Results tagged ‘ Jose Campos ’
On Feb. 15, 2007, the course of history for the New York Yankees took a huge turn and the current state of the team begs the question: What if it did not happen?
Though the Yankees were still be operated ostensibly by managing general partner George Steinbrenner, the actual day-to-day operations were being run by Steinbrenner’s son-in-law, Steve Swindal, who was named the successor to Steinbrenner in June 2005.
Swindal was chosen over Steinbrenner’s two sons, Hal and Hank, because Steinbrenner felt more comfortable with Swindal’s leadership and his vast baseball knowledge.
However, while the Yankees were in the midst of spring training in 2007, Swindal’s vehicle unfortunately cut off in traffic a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office cruiser driven by a female deputy. A chase ensued in which Swindal’s vehicle was clocked at 61 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone before he was stopped by St. Petersburg police.
Swindal declined to take a Breathalyzer test but failed a field sobriety test and was charged with driving while under the influence.
Swindal’s wife, Jennifer, later that year filed for divorce from her husband and Swindal’s stake as a general partner and chairman of the Yankees’ parent company was bought back by the Steinbrenner family in November of that year. Hal was shifted into Swindal’s role with the club and the history of this franchise was forever changed.
The Yankees were known in the Wild West days of early free agency as the major-league team with the largest saddlebags. Under George Steinbrenner’s regime from when he purchased the team in 1973 through November 2007 the Yankees tossed around millions like pennies in a fountain to lure the free agents they coveted.
In some cases, the elder Steinbrenner would be so ruthless in negotiations with free agents he would even increase a bid that already was more than any rival team was offering – actually bidding against himself.
Of course, that led to such signings as Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage and Dave Winfield. Between free agent signings and some shrewd trades the Yankees won a pair of World Series in 1978 and 1979 and Steinbrenner and the Yankees were being cursed all around baseball for “buying their way” to prosperity.
Though Steinbrenner’s money did re-establish the Yankees in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Yankees actually failed to make the playoffs from 1982 through 1994. A combination of some poor signings and trades doomed the Yankees until their minor-league system began turning out a solid of corps of young stars such as Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.
Those players along with the acquisition of Paul O’Neill and the signings of pitchers such as Jimmy Key, David Wells and David Cone pushed the Yankees into an amazing run in which they won four world championships from 1996 through 2000.
Since then the team has only failed to make the playoffs in one season – 2008. They won their 27th world title in 2009 after dipping heavy into the free-agent market in signing pitchers CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and first baseman Mark Teixeira.
But in 2003, Major League Baseball instituted its first luxury tax, which was supposed to operate alongside revenue sharing to allow small-market teams to draw money from teams who were over a threshold payroll limit, which was set at $178 million in 2011. All teams shared the remaining revenue.
Only four teams have ever exceeded the established luxury tax limit: the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, the Los Angeles Angels and the Detroit Tigers. However, only the Yankees and Red Sox have ever exceeded it twice and the Yankees have paid in 95 percent of all the luxury tax since its inception.
When Hal Steinbrenner took control of the team he decided that the Yankees’ philosophy of paying top dollar and ignoring the luxury tax would have to come to an end.
In 2014, the payroll threshold will be increased to $189 million. By a complicated formula set up by the teams, there would be refunded revenue sharing streams for teams who remain under the luxury tax threshold. That gives the Yankees an added incentive to cut payroll below $189 million in 2014.
Not only will the team save money by trimming payroll; they would receive a considerable sum of refunded revenues as well. This explains why the Steinbrenner family informed general manager Brian Cashman that he will have to pass on high-priced free agents and he will have to pass on trading for players with huge long-term contracts.
So Yankee fans have watched a stream of free agents like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Jose Reyes, Yu Darvish and Yoenis Cespedes sign with other teams instead of with the Yankees. The Yankees are already on the hook for long-term deals to Alex Rodriguez, Sabathia and Teixeira.
Those three contracts alone are worth $73,875,000 plus player benefits worth an additional $10.8 million, which will also count against the $189 million.
That leaves a remainder of a little less than $105,000,000 to pay the remainder of the team’s 40-man roster in 2014.
That is why the Yankees have let Nick Swisher and Russell Martin go this offseason and it is likely that Curtis Granderson will follow them out the door sometime within the next year.
The team will also have another group of expiring contracts such as one of Robinson Cano. Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are working this season under one-year contracts.
The question is will the Yankees make an effort to offer Cano a lucrative multiyear contract to remain a Yankee? Can they afford to do it? What will they do with Jeter, who is a significantly aging commodity at shortstop?
Some Yankee fans were quick to point out that if Rodriguez is found to have taken performance enhancing drugs past the 2003 date he previously claimed that the Yankees could easily just void his contract and dump him. But that may be a pipe dream.
First, Major League Baseball must have proof that he did it and then mete out a 50-game suspension. But Rodriguez can appeal the procedure and delay its effect. He also could have the suspension tossed out.
The Yankees would find it very difficult to find relevant clauses in his contract to escape from the $114,000,000 they owe Rodriguez through the 2017 season. The Players’ Association and his agent would certainly fight it and that could lead to a prolonged court battle with no guarantee the Yankees could win.
In addition, should the Yankees lose they would still have to pay Rodriguez and play him. He may not be in any mood to produce much for them either. He gets paid no matter how bad he is. So any thought of voiding his contract is going to have to be very carefully weighed.
The long-term effect of what has been an austerity program the Yankees have been under since the 2009 season ended is that the balance of power in baseball is widening out to teams who have lots of money to spend under the current salary threshold like the Tigers, the Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Texas Rangers.
These are the teams that have been active in the free-agent market and teams like the Toronto Blue Jays have benefitted from what was a talent fire-sale by the New York Mets and the Miami Marlins.
The Red Sox traded most of their high-priced players like Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez away last season to the Dodgers to restock their 2013 roster while keeping well below the looming $189 million limit.
That is why the Yankees’ prospects for the 2013 season are not as bright as they might have been under the old George Steinbrenner regime or the short-lived rule of Swindal.
Would old George or Swindal have allowed the Yankees to wither on the vine for the past three seasons and basically pinch pennies and risk the team missing the playoffs in 2013?
Hal Steinbrenner has already stated quite clearly that he expects the 2013 club to remain a top-quality team within the confines placed upon Cashman and the team’s scouts. The result is the current Yankee roster is full of 40-year-olds like Rivera and Pettitte and players in their late 30s such as Rodriguez, Jeter, Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki and the newly signed DH Travis Hafner.
Cashman spent a lot of time and effort stocking the minor-league system with talented young players over the past five years and Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Brett Gardner have provided some support to an aging corps of veterans.
However, the two best minor-league prospects the Yankees have produced in that time, Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero, were both packaged in trades. Jackson was sent out in three-player swap between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tigers that yielded Granderson for the Yankees. Montero was sent along with two other players to the Seattle Mariners in return for right-handed pitchers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.
While Jackson is thriving with the defending American League champions, Granderson has provided the Yankees with two consecutive seasons of 40-plus home runs and a lot of strikeouts. And though Montero has proven to be lackluster on defense as a catcher, his power in Yankee Stadium will be missed in a season in which the Yankees are choosing between singles-hitting catchers Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart.
In addition, both Pineda, 25, and Campos, 20, suffered injuries and had their 2012 seasons cut short. Pineda is recovering from right shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum and he could miss a portion of the 2013 season and may not be 100 percent until the 2014 season. Campos was shut down with a right elbow injury that did not require surgery.
The Yankees have a number of very good prospects within their minor-league system, including a catcher who hits as well as Montero and has better defensive skills in Gary Sanchez, 20. They also have a pair of good-looking outfielders in Mason Williams and Tyler Austin and an up-and-coming star reliever in Mark Montgomery.
