Results tagged ‘ A.J. Burnett ’

Mid-week thoughts: Burnett a major variable

By Jon Lane
I suggested yesterday that Andy Pettitte deserves to start Game 2 of the ALDS ahead of A.J. Burnett. That was more to extol the virtues and merits of Pettitte than to condemn Burnett, who upon first glance has been a frontline starter his first season in New York.

But because there is rarely any middle ground with Burnett, because there have been times when the right-hander has been absolutely electric, it can be frustrating to see a net result of 10-8 with a 4.29 ERA. When he’s on, he takes over a game and captivates a city. When he’s off, whoa boy.

Burnett hasn’t won a game and owns a 6.54 ERA in a seven-start stretch since his last victory on July 27, and that includes the 7 2/3 scoreless innings he tossed against the Red Sox during that Friday night epic at Yankee Stadium. Last night the bad A.J. showed up in Baltimore. He allowed six runs on 11 hits (two home runs) and two walks in 5 1/3 innings and, worse, a television audience saw him lose control of his emotions (again).

You demand excellence from Burnett, for obvious reasons. You also want to see him succeed. He has the talent. He’s stayed healthy. He’s provided life and wisdom to the Yankees’ clubhouse beyond whipped-cream pies. Best of all he’s been accountable. He hasn’t blamed Jorge Posada or anyone and nobody has to tell him he must turn it around.

“I take these as a little bump in the road,” Burnett said. “I’m not going to stew on it too long and let it bring me down, because I thought I turned a good corner the last start and I’ve got to pitch in five days. I can’t let it affect me too much.”

Burnett’s next postseason appearance will be his first and a Game 3 start is not a demotion. It’s either a chance to sweep, a swing game or the nightmare scenario of avoiding an embarrassing sweep. The Yankees are paying Burnett $82.5 million over five years. At times he’s been money. Other times he’s been worth 82 cents. Next month, there is no choice but to be priceless.

_______________________

? Nick Swisher is hitting .200 at home with 20 RBIs, but .283 on the road with 52 RBIs. Strange, but his overall numbers are 23-72. The Yankees acquired Swisher in an offseason trade with the White Sox for Wilson Betemit. Swishalicious.

? He can sometimes make you want to pull your hair out, but Robinson Cano batted .347 with 19 runs scored and 16 RBIs in August. He’s already set a career high with 22 homers and his.320 overall average is his finest since 2006 (.342). I’ve killed him in this space over his inability to hit with runners in scoring position, but since August 27 he’s bumped his average in that area from .204 to .221.

? Mariano Rivera has saved 34 consecutive games, a personal best, and has 38 on the season. In his last 29 innings, he’s allowed one run while striking out 29. He might pitch forever.

? Jeter Meter: Nine hits from Lou Gehrig’s franchise record (2,721).

? Ian Kennedy threw batting practice for the first time since surgery in May to remove an aneurysm from below his right biceps, another step towards pitching in September’s instructional league and the Arizona Fall League. He’s 1-4 with a 6.14 ERA in 13 Major League games, but Kennedy’s story is far from finished. The humbling experience is maturing him and I see him earning a spot in the Yankees’ rotation within two years.

Give Pettitte the ball in Game 2

pettitte_350_090109.jpgBy Jon Lane
Watching Andy Pettitte deal Monday night, I certainly was hoping for a perfect game. Seeing Jerry Hairston boot that routine grounder, I groaned, but held out hope for a no-hitter. Then witnessing Nick Markakis’ clean single, I groaned again. I’m a sucker for history who admittedly popped for Mark Buehrle when he threw his perfecto, and even saluted Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Derek Lowe for their no-nos while wearing Boston white and red.

You need a little – or in Buehrle’s case – lots of luck to throw a perfect game or a no-hitter. When less talented teams succeed, I sometimes believe that it’s better to be lucky than good. In Pettitte’s case Monday night, and as it relates to the Yankees since June, this hasn’t been luck. The Yankees have imposed their will on the rest of the league. Strange things have happened through the years that have proven Yogi Berra a soothsayer, but at 35 games above .500, only the mother of all monumental collapses will prevent the Yankees from playing in October.

