Results tagged ‘ Mets ’
YANKEES 7, MARLINS 3
TAMPA - You can make a case that spring has not really sprung until a major-league team’s ace pitches in his first exhibition game. Well, for the Yankees it sprung on Friday as CC Sabathia toed the rubber for the first time and he pitched five solid innings.
Later the Yankees broke a 3-3 tie when Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto’s passed ball with the bases loaded in the bottom of seventh inning allowed Jose Pirela to score the tie-breaking run as New York went on to overtake Miami at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees added another run in the frame when Realmuto was charged with an error on an attempted pickoff of Ichiro Suzuki at first base that allowed Gil Velazquez to score.
David Robertson (1-0) pitched an inning of scoreless relief to get credit for the victory. Dan Jennings (0-1) took the loss.
The Yankees initially rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead on a solo home run by Francisco Cervelli in the second inning and a mammoth two-run blast to right off the bat of Travis Hafner in the third. The home runs were the first of the spring for both Hafner and Cervelli.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their spring ledger to 8-12. The Marlins fell to 7-10.
- Hafner finally provided the power the Yankees were looking for when they signed him to a one-year contract to be the team’s left-hand designated hitter. Hafner’s home run with one out in the third inning came off former Mets right-hander John Maine, who is attempting to win a starting rotation spot with the Marlins. Hafner, 35, is now hitting .174 with a homer and four RBIs.
- The pitching line for Sabathia looks bad at first glance: Two runs on eight hits and one walk and two strikeouts in five innings. But most of those eight hits were not hard-hit balls. They included a bunt single, two bloop singles and a few others that just wriggled through holes in the infield. Sabathia, 32, was making his first start after recovering from offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his left elbow.
- Pirela, 23, has very quietly had a great spring. He entered the game in the fourth inning and ended up going 2-for-3 with a triple and a single and he scored the tie-breaking run and drove in another run in the eighth. Pirela, who hit .293 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 82 games at Double-A Trenton last season, is hitting .385 this spring.
- After a scorching hot start Brett Gardner is beginning to struggle a bit. He was 0-for-4 on Friday with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out the infield. In his last six starts dating back to March 7, Gardner is a miserable 1-for-18 and his spring average has plunged to .324.
- Non-roster infielder Dan Johnson is seemingly playing his way out of a chance to make the 25-man roster. Johnson, 33, was 0-for-2 on Friday and he is hitting a ridiculously low .043 this spring with seven strikeouts in his 23 at-bats. With injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, Johnson had a great shot to make the team as backup corner infielder - the same role Eric Chavez filled last season. But it looks like that ship may have sailed unless Johnson gets awful hot in a hurry.
- Even in scoring seven runs the Yankees still did not hit well with runners in scoring position. They were 1-for-8 in the game and it remains a major concern going forward.
The Yankees have added to their outfield depth by signing Brennan Boesch, who was released earlier this week by the Detroit Tigers. Boesch, 27, hit .240 with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs in 132 games with the American League champions in 2012. He was hitting .188 in 16 at-bats with the Tigers this spring. Boesch signed a one-year major-league contract for $1.5 million and $600,000 in performance incentives and he will give the Yankees a left-handed hitting corner outfielder as Curtis Granderson recovers from broken right forearm. It appears that Juan Rivera and the newly acquired Ben Francisco are competing for the right-hand portion of the corner outfield spots. Rivera also has been playing some first base in Teixera’s absence. . . . Utility man Ronnier Mustelier was forced to leave Friday’s game with multiple contusions on both legs after he ran into a metal dugout railing chasing a foul pop off the bat of Juan Pierre in the fourth inning. Manager Joe Girardi said Mustelier likely will be out until at least Tuesday. Mustelier, 28, has been a hitting sensation this spring and the Yankees have looked him at the corner outfielder spots and at third base. . . . Yankees relief prospect Mark Mongomery and rising star outfielder Tyler Austin were presented with 2012 Kevin O’Brien Lawn awards before Friday’s game. Montgomery, 23, received the “Pitcher of the Year” award after going a combined 7-2 with a 1.54 ERA and 15 saves between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Austin, 21, was named “Player of the Year” after batting a combined .322 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs in four minor-league stops last season. The annual awards are dedicated to Kevin O’Brien Lawn – the son of longtime Yankees Vice President and Chief of Operations Jack Lawn – who passed away in 1999.
The Yankees will play a pair of games on Saturday.
In one game the Yankees will play host to the Philadelphia Phillies. In the other game, the Yankees will send a split squad to play the Atlanta Braves at Champions Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Hiroki Kuroda will start at home against the Phillies. He will be opposed by reliever Raul Valdes.
Game-time will be one hour earlier than usual at 12:05 p.m. EDT to accommodate an evening concert at Raymond James Stadium by country star Kenny Chesney. The game will be telecast live by the YES Network and on tape delay by the MLB Network.
David Phelps, who is still in the running to be the team’s fifth starter, will pitch in the road contest. He will square off against left-hander Paul Maholm of the Braves.
Game-time will be 5:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast on tape delay by the MLB Network.
The New York Yankees were dealt a blow to their starting rotation before the exhibition season even begins when it was reported that right-hander Phil Hughes will be sidelined for at least two weeks with a bulging disk in his upper back.
Hughes, 26, felt soreness just below his right shoulder while covering first base during a routine defensive drill at the team’s spring camp in Tampa, FL, on Monday. He consulted with a team physician and an MRI indicated the bulging disk between his T5 and T6 vertebrae. Hughes was prescribed anti-inflammatory medication and he will rest for about three or four days.
If Hughes does not experience any pain he will be allowed to begin workouts in a pool. After a few more days Hughes may be allowed to begin throwing again. The Yankees are going to be extremely cautious with Hughes and they expect he will miss between 10 days to two weeks.
For now, that does not seem to be a problem because Hughes actually came to camp ahead of schedule. But if there are any setbacks the team’s starting pitching depth will be severely tested.
The Yankees do have David Phelps, 26, who is competing with Ivan Nova, 26, for the team’s No. 5 starter spot. However, behind Phelps is Adam Warren, 26, who gave up six runs on eight hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings in his only major-league start last season.
Hughes did say on Wednesday that he felt better than he did immediately after the injury, remarking that it hurt just to get out of bed.
“There’s concern, because we’re not going to see him doing anything, really, for 10 days to two weeks,” said manager Joe Girardi. “Hopefully everything is OK after that and we get him back out doing what he’s supposed to be doing. I am pleased that he feels a lot better than he did a couple days ago, but we’ve still got to worry about it.”
NEWS AND NOTES
- General manager Brian Cashman is not saying how talks are going with second baseman Robinson Cano on a contract extension. He avoided reporters questions about the subject on Wednesday. On Tuesday, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said there were no new developments in the discussions with Cano’s agent Scott Boras. The Yankees picked up Cano’s $15 million option this winter but Cano can become a free agent at the end of the 2013 season. The Yankees have refused to discuss extensions in the past but seem to making an exception with Cano, 30, who could command a multiyear deal worth $25 million per season.
