To borrow a line from Spike Lee: Joe Girardi, you did the right thing.
Before the New York Yankees’ 4-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles last night, the Yankee skipper announced that Javier Vazquez would skip his next turn in the rotation. Vazquez’s next start would have come Friday night in Boston against the Red Sox but because of his inability to pitch effectively, he has been bumped.
With an off-day on Thursday, the Yankees will start Phil Hughes on normal rest Friday in Vazquez’s place. They will then use CC Sabathia on Saturday afternoon and pitch A.J. Burnett on Sunday night.
Heading to Detroit after the series in Boston, Vazquez will make his next start on Monday night against the Tigers.
Vazquez has only made one start this season that has been worth anything. On April 20 he notched his only win of 2010, a game in which he scattered six hits and three runs over 5 1/3 innings of work against the Oakland Athletics. In that start he walked three batters and struck out six.
Other than that game, Vazquez has basically been a ghost.
In his other four starts this season, Vazquez is 0-3 and the Yankees did not win any of those four games. Right now opponents are hitting .337 against the Yankees’ number four starter and his ERA is currently at an inflated 9.78.
The Yankees have only lost eight games this year. Half of those losses came on days Vazquez pitched.
Girardi had no choice but to skip Vazquez. His numbers this season are so poor and every team he has faced has decimated him, even the weakest ball clubs. The Chicago White Sox, who have the lowest team batting average in the majors with .227, feasted off Vazquez this past Saturday and touched him up for five earned runs over just three innings.
It’s obvious that something is not right with this picture.
Although Boston is not playing well at the moment (as they are currently sitting in fourth place in the American League Eastern Division standings) it was wise for Girardi to pass on him pitching at Fenway Park. If Vazquez were to go out and get Boston massacred, his confidence level would drop even further than it is now.
It’s not like he hasn’t lost big time to the Red Sox before (insert 2004 ALCS reference).
Last night on Daily News Live (a program in which all the New York Daily News writers sit and discuss sports) the reporters brought up the idea of trading Vazquez back to the National League for another pitcher. One writer suggested dealing him to the New York Mets for Jenrry Mejia, a 20 year-old righty from the Dominican Republic.
Mejia is a reliever for the Mets, so I’m not sure if this move would solve the Yankees’ problem. His numbers are not bad; he is 0-1 but has an ERA of 0.90. Plus, he has only given up one earned run in the 10 innings he has pitched this year.
I suppose if they actually went ahead with this idea, they could move Joba Chamberlain back to the rotation and plug Mejia into his bullpen spot. But Chamberlain is too unpredictable, even in the bullpen. Plus, the Yankees will most likely not give up on Vazquez so soon.
However, the off-season move that sent Melky Cabrera to the Atlanta Braves and brought Vazquez to New York is so far looking like a terrible one. At this point, Brian Cashman might not admit he made a mistake in making the trade. His faith in Vazquez might not be gone just yet, and he probably still feels the scuffling pitcher can turn it around.
In the past, Cashman has been known to believe in a lot of the deals he makes.
But if the season reaches (let’s say) July and Vazquez is not performing, he might be gone before he had the chance to unpack his bags. Just as Girardi had no choice but to skip over Vazquez’s turn in the rotation, Cashman might have no choice but to trade him away because of his ineffectiveness.
Adios Vazquez. Hello some other pitcher who can get the job done.
Last December the New York Yankees made a trade to get a number four starter. Only using three pitchers in the postseason, and unsure of who was going to be the number five man, they got it done.
So long Melky Cabrera. Hello (again) Javier Vazquez.
Boasting a 15-10 record in 2009 with a minuscule 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts, some people were happy with the move. I, on the other hand, was not a proponent of this trade from the get go, remembering how poorly he had performed in his first stint in pinstripes.
Vazquez, a member of the Yankees in 2004, was the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, surrendering the infamous grand slam to Johnny Damon–a blast that basically put the Yankees away.
Back in pinstripes, Vazquez made his first start of 2010 on April 9. What happened? He picked up right where he left off in ’04 and got rocked. He tossed 5 2/3 innings, was charged with eight earned runs on eight hits, walked three, and struck out five.
Not the way he wanted to start the season, I’m sure.
