Midseason Review: Incomplete Grades

During the next few days we’ll take some time to review the first half of the season and look at which Yankees are meeting expectations, exceeding expectations, and falling short of expectations. What else is the All-Star break good for?

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

It takes a total team effort to finish the first half with the best record in baseball, and the Yankees have already used 35 different players this season. Not all of them have made a significant contributions though, mostly because they simply haven’t had a chance to play all that much. I’m talking up-and-down relievers, miscellaneous fill-ins, and those who got injured.

Andy Pettitte
Blame Casey Kotchman. He hit the one-hop ground ball that fractured Pettitte’s left ankle on June 27th and will cause the left-hander to miss no fewer than two months. Prior to the injury, Andy’s return from retirement was a smashing success. He pitched to a 3.22 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 58.2 innings with ungodly peripherals: 9.05 K/9 (25.2 K%), 2.30 BB/9 (6.4 BB%), and 58.3% grounders. The strikeout and ground ball numbers are career bests by not small margins and the walk rate is more than half-a-walk better than his career average.

Obviously there are sample size issues with that, but what’s done is done. Pettitte pitched that well in his nine starts and the Yankees will miss him immensely in the second half. It’s unclear if he’ll come back with that kind of effectiveness — the injury was to his push-off leg — or if he’ll even come back period. Andy could decide that the rehab and getting back into playing shape is just too much. I wouldn’t bet on it, but you never know. It was a fluke injury, it happens, but it still put a major damper on the best story of the season.

(REUTERS/Mike Segar)

Brett Gardner
The Yankees have gotten exactly nine games out of Gardner this year. He didn’t even start two of them, he came off the bench to play defense for exactly one inning each time. Those nine games include 34 plate appearances (.321/.424/.393 with two steals) and 14 defensive chances. That’s it, that’s all they’ve gotten out of Gardner in 2012.

An elbow injury suffered while making a sliding catch against the Twins is the culprit. It was diagnosed as a bone bruise and an elbow strain, and twice Gardner has suffered setbacks after working his way back in minor league rehab games. He’s not expected back until the end of this month at the earliest, over 100 games into the season. The Yankees have done just fine without Gardner in the lineup and in left field, but they sorely lack team speed and the defense can always use an upgrade. His absence has been notable.

D.J. Mitchell & Adam Warren
We figured we would see these two — and David Phelps as well — at some point this season, and it didn’t take all that long. Mitchell made his debut in relief in early-May and has thrown a total of 3.2 innings across two stints and three appearances with the big league club. He’s allowed one run, five hits, and one walk in that time. The Yankees are carrying him as a long reliever right now due to the Pettitte and CC Sabathia injuries, so he has a chance to stick around by simply pitching well and soaking up innings.

Warren’s introduction to the big leagues wasn’t nearly as kind. The White Sox tattooed him for six runs on eight hits and two walks in just 2.1 innings late last month, his only appearance for the team. The Yankees called him up as an emergency replacement for Sabathia and sent him back to Triple-A the next day. You only get one debut and it wasn’t a good one for Warren, but he’ll surely get another chance to help the team at some point.

Chad Qualls, Darnell McDonald & Ryota Igarashi
All three midseason additions, all three having minimum impact thus far. Qualls was acquired from the Phillies in a minor trade less than two weeks ago and has allowed one run in his three appearances so far. He’ll stick around as a sixth or seventh inning matchup guy for the time being. McDonald was claimed off waivers from the Red Sox last week and went hitless in four plate appearances against his former team last weekend. He’ll most likely be remembered for causing Curtis Granderson to drop a routine pop-up on Saturday night. Igarashi has made all of one appearance for the Yankees since being claimed off waivers from the Blue Jays earlier this year, allowing one run in one inning against the Mets. He’ll ride the Triple-A shuttle a few more times in the second half.

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Yankees recall David Phelps, send Ryota Igarashi to Triple-A

The Yankees have recalled right-hander David Phelps from High-A Tampa, giving the club a long-man with Adam Warren scheduled to start tonight and Freddy Garcia slated for Monday. Ryota Igarashi was sent back to Triple-A in a corresponding move.

Phelps threw 55 pitches on Monday and should be good for 60-70 tonight if needed. The Yankees sent him down a few weeks ago to stretch him out so he could start, and I’m not a big fan of abandoning that plan with both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the shelf. Hopefully they can keep him stretched out to 50 pitches or so before sending him back down when Sabathia comes off the DL.

Roster Moves: Warren, Igarashi, Pettitte

As expected, the Yankees have called up RHP Adam Warren and RHP Ryota Igarashi from Triple-A. They’re taking the place of LHP CC Sabathia (left adductor strain) and LHP Andy Pettitte (fracture left ankle), both of whom were placed on the DL. Pettitte was placed on the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Warren, so the earliest he can return is August 27th. Safe to say we won’t see him again until the rosters expand in September.

