Tagged: Greg Golson

Cashman Leaves Without Deals But Hopes Alive



Pardon me for having a vision of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman ending up in a long, unproductive discussion with a Hotel Anatole bellhop on the best way to turn in his room key. It has just been the way it has gone for Cashman since he arrived on Monday: Long and unproductive.

But to be fair to Cashman, it was exactly what he predicted would happen before he ever stepped foot in the hotel lobby.

While the Miami Marlins were shopping at Tiffany’s the Yankees were checking the clearance racks at JC Penney’s.

The Yankees came into the MLB Winter Meetings with a very short shopping list of parts that could make a team that won 97 games last season just a bit better. The starting lineup remains the same, the Yankees have five starting pitchers with which they can start the season, they boast a deep bullpen and have just a few spots to fill on the bench – though the Yankees would even like to bring back veterans Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones.

So the Yankees used these meetings to kick the tires on potential trades for a starting pitcher, they won the right to negotiate with a Japanese infielder and they selected two players in the Rule 5 draft on Thursday that could have an impact on their bullpen this spring.

The moves won’t spur much of a surge of season ticket sales but Cashman hopes the seeds sown here will lead to something more fruitful down the road.

First, let’s look at the two additions to the pitching staff:

The Kansas City Royals used the fifth pick in the draft to select left-handed reliever Cesar Cabral from the Red Sox and then traded him to the Yankees for cash considerations. Cabral, 22, will be given a look this spring as a potential second left-hander in the bullpen to go along with Boone Logan.

Cabral was 3-4 with a 2.95 ERA in 36 combined appearances with Class A Salem and Double-A Portland last season. He struck out 70 batters in 55 innings and Cashman likes his 94-mph velocity and the fact he can get left-handers out consistently.

Cabral was selected in the 2010 Rule 5 draft by the Rays but later was returned to the Red Sox.

With the 29th pick in the draft, the Yankees selected right-handed starter Brad Meyers from the Washington Nationals.

Meyers, 26, was a combined 9-7 with a 3.18 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) in stops at Class A Salem, Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse last season. He struck out 116 batters in 132 2/3 innings and walked just 15. In 2009, the 6-foot-5 hurler was named the Nationals’ Minor-League Pitcher of the Year.

Though Meyers is a starting pitcher, the Yankees will look at Meyers as a potential long reliever because the team intends to use Hector Noesi as a starter this season.

The Yankees entered the draft with 39 players on their 40-man roster. The addition of Cabral and Meyers meant that the Yankees had to release 26-year-old outfielder Greg Golson. Golson hit .195 with no home runs and two RBis in 40 games over four seasons with the Phillies, Rangers and the Yankees.

The Yankees might add some depth to their bench by obtaining the right to sign 29-year-old infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima of the Seibu Lions in Japan. Nakajima is primarily a shortstop but he also can play second and third base. He hit .314 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs in 130 games in Japan last season.

The Yankees posted a bid of $2 million for Nakajima and now the Yankees have until Jan. 6 to reach contract agreement or the $2 million fee is returned to them.

The Yankees are saying Nakajima would give the Yankees some options if Chavez does not re-sign. But it also gives the Yankees the option of trading Eduardo Nunez for a starting pitcher because the Yankees also have backup infielder Ramiro Pena on the 40-man roster.

As for the search for starting pitching, Cashman made it clear he believed that clubs were not going to overpay for free-agent pitchers such as C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson, Mark Buerhle and Roy Oswalt. So Cashman has been seeking out possible trades for pitchers like John Danks of the White Sox, Matt Garza of the Cubs, Jair Jurrgens of the Braves and Gio Gonzalez of the Athletics.

Late Wednesday, the Yankees even inquired about Jonathan Niese of the Mets.

The problems Cashman has had in making a potential deal for any of these pitchers is teams are asking for the Yankees’ best prospects in catcher Jesus Montero, pitchers Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos and veterans like Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova, David Robertson and Phil Hughes in return. These are players Cashman does not want to trade.

But with the free-agent signing season in full swing, there is likely to be teams with changing circumstances, agents who might have to lower their price for some free agents and trade demands get lowered as spring training approaches. Cashman sees this period in January as an window of opportunity that may allow the Yankees to get a No. 2 or No. 3 starter via trade or free agency.

Oh, and do not buy the Cashman party line about his mild interest in Japanese ace right-hander Yu Darvish.

The Yankees are not tipping their hand but it is a pretty good bet that Cashman and the Yankees might go all out to win the bidding when Darvish is posted. Though the posting fee will easily top the $50 million the Boston Red Sox ponied up for Daisuke Matzusaka, that posting fee does count against the team salary level.

Darvish, 25, is also young enough that the Yankees could structure a graduated long-term contract worth $120 million over eight years that could be worth $10 million the first year. That is half of the $20 million C.J. Wilson is seeking in a six-year deal. Darvish is six years younger and the Yankees believe he has a much higher ceiling than the 31-year-old Wilson.

So do not write off Cashman and the Yankees this winter based on their relative lack of activity in the winter meetings. The hares may have a nice head start for now but the tortoises are going to be coming on strong in January. Cashman just hopes that the Yankees are one of those tortoises.



Yanks Need Fourth OF And Backup At First In 2012

With the disappointing loss to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Divisional Series a distant bad memory, the New York Yankees will look to reconstruct a championship caliber team for the 2012 season. To that end let’s look at what possible moves the Yankees might make to improve their roster. It might seem like a daunting task. But it sure could be worse. Think how tough a time the Boston Red Sox will have rebuilding without general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona.


PRIORITY NO. 1: Who will replace Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones?

