Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 AB4AR Season Preview Recap

Three weeks are up.  That means we've come to the end of the 2013 AB4AR Season Preview series.  The Yankees haven't stopped making moves and shuffling the deck, but we know what they're starting the season with and we've got a pretty good idea of what to expect when the regular season starts tomorrow.  If you've missed any of this past week's positional season preview posts, here they are:

- The Lineup

- The Rotation

- The Bullpen

- The Bench

- The Predicitions

This time tomorrow, we'll be watching how it all starts to play out on the field instead of on a computer screen.  As nervous as I am about what this season has in store, I'm glad it's finally starting.  Go Yankees!

P.S.- After a one-year hiatus, the Opening Day live blog returns tomorrow.  Be on the lookout for it sometime around 12:30 PM Eastern/11:30 AM Central.

Opening Day 25-Man Lineup Finalized

(The most 'blah' team $220 mil can buy?  Courtesy of Getty Images)

It's not what any of us likely had in mind when Spring Training started, and that was before Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Derek Jeter went down.  The Yankees still have to put 25 guys in uniform for Monday, and they've scrambled to fill those gaps in the past few weeks.  Yesterday they put the finishing touches on what will be the official 25-man roster when the regular season opens tomorrow.  It's not pretty, but you already knew that.  Have a look.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Aardsma DFA'd, I'm Confused

(Used courtesy of The Star-Ledger)

David Aardsma became the biggest roster crunch casualty of the spring yesterday when the Yankees designated him for assignment to clear the final 40-man spot they need to fill out their Opening Day 25-man.  Despite signing him to what was essentially a 2-year deal, and despite a solid ST performance from Aardsma in his first fully healthy season back from TJS (6 H, 2 BB, 3 ER, 7 K in 7.2 IP over 8 appearances), Aardsma "didn't really fit" with the team's bullpen needs according to Joe Girardi.  Aardsma's spot in the bullpen will be given to Shawn Kelley, who apparently impressed Joe more with his ability to throw multiple innings.

I understand that somebody was going to have to take the 40-man fall to make enough space for all the Yankees' recent acquisitions.  It's the nature of being an old, injured, inflexible team.  I also understand that Aardsma, as the 4th right-hander in the pecking order at best and only on a $500k deal, isn't the greatest loss in the world.  I'm just not sure I understand the logic in the decision making.  To say the Yankees "needed" another multi-inning guy in the 'pen this season is a bit of a stretch.  Their rotation isn't a "5 innings and out" type, they've got solid depth to cover the late innings, and they're going to have David Phelps holding down the longman spot when Hughes returns from the DL.

He may not have been a world beater, but I think Aardsma is, was, and would have been a better guy to have for the lower-leverage innings than Kelley.  ST stats being what they are, Aardsma still pitched better than Kelley this spring and he deserved a 40-man spot.  Isn't that why the Yankees signed him to a 2-year deal in the first place?  To have him around for this season?  If anybody deserved to go, it was probably Cody Eppley.  But like Kelley, he can pitch multiple innings as well and that's what Joe wants.

It's a tough break for Aardsma, but he should catch on somewhere else.  I'll just never understand the decision to sacrifice a better player to keep lesser ones on the roster.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 3/29/13

Is it me or did it feel like it took longer for this offseason and spring to pass than it did the past few seasons? I don't know, it just seems like it's been almost a year since I've watched a Yankee game.  Good thing we've only got to wait 3 more.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, William Juliano of The Captain's Blog took a historical look at the high turnover in this year's expected Opening Day lineup.

- Mark Panuthos of Bronx Baseball Daily took a skeptical look at the upcoming MLB season.  I like the cut of your jib, Panuthos.

- Mike Eder of IIATMS/TYA broke down Vernon Wells' past few seasons to try to find reasons to be optimistic about the trade.

- On Tuesday, Mason Stark of Pinstriped Bible did some serious analysis on the Yankees' history of developing young pitchers in Part 2 of the 2-part investigation.  Definitely check out Part 1 first if you haven't already.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud pointed out the problem the Yanks are going to have with available 40-man roster spots as a result of their continued roster moves.  But please, get rid of more useful, cheap, team-controlled young players to make room for washed up veterans.

- On Wednesday, Alex Pugliese of Yanks Go Yard mused on some potential candidates for new team captain after Derek Jeter retires.

- SJK of NoMaas questioned how Brian Cashman truly feels about the recent string of roster additions and expressed his desire for Cash to speak out so we know how much to really blame him.

- On Thursday, fishjam25 of Yankees Fans Unite listed the 10 reasons to like this year's team.  I'm having a hard time getting on board with all 10, but check them out and judge for yourself.

- Derek Albin of Pinstripe Pundits commented on the concern for CC Sabathia's pitching elbow, and provided a cool visual to clue us in on what to look for as a sign of trouble.

- Mike Axisa of RAB capped off his season preview series with a player-by-player look at the long list of injured guys.

- El duque of It Is High... came up with a great suggestion for Tim McCarver's replacement.

- On Friday, Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes wrapped up his 2013 predictions series with his picks for the 2013 postseason.

- Fernando Alejandro of Respect Jeter's Gangster commented on the latest garbage to come out of Randy Levine's mouth.  Funny how Levine always seems to say the wrong thing, huh?

This week's Friday Jam is "Circles" by Incubus.  I just realized yesterday that I've never played any Incubus in the Palooza, and this song is fitting for this season as it looks like some of the Yankees' big expenditures are coming back around to haunt them.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.  Here's your first reminder that I'll be doing another Opening Day live blog on Monday.  Clear your schedules.

2013 AB4AR Season Preview: The Predictions

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It's all done.  The projections, the previews, the analysis, and the hypothesizing.  The Yankees have made the moves they've made and players have suffered the injuries they've suffered.  After this weekend, that all takes a backseat to the start of the regular season and the return of Yankee baseball to our everyday lives.  The only thing left to do before then is take all that's been discussed and analyzed these past five plus months and use it to make predictions.

