Results tagged ‘ Dellin Betances ’
Over the first half of this season the Yankees can, at best, be described at “hot-cold.” It seems the Bronx Bombers get into a groove, but begin skidding not long after they appear to hit a good stretch. Nonetheless, they find themselves within an arm’s reach of first place in the AL East at the All-Star break – which, in a word, is miraculous, given their streakiness and injury problems.
There are plenty of storylines to be covered from the first 94 games of 2014. The First topic, of course, has to be
Masahiro Tanaka – Man, not Superman
If you remember back to the pilot episode of the old TV show Smallville, Lana Lang asks Clark Kent if he’s “man or Superman.” When the news of Masahiro Tanaka’s partially torn UCL broke, it was the only quote this scribe thought of.
The man from Japan was virtually untouchable through his first few starts – dare I say Superman-esque, boasting the best record in baseball at 12-3 with an ERA of 2.27.
Then Tuesday happened. Superman lost his cape.
Tanaka was lit up by Cleveland for five earned on 10 hits. His fastball was flat, his sinker was hanging, and he took the loss in arguably the worst start of his young MLB career.
The bad line and the loss only made the news on Tanaka’s partially torn UCL worse, as he’s been one of the only bright spots in the Yankee rotation this season; with CC Sabathia possibly being done for good, Ivan Nova needing Tommy John surgery, and Michael Pineda being about as useful as a screen door in a submarine.
It’s obvious the loss of Tanaka comes as a huge blow to the Yankees. So far the front office hasn’t made a stunner deal to patch up the rotation holes, although they’ve added Brandon McCarthy from the Arizona Diamondbacks to help, acquired Jeff Francis from the Oakland A’s, and called up the emerging Shane Greene to fill some of the void.
A blockbuster trade for a front-line starter may or may not be in the cards for the Yankees this year – there’s not much out there to take, although Cliff Lee will apparently be off the DL and available come the July 31 non-waivers trade deadline.
Perhaps the Yankees can land the trade that never was in July, 2010. Lee would’ve been tremendously more valuable in ’10 than he is now, but with the rotation in a state of disarray, he may be the closest the Yankees get to a top-of-the-line starting pitcher.
That is, unless they can somehow snatch David Price from Tampa Bay – but the Yankees stand a better chance of a magical leprechaun falling from a rainbow in the sky and bringing them cake and ice cream. It’s extremely improbable.
On the other hand if there isn’t a starter to be had at the deadline, the Yankees simply have to find a way to win with who they have.
As for Tanaka: the Yanks will be without his services for at least six weeks, yet he’ll probably be gone beyond that timeframe; a UCL tear, no matter how large or small, usually spells a lot of time on the sidelines. It’s also worth noting Tanaka apologized for his injury, taking the same road Hideki Matsui traveled in 2006 when he broke his wrist trying to field a fly ball in left field.
We’ve learned a lot about Tanaka over the first half of the season, but the hardest lesson we all learned is that he’s a man. Not Superman.
Alfonso Soriano just not built to last
When the Yankees picked up McCarthy, it was almost shocking to see Alfonso Soriano’s name on the “designated for assignment” list. The Yanks acquired their old pal “Fonsy” last year from the Cubs and he turned back the clock, becoming an exciting piece of a rather bland and dry 2013 offense.
Soriano said at the outset of the season he was considering retirement at the end of this season as it was; but I’m not sure he – or anyone else – expected the 38-year-old slugger to be cut in what may be his final season.
This year Soriano was batting a weak .221 with 71 strikeouts in 238 plate appearances. He only clubbed six homers and drove in just 23 runs in the 67 games he played – clearly not playing with the fire that burned last summer.
Perhaps it was a classic case of going back to the place, but not the time.
Derek Jeter, for one, was not happy with Fonsy’s release, telling the Star Ledger “Soriano is like family to me. I’m going to miss him. He’s like a brother to me. He should be proud of what he’s been able to do.”
If it really is the end of the line for Soriano, he put together a nice little career with 412 homers, two World Series appearances, and seven All-Star nods. Certainly not a Hall of Famer worthy span, but he was good enough to be a recognizable ballplayer and a bona fide difference-maker.
Mark Teixeira still has it
Soriano wasn’t able to light up the offensive categories this year, but one man who has been ripping and tearing it up with his bat has been Mark Teixeira. The big first baseman is leading the team in homers with 17 and has knocked in 48 runs, which overshadows his somewhat low .239 batting average.
For Teixeira, a guy who missed basically all of last year and even spent time on the DL this year with a nagging hamstring injury, the above average power numbers and situational hitting are pleasantly surprising.
Generally after suffering season-ending injuries players don’t respond with such decent numbers right away. Teixeira looks as good as new and is offering some positive results. It might even be fair to say he’s putting the Yankees on his back and carrying the team this year.
David Robertson can indeed close
Last season the biggest story was Mariano Rivera’s impending retirement and the big question that went with it: can David Robertson, who was set to supplant the great Rivera as Yankee closer, actually do it?
What’s sad is, he’s answered the question this season with a giant “YES” but it’s flown under the proverbial radar; nobody is really talking about it.
Robertson has saved 23 games for the Yankees while only hitting two speed bumps: blowing a save in Chicago to the White Sox on May 23 and failing to save the game vs. the Minnesota Twins at home on June 1.
Other than those two instances Robertson has been as solid as a bull, closing out games without the fans even having to often utilize his famous “Houdini” nickname. Robertson has been shutting down other teams in the ninth with relative ease, evading trouble and doing Rivera proud.
By the way, the official Yankee Yapping term for a Robertson save is “Alabama Slam” because Robertson is an Alabama native and he slams the door in the ninth.
It hasn’t quite caught on just yet, although some YY Twitter followers approve.
Dellin is dealin’
Rightfully so, Dellin Betances has been named an AL All-Star this year. As a reliever he’s struck out 84 batters in 55.1 innings pitched, making the best hitters in the league like Mike Trout and Jose Bautista look like hitters trying to strike a pea with a twig.
Betances has emerged as firearm and a practically an automatic 1-2-3 inning out of the ‘pen, but I think the difference between Betances and someone such as Joba Chamberlain (or Phil Hughes for that matter) is that he found what didn’t work and has now found what does work – and that’s where he’s staying.