But the question is will the Yankees allow these players to develop long enough to make the roster or will they package and ship them out as they have done with Jackson and Montero?
The problem with young players – most especially pitchers – as they develop in the minors is that they need to be promoted to learn at the major-league level. Too often the Yankees pull a player back and ship them back to the minors when they initially fail.
The Yankees did that with Hughes and right-handed pitcher Ian Kennedy in 2008. They both got off to shaky starts (a combined 0-7 record) and the Yankees believed they could not afford to keep them on the roster.
Anyone want to guess what the records of Tom Glavine and John Smoltz were in their first full season with the Atlanta Braves?
Glavine was 7-17 with a 4.56 ERA in 1988 and Smoltz was 2-7 with a 5.48 ERA in 12 starts the same season.
If Glavine and Smoltz were with the Yankees in 1988 they would have been sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for another season and their major-league development would have been stilted. In 1989, Glavine was 14-8 with a 3.68 and Smoltz was 12-11 with a 2.94 ERA.
The point is that players have to learn at the major-league level and when you are constantly shipping them back out they will never learn how to succeed in the major leagues. A good case in point is when the Yankees elected to ship right-hander Ivan Nova back to Scranton in the middle of the 2011 season despite the fact he ended up the season with a 16-4 record.
The Yankees are pretty rough on their prospects. If they are not ready to contribute on Day One they get sent back down. Sometimes players in the late 20s like Colin Curtis find themselves drifting in the Yankees’ system but never even given the chance to play in the majors much.
Then there are the Monteros and Jacksons who succeed just enough in the minors to be traded. Then there are the Kennedys, who are traded and ended up going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA for the Diamondbacks in 2011. So the Yankees show patience with players like Curtis, who never made it in the majors, and a lack of patience with players like Kennedy, who succeeds with another team.
If the Yankees are to adhere to this stringent luxury tax threshold in 2014 they are going to have to stop making the mistake of trading their great prospects away or, at the least, if they are going to trade them they better get something of real value back for it. They also could benefit by being a bit more patient with their young players when they call them up.
The Montero-Pineda deal is but one example of those mistakes. Cashman can’t afford to do that much going forward.
The Yankees are going to need good young athletes and skilled pitchers coming out of their system on a regular basis to retool this franchise through the end of the decade. It will certainly lower payroll, make the team better-suited for healthy runs at championships and may prove – ultimately – that Hal Steinbrenner had the right approach.
Otherwise, there will be hell to pay and old George will be have cigar smoke coming out of his ears as he rolls around in his grave. If a ghost could ever fire a son, old George will figure out a way to get that done.
This is the first of a three-part series on how the New York Yankees’ 2013 roster is shaping up this winter. There will be some changes and we will look at the starting pitching, the bullpen and the starting lineup to see what those changes might involve. This is:
PART1: STARTING PITCHING
Meat cleaver or scalpel?
That is the choice every Major League Baseball general manager ponders over the winter with respect to how to deal with their 2013 rosters.
Teams like the Miami Marlins may believe the meat cleaver approach is the way to go while teams like the Los Angeles Angels are looking to add a piece here and cut out a small piece there with a gentle scalpel.
The New York Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman pretty much have the choice made for them by payroll commitments that restrain what they can or can’t do. Long-term contracts handed out to C.C. Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter plus potential free agency down the road for Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano kind of limits what Cashman can do to repair what needs fixing.
Of course, the criticism of some Yankee fans that the team needs to “get younger” is being counterbalanced by those long-term deals and the signing of veterans like Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki.
Some factors have already played out. Catcher Russell Martin has signed a more lucrative multiyear deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates and it is a certainty that right-fielder Nick Swisher will not return.
We also know that Rodriguez, once again, will be unavailable to play a full season for the Yankees. Hip surgery scheduled for January will shelve the 37-year-old veteran until June at the earliest. That will mean Rodriguez has failed to play a full season with the team since 2007.
So what will Cashman do to address the needs of the team? Let’s look at the roster and see what the Yankees have and what they may need.
There is a huge debate about the Yankee starting pitchers. Though the Yankees won the American League East with Sabathia, Kuroda, Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova, there are those who believe it is not strong enough to carry the team to the team’s 28th championship.
Obviously, Cashman disagrees because he re-signed Pettitte and Kuroda. One reason he may have felt it necessary to sign a 37-year-old right-hander and 40-year-old left-hander was because Kuroda and Pettitte pitched well in 2012. Kuroda posted a career-best 16 victories with a 3.32 ERA. Pettitte was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in his 12 starts in a season abbreviated by a broken ankle.
Cashman sees Sabathia, Kuroda and Pettitte as the core of the starting staff.
Hughes regained the form that saw him go 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA in 2010. He was 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA. Though he has won 34 games in his first two seasons as a starter and he is only 26 years old, Yankee fans want him to be more consistent. Unfortunately, Hughes is basically a fastball-curveball pitcher lacking a quality third pitch. So without a quality third pitch, Hughes will pretty much stay on the tract he currently is on.
Nova, however, has possibly the best stuff of the staff. When his fastball, curve and slider are right he can be downright nasty. But after an impressive 2011 rookie season that saw him go 16-4 with a 3.40 ERA, Nova took a step backwards in 2012.
Nova was 12-9 with a 5.02 ERA and he gave up a whopping 28 home runs and hitters hit a ridiculously high .288 against him. But the Yankees are not ready to give up on Nova at age 25. Nova still has the capability of being the same guy who was the team’s No. 2 starter in his rookie season. Why demote a guy who is 28-13 in his first major-league 55 starts?
The Yankees also have a insurance policy behind their top five with rookie right-hander David Phelps.
Phelps earned his way on to the team as a long reliever after being named the team’s top pitcher in the minor leagues in 2011 and the best rookie pitcher on the team last spring. He then drew raves for his work out of the bullpen and as spot starter, finishing the season with a 4-4 record and 3.34 ERA in 33 appearances (11 starts). At age 26, Phelps has a future as a starter.
Cashman may add a starter or two to the mix this winter but it is likely they will be along the lines of the Freddy Garcia scrap-heap variety. Yankee fans are dreaming if they are thinking Cashman is going to obtain Justin Verlander or David Price in a trade.
Of course, the prospects for this staff would have been better if Cashman’s major deal of 2012 did not blow up in his face.
The Yankees traded a power-hitting catcher compared as a hitter to Mike Piazza and Manny Ramirez in 22-year-old Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda after he posted a 9-10 record with a 3.34 ERA in 2011. Because Montero was such a heralded young prospect, much was expected of Pineda when he arrived at spring training last February.
However, it was pretty apparent that he came to camp severely overweight and the velocity he showed on his fastball in 2011 was missing. After six starts this spring and he was raked like last winter’s leaves to the tune of a 5.68 ERA it became that there was something wrong.
As it turns out, Pineda was forced to undergo arthroscopic surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder and he missed all of 2012. Pineda is progressing in his rehab and he hopes to be able to pitch this spring. However, the Yankees are not really counting on Pineda to be able to claim a starting spot this spring. He probably will continue to rehab at the team’s spring complex in Tampa, FL, until he is ready to pitch in a lengthy rehab assignment in the minors.
Pineda could be a big boost to the staff at midseason or he could end up working out in a full season in the minors in order to compete for a starting role in 2014.
The Yankees boasted in 2012 the team’s best minor-league pitching depth they have had in many years. Phelps was among five pitchers the Yankees believed were just on the cusp of possible stardom at the Triple-A level.
Though Phelps succeeded, D.J. Mitchell was traded late in 2012 to the Mariners as the Yankees did with Hector Noesi as part of the Pineda deal. Adam Warren struggled in his only major-league start though he remains a potential starter for the team at age 25.
