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.
It is no big secret that the New York Yankees are pretty much nearing their yearly limit on their healthcare plan. So much for “A-Rodcare,” literally! But with the slew of injuries has come the necessity for the Yankees to dip into their minor-league system for rookies. With the team in first place it is obvious that they are getting contributions from the so-called “Baby Bombers.” Let’s see how they are doing and rank them by their potential for what they will provide the team in the long run.
1) PRESTON CLAIBORNE, RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVER, 0-0, 0.69 ERA
Claiborne’s star has been rising quickly the past two seasons. At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, the 25-year-old Dallas native presents the typical power arm frame.
At Double-A Trenton in 2012, Claiborne was 2-2 with a 2.22 ERA and he saved five of the six games he closed. He struck out 49 batters in 48 2/3 innings over 30 appearances. He moved up to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and was 4-0 with a 4.05 ERA and saved one of his two opportunities. He struck out 29 in 33 1/3 innings there.
But the Yankees were absolutely ecstatic over his performance during spring training. He was 1-0 with a 0.84 ERA and he struck out 11 batters in 10 2/3 innings over 10 appearances. Manager Joe Girardi praised Claiborne for not looking overmatched against top-flight major-league hitters. But the Yankees’ bullpen was full and Claiborne was assigned back to Scranton.
In eight games there, Claiborne was 0-0 with a 3.48 ERA and he had saved all three of his save opportunities.
So when right-hander Joba Chamberlain was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left oblique strain on May 3, Claiborne was summoned to get his first taste of the majors. By the way Claiborne has pitched, he does not want to wash that great taste out of his mouth for a long time.
The rookie flamethrower is 0-0 with 0.69 ERA and he has struck out 10 batters without issuing a walk in 13 innings covering nine appearances.
It is odd that Claiborne has replaced Chamberlain so seamlessly because most scouts compare the two. He even has been called “Joba Jr.” because of his resemblance to the veteran reliever.
Claiborne features a fastball and slider combination with an occasional change. Girardi likes him because he is fearless in attacking hitters, which shows in the fact he has not issued a walk yet. Though Claiborne is not looked upon as a future closer, he could contribute nicely as a late-inning setup man in the mold of David Robertson or Chamberlain before injuries sidetracked his career lately.
Claiborne is, by far, the most impressive rookie the Yankees have used this season and he probably has the highest long-term ceiling because of his refusal to nibble on the corners. Claiborne is an attack pitcher with a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a slider with a good bite.
He may be less heralded than Chamberlain was because he was not a No. 1 draft pick. He was chosen in the 17th round in 2010 out of Tulane University. But he has exceeded expectations much like the way David Phelps has progressed through the minors as a starter.
Claiborne looks like a long-term keeper for the Yankees and he should not be sent down when Chamberlain returns from his rehab stint. Unfortunately, it is looking like either he or right-hander Adam Warren will have to go.
2) DAVID ADAMS, INFIELDER, 2 HRS, 3 RBIs, .306
You can probably call Adams the “greatest forgotten Yankees prospect in history.” The reason is that Adams has been detouring through the system because of a nagging ankle injury he suffered in 2010 at Double-A Trenton.
That was the famous injury that killed the Cliff Lee trade with the Seattle Mariners. Adams was packaged along with Jose Montero and Ivan Nova in July 2010 in a deal for Lee. But the Mariners rejected the deal because of Adams and they asked for shortstop Eduardo Nunez instead.
At that asking price, general manager Brian Cashman balked and Lee was traded to the Texas Rangers instead.
Since then Adams has been trying to get back on what he hoped would be a major-league track. Adams’ ankle injury was far more serious than anyone thought at the time and he missed pretty much all of the 2011 minor-league season.
The former 2008 third-round pick out of the University of Virginia did manage to play in 86 games at Double-A Trenton in 2012 and hit .306 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs.
However, the Yankees ran into a bit of a jam with their 40-man roster this spring. Adams, who was not invited to spring training, was released by the Yankees so they could get outfielder Vernon Wells on the roster. Because no other team called Adams with an offer he remained a free agent.
So the Yankees re-signed him and shipped him to Scranton, where he was hitting .316 with homer and three RBIs in 27 games. If the Yankees had a choice they would have recalled Adams when Kevin Youkilis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back sprain on April 30.
But major-league rules prevent teams from calling up former free agents re-signed by their original club until May 15. So the Yankees recalled fellow rookie infielder Corban Joseph for a time and then they signed Chris Nelson when he was released by the Colorado Rockies.
But on May 15, which also was Adams’ 26th birthday, the Yankees released Nelson, brought Adams up from Scranton and he was installed as the team’s starting third baseman that very evening.
Originally a second baseman, Adams has been used at third base during stretches of his career because Joseph was the team’s biggest prospect at second base.
But Adams – now fully recovered from that nagging ankle injury some thee years later – is showing why he was such a highly touted prospect all those years. In nine games, Adams has at least one hit in eight of them and he is batting a robust .306 (11 for 36) with two home runs and three RBIs.