The Yankees discovered that the role of starting pitcher was just not clicking for Betances. When he didn’t make it as a starter, he found his way as a reliever, and that’s who is – and who he’ll be from here on out.
Unlike, however, Chamberlain and Hughes, who constantly flip-flopped roles and eventually didn’t make it either way.
Bottom line: the Yankees have done the right thing with Betances, and the decision to make (and keep) him a reliever is paying off royally.
The Swan Song of Derek Jeter
Through the first half of 2014, the Yankee Captain is hitting .271 with two homers and 25 RBIs. He’s slugging .321 and has swiped six bases while only getting caught once. He has 91 hits thus far, and has moved up on MLB’s all-time hits list; in fact, at press time, he’s 13 away from tying the legendary Carl Yastrzemski for eighth place on the all-time list.
But it’s not exactly about his numbers this season, or the records he’s shattering. It’s about the atmosphere every time he comes to bat at Yankee Stadium – or anywhere else. Opposing fans cheer him when he steps into the box, showering him with appreciation and respect, while the opposing teams themselves shower him with adulation and parting gifts.
It’ll only get more exciting, or maybe more fittingly bittersweet, when he takes the field in his final All-Star Game Tuesday night at Target Field in Minnesota.
Fans everywhere can appreciate what Jeter’s done over the years, and how much he’s meant not only to the Yankees but baseball in general. It’s nice to see this fine ballplayer get the respect of his peers and those with whom he works.
The atmosphere is going to be surreal on the final day of the Yankees’ season, whenever it may come; whether it be in the playoffs sometime, at the end of the regular season, or at the end of the World Series.
It’s tough to consider right now, but whenever it ends – and however it ends – the Captain will go out a respected winner in the eyes of the baseball fans. And if you can go out with the adoration of everyone around you, isn’t that the greatest thing in sports?
It’s been a great first half of the 2014 season. Here’s to a fun second half!
But before I go, here’s some Yankee Yapping “Extra Innings”…. !!!
For the third straight summer I’ve been “down on the farm” so-to-speak, covering Minor League Baseball – more specifically the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Tampa Bay Rays’ short season Single-A affiliate.
The last two games I’ve covered ended quite dramatically, as Hunter Lockwood, the Gades’ left fielder, ended the game in extra innings with one swing; first a solo homer to beat the Staten Island Yankees on July 5, and just last night a two-run homer to beat the Batavia MuckDogs (a Miami Marlins affiliate) 12-10.
Just for the heck of it, I’ll post my game story from Lockwood’s walk-off home run that beat the Baby Bombers last weekend. This story ran in my newspaper (The Examiner) this week, so those who don’t get a chance to read my regular recaps in the paper, here’s a taste of what you’re missing:
Renegades Stun Yankees with Lockwood’s Walk-Off Homer
By A.J. Martelli
Hudson Valley Renegades relief pitcher Isaac Gil had a whipped cream pie ready for designated hitter Hunter Lockwood at the end of their game against the Staten Island Yankees Saturday night. It was the only way to celebrate what had just happened.
In the bottom of the tenth tied 3-3 with two outs, Lockwood delivered a solo, walk-off home run – a spectacular shot over the left field wall at Dutchess Stadium to give the Renegades a 4-3 win, extend Hudson Valley’s win streak to seven in a row, and send the sold out crowd home happy.
“It’s a huge rush for me and I know it’s just a huge rush for the rest of my team,” Lockwood said moments after clubbing the death blow. “Everybody has all the dog piles and stuff you see on TV, and it’s just a lot of fun to be able to go out and produce for our team and for our fans out here.
“We’ve been playing good as a team, we trust everybody to get the job done, coming through in clutch situations, and that helps us stick together as a team and keep playing hard. We’ve had a bunch of late walk-off wins; a bunch of games where we’ve held tight and came through late – it allows us to keep playing hard, and since we’ve done it in the past we know we can do it in the future.”
The dramatic homer was Lockwood’s team-leading fourth of the season. Perhaps more importantly, the win was Hudson Valley’s fifth walk-off style victory of 2014, and its fourth win of the season in extra innings. Skipper Tim Parenton doesn’t mind playing in close games, given the results he’s seeing right now.
“The guys just never quit and they’ve done it all year,” he said. “Hunter Lockwood hit the ball hard a couple times tonight, but got one up in the air a little bit and it got out of here. It’s just a great win for the guys. They just believe in each other, and we just have a resilient group.”
The Gades’ resiliency was never more evident than in the top of the tenth inning. The Yankees loaded the bases with nobody out, looking primed to break the 3-3 stalemate. But reliever Gerardo Reyes, who notched his first win of the year, pitched out of it, getting a line out to left, a pop out to short, and a groundout to end any danger.
“We just hung in there,” Parenton said. “You sit there as a coach and say ‘put it in the zone and see if they can make the hit or we can make the play.’ We were able to get a couple pop ups and the ground ball out.”
The Renegades took a 3-1 lead into the ninth inning; scoring in the sixth on an RBI double off the bat of second baseman Jace Conrad, and an RBI single from left fielder Clayton Henning in the seventh. Conrad plated the Gades’ third run in the eighth, scoring from third on a wild pitch.
The Yankees were able to tie it in the top half of the ninth on two RBI singles off Reyes to send it to extras.
Renegades’ starter D.J. Slaton did a fine job keeping his team in the game, tossing six innings of three-hit ball. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out seven – and also had to wiggle out of trouble in the fifth inning, escaping a second and third, no out jam.
“The biggest thing for me was getting ahead, finishing off batters when I had the chance and trying to keep a low pitch count,” he said. “For me it’s fastball changeup and when those two are rolling for me, usually it’s a good night.
“The fifth was a tough, sucky inning, but the biggest thing was, you just have to get a quick out in the infield somewhere, and a strikeout, and go from there. Once you get those two outs you don’t relax a little bit, but you look for that third out any way you can get it.”
Southpaw Ryan Pennell, a Rye Neck alum and Mamaroneck native, was solid in the role of the middle man. He threw two innings in relief of Slaton and allowed one run on just two hits. He walked two and struck out two.
The Renegades (15-5) are sitting pretty with the New York-Penn League’s best record and are in first place in the McNamara division. With doubleheaders coming up on the schedule – and no days off until next Tuesday – Parenton plans on fielding his entire team to keep the winning recipe cooking.