But the team’s two top pitching prospects had disastrous campaigns in 2012.
Manny Banuelos, 21, made only six starts at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being shut down with a left elbow injury. He ended up having to undergo Tommy John surgery and he will miss all of the 2013 season.
Meanwhile, Delin Betances, a 24-year-old right-hander, pitched so poorly at Scranton (3-5, 6.39 ERA) he had to be demoted to Double-A Trenton and he was not much better there (3-4, 6.51 ERA). Betances has been unable to harness his control in the minors and he needs to show some significant improvement in 2013 to maintain his prospect status.
The Yankees do have a number of pitchers that could have a long-range impact on the team.
Brett Marshall, 22, was 13-7 with a 3.52 ERA at Trenton in 2012. Though the right-hander has not been labeled as a top prospect, he is similar to Phelps in that he has succeeded at each level he has pitched. He was the Yankees’ best minor league pitcher in 2012.
Lefty Nik Turley, 23, is a tall strike-throwing machine who was 9-5 with a 2.89 ERA at Class-A Tampa. Righty Jose A. Ramirez, 22, was 7-6 with a 3.19 ERA at Tampa. Jose Campos, 20, was acquired along with Pineda in the Montero deal and he could be a real gem.
Campos was 3-0 with a 4.01 ERA in five starts for Class-A Charleston before the right-hander had to be shut down with a minor elbow injury. Campos led the Northwest League in ERA and strikeouts in 2011 and he may end up being more valuable in the long term that Pineda. The Yankees will be watching his progress closely in 2013.
Cashman and the Yankees seem to have a matrimonial allegiance to their pitching staff these days. They pledged their devotion to each other to remain in sickness and in health for as both retain their jobs. But in baseball, there are short honeymoons. The problem will manifest itself if the staff does not do its part.
The Yankees’ pledge to reduce payroll makes it hard for this team to spend a large amount of money on a Plan B. So the Yankees have to really hope that what they have on hand is enough.
NEXT: THE BULLPEN
The New York Yankees have reached the halfway mark of the season and they are comfortably in first place in the American League East. This is despite some injuries to some keep players such as Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain. As we do every year, let’s look at the individual components of the team and issue grades for the first half.
CC SABATHIA (9-3, 3.45 ERA)
HIROKI KURODA (8-7, 3.17 ERA)
PHIL HUGHES (9-6, 4.29 ERA)
IVAN NOVA (9-3, 4.05 ERA)
ANDY PETTITTE (3-3, 3.22 ERA)
When the New York Yankees were assembling their starting pitchers for the 2012 season they decided to stay away from high-priced free agents like C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish and when they inquired about potential trades they stayed away from teams that were asking too much in return for pitchers like Mark Buerhle, Gio Gonzalez and Matt Garza.
Their first order of business was make sure CC Sabathia was not going to opt out of his contract. He didn’t and the Yankees rewarded their ace with a very lucrative extension to the contract he signed in the winter of 2009.
With that accomplished they decided to offer a 2012 contract to Freddy Garcia, who impressed the Yankees by recording a 12-8 record and a 3.62 ERA in his first season in pinstripes.
They then bolstered their rotation even further by trading mega-prospect Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners in return from rookie sensation Michael Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos.
They then signed former Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to one-year, $10 million contract.
The Yankees knew that they needed some additional starters to buy time for five young minor-league starters to develop. Trading for Pineda and signing Kuroda would allow the Yankees to continue the development of 21-year-old left-hander Manny Banuelos, 24-year-old right-hander Dellin Betances, 25-year-old right-hander Adam Warren, 25-year-old right-hander D.J. Mitchell and 25-year-old right-hander David Phelps.
The Yankees hoped that rookie right-hander Ivan Nova would continue to develop after a season in which he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA and they were hopeful 26-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes had put his issues with weakness in his right shoulder behind him and was healthy for the 2012 season.
But, spring training proved to be a little more topsy-turvy than manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild would have hoped.
Pineda, 23, showed up in camp about 20 pounds overweight and as the spring unfolded he was not reaching the mid-90s velocity he exhibited in the first half of the 2011 season. Though publicly the Yankees were saying they were not concerned, privately they were wondering if they had made a terrible mistake in trading away a great prospect in Montero for sore-armed Pineda.
Late in spring training, Pineda came off the mound in a game in which he was shelled by the Phillies complaining of a sore right shoulder. An MRI indicated a partially torn labrum and Pineda would have surgery and miss the entire 2012 season. Oops!
That left the Yankees with five healthy pitchers for five slots. However, Andy Pettitte, who retired after the 2010 season, decided this spring that he wanted to make a comeback and the Yankees were more than willing to accommodate him. He stayed behind at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, FL, to get in shape for a return sometime in early May.
Now the Yankees had six pitchers and five spots available. But Girardi was confident things would work out on their own. Little did he know that his rotation would end up in tatters in April.
In his four April starts, Garcia was 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA. Garcia’s fastball, which he used to be able to reach the low 90s with was topping out at about 86 miles per hour. That made him fodder for major-league hitters who were willing to wait for something in the strike zone to whack. And Garcia ended up taking some major whackings.
Hughes was 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA in his four April starts and the Yankees possibly were thinking of either shifting him to the bullpen, sending him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or trading him altogether. It was as if the Yankees had finally reached a point with Hughes that they were willing to give up on him.
Nova was hit really hard in the spring and when the season started there was major concerns about his effectiveness. The funny thing was Nova was 3-0 in April but his ERA was 5.18. Ouch!
Kuroda was getting lit up also. American League East teams found his off-speed stuff worth teeing off on, but Kuroda mixed in a few impressive starts to record an inconsistent 2-3 mark with a 3.69 ERA.
Sabathia, meanwhile, was a lot like Nova. He was 3-0 but his ERA was elevated at 4.58. But, then again, Sabathia has been known to start slow and get hot as the weather warms. So there were no real concerns with him.
Pettitte, meanwhile, returned to the Yankees on May 13 for a start against the Mariners. Garcia was banished to the bullpen to make room for the 40-year-old left-hander.
The week after May 13 also seems to coincide with the resurgence of the pitching staff. Every starter seemed to pull things together and harness their stuff to begin a long winning streak. The starting pitching was strong enough to overcome what was an inconsistent offense that could only hit home runs and not hit with runners in scoring position.
Pettitte seemed to light a spark under Hughes and Nova. Kuroda seemed to make the adjustments he needed to make pitching in the American League for the first time and Sabathia got hot like the weather.
Pettitte was 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA in his nine starts through June 27 when a hard-hit ball off the bat of Casey Kotchman of the Cleveland Indians struck Pettitte just above his left ankle and fractured his tibia. As a result, Pettitte will miss about two months. But the Yankees are hopeful he will be able to pitch down the stretch enough to be ready for the playoffs.
It is a shame but the staff that Pettitte inspired has really not missed a beat since he was placed on the disabled list.
Since May 25, Nova is 6-1 with a 2.98 ERA in nine starts. Since May 6, Hughes is 8-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 12 starts. Since May 27, Kuroda is 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in eight starts.
Sabathia is 6-3 with a 2.89 since May 4. But Sabathia had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time since the 2007 season on June 25 due to a slight strain in his left groin. He missed two starts leading up the All-Star break but is expected to be activated on July 17 for a start at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.
In Pettitte’s place, the Yankees have discovered a starter with almost an equal ability to mix pitches and speeds to keep batters off balance. He is Garcia. Yep, that same Garcia that took thrashing in April.
The man who was abruptly banished to the bullpen found his old fastball velocity and the difference in his results on the mound have been like night and day.
In his two starts in place of Pettitte, Garcia is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA. The Yankees can certainly live with that until Pettitte returns sometime in late August.
