Results tagged ‘ Jesus Montero ’

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.

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.

 

 

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.

ALCS Over, Yanks Out

 

The ALCS IS HERE!

Last night, several memories from October of 2006 came back to me. That was a month which started off nicely and ended terribly. The Yankees had made the postseason after convincingly winning the American League East and were the favorites to win the World Series.

The Detroit Tigers dashed the Yanks’ dreams of winning the fall classic by eliminating them in the ALDS. What’s more, by the end of the month, my girlfriend broke up with me. Needless to say, in more ways than one, my spirit was overwhelmed within me; my heart was broken.

Minus the girlfriend issue, the same defeated feeling enveloped me after last night’s 6-1 loss.


Not our night.The Yanks will not go back to the World Series to defend their crown and the Texas Rangers will represent the American League in the fall classic. Texas will face either the San Francisco Giants or the Philadelphia Phillies, pending the outcome of the NLCS.

28 will have to wait. Until next year, at the very least.

A number of things went wrong for the Yankees in the ALCS and there are plenty of things to consider heading into the off-season.

The ALCS: WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED?!

I’ll start with the obvious: Phil Hughes.

In the division series against the Twins, Hughes started Game Three and he was an absolute stud. The young righty shut the Twins down in seven scoreless innings of work and picked up the win in the clinching game.

When I heard Hughes was starting Game Two of the ALCS vs. Texas, I was confident. Knowing Hughes’s past against the Rangers and taking into account that he won 18 games during the regular season, I had a great feeling about his chances. After Game Five, I had said that Hughes possessed the ability to bounce back after a rough outing, and he usually did during the regular season.


Phil Hughes was ineffective in the ALCS.Although those feelings were well-founded, it did not translate to anything good.

Hughes pitched 8 2/3 innings over his two ALCS starts and coughed up a total of 11 earned runs on 14 hits. He walked seven batters and struck out six, becoming a huge part of why the Yankees lost this series. He did not give the Yankees quality, he did not give the Yankees a chance to win the two games he started, and he put the Yankees in a tough spot heading into Game Three.

In both games Hughes started in the ALCS, he registered the loss.

If Hughes had been able to win Game Two, with the Yankees going into a Game Three vs. Jesus Christ A.K.A. Cliff Lee, things could have been quite different. Every news outlet had the Yankees defeated in Game Three at the hands of Lee, and unfortunately for the Yanks it came to fruition.

And speaking of Lee, he was another vital part of the Yankees’ failure to win the pennant.

:/

In Game Three, Lee simply dominated. He made the Yankees look like Little Leaguers and his numbers this postseason (vs. Tampa Bay and New York) are absoluteLEE ridiculous.

·         24 innings pitched

·         13 hits

·         Two runs (both earned)

·         One home run allowed

·         One walk allowed

·         34 strikeouts

·         Record of 3-0

·         ERA of 0.75

Lee was plugged into the number three spot in the Rangers’ rotation because he started the final game of the ALDS vs. Tampa Bay and could not take the hill in Game One. If the pitching matchups had gone accordingly (Lee vs. CC Sabathia, ace vs. ace) I suppose things could have been different–not saying they would have, but who knows.

The Yankees would have had to face Lee tonight of they had gotten past the Rangers last night. I have a feeling now that it would not have gone well for the Bronx Bombers, but as I stated, anything can happen in a Game Seven. Would the Yanks finally have been able to get to Lee and finally remove him as thorn in their side?

 Who’s to say what could have been. I guess it makes no difference now.

Another reason they were done for was the inconsistency in the offense. Save for their 7-2 Game Five win, when runners were in scoring position, the Yankee bats turned into ghosts. They could not get it done when runners were on second and third.

Prime example: Game Three. Brett Gardner led off with a single. Derek Jeter struck out, but Gardner moved to second on a stolen base. Nick Swisher grounded out allowing Gardner to move to third. Finally Mark Teixeira came up and was set back down, ending the frame without a Yankee crossing the plate.

They were only down by two runs at that point. They could not build the run; could not even cut the lead in half. And that was just one issue.


0-for-14. Then a season ending injury. Greaaaaaat.The two key players that needed to be producing and igniting the bats were about as silent as a 1920s picture film. Teixeira (before the injury) and Alex Rodriguez were as off as they could be and could not come up with the big hit when the Yanks needed it.

Teixeira was 0-for-14 in the ALCS before the hamstring injury put him out for the remainder of the year.


A-Rod wasn't so great this year. 

Rodriguez hit .190 in the ALCS with no homers, two RBIs, three walks and four strikeouts.

No offense, no pennant.

Teixeira and Rodriguez are two huge bats in the Yankee lineup. When they are not coming up when it matters, the Yankees do not win games. The offense went dead cold at the absolute worst time to go dead cold and as a result, they did not win.

Along with the offense, the middle relief served no help. Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, Sergio Mitre, and David Robertson practically gave it up in the middle-to-late innings in close games, notably Games Three and Four. In Game Three the Yankees were trailing by two runs entering the top of the eighth inning.

