Results tagged ‘ Alex Rdriguez ’

What’s On Second, I Don’t Know At Third For Yanks

Abbott: Nicknames, nicknames. Now, on the . . . team we have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third -

Costello: That’s what I want to find out. I want you to tell me the names of the fellows on the . . . team.

Abbott: I’m telling you. Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know is on third -

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The classic Lou Costello and Bud Abbott comedy sketch is a perfect metaphor for the 2014 Yankees. Because it is beginning to look like What’s on second and I Don’t Know is on third.

The angry free-agent departure of Robinson Cano and the looming suspension hovering over the head of Alex Rodriguez have those two spots in a bit of limbo now.

The Yankees pretty much were prepared for the suspension of A-Rod but they were not really expecting Cano to get in a tizzy over the contract offered to outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and leave like a spoiled child. But general manager Brian Cashman has had to deal with these situations since he became general manager in 1998.

He does not panic. He moves on.

When second baseman Omar Infante elected to sign with the Kansas City Royals for four years and $30 million on Dec. 17, Cashman turned to two-time All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts to fill the void for the Yankees.

At the moment, news reports indicate, the Yankees are close to signing Roberts, 36, to a one-year deal worth about $2 million plus incentives. If Roberts does indeed sign he likely would become the Yankees’ primary starting second baseman for the 2014 season.

When Cano left for the Seattle Mariners, Cashman said that all players are replaceable. But he added that some were harder to replace than others. Cano certainly falls into that latter category.

It is not easy to replace a player who hit .314 with 27 home runs and 107 RBIs and played Gold Glove-quality defense. Putting it succinctly, how do replace the team’s best second baseman in history? The answer, of course, is that you don’t.

Even if the Yankees had signed Infante, it would not have been the same. Infante, 32, hit .318 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs for the Detroit Tigers last season but he is not even close to Cano in ability. So with Infante off the board, Roberts becomes the Yankees No. 1 target.

The question with Roberts is at his age does he have anything left? Another question is can he remain healthy?

After the Yankees disastrous 2013 campaign when even Cashman himself broke his leg skydiving at a charity event, making sure their players can answer the bell to start the 2014 season and have confidence they can finish it would have to be a top priority.

Roberts does not instill a lot of that confidence.

From 2007 through 2009, Roberts was among the top second basemen in baseball, averaging .290 with 120 stolen bases and playing in 157 games a season. But much like A-Rod, staying on the field since 2010 has been a challenge for the former Baltimore Orioles star.

He has played in only 192 games since the 2010 season due to a variety of injuries with the most serious being a concussion that shelved him for portions of two seasons.

Roberts played in 77 games for the O’s last season, batting .249 with eight home runs and 39 RBIs.

Because Roberts is a switch-hitter, the Yankees would likely use him as their primary second baseman because free agent infielder Kelly Johnson has the ability to play third base and he could be used there should Rodriguez have to face a suspension covering all of the 2014 season.

Johnson, 31, bats left-handed and he figures in as more as a potential platoon third baseman with the Yankees also looking to possibly re-sign free-agent Mark Reynolds. Johnson also could back up Roberts at second, as could shortstops Brendan Ryan and Eduardo Nunez.

The disarray at second and third is odd for a Yankee team that has boasted an infield of Mark Teixeira at first, Cano at second, Derek Jeter at short and Rodriguez at third since the 2009 season. But injuries and off-field troubles for Rodriguez and the recent departure of Cano have thrown this once powerful part of the team for a loop.

Teixeira and Jeter are both coming off serious injuries and they hope to be ready to play sometime during spring training in order to begin the season. Rodriguez missed all but 44 games last season recovering from hip surgery last January and has played in 138 games or less since the 2007 season.

Adding the injury-prone Roberts does not seem to make much sense. But he might be healthiest among the other three at this point.

In addition to Roberts, the Yankees are also talking with former All-Star infielder Michael Young, 37, who is capable of playing all four infield positions.

Young hit a combined .279 with eight home runs and 46 RBIs for the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He is a right-handed hitter who primarily is considered a third baseman. The Yankees would not sign Reynolds if Young decides to sign.

But the signing of Roberts would not preclude the team from also signing Young, who would platoon with Johnson at third base in the absence of Rodriguez.

So Roberts looks to be more a Plan A signing while Young and Reynolds are more of a Plan B after the Yankees get a ruling from the arbitrator who is deciding Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game suspension for his alleged role in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal.

The hearing was concluded in mid-November with the players’ association seeking to overturn or reduce Rodriguez’s suspension handed down by Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig last summer. Rodriguez actually stormed out of the hearing in a huff on Nov. 20 when arbitrator Frederic Horowicz ruled that Selig did not have to testify in front of Rodriguez’s attorneys.

Rodriguez said, at that time, that the issue of his suspension likely would end up in a federal court.

Horowicz is expected to issue his ruling some time in January.

In the meantime, the Yankees have kept a public posture of saying that they expect Rodriguez, 38, to be their starting third baseman on Opening Day. But privately they have to be ready to fill the position should Rodriguez be suspended for the entire 2014 season.