“It’s going to be tough, but we’re going to rotate our lineup, put fresh guys in there,” he said, “and just keep playing and hopefully keep winning.”
Side note: The photo of Lockwood was taken by me, whilst conducting my postgame interview. I’m not much of a photographer, but my editor has some fantastic shots of Lockwood. He’s a pro, I’m an amateur.
In New York City there’s a fine line between baseball heroes and legends. On that line live the New York Yankees. You got your Derek Jeters, your Mariano Riveras – the players that will go down in history as some of the best to ever play the game.
Then you got the other guys. Like yesterday, heroes Dellin Betances and John Ryan Murphy. Both youngsters proved to be instrumental in the Yanks’ 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
Betances, in relief of Vidal Nuno, picked up his first major league win while Murphy slugged his first career major league homer; a solo shot that cleared the left field wall in the sixth inning to decide the game.
Tonight newcomer Masahiro Tanaka can be a hero; he’s looking to collect his fourth win this season and give the Yankees the rubber game of their three-game set vs. the Halos.
Should the Yankees win, it would mark their 15th win of this early 2014 season – and even if they were to lose tonight, they’d still be atop the AL East here in the early going.
And that – that’s great.
In the midst of all the Yankees’ success in the infantile stages of the year, I happened to come across an HBO special the other day starring none other than Billy Crystal, a famous Yankee fan and technically, a former Yankee himself.
Even if it was just for one at-bat during Spring Training, 2008 and he was struck out by Paul Maholm of the Pittsburgh Pirates. We all remember it, and his words,
“I only ever wanted to be a comedian or a Yankee. Or a very funny Yankee.”
Anyway, the special, entitled “700 Sundays” is in fact Crystal’s one-man show about his growing life. He chronicles his years as a young man and a teen, and does so in the only way he can: comically.
In between the comedy though, he retells sweet stories from his youth, including his first trip to Yankee Stadium. He talked about how excited he was to see Mickey Mantle, or as Crystal called him, “Elvis in pinstripes.”
Now, I don’t really want to give too much away; I think the best thing for all readers would be to check the special out for yourselves. It’s been on HBO frequently, so keep your eyes peeled for it. “700 Sundays” runs about two hours – and it’s worth every second.
‘Tis the season of the cracking of the bat and the popping of the leather. Yes, MLB Spring Training is finally here, and yesterday the Yankees began their string of exhibition games. As it is, the Bronx Bombers dropped both of their first two Grapefruit League games to Pittsburgh, losing 6-5 Wednesday and 8-2 today – though we all know final scores are probably the least important stat when it comes to Spring Training.
It’s all about fine tuning and getting ready for April, when the scores count and the Yanks embark on their quest for World Series title number 28. Yankee Captain Derek Jeter, who as we all know announced his retirement after this upcoming season, declared today that he wants to go out a winner:
“We’re the last team standing and we win the championship.
That’s the only way I envision it ending.”
In order for that happen, a lot has to go right. First of all…
CC Sabathia needs a bounce-back campaign
Last year CC Sabathia faced arm problems, really for the first time ever in his career. The Yankee ace lost 13 games in 2013 and only won 14, coming off 2012 when he won 15 – a far cry from the 21 and 19-win seasons he put up in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Last season Sabathia’s ERA was 4.78, the highest earned run average he’s ever posted in his career.
If you’re the type of analyst who likes to throw wins and ERA out the window, here’s something to chew on: Sabathia let up 28 home runs in 2013 – another career-high for a single season. If that isn’t enough, here’s something else to consider: Sabathia served up more taters than Phil Hughes last season, the former homer-happy Yankee and now-Minnesota Twin. Hughes allowed 24 hitters to leave the yard last year compared to Sabathia’s 28.
Yes. You know it’s bad when you’ve given up more long balls than Hughes.
There’s no debating the fact that Sabathia needs to turn it around; be the ace the Yankees bought him for prior to 2009, or at least be close to what he was. It’s not too much to ask, mostly because he’s already proven the type of anchor he can be to a pitching staff.
To his credit, Sabathia slimmed down and lost some weight. According to Michael Kay of YES, Sabathia came into Spring Training last year just under 300 lbs., whereas this year he showed up around 275 and visibly thinner.
Obviously Sabathia is taking serious steps towards getting back to form, but he needs to cut down on the home runs and be clutch this year if the Yankees want to be that last team standing.
Stay healthy, New York
You cannot predict injuries. It’s a fact of sports life. In recent times the Yankees have had a ton of hard luck when it comes to injuries, and they haven’t been able to field a complete team.
New Yankee Jacoby Ellsbury has failed to appear in 100 games in two of the last four seasons because of injuries. In 2010 the speedy center fielder only played 18 games and in 2012 he played just 74, thanks to fractured ribs as a result of an outfield collision (’10) and a collision on the base paths trying to break up a double play (’12).
In between he’s been as solid as they come, though. 2011 was Ellsbury’s best season to date. With 32 home runs, 105 RBIs, a .321 batting average, 212 hits, and an All-Star nod, he was arguably the best all-around player in the American League. Being the runner-up for the AL MVP award, while taking home a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger, is only a testament to how fantastic he truly was in ‘11.
That begs the question, which Ellsbury will be showing up in 2014? The perennial All-Star or the injury prone player who gives up his body en route to disabled list stints?
And Ellsbury is just one example.
To supplant Herculean second baseman Robinson Cano, who split for Seattle, the Yankees signed Brian Roberts – a 36-year-old second sacker once feared by all as a Baltimore Oriole, but has only played 192 games over the last four seasons on account of injuries. (Roberts managed to play 77 games last year, 17 in ’12, 39 in ’11, and 59 in ’10).
Doing the math, Roberts has missed 456 games over the past four seasons; DL stints and concussions have eaten him up. Keep in mind, specifically, he ruptured a tendon behind his right knee last April vs. Tampa Bay attempting a steal of second base.
Knowing all that, will Roberts be a comeback player and offer reliability, or will he simply be unproductive and relegated to the disabled list for a large chunk of the season?
