Tagged: Reed Johnson

Young’s Homer Boosts Yankees Past Nationals

GAME 34

YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 3

Chris Young blasted a two-run homer in the eighth inning off Nationals closer Drew Storen to propel New York to a come-from-behind victory over Washington on Saturday at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Young’s third home run of the spring, which all came off the Nationals, followed a one-out single by Didi Gregorius.

Storen (0-1), who has been hampered all spring with blister on his right foot, took the loss.

David Carpenter (2-0) pitched one-third of an inning in the seventh to get credit for the victory. Right-hander Dellin Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth despite making things interesting by yielding a single and a walk in between.

The Yankees concluded their exhibition season with a 17-16-1 record.

FIELD FOCUS

Chris Martin pitched a perfect inning of relief in sixth with two strikeouts. Just the fact he is even pitching on a major-league roster is a miracle in and of itself.

Martin was named a member of manager Joe Girardi’s seven-man bullpen on Friday. But there was a time the 6-foot-8 right-hander was just a regular working stiff at an appliance warehouse.

Down in Arlington, TX, Martin was loading 650-pound refrigerators onto dollies for delivery. The only doubleheaders Martin knew were the shifts he previously worked at the lawn and garden section at Lowe’s warehouse and then evenings at UPS.

Before all this Martin, 27, was drafted as a senior from Arlington High School by the Detroit Tigers in 18th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing Martin opted to attend McLennan Community College in Waco, TX.

That following year, the tall right-hander was chosen in the 21st round by the Colorado Rockies. Again, Martin opted to stay in school.

However, that fall, Martin severely injured his shoulder. On the advice of Dr. Keith Meister, the team physician for the Texas Rangers, Martin tried resting the shoulder. But with the pain too great, Martin underwent surgery in 2007 to repair the labrum and release the shoulder capsule.

When the shoulder healed, Martin tried out with the Fort Worth Cats of the United Baseball League. When the shoulder still didn’t feel right, Martin quit baseball and went to work at Lowe’s and then at night with UPS for the insurance benefits.

Martin later caught up with former Arlington alum Jordan Bostwick, who graduated a year after Martin. Bostwick urged Martin to come to work for him at Texas Appliance in Arlington.

In June 2010, Bostwick broke out a left-handed catcher’s mitt during a lunch break and had Martin play catch with him. Martin’s pitches busted the seams off the mitt and nearly broke Bostwick’s right thumb.

More importantly, Martin informed Bostwick his shoulder felt really good.

Soon Martin signed a contract for $800 a month with the Grand Prairie Airhogs, an independent team operated by former major-league slugger Pete Incaviglia.

The radar readings of Marin’s pitches were hitting 95 miles per hour. Martin went on to a 4-0 record with a 1.95 ERA in 13 games with the Airhogs.

Incaviglia called the Boston Red Sox on behalf of Martin and the Red Sox signed him for $1,100 a month after a tryout arranged at Martin’s expense in Fort Myers, FL. After stops in Class-A Greenville and Salem, Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, Martin was dealt to the Rockies in December 2013.

Martin made his major-league debut with the Rockies against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 26 of last year.

He ended up with an ERA of 6.89 in 16 games with the Rockies before his contract was purchased for $75,000 by the Yankees in January.

Martin was among a large group of non-roster pitchers trying to making the Yankees’ bullpen this spring. At best, he was a long-shot. He ended spring training on Saturday with a 0-1 record and 4.09 ERA in 11 appearances. But the Yankees were enamored more by his 18 strikeouts with only one walk.

So Martin now will have a chance to open the season in the major leagues in 2015. It does not appear he will be making those shifts to load refrigerators in Texas anymore.