We couldn't get no relief.

Because of them, two runs turned into eight runs, making it impossible for the Yanks to even attempt to mount a comeback in the last two frames. The Yanks lost Game Three 8-0.

In Game Four, the Yankees were only down by two runs (5-3) going into the late innings. Logan and Chamberlain both surrendered earned runs and Mitre gave up three, once again not giving the offense a chance to come back from a deficit.

The Yankees lost Game Four 10-3.

One last factor I believe was pivotal in the Yankees’ ALCS loss was Manager Joe Girardi’s decision in Game Four. I am not going to say A.J. Burnett pitched a bad game; that could not be anything further from the truth. He made maybe one or two bad pitches (notably the Bengie Molina home run) but other than that he held his own very nicely; decent command of his pitches, nasty breaking ball, and a fastball up around 96-97 mph.

We needed Game Four, Joe. CC should have pitched.

However…

The Yankees were down two games to one. They had just been dominated by Lee and they were up against a pitcher who could easily be beaten in Tommy Hunter. Down by two games and in danger of going down 3-1 (which ultimately they did) I feel Girardi should have used CC Sabathia to get them back in the series.

Had Sabathia pitched Game Four, he would not have been on three days rest, but in actuality he would have been pitching on the fourth day of rest. I truly believe that had Sabathia started, pitched the way he usually does, and won Game Four, it would have gotten the Yanks’ morale back and things may have been different.

Burnett could have pitched Game Five on Wednesday afternoon and he probably could have won, especially if he had gone out and thrown the ball as well as he did in Game Four. Not to mention it would have given the Yankees a good chance to go up 3-2 on the way back to Arlington as opposed to down 3-2.

Again, who is to say if it would have been different. But I do know that if I were Girardi, I would have gone in a different direction down two games to one and going into Game Four. Using Sabathia on three days rest worked out perfectly in 2009.

If it worked then, why should it be any different now?

There were so many things not going the Yankees’ way; the Rangers had everything clicking for them. And for a team to win the World Series (let alone get to it) everything has to be going their way.

As for Next Year…


2011.... 

I expect a number of things to be different and the Yankees need to make a few decisions regarding some of their players.

·         For one, Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez should not be welcomed back. If the front office so much as talks to either one of these two at the possibility of coming back, they need to have their heads examined.

 

·         Marcus Thames. Do they want him to be the everyday designated hitter or would they rather have an All-Star in Lance Berkman? It’s a toughie. Thames hit 12 homers and came up in some big spots during the season. But aside from being a DH, Berkman can play the field and alleviate some pressure on Mark Teixeira at first base.

 

·         Something needs to be done about the catching situation. As much as I love Francisco Cervelli, he has no power and struggles in terms of throwing runners out. Jesus Montero and/or Austin Romine in 2011? We’ll see how they do in Spring Training…

 

·         Derek Jeter’s contract is up. The Yankees need to pay the captain and show him some respect. I would say give him four years with the option for a fifth and pay him well.

 

·         Mariano Rivera said at the beginning of the year that he doesn’t know if he is going to pitch next year. I get the feeling he will (call it a hunch) but like Jeter his contract is up. The Yankees need to make him a respectable offer and get him back.

 

·         Andy Pettitte will be 39 years old next June and a groin injury sidelined him for the better part of this past summer. His contract is also up, so it’s certainly up to him what he intends to do. If he wants to give it another try and re-sign with the Yanks, great. But if he wants to hang it up, that’s alright with me too. He’s done pretty darn well for himself over the years.

 

·         If I were the Yankees I would definitely hold onto Kerry Wood. Unlike the majority of the bullpen, he pitched like a champ in the postseason. If Rivera signs back, he is the perfect man to set him up.

 

·         Carl Crawford is a free agent. The Yankees need to decide whether or not Brett Gardner is the left fielder of the future or if they want a player with a little more power in Crawford (19 homers in 2010). I heard it said best earlier this year: “Gardner is almost like a cheaper version of Crawford.” Very true. If you want my opinion at the moment, Crawford no. Gardner yes.

 

·         The manager. Along with Jeter, Rivera, and Pettitte, Joe Girardi’s contract is up.  There has been some speculation as to whether or not he will come back to manage the Yankees and I have heard some chatter about the possibility of the Chicago Cubs wanting the Yankee skipper to manage them.


Joe Girardi to the Cubs? 

 That speculation has me wondering, especially since the Cubs recently told Ryne Sandberg they do not want him to manage them. Are they waiting to negotiate with Girardi? I’m unsure. Kim Jones of the YES Network tweeted last night that she expects Girardi to return. She is more of an insider than me, so right now I believe her.

But then again, anything is possible when a lot of money is involved. If the Cubs make him the right offer, he might be leaving town. And the question is, if he does leave town who replaces him? I certainly have no answer to that question.

