When a pitcher has a poor start, one of many excuses they offer up is that their mechanics were out of whack. We heard this from Joba Chamberlain earlier in the season — that he was working on his mechanics. Whether it’s true or not we can rarely be sure. Each pitcher has his own set of mechanics, so it’s tough to compare one to another. It looks like Sergio Mitre took this excuse after his poor outing on Friday against the White Sox. Via MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, we learn that Mitre has worked on his mechanics between starts, “concentrating on keeping his right arm and his body synchronized.” That, he says, will help keep his sinker sinking and away from the upper parts of the zone. We’ll see for sure a bit later tonight.
In a few ways, the Yankees and White Sox played similar games last night. Both had starters who pitched poorly. Both racked up a ton of hits, including two doubles and a homer each. Both drew five walks. Yet one number separated them: hitting with runners in scoring position, and especially with two outs. The Yankees were just 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and the White Sox were 6 for 13. The Sox also drove in four runs with two outs, while the Yankees drove in none. Those were the differences in the 10-5 loss.
Last night we saw the worst of Sergio Mitre. It was bound to happen. We know Mitre isn’t a world beater. Clunkers are expected from time to time. To borrow a term, he’s Ponsnerian. Thankfully this year it’s only one rotation spot. It still stings, though, especially on nights like this. Despite the 2 for 10 with RISP mark, the Yanks did put up five runs. You’d like to see them win those games.
Thing started off so well, too. The Yanks put up three runs for Mitre in the first, taking advantage of fill-in starter D.J. Carrasco. Mitre then proceeded to record the first two outs of the first seemingly with ease. The wheels then came off, and it was a shaky ride the rest of the way. Mitre limited the damage to just one in the first, though he left the bases loaded. He wouldn’t be so lucky in the second.
The inning started off with a walk, never a good sign for a pitcher like Mitre. After another play in which the Yankees pitcher slipped on the infield grass, the White Sox had the bases loaded with none out. That netted them three runs, a sac fly and a two-run single. The Sox capped their scoring off Mitre on a Carlos Quentin homer to lead off the third. Mitre did induce three straight ground outs to follow, but even that was not enough to salvage his night. Joe Girardi had seen enough.
David Robertson, Alfredo Aceves, and Mark Melancon all pitched in relief and faced varying degrees of highs and lows. Robertson pitched a quick scoreless fourth, but got into trouble by allowing the first three batters of the fifth reach, the last on an RBI double. He figured it out, though, getting the next three in order. Aceves pitched a 1-2-3 sixth, but like Robertson got into trouble in his second inning of work. Both walked the leadoff batter.
Mark Melancon didn’t experience those lows. He came in and got Gordon Beckham to finish off the seventh for Aceves, and then handily finished off the Sox in the eighth. Prior to Tuesday night, Melancon hadn’t pitched since July 10. In his two recent appearances he’s pitched 3.2 innings and has allowed just two hits. They haven’t been particularly high-leverage situations, but considering his potential perhaps it’s time to start moving him up in the pecking order. It’s worth a try, at least.
On the offensive side, the only runs the Yanks scored after the first came on an Eric Hinske two-run homer, his fourth as a Yankee. The whole offense didn’t do poorly — they did rack up 12 hits, after all, and had at least one baserunner in all nine innings. It all comes back to their hitting with runners in scoring position. And the pitching. It always comes down to those two.
The Yanks will send their best two at the Sox in an attempt to salvage a split. A.J. Burnett vs. John Danks. Both have been pitching well lately, and we should get a bit better matchup than we did last night.
Sergio Mitre’s final line tonight was not too flattering: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Yet through the first five innings he was able to scatter the hits and limit the damage. In fact, after Brian Roberts led off the game with a double, Mitre allowed no extra base hits. He did allow three hits in the sixth, though, which plated two Baltimore runs and ultimately chased him from the game. The Yanks had already scored six by that point, and the bullpen held the Orioles in check as the Yanks took their fifth straight contest, 6-4.