That is why they signed Johnson and why they remain interested in Young and Reynolds.

One thing is certain, however: The Yankees would be better off with Rodriguez’s diminished bat in the lineup than without it.

Rodriguez hit .244 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in 44 games last season and was hampered the final month of the season with tightness in his left hamstring. But it was a far cry better than the production they got from Jayson Nix, Nunez, Corban Joseph, David Adams, Chris Nelson and Luis Cruz.

Reynolds, 30, did hit .236 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 36 games but he was also needed at first base in a platoon with Lyle Overbay and he is not considered to be as adept fielding at third base as he is at first.

So when the Yankees say “I Don’t Know” is playing third they really mean it.

To be sure, the Yankees have shored up the team’s offense by signing catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Carlos Beltran and Ellsbury and trading last season for outfielder Alfonso Soriano. They also are shoring up the rotation by re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and looking to sign 25-year-old Japanese pitching star Masahiro Tanaka, who has been posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles.

But around the horn of the infield there are question marks everywhere.

Those question marks all have answers. But none of them appear to be answerable in the short term. What was once a Yankee strength appears to be a possible weakness.

Of course, should Teixeira show up in spring training hitting home runs and Jeter starts running the bases and fielding his position without any pronounced limp, the rest of the infield troubles can be overcome with some hard work.

Roberts could be the answer at second and there are worse things than having a platoon at third until Rodriguez is able to return.

Yankee fans are not accustomed to it. But they might just have to get used to it. Things just look like they will be in a state of flux for a good while.

 

‘Okie Dokie’ Hiroki Has Rangers Firing Blanks

GAME 116

YANKEES 3, RANGERS 0

In his last three starts, Hiroki Kuroda was 0-1 with two no-decisions despite recording an ERA of 2.61. Even though he was pitching a no-hitter through six innings on Tuesday it appeared that Kuroda was headed to yet another no-decision or a loss because the Yankees also were held scoreless through six innings.

But Nick Swisher came through for the second straight night with a big home run, a two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh, and Mark Teixeira followed him with a solo blast of his own while Kuroda ended up throwing a two-hit, complete-game shutout as New York defeated Texas again in the second game of the clash of the two titans of the American League.

Kuroda (11-8) issued only two walks over the first six innings before Elvis Andrus led off the seventh inning with an infield single to shortstop Jayson Nix. Kuroda was able to get out of the inning, stranding Andrus on third. Michael Young hit a solid single into center to lead off the eighth, but he quickly was erased in a double play off the bat of David Murphy.

Kuroda pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to record his fourth career complete game and his second of the season.

The Yankees had no trouble getting runners on base against Rangers starter Matt Harrison (13-7). The hard part was getting a timely hit to score one of them.

Harrison kept the Yankees from scoring by stranding seven runners over the first four innings, including three in the third inning when Curtis Granderson flew out to center with the bases loaded.

However, the Yankees finally broke through in the seventh inning when Derek Jeter stroked a one-out single into center. Rangers manager Ron Washington then decided to replace Harrison with right-hander Alexi Ogando.

Swisher battled Ogando for seven pitches into a full count before he tomahawked a high fastball into the second deck of the bleachers in right-field as a crowd of 44,533 fans at Yankee Stadium went delirious.

Before those fans got the chance to settle back into their seats Teixeira smacked a 2-1 fastball about 10 rows deep in the right-field bleachers, marking the ninth time this season the Yankees have hit back-to-back home runs.

Kuroda finished the night having thrown first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 29 batters he faced and he threw 74 of his 109 pitches for strikes (68 percent). Andrus was only the Rangers to reach scoring position as the Yankees backed Kuroda up with a pair of double plays.

It was Kuroda’s first victory since July 23 against the Seattle Mariners.

The victory improved the Yankees’ record to 69-47, two games better than the Rangers for the best record in the American League. The Yankees currently lead both the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles by 6 games in the American League East. The Rangers fell to 67-48.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher’s home run was his 16th of the season and he is now on a nice little hot streak at the plate. In his last eight games, Swisher is 12-for-34 (.353) with two home runs and 10 RBIs. In his two games against the Rangers, Swisher is 3-for-8 (.375) with two home runs and seven RBIs.
  • Teixeira’s home run was 23rd of the season and he still leads the team in RBIs with 77. He now has a eight-game hitting streak in which he is 11-for-32 (.344) with three home runs and five RBIs. He was 2-for-4 on the night and it raised his season average to .260.
  • Kuroda has never looked better on the mound for the Yankees. He kept a dangerous Rangers’ attack off-balance all night with his his slider and split-finger fastball. In Kuroda’s 14 starts since May 21, he is 10-2 with a 2.90 ERA. In his two losses he gave up only five runs in 13 1/3 innings, which is a 3.38 ERA. His season ERA is now 3.06, which is eighth best in the A.L.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I could mention Granderson’s flyout with the bases loaded and his two strikeouts but that would be nitpicking. Kuroda was sensational and Swisher and Teixeira came through to give him the support he deserved. The Yankees have a shot to win the four-game series on Wednesday. Things are looking up!

