Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Market Heating Up For Hughes (Updated)

It's been deathly silent on the Phil Hughes market for at least a week now, but things are finally heating up in the final hours before the deadline.

Bob Nightengale first reported that the Yankees had started receiving offers for Hughes a little while ago.  Chris Cotillo has followed up on that by reporting that 2 offers are in already and the Yankees are working to make a move.  There's only a few hours left before the deadline, so if something happens it'll have to come together very quickly.  More on this story as it develops.

** UPDATE 2:43 PM- Joel Sherman reporting that the Braves talked to the Yankees about Hughes but a deal is unlikely in these final minutes. **

** UPDATE 3:17 PM- That's it.  Nothing.  No moves for Hughes or Michael Young, who was also a hot rumored name in the final few hours.  Yankees will stand pat with Soriano and their returning players.  Cash scheduled to address the media in a few minutes.  **

All Quiet On The Trade Front

We're now just a handful of hours away from the non-waiver trade deadline, and as of the time I started writing this post the Yankees remain largely inactive.  They were loosely connected to most of the top available hitters yesterday but really nothing more than checking in on availability.  Since the Alfonso Soriano trade last week they've been incredibly quiet, both as potential sellers and buyers, which brings up the question of what exactly are they trying to do?

Per the ownership-implemented 2014 payroll plan and the questionable way in which they've gone about making moves to plan for it, the Yankees have straddled the line of contender and rebuild candidate all season long.  They're 8 games out in the loss column in the AL east and 3 out in the Wild Card race with a -9 run differential, and as presently constructed don't look all that capable of making a postseason run this year or next year.  One way or another, more activity at the deadline rather than less would have been a good way to push the team into some direction for the future.

And here they are, approaching the deadline with almost nothing going on.  After selling the fanbase on their commitment to a championship-caliber team, the front office appears content to just stand pat, wait for guys like C-Grand and maybe A-Rod to return, and hold their present course for better or worse.  With the markets for Hughes and Joba drying up, it's hard to hammer them for doing so, but the lack of activity now paired with the earlier addition of 2014 payroll for guys like Soriano, Ichiro, and Vernon Wells puts the club in the same "no man's land" position next year that they're in now.  It's all very confusing and it's adding up to a 2014 season that'll be even more frustrating than this one.

Game 106 Wrap-Up: LAD 3 NYY 2

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

The Yankees were back at it on the West Coast last night, taking on the Dodgers in another 2-game series that was unfortunately timed so that they'd get to face both Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.  Chances were good we'd get to see another example of how weak this lineup still is with Andy Pettitte hitting at the bottom of the order, and if he was still without command of his cutter it could have been an ugly night for him on the mound against a dangerous lineup.  Pettitte had himself a nice little start, but it was another offensive blackout that led to the eventual walk-off loss.

Game Notes:

- The Yankees got a great look at the kind of young talent their lineup is missing immediately in the bottom of the 1st when Yasiel Puig doubled to deep center off Pettitte and came around to score on a Hanley Ramirez ribbie single.

- Lyle Overbay was responsible for the first 2 Yankee runs, in 2 completely different ways.  He led off the top of the 2nd with a solo home run, then plated Alfonso Soriano with a groundout in the 4th.

- Pettitte gave up another run on a Juan Uribe HR in the 2nd and didn't look particularly sharp in the first 3 innings.  It took a nice play by Ichiro to nail Ramirez at the plate for Andy to escape the 3rd inning without giving up another run.

- After that 3rd inning, it was like things clicked for Pettitte.  He found his fastball command and the rest of his pitches followed suit, as Andy retired 9 of the next 10 batters he faced through 6 and gave up no more runs through 7.

- Right on cue, the offense went into hibernation as Greinke found his game.  They put just 1 baserunner on in the final 5 frames, an Ichiro double in the 7th that was stranded.  The last 8 Yankees to come to the plate made an out, and only 1 of them got the ball out of the infield.

- Armed with firsthand knowledge of the offense's nothingness, Joe decided to play for extra innings in the 9th.  He went with Shawn Kelley instead of Mo or a second inning of D-Rob and it backfired when Andre Ethier singled, stole second, and scored on a Mark Ellis bloop single to center to win it for the Dodgers.  I thought you were supposed to play for the win on the road?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rotation Not Exactly Pulling Its Weight Right Now

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Just a day and change away from the trade deadline, adding a bat is still the Yankees' top priority.  Adding multiple bats would be an even better priority.  The Yankee lineup is still terribly weak after the Alfonso Soriano trade, not nearly good enough to be competitive night in and night out.  With time running out for the internal help to come back and make a real impact, and a bench full of MiL spare parts, the Yankees need to be aggressive in pursuing options to seriously improve their offense.  As unrealistic as it seems given the way they've played the last 2 months, a 2.5 game Wild Card deficit is not insurmountable.  With little developing on the market for Hughes and Joba, the Steinbrenners have no choice but to buy just to keep up appearances that they're trying to contend.

If the Yankees are going to have any chance of fighting for a Wild Card spot, they need a better offense.  No question about that.  But they could also use a turnaround from the starting rotation.  Over the last 4 weeks, it has slowly devolved into the lineup's co-weakness and become just as big a hindrance to winning games as the lineup's inability to score runs.

Middle Of The Order Has Been (Somewhat) Silent Killer This Season

(Courtesy of the AP)

The "the offense sucks" narrative is no longer the big news it was when the turn started in late May.  It's no surprise anymore that the Yankees can't score runs, don't hit for power, and generally boast some of the weakest 7-9 spots in the batting order in all of baseball, NL included.  But if you're looking for a better explanation as to why they've failed to score a run or 2 when they really need it time and time again this year, look no further than the former heart of the order.

Does Travis Hafner's DL Trip Matter?

(Courtesy of the AP)

It got swept under the rug by the related story of Derek Jeter returning, but Travis Hafner hit the DL on Sunday with a right rotator cuff strain.  He had problems with the same shoulder earlier in the year, and it finally got bad enough where the decision was made to DL him, removing a powerful lefty bat from the lineup.  Well, in theory that's what it did.  In actuality, it cleared some dead weight from the middle of the lineup and actually gave Joe a chance to insert a potentially more productive bat.

