On Tuesday the Yankees played the Atlanta Braves to a 5-4 win. Today the Braves gained a measure of redemption, beating the Yankees 6-2 in an exhibition at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Tied at two heading into the top of the seventh, Yankees’ reliever Steve Garrison imploded. The Braves scratched four runs across the plate to take lead and eventually the game. Brent Clevlen singled to score Diory Hernandez to give Atlanta a 3-2 edge. Matt Young followed with an RBI single which plated Brooks Conrad, giving the Braves a 4-2 lead.
Later in the frame Wilkins Castillo grounded out to short, allowing Clevlen to cross the plate. Ed Lucas topped out the huge inning with a single to score Young, giving the Braves six runs in the game.
The Braves scored their initial run in the top of the first on a single by Chipper Jones to score Martin Prado. Jordan Schafer clubbed a solo homer in the second to give the Braves their second run.
The Yankees scored their first run in the second inning on a long solo home run over the right field wall off the bat of Jorge Posada. In the bottom of the sixth, Alex Rodriguez grounded to third, which allowed Andruw Jones to score, tying the game at two.
Tommy Hanson made the start for Atlanta and turned in a good outing. He tossed four innings and gave up one earned run on five hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out two.
Phil Hughes started for New York. He pitched four innings, and gave up two earned runs on seven hits. He walked one batter and K’d two.
Notes & Things to Look Out For
· First off, thoughts and sympathy go out to all affected by the earthquake in Japan. An 8.9 on the Richter scale? – Now that is serious. Yankee pitcher Kei Igawa was permitted to leave the Minor League training facility in an attempt to contact his loved ones in Japan. Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Takashi Saito was also allowed to leave camp, concerned for his relatives back home. We as Americans are left praying and hoping everyone in the Far East will be OK. I can’t help but think of Hideki Matsui, too. I am praying for him and everyone else in Japan. May God be with all of them during this crisis.
· Phil Hughes has a 5.00 ERA this spring. Today he fell behind a few hitters and surrendered a home run, also allowing seven hits and nine total base runners. Was I impressed? Not really. Did he look sharp? Not really. Am I concerned? A little bit. A lot of people jump all over A.J. Burnett’s back for having a poor record and an inflated ERA last season – and rightfully so, Burnett had an off-year.
But what they don’t realize, or seem to remember, is that Hughes pitched to a 4.19 ERA last year (about one run lower than Burnett, who notched a 5.26 ERA) and lost the deciding game of the American League Championship Series. His record last season was 18-8, which is probably why everyone is quick to forgive him. I’m just worried Hughes had a “fluke year” in 2010 and will not be as effective in 2011. His arm seemed to tire towards the end of last year and if it happens again, it could cause some problems for the Yankee rotation.
· Derek Jeter had a hit today and his average is now at .333. It’s good to see the Captain hitting above .300 again and I’m sure he will continue to work on the stride adjustment.
· It was documented that Mark Teixeira is in mid-season form. The slugging first baseman is batting .364 this spring and was 1-for-3 today. The Yanks need a lot of production out of Teixeira this year and right now he is proving that there are no carryover effects of his injuries last year – the hamstring and the broken toe. Traditionally he is a slow starter, but maybe he can leap that hurdle this year and have a big month of April.
· Jorge Posada’s home run today was a BOMB. At 39 years old he is still showing that power he has generally possessed throughout his career. Today he homered from the left side of the plate and the ball would have landed in the second deck at Yankee Stadium, had the game been played there. Although he probably won’t catch at all this year, he might still see some field time. In yesterday’s 7-0 loss to the Phillies, he played first base.
· Regulars Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and Nick Swisher did not play. Granderson and Swisher played in Dunedin against the Toronto Blue Jays, as the Yanks were in split squad action. Granderson was 1-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Swisher was also 1-for-3 with an RBI.
· Although Granderson and Swisher both had good days at the plate, the other squad lost to the Jays, 10-3.
· Austin Krum made a diving catch to rob Ed Lucas of a hit in the sixth inning. Highlight-reel worthy catch, if I do say so myself. Joba Chamberlain tipped his cap to Krum – and his line: one inning pitched, no runs, two hits, no walks, and one strikeout. Chamberlain’s spring ERA is now 3.60.
