By Jon Lane
Earlier this week I had a discussion with both a mentor and a friend, and also a big Yankees fan. While handicapping the Yankees’ postseason chances, the ultimate wild card came up in the conversation, A.J. Burnett.
The right-hander’s stuff is electric. He knows it. We know it. Everyone who plays with him, and those who pay big money to watch him, knows it. Yet during the season, and throughout his career, there’s been “The Good A.J.” and “The Bad A.J.” Some starts he’s won by guile over talent, but for the most part there’s been no middle ground. He’s either really, really good, or really, really bad.
My friend, let’s call him R.J., brought up a valid point. Burnett spent Monday in Arkansas to be his father, Bill, who underwent triple-bypass heart surgery. R.J. believed this had to be weighing heavily on his mind for a couple of months. All of us have spent the season breaking down Burnett’s inconsistencies. From May 27-July 27, he was 8-2 with a
2.08 ERA, allowing three runs or less in each of his 11 starts. His next seven starts (August 1-September 1), he went 0-4, 6.54. There were those who deduced the pressure of a pennant race, combined with New York’s ridiculous expectations, were getting to him.
He’s never pitched in the postseason, but Burnett’s delivered in big spots before (see his one-hitter against the Red Sox August 7). He’s never hid from the media, made excuses or blamed Jorge Posada – when everyone was bracing and salivating for a tasty feud – no matter how big of a stinker he produced. Lose or win, Burnett, even when he used the worn “One game at a time” cliche, was always analytical. What he said made sense. His words resonated that the philosophy was much more than a cliche. It was a belief system, or what Pat Riley wrote in his book, The Winner Within a Core Covenant.
Collectively, the Yankees obeyed the code and it won them the AL East and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. To play deep into October, Burnett will have to dig deeper, and so far, so good. He held the Royals to an earned run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings with three walks and eight strikeouts Tuesday night. A big reason was that old “one pitch at a time” attitude, but again, Burnett has a way of explaining it so that you’re not rolling your eyes at some boring team speak.
“There’s times in the year where I made pitches, they’ve gotten hits and I’ve gotten really aggravated and let little things bother me,” Burnett said. “Now, I’m pushing it aside. Instead of, ‘Why did I do that?’ it’s ‘OK, now don’t do it again.’ There’s a lot of different thinking out there and it’s paid off.”
There’s an ongoing debate that will continue probably until the Twins and Tigers decide the AL Central: Who will start Game 2 of the Division Series? Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News breaks down the splits between Burnett and, the chic choice, Andy Pettitte. You can also vote on YESNetwork.com’s home page. As of this writing, Burnett has earned 55 percent of your votes.
Based on his track record alone, I’d go with Pettitte (14-9, 3.96 in 35 postseason starts) and Joe Torre’s go-to guy in Game 2. That has neither to do with performance – Burnett has a 1.89 ERA over his last three outings, giving up four earned runs on 17 hits and nine walks over 19 innings, striking out 25 batters – nor fear of the unknown. Burnett won’t melt under the October lights; that August night under a postseason atmosphere he one-hit Boston over 7 2/3 innings and left with the game scoreless only because Josh Beckett was just as awesome.
“A lot of times, people say, ‘He has no playoff experience,’ then guys go out that have no playoff experience and play extremely well,” said Joe Girardi. “We have expectations of him. There are a lot of games that you pitch that have playoff implications or playoff atmosphere that we play in during the course of the year, and some of those games, he’s pitched really well.
“Everyone is different. Until that person goes through it you really don’t know.”
Burnett knows why he was brought here. He knows what will be at stake – “The prize is next month,” Girardi told him – and what he has to do. It’ll be pass or fail for the right-hander, and not because he’ll fold mentally.
“As long as I’m clear upstairs I’m ready,” said Burnett. “The past couple of weeks have been a real important stretch for me.”
The next few will be, next to precious time spent with his father, the most important of his life. No explanations will be necessary.