Bud Out For Blood With A-Rod

The Alex Rodriguez/Biogenesis case gets more cutthroat by the minute.  The latest news, via The NY Daily News, is Bud Selig's reported plan to invoke the rarely-used "power of the commissioner" to ban A-Rod based on the always fun grounds of the game's integrity.  Coming on the heels of last night's report that MLB was now seeking to punish and suspend A-Rod for violating the terms of the CBA and not the drug rules to block his appeal, it's pretty obvious that this whole case has turned into Bud's personal witch hunt against A-Rod.

Whether you believe Rodriguez is deserving of this type of persecution and punishment, and your reasons for those believes, is your opinion and that's fine.  I certainly am not going to sit here and try to defend the guy for repeatedly cheating, repeatedly lying about it, and being dumb enough to get caught multiple times.  But the lengths MLB has gone and is still going to to get A-Rod out of the game, and the swerves they're pulling to avoid the standard procedures for these types of cases that they created are completely ridiculous and based in nothing more than Bud's desire to make a real impact on steroids before his term is up.  After willingly turning his eye to it like everybody else, he's out to make A-Rod his white whale and he's stacking the deck to make sure he nails him.

We'll see where the story goes today, but it doesn't look like it's going anywhere good for Alex.  More and more it looks like the book is being closed on his playing career, one way or the other.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Phelps Gives Yankees Added Deadline Flexibility

(Courtesy of Michael Mancuso/The Times of Trenton)

With the trade deadline just 2 days away, one player who doesn't have a clear role as either a part of the roster or a trade chip is David Phelps.  Earlier today we updated Phelps' rehab status as he works his way back from a forearm strain, and he's scheduled to make his next appearance for Double-A Trenton tomorrow night.  What happens after that outing is anybody's guess.  Neither Cash nor Joe have committed to a role for Phelps once he's ready to be activated from the DL.  They're certainly not guaranteeing that he would return to the starting rotation, nor should they with how well Ivan Nova has pitched.  With what they might still be trying to accomplish on the trade market, perhaps the Yankees are waiting to make a decision on Phelps until after the deadline passes.

So About Those Home Runs Yesterday

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

When Derek Jeter hit his solo HR in the bottom of the 1st yesterday, he didn't just add one more highlight to his career reel.  He did something, or should I say somethings, that hadn't been done by a Yankee hitter in way too long.  That homer yesterday was ...

  • The first by a Yankee hitter period since the All Star break, a span of 9+ games dating back to the 7th inning of their game against the Twins on July 14th.
  • The first by Jeter since September 9, 2012, when he hit one as the DH against the Baltimore Orioles.
  • The first by a Yankee right-handed hitter since June 25th, when Jayson Nix homered off Yu Darvish.  That's a span of 477 PA in 28 games over more than a calendar month between righty HR.

When Alfonso Soriano snuck his 2-run homer off the right field wall in the 3rd, that span stretched back to May 23rd to find the last time the Yankees got 2 right-handed homers.  Think about that.  Prior to yesterday's game, the Yankees had hit just 2 right-handed home runs in over 2 months (and 900+ PA).  Yesterday they did it in less than 3 innings.

Helluva moment for Jeter, helluva game for Soriano, and a helluva win for the team.  But let those numbers serve as a reminder that this offense is still far from out of the woods.  It's going to be better with Jeter and Soriano in it, but there's still a long way to go.

P.S.- Soriano's HR was his first as a Yankee since September 28, 2003.  Wow.

MiL Rehab Roundup: 7/29/13

Another Monday, another round of rehab updates.

Jayson Nix- Was in the clubhouse before yesterday's game and will be activated from the DL to play third base in Tuesday night's series opener against LA.  He played in 4 rehab games, mostly with High-A Tampa, and went 1-14 with 1 BB, 1 HBP, and 2 K in those games.  David Adams has already been optioned back to Triple-A to clear a roster spot.

Michael Pineda- Made another shortened start for Triple-A last night, going 4 innings and giving up 2 ER on 3 H with 0 BB and 3 K.  He threw just 55 pitches in the game, so the team's innings management plans look to be in full effect.

David Phelps- Made a rehab start for Double-A Trenton last Tuesday and came through fine after allowing 2 ER with 3 BB and 6 K in 3.2 innings.  He threw a bullpen for the Yankee coaches on Friday and is scheduled to make another rehab start tomorrow.  His rehab window doesn't expire until August 22nd.

Curtis Granderson- Went 0-4 with 2 K as the DH for High-A Tampa yesterday, his 3rd game back on this latest rehab assignment.  Via Nicholas Flammia, the plan is for C-Grand to work out at the complex today and then join Double-A Trenton on Tuesday.  Joe has hinted that Granderson could be back as early as this coming weekend.

Francisco Cervelli- Had been progressing in his throwing and hitting drills before feeling some soreness in his hand late last week.  He's being re-evaluated and could be held out for a while as a precaution.  Starting to look like we might not see Frankie back this year.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Game 105 Wrap-Up: NYY 6 TB 5

(Courtesy of the AP)

Alfonso Soriano back in the mix on Friday, Derek Jeter back in the mix on Sunday, Hideki Matsui back in The Stadium to officially retire as a Yankee.  It was a regular early 2000s Yankee reunion in the Bronx this weekend!  All kidding aside, getting Jeter back and adding another good righty bat to the lineup is a big deal for the Yankees and it could be an even bigger deal if he can stay healthy, be productive, and bring a little life to this ballclub and The Stadium.  The Captain did just that and more today, starting things off with some vintage Jeter fireworks and, along with Soriano, sparking the Yankees to a much needed victory in the finale of this tough 10-game post-ASB stretch.

