Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tonight's Rainout Notes

By now, you're probably aware that tonight's game has been cancelled due to rain.  The Yanks and Mariners still have to play tomorrow's series finale, but there will be no doubleheader to make up today's game.  The Mariners have a doubleheader scheduled next week as well and didn't want to put the added strain on their starting rotation.  Fair enough.

Instead, the 2 teams will play the makeup on Monday, June 2nd.  Seattle's in the area and both teams have an off-day that matches up.  That spares the Yankees this week.  They would have had to make another move to fill a spot start had they been forced to play 2 tomorrow and they're not exactly flush with starting pitching right now.  The lost off-day will result in them playing 17 straight games for a stretch, but I'll take that over Chris Leroux getting a start in a New York Yankee uniform.

As for the current rotation plans, the Yanks will use the day off today to skip over David Phelps' spot in the rotation and pitch Hiroki Kuroda on regular rest tomorrow in the series finale.  This also works to the Yanks' advantage as 1 less start they have to cover while Pineda's out.  I'll take it.

Why Is Kelly Johnson's Role Shrinking?

(Have you seen this man?  Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Between not finding suitable everyday options for second and third base and finding even fewer for a backup at first base, the general consensus was that Kelly Johnson was going to be an important part of the infield this year.  At the end of Spring Training, he was the starter at third, the backup and perfect world best man for the job at second, and the backup for Teix at first as declared by Joe.  As a guy who'd spent the better part of the last 4 seasons either at second or in left field, that was a lot to handle, and if we're being fair, I think Johnson has done a nice job handling what was asked of him in the first month of the season.  He's played a pretty good third, a decent first, and he's provided the left-handed pop the Yanks were hoping for when they signed him (4 2B, 3 HR in 69 PA).  So why has he seen his playing time decrease so much in the last 2 weeks?

CC And His Battles With The One Bad Inning

(Courtesy of the AP)

CC Sabathia has made 6 starts in the month of April.  He's pitched 37 innings in those starts and given up 21 earned runs in those innings for a pretty bad 5.11 ERA.  As a whole, CC's performance has been subpar this year, but looking start by start it's been the 1 bad inning that's really killed him.

  • 4/1- 6 IP, 6 ER; 1 bad inning (btm 1st), 4 ER
  • 4/6- 6 IP, 4 ER; 1 bad inning (btm 6th), 3 ER
  • 4/11- 7 IP, 4 ER; 1 bad inning top 6th), 4 ER
  • 4/17- 7 IP, 1 ER; no bad innings
  • 4/24- 6 IP, 2 ER; 1 bad inning (btm 3rd), 2 ER
  • 4/29- 5 IP, 4 ER; 1 bad inning (top 5th), 4 ER
He's had 1 bad inning in 5 of his 6 starts and he's given up 17 of his 21 ER in those 5 innings (30.60 ERA).  In his other 32 IP, he's given up 4 ER (1.13 ERA).  On the one hand, this split shows that Sabathia's overall performance has not been as bad as his ERA would lead you to believe.  On the other, it shows how much CC is struggling to adjust to life as a finesse pitcher.  His bad innings have been defined by an inability to locate pitches down in the strike zone, an inability to put hitters away with 2 strikes, and an inability to finish off innings with 2 outs.  The Yankees need Carsten to be better with Nova and Pineda both on the shelf for the foreseeable future.  To be better, he needs to find a way to limit damage and eliminate the 1 bad inning every time out.

More On Pineda's Lat Injury

In case you missed it late last night, the diagnosis on Michael Pineda is a Grade I strain of the teres major muscle in his back.  He'll be further evaluated by Dr. Ahmad today, but the early estimate from the team was an expected 3-4 weeks out and then rehab appearances after that to build his pitch count back up.  Given how careful they were in managing his shoulder rehab, I anticipate the team will take the same approach here.  We could be looking at 6-8 weeks when all is said and done.

As for the injury itself, it's less severe than a tear of the muscle, which is considered an uncommon injury by the American Journal of Sports Medicine.  Generally, a tear of the teres major tendon takes 3 months to come back from, so a 3-4 week downtime estimate is encouraging given the potential worst case scenario.  The muscle strain is limited to the back, and has no relation to Pineda's previous shoulder injury, although a strain in that area could and usually does manifest itself in upper arm pain and it would be bad for Pineda to alter his pitching mechanics to compensate for that and risk damage to the shoulder.

This injury is definitely not a good thing.  Between the pine tar suspension and this, the Yankees are losing a key part of their rotation in a time where they can least afford to be without him.  It's not as bad as it could have been though, and Pineda will be able to return to the mound this year.

Game 26 Wrap-Up: SEA 6 NYY 3

(Courtesy of the AP)

I don't know why I expected anything different, but Yankee fans decided not to head my advice and showcased their stupidity and hypocrisy for the whole baseball world to see when they booed Robinson Cano heartily last night the first time he stepped to the plate.  The team not doing a video tribute is fine.  These are all grown men, they don't need special little videos made for them to show how great they are.  But the fans not respecting and being thankful for what Cano did in his time here is shameful and I'm a little embarrassed to be a Yankee fan this morning.  If they would have waited for the game to play out, they would have had plenty more to boo for.

Game Notes:

- Mark Teixeira showed he can still turn on a 95 MPH inside fastball on Sunday night, so Chris Young's mid-80s heat should have been no problem.  It wasn't, and Teix deposited one into the right field seats in the 2nd for his 3rd homer of the year and an early 1-0 Yankee lead.

- CC got off to a strong start, retiring the first 2 innings in order on a solid 4-pitch mix.  His fastball velocity looked a tick higher and he was throwing strike 1.

- That early success quickly dissipated over the next 2 innings though.  CC danced around 2 baserunners each in the 3rd and 4th, but he couldn't repeat the luck in the 5th.  3 straight singles loaded the bases and 2 consecutive 2-out hits resulted in 4 Seattle runs.

- The Yankee bats were mostly silent against Young after Teix's yardjob.  They scored 1 run in the 3rd, stranded 2 runners in the 4th, and only managed 3 more hits after that.  2 of them were Ichiro singles.

- Dellin Betances worked out CC's mess in the 6th, but couldn't finish off the 7th and got 2 runs charged to his ledger when Preston Claiborne couldn't pick him up.  A 4-run deficit might as well by 40 when your lineup isn't hitting and the token run in the 9th was nowhere near enough for a comeback.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

More Injuries: Ellsbury And Pineda (UPDATED)

Couple of disconcerting injury-related stories coming out right now.  Jacoby Ellsbury has apparently been bothered by a sore left hand for the last few days and while tests on it came back negative, it's bad enough that he's not in the lineup tonight.

The bigger and potentially worse news is in regards to Michael Pineda.  He reportedly shut himself down after just 1 inning of his simulated start today after feeling tightness in his right lat.  He's going for an MRI and according to Joe, his next scheduled start on May 5th is in jeopardy.

More on these stories as it comes out...

** UPDATE 3:55 PM- Joe told reporters that David Phelps would stay in the rotation if Pineda is unable to make his start on Monday.  Not a good omen for what could come back on this MRI. **

** UPDATE 10:22 PM- Via Erik Boland, Pineda has been diagnosed with a Grade I strain of his teres major muscle.  The team is saying he'll be shut down for 10 days, will be out for 3-4 weeks, and will undergo further evaluation by the team doctor.  This doesn't sound good at all. **

Welcoming Back Robbie Cano

(Dude is rocking some sweet facial hair.  Courtesy of Getty Images)

Does it feel like Robinson Cano has been gone for a really long time to anybody else?  In reality, he's been a non-Yankee for less than a month of his career, but it feels like he's been away forever to me.  He'll make his first trip back to The Stadium tonight when the Mariners come to town for a 3-game series, his first appearance back in front of the Yankee faithful since choosing Seattle and their 3 more years of guaranteed money over the Yankees and their 7-year offer.  Most of the beat guys are trying to stir the pot by writing and tweeting about how the fans should react during Cano's first plate appearance tonight, but to me it's a non-issue.  There's really only one acceptable option for how to treat Cano tonight.