By Jon Lane
Derek Jeter is and will continue to be the big story until his inevitable passing of Lou Gehrig on the Yankees’ all-time hits list. Not only can you watch him take his first crack Friday night on YES at 7 p.m., there are other storylines to follow while the team continues this mythical surge towards the postseason. The Yankees are an astounding 40-13 since the All-Star break. By way of comparison, the 1998 team was, on this date, 42-22 in the second half and 103-41 overall.
At 91-50, Version 2009 owns a nine-game lead over the Red Sox with a magic number to clinch the AL East down to 14 following a four-game sweep of the Rays. There was Jeter, of course. There was Jorge Posada’s pinch-hit, three-run home run that gave the Yankees their 45th come-from-behind victory. And, including Joba Chamberlain after a rough first inning, Yankees pitchers held the Rays hitless for 8 2/3 innings.
The biggest difference in Chamberlain from the second inning on during another abbreviated outing (55 pitches in three innings) was his pace. After Jeter told Chamberlain something pretty animated during that first inning, instead of shaking off his catcher and thinking to the point of burning wood, Chamberlain worked with vigor. He needed only 14 pitches to retired the Rays in the second and nine in the third, and was throwing 95 by the end of his night. You can debate until the cows, horses and chickens over the Yankees’ handling meticulous of Chamberlain, but it’s up to Chamberlain to work with rhythm and urgency. Once he takes the mound to start a playoff game, all rules are null and void. Chamberlain can rear back, not think and just throw. By then we’ll have a great idea of how good he is and how good he can be.
Did you notice that Alfredo Aceves threw three of those hitless innings? There were concerns over Aceves during his second-half slump following issues with his shoulder and back. It looks like Ace is back on track to being Ramiro Mendoza Version ’09.
How fitting was it to see Posada get the biggest hit on the night Jeter tied Gehrig and is it for Andy Pettitte to be the starting pitcher on the night Jeter may pass The Iron Horse? Pettitte and Jeter won four World Series together and have been teammates for all of Jeter’s 15 seasons except those three the left-hander spent in Houston. Also keep in mind that the last time Pettitte saw the Orioles he took a perfect game into the seventh inning. Might Pettitte dare flirt with history again while Jeter makes some of his own? Tomorrow at the Stadium will be compelling, for more reasons than one.
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.
By Jon Lane
Life in the penthouse as winners of 20 out of 26 is good, especially when one of the perks is having the luxury of dealing with injuries without succumbing to desperation.
Four major players left for Seattle with barking body parts, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. If the Yankees were close to falling off a cliff, you’d bet on all of them “manning up” and playing tonight, the first of a four-game set at Safeco Field that begins a seven-day excursion out west and a 10-day road trip that concludes next weekend in Boston.
The Yankees own a 5 ½ game lead over the Red Sox, far from safe, but currently a luxury. X-rays on Jeter’s sore foot were negative, but considering the team had to immediately board a plane and fly across the country and further north, I’d be surprised if Jeter is in tonight’s lineup, and near shocked if Posada – he took a foul tip off his right hand and was beaten up chasing A.J. Burnett’s three wild pitches and many others in the dirt – will play. Remember yesterday he played after catching the night before.
Joe Girardi said A-Rod was already getting tonight off, but as luck had it, A-Rod was hit by a Shawn Camp pitch in a most minute spot, the part of his left elbow slightly unprotected by a huge pad.
Rivera’s status was unknown until after the game and anytime you learn about soreness in his pitching shoulder – the one that underwent a procedure to remove calcification from a joint – that’s frightening. Both player and manager insisted Rivera would be ready to go. Rivera, incidentally, did not leave with the team, but that was to attend a personal matter and unrelated to his heath.
These are the advantages of having a nice-sized lead in your division and a deep bench; you have the capability to manage nagging ailments correctly and be smart about resting your starting pitchers. This brings me to the latest obsessive-compulsive debate about Joba Chamberlain. First he belonged in the bullpen. Now he’s coddled and overprotected, which will adversely affect the rest of his career. Chamberlain is 8-2 with a 3.85 ERA and despite annoying inconsistency hasn’t lost a decision since June 18.
