Tagged: Jerry Hairston Jr.

Yankees Break Tie In Eighth To Overtake Nationals

GAME 7

YANKEES 3, NATIONALS 2

Kyle Roller, Aaron Judge and Cole Figueroa stroked consecutive two-out singles in the eighth inning with Figueroa scoring Roller with the tie-breaking run as New York defeated Washington on Sunday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL.

Right-hander Wilking Rodriguez (1-0) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to earn the victory. Mitch Lively (0-1) took the loss. Jared Burton pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to pick up a save.

With the victory the Yankees are now 4-2 in Grapefruit League play.

FIELD FOCUS

If you walk up to Yankee special instructor Reggie Jackson and ask him who he believes is the team’s best young hitting prospect he does not hesitate to tell you that it is infielder Jose Pirela.

Pirela, 25, put those hitting talents on display on Sunday

The 5-foot-11, 215-pound native Venezuela opened the third inning with a double in the right-field corner and he scored on Brett Gardner’s two-out infield single to tie the game a 1-1.

He came up again in the fourth with two out and Brian McCann on third and Chris Young on first and chopped a infield single to give the Yankees a temporary 2-1 lead.

In his first week of spring games, Pirela is batting .455 (5-for-11) including a double, a triple and three RBIs. If you think that possibly could be just an aberration think about this: Pirela batted .305 with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs in 130 games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

He earned a September call-up to the Yankees last season and all he did was bat .333 in 24 at-bats and three RBIs.

Pirela is not rated among the Yankees’ top prospects and yet there is a scenario where he might leave spring training as part of the 25-man roster.

With backup middle infielder Brendan Ryan shelved so far this spring with a mid-back strain he suffered working out with weights, Pirela would stand to make the team as its middle infield reserve.

The knock on Pirela has always been his defense. Scouts do not see him as a potential starter because of that reason. That reputation largely was sewn because Pirela committed 37 errors in 111 games at shortstop in 2011 wit Double-A Trenton.

But Pirela has cut down on his errors in the past three seasons. He was charged with 11 in 2012, 16 in 2013 and 11 last season though he played first base, second base, shortstop and 45 games in the outfield.

The Yankees see Pirela as a “super sub” player along the lines of Jerry Hairston Jr. But the Yankees mostly need him as infielder for now. His bat, though, will always be his main calling card.

“I’m very thankful to the Yankees for this opportunity,” Pirela told reporters. “They’ve given me plenty of opportunities. I just want to continue doing my job and I just hope to keep getting a chance to show what I can do.”

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The Yankees trotted out their late-inning relievers in Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively. Both looked relatively sharp. Miller, a 29-year-old left-hander, was making his second appearance of the spring and he threw a perfect inning with one strikeout. Betances, 26, made his spring debut and gave up a leadoff double to Clint Robinson but retired the next three hitters, the last two by strikeout. Manager Joe Girardi said no decision has been made on who the team’s closer will be or if the team will employ Miller and Betances as co-closers.
  • Although he was charged with an unearned run in the seventh inning on a RBI groundout by Derrick Robinson, right-hander Luis Severino showed off his 97-mile-per-hour fastball to fan three of the seven batters he faced. Severino, 21, is ranked as the team’s top prospect. Despite being a power pitcher who has fanned 225 batters in 221 2/3 innings, Severino also has only walked 54 batters over that time, which just a bit over two every nine innings. There is a chance Severino could make his major-league debut at some point this season.
  • Adam Warren, 27, made his second start of the spring and he looked pretty good despite surrendering a leadoff homer to Michael Taylor on his first offering of the game. Warren yielded just the one run on four hits and no walks with one strikeout in three innings.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • It is early but starting center-fielder and leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury is just 1-for-12 (.083) after going 0-for-3 on Sunday  –  all three were weak groundouts, including one in the third inning with Pirela on third and one out. Gardner followed with his RBI single to get Ellsbury off the hook. It would be nice to see Ellsbury get untracked before spring training ends.
  • Carlos Beltran is 0-for-5 in his first two games of spring. Beltran, 37, is recovering from right elbow surgery last September and it is obvious his timing is off in the early going. The Yankees are counting on the perennial All-Star outfielder to produce big numbers batting third for the team this season.