Thus, looking ahead in the slightest will not tempt the fates. It’s a given that CC Sabathia, despite his shady postseason history, will start Game 1. The popular belief is A.J. Burnett will go in Game 2.

But why not Pettitte? You know his postseason history. His 14 wins are second all-time behind John Smoltz’s 15. And you’re aware of his track record in taking the ball in Game 2 of a postseason series, where he’s 6-3 in his Yankees career. Conversely, Burnett, who has stepped up (and also imploded) in big spots, hasn’t pitched in a playoff game. You want someone who has done it before, especially in a short series where pitching matters first and foremost.

Here’s what Pettitte has done to date coming off a down season when he pitched with a bum shoulder.

? Monday night, he worked only four two-ball counts before Hairston’s error, this after he retired the first 20 Orioles hitters. Pettitte struck out eight without a walk over eight innings. Baltimore’s other hit off the left-hander was Melvin Mora’s solo homer.

? Since the break, Pettitte is 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA in nine starts, allowing 45 hits and whiffing 62 over 59 2/3 innings. His 12 wins and 4.03 ERA rank second on the Yankees behind Sabathia. He has 190 wins as a Yankee, trailing only Whitey Ford (236) and Red Ruffing (231).

? He’s healthy and pain free, to the point where he’s hinted aloud to wanting to pitch a few more seasons.

“It feels good to be healthy,” Pettitte said. “It feels good that my elbow after surgery doesn’t hurt anymore when I pitch.  “At this time last year my shoulder was absolutely killing me. It just feels good to feel healthy. I just hope I can hold it and keep it for another two months.”

Memo to Joe Girardi: Give him the ball in Game 2.

_______________________

If the season ended today, the Yankees would play the Tigers in the ALDS with Games 1 and 2 (and a fifth if necessary) at Yankee Stadium. It’d be a rematch of the 2006 DS when the Tigers, riding a six-game losing streak (the first five that cost them the AL Central flag), stunned Mike Mussina and the Yankees in Game 2 and didn’t lose again until Game 1 of World Series. Justin Verlander defeated Mussina that afternoon and is the Tigers’ unquestioned ace. But how will Edwin Jackson, Rick Porcello and Armando Galarraga react in a big spot? And remember how badly the Yankees wanted Jarrod Washburn and lost out to the Tigers on deadline day? Washburn is 1-2 with a 6.81 ERA in six starts for Detroit. He threw eight shutout innings August 14 against Kansas City, but other than that he’s been brutal. The left-hander was blasted for eight runs in 5 2/3 innings yesterday by the Rays.

The Tigers lead the Twins by only 3 games with seven games left against them (four in Detroit September 28-October 1). Their big-ticket acquisition may end up costing them the playoffs.

Hairston’s error was no doubt part of Monday’s story, but John Harper was a bit rough, don’t you think? The Yankees won the game.

Derek Jeter watch: The Captain is 10 from tying Lou Gehrig as the Yankees’ all-time hits leader.

Want to the go to the playoffs? River Ave Blues has information on ticket pricing and policies.

Odds and ends

By Jon Lane
Odds and ends in the midst of the Yankees’ road trip:

? In an uproar over Brett Tomko shutting down the Yankees Monday night? Once he reverts to form, nobody will be playing hindsight 20-20 over why Tomko wasn’t given a shot at being their fifth starter.

? A.J. Burnett drives you nuts at times, but he’s been clutch and accountable. During the fateful fourth inning – he balked in the second of Oakland’s three runs that left he and Jorge Posada discussing mixed signals – Burnett refused to put any blame on Posada, despite this being the second straight start the two had similar issues.

“We’ve been using the same signs all year. It’s just a matter of me not seeing it, or seeing something different,” Burnett said. “There’s really nothing to correct. We’ve been doing wonderful, but two games in a row, I’ve crossed him up. I don’t know who’s fault it was tonight, but I’m pretty sure it was mine.

“Don’t do it again,” he added. “Pay more attention, I guess. Not be an idiot.”

That’s more than what I can say about Randy Johnson during his time here. And honestly, why would anyone want someone other than Posada as the Yankees’ everyday catcher? I’m dying for an explanation.