 

·         The biggest free agent of them all: Cliff Lee. This past July, Lee was literally within hours of becoming a Yankee. The Yanks were ready to ship out minor leaguers and money to Seattle and land the dominate lefty, but it was not meant to be. Texas swiped him out from under the Yanks’ nose and as a result, he helped lead them past the Yankees to the pennant.

Next year Lee is a free agent and according to several insiders, Texas will never be able to pay him, especially if the Rangers win the title; if Texas wins it all, Lee’s value will steadily rise and all the big market teams including the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels will undoubtedly be out to get him.

 

Lee a Yankee in '11???

If you want my insight as of right now, Lee will be in pinstripes in 2011. When the Yanks almost got him from Seattle this year, Lee and Sabathia’s wives were talking about where he might live in New York.

Plus from their Cleveland days, Sabathia and Lee are great friends. In fact when they squared off against one another in the ’09 World Series, they spent time with each other off the field. Just from that, I have a feeling Lee is headed for the big apple.

Bottom line: we could not beat him so we might as well join him.  

 

 

 


:(Derek Jeter usually says, “It’s a failed season if we (the Yankees) do not win the World Series.” The captain has the attitude of the late George Steinbrenner, and I know that somewhere in Heaven last night, the Boss had that disappointed look on his face; he was turning his head and throwing his hands outwardly as if to say, “The hell with this.”

I know that’s what I was doing.

I felt at the beginning of the season that a lot of the magic had left the team. I know Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera did not have the best years numerically this season (especially Cabrera) but they were all part of what made the 2009 Yankees so special.

Remember these guys?

While the yanks were getting beaten last night by a clearly better team in the Texas Rangers, I thought about Damon stealing two bases in one play and later scoring on an Alex Rodriguez double. I thought about Matsui single-handedly tearing apart the Phillies in Game Six of the World Series last season–an accomplishment worthy of the World Series MVP honor.

I even thought about Cabrera’s weak groundout that turned into an error in Game Two of the ’09 ALCS, in which Jerry Hairston came around and scored the winning run.

And then I wondered where that all magic went? It simply wasn’t inside the group of players known as the 2010 Yankees.


Texas had the magic.Yet it was inside the Texas Rangers and I tip my cap to them. I won’t act as a sore loser; I won’t be angry with them, they wanted it more. The magic that was in the 2009 Yankees is in the 2010 Rangers. Perhaps now they can do what the Yankees did last year; go into the fall classic and show the National League who rules the MLB.

In any event it was disappointing for every Yankee fan. We took a huge step forward last year, we seemed to be moving in the right direction but it was just halted at the hands of a hotter team.

Yet who knows what can happen next year. If the Yankees make the correct moves in the off-season, they will be the team to be beat. 2009 may serve as our modern day 1996, meaning:

The Yanks won it all in 1996. They lost it in 1997, only to go on a huge World Series winning streak in 1998, ’99, and ’00.

In 2009 the Yankees won the World Series, but came up short in 2010. Maybe 2011, 2012, and 2013 can be the next Yankee Dynasty.

New dynasty starts next year?

We’ll see. Anything can happen in baseball.

 

 

 At this time I’d like to extend a HUGE THANKS to everyone who read and kept up with Yankee Yapping this year. It was a fun season. I only wish it had turned out a little better in the end for our beloved Bronx Bombers.

The Yankee Yapping Facebook page is up to just over 730 “likes.” I hope it can grow a little more and maybe get up to 1,000 soon! Once again thanks for the support. This blog would be nothing without its loyal readers.

I’ll definitely be blogging during the off-season and over the winter while the hot stove cooks.

Just keep your heads up Yankee fans. And remember that we’ll always have 2009 and our 27 titles. It’s not the end of the world and the Yankees WILL be back on top in the future. It always happens.

Until then, GO YANKEES!!!


27-time Kings. Maybe 28 next year.

Arms Race: Yankee Pitchers Hurting, Bombers Need an Arm

 

A.J. Burnett hurt his hand in frustration

 

“I hurt my hands because I fell down the stairs.”

 

This is the reason A.J. Burnett gave the New York Yankees’ training staff on Saturday after he departed from the game vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. Burnett tossed just two innings and gave up four earned runs on four hits. He walked none and only struck out one batter.

 

He hurt his hands falling down the stairs? That’s not a reason for getting hurt.

 

It’s a punch-line.

 

It turns out Burnett hurt himself slamming a door out of frustration. Quite honestly he has a lot to be frustrated about. The Yankees’ number two man is 7-8 this season with an ERA of 4.99. To this point he has struck out a measly 82 batters, walked 46, and given up 12 home runs. In fact, Burnett has given up 56 hits and 36 earned runs in his last 10 games.  

 

It’s obvious there is something wrong with him. Can it be corrected? Who knows.

 

Pettitte suffered a groin injury Saturday 

 

The day after Burnett’s episode, the Yanks lost one of their All-Star pitchers. Andy Pettitte, who had been tearing it up with a record of 11-2 and an ERA of 2.88, suffered an apparent groin injury. In the third inning, Pettitte came up lame after throwing an 85 mph slider to Kelly Shoppach and was immediately removed.