BOMBER BANTER

It’s official: Masahiro Tanaka will make his first start in a spring exhibition game on Thursday night as the Yankees play host to the Atlanta Braves. Girardi made the announcement on Sunday. Tanaka, 26, has been monitored closely this spring after he suffered a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last July. Though Tanaka opted to rehab the elbow rather than undergo Tommy John surgery he has reported no issues with his elbow this spring.  . . .  CC Sabathia threw a bullpen session on Sunday and it appears he is just a week away from his first Grapefruit League start. Sabathia had surgery on his right knee last season and the Yankees are being cautious with the 34-year-old left-hander. Sabathia told reporters there is no doubt he will be ready for the start of the season.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play host to the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda will make his first start of the spring for the Yankees. Pineda, 26, was 5-5 with a 1.89 ERA in 13 starts in a season cut short by a pulled muscle in Pineda’s right shoulder.

The Yankees are also scheduled to play their starting infield of Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew, Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley.

The Rays will counter with right-hander Nathan Karns, who was 9-9 with a 5.08 ERA at Triple-A Durham last season.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast live by the YES Network and on a taped basis by the MLB Network at midnight.

 

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Drew Thankful For Second Chance With Yankees

With the opening of the New York Yankees spring training camp in Tampa, FL, we will now look at each position on the team to assess their chances in 2015. After a disappointing 2014 season with a roster riddled with significant injuries the Yankees have reshuffled the deck with a lot of fresh faces to join some old ones. Let’s look at them.

SECOND BASE 

Stephen Drew, 31 (.162, 7 HRS, 26RBIs, 85 games)

It was not that long ago that the Yankees could boast about an infield of Mark Teixeira at first base, Robinson Cano at second, Alex Rodriguez at third and team captain Derek Jeter at shortstop. From an offensive and defensive standpoint it could have been considered the best in baseball.

Entering 2015, the Yankees may end up with one of the weakest infields in baseball because Teixeira is in a steep decline, Cano is playing in Seattle, Jeter has retired and Rodriguez is not considered the starting third baseman anymore.

But no place on the team is any weaker than second base because the Yankees declined to offer Cano a 10-year, $325 million contract last winter. Cano went to the Mariners and the Yankees opted to fill the void with then 36-year-old Brian Roberts, who had been allowed to leave the Baltimore Orioles after four injury-plagued seasons.

Roberts was nowhere near the player who had hit 18 home runs and drove in 73 runs while batting .314 for the O’s in 2005. Nor was he the player who stole 50 bases in 2007.

Instead the Yankees got a switch-hitter who batted .237 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 91 games before the Yankees decided they had enough and they designated him for assignment on July 31 to make room for Drew.

(Roberts very smartly decided to announce his retirement this winter.)

The Yankees had dealt infielder Kelly Johnson to the Boston Red Sox in order to obtain Drew even though Drew was mired in one of the worst seasons in his career.

After sitting out all of spring training and the first two months of the season after rejecting a qualifying offer, Drew finally signed a deal with Boston and promptly struggled to hit .176 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 39 games with Boston before the trade.

Drew languished in limbo without any offers from other teams after he hit .253 with 13 homers and 76 runs driven in with Red Sox in 2013. His lack of timing at the plate was obvious all season.

He fared even worse with the Yankees, hitting .150 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 46 games.

To say that 2014 was a season to forget for Drew would be putting it mildly. Please also forgive Yankee fans to not get too excited about Drew starting at second base after Cano batted over the .300 mark for the sixth consecutive season with the Mariners last season.

Drew, who spent the all eight seasons of his career at shortstop before he joined the Yankees last season and was immediately shifted to second base since Jeter was playing his final season at shortstop for the Yankees.

There is still a possibility that Drew could wind up at shortstop this season if 25-year-old Didi Gregorius does not show an ability to be able to hit major-league pitching after the Yankees acquired him in a three-team trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Detroit Tigers on Dec. 5 that cost the Yankees 26-year-old right-hander Shane Greene.

Gregorius hit .226 with six homers and 27 RBIs in 90 games with the D-backs last season. There is no doubt Gregorius is a major-league quality defensive player. He committed only five errors in 66 starts at the position last season and he also was utilized at second and third base.

Drew, however, is considered a steady fielder at shortstop and he is still learning the intricacies of second base, having played there all of 34 games (31 of them starts). Drew registered four errors at second base and three in 46 starts at shortstop between the Red Sox and Yankees.

The Yankees are not worried that Drew will be able to pick up second base enough to start. The only major question is whether he can snap out of what amounted to his worst season in the major leagues. The late start had to have a major part in it.

But, at the same time, Drew should have been able to get better at the plate as the season progressed. The fact he never did come around has Yankee fans scratching their heads as to why the Yankees elected to sign him to a one-year, $5 million contract that was made official on Jan. 16.

