Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Yanks’ Rooks Stage Comeback vs. Houston, Burnett Strong

 

Yanks win a sloppy one, 6-5

You know it’s Spring Training when you witness what happened in the ninth inning of today’s Yankees vs. Houston Astros exhibition game. Down 5-1 in the ninth, the Yankees capitalized on some sloppy defense by the Astros and won 6-5 on the strength of a walk-off bases-loaded walk drawn by Russell Martin.

Martin scored earlier in the frame on a throwing error by Jiovanni Mier, cutting the lead to 5-2. Then Astros’ pitcher Douglas Arguello, who labored in the ninth, tossed a wild pitch allowing Daniel Brewer to score.

Melky Mesa came up and singled to plate Austin Romine and Jordan Parraz to tie the game at five. In the bottom of the second the Yankees scraped their first run across the plate on a RBI groundout to third by Andruw Jones, which scored Alex Rodriguez.

But the game was secondary. There were bigger pictures to look at coming into today:   

 

A.J. Burnett

A.J. Burnett pitched well in his spring debut

Obviously he was the biggest storyline coming into his first start of the spring today. A.J. Burnett had the worst statistical season a Yankee starter has ever had, going 10-15 with an ERA of 5.26 in 2010. In an interview before the game, Burnett said “he can never have another season like he did last year” and “he could throw fastball after fastball to every hitter this year and still do better.”

On Sunday it was documented that Burnett beaned Greg Golson in the head throwing batting practice. Faith may have waivered in Burnett after learning of his HBP to Golson on Sunday, but he quickly renewed his credibility with a good outing today.

Burnett pitched two innings and threw 21 pitches (15 for strikes) while only allowing two hits. He induced five groundball outs and recorded one strikeout. He did not issue a walk.

It was only Burnett’s first appearance of the spring, but there’s no doubt that he looks like a different pitcher. As Ken Singleton described on Saturday, his delivery has been “re-visited.”

Singleton was correct.

Today Burnett’s motion was smooth and he pitched the ball; he didn’t fling it. He didn’t turn his back to the batter as he normally does in his usual delivery. It was smooth and side-to-side, almost like Mariano Rivera’s delivery. He kept his front leg toward home plate and wasn’t swinging it around toward second base in the wind-up.

If today was any indication about the type of season Burnett might have, he just might be able to pull off a turnaround year. Burnett added that he wants to “close people’s mouths” about his ability to win games.

Maybe he can. We’ll have to wait and see.

 

Derek Jeter


Derek Jeter is adjusting his strideThe Captain only has two hits this spring and has been the subject of a lot of discussion lately. Analysts have been talking about Derek Jeter’s adjustment in his stride. So far he hasn’t shown much of that adjustment and has been frequently grounding out. He did have a hit today, although he grounded out to short and flied out to center.

Jeter himself has stated that his swing and batting stance aren’t going to change. He is simply eliminating the stride with his front leg. Today it looked like he used a bit of a toe-tap, something Bernie Williams used and perfected over the course of his career.

Joe Girardi said that eventually Jeter will get it right and make the adjustment completely. In the manager’s words, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

When it comes to Jeter there is very little to worry about. The Captain will come around. He is 2-for-9 at the plate to this point in the spring.

 


Yankee notes! 

Notes & Things to Look Out For

·         The Astros started a kid named Bud Norris (if that isn’t a name meant for someone in Texas, I don’t know what is. Notice the Walker, Texas Ranger reference. Norris!) It was revealed that his actual first name is David, but he got the nickname Bud because he was at a restaurant when he was a kid and his parents ordered Budweiser. He said he wanted a Bud (even though he was too young) and from there they called him Bud.

 

·         Relieving A.J. Burnett today was Sergio Mitre. His line: One inning pitched, no runs, one hit, no walks, one K. He is working hard, I’ll give him that.

 

·         After Mitre was Joba Chamberlain. He pitched an inning and only gave up a hit while not allowing a run. No walks and no strikeouts for him, but he looks pretty good this far. Like Burnett he still has to prove himself, though.

 

·         Russell Martin didn’t even have to record a base hit to be called a winner. In his first game of the spring he had two at-bats, no hits, the game-winning walk, an RBI, and he left two men on base. He didn’t catch behind the plate, as he is still nursing his surgically repaired knee, but he will be back behind the plate eventually.

 

·         Mark Teixeira went 1-for-2 with a walk and a double. After he came out of the game he went to the batting cages and got some extra work in. And that’s Tex for you: always looking for improvement and working hard. He is in mid-season form, batting .571 through the first five Spring Training games.

 

·         Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, and Brett Gardner did not start today.

 

·         Michael Kay compared centerfielder Justin Maxwell to Alex Rodriguez during the broadcast. Looking at Maxwell’s mannerisms at the plate and his batting stance, I understand where Kay was coming from. He did look like a miniature version of A-Rod. Maxwell drew a walk and recorded a base hit, but he did make the first out of the fifth inning at third base, trying to reach third from first on Jeter’s single. Rookie mistake: never make the first or third out of an inning at third base. I learned that in Little League.


Maxwell's swing is like A-Rod's 

·         Francisco Cervelli fouled a ball off his left foot during an at-bat today in the second inning. He was noticeably hurt, limping before getting back into the batter’s box. He is likely to miss a couple of days and will probably undergo x-rays.

 

·         Alex Rodriguez was 1-for-2 with a walk, a double, and a run scored. He is batting .429 so far this spring.

 

·         2010 Pitcher of the Year David Phelps gave up four runs in the seventh inning after tossing a perfect top of the sixth. All four of the runs he surrendered were unearned.

 

·         Hector Noesi (two innings pitched, no runs, one hit, no walks, and two strikeouts) registered the win. As noted, Arguello struggled mightily in the ninth (threw 37 pitches and was charged with five runs ) and as a result took the loss.   

 

·         The Yankees will play the Tampa Bay Rays in an exhibition tomorrow and then will come back to Steinbrenner Field Friday night to host the Boston Red Sox–which is the next televised game on the YES Network. Bartolo Colon will start Friday vs. Boston’s Clay Buchholz.   

Baseball at the Movies: Top 10

 

Baseball at the Movies!Today I was flipping through the channels and came across Major League II on TBS. It made me think of all the great films out there that have portrayed the game of baseball on the big screen.

There have been so many baseball motion pictures that in Cooperstown, at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, there is an exhibit dedicated solely to baseball movies. I decided to write in my top 10 favorite baseball flicks. I know many people have written these already, but I figured to throw in my favorite movies.

10) Angels in the Outfield

Angels in the Outfield no. 10

I know, it’s not the strongest of movies, but Roger and JP love the game. They are both separated from their parents and turn to the greatest game in the world for support. With a little divine intervention from Christopher Lloyd, real Angels help the Anaheim Angels win. A great movie for the family.

9) Little Big League

Little Big League No. 9 
Another one for the younger audience, but still a great picture. Billy Heywood’s grandfather passes away, but leaves him a fortune: the Minnesota Twins!