 

Not what the Yankees needed, by any means.

 

According to several reports, Pettitte will be on the disabled list for three to four weeks leaving a hole in the pitching rotation for the time being.

 

Javier Vazquez has not exactly been setting Yankee Universe on fire either. The right-hander is 7-7 with a 4.45 ERA. After starting the season incredibly slow, he has started to pick it up. In his last 10 games Vazquez 5-3 with a 2.78 ERA. Over that span he has also surrendered 41 hits and 20 earned runs.

 

 


Javy...ehhh. Not so good. 

Vazquez hasn’t been overwhelmingly dominant, or the most consistent pitcher, but he has at least given the Yankees more innings than Burnett.

 

At press time the Bronx Bombers have two pitchers in their starting rotation who they can really rely on, obviously CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. With the way the rest of the pitching has gone (which in a lot of ways is downhill) I asked myself this morning, “Should the Yankees go after a decent starter to fill in for Pettitte and for the stretch run overall?”

 

The best answer is yes.

 

I’m not saying they need to give away all of their best prospects and get a hurler like Roy Oswalt, but there are some relatively cheap starters currently on the market that might do some good in Pettitte’s absence. With Burnett and Vazquez pitching as they are, the Yanks might just need another arm.

 

Here are two suggestions for the Yanks to consider:

 

Dan Haren

 


Dan Haren would look good in New york 

 

The 29 year-old righty from the Arizona Diamondbacks is currently having a rough year. He owns the same record as Burnett (7-8) with an ERA of 4.60. However, he has 133 strikeouts and only 27 walks.

 

Haren possesses great ability; the only problem is his team and lack of run support. At press time the D’Backs are 34-58, good for last place in the National League Western Division. His team is not much to look at, but if he got more support his numbers would undoubtedly improve.

 

Not to mention he has experience pitching in the American League. Before he joined the Diamondbacks in 2008, he had been a nemesis of the Yanks with the Oakland Athletics.

 

The only two things I see that might stand in the way of Haren and pinstripes are money and who the Yankees would or would not give up for him. He is owed $29 million after 2010, but a trade would keep him with the Yanks through 2012 because of his contract.

 

Arizona would probably ask for someone like Jesus Montero or Austin Romine, also making the trade a little less doable. I’m not sure the Yanks would want to part with such young, promising players, but in return they would get a solid pitcher for a few years.

 

I’d like to see it happen. Haren would look good in pinstripes.

 

 

Brian Bannister

 

 


Brian Bannister would, too 

Unlike Haren, a trade for 29 year-old righty Brian Bannister would most likely come a lot cheaper.

 

Bannister, a member of the Kansas City Royals since after the 2006 season, currently has a record of (again) 7-8 with an ERA of 5.65. He has 62 Ks coupled with 40 walks.

 

His numbers are not ideal, but he has experience pitching in New York. Before making his way to Kansas City prior to the 2007 campaign, Bannister originally started for the New York Mets. He was traded after the season for Ambiorix Burgos.

 

The ability is there; I even remember watching a Mets game in ’06 and thinking to myself, “This guy has talent. He could go places.” After all, Bannister was the first pitcher to hand hyped-up phenom Stephen Strasburg a loss this year, as the Royals beat the Washington Nationals 1-0 on June 23.

 

A trade for Bannister would probably be cheaper for the Yanks, and they might even be able to hold onto him for awhile. Bannister is not a free agent until after 2012, therefore they would really be able to get some length out of his service.

 

Bannister would not just go “one-and-done” like Vazquez might.

 

If the Yankees want to go a much cheaper route and get a pitcher who can probably throw up a handful of quality starts while Pettitte rehabs, Bannister might be their man.

 

 

This morning Buster Olney reported that the Yankees are not looking for help with their starting rotation and they are focused on the bench. He mentioned names like Ted Lilly and Jake Westbrook, and said the Yanks should seek them instead of anyone high-priced.

 

This might be when the world ends, because I disagree with him.

 

 


Not again. 

Lilly and Westbrook have already been Yankees and so far the idea of getting former Yankees back (like Nick Johnson) has (I’m sure) not worked out as well as the Yanks would’ve hoped. And if I recall correctly, as a member of the Blue Jays, Lilly has plunked Jorge Posada twice.

 

The second time Posada was hit, he jaw-jacked with Lilly and a brawl almost ensued.

 

The bottom line is that either Lilly or Westbrook would not be as good a fit as either Haren or Bannister. As far as the “focus on the bench” Olney spoke of–I seriously hope he was kidding. The bench is probably the last thing the Yanks should concern themselves with at this point.

 

I would say fix the hole in the starting rotation (even though it’s temporary), try to iron out the bullpen, and then try to add a bat off the bench. If they really want to add a bench player or someone with a lot of power, I got two words for them:

 

Russell Branyan. They don’t call him “Russell the Muscle” for nothing.

 


For the bench...?    

Too Many Injuries, Can The Yanks Catch a Break?