Though the Yankees were criticized for not signing any high-priced free-agent pitchers or trading for some, the Yankees have been patient with what they have and it has paid dividends.
On May 21, the Yankees took a 6-0 walloping from the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium and it dropped their season record to 21-21, which found them tied for last place in the American League East with the Boston Red Sox. They trailed the first-place Tampa Bay Rays by 5 1/2 games.
The Yankees reached the 81-game mark with a 4-3 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL, to improve their season record to 49-32. Their 28-11 surge since May 21 gave them a .718 winning percentage over that 39-game stretch and put them in first place in the division by 5 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles.
The biggest reason the Yankees were able to surge into first place was the strength of their starting rotation, which not only held opponents hitters down but they also pitched deep into games. That ended up helping the bullpen shine in closing out games in the late innings because they were not needed as much as they were in April.
The combined record of the starters at the 81-game mark is 40-24. Their team ERA of 3.73 is fourth in the American League.
With the second half to go, Girardi and Rothschild have to keep this momentum from the starters going while preparing them for the playoffs. At this moment it appears that the Yankees will have a good chance to have four pitchers (Sabathia, Hughes, Nova and Kuroda) win 16 games or more. That would make the staff formidable come the playoffs.
Add to that the most successful starter in modern playoff history in Pettitte, than you have the makings of a strong group heading into the postseason.
PETTITTE: I (Incomplete)
GARCIA: I (Incomplete)
DAVID PHELPS (0-1, 2.08 ERA in 3 starts)
ADAM WARREN (0-0, 23.14 ERA in 1 start)
The Yankees dipped into their minor-league quintet of young starters at Triple-A to make some fill-in starts.
Phelps made two starts in early May in place of Garcia while the Yankees were still waiting for Pettitte to make his 2012 debut. Meanwhile, Warren and Phelps filled in one start apiece for Sabathia just before the All-Star break.
Phelps actually pitched quite well overall in his three starts and he shows some long-term promise as starter for the future. His only negative was that his pitch count got the better of him in all three starts and he was not able to complete five full innings in any one of them.
Earlier in the season, Phelps spent most of the season with the Yankees as a long man out the bullpen and he was 1-3 with a 3.05 ERA overall in 41 1/3 innings over 15 appearances.
But after his start for the Yankees on the Fourth of July against the Rays, the Yankees sent him Double-A Trenton to stretch him out as a starter. So if anything should happen to any of the Yankees five current starters, Phelps would likely be first in line as a replacement.
Warren, however, had a disastrous major-league debut on June 29 at Yankee Stadium against the Chicago White Sox. As a result we are not likely to see Warren the rest of the season.
He is 5-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 16 starts at Scranton this season.
WARREN: I (Incomplete)
In addition to Phelps and Warren, the Yankees have also called up Mitchell and he is currently on the 25-man roster as a long reliever.
Mitchell is 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA in just 3 2/3 innings covering three appearances. Mitchell’s main calling card is his sinking fastball that allows him to induce a lot of groundball outs.
He was 5-4 with a 5.36 ERA in 14 starts at Scranton this season. The Yankees still consider him a starter but he actually may have more value at the major-league level as a reliever. The Yankees liken him to former Yankee sinker specialist Ramiro Mendoza.
The two biggest jewels in the Yankees’ minor-league system are Banuelos and Betances. Banuelos entered 2012 as the No. 1 prospect and Betances was listed at No. 2. However, neither has distinguished himself at Scranton.
Banuelos was 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts before being placed on the disabled list with a left elbow injury. Fortunately for the Yankees, an MRI showed no structural damage to the elbow, but the team is being extremely cautious with their top pitching prospect.
Betances, meanwhile, was 3-5 with an ugly 6.39 ERA at Triple-A in 16 starts before being demoted back to Double-A Trenton. He is 0-1 with an 0.75 ERA there in two starts.
Both pitchers have plus fastballs and they both project to top of the rotation starters in the major leagues. But they both share a problem with harnessing their stuff. Betances walked 69 batters in 74 2/3 innings at Scranton and Banuelos walked nearly five batters every nine innings last season.
The Yankees best pitcher at Triple-A is 39-year-old right-hander Ramon Ortiz. The Dominican is 6-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 16 starts. Though at age 39 he would fit right in with the Yankees’ roster, Ortiz is with his 12th different organization and the Yankees likely would feel more comfortable using Phelps or Mitchell.
Campos, 19, led the Northwest League in strikeouts and ERA last season and the Yankees were excited to get him as part of the deal that brought them Pineda.
Campos was 3-0 with a 4.01 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings before also being shelved with an elbow injury. Like Banuelos, the Yankees are saying the injury is not serious, but Campos is in Tampa rehabbing at a slow pace.
The Yankees most successful minor-league pitcher this season is 22-year-old right-hander Brett Marshall, who is 9-3 with a 3.17 ERA in 17 starts with Double-A Trenton. Marshall is not a fireballer like Banuelos or Betances (he has just 61 strikeouts in 91 1/3 innings).
After Tommy John surgery Marshall has found that the movement on his pitches is more important than velocity. He is on track to make it to the Yankees within the next two or three years.
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B
The much-maligned Yankee rotation has been the biggest factor in the Yankees re-awakening after May 21 and their current comfortable lead in their division.
Veterans Sabathia and Kuroda have mixed well with young guns Hughes and Nova to make this one of the best rotations in baseball.
The addition of Pettitte boosted the staff in May and Kuroda, Hughes and Nova immediately started erasing Yankee fans memories about how awful they were in April. When Pettitte returns the Yankees will have the best No. 1 through No. 5 rotation in baseball.
In the meantime, Garcia has fixed his velocity problem an he appears to be pitching to his 2011 form based on his most recent two starts.
With Phelps in the wings it is doubtful the Yankees will make a trade-deadline move to get an additional starter.
Though I continue to see fellow bloggers and Yankee fans insist the Yankees should make an effort to trade for Matt Cain or Cole Hamels, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has maintained the Yankees are determined to cut payroll by 2014.
If the Yankees passed on Wilson, Darvish, Buerhle, Gonzalez and Garza before there is no reason to think they will add to the team’s payroll by trading for a high-priced starter at the end of the month. The Yankees think they can win with what they have and it is doubtful they will add anyone significant at the deadline.
Those dyed-in-the-wool Yankee lovers can start crying now. It just is not going to happen.
YANKEES 6, MARINERS 2
From the dawn of time this maxim has always held true: No matter how powerful the king, it is the strength of the opposing foot soldier who can dethrone him. On Friday night, that story played out in front of a paid crowd of 37,886 at Yankee Stadium.
Raul Ibanez, a loyal foot soldier if there ever was one, blasted a first-pitch fastball from “King Felix” Hernandez and drove the ball deep into the seats in right-center for a three-run home run in the sixth inning that gave New York a come-from-behind 6-2 victory over Seattle.
Ibanez’s mighty blow for the “Kingdom in the Bronx” supported a good outing from 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda as the Yankees have now won five of their last six games.
Kuroda (3-4) gave up a leadoff solo home run to Dustin Ackley in the first inning and another solo home run to former Yankee mega-prospect Jesus Montero in the top of the sixth that gave the Mariners a 2-1 lead. Otherwise, Kuroda pitched brilliantly with runners on base.
He gave up only the two runs on six hits and three walks and he struck out two over seven innings.
The Yankees, however, wore down Hernandez gradually.
Hernandez (3-2) entered the game with a 3-0 record at the new Yankee Stadium and on a steak of 18 consecutive starts in which he had not allowed a first-inning run – the longest current streak in the majors. But the Yankees took care of that streak when Curtis Granderson stroked a one-out single, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Robinson Cano, who was 4-for-4 on the night.