The Yankees bench is the only place, other than the starting pitchers, where there will be a few changes. The Yankees will retain all their starters in 2012.

The bench will be a different story. starting at designated hitter.

Jesus Montero figures to be the current odds-on favorite to win that job coming off his very nice debut during the Yankees’ stretch run to the division title. Though he is only 21, Montero is showing skills with the bat that are far beyond his years.

Normally the Yankees would prefer to have a left-handed DH to take advantage of right-handed pitching and the short porch in right. But Montero has never been platooned in the minors and his power stroke is to right-center. If Montero does well in spring training it would be hard to keep him off the roster and even harder to not start him at DH.

Of course, there are those in the Yankee organization who believe Montero should develop as a catcher. But Montero’s defense behind the plate is still not as polished as it could be and the Yankees face a lot of teams like the Rays and Angels who will steal at the drop of a hat

But if Russell Martin is the starting catcher placing Montero as his backup would mean he would only start once a week and he could not DH, less the Yankees lose the DH if Martin is injutred. That is why it is more likely the Yankees will keep either Francisco Cervelli or rookie Austin Romine as the backup catcher to Martin.

Though Cervelli still needs to work on his throwing, he is still considered a very good defensive catcher who calls a good game and has the trust of the pitching staff. Likewise, both manager Joe Girardi and bench coach Tony Pena, who know a thing or two about catching believe that Romine, at age 22, is already a major-league catcher defensively.

The battle in the spring may come down to two factors:

(1) Cervelli, 25, will have to prove to the Yankees he is over the concussion that short-circuited his season in September and that he can stay healthy. Cervelli has sustained a broken wrist, various concussions and last season broke a bone in his right foot fouling off a pitch in spring training.

(2) Romine will have to prove he can improve as a hitter at the major-league level. Romine will never be the power threat Montero will become. But the Yankees would like him to at least hold his own much like Cervelli has since he has become the backup catcher.

Keeping either Cervelli or Romine will allow the Yankees to keep Montero as a DH and emergency catcher much like they had last season with Jorge Posada, though Posada was only used once in that capacity. Montero, however, could get some starts behind the plate against teams that do not steal bases. He surely will see some action behind the plate.

The only other holdover from the bench last season will be Eduardo Nunez, 24. Nunez received 309 at-bats last season as the primary infield backup in 2011. He was impressive, especially when he started at shortstop in place of an injured Derek Jeter and third base for an injured Alex Rodriguez.

Nunez hit .265 with five home runs and 30 RBIs. Nunez has the ability to drive the ball into the gaps and he also showed the ability to fly on the bases. In his 83 starts, he stole 22 bases. After that kind of rookie season, it is easy to see why general manager Brian Cashman bristled when the Seattle Mariners sought to add Nunez to a deal to bring Cliff Lee to the Yankees in 2010 that Cashman said no.

However, Nunez comes into camp with a lot of work to do on his defense. Nunez led the Yankees in errors with 20.

Nunez is tall and lean and his footwork on ground balls is atrocious. That leads to a lot of fielding errors. In addition, Nunez tends to throw wildly to first when pressed by fast runners or when he has to range deep for balls. That will take a lot of work this offseason and this spring to correct. The Yankees realize he will never be Ozzie Smith. They just would like him to cut his error rate to a respectable level.

Otherwise, 26-year-old Ramiro Pena will have a shot to reclaim his old job back. Though Pena is a lot steadier in the field, he hit only .100 in 40 at-bats last season and he does not have the line-drive bat or speed that Nunez presents.

Besides Posada, to whom the Yankees will decline to offer a contract, the Yankees also will not bring back reserve outfielder Andruw Jones or reserve infielder Eric Chavez.

Jones was largely a disappointment until midseason, when he got hot and hit .291 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs. Jones, 34, finished the season with a .247 average, 13 home runs and 33 RBIs as the right-handed=hitting DH and backup outfielder.

Chavez, 34, probably would be welcomed back by the Yankees if he wanted to play for the team. But Chavez is looking to possibly signing as a free agent to resume his career as a starting third baseman.

Chavez signed with the Yankees as a backup because of a series of neck and back injuries had him shelved for the better portions of the previous four seasons. Chavez signed with the Yankees in hopes of being able to re-establish himself as a starter who can still help a club.

He failed to stay healthy with the Yankees, though, when he broke a bone in his right foot running the bases in Detroit in early May and he did not return until July. In 160 at-bats, Chavez hit .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs.

The Yankees would love to have his left-hand bat back as a backup to Rodriguez, who has been slowed by nagging injuries himself for the past four seasons and who is need of more rest these days at age 36. Chavez also spellled Mark Teixeira at first base and provided a veteran left-handed bat off the bench.

So now the Yankees will be looking to add a right-handed hitting outfielder and a lefty hitter who can play some first base and maybe some outfield and third.

The reason they need a right-handed hitting outfielder is because Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson are left-handed hitters and Nick Swisher is a switch-hitter who will hit primarily as lefty with the predominantly right-handed starters in baseball. It would be nice to have a right-handed hitter to spell either Gardner, Granderson and Swisher.

In addition, Gardner hit a paltry .233 against left-handers last season. It would be nice to have a free-agent outfielder like Reed Johnson, who as a right-handed hitter who batted .309 overall and .305 against left-handers in 2011. Johnson is hustling overachiever who also plays solid defense in all three outfield spots. The only thing he can’t do like Gardner is run. He has only 39 career steals.

That is the kind of cheap role player the Yankees will be looking for. The Yankees do have a lot of young outfielders in the minors such as Chris Dickerson, Greg Golson, Justin Maxwell, Colin Curtis and Melky Mesa. But Dickerson and Curtis hit left-handed and Golson and Mawelll have been disappointments as right-handed hitters. Mesa, 24, may need a year of seasoning before he is ready.