His second start was a little better, but Vazquez still was not good enough to win. Against the Angels on April 14, he tossed 5 1/3 innings and gave up four earned runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out four. It certainly was not his best start, but it was a step up from his first.
Last Tuesday night in Oakland he got his first W of ’10 beating the Athletics in a 7-3 Yankee win. This time Vazquez made it through 5 1/3 innings, and gave up three runs on six hits. He walked three and fanned six.
Then we came to today…
Just when it seemed Vazquez was heading in an upward direction in terms of his pitching, he backpedaled and collapsed. He did not make it past the fourth frame, only giving the Yanks 3 2/3 innings of work. He served up five runs on five hits, walked three and struck out three. Not to mention he coughed up a three-run lead.
His pitching led to the Yankees’ first series loss of 2010, as they dropped two games out of three this weekend to the Halos. Yes–totally the opposite of cool.
Right now, Vazquez is the weakest link on the Yankee pitching staff. He has not pitched past the sixth inning this season and has given up 20 earned runs in all 20 innings he has thrown. He has failed to locate with his pitches and has been hanging too many breaking balls.
Bobby Abreu was a clear example of that today.
In the third inning, the former Yankee blasted a solo home run to right off Vazquez, a bomb hit off a terribly executed breaking ball. Vazquez threw 78 pitches, 47 of which were strikes.
If you ask me, of those 78 pitches, probably 38 or 39 of them were off-speed. Vazquez has shown no faith in his fastball. It seems he overthrows his fastball too much and subsequently misses the strike zone because of it. He has issued eight walks this season, indicating his location problem.
So far this trade has not paid off and it’s looking like a bad one. I’m not concerned with his numbers from last year, his numbers from 2004, or any other year for that matter. What does matter is 2010 and how unproductive Vazquez’s outings have been.
At this moment, we as Yankee fans have every reason to disapprove of the trade.
His next time out will come at home against one of his former teams, the Chicago White Sox, on Saturday May 1. I am going to give Vazquez a month. If he is still struggling as mightily as he is now by June 1, I am going to go on a search for a starting pitcher to replace him.
I will look far and wide; I will look at every stat from every Yankee minor league hurler, I will glance at every team in baseball who might need Vazquez–while at the same time finding a suitable replacement; a pitcher putting up numbers in accordance to a good number four starter.
Honestly, at this point in the season, the Yankees could probably throw their bat boy out there and he could do better than Vazquez. He is too inconsistent and does not seem to be moving in the same direction of the team. He is the only starter in the rotation with a losing record.
CC Sabathia (2-1), A.J. Burnett (2-0), Andy Pettitte (3-0), Phil Hughes (2-0)
Vazquez is now 1-3.
Before the season began, an analyst said Vazquez has the stuff to be a number two pitcher. While that may or may not be true, he is not showing that right now. He is only showing that he cannot do the job he was brought on board to do.
We’ll see what he is made of. He has until June 1. Then, if he has shown no improvement, I say the Yankees ought to dump him off. It’s not like he is under contract for 2011 as it is.
–Marcus Thames has got nothing on Brett Gardner in left field. He started this afternoon, only to misplay a ball out in left. There are some big guys who can move around pretty well in the outfield (like Nick Swisher)
Thames is a big guy who can’t move around well. If he had caught the fly ball, it would have been a whole different game today. Thames only started because he supposedly “wears down left-handed pitching,” a Scott Kazmir (a lefty) started for the Halos.
Thames did have a hit and a run scored, but that misplayed ball hurt big time.
–The Yankees only have to play the Angels twice more this season: July 20-21 at home in Yankee Stadium. Thank God for getting them out of the way in April! They are too tough to be playing down the stretch.
–As mentioned before, the Yankees are 5-1 in their first six series this season. This past series was their first losing effort. Still, it’s not bad to have won five straight to begin the year. Good start!
–Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch in the second inning. Jorge Posada came up to bat right after Cano and launched a two-run homer.
Message to the 29 other teams in the MLB: you hit the Yankees, they will hit back!
Cano also homered in this game, clubbing his fifth of the year, and he now leads the Yankee team in long balls.
–Mark Teixeira needs to get off the interstate and start getting some hits. He did draw two walks today, but he is supposed to be a big threat to the other team’s pitching. Currently batting .119, he poses no threat right now at all.