After Montero untied it in the top of the sixth, the Yankees got busy wearing down Hernandez bottom of the frame.
Alex Rodriguez drew a leadoff walk and Cano followed with another single to right. After two were out in the inning, Ibanez stepped to the plate and he was looking for first-pitch fastball from Hernandez.
He got it and drove the pitch deep into the bleachers in right-center to give the Yankees their first lead of the game, which held up with the help of the bullpen.
Clay Rapada, Cory Wade, Boone Logan and David Robertson combined to pitch the final two innings and they retired the Mariners on just one infield single and struck out two.
Pinch-hitter Andrew Jones gave the Yankees their final margin with a two-run home run off Mariners reliever Steve Delabar in the bottom of the eighth.
Hernandez was charged with four runs on 11 hits and two walks and he struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to 18-14. The Mariners fell to 15-19.
- Though he did give up a pair of solo homers, Kuroda did an excellent job keeping the Mariners from scoring with runners in scoring position. The key at-bat of the game came with two out and the bases loaded with Mariners in the fifth inning and fellow Kuroda countryman Ichiro Suzuki at the plate. Kuroda was able to induce Suzuki to hit a grounder to Rodriguez at third and Rodriguez stepped on third to end the inning without the Mariners scoring a run.
- Cano is blazing hot now with his 4-for-4 night. He has a nine-game hitting streak and is 16-for-36 (.444) in that span with two home runs and eight RBIs. Cano has raised his batting average from .255 at the start of the streak to .308.
- Ibanez followed up his two-homer, three-RBI game against James Shields and the Rays on Tuesday with this huge three-run home run against Hernandez on Friday. Ibanez is hitting .268 with six home runs and 19 RBIs on the season.
- Though he is not hitting much for power, Rodriguez is getting on base with regularity lately. He was 2-for-3 with a walk in the game and he is now hitting .361 in his last 10 games. A-Rod has raised his season average to .297 although he has only five home runs and 14 RBIs.
- I hate to keep beating a dead horse but the only player who played in Friday’s game and got an at-bat but did not get a hit was Russell Martin. The veteran catcher was 0-for-4 and his batting average has now dipped to .179. After going 3-for-4 with a home run on Saturday against Kansas City, Martin is 1-for-16 (.063).
- A combination of a bad decision by third-base coach Rob Thomson and some hesitation before rounding third base by Rodriguez cost the Yankees a run in the fourth inning. Rodriguez was on first and Cano was on second when Mark Teixeira looped a single to shallow left. Thomson chose to send Rodriguez. Rodriguez slowed up just before reaching third thinking Thomson would hold him. But he then tried to speed up when he saw Thomson waving him in. Rodriguez was cut down easily by left-fielder Mike Carp’s throw to Montero at the plate.
- Nick Swisher did single to lead off the eighth but his previous three at-bats were horrible. In the second, Swisher flew out to left with a runner at first and no outs. In the fourth, he bounced out to Hernandez with two on and one out. In the sixth, he struck out looking with Rodriguez on third and Teixeira at first and one out. Ibanez, however, did bail him out with his home run after the strikeout.
The Yankees, as expected, activated Eric Chavez on Friday when he was deemed recovered from his concussion by Major League Baseball. However, in a surprise move, the Yankees elected to send Eduardo Nunez to Triple-A Sranton/Wilkes-Barre and kept utilityman Jayson Nix on the roster. Nunez was batting .294 with no home runs, five RBIs and six stolen bases in 51 at-bats as a backup infielder. But the reason Nunez is being sent down had to do with his fielding. Nunez has committed a team-leading four errors this season, including two errors while playing at third base that led to two unearned runs scored off CC Sabathia by the Rays on Thursday. Nunez was replaced in the field in the sixth inning by Nix. Last season, Nunez led the Yankees in errors with 20 despite playing only half the innings the regulars played. Manager Joe Girardi said the Yankees might have hurt Nunez by asking him to play too many positions. Girardi said Nunez will play most of the time at shortstop at Scranton and he occasionally will play second base. The biggest loss for the Yankees is the speed Nunez provides. With Brett Gardner out another two to four weeks with a strained right elbow, Granderson is the only true base-stealer the Yankees have in the lineup.
The Yankees will continue their three-game series with the Mariners on Saturday.
The Yankees will start 25-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes (2-4, 6.67 ERA), who is coming off his best two starts of the season. On Sunday, Hughes held the Royals to three runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings. He is 3-2 with a 3.21 ERA in his career against the Mariners.
The Yankees also will see another old friend in a Mariners’ uniform on Saturday in right-hander Hector Noesi (2-3, 6.30 ERA). Noesi, along with Montero, were traded to the Yankees this winter in return for 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos, who both are currently on the disabled list with arm problems. Noesi is coming off a one-run, four-hit outing of seven innings in a victory over the Twins.
Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
RANGERS 7, YANKEES 3
Adrian Beltre homered and drove in three runs on Wednesday to lead Texas to series victory over New York at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX.
Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland added solo home runs for the Rangers and Robbie Ross (4-0) threw 2 2/3 innings of perfect relief to get credit for the victory.
For the fourth consecutive start, Phil Hughes (1-3) failed to pitch six innings, giving up four runs on five hits and striking out two in 2 2/3 innings. David Phelps, thought to be in line to get a shot at starting, was not much better, surrendering three runs on five hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings.
With the loss the Yankees’ season record falls to 10-8. The Rangers are 15-4.
- Raul Ibanez was one of the few bright spots for the Yankees. He was 2-for-4 including a solo home run off Neftali Feliz in the seventh and an RBI double in the fourth to plate the Yankees’ first run. In limited play, Ibanez, 39, is hitting .271 with three home runs and 11 RBIs.
- Derek Jeter is hotter than a July evening in Texas. He was 2-for-4 in the game to raise his season average to an astounding .420, which is third in the major leagues behind the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp and Red Sox DH David Ortiz.
- Other than Phelps, the bullpen did a good job of keeping the Yankees close for most of the game. Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Boone Logan and Rafael Soriano kept the Rangers scoreless over the three innings they pitched, giving up only one hit and a walk. Despite some of the starters struggling the bullpen is still holding up well.
- The time has come for the Yankees to place Phil Hughes in the bullpen. Trailing 1-0 with one out in the third inning, Hughes unraveled. Mitch Moreland singled and Ian Kinsler followed with a bloop opposite-field double to right. After an RBI groundout by Elvis Andrus, Hughes hit Josh Hamilton with a pitch. Beltre, who homered off him in his previous at-bat, stroked an RBI single and Michael Young followed with an RBI double. After Hughes brushed Nelson Cruz’s jersey with an inside pitch, Girardi removed him from the game. Hughes is 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA.
- Curtis Granderson looks absolutely clueless at the plate. He was 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts in the game. In the series, Granderson was 1-for-9 with three walks and five strikeouts. None of the swinging strikeouts came on pitches that were in the strike zone.
- After going 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position in their victory over the Rangers on Monday, the Yankees were 2-for-14 over the last two games. Alex Rodriguez was the poster boy for the futility, going 0-for-8 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out of the infield.
If losing the game were not enough, the Yankees learned earlier Wednesday that right-hander Michael Pineda has a slight anterior labral tear and he will have to undergo season-ending arthroscopic surgery next Tuesday. Dr. David Altchek, the Mets’ team physician, will perform the surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, assisted by Yankees team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad. Pineda, 23, will miss a minimum of 12 months. Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos were acquired in February in a trade with the Seattle Mariners for 22-year-old slugger Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi. . . . Meanwhile, left-hander Andy Pettitte gave up four runs (three earned) in five innings and took the loss as Double-A Trenton lost to Erie 10-4 on Wednesday. Pettitte struck out three and walked one and threw 59 of his 81 pitches for strikes. Pettitte is scheduled to make two more starts before being placed on the major-league roster.