This isn’t complicated and it’s a not a big deal. This is the case of a 23-year-old ace in the making that in 2006 dealt with triceps tendinitis and was disabled late last season with rotator cuff tendinitis. It’s fair to debate that not being on a consistent schedule affects one’s rhythm – and Chamberlain is at the top of his game when working at a swift pace. I buy that, but don’t complain based on precedents. Tom Seaver and Bob Gibson are from a different era. Justin Verlander has averaged roughly 189 innings through three full seasons and 2009, but he has no history with injuries, but everybody is different. Just because Verlander and Felix Hernandez have gone unscathed doesn’t mean Chamberlain will survive the strain and stress of a way-too-soon heavy workload.
The Mariners, incidentally, were also careful with King Felix, deciding in 2006 to cap his innings to 205 (he threw 191). They did this by skipping his turns after falling out of contention and lifted the cap the following season. The Yankees aren’t out of contention, but the Red Sox are far from finished and division titles are won in September. News flash: The rivals collide in a three-game series September 25-27 at Yankee Stadium. Something tells me those meetings will decide who captures the AL East flag.
Giants ace Tim Lincecum was shut down in September 2007 after his innings count rose to 177 1/3 between the Minor and Major Leagues. The following season he was ordered not to throw bullpen sessions typical of an offseason routine. Manager Bruce Bochy told The San Francisco Chronicle they were being careful due to studies showing that pitchers who throw 200 innings early in their career were more susceptible to injuries.
Fausto Carmona finished fourth in 2007 AL Cy Young voting after going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and 215 innings pitched – and threw 15 more in the playoffs. The following season he plummeted to 8-7, 5.44 in 120.2 IP and this season the Indians demoted him to their Rookie League when he was 2-6 7.42, 41 walks and 36 strikeouts in 60 2/3 IP.
Chamberlain pitched 88 1/3 innings in the Minors before he was called up in August 2007. He entered this season with 124 1/3 Major League innings pitched and will match that total with eight more outs next Wednesday. Because this is New York and Chamberlain’s team is the Yankees – anything less than a World Championship is a failure – many are in an uproar. Girardi told reporters last night, “This is not just about the next two months. This is about years and years to come.”
If this is Kansas City or Pittsburgh, it’s a mere subplot. Here in the Big Apple, this is “ruining” Joba Chamberlain, just like taking him out of the bullpen is traumatizing him and Brian Cashman is paying for his decision to rebuild a program with non-contending seasons.
Girardi’s later statement is most telling: It’s “all hands on deck” for the postseason, when The Joba Rules I, II, III, IV, V and so on are tossed away like trash. A fresh Chamberlain gives the Yankees their best chance to win it all this year and in future years, when every April the “This team stinks” and “What have you done for me lately” tsunami of complaints arrive with the Yankees’ first three-game losing streak.
By Jon Lane
A sunny day so far here at Yankee Stadium. There was rain in this morning’s forecast, but it looks like it’ll hold up.
A couple of historical quick hits and what to watch for:
Thirty years ago tonight, Bobby Murcer drove in all five runs of the Yankees’ 5-4 win over the Orioles hours after delivering the eulogy at Thurman Munson’s funeral. Murcer’s two-run single off Tippy Martinez in the bottom of the ninth won the game.
Two years ago tomorrow, Joba Chamberlain, tonight’s starter, made his Major League debut at Toronto when he closed out a 9-2 Yankees win by allowing a hit, walking two and striking out two in two scoreless innings. Chamberlain began the campaign at Single-A Tampa before promotions to Double-A Trenton (6/11) and Triple-A Scranton (7/24).
Back with more later with news and notes. Here are tonight’s lineups.
News and notes from both clubhouses:
? Anthony Claggett is still here. Joe Girardi is comfortable with having an extra arm at his disposal at least for the start of this series, but he implied that Ramiro Pena will soon be back with the big club.
? Brett Gardner, out since July 25 with a fractured left thumb, will get his cast off the beginning of next week and have another X-Ray.
