By Jon Lane
Now what? It’s time to party. The Yankees completed a virtually endless 2009 baseball season by capturing their 27th World Championship. We scribes never stop thinking about what’s next, that’s the nature of the Hot Stove season and you know Brian Cashman is already drawing up an offseason blueprint, but today is a day for the players, their families and everyone in the organization to bask in the glory.
The Core Four of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera have done this four times (today makes five), but for Alex Rodriguez, it’s his first in 16 seasons. For A.J. Burnett, it was winning without the pain of rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. For Jerry Hairston, it was the first time in his 11-year career he played in postseason games and was in left field the night the Yankees clinched.
This may have been Hairston’s final shot at a winner, and for youngsters like Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli and Ramiro Pena, this may be their only chance to enjoy the experience. Yes they play for the Yankees and not the Pirates, Nationals or Royals, but there was also nine years between World Championship.
Before the parade, Steven Goldman asked questions the rest of us will be asking quite often this weekend. But for today, Chris Shearn, Joe Auriemma, Kevin Sullivan and the rest of the YES gang are in lower Manhattan. Stick around for many great photos and videos from the festivities.
By Jon Lane
In case you haven’t heard – how was life on Jupiter? – it’s Yankees vs. Red Sox this weekend. Stay with YESNetwork.com all weekend for the latest from Fenway Park.
Many believe a three-game sweep would be a knockout punch to the Red Sox and their division title homes. A 9 ½-game deficit would be virtually insurmountable. It’s never over until … you know … but I truly think the Yankees are too talented and disciplined to pull a 2006 Mets, 1995 Angels or 1964 Phillies and blow this thing.
Speaking of the Mets – I’ll leave the folks from Flushing to deal with the latest Gary Sheffield mess – Billy Wagner made his return to the Majors Thursday night. He looked great, perfect in fact, hitting 96 MPH on the gun and whiffing two in the Mets’ 3-2 loss to the Braves. Not too shabby in his first big-league appearance coming off Tommy John surgery.
How much longer Wagner will remain a Met is the next question. Wagner today was claimed on waivers, reports SI.com’s Jon Heyman, which leaves the Mets three days to work out a deal with the claiming team. Francisco Rodriguez is the closer and the Mets have no intention on picking up Wagner’s $10 million club option for next year.
Prior to Heyman’s story I had a thought: Yankeeland.
Right now the Yankees have one left-hander in their bullpen, Phil Coke, and there will be two if Damaso Marte is actually activated. But does anyone actually trust Marte in a big spot? In any spot? And as well as Coke has pitched this year, how much pressure do you think his young shoulders will handle facing David Ortiz or Jacoby Ellsbury in the ALCS? Or for that matter, Curtis Granderson, Josh Hamilton or Bobby Abreu in October pressure situations?
Enter Wagner, and before you start going So Taguchi on me, remember that the only Sandman in the Bronx is Mariano Rivera. That means the final fate of the game won’t be on Wagner’s repaired left shoulder. He’ll give Coke and Phil Hughes a blow. He’ll face one or two hitters in big spots, and he’ll work against lefties or righties (Wagner has held right-handed hitters to a .186 lifetime average).
Moreover, you get a fresh arm, albeit one you handle with care, but one with loaded bullets.
Brian Cashman has more than a week to evaluate. There’s little to complain about the Yankees these days (though to some complaining is the spice of life). But Wagner, despite the 10.38 ERA he compiled in the 2006 postseason, is your standard low-risk, high-reward investment. The Mets won’t ask for the world in prospects, only some help in Steinbrenner dollars. That’s a good deal.
There’s more than one big series this weekend. The Rangers, trailing the Red Sox by a game in the Wild Card race, are in St. Petersburg for a critical three-game set with the Rays. If the Yankees and Rangers are able to take their respective series, it’s a tremendous boost to the men in pinstripes. The Rays’ postseason hopes would take a dive straight towards South Beach while the Red Sox would be buried in the division race and out of the playoff picture, but not out cold. Beginning with the Rays and continuing next week in the Bronx, the Rangers will play 15 of his next 19 games on the road.
By Jon Lane
A wrap on Game 1 with stats compiled by the Yankees while borrowing a boxing phrase:
? The Yankees scored eight runs in the fourth inning, sending 13 batters to the plate (four singles, two doubles, two home runs, and two walks).
? The Yankees plated the most runs in a single inning against Boston since a nine-run eighth on June 19, 2000 at Fenway Park in a 22-1 Yankees win. It was also the Yankees’ largest inning since a nine-run fourth June 14 against the Mets.
? Every Yankees starter had at least one hit.
