Tagged: Sergio Mitre

Yankees To Showcase Four Huge Spring Battles

The pitchers and catchers of the New York Yankees have reported to spring training camp in Tampa, FL, and the position players will soon be joining them. The Yankees’ first scheduled exhibition game is a week away. There are very few jobs on the line this spring as it is with most seasons with the Yankees. But there are four battles worth watching this spring and the result may determine how successful the team will be in 2013. Let’s look at them.

4) STARTING CATCHER: FRANCISCO CERVELLI vs. CHRIS STEWART

With the departure of Russell Martin to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent, the Yankees will be looking at replacing him from within their own ranks. The Yankees elected not to sign such free agents as A.J. Pierzynski and Miguel Oilvo. The problem is that Martin not only provided the Yankees with Gold Glove-quality defense behind the plate, he also provided power despite the fact his batting average was stuck below .200 for most of the 2012 season. The two main candidates to replace Martin are Cervelli, 26, who had been the team’s primary backup catcher in 2010 and 2011 but was optioned to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre on the final day of spring training last season due to the acquisition of Stewart, 30, from the San Francisco Giants. Cervelli arrives as the team’s best hitting option because he owns a career .271 batting average. But he lacks power and, although he calls a good game behind the plate, his throwing can be very erratic. He has a career success rate of throwing out 19.8 percent of base-runners. In contrast, throwing out base-runners is Stewart’s forte. He has nailed 33.7 percent of potential base-stealers and Stewart’s other defensive skills are pretty much on par with Martin’s. The big negative with Stewart is that he is a career .217 hitter and he has no power. In addition to this battle, there are a pair of catchers looking to make an impression in rookie Austin Romine, 24, and non-roster invitee Bobby Wilson, 29. Romine is coming off a season in which he was plagued by a lower-back strain that limited him to just 33 games in the minors last season. Wilson, a former backup catcher with the Los Angels Angels, was released by the Toronto Blue Jays after spending the entire 2012 season at Triple A. Romine’s strong suit is defense and manager Joe Girardi and bench coach Tony Pena, both former catchers, believe Romine is ready to catch at the major-league level now. The issue with Romine is that he has to prove he is healthy and he has to improve as a hitter. Wilson is almost a carbon copy of Stewart. He has nailed 27.1 percent of potential base-stealers but his career major-league batting average is .208.

PREDICTION: Cervelli should win the job, barring injury, which is a legitimate concern. Cervelli has suffered three separate concussions, a broken wrist and a broken bone in his foot over the past five seasons. So his durability is an issue. Stewart, on the basis of his solid season as backup in 2012, seems to be almost assured of retaining his job. But Romine is worth watching this spring. If he is healthy and he shows signs his hitting is improving he might get a promotion to the majors this season. But realistically the Yankees would prefer that he get in a full season at Scranton and he could be promoted in September with a hope he can compete for a starting role in 2014. Wilson will be insurance in case there is an injury to Cervelli or Stewart and he likely will share the catching chores with Romine at Scranton.

3) RESERVE INFIELDER: JAYSON NIX vs. EDUARDO NUNEZ

Although this is, in a sense, a rematch from last spring, it also is not. Confused? Well, Nunez was actually competing for the backup infield spot with Ramiro Pena and Nix, who was signed as a minor-league free agent, was just invited to spring training. Nunez, 25, easily won the role by hitting .372 while Pena hit .240. Nix, 30, was a longshot to make the team and did not. However, he did open some eyes by hitting .323 and flashing some solid defense at second base, third base and shortstop. Nix also proved valuable in that he could play the corner outfield spots. So he was optioned to Scranton and he hit .233 there before he was summoned on May 3. Nunez was hitting a sizzling .294 but his penchant to commit careless fielding errors doomed him. He was optioned to Scranton on May 11 and Nix became the team’s backup infielder. Nunez’s season pretty much fell apart after that. He suffered an injury to his right hand that sidelined him for most of the minor-league season. He was recalled to the Yankees when the rosters expanded on Sept. 1 but the Yankees top brass insisted that Nunez was being groomed as primarily a shortstop and that he would not used as a utility infielder anymore. Nix,meanwhile, flourished in his role, hitting .243 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 174 at-bats in 77 games. Though Nunez is clearly a better athlete, a better hitter and a better base-stealer, Nix was so much steadier in the field that the Yankees were pleased with his work. Nunez committed seven errors in 38 games with the Yankees while Nix was charged with only three. A quick look at the Yankees’ depth chart on yankees.com shows something interesting this spring. Nunez is listed as the primary backup at second, third, shortstop and leftfield. Huh? I guess the Yankees changed their minds about Nunez not being a utility player and he will battle Nix for the role. If anyone believes Nunez is going to shed his nickname of “Eduardo Scissorhands” this spring than I have some prime swampland to sell you. But the Yankees may need his hitting and his base-stealing ability more than they need his fielding this season. The Yankees lost a lot of power from the 2012 club and they may need to score more runs by moving runners around the bases and stealing more bases. That would favor Nunez, who actually embarrassingly was third on the team last season with 11 stolen bases despite playing in only 38 games. Nix is still in the picture because of his fielding and steady play. It is going to be a very close call either way it goes.