“It’s tough to sit back and watch, but at the same time at least I’m not out for longer,” Gardner said. “I don’t know yet how long I’m going to be out for, but the main thing is I didn’t have to have surgery. This thing is going to heal on its own and I should be back in a couple of weeks.”
? David Ortiz and incoming Major League Players Association director Michael Weiner will meet the media on Saturday to discuss last week’s report that Ortiz failed a test in 2003 for performance-enhancing drugs, reports The Boston Globe. Ortiz has one hit in his last 14 at-bats, but Red Sox manager Terry Francona hasn’t noticed any distraction or difference in Big Papi’s demeanor.
“I see him handling things very well,” Francona said. “Because he DHs, he’s not a guy I’ll follow around during a game anyway.”
? BoSox outfielder Rocco Baldelli was placed on the disabled list after fouling a ball off his foot and ankle during batting practice Wednesday night in St. Petersburg. With Baldelli on the DL and Jason Bay out with strained right hamstring/quad muscle, outfielder Josh Reddick was recalled from Triple-A. And in a surprise twist, Kevin Youkilis volunteered to play left field. Youkilis appeared in two games in right last season and 18 career games in left – all in 2006.
“The more I thought about it, it’s a way of getting a lot of good bats in the lineup, and he’s willing to do it, which amazes me,” Francona said. “I told him we’ll do it.”
Francona didn’t completely rule it out, but there is a chance Bay could miss the whole four-game series.
A sign draped from the concourse above the Mohegan Sun sports bar read: “Papi, need a little juice?” Security quickly confiscated it.
Muhammad Ali, who presented Yankee Stadiumwith the “Six Star Diamond Award,” is introduced to the crowd to a nice ovation. While be escorted around the field in a golf cart, Ali is waving and pointing to fans. Derek Jeter went to greet Ali and the whole team joined them for a group photo.
First pitch 7:08, a strike to Jacoby Ellsbury. Two pitches later he grounds out to second base. We’re off an running.
Before the game I thought David Ortiz would be received no worse than usual. Scratch that. The boos are loud and there are faint “steroids” chants. Nice work by Chamberlain to retire Papi on a fly out to right with two on and two out. You figure it’s going to be one of these games in which the tone is set not by dominance, but by escaping crisis situations and delivering in the pinch.
Through two innings Chamberlain has showed grit. A double and walk put the first two Red Sox batters on base, but Chamberlain bounced back with three straight outs, the last two on strikeouts that had the Stadium rocking.
Chamberlain has been flirting with disaster all night. Dustin Pedroia opened the third with a solo homer that gave Boston a 1-0 lead. After walking the next two batters, Chamberlain got Ortiz to ground into a double play and J.D. Drew to fly out to center. However, he’s thrown 64 pitches through three innings and the Yankees wasted a golden opportunity in the second when Jorge Posada was thrown out at home plate. His mistake was not sliding on what was a high throw by Pedroia, but why send him when you could have had bases loaded, one out and Smoltz on the ropes?
So far, we’re seeing sample sizes of why the Yankees are 0-8 against the Red Sox.
Johnny Damon goes yard to right to tie the game 1-1. It was a carbon copy of Pedroia’s blast that’s been exclusive to this new yard all season. Mark Teixiera just doubled. Business is picking up.
Casey Kotchman homers to – where else? – right field. 3-1, Boston.
The Melk Man
delivers. Three-run bomb to right (this was legit). 5-3 Yankees, the
first time they’ve led the Red Sox in this park.
Jorge Posada’s three-run home bounced off the wall that houses Monument Park. Smoltz lit up for eight runs on nine hits in 3 1/3 innings and the Red Sox sampled what the Yankees had to endure with Billy Traber last season.
The Yankees have completed an eight-run bottom of the fourth that took 34 minutes. They sent 12 men to the plate and lead 9-3. If they blow this they will go 0-19 against the Red Sox.
