YANKEES 8, TWINS 5
There are certain baseball sluggers than fans flock to see do magical things at the plate whether they loved them or hated them. Players like Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and, yes, even Alex Rodriguez. The 40-year-old designated hitter had one of those historic nights you would have wanted to see at Target Field in Minneapolis on Saturday.
With the Yankees trailing 5-0, Rodriguez proceeded to hit three long blasts – his final home run tying the game in the top of the ninth – and John Ryan Murphy later added a tie-breaking three-run shot in the same inning off All-Star closer Glen Perkins as New York pulled victory out of the jaws of defeat on a stunned Minnesota team.
Rodriguez’s three home runs in a game marked the fifth time in his career he has done it and – two days shy of his 40th birthday – he also became the fifth oldest player in Major-League history to hit three home runs in a game behind Stan Musial (41, 229 days), Jason Giambi (40, 131 days), Jackson (40, 125 days) and Ruth (40, 108 days).
His first home run was a solo shot into the left-field bleachers off left-hander Tommy Milone with two out in the fourth inning. That was the only hit the Yankees could muster off Milone in the first six innings.
After losing to the Twins 10-1 on Friday, the Yankees were looking at a possible potential sweep of the series by the Twins on Sunday after managing just two runs in the first 15 innings of the series.
But the Yankees turned the game (and possibly the series) around after the Twins had loaded the bases with out the benefit of a hit of a hit off left-hander CC Sabathia after two were out in the sixth inning. Sabathia walked Kurt Suzuki, hit Danny Santana with a pitch and then walked Brian Dozier.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced Sabathia with right-hander Adam Warren, who managed to work into a 3-2 count on Aaron Hicks. His 3-2 pitch was called a strike by home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson.
Twins rookie manager Paul Molitor argued the call so vehemently that Nelson ejected him from the game.
The Yankees then opened the seventh with a leadoff single by Chris Young and Rodriguez followed by depositing Milone’s 1-1 pitch into the center-field bleachers for a two-run homer.
Mark Teixeira then doubled and left-hander Brian Duensing was summoned to replace Milone. Carlos Beltran launched a deep line drive to center that advanced Teixeira to third and Chase Headley scored Teixeira on a sacrifice fly.
Trailing 5-4 in the ninth, Rodriguez launched Perkins’ first offering into the center-field bleachers for his third home run of the night and 23rd of the season to tie the game.
Perkins (0-2) closed out the American League’s 6-3 victory in the 2015 All-Star Game and had blown only one save this season prior to Saturday. He carried a 1.37 ERA and a American-League-leading 29 saves into the contest.
With one out and Carlos Beltran at first after an out call at first base by umpire Tom Woodring was overturned to negate a double play, Headley laced a single to center to advance Beltran to third. Murphy, who entered the game with one career homer and none in 81 at-bats this season, sent a long drive into the center-field bleachers for a three-run home run to complete the improbable eight-run comeback.
Warren (6-5) pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief to earn the victory. Left-hander Andrew Miller pitched a perfect ninth inning to notch his 23rd save in 23 chances this season.
The Twins took an early 2-0 lead on Sabathia and the Yankees when the light-hitting Hicks followed a leadoff single by Dozier with only his fourth home run of the season.
Hicks created more trouble in the third with a leadoff bloop single to center. One out later, rookie slugger Miguel Sano rolled a ball against the shift to the right side for an infield single. Torii Hunter then cranked an opposite-field homer to right to give the Twins their seemingly insurmountable 5-0 margin.
The victory improved the Yankees’ season mark to 54-42 and they are 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. The Twins dropped to 52-45.
- These are the games that stoke legends and Rodriguez’s magical night drew the Yankees back from the depths of despair. His numbers defy explanation after missing most of the past two seasons. He is batting .277 with 23 homers and 58 RBIs. If anyone saw this coming you are a better man than me. He and Mark Teixeira have combined to hit 47 homers and drive in 123 runs with 66 games left in the season.
- The Yankees were more than content to go to the bottom of the ninth with a tie score but Murphy’s home run provided a three-run margin. Give Murphy, 24, credit for putting up a tough battle with a good closer. Backup catchers are paid to play good defense and give the starter a rest. If they provide anything offensively it is a bonus and Murphy is now hitting .271 with a homer and eight RBIs in his 23 starts.
- Sabathia may have yielded five runs on six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. But give him credit for this: From the moment Hunter cranked his 16th homer of the season, Sabathia, Warren and Miller held the Twins to just one hit (a two-out single by Suzuki in the eighth) the rest of the game. If the pitching did not keep the Twins off the board the Yankees likely would not have won.
- The Yankees pretty much were sleepwalking through this series until the seventh inning on Saturday. They had just one hit in the first six innings and ended the night with 10. In fact, they outhit the Twins 10 to 7. Phil Hughes shut them out for seven innings on Friday and Milone held them to one run in six until he finally unraveled in the seventh. That is embarrassing.
- Michael Pineda and Sabathia combined to yield 10 runs on 14 hits and three walks in 10 2/3 innings the past two nights. That is an 8.44 ERA. Starting pitching had been a strong suit of the Yankees 9-2 run up until Friday. The starters have to keep the Yankees in the game in order for them to unleash their strong bullpen.
Girardi told reporters on Saturday that the Yankees will not pitch Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday against the Texas Rangers in order to give the 26-year-old right-hander an extra day of rest. The Yankees likely will start either Warren or left-hander Chris Capuano and give each pitcher about 50 pitches. Girardi said top pitching prospect Luis Severino and right-hander Bryan Mitchell, who are both pitching at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, are not viable options. The right-handed Severino pitched on Friday and Mitchell pitched on Saturday. Tanaka will start against the Rangers on Wednesday because the team is managing his innings in the wake of his partially torn elbow ligament that sidelined him for two months last season. . . . The Yankees signed right-hander Nick Goody to a Major-League contract and called him up from Scranton to add a fresh arm to the bullpen. In order to get Goody on the 25-man roster right-hander Branden Pinder was sent back to Scranton and to get him on the 40-man roster the team designated for assignment infielder Gregorio Petit. Goody, 24, has a 1.35 ERA in five appearances at Scranton after being promoted from Double-A Trenton. Pinder, 26, had a 2.92 ERA in 11 appearances with the Yankees this season. Petit, 30, hit .167 with no homers and five RBIs in 42 at-bats with the Yankees.
