it right out over the plate. Swisher took a swipe at it, and a few seconds later it had landed in the seats. It was Swisher’s eighth home run on the season. He also hit his seventh double in the first.
Biggest Pitch: Pettitte bests Mauer
Heading into the eighth it looked like Andy Pettitte was on pace for a complete game. He’d thrown just 83 pitches in the first seven innings. He’d need only 14 pitches to get through the eighth, but it they were a stressful 14 pitches. Drew Butera made it tough right from the start, doubling on Pettitte’s second pitch of the inning. The ball actually hit a running Brett Gardner in the glove, but he couldn’t hang on. Denard Span tried to bunt him over, and after a foul on the first pitch he got one down towards third. A-Rod overpursued a bit, flubbing the ball and allowing Span to reach and Butera to advance.
The situation could not be more dire. First and third, none out, and only Orlando Hudson standing between Pettitte and the heart of the Twins’ order, Mauer and Morneau. Pettitte’s teammates were partly responsible for the baserunners, but Pettitte himself had to work out of the jam. He got off to a good start by getting Orlando Hudson to line right back to him. The baserunners froze, leaving no chance of a double play, but Pettitte still had an incredible task ahead of him.
Last year, during his MVP run, Joe Mauer stepped to the plate 125 times with the possibility of a double play. He hit into only 13 of them. This year has treated him a bit differently. In 46 double play opportunities coming into last night, Mauer had hit into nine of them, or about double his rate from last season. Even so, it didn’t seem probable. When Joe Mauer comes to the plate, I always envision him getting a hit.
Pettitte worked the corners, throwing his first to pitches low and away before coming inside with the next two.With the count 3-1, Pettitte threw a cutter that probably would have ended a little off the plate. But Mauer swung, grounding it to Jeter who was playing up the middle. He flipped to Cano, who flung to Teixeira to complete the double play and get Pettitte out of the jam. At that point, the Yankees had to win the game for him.
Russo the run creator
Francisco Liriano was good, not great, last night. He had quality stuff, and it led to seven strikeouts and 10 groundouts, which is right around where Liriano wants to be. It might sound like a recent call-up like Kevin Russo would be overmatched, and during his first at-bat that did appear to be the case. Liriano threw him two fastballs and then buried two sliders inside for a swinging strikeout. The next two battles wouldn’t go so well for Liriano.
Robinson Cano singled up the middle to lead off the fourth, but neither Marcus Thames nor Francisco Cervelli could follow him. Cervelli ended up hitting into a fielder’s choice, just beating out the double play, and replacing Cano at first. Russo then came up with two outs. Liriano attacked him similarly, keeping almost everything inside. The last slider didn’t get quite far enough inside, and Russo pulled it down the line to left. Once it got to the wall Cervelli was almost guaranteed to score and tie the game at one.
With two outs in the sixth, Russo faced Liriano again, and for the second time manufactured a quality at-bat. He fouled off a fastball and then a slider, and on the sixth pitch of the at-bat he got a changeup low and away, which he pulled into left for a two-out hit. Brett Gardner followed by smacking a first-pitch fastball to right, sending Russo all the way home for the go-ahead run. Once again, the Yankees got some serious production from the bottom of the order, which compensated for the slumping middle of the order.
Positive sign for Teixeira
Mark Teixeira went 2 for 5 today, which was especially nice given his 0 for 4 performance the game before. His first hit was a bit of a cheapie, a pop up that found a hole in the defense. But as you’ll hear many a former player profess, sometimes those are the ones that help you break out. If that really was the magic potion that broke his slump, he showed it in the ninth.
After giving up the homer, Jon Rauch did to Teixeira what he would not do to Swisher: he threw a fastball. It caught the outside corner for strike one. He then went to the slider, which missed outside for ball two. It was slider again on the third pitch, and this one appeared to break below the zone. The ump never got a chance to call it, as Teixeira took a Teixeira-like swing at it, driving it into right field for what looked like a double. He got thrown out at second on a good throw and relay, but that’s not really the point. The pitch wasn’t particularly good, yet Tex still hit it on the screws.
Maybe, just maybe, that will get him going. Nobody needs it now more than Tex.
WPA Graph and box score
It’s another CDT game, 8 p.m., when Javy Vazquez goes for the Yanks against Nick Blackburn for the Twins.
Mike does a great job compiling all of the stats and happenings across the Yankees’ minor league system in his nightly Down on the Farm series. From Staten Island to Scranton, we have a pretty good sense about how our players did, even if we mostly only care about Montero, Romine, ManBan, Ramirez, Warren, Z-Mac, Stoneburner and a handful of other players.
