Tagged: Al Leiter

Ten-aka! Righty Fans 10 As Yankees Blank Cubs



There were a lot of critics who said that Masahiro Tanaka would find pitching in the United States more challenging because the hitters are so much better. They claimed Tanaka would have to prove he could pitch here.

After Wednesday’s performance at Yankee Stadium against the Cubs, what more proof do those critics need?

Tanaka (2-0) allowed only two bunt singles and struck out 10  en route to eight shutout innings as New York took the first game of a day-night doubleheader by beating Chicago in front of a paid crowd of 36,569.

Carlos Beltran, who was named the American League Player of the Week for last week, gave Tanaka all the run support he really needed by launching his fourth home run of the season into the right-field bleachers with one out in the first inning off right-hander Jason Hammel (2-1).

The Yankees added a single run in the fourth inning after loading the bases with one out and Dean Anna hit a sacrifice fly that scored Brian McCann. They added another run in fifth inning thanks to some strategic thinking by manager Joe Girardi.

With Brett Gardner on third and one out, Jacoby Ellsbury’s bat came in contact with Cubs catcher John Baker’s glove on a swing in what would have been catcher’s interference. Ellsbury would have been awarded first base but Gardner would have had to remain at third.

However, as Hammel tagged out Ellsbury, Gardner touched home plate. Girardi was given the choice by the umpires to take the catcher’s interference our accept the result of play. Girardi wisely chose the result of the play to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.

Hammel did not pitch bad but he was simply out-pitched. He gave up three runs on five hits and three walks while he fanned five over seven innings of work.

After Tanaka gave up a video-review bunt single to Junior Lake with one out in the second inning, he retired the next 14 batters  –  striking out seven of them  –  until Anthony Rizzo led off the seventh inning with a bunt single.

The Japanese right-hander only walked one batter and he became the first Yankees’ pitcher to strike out 28 batters in his first three games, breaking Al Leiter’s record of 25 set in 1987.

Shawn Kelley pitched a scoreless ninth to record hid fourth save in as many chances this season.

With the Yankees’ first shutout of the season, they improved their season record to 8-6. The Cubs dropped to 4-9.


  • Tanaka was in total command throughout his 107-pitch outing despite the chilly 43-degree temperatures in the Bronx. The fact that the Cubs could only muster two bunt hits just highlights his dominance. He is the first Yankee pitcher to pitch eight shutout innings while striking out at least 10 batters and giving up two or fewer hits since Randy Johnson did it on on July 26, 2005 against the Boston Red Sox.
  • Beltran continued his hot hitting by going 1-for-3 with a walk. Since April 7, Beltran is 12-for-29 (.414) with four home runs and seven RBIs. The Yankees signed the 36-year-old veteran outfielder to be a force in the middle of the lineup and he is providing just that.
  • Give Kelley credit as the fill-in closer. With Mariano Rivera retired and David Robertson the disabled list, Kelley has been perfect in the ninth inning so far. He is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA and six strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. He is anchoring a bullpen that has been much better than most experts thought.


Nothing negative here. The Yankees got an early lead and added to it while Tanaka was mowing down Cubs.

The features Bomber Banter and On Deck will be included in the next post.



Banuelos Tops List Of Six Young Yankee Starters

With the advent of the free-agent signing season coming, the New York Yankees obviously are in the market for some starting pitching help. We have already detailed the Yankees’ likely interest in the Rangers’ C.J. Wilson, Japanese star Yu Darvish and longtime White Sox ace Mark Buerhle. But what if the best laid plans of general manager Brian Cashman do not work out as planned and the Yankees sign none of those players? What if they are unable to make a trade for a starter? Let’s see if there is a creditable Plan C if free agents and trades are unavailable. This is a two-part report. The first part already dealt with the Yankees options at the major-league level. Part two will deal with their minor-league options.