But there he is penciled in as the Yankees’ second baseman at the start of spring.

“If I could take a year back and kind of restart it, it’d be this year (2014), offense-wise,” Drew told reporters in September. “Other than that, you can’t do anything about it.”

Drew, who spent the first six seasons plus playing for the Diamondbacks has averaged .256 with 97 homers and 442 RBIs in his major-league career entering 2015. The Yankees are only hoping he hits closer to that career average and that he can play solid defense at second.

If Drew should continue to falter as he did last season the Yankees will have to put a ready-made Plan B in place.

Veteran infielder Brendan Ryan, 32, is slated to be the backup at both second base and shortstop for the Yankees in 2015. Offense, however, has never been a strong suit for Ryan. He batted just .167 with no homers and eight RBIs in 49 games with the Yankees last season.

Ryan was sidelined early in spring training with a neck injury and he was not activated until May 5.

The reason Ryan was signed to a two-year, $5 million deal last season was his ability to play defense at shortstop. In fact, because Gregorius struggles against left-handers Ryan is expected to get most of the starts at shortstop against lefties this season.

Ryan is a defensive wizard at short and he is well above average at second base. He committed only four errors with the Yankees in 176 innings at second, third and shortstop in 2014.

Fortunately for the Yankees they have a pair of Plan B alternatives who will be a phone call away in the minors this season.

Jose Pirela, 25, is on the team’s 40-man roster entering spring training after he made his major-league debut with the Yankees in late September.

Pirela showed some flashes of brilliance in hitting .333 in 24 at-bats. Pirela had batted .305 with 10 home runs and 60 RBIs with 15 stolen bases in 130 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season.

There are doubts that Pirela is a long-term solution at second base but the Yankees believe that he could eventually take over Ryan’s utility infielder role at some point. Pirela is a pretty versatile player having played first base, second, short and even 45 games in the outfield.

After making 37 errors at shortstop in 2011, Pirela was shifted to second base and his fielding has improved a great deal since then. If he continues to hit well, Pirela could be a super sub along the lines of Jerry Hairston Jr.

You could see him get a call-up this season. But he likely is returning to Scranton when spring training ends.

The Yankees are very excited by 23-year-old second baseman Rob Refsnyder, who is currently ranked as the Yankees’ sixth best prospect. There is a good reason why.

Refsnyder followed up a good 2013 minor-league season with an even better 2014 season between stops at Double-A Trenton and Scranton where he hit a combined . 318 with 14 home runs and 63 RBIs.

The former University of Arizona star burst onto the scene in 2012 by hitting .476 with two homers in leading the Wildcats to the College World Series title. He also was named the series’ Most Outstanding Player.

He was drafted by the Yankees in the fifth round of 2012 First-Year Player Draft as an outfielder but was converted to second base in the minors.

Refsnyder is considered the best pure hitter in the organization and he shows a professional approach by using all fields. His power was unexpected bonus that could translate into 15-homer power at the major-league level.

His defense is shaky, at best, which is to be expected after being moved from the outfield. But Refsnyder has the ability to develop into an adequate defender at the position.

With Drew and Ryan already signed the Yankees would prefer to keep Refsnyder on track to play at Scranton to get more experience at second base under his belt. But his Expected Time of Arrival (ETA) is looking to be 2015 as a late-season call-up.

He could emerge as a starter in 2016 if he progresses as the Yankees expect.

Also keep an eye on 20-year-old Gasuke Katoh, who hit .222 with three homers and 37 RBIs in 121 games for Class-A Charleston (SC) in 2014. He was selected in the second round by the Yankees in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and the Yankees love his speed (20 bases) and his ability to get on base (.345 OBP).

OVERALL POSITION ANALYSIS: INADEQUATE

I personally have some real doubts about Drew’s ability to bounce back from his horrible 2014 numbers.

In the past good Yankee teams have had such greats at second base such as Bobby Richardson, Willie Randolph and Cano. The decision the Yankees made to allow Cano to walk as a free agent last winter will have the Yankees paying dearly for a long time.

I doubt Drew will hit .150 again. But even if he hits .253 he is still going to pale in comparison to Cano, who is the best second baseman in baseball now. There is no doubt this position is in a transition phase and Drew is just placeholder until something better comes along.

The Yankees would be in big trouble if Gregorius fails at shortstop and they are forced to move Drew there. That would open up a huge hole at second base and the Yankees do not want to have use Pirela or Refsnyder at the position this season.

