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Yankees Win Rubber Match Against Blue Jays

I watched as many innings of the Toronto Blue Jays three game set with the Yankees at the Stadium, but my schedule just wasn’t baseball friendly this weekend.  In any case, here’s what I saw:

The Good:

  • Brett Gardner has caught fire!  I think he must have hit .500 last week.
  • For a patch work starting pitching rotation, things are going pretty well.
  • The homers keep on coming!
  • My fantasy baseball team won!  I’m now 2-2 on the year, and I’ve made the team better… try to do a comprehensive post about this soon.

The Bad:

  • If Freddy Garcia is going to give up homers to the likes of Jose Bautista… I can live with that.  Not good, but not Fug-Ugly.
  • Derek Jeter hit another zillion ground balls this weak, but he’s at least hitting over his weight. Bad, but not Fug-Ugly.

The Fug-Ugly:

  • Pitching to Jose Bautista any time runners are on base.  JUST WALK HIM!
  • That Francisco Cervelli‘s sacrifice but with no outs in the 3rd inning after Brett Gardner walked on four straight pitches.  Who’s idea was that?  Why would you sac bunt with your fastest guy on 1st with no outs in the first?  WHY?!?

ALSO:
Kevin Millwood opted out of his minor league contract.  From the reports I read on this guy’s stuff down in the minors, we aren’t missing anything – and this dude must think his waste smells like ice cream.  As far as I can tell, he has no other offers, but that could change…  If Sergio Mitre gets hurt, maybe the Nationals will grab Millwood…

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Yankees Sign Millwood, Trade Mitre, Shape Up Rotation

UPDATED:  GARCIA HAS WON THE FIFTH SPOT IN THE YANKEES ROTATION AND COLON WILL GO TO THE BULLPEN.

With Spring Training winding down, the Yankees tweaks to their roster and starting rotation are nearly complete.

After about a zillion weeks of negotiation, the Yankees have finally landed Kevin Millwood to the minor league deal they’ve been dangling since the beginning of time.  Millwood was holding out for a guaranteed major league deal; I think he must have forgotten he finished the year with an ERA over 5 last season, but whatever.  Now that the music is about to stop and Millwood suddenly took his eyes off the floor and noticed there weren’t any chairs, he’s accepted a stool from the Yankees – not that he has any choice in the matter; given that he hasn’t thrown a pitch in a game yet this spring, he’ll have to go down the minors or extended spring training to get ready, so don’t expect him to be available until nearly May, if not later – and if everyone is pitching well, he could be in Scranton for a while.  (I presume he’s the team’s 7th starter, after whoever is the Yankees MLB long man.)

Sergio Mitre, who I have an irrational soft spot for, has been traded to the Brewers for Chris Dickerson, and outfielder who can play multiple positions and I assume is an insurance policy in case the oblique injury to Curtis Granderson causes him to start the season the DL.  If that is the case, I would expect Andruw Jones to start in left field, Nick Swisher in right and Brett Gardner in center, with Dickerson as the fourth outfielder.  (I hope Dickerson gets some playing time as I have a ton of Dickerson jokes waiting in the wings!)  Given that Brewers hurler Zack Grienke is currently injured, it looks like Mitre is going to get a chance to start there – so good luck to him!  Pitching in the inferior league’s weakest division could have an Ian Kennedy effect on Mitre.  Anyway, rumor has it that Mitre was going to be released at the end of spring training, so this was a good move by Brian Cashman.

It looks like Ivan Nova‘s solid spring has earned him a spot in the rotation, so the Yankees just have to decide if they’re going to start Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia.  It’s a tough decision; Colon has had the better spring, but he’s an older guy with a history of injury and didn’t pitch at all last year while  Garcia pitched over 150 innings in 2010.  I’d guess the Yankees are going to start the year with Garcia as there fifth starter, but we’ll find out for sure early next week.