But after a while we sometimes get “stuck” in the numbers — we forget how the guy that’s just gone 0-5 with 4 K’s during last night’s game is very often the same guy that went 4-5 with two home runs the night before. So I’m going to be doing a recap of how some of the AAA farmhands have performed thus far, all of which came from milb.com or minorleaguesplits.com. Many of the players on this list are on Mike’s Preseason Prospect List, where you can get a better look at their long term prospects. In this AAA installment I chose to recap players that are actual prospects, most of which will likely (if they haven’t already) see major league action this year. Not too many are interested in seeing Amaury Sanit’s progress, though I’m betting we’d all love to find out if Kei Igawa sleeps with those awesome sunglasses on (I’ll do some digging and try to find out for you all).
Next week we’ll take a look at how some of the AA guys are looking. Also, because there’s a Montero Watch present in the sidebar and most DotF are comprised of MonteroTalk, we’re going to leave him out on this one.
AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre
Kevin Russo, 2B: With the big league club having apparently suffering a pandemic of Mets-itus, a few AAA players have seen some promotions. Chief among them, and for good reason, is utility player Kevin Russo. Russo, a former 20th round draft pick out of Baylor in 2006, had hit .302/.383/.425 as Scranton’s second basemen before jumping to Massachusetts after Robinson Cano was hit by a Josh Beckett fastball. He got only two plate appearances but Russo’s versatility – he can at least play three infield spots and man the corner outfield positions – defensively, his solid on-base skills, and good contact ability make him a good candidate to stick in the big leagues for a long time. With Ramiro Pena‘s mounting struggles with the bat (which was inevitable, really), Russo may take him over as a super-utility guy at some point. He’ll have to show he can at least play SS passably, though, and there’s no guarantee of that. Bonus: if there are minors fantasy leagues that exist (I’m hoping they do), he’ll soon have CF eligibility, too. He’s played there of late.
Season line in AAA: .301/.388/.416
Last ten games: .310/.383/.405
Time in New York: .000/.000/.000
Eduardo Nunez, SS: Most people saw this coming. Nunez got off to a torrid pace, as Greg Fertel and even RAB’s own Mike Axisa have noted in his DotF postings. Consequently, Nunez has really tailed off, displaying why we shouldn’t fall in love with early season small sample sizes. With a few middle infielders ahead of him in the pecking order and poor defensive skills (albeit with a great arm), Nunez is unlikely to see any big league action this year. If he does it will because of ghastly circumstances. Poor defense, weak power, unrefined on-base skills with very good contact ability, plus speed and a wonderful arm. That may translate to some modicum of minor league success, but I don’t see it happening on the major league level for a middle infielder (and really one in name only).
Season in AAA: .321/.371/.400
Last ten games: .244/.262/.268
Juan Miranda, 1B: Miranda was a big-money IFA signing of the Yanks from Cuba back in 2006. You may remember he was once considered the future first baseman of the Yanks. While that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, Miranda, in his final option year, is playing for a contract for a big league club next year. The book on him was that though he really nails right handers, he struggles with lefties and his defensive play is by no means great, even for a first baseman. Last year he took positive steps in correcting those problems, hitting lefties with a triple slash of .291/.367/.507. So far, in AAA, he’s continued that pace, hitting .313/.389/.563 in 33 plate appearances (note: this is according to minorleaguesplits.com, which is a bit behind in their stats). Oddly, he’s struggled against righties, hitting .222/.354/.364 in 66 plate appearances. He’s been in New York for a few games, and with Nick Johnson possibly out for a few months, Miranda may stay in New York as a DH. Considering Johnson’s injury history, the team couldn’t be caught too surprised by that. This may be make or break for Miranda.
Season line in AAA: .260/.371/.438
Last ten games in AAA:.250/.357/.417
Time in New York: .143/.250/.286
Ivan Nova, SP
Nova’s rocketed up Yankee top prospect lists over the last two years as he’s finally started to harness his very good stuff. He’s been up in New York after the injury bug hit and he’s largely impressed, though he’s probably the guy sent back down with Park coming back from the DL. In his first appearance, Nova, signed by the Yanks and returned after being selected as a Rule V from the Padres, came in and threw two scoreless innings and in today’s game he again looked fairly good. With a likely ceiling as a back-end starter in the AL East (which really isn’t all that bad when you think about it), Nova is very likely to be the first guy up again with another injury, first because he’s already on the 40-man roster, and second because a groundball pitcher with good stuff is always a valuable commodity. He also has an outside shot at a rotation spot next year depending on how things shake out.