Wake up, Tex!
–Speaking of Teixeira , I really don’t know how I feel about him ramming the catcher Friday night. I’m not sure if Teixeira did it because he got hit with a pitch before it happened, but whatever the case, he mowed him down.
It is part of the game and many runners coming hard into home plate do it, but I felt sorry for Bobby Wilson. It’s happened to the Yankees before, in spring training prior to 2008. Elliot Johnson of the Rays broke Francisco Cervelli’s wrist that way.
It’s dangerous! The league should consider regulating collisions somehow, if it’s doable.
Teixeira really got him good (giving Wilson a concussion and an ankle injury) but at least he apologized and felt some remorse for the hit. That is the type of personality Teixeira has, but if I were him, I’d watch out in July. The Angels might want some retribution.
And Justin Tuck better watch out. If the New York Giants need a linebacker or a defensive end, Teixeira might be their man. That hit was football-esque!
–On their day off tomorrow, the Yankees will visit the White House in honor of their 2009 World Series Championship. Message to Joe Girardi: tell Obama to fix the economy, create jobs for hard-working Americans who need work, and that his health care bill is trash and should be thrown away.
I think it’s nice that the President recognizes the nation’s sports titles and invites the Champs to the White House. It’s been happening for years and years; I know Clinton and Bush both did the same thing.
–On Tuesday the Yankees go to Baltimore to play the Orioles for three games. Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett will start those three games, respectively.
–Right now the Yankees are 12-6, in second place in the AL East, a game behind the Rays who are 14-5.
It’s been a crazy weekend in baseball!
I’d first like to begin by letting everyone know the Yankees have now won four in a row and have taken the first four series of the young season from their opponents. This is the first time the Yankees have done this since 1926, indicating one of the finest starts I have ever seen the team get off to.
Michael Kay said yesterday that “New Yorkers always look for the negatives,” speaking of Mark Teixeira’s huge slump. He may or may not be out of it, what with his towering, second-deck home run in the Yanks’ 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers this afternoon.
That moon shot marked Teixeira’s first homer this year.
Maybe when the Yanks hit the road this week and head out west he can really breakout and have a monster tear. I know Teixeira is historically a slow starter, but he is too good to keep down for so long. I still feel he will finish with a ton of home runs, over 100 RBIs, and close to, if not over, 100 runs scored.
As they say, it’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish.
The Yankees will now head to Oakland to start a series against the Athletics, who are turning a lot of heads in the AL West division. The A’s are currently in first place with a record of 9-4 in the West.
Tuesday, Javier Vazquez and Gio Gonzalez will open up the series. Phil Hughes will square off with Ben Sheets on Wednesday night. Finally on Thursday, CC Sabathia will face Dallas Braden to close it all out.
It should be a good set of games out in Oakland and the Yankees will be on the road for the next nine games. After Oakland they will travel to Anaheim to play the Angels for three games. After that, they come back to the east coast to play against the Orioles in Baltimore.
The Yankees return home on April 30 to host the White Sox. Long trip! Looks like their frequent-flier miles will be put to good use.
I wanted to mention the struggles of the Boston Red Sox. At this point in the season they are probably one of the worst teams in the American League, just coming off being swept in three games by the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Yankees and Rays sit atop the division with identical 9-3 records.
Toronto is in third with a record of 7-6, one game over .500. Boston is 4-8 in fourth while the Baltimore Orioles are 2-11.
It seems this year could very well be a two-team race. I know it’s way too early to be speaking about the Division title, but if Boston keeps struggling the way they are, they might fall so far out of first place it will very difficult to make a comeback.
Not saying it can’t happen; in the 1970s the Yankees were 14 games behind the Red Sox in July and somehow came back to win the AL East. They called it the “Boston Massacre” back when it happened. If Boston wants the crown enough, they can certainly come back and get it.
At this point in the season however, the Yankees and Rays are better.
What a great story!
Last night, Ubaldo Jimenez became the first pitcher in the Colorado Rockies’ 18 year history to toss a no-hitter. The 26 year-old righty no-hit the Atlanta Braves en route to a 4-0 Rockies win.
His no-no reminded me a lot of A.J. Burnett’s back in 2001. When with the Marlins, Burnett tossed a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres and the Fish won 3-0. Burnett did get his no-no, but he walked nine batters in the game.