- Joba Chamberlain unleashed a high fastball that nearly plunked Eduardo Nunez in the head during batting practice on Wednesday. Nunez dropped to the dirt and was not hurt. Meanwhile, Curtis Granderson lined a shot off the left elbow of non-roster right-hander Kelvin Perez. Perez finished his outing but was sporting a compression bandage on his left arm in the clubhouse.
- Michael Pineda pleaded no contest on Wednesday in a Tampa courtroom to a DUI charge, the Associated Press reported. Pineda, 24, was arrested and charged with driving under the influence on Aug. 20. The judge ordered Pineda to perform 50 hours of community service, placed him on probation for one year, required him to attend a DUI class and to pay a $500 fine. Pineda, acquired in a trade with Seattle Mariners, suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder last spring and underwent surgery last April. He is expected to continue his rehabilitation and will not be available to pitch until at least June.
- If you consult the Broadcast Information tab of yankees.com you will note that the schedule shows a road game against the New York Mets on Feb. 23 to be broadcast by the YES Network. That is not correct. The Yankees open their spring schedule on Saturday against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Field in Lake Buena Vista, FL. There will be no TV broadcast of the game. The game will only be available through MLB Radio subscription via the Braves flagship station in Atlanta.
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.
Happy New Year to all my fellow fans. I recently posted a three-part series looking at the Yankees from their pitching, their bullpen and starting lineup. Now I intend to zero in on a look at them from a position-by-position standpoint. With spring training mere weeks away it seems an appropriate time to do this. Enjoy!
RIGHTFIELD – ICHIRO SUZUKI (28 Rs, 5 HRs, 27 RBIs, .322 BA, 14 SB)
When the Yankees made the trade to bring Ichiro Suzuki to The Bronx it was looked at initially as a temporary fix to the Yankees’ injury to top base-stealing threat Brett Gardner. After all, Suzuki’s contract with the Seattle Mariners expired after the 2012 season and the Yankees were unsure if the 39-year-old All-Star had very much left in the tank.
Suzuki seemed to fall off the proverbial cliff after he hit .315 with six home runs and 43 RBIs and 42 stolen bases in 2010. In 2011, the career .322 hitter batted only .272 with five home runs and 47 RBIs and 40 stolen bases.
In addition, Suzuki was hitting .261 with four homers and 28 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for the Mariners at the time of the trade.
But Suzuki took to New York quicker than anyone would have expected and he seemed to be rejuvenated being part of a pennant chase for the first time since his early seasons with the Mariners.
As a result of Suzuki’s renewed bounce in his step and the fact the Yankees allowed rightfielder Nick Swisher to sign a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Indians this winter, Suzuki was granted a two-year, $12 million deal to take over for him. General manager Brian Cashman was pleased Suzuki settled for much less than perhaps he was worth to stay with the Yankees.
Suzuki had made it clear that he did want to remain in New York. So it seems both sides are very happy with the deal.
Suzuki will never be able to replace Swisher’s power and production but he is an upgrade in terms of hitting, speed and defense. That is all part of the tradeoff the Yankees had to accept in order to rebuild a team that lost 94 home runs when Swisher (24), Russell Martin (21), Raul Ibanez (19), Eric Chavez (16) and Andruw Jones (14) signed elsewhere this offseason.
Suzuki will join with Gardner, Eduardo Nunez, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson as part of the group that is expected to be stealing a lot of bases in 2013 because of what the Yankees lost in terms of power. The Yankees will not be able to play station-to-station baseball while waiting for home runs.
Suzuki’s two-year deal signals the Yankees are committed to him and what he can provide at the top of the lineup by getting on base and running the bases.
Last season, Suzuki approved the trade with some conditions laid down by the Yankees. He agreed to hit lower in the batting order, to a platoon that would sit him against left-handers and agree to switch to leftfield. Suzuki accepted the stipulations and never complained about where he hit, where he played and when he was benched.
However, when Suzuki got red hot in September manager Joe Girardi stopped platooning him against lefties, moved him up in the batting order and shifted him to rightfield so Swisher could replace an injured Mark Teixeira at first base.
So expect Suzuki to be playing every day, hitting second and playing rightfield in 2013. Suzuki basically changed the manager’s mind the old-fashioned way: He played so well that Girardi had no choice but to play him and those conditions Suzuki was signed under have been tossed out the window – for good.
Suzuki’s calling card has always been his magical bat. Despite an unusual batting style, Suzuki seems to be able to know when it is best to pull the ball and when to go with a pitch. He confounds pitchers with his ability to spray the ball all over the field.
He may no longer have blazing speed as he did when he won his Most Valuable Player and Rookie of Year awards in 2001, but Suzuki can still leg out infield grounders for hits, take an extra base on napping outfielders and he can even steal a base or two when necessary.
Suzuki stole 29 bases last season between the Mariners and Yankees and he led the Yankees with 14 steals despite playing in only 67 games.
With the short porch in right-field, Suzuki can also surprise a pitcher or two by turning on an inside pitch and putting it into the seats. Suzuki’s career high in home runs is 15 that he hit in 2005 and he only has reached double digits in three seasons. But it is good bet they he could reach double digits in 2013.
He hit five dingers in only 227 at-bats with the Yankees last season.
Where Suzuki really shines is as a defender. From 2001 through 2010 he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves with the Mariners. Granted, he has lost a step, but Suzuki can still flash some leather in the outfield. He also possesses an excellent arm in rightfield. With Granderson and Gardner, Suzuki forms a rare outfield that boasts three centerfielders.
This is an outfield that is also loaded with speed and skilled fielders. It might be the best defensive outfield the Yankees have fielded in some time.
The only potential negative with Suzuki might be if he regresses as a hitter as he did with in the Mariners in 2011. The Yankees are on the hook for two seasons with Suzuki and they would rather he continue he hit the .322 he did with the Yankees last season.
The Yankees were dealt a serious blow to the 2013 plans when Ibanez opted to sign as a free agent with his old Mariners team. The Yankees made it clear that they wanted to keep Ibanez as their left-hand designated hitter and part-time outfielder.
At the moment the plans behind Gardner, Granderson and Suzuki look a little murky.
The Yankees did claim right-hand hitter Russ Canzler off waivers from the Cleveland Indians. Canzler, 26, can play first base, leftfield and DH.
Canzler hit three home runs, drove in 11 runs and hit .269 as a September call-up with the Indians after leading the International League with 36 doubles, 22 home runs and 79 RBIs in 130 games at Triple-A Columbus.
Canzler provides the Yankees primarily with a right-hand bat who can back up Mark Teixeira at first base. But he did play 47 games with Columbus and 11 games with the Indians in the outfield. His range in the outfield is limited and he would be a significant dropoff from Gardner as a defensive outfielder.