This season is easily the most difficult one to predict from a Yankee fan's/blogger's perspective.  The team has taken a big step back on paper, and despite the nearly $220 million payroll their battle will be the most uphill one in years.  Between their collective step back and the collective step forward that the rest of the AL East has taken in the past two seasons, it seems the time is perfect for the Yankees to give up their throne at the top of the division.  Do I believe they will?  Yes, I do.  Do I believe they will completely fall apart and drop down to the bottom of the division?  Find out for yourself.

After the jump, the official AB4AR 2013 MLB predictions.

Spring Training Game 33 Wrap-Up: PIT 2 NYY 1

(Courtesy of the AP)

The Yankees wrapped up their Grapefruit League schedule with a game against the Pirates yesterday.  Hiroki Kuroda was on the mound for his final spring start and he did not disappoint.  We also got to see the bench picture start to come into focus as Juan Rivera was released during the game after starting at first base.  There are only two ST games remaining before the regular season kicks off on Monday.  We're getting close, people.

Game Notes:

- Not a lot of offense in this game.  The Yanks plated their lone run in the 9th on a double by Lyle Overbay. He isn't going to make up for Teix's power, but if he can hit doubles on the reg the Yanks will take it.

- Kuroda was very sharp yesterday, allowing just 1 hit and 0 runs in his 6 innings of work.  He struck out 5, didn't walk a batter, and looked as good as he has all spring.  Perfect way to end your camp.

- Brennan Boesch and Thomas Neal both doubled, and Francisco Cervelli tripled for the other XBH on the day.

- Other offensive notes: Kevin Youkilis went 1-3 and finally got a hit that wasn't for extra bases.  Slacker.  And Robinson Cano returned to the lineup with a 1-3 day of his own.  Good to see he recovered quickly from his stomach ailment.

- Scary moment for Boone Logan in the 7th, and I'm not talking about the 2 runners he put on base that came around to score.  Logan had to leave the game after getting hit by a line drive, but after the game he told reporters he was fine.  He's scheduled to pitch again today.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

2013 AB4AR Season Preview: The Bench


I was planning on using a picture of a bare cupboard, but I'm making an effort to be a little more positive so I thought the carousel was a better choice.  In the end, even the carousel represents the depressing feeling surrounding this year's Yankee bench just as well as the empty cupboard would have.  There's more than likely going to be a lot of people getting rotated through the open bench positions as the season progresses.  The Yankees have loaded up on cheap, downside-of-their-careers veterans to try to squeeze the last few drops of value out of them before kicking them to the curb and going to somebody else.  Eventually it might get down to the crop of young kids in Triple-A who are knocking on the big league door, and I'm sure they'll enjoy themselves when they get their turn on the carousel.  At the end of the day, though, this group probably isn't going anywhere.

Juan Rivera Released, Roster Picture Becoming Clearer

Via Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have released Juan Rivera just a few hours after he started today's game at first base.  Today was the day that they needed to decide on adding him to the 40-man roster, and after picking up Lyle Overbay it looks like they are going to go with him at first base.

For what it's worth, Rivera told reporters that both Overbay and Ben Francisco are going to make the Opening Day roster, but I haven't seen this confirmed by anybody yet.

Also, Bryan Hoch is reporting that Ronnier Mustelier has a bone bruise in his knee and will stay in Tampa to rehab, removing him from consideration for a bench role.

P.S.- I pretty much called this Rivera situation in my morning post over at IIATMS/TYA today.  If anybody is interested, I'm willing to offer my 2013 season predictions for 20 bucks a pop.

Getting The Most Out Of Eduardo

(Nope.  No throwing mechanics under there.  Courtesy of Reuters)

After some positive early signs that Derek Jeter was going to be able to recover from his ankle surgery and be ready to play, we now know that Eduardo Nunez is going to be the Yankees' Opening Day shortstop.  We also know that he's going to be the starting shortstop for at least the next handful of games after that and we can safely assume that he'll be getting regular work at the position all season long.  That's a frightening thought for any Yankee fan based on what we've seen to date from Nunez, but it's a reality that we're going to have to accept and live with.  That being the case, let's investigate just how the Yankees can maximize Nunez's potential value and not have another spot in the lineup and position on the field turn into a black hole.

Spring Training Game 32 Wrap-Up: NYY 11 BAL 8

(What up, new guy?  Courtesy of the AP)

Things are winding down in camp.  Guys are making their final pushes for roster spots, spots in the batting order, and pitchers are making their final appearances to get ready for the start of the regular season.  Tuesday night it was CC Sabathia, and last night it was David Phelps who took his turn on the mound for his final ST start.  With Phil Hughes officially set to begin the season on the DL, Phelps will be making the start on April 6th and if last night was any indication, he should be just fine.

Game Notes:

- A pair of Baltimore errors got things started for the Yanks in the top of the 2nd and a pair of 2-out, run-scoring singles by Eduardo Nunez and Lyle Overbay finished it.  Bobby Wilson also chipped in with a ribbie double and when all was said and done the Yanks led 3-0.

- Speaking of Overbay, the newest Yankee was a major factor in last night's game.  He played all 9 innings at first base and went 2-5 with 2 singles at the plate.  Probably safe to say he's going to be on the Opening Day roster.

- That lead held up until the 5th, when Phelps got a little off track and gave up 3 runs of his own.  They were the only runs he allowed on the night, however, and he did strike out 9 batters.  His stuff and command both seem to be right where they were last season.

- 2-run homer for Brennan Boesch in his return to the lineup after missing a few games with a strained rib cage, and a solo shot for Ben Francisco, his third as a Yankee.  Not sure how Francisco fits into New York's plans now, but he has played well since they acquired him.

- Ditto for Thomas Neal, who went 1-3 with a pair of walks, pair of runs scored, and another SB.  He'll be good depth to have in Triple-A.