The question marks of Ellsbury and Roberts are of course piled on top of apprehension about Jeter and Mark Teixeira. Jeter (39, 40 in June) as we all know is coming off ankle injuries that limited him to 17 games in 2013, while Teixeira (33, 34 in April) is coming back from wrist problems that only allowed him to play 15 games last year.
How each of these players respond is obviously a “to be determined” but at the same time there is no crystal ball in existence to let us know if they’ll be able to grind out the entire season injury-free.
The bullpen has to be effective
It’s fair to say the Yankees’ bullpen was probably their weakest link last year, even with the legendary Mariano Rivera at the back end closing everything out – which really tells you the whole story. This writer keeps asking himself,
“If the bullpen wasn’t that good with Rivera last year, what can we expect without him this year?
David Robertson, as of now, is expected to succeed Mo in the closer role, which is scary to think about. If you recall in 2012 when Rivera’s season ended on May 3 on the warning track in Kansas City, Robertson was plugged into his spot as closer, but he didn’t cut it.
In just his second save opp a week after Rivera went down, Robertson failed to protect a 1-0 lead over Tampa Bay, giving up a three-run homer to Matt Joyce. He later gave up another run and the Yankees went on to lose, 4-1. Robertson called it afterward “the worst feeling in the world.”
Luckily in 2012 the Yankees had the option of using Rafael Soriano in Robertson’s stead – an option that worked out well, given that Soriano saved 42 games in Rivera’s absence.
Now, similarly, the Yankees have signed former Oakland A’s closer (and 2009 AL Rookie of the Year) Andrew Bailey, albeit to a minor league contract. Bailey has 89 saves to his name in his short career, with experience as a closer, making him the logical choice to succeed Rivera over Robertson.
Bailey, like a lot of other Yankees, has a history with injuries. In 2012 he had reconstructive surgery on his right thumb, and just last year an MRI revealed he had a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder.
It’ll come down to whether or not Bailey can make it back from injury and be a shutdown pitcher like he once was. For now though, the Yankees have a premiere setup man in Robertson – and that’s about it, because Robertson isn’t a proven closer.
At least not yet.
Looking outside the back end of the bullpen, the middle relievers need to step up too. Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne are going to be two important pieces to the bullpen, along with newcomer Matt Thornton, the tall order who’ll replace Boone Logan (now with the Colorado Rockies) as the main southpaw out of the ‘pen.
Sources are saying former top Yankee pitching prospect Dellin Betances will be vying for a spot in the bullpen this spring, as it’s already been established by Yankee GM Brian Cashman that he will be a reliever in the long run. Betances could either prove to be a key middle reliever or long reliever, yet he has to pitch well enough for the Yankee brass to have faith in him – and well enough to keep himself off mopping duty.
The Opening Day bullpen is likely going to come down to whichever relievers are effective during Spring Training, and the point stands: they have to be effective, whoever they may be when camp breaks.
Masahiro Tanaka has to adapt
Nobody is expecting Masahiro Tanaka to go 24-0 and post an ERA under 2.00 in his rookie season, but if there is one thing the new, prized Japanese import must do, it’s get acclimated to the MLB style. His numbers in Japan were far better than a lot of the other Japanese-born pitchers who’ve come over from the land of the rising sun, meaning he could potentially have a huge year, but the average fan might not realize a couple of things.
First off, pitchers in Japan throw only once a week, whereas here in the states, Tanaka will have to toe the rubber once every five days. Not only that, but the NPB in Japan also uses smaller-sized baseballs compared to an official MLB rock, therefore an adjustment needs to be made in that respect.
The biggest difference will be the hitters Tanaka faces. Monsters such as David Ortiz, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Prince Fielder will probably pose bigger threats (and are more intimidating) than the more tactical batters he went eye-to-eye with in Japan.
Though one could argue Tanaka won’t be fazed by the Goliath-like giants he faces here in the U.S., given his cool demeanor and calm presence at his introductory press conference.
While it’s perfectly fine to expect Tanaka to succeed – and he will – it’s reasonable to presume he will go through his growing pains. Adjustment is the biggest part of his game.
We’ll get our first live look at Tanaka on Saturday afternoon in the Yankees’ exhibition vs. the Phillies.
They have to make each other better
The key to any successful team is chemistry. Most of the 2014 Yankees will be first-time teammates, not having played with each other before. While some like Jeter, Teixeira and Brett Gardner have been together for a few seasons, newbies like Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran have not had a chance to jell as teammates.
If you look back to 2009 – and the Dynasty years, for that matter – a player could have an off-night, but the rest of the team would be on. For example,
In 1998, Tino Martinez might have an “0-for” night, but Jeter, Bernie Williams, Scott Brosius, and Paul O’Neill would be firing at will, and the Yanks would win. The next night Jeter could have gone 0-for-4, but Martinez and everyone else would still be en fuego.
Those teams were the masters of picking each other up.
If the 2014 Yankees can perfect that same art, they’ll be as lethal as any team in baseball.
And the kingdom will be theirs.
Well…at least it may seem like that way. Although the Yankees don’t technically have 99 problems, the gaping holes in the pitching staff are not making things easy for the Bronx Bombers.
Despite a late-game attempt to stage a comeback this afternoon at home, the Yankees dropped the second game in their three-game series with the Detroit Tigers, 7-5.
The loss rested primarily on the shoulders of, no surprise, the starting pitching. As a matter of fact, most of the games the Bombers have lost this year were the result of the starters putting the offense in a hole they weren’t able to climb out of.
Something undoubtedly needs to be done, but the solution to this problem isn’t as simple as calling up a young arm to replace a scuffling starter. Even the highly-touted young men in the minors are in trouble.
To bottom line it: the Yankee pitching hasn’t been consistent. Today’s culprit…
For the second consecutive start, Freddy Garcia only pitched 1.2 innings. His last time out the Red Sox shelled him at Fenway; seven hits, five earned runs before the end of the second inning, and it was time for him to hit the showers.
But the Yankee offense miraculously bailed Garcia out, coming back from a nine-run deficit to win.
Today, he wasn’t as lucky.
The Tigers tattooed Garcia for six earned runs on five hits, chasing him from the game before the second inning concluded. The Yankees tried to chip away on the strength of two home runs off the bat of Nick Swisher and one from Curtis Granderson.
A valiant effort, but it could not be done.
