Derek Jeter SS
Johnny Damon LF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Hideki Matsui DH
Nick Swisher RF
Melky Cabrera CF
Pitching: CC Sabathia (5-4, 3.68)
Cristian Guzman DH
Nick Johnson 1B
Ryan Zimmerman 3B
Elijah Dukes CF
Adam Dunn LF
Austin Kearns RF
Alberto Gonzalez SS
Wil Nieves C
Anderson Hernandez 2B
Pitching: Shairon Martis (5-1, 5.04)
Jose Veras has been designated for assignment to make room for the returning Brian Bruney.
The view from D.C.
Washington Post beat reporter Chico Harlan reports that manager Manny Acta is safe – at least today. Acta was already on the field shortly before 3 p.m. Harlan also offers positive first impressions of Yankee Stadium:
I like the airy, Grand Central-ish concourse, where natural light floods in from the ceilings. This ballpark feels smart, purposeful. Everything from the elevators to the sightlines — all well-designed, well-thought out. (This is in decided contrast to Citi Field, which is far too busy and sloppy for its own good, kind of like a NASCAR T-shirt.)
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
The Yankees are 9-8. In five of those losses they’ve allowed at least 10 runs and have been outscored 73-27.
On Wednesday, the Yankees played baseball for four hours and 57 minutes covering 14 innings. Saturday, it took 4:21 to complete the sixth-longest nine-inning game in Major League history.
Think the bullpen is tattered and torn? Brian Bruney is on the disabled list and there are big problems with everyone not named Mariano Rivera. Jonathan Albaladejo,
Phil Coke, Damaso Marte, Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras have a combined
ERA of 7.08. Marte has been a disaster and there’s no middle ground with Ramirez or Veras. Both are either real good or flat-out unwatchable. (No, Joba Chamberlain is not being moved to the bullpen.)
The past two losses have been galling. Rivera blew a two-run lead in the ninth on Friday and A.J. Burnett a 6-0 advantage yesterday, a game that required 385 pitches, 28 hits, two errors, 15 walks, a catcher’s interference and two hit batters in those four hours and 21 minutes.
What hasn’t changed is the Yankees’ biggest problem offensively last season, delivering with runners on base. Saturday they slugged 15 hits but left 12 men on base and are a combined 7-for-36 with runners in scoring position in the series.
The Rays are 7-11. The Angels, 6-11. The Indians, 6-12. The Mets, 8-9. The Cubs, 8-8. Moral of the story: seasons do not end in April and none of those teams’ managers are on the hot seat. The Red Sox have won nine in a row, yet are one game behind first-place Toronto with the Yankees three behind the pace.
Enjoy your Sunday.
By Jon Lane
Yesterday produced a 4:57 eyesore, but a dramatic win capped off an eventful day on YESNetwork.com.
Melky Cabrera and Jose Veras each played hero on an afternoon where the new Yankee Stadium again was a launching pad. CC Sabathia, however, is off to another slow start. He admitted to trying to be too fine, but he’s not sweating it. Neither should you.
Kimberly Jones works the clubhouse for TV and us. She shares details about her conversations with Chien-Ming Wang and Robinson Cano. And mark your calendar for Thursday, April 30. The Yankees return home after a six-game road trip and Kim will hold her first live chat.
(Wang is in Tampa, Fla., this morning pitching in an extended spring game. Stay logged on for an update.)
Bob Lorenz had enjoyed a few days off, but is back Blobbin‘ tomorrow night as the Yankees begin their series with the Red Sox.
Welcome Mrs. Singy to the YESNetwork.com blogging network. Suzanne Molino Singleton is an online writer and columnist for Smart Woman. Her stories on life as the wife of our own Ken Singleton are interesting and enjoyable.
Despite uneven play, the Yankees head to Boston 9-6 and on their first three-game winning streak. It’s critical that they continue to build momentum. In prior seasons, they’ve started slow and needed a relentless second-half surge to make the playoffs, where by that time they had nothing left. Here’s a breakdown of their starts the last six seasons.