- Branden Pinder got smacked around in the bottom of the 7th, but Nick Goody and Preston Claiborne each pitched scoreless innings in the 8th and 9th to secure the win.  It was Goody's first ST game after hurting his ankle early, and Claiborne continues to impress.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2013 AB4AR Season Preview: The Bullpen

(No mustache, dude?  For shame.  Courtesy of Reuters)

Lineup?  Check.  Rotation?  Check.  Time to move on to the bullpen.  It comes as no surprise anymore that the Yankees possess one of the strongest bullpens in baseball year in and year out.  They've consistently been able to draft, develop, and sign quality relief pitchers, and when you've got the greatest closer of all time handling the 9th inning it makes it much easier to fill in the other pieces around him.  This year will mark the end of that great closing career, and could mark the end of a couple other Yankee bullpen tenures, so in a way 2013 could be a transition year.  Before that happens, though, there are leads to hold and games to save, and this year's edition of the Yankee 'pen should be more than up to the task.

David Adams Release Reaction

(Photo courtesy of Jordan Megenhardt/

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

The Irrational Fan's Take:

'"What are the Yankees doing??  Why would they get rid of Adams?  He's only 25 years old and he's coming off the best year of his career.  He hit .306/.385/.450 and he can play second base and third base.  The Yankees are going to need infield depth this season and possibly next depending on what happens with A-Rod and Cano and they just gave away one of their top young players at those positions to clear a roster spot for Vernon Wells!  That guy Brad V. from IIATMS/TYA ranked Adams 14th in his Top 30 Prospects this year, so he's gotta be good.

Not to mention the fact that Adams and Corban Joseph could have made a nice lefty/righty platoon DH on the bench if Hafner got hurt this season and then transitioned to second in 2014 if Cano doesn't get re-signed.  I don't get it.  How can they start playing Adams at third base last season and then just dump him for a player they didn't even need?  This is why the Yankees never develop any good young position players.  They never give them a real shot.  They've got a bunch of kids in the Minors who can play and now they're getting rid of them to get older.  Horrible move.  Cashman should be fired right now."

The Rational Fan's Take:

Spring Training Game 31 Wrap-Up: NYY 4 HOU 4

(Courtesy of the AP)

After pitching in a few MiL games to avoid facing AL East rivals, CC Sabathia was back on the mound against a Major League team last night for his final Spring Training tuneup.  Well, he was on the mound against the Houston Astros, and I guess technically they still qualify as a Major League team since they're in the AL West but whatever.  While it was CC's final spring game before the start of the regular season, it was Vernon Wells' first spring game as a Yankee, so there's no shortage of juicy talking points from last night.  It might actually have been one of the most interesting games the Astros will be involved in all year.

Game Notes:

- Sabathia wasn't sharp in the 1st inning, giving up 3 earned runs on 4 hits (3 of them doubles) and a leadoff walk.  He wasn't locating his breaking pitches well and the Astro hitters were just professional enough to make him pay.

- The big fella got some help from his offense to make up for the early runs.  Brett Gardner went 2-3 with a triple and an RBI, continuing to strengthen his case for the leadoff spot on Opening Day, and Travis Hafner woke up from his spring slumber with a 3-hit day of his own.

- Wells got the start in left field and hit sixth in the batting order.  He had a relatively uneventful 0-3 night at the dish, but did drive in a run with an RBI groundout in the bottom of the 6th.

- Final line for CC: 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 K.  Not great, but he's way past the point of needing to be great in ST.  As long as he's healthy and ready to go Monday, that's all that matters.

- Strong performance behind CC from an almost all-Major League bullpen.  Mo, D-Rob, Joba, Logan, and Vidal Nuno combined to throw 5 scoreless innings with 5 K and 1 BB before the teams decided enough was enough after 10.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

2013 AB4AR Season Preview: The Rotation

(The Air Jordan cleats are never not badass.  Courtesy of The Daily News)

Continuing the trend that's become commonplace in the last few years, the Yankees enter the 2013 season with their starting rotation as their greatest strength.  Discontinuing what has also been a yearly trend, they won't enter 2013 with a lot of questions about new members or expected performance of returning members.  The five guys who will make up the starting rotation are all known commodities at this point in their careers, with the natural amount of wiggle room for production improvement or regression that comes with every new season applicable to each.  The biggest question that most of them will face this season will be health-related, and it's how each pitcher answers that question that will ultimately determine just how good this group will be this season.

Handicapping The Final Days Of The Outfield Roster Competition

(Boesch is probably in.  Who's joining him?  Courtesy of Kathy Willens/Daily News)

Spring Training is hitting its home stretch this week in the final handful of days before camp closes and the 25-man roster gets set.  While other roster competitions are either over or have been rendered moot by injuries, the battle for the final outfield spots is coming down to the wire.  The injuries to C-Grand and Teix have left not one, but two spots up for grabs, and the Yankees certainly haven't been shy about adding bodies to the competition.  With just a few more games to go and some guys' positions looking stronger than others, here's the standings as I see them and the odds that each contender sees his name picked for the Opening Day 25-man.

This Lineup Tells You Everything You Need To Know

(Here's the lineup post that sparked a lot of discussion over at IIATMS/TYA yesterday)

1) Brett Gardner- CF
2) Eduardo Nunez- SS
3) Robinson Cano- 2B
4) Kevin Youkilis- 3B
5) Vernon Wells- DH
6) Juan Rivera- 1B
7) Brennan Boesch- RF
8) Ichiro Suzuki- LF
9) Francisco Cervelli- C

That, or some similar variation of that, is what the New York Yankee starting lineup is going to look like one week from today. It’s a far cry from what the lineup has been the last few years and a far cry from what the lineup was expected to be this season, but it actually perfectly encapsulates everything the Yankees are right now. It shows how they’re an old, injured team with a lot of payroll tied up in its older, injured players. It shows how the self-imposed payroll crunch has limited the team’s ability to seek out trade and free agent options that best meet its needs. And it shows how little impact MiL depth the team has in its own farm system to help overcome the injuries and lack of big-time trade/FA activity.