? Yankees pitchers allowed 12 walks, their highest single-game total since issuing 12 in a 17-4 loss June 18, 2000 against the White Sox. Those 12 walks were the most in a win against any team. Joba Chamberlain improved to 8-2 despite waling a career-high seven. This was a shade of gray on a nice silver lining.
“We walked too many people and we got away from some situations, and we can’t continue to do that against this lineup because they’re going to hurt you,” Girardi said. “It’s frustrating because you can’t give an offense like theirs free passes.”
? Chad Gaudin will join the team on Sunday, reports The Journal News‘ Peter Abraham, who added that Brian Cashman told him that Sergio Mitre will remain in the rotation. Joe Girardi sees Gaudin as someone who can work out of the bullpen or spot start. His last start was Wednesday, when the Braves tagged him for six runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Nick Swisher was Gaudin’s roommate for two years in Oakland. He sent him a text message welcoming him to the club.
“He’s going to fit in here real nice,” Swisher said. “When we were in Oakland he had a good run. He’s a good dude, he’s a competitor and he’s going to go out and give it his all every day.”
By Jon Lane
Jerome Preisler pens the Deep in the Red blog for YESNetwork.com. On his day off, he e-mailed me his take on the Roy Halladay trade rumors:
Halladay is probably the best pitcher in baseball. He would alter the balance of power in the AL East in a way that can be equated to what occurred when the Red Sox acquired Curt Schilling. But unlike Curt Schilling he is 32 years old and in the prime of his career. The Yankees could expect him to produce at a high level for at least another half decade.
A trade of this magnitude will be painful almost by definition. The Red Sox didn’t want to give up Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett, and they didn’t want to take on Mike Lowell’s contract, but look how well it worked out for them. I interviewed Ramirez when he was with the AA Portland Seadogs. I saw him play several times and knew without any doubt that he would be something special. But I also knew it was a trade the Sox had to make.
I would present J.P. Ricciardi with a package that includes Joba and, if need be, Austin Jackson as its centerpieces, but other Minor Leaguers could be movable pieces. Phil Hughes would be off the table.
I agree with you that the odds don’t favor such a trade. But I think it’s more than a possibility, and Brian Cashman’s greatest strength as GM, or one of them, has been to pull these sorts of surprise moves out of his vest pocket.
Another thing to consider: Joe McDonald of the Providence Journal reported that the Red Sox have officially phoned Ricciardi about Halladay, and that Ricciardi stated that Clay Buchholz was mentioned as key to any potential deal. Thus, one can assume they had a substantive discussion about a trade. Like the Yankees, the Sox have the resources to pull one off here, and the Yankees must do whatever they can to make sure it doesn’t happen. That means monitoring this situation with all due diligence.
SI.com’s Jon Heyman reports that the Jays are freezing out the Yankees and Red Sox, and haven’t returned a phone call placed by the Yankees 10 days ago.
The Yankees will hold a “major” press conference on Monday to announce an upcoming college football event at Yankee Stadium. According to the The Times Herald-Record, Notre Dame will play Army at the Bronx Mahal next year.
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.
By Jon Lane
This is a photograph taken the night of May 1, 2007 in Arlington, Texas. The man below the scoreboard is Phil Hughes and the numbers above him do not tell the whole story. Here was Hughes, 24 days shy of the legal drinking age, on a Major League mound for the second time in his life and he was working the Rangers for a no-hitter along with 10 strikeouts entering the seventh inning. He was eight outs away when he threw an 0-2 curveball to – get this – Mark Teixeira. His 80th pitch would be his last. Hughes grabbed his left hamstring, and was forced from the game and immediately to the disabled list.
The performance was a tease. The injury was a distant early warning. Since 5/1/07, Hughes has won five games – none since September 27, 2007 – thanks to repeated ailments that has his career in stop-and-go traffic. Tonight, a 22-year-old right-hander, “The Sure Thing,” is being asked to halt a four-game losing streak and the latest round of panic attacks amongst the Yankees fan base.
One night after I wrote an open letter to CC Sabathia telling him it was time to play stopper, Hughes is starting the latest “Biggest Game of the Season.” There will be a lot more “big games” and “must wins” if the Yankees continue to stare down the barrel of a losing streak, along with calls for the heads of Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman. Yes, it’s April 28, 2009 and the Yankees have been through worse. This time, they are without Alex Rodriguez, Chien-Ming Wang, Xavier Nady and Brian Bruney, while Johnny Damon is fighting an aching left shoulder and Hideki Matsui brittle knees.
But a team that spent $423.5 million on people is a game under .500 and have watched the Red Sox run off 11 straight wins employing a brand of baseball they’re incapable of doing at the moment: killing with speed, locking down the seventh and eighth innings of tight games, and delivering in the clutch. The Yankees’ problems with runners in scoring position are like stubborn acne. Monday night they were 1-for-9. They have one hit in their last 25 at-bats in the pinch and are batting .223 in such situations.