Though Adams’ defense is not listed by scouts as a strong suit because the ankle injury kept him off the field and perhaps reduced his range a bit, his defense with the Yankees has been better than advertised. He has not committed an error in his first 26 chances but it is obvious that a Gold Glove is not is in future either.
But playing solid defense while contributing offensively is just what the Yankees want him to do until Youkilis is activated from the disabled list sometime within the next week or so.
Adams likely will have to be sent back to Scranton but there is no doubt he has made an impression on the Yankees.
With Alex Rodriguez and Youkilis ahead of him at third base, Adams future there is a bit murky. But Robinson Cano can leave the Yankees as a free agent in 2014 and Youkilis only has a one-year contract. So Adams does have some potential value to the Yankees in the next year.
Adams also could have some value in potential trades the Yankees might consider down the line. But there is no doubt that after three seasons of futility dealing with a serious injury, Adams is back on track for a major-league career.
The Yankees are pleased with what he has contributed so far. If it were up to Adams it would be more of a long-term engagement.
3) VIDAL NUNO, LEFT-HANDED STARTER, 1-1, 1.93 ERA
While Adams and Claiborne were products of the Yankees’ farm system, Nuno actually was a 48th round draft pick in 2009 of the Cleveland Indians.
But after two seasons in the Cleveland minor-league system, he was released and he ended up signing with the Washington (PA) Wild Things in the independent Frontier League. There Nuno developed a change up and he caught the eye of scouts for the Yankees.
The Yankees signed him and the 25-year-old southpaw has breezed through the Yankees’ minor-league system the past two seasons.
In two stops in 2011, Nuno was 7-1 with a 1.38 ERA in 15 games (seven starts). In 2012, Nuno was a combined 10-6 with a 2.54 ERA between stops at High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.
But Nuno really opened eyes when he became a late addition to the Yankees’ spring training roster. Nuno was 1-1 with a 0.61 ERA in seven games (two starts) with the Yankees. But what really opened the Yankees’ eyes was in a game he pitched against the Yankees as a loaner to the Dominican Republic team in an exhibition game.
Nuno shut out the Yankees over five innings and he ended up being selected as the winner of the James P. Dawson Award as the team’s top rookie of the spring.
Though Nuno was shipped out to Scranton he had made an impression.
So when Nova was placed on the 15-day disabled list on April 27, Nuno was called up to take his place on the roster.
In his major-league debut, Nuno pitched three scoreless innings of relief against the Houston Astros on April 29.
On May 13, he shut out the Indians over five innings in his first major-league start and was promptly optioned back to Scranton on May 14. But he was recalled on May 17 when Andy Pettitte was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left trapezius muscle.
Nuno finally got tagged for his first run and home run allowed and took his first major-league loss on Tuesday when gave up a leadoff walk-off solo home run in the 10th inning to Nate McLouth of the Baltimore Orioles.
But, in true bounce-back fashion, Nuno pitched well in his second major-league start by limiting the Tampa Bay Rays to just one run on five hits in six innings on Saturday.
It is easy to see why Nuno was rapidly released by the Indians when you look at his fastball velocity. It is in the upper 80s and rarely reaches 90. That means Nuno must stay away from the middle of the plate and rely on his control to be effective.
Of course, little did the Indians know, but Nuno excels at throwing strikes and limiting walks. In 385 innings, Nuno has walked only 69 batters while he has struck out 371. That is nearly a 5 1/2 strikeouts per walk ratio.
The Yankees plan to send him back to Scranton when Pettitte is activated on June 1. But Nuno may have a future as a starter with a major-league team, even if it is not the Yankees. Nuno mainly will have to prove he can continue to get hitters out and he does a need a season at the Triple-A level.
But his long-term future can be bright with the Yankees because Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda are pitching under one-year contracts and Phil Hughes can hit the free-agent market this winter. So Nuno may be needed to fill a vacancy in the rotation next season.
If nothing else, Nuno could fill a need as a left-hander out the bullpen, though Nuno has shined much more brightly as a starter throughout his minor-league career.
In any event, Nuno has carved out a big spot in the Yankees’ future plans because left-handers with control can have very long careers in the major leagues. Ask David Wells.
4) AUSTIN ROMINE, CATCHER, 0 HRs, 2 RBIs, .118 BA
Unlike the others, Romine is in the Yankees’ listing of the Top 20 prospects in the organization. He is ranked at No. 17.
The main calling for Romine, 24, is his defense, which Girardi and bench coach Tony Pena rate as “major-league quality.” Romine has managed to remain with the Yankees while Montero has not because of his defense.
The only things that have held Romine back is a recurring back problem – which Romine has deal with on a daily basis with stretching exercises – and his bat. Romine is a career .280 hitter in the minors but it has not, as yet, translated to the major-league level.