PREDICTION: Nunez not only has hitting and base-stealing advantages this spring. He also may benefit from the slow recovery of Derek Jeter from surgery on his fractured left ankle and the presence of camp invitee Dan Johnson. If Jeter can’t start the season at shortstop, Nunez will man the position in his place. The reason Johnson is important is that he is a left-handed power hitter who can play both first and third base. If Johnson can make the team and show he field third base adequately enough, Nunez would only need to back up at shortstop and second base. That would lessen the chances Nix would have to making the 25-man roster. Johnson would, in effect, replace Eric Chavez, who opted to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks. That would allow Nunez to remain as a backup middle infielder and potentially a right-handed platoon designated hitter. If I was a betting man, I would wager that this is the scenario that likely will play out. Nix could accept a demotion to Scranton as insurance. It also is possible that Nunez could be packaged in a trade before the season starts. But that won’t happen until Jeter shows he will be ready to play by Opening Day.

2) BACKUP OUTFIELDER: MATT DIAZ vs. JUAN RIVERA

One of the reasons Nunez is listed as a backup in leftfield is because both Diaz and Rivera are non-roster invitees to spring training. But, rest assured, one of them make the team as a right-handed hitting backup outfielder. Diaz, 34, was released by the Atlanta Braves after suffering through a season cut short in August by season-ending surgery on his right thumb. Diaz hit .222 with two home runs and 13 RBIs. He is a career .291 hitter and he has been an exceptional hitter against left-handed pitching. Rivera, 34, originally came up through the Yankees’ minor-league system and played with the Yankees in parts of the 2002 and 2003 seasons before being traded to the then Montreal Expos before the 2004 season. Rivera was reserve outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers last season and hit .244 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs. He is a career .274 hitter and h also has been a much better hitter against left-handers. When the Yankees chose to allow Andruw Jones sign with a team in Japan, the Yankees opened up a spot on the roster for a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who could also serve as a right-handed platoon designated hitter. Neither player is considered as accomplished fielders though Diaz has a bit more range. As hitters, Diaz is a better hitter for average though Rivera boasts considerably more power. Because the Yankees starting outfield is an all left-handed-hitting group consisting of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki it is important that the Yankees have a right-handed-hitting option on the bench. So these two players will be fighting it out.

PREDICTION: Because of Rivera’s former ties to the club and the fact he hits with more power, he has a big edge over Diaz. Neither Gardner or Suzuki have much power so it will be important to have a hitter on the bench who can provide it from the right side. Should Girardi also need a right-handed DH, Rivera fits the Jones mold better than Diaz does. Diaz also has slipped significantly since the 2009 season when he hit .313 and he also is coming off surgery. Rivera, on the other hand, also has slipped from his 2009 season when he hit .287 with 25 home runs and 88 RBIs with the Los Angeles Angels. But last season was the first season in which he has failed to connect for double-digit home runs since the 2007 season in which he played in only 14 games. Rivera will likely win the job easily barring injury or something else unforeseen.

1) NO. 5 STARTING PITCHER: IVAN NOVA vs. DAVID PHELPS

Those other position battles are the undercard but this one is the Main Event. It is also odd that there is even a competition involving Nova considering how good he was in his rookie season in 2011. But Nova, 26, struggled from the minute spring exhibitions started in 2012 and it got so bad that he was taken out of the rotation in favor of Phelps by Girardi in September. Nova’s record in 2011 was 16-4 and he was 12-8 last season. However, his ERA jumped from 3.70 to 5.02 and, though he recorded a 1.26 ERA in June last season, his ERA in the other months was: 5.18 in April, 5.87 in May, 5.97 in July, 7.03 in August and 6.23 in September. Ouch! So that is the reason Phelps is challenging him for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Phelps, 25, arrived in camp last spring voted as the organization’s best minor-league pitcher in 2011. Though scouts have always doubted him, Phelps rose through the minors and carries a record of 40-15 with a 2.51 ERA in 90 starts. In spring training, Phelps was 0-1 with a 2.08 ERA in seven appearances and was named the Yankees’ top rookie of the spring. He also earned a spot in the bullpen. Phelps then turned in some sparkling performances as a long reliever and spot starter with the Yankees. He ended the season 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA in 33 appearances (11 starts). This competition is hard to handicap because Nova – truth be told – has the nastiest stuff of any of the Yankees’ starters. Last season he just could not harness it and he got hit hard when he fell behind and had to throw fastballs. Phelps is pit-bull on the mound who has supreme confidence in himself and his stuff.