This sums up Chamberlain’s evening: He walks the bases loaded and allows a run-scoring single before ending the fifth with strikeouts of Kotchman and Nick Green (starting shortstop Jed Lowrie left the game with an irritated left forearm). That’s it for Joba (5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 108 pitches/62 strikes), who wasn’t the pitcher he’s been in the second half.
Billy Traber stinks.
It’s Phil Coke vs. David Ortiz with two on and two out in the sixth inning. Alas, it’s 11-4, Yankees.
Ortiz pops out to short. Big Papi is 0-for-4 and one for his last 18.
This release from the Yankees. Your new fifth starter?
YANKEES ACQUIRE RHP CHAD GAUDIN
The New York Yankees tonight announced they have acquired right-handed pitcher Chad Gaudin from the San Diego Padres in exchange for a player to be named later.
Gaudin (pronounced Go-DAN), 26, was 4-10 with a 5.13 ERA (105.1IP, 60ER), 105 strikeouts and 56 walks in 20 games (19 starts) with the San Diego Padres this season. He held his opponents to three earned runs or less in 12 of his 19 starts, including five straight from July 8-31, and earned National League “co-Player of the Week” honors (with Florida’s Hanley Ramirez) for the period ending 6/28, after going 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA and striking out 20 batters in 15.0 innings pitched.
He owns a 32-35 career record with two saves and a 4.58 ERA in 205 games (69 starts) over parts of seven seasons with Tampa Bay (2003-04), Toronto (2005), Oakland (2006-08), Chicago-NL (2008) and San Diego (2009). In 69 career starts, Gaudin is 20-28 with a 4.85 ERA, striking out 306 batters in 378.2 innings pitched with a .276 opponent’s batting average. He is 12-7 with a 4.00 ERA in 136 relief appearances, striking out 125 batters in 175.2 innings pitched with a .260 opponent’s average.
In addition, Gaudin made three scoreless relief appearances for the Athletics in the 2006 American League Championship Series against Detroit (3.1IP, 2H, 3BB, 1K).
Born in New Orleans, La., he was originally selected by Tampa Bay in the 34th round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.
A nugget on Gaudin: He one-hit the Yankees for seven innings in a 7-0 win on June 30, 2007 pitching for the A’s.
Mark Teixeira goes yard off poor Billy Traber. It’s 12-4, Yankees, yet they’ve employed four pitchers tonight compared to Boston’s two. I’m just sayin’.
It’s a 12-4 game and there’s still drama. Dustin Pedroia didn’t take too kindly to being hit in the shoulder by Mark Melancon. Jorge Posada had to calm him down en route to first base.
By Jon Lane
I just finished reading a great new book by Marty Appel, the Yankees’ PR director in the mid-1970s. Munson: The Life and Death of a Yankee Captain, hits bookstores today and is available for purchase on-line. As fate had it, Appel completed an autobiography on the Yankees’ first captain since Lou Gehrig in 1979.
On August 2 it’ll be 30 years since Thurman Munson died in a plane crash, a tragedy that to this day is remembered by Yankees players, executives and fans. I was six years old and the memory of that afternoon – the televised image of that burning airplane and my mother staring at the screen in disbelief – still resonates.
When I received my copy of the book, I showed it to my parents and casually mentioned that this August will be 30 years gone by. My mom immediately let out a short breath and a stunned look of disbelief. She was never a hardcore baseball fan, but Munson was her favorite. He was the right player for those who don’t know the game, but admire when anyone puts their heart and soul into their chosen endeavor and performs both beyond their potential and physical limitations. That, folks, is part of being a role model.
There were a lot of things fans loved about Munson, many of which are highlighted in the book based on Appel’s unique and intimate experiences inside the clubhouse. Munson was never friendly with the print media, choosing to cherish his privacy and offended each time his words were taken out of context. He wasn’t a publicity hound – a sharp contrast to many who walk around with an attitude that screams, “Look at me, I’m cool” whether others like it or not. In fact, Appel recalled a few times when Munson either refused posing with sponsors or meeting VIP guests.