The Yankees want Drew, Gregorius and Ryan to remain healthy and productive throughout the 2014 season to allow Refsnyder to develop as a second baseman.

If they get that time Refsnyder might reward them by becoming a productive hitter with an adequate enough glove to hold the position for years to come. That is the hope anyway.

NEXT: THIRD BASE

 

Jeter Teaches His Critics To Never Sell Him Short

The New York Yankees have reached the halfway mark of the season and they are comfortably in first place in the American League East. This is despite some injuries to some keep players such as Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain. As we do every year, let’s look at the individual components of the team and issue grades for the first half.  

SHORTSTOP – DEREK JETER (7 HR, 25 RBIs, .303 BA, 43 R, 6 SB)

Who knew that suffering a calf injury that would land you on the 15-day disabled list would be a good thing? For Derek Jeter it was in 2011.

Jeter was forced to miss the 2011 All-Star Game so he could rehab his injured calf at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, FL. While there, Jeter also worked with one of his first hitting coaches in Gary Denbo to find his old swing. It was that work that likely turned Jeter’s season and his fading career around.

Jeter came off the disabled list lacing hits all over the yard and he picked up his 3000th hit by going 5-for-5 and hitting a home run for No. 3,000 off David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. From the point he returned to the Yankees until the end of the regular season Jeter hit .344. He ended the season hitting .297 with six home runs and 61 RBIs.

The question heading into 2012 was could he keep it up? Or was it just a fluke and he would continue his decline at age 38 this summer?

The returns are in for the first half of the 2012 season and it appears it was not a fluke. Derek Jeter is simply Derek Jeter again.

His 103 hits after 81 games was the third-bast total in the majors and Jeter was passing legends like Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken and Wade Boggs on the all-time hit list seemingly on a daily basis. There are thoughts that he might even have a shot at 4,000 hits, should Jeter choose to continue his career into his 40s.

Jeter simply may be among a handful of players that are the best singles hitters in baseball history. Along with Ty Cobb and Pete Rose, the current generation of players gives us Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners and Jeter of the Yankees. These four have to be considered baseball’s elite at what they do best: Rack up hits in bunches.

Jeter’s career batting average is .313 and the fact he is hovering over the .300 mark at the halfway mark proves he has not lost the touch at age 38.

The only thing Jeter may have lost is a bit of his power, though the most he ever hit in one season was a pedestrian 24 in 1999. He also is not able to steal bases as he once did. In 2006, he stole a career-high 34 bags. But he has only stolen more than 18 bases once in his five full seasons after that.

But everything else is still there for Jeter.

The only disappointment this season is his rather low runs scored total of 43 at the halfway point. Jeter has failed to score 100 runs in only three seasons out of his 16 full years in the majors. Some of it can be attributed to the fact that the middle of the Yankees’ lineup – Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira – hit around .200 with runners in scoring position.

Some of it may have to do with age. But Jeter remains one of the smartest base-runners in baseball and he rarely commits a huge blunder to get himself thrown out on the bases.

When you bring up Jeter’s fielding, the sabermatricians go ballistic because Jeter’s range at age 38 is not anything like it was when he was 28. OK, I will give them that one. Jeter does not have the range of an Elvis Andrus or Alexsei Ramirez, who both are considerably younger shortstops.

But Jeter committed only six errors in the first half. The Yankees can live with that and they will. The fact is Jeter has won five Gold Glove awards, including in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and he is not going to give them back just because Bill James says he should.

IHe also is not going to give back his 13 selections in 16 seasons for the All-Star Game. Jeter will be starting in his eighth All-Star Game in Kansas City on Tuesday.

With Jeter, what you see is what you get. He is just a consummate professional who works hard at his craft and gives 100 percent each and every game. He is not only respected highly by manager Joe Girardi and his teammates but he also is admired by the players and managers on other teams.

Yep, “The Captain” who is affectionately nicknamed in the Bronx is just something very, very special. Cooperstown awaits when his career ends but who knows when that will be the way he is going now.

MIDSEASON GRADE: A-

BACKUP – JAYSON NIX (2 HRs, 6 RBIs, .228 BA)

Nix, 29, became Jeter’s backup when the Yankees decided that Eduardo Nunez needed work on his defense in the minor leagues.

With Jeter requiring a bit more rest, Nix has made seven starts at short in the first 81 games. He has acquitted himself well. He is not going to hit like Jeter and he does not have the dazzling range Nunez has at the position. But, then again, Nix is not going botch half of the balls hit to him like Nunez did.