PREDICTION: I really have no idea on how this will turn out but I still believe that Nova has a bit of an edge on the basis of his rookie season. But Phelps has been doubted at every step of the way since he starred at Notre Dame. You can never measure desire and he has it. I can tell you the loser of this battle will not necessarily be heading to the bullpen. For one thing, Nova has little or no bullpen experience. Another reason is that the Yankees probably will want to make sure that the starter they do not select for the rotation remains “stretched out” as a starter at the minor-league level so they can step in case of an injury. I can also say it is refreshing to see that with homegrown starters like Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes already in the rotation and two homegrown starters like Nova and Phelps battling for the last rotation spot, that the Yankees’ minor-league system is beginning to churn out talent at a time when the payroll needs to be reduced.  It sure beats shelling out money to guys like Sergio Mitre and Freddy Garcia. That is progress.

 

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Here Are Five Keys To Yankees Succeeding In 2012

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to the Yankees’ spring training complex in a few weeks, it might be a good time to look at the five things that would be good signs the Yankees are on their way to their 28th world championship. They are:

NO. 5 – CC Sabathia reports to camp minus about 30 pounds he was carrying at the end of last season.

Sabathia struggled with a knee injury at the tail end of the 2010 season. He ended up having surgery to repair the damage and actually dropped about 30 pounds before he reported to spring training last year. The result was Sabathia got off to one of the better starts of his career. At the All-Star break he was 13-4 with a 2.72 ERA and he had won 10 of his last 11 starts. Can you figure out what happened next? He finished the season 19-8 with a 3.00 ERA. The reason was he had gained weight during the course of the season and it really showed in his postseason appearances against the Tigers. He was 0-0 with a 6.23 ERA with a WHIP of 2.08 in 8 2/3 innings over three games. Sabathia chose not to opt out of his contract in order to sign a lucrative extension that will keep in pinstripes until the year 2017. The Yankees got in return from Sabathia a pledge that he will take the excess weight off this winter and keep it off during the course of the season. In a few weeks we will see if Sabathia has succeeded in his pledge.

No. 4 – The Yankees find a second left-handed reliever to help Boone Logan.

Logan, 27, is a good enough pitcher. He was 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 2010 and 5-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 2011. But he is terribly miscast as a “lefty specialist.” Left-handed hitters batted .260 off him last season while right-handers fared a bit better at .262. That is because Logan is nothing like Damoso Marte or Pedro Feliciano. The Yankees traded with Kansas City for Rule 5 draftee Cesar Cabral from the Red Sox and signed former Red Sox lefty Hideki Okajima to compete this spring for a chance to earn a spot in the bullpen. Cabral, 23, was 3-4 with a 2.95 ERA in 36 appearances with Salem in the Carolina League and Portland in Eastern League. He notched 70 strikeouts and walked 21 batters in 55 innings. Okajima, 36, was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket after posting a 1-0 record and a 4.32 ERA in seven appearances with Red Sox. He was 8-1 with a 2.29 ERA in 34 appearances with the Pawsox. With Feliciano recovering from left shoulder surgery and not expected to pitch in 2012, the Yankees have no other left-handers on their 40-man roster. So either Cabral or Okajima take the bull by the horns and win a job or the Yankees will either have to deal for another lefty or be forced to use starter Manny Banuelos in the role at some point during the season. That is something they do not want to do unless they are forced into it.

No. 3 – A.J. Burnett is not on the roster when the season starts.

The Yankees have made it as clear as possible without saying it publicly: They have no confidence that the enigmatic 35-year-old right-hander will recapture the magic of his 2008 season in Toronto when he was 18-10 with 4.07 ERA and 231 strikeouts in 221 1/3 innings. He has gotten worse in his three years with the Yankees, ending up 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA in 2011. He also has lost velocity on his heater and that is a sign he is in a steep decline. The problem is the Yankees are on the hook for two more years and $33 million on his contract. But the Yankees acquired 23-year-old Michael Pineda and signed 36-year-old free agent Hiroki Kuroda to pitch behind Sabathia and the Yankees are saying that Ivan Nova will retain a spot in the rotation he earned with a 16-4 rookie season. That leaves 25-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes, 35-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia and Burnett to compete for the No. 5 spot. Barring an injury, the Yankees likely will only keep one of the two starters that fail to win a spot for the bullpen. So the odds for Burnett are not good. The Yankees have made it known they have dangled Burnett in a trade. They are offering to pay about $8 million of his contract but, so far, they have had no serious takers. But as the season nears and teams assess their starting staffs, it could be possible that Burnett could be dealt, much like Sergio Mitre was in 2011. That would be a good thing because Burnett has just about tested every last bit of patience out of manager Joe Girarddi and pitching coach Larry Rothscild. Yankee fans are getting sick of trying to guess whether they will see “Good A.J.” or “Bad A.J.” from start to start. They are seeing the bad version more often these days. It also does not really matter what the Yankees get in return. The Yankees would settle for young prospects – a power-hitting young outfielder and a young pitcher would be just fine. Let’s hope general manager Brian Cashman gets it done before the season starts.