On Wednesday night the New York Yankees took their second loss in as many games, a 10-6 beating by the first place Tampa Bay Rays. The Bronx Bombers are now four games behind the Rays in the AL East standings.

 

Not a productive night, by any means.

 

The real story isn’t tonight’s loss, however. It’s the fact that the Yankees seem to be dropping like flies. Tonight one more Yank was injured while another one was announced to be missing up to four weeks.

 

There’s a fine line between a couple of key guys going down and it getting ridiculous in terms of the injuries.

 

The Yankees have crossed that line.

 

Now that the injury bug has taken a huge chunk out of the Yankees, let’s assess their injury situation…

 

Jorge Posada

 

 


Jorge Posada has a hairline fracture on his foot 

After tonight’s loss, it was announced that the Yankee catcher will be missing at least three weeks, possibly a month. On Sunday vs. the Minnesota Twins, Jorge Posada took a foul ball off his right foot hit by Michael Cuddyer.

 

Turns out Posada sustained a hairline fracture as a result of the foul ball.

 

Terrific.

 

Francisco Cervelli has been doing a fantastic job filling in for Posada, but make no mistake about it, Posada’s absence is a blow to the lineup. He is a key hitter and up until Sunday was doing a good job.

 

I mean, on Saturday he homered!

 

Since Posada will obviously be out for awhile, the Yankees need to get another catcher. If they know what’s good for them, they’ll call up either Jesus Montero or Austin Romine. Both players are top-notch catchers and are thought to be the next generation of Yankees.

 

 


Montero or Romine should get called up in Posada's absence 

According to Baseballreference.com, Montero is currently hitting .229 in 33 games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees with three homers, 19 RBIs, and 13 runs scored.

 

Romine on the other hand is hitting .304 in AA Trenton with three homers, 23 RBIs, and 17 runs scored.

 

The numbers indicate Romine might be the better choice at the moment, but who knows. One of these kids might need to come up and help. Cervelli, although he is tearing it up, will need it.

 

As for Posada, get well soon. He claimed afterward that, “It will not take three or four weeks to get back.” But it doesn’t really matter. He hasn’t been playing anyway, so the Yanks’ best bet is to just put him on the DL and free up some roster room.  

 

Marcus Thames

 

 


Thames is listed as day-to-day after tripping over his bat tonight 

Unbelievable. Talk about going from on top of the world to the bottom of the underbelly of the universe basically overnight.

 

On Monday night, Marcus Thames played the role of unlikely hero, crushing the glorious walk-off home run off Jonathan Papelbon to beat the Red Sox 11-9.

 

Good work. Unfortunately the euphoric feeling didn’t last long.

 

The next night, not only did Thames make a crucial error on defense, he failed on offense. First it was an easy pop fly he dropped, which prolonged Boston’s big inning propelling them to a win.

 

And just when it seemed the Yanks were going to mount an awesome, game-tying comeback (much like they had on Monday night) Thames grounded to the pitcher with a runner on third. All he had to do was put the ball in the air to knot the game, but…no.

 

Wednesday night Thames, like many other Yankees, injured himself. He ripped a ball into the left field and on the way to first base stepped on the bat he used and came up limping.

 

He was diagnosed with a sprained ankle.

 

Why am I not surprised? It’s only fitting that our fourth outfielder (who can barely play the field as it is) had to get hurt, just like the rest of the outfielders.

 

Leaving the game, Ramiro Pena (a shortstop by trade) had to play right field for only the second time in his career.

 

He is listed as day-to-day and manager Joe Girardi stated after the game that, “There might be a move tomorrow.”

 

Take that for what it’s worth. As for Thames, I kind of hope he is injured and he goes to the DL. Maybe a stint on the disabled list can wake the Yankees up into the realization that they need someone who can play the outfield.

 

Thames is a good hitter; maybe worthy of the DH role. But he is not a defensive force, by any stretch of the imagination.

 

Other Notable Players Hurt

 

 


Injuries are hurting the Yankees 

  • Nick Swisher: Biceps

 

Not sure when he is slated to come back; hopefully before we play the Mets on Friday night. Right field, as evidenced tonight, is a disaster right now. Swisher needs to get better. Quickly.

 

  • Curtis Granderson: Hamstring

 

When Curtis Granderson went down on May 1, he was hitting .225 and not really doing much to help the Yankees win. In a game like tonight, his presence may or may not have really made much a difference.

 

He was however playing a lot better defense than the outfielders now, and probably could have easily snapped out of the hitting slump with a little extra BP.

 

It was noted before the game that he’ll be back on June 1. It can’t come soon enough!

 

  • Nick Johnson: Wrist

 

In Boston last weekend, Nick Johnson injured his wrist. He underwent surgery on Tuesday and will be out until at least July.

 

I, for one, am shocked. Not!

 

He is one player who just cannot stay healthy. If the Yankees really wanted a designated hitter this past off-season, they should have just signed Vladimir Guerrero. He may be aging, but at least he is never hurt.