Yankees Starting Rotation Battle

Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova are still in a battle for a place in the Yankees starting rotation.  From the very little I’ve seen, I’d say that in terms of performance, I’d rank Colon and Nova fairly close (although Nova’s 6 IP of shutout ball was impressive) and rank Garcia last.  Still, I think the Yankees are best served to slot Garcia and Colon as the fourth and fifth starters.  I don’t think anybody knows what the number is, but Nova has an innings limit this year, and even if they skip him a few times, I don’t see a good way to manage that at the major league level.

I like Nova a lot, and I don’t want to see his development retarded in any way.  I don’t think his ceiling is much higher than a number 3 starter, but that’s nothing to sneeze at.  The Yankees will need a number five starter a lot more this April than they have in the last few seasons (or, at least that’s how I remember it), so they won’t really have the luxury of skipping anyone in April much.  Frankly, the Yankees may as well find out what Garcia and Colon have – if a guy can’t get it done, they’ll get released, and that will be that.  On the other hand, if you bring Nova north, you have to manage a developing starter with an innings limit while trying to win a pennant, something I don’t feel the Yankees have excelled at over the last few years.  If Nova does poorly and they have to send him back down, then they’ve just wasted an option on him.  They might as well send him to Scranton-Wilkes Barre (I hate typing that – why can’t they just be the Scranton Yankees?), limit his starts to five innings and not call him up until Colon or Garcia stink or get hurt, because one (or both) of those things will happen at some point this season – I guarantee it.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Is he going to mention Sergio Mitre or Manny Banuelos as a rotation candidate or not?”  The answer is not.  Mitre stinks; he’s a serviceable long man/mop up man/emergency starter, but that’s where it ends – and Banuelos is not of legal drinking age.  I know he’s great (I’ve seen him pitch), but he’s never thrown a pitch in AAA.  Banuelos is the real deal – he might be a number 2 or even a number 1 some day – let’s allow him develop and bring him up when he’s ready.  As for Andrew Brackman, I love all six feet eleven inches of that guy (yeah, update your score cards, he grew an inch over the winter), but he’s not ready yet either – he’s also never thrown a pitch in AAA.  I don’t think Brackman will ever be as good as Banuelos, but again, let’s wait till he’s ready before we bring him up – and if you look at his numbers and injury history, he doesn’t need any extra pressure of trying to make the big league roster…  oh sorry, he’s already been sent to minor league camp.  Never mind.

To the Readership:

I really appreciate that so many people have been dropping by the site and I’m sorry there hasn’t been much in the way of posts this month, but frankly, there hasn’t been much to write about.  The Yankees don’t have many question marks this year and the first half of spring training is, for lack of a better phrase, boring as hell.  The starters hardly play, the rotation pitchers only pitch a few innings… I think Mariano Rivera has made one appearance so far this spring… my point is, it’s early.  There’s still an entire season to go, and I don’t want to get burned out.  I also don’t want to write those filler posts that make up the bulk of March content on a lot of other Yankees blogs…  I can only read so many ‘how so-and-so might perform this year before I throw in the towel, you know?  A lot of people have been writing that Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson will have better seasons this year than they did last year…  brilliant writing!  Anyway, all I really wanted to say was thanks for dropping by and I promise that come April, the posts will be fast and furious!

Yankees First Spring Training Game is Saturday Feb 26

I drowsily drifted through yesterday’s NY Times article on Derek Jeter’s reaction (or lack there of) to Hank Steinbrenner’s comments about… I don’t know… Jeter’s new house?

The day after Steinbrenner, a Yankees co-chairman, seemed to take an indirect shot at Jeter, the team’s captain, by saying that some players were “too busy building mansions” and “not concentrating on winning” after their 2010 bid for a title repeat expired in the American League Championship Series, Jeter playfully deconstructed those remarks. He noted that Steinbrenner used the plural form of mansion and did not once explicitly mention him.