BOMBER BANTER

X-rays on Alex Rodriguez’s fractured left hand showed positive results and the brace on his hand will be removed. Rodriguez now will be able to do strength exercises and the Yankees are still targeting a return to action for the third baseman some time in September. Rodriguez has been on the disabled list since July 24.  . . .  Andy Pettitte was given clearance by team’s medical staff to begin long tossing as he continues his recovery from a fractured left ankle. The Yankees have no timeline for Pettitte’s return but they hope he is able to pitch in September in order to be able to be ready for the postseason.

ON DECK

The Yankees hope to clinch the four-game series against the Rangers on Wednesday.

Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (6-5, 4.85 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Garcia allowed just two runs in six innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday to win his second consecutive start. Garcia is 8-5 with a 4.10 ERA in his career against Texas.

The Rangers will throw right-hander Scott Feldman (6-7, 4.64 ERA). Feldman gave up four runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings on Friday in a loss against the Detroit Tigers. He is 3-2 with a 4.85 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Leave Tampa Bay Area With Blank Glare

GAME 3

RAYS 3, YANKEES 0

This weekend for the Yankees was like it came from the mind of 1970s disaster film king Irwin Allen. The title could be “Voyage to the Bottom of the Division.”

Jeremy Hellickson blanked New York on three hits in 8 2/3 innings as Tampa Bay gave the term “Bronx Bombers” a new twist in a weekend opening series sweep on Sunday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.

Hellickson (1-0) struck four and walked four before giving way to Fernando Rodney for a one-out save in the ninth.

Phil Hughes (0-1) actually pitched well but did not get any support for his efforts, He gave up two runs on four hits and two walks and struck five in 4 2/3 innings when his pitch count reached 99. The Rays were determined not to swing until at any offering unless they had two strikes on them.

The whole weekend was a series of contrasts. The balls the Yankees hit would either go right to a Rays’ fielder and the long fly balls stayed in the ballpark. But every ball the Rays hit would just elude a Yankee fielder or inch over the wall. Maybe instead of Irwin Allen it was more like a haunting Alfred Hitchcock.

One would guess is that if Rays manager Joe Maddon had stationed a fielder on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge one of the Yankees would have hit it right into his glove.

The Yankees are an early 0-3. The Rays are 3-0. But I seem to remember the Rays starting poorly last season and it did not deter them.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • No Yankees were actually harmed in the production of this disaster.
  • The last time the Yankees started a season 0-3 was in 1998 and they happened to win 114 games and went on to win a world championship, So there is a silver lining in the Tampa Bay thunderstorm clouds.
  • Hughes actually did pitch well and it bodes well for a bounce-back season for him.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • On Saturday Jeff Keppinger of the Rays deliberately hit the ball to the right side of the infield to advance Luke Scott to third base. I do not recall a single Yankee “giving themselves up” to advance a baser-runner this entire weekend. All I saw was a lot of weak popups, grounders and strikeouts with runners in scoring position. For the weekend they were 5-for-25 (.200).
  • Nick Swisher failed twice in run-scoring opportunities on Sunday and it set the tone for the Yankees’ frustrating day. In the fourth, with one out and Alex Rodriguez on third and Mark Teixeira on second after a double, Swisher messed up a 3-1 count by hitting a weak popup to third. In the sixth, with two outs and Rodriguez on third and Teixeira at first, Swisher was called out on strikes.
  • I remember in spring training how manager Joe Girardi was proud of his veteran designated hitters Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez for their experience in playing the outfield and how it would give the team lots of flexibility. Girardi chose on Sunday to start Ibanez in right-field and Swisher as the DH. However, just because Ibanez “can” play the outfield doesn’t mean he should. In the first inning, Evan Longoria doubled to left with two out. Matt Joyce followed with a sinking liner to right that Ibanez misplayed into a triple and the Rays scored the only run they needed the rest of the day.  Ibanez has no business playing the outfield on an artificial surface, period.

BOMBER BANTER

Andy Pettitte will make his first start in a minor-league game on Monday with Class-A Tampa against Clearwater in Florida State League game in Clearwater, FL. Pettitte, 39, hopes to resume his major-league career with the Yankees sometime in May.  . . .  Despite the fact he was limping after the game, Curtis Granderson said his sore right calf was not a serious injury. Granderson fouled a ball off his right calf in the third inning. He later struck out and finished the day 0-for-3 with a walk.  . . .  Girardi opted not to rest Rodriguez on Sunday and he said the veteran third baseman likely will DH on Monday. Girardi said there will be focus on trying to keep Rodriguez and Derek Jeter rested throughout the season.

ON DECK

For the first time since they arrived in Tampa, FL., in February for spring training the Yankees will be in Baltimore on Monday to play the Orioles.

The Yankees will start right-hander Ivan Nova. Nova had a pretty forgettable spring after recording a 16-4 record and a 3.70 ERA in his rookie season. He was 2-0 with a 3.55 ERA in four starts against the Orioles last season.

The Orioles will counter with left-hander Brian Matusz, coming of a 1-9 record and 10.69 ERA in 2011. Matusz is 2-4 with a 4.70 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

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