We aren’t quite into “darkest timeline” territory yet, but it’s getting close and the Wells trade that’s expected to be finalized today does signal dark times in Yankeeland. This is a team and an organization handcuffed by its own future plans, plans that don’t allow for wiggle room to address problems in the present and result in the front office agreeing to take on $13 million for a player who’s barely worth $1.3 million at this stage in his career. Some of the other guys and gals might come on here later today and try to find some positives in this mess, and more power to them for trying. I just don’t have the energy to try to do that right now, and I definitely don’t have the right shade of lipstick to put on this pig.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Vernon Wells Trade Spits In The Face Of Everybody And Everything

(Courtesy of John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated)

Barring some magical injury that gets discovered during his physical, Vernon Wells is going to become a Yankee today.  His locker is cleaned out in LA, the money has been agreed upon, and all that's left is identifying the MiL player the Yankees will send to Anaheim to complete the trade.  As I stated on IIATMS/TYA earlier this morning, this isn't exactly the darkest timeline for the Yankees, but it's pretty damn close.

I wrote about the idea of trading for Wells back in December, when it was rumored that the Yanks and Angels had discussed a deal during the Winter Meetings.  The conclusion I came to was that trading for Wells would be an absolute "hell no" scenario and believe it or not, that stance hasn't changed in the last three months.  Wells still doesn't hit for average or much power, still doesn't walk, still doesn't have an encouraging platoon split, and is still a 34-year-old outfielder with rapidly declining skills.  The only way I would have been comfortable with a trade was if Anaheim agreed to eat almost all of the $42 million remaining on Wells' contract.  Last night's reports of the Angels agreeing to take on $29 mil of the remaining 42 are nowhere near the number I had in mind and only make this trade more confusing.

2013 AB4AR Season Preview: The Lineup

(Courtesy of the AP)

At long last we've made it.  From the disappointing ending to the 2012 season to the generally slow and boring offseason to the injury-riddled/roster hole plugging preseason, we've now arrived at the doorstep of the 2013 Major League Baseball regular season.  This time next week, we'll all hopefully be in front of a TV (or at the game), Yankee gear on, ready to put all the badness behind us and just enjoy the fact that baseball is back in our lives.  I know I will be.

To kick off the 2013 AB4AR Season Preview series, we'll look at the lineup.  It's a group that's going to include a lot of unfamiliar faces for at least the month of April as regulars like Jeter, Teix, and C-Grand recover from injuries, but if and when it gets healthy and complete it's a group that can still do a lot of damage.  The Yankees lost some key members of the lineup from last year's team, members that didn't have their production adequately replaced as far as numbers and projections are concerned.  To try to counter that loss of production, the Yanks will look to transform their offense into a more balanced one, a lineup capable of playing small ball to scratch runs across when it needs to but still able to flex the HR muscle as well.  How they go about doing that remains to be seen.

Spring Training Game 30 Wrap-Up: NYY 7 TB 6

("Hey, can somebody toss me a ball?  Kinda gotta get my work in here." Courtesy of the AP)

Regular season games are only a week away.  Time to start ramping up the game recap reps, and what better game to recap than a walk-off win?

Game Notes:

- Adam Warren had another rough outing, giving up 5 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in just 3.2 IP.  His defense didn't help him, and only 1 of the runs was earned, but Warren didn't do a good job picking up his D behind him.  No other way to describe Warren's camp this year than disastrous.

- In an obvious audition for Clay Rapada's roster spot, Joe went to Vidal Nuno in the middle of the 4th to get out of Warren's jam.  Nuno allowed all batters he faced to reach base (2 H, 1 BB) and needed another CS from Francisco Cervelli to escape the inning.

- There was plenty of offense to support the shaky Yankee pitching.  Kevin Youkilis continued his powerful two-week tear with two 2-run homers, giving him 5 for the spring, and Travis Hafner cracked his second dinger of camp as well.

- Big day at the plate for new starting shortstop Eduardo Nunez as well.  He went 2-3 with a triple and 1 run and RBI apiece and stole his 5th ST base.  More importantly, he had a clean day in the field.

- Scoreless innings for Mo, Joba, and Logan led to a 9th-inning lead for the Yanks, a lead that David Aardsma couldn't hold.  He gave up a run on 2 hits and the game went to extra innings.

- Those extra innings didn't last very long. however, as Ronnier Mustelier hit a 3-2 pitch for a leadoff, walk-off HR in the bottom of the 10th.  That's a helluva way to keep yourself in roster spot consideration, huh?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Vernon Wells Is Worth HOW MUCH???

I'll have more on this tomorrow, but the more that comes out about the Vernon Wells situation the more flabbergasted and pissed off I get.  You're telling me that not only did the Yankees willingly add 2014 salary in the form of Vernon Wells, they added salary at a $6.5 million per year clip???  For Vernon Wells???  That's the same deal they gave Ichiro and he's been way better than Vernon Wells the last four seasons.  Now the Yankees will head into NEXT season owing eight guaranteed figures to two declining, late-30s platoon outfielders.  Not exactly smart business for a club trying to operate on a budget.

It doesn't even matter what type of prospect or non-prospect they give up in this trade, when you agree to pay that much more for two years of Vernon Wells you're the loser of the deal.

2013 "Knowns/Unknowns" Recap

There are more questions than answers in Yankeeland heading into the start of the regular season in a week, and that's nowhere near ending with the current situations of Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, Clay Rapada, the bench competitions, and the seemingly imminent Vernon Wells trade.  If you aren't up to date on what is still up in the air and what isn't, here's your chance to catch up.

- The Infield

- The Outfield

- The Rotation

- The Bullpen

- The Bench

Just a reminder, phase 3 of the 2013 AB4AR season preview starts tomorrow with the first of the "2013 Season Preview" series.  Over the course of the next week, I'll be previewing the 2013 season for each roster group (lineup, rotation, bullpen, bench) and making my final predictions for the 2013 season.  It's gonna be a hoot.

DL Trip Coming For Jeter

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

As good as things were looking when Derek Jeter got back on the field and back into game action at shortstop two weeks ago, that's how bad they're looking right now after that game action led to inflammation and pain in the ankle, missed game time, a plan to play in only MiL games for the remainder of the spring, and what is now looking like a guaranteed start on the disabled list when the Yankees open regular season action in a week rather than at the top of the lineup card.

Things took a pretty negative turn when the whole MiL games plan was announced a few days ago.  If Jeter was healthy enough to play in MiL games, he would obviously be playing in Major League games.  The inflammation in the ankle was a bigger setback than the Yankees wanted to let on and we wanted to believe, and from the moment he woke up that morning with stiffness in the ankle a DL trip became inevitable.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

More Injury News! Sweet!