Instead he will be living out a dream that looked to be over just a short time ago.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Despite the fact starter Nathan Eovaldi gave up three runs on three hits in the first inning, he settled in nicely afterwards. Eovaldi, 25, held the Nats to just one hit over the next four frames. In five innings, Eovaldi struck out six while walking three. He ended his spring with a 1-1 record with a 1.93 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
  • Stephen Drew ruined right-hander Doug Fister’s six-inning outing by lashing a two-out, two-run home run in the fifth inning to draw the Yankees to within a run of the Nationals at 3-2. It was Drew’s third homer of the spring and he ended up batting .259 with three homers and nine RBIs. On March 12, Drew was hitting .077. From then on he was 16-for-34 (.471).
  • Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth. But he also yielded a one-out single to Reed Johnson and a one-out walk to Pedro Severino. Betances topped out at 95 mph on the radar gun, which is still a bit off the 97 mph he was throwing at last season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The offense is still pretty inconsistent. The Yankees did not get their first hit until the fourth inning and they managed just six hits overall. Fortunately, home runs by Drew and Young bailed them out. The Yankees got great pitching from Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Eovaldi and Adam Warren this spring. It would a shame not to give those guys the support they deserve.
  • Alex Rodriguez started at designated hitter and batted seventh in the game. But A-Rod probably would like to forget about it because Fister fanned him twice and reliever Craig Stammen did it once  –  all three strikeouts came on sharp curveballs.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner set the table exactly as Girardi would have liked in the fourth when Ellsbury reached after being hit by a pitch from Fister. Gardner followed with a sharp single to left. But Carlos Beltran grounded into a force play and Mark Teixiera rapped into a 4-6-3 double play. The RBI guys are paid to produce and Beltran and Teixeira must do it consistently if the Yankees are to contend at all.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees elected to retain John Ryan Murphy as their backup catcher to Brian McCann as they designated for assignment Austin Romine on Saturday. Murphy came off the bench in seventh inning to catch and was 0-for-1 to end the spring with a .238 average. Romine was 6-for-35 (.171) with 10 strikeouts. Romine was out of options so now any team may claim him. If he is not claimed he would remain with the Yankees and be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  . . .  In other roster moves, the Yankees added backup infielder Gregorio Petit to the 25-man roster and they placed infielder Brendan Ryan (calf strain), left-hander Chris Capuano (quad strain) and right-hander Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) on the 15-day disabled list. Infielder Jose Pirela was placed on the 7-day concussion DL.

ON DECK

The Yankees will rest on Sunday and prepare to open the season on Monday at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tanaka, 26, will start for the Yankees after ending up 1-2 with a 3.07 ERA in four spring starts. It is the first time since 2008 that a pitcher other than CC Sabathia has started the season for the Yankees.

Right-hander Drew Hutchison will pitch for the Blue Jays. Hutchison, 24, was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four spring outings. He surprisingly won the starting assignment over former Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.

 

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Almonte, Cano Go Deep As Yankees Chop Braves

GAME 1

YANKEES 8, BRAVES 3

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL  –  Zoilo Almonte smacked a two-run opposite field home run in the third inning and Robinson Cano added a solo opposite-field shot in the fifth inning as New York opened its 2013 Grapefruit League schedule on Saturday with a victory over Atlanta at Champion Field.

David Phelps (1-0) threw two scoreless innings to pick up the victory. Jordan Walden (0-1) took the loss.

Almonte’s home run touched off a four-run inning aided by two Braves errors, a wild pitch and a passed ball. The Braves did narrow the score to 5-3 in the sixth inning on a two-run homer by Evan Gattis, however, the Yankees put the game away in the seventh with a three-run rally keyed by a bases-loaded two-out, two-run single by Austin Romine.

The Yankees are 1-0 while the Braves fell to 0-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Almonte, 23, made an immediate first impression on manager Joe Girardi with his big home run in the third inning. The switch-hitting outfielder hit 21 home runs last season with Double-A Trenton. Almonte also showed off a terrific arm by throwing out Reed Johnson at third base after he fielded a Freddie Freeman single in the first inning. 
  • Francisco Cervelli, 27, flashed some superior glove work behind the plate by blocking several pitches in the dirt and he helped out Phelps by throwing out Todd Cunningham attempting to steal second base with a perfect peg to Cano in the second inning. Cervelli is battling Chris Stewart and Austin Romine for the starting catching job this spring.
  • Though Phelps, 26, gave up three hits in his two innings of work and he was aided by the throws from Almonte and Cervelli, he still did look sharp. He threw 18 strikes out of his 24 pitches. He also threw first-pitch strikes to seven of the eight batters he faced. Phelps is competing with Ivan Nova for the No. 5 starting spot.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Brett Marshall struggled a bit in his second inning of work. He walked Dan Uggla, surrendered a double to Gattis and Uggla scored on a groundout off the bat of Chris Johnson. Marshall, 22, was 13-7 with a 3.52 ERA at Trenton last season and was the organization’s best minor-league starter. But the right-hander still needs to work on his command.
  • Mikey O’Brien gave up a leadoff single to Freeman and then a one-out homer to Gattis. O’Brien, who will turn 23 on March 3, was a combined 9-8 with a 3.87 ERA between High-A Tampa and Trenton. He also needs a bit of work on command.
  • Corban Joseph committed a fielding error in the third inning on a hard-hit ball off the bat of Christian Bethancourt. But Marshall was able to get out of the inning without giving up a run. Joseph, 24, is primarily a second baseman but he also is being tried out at third this spring.

BOMBER BANTER

Derek Jeter ran on the infield dirt at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, for the first time since breaking his left ankle last October. “He ran the bases a bit, slowly,” Girardi said. “He’s at least outside, doing some running, so that’s good.” Jeter has said that he expects to ready to play on Opening Day on April 1 against the Boston Red Sox. In the meantime, Nunez will play shortstop most of the spring and Jeter will be eased into the lineup as a designated hitter.