No. 2 – The Yankees either acquire or sign a legitimate and experienced DH.

With the trade of Jesus Montero to the Mariners and the retirement of Jorge Posada, the Yankees currently do not have a major-league designated hitter. For the moment they are touting 29-year-old minor-league corner infielder Jorge Vazquez as a potential starter there. Vazquez, a veteran of the Mexican League, did hit .262 with 32 home runs and drove in 93 runs in 118 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But the Yankees might be looking for a more experienced DH from among free agents such as Raul Ibanez, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Pedro Guerrero. Of that mix, Damon appears to be the best fit. He spent four seasons with the Yankees and has shown he can take advantage of the short dimensions in right-field at Yankee Stadium. In 2011 with the Rays, Damon hit .261 with 16 home runs, 73 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 150 games. Damon would be of use as a DH, part-time outfielder (despite his weak arm) and solid veteran pinch-hitter or pinch-runner off the bench. The others are limited in the field and have declined significantly at the plate. Granted, Girardi does like to rotate his veterans at the DH spot to give them rest. But the Yankees need another bat to replace Montero and they can’t wait too long to fill it.

NO. 1 – Alex Rodriguez shows up in Tampa healthy and displaying prodigious power throughout spring training.

Let’s face it, love him or hate him, Rodriguez is the key to the Yankees’ offense in 2012. Since 2007 when he played in 158 games, Rodriguez has been sidelined for significant periods of time by a hip injury, shoulder problems, a knee injury, a calf injury and a sprained finger. In 2011, he was limited to 99 games and he hit .276 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs. He entered the American League Division Series with Detroit at less than 100 percent and it showed. He was 2-for-18 (.111) with six strikeouts in the series. For the Yankees to have any chance of getting back to the World Series, Rodriguez must remain healthy throughout 2012, particularly during the playoffs. Although Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano pretty much carried the team throughout the 2011 season, it is Rodriguez who strikes the most fear in pitchers when he is “locked in” and pounding out home runs. Borrowing a line from Reggie Jackson, A-Rod is the straw that stirs the drink in the Yankees’ lineup. They need him more than any other player and Rodriguez must also prove he is not in a precipitous decline at age 36. The Yankees are paying him through the 2017 season and they can’t afford to be paying $32 million to a player who hits 16 home runs and drive in 62 runs.

 

Starters Colon, Garcia Proving Cashman’s Plan B Working

When the Yankees failed to sign free-agent left-hander Cliff Lee, general manager Brian Cashman immediately launched a Plan B to fill holes in the starting rotation. The Yankees not only lost out on Lee, but veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte chose to retire. To fill in those two spots in the rotation behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes, Cashman signed 34-year-old Freddy Garcia and 37-year-old Bartolo Colon. In addition, the Yankees signed 36-year-old Kevin Millwood and 31-year-old Carlos Silva to minor-league contracts. Youth movement? Hardly. But let’s see how these moves are shaping up:

FREDDY GARCIA (1-0, 1.29 ERA)

“Chief” as Garcia is called was part of a group of four pitchers vying for two spots in the Yankees’ rotation in spring training. In truth, he was the least impressive of the group of three after Sergio Mitre was traded in mid-March.
Yet, he was handed the No. 5 spot in the rotation on the basis of his 2010 season in which he was 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA in 28 starts with the White Sox. Garcia had won 12 or more games in seven of eight seasons between 1999 and 2006 before injuries limited him to 23 starts over the next three seasons. But his bounceback season in 2010 convinced Cashman to give him a chance to make the team this spring.
The early returns on the 2011 are promising. Garcia threw a two-hit shutout over six innings in his first start against a good-hitting Texas Rangers team on April 16. He walked two and struck out two and looked in command throughout.
This first effort does not prove that Garcia will continue to pitch this well throughout the season. But it does show that the right-hander still has some gas left in the tank and he could ride the Yankees’ offense to another season of 12 wins or more in 2011.
BARTOLO COLON (1-1, 3.50 ERA)

