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By Jon Lane
Cross Ian Snell off the Yankees’ wish list. The Pirates right-hander touted by Steven Goldman was dealt to Seattle with shortstop Jack Wilson for SS Ronny Cedeno, Triple-A catcher Jeff Clement and three Minor League pitchers.

This business with Roy Halladay, starting today against the Mariners, will resolve itself probably by 3:59 and 59 seconds Friday afternoon. I had the Blue Jays and Phillies settling any reported differences and Halladay headed to the City of Brotherly Love, but that was before the Phils and Indians completed a trade for Cliff Lee, writes Gordon Edes. Make that two off the list.

Many teams are apparently turned off by Halladay’s price tag. Perhaps his price now drops.

As for the Yankees, I think they’ll do something. The New York Daily News reported a possible interest in outfielder Josh Anderson, recently designated for assignment by the Tigers but 13-for-15 in stolen base attempts. That would make him a nice fill-in for Brett Gardner, out of action with a broken thumb for at least the next couple of weeks. Left-hander Jarrod Washburn, on the team’s radar last season and having a great year in Seattle, is a free agent this winter. Barring a steal of a deal for Halladay, Washburn is the Yankees’ best option, writes Glenn Giangrande.

Part II of Ray Negron’s diary on the Yankees mourning the loss of Thurman Munson is on-line.

An alternative Halladay proposal

By Jon Lane
Anthony Rieber, Newsday‘s fine and entertaining sports reporter, opines that the Yankees need to bring Roy Halladay to the Bronx. But rather than sell the farm, Rieber suggests the Yankees do the Blue Jays a favor and offer them financial relief by agreeing to take on Vernon Wells’ bloated contract.

Wells, 30, is due nearly $110 million through 2014. That’s insane. But here’s the alternative to dealing Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain or Jesus Montero: The Yankees offer Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera, a couple of lower-level pitching prospects and nothing more, writes Rieber while reminding what little the Mets surrendered to pry Johan Santana from the Twins – without taking on a huge contract. And it’s not like Wells is exactly washed up. He may no longer be an All-Star, but the excitement of a championship chase in New York may energize him.

Either one team will go all-in, or the winner (if any by July 31) of the Halladay sweepstakes will be the one that held out the longest to force Toronto to take what it can get. Rieber’s strategy presents a suitable alternative to those opposed to selling the farm.

Yankees at the break

By Jon Lane
The Good: 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 games over the Rangers. Expectations in this city, for this team, are often ridiculous, which Chris Shearn pointed out this morning, and perceptions change more often than toll collectors during rush hour. For the most part there’s been a vibe about this team we haven’t seen in years, and that includes the later Joe Torre teams that made the playoffs. Furthermore, the Yankees are much better than last season. That is indisputable.

The Yankees have received better-than-expected contributions from Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera. The duo is batting a combined .283 with 11 homers, 53 RBI and 23 stolen bases, lest we forget Gardner’s mad – and inspirational – inside-the-park home run and Cabrera’s .375/2/14 in close-or-late situations (of his 34 RBIs, 12 have either tied or put the Yankees ahead after the seventh inning). The Yankees had a deal in place to send Cabrera to Milwaukee for Mike Cameron and a one-year stop-gap in center, and Cameron is .258/14/42/4. With Gardner, Cabrera and Eric Hinske playing well, the Yankees have outfield depth and absolutely no reason to rush Austin Jackson.

Hinske has three home runs in 12 at-bats with the Yankees, two more than he hit in 106 at-bats with the Pirates before he was acquired in a trade on June 30.

Phil Hughes in relief: 18.1 innings, seven hits, two runs, five walks, 19 Ks. He has solved the Yankees’ eighth-inning problem; a bullpen operates at peak performances when each reliever knows and excels in his given role. Here’s hoping this is a warm-up to many great years as a starting pitcher. And Hughes will be a starter. You don’t groom promising and electric young arms to be eighth-inning or middle relievers their whole careers. Look at Johan Santana.

Playing in likely his final season in New York, Hideki Matsui is 12 of his last 30 with four homers and 12 RBI. He’s .265-14-40 in 234 at-bats (78 games) as a full-time DH. Not bad for a veteran of both Japan and the Major Leagues now playing on shot knees.