Not that I ever want to wish ill of the Yankees or want them to lose, but in a strange way, I’m glad they did – only because Garcia deserved the loss, which he recorded. Garcia is now 0-2 this year with a skyscraping 12.51 ERA.
He has only pitched 13.1 innings in the four starts he’s made and has allowed 19 earned runs in those games. If that isn’t enough, opponents are averaging .403 against Garcia.
It’s only been four games, nonetheless the question right now is: how long are the Yankees going to let this continue? The fans have lost their patience, as evidenced by the deafening chorus of boos he received walking off the mound today.
Garcia’s nickname is “The Chief.” It’s my presumption that soon he’ll be the Chief of a different tribe.
But Garcia isn’t the only starter who has hasn’t pitched up to his potential.
In 2007 Sports Illustrated dubbed Phil Hughes the “Pocket Rocket,” comparing him to a young Roger Clemens. It’s hard enough to live up to such a comparison, but even more difficult trying to live up to it in pinstripes.
Hughes hasn’t exactly been a total bust, but he certainly hasn’t been what the Yankees had hoped for. He’s been a big leaguer since April, ’07 – that’s five years and the start of a sixth, by my math – and really only has two good seasons to show for it.
In 2009 Hughes was relegated to the bullpen where he shined in a setup role for the better part of the year. He went 8-3 and struck out 96 batters in 86 innings pitched. Hughes helped lead the Yankees to the ’09 World Series title and followed up with a stellar overall record in 2010, pitching out of the rotation.
Hughes won 18 games, but started to decline; his arm tired. Since the end of the ’10 season, he hasn’t been the same pitcher, going 5-5 last year with disabled list stints and poor outings.
This season Hughes is 1-3 with an elevated 7.88 ERA. His pitches look flat and his fastball has no movement, giving hitters the ability to feast upon it. Each of Hughes’s losses have been convincing defeats; he’s let up 14 earned runs in the 16 innings he’s pitched.
It’s just not working out for him right now.
I’m not sure if there is an answer for it, other than the Yankees may have flip-flopped him too many times; juggled him from the ‘pen to the rotation too much. The constant role reversal from starter to reliever may have caused too much wear and tear to his arm, and more particularly, his rotator cuff – which he had surgery on.
The same way I have no answer for his sudden pitching neurosis, I have no answer for what the Yankees should do about Hughes.
Trade him? His value is too low.
Send him to the minors? No point.
Hughes may be having a rough go of it, but not as rough as his partner….
While Joba Chamberlain may not have been given a special nickname by Sports Illustrated (except for maybe “Joba the Hutt” in a joking manner) he was the most excitable and energetic pitcher to come up through the Yankee farm system.
Like Hughes, Chamberlain debuted in 2007 and made an immediate impact, throwing close to 100 mph every time he came out of the bullpen in relief. Another way he was like Hughes: his constant role reversal.
Chamberlain was made a starter in 2008, and then as everyone knows, placed on the infamous “Joba Rules,” limiting his innings in ridiculous ways. In ’09 he worked as a starter and out of the ‘pen before once again being made a full-time reliever.
You would think the Yankee brass would just come up with a definite plan for their young arms, right?
The injury bug has bit Chamberlain so many times over the last two years. Most recently, a trampoline incident fractured his ankle, probably ending his season. Chamberlain has made it clear he is adamant about returning this year, but even if he does, it’s fair to say he might not be the same flamethrower he was when he first joined the show.
The Yankees made a trade in the off-season, most likely to help make up for the lack of production they were getting out of Hughes and Chamberlain.
How’d that work out?
On Jan. 13 the Yankees swapped one of their prime young bats, Jesus Montero, in exchange for Michael Pineda, a promising starting pitcher who was a sensation in Seattle; the supporting cast member to Felix Hernandez’s star.
After a good-looking Spring Training, Pineda experienced pain in his pitching shoulder. He got it checked out, was diagnosed with tendinitis, and was ultimately placed on the 15-day DL literally right before the first game of the year.
Following Pineda’s tendinitis, an MRI revealed he has a torn labrum, forcing the Yankees to shut him down for the entire season.
The 23-year-old will not pitch in 2012 while Montero currently has three homers and 12 RBIs for the Mariners.
Talk about a punch in the gut.
I joked the other day that when the Yankees visit Seattle this year, Brian Cashman should walk right up to the Mariners’ GM and simply say, “You hustled me, man.”
All kidding aside, it remains to be seen whether or not Pineda will pay dividends, because his injury hasn’t given him the chance to show the Yankees what he can really do. But until at least 2013, the trade basically was useless.
The Yankees have two other young arms waiting in the wings; possible hole-fillers for Pineda.
Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos
It’s tough to analyze each of these young hurlers, because they’re both pitching in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. I haven’t seen first-hand what they have been doing, so it’s tough to say if their numbers are indicative of how well or how poorly they’ve pitched.
But what’s that old saying? The numbers don’t lie?
24-year-old Dellin Betances has made five starts this year and is 1-2 with a 7.25 ERA. He’s allowed 22 hits in the 22.1 innings he’s pitched, along with 21 runs (18 of which have been earned). He’s struck out 19 batters – but that doesn’t look good next to the 21 walks he’s issued.
In 2009 Betances had Tommy John surgery and right now it seems as if he isn’t one of those pitchers that has had the procedure and thrived afterward.
After today’s loss, a lot of fans said, “Call up Betances and designate Garcia for assignment.” But from the way things are looking right now, that scenario would be almost as useful as replacing Garcia for…well…Garcia.
According to the numbers, Betances hasn’t been pitching well at all. And his teammate, 21-year-old southpaw Manny Banuelos, is having the same bad luck.
Banuelos has made two starts this year and is 0-1 with a 10.13 ERA. He’s thrown just 5.1 innings and let up six earned runs on 14 hits. Banuelos walked seven batters in those two games and only struck out two.
Making matters worse, Banuelos is currently on the DL, making his improbable call-up basically impossible. After a stint on the DL, I don’t see any likely scenario this year in which Banuelos gets the call to the big team.
What do you do when your present and future are betraying you?
Turn to the past…
Although I have expressed my disdain for Andy Pettitte’s decision to come out of retirement – disdain that I still uphold – I did follow up by mentioning I wish no ill will on Pettitte and that if he returns and succeeds, more power to him; it will only help the Yankees.