Yankee history is littered with young pitchers they developed only to use as in trades for more experienced hitters or pitchers. For years the veteran pitchers the Yankees acquired fizzled and the young pitchers they let go later on helped other teams.

The list includes Jose Rijo, Doug Drabek, Al Leiter, Ted Lilly and look at the record Ian Kennedy posted with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season.

But general manager Brian Cashman would eventually like to end that history. The problem is with the Yankees always aiming their sights on winning the World Series it is hard to allow young pitchers develop at the major-league level as other teams might. Patience is a virtue that the Yankees have never shown with very many pitchers they have developed. That possibly could change soon.

The Yankees boast a collection of six pitchers who can potentially contribute as starters with the Yankees in 2012. They include: right-hander Hector Noesi, right-hander Adam Warren, right-hander D.J. Mitchell, right-hander David Phelps, right-hander Dellin Betances and left-hander Manny Banuelos.

Let’s look at each one and see if any of them have the potential to help the Yankees in 2012:


Noesi, 24, pitched most of the season in bullpen for the Yankees, logging 56 1/3 innings in 28 relief stints and two late-season spot starts. He was 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he was 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA in five starts.

Despite the fact he was needed to fill a spot in the bullpen in 2011, he is still considered a starter by the Yankees. He also comes into spring training with a leg up on the other five because he has the most major-league experience and manager Joe Girardi was comfortable using him out of the bullpen down the stretch.

Noesi’s main calling card is his exceptional control. But he did walk 3.5 batters per nine innings with the Yankees last season. He also gave up six home runs, which would translate to 24 in a 200-inning season. But Noesi was nevertheless effective enough as a middle-inning reliever to stay with the club.

Noesi was slow to reach the majors because he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2007. But he rose like a meteor in the Yankees’ eyes because of his exceptional minor-league walk rate of 1.6 and an exceptional 2009 season with Double-A Trenton and Scranton. Last season, Noesi was considered a “second-tier” pitching prospect behind Betances, Banuelos and Andrew Brackman (who has since been released). Noesi has a nice 91-94 mph fastball and a decent curve and change-up. But his long-term pitching prospects with the Yankees are clouded because so many other pitchers in the organization have what is perceived to be better stuff.

So Noesi must enter spring training throwing strikes and proving he can get outs without having what would be considered strikeout stuff. If he exhibits any sign of wildness or a propensity to give up gopher balls in the spring, he is likely to be ticketed for Scranton again. But if injuries should crop up in the bullpen, Noesi could be offered a return engagement since he did not embarrass himself there in 2011.


Mitchell is also 24 and he put a pretty good season together at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2011. He was 13-9 with a 3.18 ERA and was the ace of the staff.

The 6-foot, 175-pound right-hander also struck out 112 batters and walked 63 in 161 1/3 innings. He is part of a trio of right-handers (along with Warren and Phelps) who were selected in the draft as college players. Mitchell attended Clemson and was selected in the 10th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.

Mitchell has an excellent two-seam fastball, which translated into an impressive 62% ground-ball rate in the minors. He also has a smooth and controlled delivery. Scouts believe his two-seam fastball is enough of a weapon to get him and keep him in the major leagues. Mitchell can not only induce ground balls with his sinker, he can strike out batters with also.

Mitchell is still working on his secondary pitches and his curve has developed into a plus pitch, too. His four-seam fastball sits in the 91-93 mph range and he is even developing a cutter to use on left-handed batters. His change-up needs a lot of work.

Mitchell’s stuff is good enough to help the Yankees at some point but it is unclear whether that will come as a starter or as a reliever. Mitchell enters spring training as a longshot to make the Yankees’ starting rotation but he might be an excellent choice for a in-season call-up to fill in as a starter or reliever. He could actually benefit from another season at Triple-A to fully develop his secondary pitches.

There is a lot to like about Mitchell. It is just up to him to step up his game when he is given chances to pitch in spring training.