The Yankees will now look to build upon their miracle comeback victory to win the three-game series with the Twins on Sunday.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (9-2, 4.43 ERA) will start the finale. Eovaldi, 25, gave up two runs on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings in a game the Yankees eventually won against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He has never faced the Twins.
Eovaldi will be opposed by right-hander Kyle Gibson (8-7, 3.19 ERA). Gibson, 27, was shelled for six runs on 10 hits and one walk with six strikeouts in five-plus innings against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday.
Game-time will be 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 9, ORIOLES 4
The 1927 Yankees with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were also characterized by the term “Five O’Clock Lightning” because somewhere around that time would come a barrage that put an opponent away. The 2015 Yankees should be called “1:30 Lightning” for their penchant for their first-inning outbursts.
They did again in style on Thursday.
Chase Headley stroked a base-clearing double with two out as part of a four-run first inning and Masahiro Tanaka pitched masterfully into the eighth as New York swept reeling Baltimore in front of a paid crowd of 46,875 at Yankee Staduim.
Jacoby Ellsbury added to the onslaught with three hits, four RBIs and finished the day just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle as the Yankees rapped out 13 hits to win their ninth game out of their past 11 to take a commanding 5 1/2 game lead in the American League East.
Tanaka (7-3) capitalized on the 9-1 lead his was given by the bottom of the fifth inning and cruised to victory despite yielding solo home runs to Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado. Tanaka gave up three runs on just five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.
The Yankees, meanwhile, immediately jumped all over right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (7-6) in the first as Ellsbury singled to left and Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez drew walks on 3-2 pitches to load the bases.
After Jimenez looked to be just about out of danger after striking out Mark Teixeira and retiring Carlos Beltran on a shallow outfield fly, Headley laced a three-run double off the center-field wall. Didi Gregorius followed with an RBI single to score Headley.
After Davis crushed a fastball into the right-field bleachers for his second home run in as many at-bats and his 21st of the season to lead off the second inning, Ellsbury delivered a long home run of his own to lead of the bottom of the inning.
The Yankees then proceeded to put the game away for good in the fourth inning after Gregorius and John Ryan Murphy reached on one-out singles. Stephen Drew delivered the knockout blow to Jimenez with a lined single to right to score Gregorius.
Right-hander Tommy Hunter replaced Jimenez and was greeted with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Ellsbury that scored Murphy to make the score 7-1.
Jimenez was charged with all seven runs on eight hits and three walks and two strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings, his shortest start of the season. In his previous outing, Jimenez also surrendered seven runs on seven hits (including three home runs) to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park last Friday.
The Yankees added a pair of runs off right-hander Bud Norris in the fifth inning on an opposite-field single by Headley and a single off the second-base bag by Murphy. Ellsbury capped his big day with a two-out, two-run double to left to pad the Yankees lead to 9-1.
Tanaka, meanwhile, was dazzling the Orioles with pinpoint command. He yielded just the one run and three hits through 7 1/3 innings until Hardy cracked a solo home run to left and, one out later, Machado laced a shot of his own for his 21st home run of the season.
It was Tanaka’s third consecutive victory in his past three starts and he has not lost a game since the Tigers defeated him 12-4 on June 21 at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees are now a season-high 53-41 and they are 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the division. The Orioles dropped to 46-48 and they trail the Yankees by seven games.
- Ellsbury was hitting .327 on July 11, one day before the All-Star break. He immediately fell into a 3-for-26 (.115) slide until Thursday’s game. He was 3-for-4 with a single, double, home run, two runs scored and added four RBIs. In order to light the match to their offense, the Yankees need Ellsbury getting on base along with Gardner. They set the table for the hitters that follow them.
- Headley is one of those players that just by definition is steady. From May 25 through Thursday Headley’s batting average has stayed within the .242 and .259 range. But since July 1, Headley is 17-for-50 (.340). Oddly though, Headley had no home runs and just seven RBIs during the streak. It is really hard to hit that well and have so little to show for it but Headley is hitting .259 with eight homers and 35 RBIs on the season.
- Forget the three homers Tanaka gave up. The 26-year-old right-hander seems to be in a nice groove over the past month. In his past four starts, Tanaka is 3-0 with a 3.18 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. If there is any doubt he is the ace of this staff he is quickly dispelling it.
Tanaka pitched exceptional baseball, the team scored nine runs and they swept a very dangerous division rival. There is no reason to complain about anything about Thursday’s effort. It is clear that after two injury-plagued seasons, the Yankees have gotten their swagger back. They look like they will be tough to beat for the A.L. East title.
The Yankees are off to Minnesota to play the Twins in a weekend series at Target Field that starts on Friday.
Right-hander Michael Pineda (9-6, 3.77 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda, 26, allowed four runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts in six innings in a 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.
The Twins will look to former Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes (8-6, 4.15 ERA). Hughes, 29, took a no-decision on Saturday against the Oakland Athletics despite giving up just one run on six hits and a walk with two strikeouts in seven innings.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, ORIOLES 3
The Pythagorean Theorem. Newton’s Law. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. You can now add to those “The Joe Girardi Formula,” which is (1) get a lead by the sixth inning (2) go to your terrific bullpen and (3) win the game.
As an equation it would read: L(6th) + B(GAS) = V
That is exactly the formula the Yankees have used all season and it worked again against the Orioles on Thursday at Yankee Stadium.
Alex Rodriguez blasted the 661st home run of his career to pass Willie Mays, Mark Teixeira drove in two runs – including a game-winning double in the fifth – and New York’s awesome bullpen held Baltimore scoreless over the final 3 1/3 innings for their 18th victory of the season.
The Yankees and Orioles were locked in a bit of a seesaw affair for five innings in a pitching matchup between right-handers Chris Tillman and Nathan Eovaldi.
The Orioles drew first blood when Jimmy Parades tagged an Eovaldi fastball into the bullpen right-center for his fourth home run of the season and an early 1-0 lead with one out in the first inning.
But the Yankees responded the bottom of the frame when Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to nine games with a leadoff single and he advanced to third on a single by Brett Gardner.
Rodriguez then launched a high-arcing ball to right that right-fielder Delmon Young grabbed off the top of the wall to rob him of what would have been No. 661. But he settled for a sacrifice fly that scored Ellsbury. Teixeira then followed with a shot off the wall in right that scored Gardner. Teixeira was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double on a throw from Young.
The Orioles tied it in the third inning on a one-out solo home run off the bat of Caleb Joseph, his third of the season.