And the Yankee pitching is hurting in the worst way right now. Therefore, I don’t see how Pettitte can do anything but help.
Due to inclement weather conditions, Pettitte will pitch for Class-A Tampa in his next start (he had been slated to start for Double-A Trenton). From there he will be evaluated and hopefully, for the Yankees’ sake, be ready to join the team and aid the banged-up rotation in the coming weeks.
The Yankees’ 39-year-old lefty has had noted groin and elbow issues in the past. Hopefully the Bombers can catch a break for once, however, and Pettitte will return and fill the void left by the fledgling, young members of the rotation.
Rest easy, Yankee fans. Help is on the way.
Just a Thought
Today I was texting with a friend while Garcia was getting lit up. He suggested the possibility of signing free agent Roy Oswalt.
If the Yankees could get him cheap, I’d say it’s a great idea. Low risk, possibly a high reward.
Like I said: just a thought.
The Boston Red Sox were 0-6 coming into their home opener against the Yankees. Behind some weak pitching on the Yankees’ part, the Red Sox changed that. Boston captured its first win of the year, beating the Yanks 9-6 this afternoon. It was almost as if the simple baseball game turned into a fierce tennis match, both sides going back-and-forth with the scoring.
Tied 6-6 in the bottom of the fifth inning, a double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia brought home Kevin Youkilis; making the game 7-6 in favor of Boston. Bartolo Colon, who put up such a valiant effort in relief, gave up the go-ahead run but it could have been prevented. An error by Mark Teixeira allowed David Ortiz to reach base, and the inning continued.
Boone Logan came on in relief in the seventh and gave up two more runs on a single by J.D. Drew. Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate, Boston went up 9-6, and eventually they finished off the game.
There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Yankees today. Obviously the biggest story…
Two games for Phil Hughes this year, and both times he has gotten shelled. Today the 24 year-old righty was tagged for six earned runs on seven hits in just two innings. He didn’t strike anyone out and walked two batters. He threw 47 pitches, all of which lacked command, movement, and velocity. He did not trust his fastball, which topped out in the high-80s, low-90s, and tossed a lot of cutters.
Hughes’s day could probably be summed up with one pitch: the hanger he threw to Dustin Pedroia in the first inning. He hung a breaking ball a little too high and Pedroia pulled it over the Green Monster for a solo home run.
From there, he never recovered.
In his previous start, Hughes lost to the Detroit Tigers, pitching only four innings and giving up five earned runs on five hits. He walked two batters and struck out one, as many analysts noticed location and velocity were nowhere to be found in that start.
His season ERA after his first two starts: 16.50.
I got the feeling Hughes was going to struggle this season for a few reasons. First of all, go back and look at how he finished last year. He registered the loss in the 2010 All-Star Game for the American League and from there it all seemed to go downhill for him.
He lost two important games in the American League Championship Series to the Texas Rangers – and both losses were all on him. He pitched very poorly in both starts and it cost the Yankees in a major way.
In fact, Hughes gave up 11 earned runs on 14 hits in those final two games last year.
Now fast forward and look at how he performed in Spring Training this year. His record wasn’t indicative of any failure (he was 1-0) but he gave up 10 earned runs in just five games. He also gave up four homers, his ERA was 4.09, and he pitched 22 innings giving up 24 hits.
It may not look like it in the box score, but he got knocked around all spring.
I had said on a few occasions that Hughes might have a year this year like A.J. Burnett had last year – not pitching effectively and thus ending the season with a lopsided win-loss record and a sky-high ERA. While it is early – extremely early – in the season, it looks as though my thought could be well-founded. Hughes is already 0-1 and pitched as if he should be 0-2 – the offense scored for him and got him out of a loss today.
Last year Hughes had the best run support of any pitcher in the American League, the Yankees averaging almost eight runs per game on days he took the mound.
But he can’t live off that forever; eventually it will come back to bite him, like it did today. Hughes was lucky that John Lackey pitched just as poorly as he did, throwing five innings and giving up six earned runs on seven hits.
Lackey walked two batters and struck out two, but notched the win because the Red Sox were able to scrape across that run in the fifth while he was still the pitcher of record. All in all Lackey was lack-luster, but the Boston offense got it done for him – which was the story of Hughes’s 2010 season. He would give up runs, but the Yankees would score for him to get him off the hook and most times, get him a win.
And like Hughes, Lackey might not be so lucky his next time out.
After Hughes’s departure, ESPN insider Buster Olney tweeted: “You’d have to think that the Yankees will talk about replacing Phil Hughes in the rotation. For whatever reason, he has no weapons.”
All true. None of Hughes’s pitches are working for him.
Right now, replacing Hughes in the rotation seems like a novel idea, especially since he admitted after the game that his arm strength is not where it should be.
And with the way Bartolo Colon pitched in relief (4 1/3 innings, two hits, two runs, one earned run, one walk, five Ks) he would be the obvious choice, although there are other options. Mark Prior is a pitcher they could call up, and Kevin Millwood isn’t far behind.
Heck, if the Yankees think about it, they still have Dellin Betances waiting in the wings.
What Hughes is showing right now reminds me of how Chien-Ming Wang pitched to start 2009. Wang struggled in the worst way and lost the faith of the Yankees. There’s only one thing that Hughes and Wang don’t have in common about their poor pitching in the early-going:
When Wang struggled, it was because he was hurt. There isn’t anything wrong with Hughes.
Yankee manager Joe Girardi confirmed after the game that there is nothing physically wrong with Hughes and that he just needs to command his pitches better. Wang was injured and eventually landed himself on the disabled list following his subpar start in ’09.
At least Wang had a reason for his struggle. Hughes just hasn’t been pitching well.
Hughes’s next start is supposed to be on Wednesday at home against Baltimore – a team atop the AL East right now, playing exceptional baseball. However, the Yankees have an off-day on Monday and could work around Hughes, pushing him back.
The likelihood of Hughes being skipped (I would say) is pretty high right now. So far he is only proving that he has a dead arm, he has nothing behind any of his pitches, and he isn’t doing his job as the Yankees’ number three starter.
I still have faith in Hughes. I think if he physically gets himself back to where he was during the first half of last year, he can be as dominant as any ace in the league. But he needs to get there.