Unlike Mitchell, Warren has been on a fast-track to the major leagues despite the fact he is also 24.

Warren is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-hander the Yankees selected in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of the University of North Carolina. Like Mitchell he spent all of the 2011 season at Scranton.

His record was nothing special at 6-8 but his ERA was 3.60 and he fanned 111 batters and walked 53 in 152 1/3 innings. Like Mitchell, Warren is a command and control pitcher who will not blow hitters away. He pitches in the 88-92 mph range and pounds the strike zone and changes speed on his pitches well.

He gets a lot of ground balls off his two-seam fastball and change-up but he needs work on some of his other secondary pitches like his curve and slider. Warren has pitched in high=pressure games at North Carolina and he has a competitive streak in him. The question becomes how high is Warren’s ceiling?

At this stage, Warren might make a nice No. 4 starter someday but he lacks the weapons to be considered anything more. He will get an honest look in spring training and you can’t help but root for a guy who flew under the radar for the past two seasons before his rise to Scranton last season.

The Yankees are hopeful he will be able to contribute down the road but Warren looks like a lock to spend the season back with Scranton.


If you ask Cashman about Phelps, his first reaction is a wide smile. Phelps, also 24, is one of those pitchers who has a habit of exceeding expectations.

Last season, Phelps began pitching at Double-A Trenton and was promoted quickly to Scranton. His combined numbers were a modest 7-7 with an eye-popping 2.99 ERA. Even more impressive was his 95 K’s and just 27 walks in 114 1/3 innings.

Phelps was selected by the Yankees in the 14th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of Notre Dame. Phelps was written off by a lot of scouts after his junior season at Notre Dame did not measure up to his spectacular sophomore season in which he was 8-5 with a 1.88 ERA in 15 starts.

Phelps promptly became the ace of his rookie Staten Island team in 2008 and he has succeeded at every level he has pitched since. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound right-hander just exudes confidence on the mound and he attacks hitters despite not possessing an above-average fastball.

Phelps throws in the low 90s but has impeccable control, as the 27 walks he issued in 2011 indicate. What sets Phelps apart from Warren and Mitchell is his slider, which translated into a 7.51 K rate at Class-A Tampa. His pitches to contact and that also keeps his pitch count down.

His deceptive delivery actually makes his average fastball seem livelier than it actually is and Phelps is an absolute bulldog on the mound, brimming with confidence to throw any of his pitches in any count.

There are a lot of pitchers like Phelps in the minor leagues. Some make it to the majors and some don’t. The Yankees actually might motivate Phelps by betting that he won’t because Phelps is determined to prove doubters wrong and be successful in the major leagues. Don’t bet against him.

This spring training the Yankees hope to see that Phelps has improved his curve and change-up. The rest of the arsenal is there and Phelps already has the makeup any pitching coach would love all his pitchers to have. Phelps is the most likely of the three college right-handers who could be of help in 2012.

Of course, that could come as a starter or a reliever, given what the Yankees may need. Phelps has a chance, like Ivan Nova, to develop into a nice starter for the Yankees at some point. It is just a matter of time. But he will be a middle of the rotation guy, at best. But isn’t it there where the Yankees need the help?


He is Brooklyn boy, though at 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, he is very large boy at age 23.

Betances was selected by the Yankees in the eight round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft despite the fact the velocity on his pitches dropped in his senior season at Grand Street Campus High School.

But the tall righty overcame that and some forearm tightness in his first minor-league season to pitch very well with Charleston in the South Atlantic League in 2008. Betances was 9-4 with a 3.87 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 115 1/3 innings. That caught the Yankees’ attention and he advanced to Class-A Tampa in 2009.

But Betances was shut down with elbow pain and ended up having elbow reinforcement surgery. But he overcame that and became one of the prize pitchers in the Yankees’ farm system with a 8-1 record and an eye-popping 1.77 ERA in 14 starts for Tampa. He struck out 88 batters in 71 innings.