Prospect Stock Watch: April 2014

(Courtesy of Mark LoMoglio/

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

It's been a tough start to the year for the farm system.  With a handful of top prospects missing the start of the season as they recovered from offseason health problems (Slade Heathcott, Greg Bird, Ty Hensley), the Yankees have watched more injuries strike down a significant portion of other recognizable names.  From Nik Turley and Jose Ramirez in Spring Training, to Tyler Austin last week, to the announcement of Jose Campos' season-ending TJS over the weekend, there's seemingly been a top guy going on the DL every few days.  That's created opportunities for other players to step up, but so far nobody has created a bigger name for himself than he already had.  With April 2 days away from ending and the sample sizes growing to an almost meaningful size, here are the guys who've helped and hurt their prospect stock the most in the first month.

Ryan Starts Rehab Assignment

Out since mid-March with a pinched nerve in his upper back, Brendan Ryan took a big step towards his return from the DL this past Sunday when he began his MiL rehab assignment with the High-A Tampa Yankees.  Ryan has started at shortstop in each of the last 2 games for Tampa, going 3-8 with 1 BB and 2 RBI.  I haven't read any specifics on how many innings he played in the 2 games, but I have to think it would have been reported if it was less than 9.

Ryan missed most of Spring Training, so his rehab assignment will not be as brief as Teix's or D-Rob's were.  Joe said he wanted to get Ryan a full compliment of ST plate appearances before calling him up, so 40-50 should do the trick.  That would put Ryan on track for another 8-10 rehab games and a return to the Major League roster in about 2 weeks.  The Yankees are playing without a true backup shortstop for Derek Jeter right now and they've already had to sit him for a few games to rest a tight quad.  Ryan was always meant to be the man for that job, and the sooner he can get back to do it the better.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Off-Day Comes At The Right Time Again

The early April schedule wasn't especially kind to the Yankees from a scheduling standpoint, but since that first 13-game stretch they've actually had one of the more favorable deals in MLB with scheduled off-days on each of the last 3 Mondays.  The timing of those off-days has been a huge benefit in each of the last 2 weeks, as they gave the Yanks an extra day to deal with the losses of Francisco Cervelli and Ivan Nova and extra time off for some older players who needed it to rest some sprains and strains.  They have a few more bumps and bruises after this weekend series and once again the off-day comes up at the absolute perfect time.

- Brett Gardner was held out of last night's game after getting hit by a pitch on the foot on Saturday.  He could have been used in a pinch last night, but this extra day off should have him ready for tomorrow.

- Ditto Yangervis Solarte, who Joe scratched with a sore shoulder before last night's game.  It doesn't sound too serious and right now Solarte is expected to be ready to go tomorrow as well.

- He isn't hurt, but Derek Jeter went without a day off all weekend despite a Friday night/Saturday afternoon schedule in the first 2 games.  He had the quad issue a few weeks back that the day off on the 14th really helped.  A day off his feet today should do his body good.

- Also not injured, but D-Rob has pitched in 3 of the last 4 days and threw 24+ pitches on Saturday and Sunday.  If the Yanks were playing tonight, he probably wouldn't be available.

New York's next scheduled off-day is Thursday, May 8th, when they'll travel from LA to Milwaukee.  The day off today should be enough to prepare them for the next 9-game stretch.

Mixed Results From Teix In His First Week Back

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

The defining image of last night's game was not Masahiro Tanaka walking off the mound after 1 of his 11 strikeouts.  As well as he battled to keep his team in the game against Garrett Richards, the most memorable moment last night was Mark Teixeira turning on a 94 MPH Richards fastball that was belt high and on the inner half of the plate, hitting it high and deep into right field, and pausing for a second to watch it land in the second deck.  I'm talking that "no doubt about it" split second of pimpage that Teix does when he really knows he got one.  I'm talking about this:

(Courtesy of ESPN/

Carlos Beltran, Professional Hitter

When you've been around for as long as Carlos Beltran has (15 full seasons plus partials in 1998 and this season), you're going to learn a lot about what it takes to be a successful hitter.  With a .365 career wOBA and values of .355, .359, and .362 in the last 3 seasons as he's moved into his late 30s, it's fair to say Beltran has picked up his fair share of important lessons and personal tips.  He spoke to David Laurila of FanGraphs for a post that went up on Friday about some of those tips and his general hitting strategy.  It was a very interesting look inside the mind of one of the best all-around hitters of the last 20 years.

For me, the highlight of the post was Beltran talking about knowing the feeling in his legs from pitch to pitch and knowing if he has them under him for his swing based on whether or not he feels like the wind is blowing him off-balance.  That's some next-level veteran stuff right there.  I also liked Beltran's self-described approach of always going up there looking for the 1 pitch he wants and being willing to wait for it.  The guy has seen everything at this point in his career and he knows the value of going up to the plate with a plan and sticking with that plan.  Based on his early .538 SLG and team-leading 5 homers, I'd say that plan is working out well.  The average and OBP will come up in time.  When it does, Beltran could really put up some big numbers hitting in YS3.

Game 25 Wrap-Up: NYY 3 LAA 2

(Courtesy of the AP)

You've read this intro from me enough already.  Masahiro Tanaka's pitching, it's a big game, it's a test for him, blah, blah blah.  I just wanted to see him come out and own again like he has in every start he's made.  And for the first time this season, I had the chance to sit and actually watch him pitch.

Game Notes:

- He had to battle early.  His command on the corners wasn't there, especially with his fastball, he walked 3 in the first 3 innings, and he hung a few sliders.  He also struck out 5 and kept the Angels off the scoreboard.

- Garrett Richards burned through the Yankee lineup with his array of fastballs the first time through the order, with only a Kelly Johnson single through the shift against him.  He was definitely the better of the 2 pitchers early.

- Richards started to lose his fastball command a bit in the bottom of the 5th and the Yankees used that to scratch a run of their own across on a walk, a Brian Roberts double down the left field line, and an Ichiro RBI groundout.

- The Angels scratched a run across on a fielder's choice after loading the bases in the 4th, but Tanaka held it at that and then worked a quick 5th.  He looked like he was settling in.  Then he left a fastball up to David Freese to start the 6th and the Angels went back out front 2-1.

- Mark Teixeira was one of the few hitters who looked good against Richards, and he never looked better than when he demolished a hanger for a solo HR to tie the game back up at 2 in the 7th.  Very encouraging sign.

- Tanaka gave way to Adam Warren in the 7th and Warren got 5 big outs to set himself up as the winner to be when a pair of walks, a passed ball, and a wild pitch allowed Ellsbury to come around and score the go-ahead run.

- For the 4th time in 4 tries, D-Rob was cash money in the 9th.  The Yanks came back to steal the series after losing by 12 on Friday night.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Kids Contributing When They Get Their Chances

John Ryan Murphy: 2-3, 1 HR, 3 RBI yesterday.  .308/.308/.538 (.369 wOBA) in 13 PA this season.

Dellin Betances: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K yesterday.  0.77 ERA/1.63 FIP, 19 K in 11.2 IP this season.

How long have we been hearing that the Yankees need to "give the kids a shot"?  It's an annual cry from the fanbase.  Well, they're giving kids shots this year and those kids are coming up big.  J.R. Murphy has looked good behind and at the plate in his limited PA since coming up to replace Cervelli, and Betances has been electric in his middle relief work, showing what many believed he was always capable of doing if he harnessed his command.  Add in the positive contributions of 20-somethings like Tanaka, Pineda, Adam Warren, and Yangervis Solarte, and it's been a deep and balanced contribution from the younger Yankee contingent.