Because Nix can also play second, third and the corner outfield spots he is very valuable in kind of Jerry Hairston Jr. sort of way.

Nix played his way on the Yankees’ 25-man roster by hitting .323 as a free-agent signee this spring. When Nunez was sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Nix was recalled and it looks like he is going to keep his role for the rest of the season.

MIDSEASON GRADE: C

After playing only four games for the Scranton Yankees, Nunez suffered a severely jammed right thumb and he has missed more than a month. He should be able to return soon but the injury apparently is worse than the Yankees thought originally.

Nunez, 25, is still considered the heir apparent to Jeter when he can’t play the position anymore or retires. After all, Nunez was hitting .294 after 51 at-bats when he was shipped out after committing four errors in the first 19 games he played.

Girardi said the Yankees should have not asked Nunez to play so many positions like the outfield. So the thought is that he will concentrate on shortstop mostly at Scranton. But the injury has retarded that development and so Nunez looks like he will stay in the minors until the September 1 call-ups.

Unfortunately the Yankees not only miss his bat but his speed.

With Brett Gardner of the 60-day disabled list and Nunez shipped out the Yankees lost 71 steals from their 2011 roster. Nunez still is tied for second with four Yankees with six steals behind the team leader Rodriguez, who has seven after 81 games.

With Nunez shelved, the Yankees’ old standby Ramiro Pena is playing short at Scranton. He is hitting .241 with one home run and 18 RBIs.

The Yankees pretty much know what they are getting in Pena, 26. He can play the infield near flawlessly, he is an adept bunter and is an aggressive switch-hitter with absolutely no power. He has decent speed but he is not an athlete or a speedster like Nunez.

It appears Pena’s time has past.

The Yankees have an intriguing prospect at Double-A Trenton in 22-year-old Jose Toussen, who is hitting over .300 there.  But all eyes are on Cito Culver at Single-A Charelston (SC) in the Carolina League. He is rated as the ninth-best prospect in the organization. But that might take a hit.

Culver, 19, is hitting just .206 in 74 games there. Scouts are questioning why the Yankees made him their No. 1 in 2010.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: A-

Barring injury, Jeter should maintain his climb up the all-time hits list while getting on base for the Yankees’ power hitters that follow him. The hope is those power hitters will actually drive him in more often. If Jeter hits over .300 with 100 runs scored and he hits about 15 home runs it will be a very good season for the future Hall-of-Famer.

Girardi has been smart in starting him in only 70 games at shortstop after 81 games. At the same time Jeter has played in 79 games by being used as a designated hitter or a late-game replacement. Girardi will continue to do this to keep Jeter healthy and fresh for the late season push for the division title and the playoffs.

With Nix, Pena and eventually Nunez is the wings, Jeter has three either current or former major-league players behind him. That is not bad depth.

But the Yankees really could not go very far without Jeter leading off and playing shortstop for them. He is much more valuable than you might think and he still remains the face of the franchise.

 

Yankee Fans Ask ‘Hey, Abbott, Who’s In Left?’

I can almost envision Lou Abbott and Bud Costello talking about the 2010 New York Yankees now:
Costello: “Who’s in left?”

Abbott: “No. Who’s on first.”

Costello: “I don’t know.”