Heywood becomes manager of the team and guides them to a winning season. There are so many cameos of the greatest players at the time: Ken Griffey, Jr., Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Paul O’Neill, Randy Johnson, and Lou Piniella to name a few. Pretty decent flick that portrays our favorite sport.

8) The Benchwarmers

The Benchwarmers No. 8 
This movie kind of got a bad rap, but I was one of the ones that liked it. The overall theme of the movie was important: bullying is wrong.

I especially loved the fact that director Dennis Dugan used baseball as a means to stop the bullying and have the little leaguers work together. Plus, that Stadium they built was impressive; a touch of the Yankee Stadium frieze, Fenway’s Green Monster, and the ivy from Wrigley Field.

The geeks may have lost the final game in the movie, but at heart, they really won.

7) Rookie of the Year

Rookie of the Year No. 7 
Henry Rowengartner. He was living my dream as a kid pitching in the big leagues. An accident somehow made his velocity go up, and he was picked to pitch for the Chicago Cubs.

As a kid, I always wanted to have an accident so I could throw harder, but my parents and coaches told me accidents don’t make you throw harder. This will always be a great baseball movie in my book.

6) Major League

No. 6 Major League 
Not only was this one of the best baseball movies I’ve seen, it was by far one of the funniest. I loved Bob Uecker’s quote: “One hit?! All we have is one God damned hit?!” “You can’t say that we’re on the air! Well, nobody’s listening anyway.”

All the characters are colorful, from Ricky Vaughn to Willie Mays Hayes. The story is great, and after viewing this film, I think the Indians will forever be in Cleveland, even if some stuffy owner’s wife wants to move the team…

5) 61*

No. 5 61*

I gained a new level of respect for Billy Crystal after I saw this movie. Now I know it’s about the Yankees, and I want to be un-biased, but this was an amazing picture. The actors playing Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle (Barry Pepper and Thomas Jane, respectively) did such a masterful job of portraying their feelings during the roller coaster ride that was the 1961 season.

It’s not easy chasing the greatest record in baseball, and at the film’s end, I truly feel that Maris is the rightful single season Home Run King. After going through death threats, losing his hair out of stress, and the media making his life a living hell, Maris deserves the right to be called the King.

4) For Love of the Game


For Love of the Game No. 4 
I saw this movie with my uncle and my cousin the weekend it opened. This was more of a love story, but it is such a touching movie.

The last place Detroit Tigers play the Yankees with washed-up Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) on the mound. As Chapel pitches, he reflects on his love life with Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston). He notices after seven innings that he’s pitching a perfect game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on the final game of the regular season.

Vin Scully’s quote still gives me goosebumps: “Tonight, Billy Chapel will take the walk to the loneliest spot in the world, the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium to use that achy arm to push the sun back into the sky and give us one more day of summer.”

When he finally records the last out and notches the perfecto, Scully says, “The Cathedral of Yankee Stadium belongs to a Chapel.” If you are a guy and love baseball, watch this movie with your girlfriend. There’s something there for both of you.

3) The Rookie

The Rookie No. 3 
High School baseball coach Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) tries his luck and makes it to the majors after his high school team makes the championship. It gives everyone hope that you can still fulfill your dreams, no matter how old you are.

After playing for the Durham Bulls, Morris makes it to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and pitches in a game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. His players are there in the nosebleeds to root him on. This is a movie that will most likely stand the test of time, and will be watched for a long time to come.

2) Bull Durham

No. 2 Bull Durham 

This movie came out exactly a year after I was born. Costner plays Crash Davis, who is an aging catcher called up to tutor rookie pitcher “Nuke” LaLoosh. Unfortunately for them, they are both romantically involved with a woman which makes a love triangle.

I learned something from this movie. 108 beads in a rosary, 108 stitches in a baseball. Coincidence? I think not. The “I believe in” speech that Davis gives is also gold. A little harsh, but brutally honest, which makes it classic. This will always be revered as one of the greatest baseball movie of all-time. They’ll be talking about Bull Durham for years to come.

1) Field of Dreams


Field of Dreams is No. 1 
Costner again. He must love the game. Anyone who has seen this movie knows how great it is. Ray Kinsella (Costner) interprets voices to build a baseball field on his farm. When he does, the Chicago Black Sox, or at least their ghosts, come to play there.

Who wouldn’t want to build a diamond and see their favorite players come out and play there? If I could pick a team, I would build my field and have the 1998 Yankees play on it. Kinsella’s line, “I’m pitching to Shoeless Joe Jackson…” speaks volumes. If I had it my way, it’d be, “I’m pitching to Tino Martinez…” being that he was favorite player on the ’98 Yanks. This movie is the best of the best.

According to the Internet Movie Database, this movie ranks a 7.6 out of a possible 10. I could easily rank this film 10 out of 10. After this movie is over, go play catch with your dad. You need to. It is one of the most engrossing films I’ve ever seen.

There you have it. My top 10 baseball flicks. There are so many other great ones, but this is just my opinion. If anyone would like to share their favorite baseball movies, feel free to comment!

Yankees Rebound to Beat Phils, Game 2 Notes

 

It begins.Following a 5-4 loss in the Grapefruit League opener, the Yankees beat the Phillies 7-3 in Clearwater this afternoon. The Yankees scored two runs in the fourth inning on a two-run, opposite-field home run hit by Curtis Granderson. The Yanks padded their lead in the sixth with four runs, started by an RBI double by Nick Swisher which scored Brett Gardner.

Curtis Granderson homered in today's 7-3 Yankee win 

Later in the frame Ryan Howard committed a throwing error, allowing Jordan Parraz to score. Jorge Posada then doubled to score Granderson and top catching prospect Jesus Montero singled to plate Daniel Brewer.

Jorge Vazquez crushed his second homer in as many days in the top of the ninth, a solo homer to left field to give the Yanks their seventh run.

Ben Francisco knocked in all three of the Phillies’ runs. In the seventh he doubled to score Carlos Rivero and he crushed a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth.

Ivan Nova pitched a good two innings today

Ivan Nova took the ball for the Yankees today and his line was strong: two innings pitched, no hits, no runs and two strikeouts. The Phillies’ fifth starter Joe Blanton got the nod and his line was also impressive: three innings pitched, no hits, no runs, a walk, and a K.

The Yankees will play Detroit in Lakeland tomorrow afternoon, but there were many storylines and a lot more to take away from today’s win over the Phils.

·         In an off-the-field matter, we lost a legend today. Duke Snider, an eight-time All-Star and a two-time World Series Champion, passed away at the age of 85. He enjoyed a wonderful career playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and San Francisco Giants. Snider was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. R.I.P. Duke.


RIP Duke Snider. 

·         Ivan Nova will obviously be fighting for a spot in the rotation, and he made a strong case for himself today. Aside from Chase Utley, who is out with tendinitis in his right knee, the Phillies fielded many of their regulars today. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, and Placido Polanco all started. Nova got many of them to groundout, pitching to contact. But his pitches were down and they had sink today. He looked great; almost reminiscent of Chien-Ming Wang a few years back.

