Archive for Phil Hughes
Four questions in this draft-free mailbag. If you’re interested in the draft though, check out today’s open thread. Otherwise, think up some questions for next week’s mailbag and send them to use with the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.
Kenny asks: What are your thoughts on re-signing Phil Hughes next year to close? Granted, he’d have to want to close and it would take a few other things like Michael Pineda coming back strong, re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and David Phelps continuing to progress, but he could dominate there.
Barring injury or a complete performance collapse, there’s no chance Hughes will re-sign with the Yankees as a closer. Zero. None. Not unless they pay him like a starter. Some team(s) will offer him a nice contract and a rotation spot, and that’s where he’ll go. He has no reason to come back as a reliever.
I do think Hughes would be awesome in the bullpen though, and in fact we already know he would be. We’ve seen him do it in 2009 and remember, he was dynamite out of the bullpen late in 2011 and during the postseason. If for some unexpected reason the Yankees don’t need a starter next year, sure, bring him back a reliever. He wouldn’t be open to it, however. The money is in the rotation.
Nick asks: Why not have an eleven-man pitching staff? They have several guys in the pen who can throw multiple innings, and a long man in Adam Warren so I think they can handle it. The 12th guy on the staff seems to go weeks between games (at least for the last few years). The extra bench player could allow them to do more of a platoon with several of their veterans, who are old and have platoon splits.
The easy answer is that a seven-man bullpen is commonplace these days and teams always hesitate to go against the grain. It’s been a while since the Yankees used a six-man bullpen and I don’t see them going back anytime soon. Having the extra arm is always nice, really.
That said, I do think teams could get away with it as long as they have three or four relievers capable of throwing two innings at a time. It also means having no lefty specialist. The Yankees have more platoons than they know what to do with — seriously, pretty much the only positions they aren’t platooning in some way this year are catcher, first base, second base, and center field — so having that extra position player would be nice.
Considering how important the pitching staff is for this team, carrying the extra pitcher (Joba Chamberlain? Shawn Kelley? Preston Claiborne?) over the extra position player (Brennan Boesch?) isn’t the end of the world. I do think a six-man bullpen is more doable that most realize, however.
Biggie asks: If an Alex Rodriguez suspension comes is he suspended without pay? If so, does his entire salary count against the salary cap or is it adjusted? We are almost 60 games in and suspensions sound two weeks away. Add an appeal and this can possibly carry over into next year. What would that mean to the 2014 $189 budget if anything. Thanks!
Well, the suspensions are nowhere close to two weeks away. The appeals alone will probably take months, especially if they do indeed go after 20 or so players. If A-Rod gets suspended, it won’t happen anytime soon. This labor war party is just getting started.
Anyway, yes the salary Alex forfeits during a suspension would not count against the luxury tax. Ken Davidoff was nice enough to spell it all out today, so I strong suggest reading that. We’re talking upwards of $15M in savings if he does get the 100-game ban MLB is seeking, so it’s a big chunk of change. That can fill a lot of roster holes.
Ariel asks: With our replacement shortstops playing abysmally, do you think the Yankees regret giving up on Ramiro Pena? Do you think he would be playing as well as he has with the Yanks?
You can file this under questions I never thought would be asked. New York has gotten a .216/.286/.289 (67 OPS+) from their shortstops this year while Rakin’ Ramiro has hit .318/.372/.506 (143 wRC+) in 95 plate appearances as utility infielder with the Braves. What the hell is that about?
Now, obviously Pena won’t maintain that pace. It’ll be a minor miracle if he does. A 50.0% ground ball rate and 16.7% HR/FB rate in that ballpark just don’t make sense considering the type of hitter he is, plus the .353 BABIP is a bit above what you’d expect even if he was a true-talent .320 BABIP guy. Pena could always pick it defensively, so that wasn’t the issue.
Considering who the Yankees have used at short and what they’ve gotten out of the position this year, I definitely think they want him back. Of course this kind of production was completely unforeseen, and I don’t think he’ll maintain this at all. He might hit better than he did in the Bronx, but Pena didn’t suddenly become Troy Tulowitzki.
Six questions and five answers this week. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us mailbag questions or anything else at any time.
Nick asks: Could the Yankees target Chris Perez as a trade candidate? A deal similar to the Joel Hanrahan trade?