Game 24 Wrap-Up: NYY 4 LAA 3

(Courtesy of the AP)

Friday night was not what anybody had in mind for a series-opening game against a West Coast opponent.  The Angels came into town and slapped the Yankees around their own ballpark for all 9 innings, and once again the bullpen was left in need of fresh arms.  They got another one for this afternoon's game in the form of Chris Leroux and they were hoping they wouldn't have to go there too early or very often with Vidal Nuno back on the mound.

Game Notes:

- Nuno put himself in an early 1-0 hole when he gave up a solo homer to Mike Trout in the top of the 1st.  He wasn't the first to suffer that fate and he certainly won't be the last.

- LA starter Hector Santiago wasn't on top of his game early and the Yanks capitalized on that in the bottom of the 2nd.  A hit batsman, single, and walk loaded the bases with 1 out, a balk got them on the board, and a big 2-out, 2-run single by John Ryan Murphy gave them the 3-1 lead.

- A combination of bad defense (Brian Roberts throwing error on a possible double play turn) and bad pitching by Nuno (put the first 2 runners on, double on a hanging slider) led to 2 runs for the Angels in the 4th.  After giving up hits to Albert Pujols in each of his first 2 PA, Joe elected not to let Nuno face him again in the 5th and the game went to the bullpen.

- Murphy's first career MLB home run gave the Yanks the lead back in the 5th, but they failed to put another run across after 2 more hits.  They wouldn't need one thanks to the work of their bullpen.  It got a little hairy, but Betances, Kelley, Thornton, and D-Rob did the job.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Minor League Injury Update

(Later, guy.  See you in 2016.  Maybe.  Courtesy of the AP)

I don't know what it is about the Yankee farm system that has it so susceptible to injuries, but the body count is already starting to rise this season.  A handful of big names have hit the DL this week and more than a handful of smaller ones are dealing with smaller physical issues of their own.  After the jump, a quick recap of all the new injuries in case you missed any of the news.

Another Day Of Firsts For Nuno Today

Vidal Nuno will make his second start in place of the injured Ivan Nova this afternoon against the Angels.  It will be his second start at Yankee Stadium in his short Major League career and his first afternoon start.  It will also be the first time he's faced the Angels and their big hitters like Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, a frightening thought for a young pitcher, but keep this in mind.  On the other side of the matchup, it's the first time for them and the rest of the LA lineup against Nuno.

The Angels no doubt have their scouting reports and video on Nuno to prepare themselves for today's game, but Nuno may have a slight advantage in this first time matchup.  As a pitcher who throws a lot of different pitches and a lot of offspeed stuff, he gives opposing hitters plenty to think about up there.  They don't know his tendencies and they don't know what the ball looks like coming out of his hand.  He played that to his advantage very well last Sunday when he tossed 5 shutout innings against the Rays.  If he's commanding his stuff, maybe he can do it again.

Expect a healthy helping of sliders, 4-seamers, curveballs, and sinkers today, and maybe a changeup or 2 for good measure.  Don't expect to see high velocity, but hopefully the mixing of pitches and lack of familiarity will help Nuno help his team even up this series.

Game 23 Wrap-Up: LAA 13 NYY 1

This one wasn't pretty.  Getting destroyed by a dozen at home is not the way to open a weekend series.

Game Notes:

- Hirok was horrendous last night.  Couldn't locate anything and the Angels tuned him up for 8 runs on 10 hits in 4.2 IP.

- No offense to help him against C.J. Wilson.  Brett Garder was the only player with multiple hits, Carlos Beltran had the only XBH, and the only run scored on a sac fly in the 6th.

- Bruce Billings took one for the team with 4 innings of long relief.  He gave up 4 more runs.

- Yanks need a better showing this afternoon when Vidal Nuno and Hector Santiago get the start.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 4/25/14

I got nothing this week.  Just looking forward to a Sunday sports day of Rangers, Blackhawks, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Yanks-Halos.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, Caitlin Rogers of Pinstripe Alley pondered what the Yankees could do with Brian Roberts if he continues to not perform offensively.

- Mike Axisa of RAB looked to the early pitch type percentage breakdowns to see what major changes CC Sabathia was making to his pitching approach.

- On Wednesday, Chris Mitchell of Pinstripe Pundits examined the shift in Brett Gardner's BB rate and the resulting shift in his overall offensive performance.

- SJK of NoMaas stressed the importance of Derek Jeter maintaining a strong BB rate if his power is going to stay as low as it is early on.

- On Thursday, William Juliano of The Captain's Blog commented on the problems with MLB's rule book and inconsistencies in the enforcement of those rules that the Michael Pineda situation exposed.

- Matt Bove of IIATMS/TYA pointed out the downtrend in the production of Kelly Johnson and Yangervis Solarte, another sign that the Yankees should look for more infield depth.

- Greg Corcoran of Bronx Baseball Daily dished a heaping helping of observations from a few MiL games he's taking in early in the season.

- On Friday, John M of It Is High... put today's offensive numbers into historical perspective to give the appropriate amount of context to all the talk about the game becoming too "pitcher dominated" today.

- Chad Jennings of LoHud looked back at the eventful road trip that was.  When you stop and think about it, there really was a lot that happened in the last week.  Damn.

- SG of RLYW summed up the problem with Mark Teixeira's production in one definitive graph.

New Mastodon is out!  It got leaked early last week, formally released late last week, and I finally caught up to it this week.

It's definitely catchy but I'm hoping the rest of the album isn't as linear as this.  I bet it won't be.  You always have to have one song that will be a good fit for radio play.  This is most likely that song.

Enjoy your weekends, everybody.

Nova Elects Surgery For Torn UCL

This was the always the endgame, even after Nova requested a second opinion on his partially torn UCL earlier this week.  Dr. James Andrews was given the second look and he echoed the recommendation of Yankees team doctor Dr. Ahmad that Nova have Tommy John Surgery on the ligament.

Nova will go under the knife for TJS next Tuesday, with Dr. Andrews himself performing the surgery.  It will officially end Nova's 2014 season, and with recovery time still an estimated 12-18 months, Nova will also lose most of his 2015 season.  A tough break for Nova and the Yankees.  Maybe this will help fix some of the minor arm issues he had leading up to the tear, but typically arm injuries mean more arm injuries.

Game 22 Wrap-Up: NYY 14 BOS 5

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

If last night was an example of what baseball is like when nobody's playing with foreign substances on them, I think I'd rather see pitchers slathering their arms up with pine tar before every inning.  Sloppy baseball was an understatement last night.  The Red Sox booted the ball all over the yard, almost every pitcher who got into the game threw a wild pitch, some threw multiple, and their starting pitching was abysmal.  I almost feel bad for you if you watched it, but the Yanks came away with the W and their second series win in 2 tries against the Red Sox this young season.

Game Notes:

- The bats went to sleep against Lackey, but they woke up quickly against Felix Doubront.  Alfonso Soriano doubled in a run with 2 outs in the 1st, Yangervis Solarte sparked a 3-run 2nd with a 2-run double of his own, and Mark Teixeira hit his first home run of the season to lead off a 3-run 3rd.

- CC Sabathia had pretty good stuff against the Boston lineup.  He worked the first 2 innings scoreless, featuring his changeup heavily, and struck out 5 through 5 innings.

- He also battled a few bouts of command inconsistencies.  He walked 2 in the 2nd, hit a few batters, and got into trouble in the 3rd with a leadoff walk and a double.  2 runs scored in the inning, the last on the dreaded 2-out hit by Mike Napoli The Yankee Killer.

- Boston's bullpen held the Yankee lineup at bay for a few innings, but they finally started up again for their insurance runs in the top of the 7th.  Another Sawck error (their 5th of the night!!) helped extend the rally and Solarte and The Captain each knocked in 2 with ribbie singles to make it 12-2 Yanks.