... he said sarcastically.  It really just doesn't stop this spring and it's getting pretty damn boring and depressing to write about.

It started on Thursday, when the Yankees announced that Derek Jeter would not play in any more Major League ST games this month and would only play in MiL games.  This would only be done so the team could back date a season-opening DL stint.  Jeter himself told reporters this morning that he's no longer going to talk about how his body is feeling, and to be honest I think between that statement and the MiL games-only plan, it seems like there's more going on here than the Yankees want to let on and Jeter's ankle is probably in bad shape.

The news didn't get any better yesterday, when Bryan Hoch tweeted that it "seems likely" Phil Hughes will start on the DL as well due to his rehab starts taking place in MiL games.  And the rotten cherry on top of the shit-flavored injury sundae came when Andy McCullough of The Star-Ledger reported that Clay Rapada's shoulder injury will force him to start the season on the DL.

If you're keeping score at home, that's now 6 of the projected 25 Opening Day roster players expected to start the season on the diabled list.  75% of the starting infield, the teams' 2-time leading HR hitter, a part of its starting rotation, and a pretty good bullpen piece.  And the injuries ain't cheap, folks.

Yanks Sign Wang

As first reported by Jon Heyman, the Yankees have agreed to sign former starter Chien-Ming Wang to what is believed to be a MiL deal.  Wang is expected to join the Triple-A rotation to start the season.

As I've been saying for a while now, this is exactly the type of signing the Yankees usually make to fill out their Triple-A rotation and it's the signing they had yet to make this year so the timing couldn't have been better.  I don't expect Wang to contribute much, if any, at the Major League level and if it gets to the point when he is starting in the Major League rotation then something went horribly wrong.  But it is always fun to see familiar faces return to the organization, and via the new CBA Wang can opt out in June if he hasn't been called up.  If nothing else, he can use the first few months in the Minors as an audition for a Major League job elsewhere.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 3/22/13

By the time you, dear readers, start perusing this week's Linkapalooza, I'll hopefully be well on my way to a fantastic time drinking as many beers as possible and watching the second day of opening round NCAA tournament action.  I found out on Wednesday that the boss was going to be out of the office on Friday and decided right then and there that I was going to pull the old "bail out of work without telling anybody to go watch the tournament" trick.  I've never done it before and it's something that, as a diehard fan of pretty much every sport, I felt like I owed it to myself to do.  As far as I'm concerned, the opening round Thursday-Friday of the tourney should be a national holiday, similar to the Monday after the Super Bowl.  If you're still stuck in your office or cube reading this, I feel for you, I really do.  I'll make sure to have an extra order of wings for you.  Now onto the links!

- On Tuesday, Bleeding Yankee Blue scored an interview with recent former Yankee outfielder Chris Dickerson.  Kinda wish that guy was still around.

- Derek Albin of Pinstripe Pundits did some research on the history of Mark Teixeira's injury to see just how worried we should be about the change in diagnosis.

- William Juliano of The Captain's Blog compiled all of the Yankees' current injury concerns into one easy-to-use (and easy to drink to) graphic.

- Josh Norris of Minor Matters had a little profile piece on Rob Segedin and the changes he's made physically and positionally to get ready for the 2013 season.

- On Wednesday, Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes made his 25-man roster prediction.  It's not much different than my last version, with his Nix to my Mustelier for UTIF.

- Abe Froman of NoMaas attended the Yanks-Phils ST game in Clearwater and offered up some observations and visuals from the experience.

- EJ Fagan of IIATMS/TYA debunked the myth that the introduction of the amateur draft hurt baseball in Puerto Rico, an apropos topic considering the rumors of MLB wanting to expand to an international draft.

- On Thursday, Mike Axisa of RAB discussed the major problem the loss or lingering injured-ness of Derek Jeter will cause for a lineup already woefully short on good right-handed hitters.

- Fishjam25 of Yankees Fans Unite asked if the leadership Robinson Cano displayed in the WBC will translate over to the Yankees.  Certainly wouldn't hurt his case for a new contract if it did.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud had some details on the work Eduardo Nunez has put in to improve his defense.  Still waiting for that to show up on the field...

- Hunter Farman of Yanks Go Yard took a look at some MiL guys who don't appear to have anywhere to go in the Yankee organization.

- On Friday, el duque of It Is High... penned an open letter to Hal Steinbrenner comparing him and his team building efforts to that of Isiah Thomas.  That's about the worst insult you can give to somebody in the New York professional sports team management field, and it's not completely inaccurate.

This week's Friday Jam is "These Days" by Alien Ant Farm.  Good tune to kick off a relaxing basketball-filled weekend.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

2013 Season Preview: What We Know & What We Don't Know (The Bench)

(Incoming!!  Courtesy of J. Conrad Williams, Jr./Newsday)

The bench has become an increasingly more important part of the Yankee roster in the last 3-5 years as the core of their lineup has aged.  Part of what's helped them maintain top contender status has been the bench's ability to step up and contribute in minor and major roles when the situation called for it and at no time was that more apparent than last season.  Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez.  They all contributed more than their expected share of ABs and it's a fair bet to say the Yankees wouldn't have won the division without them.  This year, things aren't shaping up to be so rosy on the bench, as the Yankees have taken their "build the bench on the cheap" method to a whole new level, a lower level.  The consistency and overall usefulness of this group in general is questionable across the board, which is not a good thing considering all the issues the Bombers have in their starting lineup.

Why A Wang Return Would Be Helpful

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

The biggest non-Jeter's ankle story of yesterday was the return of Chien-Ming Wang to the Yankees.  It wasn't as an official team member, as Wang is still searching for a job offer after a brutal 2012 with the Nationals, but he was there to pitch for team scouts and coaches and hopefully do enough to get himself a contract offer.  The Yankees were connected to Wang recently and scouted him at the WBC, where he was reportedly throwing his sinker high 80s-low 90s and didn't allow a run in 12 IP.  After the dreaded baserunning foot injury of '08 and the awful follow-up performance in '09, a return to the Yankee organization would be a nice little deal for Wang.