ON DECK

The Yankees will open their 2013 home Grapefruit League schedule with a contest against a Toronto Blue Jays split squad.

Right-hander Adam Warren, 26, will start for the Yankees. He was 7-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 26 starts with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season. The Jays will start veteran left-hander J.A. Happ.

New acquisitions third baseman Kevin Youkilis and designated hitter Travis Hafner are scheduled to make their debuts with the team.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast locally by the YES Network and nationally by the MLB Network.

 

Yankees’ Bid For Garza Is Going, Going, Gone!

For those fans expecting Matt Garza to be modeling Yankee pinstripes in 2012, your dream is not likely to come true.

The Yankees did have an interest in the 28-year-old Chicago Cubs right-hander. But the team’s president of baseball operations Theo Epstein must have been smoking some of that fraternity stash of his lately. His asking price for Garza, who is 52-54 with a 3.83 ERA in his career, is two of the Yankees’ top three prospects.

Yes sir! Epstein and the Cubs want slugging catcher Jesus Montero and either left-hander Manny Banuelos or right-hander Dellin Betances, according to a report by Jack Curry of the YES Network.

Needless to say, Yankee general manager Brian Cashman nearly choked on his Nathan’s hotdog when he heard that request. Although the Yankees would love to obtain Garza to bolster their starting rotation, the asking price for a pitcher who was just 10-10 with a 3.32 ERA in 2011 would seem to be excessively steep.

The Cubs might as well go all the way and offer back-up outfielder Reed Johnson even up for Curtis Granderson. Or how about catcher Geovany Soto for Robinson Cano? You can criticize Epstein for a lot of things but you have to give him credit for having cojones.

This overpricing of pitching has been a trend this winter and it is one of the reasons why Cashman has had to decline big-money offers to overpriced free agents such as C.J. Wilson and Mark Buerhle. The Rangers paid $51 million just for the right to negotiate a deal with Japan’s best pitcher, Yu Darvish.

Teams like the Padres and Athletics have exacted a cartload of prospects for pitchers such as Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez. The Cubs are trying to do the same with Garza.

But the Yankees have apparently bowed out of the sweepstakes, leaving the Blue Jays and Tigers as the players left interested in Garza unless the Cubs begin to start lowering their demands.

This is is exactly what I was predicting in my last post when I stated that Cashman should proceed with caution in talks for Garza and not succumb to desperation at the expense of the building blocks to the Yankees’ future. You have to know when to fold your hand and leave the table.

Cashman, it appears, has done just that.

Montero, 22, is simply the best power-hitting prospect the Yankees have developed since they promoted Mickey Mantle in 1951. The jury may be out on his skills to be a creditable defensive catcher but scouts have compared his ability to hit to players such as Mike Piazza and Manny Ramirez. You do not trade players with this much upside.

Banuelos, 20, is the best left-hander and the best pitching prospect in the Yankees’ organization and Betances, 23, is the second-best pitching prospect. Neither of the two have had an opportunity to show the Yankees what they can do at the major-league level. Both rose from Double-A Trenton to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season. Both project as potential top-of-the-rotation starters. The Yankees have no other starters in their farm system with that capability.

So why trade any of the three for Garza, who only is two seasons away from free agency and is likely to earn $20 million over the next two seasons in arbitration? Garza is essentially a .500 pitcher. He is not more than a No. 3 starter. If Garza was a flavor of ice cream he would be vanilla. Plain vanilla.

You don’t trade your best prospects for vanilla. You tell Epstein, “Fudge you!”

Which is exactly what Cashman has done.

ACTION JACKSON

With any potential deal for Gaza apparently gone, the Yankees are now looking at free-agent right-hander Edwin Jackson, according to CBSSports.com.

Jackson, 28, was 12-9 with a 3.73 ERA and 148 strikeouts for the world-champion St. Louis Cardinals last season. He reportedly is looking for a contract in the $15 million to $17 million range for 2012. The Yankees might be unwilling to go that high on the veteran right-hander, who is 60-60 a 4.86 ERA and 801 strikeouts in his career.

The Yankees are apparently trying to find a middle ground that Jackson and his agent could accept. The Yankees see Jackson as a potential reliable and durable No. 3 starter.

The Yankees already have five potential starters in CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia. They also have six potential young starters in Hector Noesi, D.J. Mitchell, Adam Warren, David Phelps, Betances and Banuelos.

But they have made no secret of the fact the would love to unload troubled right-hander Burnett and his $33 million salary paid over the next two seasons. The Yankees have reportedly offered to pay up to $7 million of that contract but have received no takers so far for Burnett.

The signing of Jackson would allow the Yankees to continue to develop their prize minor-league prospects and renew their efforts to unload Burnett.

