Tagged: Nick Johnson

Tex Eyes 2013 Rebound But Depth At First Lacking

Happy New Year to all my fellow fans. I recently posted a three-part series looking at the Yankees from their pitching, their bullpen and starting lineup. Now I intend to zero in on a look at them from a position-by-position standpoint. With spring training mere weeks away it seems an appropriate time to do this. Enjoy!


The one thing you could count on every season from Mark Teixeira was 30 or more home runs and 100 or more runs driven in. He had, after all, done it in eight consecutive seasons when the 2012 season began.

But for the first time since his rookie season with the Texas Rangers in 2003, Teixeira failed to reach those totals for the New York Yankees. A pulled calf muscle that limited him to only four at-bats in September took away any hope that Teixeira had to extend the streak.

It was hardly the season Teixeira had envisioned for himself after taking a lot of criticism for batting .256 in 2010 and a career-low .248 in 2011. Teixeira had pledged that he try to go back to hitting to “all fields” instead of the pull-happy approach he had developed with that inviting short porch in right-field at Yankee Stadium.

He even said he might bunt against the exaggerated shifts teams had employed against him when he was batting left-handed.

That never happened, however.

In fact, once Teixeira got off to another one of his annual slow starts in April (three home runs, 12 RBIs and a .244 average), he abandoned the “all fields” idea altogether and just hit. There is no doubt he would have likely reached 30 home runs and 100 RBIs had not suffered the injury, but Teixeira decision was also directed to Yankee fans.

He basically was telling them he was not going to be hitter that hit a combined .306 with the Rangers and the Atlanta Braves in 2007 and .308 with the Braves and Los Angeles Angels in 2008. He even was not going to be the player that hit .292 in his first season with the Yankees.

Nope. If Teixeira was to be the productive hitter the Yankees wanted him to be Yankee fans would just have to settle for .250 batting averages from now on. That is just going to be the way it is.

Teixeira, 32, is reaching the same stage Jason Giambi did after his Most Valuable Player season with the Oakland Athletics in 2001 when he hit .342 with 38 home runs and 138 RBIs.

Giambi hit .314 with 41 home runs and 122 RBIs in 2002 in his first season with the Yankees. Then his batting averages fell off a cliff to .250, .208 (in an injury-racked 2004 season), .271, .253, .236 and .247.

Teixeira is headed to similar fate and, though it does not make Yankee fans happy, it appears they will have to accept it because Teixeira has another four years on the eight-year, $180 million contract he signed with the team in 2009.

Yankee Stadium has actually become somewhat of  “The Killing Fields” for Teixeira. He hit just .218 with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs in 2012 while he hit .277 with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs on the road. That does not bode well looking ahead to 2013.

Teixeira is also having problems hitting right-handers. He hit only .239 against them last season while he hit .269 against lefties. That also does not look good when you consider he will bat a lot more left-handed than he will right-handed because of the dearth of quality left-hand pitching in baseball.

Like most of the Yankees last season, Teixeira also failed to hit well with runners in scoring position (.230) and with two outs in an inning (.190).

Unlike Giambi, however, Teixeira actually can play a little a defense and that is putting it mildly.

Teixeira is the gold standard of fielding first basemen. Last season he collected his fifth Gold Glove Award and his third since joining the Yankees. But the real story is how he won the award.

Teixeira committed just one error in 1,055 total chances for a fielding percentage of .999, which broke a Yankee record of .998 established by Don Mattingly in 1994 (two errors in 989 total chances). In fact, Teixeira’s .999 mark was the tenth best fielding mark recorded in the modern era (after 1900).

So to say Teixeira can play a little first base is like saying Jimi Hendrix could play a little guitar. Teixeira is simply the best fielding first baseman of his generation and there aren’t as many who are close.

Tex combines the range of the former third baseman he was and catlike reflexes that allow him to stop line drives and grounders that other first baseman would have left on the board as doubles down the line. Combine that with the fact that Teixeira saves his fellow Yankee infielders numerous errors by scooping and snagging poor throws to first, you have pretty much summed up what makes Teixeira special with the glove.

Here is another statistic for you: Teixeira committed 10 errors with the Rangers in 2004. In all of his major-league seasons since, Teixeira has not committed more than five errors. In his four seasons with the Yankees he has not committed more than four. Any way you slice it, Teixeira is very special as a fielder.

The biggest concern about Teixeira in 2013 has nothing to do with Teixeira himself. It has to do with who will back him at the position this season.

When Teixeira was injured last season, the Yankees had the luxury of being able to slide Nick Swisher in from right field or they could used veteran Eric Chavez if they needed another left-handed bat.

They will not have that ability this season. The Yankees elected to let Swisher sign a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Indians and Chavez opted to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks. So the Yankees find themselves very thin at first base.

Of course, Teixeira has been somewhat durable throughout his career. He has played less than 145 games only twice in nine seasons. Last season was one of those.

Still, Yankee fans would feel more comfortable if the Yankees had someone like Swisher (24 home runs, 93 RBIs, .272 BA) or Chavez (16 HRs, 37 RBIs, .281 BA) playing behind Teixeira just in case they are needed.

For now Yankee fans have to hope that the acquisition off waivers of Cleveland Indians utility man Russ Canzler is the answer.

Canzler, 26, had three home runs, drove in 11 runs and hit .269 in just 98 at-bats in September with the Indians in 2012.

The right-handed Canzler can play first base, left field and serve as a designated hitter for the Yankees. He does have power in that he hit 22 home runs and drove in 79 runs in 130 games with Triple-A Columbus before being called by the Indians as a late-season addition to the roster.

Though Canzler did lead the International League in doubles (36) as well as home runs and RBIs, he is still a far cry for a proven veteran backup at first like Swisher and Chavez.

General manager Brian Cashman may still be looking to find a veteran to come into camp and bolster the bench.

Slick-fielding Casey Kotchman, 29, and Lyle Overbay, 36, are still available on the free-agent market. Of course, so are former Yankees Giambi, 41, and Nick Johnson, 34, but they are real longshots.

The Yankees also might look to the trade route. The point is don’t expect Canzler to be handed the backup job. He will have competition.

Of course, that competition will not be forthcoming from the Yankees’ minor-league system.

Steve Pearce, 29, came up for a brief period with the Yankees last season and hit .160 with one home run and four RBIs in 25 at-bats after he was released by the Houston Astros and he hit .318 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

He signed a free-agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles for 2013.

Russell Branyan, 37, was invited to spring training in 2012 by the Yankees as a non-roster invitee but a back injury shelved him throughout camp and he played in only 36 games last season, hitting .309 with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs with Scranton.

However, Russell and his muscle bat have taken their act to spring camp with the Angels in 2013.

Addison Maruszak, 26, hit .276 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs in 117 games at Double-A Trenton. Maruszak, a right-hand hitter, split time at first base with Luke Murton, 26, a left-hand hitter who hit .249 with 25 home runs and 68 RBIs in 126 games.