 

·         Dellin Betances pitched the fifth inning and demonstrated pretty good control, solid velocity, and accuracy. He struck out the side, albeit allowing a walk. But his fastball was moving, he used his breaking pitch effectively, and he showed a wicked knuckle-curve. He topped out on the speed radar at 97 mph. I can’t wait to see what else he has this spring.

 

·         Jesus Montero was 1-for-3 with an RBI single today. He probably will not make the team right out of camp, as many are already noting. But if today is any indication, he will have a good year and probably see some time in the show.

 

·         Jorge Vazquez’s home run may not have gone as far as it did yesterday, but he is making a really good first impression. Another home run today, this time to left field. He is now leading the Yankees in round-trippers this spring. Not bad for a player wearing number 94.

 

·         It was comforting to see Curtis Granderson go “oppo” and smash a home run to left field. We really didn’t see that a lot last year and if he can adjust his swing and get around the way he did today, he will be a very dangerous hitter in 2011.

 

·         Regular position players Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano did not make the trip to Clearwater today.

 

·         After the game, pitching coach Larry Rothschild spoke more about A.J. Burnett. He said last year Burnett looked like a “confused pitcher” but he is expecting him to come back with a strong 2011. He noted that” Burnett’s heart is in the right place” and he will get him in the right frame of mind to pitch this year. As mentioned yesterday, Burnett will start on Wednesday (March 2) vs. The Houston Astros at Steinbrenner Field–which is also the next televised game on the YES Network. All eyes on A.J.

 

·         Sergio Mitre pitched the third inning today, giving up no runs on one hit. No walks and no strikeouts, but he did register the win this afternoon. He will be fighting for that fifth spot in the rotation.

 

·         The Yankees are now 1-1 in Grapefruit League play.

Grapefruits For Everyone: Yankees Start Spring Campaign

 

 

It begins.It’s the same story ever year when it comes to the first Spring Training game.

The Yankees play the first game in their home pinstripes, but every game after that sport their navy blue batting practice jerseys. There are critics who say, “It’s Spring Training. Who cares? These games don’t matter.” Then there are so-called “marks” (like me) who say, “Baseball is back. It’s not exactly Opening Day, but we are watching a Yankee baseball game in the winter.”

There are players wearing numbers in the high 90s and contrary to regular season games, Spring Training games can end in ties. What’s more, by the time the game reaches the sixth inning, there’s usually no one but minor leaguers on the field.

Still, it’s baseball. And a lot of people remain interested in these exhibitions.   

Today the Yanks began their Spring Training journey with a 5-4 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies…or basically Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Raul Ibanez and a whole bunch of Phillies who will either be backups or start the 2011 regular season in the minors.

Most of the Yankee regulars played today, aside from Russell Martin–his knee is still recovering from surgery and according to Yankee skipper Joe Girardi, he might be behind the plate catching live by the end of next week.

Francisco Cervelli started at catcher today and got the Yankees on the board in the bottom of the second. After Robinson Cano reached on an error (originally ruled a base hit) Cervelli laced a double down the left field line to knot the game at one.


Tex had an RBI triple today 

Mark Teixeira looked good in his first game with an RBI triple in the fifth to score Eduardo Nunez.

Minor Leaguer Jorge Vazquez had two hits, one being a bomb. Vazquez smashed a two-run home run over the batter’s eye in centerfield, which gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Unfortunately their lead was short-lived.

A blooper by Dan Sardinha in the top of the eighth off Eric Wordekemper plated two runs for the Phils and gave them a 5-4 lead.

The Phillies previously scored two runs in the fifth off reliever and 2010 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, David Phelps. Pete Orr doubled to score Wilson Valdez and Orr later came to the plate on an RBI single by Ross Gload.

Jeff Larish grounded into a 6-4-3 double play which scored Ben Francisco to give the Phils a 1-0 lead in the top half of the second. Francisco tripled to reach third on a ball Nick Swisher could have played for a single.

Was it an ugly game? Yes, but most Spring Training games are. Are the Yankees looking to win? Yes and no. It’s more to get a feel for the season and to prepare, and even the most jaded fan can tell they are not “loading up with big bullets and guns,” so-to-speak.


Bartolo started 

Bartolo Colon got the nod to start by Girardi, who felt Colon would be ready to pitch since he played winter ball. Colon’s line wasn’t terrible: two innings pitched, two hits, an earned run, a walk and no strikeouts. He only tossed 36 pitches.

For Philly, Hamels made the start and his line was almost identical to Colon’s: two innings pitched, one hit, an earned run, a walk, and two Ks.

The Yanks and Phillies will travel across Tampa Bay and play again at the Phillies’ home base in Clearwater tomorrow afternoon.

 


what to watch for.. 

Notes & Things to Out Look For

·         The Yankees honored the late George Steinbrenner with a ceremony before their first Spring Training game today. Only fitting, considering it was their first preseason game without their boss. It was a beautiful gesture and I am sure the Steinbrenner family is appreciative of all the love the Yankees are showing their fallen boss.

 

·         Ken Singleton of the YES Network said A.J. Burnett threw to hitters during live batting practice the other day and looked exceptional. According to Singy, Burnett’s fastball was “crackling,” his curveball had tilt, and his delivery “has been re-visited.” It sounds as if new Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild has helped him a lot and the season hasn’t even started yet. He will pitch Wednesday March 2 vs. the Houston Astros.

 

·          It’s already been established that Joba Chamberlain will be a bullpen pitcher this season. He does look heavier, but he was pretty good in relief today. Chamberlain pitched a 1-2-3 third inning with one strikeout. He topped out on the speed gun in the mid-90s.

 

·         David Robertson pitched a scoreless fourth inning with two strikeouts, no hits, and a walk. He and Chamberlain might be battling this spring for the primary middle relief role, what with Rafael Soriano in the eighth inning role. Either way, the Yankee bullpen will shape out. I think they will be a solid corps of relievers and probably be at the top of the league.

 

·         Top pitching prospects Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, and Manuel Banuelos have been nicknamed “The Killer B’s.” All will be starting 2011 in the minors but can make that push for the bigs. Girardi said Banuelos is “way ahead of his age” (only being 19, but will turn 20 on March 13).

 

·         David Phelps is a 14th round draft pick out of Notre Dame and the Yankees’ Pitcher of the Year for 2010. He didn’t really impress me much today, giving up two earned runs on three hits. But it’s only the first game. Lucky for him, he has time to impress.

 

·         Alex Rodriguez hit a double today but didn’t score. He looks good and I expect him to have a typical “A-Rod season,” if you will. No need to overanalyze him.

 

·         Andruw Jones played in pinstripes for the first time today. He drew two walks and struck out, and was also picked off at first base. He isn’t as fast as he used to be, but he will definitely be a better defensive player than Marcus Thames. Jones is wearing Johnny Damon’s old number, 18.   

 

·         The end of the top of the seventh inning today ended in style. Outfielder Justin Maxwell, who was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the off-season, made a sweet diving catch to end the frame. Very nice work from Maxwell; he could be a great asset to the Yanks. Or trade bait. Today I read Francisco Liriano is on the Yankees’ radar.