? Brett Gardner will see a doctor Wednesday and if cleared will begin a rehab assignment, reports Peter Abraham. Melky Cabrera is buckling under the pressure of playing every day. He’s six for his last 52 and his batting average has plummeted 21 points since Gardner was disabled July 26. The duo has been an effective tandem, giving each other a blow and providing different elements to the game. The Yankees have also missed Gardner’s breakneck speed and grit, crucial components to a stretch run.

Yanks shoot for sixth straight win

By Jon Lane
A beautiful Wednesday morning here at Yankee
Stadium for the finale of the Yankees’ three-game set against the
Orioles. It’s A.J. Burnett on the bump for New York, which took over
sole possession of first place in the AL East last night for the first
time since June 8. Since Alex Rodriguez returned from the disabled list
one month earlier, the Yankees are 43-22, the best record in baseball.

Burnett
is 3-0 with a 2.39 ERA over his last four starts. According to STATS
Inc. he’s 8-1 with a 4.83 ERA in 10 career starts against the Orioles.
It was on April 9 in Baltimore when Burnett made his Yankees debut by
allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings to earn an 11-2 win.

I’ll be back later with lineups and assorted team news, along with details of today’s installment of HOPE Week.
Yesterday, Alex Rodriguez, Joba Chamberlain, Andy Pettitte and Kevin
Long met a couple of inspirational people. Tom Ellenson is a Little
Leaguer with cerebral palsy. His father, Richard, created a device that
allows non-verbal individuals like his son to more easily communicate.
Tom and his friends from his Little League team were treated to lunch
at Out of the Kitchen in Greenwich Village before he and other children
with cerebral palsy participated in a rally and baseball clinic. The
photo below was provided by the Yankees.

hope_275.jpg12:58 p.m.
I
spent some time before the game in the Billy Martin suite covering
today’s HOPE Week event: the powerful story of George Murray, a
terminally ill ALS patient who to their surprise were welcomed by a
large contingent of family and friends – as well as Derek Jeter, Phil
Hughes, Brian Bruney, Hideki Matsui, Phil Coke, Cody Ransom and Mark
Teixeira.

George and his family were just shown on the Diamond
Vision, his 4-year-old son, Trason, sitting on his lap. Coke is on the
field behind home plate greeting George, Trason and Kim. This feature
will run on YESNetwork.com this afternoon.

1:27 p.m.
Some notes from Joe Girardi’s pregame press conference:

?
He’s not schizo like Oliver Perez, but when A.J. Burnett pitches he
either walks the earth or is electric, in other words he’s either feast
or famine. Girardi was asked what impresses him more, when Burnett is
completely dominant or if he has to gut it out.

In his last start on Friday, Burnett allowed three runs and six hits
with five walks in six innings, starting 15 of 27 batters with balls
and throwing 57 of 104 pitches for strikes. The start prior, Burnett,
walked four gave up seven hits and threw three wild pitches while only
striking out two in a 4-3 in over the Twins. 

“I think it’s more impressive when a guy has to gut his way through,
because sometimes the have to be more creative and they can’t just rely
on their stuff solely to get people out,” Girardi said. “You’re going to
get in some jams and have to figure out a way to get out of them.” 

Burnett
worked swiftly through the first inning, allowing only a one-out hit
while throwing eight pitches and earning the final two outs tossing
just two.

? Through one turn anyway, Joba Chamberlain, Andy
Pettite and Sergio Mitre assuaged concerns over the back end of the
Yankees’ rotation after Burnett and CC Sabathia.

“When everyone is doing their job, it takes a little bit of pressure
off the other starters in the sense of I have to win today,” Girardi
said. “By everyone doing their job, they’re able to concentrate more on
what they have to do that day.”

? Girardi appears a lot more relaxed and settled into his job compared to last year, but he mainains his demeanor is the same.

“I
think I’m pretty much the same guy I think I’ve learned a lot on how to
handle situations better, so I might appear to be a little looser. I’m
an intense guy who’s going to laugh and going to have fun, but there’s
an intensity in there.”

1:32 p.m.
Yankees blast rookie Jason Berken for four runs on six hits in the first, very encouraging considering their track record against pitchers they face for the first time. Berken has lasted past the fifth inning just once in his last five outings, going 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in that span.  