· Rafael Soriano made his second appearance of the spring today. He tossed a perfect fifth inning, striking out Brooks Conrad and Martin Prado while getting Chipper Jones to ground out. Soriano will be the eighth inning setup man and I am really excited for him. He looks as though he will be lights out.
· Soriano will be setting up the incomparable Mariano Rivera, who has yet to throw a pitch in a game this spring. He will however get his first spring action on Sunday, according to the YES Network.
· Ivan Nova started against the Blue Jays today. His line: three innings pitched, two earned runs on five hits, two walks, one K, and he gave up a homer to Jose Bautista. He’s been fairly solid up until now. He can bury one shaky start. He has to come out strong next time to stay in contention for a spot in the rotation.
· Steve Garrison will not make the team. Not after today. But I have a feeling he wasn’t making it anyway. He recorded the loss and basically blew the game against the Braves.
· Jesus Montero went 0-for-3 without a hit today at the Blue Jays. His batting average has dipped below .200 and yes, I am a little worried about that. Especially now that he has a chance to make the team because of Francisco Cervelli’s foot injury.
· Behind the plate for the Braves today was Brian McCann. He threw out Jeter and Justin Maxwell trying to steal. The guy has a great arm.
· Former Yankee Scott Proctor got the win today, even though he blew a save. He is now 1-1 this spring, trying to resurrect a career torn down by arm problems. He has Joe Torre to thank for that. On a side note about Proctor – he really resembles WWE superstar John Cena. It’s uncanny how they look alike.
· The Yankees are now 6-7-2 in Grapefruit League play.
· Tomorrow the Yankees will visit the Washington Nationals. On Sunday they will come back to Tampa to play the Minnesota Twins – which is also the next televised game on the YES Network.
Through 5 2/3 innings, the Yankee pitchers kept the Phillies off the bases. That is until Wilson Valdez smacked a line drive homer off Hector Noesi, a shot that landed over the left field fence at Steinbrenner Field. That blow ended the combined perfect game the Yanks’ hurlers were compiling and plated the only run for the Phillies, as the Bronx Bombers went on to beat them 7-1 this afternoon in an exhibition.
In the bottom of the second Eduardo Nunez crushed a three-run home run deep to left field off starter Roy Oswalt, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Curtis Granderson came up to the plate the next inning and pulled a two-run shot over the left field fence, and the Yanks took a 5-0 lead.
Oswalt was pulled after 2 2/3 innings pitched, and he gave up five runs (three earned) on four hits. He walked no one and struck out three.
In the bottom of the fifth, Jorge Posada singled to plate Brett Gardner. Later in the frame, Granderson scored on an RBI single off the bat of Eric Chavez, giving the Yankees seven runs.
A.J. Burnett started for the Yankees and did not give an inch. The lanky right-hander tossed three perfect innings without allowing a walk. He only had one strikeout, but it was a big one. Burnett whiffed brand name first baseman Ryan Howard.
So far this spring Burnett has tossed five scoreless innings.
Notes & Things to Look Out For
· Obviously A.J. Burnett is doing something right, at least to this point. I mentioned after his first start that he looks like a different pitcher, and it’s the truth; his delivery and arm angle are not the same. His different look gives me a sense of confidence in him, because he didn’t have a good spring like this last year. In fact, I believe I made a remark last spring saying, “His numbers this spring are worse than Joe Biden’s mouth.”
· On a side note about Burnett, he tossed 45 pitches and 30 were strikes. He is demonstrating command – another positive. He looks as though he will be OK, but he is still a work in progress and he’s got a long way to go. Baby steps.
· Jorge Posada laced a double in the bottom of the third, and came around to score on a single by Eric Chavez. Oh wait…he actually didn’t. Posada missed the base and pitcher Vance Worley (who relieved Roy Oswalt) appealed at third and Posada was called out. It helps to touch the base when you’re running. It’s a general rule.
· Nick Swisher made a stellar catch in the top of the fourth to rob Placido Polanco of a hit. In foul ground, Swisher bent over the bullpen railing to make the catch, then front-flipped into the Yankee bullpen. He held on for the catch. It kind of reminded me of July 22, 2009 – the day Swisher ran up the right field wall at Yankee Stadium to make a fantastic catch, worthy of the highlight reel. I was at that game and the crowd went nuts. Everyone loves Swisher.