I guess the elbow was fixed.

It was no surprise that a lot of Yankees wanted Betances to succeed in spring training in 2011. He and Banuelos had their every move documented for fans interested in seeing the two most prized pitching prospects in the organization. But it was a foregone conclusion that Betances would be sent to Double-A Trenton to work on his command and his secondary pitches.

Betances features gas. He can dial it up to 98 mph on his fastball but he throws in the mid-90s mostly. His height allows him to force a downward plane on his pitches so the Yankees want him to work on a two-seam fastball. He also features a power knuckle curve that could be a solid swing-and-miss pitch for him. He has pretty good command of the curve.

Betances’ weakness is his large frame. Much like CC Sabathia at a young age, Betances finds that it is hard to keep his balance in his delivery. When he flies open he is apt to miss with his pitches, fall behind in counts and either he gets hit or walks batters. Finding a consistent release point is a struggle for him.

Last season, Betances was a combined 4-9 with a 3.70 ERA between Trenton and Scranton. He struck out 142 in 126 1/3 innings. But he also walked 70.

Betances is a pitcher worth being patient with because he is a potential front-of-the-rotation pitcher. If he stays healthy and progresses in finding a way to repeat his delivery consistently he could one of the best pitchers the Yankees have developed in their minor-league system. He is that good.

He will get a long look in spring training but realistically it would be very surprising if Cashman would allow Betances to make the 2012 major-league roster. Betances really needs to put in a season at Triple-A honing his craft. If he was pitching for a team like Kansas City he could learn at the major-league level. But not with the Yankees.

Cashman believes in being cautious especially given Betances’ past elbow problems. Betances could be called up late in the 2012 season when the rosters expand. But set your clock on him for 2013. That is when he should get a shot to make the rotation.


At age 20, Banuelos is already a legend in smart Yankee circles.

The reason is that Banuelos’ promise is limitless and there is so much to like about the 5-foot-11, 155-pound left-hander.

Signed as a non-drafted free agent in March 2008 out of Vergelito, Mexico, Banuelos impressed the Yankee scout who signed him just when he was warming up with his brother before showing the scout what he could really do. The scout marveled at the ease in which the ball came out of Banuelos’ hand.

He advised the Yankees he needed to sign him quickly and the rest is history.

Banuelos features a fastball, a change-up and a curve. But the pitch that draws the most raves is actually the change-up because so few young pitchers ever truly master the pitch. Banuelos has a quality change-up that makes his fastball even more deadly. Betances has better velocity on his fastball. But because of Banuelos’ change-up his 92 mph fastball looks like it 100 mph compared to it.

Banuelos, unlike Betances, has a nice, free-and-easy motion that makes it easy for him repeat his delivery over and over again. That also means he can maintain control and Banuelos – at a tender age – has learned how to add and subtract his pitches. That makes him special and it also places him as the No. 1 pitching prospect in the Yankees’ farm system.

Last spring training, Banuelos was pressed into starting against the Red Sox in a spring training start in Tampa. The most impressive pitch Banuelos threw was a 3-2 change-up that absolutely stunned Jason Varitek. Varitek watched it glide over the plate, shook his head and walked back into the dugout stunned.

The legend of Banuelos was born.

There was some hope the Yankees might promote Banuelos to pitch out of the bullpen for the stretch drive, given their need for a second lefty. But Banuelos was just 6-7 with a 3.75 ERA and he struck out 125 and walked 71 in 129 2/3 innings between stints at Trenton and Scranton. The Yankees felt his control needed more refining before they could bring him up.

So Banuelos will get his chance to pitch a lot in spring training in 2012 but he is likely going to be ticketed for Scranton. (If you have some money to bet you might want to put it on Scranton winning the International League with its projected starters).

