The Ramiro and Eduardo Show

This should keep everyone entertained for the next half hour or so. I hope they got that ball off the field after that play.

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Yankees recall Amaury Sanit, send down Ramiro Pena, DFA Jess Todd

Update (6:08pm): Via Brian Costello and Mark Feinsand, Ramiro Pena was optioned to Triple-A and Jess Todd was designated for assignment. We hardly knew ye, Jess. Pena can’t be recalled for ten days, dems the rules, so the Yankees will either have a three-man bench for the next week and a half or they’re going to call up Kevin Russo (who would have to be re-added to the 40-man roster) or Brandon Laird sometime soon. I’m guessing it’s the former.

Original Post (4:30pm): Via Joel Sherman and Donnie Collins, the Yankees are calling Amaury Sanit up from Triple-A Scranton to reinforce a taxed bullpen. Both 25-man and 40-man rosters moves will be required to accommodate Sanit, though both could by accomplished by designating Buddy Carlyle for assignment. They could always option someone and slide Phil Hughes to the 60-day disabled list as well.

Sanit, 31, is pretty terrible. His 24-6 K/BB in 16.1 IP is very nice, but he’s extremely hittable (10.4 H/9 over the last two years) and works with fringy stuff. Sanit did make a few spot starts in the minors this year and is probably good for 60 pitches if needed, but his call up is almost assuredly a temporary measure. Don’t be surprised if they run him into the ground if there’s a blowout tonight, then cut him tomorrow and replace him with someone else.

The Bench Takes Shape

Update (5:43pm): Lots and lots of updates via Bryan Hoch and Ben Shpigel. First of all, that Sanchez trade? Forget it. He’s being sold to a team in Japan, where I assume he’ll have a much greater opportunity. Good luck to him. Fat Sanchezes 4 life.

We also have ourselves a bench now. Jesus Montero, Ramiro Pena, Justin Maxwell, and Doug Bernier were all sent to Triple-A this afternoon while Austin Romine went back to Double-A Trenton. Ronnie Belliard was released (nice knowin’ ya), and Mark Prior is going to hang around in Tampa for a while, which I assume means Extended Spring Training. Based on all that, the big league bench will consist of Chavez, Andruw Jones, Eduardo Nunez, and Gustavo Molina. Curtis Granderson‘s replacement is still TBD, if one is even needed.

Original Post (4:30pm): As Spring Training nears an end, the Yanks’ Opening Day roster and 40-man are starting to take shape. We have a few afternoon updates including news of a new addition to the Yanks. As they announced in their game notes release this afternoon, the Yankees have signed Eric Chavez to a Major League contract and have added him to the 25-man roster. Chavez had been in camp on a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, and he has impressed everyone this spring. He hit .405/.432/.571 in 42 at bats and will spell A-Rod and Mark Teixeira at the corners this year.

Via Mark Feinsand, we learn that Romulo Sanchez was seen shaking hands and saying his goodbyes in the clubhouse, indicating that the out-of-options right-hander has been traded or released. Problem is the Yankees haven’t announced where to or for what yet, so stay tuned. We first heard that something was up with Romulo yesterday.

Via Bryan Hoch and Ben Shpigel, lefty reliever Pedro Feliciano will stay behind in Tampa when the team heads north for Opening Day and begin the season on the disabled list. He expected to be there “for a few weeks,” which doesn’t sound good but could easily mean the 15-day minimum. Feliciano’s been dealing with a triceps issue and hasn’t appear in the game in about two weeks now. That’s a shame.

2011 Season Preview: Quality of the bench

One issue that plagued the Yankees through the mid-00s was the lack of a quality bench. This included both the position players and the bullpen. Both units tended to be sub-par. As we covered last week in our 2011 season preview, the bullpen looks a lot better, in terms of Opening Day personnel, than it has in many years. The bench, too, has a stronger feel this year. With plenty of spare payroll, the Yankees were able to land a few chips that they haven’t sought in years past. For the first time in a long time they’ll have two quality bench bats to start the year.

Andruw Jones

(Kathy Willens/AP)

For most of the off-season, Jones and the Yankees appeared a natural match. They needed a fourth-outfielder, preferably a righty, and Jones needed a part-time destination. It took a while for the move to finally happen, and even longer for it to become official, but Jones is in a Yankee uniform for 2011. He’s not the same player that ranked among the most valuable in center field from 1998 through 2005, but he can still play a useful role.

