Tuesday, September 3, 2013

AB4AR "Best Of The Month" Awards: August 2013

It seems like it's been a while since we've started one of the "best of the month" posts on a positive note.  That's because it has.  May and July were kinda "blah" months and June was a disaster.  To be fair, the Yankees' 16-12 record in August doesn't stand out as overwhelmingly good.  Their stumbling, bumbling start to the month has a lot to do with that.  Now that they've got some more guys healthy and have an everyday lineup that's more befitting of the team's reputation, things are on the upswing and the Yankees closed the month of August in much better shape than they were when they started.  They're back in the playoff hunt, they're as healthy as they've been all year, and they had a month chock full of great performances and great moments.  See the best of the best after the jump.

Have A Year, J.R. Murphy

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

When he stepped into the batter's box in the bottom of the 8th yesterday, J.R. Murphy helped set a new Yankee franchise record by becoming the 52nd different player used this season.  It wasn't just a throw-away at-bat either.  Murphy patiently worked a 3-1 count before lining a hard hit groundball single through the left side for his first career Major League hit in his first career at-bat.  He got to be a part of Yankee team history while adding to what has already been a very big year for him personally.  With the season he's already had in the Minors, the call up, and the hit, Murphy has thrust himself into the conversation for top organizational prospect and put himself firmly on the map to not only secure a 40-man roster spot and avoid being exposed to the Rule 5 Draft after this season, but to make next year's Opening Day roster.

What To Do With Hughes Now?

(Courtesy of the AP)

Thanks to his gross ineffectiveness in his 9 previous starts, the Yankees elected to push Phil Hughes back to yesterday, preventing him from pitching in a meaningful game against an AL Wild Card competitor over the weekend.  Strategically it was a smart decision, although the same argument could be made for CC Sabathia, and it almost paid off in spades when the Yankees came within 9 outs of sweeping the Orioles.

Now they face the same dilemma with Hughes heading into this weekend's big series with Baahhhhhston and yesterday's rain-shortened outing did nothing to move the confidence needle in either direction.  Yes, it was Hughes' first scoreless outing since May and we should all be very proud of him for that, but his overall body of work this summer still isn't nearly good enough to trust him with the ball in an important game.  If he wasn't good enough to pitch against the O's, why would he be good enough to pitch against a team 8 games better than the O's?

Impressive Debut For Cesar Cabral Yesterday

September roster expansions means guys getting first looks in the Majors and Joe used garbage time yesterday to get a few players their first taste Major League action.  The most notable of MLB debuts was that of Cesar Cabral.  The 2012 Rule 5 pick worked a scoreless inning in the top of the 8th, allowing 1 base hit and striking out 2 on 13 pitches.

It wasn't exactly the heart of the order, if there even is one of those in the White Sox lineup these days, but Cabral looked very good in his short appearance.  Of those 13 pitches, 11 of them were strikes and 4 of those strikes were swinging.  Both of his strikeouts were against the left-handed hitters, and Cabral displayed a fastball-slider-splitter trio of pitches that he could get over the plate for called strikes and then throw down in the zone to get swings and misses.  As far as 1-inning appearances go, it was as impressive a small sample debut as you could ask for.

Cabral looked like a favorite for a bullpen job coming out of spring camp in 2012 before his elbow fracture derailed his momentum.  The Yankees keeping him around this season while he rehabbed shows how highly they think of him, and with Boone Logan set to hit the free agent market after this season Cabral could work his way into the leading contender spot to take over that role.  Expect to see a lot more of Cabral this month after what he did yesterday.

Game 137 Wrap-Up: NYY 9 CHW 1

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Now that's how you're supposed to play against the Chicago White Sox.  The last time the Yankees faced them, things didn't go so smoothly.  That wasn't case yesterday, weather notwithstanding, as the Yankees made quick work of an inferior opponent and did it without Phil Hughes gumming up the works.  Hughes, pushed back from his originally scheduled Sunday start, didn't last long in the game thanks to rain.  The bullpen crew behind him and a big 4th inning made it easy going for the Bombers in yesterday's series opener.

Game Notes:

- Hughes' outing lasted all of 1.1 innings.  He worked a scoreless top of the 1st, got 1 out in the 2nd, and then the rains came.  A Derek Jeter RBI single in the bottom of the 1st got him the lead, but he wasn't around long enough to get the win.

- The rains came and knocked both Hughes and Jose Quintana out.  David Huff replaced Phil and did another very good job in long relief.  He worked 5.2 innings of 1-run ball to save the bullpen aces from having to work and did enough to continue to debate over whether or not he should take Hughes' spot in the rotation.

- Things didn't work out so well for Chicago reliever Dylan Axelrod, who got absolutely trucksticked in the 8-run bottom of the 4th.  The inning started with 7 straight Yankees reaching base, including a 2-run Austin Romine single, and when the dust cleared the rout was on.  Chicago helped their own demise with some shoddy defense, and the Yankees didn't waste the extra outs.

- The White Sox got their lone run on a Paul Konerko solo HR in the top of the 7th, the only blemish on Huff's ledger.

- The benches got emptied in the late innings, and that gave everyone their first look at Cesar Cabral, who struck out 2 in a scoreless top of the 8th.  That fastball-slider combo is legit.

- It also gave J.R. Murphy an unexpected first career Major League at-bat in the bottom half of the 8th, and in a cool career moment for him he singled after working a 3-1 count.  Definitely no prospect in the entire system who did more to improve his stock this year than Murphy.