Jayson Nix has been invited to spring training again primarily to compete with Nunez as a backup middle infielder but Nix also can play some outfield.
Nix made nine starts in the outfield last season and acquitted himself well. He committed only one error. Though he is much better as infielder, Nix provides Girardi with a lot of options on where to play him.
Nix, 30, hit .243 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 177 at-bats last season.
Cashman is looking to bolster the outfield before spring training camp opens next month and he has a few targets that could be on his radar.
His first option is former Met outfielder Scott Hairston, who is currently seeking a lucrative two-year deal on the free-agent market.
Hairston, 32, hit 20 home runs and drove in 57 runs and batted .263 with the Mets last season. His main calling card is his power and his ability to crush left-handed pitching.
Hairston hit .286 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs against lefties last season. Though he has played some second base in the past, Hairston is primarily an outfielder and he only committed one error in 108 games there last season.
The Yankees covet him because he has power, which the Yankees need, and he balances out the starting outfield, which is comprised of all left-hand hitters. The Yankees see Hairston as part-time outfielder, a platoon DH and valuable pinch-hitter off the bench.
The only sticking point is the amount of money he is seeking and the Yankees are not real keen on offering him a two-year deal. They are hoping Hairston will lower his demands.
Another potential target could be 6-foot-5 first baseman-outfielder Michael Morse of the Washington Nationals.
Morse, 30, had a breakout season in 2011 in which he hit .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs for the Nationals. But injuries limited him to just 102 games in 2012 in which he batted .291 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs.
The Nationals had him scheduled to move from left-field to first base this off-season when they acquired centerfielder Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins and shifted rookie centerfielder Bryce Harper to leftfield. However, the team decided to re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche so Morse is currently relegated to the bench.
The Nationals reportedly are looking at trading Morse for a left-handed relief pitcher and some prospects. The Yankees do have a pair of lefties in Boone Logan and Clay Rapada to offer but there is not much depth behind them in the minors. The Yankees could use Morse in the same way they planned to utilize Canzler – at first base, leftfield and DH.
Morse is a right-hand hitter but his power is intriguing.
This is hard to believe but – in the absence of the Yankees making a deal or signing an outfielder – the Yankees will actually be giving long looks to two of their own minor-league outfielders this spring.
Melky Mesa, 25, hit a combined .264 with 23 home runs and 67 RBIs and 22 stolen bases between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. However, Mesa hit only .230 at Scranton after hitting .277 at Trenton so he may require an additional season before he is ready.
Mesa’s combination of power and speed would be a big boost to the Yankees and he does fill a need for right-hand hitting outfielder. Mesa is also a natural centerfielder and he can easily play all three outfield spots if needed.
The downside is the Yankees are unsure of he can hit major-league pitching. They hope to get some more definitive answers this spring. Mesa figures to play a lot after only getting 13 at-bats and hitting .231 last spring.
The Yankees also have a very intriguing young outfield prospect in Zoilo Almonte, who is a power-hitting switch-hitter.
Almonte, 23, impressed Girardi last spring when he hit .286 in only 14 at-bats. Almonte then followed that up by hitting .277 with 21 home runs and 70 RBIs in 106 games with Trenton.
Unlike Mesa, Almonte is primarily a corner outfielder and he has just average speed (15 steals in 19 attempts last season). Defensively, he is still a work in progress. His range and fielding are just average but he does have a pretty good arm (10 outfield assists last season).
Almonte does have a slim chance of making the jump from Double A but he will need to have a monster spring training that forces Girardi to keep him on the roster. It is all up to Almonte to see if can handle the rigors of the major leagues. But it will be tough to ask him make the jump because it rarely happens in the major leagues and it even more rarely happens with the Yankees.
The Yankees seem to not even care about a player unless he is 34 with years of major-league experience. Almonte would be in a locker room of players he watched while he was in grade school. That would be a lot of pressure on him but his power potential makes him a very viable prospect to watch this spring.
The Yankees are actually loaded with some very special outfield prospects further down in their minor-league system.
Mason Williams, 21, is the team’s second-ranked prospect behind catcher Gary Sanchez. He hit .298 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 91 games between Class-A Charleston and Class-A Tampa before a torn labrum ended his season early.
Williams is an excellent left-handed hitter who should develop more power as he gains experience. He also looks as if he will be a very good base-runner and he is above average defensively as a centerfielder. Williams is 6-feet tall and weighs just 150 pounds but he should gain weight and strength and may even draw comparisons to another centerfielder Williams by the name of Bernie.
The Yankees are also excited about No. 3 prospect Tyler Austin, 21.
Austin hit a organization-best .354 combined in 2011 and he followed that up by hitting .322 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in four minor-league stops last season.
After playing first and third base his first two seasons, the Yankees moved him to right field last season and he played very well there. While Sanchez and Williams get most of the attention, Austin is considered a very good prospect and 2013 could propel him into the Yankees’ plans in 2014 and beyond.
The Yankees also have a pair of young slash-and-dash hitters who have a chance to make the parent team down the road in Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores.
Heathcott, 22, was the team’s first draft pick in 2009 but has been hampered by on- and off-the-field problems. But the left-handed hitter got back on track by hitting a combined .302 with five home runs and 29 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in the Yankees team in the Gulf Coast League and with Tampa in the Florida State League.
Heathcott is an aggressive player with excellent speed. If he can be more selective at the plate and on the bases he could turn out to something very special.
Flores, 20, is a left-handed hitting machine who batted a combined .303 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs and 24 stolen bases between Tampa and Trenton. He lacks Heathcott’s speed but still stole more bases. He is primarily a leftfielder but can play all three outfield spots and first base.
Fielding will never be his strong suit because his bat is so good. It will carry him the rest of the way to the majors.
The Yankees seem to be deeper in outfield prospects than any other position and that seems to be a good thing considering the team has already lost Swisher and Granderson seems to be headed out the door soon. That would leave Gardner and an aging Suzuki.
So to say the Yankees could stand to have a few of these prospects make an impact in the next few years would be putting it mildly.
There have been rumors the Yankees have talked about possibly trading Williams and Sanchez. But that would seem to be something Cashman would be leery about since he really did get fleeced badly in the Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda deal last winter.
My guess is the Yankees will be very careful which young players they deal but it would seem to make sense that they could trim some of their outfield depth if they need help with their 25-man roster.
Though the Yankees are lucky to be starting three center-fielders with excellent speed in the outfield in 2013, they all hit left-handed and the Yankees will miss Ibanez.
Cashman likely will make some sort of deal to add depth to the outfield and they need someone who can hit right-handed. Canzler and Nix provide some depth but they are not long-term solutions.
Mesa and Almonte provide Girardi with a pair of young options but both are going to have to produce a lot this spring in order to make the leap to the major leagues.
Hopefully, the puzzle pieces can be put together before the start of the 2013 season.