Game Notes:

- So yeah, about those fireworks.  Jeter stepped in against Tampa starter Matt Moore in the bottom of the 1st and hit the first pitch he saw - a belt-high fastball - just over the fence in right field for a solo HR.  It was another storybook moment in a career full of them and it led to 2 more runs on 3 more hits in the inning.

- Unfortunately, Phil Hughes wasn't up to the task of holding a lead today.  He gave up a run on an RBI double in the top of the 2nd, then a 3-run HR to new Yankee killer in the making Wil Myers in the 3rd to turn the 3-0 lead into a 4-3 deficit.

- Not to be defeated by Hughes' suckiness, Jeter and Soriano went back out in the bottom half and regained that lead.  Jeter led off with an infield single and with 1 out, Soriano hit a Moore fastball out to right for a 2-run dinger.

- Hughes gave up another HR to Myers to start the 5th, walked the next hitter, and his day was done after 4 innings.   2 straight outings where he got the quick hook.  Same story as it always is with Phil; he just couldn't command his fastball.

- Things quieted down offensively as the game moved to the late innings.  The Yankee 'pen (Preston Claiborne, Boone Logan, David Robertson, Mariano Rivera) was dynamite, allowing just 1 hit and no runs in 5 innings relieving Hughes, and they set the stage for some 9th inning dramatics.

- Brett Gardner worked an 8-pitch walk to lead off the 9th, moved to second on a wild pitch, and after an intentional walk of Jeter and a strike out of Robinson Cano, Soriano came to the plate.  He was looking first-pitch fastball and he hit it back up the middle for the game-winning walk-off single.  Big hit, big moment, big win.

The Captain Returns To The Lineup Today

1) Brett Gardner- CF
2) Derek Jeter- SS
3) Robinson Cano- 2B
4) Alfonso Soriano- LF
5) Vernon Wells- DH
6) Ichiro Suzuki- RF
7) Brent Lillibridge- 3B
8) David Adams- 1B
9) Chris Stewart- C

SP) Phil Hughes

That's the starting lineup for this afternoon's series finale against Tampa.  And while the bottom half of it is still as ugly and most likely as unproductive as ever, there's a familiar name back at the top.  Derek Jeter came through yesterday's sim game without issues, was cleared to play, and is back at his starting shortstop position today.  It's unknown how much he'll contribute, and I'm on the record as being very pessimistic about how the rest of the season is going to play out for him, but with as bad as this team is playing and as quickly as they seem to be going nowhere it's at least something.  He's still my favorite player of all time and he's always going to be.  I hope he can stay healthy and stay on the field for this whole game and the rest of the season.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Game 104 Wrap-Up: TB 1 NYY 0

(Courtesy of the AP)

Alfonso Soriano or no Alfonso Soriano, the lineup supporting Ivan Nova this afternoon didn't look any better than it has in weeks past.  There still wasn't any real support behind Robinson Cano, there wasn't power or patience to be found anywhere, and the bottom third was a fallout zone with Chris Stewart getting the start over a heating up Austin Romine.  The effort by the front office to make this team better isn't there, it hasn't been there since the season started, and that lack of effort was on display again today as the Yankees got completely outclassed by a rookie starting pitcher.

Game Notes:

- Nova could best be described as inconsistently dominant through 5 innings.  He put 2 runners on in the 1st and worked around it by retiring 7 in a row, then did the same to lead off the 4th before striking out the side swinging on curveballs.  He didn't allow any runs either.

- Tampa starter Chris Archer matched him zero for zero, and did it on an unfathomably impressive 49 pitches through 5 innings.  The Yankees were aggressive but didn't manage a single hit off him until a Lyle Overbay single in the 5th.

- Walking the tighrope finally came back to bite Nova in the 6th, when a 2-out walk put 2 runners on.  Kelly Johnson singled home a run to put Tampa up 1 before Nova got another K to end the inning.

- Brett Gardner hit a 2-out ground rule double to left for a spark of offensive life in the bottom of the 6th, but Ichiro waved at a 2-strike fastball to strand him.  It's really getting pathetic at this point.

- Joe squeezed another inning out of Nova in the 7th then turned it over to the bullpen to keep the game at 1 run.  David Robertson and Shawn Kelley (next year's closer-setup man tandem??) did just that with 2 scoreless frames and 4 strikeouts.

- Didn't matter.  Archer finished things off himself in the bottom of the 9th - in 1-2-3 order - to secure the complete game 2-hit shutout and do it under 100 pitches.

Cash Says Soriano Trade Was Ownership's Call

("We're paying him HOW MUCH in 2014?"  Courtesy of USATSI)

In a story earlier today for The Post, Joel Sherman reported that the decision to trade for Alfonso Soriano was ultimately ownership's decision and one that GM Brian Cashman did not endorse.  Sherman cites 2 non-Yankee executives who said Cash believed the Yankees' cash and prospect assets could be better spent than on Soriano.  While not directly confirming the report, Cash's lengthy statement to The Post in response was telling:

“I would say we are in a desperate time. Ownership wants to go for it. I didn’t want to give up a young arm. But I understand the desperate need we have for offense. And Soriano will help us. The bottom line is this guy makes us better. Did ownership want him? Absolutely, yes. Does he make us better? Absolutely, yes. This is what Hal wants, and this is why we are doing it.”

It's cleverly stated so that he's not saying anything negative about Soriano or being dishonest about the Yankees' position, and kudos for that.  But that last statement tells the whole story and it's one that continues to be told about the Yankee front office this year.

No Jeter Today, But Maybe Tomorrow

Derek Jeter is eligible to come off the DL today, but won't do so.  Joe informed the media of that decision after last night's game, even though Jeter told reporters Friday that he felt ready to play and reported no problems with his quad (or ankle) after running the bases on Friday.

Instead, the plan, according to Jon Heyman, is for Jeter to play in a simulated game somewhere today and then be activated for tomorrow's game if he comes through the sim game healthy.  That would be a pretty big plus for Jeter and the Yankees after a slow start to his comeback from the quad strain.  Initially the July 27th date didn't even look close to the time he'd be ready to go again.  To only miss by 1 day would be a pleasant surprise, assuming Jeter can stay on the field for more than 1 game this time.