The Yankees also will be in the market for a left-handed hitting infielder who can play first, some third and perhaps the outfield. In other words, they are looking for an “Eric Hinske type.” Hinske, 34, has made a career as backup at third, first and the outfield and he has played on a lot of teams that have made the playoffs.

Last season, he hit .238 with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs in 236 at-bats with the Braves. Hinske, however, is not a free agent.

The Yankees might take a look at Russell Branyan, 36, who has hit two of the longest home runs in Yankee Stadium history. Branyan hit .197 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 127 at-bats for the Diamondbacks and the Angels last season. Branyan can play first, third and the outfield, however, he would be a real liability in the outfield.

But Branyan can still hit for power. He has 194 career home runs and most of them have been as a bench player.

He also could help the Yankees as a lefty DH against some tough right-handers.

The Yankees do have Brandon Laird to play both first and third base. However, Laird is a right-handed hitter and the Yankees are already loaded with right-handed hitters on the bench. Laird seems more likely to be ticketed back to Triple-A or a trade to another organization with A-Rod blocking his path to the majors.

But, in any case, the Yankees are not going out of their way to sign expensive free agent hitters this winter. If Yankee fans envision a lineup of Albert Pujols batting fourth, Prince Fielder batting fifth, Rodriguez hitting sixth, Carlos Beltran hitting seventh and Nick Swisher batting eighth and Teixeira batting ninth, you can keep on dreaming. It is not going to happen.

This team is going to allocate its free-agent dollars to acquiring starting pitching, period.

The rest of the moves Cashman will make are small ones like adding two bench players like he did in signing Jones and Chavez last winter.

This concludes the series on potential off-season moves. I will have an update to the starting pitching search in my next post. Stay tuned!

Yankees Claim A.L. East On Posada’s Pinch Hit

GAME 155


Teams are often measured by their starting lineups, their starting rotation and their bullpens. Rarely are teams judged by their bench.

But the New York Yankees broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth and beat the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday to clinch their 12th American League East title in the last 16 years largely because Jorge Posada came up with a big hit off the bench.

Posada, 40, who entered the 2011 season having lost his job as the team’s starting catcher and during the season lost his job as the team’s designated hitter, came off the bench in the eighth to deliver a one-out, bases-loaded single that scored two runs and won a division crown for a team that was not the media’s choice to do so.

Before the season began, during spring training and as the season unfolded all the Yankees heard was how deficient their starting pitching was and how old their regulars had become. Their rivals in Boston were hailed as the team to beat because they had better hitting, better starters and a tough bullpen.

But the Yankees proved to the media, to the fans and to the Red Sox that they were the superior team.

The only down note for the jubilant Yankees, who celebrated in their clubhouse by showering each other in streams of celebratory champagne, was that CC Sabathia was unable to secure his 20th victory.

The Yankees staked him to an early lead on Jeremy Hellickson and the Rays on the strength of a solo home run by Robinson Cano to open the second inning. The home run, Cano’s 27th of the season, came on a 2-1 pitch that Cano tagged and sent into the bleachers in right-center to the delight of the crowd of 45,586 at Yankee Stadium.

Two innings later, Yankee MVP candidate Curtis Granderson opened the frame with a double to right-center. Hellickson then fell behind and walked Mark Teixeira.

Rays manager Joe Maddon then elected to use some odd strategy that, at the time, seemed to have worked. He ordered Hellickson to walk Cano intentionally to load the bases with no outs so the Rays could challenge rookie DH Jesus Montero.

Montero did what the Rays might have hoped he would. He bounced into a double play. However, Granderson did score from third on the play and the Yankees had built a 2-0 lead.

Unfortunately, even though the Rays are not a power hitting team, they have a habit of breaking out the longball when Sabathia is pitching.

Kelly Shoppach connected for a solo home run deep to left with two in the fifth to halve the lead. With one out in the seventh, Sean Rodriguez clanked his drive down the left-field line off the foul pole to tie the game.

Of the 17 home runs Sabathia has given up this season, eight of them have been surrendered to the Rays.

Girardi, hoping to get Sabathia 20 victories for the second straight season, left Sabathia in for the eighth. But the left-hander ran into trouble with one out.

Desmond Jennings lined a single to center and B.J. Upton followed with a rocket that popped out of Sabathia’s glove and rolled in back of the mound for an infield single. Evan Longoria then drew a walk to load the bases and Girardi could not wait any longer. He removed Sabathia leaving him only one last start to collect No. 20.

Girardi then summoned the pitcher the Yankees call “Houdini” to get out of the mess, David Robertson.

Robertson (4-0), who entered the game with the lowest ERA among all major-league relievers at 1.12, needed only one pitch to force Ben Zobrist into hitting into an inning-ending double play.

The Yankees then mounted their division-clinching rally off reliever Jake McGee (3-2).

With one out, Girardi went to his bench and sent Nick Swisher up to bat for Brett Gardner. Swisher delivered a double into left-center.

One out later, Maddon called on right-hander Juan Cruz to face Teixeira but Cruz walked him on four straight pitches. Exit Cruz.

Left-hander Cesar Ramos came in to face Cano. But Ramos fell behind Cano 3-1 and Cano was walked intentionally to load the bases again with Montero in the on-deck circle. Exit Ramos.

The Rays then called on right-hander Brandon Gomes to pitch to Montero. But Girardi used his bench again by calling the beleaguered veteran Posada, who is in the last year of a four-year contract and likely will not return to the Yankees next season.