Although he was in shutdown mode, Jimenez walked six Braves in the game.
Jimenez owes his life to Dexter Fowler, who made a spectacular circus catch in the seventh inning to preserve the no-hitter. Fowler got on his horse, dove, and robbed Troy Glaus of a hit in the left-centerfield gap.
Pretty play. Jimenez should buy Fowler a Rolex for that one.
That catch reminded me of Dewayne Wise’s catch last summer to save Mark Buerhle’s perfect game. Wise leapt the wall and took a home run away from Gabe Kapler and helped lead Buerhle to a perfect game. Keep in mind Buerhle had already thrown a no-hitter in 2007.
As for Jimenez, great work. And congrats on the big no-no.
I never though it would end. I have to give the New York Mets and the St. Louis Cardinals all the credit in the world for how they both played this game.
On Saturday, the Mets and Cards played for six hours and 53 minutes, a 20-inning game. The Mets came out on top, 2-1.
I’m not sure what it was. I suppose a combination of terrible hitting, very good pitching, and strange choices. The Mets first three hitters (meaning Jose Reyes, Luis Castillo, and David Wright) were a combined 3-for-20 in the game.
Reyes and Jeff Francoeur were the only two Mets who recorded RBIs. The team left a total of 18 men on base and struck out 16 times. It took the Mets five innings to record a hit, as Cardinals’ starter Jaime Garcia no-hit the Mets up until Angel Pagan singled in the top of the sixth.
The Cardinals just confused me with some of their moves. They had Kyle Lohse, a pitcher, playing the outfield. Later in the game they had two position players on the mound. Joe Mather, an outfielder, recorded the loss in this game.
In the 14th and 16th innings, the Cardinals sent their relief pitcher to the plate to bat with the bases loaded. In both instances, the Cardinals could have won the game by using a pinch-hitter, yet instead they opted to use relief pitchers to hit.
Why? I have no clue. I guess they wanted to save their bullpen, but it cost them.
In any event it was a good game; very fun to watch. It was one of the more exciting games to watch this year, and maybe it can turn things around for the Mets. For as much of a Yankee fan as I am, I think the NL East is too boring.
The Phillies have dominated that division for too long. If the Mets can win games like yesterday (in that never-say-die attitude) they can make it more interesting. I don’t want to see the Phillies back in the World Series.
Besides, I’d rather see a Subway Series in October. But of course we all know which team would win that…
Well gang, here we are on the eve of the baseball season. In a little over 24 hours the Yankees and Red Sox will dim the lights and raise the curtains on the 2010 MLB season. It’s on; the wait is over. It’s the best day of the sports year, if you ask me. It’s your number one vs. their number one.
As Al Bundy once said, “Let there be baseball. Let there be LIFE.”
Time to get yapping about the Yankees!
Yankees vs. the Future Yankees
Manager Joe Girardi said it best: “Either way, we can’t lose today!”
The Yankees started their regular players against a team of baby Bombers in the final spring training game this afternoon. It was quite interesting to see Derek Jeter and the boys play against some of the young guys who are just trying to start their baseball careers. Girardi took it easy on the youngsters and only played the regulars for the first three innings.
The Yanks beat the Future Yanks, 9-6.
To me it was a little strange how they divided up the team. Some of the non-Yankees played on the Yankee team. I guess that was just the way to get everyone in; not all of them could play on the future team and they wanted every player to get some work in.
It wasn’t too torturous for them–the Yankees only scored three runs on them in the bottom of the first! Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, and Nick Swisher knocked in a combined five runs on the future Yanks, hopefully just a prequel of what they do tomorrow vs. the Red Sox.
Jonathan Albaladejo started for the future Yanks against Javier Vazquez, who made his final start before the regular season. Vazquez turned in a decent performance, as he pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up two earned runs on seven hits. He walked one and struck out two.
Not bad for Vazquez, but he could do a little better next week when he faces the Rays.
Some of the future stars intrigued me. For one, Melky Mesa. I could not believe I saw another player with the name Melky. I thought there was only one Melky, and he now plays for the Braves! He didn’t have a hit today, but I just like his name.