The early scoring matched that of Monday’s contest. In the first Nick Markakis singled in Roberts, who had advanced to third on an Adam Jones ground out. The Yankees went down quietly in the first, but manufactured a run in the second on a walk, stolen base, and a pair of sac flies. Unlike Monday, that score didn’t remain until the bottom of the ninth. In fact, the Orioles picked up a run in the second. They would not hold it for long.
Through two Rich Hill didn’t look that bad. He didn’t have any strikeouts, but he also had only that one walk to Alex Rodriguez. The third would be his undoing, and it all started with a walk to Cody Ransom. That led to a bases loaded, two outs situation for Alex Rodriguez, who came through big time with a single to left. That plated two, giving the Yankees the lead back. They would not squander it.
Robinson Cano tacked on two with a homer in the fourth inning, putting the Yankees ahead 5-2. Johnny Damon would make it 6-2 later that inning. Mitre owes them a beer. If not for their tack-on runs, the sixth inning could have been a bit uglier. But the big lead allowed the Yanks to stave off the rallying Orioles, holding them to just two runs. It would be enough for the bullpen.
Other than Markakis’s single off Phil Coke to lead off the eighth, the bullpen was perfect. Even with the single they doubled Markakis off, so the bullpen faced the minimum number of hitters. Mo capped it off with his 27th save of the season, and the Yankees, with the help of the Texas Rangers, pulled into sole possession of first place.
They’ll have to defend their spot soon enough. It’s a day game, A.J. Burnett vs. rookie Jason Berken. Then Oakland comes to town. On a parting note, the Yanks are lined up well right now. They have four against Oakland, followed by three in Tampa and then three in Chicago. Mitre misses the beast of Tampa, as does Pettitte. Nothing better than throwing your best at the team creeping up behind you.
With word of Chien-Ming Wang’s latest setback coming yesterday, it looks like newcomer Sergio Mitre might be sticking around for a while. I figured we might as well take a second to tell you about the guy, since we’re probably going to be seeing quite a bit of him over the next few weeks. Let’s start with a little background info.
Mitre grew up in San Diego and was drafted out of San Diego City College by the Cubs in the 7th round of the 2001 Draft. He was more of a mid-level prospect than a highly touted of stud, yet only Mark Prior reached the big leagues faster out of that draft haul. Mitre made his Major League debut in a spot start in Atlanta in July 2003, getting rocked for eight runs in under four innings. He made the Cubbies’ Opening Day roster in 2004, ironically filling in for the injured Prior. Sent back down once Prior came of fthe disabled list, Mitre did the up-and-down thing again in 2005.
With the Cubs looking to improve their offense and add a leadoff hitter, they packaged Mitre with prospects Renyel Pinto and Ricky Nolasco in December 2005 to acquire Juan Pierre from the Marlins. He started the 2006 season in Joe Girardi’s Opening Day rotation, but was shut down with shoulder inflammation in mid-May. Mitre came back in August and finished the year pitching effectively out of the bullpen. He started 2007 in the Opening Day rotation, and enjoyed his best stretch of success in the show that year. In his first 17 starts (102 IP) he put up a 2.82 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP while holding opponents to a .665 OPS against.
Unfortunately, Mitre spent three stints on the disabled list that year because of blisters and a hammy issue. He came into camp the next year and faced just three hitters before being shut down with forearm tightness, but it wasn’t until mid-July that he went under the knife and had Tommy John surgery. Mitre didn’t pitch at all in 2008, and was released by the Marlins after the season. The Yankees swooped in and signed him to a split contract worth $1.25M with an option for 2010 in November on Girardi’s recommendation. Two months later he failed a drug test because a trace amount of androstenedione showed up in his system. Mitre took full responsibility and was suspended for 50 games, but was allowed to serve the suspense while rehabbing from TJ.
Mitre’s Yankee career started with him rehabbing from TJ in Extended Spring Training. That was followed by a pit stop with High-A Tampa before a move up to Triple-A Scranton. His last two outings with Scranton have been dynamite (14.2 IP, 11 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 13 K, 25-7 GB/FB combined), but more importantly, he’s stretched out and back to throwing 80-100 pitches per start.