- Sabathia finished 6 strong with only the 2 runs and 8 Ks and handed it over to the 'pen.  Shane Greene was a puddle of nervous adrenaline, but Adam Warren did the job and D-Rob got in his first game action since coming off the DL in a perfect 9th.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pineda Suspended 10 Games By MLB (UPDATED)

No surprise there.  We knew this was coming the minute he got tossed last night.  The suspension starts tonight if Pineda chooses not to appeal, and I can't imagine why he would, and he will be eligible to return on May 5th.  He'll miss 2 starts, but because of the scheduled off-day on Monday the Yanks will only need to fill his rotation spot once.  I imagine David Phelps will be the leading candidate to make that spot start.  According to Dan Barbarisi, Shane Greene and Bruce Billings are with the team in Boston.  No word yet on roster moves to add them to the bullpen.

** UPDATE 4:40 PM- Greene and Billings have officially been called up, Dean Anna and Preston Claiborne have been sent down, and Ivan Nova was moved to the 60-day DL.  There's your daily dose of roster moves. **

On Pineda, Pine Tar, And General Human Stupidity

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Nobody likes a cheater.  We're all raised to follow the rules and play fair.  But in the sports world, especially the baseball world, the blurring of the line of right and wrong is an unspoken understanding between all players and coaches and there are plenty of familiar phrases that speak to that mindset.  "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying".  "It ain't cheating if you don't get caught".  And so on.

Michael Pineda was trying last night.  He was very obviously struggling with his grip and command of the baseball in the bottom of the 1st inning due to the colder temperatures and wind blowing through Fenway Park.  The guys on the ESPN broadcast pointed it out no more than 10-12 pitches into the inning.  He labored through it, went to the dugout, and came back out for the 2nd with a little substance aid to help solve his grip problem.  His method of using this substance was so blatant and flagrant that it forced John Farrell to point it out to home plate umpire Gerry Davis, who very easily identified the pine tar smudge on Pineda's neck and ejected him from the game.  Pineda was already toeing the line of baseball rules again by going to the pine tar.  He got caught doing it and so he was cheating.

McCann Heating Up As He Adjusts To The Shift

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

It isn't drawing the attention of Yangervis Solarte's hot start or Carlos Beltran's splendid all-around hitting performance, but Brian McCann has been coming around lately and his stat line is starting to creep up above the line of respectability.  After last night, he's now sitting at .261/.292/.420 with 3 HR, 10 R, and 9 RBI, good for a .314 wOBA.  His early bout with selectivity issues appears to over, his swing rates are trending down, and he's starting to settle into his new AL surroundings.

Another thing he's settling into is being a constant target of the defensive shift.  McCann has been one of, if not the most shifted against hitter in the Yankee lineup and it's fair to suggest that he's lost out on a hit or 2 as a result of it.  Seeing how opposing defenses are approaching him, McCann appears to be adapting his hitting approach in response.

Game 21 Wrap-Up: BOS 5 NYY 1

(Courtesy of the AP)

I don't give a shit what month it is or how many games are left, I really wanted a win last night.  I would have loved nothing more than for Michael Pineda to come out and put on a repeat performance of what Tanaka did to the Red Sox on Tuesday and for the lineup to slap around John Lackey's fat idiot face for 5 innings like they did to Lester.  I despise John Lackey.  Maybe more than I despise Ortiz nowadays.  Another beatdown victory against that shitheel would have been supreme.  Instead we got bad cheating, an early exit for Big Mike, and one of those games you want to forget as soon as it ends.

Game Notes:

- Pineda had command issues early, possibly due to the cold weather.  He labored through a 2-run 1st inning on 30 pitches, struggling to locate his fastball or slider with any kind of consistency.

- He returned to the hill for the bottom of the 2nd with a noticeable pine tar mark on his neck, comically noticeable.  With 2 outs and 2 strikes, John Farrell asked the home plate ump to check him and check him he did.  Gerry Davis saw it, felt it, decided it was enough to warrant an ejection, and tossed Pineda on the spot.

- Lackey didn't have any command problems and he breezed through 4 scoreless innings with 7 strikeouts.  He was pounding the strike zone with fastballs and keeping the Yankee lineup off balance.  They didn't do themselves any favors by swinging early and keeping his pitch count down.

- The Yanks squandered runners at second and third with 1 out in the 5th, but finally got on the board in the 6th when Carlos Beltran led off with a double and advanced home on 2 outs.  It was that kind of night.

- Give a call to the bullpen for keeping them in it, but this game was over when David Phelps gave up 2 runs in the 3rd to make it 4-0 Boston.  The lineup was overmatched by Lackey and never did anything with the chances they did create and the defense was horrific.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Michael Pineda Is The Least Slick Dude In The History Of Baseball

(Courtesy of

I mean come on, dude.  You know we live in a world of HD television cameras, right?  Did you think you weren't going to be checked?  Did you think slapping it on the side of your neck was going to make it less noticeable than it would be on your hand?  Please don't tell me you're stupid enough to think that nobody would notice because you're darker skinned.

I almost don't want to know what Pineda's explanation for this is because there simply can't be one that's not completely and utterly idiotic.  He might as well have jogged back out on the mound in the 2nd with pine tar under his eyes like eye black and under his chin like a fake goatee.  Just next level mental midgetry right there.  Dude deserved to get ejected and he deserves all 10 games of the suspension he's probably going to get.

P.S.- When Gerry West touched his neck and said "that's pine tar", my mind flashed back to that episode of "The Fresh Prince" where Will pretends to be Ashley's father and the teacher calls him out for having a fake mustache.  I would have given Pineda a small sliver of props if he would have hit Davis with the "No it's not!" response and just stood there.

Keith Law Scouts Low-A Charleston

Keith Law was back on the scouting road earlier this week and once again he got the chance to check out one of the Yankee farm teams in action.  This time it was the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs and Law filed a scouting report post on some of the players he saw for ESPN yesterday.

The stars of the show were 2013 1st rounder Aaron Judge and fast-rising starting pitching prospect Luis Severino.  Severino dominated in this start (5.2 shutout innings, 8 Ks) and Law called his 3-pitch mix "impressive", praising him for his fastball command and late life and his plus changeup.  He was less enthusiastic about Severino's slider and said he has a lot of work to do on his mechanics, noting that Severino needs "some mechanical adjustments to reach his above-average starter ceiling."

Judge also had himself a day in Law's presence, going 2-2 with a triple and 2 walks.  Law liked what he saw in Judge's stance and swing mechanics, saying "for a guy with long arms and a little bit of a bat wrap he's still quite short to the ball, with good hip rotation and loft in his finish for line-drive power."

Law also had some quick takes on Abi Avelino and Gosuke Katoh.  You can check those out in the whole article here (Insider-only).

The Good And Bad Of Tanaka In Four At-Bats

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

You wouldn't be wrong to call last night the worst of Masahiro Tanaka's 4 outings thus far.  He was uneven with his command at times, he gave up a few 2-out hits, and he gave up back-to-back solo home runs in the bottom of the 4th on 2 badly missed fastballs.  You would be wrong, however,  if you called last night's outing a bad one.  Despite the inconsistencies and homers, Tanaka was efficient with his pitch count and worked into the 8th, allowing only those 2 runs, striking out 7 while walking nobody, and picking up his 3rd win of the year.

The Red Sox got their first look at Tanaka and they had to walk away impressed.  He showcased all his pitches again, mixing them up at all different times in the count, he threw a lot of early strikes to work from ahead or even in the count and keep the guessing game going on their end, and he registered double digit swinging strikes again with an even dozen.  Tanaka was very, very good again, and I thought he showed what makes him special and legitimate and also what things he still has to learn about facing MLB hitters in his first 4 encounters with Boston's 2 best hitters.

Game 20 Wrap-Up: NYY 9 BOS 3

(Courtesy of the AP)

Well that was fun, huh?  Some more excellent work by Masahiro Tanaka, a thorough beatdown of Jon Lester, a multi-hit homecoming for Jacoby Ellsbury, and a comfortable series-opening victory for the boys in pinstripes.  I'll take that for each game in the rest of this series, thank you very much.