Along with Mesa, Slade Heathcott grabbed my attention. He is ranked as the third-best Yankee prospect by Baseball America, and he showed some great speed today. In his first at-bat, he beat out a slow roller to third for a single. Alex Rodriguez couldn’t make the play and he was safe!
I also was taken back by Pat Venditte–the “switch pitcher.” He pitched in the top of the eighth inning and he gave up a run. It was just so strange how he kept changing his pitching hand; he would throw to right-handers with his left hand and pitch to left-handers with his right hand. (Although I do think he threw to one right-hander with his right hand)
You have to see him pitch for yourself to really get a feel for what he is about. His arm angle when pitching with his left hand is much different than when he throws righty. He seems to sidearm the ball when he throws left and almost flings it. But as a right-hander he throws much more conventional and overhand.
Not to mention his mitt. Venditte fashioned an “ambidextrous glove” (I guess you could call it?) so that he can pitch with both hands. It’s quite a sight to behold and unbelievably fascinating.
I hope we see Venditte in the future, but I do think he has a lot of work to do before being called up. He’s not quite ready to pitch to real major leaguers yet, but if he keeps at it and can find ways to get hitters out with his unique pitching style, he’ll make the show.
Overall, it was a fun game to watch today and a cool way to end spring training.
The Opening Day Roster
Most of the decisions made regarding the opening day, 25-man roster the Yankees will use didn’t shock me. Of course all of the regulars will be there; Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez….yeah, you get the idea.
I’m glad to see David Robertson will be in the bullpen along with Boone Logan. But if you ask me, Royce Ring deserves to be there, too. For the type of spring he had and his past Major League service, he should at least be given a chance.
Chan Ho Park, Sergio Mitre, Damaso Marte, Alfredo Aceves, and Joba Chamberlain will also be in the ‘pen. But mark my words, if one of these guys is not cutting it, Ring is the right guy to plug into the spot. I watched him this past month, and I have to say, he did some fine work in Tampa.
Marcus Thames did not have the best spring, only averaging somewhere around .135 at the plate. But he hit three homers this spring and showcased more power than Randy Winn. Both players made the team. We’ll see how each one does during the season, but one of them could be used as trade bait.
Lastly, Ramiro Pena made the team as the extra infielder. I think this is the best move, I like Pena, and I hope he has a great year in the big leagues. He will be an asset to the club and I have a good feeling about him.
We have the team set, now we just have to find the chemistry.
The Series vs. Boston
I guess the schedule-maker this year had a malicious sense of irony, pitting the Yanks against the hated Red Sox on opening night. The Bombers and BoSox will play tomorrow, have a day off on Monday, and then play the next two games of the series on Tuesday and Wednesday.
As mentioned before, it’s our number one vs. their number one tomorrow, meaning CC Sabathia vs. Josh Beckett. A lot of people are quick to mention Sabathia’s tendency to start slow and not put up his best work until later on in the season.
In fact, many of my friends have told me the Yankees will probably lose tomorrow night.
Keep in mind, whenever the Yankees play Boston in Fenway, they are not just facing the Red Sox. They are facing Red Sox Nation. It’s hard for any team to play there because the fans are just unbelievably rowdy. It’s hard to win there.
We’ll see what happens on Opening Night. Anything can happen. We might see Sabathia pick up right where he left off last season–dominating everyone he faces. He didn’t have the best spring, but those numbers do not mean much. We won’t find out until tomorrow.
Tuesday night, A.J. Burnett will make the start against Jon Lester. We’ll have to wait and see which Burnett will show up–Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, hopefully Jekyll.
When Lester is on, he is one of the most brilliant left-handed pitchers in the American League. Burnett has to bring his best stuff and the offense has to bring their best mindset to win Tuesday.
Ending the series on Wednesday, Andy Pettitte will start against the Red Sox’ big off-season acquisition, John Lackey. Pettitte has done so well against the Boston over the years and last year was 2-1 with a 3.75 ERA in four starts against Boston.
Lackey, although many people think he has the Yanks’ number, has not done well against the Yankees historically. Just last year in the ALCS, Lackey was 0-1 with a 3.65 ERA in two starts. Lifetime vs. New York, he is 5-7 with a 4.66 ERA and at Fenway Park he is 2-5 with a 5.75 ERA.
Not very pretty, Mr. Lackey.