But do not bet against Banuelos making it up to the majors at some point in 2012 – as a starter or reliever. Make no mistake, Banuelos has a chance to be a very special pitcher for the Yankees and that is the reason Yankee fans absolutely buzz about him as much as they do about Jesus Montero.


The Yankees are well-stocked with pitchers just on the verge of making the major leagues as starters. You would think the Yankees would be looking to push a few into what is undoubtedly the biggest weakness on the team in 2012. But the Yankees are not a team who promote young pitchers and ask them to take them to a World Series.

The Yankees look for veterans and free agents who can buy them time to develop pitchers to either promote or trade.

At the moment, Mitchell, Noesi and Warren are the most advanced of the young pitchers in experience. However, they also are the pitchers with lower ceilings. One of them could surprise but they likely will either stay in Triple-A or be dealt or released down the line.

But Phelps, Betances and Banuelos are worth watching. They seem to have the ability, they know how to pitch and they are determined to make it to the major leagues. Phelps is loaded with heart, Banuelos is wise beyond his years and Betances looks like a budding right-handed version of Sabathia.

Though 2013 looks like the year they might reach the big stage, don’t be shocked if any one or all three of them pitch in some capacity for the Yankees in 2012.

Like the old saying goes: “You can never have enough pitching.”

Sorry, I Can’t Support Trading For Halladay

Roy Halladay in pinstripes?
If the news reports from SI.com over the weekend are correct, the Yankees have apparently inquired about the Toronto Blue Jays’ asking price for their ace righthahnder.
I know that this gets Yankee fans excited because just imagining a potential rotation of Halladay, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte (should he elect not to retire) would just about assure the Yankees of a return to the playoffs.
What is not to like about Halladay? At age 32 Halladay is among the best pitchers in baseball. The 2003 American League Cy Young Award winner is coming of a season in which he was 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA. 
Throwing out injury-plagued 2004 and 2005 seasons, since 2002 Halladay has averaged 18 victories a season for a Blue Jays’ team that has never won a AL East title. The thought is just imagine what he would do for a very good Yankee team with a talent-laden offense.
But there are a few points to be made before we go printing up playoff tickets and scheduling parades down the Canyon of Heroes for 2010.
One big drawback is that Toronto will not accept Shelley Duncan and Chien-Ming Wang for Halladay. They are not stupid. They will be looking for a lot of players — some major league and some prospects.
The last time the Yankees chatted with Toronto about Halladay the asking price reportedly was both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes among other players. So it stands to reason that the asking price will include one or the other, perhaps both.
With the Jays having shed Alex Rios and being forced to keep an untradeable and expensive Vernon Wells, it stands to reason that prize outfielder Austin Jackson will be part of the deal too. They also could ask for one of the Yankees prize catchers, Austin Romine or Jesus Montero.
That is a pretty steep price to pay for any pitcher, much less Halladay.
I have seen this script before with the Yankees. They go through stages where their minor-league talents ebbs to nothing. Then it begins churning out talent. The Yankees, desperate to add a pitcher here or hitter there, then trade their prospects away in return for established players.
That’s OK when it works. But, so often in the past, it hasn’t.
Take the case of poor Jose Rijo. Rushed to the major leagues at age 19 because “Boss” Steinbrenner insisted the Yankees have a pitcher to compete with the Mets’ rookie sensation Dwight Gooden, Rijo was not prepared for the rigors of the major leagues.
He was 2-8 with a 4.76 ERA in 24 games with the Yankees in 1984. Rather than patiently wait for Rijo to develop, the Yankees shipped him off to Oakland before the start of the 1985 season.
The Yankees looked like genuises because Rijo bounced back and forth from the bullpen to the rotation for three years before the Athletics sent him to Cincinnati before the 1988 season.