Game Notes:

- It was clear from the get go that Lester didn't have it last night.  He gave up a leadoff triple to Ellsbury, 2 straight hits to Derek Jeter and Carlos Beltran, and it was 2-0 Yanks 3 batters into the game.

- They let him off the hook with a double play ball in the 2nd, but got right back to work in the 3rd with a trio of doubles by Soriano, Teix (yay!), and Big Mac to make it 4-0.

- Tanaka was stellar again and showed no ill effects of pitching in the big setting.  He made 2 mistakes to David Ortiz and Mike Napoli in the bottom of the 4th on misplaced sinkers that they hit for home runs, otherwise he was money.

- Those 2 runs didn't end up amounting to much for Boston.  A 2-out, 4-run rally in the 5th knocked Lester out and put the game out of reach.

- Just for good measure, Carlos Beltran smacked a solo shot to make it 9-2 in the 8th.  Dellin Betances gave up a meaningless run in a mop-up 9th.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Potential Long-Term Effects Of Nova's Injury

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Ivan Nova's Saturday was already a bad one before the injury was announced.  He was up in the strike zone again, getting knocked around the park, and not giving his team much of a chance to win.  His early exit and subsequent UCL tear diagnosis was a stomach punch to him, a sobering blow to what had been a mostly positive start to the Yankee season, and a possible explanation for his early struggles on the mound.

With Nova now out of the picture for the near future and most likely the remainder of the season, the Yankees will have to find a way to cover for that loss.  They appear to have found a suitable replacement for the short-term in Vidal Nuno, but the baseball season is a long one and it's barely over 10% old.  More injuries are all but certain and it's the long-term ramifications of Nova's injury that are now the concern.  The ripple effect of losing Nova could extend from this past weekend into the final month of the season in a variety of ways, all of which the Yankees will have to consider and be prepared to address moving forward.

Thoughts On Nova's Injury

(That image hurts my elbow.  Courtesy of the AP)

Looking at his career history, maybe we should have seen this coming.  The partially torn UCL in Ivan Nova's right elbow that caused him to leave his last start early and landed him on the disabled list is not an isolated incident.  Nova has a history of arm injuries dating back to his early days as a Major Leaguer and a history of command and performance problems that seemed to be precursors to these arm injuries.  In a year where multiple pitchers are going down with major arm injuries each week and have been since late in Spring Training, Nova's name was the most probable of all the Yankee pitchers to get added to that list.

And yet there's still a level of shock that came with the announcement that he had suffered the UCL tear.  Maybe it was the hope that this was going to be the year Ivan put it all together.  Maybe it was the belief on a lot of people's parts (myself included) that he was going to take that next step this year.  Whatever it was, Nova's injury is a crushing blow and one that I fear could have a harmful effect on his career going forward.

Robertson Activated From The DL

With every death, there is rebirth.  With every season-ending UCL tear, there is a reliever returning from a short DL stint with a groin strain.  I honestly don't know if there's any truth to that statement, I haven't checked the numbers.  But the important thing is that the Yankee bullpen, which needs to step up in light of Nova going down, will get its most important piece back tonight.  David Robertson has recovered from his groin strain and has been activated off the 15-day.

Bryan Mitchell was sent back down to Double-A Trenton yesterday to clear a 25-man spot, so no roster move needs to be made today.  Matt Daley and Cesar Cabral were both DFA'd in the days prior as the bullpen got shuffled around, and both have reportedly cleared waivers to return to Triple-A.

First Big Test For Tanaka Tonight

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

We've seen him struggle a little bit early in games and then find his stuff and dominate late.  We've seen him handle 2 relatively deep and powerful divisional lineups with 2 completely different approaches and then watched him manhandle a shallower NL lineup.  In 3 starts, Masahiro Tanaka has been everything the Yankees and their fans hoped he would be.  He's been the best starter in the rotation and his early success provides a measurable amount of confidence that the team can absorb and overcome the loss of Ivan Nova.

Tonight he'll face his first "real" test as a Yankee when he takes the mound in Fenway to open another series with the Red Sox against their ace Jon Lester.  There's nothing on the line in the grand scheme of things, but like it or not, Yankee pitchers are always judged in part based on how they perform against the Sox.  The Sox were connected to Tanka this past offseason, albeit not nearly as closely as New York, and their fans will remember that and see Tanaka as another case of the big budget Yankees "stealing" a player away with their money.

The environment will be hostile, the lights will be bright, and the opposing lineup will have more than a few dangerous, experienced, smart hitters in it.  Tanaka's already aced his first few Major League quizzes.  He takes his first test tonight in his first true taste of the Yanks-Sox experience.  Based on what I've seen so far, I'm expecting him to score well.

Strong Starts For Some Top Pitching Prospects

Luis Severino (Low-A): 4 GS, 14.0 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 19 K

Rafael DePaula (High-A): 3 GS, 14.1 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 19 K

Manny Banuelos (High-A): 4 GS, 9.2 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 12 K

I haven't talked too much about prospects since the season began, but the Yankees getting good starts from arguably their top 3 pitching prospects definitely bears mentioning.  A lot of people soured quickly on DePaula when he struggled in Tampa last year and I didn't think that was fair.  He's looked much better so far in his return trip.  Severino got started off slow with light workloads, but he had the reins taken out him last night and he responded with 5.2 shutout innings, 8 K, and 0 BB.  ManBan actually tossed 3 scoreless appearances before giving up all 4 of his ER in his last outing.  More important than his results are how good his stuff and command has looked and they've both looked very good.

With 2nd-tier guys like Nik Turley, Jose Ramirez, Jose Campos, and Ty Hensley yet to start their seasons for a variety of health/injury-related reasons, it's good to see the Yanks getting something positive from the cream of their pitching prospect crop.  Once the weather warms up some more, I expect we'll see ManBan start to get moved back up towards Triple-A.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ichiro Adjusting Well To New Lesser Role

Everybody knows I'm not an Ichiro guy.  I haven't wanted him around since the minute the Yankees re-signed him.  But even I have to admit that he's been an unexpectedly positive surprise early on this year.  After this weekend's split in Tampa, Ichiro is hitting .355/.355/.387 in 31 PA with 5 R scored and 1 stolen base.  He's played in 15 games, split almost evenly between starting outfielder and late-game defensive replacement or pinch runner.  Considering the inconsistency of his hitting opportunities, that .355 batting average is impressive, as are the 4 multi-hit games.

This performance does warrant a hefty SSS disclaimer.  Ichiro has yet to draw a walk this year and has a healthy 22.6% K rate.  His BABIP is also an incredibly high .458, and with his early spike in groundball contact (career high 73.9% GB rate), you can be sure that average is living higher thanks to some seeing eye balls through infield holes.  But you'll take that when you can get it from your 5th outfielder.  In Ichiro's case, you'll definitely take it when it comes with above-average baserunning and outfield defense that is still world class.  It may not be what he wants, but Ichiro is fitting into his new role nicely.

Monday Morning Food For Thought: Vidal Nuno, 5th Starter

(Courtesy of the AP)

5/13/13- 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 K
5/25/13- 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
5/30/13- 6 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
4/20/14- 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K

It isn't a large or meaningful sample size by any stretch of the imagination, but Vidal Nuno does have a very good history as a Major League starter.  He allowed just 4 runs in 3 spot starts last May and stepped up to toss 5 shutout innings against a red hot Tampa Bay lineup yesterday.  With Ivan Nova on the DL and likely looking at season-ending TJS, the Yankees are going to need a full-time replacement in the starting rotation and right now Nuno looks like the best man for the job.  He's got a track record of being a strike thrower, he mixes pitches well, and his offspeed stuff is good enough to strike out Major League hitters.