My first thought was no way, but my first thought is often wrong. Not only is Mariano Rivera retiring after this season, but Joba Chamberlain is likely to leave as a free agent too. David Robertson is awesome, but I think the Yankees should add some kind of Proven Veteran™ backup plan to the Shawn Kelleys and Preston Claibornes of the world. My preferred choice as of today is impending free agent Grant Balfour, but that is subject to change.
Perez, 27, owns a 2.25 ERA and 5.72 FIP in 16 innings this year. He’s run into some serious homer problems of late, serving up three to the last eight batters he’s faced. Since getting the closer’s job outright in 2010, Perez has pitched to a 2.80 ERA (3.88 FIP) with a strong strikeout (8.11 K/9 and 21.6 K%) rate but mediocre walk (3.53 BB/9 and 9.4 BB%) and ground ball (34.7%) numbers. He managed to cut his walk rate to 2.50 BB/9 (6.6 BB%) last year, but that hasn’t stuck so far. I think we can say Perez is what he is at this point.
The Hanrahan comparison is perfect. Perez will be a free agent after the 2014 season, so acquiring him this winter means you’d be getting one year of a two-time All-Star, Capital-C Closer like the Red Sox got with Hanrahan. Would the Indians take a package of four spare parts like the Pirates did? Who knows. The Yankees could slap together a package of Dellin Betances, Zoilo Almonte, Eduardo Nunez … guys like that if the Indians will take quantity over quality. Perez has had some run-ins with the Indians brass over the years and could be available, but I want to see how he performs the rest of the season before going all-in.
Johnny asks: How would you handicap the chances of Yankees trading Phil Hughes before deadline?
I think they’re very, very small. This team lives and dies with its pitching as presently constructed, so I don’t see them giving up a rotation arm even if Hughes will be a free agent (and likely leaving) after the season. Maybe if Michael Pineda comes back strong, Ivan Nova figures things out in Triple-A, Vidal Nuno continues to impress in the show … maybe. I’d want a bat in return, preferably at shortstop or catcher. Someone who can help the team today, not prospects. Prospects suck.
Alex asks: Do you think that the Yankees’ preference for bat-first catchers has hindered the development of their minor league pitchers? The Yanks have seemed to be notoriously poor at bringing pitchers up to reach their ceiling for the past decade-plus.
It could be a factor, but I don’t think it’s a big one. Most minor league catchers stink at defense, and it’s not like Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy — the teams’ two most notable bat-first catchers — are atrocious defenders. Reports over the last 18 months or so have been very positive about their defensive improvement. Jesus Montero was a miserable defender though, and he did work with most of the team’s top young arms over the years.
I suppose having no confidence in the catcher blocking a breaking ball in the dirt or throwing out base-stealers could alter pitch selection, but pitchers are usually given a set number of pitches to throw per game. A team will tell their guy he needs to throw 25 curveballs or whatever per start as part of his development. Maybe bad defensive catchers have contributed to the team’s lack of success with starting pitching prospects, but I feel like it would be just a small part of the problem.
Mike asks: Is it time for some promotions in the minor league system? I know Dietrich Enns is 22 already, but he is blowing away the competition in A-ball (along with Rafael DePaula). These guys, along with Murphy and Sanchez, need to go up a level. Right?
Shep asks: Given his early success in Low-A and his “age,” how quickly do you think DePaula will climb the ladder? What is your prediction for his MLB debut?
Gonna lump these two together. We’re starting to approach promotion season, which usually takes place from mid-June through July, when the draft provides some new players to fill roster spots. Enns has been awesome — lefty with a 0.71 ERA (1.34 FIP) and 43/11 K/BB in 25.1 innings for Low-A Charleston — and I expect him to get bumped up to High-A Tampa at midseason. Murphy and Sanchez are repeating levels and have performed plenty well enough to earn midseason promotions. Some other obvious promotion candidates include (stats don’t include last night’s games):
- C Peter O’Brien: His defense is awful, but he’s hitting .328/.392/.586 (165 wRC+) with five homers for Low-A Charleston.
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: Hitting .335/.440/.451 (~158 wRC+) and has already been promoted once. Bumping him up to Double-A Trenton allows Angelo Gumbs to play second everyday with High-A Tampa as well.