SAYONARA

It is looking as if the Yankees will not be signing Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima to a contract by the Friday deadline, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

A source told the Ledger that the talks have been “slow” and the Yankees are unlikely to complete a deal for Nakajima, 29, by the 30-day deadline called for in the posting process. The Yankees wish to pay Nakajima as a backup infielder and Nakajima has been paid as a starter in Japan. So both sides are not close to a deal.

The Yankees posted a $2 million bid for Nakajima in early December and won the right to negotiate a contract. If the two sides can’t agree on a contract Nakajima’s team in Japan, the Seibu Lions, will return the $2 million to the Yankees and Nakajima will remain with the Lions.

The Yankees looked at Nakajima, who hit .297 with 16 home runs and 100 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 144 games with Seibu in 2011, as a potential backup infielder at second, third and shortstop. The negotiations for Nakajima precluded the Yankees from making a deal to re-sign 34-year-old veteran Eric Chavez.

However, if the Nakajima talks fail the Yankees could, if they wish, can contact Chavez’s agent to get the 34-year-old corner infielder back for the 2012 season. Chavez hit .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs in 58 games with the Yankees in 2011. He missed two months of the season with a fractured bone in his left foot.

STAY TUNED!

 

Yanks Need Fourth OF And Backup At First In 2012

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

PART FOUR – THE BENCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Yankees Keeping Status Quo With 2012 Lineup

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

NEXT:  PART 3 – STARTING LINEUP

PRIORITY NO. 2 – Will the Yankees keep the same starters in 2012?

The simple answer to the question is yes.

What is odd about the answer is that it totally ignores the fact that the Yankees suffered a lot of defeats, including their devastating loss in Game 5 to the Tigers, due to an inconsistent offense rather than the starting pitching.

If you are wondering why the offense was inconsistent the answer is easily discernible when you look at what the Yankee starters’ established norms in their previous three seasons and what they produced in 2011. Most of their overall numbers were down and that is the reason the Yankees did not hit well with runners in scoring position. It actually lost them games all season. Ultimately, it was what eliminated them from the playoffs.

Here are the 2011 starters’ established norms and the number of seasons they have put up those numbers. For comparison, look at their 2011 numbers:

DEREK JETER – 102 Runs, 13 Home Runs, 67 RBIs, .301 Average (3-year average)  2011 Stats: 84 Runs, 6 Home Runs, 61 RBIs, .297 Average

CURTIS GRANDERSON – 108 Runs, 25 Home Runs, 70 RBIs, .277 Average (3-year average) 2011 Stats: 136 Runs, 41 Home Runs, 119 RBIs, .262 Average

MARK TEIXEIRA – 106 Runs, 35 Home Runs, 117 RBIs, .285 Average (3-year average) 2011 Stats: 90 Runs, 39 Home Runs, 111 RBIs, .248 Average

ALEX RODRIGUEZ – He has not played more than 138 games since 2007. We will discuss him later in this post.

ROBINSON CANO – 103 Runs, 27 Home Runs, 97 RBIs, .320 Average (2-year average) 2011 Stats: 104 Runs, 28 Home Runs, 118 RBIs, .302 Average

NICK SWISHER – 88 Runs, 29 Home Runs, 86 RBIs, .270 Average (2-year average) 2011 Stats: 81 Runs, 23 Home Runs, 85 RBIs, .260 Average

DH – This spot was rotated between mostly Andruw Jones and Jorge Posada. We will discuss this later in this post.

RUSSELL MARTIN – 87 Runs, 16 Home Runs, 78 RBIs, .286 Average (2-year average) 2011 Stats: 57 Runs, 18 Home Runs, 65 RBIs, .237 Average

BRETT GARDNER – 97 Runs, 5 Home Runs, 47 RBIs, .277 Average (1-year total) 2011 Stats: 87 Runs, 7 Home Runs, 36 RBIs, .259 Average

If you look at the established norms and compare them to the 2011 statistics and assign a minus for each number lower and a plus for each number higher you get a good idea about how effective the Yankees’ offense was in 2011. There were 19 minuses on this list as opposed to nine pluses. Six of the nine pluses came from Granderson and Cano and you can make the case they were the only two Yankees starters who had anything special to say about their seasons.

Can a team win a World Series with an offense where so many elements had down seasons? I don’t think so.

Yet general manager Brian Cashman is telling reporters that he is not looking to add any “big-ticket” free agents like Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. The reason is two-fold.

One, is the Yankees already are committed to a lot of dollars to Rodriguez, Jeter, Teixeira and Cano (through a contract option) and they already absorbed the contracts of Swisher and Granderson. They already were pretty much committed to re-signing Martin with a nice bump in his $4 million salary from 2011.

So where would Pujols or Fielder play? Not first base. Not likely as expensive DHs. Maybe left field but I don’t think Pujols or Fielder would sign to embarrass themselves out there.