The best was Old Timer’s Day, 1976. Appel was determined to take a picture of a great lineage of Yankees catching: Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard and Munson. All parties were rounded up; Munson was in the players’ lounge, in his underwear, watching The Three Stooges. Appel pleaded his case before Munson begrudgingly agreed, got up in a huff and walked to his locker. When it was time to take the picture, Munson was still in front of the tube in his Fruit of the Looms.
Somehow, the photo was taken. Three years later Appel was in Munson’s home for the funeral. In an office was the picture, enlarged and framed. He neither accepted recognition nor payback, but Munson loved his teammates and his fans, and went out of his way to do anything for them. Countless and classic examples are portrayed in the book.
From a baseball perspective, this quote from Munson sums up why he was the favorite of so many:
“Look, I like hitting fourth and I like the good batting average. But, what I do every day behind the plate is a lot more important because it touches so many more people and so many aspects of the game. Thurman Munson, 8/25/75.”
Jorge Posada, who grew up a fan of George Brett and Don Mattingly, found a picture of Munson on the wall of Fenway Park’s weight room with the inscription. He took it and hung it in his locker at the old Yankee Stadium.
Job well done by Marty, a big help to YESNetwork.com last year during our coverage of Bobby Murcer’s book signing in New York. Incidentally, Sunday will be the one-year anniversary of Murcer’s passing. Something tells me the two best friends are sitting beside each other, drenched in sweat and wearing the pinstripes, watching Larry, Curly and Moe put on a live performance.
By Jon Lane
First pitch: 7:09 p.m.
Off and running here at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees will take a win, but if Joba can dominate it’ll be the ultimate shot in the arm coming off another disastrous Boston series. And yes, the sun is out and the sky is a crystal-clear blue.
A great start for Joba to retire the Mets in order on 14pitches. His first-inning troubles have been well-documented. Coming in he allowed 11 runs (10 earned) in the first (an 8.44 ERA).
A mixed reception, though mostly boos, for Gary Sheffield. Sheff spoke at length before the game. No matter what you’ve read about him, my experiences covering him while he played with the Yankees was always positive. If you talked about baseball or boxing (one of his passions), or anything except steroid accusations, he was friendly, affable and quick with a smile. The veteran is enduring a miserable June (.107 coming in), but he’s been looked to for leadership and had high praise for Jerry Manuel even before Ken Rosenthal’s column was brought up.
Sheff’s struggles continue as Chamberlain caught him looking for Strike 3.
Robinson Cano goes yard (what else?) to right field (where else?) to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead, home run 106 hit in this new building. According to various reports, speculation has centered on whether there is a wind tunnel in right field caused by either the open concourses or the slope of the stands, which is less steep that the original Yankee Stadium.
The next batter, Jorge Posada, missed a home run to dead center by about three or so feet.
I spent the third inning watching from Section 202, the bleachers, visiting a friend, which turned out to be a long visit. Chamberlain threw 43 pitches while walking and hitting a batter with the bases loaded to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. By the time I was leaving, Mark Teixeira homered to right center (really?) to put the Yankees back on top.
Some funny stories from the always-entertaining and fully loaded bleachers, so much so even the wine-and-cheese crowd can’t resist. A guard told me that many times suite ticket holders would venture down hoping to sit there.
“Let me see your ticket,” the guard would say.
“I’ve got better seats,” the person would reply.
“So why aren’t you sitting in them?” the guard would retort.
Later, while Chamberlain was walking the earth, a Yankees fans demanded that the guard give Mets fans the old heave-ho. The guard turned to me, rolled his eyes, and said, “I’m used to this. It’s a lot worse when Boston or Philly is here.”
In my friend’s row sat a line of Yankees fans with one poor Mets fan in the middle. She told me the Yankee boosters were taking bets on when this guy would get his rear-end kicked.
Not everything is perfect out there – far from it. That obstructed view everyone complains about? Whoa boy. From my vantage point in right center, the Mohegan Sun sports bar blocked off virtually all of left field from center field on. Still, it’s the place to be. Even if you don’t have bleacher tickets – again, the guards are strict about this, just ask the pampered ones – hanging out in the standing section above the sports bar, the food court, is a sense of community.