Playing in the second of a 10-year, $275-million contract, Alex Rodriguez is 22 of his last 59 (.373) with eight homers, 22 RBI and 17 runs scored and batting.256. Not bad for someone whose game is back in form after missing the season’s first month recovering from hip surgery and with a second one awaiting him this winter.

The not-so-good: The Yankees’ 51-37 record is impressive. The fact that they’re 2-9 against the Red Sox and Angels is alarming. Any visions of a 27th World Championship will go through Anaheim and Boston. If the season ended today, the Yankees would play the Angels in a five-game series with at most three in Southern California.

Since 2004, the Yankees are 18-33 against the Angels overall and 7-18 at Angels Stadium. And guess what? They play the Red Sox and Angels 13 more times between now and the end of the season, including a return trip to Anaheim September 21-23, and after an off day, a three-game set at Yankee Stadium September 25-27 that may decide the AL East – and if the Rays have any say, possibly the playoff fate of either the Yankees or Red Sox.

Andy Pettitte is 8-5 with a 4.85 ERA, yet in his last four starts is 1-2 with a 10.38 ERA. He’s shown flashes of the old Pettitte, but you wonder more and more how much he has left.

Joba Chamberlain is 4-2 with a 4.25 ERA, but he’s had a no-decision in 11 of 17 starts and is off three straight  in which he’s allowed nine hits or more. He’s pitched into the seventh inning once since June 7 and a combined eight over his last two. For the past couple of weeks the back-end of the Yankees rotation has been unreliable while Chien-Ming Wang’s potentially lost season leaves a gaping hole. Will the Yankees be compelled to go all-in for Roy Halladay?

In between: CC Sabathia is 7-3 with a 3.43 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .218 batting average since May and A-Rod’s return. Overall, though, he’s 8-6, 3.86. With a great seven-inning effort at Minnesota in between, here are Sabathia’s two other pitching lines this month:

July 2 vs. Seattle: 5 2/3 IP, 10 H, six R, three BB, eight K, one HR (loss)
July 12 at L.A. Angels: 6 2/3 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 3 BB, six K (loss)

“So, so,” Sabathia said of his first 19 starts after Sunday’s game. “I was in a pretty good slot for a while, but I need to do better.”

Sabathia’s been a strong second-half pitcher his whole career (3.39 ERA/1.21 WHIP/.243 BAA compared to 3.89/1.26/.249). It’s one reason the Yankees spent big money to get him and they’ll be hoping for another yeoman effort, especially if not even a serviceable fifth starter can be had at the trade deadline.

Do the Yankees need another outfielder?

By Glenn Giangrande

With Xavier Nady seemingly done for the year, do the Yankees need another corner outfielder?

Let’s assume that Brett Gardner’s red-hot June continues, giving him the starting job in center that he lost to Melky Cabrera earlier this year. Melky COULD slide over to right, but would having Gardner and Cabrera together in the lineup be detrimental to the offense? Say yes for the sake of argument. Nick Swisher is an adventure out in right, and Johnny Damon’s defense has clearly taken a step back in left. The Yanks would do wise to bring in one more outfielder with the versatility to handle left or right.

The perfect fit? Mark DeRosa.

A New Jersey native, DeRosa was a guest on Batting Practice Today earlier this season, saying he’d love to play for the Yankees before his career ends. He’s in the final year of a three-year contract that he signed with the Cubs, who traded him to the Indians over the winter. Cleveland appears headed for a rebuilding phase, with ace pitcher Cliff Lee being rumored to be on the block. If he was on the Yankees right now, DeRosa’s bat would qualify as the second best among players able to handle the outfield behind Damon’s – I’m not counting Hideki Matsui, whose knees have betrayed him. DeRosa is probably best known as an infielder, but he’s got a fair amount of experience in the outfield, having started a total of 179 games in right field and left field combined. In 216 total games counting those in which he moved to one of those positions, he’s made only two errors.

Prior to the news developing concerning Nady’s likely need for Tommy John surgery, Brian Cashman was quoted as saying that the Yankees didn’t need a bat and that “all the bats are here.” If his perspective has changed, the idea of DeRosa is one the Yankees would do well to pursue.

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.