Anyway, Jeter didn’t seem to care about Hank’s comments, and I certainly don’t, so lets move on to the rest of the article… Oh wait, that’s pretty much all there is. Except at the very bottom, there’s this delicious nugget of info:

INSIDE PITCH

The chase for a rotation spot gets under way Saturday, when Bartolo Colon is scheduled to start the Grapefruit League opener against Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels. Joe Girardi said Ivan Nova, C. C. Sabathia, A. J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia would start the subsequent five games.

I don’t have any idea why the entire article wasn’t about this. Somebody explain it to me! This is easily the biggest storyline surrounding the Yankees this spring, and all it gets is two lousy sentences. Couldn’t somebody ask him any follow up questions about this? Like, uhm, I don’t know, maybe, “So does this mean that Bartolo Colon, Freddy Carcia and Ivan Nova are the only candidates for the four and five spots in the starting rotation in Yankee camp?” How about, “Is Sergio Mitre going to make a start this spring?” I’d like to know, wouldn’t you? I’m sure Ben Shpigel is a nice guy and all, but jeez – he really dropped the ball on that one. Who cares about the Steinbrenner comments and Jeter’s reaction? I want to know who’s contending for the starting rotation! And I didn’t find this article by digging through the bowels of the Times’ sports section – this link was on their HOMEPAGE! I spend a great deal of time running through the streets, heralding the exceptional work that the folks at the NY Times do, but this just abysmal. I want real news, not gossip! I could have read this same article anywhere – I’m sure it was the back page story on the NY Post and the NY Daily News, and I’m sure it’s on Yahoo! Sports home page right now.

I’m starting to get excited – we get to see at least a taste of what Bartolo Colon has on the YES network this Saturday at 1:05. I am pumped – pumped! If I’m counting right (and I’m probably not) we’ll get to see Freddy Garcia on Thursday, March 3rd, also at 1:05, and the battle of the non-roster invites will officially be under way! Between Garcia, Colon and Nova (assuming Mitre is already out of the running?), can at least one of these guys give us 200 innings and an ERA around 4.75? (6 IP per start and 3ER would be a 4.50 ERA, so I’m not exactly asking for greatness.) It’s a tall order, but if one of them did, he’d win 10 games easily.

It’s finally happening on Saturday! Let the games BEGIN!

Yankees Sign Freddy Garcia – Yawn

The Yankees signed Freddy Garcia to a minor league contract worth over a million dollars but up to less than four million if he reaches incentives. He can opt out at the end of March if he doesn’t make the Yankee’s big league roster.

I would say Garcia has a better chance to make the team then Bartolo Colon (Oh yeah, the Yankees signed Colon to a minor league deal, too – I read somewhere that he’s throwing 94 in the Winter League, but who knows how true that is – bottom line, Colon hasn’t thrown a full season’s worth of baseball in about 5 years, so I wouldn’t count on him for anything) – Garcia threw around 150 innings last year to the tune of a 4.64 ERA. Too bad he’s not left handed, but then, he had good numbers against lefties last year – which might have something to do with why the Yankees signed him in the first place, given the Red Sox lefty heavy line up. On the other hand, I heard Colon was throwing 94 MPH in winter ball, so who knows what he’ll bring to the table. I’d like to see Ivan Nova start the year at triple A and have Sergio Mitre as the long man and throw both these guys in there as the fourth and fifth starter and see what they can do. If they both stink, they didn’t really cost the Yankees anything and they can be cut or traded. Who knows, maybe the Yankees can catch lighting in a bottle.

But ultimately, yawn. This isn’t exactly the sexy sort of signing the Yankees have made a hallmark of in most off seasons, but then, the free agent market is pretty weak this year. As currently constructed, I see the Yankees winning 96 games in 2011.

Speculating on the Yankees 25 Man Roster for the 2011 Season – Revised Edition

Now that the Yankees have signed former Rays closer Rafael Soriano, I’ll need to Revise my Yankees 25 Man Roster Speculation. The signing doesn’t throw too big of a wrench in my guessing, but it certainly creates some interesting question marks as we get closer to spring training.