The second reason is that the Yankees are still over the established salary limit in which they have to pay the luxury tax and Cashman has been told to reduce it or keep it level without hurting the club he puts on the field. Cashman has actually done this over the past few years. Adding Pujols or Fielder would put a huge hole in that plan and the Yankees are just not going to do it.

So the Yankees, instead, will look to 2012 to get improved production from their starting lineup.

Jeter’s second-half re-emergence was encouraging. There is no reason Granderson, barring injury, can’t continue his new-found ability to hit lefties and hit for greater power. Cano is simply the best hitter the Yankees have and looks as if he will bat in the No. 3 spot from the beginning of 2012, which is where he belonged for a long time.

Swisher looked like he never played baseball before the way he hit in April and May, but his 2011 numbers were very close his norms. That is why the Yankees picked up his option and Yankee fans can forget the Yankees looking to sign Carlos Beltran to replace him. That is not likely.

Martin’s numbers were off but he was hurt a great deal of the season and he ended up with more than 100 at-bats less than what he did when he played in 155 games and 151 games with the Dodgers in 2007 and 2008. The Yankees have to like the power and production he provides in addition to his defensive skills. So there is no buyer’s remorse with Martin.

The places where the Yankees have to look carefully at are Teixeira, Rodriguez, the DH spot and Gardner.

Teixeira and his .248 batting average have to be a major concern. In addition, he hit only .223 against right-handers. That is troublesome because of the fact there so few left-handed starters throughout baseball.

Batting coach Kevin Long will be tasked with trying to make some “Granderson-style” adjustments to Tex’s lefty stroke to improve his production in 2012. If it succeeds, the Yankees will have a productive bat in the No. 5 spot capable of 30 or more homers and 100 or more RBIs. But they also would be happier if Teixeira raised his batting average to his career average of .281 or better.

Considering that Teixeira is signed through the 2016 season the Yankees need to make sure he is back to the All-Star level player he had established himself to be.

That also will go for Rodriguez.

The Yankees have not received a full season of play from A-Rod since 2007. A series of injuries have limited Rodriguez the past four years with 2011 being his worst so far. He played in only 99 games dues to a series of injuries including a hip injury, a knee injury that required surgery and a sprained thumb.

He hit only 16 home runs, drove in 62 runs and batted .276. By the time the playoffs began, the Yankees had no idea what Rodrigue would do because he missed most of September with recurring thumb issues. He ended up hitting a weak .111 and struck out six times in 18 at-bats.

Getting the 36-year-old third baseman healthy and productive again are pretty much essential for the Yankees in 2012. But this series of injuries in a player this age is of some concern. Could this be just a coincidence? Could this be a natural aging process? Or could this be a result of A-Rod’s taking of performance-enhancing drugs?

The Yankees, who are committed to A-Rod through the 2017 season, better hope it is not the latter.

The fact is that the Yankees are going to have to rest Rodriguez and play him at DH in some games in order to keep him ready for the playoffs. That can work for the Yankees because Rodriguez can average 30-35 home runs, drive in more than 100 runs and hit around .275 playing in 140 games. But they can pretty much kiss the playoffs goodbye if the injuries continue to keep Rodriguez on the shelf for long periods of time.

Rodriguez will be watched closely and carefully in spring training.

The Yankees also need to make an effort to find out just what they have in Gardner.

There is no doubt he is fast and he did contribute 49 stolen bases last season. He also probably was robbed of a Gold Glove by Alex Gordon of the Royals. He played a quality left-field.

But there are still holes in his game. Gardner can be productive hitting .277 as he did in 2010. But he hit a disappointing .259 in 2011. There were also many times he would fall into prolonged slumps even though he did cut his strikeout total. The real issue was left-handers ate him for lunch. He hit only .233 against them last season.

The Yankees need to look at finding a right-handed hitter who do the things Gardner can do. A good example is Reed Johnson, who is free agent that played for the Cubs last season.

Johnson can play all spots in the outfield and hit .309 with five home runs with 28 RBIs and hit .309 in 248 at-bats. He hit lefties at a .305 clip and he can play a very good outfield. His only drawback is that he is not an accomplished base-stealer. He has only 39 in his career.

But would manager Joe Girardi rather have a Johnson likely to get on base against a lefty or a Gardner who likely won’t even reach to steal? Look for the Yankees to make a move to get a righty-swinging outfielder this winter to platoon with Gardner.

The final spot is the DH. With Jones and Posada gone as free agents and likely not to be re-signed, the Yankees look to be in the market for a new DH. However, the caveat is that they will likely use the spot at times to rest older regulars like Rodriguez, Jeter, Teixeira, Swisher and Granderson.

But do not be surprised if the Yankees end up using Jesus Monetro as their primary DH in 2011.

The reason is that Montero truly impressed the Yankees with his 61 at-bat audition in September. He hit .328 with 4 home runs and 12 RBIs and made the postseason roster at age 21.

Montero is a catcher but the Yankees are not sure about his defensive work behind the plate.

