I have been receiving some excellent questions lately and I thought it would be a great time to share some of them of with you all. So let’s dip into the old e-mail and see what is on the minds of some fellow Yankee fans.
Q: With Brett Gardner out do you think the Yankees should trade for another outfielder, preferably someone with some speed? Why not bring Eduardo Nunez back up and play him in left? (CiscoK)
A: Cisco, I would be with on board with a trade for an outfielder with some speed but the news concerning Gardner is actually pretty good. After getting an opinion on his balky right elbow from Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, FL, on Monday, Gardner received a confirmation of the diagnosis from Dr. Timothy Kremchek in Cincinnati on Thursday. The opinion is that Gardner should rest the elbow an additional three to four weeks and he does not require surgery. Gardner received a platelet-rich plasma and cortisone shot on Thursday and he will wear an elbow brace to ensure the elbow is rested properly. That is pretty good news. I have heard rumors about the Yankees may be interested in Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs and Chone Figgins of the Mariners but both those guys earn hefty paychecks and the Yankees want to cut payroll. So unless they can get a team to pay most of the tab like the Yankees did with A.J. Burnett, it does not make much sense. As for Nunez, he injured his thumb and is currently on the minor-league disabled list. So even if the Yankees wanted to call him up, they really can’t because of the injury.
Q: Why did the Yankees send David Phelps down instead of Freddy Garcia or Cody Eppley? (JIMMAJAMMA)
A: The Yankees decided to activate David Robertson on Thursday instead of waiting before Friday’s game against the Nationals in Wasington and Phelps was sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The answer, JJ, does not come down to performance or who deserves to go. It is simply because Phelps is 25, he has options left and the Yankees really see him as a starter and not a reliever. Phelps was 1-2 with a 2.94 ERA in 33 2/3 innings over 13 games (two starts). He impressed the Yankees with aggressiveness and he really has a bright future ahead of him. Garcia (0-2, 7.68 ERA) is being paid more than $4 million this season and the Yankees are not going to eat that contract by sending him out or releasing him at age 35. Eppley is 1-1 with a 5.16 ERA but he has been much better in June than he was in May. He has a 2.08 ERA against right-handers and he gets exposed when he faces lefties (5.40 ERA). Eppley is a specialist like Clay Rapada is from the left side and he seems to have earned the trust of manager Joe Girardi.
Q: Why do the Yankees keep Francisco Cervelli at Scranton when Russell Martin can’t hit? (Martini88)
A: Martin has been hitting a lot better this month and, truthfully, the Yankees are in love with his pitch selection, defense and throwing. Girardi and bench coach Tony Pena, who know a bit about catching in the majors, think he is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. He does a great job of blocking pitches in the dirt and he does dissuade teams like the Angels and Rays from turning the game into a track meet. Backup Chris Stewart is out of options and he can’t be sent to the minor leagues without losing him as a free agent. The Yankees do not care what he hits and love his defense also. Frankly, Francisco Cervelli is at Scranton because the Yankees were not happy with his throwing accuracy. In 174 games in the major leagues, Cervelli has committed 20 errors and he has nailed base-runners at a subpar 19%. Stewart in 104 games has committed 10 errors and he has nailed base-runners at rate of 38 percent. I think that pretty much explains it.
Q: Are the Yankees paying a big price for not going after C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish? (Tex25Fan25)
A: I don’t think so. Their recent surge (16 out of their last 20 games) has been accomplished largely with the addition of Andy Pettitte and pitchers like Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova pitching much better than they did in April. If you look at what has happened to the Rays’ staff the last few days against the Mets, I think you can see that even good pitchers can go through some struggles. It is much better to get them out of the way early and the Yankees starters seemed to have done that. Besides the Yankees, if you can believe it, are not looking to add payroll because of the more stringent salary cap rules that go into effect in 2014. As a result, the Yankees won’t be looking at big-ticket free agents unless they shed a lot of salaries to ckear room. So they only made a token bid on Darvish and they basically ignored Wilson. That will continue for the next three years.
Thank you for your interest in my blog and keep your questions coming.
In the long and celebrated history of the New York Yankees, there have been only three legendary left-handed pitchers who have come out their minor-league system to attain greatness: Whitey Ford in the 50’s, Ron Guidry in the 70’s and Andrew Eugene Pettitte in the 90’s.
