Saturday, June 22, 2013

Previewing The Short Season Leagues: Rookie GCL Yankees

The GCL season got started last night, with the Yankees now sporting 2 full squads.  You may have noticed that I didn't preview these teams before the season like I did with the Staten Island Yanks, and that's because after botching the Jordan Cote assignment I didn't want to take any more chances misspeaking about players.  The GCL rosters hadn't been announced prior to the start of the season, as is usually the case at this level.  The teams are made up of a combination of the HS guys from last year's draft, new draftees from this year's draft, young international free agent signings, and higher level guys rehabbing injuries.  Now that each team has gotten a game under its belt and we have an idea of what each roster is going to look like, here's what and who you should watch for.

Nova To Start Sunday

The Yankees send their ace out today to try to get a leg up in this 4-game series.  If CC is able to help them get a win today, they'll then be sending their 6th starter out to try to lock down the series victory tomorrow.  Due to the rain delay and Tuesday doubleheader earlier in the week, the Yankees need that 6th starter and it will be Ivan Nova who gets the call tomorrow instead of Kuroda or Hughes on short rest.

Nova has been the forgotten man since hitting the DL in late April.  He's lost his spot in the rotation to David Phelps and looked on the verge of losing the 6th man role until Vidal Nuno tweaked his groin recently.  He last appeared in the Majors in a 5-inning, 1-run relief effort in late May, and since then he's pitched pretty well in the Triple-A rotation (2.04 ERA/2.69 FIP over 17.2 IP in 3 starts).

The message sent by the Yankees in how they've handled Nova since he came off the DL is that they don't have a lot of faith in him, and tomorrow's start is highly unlikely to be anything more than a necessary spot start before he's sent back down.  But with the way Hughes has struggled and with Andy's back always a concern, you never know.  If Nova tosses a gem (also highly unlikely) maybe he forces his name back into consideration with Pineda still a few weeks away.

Game 73 Wrap-Up: NYY 6 TB 2

(Zo, Zo, Zoilo!  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The Yankees have been safely ahead of the Rays in the standings almost since the season started.  At least up until the last few weeks when Tampa started to get it together offensively just as the Yankees started to fall apart.  They entered play last night just a game and a half clear of Tampa with no offensive resurgence in sight.  That didn't stop them from tinkering, as another roster move was made before the game to try to add some slightly better offense and 2 young guys (Adams and Zoilo) were given the keys to the starting lineup again.  For one night at least, it worked.

Game Notes:

- More smallball early from the Yankee offense.  Brett Gardner scored on a Robinson Cano sac fly in the bottom of the 1st after a pair of leadoff walks and Ichiro drove in Austin Romine (who doubled) with a groundout in the 3rd after a Gardner sac bunt to put and keep the Yankees out front through 3.

- David Phelps was pretty good through 2 innings, and then he started to slip a bit.  He lost control of his slider and got hit for a run each in the 2nd and 3rd innings.

- In a very rare turn of events, it was the offense continuing to come through to help Phelps.  After Tampa tied the game again at 2 in the top of the 4th, the Yanks responded with 2 in the bottom half on a trio of singles and 2-out hit by David Adams.

- There was finally some familiar offense when somebody hit a HR in the bottom of the 6th.  And wouldn't you know it, it was Zoilo Almonte who did the honors, with his third hit of the day to make it 5-2.

- About what you'd expect from Phelps.  His tough middle innings upped his pitch count and he hit his limit in the 6th inning.  He didn't allow any more runs though, and finished with just those 2 allowed.

- The bullpen was called on for a lot last night and they responded.  4 guys combined to go 3.1 innings, and they allowed just 1 baserunner combined with 4 strikeouts.  Mariano Rivera finished things off with a 1-2-3 save.