 

·         When I said that Jorge Vazquez’s home run was a bomb, I meant it. He crushed the ball over the batter’s eye in centerfield–not a cheap home run. He also had a base hit in the ninth to keep the Yankees’ little rally alive, although they couldn’t finish it. If that isn’t making a great first impression, I don’t know what is. Finally, a guy named Vazquez doing something positive for the Yankees…

 

·         Bartolo Colon is fat. We all know.

The Yankees vs. The Red Sox on Paper: The Outfield and Designated Hitter

 


Yanks/BoSoxIf you read Part I of my analysis of the Yankees and Red Sox on paper, here’s Part II

Right Field: Nick Swisher vs. J.D. Drew

Swisher vs. Drew

Right field is such an important position on the field and playing the position requires a strong amount of defense. The Yankees and the Red Sox do not have the best defensive right fielders in the A.L., but both do so much to help the team win.

J.D. Drew was signed as a free agent prior to 2007 and had a history of injuries. Boston took a risk signing him, but with that risk has come a pretty good reward. Drew, for the most part, has stayed fairly healthy with Boston and his offensive numbers have climbed over the past couple seasons. Last season he hit 22 home runs and drove in 68 RBIs, despite holding a batting average of .255.

In the Bronx, Nick Swisher has quickly become a fan-favorite. His light-hearted attitude and funny personality has brought calmness to the Yankees and he brings a strong clubhouse presence to the table.

In both seasons Swisher has been with the Yankees, he has hit a total of 58 home runs and has knocked in 171 runs.

Center Field: Curtis Granderson vs. Jacoby Ellsbury

Granderson vs. Ellsbury

Speed and concentration are probably the two characteristics that define center field. Both the Yankees and Red Sox own center fielders that have those key essentials.

Curtis Granderson provides the Yankees with solid defense. He has the ability to catch fly balls on the run, has shown a decent arm (five outfield assists last year) and has overall demonstrated good leadership in center.

The only knock against him is his strife against left-handed pitching. Yet he still hit 24 home runs last year and knocked in 67 runs with 76 runs scored. If Granderson can show a little more patience at the plate and draw more walks, he will really be dangerous next year. He only walked 53 times in 2010.

Jacoby Ellsbury only played 18 games last season, being sidelined with an apparent rib injury. He didn’t hit any homers and only recorded five RBIs, but when he is healthy, he is deadly. In 2009, Ellsbury led the league in triples (10) and stolen bases (70).   

 In terms of his defense, Ellsbury is known to take a lot of risks; he dives for a lot of fly balls and his success rate is probably above average. But throwing caution to the wind one too many times can be costly, as evidenced by his injuries.

Left Field: Brett Gardner vs. Carl Crawford


Gardner vs. CrawfordThe Red Sox have a slight advantage here, but only in terms of offense.

Defensively, Carl Crawford is as good as they come. As everyone knows he has the speed needed to be an impactful outfielder. Crawford won the Gold Glove for left field in 2010, showing once again he does not need to prove himself as a defender.

Brett Gardner was described by Michael Kay as, “Carl Crawford, just as a cheaper price.” In a lot of ways he was correct, being that Gardner is just as fast as Crawford, maybe faster. However, Crawford is a four time All-Star, an All-Star Game MVP (2009), and came in seventh in last year’s MVP voting.

Gardner was sidelined in 2010 with a wrist injury and he needed surgery in the off-season to rectify it. In 2010 he hit five home runs with 47 RBIs and batted .277.

Crawford on the other hand hit 19 homers, batted .307, drove in 90 runs, and led the league in triples with 13.

Designated Hitter: Jorge Posada vs. David Ortiz


Posada vs. OrtizPosada’s offense has already been highlighted, but as mentioned before, he will be the Yankees’ everyday DH. The Red Sox will counter that with their Big Papi, David Ortiz.

Like Rodriguez, people can say what they want about Ortiz being on the “down side” of his career. But if last year was any indication, Big Papi still has a lot left in the tank. Boston’s slugger clubbed 32 homers last year and knocked in 102 runs on a .270 batting average.

Ortiz says it all the time, “All I do is hit. That’s what I am here for, because I don’t play defense.”

And Ortiz can still hit. When he steps up to the plate, there’s no doubt that his presence alone can intimidate a pitcher.

Posada may not intimidate a pitcher the way Ortiz does. But the Yankee DH did have 18 home runs last year, as previously mentioned.

 

The Yankees vs. The Red Sox on Paper: The Infield

 


Yanks/BoSoxThe Yankees will need to maintain their focus if they plan on beating out the Boston Red Sox for the American League East in 2011. A lot of folks are already giving Boston the division, considering their off-season moves.

But excluding starting pitching, Boston and New York seem to be somewhat even.

Let’s examine…

1st Base: Mark Teixeira vs. Adrian Gonzalez


Tex vs. GonzoMark Teixeira’s batting average dipped to .256 in 2010, but he still managed to hit 33 home runs (to lead the Yankee team) and he knocked in 108 runs while scoring 113. He is a proven hitter and doesn’t need to be sold on, by any means. Everyone knows what a dominant hitter Teixeira can be, not to mention his defense at first is Gold Glove caliber and second-to-none.

Adrian Gonzalez will be playing his first season in 2011 as a member of the Red Sox and hasn’t played in the A.L. since 2005 (with Texas). He will have to adjust back to the pitching in the American League, but expect to see him do some damage; his swing is tailor-made for Fenway Park. Last year he hit 31 homers for San Diego, batted in 101 runs, and scored 87 times.

2nd base: Robinson Cano vs. Dustin Pedroia


Cano vs. PedroiaThe Yankees’ second baseman had arguably the best season of his career in 2010, setting career-highs in home runs (29) and RBIs (109). Robinson Cano came in third in the A.L. MVP voting and played in 160 games, showcasing his durability.

It’s safe to say Cano’s New York star is shining and he will continue to come into his own as a hitter this year. In 2010 on defense, he only committed three errors on the way to his first career Gold Glove.

Just as Cano was setting the Bronx on fire last season, Dustin Pedroia was igniting Beantown. That is until he fouled a ball off his left instep and was sent to the disabled list, ultimately ending his season. The night before he was injured, he went 5-for-5 and hit three home runs off the Colorado Rockies.

Pedroia ended the season with 75 games played, 12 homers, 41 RBIs, and an average of .288. He is bound to come back in the same form this year. On defense, Pedroia is one of the more solid second basemen in the A.L. He is always in the running for the Gold Glove Award and he already has captured one (in 2008).

In what could be a mini-storyline during the season, Pedroia made a recent comment about Cano, saying something along the lines of, “He’s become a (expletive) ballplayer.”

Cano should take that as a compliment. I would.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter vs. Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie


Jeter vs. Scutaro/LowrieEver since Nomar Garciaparra left Boston, it doesn’t seem as though the Red Sox have ever fully recovered at the shortstop position. They have had a parade of shortstops come in and out while none of them have really been mainstays. From Orlando Cabrera to Julio Lugo; now to Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie.