Colon, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2005, was actually more impressive than Garcia in spring training. However, because he had not pitched in the major leagues in 2010 there were concerns about his durability.
After all, Colon is carrying at least 265 pounds on a 5-foot-11 frame and he had not made more than 18 starts in any season since 2005. He was 3-8 with a 4.19 ERA in 12 starts with the White Sox in 2009 and he was released.
The Yankees decided to sign him after his winter league manager, Yankee bench coach Tony Pena, recommended him on the basis of his ability to throw his fastball at 94 miles per hour and remarkable control.
As a result of his hot spring, the Yankees traded Mitre and placed Colon in the bullpen to begin the season. But when 24-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes faltered in his first three starts and showed reduced velocity, the Yankees opted to put Hughes on the disabled list and Colon was chosen to taken his spot in the rotation.
All Colon did in his first start was give up just two runs on five hits and two walks and he fanned seven in 6 2/3 innings against a very good hitting Toronto Blue Jays team. In 18 innings this season, Colon has walked five batters and struck out 20. That is a pretty impressive ratio for a Plan B pickup off the scrap heap.
Again, one start does not make a season. But Colon is showing that he is able to command the strike zone and get outs against tough teams. It is pretty obvious the Yankees need him, too.
KEVIN MILLWOOD (1-0, 0.00 ERA at Double-A Trenton)

Millwood was baseball’s biggest loser in 2010 and we are not talking about weight. For a very bad Baltimore Orioles team Millwood was 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA in 31 starts. That earned him a ticket to free agency this winter and there were no takers.
The Yankees were interested but Millwood insisted on a guaranteed deal to make the roster. The Yankees declined. With spring training coming to a close, Millwood relented and signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees contingent on him being released if he is not called up to the majors before May 1.
The clock is ticking and the Yankees have just nine days to make an assessment on Millwood. On the one hand, Millwood was very impressive in his first start for the Trenton Thunder. He went seven innings, gave up one hit, walked four and struck three.
There also is the fact that the Yankees have another 24-year-old starter who is struggling. In his first three starts, Ivan Nova was unimpressive and he lost a game in relief to the Blue Jays on Tuesday.
In four appearances, Nova is 1-2 with a 7.63 ERA and his latest start was skipped. Nova will likely get another start before a final decision is made. But the Yankees might call on yet another aging right-hander like Millwood to bail out a struggling 24-year-old kid in Nova.
Tick, tick, tick.
CARLOS SILVA (No Record)

Silva has pitched for the Phillies, the Twins, the Mariners and the Cubs since 2002. He was 14-8 with a 4.21 ERA in his first season as a starter with the Twins in 2004. 
However, he has struggled since he was 9-8 with a 3.44 ERA in 27 starts in an injury-shortened 2005 campaign. After going 24-29 in two ill-fated seasons with the Twins, Silva signed with Seattle.
In 2008, he was 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA in 28 starts and after an injury-plagued 2009 season in which he was 1-3 with an 8.60 ERA, he moved on to the Cubs and picked up some helpful instruction from then-pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
Silva actually pitched well for the Cubs in 2010. He was 10-6 with a 4.22 ERA in 21 starts before a right elbow strain shelved him. Silva did not make the Cubs’ 2011 roster, he turned down a demotion to the minors and he was subsequently released.
But Rothschild thinks he still can pitch and the Yankees have offered him a mior-league contract. Currently, the Yankees have Silva pitching in extended spring training in Tampa with the hopes he can begin pitching in the minors soon in an effort to get back to the major leagues.
He is likely a month or even two away from promotion but the Yankees have nothing really to lose in giving him a shot.
BUYING TIME