Rafael SorianoMy January 5th Pitching Roster was set as follows:

Starting Rotation:
CC Sabathia – LHP
Phil Hughes – RHP
A.J. Burnett – RHP
Sergio Mitre – RHP
Ivan Nova – RHP

Bullpen
Boone Logan – LHP
Pedro Feliciano – LHP
Mariano Rivera – RHP
Joba Chamberlain – RHP
Dave Robertson – RHP
Romulo Sanchez – RHP

My first instinct is to simply give the spot occupied by Sanchez to Soriano, but I don’t think it’s that simple. The first thing you have to consider is why the Yankees would side Soriano in the first place – probably because they have no confidence in Joba or D-Rob to be the setup man or to close when Mo is not available. But I don’t think this necessarily slots D-Rob and Joba to the 7th inning – well, maybe it does D-Rob, but I have to hope against hope that the statement ‘Joba Chamberlain will stay in the bullpen’ is as valid as ‘Bubba Crosby will be our opening day center fielder.’ I think this creates a unique opportunity for the Yankees to keep Sanchez – who is not great, but he throws hard, is young and is out of options, so the Yankees will lose him anyway – send Nova to AAA as the sixth starter and at least let Joba try to hold the fifth starter spot.

I like Joba’s stuff as a starter, and I don’t see why they don’t give him another chance – unless his shoulder is wrecked and they aren’t telling us. But, who knows what the Yankees are planning… I never thought the Yankees would sign Mark Teixeira, or Soriano, for that matter. Maybe they pan to package Sanchez and Joba in a trade for a crappy starter. I guess all questions will be answered soon enough… in the meantime, I’ll keep guessing.

Projecting Yankees 25 Man Playoff Roster

Now that the Yankees have clinched a playoff berth, I can have some fun and speculate on the Yankees 25 man playoff roster and talk about how I would use them if I were managing the Yankees.

Round 1 – best of 5 against the Minnesota Twins. I don’t feel the Yankees need to use 4 starting pitchers in this series, so I left AJ Burnett off the roster. For the best of 7 rounds, I dropped a backup outfielder (this could also be a relief pitcher in that 25th spot) and put Burnett back on there.

  1. CC Sabathia

    • game 1 starter
  2. Andy Pettitte
    • game 2 starter
  3. Phil Hughes
    • game 3 starter (AJ Burnett isn’t really giving me a choice here)
  4. Mariano Rivera
    • closer.  Mo saves: for he is the power, the kingdom, and the glory, forever and ever…
  5. Kerry Wood
    • primary setup man
  6. Joba Chamberlain
    • RH RP – comes into the game at the beginning of innings (preferably)
  7. David Robertson
    • RH RP – the fireman, comes into tough situations in the middle of innings to deliver us from evil with Ks
  8. Boone Logan
    • LH RP – primary lefty out of the pen to get the big bat out in the biggest match up situation
  9. Royce Ring
    • LH RP – extra match up lefty, used early in the game – especially useful against all those Twins left handed bats; if the Yankees don’t get the Twins at some point, maybe you fill this spot with another backup outfielder
  10. Sergio Mitre
    • emergency long man; Mitre has decent numbers out of the pen this year.  Javier Vazquez’s sample size for relief outings is too small and Chad Gaudin’s numbers stink.
  11. Jorge Posada
    • starting catcher
  12. Mark Teixeira
    • starting 1B
  13. Robinson Cano
    • starting 2B
  14. Derek Jeter
    • starting SS
  15. Alex Rodriguez
    • starting 3B
  16. Brett Gardner
    • starting LF
  17. Curtis Granderson
    • starting CF
  18. Nick Swisher
    • starting RF
  19. Austin Kearns
    • 4th outfielder
  20. Ramiro Pena
    • pinch runner/backup infielder for every position but 1B, unless absolutely necessary; haven’t seen him play there
  21. Francisco Cervelli
    • backup catcher, not an awful option for punch runner, but then we’re out of catchers, so only in a game ending situation
  22. Lance Berkman
    • DH/PH against right RHP, backup 1B
  23. Marcus Thames
    • DH/PH against LHP, emergency outfielder
  24. Eduardo Nunez
    • pinch runner, emergency middle infielder.  I went with Nunez over Juan Miranda because with Berkman and Thames, I feel like the Yankees bench has enough bats, and I don’t have a ton of faith in Miranda’s bat, anyway.  Besides, Nunez can play more than one position and has speed, which I’d like to have off the bench, say in the 8th inning after Posada walks…
  25. ALDC:  Colin Curtis/Greg Golson/Kevin Russo //  ALCS/WS:  A.J. Burnett, 4 starter
    • I haven’t seen enough of these guys to decide who’d be the most valuable as a pinch runner and/or as a backup outfielder; in fact, I considered putting a reliever in this spot, but who?  I like Ivan Nova a lot, but let’s face it, he’s a kid and has hardly an MLB experience
    • I know, I know – nobody wants to see Burnett in the playoffs.  Sorry, folks – you’re going to have to get over that.  If the Yankees make it passed the first round, Burnett is going to start.  Experience counts in the playoffs, and really, when it’s all on the line, who would you rather have out there?  Vazquez?  Gaudin?  Nova?  Mitre?  In your heart of hearts, you know Burnett and his 95 MPH fastball and nasty curve ball are the way to go.  All starters will be on a short leash, anyway, so at the first sign of trouble, Joe Girardi will more than likely go get him anyway – or anyone else