With Martin scheduled to start and Francisco Cervelli to back Martin up the Yankees could keep Montero on the roster as a DH and an emergency catcher and allow defensive wizard Austin Romine catch a full season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Of course, using such a young player as a DH could be a detriment if they do not plan to develop him as a catcher. But Montero promises to be such a great hitter the Yankees might just want to see what he can do next season and worry about where to play him later.

But the bottom line is the Yankees will not be looking for any help with the starting lineup. But they will have a lot of work do to making the starters they do have more productive in 2012.

The Yankees must have a productive lineup in order to have any chance of winning their 28th championship in 2012.

NEXT: PART FOUR – THE BENCH

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

 

Swish’s Swat Honors Father As Yanks Pound Cubs

GAME 70

YANKEES 10, CUBS 4

Nick Swisher never got a chance to see his father, Steve, play at Wrigley Field as a member of the Cubs. He was not born until three years after his father left the Cubs in 1977. But on this Father’s Day he paid homage to the former Cubs catcher by blasting a big home run for the Yankees against the Cubs at the hallowed Chicago venue in front of national television audience.

The younger Swisher smacked a three-run home run deep into the bleachers in right-center in the top of the eighth inning off right-hander Chris Carpenter to break a 4-4 tie and New York added three more runs in the ninth to finally show the upstart Cubs who was boss in their three-game weekend series.

Yankees ace left-hander CC Sabathia (9-4) won his sixth game in his last seven starts and is now tied with six other pitchers for the major-league lead in victories. But for Sabathia, this was not his best outing and he actually trailed the game 4-1 after giving up a three-run home run to former Yankee Rafael Soriano with two outs in the third inning.

Sabathia gave up four runs on eight hits and a walk and he fanned three batters in seven innings of work. Having trouble with command of his fastball, Sabathia adjusted to throw more breaking pitches and he only gave up two hits over the last four innings to get credit for the victory.

As they have so often, the Yankee offense got Sabathia back into the game. Brett Gardner led off the game with a home run off Cubs starter Randy Wells. But the Yankees struggled a bit with Wells before scoring two runs in the fourth and a single run in the sixth.

Swisher, who finished the night 3-for-5 with four RBIs, singled in Alex Rodriguez with one out in the fourth inning. Eduardo Nunez scored Robinson Cano two batters later on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice groundout to third. The two-run inning was set up on a mental error by Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. After Rodriguez drew a one-out walk, Cano hit a sure groundball out to third baseman Aramis Ramirez. But Castro pulled his foot off the second-base bag before he caught the ball and Rodriguez and Cano both were ruled safe.

Two innings later, the Yankees tied the game. Rodriguez led off with a single. A groundout by Cano advanced Rodriguez to second and Swisher singled to move Rodriguez to third. After a Wells wild pitch advanced Swisher to second, Russell Martin launched a sacrifice fly to right to score Rodriguez.

The Yankees then seized control of the game in the eighth inning on Cubs lefty reliever Sean Marshall (3-2). Rodriguez opened the frame with a broken-bat single to left. Cano followed by lacing a single to right-center to advance Rodriguez to third.

Cubs manager Mike Quade elected to bring in the right-handed Carpenter to force Swisher to hit from his weaker side this season, the left side. However, Carpenter fell behind by sailing two straight pitches high and way outside. Carpenter then elected to throw a fastball in the middle of the plate and Swisher got all of it for his seventh home run of the season, giving the Yankees a 7-4 lead and sending a lot of the Cubs fans among the 41,828 in attendance home early.