It is obvious what the Yankees are doing with Garcia, Colon, Millwood and Silva. They no longer are Michelins but they are solid patched up tires who carry the Yankees further in the pennant chase in 2011.
Cashman knows that teams are not going to shed quality starters in April or May — not when every team believes it has a chance to compete. But teams do fall out of races. Those teams also will look to cut salary in the summer. That is what Cashman is counting on.
Cashman has played this game before. In 2005, the Yankees rotation was riddled with injury and Cashman was forced to fill spots in the summer. He called up a rookie by the name of Chien-Ming Wang. He traded for a veteran right-hander from Colorado in Shawn Chacon and he called up a journeyman right-hander named Aaron Small.
Those three pitchers combined to go 25-8 in 38 starts and the Yankees ended up winning the division title. Small was 10-0 with a 3.20 ERA. So sometimes bargain-basement hunting for pitching has a silver lining.
The Yankees are also bidding for time for their young pitchers. They would love for Hughes and Nova to claim spots in the rotation and hold them. But if they can’t the team can’t just fold up their tents and write off t
he 2011 season either.
They have very high hopes for a trio of pitchers in the minors: 25-year-old right-hander Andrew Brackman, 23-year-old right-hander Dellin Betances and 20-year-old phenom lefty Manny Banuelos. Rather than rush those guys to the majors, the Yankees are going to let them develop at their own pace.
Brackman possibly could be promoted this season but the Yankees would rather he build his arm — three years removed from Tommy John surgery — at the minor-league level.
There is a good chance that Banuelos might get promoted to the major-league club in September as a additional lefty in the bullpen. The Yankees believe using him much like they did with Joba Chamberlain in 2007 could be beneficial to him and not tax his arm unduly.
But, until Cashman makes a deal to acquire a quality starter, the Yankees will look to their geriatric quartet of Garcia, Colon, Millwood and Silva to carry them until the cavalry arrives.
These pitchers may be closer to drawing Social Security than votes for the Cy Young Award but they can help keep the Yankees afloat long enough for the team to stay in the race. Cashman, manager Joe Girardi and Rothschild do not have any other expectations of them than that. Anything above that is a bonus.

Yankees Trade Mitre To Brewers, Sign Veteran Millwood

TAMPA — The Yankees made two moves today regarding their 2011 rotation. One was a addition and one was a subtraction.
The Yankees reached a deal with Milwaukee to send right-hander Sergio Mitre to the Brewers in return for outfielder Chris Dickerson. 
Mitre, 30, was a candidate to be a No. 5 starter this spring but did not look good in his last outing against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. Mitre is 13-29 with a 5.27 ERA in his career and was 0-3 with the Yankees in 2010.
Dickerson , 28, was acquired by the Brwers from the Reds on Aug. 9 last season in trade for Jim Edmonds. He hit .208 with five RBIs in 25 games with the Brewers. Dickerson is similar to Greg Golson in that he is able to play good defense and run.
In the second move, the Yankees signed veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood to a minor-league contract. Millwood was 4-16 with a 5.10 ERA last season with the Orioles.
He gives the Yankees an insurance policy behind 34-year-old Freddy Garcia and 37-year-old Bartolo Colon, who are both competing with 24-year-old Ivan Nova for two open rotation spots. Millwood, 36, will likely have to get in shape at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before being considered for promotion to the Yankees.
The loss of Mitre raises the possibility that the Yankees could either use Nova or Garcia out of the bullpen as a long reliever to start the season. Nova has seemed to have earned the No. 4 spot but the Yankees might just hand a rotation spot to Garcia, though his ERA is 5.93 this spring.
The Yankees seem to favor veterans over rookies and they may see Nova as a potential starter if Colon or Garcia stumble.
The final decision has not been made, but the regular season begins in one week.

Mitre Awful, Granderson Ailing As O’s Blast Yankees

GAME 26
ORIOLES 6, YANKEES 2
Grapefruit League home run leader Jake Fox connected for his ninth round-tripper of the spring and Luke Scott added a two-run blast to spark a four-run third inning off Sergio Mitre as Baltimore powered past New York on Tuesday at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.
Rookie left-hander Zach Britton (2-0) gave up only one run on six hits and a walk over five-plus innings of work to get credit for the victory. Mitre (1-1) was hammered for five runs on five hits and a walk over three innings and was the losing pitcher.
The Yankees’ spring record dropped to 9-14-3. The Orioles are 10-11-1.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES
  • The Yankees scored their only run in the third inning when Melky Mesa  and Nick Swisher singled with one out. A Matt Wieters passed ball advanced Mesa to third and he scored on a Mark Teixeira fielder’s choice grounder.
  • Swisher had two of the Yankees’ seven hits in the game and he raised his spring average to .255. It appears his early struggles with a shoulder injury are over and he is ready for the regular season.
  • Mark Prior, Romulo Sanchez and Luis Ayala combined to pitch four scoreless innings of relief. Prior, who is nowhere near the pitcher he was, has a 1.35 ERA on the spring. Ayala, who shows a lot of promise, has an 0.93 ERA.
  • Joba Chamberlain pitched for the first time since March 11 and gave up a solo home run to J.J. Hardy. But he proved he was not affected by the strained left oblique that shelved him.
NAGGING NEGATIVES
  • Mitre essentially made it easy on the Yankees by taking himself out of the competition for a starting rotation spot — not that he had much of a chance anyway. He was simply ineffective. In 64 pitches, Mitre gave up three singles, two home runs, walked a batter and balked in a run. 
  • The Yankees were able to get on base against Britton but they kept letting him off the hook by making out after out with runners in scoring position. Eduardo Nunez and Ronnie Belliard both failed twice to get a hit with two runners on. Teixeira and Andruw Jones did the same thing in the fifth. The Yankees were 1-for-11 with RISP overall.
  • The bottom three of the batting order, Nunez, Belliard and Brandon Laird were a combined 0-for-9 in the game.
BOMBER BANTER
Curtis Granderson was batting first and playing centerfield in the Yankees’ original starting lineup but had to be scratched when he strained a right oblique muscle during batting practice. His status for Opening Day is now in doubt. Granderson said he believed he could have played if it were a regular season game but the Yankees are not commenting until they get the results of an MRI scheduled for Wednesday. Granderson joins Mitre, Chamberlain and outfielder Greg Golson who have had to deal with spring oblique issues.  . . .  Mitre said he hopes a decision on his status is not made based on what he did Tuesday. Mitre was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five spring outings (two starts) before his start on Tuesday. But after the Orioles were through with him, his ERA rose to 5.73. There is concern now Mitre even might lose his role as a long reliever and spot starter.  . . .  Chamberlain’s fastball was clocked as high as 95 miles per hour on the radar gun.  . . .  General manager Brian Cashman said the Yankees have no interest in free-agent left-hander Oliver Perez, who was released by the Mets. 
ON DECK
The Yankees return to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Wednesday to host the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees will send to the hill right-hander Phil Hughes. The Blue Jays plan to start Jo-Jo Reyes, who is competing for the fifth spot in the team’s rotation.
Game-time will be 7:05 EDT and the game will be telecast live nationally by MLB Network.