Stuff-wise, Mitre’s primarily a sinker-changeup guy, throwing the former 70.3% of the time and the latter 16.0% of the time in his big league career. He fills in the gaps with a curveball and a slider, though his reliance on the curve has waned over the last few years. Girardi says he remembers Mitre’s sinker being high-80’s/low-90’s, and Chad Jennings says he’s been 90-93 with Triple-A Scranton. He generally gets about six or seven miles an hour of separation with the change. As you can imagine, he’s a groundball guy. posting a 2.53 GB/FB ratio in his big league career. For comparison’s sake, the guy he’s replacing in the rotation has career GB/FB rate of 2.70.
It’s fitting that one groundball guy is replacing the other in the rotation, and considering how terrible Wang has been this year, Mitre doesn’t have to do very much to match his production. SG over at RLYW already looked at the numbers, so I’m going to point you over there rather than doing everything myself. Simply put, if he gives the Yanks five or six innings of three or four run ball every five days, I think they’d take that in a heartbeat. Anything else is a bonus. Mitre doesn’t have to be a rotation savior, he just needs to hold down the fort until the team decides how it’s going to address it’s pitching situation.
Photo Credit: The Times-Tribune
A couple of hours before the Yanks and Orioles squared off last night, the Yankees announced a setback for Chien-Ming Wang. Their erstwhile ace, on the DL since July 4 with a strained right shoulder, had experienced some bicep pain during a throwing session, and the Yanks no longer sound certain they will get any contribution from Wang this season.
“It’s not exactly the news that I wanted,” Joe Girardi said to reporters. “We were hoping two weeks’ rest would be enough for him to get on a throwing program. Does it mean he won’t pitch this year? No, I’m not saying that. But obviously, it’s not going to be as soon as we thought.”
During the pre-game news conference, Girardi hinted that Wang’s rotator cuff may be suffering as part of this amorphous shoulder strain. “I think anytime you’re dealing with cuff issues or shoulder tendinitis or whatever you want to describe it as, there is concern,” Girardi said. “Whatever he is able to do, we would love to have. But I think anytime someone is injured and you’re not sure when they’re exactly going to be back, you can’t count on them.”
For the Yankees, these apparent injuries justify what had been a controversial off-season tactic. For the last few seasons, the Yankees have opted not to sign Wang to a long-term contract. Rather, they have gone year-to-year with the arbitration-eligible pitcher. They did so because Wang’s peripherals did not necessarily predict future success and because the pitcher, as we’ve seen, is volatile. If Wang is out for the rest of the year, he will have gone 1-6 with a 9.34 ERA over just 42 innings since June 15, 2008.
Meanwhile, the Yanks have some other pitching questions to resolve. In writing about Wang today in The Times, Tyler Kepner explores how the Yanks’ rotation depth is suffering with Wang out:
Wang had pitched decently in his last few starts, and Girardi acknowledged that the latest setback was another reason to be concerned about rotation depth. After Mitre, the Yankees’ next option in the minors is Kei Igawa, who has repeatedly failed in the majors.
Relievers Phil Hughes and Alfredo Aceves are natural starters, but Hughes has become so entrenched in short relief that Girardi said he could throw no more than 40 pitches now. Adding 15 pitches an outing, it would take Hughes four appearances before he could throw 100 pitches.
That is not an easy or appealing option, especially because Hughes has been invaluable in the bullpen. Entering Monday, he had a streak of 19 scoreless innings, the longest by a Yankee since Mariano Rivera’s 23-inning streak in 2005, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
It’s far too early to write off Sergio Mitre. He hasn’t even thrown a pitch as a member of the New York Yankees, but my expectations aren’t high. Beyond Mitre, Kepner’s mention of Igawa is enough to make me want to curl up in a corner in the fetal position.