· Right after Swisher’s catch, Jimmy Rollins chopped a ball off Chavez’s glove at first. He stayed with it and flipped the ball to Joba Chamberlain, who actually covered the base. The big man got to the bag in time, getting Rollins out. Score that crazy play 3-1. It looked more exciting than it sounds.
· Speaking of Joba Chamberlain, he had a good line today: one inning pitched, no hits, no walks, and no strikeouts. It was a step up from his outing on Saturday against the Washington Nationals: one inning pitched, two earned runs on two hits, two walks, and no Ks. I hope this isn’t another up-and-down year for Chamberlain. Whatever Burnett is doing, he needs to do the same. Chamberlain’s ERA this spring is now 4.50.
· Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez did not play. Today was a split squad day (meaning there are two games; some players play in the first game and others play in the second). The regular infielders will play later tonight at the Orioles.
· What happened to Roy Oswalt today? He couldn’t get through the third inning. I think it was just an aberration for him, much like CC Sabathia’s poor start on Saturday vs. the Nationals (five runs in 2 2/3 innings). Against National League hitters this year, he’ll hold his own.
· Brett Gardner was 1-for-3 today with an RBI, a walk, and a stolen base. He was hitting from the leadoff spot today and seems capable of that role. He will most likely have to improve his bunting if he wants to hit in the number one hole.
· I have the feeling the fifth infielder spot is going to come down to Chavez and Nunez. Today Chavez had three hits in three at-bats, knocked in a run and came around to score once. He is batting .471 as of press time. Nunez showed a great amount of power with his home run and he is averaging .286 at the plate so far. Ramiro Pena might be the odd man out, only hitting .063 so far. He will have to turn on the jets if he wants to make the team right out of camp.
· “Perpetual” Pedro Feliciano tossed a perfect fifth inning with two Ks. I get the feeling he will be the primary lefty specialist. Sorry Boone Logan.
· Curtis Granderson is batting .357 this spring and has hit two homers so far. He hasn’t even played in every game, and if his numbers are any indication, he is primed for a big season.
· Mark Prior pitched around a Pete Orr double in the eighth, not allowing a run. He didn’t walk a batter and he fanned one. As I wrote a few days ago, I am pulling for him and I want him to be this year’s big comeback story. He is a hard worker and I get the feeling he wants nothing more than to bounce back and help the Yankees. So far he is proving he can do it.
· Jesus Montero went 0-for-1 at the plate today and struck out, leaving a man on base. He hasn’t really had the opportunity to break out, yet he is still hitting .250. His counterpart Austin Romine will get the start at catcher in tonight’s exhibition vs. the Orioles.
· Former Yankee Nick Johnson signed with the Cleveland Indians today. I feel sorry for them.
· Tomorrow afternoon the Yanks will travel to the Wide World of Sports to visit the Atlanta Braves (the game will be broadcasted on the YES Network). Freddy Garcia will make the start for the Bombers.
· The Yanks are now 4-5-1 in Grapefruit League play. (Subject to change, pending the outcome of the game vs. Baltimore tonight)
Ramiro Pena’s grounder in the bottom of the ninth with two outs looked as if it had a one-way ticket to center field. If it had gotten through the infield hole, it would have tied the Yankees’ exhibition with the Red Sox tonight at five. Oscar Tejada made a great play to rob Pena of a game-tying single, ending the tune-up game and giving Boston 5-3 win over New York.
Tejada not only made the game-ending play on defense, but he helped out on offense, padding Boston’s 2-1 lead. In the top of the seventh he clubbed a two-run triple to give the Red Sox a 4-1 edge. They had scored earlier in the frame on an RBI single by Juan Carlos Linares, breaking a 1-1 tie.
The big night continued for Tejada in the ninth when he singled to score Linares, making it a 5-1 ballgame. Daniel Nava drove Tejada in to score in the sixth inning, accounting for Boston’s first run in the game.
Robinson Cano recorded his first hit of the spring in the bottom of the sixth, an RBI double which plated Pena. Before Pena made the final out, the Yanks tried to stage another comeback by scoring two runs. Jordan Parraz singled to score Austin Krum and Gustavo Molina drew a bases-loaded walk which plated Kyle Higashioka.