And it is Pettitte, who will be making history again on Sunday when he puts on his pinstriped No. 46 after 573 days in retirement. Yankee Stadium is sold out, the Bronx and the Tri-State area is abuzz and his Yankee teammates can’t wait to see him peer over his glove in that iconic stare into Russell Martin’s glove at about 1:07 p.m. before his first major-league pitch since the 2010 playoffs.
This would all seem like an exercise in futility for a 39-year-old pitcher who had been out of the game this long. After all, it does not happen often and it does not always end up successfully when it does happen.
But something about this time. Something about this man. Something about Pettitte has always been special.
For one thing, Pettitte left baseball after recording an 11-3 mark with a 3.28 ERA in 21 starts in 2010, a season that was truncated by a groin injury that sidelined Pettitte for over a month. But Pettitte recovered from that injury and he pitched twice in the 2010 playoffs and was 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA in those games.
So it wasn’t like Andy left baseball with nothing left in the tank. In fact, Pettitte was running on some premium high-test when he decided being home with his family in Deer Park, TX, was more important to him than trying to get a 3-2 slider past Josh Hamilton.
When the competitive juices started flowing in Pettitte this winter and he got a chance to come to the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, FL, the lure of the game was just to much for him to resist. Once the announcement was made that Pettitte was coming back to the Yankees no one really laughed. It was only cheers and smiles.
That is because everyone who knows Pettitte knows that the harshest critic in his life has always been himself. If Andy did not believe he could do it he would not have wasted his or the Yankees’ time by even trying to fool them he could still pitch when he couldn’t. But Andy can still pitch and we will find out just how well on Sunday.
In four minor-league starts, Pettitte was 0-2 with a 3.71 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 19 innings. But those are just numbers because Pettitte was not concerned with numbers. He was focused only on getting his arm and his legs in shape to pitch for the Yankees for the rest of the 2012 season.
So today Pettitte just takes one step of a long journey back. It will not end with a loss or a victory. It is just the beginning for him.
In the Mariners he is facing a roster almost completely made up of players who were in elementary school or in diapers when Pettitte broke into the majors in 1995. In the end, they will tell Pettitte just how much he has left in the game. It is, after all, the hitters who tell a pitcher when he it is time to hang up the cleats. Pettitte hopes that will not be for some time to come.
Yankee fans second that emotion.
Pettitte will face a familiar mound opponent on Sunday.
The Mariners are starting 37-year-old right-hander Kevin Millwood (0-4, 5.88 ERA). Millwood is coming off a game on Tuesday in which he gave up five runs on eight hits and five walks and struck out three in five innings in a loss to the Detroit Tigers. In the last 10 seasons, Millwood is 2-4 with a 4.74 ERA against the Yankees.
Of the Mariners on the roster, Pettitte has only faced Chone Figgins, Ichiro Suzuki and Michael Saunders because most of their players are so young. In the last 10 seasons, Pettitte is 7-8 with a 3.94 ERA against the M’s.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
Remember George Steinbrenner ‘s appearance on the “Seinfeld” episode where George’s father lights into him for trading Jay Buhner to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Ken Phelps?
For the last 24 hours the ghost of that ill-fated Buhner-for-Phelps trade has cast a pall around the reported most recent Yankees-Mariners swap of mega-prospect Jesus Montero for pitcher Michael Pineda. Yankee fans are unclear how the Yankees would think that trading their best young hitter for a young right-hander with a history of arm trouble and inconsistent mechanics helps the Yankees in the long run.
They are looking at the so-called “Big Picture,” You know that is the vast uncharted future when Robinson Cano is on a downward slide and Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are living a life of luxury in retirement. Yankee fans saw Montero as the centerpiece of the Yankees’ 2018 world championship team, hitting .330 with 42 home runs and driving in 130 runs batting fourth in pinstripes.
But mean, old general manager Brian Cashman took that comforting pipe dream away by dealing Montero for a pitcher who could blow out his arm in a bar fight tomorrow. (Yep, a Yankee fan never forgets what could have been with Brien Taylor.)
Nevermind that Montero’s career could come to an end with the next horrific home-plate collision. Yankee fans want to vent so let them vent.
But when have the Yankees ever looked way out to 2018?
I do not think they were thinking of 2018 when they made this trade. I think they were looking at 2012.
That is the Yankee tradition after all. You lose in the playoffs and fall short of your goal in 2011 so you immediately look to improving your team in 2012. That is Cashman’s job.
Cashman, along with Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and any scout in baseball will tell you that the magical 97 wins the Yankees got out of a rotation that included 38-year-old Bartolo Colon and 35-year-old Freddy Garcia was seen as a miracle that could not be duplicated.