AAA season: 37 IP, 2.43 ERA, 35 hits, 32 K, 12 BB, 1.78 GO/AA
Last two starts: 13 IP, 3.84 ERA, 17 hits, 7 K, 4 BB
Time in New York: 3 innings, 0.00 ERA, 4 hits, 1 K, 0 BB
Zack McAllister, SP
Z-Mac has had an up-and-down in his first run at AAA. Arguably the Yankees’ top pitching prospect, McAllister ran into some issues in late April, early May, giving up over 6 runs in two of three starts. Still, he’s sprinkled in some good games and has strung two consecutive 7-inning performances of good ball. A polished groundball pitcher, McAllister may wind up trade bait or perhaps in the rotation as early as next year. He, like Nova, has back rotation or possibly #3 starter potential, but he’s going to need to get that groundball rate up again. A 34% GB ratio is not going to work at the big league level for a guy with his skill set. It wouldn’t hurt to develop a true out pitch, either.
Season in AAA: 45 IP, 4.40 ERA, 52 hits, 32 K, 9 BB, 0.52 GO/AA
Last two starts: 14 IP, 2.14 ERA, 14 hits, 8K, 1 BB
Romulo Sanchez, SP/RP
The last of the famed “Fat Sanchezes,” Romulo has been very impressive in his time in Pennsylvania and also in New York. Sanchez has a great fastball, occasionally hitting the high 90’s with his 4-seamer, but he likely profiles best as a reliever in the future due to his erratic control and fringe-average off-speed pitches (a changeup and slider). If he can locate that big fastball and keep hitters off balance with one of the off speed offerings, he could definitely stick with the big club over the year. His numbers in Scranton are a bit misleading. In April he gave up 10 earned runs in only 2.1 innings. Otherwise, he’s been among the better pitchers in the upper minors.
AAA season: 32 IP, 5.34 ERA, 30 hits, 32 K, 16 BB, 1.22 GO/AA
Last 2 starts: 14 IP, 1.42 ERA, 9 hits, 17 K, 2 BB
In New York: 3.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 1 hit, 3 K, 1 BB
Mark Melancon, RP
The final name on our list, Melancon entered last season with high expectations and didn’t live up to them in limited action. I recall his propensity for hitting opposing batters (along with old favorite Mike Dunn). It was probably just jitters because he returned to AAA and fell right back where he’d been before his callup. He came back up again briefly and showed signs of life, causing many of us to think he’d be up in the Bronx to start the year. Well, hasn’t happened yet but it seems like just a matter of time. Melancon has again been very good in Pennsylvania in 2010. A look at his splits reveals some quirks, though. You might look at his numbers against righties and say, “Wait a second, this doesn’t look right.” And to some extent, you’d be right. But aha! Along with a BABip against righties of .462, he’s also giving up a line drive rate of 26.2%, yet checking in with an FIP of 3.05. Look a bit further over and you see why. He’s striking out 16.55 righties per nine innings this year. Wow, that’s strange data. Against lefties he’s getting lots of groundouts, another promising sign. I’d be fairly shocked if we don’t see Melancon in the Bronx very soon.
AAA Season: 23 IP, 2.74 ERA, 21 hits, 31 K, 8 BB, 1.71 GO/AA
Last 4 appearances: 5.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 4 hits, 13 K, 2 BB
This one took a little longer to materialize than we originally expected, but Juan Miranda has in fact been called up, and is in the lineup at first base today. Mark Teixiera is getting a half-day off as the designated hitter, but I expect everyone to get a full day off given the weather forecast in Detroit. To make room for Miranda, utility player Kevin Russo was returned to Triple-A Scranton. Unsurprising, but still slightly disappointing. Hopefully Miranda gets regular at-bats, because this nonsense about a rotating DH needs to stop.
Meanwhile, Marc Carig reports that Chan Ho Park will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton tomorrow. He’ll probably need two or three minor league outings before being ready to return to the big league team, so that puts him on target for a return next week. The bullpen sure could use him.
Via Ben Shpigel, the Yankees have recalled infielder Kevin Russo to help out as injuries thin the roster. The corresponding move hasn’t been announced, but we can safely assume Nick Johnson will be placed on the disabled list with a sore right wrist. The 25-year-old Russo has hit .302-.383-.425 with Triple-A Scranton this year, and he’s played every position except left field, first base, pitcher, and catcher.
Update by Ben (12:17 p.m.): While we don’t yet have further details on the extent of their injuries, Joel Sherman tweets that both Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada are out of the lineup today. Cano’s day off isn’t much of a surprise, but Posada’s is. The catcher yesterday seemed to express the belief that he would play today, but it appears that his calf isn’t up to par yet. Even though the Yanks could really use his bat, Joe Girardi is sticking with his plan to rest Posada today. Both Jorge and Robinson — who says he’s feeling better despite a slightly sore and swollen knee — expect to be back tomorrow.
Update (1:14 p.m.): Per Mark Feinsand, Cano may play after all. The Yanks’ second baseman is going to take a few swings in the cage and get some treatment on his sore left knee. If he’s feeling OK, Girardi will slot him into the lineup as another lefty against Clay Buchholz. We think it might be wiser to give Cano a day off, but if the Yanks feel he won’t jeopardize further injury by playing, the team could use his bat.