The Yankees finished the road trip with a 3-2 mark and now they come home to face the Detroit Tigers on Friday.
The good news is their best starting pitcher will open the series. Ivan Nova (3-0, 3.79 ERA) is riding a streak of consecutive victories and he can tie Rogers Clemens’ team record of 16 with a victory. Nova gave up two runs on seven hits and fanned five batters last Friday as the Yankees defeated the Red Sox 6-2 on Fenway Park’s 100th birthday. Nova is 0-0 with a 0,00 ERA against the Tigers but did defeat them in Game 1 of the ALDS last October.
Unfortunately, the Yankees will be facing Justin Verlander (2-1, 1.72 ERA). Verlander blanked the Rangers for six innings while striking out eight in his last start. The reigning American league MVP and Cy Young Award winner is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 11, ASTROS 9 (RAIN SHORTENED)
KISSIMMEE, FL - A week or so ago it just seemed the Yankees were not scoring any runs. After Saturday’s Grapefruit League game against the Astros you have to wonder are they ever going to stop scoring.
Raul Ibanez homered and drove in four runs and Robinson Cano added a home run of his own and two RBIs as New York pounded out 16 hits – four of them homers – to down Houston at Osceola County Stadium in a game that was called with one out in the ninth inning due to rain.
Right-hander Adam Warren (1-0) was the winning pitcher despite the fact he gave up six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. The Yankees made life miserable for Astros starter Jordan Lyles (0-3), who was knocked around for eight runs on 11 hits and he walked one batter in 4 2/3 innings.
Preston Claiborne gave up two runs in the ninth inning but still got credit for a save.
In their last two spring training contests the Yankees have scored 24 runs on 31 hits and 11 walks.
With the victory the Yankees improved their spring record to 15-11 and that means they can finish the spring with no worse than a .500 record. The Astros completed their Florida portion of spring training and ended up 14-15.
- The story of the week has been the resurrection of Ibanez. In his last five games, Ibanez is 6-for-14 (.429) with three home runs and eight RBIs. Not to mention he had another potential home run taken away by a leaping grab at the wall by Justin Heyward of the Braves on Wednesday. Ibanez has raised his once dismal spring average from a low of .054 to a still poor, yet encouraging, .157. It looks like the extra work Ibanez has been putting in with hitting coach Kevin Long is paying dividends at the right time.
- Cano also had a slow start to the spring but he is gearing to put up a monster season from the No. 3 spot in the batting order. Cano singled and scored in the first and preceded Ibanez’s two-run home run in the fifth with one of his own as the Yankees rallied from a 5-4 deficit to 8-5 lead, a lead they did not relinquish. Cano is hitting .236 with two home runs and a team-leading 12 RBIs.
- Curtis Granderson is also primed for another big season. Granderson was 3-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Granderson is hitting a sizzling .381 this spring and it seems he is determined to show 2011 was not a fluke.
- It also bears mentioning that the Yankees’ firstup draft pick in 2011, Dante Bichette Jr., served notice on Saturday that he is a force to be reckoned with in the future. Bichette entered the game in the fifth inning and promptly hit a solo home in the sixth off right-hander Ruben Alantz. He followed that with another solo home run in the eighth off Astros closer Brandon Lyon. Both home runs came on the first pitch.
- The pitching was atrocious but manager Joe Girardi wanted to make sure his rotation was lined up for the start of the regular season on Friday so Warren was pressed into action. The 24-year-old former North Carolina Tarheels star had trouble locating his fastball and he paid dearly for it. He gave up four runs in the fourth, three of them on a three-run home run by Justin Ruggiano.
- It had to happen sooner or later but left-hander Clay Rapada surrendered his first run of the spring on Saturday. Called on to relieve Warren with two outs in the sixth, Rapada gave up a solo home run to Brian Bogusevic, a left-handed batter. Rapada, 30, will likely make the 25-man roster as a lefty specialist in the bullpen. His spring ERA is 0.93.
- Eduardo Nunez was the only Yankee starter to not get a hit on Saturday. Nunez was 0-for-3 but he still has had an excellent spring, hitting at a .381 clip.
An MRI conducted on Saturday on 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda’s sore right shoulder indicated he merely has tendinitis. However, he will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. Pineda complained of soreness behind his right shoulder after he was blasted for six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings against the Phillies on Friday night. The Yankees said Pineda will rest the shoulder and then resume throwing until he is ready to return. Pineda was acquired along with right-hander Jose Campos from the Mariners in a trade for top catching prospect Jesus Montero this winter. With Pineda on the disabled list, manager Joe Girardi set the rotation as follows: No. 1 CC Sabathia, No. 2 Hiroli Kuroda, No. 3 Phil Hughes, No. 4 Ivan Nova and No. 5 Freddy Garcia. . . . With Pineda on the DL, the loser in the six-man fight for five rotation spots will not be headed to the bullpen. That opens the door for young right-handers David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell and Warren as candidates for a long-relief role. . . . Left-hander Cesar Cabral has a stress fracture on the tip of his left elbow and he also will begin the season on the disabled list. Cabral, 23, was in considerable pain after pitching an inning against the Phillies on Friday. An MRI, an X-ray and a CT scan was conducted on Saturday and Cabral’s left arm was placed in a splint. The silver lining in this is that with Cabral on the disabled list the Yankees will not have to offer the Rule 5 selection back to the Kansas City Royals. . . . In a procedural move the Yankees released first baseman/DH Russell Branyan on Friday and signed him to a new minor-league deal on Saturday. Branyan, 36, has been unable to play in any games this spring due to a herniated disc in his back. Branyan will stay in Tampa, FL, after spring training ends to work back into shape for about four weeks.
The Yankees will travel to Miami, FL., on Sunday to play the Marlins in a pair of games and open their brand-new retractable roof stadium, Marlins Park.
In the Sunday opener the Yankees will start Sabathia in his final tuneup before his April 6 start against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, FL. The Marlins will counter with right-hander Ricky Nolasco.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
2012 ROSTER ADDITIONS: Michael Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda, Corey Wade, Cesar Cabral or Clay Rapada, Raul Ibanez.
2012 ROSTER SUBTRACTIONS: A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon, Luis Ayala, Joba Chamberlain (starting season in disabled list) , Jorge Posada (retired).
Sunday is the day pitchers and catchers are required to report to the New York Yankees spring training camp in Tampa, FL. To most teams the spring is a time where young players and veteran free agents can dream about making the roster with a good spring.
But not this year and not in the Yankees’ camp.
If the A.J. Burnett trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates is approved and the Yankees do sign free-agent outfielder Raul Ibanez and corner infielder Eric Chavez, the Yankees would have a roster with very few jobs “up for grabs” and the 25-man roster – barring injury – is a foregone conclusion at this point.
The starting rotation has been bolstered by the trade for 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda and the free-agent signing of 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda of the Dodgers. That gives the Yankees a rotation of CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Pineda and Kuroda. The No. 5 spot will be a competition between 25-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes and 35-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia. But it is pretty clear that if Hughes can prove his shoulder issues that plagued him in 2011 are in the past he will be the favorite to win the job.
That would leave Garcia in the bullpen and the Yankees also have bought themselves a season in order to develop promising young starters Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, David Phelps, Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell at the Triple-A level.
Garcia will join a strong bullpen that includes the greatest closer in the history of baseball (Mariano Rivera), the American League’s best set-up man in 2011 (David Robertson) and the American League saves leader in 2010 (Rafael Soriano).