- RHP Tommy Kahnle: 1.77 ERA (3.50 FIP) with 23 strikeouts and 13 walks in 20.1 innings. Another few weeks of that and he should be ready for Triple-A Scranton.
- RHP Shane Greene: Repeating High-A Tampa with a 3.07 ERA (2.36 FIP) and a 53/8 K/BB in 55.2 innings. Get this man to Double-A Trenton.
DePaula is another animal entirely. The numbers — 2.38 ERA (1.96 FIP) with a 74/19 K/BB in 45.1 innings — are outstanding for Low-A Charleston, but he’s also short on pitching experience because of his various layoffs (suspension, visa) despite being 22 years old. VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman told Chad Jennings a promotion isn’t imminent because he’s “got to develop secondary pitches. He hasn’t pitched that much competitively.”
I do think DePaula will get moved up to High-A Tampa at midseason, but he might spend another four or six weeks with the River Dogs first. Let’s see what happens when the league gets a second and third look at him, how he holds up physically under the workload, stuff like that. DePaula is on a weird development schedule and I’m generally not a fan of promoting starters after 50 or so dominant innings. As for his big league debut … second half of 2015 at the absolute earliest? DePaula will get promoted eventually, there’s no rush.
Travis asks: With the upcoming roster crunch (when DL players start coming back), is there going to come a point where is may make sense to bring Manny Banuelos up from the Triple-A DL to put him on the 60-day DL for MLB? I know they didn’t want to lose a year of control, but at the halfway point, would it be a lost year?
The Super Two date is sometime in early-June, so yeah, there’s a definitely a point where calling him up to clear a roster spot makes sense. Banuelos’ free agency has already been pushed back and they’re only two or three weeks from avoiding Super Two. They might actually be passed that date already since he’s not going to be in the big leagues on Opening Day next year.
There’s still some dead weight on the 40-man roster that can be trimmed — Ben Francisco, Reid Brignac, Melky Mesa, Francisco Rondon, etc. — but the Yankees have six guys expected to come off the 60-day DL in the next two months. Letting Banuelos accrue just a few weeks of service time would be no big deal under the circumstances.
We’re not even half way through the 2013 season — seems like a perfect opportunity to discuss Phil Hughes‘ looming contract situation! The once-heralded prospect from California reached The Show back in 2007. Six-hundred and seventy-five innings (and several injuries) later, he’s amassed a career 4.40 ERA (4.25 FIP), which equates to a cumulative 10.1 WAR according to FanGraphs. In terms of peripheral stats over the course of his career, he’s struck out 7.62 per nine, walked 2.82 per nine, and surrendered 1.27 homeruns per nine. With that said, he’s only 26 year’s old and seems to be heading in the right direction (though his last start wasn’t wonderful). This season, he’s pitched to a 4.43 ERA which is actually just a touch over his 4.15 FIP. His strikeout and walk rates have been better than his career norms so far, and with any luck, his HR/9 rate will end up closer to his career norm than the inflated rate we witnessed all last season.
So here’s the rub. The Yankees have the option of proposing a qualifying offer to him after this season. Should they go that route, Hughes would remain in pinstripes for another season at a salary in the neighborhood of roughly $13-15M. This would delay his free agency for another year should he accept the offer (and would presumably qualify the Yankees for a supplemental first round draft pick if he chooses to take services elsewhere). Subsequently, if Hughes reached free agency in 2015, he’d be potentially competing for another contract against guys like Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Masterson, or Max Scherzer among others — obviously, the list of potential free agents can and probably will change rather drastically as teams attempt to retain their players between now and then (complete 2015 list here).
The Yankees could forgo the qualifying offer altogether after this season and let Phil simply test the free agent market — which would probably be in Phil’s best interest financially. 2014 brings a mediocre group of free agents that includes notable names such as Tim Lincecum, Matt Garza, Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Jon Lester (who has a $13M club option), Colby Lewis, Shaun Marcum, and Josh Johnson. Lincecum and Halladay seem to have lost a lot of their star power (due to declining ability and injuries), and I’d be surprised to see Lester’s option does not get picked up. I’d also be surprised to not see Johnson, Garza, and maybe even Shields get traded (and extended) before then, which would all of a sudden makes that list a lot less interesting. Depending who else is available on the market will heavily influence Hughes’ perceived value.