Hughes in relief, David Robertson, Citizens Bank Park

citizenspark_350.jpgBy Glenn Giangrande
Hey everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I’ve been wrapped up in work here at YES mostly, though I did manage to take a day trip down to Philadelphia for a game at Citizens Bank Park. It’s a gorgeous place, and a great one to see a game. Dave Bush of Milwaukee came five outs of a no-hitter; my heart sank in the eighth inning when Matt Stairs launched a moonshot that hooked right into the right field foul pole, breaking up the no-no bid with a pinch hit homer. Fun times though, no doubt. Run a Facebook search on my full name if you want to see the pics. My profile’s public and it’s got the Philly pics in their own album. I don’t have anything to hide!
 
I thought I’d celebrate my return to blogging with a few quick hits. Where to begin, where to begin…
 

  • Phil Hughes, reliever?  If everyone wants to tout the idea of putting Joba Chamberlain back in the bullpen if Chien-Ming Wang returns healthy, why can’t Wang’s return push Hughes to the bullpen? Not that it’s an idea that’s been discussed or anything, but why is everyone so adamant about Joba being a reliever? It must only be because he’s done it regularly. Remember, Joba only solidified the ‘pen because he was necessary when Kyle Farnsworth and the like couldn’t do the job in ’07.

 

  • Anyone else wonder if the Brett Gardner era is over before it began? I’m the same guy who said that Gardner was going to run away with the starting CF job in Spring Training, but it’s May now, not March. Gardner might simply be a 4-A outfielder, albeit one with A++ speed.

 

  • I love Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres. One of the best players many baseball fans still don’t know about. Put him on the all-underrated team right next to Raul Ibanez.

 

  • Mark Melancon deservedly has the attention of those who follow the Minors as a guy who can be a breakout pitcher this season, but I really think David Robertson deserves equal focus.

 

  • How young does Ramiro Pena look? 15? 16?

 

  • Which New York hockey team had the more productive year: the one that blew a 3-1 lead in the first round of the playoffs or the team that secured the No. 1 pick in the draft?

 

  • Not only did David Wells sit with the fans on Opening Day, but I spotted him outside Yankee Stadium signing autographs for about 20 minutes long after the game was over. A stand up move by the lefty, though I cannot in good conscience call him Boomer. I reserve that name for Mr. Esiason much like many Giants fans refuse to call LaDanian Tomlinson “LT,” even though they are indeed his initials.

 

  • I just dropped major dollars on car repairs. My car’s a 1997 Plymouth Breeze. 150,000+ miles. Can I get it to 200,000?

Report: Nady gets a reprieve

nady_350_042109.jpgBy Jon Lane
SI.com’s Jon Heyman is reporting that Xavier Nady has been diagnosed with a partially torn ligament in his right elbow and will avoid surgery. What began as fear that Nady would be gone for the season has turned into a timetable that could last for 4-6 weeks.

Heyman added Nady could return in a DH role. As I wrote earlier today, the Yankees are very concerned about Hideki Matsui’s knees. Matsui is in tonight’s lineup and batting seventh.

12:39 p.m.
Plenty of time to kill before the Yankees and A’s try it again tonight (My9 HD, 7 p.m.). Skies are overcast but more rain may invade the area later today into tonight.

Yesterday’s rainout allowed me to pay full attention to Game 3 of the Rangers’ first-round matchup with the Washington Capitals. Rather than step on the favored Caps’ throats to the brink of extinction, the Blueshirts decided to form a Conga line to the penalty box. They were outplayed by Washington’s snipers and a 20-year-old goaltender named Simeon Varlamov in dropping a 4-0 decision at Madison Square Garden, where they went 26-11-14 during the regular season. On the road they were 17-19-5 and won the first two games of this series in Washington DC. Go figure.

Back to baseball and the ongoing Xavier Nady watch. While the Yankees are holding out hope their right-fielder will not need surgery on his injured right elbow, the prognosis remains bleak. To date, Nady has undergone at least five tests in which doctors are trying to differentiate between this and injury he suffered in 2001, which required Tommy John surgery. Dr. Lewis Yocum, the surgeon who performed the procedure on Nady’s elbow in ’01, was expected to get the MRI pictures today. Supposedly there were to be sent via e-mail yesterday, but Dr. Yocum isn’t up on 21st century technology, so the Yankees FedExed him the information.