Game 103 Wrap-Up: TB 10 NYY 6

(Courtesy of the AP)

The excitement over Alfonso Soriano's return to New York last night, misplaced as it may have been, didn't last very long.  In fact, by the time he came up for his first at-bat to lead off the top of the 2nd inning, the game was already over thanks to CC Sabathia.  It was another miserable night on the mound for CC, whose lack of command led to 6 runs in the top of the 2nd and a cushion of more than enough runs for Tampa to coast to the finish line.

Game Notes:

- The strangest part about the 2nd inning meltdown was that it came after a sharp 1-2-3 1st for Sabathia, including strikeouts of Evan Longoria and Wil Myers.

- Once the 2nd started, however, it was a completely different story.  Just a constant barrage of fastballs and sliders left up in the zone and then deposited to various parts of the outfield.  3 doubles, 3 singles, a walk for good measure, and 6 runs.  The only reason the inning ended when it did was because Myers got greedy trying to stretch a single.

- The Yanks got a single run in 3rd on an Austin Romine RBI single.  They actually put 4 guys on base in the inning, but couldn't push any more across playing station-to-station baseball.

- CC gave up another run in the 5th and left with 7 earned on his scoring line.  Adam Warren came in to handle the mop-up duty and reserve the rest of the 'pen and gave up 3 runs (all on a 3-run HR in the 7th) in 4 innings of work.

- Give the Yankees credit for trying to make it respectable.  They tacked on 2 in the 8th and 3 in the 9th after Tampa starter Jeremy Hellickson left.  David Adams had an RBI single in each inning.

- If you're wondering about Soriano, he went 0-5 with a R scored and an RBI on a groundout in the 9th.  He left 6 men on base hitting from the cleanup spot, so clearly he's already got right back into doing things the Yankee Way.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 7/26/13

Well it's official, gang.  Operation "Finally Get Brad's Sorry Ass to the New Yankee Stadium" is underway.  The series has been settled on (Friday 9/6 through Sunday 9/8 vs. the Sawx; couldn't do the full 4 games), the flight has been booked, and 2 of the 3 games' tickets have been purchased.  Not sure how or if I'm even going to attempt to work that weekend into the blog, but I'll try to think of something that doesn't have at least a 75% chance of me standing over a beer-soaked laptop cursing at myself.  The important thing is I'll finally get to see it, I'll never have to say I've never been again, and if I'm lucky I'll get to see Mo pitch live one more time.  Good stuff.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, el duque of It Is High... threw in the towel on the season and started musing on some interesting seller trade possibilities.

- William Juliano of The Captain's Blog looked at the historically bad drop-off in power for this year's team, if you wanted to know just how bad it really is.

- Derek Albin of Pinstripe Pundits made a very compelling case for a player I don't think I've seen mentioned as a trade target anywhere else.

On Wednesday, Mike Axisa of RAB discussed Robinson Cano's new contract in the context of Dustin Pedroia's extension and showed how there's little to be determined there.

- Martin Riggs of NoMaas pointed out the recent struggles of the rotation and how that's not exactly helping the weak lineup's cause right now.  The starting pitching has been much better since this post.

- Alex Pugliese of Yanks Go Yard explained why it's time to start worrying about CC Sabathia.  If the big fella doesn't turn it around tonight, I might have to agree.

- On Thursday, Jesse Schindler of Pinstriped Bible asked if Travis Hafner could be down to his last days as a Yankee.  With the way he's hitting, I wouldn't mind at all if he was.

- Michael Eder of IIATMS/TYA argued that the idea of a "rebuilding year" for the Yankees is not something they'll likely consider.

- On Friday, Chad Jennings of LoHud had the latest updates and video of Derek Jeter's rehab situation.  Sounds like Saturday could be a possibility for him.

- Daniel Burch of The Greedy Pinstripes, fresh from the Yanks officially adding Soriano, looked ahead to his next trade target.

- SG of RLYW, also fresh from the Soriano addition, looked back at the move and the big picture to explain why he hates the trade.

This Friday's jam is "Bagboy," the new song from The Pixies and the first new song they've released in almost forever.  New stuff from The Pixies is never a bad time.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

Signs Of Life From Romine

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

To say Austin Romine was the surprise offensive star of the game yesterday would be more than appropriate.  He's swung the bat horribly since being called up and even after yesterday's big game his season batting line still stands at just .193/.212/.277 (.215 wOBA).  Yet there he was, getting his second start behind the plate in 3 days and going 3-4 with a pair of doubles and a run scored.  Add in his 1-3 day with another double, run scored, and RBI on Tuesday and it was a nice little series for Romine, who's quietly putting up a very good month in July in incredibly limited playing time.  He's still at just 87 total PA for the season, but a quick peak at Romine's monthly splits shows that he might be putting some things together.

Soriano Watch 2013 (Updated)

(Courtesy of US Presswire)

You'd think the Yankees were getting Alfonso Soriano in his prime the way it's getting covered right now.  That's how bad this offense is.  It's kinda funny actually.

The talks heated back up yesterday and Soriano was scratched from the Chicago lineup last night.  Manager Dale Sveum confirmed to the local media that a trade to New York was nearly complete, and according to Paul Sullivan, Soriano flew back to New York late last night, presumably to be in town for tonight's home game.  The hold up over the past few days was probably about money, and this morning Joel Sherman reported that the Yanks will pick up between 8-12 and the $25 million owed to Soriano.

As for the return trade piece, Buster Olney said yesterday that it was going to be a low-level pitching prospect.  There's no official confirmation of who that player is, but Sherman threw Corey Black's name out there.  Expect this deal to be announced sometime today with the missing bits of information filled in.