That’s the way I see it. I know some folks want to give Nova a chance, but I think that’s asking too much, too soon of an inexperienced kid. It’d be a bold move, and I don’t see someone as calculating as Girardi doing it. Joe Torre wouldn’t even consider it; he loves his veterans.

Wild Card or AL East Division winners, it’s all the same. The Yankees are in the dance, so they’ve got a chance. This is what we wait all year for, and we’ve had the opportunity to watch October baseball for 15 out the last 16 years, and it never gets old. No matter what happens, this has been a great year. Let’s see if they can go all the way and get number 28! I’m predicting a rematch of last year’s World Series and despite Philly looking a little better than last year (although I don’t know who they have in their bullpen), I’m also predicting the same outcome.

LET’S GO YANKEES!

NOTE:
Nice job by David Price for calling out his fan base – it might not have been the best business decision for the Rays organization, but they have a good team and it deserves it’s fan’s support. If they can’t get it, they should move – I’m sure Las Vegas would welcome them with open arms.
An even better job by the Rays for giving away thousands of free tickets in the wake of Price-Gate. Maybe they can win the fans over yet

Check out my post at The Fowl Balls on Mariano Rivera’s tough outings in September.

Burnett woes

A.J. Burnett got crushed last night – again.  His velocity is still there, but his location is awful, and his curve ball wasn’t very good.  I still believe the yankees will use Burnett in the playoffs – there isn’t really a viable alternative:

  1. Ivan Nova is too young, too inexperienced
  2. Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre probably shouldn’ t be on the post post season roster.  These guys just can’t get it done
  3. Dustin Moseley is OK, but I don’t think I want a playoff game in his hands
  4. Javier Vazquez is… well, Javier Vazquez

Burnett is still throwing hard, and I don’t think he’s forgetten how to pitch forever.  I’m not saying he’s going to pitch brilliantly, but his ERA was over 5 in the post season last year, and they still managed to win a few of his starts – and lose a few.  It certainly didn’t break their back.

Let’s have a quick shout out for Bomber banter favorite, Curtis Granderson.  As we all know, he’s really come on since working with Kevin Long, but his September game log is just amazing:  9 HR, 23, RBI, .287 batting average.  That’s getting it done!

curtis granderson

Yankees suffer another walk off loss

The Yankees are on a road trip of disastrous proportions, having lost four games in a row and 3 of the walk off variety. True, it’s pretty hard to win extra innings games on the road, but something’s got to give at some point, right?