You obviously hope for the best in a situation that is flat-out terrible timing. Nady batted .305 with the Pirates and Yankees last season and becomes a free agent after this season. It makes you wonder how teams will view a veteran who turns 31 in November and whose body of work will be two RBIs in 28 at-bats in seven games. Speaking to a couple of Yankees, they made it clear Nady is appreciated and will be missed. The day after Nady injured his elbow, Nick Swisher painted a big ‘X’ on his arm to let him know his teammates won’t forget him. At the beginning of Spring Training, the two were competing for playing time in right field. The rivalry evolved into a tight friendship.

“Anytime somebody has to go through that it’s tough,” Swisher said. “We all want him to know we’re going to be there for him. Anything we can do to help, we’re all going to do that. You’re talking about losing a tremendous player – not just a tremendous player but an awesome guy.”

“It’s a big loss,” said Brett Gardner. “‘X’ is gone hopefully everybody can rally together and pick up the slack. It drives you a little more when you know your team and your coaches are counting on you.”

Further complicating matters is the fact that Hideki Matsui’s surgically repaired left knee needed to be drained last Thursday, creating a major level of concern about an aging veteran restricted to DH duty, and batting.194 (6-for-31) overall and .083 (1-for-12) with runners in scoring position. This makes you wonder if Matt Holliday will be the Yankees’ top target come July.

I hate to bring this up, but it’s true. Ross Ohlendorf – he and Jeff Karstens were shipped to Pittsburgh before last
season’s trade deadline for Nady and the now flammable Damaso Marte – threw seven shutout innings against the Marlins Monday night and would be better than 1-2 if not for a lack of run support. He had gone 0-5 with a 5.88 ERA dating back to last season before silencing a team that scored a combined 16 runs in its previous two games.

Like the signing of Carl Pavano, you may complain about this now, but you weren’t then. At least four teams were fighting over Pavano in 2004; Ohlendorf and Karstens, two pitchers on the outside looking in, were traded as part of a package for two reliable and proven veterans. It was impossible to foresee Nady getting hurt and Marte becoming a time bomb.

Karstens starts tonight and looks to recover from his 2009 debut in which he walked five in four innings. 

Photos: Welcome to the new Yankee Stadium

Joe Auriemma is at the new Yankee Stadium today conducting interviews for YES’ parent site (YESNetwork.com). While there, he is also snapping photos of what he sees for your enjoyment. Keep coming back for more photos.

Andy Pettitte takes the field for his first-ever workout at the new stadium
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Russ Salzberg interviews Yankees starting CF Brett Gardner

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Brett Gardner signs autographs for the fans
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The field is ready for its first-ever batting practice
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A look at the stadium’s new HD screen
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(more…)

Down the stretch they come

stadium_350.jpgBy Jon Lane
T-minus seven days until the start of the Yankees’ 2009 regular season in Baltimore on April 6. However, the team breaks camp on Wednesday and will be in the Bronx Thursday for a workout at their plush new digs. Me and my YESNetwork.com colleagues will be there to document the latest news and initial impressions of the new Yankee Stadium. The next night, the palace receives the first of two dry runs when the Yankees play the Chicago Cubs in an exhibition affair (YES HD, 7 p.m.)

First, the Yankees play another Spring Training game today in Dunedin, Fla., against the Blue Jays. This is their lineup:

Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Cody Ransom 3B
Jose Molina C
Brett Gardner CF

Pitching: Andy Pettitte, Damaso Marte, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras , Edwar Ramirez.

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gardner_150.jpgGardner made news this past weekend when he was formally named the Yankees’ starting center fielder. Joe Girardi made it clear that this will not be a platoon situation between Gardner and Melky Cabrera. Gardner will be playing every day until further notice, thus his chance to follow in the steps of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer, Mickey Rivers and Bernie Williams – at least until Austin Jackson is proclaimed Major League ready.

Gardner’s been a great story. He’s a spunky 5-10 package who was a walk-on at the College of Charleston. His big-league debut was inauspicious: .153 (9-for-59) in 17 games last season before he was demoted. And while he owns a paltry .228 average (29-for-127) in 42 games, he batted .294 (20-for-68) from August 15 until the end of the 2008 season.