Memo to Hughes: You’re 5-7, 5.15 in your career. You’re better than that. Tonight begins your chance to show that you can be an answer to Jon Lester. To Justin Masterson. To Manny Delcarmen. Homegrown prospects thriving in the big leagues. The Yankees have shown patience with you, refusing to make you the centerpiece in a deal for Johan Santana. Your legacy will not be written until years later, yet tonight is a big step. For your team. For your confidence.
One good start from Hughes will get the wheels turning towards better days, beginning with a rotation that will meet expectations once CC Sabathia (Monday’s hard-luck loser) and A.J. Burnett find their footing, and Chien-Ming Wang finds his way back. Hughes’ presence, combined with Joba Chamberlain’s underwhelming performances as a starter, has refueled the Joba-to-the-bullpen debate. I don’t remember exactly, but it was either Mike Francesa or one of his callers who theorized that the Yankees “neutered” Chamberlain by making him a starter, taking away the balls-to-the-wall mentality of letting it all go at 97 MPH that made him unhittable.
I will not go there. This topic is burnt to a crisp from where I sit and I’m amazed that it has such shelf life. Whether the Yankees actually cave in and put Chamberlain back in an eighth-inning role depends on a lot of variables, namely Bruney’s health and Mark Melancon’s effectiveness. The first and most important step commences with how No. 65 does tonight in Detroit.
By 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.”
By Jon Lane
Alex Rodriguez will have arthroscopic hip surgery on Monday and is expected to miss six to nine weeks. According to Peter Abraham, it will be a less invasive procedure, so instead of missing at least four months, the goal is to get the surgery done, rehab, return around late April-early May and have the full repair after the season.
Dr. Marc Philippon will perform the surgery in Vail, Colo., where Rodriguez will remain for several weeks, and stated in a Sunday morning conference call he is 85-90 percent certain A-Rod won’t have a setback this season.
From the sounds of it, Brian Cashman and the Yankees deserve credit for their thorough research and the exploration of every option. In this case A-Rod won’t suddenly break down and the Yankees will have him back much sooner than later. As far as a band-aid, look for Cody Ransom see the bulk of the time at third unless Cashman plucks someone like a Mark Grudzielanek off the scrap heap. The good news is this does not necessitate a major move for a high-priced veteran (Adrian Beltre, Scott Rolen).
By Jon Lane and Joe Auriemma
Yet another A-Rod bait and switch, this time possibly for the better.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters in Tampa., Fla., that Alex Rodriguez has a torn hip labrum and cyst, which was drained. Hoping to avoid surgery, the Yankees’ plan is to try rest and rehab with the hope that he’ll continue to play. One thing is for certain, A-Rod is out of the World Baseball Classic.
Rodriguez is not out of the woods yet. Surgery remains an option, which can keep him out for up to four months according to WFAN’s Sweeny Murti. However, Peter Abraham added that Cashman said A-Rod will need the surgery at some point. The hope is he can get through the season and then have the procedure.
It’s going to be a tense few days in Yankees camp, this time strictly for baseball reasons. Despite the revamping of the starting rotation and the addition of Mark Teixeira, the Yankees aren’t whole without Alex Rodriguez. Period.
Auriemma: Final decision can affect ’09 season
According to ESPN 1050, Yankees VP & GM Brian Cashman has stated that Alex Rodriguez will not require surgery and will try to rehab a torn labrum in his hip. This is good news if they can get him to come back earlier than 10 weeks. There have been rumors that Cody Ransom/Angel Berroa were going to have to hold down the hot corner, but ESPN’s Peter Gammons said that Bobby Crosby and Mark Grudzielanek also could have been options.
My concern is will rehab take care of the problem? Is A-Rod going to try and rehab it and then down the line, they find out that all along he needed surgery anyway, making this a mid-July return instead of a mid-May return. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know, but I’m sure the Yankees and their team of specialists have good reason to believe that this is the best avenue.
This news is definitely better than what was initially reported. Whenever the word surgery is uttered most people think the worst. The Yankees just have to trust the opinion that this is the best route to take and that this won’t be an issue even after rehab throughout the whole season.
A-Rod might mean more to the run production of this lineup than what any other player means to their team. I do think good pitching can keep the Yankees in it, but eventually they need A-Rod’s bat back in the middle of the order. This is a very important decision for the Yankees and what might become of the 2009 season.
This is like the 2000 Presidential election all over again. In a race to break the story, everyone on the planet reported the surgery story, including myself. Another example of why listening to A-Rod’s brother as a source is never the right decision.