But when Francisco Cervelli sustained a fractured right hand on April 26, Romine was summoned from Scranton, where he was hitting .333 with a homer and four RBIs in 14 games.
Chris Stewart was elevated to the starter behind the plate and Romine was expected to catch a game each week, at best.
But Stewart suffered a mild strain of his left groin on May 16 and Romine was thrust into the starter’s role for six games this week until Stewart returned on Saturday. Romine was 3-for-18 (.167) with no home runs and one RBI. Overall, he is hitting .118 with a no home runs and two RBIs.
What Romine lacks as a hitter he still excels at as a catcher. He calls a solid game (that is a work in progress), he is excellent at blocking pitches and he has a very good arm that deters base-stealers. He has thrown out 25 percent of potential base-stealers at the minor-league level in his career.
With Cervelli sidelined until sometime after the All-Star break, Romine will remain the backup catcher for the Yankees until he returns.
That will allow Romine to have some time to develop his hitting at the major-league level and learn more of the fundamentals of defense from Girardi and Pena.
The Yankees are actually loaded at the position with their No. 1 prospect Gary Sanchez and hard-hitting J.R. Murphy making their way through the Yankees’ system. The Yankees are going to have to make a determination of where Romine fits in their long-range plans.
They hope he can improve with the bat enough to stick with the Yankees. They would love for him to take the starting job in 2014. That, however, is up to Romine and how much he able to benefit from the major-league experience he is getting now.
The son of former major-league outfielder Kevin Romine will have to step it up overtake Cervelli and Stewart soon and keep Sanchez and Murphy at bay down the road. There is a long way to go and Romine just happens to have time on his side.
In addition to these four rookies who debuted this season, two other rookies have played for the Yankees this season: right-hander Warren and infielder Joseph. Warren, 26, was not included in the original list because he made his major-league debut in 2012, but he is still considered as a rookie this season. Joseph, 24, was called up from Scranton on April 30 to replace Youkilis. But he hit .167 in six at-bats before he was sent back Scranton May 14. Warren, however, is contributing very well out of the bullpen, where he is 1-0 with a 3.12 ERA.
The rookie pitchers (Claiborne, Nuno and Warren) are 2-1 with a 1.24 ERA and 34 strikeouts and 10 walks in 50 2/3 innings covering 22 appearances (two starts). Adams, Romine and Joseph have combined to go 16-for-76 (.211) with two home runs and five RBIs. Those contributions from the rookies has been a huge part of the reason why the Yankees have been able to weather the devastating injuries to their veterans this season and remain in first place. It is a testament to the scouting and the evaluations made under the direction of Cashman. The odd thing is these rookies are not considered among the team’s top prospects. There are many more at the Double-A and Single-A levels. That would indicate that the Yankees might not need to be signing many high-priced free agents in the immediate future.
YANKEES 5, BLUE JAYS 0
While the injuries seem to mount for the New York Yankees on a daily basis there are pretty much three things the team had going its favor on Friday: They were playing the Toronto Blue Jays, they had Hiroki Kuroda on the mound and they have not lost more than two games in a row this season.
Kuroda pitched two-hit shutout baseball over eight innings as New York snapped a two-game losing streak by defeating Toronto for the seventh time in eight games this season in front of paid crowd of 40,008 at Yankee Stadium.
Melky Cabrera led off the game with a double and Edwin Encarnacion laced a one-out single in the seventh and those were the only two hits the Blue Jays could muster off of the 38-year-old right-hander. Kuroda walked one and struck out five batters to run his career record against the Blue Jays to 4-1.
Meanwhile, the Yankees scored the only run they really needed in the bottom of the first inning when Brett Gardner rolled a leadoff triple to the wall in left-center off left-hander Mark Buehrle (1-3), who entered the game with a 1-9 record against the Yankees and his last victory against them was way back in 2004.
After Buehrle walked Jayson Nix, Robinson Cano scored Gardner with a infield groundout.
The rookie tandem of David Adams and Austin Romine sparked the rest of the Yankees’ offense.
Adams led off the fifth with a single to left-field and Romine followed one-out later with a single to left that advanced Adams to second. After Gardner drew a walk to load the bases, Nix drove in Adams with a sacrifice fly.
The Yankees added three runs by getting to Buehrle and reliever Aaron Loup in the seventh.
Adams again started the rally with a leadoff double off the wall in left-field and Ichiro Suzuki dropped down a bunt single that advanced Adams to third. Romine then chased Buehrle with an RBI double in the left-field corner.
Loup came in and Gardner greeted him with an RBI single to left to score Suzuki and Nix closed out the scoring with his second sac fly of the game.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to 26-16 and they hold a one-game lead in the American League East over the second-place Boston Red Sox. The Blue Jays fell to 17-25 and they are nine games out in last place in the division.
- Kuroda, if it seems possible, is pitching even better than he did last season when he established his career high with 16 victories. For Kuroda it was his seventh straight quality start dating back to April 14. Kuroda also lowered his season ERA to 1.99, which is fourth best in the American League. His six victories are tied for third in the league. I will say this and believe me when I do: CC Sabathia may be the team’s ace but Kuroda is the Yankees’ best pitcher.