1:36 p.m.
WEEI.com reports the Red Sox have acquired Adam LaRoche from the Pirates for two prospects. Adam’s brother, Andy, was part of last year’s three-team blockbuster that sent Jason Bay to Boston and Manny Ramirez to the L.A. Dodgers.

2:03 p.m.
From goat to hero: Nick Swisher pulls a Luis Castillo to start the third inning and a Willie Mays to end it.

2:47 p.m.
I’m back after filing my feature on George Murray and HOPE Week. Swisher with a leaping catch against the wall in right. When did he turn into Ichiro?

3:07 p.m.
Phil Hughes warming up with two out in the seventh inning of a 5-0 Yankees lead against a bad team. Why not give Mark Melancon some work? He’s probably here for only another week until Damaso Marte returns.

3:11 p.m.
5-2 Yankees. I’d bring him in now.

3:57 p.m.
Just when you think you’re in the clear, Brian Bruney gives up back-to-back jacks to Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. So effective early in the season, Bruney has completely lost it since coming off the disabled list for the second time. To protect what’s now a 6-4 lead, Joe Girardi was forced to summon Mariano Rivera, who benefits from any time off he receives.

5:05 p.m.
To cut Bruney some slack, today was his first appearance since July 10. And despite the back-to-back gopher balls Joe Girardi said it was the best stuff he’s seen from the struggling right-hander since he was activated from the DL June 17. Girardi added he’d make it a point to offer those words of encouragement, though Bruney went on to imply that he’s never been one who needs a pat on the back.

Nevertheless, Bruney, like Girardi, looked beyond the numbers. He’s been on the DL twice this season with muscle and elbow strains because he tried gutting it out instead of telling anyone. The layoff may have affected him to a certain extent, but today he felt life in his arm again.

“It feels like a long time since I felt pretty good,” Bruney said. “It’s not an issue of I’ve been healthy or not healthy. It’s just as a pitcher your arm feels a certain way and you can just tell the way your arm feels, and it just hadn’t felt right. I felt like I commanded the ball pretty well minus two pitches.”

Phil Hughes continues to be a revelation out of the bullpen. The right-hander tossed another scoreless inning, has not allowed a run in his last 14 outings and his current 20-inning scoreless stretch, dating back to June 10 at Boston, is the longest by a Yankees reliever since Mariano Rivera in 2005 (23), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. I chatted with Hughes, who owns a 0.81 ERA in 16 appearances, exclusively after the game and will have more on his story tomorrow.

Back to work

By Jon Lane
The Yankees begin the second half of their season tonight at Yankee Stadium, where A.J. Burnett takes the ball against Luke French and the Detroit Tigers (YES HD, 7 p.m.). There are storylines aplenty entering the summer’s dog days, including Burnett, writes Peter Abraham. The right-hander posted a 1.77 ERA in winning his last three starts and is 4-1 with a 1.34 ERA in his past five. For all the talk of CC Sabathia’s importance, and it’s legit, Burnett must continue to show that he’s peaked and is capable of carrying a team.

A few other random thoughts as we gear up for the weekend, which includes Old Timer’s Day on Sunday. I’ll be on-site with lots of blogging and storytelling.

The Yankees hope to emerge from a four-day break recharged after a three-game sweep in Anaheim, where they allowed 29 runs to the Angels that wiped out an eight-game road winning streak. The Tigers (48-39) are a good team in the mold that’s given the Yankees fits. Against the first-place teams they’ve played in 2009, New York’s record is 5-15. Tonight and the weekend is the first of many statement games and series. This is the time of year where business gradually begins to pick up and the next couple of weeks could determine whether the Yankees will be major players at the trade deadline. Those reports you’ve been seeing on how they won’t be pursuing Roy Halladay? Take them with a grain of salt. Brian Cashman loves to fly stealth.

Speaking of Doc, like with any great debate, there are those who want him in pinstripes at any cost, others at only the right price and those who think it’s crazy for Cashman to gut a farm system he so painstakingly rebuilt. Steven Goldman’s message to the Yankees: Don’t do it. As Newsday‘s Anthony Rieber wrote yesterday, the Yankees can and must take on Vernon Wells’ bloated contract to make this happen while preserving the system. But as one fan points out, Plan B — a Brian Bannister or Paul Maholm — is the best route. What do you think?