** UPDATE 8:32 AM- ESPN NY reporting that Soriano has officially waived his no-trade clause and the trade is official.  Cubs picking up $17.7 mil of the remaining money and the Yanks the other $6.8, $5 mil of which they will pay next year. **

** UPDATE 10:20 AM- Sherman now confirming that Corey Black will be the return trade chip.  Bit of a bummer to lose him.  He's got plus stuff and was pitching well this year.  Long-term he probably projects as a middle reliever for the Yankees though, so no major loss. **

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Game 102 Wrap-Up: NYY 2 TEX 0

(Courtesy of the AP)

It hasn't been a strong stretch to the most important 10-game stretch of the year so far.  The Yankees entered today's series finale in Arlington 2-4 in their first 6 games and losing a third to the Rangers would have put them in a really bad spot heading home to face the red hot Rays.  Naturally, Joe went with quite possibly the worst lineup of the season to date, featuring no Brett Gardner, Brent Lillibridge hitting second, a 4-5-6 of Wells, Nunez, and Adams, and Austin Romine catching.  Needless to say, Hiroki Kuroda needed to be the man today.  He wasn't the man in the traditional sense of dominating the Rangers, but he did what he's done since he got here and won another huge game with a big pitching performance.

Game Notes:

- The leadoff man got on in each of the first 3 innings for the Yanks, and they never came close to doing anything with any of those chances against Texas starter Derek Holland, no slouch in his own right.

- A couple of loud outs early and a 2 on/1 out situation in the bottom of the 3rd for Hirok that he worked out of with a strikeout of Ian Kinsler and a groundout by Elvis Andrus.  At that point, Kuroda seemed to find his command.

- The Yanks wasted another leadoff runner in the 5th and looked ready to strand Romine after he started the 6th with a double.  Ichiro executed a good sac bunt to move Romine, and Lillibridge came through with a ribbie double to give Hirok the only run he would need.

- Kuroda walked a tightrope in the 6th, working around single, single, walk to the first 3 batters of the inning without allowing a run.  He finished up by dispatching the bottom half of the 7th with 3 grounders on 8 pitches.

- Big insurance run in the top of the 8th.  Robinson Cano hit a 1-out double and smallballed his way around to score on a single and a groundout.

- Joe didn't fool around and went with D-Rob and Mo for the 8th and 9th.  They rewarded him with 2 clean innings and rewarded Hiroki with a much-deserved victory.

Next Time On "As The Quads Strain"...

(Previously, tensions rose in Yankeeland.  Courtesy of USA Today)

Brian reveals Alex's betrayal to the agreement:

"Contrary to the Basic Agreement, Mr. Rodriguez did not notify us at any time that he was seeking a second opinion from any doctor with regard to his quad strain."

While Alex tries to smooth things over with his once supportive organization:

“I think the Yankees and I crossed signals. I don’t want any more mixups. I’m excited and ready to play and help this team win a championship I feel great and I’m ready and want to be in the lineup Fri night. Enough doctors, let’s play."

Does anybody mean what they say?  Are they just looking to stab each other in the back again?  Will the threat of a lifetime ban force Alex to make a deal with the devil?  And just what the hell is going on with Derek's legs?  Tune in next time to "As The Quads Strain."

The Price Of Lost Production

52 G, 216 PA, 6 HR, 23 R, 22 RBI, -0.6 fWAR

That's the combined offensive output of Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Kevin Youkilis this season.  The Yankees are paying those 5 guys a combined $95.855 million in 2013, or a cool $443,773.15 per plate appearance, $4.168 million per run scored, or $15.976 million per home run.  It's a horse that's been beaten to death 10 times over, but that's a lot of production to lose for any team and a lot of money being paid to players who aren't helping the team.

Game 101 Wrap-Up: TEX 3 NYY 1

(Courtesy of the AP)

The A-Rod stuff off the field reached soap opera levels of ridiculousness yesterday afternoon, but the Yankees still had a job to do on the field.  Last night that job was against a former familiar face in Matt Garza, the Rangers big deadline pickup.  The opposing lineup looked a lot different, and easier to navigate, to him than he probably remembered, and the Yanks really could have used a bounce back night from Robinson Cano to take the pressure off the rest of the batting order.  Typically they've pounded Garza in the past.  With the lineups they continue to roll out, what's typical means nothing.

Game Notes:

- Tale of the Yankee season in the 1st.  Got the first 2 runners on, had 'em on the corners with 1 out, scored 0 runs in the top half.  Andy Pettitte puts 2 on and gives up a 2-out RBI single to a lefty hitter to make it 1-0 Rangers in the bottom half.

- Wasn't much doing for the Yankee offense after the 1st.  Garza retired 12 of the next 13 batters he faced through the 5th, the only blemish a Cano single to lead off the 4th.

- Garza was his own worst enemy in the 6th, throwing a ball away on a Brett Gardner single that allowed Gardner to get the third base.  Another Cano single got the Yanks on the board and tied the game.

- Andy settled down and put up zeros himself to give the Yankees the chance to tie, then left a slider up to A.J. Pierzynski - the same guy who singled in the run in the 1st - with 2 outs in the bottom of 6th that Pierzynski hit for the go-ahead HR.  Just a crushing blow.

- Pettitte was out after putting 2 on to start the 7th and Shawn Kelley allowed an insurance run on a solo HR in the 8th.  A quiet offensive finish put a bow on another punchless loss.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Did Joe Hurt Hughes' Trade Value Last Night?

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

The main talking point from last night's game, besides the obvious one of how awesome a win it was, was Joe's decision to go to the hook quickly with Phil Hughes in the 6th inning.  With 2 outs, a runner on 1st, a 1-run lead, and Hughes at only 80 pitches, Joe had seen enough and went to Boone Logan to face lefty-hitting Mitch Moreland.  Moreland hit the second pitch he saw from Logan for a 2-run homer to deep center and the lead was blown, setting up the eventual 9th inning dramatics.