Chamberlain allowed one hit in four innings, but walked five, hit two batters and threw 100 pitches. Another reason why the Yankees are fortunate to have CC Sabathia. The bullpen is somewhat rested, but Andy Pettitte is going tomorrow and the left-hander has thrown 104 pitches his last two starts, five and six innings, respectively. This creates a potentially precarious situation through the weekend.
Brett Tomko’s in. His job is to eat innings and keep the Mets off the scoreboard.
A double, stolen base, walk and two-run double. 4-3 Mets. And at a blink of an eye, Gary Sheffield crushed a two-run bomb to left, strolling out of the batter’s box to admire career homer No. 505, 6-3 Mets. So much for Tomko doing his job. A reporter next to me quipped he’s a single and triple away from the cycle. Alas, Girardi spared fans the pain when he removed Tomko after his 37th pitch, a walk to Luis Castillo.
Interestingly, Joe Girardi changed his tune about Brian Bruney. The plan at first was for him to make a rehab start tomorrow at Double-A Trenton. Now it’s something the manager said had to be talked about and that he’d have an answer after the game. Reading between the lines, and evaluating everyone in the bullpen not named Mariano Rivera, Bruney could be activated tomorrow. Could Tomko be the one cut loose? It’s either that or DFA Angel Berroa and carry 13 pitchers.
Shortly after I snapped this, the Captain went yard to – guess? – right field. The fourth homer of the game cuts the Mets lead to 6-4. Thanks to bullpen follies from both teams, expect us to be here awhile longer.
Yet another home run, this a blast King Kong would be proud of. Hideki Matsui smoked one into the second deck in right field to put the Yankees back on top 7-6. Incidentally, today is Matsui’s 35th birthday, the second straight year he’s homered on his date of birth. I ran into his interpreter, Roger Kahlon, outside the Mets’ clubhouse before the game. He told me while this season’s been a struggle for Matsui, not playing every day reduces stress on his surgically-repaired knees. He came in batting .260 (.240 in June), but has gutted it out and delivered when the team needed it.
Alas, Sheffield led off the seventh with a double. Phil Coke is in for his team-leading 28th appearance and second in two nights.
Coke gets Fernando Tatis, pinch-hitting for Brian Schneider, to hit into a double play, but Sheffield scored to tie the game at seven. This bullpen situation remains ridiculous and has to be addressed by July. No, Joba Chamberlain is not going there. In fact, Ken Rosenthal reported earlier today Huston Street, among others, is on the Yankees’ radar.
Two on and one out in the seventh and the Yankees come away with nothing; Alex Rodriguez flailed at Strike 3 for the second out. They’re 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position, a common theme during this current three-game losing streak.
Meanwhile, something rarely seen in Boston: Defense. Derek Jeter made like Billy Martin to catch a pop up between the mound and first base.
Not fooling around, Girardi brings in Mariano Rivera with two out in the eighth. The best laid plans of mice and men … Rivera walks Carlos Beltran and David Wright doubles to right center to give the Mets an 8-7 lead. Let the speculation on whether Rivera is on the decline resume. This season, appearing in tie games, Rivera has allowed 6 ER in 6 2/3 IP.
Here’s what the Yankees are facing in Francisco Rodriguez: 16-for-16 in save opportunities; league leader in saves with 210 since 2005; 2.35
ERA, 14 saves in 26 appearances against them.
A-Rod vs. K-Rod. Yet another big spot for A-Rod, this time with the tying run on second and the winning run on first.
Unbelievable. A-Rod pops up to second base … Luis Castillo dropped the ball. Jeter and Teixeira came home to score and some clown tossed a beer bottle into the press box. Yankees win 9-7.
Turns out Bruney will pitch in Trenton on Saturday, while Damaso Marte will see Dr. James Andrews on Monday. Thanks for reading, everyone. I’ll have a full wrap on tonight’s wild events and this installment of the Subway Series on Monday.
