By Jon Lane
The Yankees just announced that Chien-Ming Wang will return to the starting rotation and start tomorrow afternoon against the Rangers. CC Sabathia, initially the scheduled starter, will now go Friday against the Rays. This also means Phil Hughes will pitch out of the bullpen.
Wang tossed three scoreless innings in relief of Hughes on Sunday, walking one and striking out three while looking sharp. As well as Hughes has pitched, Wang is a two-time 19-game winner. You can’t keep him idle and waiting. He’s the present and Hughes is the future, and the latter will be around a long, long time.
Stay logged on to YESNetwork.com for reaction from manager Joe Girardi.
By Jon Lane
Wow! Such fervor on YESNetwork.com these days. The source of it is a 23-year-old kid from Nebraska who set a standard so high as a set-up man that everything he does is measured against it. And each time he fails or simply takes his lumps, his destiny has to be altered permanently.
Yeah, here we go again. Joba Chamberlain belongs in the bullpen. It’s a topic that just won’t go away (at least we’re not discussing PEDs, the height of annoyance, this time) and right now it’s hot. Chamberlain has labored as a starter, Chien-Ming Wang is not in the rotation and everyone in the Yankees ‘pen not named Mariano Rivera can’t be completely trusted. Since we live in a town that demands instant gratification, Joba to the ‘pen will solve all the Yankees’ problems.
I’m not suggesting this is an argument without merit. It is. Chamberlain was fantastic in his eighth-inning role and only midges off Lake Erie dented him in 2007. Pitching out of the ‘pen allows him to go from zero to 100 using his best two pitches (2 > 4, writes Chris Shearn) while thriving off his emotion. Somebody has to eventually replace Rivera and Chamberlain is currently the best candidate to do it. Many made their points and they’re all valid. Kim Jones is practical. Mike Francesa is angry. Jerome Preisler combines passion with historical precedent. You the readers are speaking too. At last check of our homepage poll, it was 171-5 with the belief that Chamberlain will be back in the bullpen before season’s end. I can’t scientifically prove it, but there are probably many who initially believed in Joba the starter have since changed their tune, which is their right.
I’m not budging. Why are we drawing conclusions after 21 career starts? Does Joba have to be Rick Porcello or Justin Verlander, two guys off the top of my head who instantly met (or meeting) success as rookie starters? Do enough people study the cases of Roy Halladay, Tom Glavine or Zack Greinke, the latter who four seasons ago was 5-17 with a 5.80 ERA and now 8-1, 0.84 with five complete games? (Greinke also overcame social anxiety disorder and depression, another layer to his amazing story.)
Another question: Does anyone notice if Chamberlain was pitching in Kansas City?
Look, Joba the starter has been a tease and often frustrating, but 99 out of 100 young starters pegged for greatness experience a learning curve, and some longer than others. If Chamberlain is moved back to the bullpen, you stunt his development and reduce the innings pitched the Yankees are trying to limit anyway. Furthermore, each time Phil Hughes is lights out, he’s the phenom everyone was dreaming about. Every time he bombs – which will happen again – he’s a bust and belongs either in the ‘pen or the Minor Leagues. You can’t have it both ways and the Yankees have made the choice to build not for only this year, but rebuild a program they hope will come close to winning four World Championships in five seasons.
A big part of that is learning from failure and learning how to lose. Chamberlain deserves the same education. Once he’s a finished product he’ll have four dominant out pitches and a fully matured state of mind. I’ll take an elite starter over someone who only gets three outs and isn’t assured of pitching in every close game.
Another perspective: The problem isn’t Joba the starter. It’s the construction and handling of the current bullpen. Alfredo Aceves needs a defined role and why Jose Veras is continually asked to get big outs I’ll never figure out. David Robertson is back in the bigs. Use him and not just for mop-up duty. Thankfully for the Yankees, Brian Bruney will be back, and this time every extra precaution will be taken. That will leave you with Bruney – not Chamberlain – as your eighth-inning guy, and young guns Robertson, Mark Melancon and Phil Coke as the underbelly.
A nicely-laid plan unless the Yankees manage to swing a deal for Huston Street.
About Wang: Use him too. Don’t wait another nine days to dust him off, but don’t just shrug your shoulders and put him back into the rotation. Injury or not, Wang’s ERA was still 34.50 after three starts and that’s your judge and jury. Hughes got hurt and failed last year. He’s earning his way back. Now it’s Wang’s turn.
By Jon Lane
I’m trying to figure out how and why the Yankees are handling Chien-Ming Wang.
Here’s someone coming into 2009 who was 46-15 with a 3.74 ERA in three seasons and slotted in between CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in the team’s revamped rotation.
