Results tagged ‘ Omar Infante ’

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

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

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

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

————————————————————————————————————————-

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

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

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

He does not panic. He moves on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roberts does not instill a lot of that confidence.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Cano Inching Closer To Re-Signing With Yankees

When Robinson Cano fired combative player agent Scott Boras to become the first sports client for recording artist Jay-Z and his new agency, Yankee fans figured it was a given that a loyal Yankee fan like Jay-Z would steer his client to the Yankees without any problem.

Well, it has not quite been that way so far.

Cano, 31, and the Yankees still remain very far apart in negotiations on a new contract for the All-Star second baseman.

Representatives for Cano kind of stunned the Yankees and the baseball world as a whole by seeking a 10-year contract in excess of $300 million. Many observers claim that Cano’s agents are marketing him as a baseball version of Michael Jordan and it is hard to see the analogy.

Cano is a talented player with great appeal but his jersey and other gear is not even selling among the top 20 players in the sport. He even trails fellow second baseman Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox.

However, Yankee fans, reality and circumstances may be settling in at Camp Cano now.

Cano’s representatives, Brodie Van Wagenen and Juan Perez of CAA Baseball, met with Yankees president Randy Levine on Tuesday and Cano has reportedly lowered his contract demands. However, the two sides remain far apart. After all, the Yankees were offering seven years at $160 million.

But the fact that Cano’s people are lowering his demands shows there is some wiggle room in the talks. More talks are planned and we could see the Yankees raise their offer a bit.

The Yankees were extremely fortunate to gain an upper hand in the negotiations when two prime teams Cano could have coaxed into a bidding war for his services solved their second base problems early.

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed 27-year-old Cuban star Alexander Guerrero to fill their big need at the position. That was strike one on Cano.

Then this week the Detroit Tigers dealt first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in return for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Strike two.

That has given Yankees general manager Brian Cashman just the kind of leverage he needed to lower Cano’s very lucrative demands. Now it appears common sense will prevail and the two sides can work something out because their is one very salient fact about all this: The Yankees can’t afford to lose Cano.

Cano is simply the best player the Yankees have and on the heels of a disastrous injury-marred 2013 campaign the Yankees don’t want their franchise player to leave.

The Yankees are playing it like they are cool with it. I’m sure the rumor the Yankees were talking with free agent Omar Infante had all the hallmarks of Cashman behind the scenes fanning the flames.

But even he knows that Infante is not even a blip on the radar compared to what Cano can do for a team. But, hey, if it works, it works for Cashman.

Infante, 31, hit a robust .318 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs for the Tigers last season. Cano, on the other hand, batted .314 with 27 home runs and drove in 107 runs and should have won a Gold Glove after just committing six errors last season. (Pedroia dives and flops around like a dying carp while Cano glides to everything and the voters think Pedroia is better. Geesh!)

Cano’s growth as a player has been immense. He came up as a colt in 2005 but he is now a bona fide thoroughbred.

He is a career .309 hitter with 204 home runs and 822 RBIs. He is four-time All-Star, he has won two Gold Gloves and five Silver Slugger awards and he is simply the best second baseman in baseball today. You don’t replace that with Infante.

Last season, the Yankees lost a huge chunk of its power when players such as Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez left as free agents. Then the team lost most of its remaining power with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter rehabbing from offseason surgeries and Curtis Gramderson and Mark Teixeira sustaining injuries before the season even started.

The one constant the Yankees could count on all season long was Cano. Despite the fact teams pitched around him all season, Cano delivered.

The other hallmark of Cano’s career has also been his durability.

Since 2007, Cano has not played in less than 159 games in any season. Last season, he answered the bell for 160.

The only knock on Cano has been that label of “lazy” that dogged his early career and cost him a few more Gold Gloves because he made everything seem so dang easy. He has mostly beaten that rap in the field but it still dogs him as a base-runner.

Cano has a habit of coasting to first on grounders and he has been embarrassed by getting thrown out at second base on balls he thought were going out of the park. But all his positives far outweigh that negative. The sum of the parts adds up to the greatest second baseman in Yankees history.

And should Cano remain in pinstripes, he could certainly make a case for himself up against the likes of Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Babe Ruth. He and Jeter have formed the best double-play combination in Yankees history.

