May 2009

Street sense

street_350_052609.jpgBy Jon Lane
For those new to following the Yankees, or ones who skim past the transactions section, Brian Bruney was signed by the Yankees in May 2006 shortly after the Arizona Diamondbacks designated him for assignment. In layman’s terms, Bruney was plucked off the scrap heap. There was no break out the fancy buffet press conference welcoming him to New York City and shirts/jerseys stitched with BRUNEY 38 weren’t made for sale up and down River Avenue or at your local retail outlet.

There’s that old as Angel Berroa saying about one man’s trash. The Yankees took a flier on Bruney and caught lightning when the right-hander’s explosive fastball made him an important member of the bullpen. In the last few weeks we’ve all learned just how important. This is not the older than cavemen expression, “Don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” The Yankees are feeling the effects of Bruney’s absence and bracing for what may turn out the worst possible news.

Bruney has pain in his right elbow and has no clue why. He’s been disabled for the second time in a month and is visiting with Dr. James Andrews, synonymous with the famous procedure called Tommy John surgery. Dr. Andrews’ recommendation will be the difference between a suspension bridge to Mariano Rivera, and one made of fraying rope and decaying wooden planks that connect two ends of a mountain.  

David Robertson is back with the Yankees. Mark Melancon could get another shot. Others (read Phil Coke and Alfredo Aceves) will see further action in the seventh and eighth innings. In short, the Yankees will evaluate internal options and not make a panic move, which is the right thing to do. But that’s not stopping the speculation. Our partners at River Ave Blues run down a list of options that could be made available in a trade. One name in particular intrigues me, Huston Street.

Street’s career is regaining traction four seasons removed from his Rookie of the Year campaign in Oakland. He was traded to Colorado in the Matt Holliday deal and earned back his closer’s role after Manny Corpas pitched poorly. He’s 25 years old, has pitched in the postseason, and is now working for a last-place team that may be sellers at the trade deadline. That means he’s going to cost the Yankees at least one high-end prospect (Zack McAllister?). Street is 7-for-7 in save opportunities with the Rockies and currently has a scoreless streak of 11 innings in 12 games.  He’s a free agent after the season, so it’ll behoove the Rockies to not lose him for nothing.
 
If you’re the Yankees, do you make a play for Street? Yes. He’s young and battle-tested (only time will tell if he’s New York tough), and this won’t turn out to be an Eric Gagne situation. For those who forgot, the Red Sox acquired Gagne from the Rangers for Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and Engel Beltre, and to say he was a failure in Boston is a compliment. (Of course, in spite of Gagne, the Red Sox won their second World Series in four seasons.)

One more nugget, Street’s 101 career saves are the fifth-most by any player before the age of 26. If he pitches well enough in New York, the Yankees could decide to extend him and groom him as Rivera’s successor, which finally (you’d think) would end this Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes to the bullpen nonsense. The one player in the organization that has the look of the post-Rivera closer is Melancon, but give me production over potential any day, as long as that production is young , still peaking and a cost that doesn’t tear apart the farm system Brian Cashman is painstakingly rebuilding.

Street hits all those checkpoints and more.

Read and React: Hughes vs. Wang

By Jon Lane
Read: Great anecdote from Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman, who also pens for WFAN’s Web site, about Phil Hughes and the fire in his belly. Hughes threw eight stellar innings on Monday in an 11-1 win over the Rangers, allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out six in the longest outing of his career.

React: And there are those who believe Hughes is better suited for the bullpen, even though it’s temporary. Look, when it comes to Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, the two most cherished arms in the Yankees organization, this yo-yo business is stupid. Once you make a decision – starter or reliever – you stick to it without messing with a young pitcher’s head or routine. Wisely, the Yankees are keeping Chamberlain in the rotation even with the possibility of Brian Bruney gone for the rest of the season and Hughes will remain among the five, Chien-Ming Wang or no Chien-Ming Wang.

Chamberlain is 23, Hughes is 22. These guys represent today and tomorrow, and have a great chance to be frontline starters within a few years. To quote “Wall Street’s” Lou Mannheim, “Stick to the fundamentals. That’s how IBM and Hilton were built. Good things sometimes take time.”

Read: Wang is stuck in long relief purgatory.

React: Adam Jones’ line drive that hit Chamberlain’s knee last week put the Yankees in a bind, forcing them to forgo Wang’s final Minor League start for immediate bullpen help. He’s off the disabled list and the Yankees can’t demote him because he’ll be exposed to waivers. It has them in a quandary with Hughes pitching well and Wang needing in-game repetitions, but it’s one of those nice ones. Joel Sherman of the New York Post sums it up best:

“Last year, Hughes was handed something he had not earned: a rotation spot. This year he is earning his spot. Will we ever say that about Wang in 2009?”