Add to that core left-hander Boone Logan, right-hander Corey Wade and a likely a second left-hander in a battle between 23-year-old Rule 5 draftee Cesar Cabral and 30-year-old journeyman Clay Rapada, and you pretty much have the bullpen complete even without rehabbing right-hander Joba Chamberlain.
Chamberlain underwent Tommy John surgery in July and has made remarkable progress since then. However, the Yankees will not push Chamberlain to return early. They do not expect him to be able to pitch for the Yankees until June or July.
The bullpen, even without Chamberlain, was a strength of the team last season and promises to be just as strong or better in 2012.
The Yankees also did not make any changes in their starting position players for 2012. It is the same crew that led the Yankees to the best record in the American League (97-65).
The Yankees picked up the option on Russell Martin and he returns at catcher. The rest of the infield has Mark Teixeira at first, Robinson Cano at second, Derek Jeter at shortstop and Alex Rodriguez at third. The outfield maintains Nick Swisher in right, Curtis Granderson in center and Brett Gardner in left.
The only major change looks to be at designated hitter. Last season the Yankees used Jorge Posada in that role. With Posada retired the job looked to be Jesus Montero’s. However, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman opted to trade Montero and right-handed pitcher Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos.
The Yankees are now looking to fill that DH spot with former Phillies outfielder Ibanez. Ibanez, 39, likely will platoon with right-handed-hitting outfielder Andruw Jones, who was retained after he had an excellent second half in 20111.
The rest of the bench could also be same as it was last season.
Francisco Cervelli figures to be the backup catcher again if he can prove that he has recovered from another concussion he suffered last September. Rookie Austin Romine, 22, is ready for the major leagues from a defensive standpoint but he needs to work on becoming a better hitter in order to vault past Cervelli.
He will get a look this spring, but he figures to be heading to Triple-A for a year of seasoning.
The Yankees also will have middle infielder Eduardo Nunez back this season. Nunez, 24, impressed the Yankees with his hitting and his base-stealing ability last season. But Nunez is a nightmare in the field. Despite playing only half the time, Nunez led the team in errors and he has to show some improvement there to stick.
The Yankees still have Ramiro Pena and they have invited veteran utility man Bill Hall to compete with Nunez but it is Nunez’s job to lose.
The Yankees also are likely to re-sign Chavez to back up at first and third base. Chavez, 34, had an impressive spring in 2011 but his season – just like the previous four – was cut short by injury. He fractured a bone in his left foot and missed 2 1/2 months. But the Yankees like having a former Gold Glove winner and lefty swinger at first and third base.
The Yankees still have veteran outfielders Chris Dickerson and Justin Maxwell and they have invited defensive wizard Dewayne Wise as a non-roster invitee this spring. But none of them figure to make a dent on the roster.
With A.J. Burnett just a physical and a commissioner’s approval away from a trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the New York Yankees already have agreements to sign Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez.
The Yankees attempted to acquire Pirates outfielder/first baseman Garrett Jones, Indians DH/first baseman Travis Hafner and Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu in separate deals for Burnett. However, the Pirate and Indian deals were rejected and Burnett exercised his limited no-trade clause to scuttle the Angel proposal.
So the Yankees accepted two minor leaguers and $13 million from the Pirates for Burnett and they plan to use the money they are saving on the two years and $33 million left on Bunrett’s contract to sign Ibanez and Chavez.
Ibanez, 39, hit .245 with 20 home runs and 84 RBIs with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011. Ibanez is expected to share the DH duties with outfielder Andruw Jones.
Chavez, 34, hit .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs with the Yankees last season. Chavez is expected to return to his role from last season as a backup at first and third base.
If Heyman’s report is correct the Yankees have chosen to sign Ibanez instead of former Yankee outfielder Johnny Damon, who said he would a “perfect fit” for the Yankees’ left-handed DH role.
But Yankees general manager Brian Cashman basically told him to peddle his talents elsewhere. Why?
I think I can answer that question by going back to spring training in 2007. The Yankees had come off a crushing loss to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series. In that series, Gary Sheffield was benched and Alex Rodriguez was dropped to the No. 8 spot by then-manager Joe Torre. In the offseason, right-handed starter Cory Lidle died when the small plane he was piloting crashed into a building in New York.
Damon left the Yankees for a period of time during the exhibition season in 2007 to go to his home in Orlando, FL, to contemplate retirement. After a few days, Damon returned to the team and he went on to have a subpar season in which he was hobbled by leg injuries. He hit .270 with only 12 home runs and 63 RBIs.
In Torre’s book ”The Yankee Years” he said that teammates thought Damon’s play in 2007 showed “a lack of commitment.” Torre even quoted one player as saying “Let’s get rid of him. The guys can’t stand him.”
So when Damon’s contract expired after the 2009 season, they basically allowed Damon to walk as a free agent and they never made an effort to re-sign him. As cover, Cashman cited financial constraints as the reason Damon was not retained. But it seems clear now that the Yankees had no desire to bring Damon back because of the clubhouse turmoil he created.
Those old wounds have obviously not healed in 2012 and thus Damon was never seriously considered by Cashman.
NOT OKIE DOKEY
Left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima failed a physical with the Yankees and he will not report to spring training with the club.
Okajima, 36, signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees in December with an invitation to make the team if he could bounce back after two subpar seasons with the Red Sox.
But WFAN reported this weekend that Okajima was released from his contract and he would not participate in any workouts with the Yankees in Tampa, FL.
Okajima fell out of favor with the Red Sox after seven appearances in 2011 in which he was 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in 8 1/3 innings. He spent the rest of the season as Triple-A Pawtucket before being released by the Red Sox despite a 2.29 ERA in 34 appearances spanning 51 innings.
The Yankees saw Okajima as a potential lefty specialist for the bullpen to tandem with fellow left-hander Boone Logan, who has been miscast in the role for the past two seasons.
Okajima signed with the Red Sox in 2007 out of Japan. He was 17-8 with six saves and a 3.11 ERA in 261 appearances, holding left-handed hitters to a .218 batting average.
With Okajima out of the picture, the Yankees’ search for a second left-hander will come down to a battle between 23-year-old Rule 5 draftee Cesar Cabral, who was selected by the Kansas City Royals from the Red Sox and sent to the Yankees for financial considerations in December, and Clay Rapada, who was signed to a minor-league deal this weekend.
Rapada, 30, was released by the Baltimore Orioles this week. Rapada was 2-0 with a 6.06 ERA in 32 appearances for the Orioles last season. He is 5-0 with a 5.13 ERA in 78 major-league appearances with the Orioles, Rangers, Tigers and Cubs.
He has held left-handers to a .153 batting average in his career, including an .090 mark the past two seasons.
Cabral was a combined 3-4 with a 2.95 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 55 innings with a Class-A Salem and Double-A Portland. If Cabral does not make the major-league roster he will have to be offered back to the Red Sox for $25,000.
PINEDA THE PINATA
Newly acquired right-hander Michael Pineda reported to the Yankees camp 10 pounds overweight and drew the ire of the team’s coaches and front office.
Pineda is listed at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds. The former Mariner showed up weighing 270 pounds and even Pineda admitted that he needed to lose 10 pounds during spring training.
Pineda, 23, was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA for a offensively weak Mariner team in 2011, his rookie season. He was packaged along with 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos in a trade with the Yankees for catcher Jesus Montero and right-handed pitcher Hector Noesi.
Pineda is being counted upon to join a revamped – and hopefully improved – rotation that already includes ace left-hander CC Sabathia and second-year right-hander Ivan Nova. The Yankees also signed former Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million contract.
With the trade of Burnett, right-hander Phil Hughes and right-hander Freddy Garcia will battle for the team’s No. 5 spot in spring training.