- It may have seemed like an insignificant move at the time when the Yankees designated for assignment infielder Chris Nelson and recalled the 26-year-old Adams from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But there was a big reason for the move: Adams can flat-out hit. He is proving it, too. He was 2-for-4 with two runs scored on Friday and he is 4-for-11 (.364 ) with two doubles and an RBI in his first three major-league games. Adams was hitting .316 in 27 games at Scranton and he is a .296 career minor-league hitter.
- Romine came into the game hitting .063 but he took advantage of an injury to Chris Stewart to go 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Romine, 24, is going to be a work in progress as a hitter but his defense and throwing are top-flight. So when he contributes to the offense he deserves to be applauded for it.
- Cano is absolutely lost at the plate lately. He was 0-4 with a a strikeout despite his 27th RBI, which leads the team. He is 6-for-32 (.188) in his last eight games, which has lowered his season average from .314 to .291. Cano is getting back to his old habit of swinging at pitches way off the outside corner and in the dirt.
- Vernon Wells came into the game owning the Blue Jays this season and Buehrle throughout his career. But he ended up going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball past the infield. He is 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in his past two games.
- In fact, Buehrle and the Blue Jays shut down the No. 3 through No. 6 hitters in the Yankees’ lineup (Cano, Wells, Ben Francisco and Lyle Overbay) were 1-for-16 with one RBI but the No. 7 through No. 2 hitters (Adams, Suzuki, Romine, Gardner and Nix) were 6-for-13 with five runs scored and four RBIs.
NOTE: If you are absolutely fed up and ready to slit your wrists over the mounting injuries of the Yankees, please do yourself a service by not reading the following information.
Just before the game started the Yankees announced they have placed left-hander Andy Pettitte on the 15-day disabled list and they recalled rookie left-hander Vidal Nuno from Scranton to replace him in the rotation. Pettitte left his start on Thursday in the fifth inning with what was later diagnosed as a strain of the left trapezius muscle, located below in the neck in the back. General manager Brian Cashman said the injury is not serious and that he expects Pettitte to be back with the team after the 15 days are up. Pettitte becomes the 13th player to land on the DL this season. . . . Stewart, however, was able to dodge the disabled list for now. Cashman said Stewart suffered a mild strain in his left groin in the eighth inning of Thursday’s game against the Seattle Mariners and he is listed as day-to-day. In fact, Stewart would be able to catch in an emergency, Cashman told reporters. Romine will continue to start at catcher until Stewart recovers.
The Yankees will try get through another game without an injury as they continue their weekend three-game series against Toronto on Saturday.
Right-hander David Phelps (1-2, 4.33 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Phelps gave up just one run in 6 2/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians on Monday but he lost because Justin Masterson shut out the Yankees. Phelps is 1-0 with a 4.37 ERA lifetime against the Jays.
Toronto will counter with right-hander Brandon Morrow (1-2, 4.69 ERA). Morrow has missed his past two starts with back and neck issues. He is 5-3 with a 4.01 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, MARINERS 3
The epic showdown between former American League Cy Young Award winners Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia on Tuesday may have ended in what could be scored a draw. But the New York Yankees ended up victorious by virtue of a technical knockout of Hernandez.
Trailing 3-1 when “King Felix” abdicated the mound, New York rallied for three runs in the seventh inning off the Mariners’ bullpen to defeat Seattle in front of a paid crowd of 41,267 at Yankee Stadium.
Reliever Shawn Kelley (2-0) bailed Sabathia out of a jam in the top of the seventh with runners on first and third and one out by striking out Kelly Shoppach and retiring former Yankees’ 2012 playoffs legend Raul Ibanez on a flyout to get credit for the victory.
Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his 624th career save and his 16th save in as many chances this season.
Mariners left-hander Charlie Furbush (0-2) was saddled with the loss.
Lyle Overbay, who in some way “caused” Hernandez to leave the game, and Robinson Cano keyed the crucial rally in the seventh.
Chris Nelson led off the frame with a bloop single to center off right-hander Yoervis Medina and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Austin Romine struck out swinging, Mariners manager Eric Wedge summoned Furbush.
Brett Gardner drew a walk and Cano followed by lacing a 3-2 slider off the base of the wall in right-center to score Nelson and Gardner to tie the game at 3-3.
Wedge elected to have Furbush walk Vernon Wells intentionally but Furbush also ended up walking Curtis Granderson – who was activated from the 15-day disabled list and was playing in his first game of the season – to load the bases.
That brought up Overbay, who had stroked a two-out double off Hernandez in the sixth to plate the Yankees’ first run of the night. After working the count to 3-2, Overbay laced a line drive to deep center that easily scored Cano with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Hernandez had been in control against the Yankees much of the night. However, a misplay by Hernandez that led to a collision with Overbay in the fourth inning doomed him.