He needs to get his fastball back up to the mid-90s, blowing hitters away and not letting them catch up to it. He needs to get his breaking ball working again, fooling hitters with its movement. He needs to locate his pitches, and get them down in the strike zone – not leaving them up for hitters to feast upon.
If he does that, he will be fine. If not, it will be a long season for Hughes.
Another Guilty Party
What is this guy doing on the team? Does he even have any business here in New York?
He is in the bullpen to be the Yanks’ lefty specialist, and so far he is not proving he is a lefty specialist because he isn’t getting any left-handed hitters out. Logan is only proving he doesn’t belong here, as he gave up a two-run single to Drew in the seventh. At that point the Yanks were only down by one run and still had two innings to scrape a run across and tie it up.
I think once Logan gave up those runs, the Yanks’ bats just gave up and never recovered.
Logan was part of the Yanks’ meltdown on Tuesday to the Twins, and was even tagged with the loss in that game. Right now the reliever is 0-1 with an ERA of 13.50.
I know he is only filling in for Pedro Feliciano, who is on the DL with shoulder soreness. I hope Feliciano comes back soon, because the Yankee bullpen could sure use a lift.
And we could all use a break from Logan.
Bright Spots of the Day
Although it was a bad day for Hughes, Logan, and the Yankee team, there is some good to take away from it. Here are some things the Yankees did right today and some things we learned:
· We now know Bartolo Colon can thrive in a long relief role. Despite the two runs (only one was earned) he cleaned up Hughes’s mess quite nicely.
· Alex Rodriguez homered today, his fifth career round-tripper off John Lackey. He now has three homers on the year and he is hitting .304.
· Curtis Granderson went the other way, slapping a double into left field. It’s good to see Granderson, a traditional pull-hitter, go oppo and hit to left field instead of right.
· Derek Jeter had a hit and an RBI. He’s now 68 hits away from 3,000.
· Brett Gardner had a triple, his first of 2011. He also stole a base, once again showcasing his Sonic the Hedgehog-like speed. A walk is as good as a double when it comes to Gardner. He can fly on the bases.
· Robinson Cano, a lifetime slugger at Fenway Park, was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs. Cano seems to be heating up. Look out opposing pitchers…
Today is done and there is tomorrow afternoon to look forward to. Ivan Nova (1-0, 4.50 ERA) will look to get the Yankees back in the win column. He is facing Clay Buchholz (0-1, 5.68 ERA).
Spring Training is simply practice. It’s easy to talk about and it’s easy to sum it up – yes we are talking about practice. Of late, the Yankees have not been practicing very well, dropping their fifth straight Grapefruit League game today against a team they usually have no problem beating, the Minnesota Twins. The Bombers lost a squadoosh, 9-2.
The highlight of the afternoon was a solo home run hit by Alex Rodriguez in the bottom of the second inning. His homer tied the game at one and was his second of the spring.
The only other run the Yankees plated was a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning off the bat of Kevin Russo which knocked in Eric Chavez.
The Twins roughed up starter Freddy Garcia for four earned runs on six hits in 2 2/3 innings. Garcia walked two and struck out three, but was scuffling from the get-go. In the top of the first, Jeff Bailey singled to score Denard Span.
In the bottom of the third the Twins took the lead, scoring three runs. Luke Hughes doubled to drive in Bailey. He later came to the plate, as did Bailey, on a ground-rule double by Rene Rivera later in the frame, giving Minnesota a 4-1 edge.
The Twins widened their lead in the fourth, scoring four more runs. The highlight of the inning was a three-run blast off the bat of Brian Dinkelman. Earlier in the inning Hughes reached on an error by Derek Jeter, as the Yankee Captain dropped a popup in the infield.
Jeter’s error allowed Span to cross the plate. Leading 8-2 in the ninth, Chris Herrmann grounded into a force out, permitting Justin Huber to score and give the Twins nine runs for the game.
The Yankees, now 6-10-2 in Grapefruit League play, will visit the Red Sox tomorrow night.
Notes & Things to Look Out For
· It’s amazing how things unfold sometimes. Recently I have sung the praises of the starting pitching and as soon as I commend them, they begin to falter. Freddy Garcia had a rough day. 2 2/3 innings pitched, four earned runs, six hits, two walks, and three Ks. His ERA this spring is now 4.70 and he holds a 1-1 record. Is his bid for a spot in the rotation in jeopardy now? Probably not, but I think the Yankees are going to be watching him a little closer from now on.
· Although the Yankees haven’t been scoring a lot of runs, the regulars have been hitting the ball pretty hard. Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-3 with a solo home run today. He is batting .440 at press time and as documented, he is in great shape. I read a few days ago that he “feels like he is in 2007 form.” If you recall, A-Rod hit 54 homers that season with 156 RBIs and secured a .314 batting average. I would like to see that again.
· Mark Teixeira added another spring hit and was 1-for-3 today. He is hitting .360 to this point. Hopefully he will finally start hot instead of pressing at the beginning of the year. Either way, he is raking this spring.
· Mariano Rivera, wearing his socks high, struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth. It was his first spring outing and he looked dominant, to no one’s surprise. There really isn’t anything to say that hasn’t already been said about how Rivera continues to shut down virtually every hitter he faces. He is one of the natural wonders of the world, or at least a natural wonder of baseball. He yawned after he walked off the mound, as if to say, “No big deal.” Nine of the 12 pitches he tossed were strikes.
· Rafael Soriano gave up his first hit of the spring in the fifth inning of today’s game, but worked around it. He surrendered a single to Denard Span, but allowed no runs. No walks or strikeouts, but he is a powerful force – at least that’s what I sense out of him. I get the feeling he is going to be one heck of a setup man.
· This afternoon, Derek Jeter made a defensive blunder by Luis Castillo’ing that popup in the top of the fourth. (Yes, I turned Luis Castillo into a verb, meaning Jeter dropped the ball). At the plate Jeter was 1-for-3, snatching a single that would have played for a 1-3 putout, if pitcher Glen Perkins could have fielded the ball cleanly. The ball caromed off Perkins and Jeter reached. I’m not so worried about Jeter; you can’t be. He generally puts up the same types of numbers every year, and it is easy to know what to expect from him. But it is becoming evident to me that the Yankee Captain isn’t the same player he was 10 years ago.
