By Jon Lane
Nothing like an inning of work to change perceptions yet again. Joba Chamberlain threw a scoreless inning – of relief – on Sunday, needing only seven pitches (five strikes) to retire the side in order while hitting 95 on Tropicana Field’s gun. Of course, that has the Loyal Order of Joba to the Bullpen firing the cannons.
I’m not complaining. A good debate, even one with the legs of a marathon runner, keeps the comments and message boards thread lit up, which is good for us! My take though is forget about Chamberlain’s future for this week and the rest of this month. The Yankees’ solitary goal is first winning the American League Division Series. If right now he’s most comfortable and productive throwing out of the bullpen, put him there and worry about this starter-reliever stuff all winter and into next spring.
The Yankees’ will announce their ALDS roster no later than tomorrow. Every indication has Francisco Cervelli making it as the third catcher, insurance in the event Freddy Guzman runs for Jorge Posada and subsequently Jose Molina suffers an injury. That means the Yankees will carry 10 pitchers. If Chamberlain makes the cut, Chad Gaudin and Brian Bruney are out.
Here’s how the roster will stack up with 10 pitchers and 15 position players:
Jerry Hairston Jr.
There are those who favor Ramiro Pena over Guzman. Understandable, but Hairston fills the utility role and brings more experience. Plus, Guzman will be deployed solely as a pinch runner. That extra element of speed is extremely important. The Yankees have a weapon in Brett Gardner, but bottom of the eighth or ninth and Jorge Posada in scoring position, you’re taking him out for Guzman, the only player who’d keep up with Gardner stride for stride.
By Jon Lane
Reputations in New York are made during crunch time. This is why many
people are demanding Alex Rodriguez, a three-time MVP, to show them
something. It’s also the biggest reason why the Yankees were hell-bent
on signing CC Sabathia.
This is the time of year when Sabathia demands the baseball and once he
gets it, he’s must-see television. While others wilt under the hot
August nights, September spotlight and Red October, Sabathia has proven
he’s capable of carrying an entire team – a whole franchise – on his
He’s doing it again. Thursday night in Seattle, Sabathia allowed a run
on three hits in eight innings with 10 strikeouts – at the time of year
when it’s critical not to overwork a bullpen, especially with Sergio
Mitre and Chad Gaudin starting this weekend. Sabathia is 5-1 with a
2.98 ERA in his last six games and has surrendered only two earned runs
while whiffing 19 over his previous 15 2/3 innings.
I wrote in March that the fate of the 2009 Yankees rests on Sabathia.
We’ve seen this season that everyone from Sabathia to A.J. Burnett,
from Melky Cabrera to Ramiro Pena to Francisco Cervelli, has
contributed greatly. The difference is that if the season is down to an
elimination game, it won’t be Kevin Brown, Jaret Wright or Javier
Vazquez on the mound. Sabathia’s 19 wins and 209 strikeouts in 241
innings pitched won him a Cy Young Award in 2007 and the way he carried
the Brewers to the postseason the following year was more than enough
to convince the Yankees he’ll handle New York in the biggest of spots.
“Check his track record, bro,” said Nick Swisher in April. “That’s it. Check his track record.”
? Mere hours after the Yankees used five relievers and won a 15-inning
classic over the Red Sox, Sabathia allowed two hits, walked two and
struck out nine in 7 2/3 innings, tying his season high of 123 pitches,
and didn’t allow a runner past second base.
? He’s 31-9 career with a 3.14 ERA lifetime in August, 18-2 in the last
four years and lined up to start the finale of Yankees-Red Sox a week
from Sunday in Boston.
? Those numbers in Milwaukee following his trade from Cleveland: 11-2
with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts, his last four coming on three days’ rest.
The day the Brewers clinched a postseason berth, Sabathia tossed his
10th complete game, the most in one season since Randy Johnson threw 12
There’s one big blemish: He’s 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA in five postseason
starts, the last a Game 2 NLDS loss to the Phillies when he was raked
for five runs in 3 2/3 innings. That was his fourth on three days’
rest, which won’t happen with the Yankees. There’s no need to carry
this team, not with an MVP candidate (Mark Teixeira) an ace riding
shotgun (Burnett) and one of October’s best performers (Andy Pettitte),
but Sabathia will do it because he wants to. It’s one of two missing
pieces of his baseball life.