First 15 games: 12-3
Final record: 101-61
First 15 games: 8-7
Final record: 101-61
First 15 games: 6-9
Rock bottom: 11-19 (May 6)
Final record: 95-67
First 15 games: 7-8
Final record: 97-65
First 15 games: 8-7
Rock bottom: 21-29
Farthest Behind: 14.5 (May 29)
Final record: 94-68
First 15 games: 8-7
Rock bottom: 20-25 (May 20 after a 12-2 loss to Baltimore at Yankee Stadium)
Farthest Behind: 12.5 (Aug 31)
Final record: 89-73 (missed playoffs)
By Jon Lane
1:04 p.m. First report from Dunedin, Fla., courtesy of Peter Abraham: Leadoff hitter Brett Gardner blasted Brett Cecil’s second pitch over the right field fence to make it 1-0 Yankees. Stepping up to the plate, Alex Rodriguez was booed loudly and jeered about Madonna and steroids before drawing a walk.
Numbers game: Melky Cabrera now wears Bobby Abreu’s old No. 53. Brett Tomko, today’s starter, took Cabrera’s No. 28.
1:20 p.m. Tomko pitched a 1-2-3 first. Talk about a difference of opinion. This from Mark Feinsand of The New York Daily News: Tomko is “a decent pitcher during his career, and could be a find as a long man. It appears to be between Tomko, Dan Giese and Alfredo Aceves for the spot.” Steven Goldman wrote about Tomko this morning and pulled no punches.
Tomko’s line: two scoreless innings, one hit. Jose Veras in.
1:48 p.m. Tied at 1 after Alex Rios’ sacrifice fly. Veras got into immediate trouble after allowing a double, hit a batsman and threw wild pitch. He’s looking smart for declining the Dominican Republic’s invite to play in the WBC. Spots in the underbelly of the Yankees bullpen will be scarce.
2:05 p.m. A-Rod smacks a two-run homer off Ricky Romero to put the Yankees ahead 3-1 in the top of the fourth. Yankees fans cheer, everyone else boos. One pitch before the blast, writes Feinsand, a fan shouted, “That was a steroid-induced foul ball!”
2:18 p.m. 4-1 Yankees at the end of 3 1/2 thanks to Todd Linden’s RBI single off Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan. This morning, commenting on an earlier entry, The Max touted Linden to start Opening Day in left field. These boys live in an alternate universe, but are a lot of fun.
2:25 p.m. Quick Mets update: Luis Castillo has driven in four runs. Castillo for NL Comeback Player of the Year and Jerry Manuel for Manager of the Year.
2:37 p.m. 6-1 Yankees, bottom 5. A-Rod went 1-for-1 with two walks and two RBIs thanks to that fourth-inning homer. The Bergen Record‘s Pete Caldera gauged a 70-30 cheers-to-boos ratio when Rodriguez stepped up for his final at-bat of the day.
Dan Giese pitched a scoreless fourth, allowing one hit. Hold your breath, Kei Igawa is next in line.
2:49 p.m. Stop the presses! Kei Igawa allowed only a hit in the fifth, striking out one without walking a batter. Igawa = AL COY.
4:02p.m. Yankees win 6-1. David Robertson finished up with two strikeouts and a walk in a scoreless inning. Looks like Robertson and Giese moved up the bullpen pecking order while Veras was knocked down a few pegs.
By Jon Lane
How good the Yankees bullpen turns out is obviously to be determined, but on paper it’s deep and offers a strong support system for Mariano Rivera. Behind Rivera are two locks, Damaso Marte and Brian Bruney. Figure on either Alfredo Aceves or Dan Giese making the team as a long reliever and the underbelly being determined among a group of candidates.
The sure things
Marte wasn’t the reliable set-up man he was in Pittsburgh. His ability to strike out a batter per inning is neutralized by his 4.04 BB per 9 IP walk rate. I’d prefer him as a LOOGY and to see Phil Coke emerge as the second left-hander who can pitch multiple innings and get key outs late in games.