Personally, I think Joe made a bad call yanking Hughes and going to Logan when he did.  To me it was a classic case of the matchup binder winning out over what was happening on the field, and I thought the situation on the field gave Hughes (and Joe) enough wiggle room to allow him to face Moreland and take one more shot at ending an inning that should have already been over.  At the same time, I can understand why Joe made the move.  Hughes had given up 2 consecutive hits on balls up in the zone, he hadn't been all that sharp, and if Hughes gives up one more hit to blow the lead everybody is going to be killing Joe today for not going to the 'pen.  It was a lose-lose situation for him either way and unfortunately the decision he made turned out to be the wrong one.

Yanks Taking The "Innings Management" Approach With Michael Pineda. Why Didn't I See This Coming?

A small scare went up last night after Michael Pineda was removed from his latest Triple-A start after just 3 innings.  They were 3 solid innings, with no runs allowed, 3 hits, and 3 strikeouts, and his pitch count was only at 39.  After stating that they wanted to give him more time to stretch out his pitch count, Pineda was done after not even half of that count.  Not a good look.  Any possibility of an injury was quickly shot down by Brian Cashman's explanation that "innings management" was the reason for the early exit.

Of course.  After saying for over a month that I expected Pineda to come back (when he was fully ready) and be immediately inserted into the rotation, I never once considered the possibility of the Yankees actually taking the cautious approach I suggested way back in September of last year.  It's become the new flavor of the month branch-off of the modern "limiting the workload of young pitchers" school of thought, and looking at Pineda and his situation with the Yankees from 30,000 feet, it actually makes a lot of sense.

Jeter Resumes Baseball Activities

On Monday, we were told that Derek Jeter had been standing in a batter's box tracking pitches while guys threw their bullpen sessions.  Not exactly a strong indicator that he was going to be ready to come off the DL on Saturday when he's eligible or that he was even close to returning.  However, yesterday's pregame activities brought much better news as Jeter reportedly hit, took ground balls, and ran in the field during team batting practice.

From not moving and not even swinging a bat to basically full baseball activities in just a few days?  Sounds like it could be another push to get Jeter back on the field as quickly as possible.  You'd think the Yankees would have learned their lesson on that approach by now, but I guess at this point there's really nothing to lose.  It's 100 games into the season and I'm a firm believer that Jeter is going to be bothered by nagging little injuries like this quad strain from here on out.

The team has been getting some contributions from Nunez and Lillibridge lately but they could still use an upgrade.  Jeter can be that upgrade whenever he's cleared to play again so they might as well play him.  If he gets hurt again, at least they've got better backups available than what was there while Nunez was hurt.

Game 100 Wrap-Up: NYY 5 TEX 4

(Phil be bummin'.  Courtesy of the AP)

Blowing leads sucks.  Always has, always will.  It sucks even more when it happens this season because the Yankee offense is so weak it really can't be counted on to make a comeback.  Comeback wins are awesome, especially when they're on the road and in the 9th inning.  The Yankees haven't gotten to experience too many of those games this season due to the aforementioned offensive weakness.  Well Yankee fans got a little taste of both last night, in one of those games that makes you want to fold the tent on the season and one of those wins that leave you with just a little bit of hope that somehow this group can turn it around and make one more run.

Game Notes:

- Nice little 2-run inning for the Yankees in the top of the 3rd, started by Melky Mesa and Austin Romine's back-to-back doubles to lead off the inning.  Ichiro chipped in with an RBI single for the other run.

- They tacked on another in the 4th with some of the smallest smallball you can play.  Leadoff double by Vernon Wells, moved to 3rd on a sac fly, scores on a fielder's choice.  Yankee baseball, ladies and gentlemen!

- Phil Hughes avoided early trouble with a pair of inning-ending double plays and was generally OK through 5 innings.  He put a few guys on here and there but made pitches to get out of trouble.  That's usually a good sign with him.

- Whatever was working for him through 5 fell apart in the bottom of the 6th.  After a Brent Lillibridge error, Hughes gave up an RBI double to Adrian Beltre and an RBI single to Elvis Andrus on pitches left up in the zone, and then just like that his night was over.

- Hughes was only at 80 pitches, but Joe didn't like what he saw and went to Boone  Logan to face Mitch Moreland.  Nobody liked what they saw after Moreland hit the second pitch he saw from Logan for a 2-run homer to give the Rangers the lead.  Really no explanation or justification for Joe's decision there.  He blew it.

- Somehow, someway, after being retired 15 batters straight since the 4th, the Yankee offense managed to come back in the top of the 9th.  Wells got it started with a walk, moved to second on a Joe Nathan wild pitch, and scored on an Eduardo Nunez RBI triple to tie it.  Lillibridge followed up with a single and it was Mo time.

- Strikeout, strikeout, groundout.  12 pitches, 8 strikes.  Day at the office.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Waiting For The Other (Horse)Shoe To Drop

(Courtesy of Steve Nesius)

I've made a point to keep the Alex Rodriguez steroid talk to an absolute minimum on AB4AR.  I think it's boring and I don't think it serves any purpose other than to give the irrational A-Rod haters reason to blab, but in light of what went down yesterday with Ryan Braun and what the implications now are for A-Rod, I think it's appropriate to talk about it now.

Yanks Closing In On Soriano

It's not a blockbuster move by any means, but it's more than the small, replacement-level moves the Yankees have been making all year, so that's something.  According to George King of The Post, the Yankees are close to finalizing a deal with the Chicago Cubs for outfielder and former Yankee Alfonso Soriano.  The Cubs are reported to be paying almost all of Soriano's remaining salary through next season so as not to affect the Yankees' 2014 payroll plans and New York is expected to send back a mid-level prospect in return.

I wrote about Soriano way back in December and touched on him again in February and nothing has really changed since then.  He's hitting .256/.286/.471 (.323 wOBA) with 17 HR this season and has been really hot in the month of July.  He still registers as an above-average corner outfielder and he hits left-handed pitching (.346 wOBA/116 wRC+ in 118 PA against LHP this season).  With the Yankees still starving for righty power, this is a move that makes sense.  It's also one that does little to elicit any real emotion.