Though Murton led the Yankees’ minor leaguers in home runs, his and Maruszak’s advanced age at the Double-A level do not make them future prospects for the Yankees.

Kyle Roller, 24, hit .266 with 18 home runs and 85 RBIs in 121 games at Class-A Tampa in the Florida State League. He is perhaps worth watching in 2013 but he does not carry a high prospect label and he is several years away from helping the Yankees at the major-league level.

Because the Yankees do not have a proven major-league backup to Teixeira and their minor-league talent is severely lacking at first base, the position ranks as one of the weakest on the roster. Cashman is aware of this and it would seem to be a priority in the coming weeks to shore up the position before camp opens.

Nonetheless, the Yankees are lucky to have a durable starter in Teixeira to man the position. If he can be forgiven for hitting .250, his 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBIs will be vital to the Yankees’ success in 2013. His glove actually is an even bigger asset.

Teixeira will likely bat between third and fifth in the Yankee lineup and with the loss of power hitters such as Swisher, Chavez, Raul Ibanez and Russell Martin and Alex Rodriguez on the shelf for at least half the season, Teixeira is a vital piece to the Yankee puzzle in 2013. Let’s hope he can stay healthy.

There is not much behind him on the depth chart.



Perhaps Hughes The Key To Yankees Minus Rivera

As weeks go you would have to say this week for the New York Yankees was not a good one and that is putting it mildly. It was disastrous.

The loss of the greatest closer to ever walk the planet is a pretty steep price to pay for any team. But it was just the tip of the iceberg.

It all started on April 29 when Nick Swisher left a game against the Tigers in the bottom of the third inning with a strained hamstring. At the time Brett Gardner was on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right elbow he sustained making a diving catch on a ball on April 17.

Swisher has been unable to play since and Gardner, who was expected to return on Thursday, had his return delayed for four days.

That means the Yankees have been playing Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, Eduardo Nunez and now Jayson Nix in the outfield in place of their two injured starters.

That has led some pretty bad outfield play in the past week, especially by “Eduardo Scissorhands” in left-field against the Orioles.

Though the Yankees may have had some laughs when Nunez slipped and slid his way through his first start in left on Monday, it was no laughing matter the next night when he allowed a fly ball off the bat of Nick Johnson fall and two runs to score.

It was initially scored as a two-base error. But MLB Vice President of Baseball Operations Joe Torre on Friday reversed the call into a double. However, whether it was scored an error or a double, it still cost the Yankees two runs in three-run inning that ended up in a 7-1 defeat. The point is that the ball should have been caught and it wasn’t.

This outfield roulette the Yankees are playing does not even take into account how the offense has been hurt by losing Gardner and Swisher for this long a period of time.

At the time of his injury, Gardner was hitting .321. Swisher was even better. He was hitting .284 with six home runs and he was leading the American League in RBIs with 23. You can’t expect to replace 67 percent of your starting outfield with older veterans and young neophytes and expect the offense and defense to be there. Just ask the Boston Red Sox.

The loss of Gardner has allowed manager Joe Girardi to use his platoon designated hitters, Jones and Ibanez, in the field and give Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez half-days off as the DH. That means Scissorhands plays shortstop and Eric Chavez plays third base.

Nunez promptly goes into a 0-for-19 slide this week and the preciously delicate exoskeleton and inner body linings and muscles of Chavez again reared its ugly head – literally – on Wednesday night.

Chavez dove for a ball off the bat of J.J. Hardy and his head slammed the infield dirt at Yankee Stadium pretty hard. The next thing you know Chavez is on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion. If this anything like the fractured bone in his foot he injured at about the same time last season, we should see Chavez back in a Yankee uniform during the 2016 Yankee Old-Timers’ Day celebration and I hope Eric brings a football helmet and pads to play in the game.

This does not even address the starting pitching problems Girardi is already faced and with which he is still dealing.

While CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda seem to be settling into their roles as the ace and No.2  starter of the staff, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia seem to be playing a contest amongst themselves of who could give up the most hits and runs in the shortest stretch of innings.

Well, Garcia won that contest hands down and he was banished to the bullpen and rookie David Phelps made his first major-league start on Thursday.

This was not the way it was supposed to be with Andy Pettitte on the verge of coming back and when the Yankees were counting on getting Michael Pineda back from his sore right shoulder problems in May. Now Pineda is lost for the season with shoulder surgery and Pettitte can’t get back to the Yankees soon enough to suit Yankee fans.

The loss of Mariano Rivera makes it even harder to decipher.

For now, it looks as if David Robertson and Rafael Soriano will share the closer’s role. But with Joba Chamberlain still recovering from both Tommy John and Chuckie Cheez ankle surgeries the bullpen suddenly looks a whole lot thinner than it did before Mo collapsed in pain on the Kauffman Stadium warning track on Thursday.

Perhaps there could be a silver lining if Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman are open to see their way clear of this mess. Some good could come of it if they play it correctly.

First, they have to allow Phelps to continue to pitch in the rotation and give him a chance to show what he can do. It is only fair they do that to what looks to be a promising 25-year-old right-hander. Nova’s 15-game winning streak is over but he certainly is capable of pitching better than he did this week. So you have to continue to roll with him.

But when Pettitte returns you have to make a move to take one person out of the rotation and there is no better candidate than Hughes.

If you look at the period of time Hughes was most successful it was when he was the setup man for Rivera during the Yankees second-half push to the playoffs and the world championship in 2009. His bullpen numbers were even better than Rivera’s numbers that season.

In 2010, he was needed as a starter and he won 18 games. However, after the second half of 2010 it was obvious he was not the same pitcher he was before the All-Star break that season. His year-long struggles with weakness in his right shoulder in 2011 bore that out.

So far in 2012, Hughes has not struggled with velocity. He is back to throwing an average of 92 mph and getting up to 94 and 95 with ease. But he also has been victimized by the longball and he is carrying a 1-4 record with a 7.48 ERA after five starts.

In the past the presence of Robertson, Soriano and Chamberlain made it impossible for Hughes to shift back to the bullpen. But with Soriano and Robertson sharing the eighth and ninth innings and Chamberlain likely out for the season it would seem to make sense to try Hughes in the seventh inning role that Chamberlain, Robertson and lately Soriano have made so vital.

I do understand that once you shift Hughes to that role there is no shifting him back to a starting role. But if Phelps eventually falters you can always give Garcia another try and there also is a number options that can made through trades and signing of free agents.

I have heard Roy Oswalt’s name and I hope that is all I hear about him because he has a chronic back condition that makes him risky. However, the Yankees have a farm system rich enough to be able to make trades to acquire 2013 free-agents-to-be like Matt Cain of the Giants and Cole Hamels of the Phillies. Cashman has this option in his back pocket through the end of July and he will have plenty of time to evaluate the need for that trade by that time.