Alex Rodriguez is once again generating attention, except this time it’s been confined strictly to the baseball diamond, and that’s a good thing. Over his last 17 games, A-Rod is batting .373 (22 for 59) with eight home runs and 22 RBIs. His first game was May 8, yet Rodriguez ranks second on the team in homers (17) and tied for second in RBIs (50), and the Yankees are a league-best 38-22 since his return.

Still, there’s something about the Yankees’ performance against the Red Sox that gnaws at you. Oh, that 0-8 record. And if there’s enough to worry about coming from Boston, beware of the Rays, writes Goldman.

Check back on YESNetwork.com for lineups and updates from the Stadium. And be sure to read about HOPE Week a program designed to promote five remarkable stories and inspire others into action.

Second-half storylines

By Jon Lane
The Yankees are 14 games over .500. They are three behind the Red Sox in the American League East and lead the Wild Card by two-and-a-half over the Rangers. Their 495 runs scored, 132 home runs, 358 on-base percentage and.471 slugging percentage lead the Major Leagues, and their 25 road victories are  tops in the American League.

Life is good in Yankeeland, but not great. Both the Wild Card and division races will be fierce, and in the AL East, you cannot dismiss the Rays. Will the Yankees have the legs to return to October? Here are five storylines for the second half:

Will the Yankees reverse their fortunes against the Red Sox?
This is ugly: The Yankees are 9-19 against the Red Sox, Tigers, Angels and Phillies – all first-place teams – as well as the Rays. They resume the season tomorrow against Detroit at Yankee Stadium and still have to deal with the Angels in Southern California in mid-September. Anthony McCarron presented the brutal truth in today’s New York Daily News. Among the cliff notes, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte are a combined 3-10 with a 5.41 ERA against those elite teams.

This is ghastly: The Yankees are 0-8 against the Red Sox. The last time they saw them was at Fenway Park in June. They arrived to Boston in first place and with the AL’s best record, and hungry for revenge. Instead they were blown out 7-0 and dropped the next two games each by one run. Never mind the dormant offense, something was affecting the Yankees psychologically from where I sat.

The teams play 10 more times starting August 6 at Yankee Stadium. Since the Rays and Rangers won’t go away, how the Yankees perform against their rivals may determine who wins the AL East -and who misses the October party.

Will the Yankees reverse their fortunes against the Red Sox?(online surveys)

Will they pull the trigger for Roy Halladay?
Will Roy Halladay become a Yankee? Probably not. Do the Yankees have to have him? No, but they must explore every angle on what it’ll take to get him. As Bill Madden wrote today, “The teams that seemingly have the biggest need and are the best fits for a premier player coming on the market aren’t necessarily willing to pay the premium price, leaving the trading club no choice but to take the best package available.”

Outside of Sabathia and Burnett, there are growing holes in the Yankees’ rotation. Fans have spoken out against Brian Cashman dipping into his farm system he so painstakingly rebuilt, but as I suggested the other day, I’d offer Chamberlain, Austin Jackson and Jesus Montero only because it’s Roy Halladay. When you make a deal like this, it’s painful, but it’ll be worth a front three of Doc, CC and A.J. – not to mention the reunion of Halladay and Burnett.

Will they pull trigger for Roy Halladay?(poll)

Can Joba Chamberlain turn it around?

Go ahead, members of the Loyal Order of the Joba to the Bullpen Army, gloat. Chamberlain is struggling mightily as a starting pitcher. Alas, barring a complete collapse he’s staying in the rotation because that’s where he’s needed and Phil Hughes isn’t moving anywhere. Since June 1, Chamberlain has reached the seventh inning just once in seven starts and his body language has been terrible. But the Yankees are staying the course. The learning curve is a lot slower for some compared to others, but how much longer can they afford Chamberlain throwing 100-plus pitches in under five innings?

Can Joba Chamberlain turn it around?(trends)

Is this Andy Pettitte’s last ride?

Andy Pettitte has won just one of his last four starts while seeing his ERA balloon from 4.26 to 4.85. His numbers in June: 2-2, 5.06; this month: 1-2, 7.27; in two starts against the Angels: 0-1, 9.90.

His next start will be against the Orioles next week. If he doesn’t pick it up in the second half, you’ll have to wonder if at age 37 his career would be coming to an end. Pettitte is signed for only one year, this after contemplating retirement and the Yankees firm in their stance of offering only a one-year deal to return.