It also wouldn't be bad for the Yankees, who are always in the market for pitching depth.  While Wang is certainly not a contender for a Major League rotation spot at this point in his career, or even a 40-man roster spot for that matter, he does represent the type of veteran arm the Yankees have liked to keep stashed in their Triple-A rotation for the last few years.  They find themselves without that arm right now and adding Wang to the mix could be the final piece needed to solidify the top levels of their organizational rotation depth.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ironing Out The (Admittedly Minor) Outfield Overcrowding Problem

Before Spring Training started, I wrote this post on the potentially problematic position the Yankees found themselves in with respect to their outfield depth.  The combination of returning Major Leaguers, free agent signings, and prospect promotions had left them with too many able-bodied outfielders and not enough playing time for each.  Too much depth at any one position is always a better problem to have than not enough, and the Yankees owed it to themselves to investigate every possible outfield candidate to strengthen their platoon-heavy bench this season.  They also owed it to themselves to make sure that their best OF prospects were getting regular playing time at the appropriate level, and this is where the problem could have started.

2013 Season Preview: What We Know & What We Don't Know (The Bullpen)

(Sleep with one eye open... Courtesy of the AP)

As it tends to do every year, the Yankee bullpen came up big in 2012.  As it's never had to do in any year, it came up big without it's best pitcher.  The 'pen situation got thrown into a bit of a tailspin last May when Mo went down with his season-ending knee injury, but was quickly righted by some great work from Sour Puss and D-Rob.  As usual, a rotating cast of under-appreciated middle relievers chipped in and did their thing, and from that group who stepped up last year will come the bulk of this year's bullpen, with the King of all Relievers rightfully re-assuming his place at the throne.  Add a few injury returnees to full-time duty, and the 'pen is looking fully stocked again in 2013.

I'm Still Not Sold On Logan's Elbow

While the AB4AR jinx worked to perfection on Tuesday and pretty much every guy I name dropped in my bullpen post pitched like crap, the one positive bullpen appearance was that of Boone Logan.  It was his first game action of the spring and he looked pretty damn good, pitching a scoreless frame and striking out two of the four lefties he faced.  On the field he looked money, but his response to questions about how his left elbow felt after the game didn't fill me with the same confidence:

“It feels good, period. It really does. I promise."

It's been a while since I've had to use the "I promise" line on people, probably because I'm still single and haven't had to lie to a girlfriend in years.  But I can tell you from experience that when you're throwing out "I promise" as support that what you're saying is true, that's usually not a good thing.  We've got no choice but to take Logan at his word right now, but he sounds like a guy that would cave under cross-examination to me.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oh Hey, Travis Hafner! Didn't See You Over There. What's Going On, Buddy?

(Courtesy of Reuters)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

When two of the defining storylines of your team's Spring Training are "lack of power" and "injuries" and Travis Hafner is on your team, it's more than reasonable to expect that he's going to factor heavily into those stories.  After all, his calling card at the plate is power and you can pretty much set your watch to him pulling, tearing, or spraining something.  That hasn't really been the case for the Yankees so far this month, as Hafner hasn't been a presence in the lineup so much as a name on the lineup card.  To be honest, I kind of forgot he was even in camp with the team, what with the lack of power and the fact that he's still walking around without limping.

Believe it or not, Hafner is in camp and has actually been playing in games.  He just hasn't done much in those games.  Hafner is just 4-29 this spring, with a single solitary home run and an even dozen strikeouts.  He's still somewhat of a presence in the lineup with four walks, but after Teix and C-Grand went down he became a much more critical part of that lineup.  As of this morning he hasn't given much of an indication that he's ready to be that critical part of the lineup and that's a tad unsettling.

2013 Season Preview: What We Know & What We Don't Know (The Rotation)

(One of these guys is not a starter.  Guess which one.  Courtesy of the AP)

For the first time in years, the Yankees won't enter the season with a bunch of questions to answer about their rotation.  They know who their starters are going to be and they've got a pretty good idea about what they can expect from those starters.  The big questions this year are whether or not the back end of the rotation can take a step up in performance and whether or not the top of the rotation is primed to regress.  Regardless of the answers to those questions, the rotation should be the greatest strength of this year's team and will be looked to to help keep the team competitive while they struggle to put their lineup back together.

Jeter's Ankle Acting Up Already

The good news is that the X-rays came back negative and the MRI showed only mild inflammation, so there's nothing structurally wrong with Derek Jeter's surgically-repaired ankle.  The bad news is that it didn't take long at all for the ankle to start bothering him once he returned to game action.  After just five games, only a couple of them at shortstop, Jeter felt stiffness in the ankle during BP yesterday and was scratched from the lineup.  Joe initially described the ankle as "cranky," but there was enough concern for the Yankees to send Jeter to the doctor to have the ankle evaluated and based on that evaluation they are officially calling him day-to-day.

With over a week before the start of the regular season, the most important thing right now is making sure Jeter is alright and the priority should be giving him the time he needs to relieve the inflammation.  Looking big picture, though, this could set a tough precedent for how Jeter has to be handled this season and how Joe will have to juggle the lineup to ensure he gives Jeter enough time to rest.  Five games with a day of rest in between each wasn't enough to keep the ankle from acting up and there aren't any regular season stretches with that much rest time built in.

The more Jeter has to be held out of the lineup to rest the ankle, the more Eduardo Nunez has to play shortstop and that's just not a good thing.  The Yanks are also light on right-handed DH options right now and I'm sure Joe was planning to use that spot as a way to get Jeter some quasi-off days.  Having to be held out because of ankle issues this early in the year not only brings Jeter's already uncertain production capability into further question, it also raises greater concerns about his ability to even stay on the field once the regular season starts.

** UPDATE 12:06 PM- Cash confirmed earlier that Jeter received a cortisone shot in the ankle today and said it's possible Jeter could start the season on the DL.  Not surprising, but definitely disappointing.  Let Nunez Watch 2013 begin. **

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chamberlain, So Hot Right Now. Chamberlain

(Courtesy of the AP)

Guy.  That's awesome.  Re-sign this man now!