By Jon Lane
George King is reporting that the Yankees will call up right-hander Anthony Claggett in time for tonight’s game as insurance for Sergio Mitre. The move make sense. In the event Mitre gets bombed again, Claggett will eat innings and “take one for the team” so Joe Girardi can avoid blowing out the entire bullpen with those four games against the Red Sox on tap. I hope Mitre is thinking about this and hope it’s burning him up. He’s the Yankees’ fifth starter because he’s the best of the worst, and neither the team nor the fans have too much faith in him right now.
Another of many reasons why it bodes well for Mitre to get it done tonight: Claggett was smashed for eight runs on nine hits (two home runs) in 1 2/3 innings of relief for Chien-Ming Wang on April 18, a game the Yankees lost to the Indians, 22-4.
Both King and Peter Abraham speculate Cody Ransom will be designated for assignment, for Claggett to be sent back to Scranton and Ramiro Pena to be promoted back to the big club.
Abraham has confirmed that Ransom has been DFA’d.
By Jon Lane
Inclement weather, part of the absolute worst June ever in terms of never-ending rain, compromised my time away, but only a little bit. I enjoyed quality time with the family and the week that was, from a landmark live streaming announcement, to Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, to a one-sided Subway Series and capped by the great Mariano Rivera, it was seven eventful days, along with a few to pause and mourn the tragic losses and reflect upon the legacies of two cultural icons.
Strictly in the confines of baseball and the Yankees, many props to the newly-wed Joe Auriemma, and fellow colleague Glenn Giangrande, for filling the YES Blog. You’ll be reading plenty more from them and seeing the duo on Pinstriped Weekly as the season progresses. Wrestling fans are familiar with this expression from Jim Ross: “Business is about to pick up.”
? Turns out that’s what happened late this morning with the Yankees’ acquisition of veteran Eric Hinske (pictured) from the Pirates for two Minor Leaguers. It was only yesterday when Brian Cashman provided his usual GM-speak when discussing the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31 by saying, “We’ve got the pieces in place.” When you spend $400 million on people, you expect to have the pieces in place, yet Cashman is best at flying stealth before pulling the trigger. Expect him to look into Huston Street’s availability to buff the bullpen.
Since losing Xavier Nady for the season hurts, Hinske will help share the load with Nick Swisher in right field and even help spell Alex Rodriguez; last season for the Rays, he started 47 games in right, 37 in left, nine at first base and four at third. He’s never hit for average, but the 2002 AL Rookie of the Year slugged 20 homers with 60 RBIs and 21 doubles for the AL Champions and won a World Series with the Red Sox in 2007. This is a guy whose value goes beyond subpar numbers. He’ll provide intangibles and grit, which even the high-priced Yankees need.
The team will need to make a corresponding roster move today, which means either Brett Tomko will be designated for assignment or Ramiro Pena optioned to Triple-A so he can play every day. This morning I figured Shelley Duncan’s return was imminent, but that won’t happen.
? The Yankees are winners of five straight – albeit three came against the New York Mess, er, Mets – while having busted out offensively. The numbers from their last three games against a Quadruple-A lineup from Flushing are staggering: The Yankees outscored the Mets, who never led, 33-3 and held them to a .102 batting average. Jerry Manuel’s men were atrocious defensively and lifeless all around; only Livan Hernandez and Gary Sheffield showed any kind of heart and soul. Worst of all, Francisco Rodriguez issued a bases-loaded walk to Mariano Rivera. Embarrassing. And word had it Carlos Beltran may need microfracture surgery, which would mean his season is over and career in jeopardy. Whoa boy.
It turned out Beltran won’t need surgery. But still, there are big problems in Queens.
? Rivera is the greatest closer to ever play baseball. Period. I don’t care if you love or hate the Yankees, this is as close the truth gets to opinion. Jim Kaat and Steven Goldman each ruminate on the magnificent Mo.
? In case you bring up that the Yankees bullpen owns a 1.60 ERA in their last 13 games and how well Phil Hughes has pitched, would you honestly trust this current collaboration against the Red Sox in late September? The Yankees are in decent shape: They lead the surging Rays by a game-and-a-half in the Wild Card race and are 3 ½ behind the Red Sox in the AL East while having outscored opponents 37-13 since Joe Girardi’s ejection last Wednesday. But neither that nor anything masks their insidious 0-8 record against Boston. The Red Sox have an elite bullpen from top to bottom, the Yankees don’t, and that’s been the biggest factor in this one-sided rivalry.
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 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.