The answer though is staring the Yanks in the face. Sure, Phil Hughes’ 19 scoreless innings of the pen is an impressive number, but good pitchers make for great relievers. If the Yanks truly expect nothing from Chien-Ming Wang right now, the team would be far better off moving Hughes into the rotation. He may be on a pitch count, but it’s easy to stretch him.
First, the Yanks can have him duplicate what he did on Friday. That evening, he threw 40 pitches out of the pen. The Yanks could then have him make a 65-pitch start as they were willing to do with Alfredo Aceves prior to the All Star break. The 80-pitch outing leaves the bullpen in limbo, but with Brett Tomko still on the active roster and Mark Melancon ready to hop on the Scranton shuttle, the Yankees have some flexibility. That would do it.
As for the late-inning relief efforts, the Yankees still have Phil Coke and Alfredo Aceves ready, willing, and able to get the job done. It’s very tempting to keep Hughes in the late innings as a band-aid, but the Yankees need starters. Maybe Sergio Mitre can cut it, but Phil Hughes is the future while Mitre is a place-holder for Wang.
If Wang is out, if the Yanks are truly short in the rotation, it’s time to stretch out Hughes. He has the experience and the confidence. Now, all he needs is the work and the innings.
Prior to the start of last night’s Yankees-Tigers game, Joe Girardi made official what Joe mentioned at 4:30 yesterday: Sergio Mitre would be called up to the Bronx on Tuesday and will start against the Orioles in his Yankee debut. Mitre, 28 and a right-hander, will be making his first start since Sept. 15, 2007. He missed all of the 2008 season with Tommy John surgery.
For the Yankees, the need to turn to Mitre comes out of a variety of circumstances. At the top of that list is, of course, Chien-Ming Wang’s woefully bad 2009. When Wang injured his foot last June, no one knew it would mark a downward spiral for the two-time 19-game winner. In fits and starts this year, Wang is 1-6 with a 9.64 ERA, and he is out indefinitely with a right shoulder strain.
Beyond Wang, the Yanks had two other pitchers ahead of Mitre on their depth charts. Phil Hughes and Alfredo Aceves were slotted to be the sixth and seventh starters respectively, but then the bullpen happened. Hughes, as we all know, had been pitching decently in the starting rotation in place of Wang in May, but when the Yanks activated the sinker-ball specialist in late May, Hughes was bounced from the rotation.
Instead of sending Hughes back to the minors to work on his innings, though, the Yanks decided to slot him into a bullpen role. Hughes, who no longer was challenged by AAA hitters, has more than exceeded expectations as a set-up man, and last night’s two-inning, six-strike out performance solidified his role as the Bridge to Mariano. At the same time, though, the Yankees have limited Hughes’ innings, and he isn’t prepared to jump back into the starting rotation.
Aceves’ path is a similar one. A starter at AAA to start the season, Aceves was summoned to the Bronx when it was clear that the Yanks needed a long reliever. He made one spot start — against the Twins before the break — but has been far better as a swing man in the pen. There, he is 5-1 with a 2.02 in 40 innings spanning 21 games. As Joe LaPointe reported, the Yanks know Hughes and Aceves are better options than Mitre. These two, however, are not really stretched out, and the team is very hesitant to mess with bullpen success.
So Mitre it will be. The Yanks signed Mitre for depth over the off-season, and now, it is depth they need. Never much of a heralded prospect, Mitre is 10-23 with a 5.36 ERA over 310.2 innings spanning parts of five seasons for the Cubs and Marlins. With a K/9 IP of just 5.4, he doesn’t strike out many hitters, but he has decent ground ball numbers.
The Yankees have to hope they can catch lightening in a bottle with Mitre. He has earned wins in back-to-back starts just three times in his career and is simply an arm right now. With Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte scuffling lately, the Yanks’ pitching depth and the team’s 2009 success is resting on what Mitre can do for a handful of starts. My fingers are crossed.
The news is making its rounds, so we’ll make this quick: Sergio Mitre will start against Baltimore on Tuesday. Obviously the Yankees haven’t made a corresponding move yet. Look for David Robertson or Mark Melancon to take the shuttle to Scranton.