/stands and applauds

2013 Season Preview: What We Know & What We Don't Know (The Outfield)

(Courtesy of the AP)

The Yankee outfield to start the 2013 is going to look a lot different from the one we've been used to seeing.  Their center fielder is on the shelf for at least the first month of the regular season, their left fielder is making a return to everyday duty after playing in just 16 games last season, and their new starting right fielder is a far cry from the type of productive two-way player their old one was, whether people want to admit it or not.  There's definitely speed here, and there are definitely the tools to be part of a productive offense, but the degree to which each player will be able to utilize those tools to be productive remains a mystery and all of them come with their own areas of concern.  Looking past the early-season replacement for Curtis, let's take a look at what we know and don't know about the 2013 Yankee outfield.

Possible Spot Opening Up In The Bullpen?

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, and nowhere has that been more true than with the Yankees' injury situations this spring.  Every time something good happens for a player, there seems to be something bad happening to another one to balance things out.  Derek Jeter gets back on the field at shortstop, Mark Teixeira's injury gets a more serious diagnosis.  Phil Hughes throws a sim game yesterday and comes away with no back problems, Clay Rapada remains on the sidelines with bursitis in his pitching shoulder.  Boone Logan throws a bullpen session without pain in his left elbow, but still acknowledges that there's "something" going on there.

The Jeter and Teix situations are pretty set right now, but both Rapada and Logan remain up in the air as it relates to their availability and readiness for Opening Day.  Logan is scheduled to pitch in his first spring game sometime this week while there is no timetable set for Rapada's return, and there could eventually be at least one spot open in the bullpen come April 1st.  As I mentioned yesterday, Cody Eppley isn't lighting the world on fire right now and with the way a few other guys are pitching in camp he's far from a sure thing to get Logan or Rapada's spot if they become available.  Who else could sneak in and steal a spot on the Opening Day roster?  Glad you asked.

Hughes Throws Sim Game, Getting Closer To Returning

(Cultivating that much mass will put stress on anybody's back)

While the latest on Mark Teixeira's injury wasn't good, Phil Hughes took a step forward towards his comeback from a bulging disk yesterday by throwing a 2-inning simulated game at the team's MiL complex.  Hughes threw roughly 40 pitches and came away from the session saying both his back and his arm felt good.  The next step is an actual game appearance, which could come in a MiL game on Saturday.

The Yankees will need a fifth starter on April 7th, so that's obviously what Hughes and Larry Rothschild are working towards right now.  If he can get a couple of games under his belt and not have any more problems with the back he should be in line to make that start on April 7th, albeit with what will certainly be a strict pitch count.  If it's determined he isn't ready, the Yankees already have a backup plan available in David Phelps and both Rothschild and Joe have said they aren't interested in sending Hughes out there if he's not 100%.  Better to sacrifice one start if it gives him a better chance of making 30.

Monday, March 18, 2013

2013 Season Preview: What We Know & What We Don't Know (The Infield)

("Hey, old guys!"  Courtesy of J. Conrad Williams, Jr./Newsday)

The Yankee infield has been the nerve center of the team for the last 4-5 years now.  Whether you were talking money, production, or name recognition, it was hard to argue that any group of players on the roster carried more weight than the Teixeira-Cano-Jeter-Rodriguez foursome.  In 2011 that started to change, as A-Rod really started to break down, Jeter continued to battle his age-related decline, and Teix had his third straight year of regressed offensive performance.  Things got worse last year when Teix and A-Rod both had more problems with injuries and further decline, and the positive of Jeter rebounding was negated to some degree by the season-ending broken ankle that many believe will hinder him in 2013.

This group carries most of its weight in the salary and name recognition categories only these days, and that could pose a serious problem to the Yankees' contention and payroll plans for the near future.  So as we're left to wonder what A-Rod has left in the tank and how much Teix's power will suffer as a result of his wrist injury, let's dive in and start figuring out what we do and don't know about this group.

Spring Training Midpoint Winners And Losers

(Courtesy of Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

It's been two weeks since my initial "Winners & Losers" post and a lot has changed since then.  Every starting pitcher slated to be in the rotation or in competition for a rotation spot has pitched at least one spring outing, every position player physically able to plat right now has gotten into at least a few games, and there are a few new faces in the locker room to make up for the guys who've been reassigned.  It's not exactly the true midpoint of spring camp, that would have been last week, but with just two weeks left before the games start to count and a much smaller pool of players to evaluate, this seems like the perfect time to see whose stock is rising and whose is falling.

Teix's Wrist Injury Could Keep Him Out Longer

(Courtesy of the AP)

Mark Teixeira returned to camp yesterday morning and plans to remain with the team through the rest of Spring Training.  He is wearing a brace on his injured wrist and has still yet to be cleared to begin one-handed swinging exercises, but that's not the big news that came from yesterday's appearance.

The big news is that the diagnosis of his injury has changed.  What was first called a strained ECU tendon in his right wrist is now being called a tear of the tendon sheath.  When meeting with the media yesterday, Teix reiterated that the tendon itself is fine and not the problem, but the source of the injury now shifting to the tendon sheath could end up being worse news for him and the Yankees.  This is the exact same injury that Jose Bautista suffered last year and ended up with him having season-ending surgery when his attempts to come back quickly resulted in re-aggravation of the injury.

Teix and the Yankees have stated that there are no plans to rush Teix back and they are still planning on going the no-surgery recovery route.  That typically results in a 70% chance of full recovery, but the key is making sure that enough time is allowed for that full recovery to take place.  Teix is still on an 8-10 week timetable and May is being looked at as the earliest he could return, with early June now looking more likely.  Bad news for Teix and the team in the short term, but if it ends in a full recovery it will be worth it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Opening Day 25-Man Roster Prediction

I've done some predictions for roster spot contenders, but nothing on the actual 25-man roster yet.  Good thing too because all of them would have been rendered meaningless after the injuries to C-Grand and Teix.  But with it being just two weeks from Opening Day and the ST roster getting cut down more and more every couple days, the outline of the real roster spot contenders is starting to become more clear.  We know who's not going to be ready (C-Grand, Teix, A-Rod), we know who is after this week of in-game appearances from Jeter, Mo, Andy, and CC, and there's one guy who's still not a guarantee one way or the other in Phil Hughes.  That's enough for me to make a pretty good educated guess, so here's the first attempt at predicting the 25-man roster we'll see on Opening Day.