 

Or they could have tried to get Hideki Matsui back. I mean…he was the World Series MVP!

 

Johnson was not the best choice for an everyday DH. He is too much of a liability and at this point, it’s looking like a bad signing. The Yankees needed to know that making this deal came with a risk. And now they’re seeing the end result of that.

 

  • Alfredo Aceves

 

No recent word on him. His stiff back sidelined him. Just what we need right now with the bullpen in shambles.

 

 

It has just been rough these past two days. Hang in there, Yankee fans. We are going through a hard time right now, and we’ll go through more hard times.

 

But the tough times just make the good times feel even better.

 

Tomorrow night: Andy Pettitte (5-0, 1.79 ERA) vs. James Shields (4-1, 3.00 ERA)

 

Let’s split this series and get our heads back in the game. Go Yankees!

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

On Another note:

 

I noticed John Jaso, the catcher on the Rays. Jaso played for the Hudson Valley Renegades in the minors, a Single-A farm team of the Rays. The Renegades play about ten minutes from where I grew up.

 

I went to a game a few years back and I remembered his name when I heard it during tonight’s game. I also realized tonight that I met him and I actually have his autograph! He signed a foul ball I got at a Renegades game back in 2005 (I think)

 

Anyway, here’s his John Hancock on my baseball:

 

John Jaso signed my ball as a member of the HV Renegades  

Yankees vs. Rays: Thoughts and Notes

 

 


Spring Training is designed for tune-upsAs we all know, spring training isn’t really about final scores. It’s about warm-ups, getting in shape, and finding rhythm. Today the Rays handed the Yankees their rear ends for the better part of the day and won 12-7 over the Bronx Bombers.

 

Instead of getting into all kinds of detail about who scored and when, I’m just going to tell you all my thoughts on what I saw today.

 

 

·        Curtis Granderson

 

Curtis Granderson failed to reach base today and is still without a hit this spring. He flew out twice against two different left-handed pitchers. One of the knocks against him is his inability to consistently hit lefties, so I’m a little concerned for him. But I have a feeling he’ll find his stride.

 

We’ll give Granderson a little time. I think his bat will come alive soon and he just has to adjust to the new environment. His defense wasn’t bad, but he did however have a fly ball sail over his head. Better to have it happen now than next month.

 

 


Phil Hughes gave up a homer today 

·        Phil Hughes

 

In the first inning he gave up a solo homer to Sean Rodriguez (who had a career day at the plate, missing the cycle by a single) Other than that hiccup, Hughes wasn’t bad.

 

Rodriguez’s home run was the only hit Hughes allowed over the two innings he pitched. He walked one batter and did not record a strikeout. Other than that, Hughes’s changeup was good and there was a lot of movement on it.

 

I know he wasn’t happy with his performance. But that’s the idea of spring training–to work the kinks out and get ready for the season. Hughes wants to be a starter but he’ll have to fight for it.

 

If you’re counting statistics, Hughes registered the loss today.

 

Getting over the flu, Joba Chamberlain had nothing this afternoon 

 

·        Joba Chamberlain

 

I saw nothing today from Joba Chamberlain. He only pitched 1 1/3 innings and gave up a total of five earned runs on three hits. He walked three batters and only fanned one.

 

Chamberlain was extremely flat today; he left everything up in the zone and most of the hitters he faced feasted off him. I would say 85% of the pitches he threw were up and he missed the other 15%.

 

Not to make excuses for Chamberlain, but he is just getting over the flu. In fact, when the team went out on their “field trip” to the arcade a few days ago, Chamberlain stayed back because of his ailment.    

 

It’s difficult to do anything when you’re sick, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt in that respect. Catcher Francisco Cervelli even noted after the outing that Chamberlain looked “a little bit off” and said it was probably because of his flu.

 

I guess we’ll have to wait and see if Chamberlain can rebound next time out.

 

 


Nick Swisher looked sloppy today 

·        Nick Swisher

 

Nick Swisher had kind of a rough day.

 

He was picked off at first on a snap throw in a very sloppy play. He took a secondary lead (although he was so far off the bag, you could’ve called it a tertiary lead) and stumbled trying to get back before he was picked off by Dioner Navarro.

 

After getting caught napping, Swisher nearly fell into the bullpen trying to run down a fly ball hit by Justin Ruggiano. To me, he looked like a bowling pin out there today. At least he walked in his one at-bat and he looks like he shed some pounds, which is good.

 

As for the falling and getting picked off–Swisher! Come on, dude!

 

 


Kei Igawa looked impressive today 

·        Kei Igawa

 

Sporting a new number (17) Kei Igawa tossed 1 2/3 innings today. And for the first time, I can safely say he did well! Igawa hasn’t had much to feel good about since signing with the Yankees, but today he proved he might just have it.

 

The Japanese non-roster invitee was perfect, not allowing a hit in his outing. He recorded two strikeouts on the afternoon, including a whiff of Ben Zobrist with a nasty breaking ball. His pitches looked a lot better than they were two years ago.