The fact remains that besides CC Sabathia and his annual flirtation with 20 wins and a Cy Young Award there is not much to distinguish the Yankees’ rotation. That, keep in mind, is aware that Phil Hughes did win 18 games in 2010 and rookie Ivan Nova was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA last season.
What troubled the Yankees’ front office is that the Tampa Bay Rays made the playoffs in 2011 with a popgun offense and very good rotation of young pitchers behind James Shields, including lefty David Price, Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson and the rookie lefty who blanked the Rangers in the playoffs, Matt Moore.
Despite the fact that the Yankees spent most of Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers down one run and their vaunted offense could not produce it, the Yankees felt they had to bolster the starting staff without adding much to their $200 million payroll.
That is a tough task because free agents like C.J. Wilson, Mark Buerhle and Yu Darvish were so tempting. Trade offers for Gio Gonzalez, Jair Jurrgens, John Danks and Matt Garza held promise but proved, in the end, to be pretty pricey. Heck, even the new president of the Cubs, Theo Epstein, thought Garza was worth Montero and left-hander Manny Banuelos and right-hander Dellin Betances!
Epstein may think of himself as the Lord’s holy gift to baseball but mere mortals like Cashman know the First Commandment of the National Pastime: Though shall not deal the best lambs in the stable for a .500 pitcher who is no better than a No. 3 in your rotation.
So give Cashman credit for not allowing Epstein to pull the wool over his eyes. Baaaaaad!!!!
With this trade, however, Cashman has acquired a pitcher who is 22 years old. (OK, he turns 23 on Wednesday if you want to get technical.)
When the Yankees traded for Phelps during the 1988 season he was 34 years old and Buhner was almost exactly 10 years his junior. Of course, history will show that Phelps would hit a whopping 13 home runs for the Yankees from the middle of the 1988 season to the middle of the 1989 season when he was traded away in disgrace to the Oakland Athletics.
Meanwhile, Buhner – beginning in 1991 – started a series of 10 seasons with the Mariners in which in eight of them he hit 21 or more home runs. In fact, from 1995 through 1997, Buhner had three seasons in which he hit 40, 44 and 40 home runs for the Mariners. He ended up with 310 major-league dingers, a total of three came when he was wearing pinstripes.
Now you can understand why Frank Constanza (played by actor Jerry Stiller) was so angry with George in that hilarious “Seinfeld” episode.
It may be why so many Yankee fans might be angry now. It is the ghost of Jay Buhner rearing his ugly head. (Check out Buhner’s baseball card. He was ugly.)
But Pineda is not Ken Phelps. Far from it.
There were times last season that scouts would have told you that Pineda looked better than Felix Hernandez himself. Pineda was rolling through lineups looking like a 6-foot-7, 260-pound Gulliver against a helpless band Lilliputians with matchsticks for bats.
In his first 11 starts he was 6-2 with a 2.30 ERA and 73 K’s in 70 1/3 innings and batters were hitting a woeful .190 off him and he had a WHIP of 1.00. That was pitching for arguably the weakest offense in baseball in the Mariners.
Granted, in his next six starts, Pineda came back to Earth some. He was 2-3 with 3.10 ERA. But he was chosen to represent the American League in the 2011 All-Star Game and he had earned it.
What many rookie pitchers have to contend with is how to continue to pitch well as the innings mount and your team continues to play poorly. The Mariners were simply awful as they ditched the second half in order to play their young prospects over their overpriced veterans like Chone Figgins.
Pineda won only one game the rest of the season. Of course, that game was against the Rays on July 30. But he ended the season 1-5 in his last 11 starts with an ERA of 5.71. The Mariners, seeing that Pineda was a valuable commodity, did not pitch him much in the month of September to protect his arm.
He finished 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 173 strikeouts in 171 innings. Batters hit .211 off him and his WHIP was an amazing 1.10. He was right behind Hellickson as the second-best rookie pitcher in baseball in 2011.
But his second-half slide and the fact that Pineda had to be shut down by the Mariners back in 2009 due forearm and elbow stiffness has Yankee fans concerned about this trade. It is true that while a position player can fashion a long career despite injuries, a starting pitcher can be wrecked for an entire career with a severe elbow or shoulder injury.
But, Pineda seems as if he is a reasonable risk at this point because, Yankee fans, Betances at 6-foot-8 and age 23 is in the same boat as Pineda. The only difference is that Betances has already experienced elbow problems and had surgery to repair the damage. So if you are crying because the Pineda was acquired then, in that same breath, you must have to demand that Cashman get rid of Betances immediately because he is another elbow injury waiting to happen.