The Yankees also are looking at having former Mariners closer David Aardsma to add to the bullpen. He could perhaps also take the seventh inning role if he is healthy. But I think they need to keep Hughes in mind as a potential player in the bullpen because I still believe he can shine there.

For one thing he can shelve his awful secondary pitches like his change-up and concentrate on his fastball, curve and cutter. His velocity should also move up to the 97 mph mark he used to throw and that wll cover for a lot of mistakes in his location he makes as a starter.

We will see how it plays out but the Yankees just need to get Swisher and Gardner back on the field and hopefully Robinson Cano will stop hitting like Luis Sojo in time for the Yankees make a run at the 2012 playoffs.

They may as well try because they are now finding there are much lower expectations on this team now.


Orioles Wing It Past Yankees With Run In Ninth



TAMPA – Ronny Paulino singled up the middle to score L.J. Hoes in the top of the ninth inning to break a 3-3 tie on Thursday night as Baltimore defeated New York in a Grapefruit League contest at Steinbrenner Field.

Orioles reliever Pedro Strop (1-1) pitched a scoreless inning in the eighth to get credit for the victory. Pat Neshek fanned two in a perfect ninth inning to earn a save. D.J. Mitchell (2-1) was tagged with the loss.

The Yankees trailed most of the game 3-1 until they tied it up in the seventh inning when Derek Jeter drove in Eduardo Nunez from third on a groundout. Raul Ibanez drove in the Yankees’ other two runs on a solo home run in the second inning and an RBI single in the sixth.

The Orioles’ attack was led by Matt Wieters, who stroked a double and a triple and scored two runs, and Mark Reynolds, who twice drove in Wieters with a groundball error off the glove of Alex Rodriguez and a double.

With the loss, the Yankees’ spring record fell to 13-11. The Orioles are 11-11.


  • The Yankees now have their lefty DH in Ibanez. With his 2-for-3 night and two RBIs, Ibanez has raised his spring average to .125 and he is showing signs he will be able to contribute to the team’s offense as he did with the Phillies last season when he had 20 home runs and 84 RBIs.
  • David Phelps started for the Yankees and gave up three runs (two earned) on seven hits in five innings. However, he gets major kudos for getting out of a jam with runners on second and third and no outs in the fifth. Phelps struck out Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Wieters in succession. Phelps, a Notre Dame alumnus, will start his season at Triple-A Empire State.
  • Outfielder Chris Dickerson made a spectacular catch in right-field on a long drive off the bat of Orioles DH Nick Johnson in the seventh inning. He grabbed the ball at the top of the wall as his back slammed into it at the top of his leap.


  • The infield at Steinbrenner Field is hard because a lack of rain this spring but the Yankees were very sloppy in the field. Rodriguez chose to play Reynolds’ bouncer to the side and it bounced over his glove to cost the Yankees one run. Jeter made an off-target throw to first in the fourth inning that cost the Yankees another run. In the ninth, second baseman Bill Hall actually should have made the play on Paulino’s grounder up the middle that won it for the Orioles.
  • Andruw Jones was 0-for-2 at the plate and is hitting .190 this spring. In addition, Jones was slow to reach Wieters’ triple in the second inning and a double by Johnson that bounced over Mark Teixeira’s head in the fifth inning. Jones can catch anything hit near him but his legs are pretty much shot at age 34.
  • Nunez continues to impress this spring. he was 1-for-3 with a stolen base and is hitting .387 so far.


Curtis Granderson returned to the lineup as the DH on Thursday and was 1-for-3. Granderson has been sidelined for a few games due to some soreness in his right elbow. Manager Joe Girardi said if it had been a regular-season game Granderson would have played in the field. The injury is not considered serious.  . . .  Meanwhile, Nick Swisher is making progress with his sore right groin and he is expected to play for the Yankees on Friday. Swisher has been playing in some minor-league games the past few days.  . . .  Ivan Nova gave up three runs in 7 1/3 innings against the Blue Jays’ Triple-A team on Thursday. Nova, who is sporting a gaudy 6.86 ERA possibly could be in danger of losing a spot in the starting rotation.  . . .  Girardi said Thursday that the loser in the battle for starting rotation spots may not necessarily pitch out of the bullpen. That means if Nova or Michael Pineda do not win spots they could be sent to the minor leagues. It is unlikely the Yankees would send veterans Phil Hughes or Freddy Garcia to the minors.


The Yankees remain home to play their last game under the lights at Steinbrenner Field and it will be against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Yankees are expected to start Pineda in his sixth outing of the spring. He will be opposed by right-hander Michael Stutes.