YANKEES 10, BLUE JAYS 3
When the New York Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners they were just expecting some great outfield defense and some singles and some steals at the bottom of the batting order. It is now beginning to look like they have a top-flight RBI man instead.
Suzuki drove in five runs to lead a late-inning seven-run assault on Toronto pitching as New York put away a badly depleted Blue Jay team on Friday at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
Suzuki gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead in the second inning by driving in a run beating out a potential double-play grounder. He added a two-run single in the eighth inning and a bases-loaded two-run double in the ninth inning. Suzuki, who had only 28 RBis when he was obtained on July 23, has driven in 11 runs in his last 11 games and nine and his last four games with the Yankees.
Meanwhile, veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (6-5) pitched six solid innings to pick up his second straight victory. Garcia gave up two runs on four hits and struck four against a Blue Jays team missing Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia and Adam Lind.
The Yankees built an early lead on Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero in second inning after Robinson Cano led off the frame with a single and Romero walked Andruw Jones.
Jayson Nix attempted to bunt the next pitch and it rolled just out in front of home plate. But Blue Jays catcher Jeff Mathis threw the ball past third baseman Omar Vizquel and into left-field to allow Cano to score and Jones to advance to third. Suzuki followed with a grounder that forced Nix at second but Suzuki beat the relay to first and Jones scored.
The Yankees added a run in the following inning on a leadoff single by Nick Swisher and a one-out RBI single by Cano.
Romero ( 8-9) then shut down the Yankees over the next four innings on just one hit. He left having given up four hits and three walks and struck out two over seven innings.
Kelly Johnson proved to be Garcia’s big nemesis. He struck with one-out solo home run in the bottom of the second inning to halve the Yankees’ lead at 2-1. Two innings later, he followed a bunt single by Yunel Escobar and a lined single by David Cooper with a double down the right-field line that scored Escobar to make it 3-2.
But Garcia ended the threat by striking out Vizquel and inducing Mathis to tap back to the mound.
The game stayed 3-2 until Steve Delabar’s first offering in the eighth inning in relief of Romero was tagged by Mark Teixeira for his 22nd home run of the season.
With two out, Nix and Russell Martin each dunked in a pair of bloop hits and Suzuki followed with an RBI single up the middle to break the game open at 6-2.
The Yankees added four runs in the ninth off rookie reliever David Carpenter and Brad Lincoln. Suzuki culminated the scoring with base-loaded liner that Rajai Davis lost in the lights and it was scored a double.
With the victory the Yankees have now won three games in a row and are 66-46 on the season. They remain 5 1/2 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The reeling Blue Jays have lost four in a row and are in last place in the division with a record of 53-59.
- Suzuki has had at least one hit in 16 of the 17 games he has played with the Yankees. The five-RBI night tied a career high and it was the third time in Suzuki’s career he achieved the feat. But it was the first time since the 2004 season. He also started his first game in center-field since the 2008 season and he has now started in all three outfield position since coming to the Yankees. He was acquired to provide speed, defense and a consistent bat at the bottom of the order and he has done all three very well.
- Teixeira’s home run was the second straight game in which he has delivered a home run in the eighth inning on the road. Teixeira and Eric Chaez combined to hit back-to-back solo home runs to turn a 3-2 Yankee deficit on Thursday into a 4-3 victory over the Tigers. It was the first time two Yankees had hit consecutive home runs in the eighth inning or later to win a game on the road since Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle did it during the 1955 season. Teixeira extended his team-leading RBI total to 76.
- Garcia is never going to be confused with Felix Hernandez or Justin Verlander, but he put in another solid effort to win his second straight start. In his eight starts since replacing Andy Pettitte in the rotation, Garcia is 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA. The 35-year-old right-hander has been valuable as a placeholder for Pettitte.
I can’t think of much to complain about. Garcia pitched well and the offense has scored 31 runs and notched double-digits in hits over the team’s last four games. Perhaps they can put that stretch of nine losses over 12 games behind them now.
It is possible that left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano could be added to the Yankees’ expanded roster in September. Feliciano has not pitched since the 2010 season with the New York Mets because he underwent surgery for torn rotator cuff. On Friday, Feliciano made his second rehab appearance for the Yankees’ rookie Gulf Coast League. Feliciano was signed to a two-year $8 million deal prior to the 2011 season but he has not pitched a single game for the Yankees. He is 22-19 with a 3.31 ERA over 459 appearances over his eight-season career.
The Yankees will continue their weekend road series with Blue Jays on Saturday.
Ivan Nova (10-6, 4.81 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Nova has a lot to prove after giving up seven runs on 11 hits on Monday against the Tigers. He is 0-3 with a 8.36 ERA in his last five starts. Nova is 2-1 with a 3.75 ERA against the Blue Jays in his career.
The Blue Jays will counter with left-hander Aaron Laffey (3-2, 4.39 ERA), who pitched briefly for the Yankees last season. Laffey gave up four runs on six hits in his last start, a victory over the Oakland Athletics. He is 0-1 with an 11.74 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 6, BLUE JAYS 1
When CC Sabathia was placed on the 15-day disabled list after a June 24 start against the Mets with a strained left groin, the Yankees were 43-28 and 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. After Sabathia completely shut down the Toronto Blue Jays for six innings on Tuesday the Yankees are 56-34 and lead the second-place Tampa Bay Rays by 9 1/2 games.
Nothing can be better than stretching your division lead with your ace on the shelf, except when you get your ace back and win your eighth game out your last 10.
Sabathia shut out Toronto on four hits and a walk and struck out six over six innings and Andruw Jones hit a three-run home run in the second inning to stake him to an early lead as New York clinched its three-game series with a victory over Toronto in front of a paid crowd of 44,975 at Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia (10-3) entered the game with a 12-3 career record against the Blue Jays and he was 7-0 in his last eight starts against them.
Jones provided all the runs Sabathia really needed when he followed a leadoff single by Robinson Cano and a walk to Nick Swisher with a line-drive shot into the left-field corner bleachers off left-hander Brett Cecil (2-2) for his 12th home run of the season.
Sabathia, meanwhile, was mixing his fastball, slider and change-up to throw 66 strikes in 87 pitches (76 percent).
Cecil settled in after Jones’ homer and held the Yankees to just two more hits before he left having given up three runs on six hits and two walks while he fanned five batters in his six innings of work.
However, the Yankees took advantage of the Blue Jays’ inexperienced bullpen in the seventh inning.
Jayson Nix opened the frame with a leadoff single off rookie right-hander Sammy Dyson. After failing to get a bunt down, Chris Stewart bounced a high hopper down the left-field line past third baseman Brett Lawrie and the ball rolled into the left-field corner.
Nix was able to score on the double and Stewart advanced to third on an errant throw from left-fielder Rajai Davis.
Derek Jeter then laced a double down the right-field line to score Stewart.
Curtis Granderson reached on a single and Mark Teixeira drew a walk to load the bases. Then Alex Rodriguez completed the Yankees’ scoring by driving in Jeter on fielder’s choice groundout.