Alright, Wang started 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA,
allowing 23 runs on 23 hits over six innings. Apparently he wasn’t completely over the foot injury that ended his season in 2008 and that contributed to the poor results. So the Yankees disable him to allow him to start from the beginning and clear his head. He throws 13 scoreless innings in two rehab games for Triple-A Scranton. One more was scheduled before his return to the big-league rotation, but that was changed when Joba Chamberlain was struck by a line drive in the first
inning of a game last Thursday, which meant Wang was told to return to New York and serve as a needed arm in a depleted bullpen.
That’s fair. You could not blame the Yankees for making a move they didn’t want to make. The problem now is Wang is stuck in purgatory and the reasons are perplexing. Last night, after Chamberlain was removed after laboring for four innings, was the ideal spot to give Wang not just work, but quality work; the score was 3-1 Rangers in the bottom of the fifth.
Alas, Joe Girardi summoned Alfredo Aceves, who for reasons known only to Girardi pitched a meaningless ninth inning of an eventual 11-1 Yankees win the day before. Wang has thrown three innings in the last nine days. Aceves has been the best out of all of Mariano Rivera’s set-up men.
Alas, Aceves (who has been real good) gave up three runs on four hits in two innings and the Yankees lost 7-5. Girardi said Aceves was his choice because he was the hot hand. So why pitch him in garbage time, in the middle of the game, while a two-time 19-game winner is sitting confused on the bench?
“I just felt like we’d go to Ace,” Girardi said.
Meanwhile, it’s hurry up and wait with Wang, out of the rotation with Phil Hughes pitching well and no chance he goes to the Minors because he’s out of options. The Yankees hope A.J. Burnett can turn it up tonight and lead the Yankees to a series win over a first-place team, but would it hurt to give Wang some work?
“This is very hard for me,” Wang told reporters in Arlington, Texas, before yesterday’s game. “At least I could pitch. Now I don’t know what to do.”
And observers of the team are left wondering why.
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.
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.
By Jon Lane
There’s nothing anyone could have done about Tuesday’s loss in Toronto. Roy Halladay is one of the top five pitchers in the game and was so dominant neither the 1927 nor the 1961 Yankees were hitting him. Doc also continued his ownership of the Yankees. He’s 13-2 over his last 19 starts and 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA lifetime.
Meanwhile, A.J. Burnett is 0-1, 6.47 and has allowed five home runs in his last five starts. It’s May 13 and already it’s desperate times for the Yankees. Almost half the team is on the shelf or flirting with the disabled list, CC Sabathia is hoping to finally gain traction off Friday’s nine-inning whitewash of the Orioles and Chien-Ming Wang will need one more Minor League start before he returns. Burnett has had his chances to show he can carry a team in need and hasn’t done it.
Wang, meanwhile, threw six shutout innings for Triple-A Scranton Tuesday night, giving up three hits walking three and striking out six. It’s still impossible to believe a two-time 19-game winner is 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA. The Yankees are praying that was due to the weakness in his hip abductor muscle and not anything mechanically or emotionally.
It’s gotten ridiculous with these injuries. Derek Jeter sat out Tuesday with a strained rib-cage muscle and hopes to play tonight. Hideki Matsui, already playing on creaky knees, now has a tight right hamstring. Matsui says it’s only a cramp, but I’d be surprised to see Matsui for the rest of this series given the Rogers Centre turf.
Normally, when in times of crisis, Andy Pettitte is the one you’d want on the mound. However, the veteran left-hander is 0-1 with a 6.62 ERA in his last three starts. This is a team that was pegged not only for greatness, but to do something special. Keep the faith that things can turn around quickly in this game, but at this rate the Yankees are looking like the 1992 Mets (minus the dysfunction). That team signed free agents Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray and Bret Saberhagen and had visions of a World Championship. They finished 72-90.
A bit over the top? Maybe so. But the Yankees Version 2009 are laden with big names who are also aging veterans. There’s no need to worry about Sabathia, but Burnett is not doing what he did last year and any defense of Mark Teixeira and his history of slow starts no longer carry merit. Teixeira went hitless in four at-bats on Tuesday and has been stuck below the Mendoza line the past week.
This team needs to get healthy and get it going – quickly. The days of the AL East being a two-team race are long over, which means the Yankees are vulnerable to getting buried sooner than you think.
4:57 p.m. Jeter and Matsui are both out of tonight’s lineup. Reports out of Toronto say the captain is hoping to return tomorrow.
By Jon Lane
We’re just approaching mid-May and have reached the season’s first “big” series. For once it’s not Yankees vs. Red Sox, for the Bronx Bombers are in Toronto to face the first-place Blue Jays.