With one out and Wells on first, Overbay hit a bouncer that just eluded a dive by first baseman Kendrys Morales but the ball was gloved by second baseman Robert Andino, who double-clutched and threw to Morales at first base. However, Hernandez also came over to cover first and was standing in the baseline behind Morales when Overbay collided with him, striking the back of Hernandez’s left knee.
Though first-base umpire Alan Porter originally called Overbay out, the umpiring crew discussed the play, ruled Hernandez was guilty of obstruction and awarded first base to Overbay.
Hernandez noticeably limped and stretched out his back throughout the rest of his outing until he was removed after six innings. The 27-year-old ace yielded one run on five hits and two walks while he punched out eight batters.
The Mariners, meanwhile were able to build a 3-0 lead on Sabathia.
They scored an unearned run in the third when, with one out ,Overbay committed a fielding error on a ball off the bat of Michael Saunders. One out later, Kyle Seager ripped a double to the wall in right-center to score Saunders.
They padded their lead in the sixth when Shoppach slapped a first-pitch single to the opposite field in right and Ibanez, who hit three dramatic late-inning home runs for the Yankees during the 2012 playoffs, showed the fans what they were missing when he roped a two-run home run into the first row of the bleachers in right-field.
Sabathia left in the seventh having given up three runs (two earned) on a season-high 10 hits and two walks but he also fanned season-high 10 in 6 1/3 innings.
With the come-from-behind victory the Yankees are now 8-2 in one-run games this season.
The Yankees have also won seven of their past eight games and they improved their season record to 25-14. They also extended their lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles to two games in the American League East. The Mariners are now 18-21.
- Though Overbay committed his second error of the season and misplayed another ground ball by Ibanez that was ruled a single, his contributions at the plate have been huge all season. He was 1-for-2 with two RBIs and he is hitting .256 with six home runs and 24 RBIs. In fact, his RBI total is only one behind the team leader, Cano, who has 25.
- Cano came through in the clutch against a left-hander on a night the Yankees ended up 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Cano was 2-for-3 with a run scored and two RBIs. The two hits pushed his season average back over the .300 mark at .306. He came in hitting .299.
- Rivera remains perfect in saves this season and he needed only 11 pitches to close out the Mariners in the ninth. The Yankees bullpen trio of Kelley, David Robertson and Rivera held the M’s s off the board over the final 2 2/3 innings to extend the bullpen’s scoreless streak to 23 2/3 innings, which extends back to May 5.
- Sabathia did not pitch well in this game. The Mariners had at least one base-runner on in every inning against him except the first inning. In the fourth they loaded the bases with two out, but Sabathia escaped the jam by fanning Saunders swinging. Sabathia left in the seventh having thrown 112 pitches.
- Granderson had a rough return to lineup having to face Hernandez. It showed. Granderson grounded into a double play in the first, struck out swinging in the fourth and hit into a fielder’s choice in the sixth. But he did draw a key walk in the seventh against Furbush that set up Overbay’s game-winning sac fly.
- Romine also had a rough night. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he is now hitting .071. Romine also misplayed a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Brendan Ryan in the eighth inning. Robertson earlier had walked pinch-hitter Dustin Ackley on four pitches to open the inning. Romine fielded the bunt and tried to throw out Ackley at second instead of taking the sure out at first. But Ackley beat the throw. Robertson escaped the jam by striking out Saunders and retiring pinch-hitter Justin Smoak on an unassisted double-play liner to shortstop Jayson Nix.
Granderson returned to the lineup since breaking his right forearm on his first at-bat of spring training on Feb. 24 and he batted fourth and played left-field. In order to get Granderson on the 25-man roster the Yankees optioned rookie left-hander Vidal Nuno to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre a day after he won his first major-league game in first major-league start by pitching five shutout innings against the Cleveland Indians. . . . It would not be the Yankees if on the same day they get one player back (Granderson) they possibly lost another for a period of time. Designated hitter Travis Hafner, 35, did not play in Tuesday’s game because of tendinitis in his chronic problem right shoulder. An MRI taken on the shoulder was negative but Hafner did receive a cortisone injection for the inflammation. He is listed as day-to-day.
The Yankees will continue their three-game home set against the Mariners on Wednesday.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (2-2, 4.43 ERA) will get the call for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off his second straight victory, but he gave up six runs on seven hits and two walks while he struck out three against the Kansas City Royals on Friday. Hughes is 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA against the M’s in his career.
Hughes will be opposed by right-hander Hasashi Iwakuma (4-1, 1.74 ERA). Iwakuma, 32, gave up two runs on four hits and punched out nine in seven innings in a victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday. In his two starts against the Bronx Bombers last season he was 0-1 with a 3.60 ERA.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
INDIANS 1, YANKEES 0
Justin Masterson pitched a complete-game shutout and Jason Kipnis backed him with a one-out solo home run in the first inning as Cleveland edged New York in the first game of a doubleheader on Monday at Progressive Field.