The Yankees then took back the lead with two out in the third inning when Rodriguez launched a Tillman fastball just to the left of straightaway center for his seventh home run of the season and the one that now places him alone in fourth place on the all-time home run list behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.
Most of the paid crowd of 39,816 were on their feet demanding a curtain call for the 40-year-old designated hitter and Rodriguez obliged with both arms raised in front of the home dugout.
Eovaldi, however, was unable to hold that lead either. Travis Snider led off the fifth with a ringing double down the right-field line and Joseph scored him with an RBI double.
But Eovaldi was able to wriggle out of a jam when Manny Machado sacrificed Joseph to third and he walked Paredes. First, he picked off Paredes and then he retired hot-hitting Adam Jones, who ended up 0-for-4 on the night, on a groundout.
The Yankees then reclaimed the lead for good in the fifth after Gardner doubled to start the inning and, one out later, Teixeira laced an RBI double into right to score Gardner.
Tillman (2-4) was charged four runs on 10 hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. The Orioles’ ace entered play with a career ERA of 7.47 at Yankee Stadium, his highest ERA in any ballpark.
Eovaldi (4-0) also left in the sixth with Young on third and J.J. Hardy on first with two out. Left-hander Justin Wilson came on to retire Snider on a groundout.
Eovaldi was charged with three runs on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings to earn his first career victory at Yankee Stadium.
Wilson pitched a perfect seventh and Dellin Betances hurled a perfect eighth. Andrew Miller pitched around a leadoff four-pitch walk to Steve Pearce by retiring the next three hitters, two of them via the strikeout, to earn his Major-League-leading 12th save of the season in 12 chances.
With the victory, the Yankees are 18-11 and they have opened up a three-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Orioles fell to 12-14 and they are tied with the Boston Red Sox for last place in the division, 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
- A-Rod had himself a good night by going 2-for-3 including his historic home run and he drove in two runs. Though he is batting only .245, he is second on the team with seven homers and 18 RBIs. Gardner and Ellsbury combined to go 4-for-7 with a walk, a double and three runs scored and they are making it very easy for Rodriguez and Teixeira to drive in runs.
- Tex is also holding up his end in the cleanup spot. He was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs and he now leads the team with 10 homers and 25 RBIs despite batting only .223. Teixeira is on a pace to drive in more than 130 runs this season.
- Wilson, Betances and Miller combined to retire 10 of the final 11 batters they faced, striking out three and only allowing one ball to reach the outfield. Though Eovaldi was shaky at times, he at least pitched far enough into the contest to allow this very special bullpen to do its work.
- Although Carlos Beltran was 0-for-4 in the game, which lowered his season average to .187, I did see some encouraging signs. Beltran hit two balls hard into the deepest part of center-field in the fourth and the fifth innings. Beltran remains without a home run and he has driven in just nine runs. The Yankees keep hoping he gets into a groove but for now we are still waiting.
- Though A-Rod and Tex got into the swing of things, Brian McCann did not in the fifth spot in the order. He also was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. McCann keeps hitting right into the teeth of the shift and that has dragged his season average down to .227.
- Eovaldi might remind Yankee fans of Phil Hughes, who also dealt with problems getting outs with two strikes and keeping the ball in the ballpark. There is no denying that Eovaldi’s velocity is impressive. But the command of his pitches is still an issue that he needs improve. With Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list, the Yankees need Eovaldi to step up.
Tanaka took a first step in his recovery from tendinitis in right wrist and mild strain in his right forearm by making 50 throws from 60 feet prior to Thursday’s game. The 26-year-old right-hander did not feel any pain and general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that Tanaka remains on a timetable that will allow him to return in a month. . . . Despite the fact Jose Pirela had two hits in his season debut at second base on Wednesday, Stephen Drew will remain the starter at second for now. Drew was 1-for-3 with a double and a walk on Thursday but he is still batting .169 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 26 games.
The Yankees will continue their four-game home weekend series with the Orioles on Friday.
Right-hander Adam Warren (2-1, 4.78 ERA) will start for the Yankees. He got credit for a victory over the Red Sox on Sunday despite yielding four runs on four hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings. It will be Warren’s first appearance against the O’s as a starter.
The Orioles will counter with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (3-1, 2.59 ERA). Gonzalez, 30, shut out the Rays on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings for a victory on Saturday. He defeated the Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 14.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, TWINS 1
When a hitter has a chance to deliver a big hit in a key situation and he fails, most times they can’t wait for a shot at redemption. That is exactly how Brian McCann felt as he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning on Saturday.
This time he delivered.
McCann slapped a double down the right-field line with one out to score Jacoby Ellsbury from third to break a 1-1 tie as rookie Masahiro Tanaka and New York went on to defeat Minnesota in front of a paid crowd of 44,346 on a rainy afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
McCann came up in the first inning with the bases loaded and one out and right-hander Kevin Correia induced him to hit into an inning-ending double play. So the veteran All-Star catcher was more than anxious to give Tanaka and the Yankees a lead.
Tanaka (8-1) gave up an unearned run on just four hits and two walks while he struck out nine over eight innings to earn the victory. Tanaka entered the game leading the American League in ERA and he lowered that league-leading mark on Saturday from 2.29 to 2.06.
David Robertson pitched around an error, one of three the Yankees committed in the game, and he struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 12th save in 13 chances this season.
With one out in the eighth, Ellsbury stroked a single to center off left-hander Brian Duensing (1-2) to extend his hitting streak to five games. He then stole second and took third when catcher Josmil Pinto’s throw to second rolled into center.
Brian Roberts drew a walk and McCann followed by slashing 0-1 pitch into the right-field corner to score Ellsbury and advance Roberts to third. Alfonso Soriano was walked to load the bases and the skies, which had been spouting rain throughout most of the day, opened up into a deluge and the game was delayed by rain for 34 minutes.
After the delay, right-hander Jared Burton replaced Duensing on the mound and he got on a infield popup Yangervis Solarte, who had accounted for the Yankees’ only run of the game prior to the eighth with his sixth home run of the season off Correia in the fourth inning.
Kelly Johnson then provided the Yankees an insurance run when he was able to leg out a ground ball to second baseman Brian Dozier for an RBI single that scored Roberts.
Errors, both physical and mental, plagued the Yankees most of the day and Johnson’s error in the first inning set the tone for it.