I guess the foot is in the other shoe, now, Yankee fans!
All I am saying is that perhaps it is better to allow the careers of Pineda and Montero to play out about five years before we say the Mariners have won this trade. After all, it took Buhner until 1991, three long seasons after the trade, to become the player the Yankees wished they had back.
Pineda will begin the 2012 season as the Yankees’ No. 2 starter behind the equally tall Sabathia. That is about as an imposing pair of starters a team can face to open a series. The Yankees can follow that up with Nova, who was the third best rookie pitcher in 2011 and Hughes, who did win 18 games for the Yankees when he was healthy.
And for good measure, Cashman added 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to the mix and Kuroda was 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA for a very mediocre Dodgers team in 2011.
That is not a bad starting five. It figures to better than the Sabathia, Nova, Colon, Garcia and A.J. Burnett quintet with which the Yankees won 97 games last season. Speaking of Burnett and Garcia, neither figures to make the rotation unless there are a few injuries in the spring.
Burnett figures to be on his way out of town if the Yankees can find a buyer for him and Garcia looks to be simply insurance for the injury-plagued Hughes and the other four starters.
So losing Montero for a significantly better rotation does not seem so bad.
His offense will be missed, for sure. I had no doubt that as a designated hitter and part-time catcher Montero could easily hit 30 home runs and drive in 75 or more runs in 2011. But the Yankees have been either number one or number two in runs scored the past three seasons without Montero. It seems they can manage to make it four in 2012 without Montero.
Also remember this important point. The Yankees got younger in their rotation and still have Banuelos, Betances, Adam Warren, David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell at the Triple-A level. Oh, and reports indicate this 6-foot-4 right-hander Jose Campos thrown into the Montero deal, at age 19, is an excellent pitching prospect with a live arm and great control. They also still have the defensively proficient Austin Romine bidding to be the backup to catcher Russell Martin this spring.
And, lo and behold, the Yankees’ No. 1 catching prospect Gary Sanchez turned 19 in December and he is considered to be every bit as good as Montero as a hitter and he is a defensive gem as well. He was ranked as the third-best catching prospect in 2011. Montero was No. 1.
So while you are crying about what Montero will do for Seattle, Sanchez is getting closer to an arrival date in 2014 and he may be very much the ultimate catcher for which Yankee fans have been waiting. Montero with his defensive deficiencies may eventually be the DH or first baseman for which the Mariners have been waiting.
So dry your eyes and let’s wait to see how Pineda develops before we get too emotional. Somewhere Ken Phelps is thinking you are all acting like idiots.
YANKEES 4, MARINERS 1
The only thing that cooled off CC Sabathia’s flaming left arm on Tuesday night was the rain cascading down upon Yankee Stadium.
The game was virtually over early. The only thing left in doubt was whether the rain would prevent Sabathia pitching a perfect game against the sinking ship that is the Seattle Mariners.
The Mariners did manage a hit. They even eked out a run. But Carsten Charles Sabathia thoroughly dominated them for seven plus innings, striking out a career-high 14 batters en route to handing the Mariners their 17th straight loss and immediately making the performance an instant classic for the YES Network.
Sabathia (15-4) kept the M’s hitless until Brendan Ryan stroked a one-out single to center on a 2-0 fastball in the seventh inning after the first of two rain delays of the evening. Up to that point, Sabathia had faced 19 batters and he had fanned 12 of them. At one point he had struck out seven straight Mariners.
After Ryan’s single, he punched out the next two batters to strike out the side for the third time in the game. The no-hitter was gone, but Sabathia was dealing in one of the best games of his career.
After a second rain delay lasting 14 minutes, Sabathia convinced manager Joe Girardi he could continue in the eighth inning. In retrospect, it was a noble but unwise decision. Sabathia walked the first three batters he faced and he left to a thundering ovation from the 46,132 in attendance.
David Robertson fanned pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy, which was the 10th straight batter Robertson had fanned with the bases loaded. But the Mariners broke that streak and pushed across a run when Eric Chavez could not field Chone Figgins’ grounder cleanly enough to turn a double play and he took the out at third himself. Roberston then fanned Ichiro Suzuki to limit the damage for Sabathia.
Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth with two more strikeouts for his 26th save and the Yankees tied a record with 18 strikeouts that was set by Ron Guidry on June 17, 1978 against the Angels.