Posada laced a 0-1 pitch into right-field that fell in front of right-fielder Brandon Guyer. Greg Golson, who was pinch-running for Swisher scored easily and Teixeira followed him when the Rays were unable to get a relay throw back to the infield in time.

Posada pumped his fist and the Yankee faithful rose to cheer the man they always serenade with “Hip, Hip, Jorge!” every time he steps to the plate.

Because Mariano Rivera was used to save the first game of the day-night doubleheader, Girardi called upon former Rays closer Rafael Soriano to propel the Yankees to another division crown.

Despite giving up a two-out single to Casey Kotchman, Soriano struck out pinch-hitter Matt Joyce swinging to end a scoreless frame for his second save of the season.

The combination of the Yankees two victories over the Rays and the 6-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles by the severely slumping Red Sox handed the Yankees the flag. The Yankees remain five games ahead of Detroit and Texas for the best record in the American League, which assures the Yankees home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Rays were dealt a serious blow. They could not take advantage of the Red Sox careening off a cliff at home to inferior clubs like the Orioles. They have fallen into a tie with the Los Angeles Angels 3 games behind the Red Sox in the wild-card race.


  • Girardi made three key moves in this game: Replacing Sabathia with Robertson, pinch-hitting Swisher for Gardner and pinch-hitting Posada for Montero. The fact that all three moves worked and led to the Yankees winning the game, Girardi deserves a lot for the credit for this game and leading this team to its second division title in his four years at the helm.
  • There have been rumblings that the Yankees were considering keeping Montero on the postseason roster and leaving Posada off of it. But Posada may have redeemed himself with the division-clinching hit. With Francisco Cervelli out due to a concussion, Austin Romine will likely back up Russell Martin in the playoffs and Posada likely will remain on the roster because the Yankees need another lefty hitter off the bench besides Eric Chavez.
  • Cano just keeps rolling at the plate. He now has 27 home runs and a career-best 116 RBIs. The 116 RBIs tie him with Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez and Los Angeles’ Steve Kemp for the second in the majors behind Granderson, who has 119.


An aging club of veterans added a 38-year-old and 34-year-old pitcher to their starting rotation because they could not sign Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte retired. They were without 18-game winner Phil Hughes for much of the year and A.J. Burnett and his 10-11 record and 5.28 ERA were a major headache. They lost relievers Joba Chamberlain, Pedro Feliciano and Soriano to injury. They lost Alex Rodriguez to a litany of injuries for half the season. But somehow, some way this team managed to win another division title to defy the so-called experts that said they would not. There is nothing negative about that.


An MRI taken on Phil Hughes’ aching back was negative and the Yankees believe he will be able to make one more start before the playoffs begin. Hughes was given an epidural shot to relieve pain thought to be associated with a herniated disc the pitcher suffered in 2004. Hughes felt back spasms after a bullpen session on Friday and had his start on Monday pushed back to Wednesday. But Hughes still was unable to pitch and Hector Noesi started in his place.


The Yankees have clinched a playoff spot and a division title in one day. But they still are playing to keep home field.

They can sweep the Rays on Thursday with Bartolo Colon (8-9, 3.81 ERA) on the mound. Colon gave up six runs in only four innings against the Blue Jays on Saturday. The Yankees later rallied to win the game. Colon is 7-4 with a 3.47 ERA against the Rays in his career.

The Rays are countering with prize prospect lefty Matt Moore (0-0, 6.23 ERA), who will be making his first major-league start. Moore was 12-3 with a 1.93 ERA combined between Double-A and Triple-A this season.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.


Mitre Sharp As Yankees, Orioles End Contest Tied

New York and Baltimore pitchers traded zeroes all night as the two teams played to a scoreless tie on Monday night at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.
Sergio Mitre, who started for the Yankees, and Zachary Britton of the Orioles each threw three scoreless innings to set the tone for the game. The Yankees were limited to four hits and the Orioles managed only six.
The Yankees spring record is now 4-5-2. The Orioles are 4-2-2.
  • Mitre scattered three hits, walked none and fanned three batters in his first start of the spring. Mitre threw first-pitch strikes to eight of the 11 batters he faced. Mitre, who is battling for a spot in the rotation, has not surrendered a run this spring.
  • Pitchers Adam Warren, Andrew Sisco, D.J. Mitchell and Ryan Pope combined to pitch six scoreless innings following Mitre. They gave up only three hots and one walk, striking out six.
  • The hero of the game for the Yankees should be center-fielder Greg Golson, who threw out Mark Reynolds at home plate in the second inning after a single up the middle by Adam Jones. 
  • Only Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Melky Mesa and backup Damon Sublett managed to get hits. Justin Maxwell drew two of the team’s three walks. But that was it for the offense against six Oriole pitchers.
  • Robinson Cano was 0-for-3 on three weak infield groundouts.
  • The Yankees were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Their best scoring opportunity came in the second inning when Alex Rodriguez singled, was erased on a Andruw Jones fielder’s choice and Maxwell drew a walk. However, Golson struck out looking and Melky Mesa flied out to end the threat. The Yankees never managed to get two runners on base at the same time for the rest of the game.
The Yankees will travel to Lake Buena Vista, FL, to play the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. The Yankees are scheduled to start non-roster right-hander Freddy Garcia in his second start of the spring. The Braves will counter with right-hander Jair Jurrgens.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network and on tape delay by the MLB Network.