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


Yankees’ Move Of Posada To DH A Bold Masterstroke

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:
In all the Debbie Downer moments surrounding Cliff Lee’s decision to wear Phillies pinstripes instead of the Yankees, the decision to sign free agent Russell Martin to take over the full-time catching duties was a stroke of genius.
That gave the Yankees the luxury to make Jorge Posada a full-time DH. To say his placement in this position is a vast improvement from last season is an understatement.
Last season, general manager Brian Cashman eschewed budget-busting free-agent signings to bring in old friend Nick Johnson as the team’s full-time DH. At 31, Johnson had a reputation of being a good hitter with a great batting eye and a high on-base percentage.
That made him perfect fit for the No. 2 spot in the batting order, where he could advance runners and get on base for Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. It would have worked if only the one negative in Johnson’s game did not rear its ugly head — early.
On May 7, after only 24 games, the oft-hurt Johnson went down with what would become a season-ending wrist injury. He hit .167 with two home runs and eight RBIs. If it is any consolation, and it isn’t, Johnson did have a .388 on-base percentage because he drew 24 walks.
The rest of the season the Yankees used Marcus Thames, Lance Berkman and a collection of regulars like Posada who required days off in the field to fill the DH spot. 
But it hardly was the same as 2009 with Hideki Matsui hitting 28 home runs, driving in 90 runs and hitting .274. The Yankees got considerably less than that from their DH in 2010 and it showed.
The Yankees can’t undo the decision to let Matsui go but they can make the position stronger by using Posada there.
Posada never will be accused of being in the league of Ivan Rodriguez or Johnny Bench as a defensive catcher. He also was never great at throwing out runners after shoulder surgery after the 2008 season.
But Posada has always been able to hit. Now the Yankees are asking him to do just that and they hope they get what Posada averaged in his last three healthy seasons: 20 home runs, 85 RBIs and a .275 average.
Those totals are very close to those that Matsui posted in 2009 and the Yankees would be happy if the 39-year-old veteran can provide that for them this season. 
Because of the Yankees rich history in catchers, Posada is often overshadowed by greats like Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey and Thurman Munson. But 2010 will mark the first season since 2000 when Posada took over as the full-time catcher after sharing it for two seasons before with a fellow named Joe Girardi.
Posada became synonymous with Yankee success. He was part of the “Core Four” along with Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. With Pettitte’s retirement it now becomes the “Spree Three” and Posada will be working under the final year of his four-year contract.
Posada’s 2010 season was a painful one. He went down in mid-May with a calf injury that placed him on the disabled list. When he returned he then had to endure a season of nagging injuries to his finger and foot from foul tips.
He hit an awful .248 but he did contribute 18 home runs and 57 RBis in 120 games. He made 78 starts behind the plate and committed eight errors. But what really hurt was the fact he committed eight passed balls and caught only 13 out of 85 base-stealers (15%).
With teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels determined to turn games into track meets, Posada and his lax starting pitchers gave up the most steals in baseball. So turning Posada into a full-time DH at this stage of his career seems to make sense.
Martin won the National League Gold Glove award in 2007. In his career, he has fielded at a .990 clip and he has thrown out 156 base-stealers in 496 attempts (31%). The Angels and Rays may think better of running wild on Martin in 2011.
So the theory goes that Posada, not burdened as a catcher, will be able to avoid a lot of the nagging injuries that sidelined him last year. Of course, Posada could still get hurt hitting or running the bases. But the Yankees think they have lessened the odds.
With Francisco Cervelli around to provide backup duties for Martin, Posada will likely catch very little this season, barring injury to Martin or Cervelli. The Yankees even have a 21-year-old star catcher in the making Jesus Montero around to call up from Triple-A, if needed.
So Posada’s days of catching. if not over, will be limited this season. That is a good thing.
The Yankees also have 33-year-old outfielder Andruw Jones to use at DH this season. Jones could be used to face tough left-handers on days when Posada may need a rest. But Jones also would take over as full-time DH if Posada is injured.
Jones hits for power and he had 19 home runs and drove in 48 runs in only 278 at-bats with the White Sox last season. He also owns 10 Gold Gloves and he still play either corner outfield spot.
Posada himself is also going to play some in the field this season besides at catcher. He is slated to be the backup at first base for Teixeira. Posada will not play anywhere close to the Gold Glove-quality defense Teixeira does but as a former second baseman in the minors, Posada handles the position better than you would think.
He has not made an error at first base since the year 2000. Of course, he has played in only 28 games at first and 14 of those he started.
Look to see Posada at first a lot this spring working on his skills.
The Yankees also will look to use the DH spot to give rest to Rodriguez, Teixeira and Jeter. It may only amount to a handful of games but Girardi is determined these veterans receive occasional days off to keep them fresh for the stretch drive.
Posada has always said he never liked to pinch-hit or DH because he felt he was not good at it. But now that the Yankees have asked their veteran catcher to put his mitt aside, he has embraced it and he is looking forward to the challenge.
Posada knows he is filling a valuable spot and he very well could succeed in his new role in 2011. He hopes it is a season with some champagne and his sixth World Series ring included.

Yankees Counting On Teixeira To Rebound In 2011

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:

To quote the famous Charles Dickens opening line in the “Tale of Two Cities” the Yankee portion of Mark Teixeira’s career has been both “the best of times and the worst of times.”
The championship season of 2009 could not have been better for Teixeira. He hit .292 with an American League-leading 39 home runs and 122 RBIs. He also brought the most sparkling defensive play to first base Yankee fans had seen since Don Mattingly retired after the 1995 season.
Teixiera finished second in the voting for the A.L. Most Valuable Player award while helping lead the Yankees to their 27th world championship.
His second season, however, was the worst of times.
Teixiera got off to his usual slow start. But this one was the worst of his career. On May 7, Teixiera was hitting .181 with two home runs and 14 RBIs. After briefly rebounding in May, Teixeira struggled to hit .250 in June.
At the All-Star break, Teixeira had raised his average to .254 with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs. So he was primed for a big second half and could still reach his usual targets in home runs and RBIs.
But his comeback in the second half was short-circuited by a right thumb injury he suffered diving for a ball in Chicago on Aug. 28 and a foul ball he hit off his left pinky toe on Sept. 1 in the Bronx in a game against Oakland.
Teixeira played through the pain in his thumb and his broken toe all through September. He probably would not have unless the Yankees did not need him for a pennant push. But he did and the result was disastrous.
Teixiera hit .220 from Sept. 1 on with just three home runs and 13 RBIs. Clearly, Teixiera was not the same player offensively leading into the playoffs and it showed. He hit a miserable .148 with a home run and 3 RBIs until a pulled hamstring in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Rangers ended his season a game before the Yankees were eliminated themselves.
Bad times, indeed.
Teixeira ended the regular season with 33 home runs and 108 RBIs, the seventh straight season in which he had topped 30 homers and 100 RBIs. Only two other players have longer streaks: teammate Alex Rodriguez (13 seasons) and Albert Pujols (10 seasons).
But Teixiera ended up hitting .256, the lowest mark of his career. He is a career .286 hitter and had three seasons of hitting .300 or better. Clearly, 2010 was not a season to remember despite the fact Teixiera continued to play the exceptional defense he always has played.
In 149 games, Teixeira made only three errors all season and he collected his fourth Rawlings Gold Glove award in the past six seasons. His ability to scoop balls in the dirt and corral high throws also saved the Yankees’ infielders even more errors.
Shortstop Derek Jeter and second baseman Robinson Cano also won Gold Gloves, making this infield the most decorated infield in the history of baseball. The Yankees can claim either a reigning or former Gold Glove winner at every position in the infield, including catcher with the signing of Russell Martin.
Martin (2), Teixeira (4), Cano (1), Jeter (5) and Rodriguez (2, won as a shortstop) have a combined 14 Gold Gloves between them. This has to be considered one of the best defensive infields in baseball history despite the limited ranges between Jeter and Rodriguez. 
You can say two things: This infield does not beat itself with mistakes and they do not make errors on the balls to which they do reach. Tex, 30, was a huge part of that with his exceptional range at first and his ability to save throwing errors.
The only real question leading into the 2011 season is which type of season will Teixeira have at the plate. Will it be like 2009 or will be like 2010?
All we have to go on is reports from Teixeira that all the injuries have healed and he is in good shape heading into camp. You would have to give Teixeira the benefit of the doubt there because in his eight major-league seasons, he has played less than 145 games just once. In 2007 he played in only 132 games.
But with Teixeira turning 31 on April 11, he may begin to require an occasional day off here and there during the season. The Yankees need their No.3 hitter and defensive stalwart at first base healthy all season and throughout the playoffs to have any hope of winning their 28th world title.
In 2010 Teixeira was backed up originally by DH Nick Johnson. However, the historically brittle first baseman injured his wrist on May 7, required surgery and missed the rest of the season. He was released and he currently is a free agent.
The Yankees also used Cuban-born farmhand Juan Miranda at the position. But Miranda was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks this winter. And trade deadline acquisition Lance Berkman took over as the primary backup for most of the rest of the season.
After a successful last month and a strong playoff run, Berkman chose not to re-sign with the Yankees and signed instead with the St. Louis Cardinals for the 2011 season.
So the Yankees will use right-fielder Nick Swisher as a backup to Teixeira this season. Swisher played 20 games at the position in 2009 and six games in 2010. While his glovework will not remind anyone of Mattingly or Teixeira, Swisher has committed only one error at the position and there is certainly not much of a dropoff in offensive production when he plays first base.
The Yankees also plan to use former starting catcher and new DH Jorge Posada at the position this season. Posada has been inserted into 28 games as a first baseman in his career and he started 14 of them. Although he is not considered a good defender at first, he has made only one error at the position. 
His abilities as a hitter also make the position solid if Teixeira is out of the lineup. However, the Yankees can ill afford to have Teixeira injured for a long period of time. Swisher and Posada are best used as temporary stopgaps and as late-inning replacements.
The Yankees have no young minor-league prospects at this position with Miranda having been traded. So they invited third baseman Eric Chavez to camp as a non-roster invitee.
If Chavez, 33, makes the team it will be as a reserve third baseman and first baseman. Chavez is a former Oakland A’s All-Star and Gold Glove third baseman. In fact, he won the Gold Glove award at third base for six consecutive seasons from 2001-2006. 
However, he has not played a full season in the major
leagues since 2005. Back and neck injuries have limited him to just 64 games over the past three seasons. Chavez left Oakland to try to make it in a place where there was less pressure on him to succeed.
So he signed a minor-league contract that will pay him $1.5 million if he makes the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. Chavez just needs to prove he is healthy and he can still swing a bat. From 2001 to 2005 Chavez averaged 30 homers and 98 RBIs. Staring at those numbers, the Yankees were more than willing to give him a shot to make the team and prove he still can hit off the bench.
At the Triple-A level the Yankees have Jorge Vazquez. However, the 29-year-old native of Mexico does not look to have the same promise as Miranda did. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Vazquez hit .310 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs. But his age leaves him out the prospect discussion.
The Yankees are very weak at the first base position in the minors. The only other prospect here is Luke Murton, 24, who hit .282 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs in 106 games with the Charleston River Dogs of the Class-A South Atlantic League. His .361 on-base percentage was very impressive and he should progress to Double-A Trenton this season.
But with Teixeira entrenched at first base for the next eight seasons, it unlikely the Yankees will be looking for a replacement real soon.