There is no telling what Cano will do if he remains a Yankee.

The only question remains is will he?

There is no doubt Infante remains the only viable fallback position should Cano leave.

After all, the Yankees have some players who play the position but none of them hold a match, much less a candle, to Cano.

The Yankees dealt right-hander Ben Paullus to the San Diego Padres for second baseman Dean Anna on Nov. 20. Anna, 27, was a Triple-A All-Star at Tucson in 2013 and batted .331 with nine home runs and 73 RBIs. Another big plus in his favor is that he bats left-handed.

The word on Anna is that he is solid fielder. In fact, he also played 60 games at shortstop and seven at third base. His versatility seems to make him a player worth watching this spring. But he is not likely going to be the heir apparent to Cano if he leaves. The Yankees are not fools.

Anna is going to compete for a backup infield spot, period. He will get some stiff competition from holdover Jayson Nix.

The Yankees have not given up on David Adams but they certainly were disappointed with what he produced when he was pressed into service as a third baseman in 2014.

Adams, 26, has primarily been a second baseman in the minor leagues and he will get a shot at both second and third this spring. But after hitting .193 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 43 games with the Yankees in 2013, he will be on a very short leash if he does not produce this spring.

Meanwhile, after a very strong 2012 season, 25-year-old Corban Joseph slipped mightily in 2013 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He hit .239 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 47 games. With the acquisition of Anna, Adams and Joseph are quickly dropping off the radar as prospects if they were at all.

At lower levels the Yankees have hot-hitting Jose Pirela, 24, who batted .272 in 124 games at Double-A Trenton and 21-year-old speedster Angelo Gumbs, who hit .213 in 91 games at two stops at the A level last season. Though Gumbs is pretty raw with the bat the Yankees love his potential.

But all talk surrounding second base with the Yankees begins and ends with Cano. Yankee fans would just love to hear that Cano has re-signed with the team. It is hard to imagine 2014 without him.

The signs, though, are pointing toward the Yankees retaining him. The question just remains at what price. It is looking at this point that it will be the Yankees price and Cano will just have to settle on a more realistic number.

Then he can start racking up more big numbers with his bat.

 

‘Eric The Red-Hot’ Slays Tigers With Mighty Blast

GAME 111

YANKEES 4, TIGERS 3

The New York Yankees might have arrived in Detroit to face a red-hot Tigers team but the Tigers certainly did not count on having to face an equally red-hot Eric Chavez.

Chavez, who entered the game hitting .538 in the series, followed Mark Teixeira’s game-tying home run with one out in the eighth inning off Joaquin Benoit with a game-winning solo blast of his own as New York turned what was a 3-2 deficit into a victory that tied the four-game series with Detroit.

There was no one happier about the result than manager Joe Girardi, who was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning after the Tigers took the lead 3-2 on a controversial call by third-base umpire Tim Welke.

Clay Rapada (3-0) retired the two batters he faced in relief of starter Hiroki Kuroda in the seventh inning to earn the victory. Rafael Soriano got the final out of the eighth and had to complete a Houdini act in the ninth to escape a jam with runners at first and third with no outs to record his 27th save.

For the Tigers, the game was bitter disappointment but for the Yankees its was blessed vindication.

Kuroda and the Yankees were sailing in the bottom of the fifth inning with a 2-0 lead on the strength of a two-out RBI double by Raul Ibanez and an RBI single by Ichiro Suzuki off Tigers starter Doug Fister in the second inning.

However, Jhonny Peralta led off the frame with a double to the wall in center-field and Alex Avila followed it by smacking a 3-2 fastball into the seats in right-field to tie up the game. Later that same inning, with two out and Quintin Berry on first, Andy Dirks lofted an opposite-field dying quail down the left-field line that landed on the chalk and rolled into foul territory.

As the ball hit the grass, Welke clearly raised both arms to indicate the ball was foul. But he then reversed the call and pointed the ball was fair with his right arm. Ibanez running into foul territory from left-field then allowed the ball to get past him for a double and Berry scored the tie-breaking run.

Girardi immediately disputed Welke’s call, claiming the original call affected Ibanez’s play on the ball and allowed a run to score. Girardi wanted lodge a formal protest of the game but was told by crew chief Bob Davidson that a protest could not be made on a judgment call. Welke later ejected Girardi and Girardi left the field at Comerica Park raising both arms and pointing right and then left to mock Welke’s incorrect call to the delight of the crowd.