Yankees Really Like Blend Of Talent In 2011 Outfield

As training camp opens in Tampa, FL, the New York Yankees are looking to return to their 2009 form. We will take a look at each position and see how they stack up for the 2011 season. Just how good are the Yankees? Let’s find out:
What a difference a year makes. Last season the Yankees basically jettisoned their 2009 championship outfield by trading Melky Cabrera and star prospect Austin Jackson and allowed Johnny Damon and DH Hideki Matsui walk as free agents.
They acquired Curtis Granderson and installed Brett Gardner in leftfield to go with holdover right-fielder Nick Swisher. The results in 2010 were a mixed bag but substantially better than what would have happened if the Yankees stood on a pat hand.
Swisher re-invented himself by adjusting his swing to make more contact. The results were very evident. He raised his average from .249 to .288 and hit 29 home runs and drove in 89 runs. 
For a player Brian Cashman picked off the Chicago White Sox scrap heap for reserve Wilson Betemit, Swisher, 30, has turned into the unsung hero of this team for the past two seasons. His power, his ability to switch-hit and his exuberance in the field make him a valuable cog in the Yankees’ attack.
His fielding may leave a lot to be desired. He is not exactly ballet in motion but he does catch what comes what comes his way and he has a strong arm. He made only four errors last season but, more importantly, he registered 10 outfield assists.
Manager Joe Girardi is likely to have a plenty of opportunities to remove Swisher late in games for a defensive replacement. But more on that later.
The Yankees essentially acquired Granderson for Jackson and left-hander Phil Coke. His first season in the Bronx was not one to write home about. 
Though Granderson is a great individual who won praise for his charitable pursuits, his play in 2010 was not real good overall. He got off to a good start with the bat, slumped and then injured a groin muscle and missed a month.
Upon his return, Granderson continued to struggle and he looked hopeless against left-handers. But hitting coach Kevin Long took him aside and reworked his swing and a new Curtis Granderson emerged.
From Sept. 1 through the end of the season, Granderson hit .263 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs. He also began to hit left-handers with his quicker and more powerful stroke. So Granderson’s 2010 totals of 24 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .248 average look pathetic but there is hope his new swing will carry through the 2011 season.
Granderson, 29, also would like to be more aggressive on the bases. He stole only 12 bases in 2010. He has stolen as many as 26 in his career.
Where Granderson struggles the most is on defense. He simply lacks good first-reaction instincts on fly balls. He has the speed to outrun his mistakes but Granderson will misread a ball or two in the outfield.
He made only two errors in the field last season and contributed five outfield assists. But the Yankees would like him to continue to work on his first step and make better reads on fly balls this season.
The Yankees rolled the dice by allowing Gardner to win the left-field spot in 2010 and the Yankees were happy with what they got overall. Gardner established he could get on base often enough to unglue a few pitchers with his blazing speed.
Gardner hit .277 with five home runs and 47 RBis. But, his true value was that he scored 97 runs primarily batting at the bottom of the order and he stole 47 bases. All this despite having been hampered by a recurring wrist injury that required surgery this offseason.
The Yankees hope the wrist surgery will allow Gardner to hit with more authority into the gaps of the outfield. Gardner also needs to work on his bunting. Blessed with such great speed it is a crime that Gardner has been slow in learning to how to bunt effectively.
Gardner, 27, also has a much too much of a safety-first approach on the bases that keeps him planted at first reading pitchers too deep into counts. The Yankees want him going more often and earlier in pitch counts in 2011.
There is no such safety-first mentality in the field. Gardner is, by far, the best defensive outfielder the Yankees have and he is close to Gold Glove status.
Comfortable in left and in center, Gardner made only one error last season and contributed an amazing 12 outfield assists. With Damon out in left Yankee fans forgot that outfielders could actually throw runners out on the bases. That mentality changed with Gardner.
Gardner’s superior defense in left is a plus to what is an excellent fielding team overall.
Last season the Yankees reserve outfielders left a lot to be desired defensively. Though Marcus Thames was signed mostly as a DH, when pressed into service it was a lot like the U.S. Navy. Every fly ball was an adventure.
Austin Kearns was not much better. He actually got struck in the head with a ball in Baltimore late last season.
The 2011 backup outfielders carry a much stronger reputation led by former 10-time Gold Glove winner Andruw Jones. Jones, 33, may not have the jets to play center like he did in his salad days, but he still can play the outfield with skill.
Jones will likely be a backup at the corner outfield spots and likely will be the late-inning replacement for Swisher in right field in games the Yankees are leading. 
Jones can also mash at the plate. He hit 19 home runs and drove in 48 runs in 278 at-bats with the White Sox last season. A right-hand batter, Jones hit eight home runs and drove in 23 runs against right-handers last season.
He can hit right-handers for power but his batting average against right-handers was a meager .219. Perhaps Kevin Long can help there, too.
The Yankees also have two holdovers from last season competing for a roster spot. One is speedster Greg Golson, who hit .261 in only 23 at-bats in 2010 but probably made the highlight reel play of the season in right-field.
It was Golson, 25, who threw out Carl Crawford at third base to end a one-run game against the Tampa Bay Rays last season. 
Golson’s strengths are his speed, his defense and his great right arm. Girardi loves to use him late as a pinch-runner or as defensive replacement.
Colin Curtis played a bit last season but he only hit .186 in 59 at-bats. Curtis is a plus defensive outfielder but he lacks the speed of Golson. At age 26, Curtis also is running out of time to impress the Yankees.
He will need a solid spring to stick. But Golson has a big edge on him.
The Yankees also will get time this spring to look at Justin Maxwell, who was acquired in a trade with the Washington Nationals.
Maxwell stirred up a lot of air in Washington, D.C. last season, literally. He struck out 43 times in 104 at-bats with the Nats. He ended up hitting .144 with three home runs and 12 RBIs. 
He is 27 and, like Curtis, is running out of time to stick with a parent club.
The Yankees also have supersub Kevin Russo in camp. Russo, primarily an infielder throughout his minor-league career, is trying to make the switch to outfield to become a ja
ck-of-all-trades reserve.
Russo hit just .184 last season with the Yankees.
The Yankees also have the what they hope is the second but the better of two outfielders named Melky. Melky Mesa, 24, was the Florida State League Most Valuable Player in 2010 and he was an All-Star with the Tampa Yankees.
But it appears Jones and Golson have the inside track on the two reserve spots this spring, unless there is somebody who steps up this spring.
The Yankees do go into 2010 with a nice balance in their outfield between the power of Granderson and Swisher (53 home runs) and the speed of Granderson and Gardner (59 stolen bases) and the fielding prowess of Gardner and Jones.
It is a nice mix of talent and should be a strength of the 2011 Yankees.