· The Yanks made their first round of cuts this weekend. Adam Warren, D.J. Mitchell, Andy Sisco, Brian Anderson, Buddy Carlysle, and Hector Noesi have been reassigned to Minor League camp. More cuts will be coming soon I’m sure, what with Opening Day two weeks from this Thursday.
· In yesterday’s 6-5 exhibition loss to the Washington Nationals, A.J. Burnett gave up a two-run home run to Michael Morse, but recovered to retire the next nine batters he faced. He struck out the side in the first inning. It’s good to see him in this form; not getting rattled after giving up a long ball. Burnett is looking a lot better than he did last year around this time. Credit him with nine innings for the spring so far, and just two runs allowed.
· Among the Yankees making the trip to Boston camp in Fort Myers tomorrow: Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, Manuel Banuelos, and Mark Prior. Regular starters Jeter, Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Jorge Posada will not be there. Sergio Mitre will make the start.
· The next televised game on YES is Wednesday night March 16 vs. the Baltimore Orioles.
Ramiro Pena’s grounder in the bottom of the ninth with two outs looked as if it had a one-way ticket to center field. If it had gotten through the infield hole, it would have tied the Yankees’ exhibition with the Red Sox tonight at five. Oscar Tejada made a great play to rob Pena of a game-tying single, ending the tune-up game and giving Boston 5-3 win over New York.
Tejada not only made the game-ending play on defense, but he helped out on offense, padding Boston’s 2-1 lead. In the top of the seventh he clubbed a two-run triple to give the Red Sox a 4-1 edge. They had scored earlier in the frame on an RBI single by Juan Carlos Linares, breaking a 1-1 tie.
The big night continued for Tejada in the ninth when he singled to score Linares, making it a 5-1 ballgame. Daniel Nava drove Tejada in to score in the sixth inning, accounting for Boston’s first run in the game.
Robinson Cano recorded his first hit of the spring in the bottom of the sixth, an RBI double which plated Pena. Before Pena made the final out, the Yanks tried to stage another comeback by scoring two runs. Jordan Parraz singled to score Austin Krum and Gustavo Molina drew a bases-loaded walk which plated Kyle Higashioka.
Bartolo Colon started for the Yankees and although he did not face most of the regulars, he put up a strong showing. The tubby right hander tossed three innings and scattered two hits while not allowing a run. He walked no batters and fanned five BoSox.
On the other side Clay Buchholz made the start for the Red Sox and also showcased good stuff. The 26 year-old righty pitched three innings and allowed only one hit. He walked two and struck out two.
Tonight the Yankees and Red Sox met for the first time in 2011 and there will be a lot more where that came from. The rivals will meet again on Monday March 14 in another exhibition and will of course face off 18 times during the regular season. Not to mention they have a good chance to square off in the postseason.
Things to Look Out For & Notes
· The Yankee starters are proving their worth. They have only allowed one run in the first 15 innings they have pitched this spring, and have registered 13 consecutive scoreless innings. So far they are probably making it difficult for Joe Girardi, since they have all been producing.
· Russell Martin caught behind the plate tonight for the first time. After the game he told the YES Network that he feels good and felt comfortable catching. At the plate tonight he struggled, though; he was 0-for-3 and left three men on base.
· In some bad new for the Yanks, Francisco Cervelli will be out of action for at least a month. The details of his injury became apparent and he has a broken foot. He worked hard in the off-season, slimmed down, and looked good through the first few games. But then he fouled a ball off his foot on Wednesday vs. the Astros, and now he can’t play for awhile. Tough break for such a great guy.
· Now that Cervelli is out of action, the chances that Jesus Montero makes the team are high. Contrary to what I originally assumed, Jorge Posada will not be catching at all this season, at least from the looks of things. That being said, this is Montero’s chance to impress and maybe make the team.
· Robinson Cano has been pressing to begin the spring, but finally broke out with an RBI double tonight. Good to see the real Cano finally come out to play.
· Alex Rodriguez was 2-for-3 tonight with a double, and he now has four doubles for the spring. His double tonight, on any other night or in any other ballpark, would have been a home run. The wind down there in Florida keeps pushing the ball back and he is just missing home runs. Wait until he gets back to New York. He won’t be missing many homers at Yankee Stadium.
· I cannot believe I am even saying this, but Bartolo Colon is actually pitching very well to this point. When the Yankees signed him the headline in the New York Post read, “Cheap Colon.” Right now, that Colon smells pretty good. He does need to lose weight, however. He looks out of shape and that can eventually catch up to an athlete.
· Yesterday I wrote about Mark Prior and what he has been through in his career. He impressed me tonight: one inning, no runs, no hits, one walk, two Ks. I am really pulling for him and I would like to see him make a solid comeback.
· Manuel Banuelos pitched tonight and once again put up a strong showing. He worked two innings and gave up no runs on one hit. He walked a batter and struck out three. The 19 year-old lefty will probably not make the team coming out of Spring Training, but he is unquestionably turning a lot of heads and raising eyebrows. He topped out at 96 on the speed gun tonight and looks way ahead of his age.
· I made a small comparison in my head tonight: before 2007 began the Yankees had three promising prospects – Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. Here we are just before 2011 and we have Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Brackman.
· Lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano pitched tonight, giving up an earned run on two hits. No walks and no strikeouts, but he did better than the other lefty reliever Boone Logan, who took the loss tonight. Feliciano might pitch more this season than Logan. When he was with the Mets, they gave him the nickname “Perpetual Pedro,” being that they used him almost every day to get the big left-handed hitters out.
· The Red Sox left most of their stars at home. Only Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Jason Varitek and Josh Reddick made the trip to Tampa. Reddick had a great diving catch in left field to rob Cano of extra bases in the bottom of the second. I’m pretty sure Carl Crawford has that spot locked up, but Reddick could state a claim to be Boston’s fourth outfielder.
· Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, and Curtis Granderson did not play.
· Actor Richard Gere threw out the honorary first pitch tonight. According to what they say, he is a big Yankee fan. I always liked that guy…
· The Yankees will face the Washington Nationals tomorrow and the Houston Astros Sunday. The next televised game is on Monday against the Phillies and A.J. Burnett will start that game.
· So far the Yanks’ Grapefruit League record is 2-4-1.
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.
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 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.
· 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.