Dozier hit the first pitch from Tanaka to Johnson at third but the ball ticked off his glove for an error. Dozier then advanced to second on a one of two wild pitches Tanaka uncorked on the day.
Eduardo Escobar advanced Dozier to third with a groundout and, one out later, Josh Willingham plated him with an opposite-field single to right.
Though Solarte tied it in the fourth, the Yankees were unable to get any offense going against Correia, who entered the game with a 2-5 record and an ERA of 6.34, the worst ERA among all major-league starters this season.
The Yankees squandered a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the first on McCann’s double play. Brendan Ryan also hit into an inning-ending double play in the second with two on and one out.
In the sixth, McCann was on second with two out when Solarte slapped a lined single into right. Though third-base coach Rob Thomson smartly held McCann at third, Solarte attempted to take second on right-field Oswaldo Arcia’s throw to the plate. But Pinto cut down Solarte with a perfect throw to Escobar at second base.
As a result, Correia yielded just the one run despite being touched for nine hits and one walk with three strikeouts in six innings.
In Friday’s loss to the Twins, the Yankees managed just one run on seven hits and four walks in seven innings against right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who entered the game with an ERA of 6.12, the second-worst ERA in the American League to his teammate Correia.
The victory improves the Yankees’ season ledger to 29-25. They are in second place in the American League East 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Twins dropped to 25-28.
- With the Yankees struggling to score runs, Tanaka needed to pitch a near-flawless game and he did. The Yankees are 9-2 in his starts and he now has struck out 88 batters in 78 2/3 innings. The Twins managed just four singles. Two of them were infield singles and none of the four singles were hit hard. Without McCann’s hit Tanaka was headed for a very frustrating no decision. He deserved to win this game.
- McCann may be starting to get out of the hitting doldrums. He was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and with what proved to be the game-winning hit. He now has at least one hit in his past four games and he is 6-for-15 (.400) in that span. That has raised his season average to .232, which is as high as it has been since April 29.
- Solarte had fallen into a 7-for-47 (.149) tailspin from May 15 through May 28. Now Solarte is getting hot again. After not starting in the series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, Solarte was 3-for-4 on Saturday and is 5-for-8 (.625) in the two games against the Twins. After his average dipped to .283 he is now back to.299.
- After a solid April in which he hit .247 with four homers and 10 RBIs, Soriano has been virtually useless in May. Soriano was 0-for-3 with a strikeout on Saturday and he is now 4-for-30 (.133) in his past 12 games dating back to May 18. Soriano also dropped a routine fly ball off the bat of Dozier in the third inning for an error. Soriano leads the team in strikeouts with 52 in 179 at-bats.
- Bad base-running continues to plague the Yankees in this series against the Twins. Solarte’s base-running blunder brings the Yankees to four runners cut down on the basepaths in the past two games. On Friday, Derek Jeter was caught in a rundown after rounding first base too far. Roberts later in the game was thrown out at the plate by Arcia and he also was caught stealing after taking too big a lead at first. This just has to stop. Period!
- Johnson, Soriano and Solarte were also charged with errors in the game. Three errors in a close game can be very costly. Asking Tanaka to pitch around errors is asking an awful lot, even for a pitcher of Tanaka’s ability. Mental and physical errors seem to be spreading through the team like a virus. The team needs to stop pressing in the field, at the plate and on the bases.
Mark Texeira left the game in the sixth inning with a recurrence of the soreness in his surgically repaired right wrist. The Gold-Glove first baseman was administered a cortisone injection and he will miss at least the next two games, the Yankees told reporters after the game. Teixeira, 33, had missed three games and rested on the off day Thursday before returning to the lineup on Friday. He was 0-for-1 with a strikeout and three walks in that game. He struck out with the bases loaded in the first inning and grounded out in the third on Saturday before leaving in the sixth in favor of Roberts, who was 0-for-1 with a strikeout and a walk. . . . Right-hander Michael Pineda’s timetable to return to the roster from the disabled list has hit a setback. Pineda, 24, is feeling more discomfort in a muscle behind his right shoulder and an outing for him in an intrasquad game scheduled for Sunday in Tampa, FL, has been postponed. Pineda felt pain playing catch on Friday and flew to New York to have an MRI on Saturday that revealed inflammation of the teres-major muscle behind his right shoulder. Manager Joe Girardi said Pineda will be shut down and it is not clear when he will be able to resume throwing.
The Yankees will have a chance to win the three-game series against the Twins with a victory on Sunday.
Rookie right-hander Chase Whitley (0-0, 2.57 ERA) will look for his first major-league victory in his fourth start. Whitley held the Cardinals to no runs in the first five innings before being charged with three runs in the sixth on Monday. Whitley yielded eight hits and no walks with two strikeouts. The Yankees ended up winning the game and they are now 3-0 in games Whitley has started.
The Twins will start former Yankee right-hander Phil Hughes (5-1, 3.23 ERA). Hughes did not receive a decision either in his last start against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. Hughes left after surrendering three runs on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts in seven innings. Hughes was 56-50 in seven seasons with the Yankees. He was 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts for the Yankees in 2014.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
Spring training is here!
We are days away from the New York Yankees’ spring home opener and camp is already abuzz about Derek Jeter’s final season, the anticipation of seeing Japanese star right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and the new boatload of free agents the team signed like Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.
But before the games begin I have picked five players to watch this spring. They are not necessarily big names but they do bear watching because of how they will affect the makeup of the Yankees’ 25-man roster that will open the season.
In reverse order of importance, here are the five:
NO. 5 – DEAN ANNA, 27, INFIELDER
The name may not be familiar because Anna played for the San Diego Padres’ Triple-A affiliate in Tucson and he batted .331 with nine homers and 73 RBIs in 132 games. The Yankees acquired Anna in a trade with the Padres for minor-league right-hander Ben Paulus. Anna is primarily a second baseman but he also has logged time at shortstop, third base and the corner outfield spots in his pro career. That versatility makes him potentially valuable to the Yankees if he can hit anywhere near his .286 minor-league career average. Anna will be battling Brendan Ryan, Eduardo Nunez and Scott Sizemore for a backup infielding spot on the roster. His acquisition shows the Yankees do not have much faith in the development of Corban Joseph and David Adams was released after he flopped in his brief major-league trial last season. With injury-plagued veteran second baseman Brian Roberts as the starter and with Kelly Johnson the primary starter at third base with the suspension of Alex Rodriguez, Anna could back up at both positions. He has the bat to produce and his glove is more than adequate. If Anna impresses the Yankees, Nunez could be packaged in a deal to strengthen the bullpen or bench. If Anna fails to make the roster, he will be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he will be phone call away should any of the infielders get injured during the season. Watch him closely.