Nova, Garcia Lead For Now In Battle For Rotation  Spots

At the halfway point of the Grapefruit League season let’s look at how the spring position battles are shaping up with the New York Yankees. The analysis will include statistics, track records and a “scout’s eye” view at projecting a winner.

No. 4 and No. 5 starters

Bartolo Colon, 37, 1-0 3.00 ERA, 12 K’s, 1.00 WHIP
Fredy Garcia, 34, 1-1 4.70 ERA, 6 K’s, 1.30 WHIP
Sergio Mitre, 30, 1-0 0.00 ERA, 4 K’s, 1.00 WHIP
Ivan Nova, 24, 0-0 2.25 ERA, 3 K’s, 1.25 WHIP

Nova is a clear-cut favorite for the No. 4 spot in the rotation. His star has risen this spring because of how many inquiries about his availability from other teams. Nova does not have a dominant pitch but he competes and the Yankees like that about him.
Some in Yankee circles believe Nova will be the odd man out because he has options left back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But that may not be the case at all because manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild have told reporters they will take the best arms north with them, period.
Nova is not in the category of past Yankee prospects like Phil Hughes. Some scouts believe he overachieved last season at Scranton, where he was 12-3 with a 2.86 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 145 innings. 
But Rothschild and Girardi like his makeup and his fearlessness on the mound. So unless Nova really flops in the next two weeks, he is strong favorite to hold the No. 4 spot in the rotation.
Mitre is behind several eight balls this spring. The problem with Mitre is that he performed exceptionally well out the bullpen last season. He did not pitch as well in his three starts. So the Yankees seem to view him as more of a long relief and spot starter candidate.
Mitre did not help his cause by coming up with a mild left oblique strain on the night he was to start against the Red Sox on Monday. He has only pitched five innings this spring and none have them have been starts. So it is hard to say Mitre will have the ability to pull things together in time to make the team as a starter.
With only one bullpen spot open, Mitre is more likely to get that role. One thing weighing heavily in his favor is that Girardi and Rothschild have a history with him. Rothschild worked with him when he was with the Cubs and Girardi used him as a starter when he managed the Marlins in 2007. 
Mitre also is different from any of the other relievers the Yankees have in that he can induce ground balls with his sinker. 
That leaves Garcia and Colon vying for the No. 5 spot. When camp opened Garcia was the front-runner and, despite Garcia’s weak outing on Sunday against the Twins, he remains the front-runner at the halfway point.
The reason is Garcia’s track record. Garcia made 28 starts with the Chicago White Sox in 2010 and was 12-6 with a 4.64 ERA. He is high WHIP pitcher at 1.38, which means he has to battle with whatever he’s got to get out of jams. 
When he is “on,” Garcia can be very good. In 15 starts last season, he held opponents to two runs or fewer. But as the high ERA would suggest, when he is not “on” he can be knocked around like the proverbial boxing tomato can. 
If the decision on the No. 5 spot were necessary to be made today, Garcia would clearly have the edge over Colon.
Colon has not pitched in the major leagues since the mid-2009 season, when he was cut by the White Sox after 12 starts, a 3-6 record and a 4.19 ERA. Colon was invited to spring training on the basis of pitching exceptional baseball on a winter league team managed by Yankee bench coach Tony Pena.
Colon surprised the Yankees in two ways. No. 1 he reported to camp heavier than his listed 265 pounds, which displeased the front office. But he has wowed Rothschild and Girardi with his 93-mile-per-hour fastball and devastating sinker.
The Yankees do see Colon as an effective potential No. 5 starter. But they are somewhat leery about his past health issues and his weight problems. But Colon holds more promise because Garcia can’t throw with the same velocity as Colon.
So it comes down to a breaking ball artist with a proven track record of durability against a promising former Cy Young Award winner with a blazing fastball and the waistline of Shamu the Killer Whale.
There is still time for Colon to edge his way into the mix. But it will not be at the expense of Nova. Garcia would be the loser.
The more likely scenario is that the Yankees will offer Colon a minor-league contract with a date specified that if he is not called up he could catch on with another team. This way Colon could work on his weight and the Yankees can evaluate his progress at Triple-A.
CORNER INFIELD