Swisher, Gardner Must Regain First Half Form In  Playoffs

With the end of the season it is time to hand out the final report cards for the New York Yankees for 2010. The Yankees reached the halfway point with the best record in baseball but with much promise to even improve in the second half. But some key injuries and some inconsistency with the starting pitchers dragged this team down a few notches. They qualified as a wild card but to defend their 2009 title they will have to dig deep. Here are the grades:


Brett Gardner (5 HRs, 47 RBIs, .277 Avg., 47 SBs)
Curtis Granderson (24 HRs, 67 RBIs, .247 Avg., 12 SBs)
Nick Swisher (29 HRs, 89 RBIs, .288 Avg.)

The Yankees retooled 2010 outfield was supposed to be a weak spot but it wasn’t.
Despite the Yankees decision to trade Melky Cabrera and Austin Jackson and to allow Johnny Damon to leave via free agency, the Yankees’ outfield did pretty well.
Brett Gardner proved he could handle the everyday grind of a season and came through with a respectable average, a very good on-base percentage and he stole 47 bases. In addition, he covered a lot a ground in left-field and led the team in assists.
To be sure, Gardner did not have a perfect season. His average at the midway point of the season was .319 and he had five home runs, 29 RBIs and 25 stolen bases. So his second half, was a bit of a slide.
He hit a miserable .233 after the All-Star break with no home runs and just 18 RBIs. On the surface that looks disastrous. But Gardner held an on-base percentage of .366 in the second half and that is because he was able to draw more walks in fewer at-bats.
Also, one of the reasons Gardner’s average slipped in the second half was because of a recurring left wrist injury he originally suffered last season. He played a lot of games in the second half with the injury and it limited his ability to drive the ball effectively.
He also had problems with the left thumb he broke last season.
But Gardner pressed on and ended up scoring 97 runs primarily batting in the ninth spot this season. He also was pretty much the Yankees only real threat on the bases. His 47 steals was fourth in the American League and he led the league in pitches seen per at-bat.
Gardner would be even more of the threat with a healthy wrist, an ability to bunt consistently and to take even more chances on the bases. But, at age 27, Gardner showed that manager Joe Girardi’s faith in him paid off.
Combine that with only one error committed in the outfield in 134 starts and 12 outfield assists and you have the makings of a potentially great leadoff hitter and left-fielder next season. A little work on the bunting and on the bases should do it.
Gardner earned an A- for his first half based on the unexpected power, the stolen bases and the .319 average. The injury certainly hindered his second half but you have to give him a B- for the .233 average.
His overall grade for the season come in as a solid B. Some progress needs to be made for him to get to the A level. He started that progress in the first half but his second half was short-circuited by that wrist injury. But his OBP shows he is on the right track and could take another step forward in 2011.
Granderson received an I for incomplete for his first half because he missed a month on the disabled list with a groin injury. When he returned, he began to hit well but them fell into a long and protracted slump that dropped his average down to .225 on July 7.
At the midpoint, he had only seven home runs and 22 RBIs and he was striking out a lot. He also was not hitting left-handers well — something he has struggled with his entire career. Finally, in August Granderson asked hitting coach Kevin Long for some help.
Granderson was benched for a few days while Long completely tore down his old swing and gave him a new one. Instead of moving his bat, Granderson kept it still. Instead of keeping his hands low and drawing them up, he held them up and swung from there. Instead of taking his left hand off the bat on his follow through, he kept his hands on the bat.
These tweaks resulted in a resurgent second half in which Granderson hit 17 home runs and 45 RBis, most of them coming after his sessions with Long. Instead of looking like a bust, Granderson is beginning to look like the promising star outfielder he was in his early seasons with the Tigers.
There still are those strikeouts — 116 in 466 at-bats. There also was his batting average, which ended up at about where it was last season (.247). But Granderson enters the playoffs coming off a month in which he hit nine home runs and drove in 25 runs. That ties what Alex Rodriguez delivered in the same time frame.
He also eneded the season with a .234 average against left-handers, which is deceiving because he hit about fifty points higher than that after Long helped him with his swing.
Granderson is still only an above average defender. His great speed masks the fact that he is not very instinctive in judging fly balls. So he can outrun most of his mistakes but he will misjudge a ball or two on occasion. He along with Gardner, give the Yankees the best range the Yankees have had on that side of the outfield in years.