Bartolo Colon started for the Yankees and although he did not face most of the regulars, he put up a strong showing. The tubby right hander tossed three innings and scattered two hits while not allowing a run. He walked no batters and fanned five BoSox.
On the other side Clay Buchholz made the start for the Red Sox and also showcased good stuff. The 26 year-old righty pitched three innings and allowed only one hit. He walked two and struck out two.
Tonight the Yankees and Red Sox met for the first time in 2011 and there will be a lot more where that came from. The rivals will meet again on Monday March 14 in another exhibition and will of course face off 18 times during the regular season. Not to mention they have a good chance to square off in the postseason.
Things to Look Out For & Notes
· The Yankee starters are proving their worth. They have only allowed one run in the first 15 innings they have pitched this spring, and have registered 13 consecutive scoreless innings. So far they are probably making it difficult for Joe Girardi, since they have all been producing.
· Russell Martin caught behind the plate tonight for the first time. After the game he told the YES Network that he feels good and felt comfortable catching. At the plate tonight he struggled, though; he was 0-for-3 and left three men on base.
· In some bad new for the Yanks, Francisco Cervelli will be out of action for at least a month. The details of his injury became apparent and he has a broken foot. He worked hard in the off-season, slimmed down, and looked good through the first few games. But then he fouled a ball off his foot on Wednesday vs. the Astros, and now he can’t play for awhile. Tough break for such a great guy.
· Now that Cervelli is out of action, the chances that Jesus Montero makes the team are high. Contrary to what I originally assumed, Jorge Posada will not be catching at all this season, at least from the looks of things. That being said, this is Montero’s chance to impress and maybe make the team.
· Robinson Cano has been pressing to begin the spring, but finally broke out with an RBI double tonight. Good to see the real Cano finally come out to play.
· Alex Rodriguez was 2-for-3 tonight with a double, and he now has four doubles for the spring. His double tonight, on any other night or in any other ballpark, would have been a home run. The wind down there in Florida keeps pushing the ball back and he is just missing home runs. Wait until he gets back to New York. He won’t be missing many homers at Yankee Stadium.
· I cannot believe I am even saying this, but Bartolo Colon is actually pitching very well to this point. When the Yankees signed him the headline in the New York Post read, “Cheap Colon.” Right now, that Colon smells pretty good. He does need to lose weight, however. He looks out of shape and that can eventually catch up to an athlete.
· Yesterday I wrote about Mark Prior and what he has been through in his career. He impressed me tonight: one inning, no runs, no hits, one walk, two Ks. I am really pulling for him and I would like to see him make a solid comeback.
· Manuel Banuelos pitched tonight and once again put up a strong showing. He worked two innings and gave up no runs on one hit. He walked a batter and struck out three. The 19 year-old lefty will probably not make the team coming out of Spring Training, but he is unquestionably turning a lot of heads and raising eyebrows. He topped out at 96 on the speed gun tonight and looks way ahead of his age.
· I made a small comparison in my head tonight: before 2007 began the Yankees had three promising prospects – Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy. Here we are just before 2011 and we have Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Brackman.
· Lefty specialist Pedro Feliciano pitched tonight, giving up an earned run on two hits. No walks and no strikeouts, but he did better than the other lefty reliever Boone Logan, who took the loss tonight. Feliciano might pitch more this season than Logan. When he was with the Mets, they gave him the nickname “Perpetual Pedro,” being that they used him almost every day to get the big left-handed hitters out.
· The Red Sox left most of their stars at home. Only Buchholz, Jed Lowrie, Jason Varitek and Josh Reddick made the trip to Tampa. Reddick had a great diving catch in left field to rob Cano of extra bases in the bottom of the second. I’m pretty sure Carl Crawford has that spot locked up, but Reddick could state a claim to be Boston’s fourth outfielder.
· Nick Swisher, Brett Gardner, and Curtis Granderson did not play.
· Actor Richard Gere threw out the honorary first pitch tonight. According to what they say, he is a big Yankee fan. I always liked that guy…
· The Yankees will face the Washington Nationals tomorrow and the Houston Astros Sunday. The next televised game is on Monday against the Phillies and A.J. Burnett will start that game.
· So far the Yanks’ Grapefruit League record is 2-4-1.