2013 Storylines Recap, Knowns/Unknowns Preview

Week 1 of the 2013 AB4AR Season Preview is in the books, and I thought it was a pretty good one.  I mean, at least nobody else got hurt, right?  If you missed any of the "2013 Storylines" series and are too lazy to just scroll down the page, and seeing as it's the weekend I wouldn't blame you if you were, I was kind enough to put the entire series right here in one convenient post.  Catch up at your leisure.

- Contending On A Budget

- Shoring Up The 2014 Rotation

- Walking Wounded Alert

- All About Robbie Cano

- End Of An Era

Tomorrow, we move into phase 2 of the season preview with the third year of the "Knowns/Unknowns" series.  Every day I'll take a look at a specific part of the roster (infield, outfield, rotation, bullpen, bench) and look at what we know about that group of players heading into the season and what we don't.  It's a good way to gauge where the team is right now and what could change once the season begins.  Knowns/Unknowns starts tomorrow afternoon with the 2013 infield.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lame Duck Joe

(Angry Joe pictures never get old.  Courtesy of Rick Osentoski/US Presswire)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

While Hal breaks traditional Yankee business rules to start contract negotiations with Robinson Cano, it bears reminding that there is another key piece of the puzzle entering this season in the final year of his current contract- manager Joe Girardi.  This season will be Joe's sixth at the helm of the Bronx Bombers and other than the one post I wrote on the subject a while back, there doesn't seem to be much discussion anywhere about his future with the organization and where the front office should put re-signing him on the priority list.

Yanks Sign Brennan Boesch

I don't get this move.  I really don't.  Brennan Boesch doesn't profile as the type of hitter that fits the Yankee system in any way, and he's not a run saver on defense.  I know the outfield competition in camp wasn't full of blue chippers, but there isn't anything that Boesch does better than anybody who was already on the Yankee ST roster.  He was released by Detroit for a reason and the Yankees chose to not only sign him, but to sign him to a guaranteed Major League deal worth $1.5 million plus incentives that will require them to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

More thoughts after the jump.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 3/15/13

St. Patty's Day being on a Sunday this year is a huge bummer.  Mega huge.  I can't even get excited about going out for it this year because it's on a Sunday.  Two years ago I wouldn't have given a crap.  I woulda been up at the crack of dawn, drinking in the shower at 5, and happily skipping through the streets in shorts and sandals despite the fact that it's probably only going to be 25 degrees in Milwaukee.  Now that I'm 27 and finally becoming (unwillingly) an adult, all I can think about is how I don't want to be a hungover mess at work on Monday.  Mondays suck balls as it is.  A post-St. Patty's hangover Monday would be enough to put me on suicide watch.  Taking a half-day would be an option, give me a few more hours to sleep and get my shit together, but then who wants to go into work at noon?  And I'm definitely not wasting a whole vacation day just to avoid being hungover at work.  What kind of American would that make me?  St. Patty's should be like Thanksgiving.  No set date, just the last Thursday of every March.  That would be sweet.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, Chad Jennings of LoHud had a little piece on Larry Rothschild's rehab scheduling plan for Phil Hughes and the secrecy with which he's executing it.

- Greg Corcoran of Bronx Baseball Daily picked Austin Aune as his MiL breakout candidate for 2013.

- Sgt. Al Powell (best moniker on the site) of NoMaas put a new face on Lady Liberty and gave her a new meaning in light of the Yankees' early-week attempts to find some corner IF depth.

- On Tuesday, Chris Mitchell of Pinstripe Pundits took a really interesting look at how the minimal value of the Stewart-Cervelli catching tandem could be maximized.  Kudos to Chris for thinking of something I never could have and for perfect usage of the phrase "slightly less terrible."

- El duque of It Is High... wondered if Yankee fans have been overlooking Thomas Neal as a viable outfield option.  Neal has flown way under the radar, but has definitely performed well.

- On Wednesday, Matthew B of Yankees Fans Unite weighed in on the Nova-Phelps 5th starter competition.

- Alex Pugliese of Yanks Go Yard reflected on Mariano Rivera's career and undeniable one-of-a-kind nature with which he carried himself.

- On Thursday, Mike Axisa of RAB discussed the importance of saving runs in the early part of the season, and suggested a trade option the Yankees could pursue to help improve their infield defense.

- Steven Goldman of Pinstriped Bible had a pretty sobering take on the Ben Francisco acquisition.  Sobering, but true (sigh).

/daydreams about Nick Swisher

- Erica Morales of Bleeding Yankee Blue cast her vote for who she wants to see at third base.  Spoiler alert- it's Ronnier Mustelier.

- SG of RLYW continued his stellar season projection series with Brett Gardner.  I have to say that I would be psyched to get a 3-WAR season from Gardner this year.  What does that say about this team?

- On Friday, EJ Fagan of IIATMS/TYA asked if there is a systematic flaw in the way we're evaluating Yankee pitching and hitting prospects.

- Kate Conroy of Lady Loves Pinstripes offered up her predictions for the 2013 season.  I can't say I'm thrilled with her prediction for the Yankees, but I also can't totally disagree with it.

For this week's jam, we're going old school with "Young Lust" by Pink Floyd.  I'm definitely going to need a dirty woman to brighten my spirits on Sunday, and on St. Patty's Day in downtown Milwaukee, they shouldn't be too hard to find.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.  Stay safe if you're going out partying.

2013 Storylines: End Of An Era

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

While the main focal point of this season will and rightfully should be Robinson Cano, and as the front office decides how much they want to pay to usher in the Robinson Cano Era of the Yankees, there is another era that will be ending after this season.  It started with the retirement of Jorge Posada, but the un-retirement of Andy Pettitte kept the Core Four flame burning.  Now with Mo set to retire after this year, Andy following him out the door, and Derek Jeter entering the twilight of his career, the final chapters of the Core Four Era will be written and the book will be closed.