I am giving Granderson a solid C for the season, mostly because of his second half. There are still many things for Granderson to work on. He needs to show he can carry these improvements at the plate into the 2011 season.
He also could be a bit more aggressive on the bases. He stole only 12 bases in only 14 attempts. That might have been a precaution due to the groin injury but the Yankees could use his speed on the bases. Granderson has stolen as many as 26 bases in a season. He also needs to continue to work on his defense in center-field.
With Carl Crawford as potential free agent next season, Granderson also could find himself on another team if the Yankees can find someone who will take his bloated contract with three years left on it. That is why it is important for Granderson to keep working on his game and show well in the playoffs. 
Nick Swisher would like forget last year’s playoffs altogether. 
That’s because he hit .128 with a one home run and two RBIs. But Swisher actually used that poor showing as motivation to improve this off-season. 
He worked hard on hand-eye coordination by taking up boxing. He also worked with Long on “quieting his swing” this season. Swisher’s new stroke and better conditioning and hand-eye coordination all led to a breakout season for Swisher.
In 2009, he hit 29 home runs, drove in 82 runs and batted .249. This season he ended up with 29 home runs, 89 RBIs and e batted .288. The 39-point jump in his batting average does not tell the whole story, however.
At the season’s midpoint, Swisher was hitting .293 with 13 home runs and 47 RBIs. But Swisher’s second half was marred by an injury he suffered fouling a ball off his left knee. Though the injury did not seem serious at the time, it ended up dogging Swisher for nearly a month because the inflammation in the knee would not go away.
Swisher could not push off the injured leg to hit, he could not run without a pronounced limp and it forced him to miss an entire week just when Swisher had pushed his average over .300. In September, Swisher
hit an uncharacteristic .237 with only three home runs and eight RBIs. 
In other words, the injury likely cost Swisher a 30 home run, 100 RBI and a .300 batting average season. Not many outfielders do that in a season and Swisher was on the verge of it until he got injured.
Swisher drew a first-half grade of A- and he certainly deserved it. His second half numbers of 16 home runs and 42 RBIs and .275 average are good enough for a B+. Despite the injury he deserves an A- because of all the work he put in to improve his swing.
Swisher is the Yankees’ worst defensive starting outfielder. But he even has improved there, especially his throwing. He committed four errors this season and he does not have the best range even without a sore left knee.
But he does catch what he gets to and he had 10 outfield assists, which shows the work on his throwing paid off.
It is beginning to look like the famous Paul O’Neill for Roberto Kelly trade which helped the Yankees win four championships in five seasons may have a contender to replace it in the trade Brian Cashman made to obtain Swisher from the White Sox for backup infielder Wilson Betemit.
Swisher has been the unsumg hero of this team for two seasons in a row. Last season he replaced Xavier Nady and saved the Yankees’ seaseon. This season, Swisher came through at the plate when others like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter didn’t. 
He looks to be something special.
The Yankees played a litany of other outfielders this season when Swisher, Granderson and Gardner were either ailing or needing a rest. 
Austin Kearns, acquired in a trade deadline deal with the Indians started 107 games, but most of those came when he was with Cleveland. He is able to play both left-field and right-field but he is not considered to be a very good outfielder.
In 403 at-bats, Kearns hit 10 home runs, drove in 49 runs and hit .263. However, he hit only .235 with the Yankees in 102 at-bats with two home runs and seven RBIs. Kearns’ biggest contribution to the Yankees so far: strikeouts. He has 38. 
Over 102 at-bats that means Kearns strikes out 37% of the time. Why he made the playoff roster is beyond me. He hit only .250 against left-handers this season, which would be his primary role in the playoffs.
Marcus Thames also started 23 games in the outfield. It was more out of necessity than design because Thames is the worst fielding outfielder the Yankees have on the roster. His ticket to the playoffs is as a right-hand DH and pinch-hitter, a role in which he is exceptional.
The Yankees other outfielder is Greg Golson, who made only six starts during the regular season. But he can play all three outfield spots. He is very good defensively and has an exceptional arm. Just ask Crawford.
Golson also provides late-inning speed off the bench.