NO. 4 – PRESTON CLAIBORNE, 26, RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVER
Claiborne was recalled from Scranton and made his major-league debut on May 5. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound right-hander made an immediate impression on manager Joe Girardi by not walking a single batter in his first 14 appearances. If you want to get on Girardi’s good side you don’t walk batters. Claiborne did that and also impressed everyone with his effectiveness out of the bullpen. By Aug. 9, Claiborne was 0-1 with a 2.13 ERA and a Walks-to-Innings-Pitched Ratio (WHIP) of 1.08 in 33 games. The Texas native, who was nicknamed “Little Joba,” for his resemblance to Joba Chamberlain had actually supplanted his namesake in the bullpen pecking order. However, a roster numbers crunch forced the Yankees to send Claiborne back and forth from the Bronx to Scranton five times in a 10-day period in August. Claiborne was not the same the rest of the season. In his final 11 appearances, Claiborne was 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA and a WHIP of 2.00. With the retirement of Mariano Rivera and the free-agent losses of Chamberlain and left-hander Boone Logan, Claiborne will get a chance to prove he belongs in the big leagues. If he does and pitches as he did initially in 2013, the Yankees might have a stronger bullpen than the experts imagine. Claiborne has the ability. It is just a matter of doing well this spring,
NO. 3 – RUSS CANZLER, 27, INFIELDER/OUTFIELDER
Canzler actually was acquired by the Yankees last winter but was designated for assignment before the exhibition season started because the team had signed designated hitter Travis Hafner. Canzler instead was picked up by the Baltimore Orioles, sent to their Triple-A affiliate and then traded late in the season to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In his two minor-league stops, Canzler batted .252 with 12 home runs and 52 RBIs in 125 games. Canzler’s value is that he is capable of playing both infield corner spots as well as both corner outfield spots. Last season he started 42 games at first, 13 at third and 16 in the outfield. He even started one game at second base. But Canzler’s calling card is power. The right-handed hitter has 118 career home runs in the minors. The reason he intrigues the Yankees is because the current depth chart lists Johnson as the primary backup to Mark Teixeira at first base. Teixeira is coming off surgery on his right wrist after playing in only 15 games last season. The Yankees could stand to have a player who can play the position. Johnson has only made two major-league starts at first. So Canzler could make the roster if he has an impressive spring. That would allow him to platoon with Johnson at third and back up Teixeira at first and he could even log some time in the outfield, if needed. The odds of Canzler making it are slim. But he bears watching.
NO. 2 – CESAR CABRAL, 25, LEFT-HANDED RELIEVER
Bad luck forced this 2012 Rule V draft pick from the Kansas City Royals via the Boston Red Sox to delay his major-league debut. Cabral came into camp in 2012 as a candidate to be a lefty specialist out the bullpen. Throughout the spring, Cabral battled Clay Rapada until the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Dominican fractured his elbow in his final appearance of the spring. He did not pitch at all in 2012 and he missed the early stages of the 2013 season while rehabbing the injury. But once he got started, Cabral got rolling. In three minor-league stops he was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA. That does not look impressive but he struck out 43 batters in 36 2/3 innings. That got him a September call-up to the Yankees. Cabral took advantage of the opportunity by going 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA and six strikeouts in 3 2/3 innings in eight games. Lefties hit .125 off him. Girardi was very impressed and Cabral enters the spring with an excellent chance of making the team as a lefty specialist. The other lefties on the team’s 40-man roster are starters and the two non-roster invitee lefties, Fred Lewis and Francisco Rondon, are huge longshots to make the roster. Cabral is worth watching because he has 376 career strikeouts in 383 2/3 innings in the minors. With the bevy of strong left-handed hitters such as David Ortiz, Prince Fielder and our old buddy Robinson Cano around, it helps to have a effective lefty who can get them out. Cabral could be that guy for the Yankees.
NO. 1 – MICHAEL PINEDA, 25, RIGHT-HANDED STARTER
This selection was really a no-brainer. Since the Yankees elected to trade promising prospect Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Pineda and right-hander Jose Campos in 2012, the anticipation of seeing what Pineda could do has been palpable. After he made the American League All-Star team and was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA in his rookie season in Seattle, the Yankees could not wait to see this 6-foot-7, 260-pound righty bring out his best. Unfortunately, Pineda showed up to camp overweight in 2012 and he did not pitch well during the exhibition season. His velocity was down and he was getting hit hard. It ended with a shellacking from the Philadephia Phillies in his last start of the spring and Pineda admitted after the game his right shoulder was sore. That led to surgery to repair a partially torn labrum. Pineda, as a result, missed the entire 2012 season and he was not ready to answer the bell at the start of the 2013 season either. Pineda made three stops in the minors last season with hopes of receiving a call back to the majors in September. He was 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings in 10 starts. But minor soreness in the surgically repaired shoulder ended his season. With the retirement of Andy Pettitte and the free-agent loss of Phil Hughes, the Yankees want Pineda to earn the No. 5 spot in the rotation. They figure it is about time he produce something. Pineda will battle right-handers David Phelps and Adam Warren and left-hander Vidal Nuno for the spot. But the smart money is on Pineda. His velocity may not be what it was but the Yankees think he can be effective. We will soon find out how effective Pineda can be.
The key to winning baseball has always been pitching and the New York Yankees solidified their 2014 starting rotation by agreeing to terms with Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday.
After a disastrous season in which the Yankees failed to make the playoffs for only the second time in 19 seasons, their stated “goal” of remaining under the $189 million payroll limit and the loss of Robinson Cano to free agency, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner fought back by loosening the pursestrings for general manager Brian Cashman.
The result was a dizzying array of signings that included All-Star catcher Brian McCann, outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, the additions of key pieces like infielders Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson and left-handed reliever Matt Thornton and the re-signing of right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda.
But none of those signings would have mattered much at all unless the Yankees landed Tanaka.
Tanaka, 25, came off a season with Rakuten Golden Eagles with a 24-0 record and a 1.27 ERA in leading his team to the Japanese championship. In his seven seasons he was 99-35 with a 2.30 ERA, striking out 1,238 batters in 1,315 innings.