The Yankee decision makers have today to look at other alternatives, but there really isn't much else to consider.  Adam Warren is a short reliever now, David Phelps isn't stretched out to nearly enough pitches to be a viable starting option, and there's nobody in Triple-A who's better than Nuno.  After 5 years in the Minors and a couple cups of coffee, Nuno looks like he's finally going to get his big chance.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Weekend News Recap

So how'd everyone's weekend go?  Mine started off fine with a trip to Madison with the girlfriend to celebrate our 1-year anniversary and it ended with me catching a nasty stomach virus, like a "no food or drink staying down, run to the bathroom every 20-30 minutes" kind of stomach virus (TMI).  That being the case, I wasn't able to fire the comp up to cover the happenings of the last day or so, but here's my way of making up for it.

- The Yanks got shellacked by the Rays on Saturday, 16-1 in another ugly outing for Ivan Nova and the bullpen.  Nova actually left the game early with an elbow problem and today it was reported that he has a partially torn UCL in his right elbow.

- That injury all but guarantees Tommy John Surgery for him and the end of his 2014 season.  The Yanks will have to replace him in the rotation and with Vidal Nuno pitching in a spot start today, he makes the most sense.

- Between the injury and the bullpen taking it on the chin again, the Yanks had to make some roster moves.  Preston Claiborne and Bryan Mitchell were called up to fortify the bullpen and replace Nova on the active roster.  Matt Daley was DFA'd.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Remodeled Bullpen Coming Soon

They haven't been bad often, but when they have the Yankee bullpen has been really bad this season.  The prime example of that is Cesar Cabral, who gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and 3 hit batsmen last night without recording an out.  That was enough of a nothing in his all-or-nothing performance trend to earn him a demotion, which came by way of DFA after the game.  Matt Daley was called up from Triple-A to take his place and could see action as early as tonight.

Because of the rainout earlier in the week, the Yankees will need a 6th starter for tomorrow's game.  All indications are that Vidal Nuno will get that start and when he does it will likely be his last appearance for the Major League club for a while.  David Robertson is scheduled to pitch in an ExST game today and if he does so without any problems, he'll likely be activated off the DL on Tuesday.  With Nuno needing a few days off after making a start, he's a shoo-in to get sent down to Triple-A to clear a 25-man spot for D-Rob.

Aaron Judge Says Hello

His was easily the most anticipated debut of the 2014 MiL season after a hamstring injury kept him off the field post-signing in 2013.  Aaron Judge finally showed why the other night with that massive home run over the scoreboard in left.  He's off to a solid start average (.298) and on-base-wise (.441, 20.3% BB rate).  All that was missing was the power.  Well not anymore.  Hopefully that was the start of some more moonshots for Judge and hopefully we see him get bumped up to High-A Tampa soon.  When you're built like an NBA power forward and you're walking in over 20% of your plate appearances, there's probably not much to be learned at the Low-A level.

Game 17 Wrap-Up: TB 11 NYY 5

(That's the look of a man who knows he's getting DFA'd if I've ever seen one.  Courtesy of the AP)

I guess the Yanks were due for another bullpen meltdown.  After getting out to an early lead behind Hiroki Kuroda, they slowly let the Rays back into the game in the middle innings.  Despite holding a 2-run lead heading into the bottom of the 7th, they couldn't hold on for a 6th straight win and instead ended up taking a near blowout loss thanks to some truly atrocious relief work.

Game Notes:

- They grabbed that early lead in the top of the 2nd against Tampa starter Erik Bedard.  2 singles and a botched fielder's choice loaded the bases with nobody out and Scott Sizemore unloaded them with a 3-run double.  A Brett Gardner RBI groundout plated Sizemore and made it 4-0.

- Kuroda looked pretty good through 3, working around putting the leadoff runner on 2 innings in a row thanks to a pair of timely double plays.  He cracked in the 4th though, giving up a walk, a single, and a 2-run double to James Loney, all with 2 outs.

- Command inconsistencies plagued Hirok through the next few innings.  His day ended before he could get out of the 6th when he couldn't finish off another 2-out situation and allowed another RBI hit to cut the lead to 4-3.

- The dormant offense woke up in the top of the 7th when Jacoby Ellsbury created a run by singling, stealing second base, and coming around on an Alfonso Soriano base knock.  That extra run should have been insurance for the 'pen.  It ended up being not nearly enough.

- Once again, it was a failure to finish off an inning that doomed the Yankees.  Matt Thornton gave up a single and handed the ball to Adam Warren with runners on the corners in the bottom of the 7th.  Warren let 3 runs score on 2 singles and a walk before ending the frame.

- It got even uglier in the 8th when Warren and Cesar Cabral combined for 5 more runs allowed.  Cabral didn't even retire a batter and hit 3.  You guessed it, all 5 runs came with 2 outs.  Tough to win with pitching like that.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Afternoon Linkapalooza: 4/18/14

Doing Easter Sunday with the girlfriend's family this weekend.  It'll gives me the chance to meet her aunt who hooked me up with all my presale tickets for the Yanks-Brewers series next month (and pay her for said tickets), but it also poses a possible playoff hockey dilemma.  Rangers-Flyers Game 2 is Sunday at 11 AM Central, so I'm trying to figure out how to balance the necessary social interaction with the fam while still getting my Rangers fix in.  Now that Time Warner has eliminated CNBC from their basic cable package, I wasn't able to watch Game 1.  It's all terrible vexing.  Now onto the links!

- On Monday, Chad Jennings of LoHud pondered the second base situation in light of Brian Roberts' back injury and slow start.

- On Tuesday, el duque of It Is High... looked at the organizational depth at first base to see what the Yankees next move would be if both Teix and Kelly Johnson got hurt.

- Matt Bove of IIATMS/TYA broke down Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury's solid starts and how they're both living up to their new contracts early on.

- On Wednesday, Chris Mitchell of Pinstripe Pundits examined the downside to Kelly Johnson having to sub at first base.

- Joe Vitulli of Yanks Go Yard commented on Ichiro's hot start and how well he seems to be handling his new limited bench role.

- On Thursday, Vizzini of NoMaas provided plenty of valid reasons for why people should not freak out about CC Sabathia's start to the season.

- Mike Axisa of RAB analyzed the the Yankees' new shift strategy and how it's impacted their defensive effectiveness and their opponents' hitting performance against them.

- On Friday, Daniel Burch wondered what the Yankees will do with their infield when Brendan Ryan returns from the DL.  He's tagged Dean Anna as the odd man out.

It came to my attention that there has been a glaring lack of female artists on the Friday Jam mix.  In fact, I haven't had a chick on for the Friday Jam since June of 2012.  Let's rectify that, shall we?  Boom!  Little "Magic Man" right in your grillmix.  2 chicks at the same time.

Enjoy your Easter weekends, everybody.

The Talented Mr. Solarte

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

So Yangervis Solarte is really getting it done, huh?

- .373 batting average (2nd in AL)
- .444 wOBA (3rd in AL)
- 193 wRC+ (4th in AL)
- 19 hits (6th in AL)
- 7 doubles (2nd in AL)

The .429 BABIP is still unsustainably high, but there's reason to believe this is more than just Solarte getting lucky in a small sample size.  He's got a 10.3% BB rate and a 13.8% K rate, so he's displaying an understanding of the strike zone and some good contact skills.  He popped his first career home run last night too, and his .196 ISO is more than good enough to get it done in an everyday or bench role.  Eventually the BIP luck is going to turn and his numbers will go down.  For now though, he's fun to watch and he's giving the Yankees way more than they hoped for.  Strange to say, but he might be the most popular Yankee in town right now.

Bing, Bang, Boom

(Courtesy of Deadspin)

Poetry in motion right there.  Solarte (who's not a natural third baseman) with no hesitation going to the third base bag, Roberts with a quick turn at second, and Sizemore (who was playing his first career game at first base) with a nifty scoop at first.  It would have been ludicrous to suggest it at the time, but looking back on it now, that was probably the game.  Once Tampa came out of that inning with no runs, they didn't have a chance to keep up with the Yankee offense.

P.S.- I'd call this "amazing" but this is kinda CC's thing.  3rd triple play he's had turned behind him since joining the Yankees.  Wild stuff.