But I’m looking past all that. On paper, the Yanks have an advantage. But on paper is not going to win the game. It all depends on who plays better on that day. That’s all there is to it.
Look at it this way: even if the Yankees do not get off to the best start this year, it’s not the end of the world. They started slow last year, even going 0-8 in the first eight games vs. Boston. It worked out for them in the end.
Enjoy Opening night everyone! And have a Happy Easter.
The Yankees had lost four straight games going into today’s spring training match-up, but were finally able to break out of it. The Bronx Bombers beat their 2009 World Series opponents, the Philadelphia Phillies, 7-5 in an exhibition game.
Here’s what I made of today’s win:
- Javier Vazquez
The first pitch Javier Vazquez tossed this spring was a meatball. Jimmy Rollins launched Vazquez’s offering over the right field wall for a leadoff home run. It makes sense to me, because the last pitch I remember him throwing in a Yankee uniform was a grand slam in the ALCS. So the first pitch Vazquez threw back in pinstripes had to be a homer.
I guess it was only fitting.
But after the long ball, Vazquez settled down very nicely. He pitched two innings and only gave up one run on two hits. He did not walk a batter and he struck out four of the eight Phillies he faced.
Mixing pitches and pounding the zone, Vazquez looked very good. I think the best-looking pitch he threw today was a changeup that he fooled Chase Utley on for a strikeout. He was able to change speeds effectively as well, bringing the fastball up to the mid 90s before dropping down to the low 80s.
If he can match what he did today during the regular season, Vazquez can win a good amount of games.
Overall, I liked what I saw from him today. Aside from the homer, he was outstanding. And I feel it was important that he bounced back from the leadoff home run as nicely as he did. Vazquez showcased his nerves today and that he can get into some early trouble but rebound in a solid way.
· Robinson Cano
The young second baseman was brilliant as usual this afternoon.
Robinson Cano boasted some of his defense today, making a brilliant diving catch in the first inning. That play stood out to me because he really showed great lateral range, but the story today was really about Cano’s bat.
In his first at-bat, Cano smacked a double inside the third baseline. He drew a walk in his second at-bat, and finally crushed a go-ahead, two-run single before calling it a day.
Right now Cano is showing that he knows how to play ball in the MLB. Even if he is without his buddy Melky Cabrera.
I love what I am seeing from Cano so far. I’m sure he will keep up the excellent work.
· Nick Swisher
Let’s just say Nick Swisher’s day was a lot better than the last time I wrote of him.
The right fielder knocked in three runs on the day, all with two outs in the inning. In the fourth, Swisher cracked a two-run double and then followed it up with an RBI ground rule double in the fifth.
Swisher’s hitting was great today. I just hope he can be a little more consistent defensively this season. He isn’t exactly the most athletic player on the field, but he certainly has a lot of athleticism. He’s proven that in the past.
On a Swisher side note, he looks to have shaved his head. Will the “swish-hawk” make a return this year? Or have we seen the last of it?
We’ll see. He will need to grow the hair out again, though. I don’t like the shaved head look for him. Not saying it doesn’t work for some other players, but Swisher…
Come on, Dude!!!
· Nick Johnson
Playing in his first game since going down with a stiff back, Nick Johnson laced up his spikes and played today. The Yankees’ designated hitter had three at-bats and did not record a hit.
Johnson popped out twice and walked.
I just don’t have a great feeling about him. Johnson was second in the National League in terms of on-base percentage (with .462). The only other hitter in the N.L. with a higher OPB was Albert Pujols. So obviously Johnson knows how to get on base.
But he only hit eight home runs all of last year even though he did average close to .300 (he hit .291). The home run count has the possibility of climbing, what with Johnson being a left-handed hitter and the short porch at Yankee Stadium.
But we’ll have to wait and see if his power translates from the N.L. back over to A.L. I’m sure it might, if he stays healthy long enough.
I will admit the fact that he had a stiff back so early got underneath my skin. It was not a great first impression. The injury sidelined him for a couple of games, so I’m not really buying into Johnson just yet.
He has to prove to me he can stay healthy. Until then, sorry Nick.
· Other Notes
–Ramiro Pena showed some speed and defense today. First he had a bunt single that should have been a routine play, but he beat it out for a hit. Then he made a nice defensive stop at short that he helped turn into a double play.