By 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?
By Jon Lane
I know it’s April 27. I’ve said and written many times that last I checked, seasons do not end in late April. The Yankees are .500, but plenty of would-be contenders are in worse predicaments. Alas, because we’re in New York and it’s the Yankees, hell is breaking loose. Cries of “this team is aging, old, tired, and has no heart …” have caused sleepless nights, yet all it takes is one big game to re-write perception. That’s the baseball season. That’s how it works over 162 games and eight-nine months. How many times in recent history were the Yankees declared dead, only to find it within them to win 90-100 games?
That said, right here and right now, the Yankees have big problems. Being swept by the Red Sox is never good. Blowing two wholly winnable games and allowing a steal of home in the third is inexcusable. Look, Mariano Rivera is going to blow saves, so if that’s feeding your ulcers, get over it and get off his back. But neither Rivera’s gopher ball nor Damaso Marte and his 15.19 ERA had anything to do with a problem that simply will not go away: The Yankees were 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position and left 15 men on base Friday night. On Saturday, they scored 11 runs and still lost. Enough said there.
When was the last time the Yankees had a feared, unequivocal, no-fuss, no-worries stopper? Mike Mussina won 20 games last season and he was great, but I’m talking about a bona fide big guy in the prime of his career who has carried his team on broad shoulders before. That’s you, CC Sabathia. Tonight in Detroit, you have to stop this. You have to get the Yankees re-aligned with their universe, a place in which their contending against their history and the justification of a palatial new home. You were handed $161 million to win a hell of a lot more than you lose.
Tonight, CC, play stopper. Go long, go hard and if not all the way, get the ball to Rivera with a lead. You cannot hand over the responsibility of halting a four-game losing streak to Phil Hughes.
This Tigers team, Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson, etc., can rake, even if all the pistons aren’t firing at once. Still, you’ve been decent against them throughout your career (13-9, 4.70), especially at Comerica Park (7-2, 3.80). It’s the ideal time to improve those April numbers of 11-10 with a 4.47 ERA over your first eight seasons.
Everyone is expecting it: your fans, your manager. You’ve shown you can handle the media. You haven’t snapped, snarled or played hide-and-seek. You’re a guy who in crisis situations says, “It’s okay guys. It’s all good. We’ll be alright, just follow my lead.”
Do it, CC. It’s April 27, but fair or not, tonight is already a must-win.
The suggestion box
- The AP this morning called Alex Rodriguez a “conquering rescuer.”How many of you right now are wishing A-Rod would go away? It’s either A-Rod and his shenanigans or the awesome Angel Berroa/Ramiro Pena duet at third base. Berroa has played all of three games at third. It showed Sunday night and he’s has done nothing since winning ROY in 2003. Suggestion: start Pena and tighten your defense until Rodriguez returns, which may be well before the target date of May 15.
- Nice first impression by Mark Melancon, eh? Yes, two innings do not make a career, but he worked out of his own bases-loaded, no-out jam without allowing a run. Once Brian Bruney returns, wouldn’t a Rivera-Bruney-Melancon back end work nicely? David Robertson (yes, he allowed Mike Lowell’s crushing double on Saturday) also deserves a longer look and Phil Coke more rope. The alternative is more of Jose Veras, Edwar Ramirez, Marte and Jonathan Albaladejo.
By Jon Lane
Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Nick Swisher LF
Jorge Posada DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Xavier Nady RF
Ramiro Pena 3B
Jose Molina C
A.J. Burnett P
B.J. Upton CF
Carl Crawford LF
Evan Longoria 3B
Carlos Pena 1B
Pat Burrell DH
Dioner Navarro C
Ben Zobrist RF
Akinori Iwamura 2B
Jason Bartlett SS
Matt Garza P
Teixeira is back after missing three games with tendinitis in his left wrist. He had an MRI Monday in Tampa, which revealed no structural damage, and was prescribed stronger anti-inflammatory medicine.
Ramiro Pena gets his first career start to give Cody Ransom a blow. Ransom is batting .083 (2-for-24) in the Yankees’ first seven games.
Swisher lifetime as a clean-up hitter: 10-for-30 (.333) with a homer and nine RBIs in 11 games.
This just in from the Yankees’ Media Relations department:
Following today’s game, the Yankees selected INF Ramiro Pena and reassigned
INF Angel Berroa to minor league camp. In order to make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated
RHP Dan Giese for assignment. Pena will wear #19.