 

Igawa will without a doubt be in the minors this year. But if he continues to progress and pitch as he did today, the majors could be in his future.

 

I was very impressed with him today.

 

·        David Robertson

 

Pitching the sixth inning, David Robertson had a perfect day. No runs, no hits, no walks, one strikeout. I feel good about him and I think he is going to be a valuable part of the bullpen this season. Robertson had such a good postseason last year. I think that sometimes goes overlooked.

 

Not to mention he and his family teamed up with Tino Martinez and his family last night. Collectively, the Robertsons and the Martinezs attended a Taylor Swift concert in Florida. I thought that was a neat little factoid Martinez mentioned while calling the game today.

 

And if you ask me, Martinez needs to call more games on the YES Network. He is more fun to listen to than Michael Kay!

 

 


Jesus Montero drew a walk this afternoon 

·        Jesus Montero

 

As a late inning defensive replacement, Montero was brought in to replace Cervelli behind the plate. He only had two at-bats. He walked and struck out looking.

 

Montero was one of my five players to watch this spring and I really feel we’ll see better things from him this month. I didn’t realize until today how big he is! For a 20 year-old kid, he is a monster.

 

It’ll be fun to watch his growth and development, so keep an eye on him.

 

 

·        Other Notes

 

–Tomorrow afternoon at GMS Field, A.J. Burnett will start for the Yankees against the Blue Jays. I believe I heard them say Shaun Marcum will make the start for Toronto.

 

–Nick Johnson did not start today due to a stiff back. He received heat therapy on his back and his activities were limited. His treatment may continue for the rest of the weekend.

 

The reason his back stiffened up was because of his shoes, believe it or not. According to the YES Network, Johnson wore regular turf shoes instead of spikes while practicing. Somehow that affected him and he hurt himself.

 

I don’t understand it either, but he has to be more careful.

 

–The Yankees are now 1-2 in Grapefruit League play.

Five Players to Watch This Spring

What’s up Yankee fans?

 

The date is February 15, 2010.

 

 


It's been a busy winter in the sports world 

As for news around the sports world, the NFL Super Bowl is over. The great Peyton Manning fell to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in what was (in my opinion) the best Super Bowl game since the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.

 

The winter Olympics are in full swing in Vancouver and at press time the U.S.A. has claimed six medals.

 

The NBA is at their All-Star point and Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks became the only player in history to win the Slam Dunk Contest three times.

 

And last but never-the-least, MLB pitchers and catchers report to camp this week. We now know that baseball is almost back. Almost back, but we’re not quite there yet.

 

The Yankees obviously made a number of moves in the off season, bidding farewell to players like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, and Chien-Ming Wang.

 

But they welcomed in new (and old) players like Curtis Granderson, Randy Winn, Javier Vazquez, and Nick Johnson.

 

Some of these moves haven’t been very popular among Yankee fans, but it remains to be seen how these players will perform. The best time to find out how well each player might do in the season is obviously in spring training.

 

With that being said, here are my five players to keep an eye on in March:

 

5) Javier Vazquez

 

 


Javier Vazquez is ready for his second stint in pinstripes 

At first, I was completely against the Javier Vazquez deal and part of me still is. I never liked him during his first stint with the Yankees in 2004. The only lasting image I have of him was that meatball he served up that Johnny Damon clobbered for a grand slam in the 2004 ALCS–a bomb that solidified the Yankees’ Game Seven collapse.

 

 


Vazquez picthed in the Yankees' losing effort in the 2004 ALCS 

But I suppose I’ll give him a second chance as the number four starter in 2010.

 

Everyone keeps talking about how Vazquez had a very low ERA these past few seasons, so who knows. He may surprise us. After all, I thought Hideki Matsui was going to have a horrible season in 2009. He went on to win the World Series MVP.

 

I have decided to give Vazquez until July 15–if he has decent numbers then, I’ll approve of the trade. But if he is basically hanging on by a thread with an inflated ERA and a record of .500, then I’ll stand by my initial thought: what are the Yankees thinking?!

 

I realize the Vazquez trade was a panic move to counter the Red Sox signing John Lackey. But the Yanks could have figured out another way to get a pitcher without having to give up a promising outfielder (Cabrera) for a one-year rental (Vazquez).

 

We’ll see how he does. But without question, he’ll be under the microscope in Tampa.

 

4) Jesus Montero

 

 


Jesus Montero is a top-ranked prospect we'll see this spring 

I have heard a lot of great things about this kid. I get the feeling he’ll one day be a star, but he’s just too young right now. Nonetheless, non-roster invitee Jesus Montero will be a player to watch this spring.

 

At 20 years old, Montero has been named the Yanks’ best prospect and the fifth best player by Baseball America. In his 2008 minor league season with the Charleston River Dogs, Montero batted .326 with 17 homers and 87 RBIs. He only stole two bases, but hey…he’s a catcher, we cannot expect a ton of steals from him.

 

The highest level he’s played at is AA Trenton Thunder, but mark my words; he’ll probably make it to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 2010.