Masterson (6-2) gave up four hits and three walks while striking out nine to get credit for the victory.
David Phelps (1-2) took the hard-luck loss, despite giving up only the one run on four hits and five walks while striking out seven in 6 2/3 innings.
Already beset by a boatload of injuries, manager Joe Girardi decided to rest starters Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Jason Nix and the Yankees were never really able to mount much of a challenge to Masterson after the second inning.
With two out, Chris Nelson reached on an infield single and rookie Corban Joseph – who was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as the team’s 26th man on the roster for the doubleheader – drew a walk. Chris Stewart then slapped a single up the middle that Asdrubal Cabrera dove to stop from rolling into the outfield, which would have scored Nelson as the tying run.
Alberto Gonzalez, who was just activated to the active roster on Sunday when Eduardo Nunez was placed on the 15-day disabled list, struck out swinging and left the bases loaded.
The Yankees did not get a runner past second base the rest of the game.
The loss snapped the Yankees’ five-game winning streak and their season record is now 23-14. The Indians improved to 21-15.
- Phelps really deserved a better fate because, despite the five walks, Phelps held the Indians to one run on only four hits. That would be enough to win most games but the Yankees played this doubleheader with one hand tied behind its back because Girardi wanted to make sure his team was rested properly with the team in the middle of a stretch of 17 games scheduled within 16 days without a day off.
- Brennan Boesch stroked a two-out single to left in the ninth inning and he was the only Yankee player to actually get a single into the outfield. Nelson’s and Stewart’s second-inning singles were infield hits and Brett Gardner added a leadoff bunt single in the sixth. That was the extent of the Yankees’ offense.
- Boone Logan and Preston Claiborne combined to pitch 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief of Phelps to keep the Yankees to within a run for a potential rally. Logan helped Phelps out of seventh-inning jam with runners on second and third and two out by fanning Kipnis swinging. Claiborne tossed a scoreless eighth and the rookie right-hander has not been scored upon in 4 2/3 innings of relief.
- Robinson Cano was 0-for-4 in a game the Yankees sorely needed him to help the offense. Cano looked as if the pressure was on him all day by swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. He was called out on strikes in the third after he swung at two pitches out of the zone. In the sixth, Nix was aboard with one out and Cano flew out to center.
- Ichiro Suzuki is cooling off with the bat again. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and he did not get a ball out of the infield all day. He is 0-for-12 in his past three games and his season average has slipped back down to .254.
- Wells came on to pinch-hit in the ninth with Boesch on first and two out and he promptly struck out swinging on four pitches. Wells has had trouble all season with sliders and he swung and missed at the final two pitches that were sliders in the dirt.
The features Bomber Banter and On Deck will appear in my next post about the second game of the doubleheader.
YANKEES 4, ROYALS 2
If winning games is fun then the New York Yankees’ charter plane to Cleveland must be a barrel of laughs.
Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells each homered and drove in two runs and Hiroki Kuroda pitched into the eighth inning as the New York swept the three-game series against Kansas City and extended their winning steak to five games in front of 29,515 fans at Kauffman Stadium.
Kuroda (5-2) collected his third victory in his past four outings, limiting the Royals to two runs on six hits and one walk while he struck out one batter in 7 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Cano gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the day in the third inning.
With the Yankees trailing 1-0, Chris Stewart stroked a one-out single to left and, one batter later, Cano connected with the first offering from Royals right-hander Ervin Santana (3-2) on a two-run blast into the bleachers in right-field for his 10th home run of the season.
Cano was using a pink bat as part of Major League Baseball effort to bring awareness on Mother’s Day for breast cancer research and an eventual cure.
Right after Cano gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, Wells laced a 1-0 fastball from Santana down the line into the left-field bleachers for his ninth home run of the season.
Wells added another run for the Yankees in the fifth. Brett Gardner slapped a one-out opposite-field double to left. One out later, Wells singled to left to plate Gardner.
Santana gave up four runs on eight hits and he fanned four in 6 1/3 innings.
The Royals scored both their runs off Kuroda on the strength of leadoff doubles.
Jarrod Dyson led off the first inning with a double down the right-field line and he advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Alcides Escobar. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Gordon.
Elliot Johnson led off the eighth with a double off the wall in right-center. He advanced to third on a flyout to deep center by Dyson and he scored on an infield groundout off the bat of Escobar.
After the Royals drew to within two runs, Gordon doubled off Kuroda. Manager Joe Girardi replaced Kuroda with right-hander David Robertson, who retired Billy Butler on a routine flyout to end the Royals’ threat.
Mariano Rivera came in to pitch a scoreless ninth to save his 14th game in 14 tries this season and it was his 28th consecutive save against the Royals, which dates back to the 1998 season.
With the victory the Yankees are now 22-9 since April 7 and they remain in first place in the American League East one game in front of the Baltimore Orioles with a 22-13 season mark. The Royals, who have now lost six of their past seven games, are now 18-16.