Abbott: “I don’t know is in left”
So it goes with the Yankees. Who, what or I don’t know has shifted to left-field and it is anybody’s guess who will play there come Opening Day on April 4 at Fenway Park.
Last season left-field, for the most part, was manned by Johnny Damon. But after a season in which the 36-year-old veteran hit 24 home runs, drove in 82 runs and batted .282 the Yankees allowed him to become a free agent without even an offer of arbitration.
Damon said he wanted to remain a Yankee but his agent, Scott Boras, was seeking a ridiculous four-year, $52 million contract. The Yankees chose to pass. Though Damon has lowered his demands to a reported two years and $20 million, the Yankees have let him seek offers from other teams.
Rumors say the Braves have an interest in him but they are not likely to pay $10 million for two seasons for the privilege.
The Yankees did have other options in left. For one, they could have tried out rookie Austin Jackson, the 23-year-old gem of the team’s minor-league system. But, alas, the Yankees decided to package the potential five-tool star in a trade with the Detroit Tigers that yielded outfielder Curtis Granderson.
The Yankees immediately announced Granderson was the team’s center fielder and that 2009 center fielder Melky Cabrera would move to left field. 
If the Yankees were serious about cutting payroll, it would seem odd for Yankees general manager Brian Cashman to trade Jackson for Granderson’s four-year contract that calls for him to make $5.25 million this season but about $13 million in the fourth season. Jackson would have cost considerably less.
Still, the shift of Cabrera makes sense with the newly frugal Yankees considering that he made a paltry $1.7 million in 2009. But, once again, the Yankees vacated left field when they used Cabrera in a package that brought right-hander Javier Vazquez back to the Bronx — along with his $11 million salary.
There is no doubt that getting Vazquez (15-10, 2.87 ERA) from the Atlanta Braves solidified the starting rotation because there are now four pitchers who are capable of pitching 200 innings or more. It also would allow either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes to shift to the setup role in the bullpen. However, it also vacated left field again.
Now the Yankees are touting Brett Gardner as their starting left fielder. Or they could keep Gardner in center and move Curtis Granderson there if the team is dissatisfied with Granderson’s defense in center.
Either way, Gardner certainly is a low-cost alternative to Damon. But it seems odd that Cashman is protesting poverty in his inability to bring Damon back. Cashman said he only has $2 million left to spend on an outfielder.
Well, it seems to me that if he paid just a bit less than $10 million to sign Damon for two years, kept Jackson and Phil Coke instead of making the Granderson trade and used Jackson and Coke to obtain Vazquez instead of trading Michael Dunn, then the Yankees would have not needed to obtain Boone Logan.
They then could have signed Nick Johnson to DH for $5 million and had an outfield of Damon, Cabrera and Nick Swisher with Gardner in the wings and Dunn could have replaced Coke without pushing the Yankees over their budget because they let Hideki Matsui sign with the Angels. 
If I have done the math correct, I think this would have got the Yankees close to their so-called budget limit without affecting the performance level of the team.
Now without Damon in left, the Yankees reportedly are looking at signing right-hand hitting outfielder Reed Johnson or perhaps bring back injured Xavier Nady or utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. for about $2 million. This would give the Yankees a right-hand hitter to platoon with Gardner or Granderson, who hit a woeful .182 against lefties in 2009.
With less than a month before pitchers and catchers report to Tampa for spring training, I know that Yankee fans are getting nervous about the opening in left field. Pundits like Jon Heyman of the MLB Network are beginning to wonder if the decision to allow Matsui and Damon go in the offseason in favor of Granderson and Johnson has weakened the offense.
It is a valid question.
I am not sure if even Abbott and Costello can answer these questions.
Costello: “The left fielder’s name?”

Abbott: “Because”

Costello: “Why?”

Abbott: “Oh, he’s center field.”



Bad Dream: In Left Field For The Yankees, Ryan Church

The signing of Mark DeRosa by the San Francisco Giants to a two-year contract must have made Brett Gardner smile. He has dodged another bullet.
If the 2010 season started tomorrow, Gardner would be the Yankees’ starting left fielder. Though Gardner’s speed and defense are greatly valued the Yankee blogosphere is getting nervous because Johnny Damon remains out on the free-agent market.
General Manager Brian Cashman made it pretty clear that the last piece of the Yankees’ puzzle, left field, would not be filled by a “big-ticket” item. That ruled out Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. It also appears that because Scott Boras is representing Damon, even the 36-year-old outfielder looks to be too costly.
DeRosa was mentioned as a lower cost alternative. But the Giants signed him for two years and $12 million. Since when can the Yankees not afford $6 million a season for an outfielder? This troubles me because they offered Damon $7 million a season.
Now it appears that even our old friend Xavier Nady is out of the Yankees price range.
The names we are hearing are guys like Reed Johnson or  bringing back Jerry Hairston Jr. Those Melky Cabrera fans upset over the Javier Vazquez trade may have a good point if the discussion on replacing him have come down to Reed Johnson.
Johnson was a backup outfielder for the Cubs last season and hit .255 with four home runs and 22 RBIs and a breathtaking two stolen bases in 165 at-bats. He is an excellent outfielder with the glove but has not been a full-time starter since 2006.
Hairston’s value would seem to be more as a bench player because he is able to play so many positions. If the Yankees are considering him as an everyday left fielder they would wear the 33-year-old down. 
The Yankees’ front office is telling us there are plenty of free-agent outfielders out there. But if DeRosa is not in our price range, who the hell is? Endy Chavez? So Taguchi? Emil Brown?
I think it is admirable that the Cashman and the Yankees have a budget and are sticking to it. But when you see the alternatives out there it is scary to think one of these guys may be a starting left fielder for a world championship club.
Garret Anderson is out there. So is Rick Ankiel (There would be no worries about his arm in left). There also is Jack Cust and Marlon Byrd. How about Austin Kearns? Randy Winn is looking for work and he would fit in with his age at 35.
I hate to say this but it looks like Boras might have the upper hand here if the Yankees really want Damon back. I would look at these other possibilities and the fact Gardner is the starter and just laugh. I would hold the line on a two-year deal for $20 million.
The question is can Boras find another team interested enough to pay it?
Cashman seems to be banking that he won’t and is waiting Damon out. However, I will not concede Damon is gone until I see he has signed elsewhere. Damon will just have to swallow his pride a bit and accept less money to play with a team with which he is a perfect fit.
His swing is suited for the park, he is perfect No. 2 hitter and he fits in well in the clubhouse. Hey, Rasheed Wallace took less money to play for the Celtics so he could have a chance to win another championship. Why can’t Johnny?
Oh, I know what the reason is now: Scott Boras. Maybe Damon should follow A-Rod’s lead and park his pitbull and negotiate with the Yankees himself. It couldn’t hurt.
I am just trying to get over the nightmare I had last night. I was dreaming about opening day and Paul Olden said: “Playing left field for the Yankees, Ryan Church.”