Update by Mike (1:19pm): Just to tie a bow on it, Johnson is in fact on the disabled list.
Update by Ben (1:59 p.m.): Our 15-hour national nightmare is over: Robinson Cano is in the lineup as the Yanks’ DH. That is, if rain doesn’t cancel the game. Stay tuned.
In the past few days the Yankees have had to deal with a number of injuries. Most of them have been mild in nature, but that still causes problems for the roster. In fact, mild injuries can cause more problems than DL trips in some cases, because the player is not available and there is no one to take his place on the roster. Right now the Yankees have three players nursing injuries who won’t hit the DL, so that’s three inactive roster spots. It can make managing the lineup and bullpen a bit tricky.
The Yankees do have options, though, and will likely make a number of moves during the next few days to keep their roster up to speed. The moves will include recalling an infielder tomorrow, and then probably an outfielder early next week. They’ll need an extra OF if Marcus Thames is going to take more reps at DH. Let’s start with what they’ll do tomorrow.
Marc Carig reports that the Yankees have scheduled no tests on Robinson Cano‘s knee, so chances are he’ll just sit out a day or two. The Yanks could probably get by with just four infielders, but it’s probably advisable to have a backup. Kevin Russo makes the most sense, since he can play all infield positions and is already on the 40-man roster. I’d be very surprised if this didn’t happen tomorrow.
The Yankees currently have 13 pitchers, which is two too many. Logan and Robertson pitched last night, so they’re the most likely to go on an optional assignment. Mike wrote about demoting Robertson yesterday. Boone Logan writes about his own demotion every time he walks a batter.
The Yankees sent down Golson before today’s game, meaning that under normal circumstances he’d have to spend 10 days in the minors. With the injury to Johnson, though, the Yankees can bring him right back. If, as Carig reports, they’ll use Thames at DH, they’ll need a reserve outfielder. Golson is the best option right now.
Possible alternative: Moeller instead of Russo or Golson
Both Golson and Russo are really just emergency options. They’re nice to have around, and the Yankees have the flexibility to keep them around as insurance. They could, however, opt to give Jorge some reps at DH. That way they can get his bat into the lineup without risking his legs by playing him at catcher. That would require a third catcher, which would be Chad Moeller.
This is something I can see happening after the need for Russo expires. Once Cano is back to playing the Yanks don’t need two utility infielders, so Russo will likely head back to Scranton. That does leave a roster spot free. The Yankees could opt to recall Chad Moeller as Francisco Cervelli‘s backup and give Jorge reps against righties at DH. They could even ease him back into catching, making sure that his leg issues really are behind him.
Alternative two: Option Russo, recall Miranda
If the Yankees are prepared to let Jorge return to catching full-time, they could opt to replace Russo with a platoon partner with Thames at DH. I like this just about as little as I like carrying a third catcher. Miranda can back up Teixeira at first, and Thames can play the OF if need be, but neither presents a good option. Then again, with these injuries that doesn’t come as a surprise.
I’d probably support recalling Moeller more, because it provides the added bonus of getting Jorge’s bat into the lineup while making sure his calf is ready for the rigors of squatting for an hour and a half each night. Also, Miranda hasn’t played since May 4, so there might be something there.
Rain? That might help
There is rain in the forecast today, and while I’m not normally one to hope for a washout, it might not be the worst thing in this case. Rescheduling this afternoon’s game as a doubleheader later in the year accomplishes a few things.
- It pushes the whole rotation back a day. CC would pitch on Sunday, and then Burnett would go Monday against the Tigers. Vazquez could then go Tuesday as scheduled, followed by Hughes on Wednesday. Could Andy Pettitte pitch on Thursday? I doubt it, but there’s a non-zero chance.
- It gives Jorge and Robbie a free day. It sounds like Jorge could catch today, but giving him another day couldn’t hurt, especially if there’s no game to win that day. Cano won’t play today, so a rainout will only help there.
- It means no Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.
No one likes to see injuries, especially ones to key players. The Yankees have weathered a few trips to the infirmary this year, but they’re in an even tougher spot now. They do have options, though they’re starting to get a bit thin.
There was quite a bit of speculation going on after we learned that Kevin Russo and Austin Jackson were both lifted from Triple-A Scranton’s game in the third inning this afternoon, but Chad Jennings says that both players were lifted due to injury. Jackson was hit by a pitch on the elbow and is listed as day-to-day, while Russo is out with an unspecified injury. Hopefully neither is serious.
I’m thinking that Juan Miranda will get the call to replace Nady, serving as the backup first baseman and primary pinch hitter. They don’t need to call up another outfielder, they already have four on their roster, all of whom can play center at least adequately. In an emergency you could run Matsui or even Cody Ransom out to a corner spot. Plus no 40-man move would be required.