Read: Damaso Marte, out since April 26 with shoulder inflammation, is in Tampa, but it’ unclear when he will return this season. The Yankees seem to have little interest in his return, writes Peter Abraham

“It’s going to take some time,” Joe Girardi said. “His timetable? We really don’t have a timetable when he will be back.”

React: Three years and $12 million for Marte? Abraham isn’t the first to wonder why the Yankees are quick to share injury information about most players but not Marte. 

Phillies-Yankees starting lineups 5/24/09

yankees.jpg

Yankees

Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Melky Cabrera RF
Hideki Matsui DH
Francisco Cervelli C
Brett Gardner CF

phillies.jpg

Phillies

Jimmy Rollins SS
Shane Victorino CF
Raul Ibanez DH
Ryan Howard 1B
Jayson Werth LF
John Mayberry RF
Pedro Feliz 3B
Eric Bruntlett 2B
Carlos Ruiz C

Phillies vs. Yankees: Lineups 5/22/2009

yankees.jpgYANKEES (24-17)
Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Melky Cabrera CF
Kevin Cash C

Pitching: A.J. Burnett (2-1, 5.02 ERA)

phillies.jpgPHILLIES (22-17)
Jimmy Rollins SS
Chase Utley 2B
Raul Ibanez LF
Ryan Howard 1B
Jayson Werth RF
Shane Victorino CF
Matt Stairs DH
Pedro Feliz 3B
Carlos Ruiz C

Pitching: Brett Myers (3-2, 4.50) 

Report: Wang re-joining Yankees tonight

By Jon Lane
Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News is reporting that Chien-Ming Wang will be back with the Yankees for tonight’s game against the Phillies. Before Joba Chamberlain took an Adam Jones line drive off his right knee last night, Wang was headed to Pawtucket for his final rehab start for Triple-A Scranton scheduled for tonight. A source told Feinsand that Wang was to turn around and head back to New York.

Led by Alfredo Aceves’ 3 1/3 innings, the Yankees bullpen worked 8 1/3 innings in a 7-4 victory over the Orioles that extended the team’s winning streak to nine games. Wang will be activated from the disabled list and be available as a long reliever and could get the call Tuesday in Texas if Chamberlain’s bruised knee prevents him from making that start.

Chamberlain told reporters last night he’s “100 percent” he’ll make his next start, but the Yankees are bringing Wang back early as insurance. Assuming Chamberlain is a go, Feinsand added Wang will likely be slotted into the rotation on Wednesday (Texas) or Friday (Cleveland).

The team will need to make a roster move before opening a three-game set against the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

YES representing in the Blogosphere

The latest leaders in the MLBlogs Network, by page view, was released for the period from April 15 through May 18. The big winner in the YESNetwork.com blog network is Kimberly Jones, who ranks third among the top 50 Pro blogs. Coming in eighth is Steven Goldman’s Pinstriped Bible and 11th is this space featuring contributions from Jon Lane, Joe Auriemma and Glenn Giangrande.

More of our great contributors made the Top 50: Chris Shearn’s Off the Wall, The Blob with Bob Lorenz, Jim Kaat’s Korner and Mrs. Singy: Married to Baseball. And followers of the New Jersey Nets can enjoy Al Iannazzone’s Nets Insider.

Thank you for checking us out and for your feedback. It’s shaping up to be a great summer and you, the fans, are a major part of it.

Orioles vs. Yankees: 5/21/2009 Lineups

yankees.jpgYANKEES (23-17)
Derek Jeter SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Melky Cabrera LF
Francisco Cervelli C
Brett Gardner CF

Pitching: Joba Chamberlain (2-1, 3.76 ERA)

orioles.jpgORIOLES (16-24)
TBA

Pitching: Adam Eaton (2-4, 7.93)

Sayonara to the seats

By Jon Lane
WCBS News Radio 880 traffic reporter Tom Kaminski posted his latest overhead gallery of the deconstruction of the original Yankee Stadium. More and more seats are being removed from the building.

Amazing Stories

By Jon Lane
Crazy eights. Kangaroo Courts. Walk-off fever. CC’s electricity. All of this and more have defined the Yankees’ current eight-game winning streak. This will not last forever, contrary to a colleague’s belief that this team will never lose again, but I reiterate what I wrote yesterday. Don’t be afraid to enjoy this. The way the Yankees have been going about the business of winning is refreshing. For the first time in a long time, the players are acting like kids, which is what you’re supposed to do while playing a kid’s game.