The seasons Gardner and Swisher had were very good considering the criticism the Yankees took in letting so many outfielders go this past offseason. Granderson, after looking like a complete bust in July, turned his season around.
The sum of the parts is pretty good. It is a good combination of speed and power. Gardner and Granderson do have exceptional range and Swisher and Gardner throw very well. Considering Johnny Damon roamed left last season, this area really improved.
The concern moving into the playoffs is if Gardner and Swisher can rebound enough from the injuries to contribute to the offense. Girardi rested both considerably when they were hurt and made sure they were capable of playing before reinserting them into the lineup.
Yankee fans just have to hope the patience pays off.
Granderson looks as if he is primed to continue his hot hitting with his rebuilt swing. With his previous postseason experience with the Tigers he could be a real asset to the Yankees.
Though the infield may be the strength of the team, you can hardly call this outfield a liability. It is looking pretty good heading into October.

Pinch-Hit, Jorge: Posada’s Blast Puts Yanks Back In First

GAME 145

Hip-hip Jorge!
Jorge Posada was knocked for a loop so severely by a foul tip last week that he was forced to sit out a few games. On Tuesday night, he knocked the Tampa Bay Rays for an even more painful loop with a clutch pinch-hit leadoff home run in the 10th inning that gave the New York Yankees a hard-fought victory and allowed them to reclaim first place in the American League East.
Posada, pinch-hitting for Francisco Cervelli, blasted a 2-0 fastball off Rays reliever Dan Wheeler (2-3) to the deepest part of center-field at Tropicana Field for his 18th home run to untie a 7-all game that rivaled a thrilling roller-coaster ride at nearby Busch Gardens.
The Yankees jumped all over Rays starter Matt Garza early and often to build a 6-0 lead by the end of the top of the fifth inning for 23-year-old right-hander Ivan Nova. However, the Yankees’ “Super-Nova” came crashing back to Earth’s atmosphere in the bottom of the inning after pitching brilliant one-hit shutout baseball on just 50 pitches in the first four frames.
A leadoff home run by Pena made it 6-1. John Jaso drove in B.J. Upton with a one-out single to make it 6-2. After two outs, Nova walked Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce ended his night with back-to-back RBI singles.
Manager Joe Girardi called in Boone Logan to stop the bleeding but the usually reliable left-hander instead cut open a major artery by surrendering a three-run home run to Willie Aybar and the Yankees 6-0 lead was suddenly a 7-6 deficit.
The Yankees responded in the sixth when rookie left-hander Jake McGee, making his major-league debut, walked Curtis Granderson on four pitches. Rays manager Joe Maddon summoned fellow rookie Jeremy Hellickson and he promptly gave up a single to Mark Teixeira.
After a fielder’s choice off the bat of Alex Rodriguez erased Teixeira at second, Robinson Cano plated Granderson with a double to right. It was Cano’s third RBI of the game.
And just like it has been the past two nights in this battle between baseball’s best two teams, the game remained tied until Posada’s blast in the 10th. The two games have featured the teams being tied for 16 1/2 of the 21 innings played in the series.
Two things kept the Yankees afloat in the final 4 1/2 innings: pitching and sparkling defense.
Logan recovered to pitch a flawless sixth and Joba Chamberlain, Kerry Wood, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera combined to give up just one hit and one walk to the Rays in the final four innings.
Two great defensive plays supported the solid relief. 
Granderson made a spectacular leaping catch in right-center-field with two out in the ninth inning to rob Ben Zobrist of at least a double.
Greg Golson, sent out in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement for Colin Curtis, ended the game by catching a Joyce fly ball and an unbelievable rocket-like throw flat-footed from medium right-field to nail the speedy Crawford trying to take third.
As Rodriguez slapped the tag on an incredulous Crawford, the Yankees made a winner of Robertson (3-4), who is sporting a 1.50 ERA since the All-Star break. Rivera was credited with his 30th save.
The Yankees have now reclaimed a half-game lead in the division on the Rays and can leave Tropicana Field with a 1 1/2-game lead with a victory on Wednesday.

  • Cano hit his 27th home run in the third inning, a two-run shot that capped off a four-run inning. His RBI double in the sixth gave him three RBIs for the night and 98 for the season. That is a new career high for the second baseman.
  • Rodriguez also contributed to the hit parade off Garza. He had an RBI single in the third inning and added his 23rd home run of the season, a solo shot, in the fifth inning.
  • Don’t get overly excited yet, but it seems the Yankees might be getting the real Derek Jeter back. Jeter doubled and singled and drew a walk and scored a run in the game. His 2-for-5 night raised his average to .263.
  • Granderson doubled twice, walked and scored two runs to raise his average to .248. His leaping catch in the ninth inning was easily the best he has made as a Yankee.

  • Nova proved at age 23 that he still has much to learn about pitching at the major-league level, particularly with a lead. Seemingly flustered by the leadoff home run by Pena off his fastball, Nova tried to mix in his breaking stuff and totally lost command of the strike zone. Despite giving up six runs and having his ERA balloon from 2.92 to 4.30, Nova still shows a lot of promise as a starter. But the Yankees may be reaching if they think they can trust him as starter in the playoffs.
  • The Yankees can only hope that both Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher return to the lineup because Austin Kearns is not cutting it at the plate. He was 1-for-5 but all four of his outs were on strikeouts. Three of the four strikeouts came on pitches he swung at that were out of the strike zone.
  • Logan was summoned into the game to face left-hander Dan Johnson but Maddon sent switch-hitter Aybar up to face Logan instead. Logan got ahead of Aybar in the count 1-2 but Logan made a terrible mistake by hanging a slider to Aybar. Unfortunately it added two runs onto Nova’s ledger and it was inexcusable for the usually reliable Logan.

Teixeira revealed that he has been playing for the last two weeks with a broken little toe on his right foot. He added that he does not expect it heal until the season ends. The injury occurred at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 31, when Oakland right-hander Vin Mazzaro hit him in foot with a slider. Teixeira, who is hitting .208 with no home runs and six RBIs since the injury, said it does not limit him much and he plans to play through it.  . . .  Swisher had a cortisone injection on his ailing left knee and is happy to know that an MRI revealed no structural damage. Swisher hopes the cortisone shot will help with the pain caused by inflammation in the knee. He originally injured the knee on Aug. 24 when he fouled a ball off it and he re-aggravated the injury last week in a home series against the Orioles. Swisher hopes to be back in the starting lineup in a few days.  . . .  Gardner, who is nursing a sore left wrist, was used a defensive replacement in left-field in the 10th inning and he hopes to return to the starting lineup on Wednesday. He had a cortisone injection on the wrist on Monday and he has avoided swinging a bat until the wrist feels better.  . . .   Andy Pettitte completed a rehab start for Double-A Trenton on Tuesday and he is scheduled to start for the Yankees on Sunday in Baltimore.

The Yankees will have a chance to keep first place and extend their lead to 1 1/2 games on the Rays in the final game of the series on Wednesday.
Phil Hughes (16-7, 4.26 ERA) will start for the Yankees after having his last start skipped because of an innings limit on the 24-year-old right-hander. Hughes is 5-5 with 5.37 ERA since the All-Star break. He is 2-2 with a 4.29 ERA against the Rays.
The Rays will counter with right-hander James Shields (13-12, 4.98 ERA). In his last start on Friday, Shields was victimized by three home run balls by the Blue Jays. He has given up nine home in his last two starts against Toronto. He is 3-7 with a 4.95 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and locally by the YES Network.