Combined last year, Scutaro and Lowrie hit 19 home runs and knocked in 80 runs. It’s possible they might be solution to Boston’s shortstop dilemma in recent years, at least in terms of their offense.

Their defense, however, is nowhere near perfect.

From the shortstop position last year, Scutaro and Lowrie combined for 19 errors, which by my math are 13 more than Derek Jeter, who only committed six errors last season en route to a Gold Glove.

Jeter’s offense last season wasn’t the best, though, as he hit a career-low .270 with 10 homers and 67 RBIs. He is hoping to return back to his normal BA of above .300. The Yankee Captain will also, in all likelihood, get his 3,000th career hit this year, as he is 74 base hits away from the milestone.  

3rd Base: Alex Rodriguez vs. Kevin Youkilis

A-Rod vs. Youk

In 2004 Alex Rodriguez came to New York and was forced to make the transition from shortstop to third base. Under the tutelage of former Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles, Rodriguez has become one of the better third basemen in the A.L., although he has never won a Gold Glove.

Kevin Youkilis has played a total of 219 career games at third base, so he may not have to adjust to the position as A-Rod did. Simply put, he has been there before. However, Youkilis only played two games at third in 2010, which may or may not have an affect on him.

As far as offense goes both players are established hitters, although some critics contend that Rodriguez is on the “down-side” of his career. If 30 home runs and 125 RBIs (Rodriguez’s offensive numbers in 2010) is a “down year,” I’m sure A-Rod will take it.

Youkilis hit 19 home runs in 2010 with an average of .307 and 62 RBIs.

Catcher: Russell Martin/Jorge Posada/Jesus Montero/Austin Romine/Francisco Cervelli vs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek

Yanks' catcher vs. Boston's catchers

I have heard it said that a catcher that can hit is a bonus.

Right now, it’s unknown who exactly will be the everyday catcher for the Yankees, but each of the candidates, whether they are on the MLB level or not, have proven that they can hit to some capacity.

Jorge Posada was named the everyday Designated Hitter, but there’s no doubt he will see some time behind the plate in what will most likely be his final year in pinstripes. Last season however, he showed that his defense is declining, as he only threw out 15 percent of base runners, allowing 72 stolen bases.

On offense last year Posada belted 18 homers and recorded 57 RBIs. His batting average was only .248, however.

A few weeks back Russell Martin admitted he “wasn’t 100 percent” but will be by the time camp breaks. Last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Martin hit five home runs with 26 RBIs. His batting average matched Posada’s, .248.

According to Hitting Coach Kevin Long, Jesus Montero is ready for the major leagues. Last season in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Montero smacked 21 home runs and had 75 RBIs. Austin Romine is almost right behind Montero, as he blasted 10 minor league homers last years and knocked in 69 runs.

These two young studs are likely going to duke it out for a spot on the roster during Spring Training, so it’s anyone’s spot to win.

Francisco Cervelli is basically the odd man out here. Last year he showed inefficiency behind and at the plate. In addition to allowing 55 steals from the catcher position, he didn’t hit any home runs and drove in only 38 runs with a .271 batting average in 93 games.

As of press time, the Yankee catching job is not yet locked down.

For the Red Sox, it looks as though Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be their everyday backstop, with Captain Jason Varitek behind him. Saltalamacchia hasn’t really had the chance to prove his worth yet, as he only played in 10 games for the Red Sox last season with not many stats to look at.

Varitek only batted .232 last year in just 39 games with seven home runs and 16 RBIs. Clearly, he is nearing the end of his career. But much like Jeter, he is a born leader and he brings experience and veteran know-how to the clubhouse. This spring he will most likely be teaching the Red Sox catching prospects a thing or two about calling a ballgame behind the plate.

 

 

Hank Calls Out Yankees: Hang Tough, Stay Hungry (But Lose Weight!)

 

First game Saturday.

On Saturday the Yankees will kick off their Spring Training campaign in the Grapefruit League. It has been announced that Bartolo Colon, one of the Yanks’ off-season acquisitions, will start Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Joe Girardi said Colon is starting because he pitched Winter Ball and he’s more likely to be ready to pitch to another team.

Colon is 14-21 with an elevated ERA of 5.18 since 2005. Is he even going to make the team in 2011? We’ll see. It depends on how he performs throughout Spring Training. Nonetheless, he is a question mark.

 

umm....

When he arrived at camp, Colon was noticeably overweight, as was Joba Chamberlain. The 25 year-old righty said he set up a gym in his house to work out in over the off-season. Chamberlain was billed at 230 lbs. during the 2010 postseason, but it has been said he is undoubtedly heavier now.

Can Chamberlain get his weight down and possibly get back to his flame-throwing 2007 form? Another question and we will have to wait for the answer.

joba is big

CC Sabathia–who may or may not opt out of his contract at the end of this upcoming season–was said to have lost 30 lbs. coming into camp. Yet, that claim was later refuted by Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman. Earlier this month at the B.A.T. dinner, Cashman saw Sabathia and remarked that it didn’t look as though he lost any weight; that he still looked to be around 300 lbs.

Where are we, anyway? Yankee camp or the Biggest Loser?

All of these questions led Hank Steinbrenner to, in not so many ways, call out the Yankees’ “hunger,” or will to win, so-to-speak. Yesterday he came out publicly and said that last year the team was “too busy building mansions” and “they celebrated the 2009 World Series too much, not focusing on winning.”

Hank called out the Yanks

Was Steinbrenner correct in his statement? Well, yes and no. There’s no denying that toward the end of 2010 the Yankees became complacent. In September of ’10, the Yankees had a losing record of 12-15, and they were swept by the team that eliminated them in the American League Championship Series (Texas Rangers) during a four game losing streak.

Obviously they did lose their focus and it carried over into the final round before the World Series. However, the Yankees did win 95 games during the regular season and 100 overall. But even that was not enough to stop the rolling Texas Rangers team.

Derek Jeter was one player most people thought Steinbrenner was referring to, at least in terms of the mansion-building remark. The Yankee Captain built a large, multi-million dollar home in Tampa last year. However, Steinbrenner went on to say he wasn’t singling out any individual; he was not targeting Jeter.

Hahahaha! says Jeets.

The Captain’s response? In typical Jeter fashion he shook it off and laughed about it, as reported by the beat writers today. According to reports, Jeter (while laughing) said, “My name didn’t come out of his mouth. I think it was a plural thing, not directed at me.”

Girardi added that Steinbrenner was simply expressing frustration; the same frustration everyone within the organization had, not repeating as World Champs last year.

While the air may be cleared on that subject, the Yankees will have to regain the focus lost in last year’s ALCS. But can they do it?

Investigative Baseball Journalism: Did I Just Solve a Mystery?

 

Ferris Bueller went to a game...

“Hey batter batter batter! Swing batter! He can’t hit, he can’t hit, he can’t hit, SWING batter!”