Pineda said he felt good after a bullpen session on Friday and that pitching coach Larry Rothschild is already working on a new grip for his change-up. Pineda largely threw just a fastball and slider in his rookie season.
When Gerald Ford assumed the presidency from a resigned Richard Nixon on Aug. 9, 1974 he told the American people in a nationally televised address that “our long national nightmare is over.”
Well, on Feb. 17, 2012 I am hear to tell Yankee Universe that our own “national nightmare” is indeed over.
The New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates have tentatively reached agreement on a deal that would send enigmatic 35-year-old right-hander A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for two minor leaguers and $13 million in cash.
The deal has not been officially announced and it still would require the approval of Commissioner Bud Selig because of the amount of cash involved. But the fact that the Pirates have released the names of the two players the Yankees are acquiring in the deal is proof that the negotiations are down to one last detail: The payment schedule on the $13 million the Pirates will pay the Yankees.
Burnett is in the fourth year of a five-year, $82 million contract he signed with the Yankees in 2009. The Yankees have insisted in their trade talks with the Pirates that they would have to assume some of the roughly $33 million still owed Burnett over the next two seasons.
In addition to the $13 million the Pirates have agreed to pay, the Yankees will receive 25-year-old right-handed reliever Diego Moreno and 20-year-old outfielder Exicardo Cayones. Both players are natives of Venezuela.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Moreno is entering his sixth season in the minors and was a combined 2-4 with a 3.63 ERA in 41 games with Class-A Bradenton in the Florida State League and Double-A Altoona in the Eastern League.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Cayones is entering his fourth minor-league season and hit a combined .228 with no home runs and 12 RBIs between the Pirates’ Class A Gulf League team and Class-A State College in the New York-Penn League.
Neither Moreno or Cayones are listed among the Pirates’ Top 20 prospects rated by MLB. com.
The main reason the Yankees are unloading Burnett without much in return is because he has been a disappointment during his three years in pinstripes and huge salary is a albatross around the Yankees’ necks. Burnett was a combined 34-35 with a 4.79 ERA in stint with the Yankees. His average of 3.98 walks per nine innings was second in the American League and fifth in the major leagues, according to STATS, LLC.
Burnett also became expendable when the Yankees traded catcher Jesus Montero and right-handed pitcher Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos. The Yankees then added to their rotation by signing former Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million contract.
That left Burnett, 25-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes and 35-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia left to compete for the No. 5 spot in a Yankee rotation that already boasted ace left-hander CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova, who was 16-7 in his rookie season,
The Yankees were basically seeking some salary relief from the Pirates in order to sign a designated hitter and a backup infielder for the 2012 season.
The Yankees seem to be most interested in 39-year-old left-hand-hitting outfielder Raul Ibanez to pair with 34-year-old right-hand-hitting outfielder Andruw Jones in a platoon at designated hitter. Ibanez, a free agent, has told the Yankees he would willing to sign a contract for less money in order to play with a playoff contender.
Ibanez hit .245 with 20 home runs and 84 RBIs with the Phillies last season but he hit only .211 against left-handers. He hit .256 with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs against right-handers.
If the Yankees fail to sign Ibanez they have two left-handed-hitting options at DH in former Yankees Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, who are also free agents.
The Yankees also would like to re-sign 34-year-old backup corner infielder Eric Chavez, who hit .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs in 58 games with the Yankees last season.
Once the deal for Burnett is complete and approved by the commissioner, the Yankees expect to act quickly to sign Chavez and one of the free agent DHs.
As for Burnett, the Yankee front office, teammates and fans alike will shake their heads on how a pitcher with such unhittable stuff could pitch so poorly for such a good offensive team like the Yankees.
When he was signed, Burnett was looked upon as the No. 2 starter behind fellow free agent Sabathia for the next five years. They both delivered a world championship in 2009 when Burnett was 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA.
But Burnett will be best remembered for rescuing the Yankees in Game 2 of the World Series against the Phillies after Cliff Lee had bested Sabathia in Game 1. Burnett threw a spectacular seven innings and evened the series the Yankees eventually won in six games.
Unfortunately is was mostly downhill from there. Burnett was 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA in 2010. In 2011, the Yankees hired pitching coach Larry Rothschild largely on the basis of his proposed fixes to help Burnett get back on track. However, Burnett was 11-11 with a 5.15 after Rothschild tinkered with his delivery.
Burnett also was embroiled in some odd incidents. He cut his finger on his pitching hand angrily trying to open a clubhouse door. He arrived for a start in 2010 sporting a black eye that he refused to explain. He also had an clubhouse run-in with Joe Girardi after he left a start in Minnesota last August.
Burnett also had to deal with a loss in velocity on his fastball, which had made him more hittable.
With the Pirates, Burnett likely will become a co-ace with free-agent left-hander Eric Bedard in a rotation that also includes Kevin Correia, James McDonald and former Yankee Jeff Karstens. The Pirates’ right-hander Charlie Morton is recovering from left hip surgery and he is not expected to be able to pitch when the season starts.
In Pittsburgh, Burnett will face less pressure to win and less expectations to succeed than he did with the Yankees.
Though the Yankees and their fans will forever miss “Good A.J.” and his post-game celebratory pies in the face in walk-off victories, those same people will not miss the inevitable unraveling of “Bad A.J.” on the mound.
Speaking for Yankee fans, thanks A.J. for 2009 and good luck in trying to get back on track in the National League.
The New York Yankees would like to trade 35-year-old right-hander A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Pirates are interested in the deal. However, according to ESPN, the player the Yankees want in return is creating a stumbling block in the negotiations.
The Yankees would like to obtain first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones in return for Burnett. But the Pirates, according to ESPN, are not interested in parting with Jones. ESPN said there was “no traction so far.”
Jones, 30, hit .243 with 16 home runs and 58 RBIs in 148 games with the Pirates last season. The lefty-swinging Jones began the season as a starter in right-field and ended up in a platoon role borne out by the fact that he hit .147 against left-handed pitching last season.
What likely interests the Yankees is that Jones hit .262 with 14 of his 16 home runs and 50 of his 58 RBIs against right-handers, which would make him an ideal platoon designated hitter with right-handed-hitting Andruw Jones. Jones’ power numbers also figure to jump in the shorter dimensions in right-field of Yankee Stadium.
But the Pirates have Jones penciled in as a platoon starter at first base on their depth chart in 2012. A trade of Jones would leave former Brewer third baseman Casey McGehee as a full-time starter at first base and the Pirates are reluctant to do that because Jones was second on the team in home runs. McGehee hit only 13 home runs in 155 games with the Brewers.
From the Yankees’ standpoint, the deal would make a lot of sense. They would be rid of Burnett and the two years and $33 million left on his contract (though the Yankees have offered to pay about $8 million of that for the Pirates) after two consecutive seasons in which he has posted ERAs about 5.00. The Yankees, on the other hand, would receive a player who could back up at first base and the corner outfield spots as well as be a DH against right-handed pitching. Jones would come at a reduced cost, too.
By obtaining Jones the Yankees could also forgo negotiations with free agents Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Raul Ibanez to fill the primary DH spot that was opened up when the Yankees traded rookie Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for right-handed starter Michael Pineda.
Looking at the Pirates’ roster the Yankees would seem to have little interest or need for their spare infielders and outfielders. The Yankees also would seem not to have need for any of their major-league starters or relievers. The Yankees only possible interest would be in some of the Pirates young pitching prospects in order to stock their low minors with good prospects such as they did by obtaining 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos from the Mariners in the Montero deal.
This trade is still alive but general manager Brian Cashman has some options here. It might just take some time. If it happens within the next few days it will be good news. If it does not it will mean the Pirates will likely look for pitching elsewhere and the Yankees will have to find another suitor for Burnett.