That’s not a typo, folks. The Blue Jays, an afterthought for years in the AL East, are 22-12, boast four players (minimum 112 at-bats) batting at least .283 and have persevered despite a starting rotation held together by Roy Halladay, bubble gum and duct tape.
Already it’s a big series and a proving ground for both teams. The Yankees need to work out of their annual early-season doldrums and make a statement, writes Steven Goldman. They will greet the sub-.500 Twins and Orioles on their next homestand before welcoming the World Champion Phillies Memorial Day weekend. If they can hold it together, notes Goldman, Jorge Posada (and perhaps Brian Bruney) will be back and the team will (theoretically) be fully staffed for the first time all year and can really make some progress.
Don’t forget about Chien-Ming Wang either. Wang is starting in Scranton tonight and a strong effort might punch his ticket back to the Yankees along with the hope that his 34.50 ERA over three starts was a wicked aberration.
Think the Toronto media is pumping up this week’s three-game set? The Toronto Star is hyping tonight’s matchup as potentially the game of the year, and not just because it’s Doc Halladay facing A.J. Burnett. The scribes have noted the critics who have cited the Blue Jays playing 20 of 34 games against the AL Central and have not yet faced their rugged division rivals. Then there’s the return of Alex Rodriguez, and the sense of urgency growing in Yankeeland, that’s expected to draw a walk-up crowd that will boost attendance to at least 30,000. Figure on a few of them holding foam syringes and wearing blond wigs. Necessary? No, but it’s the nature of the beast.
Blue Jays fans have had nothing to cheer about since consecutive World Series championships in 1992 and ’93, so you can’t blame them for getting excited about their team holding the AL’s best record. The Jays have rarely made a big bang during the offseason, but the core of the team is beginning to pay dividends. Cito Gaston’s group lead the Majors in batting (.294) and runs scored (204), and are in the top five in on-base and slugging percentage. Then of course there’s Halladay, whose six wins are tied with Zack Grienke for the league lead and his 52.0 innings pitched rank third.
It was September 24, 2008 when Burnett walked off the Rogers Centre mound for the last time as a Blue Jay after whiffing 11 Yankees through eight innings. A crowd of 28,701 gave him a standing ovation, imploring him to re-sign as a free agent. That didn’t work, so expect Burnett to receive the treatment given to Mark Teixeira (Baltimore), Johnny Damon (Boston) and A-Rod (everywhere).
“I’m sure I’m going to get some boos,” Burnett told the media in Baltimore, “as long as I hear a couple of claps in there. But to be honest with you, it’s probably going to fuel the fire. I’m going to channel it that way.”
Burnett needs something to get him going. He’s winless in his last four starts (6.66 ERA) while allowing five home runs and walking 13 in 24 1/3 innings. CC Sabathia stepped up Friday in Baltimore in what everyone hopes will spark a turnaround. Now it’s Burnett’s turn. He’ll have to out-pitch his old friend. Halladay was 3-0, 1.80 in two complete games against the Yankees last season and owns a career record of 15-5, 2.86.
By Joe Auriemma
The Yankees are 27 games into the season and under .500. They already have two four-game losing streaks and are playing exactly like their record states. This team has problems and it’s the type of problems that won’t just disappear with the return of Alex Rodriguez into the middle of the order.
As was the case with last season, the Yankees already have had major injury issues. The loss of A-Rod was just the tip of the iceberg when they lost two of their big money relievers in Brian Bruney and Damaso Marte. Now Marte had not been good before he was injured, but he is an experienced pitcher. Bruney has not had a full season with the Yankees since his 58-game performance in 2007. He has been lights out every time he’s been in there and he seems to be what’s missing from what has been a subpar bullpen this season. There are many inexperienced arms out there that give up the big hit at the worst possible moment.
I never like to blame injuries, but it has ravaged the bullpen, the lineup and the bench. The Yankees lost A-Rod, then his replacement Cody Ransom went down, Xavier Nady has been out and then they lost their leading RBI man in Jorge Posada. To make matters worse, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui have been playing hurt and let’s not forget about Chien-Ming Wang, who was just putrid in three starts this season. Every team has injuries, but the Yankees’ situation is pretty bad.
Could the injury bug for the second straight season be blamed on age? Yes, I think the advanced age of these players has a lot to do with the injuries. The Red Sox and Rays have a pretty young core of players and they don’t seem to be going through this same problem over the last two seasons.
After the injuries and the bullpen issues, the Yankees have had a tough year defensively. That seems to be the difference between a lot of the upper echelon teams to how they are playing right now.
This team also is not manufacturing runs. They don’t move runners over and when they do, they don’t drive them in.
With all of this being said, the Yankees can still snap out of this with the talent that they have and win their share of ballgames. However, when you combine everything that’s going on with the team right now, it really is true, “You are what your record says you are.”