Nice work, Pena!
–Marcus Thames started in left field. He was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. Ouch!
–Francisco Cervelli did not play. He was hit in the head with a fastball on Saturday vs. Toronto and sustained a concussion for it. He did however see a neurologist and Cervelli is cleared to resume activity tomorrow.
If anything extreme were to happen to Cervelli and he would not be able to begin the season, Mike Rivera would be the logical choice to be Jorge Posada’s backup. At press time, Cervelli is slated to be the number two catcher.
–Chan Ho Park was scratched from his bullpen session today with a sore gluteus. I have no comment for this one.
–While one half of the team stayed home and beat Philly, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and the rest of the squad traveled to the Pirates’ camp this afternoon. The captain and A-Rod helped lead the team to a 6-0, one-hit shutout win over the Bucs.
Alfredo Aceves pitched four shutout innings against Pittsburgh. He did not allow a hit and he fanned three, giving the Yankees a little reassurance that he is in good shape.
–The Pirates will travel to Tampa tomorrow afternoon and the Yankees will host them in another exhibition.
What’s up Yankee fans?
The date is February 15, 2010.
As for news around the sports world, the NFL Super Bowl is over. The great Peyton Manning fell to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in what was (in my opinion) the best Super Bowl game since the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
The winter Olympics are in full swing in Vancouver and at press time the U.S.A. has claimed six medals.
The NBA is at their All-Star point and Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks became the only player in history to win the Slam Dunk Contest three times.
And last but never-the-least, MLB pitchers and catchers report to camp this week. We now know that baseball is almost back. Almost back, but we’re not quite there yet.
The Yankees obviously made a number of moves in the off season, bidding farewell to players like Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, and Chien-Ming Wang.
But they welcomed in new (and old) players like Curtis Granderson, Randy Winn, Javier Vazquez, and Nick Johnson.
Some of these moves haven’t been very popular among Yankee fans, but it remains to be seen how these players will perform. The best time to find out how well each player might do in the season is obviously in spring training.
With that being said, here are my five players to keep an eye on in March:
5) Javier Vazquez
At first, I was completely against the Javier Vazquez deal and part of me still is. I never liked him during his first stint with the Yankees in 2004. The only lasting image I have of him was that meatball he served up that Johnny Damon clobbered for a grand slam in the 2004 ALCS–a bomb that solidified the Yankees’ Game Seven collapse.
But I suppose I’ll give him a second chance as the number four starter in 2010.
Everyone keeps talking about how Vazquez had a very low ERA these past few seasons, so who knows. He may surprise us. After all, I thought Hideki Matsui was going to have a horrible season in 2009. He went on to win the World Series MVP.
I have decided to give Vazquez until July 15–if he has decent numbers then, I’ll approve of the trade. But if he is basically hanging on by a thread with an inflated ERA and a record of .500, then I’ll stand by my initial thought: what are the Yankees thinking?!
I realize the Vazquez trade was a panic move to counter the Red Sox signing John Lackey. But the Yanks could have figured out another way to get a pitcher without having to give up a promising outfielder (Cabrera) for a one-year rental (Vazquez).
We’ll see how he does. But without question, he’ll be under the microscope in Tampa.
4) Jesus Montero
I have heard a lot of great things about this kid. I get the feeling he’ll one day be a star, but he’s just too young right now. Nonetheless, non-roster invitee Jesus Montero will be a player to watch this spring.
At 20 years old, Montero has been named the Yanks’ best prospect and the fifth best player by Baseball America. In his 2008 minor league season with the Charleston River Dogs, Montero batted .326 with 17 homers and 87 RBIs. He only stole two bases, but hey…he’s a catcher, we cannot expect a ton of steals from him.
The highest level he’s played at is AA Trenton Thunder, but mark my words; he’ll probably make it to the AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in 2010.
With Jose Molina leaving the Yankees, it’ll most likely be Francisco Cervelli backing up Jorge Posada. So in all likelihood, we won’t see Montero in the show this year. In 2011, he’ll more than likely be on the Major League squad.
But Montero will undoubtedly be on the field this spring. This is his chance to show Yankee Universe what he’s made of and for us to get a feel for what he is about.