 

With Jose Molina leaving the Yankees, it’ll most likely be Francisco Cervelli backing up Jorge Posada. So in all likelihood, we won’t see Montero in the show this year. In 2011, he’ll more than likely be on the Major League squad.

 

But Montero will undoubtedly be on the field this spring. This is his chance to show Yankee Universe what he’s made of and for us to get a feel for what he is about.

 

3) Brett Gardner

 

 


Brett Gardner can run, but must improve on offense 

Brett Gardner has given the Yankees something they haven’t had in recent times–speed. And I’m not talking about just a decent pair of wheels. I’m talking the Flash/Sonic the Hedgehog type horse power here.

 

I mean, if he sprinted on the highway, he’d probably get a speeding ticket.

 

Gardner has also offered a great deal of defense in the outfield. With the departure of Melky Cabrera, the Yankees are obviously putting a lot of stock in him. Gardner can run and he can play some unbelievable defense. But he needs to get on base and become a better offensive player.

 

In 2009, Gardner had 67 hits in 248 at-bats, which translates to a .270 average–not too shabby. He drew 26 walks and stole 26 bases, which again, are decent stats.

 

But centerfield is a position that requires power; you need to have some pop coming from that spot on the field. Gardner only hit three home runs last year, two of which left the park (and yes, it was pretty sweet watching that inside-the-park home run on May 15…it was even sweeter because I saw it in-person!)

 

This spring, the Yankees will be trying out a number of different outfielders. There’s even talk that if Gardner is good enough, recent acquisition Curtis Granderson might play left field and Gardner will man center.

 

Well, that scenario remains to be seen, but in any event, Gardner has to take his game up to the next level. We’ll see how he responds next month.

 

2) Robinson Cano

 

 


Can Robinson Cano hit without Melky Cabrera on the team? 

Boy has this young man come a long way. I can remember the day he was called up to the big leagues in 2005 and how nervous he looked. He would make frequent errors and he looked so uneasy at the plate.

 

But Robinson Cano worked his game up to a Major League level, finishing in the top three in the 2006 batting title race. He was even compared to the incomparable Rod Carew. And from there, the rest is basically history. In my opinion, he’s unlike any other second baseman in the American League–and that’s a good thing.

 

He plays defense so well, gliding across the infield and making spectacular plays. I still believe he should have won a Gold Glove Award this past year. His hitting has certainly improved, as well. In 2009 he set a career-high in home runs with 25 and averaged .320 at the dish.

 

I have to say, of the younger players who are currently on the Yankees, Cano is my favorite. You can mention Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and all the legendary players of the so-called “core four,” but (for me) Cano has been the most exciting Yankee these past couple of seasons.

 

But some philosophize that Cano only performed so well for so long because of the presence of his best friend Melky Cabrera. The two became bosom buddies in 2007 and since then, both have played very well in each other’s friendship.

 

But Cabrera is now an Atlanta Brave and Cano is on his own.

 

I am anxious to see how Cano is going to perform in the absence of his best friend. I still feel he can play the same way he has these last few years. However, the only minor concern I have is how Cano played in 2008 without Cabrera; when his buddy was sent down to the minors because of a nasty slump, Cano struggled a little bit and fell into a funk of his own.

 

Hopefully nothing like that will happen to him this upcoming year. But if Cano gets off to a slow start and cannot find his rhythm, I might have to side with those philosophers.

 

1) Joba Chamberlain

 


Will Joba Chamberlain be the fifth starter?   

 

It’s no secret that Joba Chamberlain had a rough 2009. It started back when he was arrested for a DUI after the 2008 campaign. Then he was put back on the “Joba Rules,” only being allowed to toss a certain amount of innings according to the Yankees’ discretion.

 

He had some forgetful starts and some brilliant starts in ’09, posting a record of 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA. If that wasn’t enough, the 24 year-old flamethrower was sent to the bullpen for the playoffs and World Series as the Bronx Bombers chose to go with a three-man rotation. In relief, he posted an ERA of 2.84 and was 1-0 with one save and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings pitched.

 

Not too bad, if you ask me. Chamberlain seems to excel when he knows his role.

 

There’s a lot of speculation on which pitcher will land the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Chamberlain seems to be the logical choice, unless they either opt to pull Phil Hughes from his spot in the bullpen or allow Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin the opportunity.

 

It all depends on who is performing at the highest level in spring training. If we see Chamberlain in a dominant form next month, it could be him. But if he is going to be that fifth pitcher, the Yankees NEED to take him off the “Joba Rules.”

 

Chamberlain will have his growing pains, all young players do. But if they do not take the leash off, the only thing he’ll ever be is a caged animal.

 

I understand that the Yankees are not trying to wreck his arm because it’s happened to too many young pitchers (Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez…etc.) But the Yanks should not tell him exactly how many innings they want him to throw. I think that can upset the balance of his psyche.

 

So who will be that fifth starter? We’ll know when we see what they all bring to Tampa.

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