This spring, Gardner hit .385 (20-for-52), with two doubles, two triples, three home runs, six RBIs, with a .448 OBP and was 5-for-7 in stolen base attempts. By way of comparison, Cabrera’s line through Sunday was .340 (18-for-53), 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 2-for-3 in SB attempts, .417 OBP, but his regression (.249 in 2008, including an August demotion) was virtually impossible to ignore.

Gardner provides elements not seen around the Yankees in recent years and his lefty bat adds balance to the lineup, but don’t count out Cabrera. He’ll make the team as a valuable reserve outfielder who can spell Johnny Damon, Xavier Nady or even Gardner (who could shift to one of the corners) late in games with an arm that can be the difference between winning and losing. He’s also only 24, so whether it’s with the Yankees or elsewhere as midseason trade bait, Cabrera still has a chance to prove that last season was an aberration.

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Girardi said he’s thinking of eschewing a long reliever in favor of Jonathan Albaladejo. Why? Nothing against Albaladejo, who’s had a fine spring, but even elite starters get shelled early and there’s that innings limit on Joba Chamberlain. The rest of the bullpen will be feeling the heat, literally and figuratively, once the weather warms up. Brett Tomko, Dan Giese or Alfredo Aceves are better suited to eating innings and keeping the Yankees in the game should they face an early deficit.

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pena_250.jpgDon’t look now, but Ramiro Pena has a realistic shot of making the team as the utility infielder who helps hold the fort until Alex Rodriguez returns. Pena’s glove has been world class since Day 1, but his bat showed tremendous improvement this spring. His chief competition, veteran Angel Berroa, is batting .358, compared to Pena’s .321, but you cannot underestimate the value of a slick glove, especially at shortstop. And giving a homegrown prospect a taste of the Majors bodes will for his future, too.

Bill Madden cites Pena’s progress and Derek Jeter’s declining range to his left. Also, I covered Pena and fellow prospect Jesus Montero at last summer’s Futures Game, when Pena showed off his defensive skills and discussed overcoming a torn labrum in his right shoulder.

According to Peter Abraham, Girardi said no decisions on these roster spots have been made yet and this could carry into the Cubs series.

Pettitte starts Minor League game against Clearwater

pettitte_250.jpgBy Joe Auriemma
The Yankees may have had an off day today, but Andy Pettitte needed to get his work in.

Pettitte and Jose Molina played in a Minor League game with the Class-A Tampa Yankees against the Clearwater Phillies. Pettitte had a solid outing, but the real key was getting his work in and stretching him out. His final line for the game; 5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 3 K, 1 BB, 2 WP, 83 pitches – 63 strikes.

That doesn’t sound like the most glamorous final line, but he did pitch well with a lot of errors behind him. In the second inning when he gave up all five runs, there were three errors in the field and he finished the inning by throwing only 17 pitches, 16 for strikes.

“I felt good with everything,” Pettitte said. “Obviously you always wish you could have better command. I did leave some cutters in the middle of the plate. You know they’d get hit pretty hard at the big-league level. All in all, it was good, I got through it. It stretched me out. I got up six times. I felt good.”

When Pettitte was asked about his strength he said, “I feel like I’m getting there. I felt great at 65 (pitches) and I was gassed when I was done, so it’s amazing how that works. You throw 15 to 20 extra pitches and get a little tired. The next one we’ll try and get right at 100 (pitches).”

When Pettitte was asked about the passing of Yankees legendary executive Arthur Richman, he said he was sad to hear about the news. He was a regular guy and got to spend a lot of time with him at the ball park.

Musings from Brian Cashman
Brian Cashman met the media before Pettitte’s start and discussed Jorge Posada’s comeback. He said that it was a pretty significant surgery Posada had and so far, so good. Cashman went on to say that he has worked hard to get to this point.

Posada has looked good up until this point, meaning that the Yankees will probably not have to carry three catchers as an insurance policy, leaving another spot open to create a deeper bench. His arm has looked good since my arrival here in Tampa and from looks of it, they are going to have Posada back behind the plate for many games this season.

After Pettitte’s start and after the FoxSports.com story broke about Melky Cabrera being shopped around, Cashman didn’t discuss the rumors at all. He told the media it was still an open competition and that there were going to be discussions before camp broke to see about the roster spots and who has won the job.

Cashman also followed suit and talked about Richman saying, “It’s a sad day here. A friend is gone. He loved baseball.”