Yankees Unlikely To Offer Contracts To Hairston, Hinske



The champagne has flowed, the parade down the Canyon on Heroes is over and now the New York Yankees must make the difficult decisions about what to do about the roster for 2010. What free agents should they keep and who should they let go. The choices made this winter will affect the team’s chances to repeat as champions. Let’s examine these choices one by one and see what General Manager Brian Cashman and his staff may be weighing before the first warrmup toss is made in Tampa this spring.


PART 2: ERIC HINSKE AND JERRY HAIRSTON JR.

Yankee fans may forget that the Yankees began the 2009 season with a bench comprised of Jose Molina, Brett Gardner, Angel Berroa and Melky Cabrera. Brett Gardner was starting in centerfield and Cody Ransom was filling in for an injured Alex Rodriguez at third base.
By the time the season reached the trade deadline, General Manager Brian Cashman added veterans Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr. to the team to strengthen the bench.
Both paid immediate dividends. 
Hinske hit five home runs in his first 21 at-bats with the Yankees after coming over in a deal in July with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Though he only hit two more home runs the rest of the season, Hinske provided a veteran power bat off the bench and he played the corner outfield spots and third base.
Hairston, who is capable of playing every spot in the field except pitcher, hit .237 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 45 games with the Yankees after being acquired from the Cincinnati Reds at the July 31st trade deadline. He also filled in at all three outfield spots and at third, shortstop and second.
Hairston might have produced more with the bat but he was suffering from a painful left wrist injury that he tweaked late in the season with the Yankees. In the playoffs he contributed a key hit and scored the winning run in the 13th inning of Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Both Hinske and Hairston are free agents and Cashman must decide whether to offer them contracts to return.
In Hinske’s case, it is unlikely that he will be offered a deal to come back unless the Yankees can get him at a huge discount. The Yankees have options at the minor-league level with left-hand hitting first baseman Juan Miranda and right-hand hitting Shelley Duncan, who can play the same positions as Hinske.
If the Yankees are not satisfied with their bench options this spring, they can always hit the free-agent or trade markets and land a veteran bat like Hinske.
Hairston is another story. Because he can hit for average and run and he plays good defense at any position he is asked to play, he has some value to the Yankees.
With Ransom and Berroa out of the picture now because they both failed to deliver any offense subbing for A-Rod, the Yankees do have Ramiro Pena to play third, short and second, however, he is not considered capable enough to play the outfield.
The Yankees sent him back to Triple-A Scranton during last season and asked him to try playing centerfield, but it is doubtful Pena will rise to the level of versatility that Hairston has reached.
Hairston has also played 12 seasons in the major leagues without playing for a championship team until last season. So Hairston might be willing to come back to the Yankees for a chance to win another title.
But whether he would sacrifice some dollars elsewhere to do that is a question mark.
Cashman would love for a homegrown player like Pena to stick with the Yankees as a reserve. Pena did hit .287 with one home run and 10 RBIs in 69 games in 2009. He also swiped four bases.
So the decision Cashman will make comes down to whether he feels the Yankees have enough outfielders to able to allow Hairston to go in favor of Pena.
My sense is that Cashman will elect to do that and Hairston would only return if he does not receive an offer from another team and would be willing to take a pay cut to rejoin the Yankees. That is the only scenario where I see Hairston coming back.
Given Hairston’s ability to play so many positions, the likelihood of him receiving no competitive offers from other teams is extremely unlikely.
So it is more than likely that both Hairston and Hinske will not be back with the Yankees next season. And, of the two, Hairston would be the only one the Yankees might be interested in keeping.