Eric Chavez, 33, .370 BA, 5 doubles, 0 home runs and 2 RBIs
Jorge Vazquez, 29, .464 BA, 3 doubles, 3 home runs, 8 RBIs

If this decision came to strictly hitting, Vazquez would the big favorite to win this job. But the Yankees are not going to look at it purely from the standpoint of hitting.
That is bad news for Vazquez.
Chavez has six Gold Gloves in his trophy case that he won as a starting third baseman with the Oakland A’s and the Yankees see his defense at third as superior to that of Vazquez.
The only question about Chavez as he arrived in camp as a non-roster player was his health. He has not played a full season of baseball since 2006. Back and neck injuries have limited him to just 64 games in the past three seasons.
However, Chavez has proven he is healthy this spring and he can only lose this job by getting injured. The Yankees have been impressed with is work ethic and the way he prepares for games. He also has been turning in solid at-bats throughout the spring.
Vazquez came out of nowhere almost. He had a sensational winter league season and was a Caribbean World Series MVP. When camp opened he was lacing line drives and blasting tape-measure shot home runs. 
He carried that into the exhibition season and is the team leader in batting average and RBIs and is tied with Granderson with three home runs. So, to say Vazquez has made a positive impression on the Yankee top brass is putting it mildly.
However, he has options left to Triple-A and Chavez belongs on major-league roster. Scouts have said if the Yankees were to release Chavez he would be in high demand with about half of the remaining teams in baseball.
Some scouts believe he could start at third for more than five or six teams. So the Yankees are not letting him go.
Though Chavez needs to work at learning how to play first base in order to back up Mark Teixeira, they are comfortable with putting him in the lineup at third base on the days Alex Rodriguez needs a rest.
Vazquez is more suited as first baseman and his defense there is merely adequate.  So he will be sent to Scranton and the Yankees would consider calling him up if anything happened to Chavez, Rodriguez or Teixiera.
He also could be used as a DH if anything happened to Jorge Posada for any length of time.
MIDDLE INFIED

Eduardo Nunez, 23, .333 BA, 2 doubles, 1 home run, 5 RBIs, 5 SBs
Ramiro Pena, 25, .167 BA, 0 doubles, 0 home runs, 2 RBIs, 2 SBs

On the surface, this appears to be a lock for Nunez. But this is not such an easy decision for Girardi.
Girardi is very fond of Pena and what he has done as a backup infielder the past two seasons. He hit .287 in the 2009 championship season. But last season, Pena hit only .227 and he has been disappointing with the bat this spring.
Pena’s big calling card is his glove. He is an excellent fielder at second, shortstop and third. He also can play the outfield if called upon. He also can steal an occasional base. He stole seven bags in eight attempts last season.
Nunez, however, is the more accomplished hitter. He hit .289 with five home runs and 50 RBIs at Scranton in 2010. In 50 at-bats with the Yankees last season he hit .280. 
Nunez is also more athletic and faster than Pena. Nunez stole 23 bases at Scranton and added five more with the Yankees. The question is: Would Nunez be too good a prospect to use as a reserve? Would he benefit more from another season at Triple-A where can develop more as a hitter, fielder and base-runner?
That is Pena’s only hope of winning the job now. Remember that the Yankees rejected a Cliff Lee trade from the Mariners last season because they did not want to add Nunez or Nova to the deal.
Nunez could be a starting shortstop now for some teams. But with the Yankees he may be relegated to backing up Jeter for four more years or he could be a trade chip for a starting pitcher later this season.
Either way, Pena is hanging by a thread to remain the backup here. He still has time to raise his average a bit and save his role. But he better get cracking soon or hope that Nunez flops the next two weeks.
Nunez may just be too good for Pena to hold off. 

Mitre Sharp As Yankees, Orioles End Contest Tied

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