For the past three seasons Jones has been a part-time player, either because of injury or ineffectiveness. Right knee problems completely sapped his 2008 season. In 2009 he appeared to be on the comeback trail, but fell off considerably after a hot start. Last year, with the White Sox, he started similarly hot, and while he dropped off it was not nearly as dramatic. At season’s end he had produced a .364 wOBA in 328 PA. The Yankees will gladly take that from him in 2011.

Not only can Jones provide some value with the bat, but his defense can still come in handy. He’s no longer the best-in-league center fielder, but he can fill in there if needed. More likely he’ll play left field against tough lefties, relegating either Brett Gardner or Curtis Granderson to the bench. This is a level of versatility the Yankees did not have in Marcus Thames.

Eric Chavez

(Gene J. Puskar/AP)

When the Yankees signed Eric Chavez to a minor league deal just before the start of spring training, it appeared to be an insignificant move. After all, Chavez hadn’t gotten as many as 300 plate appearances since 2007, and has been generally awful since 2006. Even then, since 2004, when he was limited to 125 games due to injury, he hasn’t measured up to the lofty standards he set in the preceding five seasons. But at age 33 there’s still potential. The Yanks, as it turns out, were right to jump on it.

In Chavez the Yankees have a player who can back up both Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. If Jorge Posada hits the DL for the fourth straight year, he and Jones can platoon at DH. He also provides a lefty off the bench, which can prove useful in late-game situations. The need for a lefty off the bench last year wasn’t great, since there weren’t many players for whom Girardi would pinch hit. But with Russell Martin on the team, and with the repeated possibility of guys such as Kevin Russo getting playing time, having Chavez’s bat in late innings will help plenty.

While spring stats mean little, Chavez has impressed during his time this March. Even when he makes outs he’s hitting the ball hard. He will certainly travel north with the team, with the hope that a part-time role will help keep him healthy and productive. It might not be striking gold, but the Yankees have done very well for minimal risk.

Ramiro Pena / Eduardo Nunez

(Kathy Willens/AP)

It just feels as though the Yankees want Nunez to fill that utility infield role. In recent games they’ve tried him in the outfield, a sign that they’re grooming him for a super utility role. It hasn’t appeared pretty, though, and chances are Nunez will stick to the infield, at least in 2011. But will he play behind Jeter, Rodriguez, and Cano, or will he take regular reps at AAA?

The Yankees are always in a tough position with the utility infield role. It doesn’t make sense to take anyone significant, because Jeter and Cano do not take days off. Even last year, through his struggles, Jeter played in 157 games. Cano played in 160. There will be some at DH, and some of those games won’t be starts. Still, it leaves possibly a dozen games, absolute max, that will require a utility infielder as a starter. That’s why Pena makes sense. His noodle bat won’t hurt too much, since his playing time is limited. If either Jeter or Cano requires a DL trip, the Yanks can recall Nunez to play full-time.

(And at third base it’s a non-issue, since Chavez is there to play when A-Rod needs days off.)

This actually figures to be the least important spot on the bench. Oftentimes that title is reserved for backup catchers. But the utility infielder on the Yanks will almost certainly get less playing time than the backup catcher. And that’s especially if a certain top prospect sticks in that role.

Jesus Montero / Francisco Cervelli

(Kathy Willens/AP)

With Cervelli on the shelf to start the season, we can assume that Montero breaks camp as the backup catcher. That will give him a quick taste of the big leagues, affording him maybe three starts each week he’s with the club. Then, when Cervelli returns the team can re-assess. If Martin is playing well they can ship Montero back to AAA and use Cervelli as the backup, which is clearly his most useful role. If Martin isn’t hitting, perhaps they’ll keep Montero around and let him split time and learn at the major league level.

It’s hard for the Yankees to go wrong in this scenario. If Martin is hitting the Yankees have a valuable starter and backup combination. Cervelli can play once a week, which suits him well. If Martin isn’t hitting, the Yankees can put a greater emphasis on Montero, whose bat is, by all accounts, ready for the majors. Either way, the Yankees will likely realize well above average production from their catcher. That’s a good thing, since it’s what they’ve grown accustomed to in the past decade with Posada behind the plate.