The game remained 3-2 until Benoit was summoned to pitch the eighth for the Tigers.

With one out, Benoit fell behind in the count to Teixeira 2-0 and his next pitch came right down the middle. Teixeira launched it so fast that if you blinked you would have missed it landing just over the wall along the right-field line for his 21st home run of the season.

Before the Tigers fans among the 40,490 in attendance had a chance to restart their hearts, Chavez broke them by connecting on Benoit’s next offering with a lined shot to the opposite field in left for his 12th home run of the season and his second of the series.

Of the last 12 hits Benoit (1 -3) has given up this season, 10 have been home runs.

The Yankees then turned the game over to the bullpen. David Phelps pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning and Soriano ended the eighth by surviving a long blast to right by Peralta that Suzuki chased down in right.

In the ninth, Avila opened the frame with a carbon-copy of Dirks’ dying quail double in the fifth. Welke clearly signaled this ball fair and Ibanez had no trouble picking it up. Gerald Laird was sent in to pinch-run for Avila.

Omar Infante then lined the next pitch for a single to right to advance Laird to third.

But Soriano retired Ramon Santiago on a soft line drive to Robinson Cano at second, Berry popped up weakly to Derek Jeter in shallow left and Dirks finally managed to run out of magic fairy dust and flied out to shallow center to end the contest.

The Yankees’ victory, combined with a loss by the Baltimore Orioles, extended the Yankees’ lead in the American League East to 5 1/2 games. Their record is now 65-46. The Tigers fell to 60-52.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • As I wrote yesterday, Alex who? Chavez has done more than made up for the loss of Alex Rodriguez in the lineup with both his bat and Gold Glove. Chavez finished the series 9-for-16 (.563) with two home runs, two doubles, six runs scored and five RBIs. Ironically, Girardi was going rest Chavez on Thursday but Chavez convinced Girardi he was fine to play. So Chavez was inserted into the lineup. Smart move, Joe.
  • Teixeira’s home run was his first since July 28 against the Red Sox. After going 0-for-4 in the series opener, Teixeira was 5-for-12 (.417) and drove in three runs in the next three games. Teixeira leads the team in RBIs with 75 and he is third on the team in home runs behind Cano and Granderson.
  • After having his 12-game hitting streak stopped by the Justin Verlander in the opener, Suzuki was 4-for-12 (.333), including two hits on Thursday, and he drove in four runs in the last three games.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Girardi switched Nick Swisher and Granderson in the batting order on Wednesday and it worked out great. Swisher reached base in five of six at-bats and Granderson was 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs. It did not work so well on Thursday. They combined to go 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. They were the only two Yankees starters who did not get a hit.
  • Girardi elected to use Swisher as the designated hitter, which moved Suzuki from left-field to right and Ibanez was inserted into left. It’s too bad because there is a good chance Suzuki would have been able to play Dirks’ double without it getting past him. But Girardi does have to rest his veterans sometimes. It just seems the ball finds the replacements too often.
  • Jeter singled to lead off the fifth inning and was started with a 3-2 count on Swisher. But Swisher fanned and Jeter stopped between first and second and was tagged out trying to get back to first. The Yankees had a boatload of runners caught stealing in this series.

ON DECK

The Yankees will take their balls and bats and head to Toronto to open a weekend series with the reeling Blue Jays.

Right-hander Freddy Garcia (5-5, 5.00 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees.Garcia allowed two runs over five innings on Sunday in a victory over the Seattle Mariners. He is 7-8 with a 6.02 ERA in 18 career starts against the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays will counter with left-hander Ricky Romero (8-8, 5.47 ERA). Romero surrendered just one run on three hits and four walks in seven innings on Sunday in a no-decision against the Oakland Athletics. Romero is 3-5 with a 5.37 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Braves Pound Sabathia, Yankees For 9-6 Victory

Transmission of this report was delayed by technical difficulties.