But the Yankees and A’s looked like fools when he reeled off five seasons over the next six seasons with 13 or more wins with his highest ERA during that period was an injury-marred 1989 season when his ERA ballooned all the way to 2.84!
He was the Reds’ 1990 World Series Most Valuable Player and he followed that with his best season in 1991 with a 15-6 record and a 2.51 ERA. 
Arm problems shortened his 1995 season and he only pitched one more season before leaving the game in 1995 at age 30. He made a brief comeback in 2001 and 2002 with the Reds as a reliever before retiring for good.
He was 116-91 with a career ERA of 3.24. I just wonder if the Yankees would have had the patience to have kept him while he was developing. But patience sometimes is at odds with the Yankees’ stated goal of winning the world championship every season.
That impatience also claimed Doug Drabek in 1987. After a rookie season in which Drabek dared to go 7-8 with a 4.18 ERA the Yankees dealt him to Pittsburgh to obtain 33-year-old Rick Rhoden. 
At first glance, the Yankees made a great trade. Rhoden was 16-10 with a 3.86 ERA in 1987. Drabek was 11-12 with a 3.88 ERA for an awful Pirate team.
But in 1988 Rhoden quickly declined due to arm problems and was 12-12 with a 4.29 ERA and he was shipped off to Houston for his last season. He was 2-8 with a 4.28 ERA and he retired. 
Drabek, meanwhile, developed into the ace of the Pirates’ staff and was 22-6 with a 2.08 ERA in 1990 and won the NL Cy Young Award. He pitched two more season for the Pirates before he was traded to the Houston Astros in 1993.
Toiling for poor Astros teams for four seasons, Drabek eventually fell off and had poor seasons in 1997 with the White Sox and 1998 with the Orioles before having to hang it up. Pitching for some real bad teams, Drabek still was 155-134 with a 3.73 ERA in his career.
The question is would the Yankees have been better off in 1990 having held onto both Rijo and Drabek?
Considering that the best starting pitcher on the Yankees staff that season was Tim Leary and he was 9-19 with a 4.11 ERA I would say the answer is yes.
The Yankees also traded away Al Leiter before they knew what they had. More recently there was the trade of Ted Lilly. People also forget that Steinbrenner wanted to trade Andy Pettitte during the 1998 season in which he finished 16-11 with a 4.24 ERA. Steinbrenner was upset because Pettitte was 18-7 with a 2.88 ERA the year before.
Steinbrenner felt Pettitte was in decline at age 26. But then-manager Joe Torre insisted that good lefthanded starters do not grow bountifully on trees and General Manager Brian Cashman agreed. 
Pettitte stayed. 
Good thing, too. Pettitte pitched five more seasons in New York and won 13 or more games in each season, including a 21-8 record in 2003 — his last season before leaving the Yankees to pitch for the Astros.
The point of all this is to remind fans that no matter how good the pitcher the team may be acquiring, that the fact is that Halldaday’s best days are well behind him. The prospect of him breaking down now is more likely now than when he was 25.
When you trade a Phil Hughes away you are losing a chance to ever see what his peak will be because he has not hit it yet. He is only 22. Can Yankee fans accept a possibility that Hughes might be a Cy Young Award winner for Toronto in  2013 while Halladay is trying to hold on as a relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies?
If the answer is no then the Yankees should steer clear of any deal that includes any young prospect the Yankees want to keep. 
Trading away the future is never the answer. The key is to make the roster younger each year as your older players lose their skills and retire. That also is a great way to reduce payroll gradually.
So as much I would love to see Halladay a Yankee uniform, I am not in favor of a potential deal in this case. I also have not even addressed the fact that Halladay, because he would a free agent for the 2011 season would have to be signed to very lucrative long-term contract before he will even agree to waive his limited no-trade clause.
Wouldn’t it be easier just to sign John Lackey to a free-agent deal, keep your current prospects and just lose a player in the annual baseball draft?
Lackey may not
be as good as Halladay but Lackey would certainly fit in well with what the Yankees have. And the Yankees would keep Hughes and Chamberlain and all the good young minor-league pitching they have.
Isn’t that a good thing?