Ferris Bueller’s best friend Cameron Frye yelled these words at a Chicago Cubs game the day they took off from school in the 1986 comedy “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

At the game, the two friends caught a foul ball and were even shown on TV. The Dean of Students, Edward Rooney, nearly caught them but didn’t because he got Pepsi spat in his face at an arcade…

Well, it’s a long story. But if you have seen the movie, you’ll know what I am talking about.

Yesterday it was reported by Larry Granillo of Wezen-ball.com that Bueller and Frye (and Sloane Peterson, too) attended a Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves game at Wrigley Field on June 5, 1985. He gathered that by using Baseball-reference.com and the commentary that is heard in the movie during the baseball scenes.

As it turns out, the Cubs lost 4-2 to the Braves that day.

One word: impressive. With a little baseball investigation, he found out the exact day Ferris Bueller took off. And as a huge fan of the Ferris Bueller movie, I thought it was fascinating.

It just so happened that hours after I read Granillo’s article about the Ferris Bueller Cubs game, I sat down and watched another one of my favorite comedies: “Wedding Crashers.” Like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,”” Wedding Crashers” also features a scene that involves a character watching a baseball game.

Wedding Crashers. Can I find out which game it was?

Towards the end of the movie, John Beckwith (Owen Wilson’s character) was depressed; sitting on his couch he watched a Baltimore Orioles game, as the movie takes place in Washington, D.C. (which to my understanding) is located some 40 miles away from Baltimore.

I decided I wanted to make it my mission to find out what Orioles game Owen Wilson was watching. Much like how Granillo found out what game Ferris Bueller went to, I want to find out what game one of the wedding crashers was watching.

Here is what I have gathered:

·         “Wedding Crashers” came out on July 15, 2005, which probably means shooting began in 2004, thus the game he was watching probably took place in ’04.

 

·         In the film, a player is seen coming home in a home run trot. The announcer identifies the player as Jay Gibbons, who played for the Orioles from 2001 until 2007. He had some time in the show this past season, playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2010.

 

·          The team the Orioles were playing had dark jerseys on. It’s extremely difficult to tell which team it was, even by zooming in as close as I can on the DVD player. The White Sox perhaps? That was my guess. No help there.

 

·         “It is gone! He is rejuvenated! And the Orioles take the lead, 3-2.” This helps.

 

·         “Well, Jay Gibbons connects; his first home run of the season off a left-handed pitcher.” Getting a little closer, I hope.

 

·         The footage in the movie was a night game from Camden Yards.

 

·          According to Gibbons’s baseball reference page, he hit 10 home runs in 2004–and strangely enough one of them did come against the White Sox.

 

I think I may have done it!!!

 

Did I do it?

It took me a little while but here goes…

On May 5, 2004, the Orioles played the White Sox at home. Gibbons had a solo home run in that game off Mark Buehrle (a left-handed pitcher) in the fourth inning, according to the baseball almanac. Before the home run, the game was tied 2-2. Gibbons’s home run made the game 3-2.

According to the recaps posted on the internet, the game was a 7:05 night game.

That home run was Gibbons’s fourth of 2004. From what I discovered in my research, his other three home runs to that point came off right-handed pitchers, meaning it was his first of the season off a lefty.

Could I have just cracked a code? I guess I will never know for sure if it was the exact game, but the pieces are there; the evidence is in place.

Just as Bueller and his friends saw a losing effort on the Cubs’ part, Beckwith (Wilson) did in “Wedding Crashers,” if I have the correct game. The White Sox battled back on May 5, 2004 to beat the O’s 6-5.

All that investigation and they lost. 


Sorry Jay. 

Reliving History: 1998

 

Newest piece of my collection

Yesterday I added a new piece to my seemingly never-ending Yankee memorabilia collection. I purchased the official “Winning Streak Dynasty” banner from Modells, since they were having a sale and marketing it for a relatively low price.

Just by glancing at the banner, and each of the 27 years the Yankees have won the World Series, gave me an idea: a look inside some of the World Series the Yankees have won. I figured I would explore the reasons why the Yankees won that specific year, provide some background on the regular season, examine turning points that made each fall classic special, and identify the key players who made it what it was.

 

I figured I would first relive a very magical season: 1998.

1998 Yankees

 

Regular season record: 114-48

Postseason record: 11-2

Manager: Joe Torre (3rd season)

Key off-season additions: David Wells, Scott Brosius, Chili Davis, Chuck Knoblauch

Home Run Leader: Tino Martinez (28)

RBI Leader: Tino Martinez (123)

Hits Leader: Derek Jeter (203)

Wins Leader: David Cone (20)

Saves Leader: Mariano Rivera (36)

 

 

Slow Start

The 1998 Yankees, who went on to set a Major League record for most games won overall in a season, began their year in a slow fashion. They lost four out of their first five games to start the year, including a 10-2 beat-down at the hands of the California Angels.

Manager Joe Torre called an “angry meeting” and aired out some of his feelings to his players. The pitchers and the position players noticed somewhat of a rift between each other; some batters were hit and felt the pitchers did not do enough to retaliate.

They eventually found their groove on April 7 against the Seattle Mariners, beating the M’s 13-7. From there, they won their next seven games and wound up ending April with a record of 17-6.

 

Perfection

 


Perfect Game.On May 17 starting pitcher David Wells tossed a perfect game at home vs. the Minnesota Twins. He retired 27 consecutive batters leading the Yanks to a 4-0 win. It was only the 15th perfect game in MLB history and only the second perfecto thrown by a Yankee.

Later in the season on Sept. 1, Wells almost threw another perfect game. Facing the Oakland Athletics, Wells was perfect through 7 2/3 innings. Needing only seven outs for another perfect game, Jason Giambi lined a single off an 0-2 count to break it up.

 

Base-brawl

 


Fight w/ the O'sMay 19 marked a turning point in the season. After Baltimore Orioles’ closer Armando Benitez allowed a three-run home run to Bernie Williams, he pegged Tino Martinez in between his shoulder blades. He was immediately run from the game, but the HBP practically caused a riot.

A fracas ensued and the Yanks and O’s exchanged shoves, and eventually punches.

The Yankees went on to beat the Orioles 9-5 in that game, and also swept them in that series three games to one.

 

A Year-Long Tear

The Yankees only lost 17 games in the summer months of July and August, while winning 42. Williams described the season as a “year-long tear,” as there really was no other way to characterize how the Bronx Bombers played.

They basically rolled into towns and beat teams up, clinching the American League East with a 7-5 win over the hated Boston Red Sox on Sept. 4–the earliest they had clinched the AL East since 1969. To that point in the season they won 102 games and were set to meet the Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series…

 

 

Playoffs

 

1998 playoffs

In the ALDS, the Yankees easily handed the Texas Rangers a clean sweep. Juan Gonzalez, the player who eventually captured the 1998 A.L. MVP Award was no match for the starting pitching the Yanks had. David Wells, Andy Pettitte, and David Cone shut down the Rangers three games in a row, each notching a playoff win.