Sorting out the Sabathia & Pettitte-less rotation

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

In the span of about five hours yesterday, the Yankees lost their two best starting pitchers to injury. First CC Sabathia was placed on the DL with a left adductor strain, then Andy Pettitte was struck by a batted ball and suffered a fractured left ankle. Brian Cashman said Sabathia could have pitched through his injury if this was the stretch drive or postseason, but they decided to play it safe. Obviously they didn’t have the same choice with Pettitte.

“CC is due back right after the (All-Star break),” said Cashman after yesterday’s game. “Andy, you’re talking about a minimum of six weeks of healing, and as a starter you have to get him going again, so I’ll throw two months in there in Andy’s case. We’ll just have to figure it out and see what happens. I would prefer not to go outside. Obviously if we do go outside, we’ve done that before. This is part of the process. You have to have alternatives. This gives opportunities for people to step up. Just like some guys in the bullpen have allowed us to step up and withstand some injuries — that’s what Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, and [Cody Eppley] have done — we’re going to have to ask for some other guys to do that for the rotation, as well. Let’s play it out and see where it takes us.”

The plan right now calls for Adam Warren to start in Sabathia’s place on Friday — he started for Triple-A Empire State on Sunday and lines up perfectly for tomorrow — and for Freddy Garcia to take Pettitte’s place on Monday. Ryota Igarashi is coming up from Triple-A to take Garcia’s spot in the bullpen, leaving the team without a true long reliever for the time being. In the short-term, the rotation shakes out like this…

  • Thursday, 6/28 vs. White Sox: Ivan Nova
  • Friday, 6/29 vs. White Sox: Warren
  • Saturday, 6/30 vs. White Sox: Hiroki Kuroda
  • Sunday, 7/1 vs. White Sox: Phil Hughes
  • Monday, 7/2 @ Rays: Garcia
  • Tuesday, 7/3 @ Rays: Nova
  • Wednesday, 7/4 @ Rays: Warren
  • Thursday, 7/5: scheduled day off
  • Friday, 7/6 @ Red Sox: Kuroda
  • Saturday, 7/7 @ Red Sox (doubleheader): Hughes and Garcia*
  • Sunday, 7/8 @ Red Sox: Nova

* Garcia will be on regular rest for the July 7th doubleheader thanks to that scheduled day off.

That takes the Yankees right to the All-Star break, after which Sabathia is scheduled to return. Assuming all goes well with CC, he’ll take either Garcia’s or Warren’s spot depending on how each guy performs in their two-start audition. If both guys are performing poorly, the Yankees will also have the option of bringing David Phelps back, who will be five starts into his minor league stint by then and presumably able to throw 95+ pitches. There’s always D.J. Mitchell as well, but he could wind up taking Igarashi’s spot sooner rather than later if the braintrust feels a long man is needed. Given Garcia’s short leash due to his time in the pen and the general unpredictability associated with a young guy like Warren, having a long man would probably be a pretty good idea.

The Yankees don’t rush into panic moves, at least not under Cashman in recent years. They have enough arms to get them to the All-Star break, then they can re-evaluate things once Sabathia returns. If neither Garcia, Warren, Phelps, or Mitchell distinguishes themselves in the rotation, they’ll still have plenty of time to explore the trade market. They could go big (Cole Hamels, Matt Garza or Zack Greinke), go medium (Ryan Dempster or Wandy Dempster), or go small (Jeremy Guthrie or Francisco Liriano). I suppose it depends on Pettitte’s rehab and how Hughes is holding up because frankly, we have reason to doubt his ability to remain effective over the course of a full season.

The Bombers have the makings of a really strong rotation on the DL with Sabathia and Pettitte joining Michael Pineda, so their big league staff has been compromised. The starters have been carrying the team for the last six weeks or so and now the offense is going to have to return the favor a bit, simply because there is no reasonable way to expect anyone to replace the two guys the Yankees lost yesterday. The good news is that they’re in a better position to absorb these losses than at any point in the last like, ten years really. For a while there were no internal options — hence Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon and Sidney Ponson– now there’s several. The Yankees will cycle through them and tread water for a few weeks, at least until Sabathia gets healthy and maybe until the trade deadline.

Aside: Boy, did Manny Banuelos pick a good time to get hurt or what? Same with Dellin Betances. He’s supposed to be getting called up in this situation, not demoted down to Double-A. What a let down.

Yankees place Freddy Garcia on bereavement list, recall Ryota Igarashi

The Yankees have place Freddy Garcia on the bereavement list and recalled Ryota Igarashi from Triple-A. Garcia is returning home to Venezuela following the death of his grandfather, so condolences to him and his family. He can remain on the bereavement list for up to eight days. Igarashi was claimed off waivers a little more than a week ago and is expected to arrive in the Bronx in time for first pitch. He threw 18 pitches in Triple-A just last night.