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
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.
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.
Tonight’s lineup vs. Reds (YES HD, 7 p.m.)
Brett Gardner CF
Johnny Damon LF
Xavier Nady RF
Hideki Matsui DH
Cody Ransom 3B
Jose Molina C
Juan Miranda 1B
Angel Berroa SS
Ramiro Pena 2B
Some random takes about the Yankees and around the league:
- Maybe the idea of Brett Gardner as the Yankees’ everyday center fielder is not so crazy after all, writes John Harper. The Yankees’ Brett the Jet, is batting .381 (6-for-21) with a team-leading three home runs, four RBIs, six runs scored and two stolen bases in eight games. Conversely, Melky Cabrera is batting .278 with two homers and two runs scored. Of course, there remains a ton of time in Spring Training, and Gardner may easily flame out by April, but here and now he provides elements the Yankees need and Joe Girardi loves: hustle, guts and grit.
- Anthony McCarron is following Francisco Cervelli’s ride with Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, which knocked Canada out of the tournament and plays tonight in an elimination game.Cervelli received nice compliments from hitting coach Mike Piazza. Yet I still wonder why he chose to play in the tournament instead of trying to make a lasting impression on the Yankees. Jorge Posada’s shoulder issues won’t have closure until he proves he can resume the full responsibility of a starting catcher. Besides, he turns 38 in August and his contract runs out after the 2011 season. It’s never too early to start thinking about the future. It’s not Jose Molina and it may not be Jesus Montero.
- Incidentally, I’m enjoying the WBC. And I’m now a fan of Juan Carlos Sulbaran. Pitching for the Netherlands, the Reds’ 19-year-old Single-A prospect came on in the sixth and whiffed Ivan Rodriguez on three nasty pitches. Later, Sulbaran got Carlos Beltran to ground out with the bases loaded on a 3-2 pitch. It’s do or die for the upstart Dutch team tonight when they face a Dominican Republic group out for revenge, but win or lose, Sulbaran will be around for a long time. Years from now, a Reds rotation of Sulbaran, Johnny Cueto, Edison Volquez and Homer Bailey will be scary good.
- Don’t look now, but Angel Berroa is 9-for-18 with two homers and five RBIs in eight games. Cody Ransom is 6-for-20 (.300) with an RBI in eight games. Berroa, though, has played all of one game at third base (in 2007) and has hit no higher than .270 since being named AL Rookie of the Year in 2003. Ransom’s the guy to play third in Alex Rodriguez’s absence. He’s more versatile and reliable for the long haul.
By Jon Lane
So A-Rod is reportedly having hip surgery that will keep him out of action from anywhere between six and 10 weeks.
Alex Rodriguez, thus far the polarizing flavor figure of 2009, is apparently facing another round of adversity. But let’s be fair. I am not a doctor. I am nothing close to a medical expert, so I am not going to even attempt to figure out a connection between a cyst, hip surgery and steroids. We’re talking strictly baseball here and it’s the way it should be.
Here’s what’s known and been reported:
A link to the ESPN/ESPNdeportes report, which quotes A-Rod’s older brother, Joe Dunand, saying that immediate surgery was recommended. “It’s a big blow for the whole family. Alex is destroyed,” Joe told Enrique Rojas. A source close to this added that the surgery is scheduled for Monday, March 9, in Colorado.
According to Jack Curry, a club official said there would be an announcement about Rodriguez’s situation later today. This morning, wrote Peter Abraham, Joe Girardi claimed he didn’t know anything about this situation. Pete Caldera added Girardi was going to speak with general manager Brian Cashman to learn more.
However this turns out, look at it this way: This was discovered now, not in August or September. And if it’s more or less than 10 weeks, A-Rod will be back and in position to make significant contributions to the 2009 Yankees.
Anyone who suggests that the Yankees are better off without A-Rod has no clue. In five seasons with the Yankees – do not bring up steroids and not even the postseason since Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS – Rodriguez has averaged 42 home runs, 123 RBIs and 119 runs scored while batting .303 and winning two AL MVP Awards. You try replacing those numbers. Furthermore, who’s batting cleanup? Who is protecting Mark Teixeira? The last thing the Yankees can afford is a slow start, but this offense is suddenly drained of a major power source.
Here are some of the names being bandied about as possible stopgap replacements.
The simple solution is to stay within the organization. Ransom, 33, has been in and out of the Majors with three teams since 2001 and batted .302 in 33 games with the Yankees last season. Most people will be clamoring for a “name,” but acquiring for a “name” costs both money and players and the Yankees won’t do anything stupid just to acquire a band-aid. And in just speaking with Joe Auriemma, he reminded me how the Yankees handled Derek Jeter missing 43 games with an injured shoulder in 2003. He’ll have more later on Erick Almonte and how the Yankees can go about weathering this storm.
Why not Ransom? He’s the best athlete on the Yankees.
Why not Duncan? Well, the Yankees’ first-round pick in ’03 wasn’t invited to the big-league camp. He’s been working out at the team’s Minor League complex, but the window of opportunity may be shut.