Cashman’s 2011 Moves Need To Be Better Than 2010

ORLANDO, FL – Brian Cashman is truly the New York Yankees’ version of the Teflon Man.
The team’s general manager since 1998, Cashman has outlasted any general manager in the George Steinbrenner era and he is in pretty cozy with the current Hank Steinbrenner regime.
His job is like that of circus performing plate spinner. Trying to keep negotiations going on many fronts at the same time. Sometimes, like in 2009, Cashman gets lucky. After signing CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to improve the pitching staff, Mark Teixeira’s wife suggested to her husband that he contact the Yankees if he really wanted to play for them.
That free agent haul spurred Cashman and the Yankees to their 27th world championship.
But then there are years like 2010. 
Cashman’s first big winter move was the acquisition of outfielder Curtis Granderson in a three-way trade with Detroit and Arizona that cost the Yankees starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, young outfielder Austin Jackson and left-handed reliever Phil Coke.
Granderson, 29, was dreadful out of the gate, got injured, stunk so more and rescued his season late by getting some tips from hitting coach Kevin Long. Granderson hit .249 in 2009, which spurred the Tigers to want to trade him. For the Yankees in 2010, Granderson hit .247.
The Yankees just hope the Granderson they saw in September (He hit .278 with nine home runs and 23 RBIs) is the real Granderson because they are stuck with him contractually for three more years.
In the meantime, Jackson nearly won the American League Rookie of the Year award. He hit .293 with four home runs and 41 RBIs and stole 27 bases as the team’s leadoff hitter. At age 23, Jackson has a very high upside.
Coke, 28, was 7-5 with a 3.76 ERA. But that does not tell the whole story. The Tigers were so pleased with Coke’s work out of the bullpen they are considering making him a starter next season. The Yankees big loss was Coke’s work out of the bullpen in 2009. They missed not having him in 2010.
Kennedy, 25, was 9-10 with an excellent 3.80 ERA with an offensively challenged Arizona Diamondbacks club. True, he might be one of those dreaded “National League pitchers.” But could he have been any worse than Javier Vazquez?
That brings us to Cashman’s other 2010 trade. He shipped Melky Cabrera and young left-hander Michael Dunn to the Atlanta Braves in return for Vazquez and lefty reliever Boone Logan. 
Vazquez was coming off a 15-10 season with the Braves. He finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting. But Cashman made two big mistakes here.
No. 1: Cashman brought back the pitcher most associated with the disastrous 2004 ALCS series with the Boston Red Sox. Vazquez surrendered the grand slam home run to Johnny Damon and Yankee fans did not let him forget it.
No. 2: Cashman forgot that pitchers’ success in the National League does not translate to the American League. Vazquez was 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA and pitched less than 200 innings for only the second time since 1999. Both of those seasons Vazquez toiled for the Yankees.
To be fair to Cashman, he had no way of knowing that Vazquez would just lose his velocity on his fastball. But that is not unusual for a 34-year-old pitcher. Vazquez will not be back with the Yankees in 2010. For his sake, we hope he ends up on a team with a huge ballpark in the National League.
Cabrera was a disappointment in Atlanta. He hit .255 with four home runs and 42 RBIs. The Braves released him on Oct. 18. Meanwhile, Dunn was 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in 25 appearances with the Braves. Dunn was just packaged in a trade for Dan Uggla of the Florida Marlins. At age 25, he has a bright future as a left-handed reliever.
Cashman was just lucky that Logan did not pitch like he did in Atlanta. Logan was 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 51 games with the Yankees. So basically the Dunn for Logan deal was a wash. Since Cabrera was released and Vazquez has pitched his way out of New York this is a deal that really helped neither club.
To really assess Cashman you have to look at his free-agent signings. Instead of the high-priced talent he sought in 2009, Cashman looked instead for some good picks among the low-hanging fruit.
To replace the eventual departures of Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Eric Hinske and Jerry Hariston Jr., Cashman first signed oft-injured former Yankee Nick Johnson as a potential full-time DH.
Bad move.
Johnson didn’t even make it through the first week of spring training unscathed. He wore cleats to batting practice and they got stuck in the artificial surface around the batting cage and he wrenched his back.
Cashman should have seen that as a sign of what was to come. Johnson, 32, played in just 24 games before suffering yet another wrist injury that required surgery and shelved him for another season. Goodbye, Nick — again!
Cashman also signed veteran outfielder Randy Winn to compete with Brett Gardner for the left-field job Damon owned. Winn struggled all through spring training and he ended up being released after 61 at-bats in which he hit .213. 
Instead of a veteran utility infielder like Hairston, Cashman elected to stick with 25-year-old farmhand Ramiro Pena. Pena played good defense and he had some clutch RBIs among his 18 he drove in But he hit only .227.
Hairston hit .244 with 10 home runs and 50 RBis for a good Padres team. Meanwhile, Hinske hit .258 with 11 home runs and 58 RBis with the Braves, helping them to a wild-card spot.
So a fair assessment of Cashman’s 2010 winter moves was very, very poor. Instead of strengthening the Yankees in 2010, he made them weaker. Though he was eventually astute in allowing Damon and Matsui to walk as free agents, none of his off-season moves really made a major impact on the Yankees except for one.
His last addition to the team was to sign free-agent Marcus Thames as reserve outfielder and part-time DH. Though Thames struggled in spring training and he missed a month with a ankle injury, he provided power off the bench against left-handers. Thames hit .288 with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs.
Many of his home runs came in a stretch in August where Alex Rodriguez was injured and Thames provided the punch the Yankees needed until Rodriguez returned.
The only salvation to Cashman’s 2010 season besides Thames was his trade deadline moves to acquire reliever Kerry Wood, DH Lance Berkman and outfielder Austin Kearns. Wood was sensational as a setup man for Mariano Rivera.
Berkman, after he recovered from an ankle injury, actually provided clutch hitting down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Kearns, however, was a bust. In 102 at-bats with the Yankees, Kearns struck out 38 times. That means
he struck out just over one out of every three at-bats in pinstripes. He is free-agent this winter and he will not be re-signed by the Yankees.
So how does Cashman keep his job?
He signs Cliff Lee, gets Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera back into the fold and convince Andy Pettitte to pitch one more season. He also will likely add some arms the rotation and bullpen and pick up a few spare parts for the bench.
Cashman has proven that you are only as good as your last move. The good news is most Yankee fans have forgotten the dreadful moves he made last winter. They don’t seem to blame him for the loss in the ALCS to the Rangers.
That is Cashman’s true gift. A real Teflon Man.