- Cano is way ahead of his home-run pace of 2012, a year in which he set a career high with 33 home runs. Cano leads the team in batting (.311), runs scored (22), doubles (10), home runs (10) and RBIs (23).
- Wells hit only nine home runs in 77 games with the Los Angels Angels last season. Wells is second on the club in batting (.295), runs scored (19), home runs (9) and RBIs (20).
- Kuroda pitched another gem to become the first Yankee starter to win five games. Kuroda also leads all Yankee starters in ERA (2.31) and Walks To Innings Pitched (WHIP) (1.05).
- Though the Yankees’ No. 9 through No. 4 hitters were a combined 9 for 19 (.474), the No. 5 through No. 8 hitters were a combined 0-for-16 against Santana and relievers Tim Collins and Greg Holland.
- Third baseman Chris Nelson was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and since he has joined the Yankees on May 4 he is 5-for-29 (.172) with no home runs and two RBIs in eight games.
- Jayson Nix was 4-for 6 with two walks in the first two games of the series but on Sunday he was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. When he did reach base on a two-base throwing error by Mike Moustakas in the fourth inning he was doubled up off second after Nelson lined out on a diving catch by Dyson in center-field.
The Yankees on Sunday elected to place shortstop Eduardo Nunez (left ribcage tightness) on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 6 and he will be eligible to activated on May 20. To replace Nunez on the roster the Yankees bought the contract of infielder Alberto Gonzalez from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Gonzalez, 30, previously played for the Yankees from 2006 through 2007 after being acquired as part of the Randy Johnson trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was acquired from the Chicago Cubs last week in a trade for a player to be named later. He is career .241 hitter and also has played with with the Nationals, Padres and Rangers. . . . Right-hander Ivan Nova experienced discomfort in his right side while throwing at the team’s complex in Tampa, FL, and he will not be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Monday. Nova, who has been on the disabled list with inflammation in his right triceps, was being considered for a start in the team’s doubleheader on Monday. It is unclear how long Nova will remain on the DL. . . . Reliever Joba Chamberlain three 30 pitches in a bullpen session at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday and he is scheduled to pitch in a minor-league rehab game for Scranton on Tuesday. Chamberlain has been on the disabled list since April 28 with a right oblique strain. . . . Chamberlain and Rivera apologized to each other on Sunday after a intense shouting match erupted between the two on Saturday. Rivera was conducting an interview with reporters in the dugout during batting practice while Chamberlain apparently was shouting up to family members in the stands. Rivera asked Chamberlain to be quiet and Chamberlain took exception to it. Both players said it was an exchange in the heat of the moment and all has been forgiven.
The red-hot but limping Yankees will be in Cleveland on Monday for day-night doubleheader as part of a makeup of two rained out games against the Indians on May 10 and May 11.
The Yankees will open the doubleheader with right-hander David Phelps (1-1, 5.02 ERA). Phelps, 26, is coming off a six-inning no-decisoon against the Colorado Rockies in which he yielded two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out four. Phelps is making his third start of the season but he has never faced the Indians.
The Indians will counter with ace right-hander Justin Masterson (5-2. 3.67 ERA). Masterson is 2-2 with a 5.91 in his past five starts after starting the season 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA. Masterson is 3-3 with a 3,00 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 12:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
Rookie left-hander Vidal Nuno (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his first major-league start in the second game. Nuno, 25, has pitched only once for the Yankees, tossing three shutout innings against the Houston Astros on April 29. Nuno was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts at Scranton before he was recalled on April 28.
Nuno will be opposed by right-hander Trevor Bauer (1-1, 2.78 ERA). Bauer is being called up from Triple-A Columbus to make this start. He is 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA in four outings at Columbus.
Game-time will be determined and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 11, ROYALS 6
It is getting to the point that Yankee fans may forget their injured first baseman Mark Teixeira because his replacement Lyle Overbay is doing so well in his absence.
Overbay was 4-for-5 with a home run, two doubles and five RBIs on Friday to lead 16-hit attack as New York outslugged Kansas City in front of a paid crowd of 24,521 at Kauffman Stadium.
Though starter Phil Hughes (2-2) was staked to 4-0 and 5-3 leads, he was unable to hold onto it in the fifth inning when Alex Gordon followed back-to-back bloop one-out singles by Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain with a two-run double just over the outstretched glove of left-fielder Vernon Wells on the warning track to tie the game at 5-5.
However, the Yankees had already scored five runs off former Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Wade Davis (2-3) on a pair of two-run home runs by Ichiro Suzuki and Overbay in the second inning and an RBI double off the bat of Overbay in the fourth.
So the Yankees opened the sixth with a double off the right-field wall by Suzuki and a soft lined single to center by Jayson Nix that advanced Suzuki to third and chased Davis from the game.
Royals manager Ned Yost replaced Davis with left-hander Bruce Chen and Overbay greeted him with a double off the top of the wall in center-field that scored Suzuki that broke the 5-5 tie and gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the night.