Or, the Yankees could take an alternate and perhaps more desirable path, and buy out Hughes’ 2014 season in addition to a few more with an extension. Technically, the Yankees could also try to trade Phil before this decision has to be made, but seeing as though they’ll likely not be sellers by the deadline, I just don’t see this happening, nor do I think they would get a ton in return anyway. On the one hand, the Yankees face a perilous rotation situation next season. Pretending Michael Pineda is healthy and effective (and that alone may prove to be an excercise in absurdity), that leaves the Yankees with … well, it leaves them with CC Sabathia and Pineda. After that, it’s some combination of David Phelps, Ivan Nova, and not much else. I’d love to believe Manny Banuelos could be in the mix, but that’s probably waaay to optimistic given his rehab timetable and overall progress. Maybe Hopefully Andy Pettitte and/or Hiroki Kuroda are coaxed into another year in pinstripes, but that is not a garauntee by any means given their age and vocalized interest in retirement.
On one hand, having Hughes in the mix would certainly make the rotation a bit more digestable on paper, plus it’s comforting to know what weaknesses you have in a player rather than finding out down the road what baggage someone else brings. On the other hand, there are the talks about an austerity budget which poses a definite financial dilemma, and might be the biggest contributing factor as to why the Yankees may pass on Hughes (along with others) altogether. To be absolutely clear, I hope the Yankees elect to bring Hughes back – not because he has become the wunderkind that was advertised throughout the minors, but because I think he’s a younger alternative to many of the options out there, and honestly just about as effective at this point. To Hughes’ credit, he has also shown occasional capacity to be more than just a back-of-the-rotation type of arm. Also, I don’t necessarily envision the Yankees acquiring another headline-caliber pitcher — the Sabathias of the world are hard to come by after all, but who knows.
So let’s say for a moment that the Yankees roll the dice on Phil and offer him an extension. What might that contract look like? When asked this very question during Thursday’s RAB Live Chat, I whimsically answered five years, $50M. In retrospect, that price seems a bit conservative – though the number of years seems realistic enough. Really, that’s the price I would want the Yankees to pay, although I would definitely not complain with a four year, $52M agreement similar to Edwin Jackson’s. In actuality, I’d be surprised if it didn’t cost more though. Perhaps five years, $60M seems more plausible. At that rate, Hughes would still have some legitimate wealth, and wouldn’t completely break the bank for the Yankees (not to mention the contract would still include his peak years). For what it’s worth, we’ve also seen guys like Jered Weaver sacrifice a few dollars to stick around with a team he’s comfortable with, and maybe Hughes would do the same for the Yankees (though that’s not necessarily the norm nor would I expect it).
Interestingly enough, Baseball-Reference’s comparitive list of pitchers’ performance most similar by age includes Kyle Kendrick and John Lackey. Kendrick isn’t really useful for contract comparisons as he’s basically going through the same process himself. Lackey could make for an interesting discussion though. If Hughes performs very well for the remainder of the season (especially if the pitchers market becomes increasingly scarce), an inflated contract could become more likely. In his final year with the Angels, Lackey was making $10M. Boston rewarded him with a five-year, $82M salary. This is also similar to the deal that Anibal Sanchez received from the Tigers (though his included a club option). Both of these contracts are probably “best case” scenarios for Phil — but they are still within the realm of plausible. After all, how many times have we seen a team overpay a guy for whatever reason. Also, other organizations may not worry as much about his fly ball tendancies if their stadium is more pitcher friendly.
Conversely, if Hughes has a really disappointing season from here on out, he could end up with an offer closer to Rickey Nolasco, say, a three-year, $36M pact — or, a few years to re-prove himself at a standard rate. Given the premium placed on pitching, the fact that teams have money to spend and Hughes’ favorable age, I’d bet he lands a contract closer to Lackey before I’d bet on one similar to Nolasco — though my guess is he’ll fall somewhere in between, ultimately ending up slightly above Edwin’s arrangement. In any event, the Yankees have some tough decisions to make. Whatever they ultimately do, I’m sure it’ll be scrutinized heavily. In the meantime, what would you do?