On the one hand, the Yankees sound like they're close to addressing a major need and I look like I'm going to be right with at least one of my predictions from last week.  On the other, they'll be adding another 30-something guy on a multi-year deal who's basically a glorified platoon player.  That sheds a little light on what their strategy might be heading towards the deadline and it's not exactly an inspiring move.

Game 99: TEX 3 NYY 0

(Courtesy of the AP)

If you were too distracted by the Ryan Braun stuff and the conspiracy theory wheels turning about what it means for A-Rod, you didn't miss much.  The Yankees pretty much no-showed against a returning Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers in the opening game of this 4-game series.  The fade is really starting to set in with this crew.  If no serious moves are made in the next 9 days, you can put a bow on the season.

Game Notes:

- Tough start for Ivan Nova.  In more ways than 1.  He gave up an RBI single in the bottom of the 1st after a clearly blown safe call on an Ian Kinsler stolen base.  It would be the only run Texas needed.

- Darvish didn't look to be missing anything after his DL trip, or maybe the Yankee lineup just sucks that bad.  The only baserunner he allowed through the first 4 innings was Brett Gardner on a leadoff HBP.

- Actually not a bad outing for Nova.  He was in and out of trouble all night but managed to keep the deficit at just 1 through 5 innings.  If he could have thrown a few more early strikes it could have been a different night for him.

- Nova seemed to tire in the 6th, giving up a second run on a walk and a double, and then came out and surrendered the insurance in the bottom of the 7th when he left a fastball up to Nelson Cruz that Cruz creamed for a HR to center.

- The Yanks put 2 on in the 5th against Darvish, but that was all.  He was out after 6 and they didn't generate anything against the Texas bullpen.  9 innings, 28 at-bats, 3 hits.  All of them were singles.   Pathetic.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Yankees Need More From CC Sabathia

(Looks like a man searching for answers.  Courtesy of the AP)

Stop me if you've heard this one before.  CC Sabathia walks onto a pitching mound, struggles to command his fastball, and gets knocked around for a bunch of hits and runs.  It's been a common theme for CC from his first start this season to last night's stinker and it's starting to become a major problem for the rotation and the team.  His diminished velocity is old news at this point, and whether his command problems are due to natural age-related regression, a change in mechanics, an undisclosed injury, or a combination of the 3 is irrelevant.  What matters is that CC is 21 starts into the season and showing no signs of improving his game as he adjust to life without the plus heater.  In fact, he's gotten worse as the season has gone on.

As The Quads Strain...

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

The Yankees lost an absolute heartbreaker in Boston last night, a game in which their offense surprisingly picked itself up off the mat and climbed back into a game that they probably had no business being in.  If there was a tougher way to send the team off to Texas to possibly watch their postseason lights get turned out, I'd hate to see it.  Look around the locker room after the game and there would have been plenty of worthy candidates for the finger of blame, including the guy in the manager's office, and after a loss like that what is everybody in Yankeeland going to be talking about today?  A couple of old guys with strained quads.

MiL Rehab Roundup: 7/22/13

Another day, another batch of injury updates.  Not even sure if it's fair to call this a "MiL" rehab post since nobody in it is officially participating in any MiL games but whatever.

Derek Jeter- Reportedly stood in the batter's box and tracked pitches against Andy and Phil the other day.  Not exactly strong "baseball-related activities."  No timetable for this return yet.

Alex Rodriguez- Same story.  Official diagnosis is a Grade I quad strain.  All we know at this point is that he's not coming back for the Texas or Tampa series.

Curtis Granderson- Has been taking real BP for at least a few days.  Next step is sim games.

Francisco Cervelli- Has been doing throwing drills for about a week and started taking dry swings with a bat last week.  Still a while away, but no more reported issues with his hand or elbow.

David Phelps- Been throwing bullpen sessions in Tampa without issue.  The plan is for him to make a rehab appearance on Tuesday.

Jayson Nix- Played in a sim game yesterday according to Joe.  Seems like the closest to returning.  Yaaaayyyyyy...

Game 98 Wrap-Up: BOS 8 NYY 7

(Courtesy of the AP)

With the Jeter and A-Rod injury winds howling in Yankeeland, the best thing they could have done was get a win to get out of Boston with a series victory.  They had CC Sabathia on the mound coming off an extended rest over the break, they had the very hittable Ryan Dempster starting for the Sawx, and they had the same lineup that started to get some things going on Saturday out there again.  The talk about what's going on off the field has overtaken the talk about the on-the-field issues over the last few days, which may not be a bad thing for this group.  After last night's results, I think that's probably going to change.

Game Notes:

- It was a quick start for the Yankee offense, thanks to more bad D by the Sawx.  Dempster and Jarrod Saltalamacchia each threw balls away in the top of the 1st that led to 2 runs, but as is usually the case nowadays the rally died in the middle of the batting order.

- CC worked around baserunners in the first 2 innings.  He couldn't work around a Jacoby Ellsbury leadoff double in the 3rd.  Dustin Pedroia singled him in to get Boston on the board and help drive up CC's pitch count.

- His slider was diving off the table, but CC's command of both his fastballs was off and it started to get worse in the 3rd.  He was leaving balls over the plate and up in the zone and it really bit him on a 3-run home run by Mike Napoli to give the Sawx a 4-3 lead.

- While CC continued to get knocked around for 3 more runs through the 5th, the offense disappeared against Dempster.  After needing 50 pitches to get through the first 2 innings, he only needed a handful over 30 to get through the next 3.

- The lineup finally knocked Dempster out in the 6th and pulled within 2 on a bunch of singles.  But for every positive offensive action there is an equal and opposite reaction these days and in the 6th it was a Lyle Overbay first-pitch swinging, inning-ending double play.

- After tying it up in the 7th, the Yankees looked poised to take the game in the late innings.  They left at least one runner on base in each of the final 3 frames, including another Overbay GIDP.