Chris Nelson followed with a two-run single to right, his first RBIs as a member of the Yankees.
The Yankees went on to bat around against Chen and add two more runs in the inning to extend the lead to 10-5 and dash any hopes the Royals might have had about another rally.
Hughes was the winner despite giving up a three-run home run to Jarrod Dyson in the second inning – which broke Hughes’ 22-inning homerless streak entering the contest – and a solo shot to Mike Moustakas in the sixth.
Hughes gave up six runs on seven hits, two walks and one hit batter while he struck three in 5 2/3 innings.
But the Yankees pounded Davis for seven runs on seven hits and two walks while he fanned three in five-plus innings of work.
The No. 5, 6 and 7 hitters for the Yankees – Suzuki, Nix and Overbay – combined to go 9-for-13 (.692) with two home runs, four doubles, eight runs scored and seven RBIs.
With the Yankees’ bullpen short because Preston Claiborne, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera were unavailable to pitch, the team got a strong effort out of right-hander Shawn Kelley.
Kelley pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings and struck out six of the seven batters he faced. Boone Logan pitched a perfect ninth to close out the game.
The Yankees’ victory was their third in a row and gave Joe Girardi his 500th triumph as manager of the Yankees.
The Yankees also improved to 21-13, which keeps them percentage points ahead of the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles in first place in the American League East. The Royals dropped to 18-14.
- Considering that when he signed a huge contract with the Toronto Blue Jays and was later sarcastically nicknamed “Lyle Overpaid” when he did not deliver big numbers there and he was released this season in the last week of spring training by the Red Sox, Overbay should have the moniker “Lyle Underpaid” with the Yankees. All Overbay has done in 32 games (29 starts) is hit .264 with six home runs and 20 RBIs. Oh, he has committed only one error at first base while flashing Gold Glove-caliber defense at the position. Geesh! What a pickup for general manager Brian Cashman.
- Suzuki entered the contest hitting .372 at Kauffman Stadium, which is the highest average for any opposing hitter in history. Well, he raised that average by going 3-for-5 with his second home run of the season, a double, a single, a stolen base, three runs scored and two RBIs. In his past nine games, Suzuki is 12-for-33 (.364) which has raised his season average from .247 to .282.
- Kelley was absolutely sensational when he came out the bullpen in the sixth inning. Of his six strikeouts, four were swinging and he struck out the first five batters he faced. After being hammered for 10 earned runs on 13 hits and four walks in 10 1/3 innings of work over nine appearances through May 4, Kelley has not been scored upon his last three outings covering 4 1/3 innings. In that span he has fanned nine batters, mostly on his devastating slider.
- Hughes pitched aggressively against the Royals, throwing first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 26 batters he faced. However, the Royals were able to catch up with his fastball and hit him hard. After pitching brilliantly in his last four starts in which his ERA was 1.93 and he won only one of those starts, Hughes was hammered for six runs and yet he won because the Yankees backed him with a lot of run support. Go figure!
- The Royals’ pitchers must have really wanted to bear down on Wells and designated hitter Travis Hafner. The two combined to go 0-for-9 on a night the team scored 11 runs and knocked out 16 hits. Fortunately for the Yankees, the rest of the lineup was 16-for-34 (.471), which more than made up for Wells and Hafner.
The Yankees held shortstop Eduardo Nunez out of a fourth straight game but he was available to the team in an emergency. Nunez, who has been slowed by tightness in his left ribcage, could be available to start on Saturday if he suffers no setbacks throwing and taking batting practice on Saturday. . . . Curtis Granderson homered on Friday in his second rehab game with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Granderson, who was 1-for-5 in the game, hit his home run in the eighth inning. Granderson started the game in left-field and batted second. The 32-year-old outfielder has been on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured left forearm and he could be activated within the next 10 days. . . . Because Kauffman Stadium was the scene where Rivera suffered a torn ACL in his right knee on May 5 last season, some of the Yankees decided to have a little fun with the 43-year-old future Hall-of-Famer. Some teammates drew a chalk outline of Rivera on the warning track and placed a sign on the outfield wall lined with stop signs and yellow tape that read “No Mo Zone.” When Rivera strolled out to look at it he laughed and he intends to keep the sign.
The Yankees will continue their weekend series with the Royals on Saturday.
The Yankees will start veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte (3-2, 4.06 ERA), who yielded four runs (three earned) on four hits and four walks in five innings on Sunday against the Oakland Athletics. But he loves Kansas City because he is 9-2 with a 3.72 ERA in the past 10 seasons against the Royals.
The Royals will counter with the second former Rays right-hander in a row in James Shields (2-2, 2.52 ERA). Shields threw eight shutout innings against the Chicago White Sox on Monday but he lost a victory when the bullpen allowed the Chisox to rally for a 2-1 victory in 11 innings. Shields in 7-14 with a 4.56 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.