The right-hander possesses a 94-mile-per-hour fastball along with a world-class splitter and a slider. More importantly, Tanaka is not a nibbler in the tradition of Daisuke Matsuzaka. Last season he struck out 183 batters while walking 32 in 212 innings.
Those eye-popping stats led the Yankees front office to offer a seven-year contract worth $155 million plus the $20 million posting fee that will have to be paid to the Golden Eagles. The signing also proved pundits wrong for predicting that the Los Angeles Dodgers had the inside track in signing Tanaka because his wife, a singing star of some note, preferred to be on the West Coast and craved the glitter of Hollywood.
Tanaka will receive $22 million in each of the first six seasons and $23 million in 2020. The deal also allows the contract to be terminated after four seasons to permit Tanaka to seek free agency. He also has a full no-trade clause.
He also was allotted a $35,000 moving allowance and annual payments of $100,000 per season for housing for the New York metropolitan area or Tampa, FL. The Yankees threw in $85,000 in annual salary for an interpreter and four annual first-class flights from the United States to Japan.
Doubters will question this largesse heaped upon a pitcher who has yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues. But the Yankees’ front office and scouts were convinced that Tanaka has the potential to be even better than countryman Yu Darvish, 27, who is 29-18 with a 3.34 ERA in his first two seasons as the ace of the Texas Rangers.
Tanaka will slide into the No. 2 spot behind CC Sabathia and join fellow Japanese right-hander Kuroda and 27-year-old right-hander Ivan Nova in a revamped Yankee rotation in 2014.
The Yankees believed they needed to upgrade the rotation this season after the retirement of left-hander Andy Pettitte and the loss of right-hander Phil Hughes to the Minnesota Twins.
There also are questions swirling around Sabathia, 33, after his disappointing 2013 campaign in which he slipped to 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA. The ace left-hander had to adjust with a huge drop in velocity on his fastball and his record shows there are more adjustments necessary.
But Sabathia vows that he will show up this spring ready to prove he is still the same pitcher who was 74-29 in his previous four seasons in pinstripes.
That would be a good thing because Sabathia never found his groove after posting a 4-2 record with a 3.35 ERA in April. His ERAs in succeeding months were 4.14, 5.11, 6.60 and 5.94. Yankee fans can take some comfort in the fact Sabathia was 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA in September.
That could indicate he will indeed adjust as Pettitte and Mike Mussina did when they lost velocity.
The odd thing is that after four seasons of being accused of not paying attention to his weight as the season progressed, many of those same “so-called experts” thought Sabathia lost velocity last season because he was too thin. Well, who really knows? But it is ironic those “experts” would mention it.
The Yankees will settle for Sabathia arriving in Tampa in shape and they believe he has enough weapons to remain effective as a starting pitcher because he never really has been a pitcher totally dependent on his fastball to get by.
He will remain atop the rotation in 2014 with the help of the infusion of a young Tanaka behind him.
Strangely, the Yankees’ No. 3 starter was their best pitcher in 2013 despite making only 20 starts.
Nova began the season pitching horribly in spring training and in his first four starts of 2013 before succumbing to a inflammation in right triceps. After spending time on the disabled list, a rehab stint in the minors and pitching briefly out of the bullpen, Nova returned to the rotation on June 23.
From that point on, Nova was absolutely brilliant. He was 7-4 with a 2.59 in his last 15 starts beginning on July 5. This came after a season in which Nova’s game flew off the rails and he ended up 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA in 2012.
So the Yankees believe that Nova’s second half is more indicative of what he is as a pitcher after he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011.
Nova decided not to use his slider very much last season in order to concentrate on his mid-90s fastball and devastating curveball. The result was 79 strikeouts in those 15 starts. The fact that he still just 27 makes him an excellent No. 3 starter in this bolstered rotation.
Before Nova came on, Kuroda, who will be 39 on Feb. 10, was the Yankees’ most consistent pitcher. In fact, on Aug. 12, Kuroda was sporting a 11-7 mark with a 2.33 ERA on one of the weakest hitting Yankee teams in generations.
But a heavy workload of 154 2/3 innings began to take a toll on the veteran. In his last eight starts, Kuroda was 0-6 with a awful 6.56 ERA. It is clear that Kuroda was overtaxed into pitching past six innings too early in the season because he was not getting adequate offensive support.
Manager Joe Girardi was forced to keep him in a lot of close games and Kuroda paid a heavy price down the stretch. Even still, Kuroda finished the season 11-13 with a 3.31 ERA and he will certainly benefit from an improved offense in 2014.
The Yankees are impressed with the way Kuroda is able to adjust midstream in games by dipping into his arsenal of fastballs, sliders, splitters and curves to find the pitches that are working best for him that night, That is why they chose to re-sign him to a third one-year contract for $16 million.
Kuroda and outfielder Ichiro Suzuki should also help make Tanaka feel at home in the Yankees’ clubhouse.
The big concern for the Yankees now is who will claim the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Fortunately, they have some options to fill the spot.
The “dream scenario” for the Yankees would have 25-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda ready to take the ball this spring and run with it. Pineda, after all, was obtained in a 2012 trade with the Seattle Mariners along with right-hander Jose Campos, 21, for catcher Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi.
However, after a 2011 rookie season in which Pineda made the American League All-Star team and was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA for a weak-hitting Seattle team, Pineda ended up having to undergo surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder after his last spring training start in 2012.
He missed the entire season and pitched only 40 2/3 innings in the minors last season until he was shut down in August after experiencing some minor shoulder soreness.
The Yankees still have high hopes for Pineda, who boasted a mid-90s fastball, an above average change-up and a slider before his injury. The Yankees took a lot of heat from their fans when they traded away their No. 1 prospect in Montero and allowed the Mariners to deal Pineda instead of parting with ace right-hander Felix Hernandez.
So there is some pressure on Pineda as he enters spring training having not thrown a single pitch for the Yankees in two seasons. It will be interesting to see how much Pineda has lost off his heater and if he still can be effective for the Yankees.
But the Yankees claim he is healthy and should be ready to go.
Another option for the No. 5 spot is right-hander David Phelps.
Phelps, 27, started his second major-league season in his usual role as a long man in the bullpen until he was thrust into the rotation on May 1 to replace the injured Nova.
Phelps showed great promise by going 2-2 with a 4.32 in six starts in May. But he stumbled to a 3-2 record with a 5.57 ERA in his next six starts before he landed on the disabled list in July with a strained right forearm.