Matsui Drives In Five As Yanks Deep-Six Mariners

YANKEES 11, MARINERS 1


With Alex Rodriguez on the bench Hideki Matsui batted cleanup for the New York Yankees on Thursday night.
Little did the Yankees know that Matsui would take his role so literally. Matsui went four-for-five, hit two home runs and drove in five runs to back the dominating pitching of CC Sabathia as the Yankees thrashed the Seattle Mariners 11-1 at Safeco Field.
“When Matsui gets hot, he’s tough to get out,” Jeter told MLB.com. “He gets hot for weeks at a time. One good thing about our lineup is that when guys are out, other guys can do the job. We don’t rely on one particular person.”

Sabathia shut down the Mariners, yielding just three hits and two walks over eight innings. He also registered a season-high 10 strikeouts. 
“I get better as it gets going and the weather starts warming up,” Sabathia said to MLB.com. “I just start feeling a lot better. These are big games down the stretch and it just feels good to know you can go out there and dominate a game.”

Sabathia now has won nine consecutive August starts and his career record from August 1 to the end of the season is 52-20 with an ERA of 2.97 in 91 starts.
“I think that he’s physically really strong,” manager Joe Girardi said. He’s got great mechanics and he’s able to make his pitches. He doesn’t wear down and I think that’s part of it.”

The Yankees, meanwhile, jumped on Mariners right-hander Ian Snell for six runs after just four innings. Matsui made it 5-0 with his first home run following a Johnny Damon double. Derek Jeter had started the inning off with a solo home run, his 14th of the season.
Sabathia was able to put himself on auto-pilot and his only trouble came in the second inning when he walked two batters but escaped the two-on, two-out jam by getting Josh Wilson to hit into a fielder’s choice groundout.
Wilson, who was called up from Triple-A earlier in the day to take Adrian Beltre’s place on the roster, was able to get to Sabathia for a solo home run in the fifth inning to give the Mariners their lone run of the game.
The Yankees later scored three runs in the seventh inning to chase Snell. Matsui began the rally with a lined single to right that scored Damon to make it 7-1. An inning later, Matsui blasted a two-run shot off reliever Garrett Olson with two out to make it 11-1.
“Their lineup is an All-Star lineup,” Snell said. “It’s ridiculous. They don’t swing at very many pitches. They pick a pitch and they wait for it and then they swing. To pitch to that lineup is very tough.”

Matsui was called upon to hit fourth for Rodriguez because the third baseman was nursing a bruised elbow he received from being struck by Blue Jays reliever Shawn Camp in a 4-3 victory over Toronto in 10 innings on Wednesday.
Matsui responded with his best night of the season, connecting for his 18th and 19th homers of the season. The second home run was nearly caught by fellow countryman Ichiro Suzuki, who leaped high onto the wall in right-center to try to haul the line drive in. But he came up just short.

“I was running, so I wasn’t sure,” Matsui told MLB.com “I didn’t get a pretty good glimpse. I think the people watching on TV had a better angle of it. … I was running, thinking in my mind, ‘Please don’t! Please don’t!’ “

Rodriguez’s replacement at third base, Jerry Hairston Jr., also contributed with a pair of two-out hits to drive in runs. 

“When you can give a guy a day off and the sub contributes, it’s huge,” Girardi said.

The Yankees are now 21-6 after the All-Star break and lead the American League East by 6 1/2 games because the Boston Red Sox were mowed down by Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers 2-0 earlier in the day.

“We’re having fun,” Sabathia said. “This is always fun when you’re winning.”

The Yankees will send Andy Pettitte (9-6, 4.14 ERA) to the mound in the second game of the four-game series against the Mariners. Pettitte is coming off a great outing against the Red Sox on Friday where he threw seven shutout innings. He took a no-decision but gave up just five hits and two walks while striking out four batters. Pettitte has a 1.87 ERA in his last five starts. He faced the Mariners last on July 1 in New York. He pitched seven innings and won a 4-2 decision.

The Mariners will counter with right-hander Ryan Rowland-Smith (2-1, 3.86 ERA), who allowed two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings to record his second win of the season. Rowland-Smith has had only four starts this season after a lengthy rehab stint in the minor leagues.

Gametime is 10:10 p.m. EDT.