Poor Aprils are nothing new for Phil Hughes. The right-hander pitched to a 9.00 ERA in April 2008, a 13.94 ERA in April 2011, and a 7.88 ERA in April 2012. He went into last night’s start against the Rays with a 6.95 ERA with a 5.36 FIP in 90.2 career innings during the season’s first month. I guess it’s just one of those things, maybe the Southern California guy doesn’t like the cold weather or something.
Anyway, Hughes had an excuse for his slow to start to this season. He missed all of Spring Training with a bulging disk in his back and the Yankees activated him off the DL sooner than expected because the bullpen was a mess and David Phelps was needed in relief. In his first two starts, the 26-year-old Hughes looked very much like a pitcher who was shaking off the last bit of rust at the end of camp. The result was nine runs in seven total innings, plus two losses in the standings.
Phil’s last two starts have been much, much better. Two runs in seven innings against the Diamondbacks last week, then another two runs in seven innings against the division rival Rays last night. In those 14 innings he allowed 12 hits (two solo homers) and two walks while striking out a dozen. Solid but not spectacular, similar to his performance from mid-May to mid-September last year. As I mentioned in the game recap last night, Hughes pounded the zone against Tampa — first pitch strikes to 24 of 27 (!) batters faced, 78 of 109 total pitches for strikes (72%) — and that’s encouraging.
The obvious answer for the recent turnaround is simply rounding into game shape after the injury-interrupted Spring Training. Hughes did all his preparation work in simulated games and minor league contests, so he didn’t face any big leaguers or throw with any fans in the stands. nothing like that. Hardly ideal conditions really, but the back issue forced the team’s hand. For what it’s worth, Phil made no excuses about his slow start and said he was ready to go when the team stuck him in the rotation sooner than expected.
“I wouldn’t have come up in Detroit if they didn’t feel like I was ready,” said Hughes to Mark Feinsand following last night’s game. “I certainly feel like I’ve made positive steps forward since then. I was ready then, I just didn’t execute that well against Detroit and obviously terribly against Baltimore … These games count whether you got a full Spring Training or not. The first two were tough, the next two were better. Hopefully that trend continues.”
This season is a big one in a lot of ways for Hughes. The elephant in the room is him impending free agency, as his performance in the coming months will dictate whether he gets a decent contract or really breaks the bank. The team also needs him to pitch well every time out because they can’t lean on their offense as they have in the past, especially against left-handers. Not that this April has been great overall, but another truly awful showing in the season’s first month would have hurt both his free agent stock and the team’s place in the standings.
I don’t think Yankees fans are ever going to be able to separate the reality of what Hughes has become from the disappointment of what he was supposed to be, but he’s settled in as more than serviceable number four starter in recent years. Someone who will occasionally flash brilliance while generating his fair share of frustration. He shook off those dreadful first two starts to turn in two really strong outings in the last week, and that’s the kind of stuff that can get hopes up. Phil has taken some positive steps forward lately, but the Yankees don’t need him to emerge as an ace. Those days are long gone. They just need him to give them enough of a chance to win every give days, and right now that’s exactly what he’s doing.
The Yankees will skip Ivan Nova‘s turn through the rotation following last night’s rain out, Joe Girardi confirmed. Phil Hughes will start tonight as scheduled — stomach bug and weather permitting — and Nova will instead get the ball in five days.
I hope the Yankees will take this opportunity to split up Hughes and Nova in the rotation, just for the sake of easing the load on the bullpen down the road. Those two back-to-back could create some headaches. Even if they don’t do that, skipping Nova completely sure seems to indicate the team doesn’t have much faith in him in the moment. Perhaps he and pitching coach Larry Rothschild are working on something on the side, but this doesn’t look like vote of confidence in the young right-hander. Hard to say it’s undeserved.
6:10pm: Brian Cashman just confirmed that Hughes will indeed be activated off the DL tomorrow and start against the Tigers. He threw seven innings in his most recent minor league start.
6:08pm: Phil Hughes has been scratched from tomorrow’s scheduled rehab start with Triple-A Scranton, reports Donnie Collins. Hughes is not injured according to Collins, which is a pretty good indication he will be in Detroit for tomorrow’s game against the Tigers. Given the overworked bullpen, I’m guessing Phil will start with David Phelps shifting to a relief role. Shawn Kelley is the obvious send-down candidate. The Yankees haven’t confirmed anything as of yet.