Game 16 Wrap-Up: NYY 10 TB 2

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Everything was groovy for the Yankees heading into Tampa for a 4-game series against the Rays.  They were winners of 4 straight and 8 of 12 since the season-opening 1-2 series in Houston, their pitching staff was clicking on all cylinders, they had Derek Jeter back at shortstop, they got Brian Roberts back at second base, and they were planning to have Mark Teixeira back on Sunday.  Last night's series opener featured each team's big lefty, CC Sabathia for the Yanks and David Price for the Rays.  It was all Sabathia on this night.

Game Notes:

- Price wasn't close to anything resembling his best and the Yanks jumped on him early.  2 singles and a walk netted them a run in the top of the 1st, and a double, 2 triples (Roberts and Ellsbury), and another single got them 3 in the 2nd.

- CC was better than Price, but he needed some help to stay scoreless.  He got it in the 2nd when Yangervis Solarte started a triple play to end the inning.  He helped himself out by K'ing Desmond Jennings to strand 2 in the 3rd.

- Sabathia got another big help with a double play ball in the 4th, but with 2 outs Brian McCann let a ball get by him and the Rays got on the board.

- No matter.  McCann got the run back and then some when he and Alfonso Soriano hit back-to-back HR in the top of the 5th to make it a 6-1 Yankee lead.  Price wasn't beating guys with his fastball and he could not get his changeup down in the zone.

- The Yanks added 1 in the 6th and 1 in the 7th to put the game out of reach.  CC gave up another HR for his only ER of the night and exited after 7.  Dellin Betances was a little shaky behind him in the 8th, but a Solarte 2-run shot in the 9th sealed the deal.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Injury Updates: Teix, D-Rob, Ryan

Got a trio of updates on the injured Major Leaguers who are close to returning, courtesy of Chad Jennings:

Mark Teixeira- Played 3 innings in an ExST game this afternoon at the team complex and came through with no hamstring issues.  He's scheduled to play 5 innings tomorrow, a few on Saturday, and then rejoin the team Sunday.

David Robertson- Threw a 25-pitch bullpen session this afternoon and felt good.  He'll pitch in an ExST game on Saturday and if he comes through that fine he'll be activated on Tuesday.

Brendan Ryan- Apparently he's farther along than I released.  Joe said he's been taking swings and he could get into an ExST game on Saturday as well.  Because he missed so much time in ST, the Yanks will let him get more MiL ABs to get his timing back.  No exact timetable for his return, but it could be by early May.

Basking In The Good Pitching Afterglow

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Quality of opponent being what it was, yesterday's doubleheader shutout was still a splendid performance by the Yankee pitching staff.  They got very good to outstanding outings from 2 25-year-old starters and some solid bullpen work from a bunch of mostly young and unheralded pitchers all working in higher-leverage roles thanks to the closer being on the DL.  It was a continuation of what has quickly been established as the norm for this group since the opening week of the season.  These guys can pitch, all of them, and they've been the driving force behind the Yankees' early success.

The Yanks open a weekend series tonight in Tampa with the 2nd best record in the American League, a place atop the AL East, and they've done it mainly on the back of their pitching staff while the new lineup continues to work out the kinks and find its way.  It's a very refreshing change of pace from where the rotation was early in the year last season, and I'd like to take a few moments to enjoy it.

Report: Teix Slated For 3 Rehab Innings Today

 The next best bit of good news after the 2-0, double shutout, doubleheader sweep yesterday was the news above on Mark Teixeira.  He went to Tampa earlier in the week to ramp up his rehab work on his strained hamstring and based on this report, it sounds like he's going to be golden to come off the DL on Sunday as he originally planned.  Teix will play 3 innings in a MiL game today, most likely for the Tampa Yankees.  I'm not sure if it will be at first base or DH, but considering he participated in full batting practice and ran the bases yesterday, I'd say first is more likely.

Barring any setbacks after today's game, I expect the Yanks to play him in a few more rehab games through Saturday and then activate him for the series finale in Tampa on Sunday.  The wins yesterday were great, but don't forget that the offense only scored 5 runs in those 2 games.  They could definitely use Teix's presence and bat back in the lineup ASAP.

Game 15 Wrap-Up: NYY 2 CHC 0

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

Tanaka put the Cubs lineup in a body bag in game 1 of yesterday's doubleheader, carving them up with a sick mix of 4-seamers, sinkers, slide pieces, and splitsvilles.  He passed the baton to Michael Pineda for the second game, and Pineda picked up right where Tanaka left off.  There were 18 innings of baseball played by the Yankees and Cubs yesterday.  The Cubs didn't score a run in any of them.

Game Notes:

- The story early was missed opportunities for the lineup.  They couldn't capitalize on a 2 on/2 out situation in the 1st, they wasted a leadoff single in the 2nd, and they couldn't push a run across with runners on the corners and 1 out in the 3rd.

- Luckily for them, Big Mike was on his game again.  He cruised through the first 3 innings by retiring the first 7 batters he faced, then squashed a potential 2-out rally with a strike 'em out-throw 'em out double play to end the 4th.  His cutter looked good and he was using the changeup well against lefties.

- The Yanks finally broke through for a run in the bottom of the 4th when John Ryan Murphy and Brett Gardner strung together a pair of 2-out base hits.  Scott Sizemore, hitless in the first game, scored the run after a base knock of his own.

- Things got a little sticky for Pineda in the 5th when he put the first 2 runners on, but he worked out of the jam with a strikeout and a flyout and finished his night with 6 scoreless innings.  Another great outing.

- Sizemore scored the first run and he drove in the second in the bottom of the 5th.  It was another 2-out RBI single, all the offense the bullpen would need.

- The rested 'pen was solid in relief of Pineda.  David Phelps worked 1.1 scoreless, Matt Thornton got the 2 lefties he was brought in to face out, and Adam Warren picked up the save in the 9th.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Game 14 Wrap-Up: NYY 3 CHC 0

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

The bad weather yesterday threw a wrench into the Yankees' plans for this weekend.  But as far as this short 2-game series against the Cubs was concerned, all it did was serve to delay the inevitable.  Masahiro Tanaka made his 3rd start today, a half-day later than he was scheduled to, and he didn't show any ill effects of the delay.  In fact, he was downright supreme in his mastery of the Cub lineup.  Hmmmmm, who predicted that was going to happen?  Oh that's right!

Game Notes:

- He didn't have to wait long for run support.  Carlos Beltran, hitting in the 2-spot again with Jeter sitting for the day game, popped a solo HR in the bottom of the 1st to give the Yanks a quick 1-0 lead.

- Tanaka immediately made that lead stand up by retiring 15 of the 16 batters he faced after the 1st.  The lone baserunner came on a bunt single in the 2nd that required a replay overturn to count.  Outside of that, he shut the Cubs down with a sick mix of sinkers, 4-seamers, and splitters.

- The lineup didn't generate much more offense against Chicago starter Jason Hammel, but they did enough.  They loaded the bases in the 4th on a pair of singles and a Solarte walk and plated a run on a Dean Anna sac fly, then scored another in the 5th on a Brett Gardner leadoff double and a pair of groundouts.

- The 1 would have been fine for Tanaka.  He allowed a leadoff single in the 7th but then finished strong with 6 straight outs through the end of the 8th, including 3 consecutive strikeouts to give him 10 on the day.

- Shawn Kelley came on in the 9th for the save and once again handled it with relative ease.  1 hit, 1 strikeout on a slider to end things, and the Yankees had the first game of the day.

Hal Is Drinking The Small Sample Size Kool-Aid

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Yesterday's rainout gave everybody an extra day to process the first 13 games and form some more opinions on what this team needs right now.  Obviously the infield is the biggest area of concern, but not according to Hal Steinbrenner.  Speaking to reporters for what I believe is the first time since the regular season started, Hal shared his thoughts on the Yankees' current infield situation.  They were unanimously positive:

"I'm pretty content with our infield right now.  I think guys like Anna and Solarte have been pleasant surprises. Kelly Johnson has been good. Derek is healthy. So so far, so good. But it's early."