The Blue Jays spoiled the shutout by scoring a run in the eighth off reliever Chad Qualls on a leadoff double by Jeff Mathis, a flyout by Davis that advanced Mathis to third and he scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Colby Rasmus.
Qualls, who currently has a 6.75 ERA in his 6 2/3 innings of work with the Yankees, started off the ninth by giving up a leadoff double to Edwin Encarnacion and a one-out walk to Yunel Escobar.
Manager Joe Girardi then pulled Qualls in favor of left-hander Clay Rapada, who then botched an attempted bunt by rookie Anthony Gose for an infield single that loaded the bases.
Girardi then summoned closer Rafael Soriano, who induced pinch-hitter J.P. Arencibia to hit into line-drive unassisted double play to Teixeira to end the game and earn Soriano’s 24th save of the season.
By scoring six runs on Tuesday, the Yankees set a franchise record by scoring three or more runs in 41 consecutive games.
With the loss, the Blue Jays fell to 45-46, 11 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
- Sabathia was in command and likely could have pitched longer if Girardi had not chosen to play it safe with his pitch count. Sabathia is now 10-3 with a 3.27 ERA and still has a very good chance to win 20 games for the second time in his career.
- Jones was 0-for-9 in his previous at-bats against Cecil until he laid into a fastball and drove it on a line into the left-field seats. Jones has only 28 bats in July and is hitting .286 with five home runs and nine RBIs.
- Cano’s single leading off the second inning extended his career-high hitting streak to 20 games. In that span he is 32-for-79 (.405) with six home runs and 20 RBIs.
- From June 16 through July 7, Cory Wade gave up 16 runs on 21 hits and three walks in six innings for a 24.00 ERA, which got him demoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His replacement Qualls is about to join him if he keeps pitching the way he did on Tuesday. In his six appearances with the Yankees he has given up five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. The fact that he was unable to give Girardi the confidence he could hold a 6-1 lead in the ninth proves all you need to know. He is on a real short leash now.
In order for the Yankees to activate Sabathia from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday they decided to designate outfielder Darnell McDonald for assignment. McDonald played in four games with the Yankees and was hitless in four at-bats since he was claimed off waivers on July 5 from the Boston Red Sox.
The Yankees will be going for a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (8-7, 3.67 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Kuroda surrendered five runs on eight hits and one walk in 7 1/3 innings in his last start on Friday against the Los Angels Angels. Kuroda actually pitched better than the numbers show because he only gave up two runs in the first six innings before he ran out of gas in the seventh. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA against the Blue Jays.
Left-hander Ricky Romero (8-5, 5.03 ERA) will start for the Blue Jays. Romero gave up only one run on six hits and two walks in six innings against the Cleveland Indians on Friday but lost 1-0 to Justin Masterson. He is 3-4 with a 4.02 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 6, ANGELS 5
When Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher trotted to the mound at Yankee Stadium in the bottom of the eighth inning in a 5-5 tie to talk to reliever Kevin Jepsen, he told Jepsen to pitch around pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez by walking him with pinch-runner Dewayne Wise on second and a struggling Russell Martin due to hit next.
So with two out, Jepsen walked Ibanez intentionally to face Martin, who entered the game hitting .179 and was 0-for-2 on the evening.
But Martin delivered a two-out, opposite-field RBI single that gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead and Martin later ended the game by nailing Howard Kendrick trying to take second base a pitch in the dirt for his third Angel base-runner caught stealing as New York rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the eighth to send Los Angeles to a crushing defeat on Friday.
Mark Teixeira set the stage for Martin’s heroics earlier in the eighth with a clutch three-run home run to left off reliever Scott Downs (1-1) to tie the game at 5-5. It was Teixeira’s second home run of the night. He had given the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third inning with a two-run shot to the same area of the left-field bleachers off Angels starter C.J. Wilson.
Teixeira also saved a run in the top of the inning when he made a diving stab of a hard-hit bouncer to his right off the bat of Kendrick. Teixeira scrambled to his feet and shuffled a perfect toss to Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda covering first to retire Kendrick. Erick Aybar followed by hitting Kuroda’s next pitch into the second deck in right-field to give the Angels what proved to be a short-lived 1-0 lead.
Kuroda and Wilson then battled over the next three innings in a game steeped in a playoff-like atmosphere with a crowd of 47,873 hanging on every pitch.
But the seventh inning proved to be Kuroda’s undoing.
Albert Pujols opened the frame with a single to left and Kuroda hit Kendrys Morales with a 1-2 pitch. Mark Trumbo then blasted a 1-1 fastball over the wall in center-field to give the Angels a 4-2 lead.
The Angels tacked on a run off Kuroda in the eighth after Mike Trout led off with a double and one out later Pujols hit a ball that sounded like he hit it with a wet newspaper but it nestled comfortably in shallow right-field just inside the line out of the reach of a diving Nick Swisher and bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double to score Trout.
Over the first six innings, Kuroda had given up just one run on three hits and one walk and he fanned two. In the next 1 1/3 innings, he gave up four runs on five hits and a hit batter and struck out four.
Meanwhile, Wilson got back on track after Teixeira’s two-run home run in the third. He left after seven innings having given up just the two runs on five hits and two walks and struck seven. However, the Angels’ bullpen let him way, way down, as in the lefty Downs.
Downs started the eighth and immediately gave up a leadoff double to Derek Jeter. He then dug a deeper hole for himself by missing with a 3-2 pitch in the dirt to walk Curtis Granderson.
Teixeira then lined a 1-2 curveball into the left-field bleachers to tie the game.
With two out, Swisher worked a walk from Downs, which ended Downs’ night in favor of Jepsen and set up Wise’s stolen base as a pinch-runner and Ibanez’s intentional walk. Martin then delivered what proved to be the game-winner.
Chad Qualls (2-1) relieved Kuroda in the eighth inning and pitched a perfect two-thirds of an inning to get credit for his first victory with the Yankees.
Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth to notch his 21st save in 22 opportunities this season.
With the victory the Yankees reached a season-high 20 games over .500 at 53-33. They also have opened up a commanding eight-game lead on the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Angels must lick their wounds after dropping a game they should have won. Their record is 48-39.
- Teixeira’s two home runs and five RBIs on Friday give him 17 home runs and 59 RBIs this season. His 59 RBIs leads the team. In his last seven games, Teixeira has been on an RBI tear. He is 10-for-22 (.455) with four home runs and 15 RBIs in that stretch. To contrast that, Teixeira collected only three home runs and 12 RBIs in April and four home runs and 14 RBIs in June.
- Martin’s clutch single had to feel great because his single against the Red Sox last Saturday had ended an 0-30 stretch. But what must have really pleased Martin was the three Angels he nailed on the basepaths. He threw out Trumbo stealing in the second inning and Alberto Callaspo in the fifth. He then nabbed Kendrick after a Soriano pitch got away from him but he was able to recover quickly and throw a dart to Jeter to end the game.