Via Howie Rumberg: Phil Hughes is scheduled to make what amounts to a rehab start for Triple-A Scranton this Saturday before rejoining the team in Cleveland next week. It is not at all a coincidence David Phelps is scheduled to start for the big league team on Saturday as well.
Hughes, 26, made a minor league start on Wednesday and threw seven innings in another minor league game today according to Adam Berry, lining him up for Saturday. He’s coming back from a bulging disk that caused him to miss the first few weeks of camp, and right now the Yankees are just stretching him back out to 100+ pitches. Hughes is reportedly healthy, but not yet ready to pitch deep into games.
Every team deals with injuries, but it feels like the Yankees have dealt with a full season’s worth of injuries just during Spring Training. They lost three of their best four hitters to new injuries or setbacks in the last few weeks on top of some carry-over injuries from last year and the offseason. All of the injuries have led to a whole bunch of scrap heaping, forcing the Yankees to grab guys like Brennan Boesch, Ben Francisco, Lyle Overbay, and Vernon Wells these last few weeks.
Some of the team’s injured players will be back sooner than others, and some injuries figure to have more long-term impact that others. As always, expected return dates should be taken a grain of salt. Setbacks and lingering effects have a way of changing plans in a hurry. Let’s run down the team’s walking wounded heading into the 2013 campaign.
LHP Manny Banuelos
New York’s top prospect at this time last year, the 22-year-old Banuelos made just six starts for Triple-A Scranton last year due to a minor back issue and a major elbow issue. He was originally diagnosed with a bone bruise in that left elbow, but at some point during his rehab he wound up blowing out the ligament and requiring Tommy John surgery. Banuelos had the procedure in October and is expected to miss the entire season, meaning he’ll lose basically two full years to injury at a crucial age in his development. For shame.
LHP Cesar Cabral
It’s easy to forget that Cabral, 24, had all but won a job out of Spring Training last year before suffering a fractured elbow near the end of camp. He has been rehabbing for the last 12 months and in fact he faced hitters for the first time since the injury earlier this week, throwing a round of live batting practice. The Yankees have indicated he is expected to return sometime in May or June.
Because he’s a Rule 5 Draft pick who missed all of last season due to injury, the Yankees have to keep Cabral on their active 25-man roster for at least 90 days this year. That’s basically half the season. Once they satisfy that requirement, he’ll is theirs to keep (and option to Triple-A). I’m sure the team will take their time with his rehab and everything, but at some point it will be decision time.
RHP Phil Hughes
Joe Girardi announced yesterday that Hughes will indeed start the season on the DL after missing a few weeks with a bulging disk in his back. He’s been starting minor league games and has a few more outings to go before rejoining the rotation, possibly as soon as the second time through. The 26-year-old Hughes has a lengthy injury history, but the back issue appears to be in the rear-view mirror.
SS Derek Jeter
The Cap’n played on a bone bruise in his left ankle last September and it wasn’t until Game One of the ALCS that the joint finally gave out and fractured. He had surgery in October and spent the winter rehabbing, but he was recently setback by some inflammation and soreness. He received a cortisone shot and will start the season on the DL, yet the targeted April 6th return date sure seem optimistic since he won’t resume baseball activity until at least Monday.
Given his age, position, and the nature of the injury, there’s a pretty good chance Jeter and the Yankees will have to deal with nagging soreness and tightness and all that all throughout the season. Players who suffered similar injuries (Stephen Drew, Jason Kendall, even Ravel Santana) needed months to get back to where they were before the injury, and time is a luxury the Yankees don’t have. They need Jeter in the lineup soon and if this thing lingers, it will be a huge problem. Eduardo Nunez has the chance of a lifetime in front of him and is suddenly an extremely important player for the 2013 Yankees. That is not ideal.
CF Curtis Granderson
The fifth pitch Granderson saw this spring broke his forearm. The 32-year-old is expected to be out until early-May, but anytime you have an arm or hand or wrist injury, there is the potential for it to linger. Granderson is the team’s top power hitter and he really doesn’t offer much else (besides walks), so anything that compromises his pop will severely impact his game. Everything is going well as far as the healing process, but I’m anxious to see how he returns and whether that forearm gives him trouble going forward.