“He’s always got Sabathia stuff, but today that was, by far, the best I’ve ever seen him pitch. I almost feel disrespectful saying that, because we all know what he’s capable of, but when you’re locating the fastball and the way he was throwing that slider, stealing strikes with that curveball here and there, he was absolutely filthy.”
— Brendan Ryan
Sabathia becomes the first pitcher in the major leagues to win 15 games this season. Despite losing his last start to the Rays to snap his seven game winning streak, Sabathia is 8-1 with a 1.71 ERA since a June 9 loss to the Red Sox. He has struck out 81 batters in 68 2/3 innings in that same stretch.
The Yankees were able to give Sabathia some run support against Mariners’ hard-luck starter Doug Fister . Fister entered the game with an awful 3-11 record and a sterling 3.30 ERA because the Mariners had scored a total of 25 runs in the 15 games he started that the Mariners lost. Well, make it 26 runs in 16 losing starts. Fister is now 3-12 with a 3.33 ERA.
Curtis Granderson shocked Fister by slapping a curveball to the opposite field and into the bleachers down the left-field line for his 28th home run of the season with out out in the fourth.
The Yankees added a pair of runs in the fifth. Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada stroked back-to-back singles to start the frame. Chavez, who was playing his first game after being activated from the 60-day disabled list earlier in the day, followed with an RBI single to score Swisher. One out later, Brett Gardner singled to load the bases and Derek Jeter scored Posada with a infield groundout.
Mark Teixeira tacked on an insurance run in the eighth with a his 28th home run off reliever Jamey Wright.
But the night belonged to Sabathia, who is now 55-20 since he was signed for the 2009 season to be the Yankees’ ace. On Tuesday he proved he was worth every penny the Yankees paid.
But he had a ominous warning for his next opponent. “I can’t wait for my next start,” Sabathia told reporters.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season ledger to 61-40 and they remain two games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Mariners continue their slide into oblivion at 43-60.
The Yankees optioned Brandon Laird to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in order to make room on the roster for Chavez. Girardi elected to play the lefty hitting Chavez against the right-hander Fister and rest Eduardo Nunez, who has played a lot of games replacing Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Nunez likely will continue to see some time at third until Rodriguez returns in August. . . . The Yankees seem ready to activate reliever Rafael Soriano on Friday when the Yankees open a four-game home series against the Baltimore Orioles. Girardi dodged questions about whether Soriano would return to his setup role.
The Yankees will go for a sweep of the Mariners on Wednesday.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (1-2, 9.47 ERA) will get the call to pitch for the Yankees. Hughes was staked to a 14-2 lead over Oakland on Friday but he was unable to go the necessary five innings to earn the victory. Hughes was touched for seven runs on nine hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings. He is 2-1 with a 2.74 ERA against the Mariners in his career.
The Mariners will look to ace right-hander Felix Hernandez (8-9, 3.47 ERA) to end their 17-game skid. Hernandez has not won in his last five starts. On Friday, he lost to Boston 7-4, giving up 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings. He is 5-3 with a 2.98 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be at 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
le to play the outfield last season and the Yankees are not sure if Matsui can play the outfield anymore.
ave Lackey in the fold.
- In Game 1, Juan Rivera’s throwing error and Erick Aybar’s inability to call for and catch a routine pop fly gave the Yankees two runs in the first inning. John Lackey’s errant pickoff attempt throw led to another run in sixth inning. The Angels lost 4-1 and actually gift-wrapped the Yankees three runs.
- In Game 2, the Yankees made all three of their errors in the series but none of them resulted in an Angels score. The Angels committed two errors and the second one resulted in the loss. Second baseman Maicer Izturis ranged far to his left and fielded Melky Cabrera’s grounder and he should have thrown to first for the second out of the inning. Instead he whirled and threw off-balance to shortstop Erick Aybar at second base and the ball sailed past Aybar and allowed Jerry Hairston to score the winning run in the bottom of the 13th inning.
- In Game 6, the Angels committed two errors in the game. Unfortunately, after scoring a run off Mariano Rivera in the top of the eighth inning to make the score 3-2 in favor of the Yankees, the two errors came in the bottom of the inning. They came on consecutive sacrifice bunt plays. On the first, Howie Kendrick closed his glove too soon as he covered first base and Nick Swisher was safe. Then Kazmir shot-putted the ball over Kendrick’s head and Robinson Cano scored the game’s fourth run and runners advanced to second and third. One additional run scored on a sacrifice fly and the Yankees clinched the series with a 5-2 victory.
t and NOBODY on.