- Kuroda gave up five runs in 7 1/3 innings but his first six innings were absolutely brilliant. He deserved a better fate but he obviously lost something after throwing only 64 pitches in the first six innings. In his last nine starts, Kuroda is 5-1 with a 2.89 ERA.
- Now that Cano and Teixeira have gotten hot, the pressure shifts to Alex Rodriguez. He was 0-for-4 in the game including a weak groundout to short with one out and Granderson at third with a leadoff triple in the sixth. In his last 10 games, Rodriguez is 9-for-38 (.237) with no home runs and three RBIs.
- Andruw Jones entered the game after a his red-hot weekend at Fenway Park, where he hit four home runs in the three games in which he played. However, he struck out twice looking and flew out to right off the lefty Wilson. His 0-for-3 night dropped his season average to .238.
- The Yankees were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and those two hits came on Texiera’s eighth-inning home run and Martin’s game-winning single. They were 0-for-11 up to that point. Somehow they win despite this problem but will it catch up to them in the playoffs?
The Yankees on Friday signed veteran outfielder Kosuke Fukudome to a mimor-league contract and he was assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Fukudome, 35, batted .171 with four RBIs in 24 games with the Chicago White Sox and was released on July 22. Fukudome is a career .258 hitter in five major-league season with the Cubs, Indians and White Sox. . . . CC Sabathia threw 30 pitches in a simulated game at Yankee Stadium on Friday and is still expected to be activated on Tuesday for a start against the Toronto Blue Jays. Sabathia has been on the 15-day disabled list with a mild left groin strain he suffered pitching in a June 24 game against the New York Mets.
The Yankees will continue their weekend three-game series at home against the Angels on Saturday.
Right-hander Freddy Garcia (3-2, 5.23 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Garcia gave up just one run in 6 2/3 innings last Friday against the Red Sox. It was Garcia’s best outing of the season. In the last 10 seasons, Garcia is 15-3 with a 2.69 ERA against the Angels.
Right-hander Jerome Williams (6-5, 4.46 ERA) will oppose Garcia. Williams is being activated from the 15-day disabled list after a serious bout of asthma. Williams is 0-1 with a 16.87 ERA against the Yankees after he was shelled for five runs on five hits and three walks in only 2 2/3 innings on April 15.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
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.
RAFAEL SORIANO (2-0, 1.72 ERA, 19 SAVES)
DAVID ROBERTSON (0-3, 2.42 ERA)
BOONE LOGAN (3-0, 3.54 ERA)
CORY WADE (0-1, 5.79 ERA)
CLAY RAPADA (2-0, 3.00 ERA)
CODY EPPLEY (0-0, 2.53 ERA)
D.J. MITCHELL (0-0, 3.38 ERA)
The New York Yankees season could have very easily ended on May 3 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera was shagging balls during batting practice, as has been his custom his entire career, when his right knee buckled as he reached the warning track. Rivera went down in a heap and the Yankees lost the best closer in the history of the game for the rest of the season.
However, on May 22 the Yankees ran off a record of 28-11 and they moved from tied for last place in the American League East 5 1/2 games behind to first place in the division and five games ahead.
The starting pitching was a big reason why. The starters who struggled in April pitched better. But there was something else that kept the Yankees going without Mariano Rivera.
That something was Rafael Soriano.
Soriano, 32, was signed by the Yankees for $12 million a season over three seasons in the winter of 2011. Soriano had just come off a season in which he saved a league-leading 45 games in 48 chances with the Tampa Bay Rays and compiled a 3-2 record with a 1.73 ERA.
But why pay so much for someone who would not close games?
General manager Brian Cashman quickly pointed out publicly the signing was not his idea and he disavowed it. But after the Yankees lost out in trying to sign left-hander Cliff Lee the front office figured that with Rivera, Soriano and David Robertson that the Yankees could shorten the game to overcome their starting pitching deficiencies.
On paper, it made sense. In practice, it did not work out entirely as planned.
Soriano was hit hard early and often at the start of the 2011 season. The fans quickly turned on him for his seeming uncaring attitude as he pitched worse and worse. Then he ended up on the disabled list for two months with soreness in his right elbow. The fans also do not like players drawing rich contracts while rehabbing injuries.
Soriano did come back and ultimately was given the seventh inning as Robertson owned the ninth and Rivera was king of the ninth. Soriano finished the 2011 season with a 2-3 mark and a gaudy 4.12 ERA. He saved two games and blew three others.
Soriano then surprised a lot of people by deciding not exercise his opt-out clause in his three-year deal. He was getting paid good money to pitch the seventh inning and he figured it was more advantageous for him to stay. As far as Yankee fans go, they may have enjoyed booing him, but Soriano saved the Yankees’ season by deciding to stay.
When Robertson failed in his first attempt to close for Rivera on May 9 against the Rays and then ended up on the disabled list for a month with a left oblique injury, Soriano was reborn as a closer. He is also proving to be very good at it.
Since he has taken over, Soriano has saved 19 games out of his 20 opportunities and erased the team’s fears they could not win without Mo.
The fans? They booed him unmercifully at Yankee Stadium when he blew his only save on June 10 against the Mets. Tough crowd.
Yankee fans should be hoisting this man up and celebrating him because Soriano will be a big component of the Yankees’ run in the playoffs. They certainly do miss Mo but they have to be thankful they have a replacement in Soriano who has saved 91 games out of 99 chances since the 2009 season. That is a 92 percent success rate.
The Yankees actually have other more pressing bullpen issues. They revolve around Robertson, who came off the 15-day disabled list on June 15.
In the 11 appearances Robertson, 27, has made beginning on June 15, he is 0-2 with a 4.35 ERA. That is a far cry from the Robertson who made 13 appearances before May 9 and was unscored upon in his first 13 innings of the season with 23 strikeouts.
The Yankees need Robertson to settle back into his groove and just, well, be Robertson again. We will see how it unfolds after the All-Star break.
The injuries to Rivera and Robertson have meant that Boone Logan has pitched in more games and for more innings than he has been used since he was acquired by the Yankees in 2009. The most innings he ever pitched in pinstripes was the 41 2/3 innings he pitched last season in 64 appearances.
But because Logan is no longer the lefty specialist in the bullpen he is being used more often and for longer stretches. Logan, 27, has already thrown 29 2/3 innings and made 41 appearances.
The strain is beginning to show. Logan’s ERA for the first three months was excellent: He was 2-0 with a 2.54 ERA on June 30. But in July, Logan has been scored upon in all four of his appearances and, if anybody deserved an All-Star break it was Logan.
The hope is that Logan will bounce back in the second half and pitch like he did before June 30. The Yankees need Logan to be good in the seventh inning so the Yankees can use Robertson in the eighth and Soriano in the ninth. Logan will be a big key to the Yankees in the second half, no doubt.