3) Brett Gardner
Brett Gardner has given the Yankees something they haven’t had in recent times–speed. And I’m not talking about just a decent pair of wheels. I’m talking the Flash/Sonic the Hedgehog type horse power here.
I mean, if he sprinted on the highway, he’d probably get a speeding ticket.
Gardner has also offered a great deal of defense in the outfield. With the departure of Melky Cabrera, the Yankees are obviously putting a lot of stock in him. Gardner can run and he can play some unbelievable defense. But he needs to get on base and become a better offensive player.
In 2009, Gardner had 67 hits in 248 at-bats, which translates to a .270 average–not too shabby. He drew 26 walks and stole 26 bases, which again, are decent stats.
But centerfield is a position that requires power; you need to have some pop coming from that spot on the field. Gardner only hit three home runs last year, two of which left the park (and yes, it was pretty sweet watching that inside-the-park home run on May 15…it was even sweeter because I saw it in-person!)
This spring, the Yankees will be trying out a number of different outfielders. There’s even talk that if Gardner is good enough, recent acquisition Curtis Granderson might play left field and Gardner will man center.
Well, that scenario remains to be seen, but in any event, Gardner has to take his game up to the next level. We’ll see how he responds next month.
2) Robinson Cano
Boy has this young man come a long way. I can remember the day he was called up to the big leagues in 2005 and how nervous he looked. He would make frequent errors and he looked so uneasy at the plate.
But Robinson Cano worked his game up to a Major League level, finishing in the top three in the 2006 batting title race. He was even compared to the incomparable Rod Carew. And from there, the rest is basically history. In my opinion, he’s unlike any other second baseman in the American League–and that’s a good thing.
He plays defense so well, gliding across the infield and making spectacular plays. I still believe he should have won a Gold Glove Award this past year. His hitting has certainly improved, as well. In 2009 he set a career-high in home runs with 25 and averaged .320 at the dish.
I have to say, of the younger players who are currently on the Yankees, Cano is my favorite. You can mention Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and all the legendary players of the so-called “core four,” but (for me) Cano has been the most exciting Yankee these past couple of seasons.
But some philosophize that Cano only performed so well for so long because of the presence of his best friend Melky Cabrera. The two became bosom buddies in 2007 and since then, both have played very well in each other’s friendship.
But Cabrera is now an Atlanta Brave and Cano is on his own.
I am anxious to see how Cano is going to perform in the absence of his best friend. I still feel he can play the same way he has these last few years. However, the only minor concern I have is how Cano played in 2008 without Cabrera; when his buddy was sent down to the minors because of a nasty slump, Cano struggled a little bit and fell into a funk of his own.
Hopefully nothing like that will happen to him this upcoming year. But if Cano gets off to a slow start and cannot find his rhythm, I might have to side with those philosophers.
1) Joba Chamberlain
It’s no secret that Joba Chamberlain had a rough 2009. It started back when he was arrested for a DUI after the 2008 campaign. Then he was put back on the “Joba Rules,” only being allowed to toss a certain amount of innings according to the Yankees’ discretion.
He had some forgetful starts and some brilliant starts in ’09, posting a record of 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA. If that wasn’t enough, the 24 year-old flamethrower was sent to the bullpen for the playoffs and World Series as the Bronx Bombers chose to go with a three-man rotation. In relief, he posted an ERA of 2.84 and was 1-0 with one save and seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings pitched.
Not too bad, if you ask me. Chamberlain seems to excel when he knows his role.
There’s a lot of speculation on which pitcher will land the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Chamberlain seems to be the logical choice, unless they either opt to pull Phil Hughes from his spot in the bullpen or allow Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin the opportunity.
It all depends on who is performing at the highest level in spring training. If we see Chamberlain in a dominant form next month, it could be him. But if he is going to be that fifth pitcher, the Yankees NEED to take him off the “Joba Rules.”
Chamberlain will have his growing pains, all young players do. But if they do not take the leash off, the only thing he’ll ever be is a caged animal.
I understand that the Yankees are not trying to wreck his arm because it’s happened to too many young pitchers (Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez…etc.) But the Yanks should not tell him exactly how many innings they want him to throw. I think that can upset the balance of his psyche.
So who will be that fifth starter? We’ll know when we see what they all bring to Tampa.