It has been a while since the Yankees have broken camp with a high quality bench. They face issues every year in attracting free agent reserve players, since their full-time players don’t leave much room for additional playing time. But this past off-season they took time to build a strong and versatile bench. From the way things appear now, that effort should pay off handsomely. Even if it doesn’t, there’s still room for the Yankees to build the bench the way they did in 2009. There will always be players available around the deadline.

Who has minor league options left (and how many)?

Minor league options are one of baseball’s weird little quirks. Every player gets three, and they’re used whenever a guy on the 40-man roster is sent to the minors. Once you burn all three, the player has to pass through waivers to go back to the minors. Oh, and sometimes a player can qualify for a fourth option depending on some special circumstances. Yeah, it’s weird like that.

A player can only use one option a year, regardless of how many times they go up and down. That’s why you’ll see them referred to as “option years.” If a player is in the minors for more than 20 total days in a single year, it counts as an option. Anything less and it does not. To learn more about this stuff, I recommend Keith Law’s classic Death, Taxes and Major League Waivers post at Baseball Analysts. I’ll let him bore you with the details.

Obviously, options are important because they can dictate who can and who can’t be sent back to the minors. That information isn’t publicly available, at least as far as I know, so I figured I’d compile it myself. We don’t need to look at everyone on the 40-man roster simply because a bunch of guys aren’t ever going back to the minors, like CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez. A few others are on the bubble, so let’s recap them and a could of notable young regulars…

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Andrew Brackman
Although 2011 will be his fourth full season since signing his Major League contract out of the draft, Brackman still has two minor league options remaining. He signed right on the August 15th deadline in 2007 but did not spent the required 20 days in the minors because the (minor league) season ended. The Yankees then carried Brackman on the 60-day disabled list all year in 2008 (Tommy John surgery), so he collected a year of service time instead of using a minor league option. His first option was used in 2009 and his second in 2010. Brackman will qualify for a fourth option because he will have used his three original options within his first five pro seasons. That’s one of those weird rules/ So yeah, the Yankees can send him down to the minors in each of the next two seasons without consequence.

Joba Chamberlain
Joba has all three options left. He was added to the 40-man for the first time in August 2007, when he was called up to the big leagues, and he hasn’t gone back to the minors since.

Colin Curtis
The Yankees added Curtis to the 40-man for the first time this past July, when he was summoned to the big leagues because the team was dealing with injuries and needed an extra position player during the NL park stretch of their interleague scheduled. Lil’ CC hung around a while but was eventually sent back down. He remained in Triple-A for more than a month later in the year, using his first option. He has two left.

Robert Fish
Added to the 40-man roster for the first time this offseason as a Rule 5 Draft pick, Fish has all three options left. Doesn’t matter though, he’ll be offered back to the Angels before the end of Spring Training.

Brett Gardner
After starting the 2008 season in Triple-A, the Yankees called Gardner up and added him to the 40-man roster for the first time that June 30th. He was with the team for about a month, ultimately sent down on July 26th because they had to make room on the active roster for the just acquired Xavier Nady. Gardner stayed in the minors until August 15th, so he was there for exactly 20 days. That’s not an accident, it prevented an option from being used. Gardner hasn’t been back to the minors since (not counting a very brief rehab stint in 2009), so he has all three options remaining.

Steve Garrison
Claimed off waivers from the Padres last year, Garrison was added to the 40-man (by San Diego) for the first time last (2009-2010) offseason. He used an option in his injury-riddled 2010 season, so he’s got two left.

"You might be using that last option this year, Greg." (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Greg Golson
Golson’s been around the block, having first been added to the 40-man roster by the Phillies after 2008. He spent basically all of 2009 and 2010 in the minors (save for the occasional cup-of-coffee, nothing major), using up his first two options. Golson has one left, which will inevitably be used this season.

Phil Hughes
Called up as a 20-year-old in what really was an act of desperation by the Yankees, Hughes was added to the 40-man for the first time in April 2007 and then went back to the minors after blowing out his hamstring. He spent a little more than three weeks in the minors that July but it was a rehab assignment, so it didn’t count as an optional assignment. The Yankees called him back up in August, so they didn’t burn an option that season.

Hughes began the next year with the big league team, but eventually hit the disabled list and then did the rehab thing again. The Yankees kept him in the minors for close to 40 days, however the first 30 were the rehab assignment. He did not eclipse the 20-day limit and did not use a minor league option in 2009. Hughes did use his first option in 2009, when he began the year in Triple-A and was called up in late April. He hasn’t been back to the minors since and has two options remaining.