Phelps did not return to the roster until Sept. 15 and was 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in four relief appearances.
The Yankees see Phelps as a solid Plan B if Pineda is not quite ready to pitch or he suffers a setback in his rehab. But the Yankees clearly see Phelps more valuable in the bullpen, as his numbers in 2012 indicate. Phelps was 4-4 with a 4.34 ERA in his rookie season.
Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild admire Phelps fearlessness in attacking hitters though he owns only a pedestrian fastball.
Phelps makes up for a lack of velocity with good command of the strike zone and he can ring up a lot of strikeouts with his breaking stuff and pitching smarts.
The Yankees also have right-hander Adam Warren, 26, who was 2-2 with a 3.39 ERA in a long relief role for the Yankees in his rookie season in 2013.
Warren did make two late-season spot starts and was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in those starts. Unlike Phelps, Warren has above-average velocity on his fastball. But the Yankees are not sure how high Warren’s ceiling extends as a starter. They would prefer to keep him as a long reliever if they could.
The Yankees got an unexpected boost with a reclamation project in left-hander David Huff last season. Huff, 29, who was former starter with the Cleveland Indians, was signed after his release from the Indians and recalled from Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre in mid-August.
He was 3-1 with a 4.67 ERA. But that does not tell the whole story. Huff was tagged for nine runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 7. Without that disastrous appearance Huff had a 2.37 ERA in his other nine appearances.
Huff also seemed comfortable in a long relief role as well as in his two spot starts in September. He also brings some value as a left-hander.
However, because the Yankees have to make room on the 40-man roster for Tanaka, Huff was designated for assignment. He will only return to the Yankees as a free agent if he is unable to find work elsewhere, which is unlikely considering he is left-handed and he pitched so well in 2013 for the Yankees.
There has been an ongoing rumor this winter that the Yankees might be interested in signing former two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana.
Santana, 34, became a free agent when the New York Mets declined to pick up his option for 2014. Santana did not pitch in 2013 after suffering a second tear of his anterior left shoulder capsule. Santana was 46-34 with a 3.18 ERA over parts of four seasons with the Mets.
The signing of Tanaka makes Santana’s signing less likely. Santana was scheduled to make $25 million before the Mets bought out his option for $5.5 million. If the Yankees can get him for less than $10 million they might take a shot. But Santana also has to prove he is healthy.
The Twins, the team with whom he won those two Cy Young awards, are among the teams interested in Santana when he is given the go-ahead to throw from a mound for scouts at his Fort Myers, FL, home in February.
The Yankees do have some good young pitchers in the minors but none of them look ready to break camp with the team. A few could be called up during the season if they progress well.
At the top of the list is left-hander Vidal Nuno, 26, who was the Yankees top rookie of spring training in 2013.
Nuno was 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA at Scranton and he received a midseason call-up to the Yankees. In five appearances, including three starts, Nuno was 1-2 with a 2.25 ERA. He missed most of the remainder of the season with a strained left groin.
For some reason Nuno is able to keep batters off-balance with a mix of breaking stuff that he features with a very lackluster upper 80s fastball. The reason is he has pinpoint control. He walked only eight batters in his combined 45 minor- and major-league innings in 2013.
If he has another strong showing this spring, Nuno could certainly leapfrog Phelps or Warren for the No. 5 spot. In addition, he could also make the squad as a long reliever and spot starter. Girardi loves pitchers who challenge hitters and don’t issue walks.
This spring all eyes will be on 22-year-old left-hander Manny Banuelos, who missed the entire 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Banuelos was considered the team’s No. 1 prospect at the time he was injured in 2012. In 2011, Banuelos was 1-1 with 2.13 ERA in 12 2/3 innings in spring training, earning him the James P. Dawson Award as the Yankees’ top rookie.
However, the young Mexican lefty struggled with his control in 2011, walking 71 batters in a cobined 129 2/3 innings between Double-A Trenton and Scranton. He was 6-7 with a 3.45 ERA that season.
In 2012, he made only six starts before being shelved with elbow soreness and he ended up having to undergo surgery to repair a ligament in his left elbow in October.
The Yankees love his low-90s fastball and change-up combination that saw him strike out 125 batters in 2011. He is still young and talented enough to progress quickly if he puts it all together. But the Yankees would like to see him do that at Scranton before they bring him up to the big club.
He remains the team’s No. 8 prospect. He just has to prove he is healthy and regain his control.
The Yankees are also very high on 24-year-old right-hander Jose Ramirez, who was 1-3 with a 2.76 ERA in eight starts at Trenton before going 1-3 with a 4.88 ERA in eight starts at Scranton. Ramirez struck out 78 batters in 73 2/3 innings and the Yankees believe he has a very high ceiling.
But he likely needs a full season at Scranton before he makes a bid for the big club.
The same can be said for left-hander Nik Turley, 24.
Turley, a relative of former Yankees right-hander Bob Turley, was 11-8 with a 3.88 ERA in 26 starts at Trenton last season. Compared to Pettitte in style, teammates call him “Little Andy” and he backed that up by fanning 137 batters in 139 innings last season.
Below Banuelos, Ramirez and Turley the Yankees have a nice corps of young starters who are a few years away from making it to the majors.
The biggest buzz is surrounding the team’s No. 4 prospect Rafael De Paula, 22.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-hander hits up to 99-mph on his fastball and he has a hard curve and a change-up. He was a combined 7-5 with a 4.29 ERA at High-A Tampa and Charleston last season. More impressive was his 146 punch-outs in only 113 1/3 innings.
DePaula enters the 2014 season as the team’s best young arm and deservedly so. This young Dominican has quality starter written all over him.
Don’t forget about the right-handed Campos, either. Campos, 21, was obtained along with Pineda in the Montero deal and he may have even an higher ceiling than Pineda.
Campos suffered an elbow injury that did not require surgery in 2012, In 2013, he was 4-2 with a 3.41 ERA in 26 games (19 starts) at Charleston. He has an above-average fastball to go along with very good control of two secondary pitches.
That mix will take him far as long he can prove he can stay healthy in 2014.
The Yankees also have high hopes for 22-year-old right-handed flamethrower Bryan Mitchell, who likely will be at Trenton this season. Mitchell was 4-11 with a 4.71 ERA at Tampa and Trenton last season. The Yankees need only to see him command his 96-mph fastball and nearly unhittable curve to make a giant leap this season.