Manager Joe Girardi has been praised, and rightfully so, for his ability to maximize a bullpen. This season he has proven what a skill it is.
The Yankees found a lefty specialist in side-armer Clay Rapada during spring training and Rapada has been excellent as getting left-handers out since the 2012 season began.
Rapada, 31, is holding left-handed hitters to a .150 average this season. Amazingly, Rapada is retiring right-handers also. They are hitting .227 off him. But Girardi has wisely tried to keep Rapada as a specialist as much as he can this season.
The Yankees also got lucky when the Texas Rangers waived 26-year-old side-arming right-hander Cody Eppley early in the season. The Yankees claimed him and sent him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Recalled on April 20, Eppley has provided Girardi with a righty specialist to twin with Rapada.
The results have been very good. Eppley is holding right-handers to a .231 average. Much like Rapada with right-handers, Girardi must keep Eppley away from dangerous left-handed hitters. Overall, Eppley has done an excellent job and he and Rapada have strengthened what already was an excellent bullpen.
That can’t be said of Cory Wade, however.
Wade, 29, was picked up off waivers from the Rays in 2011 – much like Eppley was this season – and he put together a great season. Wade was 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA last season and drew a lot of praise from Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
But 2012 has a been nightmare for Wade.
He compiled an ERA of 1.69 in April and an ERA of 2.92 in May. But in June, Wade hit the skids and he has not recovered.
Beginning on June 16, Wade gave up a home run to Ian Desmond of the Washington Nationals in a game the Yankees won 5-3. Since then, Wade has given up 16 runs in his last 8 innings covering his last seven appearances. Wade’s ERA has ballooned to 6.48 and he has been sent back to Scranton to try and get his groove back.
The Yankees filled out their bullpen just before the break by calling up Triple-A starter D.J. Mitchell to be the long man in the bullpen now that Freddy Garcia is being used as a starter to replace the injured Andy Pettitte.
Mitchell, 25, has a 2.45 ERA in 3 2/3 innings covering three appearances. Mitchell was 5-4 with a 5.36 ERA at Scranton in 14 starts but Mitchell may have more value as a reliever in the majors because he has the best sinking fastball in the organization.
The Yankees would like to use him in situations they might need a double play. But Mitchell is strictly a long man for now.
To replace Wade, the Yankees picked up veteran right-hander Chad Qualls off waivers from the Philadelphia Phillies.
Qualls, 33, is 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 3 1/3 innings over three games. That is certainly a step up from what the Yankees have been getting from Wade. We will see if he continue to pitch well in the second half.
Overall, this has been one of the best, if not the best, bullpens in baseball this season despite the loss of Rivera.
Girardi was able to slide Soriano into the closer’s role and he has Robertson and Logan to pitch in setup roles. Plus he can mix and match with the righty-lefty combo of Eppley and Rapada. Wade is the only reliever who has been a major disappointment but Qualls was picked up to fill his role until Wade finds it again or not.
RIVERA: I (for Incomplete)
QUALLS: I (for Incomplete)
MITCHELL: I (for Incomplete)
DAVID PHELPS (1-1, 6.46 as a reliever)
RYOTA IGARASHI (0-0, 22.50 ERA)
David Phelps began the season in the bullpen as the long reliever and he actually pitched much better than his ERA indicates. He was shelled for three runs in back-to-back appearances against the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox in late April.
But Phelps, 25, is more suited as a starter and is thought of that way by the organization. After two starts in place of Freddy Garcia in early May, Phelps was sent back to the bullpen when Pettitte was activated on May 13. He stayed until June 2, when he was shipped to Double-A Trenton to get his arm in shape to become a starter.
However, before the process could be completed Pettitte was placed on the disabled list with a broken tibia in his right leg and CC Sabathia had to be shelved because of a groin injury.
Phelps was recalled and pitched out of the bullpen until he was pressed into a start against the Rays on the Fourth of July. Phelps struck out eight batters and gave up only one run in 4 1/3 innings in his best performance of the season.
Now Phelps has been sent back to Trenton to complete the process of building up his pitch count so he can start. It is unclear when Phelps might return to the Yankees or what role he will assume. My guess is we have seen the last of Phelps as a reliever, barring an injury.
Igarashi was called up to fill a spot in the bullpen on May 25 and pitched poorly in the two games in which he pitched. He was sent back to Scranton and was recalled again on June 8 and he gave one run in his one inning of work against his former Met teammates.
Igarashi, 33, is 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA and three saves at Scranton this season. He is there for depth purposes but the Yankees could do better. Igarashi does not appear to be the answer for the Yankees based on what he has done in three games.
PHELPS : I (for Incomplete)
IGARASHI: I (for Incomplete)
The Yankees have some veteran relievers at Scranton, including Igarashi.
Kevin Whelan 28, is the main closer and is 3-0 with a 3.55 ERA and 12 saves.
Meanwhile, left-hander Juan Cedeno, 28, is 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA and former Red Sox right-hander Manny Delcarmen is 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA.
The most impressive young relievers the Yankees are developing are Preston Claiborne, 24, and Chase Whitley, 23.
Claiborme was just promoted to Scranton after going 2-2 with a 2.22 ERA and saving five games at Trenton.
Whitley is 5-4 with a 4.22 ERA in 27 games in Scranton.
Both are right-handers.
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B+
There are whispers that Rivera is progressing well in his rehab after surgery on his right knee and that he might be able to pitch this season. That would be bad news to the teams in the A.L. East staring up out of a huge hole in which the Yankees have placed them.
Whether Rivera returns or not the Yankees have an exceptional bullpen that rarely coughs up leads late in the game.
Soriano has 19 saves after 81 games and he has been sensational as Rivera’s stand-in.
There are some concerns before the second half begins.
Both Robertson and Logan need recapture their early-season form. They both have a long enough track records in the majors that they should be able to rebound. Robertson just needs to regain command of the strike zone and Logan just needs rest after absorbing a huge workload in the first half.
Logan leads the American League in appearances and that is an aberration from what Girardi and Rothschild would like from him. But Rivera’s loss impacted Logan the most and he has been forced to pitch a lot of innings and it is catching up to him. Hopefully, the rest over the break rejuvenates his valuable left arm.
The Yankees also have to hope that Wade rediscovers his karma in the minors. Most of the karma he has been exhibiting on the mound these days is bad.
Rapada and Eppley have proved to very valuable specialists and they have been impressive in the first half. They just have to continue to do what they have been doing.
Qualls is a place-holder for Wade and Girardi seems to trust him.
Mitchell can be valuable as a long man but Girardi rarely calls on him. His sinker could have some value in the second half and he is the one reliever that can give Girardi a lot of innings out of the bullpen.
The biggest hope for the second half has nothing to do with any of the pitchers I mentioned.