Injuries Short-Circuit Tex’s Second-Half Surge At Plate

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:


Mark Teixeira (33 HRs, 108 RBIs, .256 Avg.)

In 2009, Mark Teixeira was the second-best player in the American League, according to the writers who voted Joe Mauer the league’s Most Valuable Player. Tex finished second in the voting after a season in which he hit 39 home runs, drove in a league-best 122 runs and hit .292.
Despite a 2010 season in which he hit just six fewer home runs and drove in 14 less runs, Teixeira won’t likely garner a single MVP vote this season.
The reason is that his habitually slow start with the bat extended well into May and Teixeira ended up hitting a paltry .256, some 30 points below his career .286 average. Even Teixeira would admit that he was disappointed in his performance this season.
One area of concern is that Teixiera hit only .247 batting left-handed this season and opposing managers actually kept right-handers in to face him and Alex Rodriguez this season. That is something that did not happen often in 2009.
The 30-year-old first baseman did hit a respectable .273 with runners in scoring position and he batted a ridiculous .533 with the bases loaded. But somehow it seemed that in key situations, when the Yankees really needed a hit, Teixiera did not come through as consistently as he had in the past.
Fortunately, for Yankee fans, Teixeira contributes so much more than hits and home runs. Teixeira is simply the best fielding first baseman in baseball and he had another stellar season with the glove this season.
Teixeira committed only three errors at first base and he boasts the largest range of any first baseman in baseball. Getting a ball past him is tough to do. In addition, Teixeira cuts down on errors by taking balls to the bag rather than flipping to the pitcher and by his amazing dexterity at scooping balls in the infield.
Robinson Cano made only three errors, Derek Jeter committed only six and Alex Rodriguez was charged with seven. One of the reasons this infield commits so few errors is because Teixeira saves so many with his ability to catch anything close to him.
Teixeira is simply the best fielding first baseman the Yankees have had since Teixeira’s hero Don Mattingly. So, low batting average or not, Teixeira still contributed greatly to the Yankees’ success.
What really hurt Teixeira’s season was a pair of injuries he suffered with a few days each other in late August. In a game at Chicago, Teixeira jammed his left thumb diving for a foul ball. A few days later he was struck by a pitch on his right little toe. He has been playing with a broken toe ever since.
Though Teixiera said the toe and thumb injuries did not inhibit him in any way, his .220 average with three home runs and 13 RBIs after Sept. 1 tell a different story. In the previous two months Teixiera produced 17 home runs and 47 RBIs while hitting .316.
So Teixeira enters the playoffs with a huge question mark. The Yankees count on him for power and production in the No. 3 spot in the batting order and they have not been getting it lately.
Teixeira received a grade of C for his first half, largely because he hit .243. His second half surge was well under way when suffered those two injuries. It likely cost him an A for the second half. He gets a B- for his second half.
But the overall grade of C+ is disappointing to him and to the Yankees. His A+ fielding could not make up for the long droughts at he plate.
In the first half of the season the Yankees used Nick Johnson at first base to spell Texeira for two games. But a season-ending wrist injury took Johnson out the equation at first base. So Nick Swisher filled in there for game. Juan Miranda was called up from the minors and he started there for four games.
But the Yankees acquired Lance Berkman at the trade deadline as a DH and part-time first baseman and he started there in seven games. Teixiera started 148 games at first, which is down from last season largely due to the thumb and toe injuries.
Neither Berkman, Swisher or Miranda can come anywhere near Teixeira’s prowess in the field and only Swisher can match his production at the plate. But they all provided adequate backup for the veteran first baseman.
Miranda. 27, likely will not make the playoff roster. Berkman and Swisher will back up Teixeira in the playoffs. Miranda hit .285 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with 14 home runs and 65 RBIs in 80 games. He split time with Jorge Vazquez, 28, who hit .270 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs in 78 games. 
Neither Miranda or Vazquez are considered long-term major-league prospects given their age. Both obviously are blocked by Teixeira, who has six years remaining on his contract. 

Teixeira said that his broken toe likely would not heal until after the season is over. That is too bad because the Yankees need Teixeira’s bat in the playoffs. The ill-timed injuries spoiled a nice comeback second half for him.
The Yankees know they can count on Tex to field his position. He simply is the best in baseball and that won’t change despite the injury. But his production at the plate is sorely needed and the Yankees have to hope he provides it.
No matter what happens in October, Teixeira knows he must do a lot better in 2011 than he did this season. The late starts are okay as long they come with great finishes. This season there was no late kick and the Yankees really needed it in September.

A-Rod’s Latest RBI Binge Indicates First Half Slide Is Over

It is the halfway point of the season for the New York Yankees and you all know what that means. That’s right, it’s time to had out grades for the first term. Some of our Yankees were scholars and some need some remedial work. But with the best record in baseball the Yankees already have a great grade as a team. The funny thing is that they have not really pushed themselves and there is still potential to be even better in the second half. Let’s start evaluating the positions and players.