Is this Andy Pettitte’s last ride?(online surveys)

Will Chien-Ming Wang salvage a rough 2009 season?

Sabathia is 1-2 with a 5.59 ERA in three July starts, but remember what he did last year in Milwaukee in the second half (11-2 with a 1.65 ERA and the Brewers were 14-3 in his starts). He is capable of carrying a staff and the way Burnett has performed (two runs or less in five straight starts; 6-2, 2.00 in his last eight), he’ll have help.

Beyond that, there’s Chamberlain, Pettitte and who knows? Sergio Mitre will likely provide a band-aid until (or if) Chien-Ming Wang returns. The Yankees need Wang, and not just in body, but in spirit. At 1-6, Wang has shown little to nothing of the form that won him 46 games over the past three seasons.

Will Chien-Ming Wang salvage a rough 2009 season?(survey)

Halladay: A Natural Fit for Pinstripes

By Glenn Giangrande
Would the Blue Jays ever consider trading Roy Halladay to the Yankees?

Probably not.

Should the Yanks inquire and see what it would take?

Absolutely.

Fans of the Yanks often get criticized by others for wanting to play “fantasy baseball” – just bring in as many stars as possible! However, if recent comments made by Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi are to be believed, the right-handed ace could be in play.

“We have to see what’s out there,” Ricciardi said. “I’m not saying we’re going to shop him. But if something makes sense, we at least have to listen. We’re (leaning) more toward listening than we’ve ever been.”

While trading Halladay would send a tough message to Blue Jays fans, it appears to be the right move. Toronto’s pitching staff is chock full of youngsters, and the Jays are playing in a division filled with teams built to win now. Halladay’s big-money contract runs through next season, and he does have a full no-trade clause. Of course, clauses can be waived, money talks…you get the idea.

Prior to last season, the Yankees chose to hold onto a number of young chips while Johan Santana was on the trade market. With Andy Pettitte close to the end of his career, Chien-Ming Wang seemingly out for a long period of time, and Joba Chamberlain regressing in the rotation, Halladay is the kind of pitcher worth emptying the tank to acquire. Every youngster except Phil Hughes should be in play – he’s too valuable to this year’s cause in the bullpen.

Austin Jackson? Sure. Lastings Milledge was once a can’t-miss outfield prospect, remember?

Manuel Banuelos, the 18-year-old strikeout artist turning heads in Charleston? No problem. The Yankees are in the business of winning now. If a player isn’t on the Major League roster and is eligible to be traded, he’s expendable.

It’s not likely that Ricciardi would move Halladay to a divisional rival, and if this situation does indeed develop, a number of teams will put together packages for the ace that may trump what the Yankees could offer.

Still, he’d look so good pitching alongside CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett down the stretch that a phone call must be placed.

Phil Huge

By Glenn Giangrande
Me thinks it’s time to proclaim Phil Hughes a reliever for the remainder of the 2009 season.

A few days ago while driving to the New York Islanders Draft Party at Nassau Coliseum, a.k.a The John Tavares Spectacular, Joe Girardi was on WFAN talking about how the Yankees will, in a few weeks, lose the ability to stretch Hughes out as a starter down at Triple-A. There’s no doubt that his Major League future lies in starting. He was the top prospect in all of baseball just a few years ago. He should help the Yankees’ rotation for a long time to come.
 
As far as the here and now is concerned, his performance out of the ‘pen should speak for itself.
 
By throwing 1.2 scoreless innings against the Mets on Sunday night, Hughes lowered his ERA as a reliever to 1.50 in 12.0 IP. He’s pitched in seven games, allowing runs in just one of them – a pair of them at Fenway Park on June 10th, when he threw 3.2 IP in relief of an ineffective Chien-Ming Wang. His fastball is humming in the mid-90s. He’s been close to unhittable. Given the other options the Yanks have for the rotation, Hughes’ power arm in the ‘pen is a major asset.
 