The bar I was at was fully inundated with Monday Night Football, and the table we got was far away from the lone Yankee game, so it was hard to see what was going on. However, the box score shows a well pitched game by two of the games great starters in CC Sabathia and David Price. Both pitchers did everything that they could, coming up with eight scoreless innings each, but neither got the win as the shut out finally ended in the eleventh, courtesy of Sergio Mitre.

The one up side is that with the exception of Kerry Wood, the Yankees didn’t use any of their elite relief pitches, except Boone Logan, who struck out the only batter he faced. Of course, there is no way to tell how rookie Ivan Nova will respond to the pressure tonight, but if he does well, the Yankees have plenty of backup dancers ready to run out there.

As for Monday Night Football, well – the Jets talk a good game, but as Ray Rice observed, “HBO is not going to win the Super Bowl.” How hilarious was that when what’s-his-name ran out of bounds with no one around him short of the 1st down? Well, probably not that hilarious if you’re a Jets fan.

I’m laughing because I’m a Giants fan. See that NY Giants link up there in the menu? I’ll be blogging about the Giants in the space, especially when the Yankees season is over. I missed the entire first half last week, but from what I saw in that sloppy second half, I think that if the Giants can stay healthy, they’ll win 10 games. They’ve got a lot of talent over there, and if they can keep everyone on the field, they could surprise me and go deep in the playoffs.

Yankee fans grab brooms after AJ's redemption

AJ Burnett turned in a line of 6 IP, 6 hits, 3 R (ER), 2 BB, 8 Ks (wow), and 1 HR. Not spectacular when it takes 100 pitches to get through 6 innings, but the strike outs were impressive. He was throwing a breaking ball in the low 80s… I guess that’s what he usually throws, but something seemed different about it last night.

I don’t want to get too excited about Burnett’s performance against the lowly offense of the Oakland Athletics, but he got through 6 and didn’t get hammered, and after his awful August, that’s good enough. But the bottom line is Burnett is not coming out the rotation unless he’s hurt. He makes too much money.

Speaking of the rotation, Javier Vazquez is going back into the rotation and Dustin Moseley is going back to the bullpen. It’s hard to argue this logic, given the current trends of both pitchers, but I long for the day when Andy Pettitte returns from injury. Nobody adjusts on the fly like Pettitte. Still, Moseley will join Chad Guadin and Sergio Mitre, who have served invaluable rolls as long men as the starting rotation has struggled.

What an awesome job by the Yankees bullpen. If its not a long man pitching 4 innings in relief, it’s the short guys kicking butt. Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera combined to protect the 1 run lead over 3 innings. That’s pitching. If the Yankees get their rotation figured out, they’re going to be all but unbeatable in the playoffs. But that’s a pretty big if!

The Yankees left 9 men on base. Yeesh. After the second inning, they never scored again. Mark Teixeira continues to swing a hot bat, and fresh from the DL, Lance Berkman joined Teix with a double of his own. Derek Jeter got his first hit of the series, so he’s 1-12 so far this time against the As. My boy Curtis Granderson went 2-4 as he continues to try and improve his 2010 numbers, but it’s probably too late for that.

What can I say about the As? They stink. I don’t know if they’re kids and the big bad Yankees scare them or what, but from what I’ve seen this season, they just don’t play very well. Cliff Pennington has been a menace over at short stop this series, whether he’s missing the first basemen by a lot (leave the pivot-360-jump-throw to Jeter, buddy) or kicking the ball, he just reinforces the fact that Oakland is fielding a team of kids who just aren’t ready to compete at this level. The As overall defense and offense are pretty stinky, and their much heralded starting rotation isn’t very good away from home, as any sabermetrically minded Yankees blog will illustrate to you. I know the As came into this series over .500, but playing Seattle and Los Angeles 30 times a year will do that. Today they’ll have to deal with CC Sabthia, going for his 19 win of the season.

Good luck with that.

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