Alex Rodriguez

Entering the 2010 season, Alex Rodriguez seemed primed for a monster season. After all, he received a clean bill of health on his surgically repaired hip, the steroid issue that clouded him last spring was not a hot topic anymore and he was coming off a triumphant MVP-like performance in last season’s playoffs.
And, by the way, he won his first championship ring.
But the first half of the 2010 season has not been “monster” and much more like “pedestrian” judging by Rodriguez’s standards.
The biggest issue was the power outage. Rodriguez reached the halfway point with just 12 home runs. He wasn’t even leading the Yankees in that category. Robinson Cano had 16.
The batting average was at .276, well below his career batting average of .304. The only statistic Rodriguez could point to was his team-leading 62 RBIs. But 18 of those 62 RBIs came in the last 12 games leading up to the halfway point.
So to say that A-Rod’s first half performance was weak and well below his standards is just putting it mildly.
But his recent resurgence in power and production is an indication that Rodriguez could be primed for a huge second half at the plate. That is not such a stretch when you consider that Rodriguez has averaged 43 home runs and 123 RBIs in his past 12 seasons.
One of the realities Rodriguez has had to cope with this season is that at his age (He will be 36 on July 27) and with his hip issues he will have to rest more. He has missed nine games (10 starts) due to an unrelated hip flexor problem and periodic days off Girardi has given him to keep him healthy.
A-Rod also must contend with the fact that his days of stealing 20 bases are pretty much over. Rodriguez stole 14 last season but has only two this season. He also has been caught twice.
The hip issues also have robbed A-Rod of some range and agility in the field. Though his range has looked better after the hip flexor issue, it is still not the range he had in his early days with the Yankees when he first moved from shortstop.
Last season, Rodriguez had only nine errors. This season is roughly on that pace with five errors. The Yankees, though, will take their cleanup hitter’s bat as long as he makes the routine plays in the field and limits his throwing errors.
I thought about giving Rodriguez a C for his first half. The power numbers were pretty bad and the average was down so much from his career marks. But as long as Rodriguez is driving in runs in droves as he has been the past two weeks, you have to give him a B-.
The fact that most of this season the Yankees have been getting subpar production out of Mark Teixeira in the No. 3 spot and Rodriguez in the cleanup spot, it is a miracle they reached the halfway point with the best record in baseball.
But it also points to how much better they can be now that Teixeira and Rodriguez are producing runs and hitting for average. This can’t be good news for American League pitchers. It is a good bet that challenging Tex and A-Rod will come at a heavy price from now on.
When Rodriguez is rested, Ramiro Pena fills in for Rodriguez (six starts) as well as Kevin Russo (three starts). Obviously, neither has the bat to compensate for A-Rod but Pena is very good defensively and Russo is not as good at third but he is better hitter than Pena.
With the team’s DH Nick Johnson still out until at least August, look for Girardi to continue to rotate Rodriguez into an occasional DH role and a complete day off every two or three weeks the rest of the way.
The Yankees do not have a viable third base candidate at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Journeyman Eric Bruntlett is playing the position at Scranton but is not likely to be called up. 
But tucked away at Double-A Trenton is Brandon Laird, who has 19 home runs and 81 RBIs with a .283 average. Laird’s brother Gerald is a catcher with the Detroit Tigers and the 22-year-old Laird is looking like a an up-and-coming prospect. But he is at least two years away from making the majors and he has A-Rod blocking his path.

Rodriguez gets a B- but the overall position falls back to C+ because when A-Rod is out of the lineup for nine games, the offense has to suffer some. Pena and Russo are just adequate as replacements. There could be a need before the trade deadline for an experienced utility infielder with a more potent bat that Pena.
But every indication is that the grade for this position will likely be much higher in the second half. Rodriguez already is showing signs of that with his two home run, five RBI night against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night
His 67 RBIs are the third best total in the majors and the American League. Just think what Rodriguez can do when he starts raising his average and starts jacking home runs at his usual rate.
Look out for Alex in the second half.

Tex’s Early Struggles Appear Over As Second Half Starts

It is the halfway point of the season for the New York Yankees and you all know what that means. That’s right, it’s time to had out grades for the first term. Some of our Yankees were scholars and some need some remedial work. But with the best record in baseball the Yankees already have a great grade as a team. The funny thing is that they have not really pushed themselves and there is still potential to be even better in the second half. Let’s start evaluating the positions and players.


Mark Teixeira

Coming into the 2010 season the least of the Yankees’ worries was first baseman Mark Teixeira. After all, their free agent signee was coming off a season in which he tied for the American League lead in home runs (39), led the A.L. in RBIs (122), won a Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger award at first base.
Oh, the Yankees were well aware of his annual struggles in April. But in 2010 the Yankees were not prepared for his struggles after April.
After hitting a career worst .136 in April with two home runs and nine RBIs, Teixeira seemed to break out it in May, when he hit .280 with six home runs and 25 RBIs. 
But June was a month of regression and Teixeira was simply MIA through most of the month. It has only been in his last 16 games that Teixeira has been consistently getting hits, providing power and driving in runs.
In that span Texeira is hitting .323 with four home runs and 16 RBIs. The fact that the Yankees had the best record in baseball with their No. 3 hitter mired in the worst slump in his career actually speaks volumes of what may be possible if Teixeira finishes 2010 just like he did in 2009.
You have heard many so-called baseball experts say “Isn’t it amazing that with all the struggles (fill-in-the-blank) has had at the plate that he does not carry it into the field.”
It is nonsense. Just because Teixeira is not hitting does not mean he is going to start dropping foul pops, firing double-play relays into left-field and muff easy grounders. Teixeira is an extraordinary defender and his hitting never will affect those skills.
This season Teixeira is showing he deserves a second Gold Glove. He has only one error and he still saves the infielders countless throwing errors with his ability to scoop and stretch for errant tosses.
It is also a good thing that Teixeira is a durable player. The plan for 2010 was to give Tex some days off at first by putting him at DH and playing Nick Johnson, a pretty good fielder in his own right, at first.
That plan added up to two games that Johnson started. He is now on the DL and he is not due back until August at the earliest. So Teixeira likely will continue to start just about every game at first base until Johnson returns.
As long as Teixeira continues to hit and produce like his capable, that will be no problem for manager Joe Girardi.
Teixeira’s overall first half grade is a C. His fielding counts for most of it and there is hope that he can continue to pull that batting average up. On April 16, Teixeira was batting .083. At the midway point he was hitting .243. 
Considering he is career .287 hitter, it looks like he is on his way back to respectable numbers and can look forward to a productive second half.
Down on the farm, the Yankees have Juan Miranda, who started three games first base earlier in the season. Miranda, 27, is hitting .280 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Miranda was sent back down but could be recalled if the Yankees fail to acquire a bench player who can play first and hit left-handed or if Johnson’s wrist problems keep him out the rest of the season.