Let’s assume the Yankees make it to October. They’ll only need four starters, with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte the locks. Joba Chamberlain has made big strides in the rotation in recent outings, and Wang appears to be making his own steps in the right direction. Why mess with a good thing?  If Brian Bruney can stay healthy for the remainder of the year, he and Hughes would be a formidable 1-2 late inning punch in front of Mariano Rivera. Then Alfredo Aceves can stay in his “swing” role of being able to set-up or settle things down early. If David Robertson and his 2.60 ERA are able to handle some high leverage innings, the Yanks will have cobbled together a pretty solid bridge to Mo.
 
There’s no reason Hughes shouldn’t be a part of it, if only for this year.

Memo to Wang: Get it done

By Jon Lane
A few quick hits to set the table for Game 2 of Yankees vs. Red Sox (YES HD, 7 p.m.):

David Ortiz is having a miserable season, but leave it to the Yankees
to be the antidote for his ills. Ortiz hit one to Cambridge Tuesday
night to bring his average against them to .304 (7-for-23) with a
homer, seven RBIs and four runs scored in the six games between the
rivals. I couldn’t kill A.J. Burnett for Ortiz going yard despite it
being a terrible pitch. After all, he is still Big Papi, but a two-run double to Nick Green in the third
inning that bumped Boston’s lead to 5-0? Absolutely inexcusable. To
think that one reason why Yankees signed Burnett was his success
against the AL East last season, along with the
if-you-can’t-beat-him-sign-him theory. In two starts against the Red
Sox, Burnett has allowed 11 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings, a 12.91 ERA.
My colleagues Jerome Preisler and Steven Goldman aptly sum up where
Burnett stands at this point.

It’s bad enough the Yankees are 0-6 against the Red Sox; any prayer they have of capturing the AL East, this has to improve – immediately. Tonight it’s hold your breath with Chien-Ming Wang taking the hill. Even during his peak performance, Wang is 3-3, 5.11 in seven career starts at Fenway Park, while Ortiz owns a .444 (16-for-36) lifetime average with two homers and four doubles against the right-hander. Keep your expectations in check, says John Flaherty, but Wang needs to perform. If not, Phil Hughes must be summoned at the first sign of trouble.

Amazing, the Yankees are winners of 19 of 26 and are tied for first place, but this has the settings of another panic attack if Wang can’t get it done. He may be limited to 85-90 pitches, but that sinker needs to be biting. At the very least Wang has to keep the Yankees in the game; Hughes, Alfredo Aceves and Mariano Rivera will be ready and rested. Of course it’ll help if the offense can muster more than two hits off Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield.

That winning feeling

By Jon Lane
The fact that the Yankees are 32-22 and tied for first place is nice enough. How they continue to find ways to win along with an unshakable confidence that there’s always a chance to win is one of the remarkable storylines of the season. Even during an eventual loss Wednesday night, cameras caught A.J. Burnett gesturing to his teammates, “That’s one,” after Jorge Posada’s seventh-inning home run trimmed the Yankees’ deficit from three to two.

There’s an amazing vibe around the team that has carried over to every game. Melky Cabrera’s eighth-inning heroics on Thursday led the Yankees to their league-leading 19th come-from-behind victory and it was the second time they rallied from down at least four runs.

“I think our club feels that we could come back at any time,” said Joe Girardi. “Sometimes when we don’t get it done we feel like, ‘Wow, we didn’t get it done.’ There is confidence in that clubhouse. Keep us close and give us a chance.”

Jerome Preisler was with me at the game outlines a series of subplots that defined the win, including Cabrera ducking Burnett’s attempt at another pie to the face.

_______________________

Don’t look now, but the beleaguered bullpen has allowed only one run over their last 11 innings (Ian Kinsler’s solo homer off Alfredo Aceves on Thursday). During the Yankees’ current 17-5 run, relievers are averaging more than three innings a game and are 6-3 with a 3.15 ERA.

David Robertson, who needed to throw only one pitch to earn the win, is 5-0 in his career with two one-pitch victories, owns a 2.08 ERA in 11 appearances this season and may finally stick around awhile.

“Guys are starting to settle into their roles now,” said pitching coach Dave Eiland. “Early on, guys were pitching out of their roles and the starters weren’t going as deep in their games, and guys not used to going multiple innings were going multiple innings and came back on shorter rest. It starts and stops with starting pitching. If they can take us to the middle or late innings, the bullpen has a way of working itself out.”