Rookie Shane Spencer, Brosius, and right field warrior Paul O’Neill led the Yanks, all hitting home runs in the first round of the postseason.

The American League Championship Series pitted the Yanks against began the defending A.L. Champs, the Cleveland Indians. New York was looking to erase their 1997 ALCS defeat and beat the Tribe 7-2 in Game One.

Game Two however was an ugly defeat for the Yanks. The game was tied up until inning number 12 when Travis Fryman laid down a bunt. Reliever Jeff Nelson threw the ball to first base, as the second baseman Knoblauch covered the bag. The ball hit Fryman in the back and Knoblauch argued with the umpire instead of retrieving the ball, which at that point was trickling down the first baseline.

Enrique Wilson scored and the Indians went on to win 4-1. The momentum carried into Game Three, as the Indians brought the lumber with them. Playing at home, sluggers Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez left he yard twice, and Mark Whiten added a homer en route to a 6-1 win over the Yanks. They pounded Pettitte while newly acquired Yankee Bartolo Colon cruised to a complete game victory.

Thome killed the Yanks in the ALCS

But the Game Three loss marked the last time the Yanks would lose a playoff game in ’98.

Down two games to one, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez took the hill, needing a clutch outing to keep the Yanks alive. Seven shutout innings later, and with some help from O’Neill (who homered) Hernandez and the Yanks picked up a 4-0 Game Four win.

Game One winner Wells took the ball again in Game Five. Now with the ALCS even at two, the Yanks rolled to a 5-3 win, under the strength of a fourth inning home run off the bat of Davis to give the Yanks a three-run lead. Kenny Lofton and Thome both hit home runs, but the Yankee bullpen was able to hold off the rest of the Cleveland lineup.

Now needing one win to get the fall classic, the Yanks came home to play Game Six. They jumped all over Charles Nagy, scoring six runs in the first three innings. Cleveland did not give up easily however, scoring five runs in the fifth, with the main blow being a grand slam from Thome.  

The Yankees answered with three runs in the six, plating runs on a triple by Derek Jeter and a single by Williams. They went on to make a winner out of Cone, beating the Indians 9-5 and winning the A.L. pennant for the 35th time.

The Yankees were then headed for the World Series, set to play the San Diego Padres.

ALCS MVP: David Wells (2-0, 2.87 ERA, 15 2/3 IP, 12 Hits, 5 ER, 2 BB, 18 K)

 

 

   The World Series

 

Yankees vs. Padres

1998 was the 94th World Series played in MLB history and the Yankees were gunning for their 24th title in franchise history. The Padres were looking for their first World Series victory, having lost the fall classic in 1984–the only other year in their history that they won the National League pennant.

In Game One, San Diego took a 5-2 lead, getting home runs from sluggers Greg Vaughn and Tony Gwynn. But going into the seventh inning, the Yanks came up with a plan. Knoblauch atoned for his ALCS blunder, smacking a game-tying three-run home run into the left field seats.

Later in the frame with the bases loaded, everything changed.

Martinez came up with the bases loaded and on a full count, blasted a grand slam home run into the upper deck tier seats in right field, giving the Yankees a 9-5 lead.

Grand Slam Tino!

Yankee Stadium exploded.

And it was the turning point in the series, simply because the Yankees carried the momentum from that home run with them the rest of the way. In Game Two, the Yankees beat the Padres 9-3, with home runs off the bats of Williams and Jorge Posada.

Heading out to San Diego and the Yankees up two games to none, Cone took the mound in Game Three. Both teams didn’t score until the sixth, when the Padres plated three runs. The Yanks answered with two in the seventh, receiving a two-run home run from Brosius.

Trevor Hoffman was called on in the eighth inning. San Diego manager Bruce Bochy wanted his closer to nail down a six-out save leading 3-2 going into the frame. Hoffman folded however, giving up a three-run home run to Brosius, which gave New York a 5-3 lead.

Vaughn cut the lead to one with a sac fly in the bottom of the eighth, but the Padres could not rally all the way back, and the Yankees took Game Three, 5-4.

Many people argue that Game Four was just a formality, and in a lot of ways it was. The Padres were all but defeated in the ’98 World Series after Game Three, having been outscored 24-13 in the previous three games. Pettitte toed the rubber, hoping to wrap up New York’s 24th Championship.

He succeeded.

Both teams were kept off the board until the sixth, when the Yankees plated a run on a groundout by Williams that scored Jeter. The Yankees added two more runs in the eighth, with an RBI single by Brosius and a sac fly by Ricky Ledee to score O’Neill.

The Padres made an effort to come back in the eighth, loading the bases on Nelson. However, Mariano Rivera wiggled out of the jam and pitched a scoreless ninth to clinch the World Series title.

Bliss.

 

World Series MVP: Scott Brosius (8-for-17, .471 BA, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 3 R, 14 total bases)


MVP 

  

 

Winners.

1998 was just one of those special seasons that nothing went wrong. They have been described as “The Greatest Team Ever” being that they won 125 total games and only lost 50. Those types of seasons don’t come around very often and when they do, it’s important to remember them.

I will always remember the 1998 baseball for the Yankees–not Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa breaking the home run records. I had more fun watching a team play every game as if it were their last than watching two guys race for a hallowed baseball record.

I think that says a lot about how exciting the Yanks were.

Down on the Yankee Farm

 


Bartolo. Ugh.Desperate times call for desperate measures. And right now, it’s really no secret the Yankees are turning to desperate measures. As reported yesterday, the Yankees signed Bartolo Colon to a deal worth $900,000 plus incentives. According to Buster Olney, Colon pitched for Tony Pena’s team this winter, which may have played into the Yankees’ decision to sign him.

This signing caused a little bit of an uproar from Yankee fans and analysts. One source said, “Bartolo? Maybe he can be Alex Rodriguez’s personal batting practice pitcher. 22-for-51 lifetime with eight home runs.”

Colon is 14-21 with a 5.18 ERA since 2005. His signing puts him in line with Mark Prior, another starting pitcher the Yanks acquired with a history of injuries. The Yanks inked Prior to a minor league deal this off-season and to my best estimate would be a bullpen pitcher, if he is healthy and makes the team.

On the edition of Yankees Hot Stove I watched tonight, the starting rotation and lineup for 2011 were both projected. As far as the rotation goes, the YES Network has CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and Sergio Mitre penciled in as the five starters.

Ivan Nova: Yay or Nay?

Nova in 2010 was 1-2 with a 4.70 ERA. He allowed 21 earned runs in 42 innings, which doesn’t seem bad. He also hasn’t really had the opportunity to showcase his stuff, but for some reason he doesn’t excite me. Nova will get the chance next year to show what he’s got.

I just hope that he doesn’t become another Ian Kennedy or Darrell Rasner.

Mitre was 0-3 in 2010 with an ERA of 3.33 in 27 appearances. Since becoming a Yankee, Mitre has only three wins under his belt and hasn’t been very effective, to say the least. The only start of note Mitre made was in August of 2009 against the White Sox when he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Eventually he ended the outing with 6 1/3 scoreless innings recorded with one hit allowed.