With the victory, the Yankees have improved to 41-29 and they are a season-high 12 games over .500. They also remain 1 1/2 games in back of the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Cubs, meanwhile, are heading in the opposite direction. They are now 29-42.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher’s 3-for-5 night has him headed in the right direction with his batting average. He raised his batting average to .237. After hitting .225 in April and .200 in May, Swisher is hitting .309 in June with four home runs and 13 RBIs. He is now hitting .187 against right-handers with four home runs and 20 RBIs.
  • Rodriguez reached base every time up and was 3-for-4 with two singles, a double, a walk, scored three runs and drove in another. Rodriguez is now hitting .289 on the season with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs. Though he may not be hitting for as much power, Rodriguez is tearing up June with a .295 average.
  • Gardner was 3-for-5 with a double, a home run, scored two runs and drove in one. That means in the six games he and Swisher have shared the leadoff spot in place of the injured Derek Jeter they are a combined 10-for-23 (.435) with an on-base percentage of .552. Manager Joe Girardi might have a tough decision to make about the leadoff spot when Jeter returns.
  • Martin was showing no ill effects from his home-plate collision on Saturday with Carlos Pena and was 1-for-3 with a walk and had another bid for hit taken away from him in the ninth. Martin’s sac fly in the sixth tied the game and set the stage for the Yankees’ six-run explosion in the final two frames.
NAGGING NEGATIVES
  • Sabathia was fortunate to be able recover after a rocky beginning. He gave up four runs on six hits in the first and third innings, but he retired 12 of the last 13 hitters he faced to salvage a victory on a night when he did not have his best command. Sabathia is sixth in the American League in run support. The Yankees are averaging 7.89 runs a game for him.
  • Nunez was only the Yankee starter, except Sabathia, to not get a hit in the game. He was 0-for-3 with a walk but did drive in a run on a bases-loaded groundout in the fourth. It is only the second game in which he has started for Jeter at shortstop and he did not get a hit.
  • The Yankees called upon right-hander Jeff Marquez, 26, to pitch the ninth with a 10-4 lead. However, Marquez made it a Navy appearance — it was not just a job it was an adventure. First Marquez dropped a Mark Teixeira flip on a Kosuke Fukodome grounder for an error. He then gave up a sharp single to Reed Johnson. Girardi then reluctantly ordered Mariano Rivera to warm up. Next Marquez went to full counts on Starlin Castro and Jeff Baker before retiring them. Then Aramis Ramirez lashed a bad-hop single that knocked over Ramiro Pena, who was subbing for Rodriguez at third base. But Marquez ended the game by retiring Soriano on a routine fly to center.

BOMBER BANTER

Phil Hughes struck out seven batters in 4 1/3 innings of a rehab assignment on Sunday with Class-A Staten Island in Brooklyn. Hughes gave up one run on three hits and a walk in a 61-pitch outing. It was Hughes first game since he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. More important good news for the Yankees was Hughes’ velocity. He averaged in the 92-93 range and topped out at 95 mph. Hughes was unable to reach 90 mph consistently throughout spring training. Hughes is scheduled to make a another rehab start with Double-A Trenton in five days and he possibly could be activated within two weeks.  . . .  Rodriguez downplayed concerns about a left shoulder injury that has been nagging the third baseman for the past few weeks. Girardi disputed a published report that it was a strain. He said it was just soreness and Rodriguez has been receiving treatment for it for about 10 days.

ON DECK

The Yankees, having won the Cub series and having also won eight of their last 10 games, continue their interleague road trip to Cincinnatti for a three-game series starting on Monday.

The Yankees will open the series with 24-year-old right-hander Ivan Nova (6-4, 4.46 ERA) on the mound. Nunez leads the A.L. and is second in the majors in run support. The Yankees average 9.41 runs per start for him. Nunez gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings against Texas on Wednesday but the Yankees handed him a victory by scoring 12 runs for him. He has never faced the Reds.

The Red will counter with 25-year-old right-hander Johnny Cueto (4-2, 1.68 ERA). Cueto gave up one unearned run on five hits over innings in a victory over the Dodgers on Tuesday . Cueto is 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.

Swish’s Swat Honors Father As Yanks Pound Cubs

GAME 70

YANKEES 10, CUBS 4

Nick Swisher never got a chance to see he father, Steve, play at Wrigley Field. But on this Father’s Day he paid homage to the former Cubs catcher by blasting a big home run at the hallowed venue in front of national television audience.

The younger Swisher smacked a three-run home run deep into the bleachers in right-center in the top of the eighth inning off right-hander Chris Carpenter to break a 4-4 tie and New York added three more runs in the ninth to finally show the upstart Chicago Cubs who was boss in the three-game weekend series.

Yankees ace left-hander CC Sabathia (9-4) won his sixth game in his last seven starts and is now tied with six other pitchers for the major-league lead in victories. But for Sabathia, this was not his best outing and he actually trailed the game 4-1 after giving up a three-run home run to former Yankee Rafael Soriano with two out in the third inning.

Sabathia gave up four runs on eight hits and a walk and he fanned three batters in seven innings of work. Having trouble with command of his fastball, Sabathia adjusted to throw more breaking pitches and he only gave up two hits over the last four innings to get credit for the victory.

Sabathia allowed the Yankee offense to get him back into the game. After Brett Gardner led off the game with a home run off Cubs starter Randy Wells, the Yankees got back in the game with two runs in the fourth and a single run in the sixth off Wells.

Swisher, who finished the night 3-for-5 with four RBIs, singled in Alex Rodriguez with one out in the fourth inning. Eduardo Nunez scored Robinson Cano two batters later on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice groundout to third. The two-run inning was setup on a mental error by Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro. After Rodriguez drew a one-out walk, Cano hit a sure groundout to third baseman Aramis Ramirez. But Castro pulled his foot off the second-base bag before he caught the ball and Rodriguez and Cano both were ruled safe.

Two innings later, the Yankees tied the game. Rodriguez led off with a single. A groundout by Cano advanced Rodriguez to second and Swisher singled to moved Rodriguez to third. After a Wells wild pitch advanced Swisher to second, Russell Martin launched a sacrifice fly to right to score Rodriguez.