RHP Michael Pineda
Even though he has yet to throw a single meaningful pitch in his 14 months as a Yankee, the 24-year-old Pineda is one of the most important players in the organization. The Yankees are in desperate need of a young impact player to build on going forward, and Pineda has the type of arm and power stuff to anchor a rotation. Or at least he had that type of stuff before blowing out his labrum last spring.
The long road back from shoulder surgery has Pineda to throw live batting practice in two weeks. It’ll be his first time facing hitters since having the procedure. So far he’s rehab has gone well — he’s throwing 45-pitch bullpens, including changeups and sliders — and everyone says he looks great, but what he looks like in the bullpen and how he performs against hitters are different matters entirely.
As encouraging as it is to know his rehab is going well, we have absolutely no idea what Pineda will be capable of when he gets back on a mound in a competitive game. It was a major injury and although there are some notable success stories — Curt Schilling, Rogers Clemens, Anibal Sanchez — there are countless guys who never got back to their previous form. The Yankees need Pineda and need him to be very good going forward. He’s expected to return sometime in late-May or June, and I bet they option him to Triple-A Scranton for a few weeks just to delay his free agency a year (after losing an entire pre-arbitration year to injury in 2012).
LHP Clay Rapada
A bout of shoulder bursitis has landed the 32-year-old Rapada on the DL to start the season and there is no timetable for him return. He’s been sidelined for about three weeks now and has yet to resume throwing in the bullpen, so it’s safe to say his return is not imminent. Rapada is the team’s most effective left-on-left reliever, but as a true specialist, he isn’t the most critical or irreplaceable part in the world. The Yankees are a worse team without him, but not much worse.
3B Alex Rodriguez
The second hip surgery — this one the left after hurting the right in 2009 — of A-Rod‘s career will have him out of action until at least the All-Star break. He has a cyst removed, a bone impingement corrected, and a torn labrum repaired in January and has yet to resume baseball activities. He’s not even close to resuming baseball activities.
The Yankees knew A-Rod, now 37, would miss a big chunk of the season back in December, which is why they dropped $12M on Kevin Youkilis. Alex was both the healthier (529 vs. 509 plate appearances) and more productive (114 vs. 102 wRC+) player last season, so the Yankees downgraded this winter. No one has any idea what A-Rod will be able to do after the surgery, so there’s really no point in speculating. He could be an all-arms hitter incapable of using his lower half, he could be healthier than ever and see his performance rebound, he could be something else entirely. Either way, the lineup will miss his bat from the right side.
1B Mark Teixeira
Teixeira, 32, hurt the tendon sheath in his right wrist while taking batting practice with Team USA in advance of the World Baseball Classic, so if nothing else the Yankees won’t have to pay his salary while he’s on the DL — the WBC’s insurance covers that. The wrist injury is expected to keep him out until late-May/early-June, but wrist injuries have a knack for lingering. In fact, Brian Cashman acknowledged there’s a 30% chance he will need season-ending surgery at some point.
Even if he comes back healthy, Teixeira has become increasingly injury prone in recent years after being an iron man earlier in his career. He suffered a major hamstring strain during the 2010 postseason, and last year he battled a cough, a minor wrist issue, and a calf strain (plus a setback). The right wrist is his power wrist as a left-handed batter, which could be a problem because power is his primary source of value. Teixeira has declined as a hitter these last few years because he’s become increasingly pull happy, so anything that hurts his ability to hit the ball out of park could be a production killer.
Joe Girardi confirmed to reporters this afternoon that Phil Hughes will indeed begin the season on the DL. They are planning to have David Phelps start on April 6th — the first time they will need a fifth starter — with Hughes rejoining the rotation five days later. Hughes made a minor league start today and Girardi said everything went fine, so he’ll make two more minor league appearances before rejoining the rotation. No real surprise here, back injuries are tricky and there is no reason to rush him right now.
This isn’t much of a surprise, but Brian Cashman confirmed this afternoon that Clay Rapada (shoulder bursitis) will indeed start the year on the DL. The left-hander threw 15 fastballs from a mound this morning, but is still a ways off from returning to game action.
Meanwhile, Joe Girardi indicated Phil Hughes (bulging disk) is likely to start the season on the DL as well. That is not yet set in stone, however. Hughes threw 57 pitches in a minor league game today, but it’s unclear if he’ll be stretched out enough to join the rotation when the season begins. Like I said, not much of a surprise.