By Jon Lane
The Yankees are about to get a lot stronger. After playing six innings in an extended Spring Training game Thursday, Jorge Posada told The Associated Press he was scheduled to fly to Cleveland to meet his teammates for the start of a four-game series against the Indians Friday night.
Posada has been sidelined since straining his right hamstring May 4 and I don’t need to remind you how valuable he is to the Yankees. Someone will need to be dropped from the roster to make room for Posada. At this point it makes too much sense to DFA Angel Berroa. He hasn’t had an at-bat since May 4, and young defensive whiz Ramiro Pena serves the same purpose. Besides, you want to carry three catchers to cover yourself in case that tricky hamstring acts up again and until Jose Molina returns you’ll want to stash away Kevin Cash, who in a pinch can fill in at third base. Molina (strained left quadriceps) is working out in Tampa, but not ready for game action yet.
Of equal significance is Xavier Nady’s two hits in five at-bats, including an opposite-field homer to right, while serving as the DH. He’ll fill that spot in New York when he returns to help give Hideki Matsui a blow and eventually take over right field. Nick Swisher is a great guy whose positive energy is contagious, but he’s batting .223 (.127 this month). He’s being spared a night or two on the bench with Melky Cabrera out at least a week.
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.”
By Jon Lane
Nick Swisher had a great line after the disaster that was the Yankees’ 15-5 loss the the Rays: This game is like an Etch-A-Sketch, you need to shake it and start over again.
Whenever our own Jim Kaat worked a game in which nothing went right, he’d call it an “amnesia game,” one that you forget about quickly. You turn the page to the next day and the next game. That’s what the Yankees need to do tonight. I say this knowing that much of their fan base is already proclaiming the season a bust: There will be more of these amnesia games, so suck it up and focus on the big picture.
That leads me to Chien-Ming Wang. It may be two starts, and seasons are defined over the long haul, but there are big problems here. A pitcher who was 46-15 with a 3.74 ERA from 2006-08 has given up 15 runs on 15 hits and six walks in 4 2/3 innings covering two games for an ERA of 28.93. In light the worst start of Wang’s career (eight runs on six hits while recording only three outs), John Harper suggested that he may find himself out of the rotation by May should he keep throwing his sinker thigh-high.
Phil Hughes won his first start at Triple-A Scranton on Sunday after allowing three runs on six hits in six innings with six strikeouts and would be the first one called up in the event of injury or poor performance. If Wang, a two-time 19-game winner, were to be removed from the rotation, it wouldn’t be without precedent. Two seasons ago, Joe Torre pulled a struggling Mike Mussina in favor of Ian Kennedy following a stretch in which the veteran right-hander allowed 19 earned runs in 9 2/3 innings — an ERA of 17.69 — over three starts.
Incidentally, the last of those three starts was a 16-0 Yankees loss to the Tigers on August 27, 2007 – in the heat of a pennant race. Not only did Mussina finish the season 3-0, the Yankees recovered to make the playoffs. Nothing like breaking out the Etch-A-Sketch in times of need.
For now, Wang is starting Saturday against the Indians and it’s way to early to conclude that he’s suddenly forgotten how to pitch. When his sinker is up and the rest of his repetoire is flat, he’s in a world of hurt, and even if opposing hitters’ homework is paying off, the good pitchers make adjustments and continue to evolve. That’s where Wang is right now. Joe Girardi and Jorge Posada say the problem is mechanical, and Wang added he’s not injured. But if this continues by mid-May, tough decisions will have to be made. And then you have to worry about the bullpen and whether it’ll be running on fumes by the All-Star break.
Peter Abraham speculated that the Yankees may need to make a move tonight to strengthen their bullpen, which leaves Jon Albaladejo and Phil Coke as candidates to be optioned out. Last night was the most powerful argument why the Yankees leaving Florida without a long reliever was a mistake. It got to the point where Swisher was on the mound in the eighth inning. The Yankees are better than that, and to quote Posada, “Wanger is better than that. He knows that.”
Back with more later, including tonight’s starting lineups. And T-minus two days until the home opener.