The Yankees are also proving that they’re a team of Guardian Angels. There’s been enough bad press about the faults of the new Yankee Stadium, and how much money the team spends and asks of its fan base every year (folks, it’s not how much money you spend, is what you do with the money you have). Not enough people (if anyone) talk about the the impact the Yankees have on people who are sick and dying, especially children.

Last season, a reader e-mailed me with a favor to help arrange a visit with the Yankees on the field at Camden Yards for a seven-year-old boy with an inoperable brain tumor. The team’s media relations staff went above and beyond to create an amazing experience for young Jake Hill. The players stopped to take pictures, and sign baseballs, shirts and his field pass. Jake lost his battle in January, but that day in August created a large enough smile to carry him through a fight of which everyone knew he was a winner.

Last Friday, Brett Gardner’s visit with Nico Viglitti, a cancer patient at New York Presbyterian Children’s Hospital in Manhattan, earned plenty of coverage. Nico made Gardner promise he’d hit a home run that night against Twins. Gardner did – his way, an inside-the-park homer. I’m told Gardner cannot visit her again until she’s out of ICU and every day he checks his messages for any updates on her condition.

During yesterday’s pregame show, Kimberly Jones did an unbelievable interview with Polly Tompkins, who is battling Stage 4 breast cancer. Listen closely to her encounter with Derek Jeter. I’ll make you laugh and tug at your gut.

Another anecdote just passed on to me: The Yankees received a phone call late Friday night from a New York City police officer whose son has leukemia and was looking for someone to visit him. Francisco Cervelli not only volunteered, he had each of his teammates sign a baseball before seeing the boy. And yesterday, Jonathan Albaladejo and Ramiro Pena visited children from the Collegiate Elementary School, an independent school for boys in New York City.

The moral of the stories is how every player, especially the young core, has been doing their part each day to serve as Guardian Angels. This happens around the league and it’s great, but the Yankees’ efforts aren’t publicized enough in a media market that devotes two pages to a fist pump.

Fan Experience, TV drought, Eating Habits…

By Glenn Giangrande
With the Yankees playing on My9 versus Baltimore Tuesday night, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a game as a fan sitting in Section 223. Since I had been there as a YES employee for Opening Day, it was my first chance to get a taste of the new Stadium. Here are a couple of minor observations…

*I’m not sure how many extra entrance gates were added, but there wasn’t a single long line for people to wait on upon entering the Stadium. There were a lot of shorter ones, and that’s better overall.

*The garlic fries and natural lemonade are terrific. I actually didn’t make a cross-stadium trek to get the fries, but a polite fan named Larry sitting in front of me offered up a taste of his. Larry, if you’re reading, thank you.

*You know that big concrete wall beyond the retired numbers in left field, the one everyone wants to see painted? Here’s my suggestion: recreate the mural painted across the street that depicts Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, George Steinbrenner, Roger Maris, and Thurman Munson. It’d be on a smaller canvas, so it’d have to be redone in a smaller fashion in order to accommodate any potential additions.

*Anyone who says that the Stadium is quiet is mistaken. From the second A-Rod went deep in the first inning to the Yankees’ seventh inning explosion, there was buzz aplenty in the Bronx. My only disappointment was that the Yanks blew the game open to the point where I couldn’t hear “Enter Sandman” since the services of Mariano Rivera weren’t necessary.

Some other random notes from around baseball and life…

*My big money fantasy baseball team has a pitching staff in ruins. We know about what’s been ailing Chien-Ming Wang, so when will Tampa Bay offer up some reasoning for Scott Kazmir’s problems? They alone have anchored me down in ERA and WHIP, likely for the year.

*I missed the premiere episode of “Glee,” but everyone I know who watched it seems to have enjoyed it. With the disappointing finale of “24” behind us, unless you’ve yet to view it on DVR, I don’t have any scripted shows to watch until “Dexter” returns to Showtime in September. “Big Brother” doesn’t count since it’s reality programming.

*For the first time recently, I tried a mix of ginger ale and vanilla ice cream. It had been recommended to me, but I wasn’t a fan.

*My eating habits are getting weird. I tend to sleep through breakfast on normal days, so that would cut me down from three regular meals to two. But if I eat lunch too late in the afternoon, then I find myself either a) stuffing food on top when I’m not hungry or b) eating too late, neither of which is good.