The Yankees then seized control of the game in the eighth inning on Cubs lefty reliever Sean Marshall (3-2). Rodriguez opened the frame with a broken-bat single to left. Cano followed by lacing a single to right-center to advance Rodriguez to third.

Cubs manager Mike Quade elected to bring in the right-handed Carpenter to force Swisher to hit from his weaker side this season, the left side. However, Carpenter fell behind by sailing two straight pitches high and way outside. Carpenter then elected to throw a fastball in the middle of the plate and Swisher got all of it to blast it deep into the right-centerfield bleachers, giving the Yankees a 7-4 lead and a lot of the Cubs fans among the 41,828 in attendance home early.

With the victory, the Yankees have improved to 41-29 and they are a season-high 12 games over .500. They also remain 1 1/2 games in back of the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Cubs, meanwhile, are heading in the opposite direction. They are now 29-42.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher 3-for-5 night has him headed in the right direction with his batting average. He raised his batting average to .237. After hitting .225 in April and .200 in May, Swisher is hitting .309 in June with four home runs and 13 RBIs. He is now hitting .187 against right-handers with four home runs and 20 RBIs.
  • Rodriguez reached base every time up and was 3-for-4 with two singles, a double, a walk, scored three runs and drove in another. Rodriguez is now hitting .289 on the season with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs. Though he may not be hitting for power, Rodriguez is tearing up June with a .295 average.
  • Gardner was 3-for-5 with a double, a home run, scored two runs and drove in one. That mean in the six games he and Swisher have shared the leadoff spot in place of the injured Derek Jeter they are a combined 10-for-23 (.435) with an on-base percentage of .552. Manager Joe Girardi might have a decision to make about the leadoff spot when Jeter returns.
  • Martin was showing no ill effects from his home-plate collision on Saturday with Carlos Pena and was 1-for-3 with a walk and had another bid for hit taken away in the ninth. Martin’s sac fly in the sixth tied the game and set the stage for the Yankees’ six-run explosion in the final two frames.
NAGGING NEGATIVES
  • Sabathia was fortunate to be able recover after a rocky beginning. He gave up four runs on six hits in the first and third innings, but he retired 12 of the last 13 hitters he faced to salvage a victory on a night when he did not have his best command. Sabathia is sixth in the American League in run support. The Yankees are averaging 7.89 runs a game for him.
  • Nunez was only the Yankee starter, except Sabathia, to not get a hit in the game. He was 0-for-3 with a walk but did drive in a run on a bases-loaded groundout in the fourth. It is only the second game in which he has started for Jeter at shortstop that he did not get a hit.
  • The Yankees called upon right-hander Jeff Marquez, 26, to pitch the ninth with a 10-4 lead. However, Marquez made it a Navy appearance — it was not just a job it was an adventure. First Marquez dropped a Mark Teixeira flip on a Kosuke Fukodome grounder for an error. He then gave a single to Reed Johnson. Girardi then ordered Mariano Rivera to warm up. Next Marquez went to full counts on Starlin Castro and Jeff Baker before retiring them. Then Aramis Ramirez lashed a bad-hop single that knocked over Ramiro Pena, who was subbing for Rodriguez at third base. But Marquez ended the game by retiring Soriano on a routine fly to center.

BOMBER BANTER

Phil Hughes struck out seven batters in 4 1/3 innings of a rehab assignment on Sunday with Class-A Staten Island in Brooklyn. Hughes gave one run on three hits and a walk in a 61-pitch outing. It was Hughes first game since he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. More important news for the Yankees was Hughes’ velocity. He averaged in the 92-93 range and topped out at 95 mph. Hughes was unable to reach 90 mph consistently throughout spring training. Hughes is scheduled to make a another rehab start with Double-A Trenton in five days and he possible could be activated within two weeks.  . . .  Rodriguez downplayed concerns about a left shoulder injury that has been nagging the third baseman for the past few weeks. Girardi disputed the report that it was a strain. He said it was just soreness and Rodriguez has been receiving treatment for it for about 10 days.

 

ON DECK

The Yankees, having won the Cub series and having also won eight of their last 10 games, continue their interleague road trip to Cincinnatti for a three-game series starting on Monday.

 

The Yankees will open the series with 24-year-old right-hander Ivan Nova (6-4, 4.46 ERA) on the mound. Nunez leads the A.L. and is second in the majors in run support. The Yankees average 9.41 runs per start for him. Nunez gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings against Texas on Wednesday but the Yankees handed him a victory by scoring 12 runs for him. He has never faced the Reds.

 

The Red will counter with 25-year-old right-hander Johnny Cueto (4-2, 1.68 ERA). Cueto gave up one unearned run on five hits over innings in a victory over the Dodgers on Tuesday . Cueto is 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

 

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.