- Bullpen did all they could through 10.  Major props to Shawn Kelley for his work, but it made no sense that he was in before Mo.  It made even less sense that Adam Warren got the ball in the 11th and he gave up the walk-off loser to Napoli.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Trade Deadline Prep Week Recap

The trade deadline is just 10 days.  The Yankees are starting to carve out their position in the market and for once it's not a strictly buyer position.  The immediate and short-term futures of this organization can be changed in the next week plus and there are a lot of things that could play out, some outcomes more realistic than others.  If you missed any of the prep posts from this past week at AB4AR, here they are again:

Monday- The Needs

Tuesday- The Targets

Wednesday- The Rumors

Thursday- The Pipe Dreams

Friday- The Predictions

Problem With A-Rod? (Updated)

As first reported by almost the entire beat writer contingent and just confirmed by the RailRiders themselves, Alex Rodriguez will not be in the lineup today on what was supposed to be the final day of his rehab assignment before being activated off the Major League DL tomorrow.  This comes after A-Rod was forced to DH yesterday instead of playing third base due to tightness in his left quad.  Rodriguez went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts in that game and now it appears that this quad could be more problematic than first thought.

It's too early to tell right now, but all signs are pointing towards A-Rod not being activated for tomorrow's game in Texas.  The Yankees are already going through a tricky quad injury with Derek Jeter and they were quick to put him on the DL on Friday morning when they had the opportunity.  They'd look pretty foolish trying the same thing with A-Rod and having him wind up back on the DL too.  I'm sure we'll get more from the team about this as the day goes on.  I don't expect it will be good news.

** UPDATE 11:58 AM- Via Joel Sherman, A-Rod is going back to NY today to get an MRI on the quad.  Not a good sign. **

** UPDATE 6:55 PM- Directly from the team itself, A-Rod has been officially diagnosed with a Grade I quad strain and will not be traveling to Texas to join the team tomorrow.  He will instead go back to Tampa for rest and treatment, and with his 20-day rehab window expired the Yanks may have to get creative to get him back ready to play. **

Game 97 Wrap-Up: NYY 5 BOS 2

(Yankee defensive play of the game.  Maybe of the year.  Courtesy of the AP)

It was an ugly start to the Yankees' second half on Friday night.  Their starting pitching wasn't great, their offense wasn't good at all, and they dropped another game in the postseason race.  Things got worse earlier yesterday when they lost another player - Zoilo Almonte - to the DL and made some moves to call up more scraps to add to the heap.  They needed something good yesterday to get a little positive momentum going, a win perhaps, and they had the right guy on the mound to help get it done in Hiroki Kuroda.  He showed up in a big way today and in a much appreciated change of pace he got some offensive support on his way to his 9th win of the season (still not enough for Jim Leyland).

Game Notes:

- The offense had a few chances early.  Brett Gardner led off the game with an infield single and got doubled off on an Ichiro lineout, and they couldn't come through with runners on second and third in the 2nd.

- Hirok was up to the challenge of covering them though.  He worked around a HBP in the first thanks to some bad baserunning by Daniel Nava and had his fastball and slider working really well early.

- The Yanks blew another opportunity in the 5th when Eduardo Nunez was thrown out trying to score on a grounder to third.  John Lackey helped redeem them by throwing a wild pitch to move Luis Cruz to second and Gardner capitalized with an RBI single to give New York a 1-0 lead.

- The smallball success continued in the top of the 7th against a tiring Lackey.  Nunez doubled, moved to second on a Chris Stewart groundout, and scored on a single by Cruz.  Another single by Gardner put 2 on with 1 out and 1 in to end Lackey's day.

- Kuroda helped his cause covering the plate on a passed ball in the 5th to keep the game scoreless, then hurt it with a wild pitch in the 7th that allowed a second run to score.  Still, 2 runs in 7 against the Sawx and handing it over to D-Rob and Mo is a job well done.

- D-Rob and Mo handled things easily in the final 2 frames, thanks in part to a spectacular catch-throw double play by Chris Stewart to end the 8th, and the Yanks evened up the series.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A New Roster Move Low Has Been Reached

That's how I feel right now.  Like Lloyd Christmas in "Dumb And Dumber."  When Zoilo Almonte hurts his ankle and hits the DL and his replacement is Melky Mesa and his 36.7% K rate in Triple-A fresh off the Triple-A DL, and Alberto Gonzalez is being DFA'd to clear a spot for the return of Thomas Neal to do the righty DH duties, that's when I've had enough with this dump.  Non-stop injuries and non-stop terrible injury replacements.  It's reaching comically-bad levels of low now.  Just as uninspiring as uninspiring gets.

Joe's Old Mother Hubbard and he's just got nothing in the cupboard.  It wouldn't shock me if A-Rod's entire body just separated from itself in his final rehab AB tonight and one of Jeter's legs fell off.  At least it's not all bad news.  Still got that Overbay-Wells-Hafner trio locking down the 4-6 spots in the order...

P.S.- Yep, absolutely mixed in a slight "Major League 2" reference just lines after the "D&D" one.  And I did it with a hangover, a possible seasonal allergy attack, and a charred hand.  No DL trips for this guy though.  Rub a little dirt on it and get back out there.

Game 96 Wrap-Up: BOS 4 NYY 2

(Courtesy of the AP)

Second half started the same way the first half ended, with the Yankee pitchers giving up untimely home runs to dig a whole for the offense and the hitters doing little to try to climb out.  Same shit, different day.  Do I even need to recap that?

F*ck Yeahs:

- Nobody: Maybe Brett Gardner for scoring a run on his own with a bunch of stolen bases, but he got tossed early for throwing his helmet after a bad third strike call and he didn't get a hit.  Nobody had more than 1 hit.

Oh Nos:

- Andy Pettitte: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.  Another so-so outing for Andy, who looks very much like a 41-year-old pitcher on his last legs and likely will for the remainder of the season.  4 runs shouldn't be a guaranteed loss but it is these days and that's the number of runs he always seems to give up.  Putting his team down 3-0 on 2 early HR in the first 2 innings was not helpful at all.

Next Up:

Second game of the series is this afternoon, on FOX I believe.  Hiroki Kuroda and John Lackey are the starting pitchers.