Boone Logan
Logan’s out-of-options. He was first added to the 40-man by the White Sox in 2006, when they took him north out of camp because he had a great Spring Training despite having a total of 5.1 innings at the Single-A level to his credit. Yep. Boone spent considerable time in the minors in 2006, 2009, and 2010, burning all three options.

Justin Maxwell
Joel Sherman confirmed that Maxwell has one option remaining when he was acquired last month.

Sergio Mitre
The Experience has been out-of-options for a year now.

No need to look over your shoulder David, you aren't going back to the minors anytime soon. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

David Robertson
Called up and added to the 40-man roster for the first time on the same day as Gardner, Robertson went back to the minors on August 28th (in favor of Al Aceves) and then resurfaced 16 days later, preserving an option. He bounced up and down in April and May of 2009, burning an option. Robertson hasn’t been back to the minors since late May of 2009, so he still has two options at his disposal.

Romulo Sanchez
Chad Jennings confirmed with the Yankees this past December that Romulo is out-of-options.

Daniel Turpen
Same exact deal is Fish, so just re-read his comment and change “Fish” to “Turpen” and “Angels” to “Red Sox.”

Frankie Cervelli
Believe it or not, the Yankees added Cervelli to the 40-man roster for the first time after the 2007 season. That’s when he was first eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, before he ever got out of A-ball. Anyway, he spent most of 2008 in the minors, burning one options then spent the first five weeks of 2009 in the minors, burning another option. Frankie hasn’t been back to the minors since, so he still has that one option remaining.

Ramiro Pena
Pena was added to the 40-man roster for the first time in 2009, when he surprisingly broke camp with the big league team as the utility infielder. He went back to the minors for 43 games that summer, burning one option. Ramiro hasn’t been back down since, so he has two left.

* * *

Dellin Betances, Brandon Laird, Melky Mesa, and Ryan Pope were all added to the 40-man roster for the first time this offseason, so all three guys have all three options remaining. Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, Reegie Corona, Eduardo Nunez, and Kevin Russo were each added to the 40-man roster for the first time last offseason, and since they all spent most of 2010 in the minors, they all have two options left.

Standard disclaimer here: I can’t guarantee the accuracy of the above info. MLB has some weird rules, and what is and what is not an optional assignment is one of them. I do feel pretty confident though, the only real question is Gardner. Does exactly 20 days in the minors count as an option, or does it have to be more? Either way, it shouldn’t become an issue. Fish, Turpen, and Romulo are goners and probably soon, before the end of camp. That’ll free up three 40-man roster spots, at least one of which will go to Jesus Montero at some point. Let’s hope he never uses any of his minor league options.

Ramiro Pena’s offensive season

Ramiro Pena’s triple on Wednesday night helped boost his OPS from .456 to .486.  On the list of worst Yankee offensive (in more ways than one) seasons since 1950 his game Wednesday night dropped him from 8th worst to 10th worst (min. 100 ab’s, see chart below).  I bring this up to not bash Ramiro Pena, but just to show how truly inept he is with the bat.  Now that Eduardo Nunez has been called up to the big leagues, there is no justification for having Pena start a game.

Pena will stick around because of his glove, but that doesn’t mean he should be getting any meaningful at-bat’s.  Sure Nunez isn’t a great fielder and is a very flawed hitter, but he’s Babe Ruth with the bat compared to Pena.  We know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that Ramiro Pena simply will not be productive batting.  Nunez probably won’t be great, but there’s just about no way he can be worse than Pena.  So why, with Nunez eligible, did Pena get the start Thursday against the Tigers?  Maybe they didn’t want to throw Nunez right in, especially in a day game.  Maybe they wanted to bring him into a game as a reserve first to get his feet wet which they were able to do with a 9 run lead.  Whatever the reason, Pena, who remarkably already has 120 plate appearances (heading into Thursday) should end the season with no more than 150.  He’s been that bad.

His triple the other night was his 2nd extra base hit.  In 28 starts he has 3 two hit games.  Of the other 9 Yankee seasons since 1950 with an OPS less than .500, and SLG and OBP’s below .250, 4 of them happened before the DH existed (though non-pitchers).  Of the other 4, 3 were in the 70’s and 2 were in the 80’s.  Yes, it has been 23 years since a Yankee has been so poor offensively.  If it wasn’t for risk of injury, the Yankees might be better off having the DH hit for Pena and have the pitchers hit for themselves.  It’s coming down to that.  All of this is a simple plea to Joe Girardi, do not start Ramiro Pena.  Ever.