Two others to watch are 2013 first-round draft pick Ian Clarkin, a left-hander, and 20-year-old right-hander Ty Hensley, who was picked in the first round in 2012.
Unlike the position players, the Yankees are pretty rich in young starters at the minor-league level. It is quite possible that three or four of them could be strong contributors with the big club very soon.
In the meantime, the signing of Tanaka has given the Yankees a major shot in the arm. Just ask the rival Boston Red Sox. They see that the $471 million the team has spent on free agents has thrust them back among the top tier teams in the American League East.
Without pitching it is hard to compete in such a tough division. It appears now the Yankees will have a starting staff that can get them back to the playoffs.
That would require one huge “arigato” (thank you in Japanese) to the signing of Tanaka.
In the world of baseball free agency there is one maxim that is absolute: It is no-brainer to want to strengthen your club but it is extremely smart to weaken your opponent’s while you are strengthening your club.
The New York Yankees not only added to their roster with the signing of Gold Glove center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, they significantly weaken the Boston Red Sox. Toche’.
Following in the footsteps of Johnny Damon in 2006, Ellsbury will – after passing a physical – sign a lucrative seven-year, $153 million contract with an option for an eighth year that will bring the total contract to $169 million.
Ellsbury, 30, batted .298 with eight home runs and 53 RBIs while leading the major leagues in stolen bases with 52 in 134 games last season. In 2011, Ellsbury batted .318 with a career-high 32 homers and 105 RBIs and earned his only All-Star selection and a Gold Glove.
On the heels of the five-year, $85 million contract offer to catcher Brian McCann last week, the Steinbrenner family, general manger Brain Cashman and the entire Yankees braintrust are serving notice to the other major league teams they are through with fiscal constraints that have seen them largely sit out free agency period for top-name talent for the past four seasons.
After the team suffered through a horrific string of free-agent departures and crippling injuries to the core of the team in 2013 that saw the club limp to the finish line with only 85 wins, missing the playoffs for the second time in five seasons, the Yankee hierarchy is saying enough is enough.
The McCann signing I told you last week was just the start of this new era in spending and it definitely is not over.
Ellsbury’s signing certainly brings an end to the team’s pursuit of Carlos Beltran, who had the Yankees balking at giving the 37-year-old a third year on a potential contract. The Yankees shifted off Beltran and then contacted Scott Boras, who is is Ellsbury’s agent.
The Yankees also will be saying so long to Curtis Granderson, who led the majors by hitting 84 home runs in 2011 and 2012, but he also struck out 360 times in that span. The Yankees figure his power was largely a product of Yankee Stadium and that he will not be able to maintain that level of power elsewhere.
The big question Ellsbury’s signing poses is what happens to center-fielder Brett Gardner?
Gardner, 30, is coming off his best season with the Yankees after hitting .273 with eight home runs and 52 RBIs and stealing 24 bases in 145 games. Ellsbury’s deal likely means he will become the center-fielder. So if Gardner stays with the Yankees, does he move to left?
If Gardner moves to left, where will the Yankees put left-fielder Alfonso Soriano? If Soriano moves to right-field, what happens to holdovers Vernon Wells and Ichiro Suzuki, who are both signed for the 2014 season?
The Yankees could choose to package Gardner in a trade and get something of value back for him but they will not get much back for either Wells or Suzuki. Both showed signs that indicated that their careers, which were once quite productive, are coming to a quick end.
Wells, who will turn 36 on Dec. 8, batted .233 with 11 home runs and 50 RBIs in 130 games last season. But he hit only one home run after May 15 and he largely was pretty useless unless he was facing a left-handed pitcher. Because the Los Angels Angels are paying a huge portion of his contract, the Yankees would have no problem releasing him if they wanted to do so.
Suzuki, 40, hit .262 with seven homers and 35 RBIs in 150 games. He was mostly a non-factor late in the season, hitting .228 in August and .205 in September. Suzuki, however, does have some value as a platoon designated hitter, a late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield and a pinch-runner. But his days of full-time play appear to be over.
There also is another big question about the Ellsbury signing. Where does this leave the Yankees with respect to second baseman Robinson Cano?
With the two main rivals of the Yankees for Cano’s services, the Los Angels Dodgers and the Detroit Tigers, out of the bidding, Cano has lowered his 10-year, $305 million demands. But the Yankees have not raised their offer from their initial seven-year, $160 million bid.
But the Yankees seem to have the cash sufficient enough to get into the eight-year, $240 million range and talks with Cano will continue.
The Yankees are also looking to add 400 innings to their starting rotation by signing a pair of free-agent starting pitchers this winter.
Phil Hughes , 27, is poised to sign a three-year, $24 million with the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees, however, felt Hughes was more suited to a bullpen role after he turned in a horrific 4-14 record and a 5.14 ERA last season.
The Yankees are targeting the re-signing of Hiroki Kuroda, 38, who was 11-13 with a 3.31 ERA last season for the Yankees, and fellow Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, 25, who was 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA with the Rakuten Golden Eagles this season.
The Yankees intend to be much more aggressive in the bidding process for Tanaka than they were for right-hander Yu Darvish, who signed with Texas after the Rangers posted $51.7 million bid for the right to sign him.
The Yankees could bid as much as they want without the cost affecting the $189 million salary limits for 2014. They also have some salary flexibility with the retirements of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, the decision to allow Granderson to leave and the likely suspension of third basemen Alex Rodriguez for the entire 2014 season, which means they will not have to pay his annual $25 million salary.
The best part of the Ellsbury deal was that it is the first shot off the bow on Red Sox Nation.
The Red Sox have a number of key contributors to their 2014 season like Ellsbury, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Stephen Drew and first baseman Mike Napoli trolling the free-agent waters. Each one of those losses forces the Bosox to find replacements elsewhere and there is no guarantee those replacements will maintain the same chemistry the team had last season.
The Red Sox Nation social media is already doing the usual “Ellsbury stinks” and “Ellsbury is old” rants and they are already touting Jackie Bradley Jr. as the next Willie Mays in center. But, to be sure, they are hurting deeply on the inside. Ellsbury was part of the corps that the Red Sox counted upon last season and he is gone to the “Evil Empire” no less.
He expects to be booed in Boston. It will just be interesting to see how he is treated in New York. My guess is, like Damon and Kevin Youkilis (very briefly) last season, the Yankees will warm up to Ellsbury.
After all, any signing that weakens the Red Sox is fine by me. It also will be just fine with the Yankee Universe.