Nothing to really argue with there.  If I wanted to pick nits, I could say that calling Derek Jeter "healthy" when he just had to miss a few games due to a sore quad is a bit of a stretch, but I won't go there.  Hal's basically right about everybody he mentioned in that statement.  Anna and Solarte have been unexpected surprises, Johnson has been very good at the plate and better than anticipated at the corner infield spots, and Jeter has been relatively healthy and productive through 2 weeks.  But Teix is out, Cervelli is out, Brendan Ryan is out, and Brian Roberts will be out for a yet to be determined amount of time.  That should be enough injuries to put the Yankees in the market for some more infield help, right?  Wrong.

Cash Explains The Murphy Decision

Via Chad Jennings:

“He’s the No. 1 catcher in Triple-A.  And we had a real need where, when McCan isn’t playing, he’s going to play. … Now that we’re in a situation where when the No. 1 catcher isn’t there, the backup is obviously the starter, we’re going to take the best player.”

Pretty cut and dry, and logically 100% right.  Murphy is the guy in Triple-A now, not Romine, and so he should get called up when the Major League club needs a backup catcher.  As much as playing every day in Triple-A might help him sharpen his skills, it's not like Murphy is not going to be playing at all as McCann's backup and it's not like he's not going to learn a ton and have the same opportunity to improve his skills working with and against better players and more experienced coaches.  Bring him up, let him get regular backup reps, and start to get an idea of what kind of Major League ceiling he has.  Makes perfect sense to me.

Doubleheader Day News And Notes

Ernie Banks must be a happy man today.  His Cubs and the Yankees will play their 2-game series as a 1-day doubleheader after being rained out last night.  Here's what you need to know to be prepared:

- The rotation order will not change for New York.  Masahiro Tanaka will pitch the afternoon game and Michael Pineda will pitch the nightcap.

- Because this game is happening with less than 48 hours notice, neither team will be able to add a 26th man to their active rosters.

- Because of the rainout yesterday, the Yanks will need another starter on Sunday in place of Tanaka.  He'll get back on his regular rest schedule thanks to the off-day next Monday.

- Derek Jeter is still scheduled to play today, although probably not in both games.  Sounds like Brian Roberts will be held out.

- Because they missed out on honoring Jackie Robinson yesterday, both teams will wear number 42 in the night game tonight.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Report: Yanks Now Planning To Call Up Murphy And Sizemore (UPDATED)

Hey, so you know that post I wrote earlier this morning about what it meant for the Yankees to call up John Ryan Murphy and Russ Canzler?  Yeah forget all that.  Via Sweeny Murti and confirmed by Dan Barbarisi, the plan has changed to replace Canzler with Scott Sizemore.

Sizemore is hitting .344/.436/.500 in 39 Triple-A PA with 4 XBH, 5 RBI, and 16 Ks.  He's played 5 games at third base for the RailRiders, 2 at second, and been the DH for 3.  Originally expected by some (read: me) to be the Opening Day utility infielder, Sizemore ended up falling out of the competition due to some lingering leg stiffness and lack of ST reps.  He has an opt-out clause in his MiL deal that kicks in on May 1st, so it does make sense for the Yankees to see what they've got in him before then.

Not sure how this will change Joe's plans for the infield for the rest of the week.  I have to assume Kelly Johnson stays at first base now, Sizemore and Solarte will play second and third, and Jeter and Anna will handle short.  Murphy would have given them some more third base insurance, so I kinda would have preferred Canzler, but whatever.  It's hard to pick nits when we're talking about Quad-A guys.

** UPDATE 11:52 AM- Confirmed by the team.  Murphy and Sizemore up, Cervelli to the 60-day DL. **

The Implications Of The Murphy And Canzler Call-Ups

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Bryan Hoch tweeted that out last night, after it was reported that John Ryan Murphy, and not Austin Romine, would get called up to replace Francisco Cervelli as the Major League backup catcher.  It has yet to be reported by any other beat guy or confirmed by the team itself, but I have to imagine this is the decision that will be made.  When the Yankees take the field tonight against the Cubs, they will be back to full strength.  Well, at least in terms of number of healthy bodies on the active roster.  That's better than where they were at on Sunday night.

While these moves provide the obvious benefit of getting the Yanks back to a standard 5-man bench/7-man 'pen roster breakdown and filling in the cracks on their injured infield, it's what's between the lines that is the real story here.  The decisions to call up Murphy and Canzler tell us a little bit about what else might be happening on the roster and in the front office.

What To Expect From Tanaka Tomorrow

(Courtesy of the AP)

Masahiro Tanaka returns to the hill tonight tomorrow for his 3rd Major League start.  His first 2 have been nothing short of impressive.  He's shown good velocity, next-level movement, plus command, competitiveness, and as evidenced by Mike Axisa's post on RAB yesterday, the mind for the game and balls to throw any pitch in any situation.

How he's gone about showing all those things off in 2 games has been fun to watch.  On 4/4 against the Blue Jays, Tanaka threw 97 pitches and managed to throw all 7 of the pitches he knows: 30 sinkers, 24 splitters, 18 sliders, 12 4-seam fastballs, 7 curveballs, 5 cutters, and 1 changeup.  He showed off the whole arsenal to a deep and powerful lineup, got 13 swinging strikes, 8 Ks, and a win.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Evening Injury Update Roundup (UPDATED)

There was a swirling torrent of injuries yesterday.  Here's the latest on all of them from today:

- Via Dan Barbarisi, last night's MRI revealed a Grade II strain of Francisco Cervelli's right hamstring.  He's been put on the DL and is expected to miss at least 4-6 weeks.  Shane Greene was optioned to Triple-A and Austin Romine likely will be called back up to take Cervelli's spot.

- Brian McCann had an x-ray done on his right ring finger after having that HBP ball hit him late in last night's game, and luckily that one came back negative.  He'll be fine.

- Apparently Yangervis Solarte took an inadvertent shot to the man region on that play at first base last night, hence the limp and pained reaction.  Nothing wrong with his groin.  He's good to go.

- Haven't heard anything on Jeter or Roberts, so I'm assuming Jeter is still playing tomorrow.  My guess is that Roberts will not and the Greene send down was to clear another roster spot for his non-40 man replacement.

** UPDATE 8:26 PM- Via Barbarisi again, it's actually John Ryan Murphy getting the call up instead of Romine.  Guess the Yankees really want to see what this kid can do. **

Random Thoughts & Afterthoughts From The First Two Weeks

(Gotta be the early leader for play of the year, no?  Courtesy of Getty Images)

The opening 2 weeks of the 2014 regular season have come and gone, and there's already an abundance of things to talk about in Yankeeland.  The Bombers woke up this morning atop the AL East, albeit as part of a 3-way tie with the Blue Jays and Rays.  Considering all the injury problems they've had to deal with and the slow start the heart of their order got off to, I'm more than happy to see them where they are with a 7-6 record.  The starting pitching has been very good (1st in MLB in IP, 2nd in BB/9, 10th in K/9, tied for 9th in fWAR), the offense is starting to heat up and really hasn't been as horrible as their run total might indicate (.335 team wOBA is 6th best in MLB), and they've gotten just enough from their makeshift bullpen (specifically Kelley, Warren, and Betances) to not have the loss of D-Rob be a total disaster.

While the team rests up and ices down in preparation for their interleague series with the Cubs tomorrow, here are some of my thoughts on what we've seen in the first 2 weeks.

Yanks Limping (Literally) Into Their First Off-Day

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

Very often in sports, commentators or writers like to say that something "couldn't have come at a better time" to help a struggling team.  In the Yankees' case, this first scheduled off-day of the year really could not have come at a better time after last night's injury casualties.  If the Yankees had to play a game tonight, it's doubtful they'd have enough healthy bodies to fill out the starting infield.