Yanks offense explodes again, down Tigers 9-5

The games are always more fun when the offense comes alive. Last night’s game wasn’t perfect, but every time the Tigers even tried to make it interesting the offense came back and put it further out of reach. Chad Gaudin, in what is probably his last appearance for the Yankees, tried to make things interesting, but Robertson bailed him out. After the dust settled and the bullpen was emptied, the Yanks had secured their second win of the series.

Biggest Hit: Don’t give Teixeira a pitch like that…

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

…He might just crush it. Jeremy Bonderman didn’t look so hot at the start of this one. His first pitch caught Brett Gardner on the calf, though that might have been retaliation for Gardner’s slide on Monday night, which put Carlos Guillen in a bodybag on the DL. Bonderman then got Jeter to strike out swinging, though the two called strikes were pretty borderline and Jeter took a poor swing at ball two. That brought up Teixeira, who took two pitches that looked out of the zone, though the first was called a strike. I dunno, maybe that angered him or something.

Or maybe Bonderman just threw a horrible pitch. It was a changeup that didn’t get down far enough. Tex clobbered it, sending it into the second deck for his 27th home run of the year. That’s not a bad total for a guy who is hitting far below his normal level on the season. Robinson Cano wasted little time in extending the lead, hitting an inside fastball over the right field wall for his second home run in as many games. Offense? Game on.

Honorable Mention: Pena triples

If Ramiro Pena triples, chances are it’s going to feature prominently in the recap. It helps that it was the second-largest WPA swing of the game, giving the chances a 13 percent better chance of winning the game. That came in the fourth, after the Tigers, on the power of two Miguel Cabrera home runs, had cut the lead to 3-2. Pena came up with Austin Kearns on first base and hit the ball with precision. It landed and rolled in a way that prevented both Ryan Raburn and Austin Jackson from fielding it before it rolled to the wall. Combine that with them rightfully playing Pena shallow and it was an easy triple and RBI.

The very next batter, Brett Gardner, did something similar, splitting the center and left fielders for a double of his own. This is one reason I like the Yankees offense so much: precision and power. They can manufacture runs and they cudgel a team. Either way they score more runs than any other team in the league.

That Miguel Cabrera

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Thankfully, neither of Miguel Cabrera’s home runs hurt the Yankees tonight. Which is perfect. Before the season I did a FanGraphs podcast with Dave Cameron where we exchanged predictions. He had Josh Hamilton as AL MVP, I had Miguel Cabrera. His pick was more of a reach at the time, and he’s probably winning. I just thought Cabrera was going to have a monster comeback year, creating an excellent story following his drunken antics at the end of last season.

After his 2 for 3, two-homer night Cabrera sits at .340/.433/.644, which trails Hamilton only in BA. He also now leads the AL in RBI with 98; A-Rod has 97. In many years a .340 BA with 30 HR and 98 RBI might start a Triple Crown watch, but Cabrera is seven homers behind Jose Bautista and is 16 points behind in BA. He could still take the triple crown of, I dunno, RBI, walks, and OBP. In any case, it’s always nice to watch a player like that at work when he’s not causing your team to lose.

Miscellany

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Gaudin again brought into question why he’s on this team. Aceves could be back tomorrow. Roster move? I’m not sure, only because of the depth issue.

Could Ivan Nova, who had another excellent game in AAA, take Moseley’s next turn in the rotation? They’d line up.

Another game, another homer for Curtis Granderson. That’s three now since the Kansas City series. That’s now 9 for 26 (.346) with three walks (.414 OBP), two doubles, and three homers (.769 SLG).

Two more walks gives Cano 44 on the season. He’s already five up on his previous career high, and in 160 fewer PA. That puts him on pace for 58 walks, which would be more than his last two seasons combined.

Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood: good deadline pickups.

Graph and box

A couple of dents, sure, but man is that line moving in the right direction.

More at FanGraphs. And here’s the box score.

Up Next

Getaway day, which only happens when the Yanks are home. Phil Hughes could use a good start after the Yanks emptied the bullpen. He’ll face Rick Porcello at 1 tomorrow afternoon.