The Yankees just sent Joba Chamberlain out on a minor-league rehab stint. Because Chamberlain, 26, is coming off Tommy John surgery in 2011 and a severely displaced fractured right ankle, the Yankees were not really expecting much out of the big right-hander.
But if all goes well in his extended rehab stint, Chamberlain could return to the Yankees within a month. That would be a big boost to the Yankees and it should make Logan really smile.
Yankee fans may have forgotten that Chamberlain was 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA in 27 games before injuring his elbow last season. If he can get back to that level, Chamberlain could a valuable piece to the bullpen in the sceond half and heading into the playoffs.
The Yankees also had high hopes for former Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma in the second half. Aardsma, 30, was coming off Tommy John surgery himself last July and was making his final rehab appearances when he suffered a setback and had to be shut down.
Aardsma underwent some tests and is consulting Dr. James Andrews, who performed his surgery, about what his next step will be. But it looks doubtful Aardsma will be able to help the Yankees this season. That is a shame.
But the way the Yankees’ bullpen has been gong this season, they may not need him. The return of Chamberlain, however, could be a real big boost.
YANKEES 5, INDIANS 4
On a day when fate seemed to be frowning upon the New York Yankees, the team scratched and clawed its way to a late lead and, despite being the verge of handing it back, they held on to win a tough one in the Bronx.
The Yankees began Wednesday’s game knowing they had lost ace left-hander CC Sabathia to the 15-day disabled list with a strained left groin and they later found out that starter Andy Pettitte suffered a fractured left ankle after being struck by a hard shot off the bat of Casey Kotchman in the top of the fifth inning.
So a spirited Yankee Stadium crowd of 45,022 was hoping for some good news to brighten the gloom.
Robinson Cano provided some good news in the bottom of the sixth inning when he stroked a two-run, opposite-field home run to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead and Eric Chavez drove in three runs, including a huge insurance run in the eighth inning, as New York held on – barely – in the ninth to complete a three-game sweep of Cleveland.
The Yankees began the sixth inning down 3-2 after the Indians took advantage of Pettitte’s departure to put together back-to-back two-out RBI singles by Astrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis off reliever Clay Rapada.
However, Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez opened the sixth by falling behind Alex Rodriguez 2-0 and Rodriguez blooped a double into the right-field corner. Cano then stroked a 1-2 slider on the outside corner into the left-field bleachers for his 17th home run of the season his seventh homer in his last 10 games.
Freddy Garcia (2-2), who entered the game with two out in the fifth, pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings and struck out two to pick up the victory in relief. David Robertson followed him with a perfect eighth inning in which he fanned a pair also.
Chavez then stepped to the plate in the eighth inning against Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano with two out and Mark Teixeira on second and pinch-runner Dewayne Wise on first after Raul Ibanez singled.
On a 2-2 pitch, Chavez was able to roll a ball through the hole between first and second base into right-field to score Teixeira with what looked to an ordinary insurance run at the time.
However, the Indians refused to lose their season-worst fifth game in a row without a fight and closer Rafael Soriano did not have his best stuff as he sought his 17th save in the ninth.
Pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall slapped a single to right to open the frame and Soriano walked Shin-Soo Choo. After retiring Kotchman on a flyout, Lou Marson singled into left to load the bases.
After Soriano struck out pinch-hitter Johnny Damon. Soriano issued a walk to Michael Brantley to force in a run and the restless natives in the Bronx were fearing the worst.
However, Soriano got Cabrera to hit a routine fly ball to left and Wise let it settle into his glove for final out that gave the Yankees their fifth straight victory and their 15th victory in their last 18 games.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season mark to 46-28 and they extended their lead in the American League East to a full five games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Indians dropped to 37-37.
- Cano’s June home run binge has been amazing. In his last 10 games, Cano is 14-for-36 (.389) with seven home runs and 11 RBIs. His 3-for-4 day also raised his season average to .308 with 18 home runs and 41 RBIs. After an extremely slow start and struggling with runners in scoring position, it appears Cano is back to the dangerous hitter he has always been.
- Chavez was called upon to play first so Teixeira could rest as the designated hitter and Chavez made manager Joe Girardi look clairvoyant. Chavez was 2-for-3 with a two-run double, an RBI single and a walk. He also played flawlessly in the field. His two-run double in the fourth off Jimenez gave the Yankees their first lead of the game at 2-1.
- With the injuries to Sabathia and Pettitte, Garcia becomes relevant again as a starter. Fortunately for the Yankees, the 35-year-old right-hander has 147 career major-league victories. In addition, Garcia is throwing with better velocity than he did in spring training and in April as a starter. If he can be as effective as he was last season when he was 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA the Yankees might not need to make a deal for a pitcher to fill in until Pettitte returns.
- The righty-lefty sidewinding combo of Cody Eppley and Rapada did not fare well in the fifth inning in relief of Pettitte. Eppley gave up an infield single and a sac bunt and Rapada came on to get Brantley to hit into a fielder’s choice. But Cabrera and Kipnis struck for a pair of RBI singles to give the lead back to the Tribe. Fortunately, Garcia came in and retired the next seven batters in a row.
- Jayson Nix was given a start at shortstop to allow Derek Jeter to rest a day after his 38th birthday. But Nix had a rough game. He struck out twice and rolled out weakly to short. Also, in the field, he actually lost Kipnis’ pop fly single in the sun, which gave the Indians the lead. Jeter would have caught it easily.
- Soriano is not exactly your typical shutdown closer, but his high-wire act on Wednesday was pretty scary. Soriano is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA and 17 saves – all excellent numbers. However, in 28 2/3 innings he has given up 30 hits and walked 12 for a WHIP of 1.47. That is a very bad number for a closer.
The Yankees placed Sabathia on the disabled list with what is being listed as a Grade 1 groin strain. He is expected to miss two starts and be able to rejoin the Yankees after the All-Star break. An MRI on Tuesday indicated a strained abductor muscle in his left leg that Sabathia injured in the fourth inning of his start on Sunday against the Mets at Citi Field. He has not missed a start as a Yankee and he has not missed any starts since 2006. The Yankees announced that right-hander Adam Warren will be recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he will start in Sabathia’s place on Friday against the Chicago White Sox. . . . Pettitte had his injured left ankle placed in a protective boot and he is expected to miss at least six weeks. Pettitte held a 2-1 lead and he had given up one unearned run on three hits and one walk and he struck out seven in four-plus innings when he had to leave the game. Garcia is expected to fill in for Pettitte as a starter until he returns.
The Yankees will open a four-game home weekend series with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (9-2, 4.25 ERA) will begin the series on the mound for the Yankees. Nova allowed three runs (two earned) in 5 2/3 innings on Saturday against the Mets. Nova got a no-decision, which snapped his streak of five straight victories, but the Yankees won the game. Nova is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his three starts against the White Sox.
The White Sox will counter with right-hander Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 4.85 ERA). Axelrod allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers in his first start replacing the injured Phillip Humber. Axelrod has never faced the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.