GAME 25
BRAVES 9, YANKEES (SS) 6

LAKE BUENA VISTA – Reserve infielder Omar Infante laced a pinch-hit double to right to score Brent Clevlen in the eighth inning to break a 6-6 tie as the Atlanta Braves defeated a New York Yankees split squad 9-6 on Tuesday at Champions Field.
Reliever Takashi Saito (2-0) pitched a perfect eighth inning to earn the victory. Billy Wagner pitched the ninth to earn his second save of the spring. Zack Segovia (1-1) took the loss.
The Yankees spring record fell to 11-14. The Braves are now 16-9-1.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • Jorge Posada had a great day with the bat. In the first inning he singled and scored on a Robinson Cano double. In the seventh inning he victimized former teammate Scott Proctor with a two-run home run that tied the game at 6. Posada is batting a robust .394 on the spring.
  • Cano, not to be outdone, had a single along with that RBI double to raise his spring batting average to .354.
  • Nick Swisher collected his first home run of the spring, a solo shot he hit to the opposite field in the second inning.
  • Curtis Granderson and Juan Miranda had back-to-back RBI hits in the sixth inning off relief pitcher Cory Gearrin. Granderson singled in Posada and Granderson drove in Miranda with a double.
  • Brett Gardner stole his sceond base of the spring in the seventh inning off Proctor. He later scored on Posada’s home run.
  • Cano caught a wind-blown pop-up off the bat of catcher Clint Sammons in the second inning and neatly fired to Miranda at first base to double off outfielder Matt Diaz.
THE NEGATIVES

  • No one will say anything publicly but privately the Yankees are concerned about CC Sabathia after he was blasted for eight hits, a walk and five earned runs in 4 2/3 innings by the Braves. Sabathia spring ERA ended up at 7.23 and that does not count the seven runs he gave up to some Philadelphia Phillies minor leaguers in “B” game in his last start. The Yankees are hoping it is just “spring training rust” and not pointing to other potential mechanical or physical problems.
  • Minor-league third baseman was the only non-pitcher and starter in the lineup who did not get a hit in the game. He did not get a ball out of the infield, was 0-for-4 and even hit into a double play in the fourth inning. Though he is buried way behind Alex Rodriguez at third base, Laird is hitting .276 this spring and shows great promise in the field.
  • Segovia pitched a perfect seventh inning and threw only 12 pitches. But in the eighth he walked two consecutive batters after one out before giving up consecutive RBI hits to Infante and Matt Young. After striking out a batter for the second out, Segovia then surrendered a single to reserve infielder Joe Thurston that turned a 6-6 tie into a 9-6 Braves’ lead.
DIAMOND NOTES

Manager Joe Girardi got his wish to see “switch-pitcher” Pat Venditte pitch in a game this spring. Venditte got Sabathia off the hoof from further damage in the fifth inning by retiring Yunel Escobar in the fifth pitching left-handed.Venditte was touched for a run in the sixth as the Braves loaded the bases and Young hit a sacrifice fly to score pinch-runner Mitch Jones. Venditte, who is a 20th-round Yankee draft selection shows a lot of promise as the majors’ only ambidextrous pitcher.  He is more than a novelty. He has the ability to be a pretty good reliever . . . The game drew a standing-room only crowd of 11,112 to Champions Field in Lake Buena Vista, FL, which is part of Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.  . . . The “Disney Magic” touches are on display here in this fan friendly paradise. Thi
s is the only complex in Florida that has a separate line for fans without bags so you do not have to wait for bag and purse searches to get into the park. Disney employees also cheerfully hand out the days’ starting lineups with a free scorebook page with the batters’ up-to-date spring statistics. Employees also hand out napkins to fans at the condiment stations. They also boast a sixth-inning beer special by sending out vendors selling old-time brands like Miller and Old Milwaukee in 16-ounce cans for $3 apiece. Steinbrenner Field, not that it is in lacking as a first-class facility, should take a page from the Disney customer service playbook.  . . . Our old friend Melky Cabrera started for the Braves in right-field and had a double and infield single in the game. He began the day hitting .263 this spring.  . . . Girardi actually won an argument with umpires in the fifth inning. Troy Glaus, who had a lead-off double in the fourth inning off Sabatha, took Sabathia back to the wall in left-centerfield that was called a home run by second-base umpire Chad Fairchild. However, the ball actually landed on the top of the padding of the wall and Granderson caught it as it bounded back into play. So the umpires conferred and ruled it a double instead.
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