Aside from that outing, Mitre hasn’t done much to benefit the team.

The Yankees have now made several moves in terms of signing free agents. But judging by tonight’s Yankee hot stove report, they will be turning to the Minor Leagues this year. It seems as though they have a few youngsters who will be looking to make the team and from their own words, the Bronx is where they want to be come March 31 when the Yanks open up at home against Detroit.

Since we already know the so-called “Baby Bombers” might get a taste of the show this year, I have singled out five top Yankee prospects that we could see in the Bronx this season–and others we will surely see in the near future. Some of them may have to wait a few more years; others may get the call to the show in ’11.

Nonetheless, we’ll undoubtedly see each of them in Spring Training at the end of next month.

5) Cito Culver

Cito to succeed Jeter? 

He is a player I do not expect to see in the Bronx in 2011. However, we could be looking at the heir apparent to Derek Jeter’s shortstop throne.

I saw Cito Culver play this summer. The Hudson Valley Renegades, the Minor League affiliate of the Rays (and a team I interned for this past summer), played the Staten Island Yankees a few times, as both teams are in the McNamara Division of the New York Penn League. With that I was able to watch him play, but the only game he played in: 0-for-2 with a walk.

Not much to look at there.

Culver, who will be 19 this August, has played in 56 games since getting drafted in June of last season–51 with the Gulf Coast Yankees and 15 with the Staten Island Yankees. So far in his young career he has a .251 batting average and has only hit two home runs with 18 RBIs. He has shown ability to hit the ball in the gap, as he has legged out eight doubles and a triple over that span.

He is very young and is a work in progress. But by the time Jeter’s contract expires in 2014, Culver might be developed enough to succeed him. Culver will still be in his early 20s while Jeter will be in his early 40s.

If I were the Yankees I would start getting him ready now. If they play Culver wisely, he produces, and he doesn’t he injured, he can potentially be the next long-term Yankee shortstop. From the scouting reports I have read, he has great bat speed for a kid his age and can play above average on defense.

 

4) Manuel Banuelos

Manny in '11?

The majors in 2011? Maybe. Maybe not. Right now, I am thinking not.

Left-handed pitcher Manuel Banuelos is going to be 20 years old on March 13 and has risen through the ranks of the Yankees’ Minor League system. He has been down on the Yankees’ farm since 2008 and had his best season in 2009.

For the Tampa Yankees and Charleston River Dogs in ’09, Banuelos compiled a 9-5 record with a 2.64 ERA, making 19 starts and 26 appearances. In three Minor League seasons, he is 13-10 with an ERA of 2.59 which includes 37 starts and 215 2/3 innings.

An upside about Banuelos: he seems to be a strikeout machine while not allowing as many free passes. In the 215 2/3 innings he has logged in the minors, he has sat down 228 batters on strikes–only issuing 66 career walks.

228:66 strikeout-to-walk ratio: not bad.

Banuelos has only been up to the Double-A level, pitching three games in Trenton last year. He will have to prove himself worthy again with a tough 2010 (0-4 overall with a 2.51 ERA coming off his solid ’09 campaign) but expect good things from him in the future.

If he has a great bounce back year, he may be a September call-up. A scouting report said he features a smooth, easy delivery and he demonstrates the ability to repeat it. They say he throws a devastating 12-6 curve ball. His fastball has been clocked at 94 on the speed gun and shows tailing action on right-handed batters.

The same report compared him to Johan Santana.

 

3) Dellin Betances

Dellin in '11?

The Show in ’11? Yes. I can see him there.

I think what benefits the 6’8, 245-lb. right-handed starting pitcher is his age. Dellin Betances will be 23 by the time the 2011 season begins, unlike most of his comrades who are still in their late teens. Betances has been in the Yanks’ system since 2006 and has put together a career Minor League record of 20-14.

He has registered 349 strikeouts over that span, but has walked 135 batters. He has given up less than a run per inning, as he has thrown 299 2/3 innings for his career and has given up 134 runs.

One of his downsides is the fact that he has had reconstructive surgery, which was apparently a ligament reinforcement procedure. His surgery may have been what has stopped him from making it all the way to the majors this early in his career.

Scouting reports indicate Betances exhibits a fastball, a curve ball, and a changeup. His fastball has been gunned at 96-97 and he has the ability to pound the strike zone with it. From what they say, he starts most hitters off with his fastball and eventually finishes them off with it, using it as an out pitch.

His curve ball is said to stay down in the zone and he does not overuse it. The changeup is about 82-85 mph and if he can obtain better command of it, it will become faster over time.

Betances has the ability to be an ace. Look out for him. With the lack of starting pitching this year, he may finally get his chance to show Yankee Universe what he has got. I think it will all depend on how he performs this spring.

 

2) Austin Romine

Austin in '11?

Not only will he probably make a big league appearance this year, he has the possibility to make the team out of Spring Training.

Austin Romine, 22, was the Yankees’ second-best prospect in 2010 according to Baseball America. Drafted in 2007, Romine has been a solid catcher down on the Bomber farm. In 2007 he played one game for the Gulf Coast Yankees and had one hit, a walk, and two runs scored in that game.

From there on out, he has had at least 10 home runs in every season he has played and through four Minor League seasons, he has batted in 191 runs. He has played as high as Double-A Trenton and his overall batting average is .281. He also won the 2009 Florida State League Player of the Year Award and participated in the 2010 Futures Game.

Scouting reports say he is a well-rounded catcher, but his defense is a hair above his offense. They say his arm strength is very good and it will probably get better as he develops. What’s more, he is a gap hitter with 84 career doubles and four career triples.

“Expect those extra base hits to turn into home runs as he fills in his 6’1, 195-lb. frame,” one report suggested.

Romine said he hopes it comes down to the wire in Spring Training in terms of making the team. He would like to do battle for the final roster spot with…

 

1) Jesus Montero

Montero is the top-ranked Yankee farm hand.

The Yankees’ number one top prospect and the fifth best prospect in all of baseball.

 The cream of the crop. The sure thing? Perhaps.

Catcher Jesus Montero, 21, has already been declared ready for the majors by Yankee Hitting Coach Kevin Long. However, his defense is what has kept him down. His height (6’4) is what apparently makes him not a viable catcher. Some have even suggested that he switch positions, moving to first base or a corner outfield position.

While that remains to be seen, he has demonstrated stellar offensive numbers. In 380 career Minor League games he has recorded 449 hits with 58 homers and 251 RBIs. Last season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he averaged .289 with 21 home runs (a career-high) and 75 RBIs.

Montero obviously has it right on offense. A source called him the Yanks’ best hitting prospect since Jeter–that’s something that cannot be taken too lightly.

One scouting report said he is expected to eventually average .300 with 30 homers a year.

The Yankees have signed Russell Martin this off-season, which gives them the chance to continue to mold Montero on defense. I suppose they can try him out at different positions during the spring if his defense at the catcher spot is a major concern and will keep him down.

Either way, expect big things from him. And soon.

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