The Yankees made the right move by not offering Chien-Ming Wang a long-term deal. Wang’s miserable beginning to 2009 is 20-10 hindsight, but RAB notes they could afford to go year to year and pay big arbitration raises as warranted. Count on this, though: Wang will right himself and when he’s back – at 100 percent and nothing less – you’ll see what you’ve seen out of the talented right-hander since 2005.
Let’s defend A.J. Burnett’s start Thursday night. Okay, four runs and eight hits in seven innings isn’t pretty, but winning ugly is a beautiful thing. Burnett gave the Yankees seven innings and kept them in the game until they broke through in the eighth. John Flaherty made a great point during the telecast when he cited how Roger Clemens enjoyed pitching a lot more when he had to grind it out. You’re not going to have your best stuff every outing. Burnett didn’t but he found a way to survive and finished with a nine-pitch seventh.
Who will be the odd man out once Brian Bruney returns? RAB speculates it’ll be David Robertson, but Jose Veras and Jonathan Albaladejo better be on alert. Albaladejo has options and he’s given up seven runs in his last inning of work covering two appearances. That three-year deal given to Damaso Marte is more and more of an albatross.
Interesting poll question: Who will be the Yankees’ closer in 2011? (Mariano Rivera’s current contract expires after next season.)
Who do you think? Vote here and have your say.
It’s Angels vs. Yankees tonight on YES (weather permitting). Kimberly Jones is there off a successful debut chat. Enjoy the game and the weekend.
By Jon Lane
George King has coined the newest Yankees catch phrase: Phi Sigma Joba Starter (PSJS) nation. Here’s hoping the loyal order of the Joba-to-the-bullpen army was served with a reality check with Joba Chamberlain’s finest start since that 1-0 win over Josh Beckett and the Red Sox in Boston on July 25, 2007.
Yeah, right. This debate will never go away. Though I am guilty of adding kindling to the fire by only presenting the other side of the story, Chamberlain has to stay in the rotation. This won’t be an issue until (if) Chien-Ming Wang returns healthy and back in form, but people won’t stop talking about it. To be fair, this is indeed a tasty storyline and an excellent problem worth discussing, not those “revelations” from that new book coming out on some (in)famous baseball player.
Here’s why Chamberlain is a starting pitcher, case closed:
Imagine a rotation with Chamberlain and Phil Hughes pitching brilliantly? The jury will still be out on Hughes for awhile, but best-case scenario is you have two outstanding homegrown starters pitching well in a group that includes CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Remember, Andy Pettitte probably isn’t coming back after this season, so the long-range forecast includes Chamberlain, Hughes, Wang (he’s down, but not out) and Ian Kennedy if he can finally scale the roadblocks that have prevented him from pitching in the Major Leagues. Not too bad of a future for a win-now franchise, eh?
Everyone makes a fuss about how Chamberlain threw 97 MPH as an unhittable, intimidating reliever. Here’s something few actually talk about: He’s 4-1 with a 2.85 ERA in 16 career starts and has allowed 82 hits and struck out 91 in 88 1/3 innings – and he’s still getting warmed up. The next time anyone brings up how he’s only throwing 92-93 instead of 97 must be re-told the story on how Burnett has matured from setting speed records to a pitcher that locates and changes speeds.
Out-of-the-box storytelling from Peter Abraham on how Chamberlain’s approach against Miguel Cabrera and one pitch decided the game. This eliminates any doubt about Chamberlain’s capabilities as a starter. This sequence started a run of 10 straight Tigers batters retired by Chamberlain, five by strikeout.
One of my readers summed it up best: For years the story has been the Yankees’ lack of quality pitching. At this rate they will have a lot of rounds to spare. Too many arms are never – EVER – enough. Want proof? See last season.
Abraham compiled a report from Alex Rodriguez’s extended spring game in Tampa: 1-for-6 with a homer and two walks.
Another bad April for Mark Teixeira, his worst since 2003. Here’s a breakdown of his batting average, and on-base and slugging percentages for each April the past seven seasons:
2003 .188 .288 .344
2004 .276 .432 .552
2005 .262 .321 .485
2006 .293 .391 .495
2007 .231 .346 .341
2008 .290 .355 .490
2009 .197 .365 .364
Worried? You need not be.
Mariano Rivera has allowed a home run in his last two appearances, notes Kat O’Brien. He gave up four all of last year and hasn’t surrendered more than four since 2001 and five since 1995, when he began his career as a starting pitcher. Reason to worry? Uh, no.
For those who care (I don’t), the book on A-Rod says he may have been taking steroids since high school. I quote Al Davis, “Just win, baby.” Do that and nobody will talk about this stuff.