Bruney has meant business since reporting to camp last season 25 pounds lighter, but his 2008 campaign was interrupted when he injured his right foot trying to cover first base on April 22 in Chicago. Although it was the same injury that put Chien-Ming Wang out of commission, Bruney not only defied the odds and returned on August 1, he was brilliant, pitching to a 1.83 ERA with 33 strikeouts and 18 hits allowed in 34 1/3 innings. Any concerns over Joba Chamberlain starting should be assuaged by Bruney’s presence.
The underbelly candidates
Edwar Ramirez has tendinitis in his right shoulder and will be examined today by Dr. Allen Miller. I’m not sold on him anyway. Yesterday I mentioned there’s no middle ground with him; once opposing hitters figured out how to read his change-up, Ramirez was unable to adjust. He’s either real good or real bad, as indicated my these monthly splits once he became one of Joe Girardi’s key relievers:
May: 1-0, 0.77 ERA, 8 H, 5 BB, 10 K, 11 2/3 IP
June: 0-0, 7.36 ERA, 10 H, 6 BB, 13 K, 11 IP
July: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0 H, 3 BB, 16 K, 11.1 IP
August: 2-1, 6.94 ERA, 15 H, 4 BB, 13 K, 11 2/3 IP
September: 0-1, 8.44 ERA, 8 H, 5 BB, 6 K, 5 1/3 IP
Coke was a pleasant surprise last year, holding opponents to a .160 batting average while allowing one earned run in 14 2/3 innings. He whetted the Yankees’ appetites to where he was considered a candidate to start before the team re-signed Andy Pettitte. I’m excited to see a lot more of Coke, 26, who showed me in a small sampling of work and through brief discussions he’s emotionally equipped to handle pressure situations.
Jose Veras is lights out when he’s on his game, but like Ramirez was vulnerable to the gopher ball (7 HRs in 57 2/3 innings) and issued 4.53 walks per nine innings pitched.
David Robertson will get a longer look for as long as Ramirez is on the shelf, but ultimately may fall victim to a numbers game. He turns 24 in April and may not be ready for significant innings, so more seasoning in Triple-A can only help.
The super sleeper
Mark Melancon earned a ton of press in today’s papers and for good reason. Despite the bevy of righty relievers vying for roster spots, Melancon showed off his electric stuff throwing 30 pitches during Sunday’s session, even getting Derek Jeter to whiff on a couple and breaking Robinson Cano’s bat. He is already being projected as the next Chamberlain in an eighth-inning role and perhaps Rivera’s successor in two years.
Melancon, the Yankees’ ninth-round pick (284th overall) in 2006, went 6-0 with a 1.81 ERA in 19 outings at Scranton – this after missing all of 2007 due to Tommy John surgery. He’s probably ticketed for Scranton in April, but Girardi said he’s “in the mix” and you could see him with the big club sooner rather than later, especially if the Yankees are looking for another Joba-like spark to their bullpen.
By Jon Lane
Jerome Preisler offered a positive yet compelling take on Alex Rodriguez in his new Deep in the Red, while also looking back on a September 2005 game we worked together.
Meanwhile, some notes and nuggets from another day in Yankees camp:
• George Steinbrenner paid a visit. Asked by a New York Post reporter how he was doing, The Boss said, “I feel good.”
• Bernie Williams returned to his old digs and will remain with the Yankees until March 2 when he meets the World Baseball Classic’s Puerto Rican team. Tyler Kepner has the details with quotes from Williams and Joe Girardi.
From Peter Abraham’s LoHud Yankees blog:
• Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras (Dominican Republic) won’t be going to the WBC. You can probably count Damaso Marte (hamstring) out too. The righty reliever won’t be running for at least the rest of the week.
• CC Sabathia’s first Grapefruit start will be March 6 against the Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field. That lines him up for Opening Day on April 6 in Baltimore.