The Yankees rely on Teixeira to hit for power and drive in runs. They did not get either from him consistently in the first half. But he has put together six consecutive seasons in which he hit 30 or more home runs and driven in 105 or more runs. 
Teixeira had 13 home runs and 53 RBIs at the midway point. So there is every indication that the 30-year-old veteran first baseman will meet or exceed those numbers again. Johnson’s return would help with depth at the position and could allow Teixeira to take day off or DH a bit down the stretch.

Beckett Unravels In Sixth As Yanks, Hughes Cruise 10-3


By the time Josh Beckett walked off the Fenway Park mound in the sixth inning he had gone from the sublime to the ridiculous in one short inning.
When his night was through he had set a record for most strikeouts in a start against the Yankees while at the same time surrendering nine earned runs — six of them in the sixth inning.
The New York Yankees took advantage of the unraveling of Beckett and cruised to a 10-3 victory over the Red Sox on Friday behind the mature beyond his years pitching of Phil Hughes.
Hughes (4-0) outdueled the so-called Boston ace by giving up two runs on seven hits and a walk in seven innings and remain undefeated on the season. He kept the Red Sox off-balance at the plate all night and finished with seven strikeouts.
Beckett (1-1) pitched four innings in the game in which he had given up just a single and struck out six batters. But the other 1 1/3 innings he gave up eights hits, three walks, hit two batters and was victimized for nine earned runs. His ERA this season after six starts is now 7.46.
So much for the Red Sox Nation claim that their heartthrobs have the best rotation in baseball. If Beckett is their best they are in big trouble, judging by his meltdown in the sixth inning.
The victory for the Yankees gave them a record of 20-8 and they are 1 1/2 games in back of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox, who came into the game hoping to get back into the A.L. East race, fell to 15-15 and 7 1/2 games out of first place and fourth in the division.

  • Hughes was in command all night and showed no signs of being intimidated by the Red Sox, unlike his mound opponent Beckett, who did not handle adversity very well. Hughes’ ERA did rise from 1.44 to 1.69 but I do not think Hughes cares since he outdueled Beckett and sent a message that he is to be reckoned with in future games in this rivalry.
  • Nick Swisher started the unraveling of Beckett in the fourth inning. After a one-out walk to Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez singled and Robinson Cano struck out. But Swisher battled Beckett back from an 0-2 count to 2-2 and deposited a hanging breaking ball in the deepest part of center-field over the wall for his sixth home run of the season. He now has 20 RBIs on the season.
  • Francisco Cervelli, starting his third straight game in place of the injured Jorge Posada, was 2-for-3 with a two singles, a walk, a run scored and an RBI. The RBI really seemed to particularly unnerve Beckett. With one out and Rodriguez and pinch-runner Ramiro Pena moving up to third and second, respectively, on a passed ball, the Red Sox chose to intentionally walk Bret Gardner to pitch to Cervelli. Cervelli had been pitched inside his last at-bat after he stepped out on Beckett. Cervelli did it again in the sixth and Beckett’s inside pitch nearly hit him. However, it came on a 3-2 pitch and Cervelli got an RBI for walking with the bases loaded. Beckett’s descent from there was precipitous.
  • Randy Winn, playing in his second game as the platoon left-fielder, contributed two hits, including a big single to left in the sixth after Cervelli’s walk. Winn’s RBI made the score 5-1.
  • Derek Jeter kept his cool and the Yankees did too after Jeter was struck on the back with the first pitch from a visibly angry Beckett after Winn’s single. Jeter drove in his team-leading 22nd run the hard way.
  • Marcus Thames, pressed into service when Nick Johnson was injured, continued Beckett’s nightmare sixth with an infield single to shortstop Marco Scutaro. It drove in another run and made the score 7-1.
  • Teixeira came up with the frosting hit that sent Beckett out of the game for good with his single to right to score Winn and the make the game a laugher at 8-1. Rodriguez would add a sacrifice fly off reliever Hideki Okajima to plate the ninth run charged to Beckett — the sixth run of the inning.

  • David Robertson came in to the game with a 10-2 lead in the eighth inning to work on his mechanics. Though he did strike out Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz in his inning of work, he also walked seldom-used bench player Jonathan Van Every and Kevin Youkilis. Those walks set up an RBI single by Adrian Beltre. Robertson did pitch better but he still needs to work on getting control of his pitches.
  • Strikeouts early killed the Yankees. Jeter, Swisher and Cano each struck out twice. Beckett’s other two victims were Johnson and Teixeira. 
  • The Yankees were not real aggressive on the bases. Of course, with the barrage of hits, Beckett’s walks, a wild pitch, two hit batters and a Jason Varitek passed ball they really did not have to be that aggressive with the running game.

The Yankees had two starters leave the game with injuries. Johnson left the game in the fifth inning with soreness in his right wrist. It appears that Johnson, who has had a litany of injuries over the course of his career, is headed to the 15-day disabled list. He is flying back to New York for an MRI. In the sixth inning, Cano was struck on the left knee by one of the many errant missiles thrown by Beckett. Cano left the game is not likely to be in the lineup on Saturday. He is listed as day-to-day.  . . .  The Yankees also announced that Andy Pettitte will not pitch in his scheduled start against the Tigers in Detroit on Tuesday. The Yankees are being cautious because Pettitte left his last start against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium with a mild inflammation in his left elbow. Sergio Mitre will start Monday and Javier Vazquez will pitch on Tuesday, the Yankees announced.  . . .  Jorge Posada took batting practice and did some light jogging but manager Joe Girardi said he would hold the veteran catcher out of the lineup for another day. Posada likely will be in the starting lineup for Saturday’s game.  . . .  The Yankees were short one position player Friday night because of their decision to recall right-hander Romulo Sanchez from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and send down outfielder Greg Golson. Sanchez, a right-hander, was 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA at Scranton.  . . .  Chan Ho Park, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring, threw 45 pitches in a bullpen session in Tampa, FL on Friday. He will pitch another session on Sunday.

With the Red Sox hopes of a sweep of the weekend series dashed by Hughes, the Yankees will have a chance to really place a another nail in their May coffin with a victory on Saturday afternoon. The Yankees will have a good chance of doing it with their ace CC Sabathia (4-1, 2.74 ERA) on the mound. 
Sabathia pitched eight innings of six-hit, one-run baseball in his last start on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium against the Orioles. In was his fourth win in his last five starts. Sabathia is 5-5 with a 6.62 ERA in 12 career starts against the Red Sox.
The Red Sox will counter with No. 5 starter Clay Buchholz (3-2, 2.97 ERA). Buchholz labored and was tagged in his last start for four runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings but he got credit for the victory against the Los Angeles Angels because the Red Sox scored 17 runs. Buchholz is 0-1 with a gaudy 5.74 ERA in three career starts against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 3:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally on FOX.