Alright, it’s not exactly like the 2000 Presidential election.
By Jon Lane
Game 2 is on the air. Michael Kay and Ken Singleton are in the YES Booth and I’m at MLBAM headquarters to provide some commentary.
Some quick hits from Peter Abraham’s blog:
- Mariano Rivera has been playing catch and will get on the mound for the first time next week.
- Brian Cashman has no information as to whether Alex Rodriguez will meet with MLB investigators today and was asked about Yuri Sucart driving his players to and from games.
“It has been handled,” he said. “That’s all I want to say, it has been handled.”
- George Steinbrenner is at his game. The temperature in Tampa, Fla., is sunny and 73 degrees. Not to shabby, eh?
1:15 p.m. Michael Kay mentioned the team feels relaxed and confident, this in spite off all the A-Rod melodrama. That is a good sign. Bernie Williams threw out the first pitch and looks and feels great. Phil Hughes hits Adam Kennedy to being the game. Not a good start.
1:27 p.m. Hughes survived two hit batsman to get Gabe Kapler to pop out to short, but threw threw 18 pitches (13 strikes), continuing a disturbing trend. Hughes averaged 78.8 pitches in his eight starts last season while pitching into the sixth inning only three times, the last when he went eight strong September 24 against the Blue Jays.
1:32 p.m. Mark Teixeira’s first at-bat as a Yankee ends with him chasing high heat on Wade Davis’ 2-2 pitch as the Yankees go quietly in the first.
1:45 p.m. Alex Rodriguez is met with a smattering of boos, but mostly cheers while stepping into the batter’s box. Like many, Ken Singleton expressed disappointment in A-Rod using PEDs and couldn’t understand why he chose to do it in the first place.
A-Rod goes down swinging. The catcalls grow a little louder. It’s plainly obvious he’ll be Lightning Rod all season. What cannot go unnoticed is how Joe Girardi handles the pressure of being asked about this day in and day out.
1:54 p.m. Phil Coke pitches a scoreless third. I like this guy a lot. He works fast, changes speeds and is fearless, and got the third out by breaking Willy Aybar’s bat (with help by a nice play from Robinson Cano). He and Damaso Marte have the potential to be an effective lefty combination out of the bullpen.
1:55 p.m. Jorge Posada crushes one over the right-field fence to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. That surgically repaired shoulder had better hold up. I can’t stress enough the importance of a healthy Posada to this team.
1:57 p.m. Melky Cabrera flies out to center. He’s already trailing Brett Gardner in the center field derby. This is only the second Spring Training game, and Cabrera’s first, but Glenn Giangrande has already deemed Gardner the winner.
2:17 p.m. A-Rod’s second at-bat is met with louder boos that drowned out some cheers (one man yelling “Go A-Rod!” made it through). Rodriguez wastes Teixeira’s one-out single by grounding into a 5-4-3 double play. No boos, but a collective groan, one all too familiar during A-Rod’s Yankees years.
2:25 p.m. A svelte Brian Bruney works a clean inning, hitting as high as 95 MPH on the radar gun. With Joba Chamberlain the Yankees’ undisputed fifth starter, Bruney has to be the eighth-inning bridge to Rivera. During the top of fifth, Girardi told Kay and Singleton that Posada will start his first game behind the plate on March 15.
2:30 p.m. Posada doubles home the Yankees’ second run. He’s 2-for-2 with both RBIs.
2:59 p.m. The Yankees lowered the price of about 600 obstructed-view bleacher seats at the new Yankee Stadium from $12 to $5. It’s a good deal when you think about it. Fans who purchase these tickets get access throughout the new palace. That includes the sports bar adjacent to the bleachers that I believe will be an open air facility. That to me is a great way to spend a summer’s day or evening, watching a ballgame on site while in the atmosphere of a sports bar.
3:12 p.m. Remember Shelley “Slam” Duncan? He crushed a three-run home run to left field to give the Yankees a 5-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh. Duncan’s power and energy burst upon the scene in 2007 by hitting three home runs in his first two games and eventually drew comparisons to Kevin Maas, which wasn’t exactly a good thing. Like Maas, Duncan faded and was designated for assignment in the offseason. Having received a non-roster invite to Spring Training, Duncan is trying to bash his way back on the roster. He’ll just have to learn to hit a breaking ball.
3:22 p.m. Three up and three down for Mark Melancon in the eighth. This kid has got the goods to either be a dominant late-inning set-up man and possibly Rivera’s eventual successor.
3:35 p.m. Yankees win 5-1 to move to 2-0 on the Grapefruit season. Tomorrow brings a two-hour-plus bus ride to Fort Myers for the chosen players.