Following a 5-4 loss in the Grapefruit League opener, the Yankees beat the Phillies 7-3 in Clearwater this afternoon. The Yankees scored two runs in the fourth inning on a two-run, opposite-field home run hit by Curtis Granderson. The Yanks padded their lead in the sixth with four runs, started by an RBI double by Nick Swisher which scored Brett Gardner.
Later in the frame Ryan Howard committed a throwing error, allowing Jordan Parraz to score. Jorge Posada then doubled to score Granderson and top catching prospect Jesus Montero singled to plate Daniel Brewer.
Jorge Vazquez crushed his second homer in as many days in the top of the ninth, a solo homer to left field to give the Yanks their seventh run.
Ben Francisco knocked in all three of the Phillies’ runs. In the seventh he doubled to score Carlos Rivero and he crushed a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth.
Ivan Nova took the ball for the Yankees today and his line was strong: two innings pitched, no hits, no runs and two strikeouts. The Phillies’ fifth starter Joe Blanton got the nod and his line was also impressive: three innings pitched, no hits, no runs, a walk, and a K.
The Yankees will play Detroit in Lakeland tomorrow afternoon, but there were many storylines and a lot more to take away from today’s win over the Phils.
· In an off-the-field matter, we lost a legend today. Duke Snider, an eight-time All-Star and a two-time World Series Champion, passed away at the age of 85. He enjoyed a wonderful career playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, and San Francisco Giants. Snider was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980. R.I.P. Duke.
· Ivan Nova will obviously be fighting for a spot in the rotation, and he made a strong case for himself today. Aside from Chase Utley, who is out with tendinitis in his right knee, the Phillies fielded many of their regulars today. Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, and Placido Polanco all started. Nova got many of them to groundout, pitching to contact. But his pitches were down and they had sink today. He looked great; almost reminiscent of Chien-Ming Wang a few years back.
· Dellin Betances pitched the fifth inning and demonstrated pretty good control, solid velocity, and accuracy. He struck out the side, albeit allowing a walk. But his fastball was moving, he used his breaking pitch effectively, and he showed a wicked knuckle-curve. He topped out on the speed radar at 97 mph. I can’t wait to see what else he has this spring.
· Jesus Montero was 1-for-3 with an RBI single today. He probably will not make the team right out of camp, as many are already noting. But if today is any indication, he will have a good year and probably see some time in the show.
· Jorge Vazquez’s home run may not have gone as far as it did yesterday, but he is making a really good first impression. Another home run today, this time to left field. He is now leading the Yankees in round-trippers this spring. Not bad for a player wearing number 94.
· It was comforting to see Curtis Granderson go “oppo” and smash a home run to left field. We really didn’t see that a lot last year and if he can adjust his swing and get around the way he did today, he will be a very dangerous hitter in 2011.
· Regular position players Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano did not make the trip to Clearwater today.
· After the game, pitching coach Larry Rothschild spoke more about A.J. Burnett. He said last year Burnett looked like a “confused pitcher” but he is expecting him to come back with a strong 2011. He noted that” Burnett’s heart is in the right place” and he will get him in the right frame of mind to pitch this year. As mentioned yesterday, Burnett will start on Wednesday (March 2) vs. The Houston Astros at Steinbrenner Field–which is also the next televised game on the YES Network. All eyes on A.J.
· Sergio Mitre pitched the third inning today, giving up no runs on one hit. No walks and no strikeouts, but he did register the win this afternoon. He will be fighting for that fifth spot in the rotation.
· The Yankees are now 1-1 in Grapefruit League play.
The Yankees will need to maintain their focus if they plan on beating out the Boston Red Sox for the American League East in 2011. A lot of folks are already giving Boston the division, considering their off-season moves.
But excluding starting pitching, Boston and New York seem to be somewhat even.
1st Base: Mark Teixeira vs. Adrian Gonzalez
Mark Teixeira’s batting average dipped to .256 in 2010, but he still managed to hit 33 home runs (to lead the Yankee team) and he knocked in 108 runs while scoring 113. He is a proven hitter and doesn’t need to be sold on, by any means. Everyone knows what a dominant hitter Teixeira can be, not to mention his defense at first is Gold Glove caliber and second-to-none.
Adrian Gonzalez will be playing his first season in 2011 as a member of the Red Sox and hasn’t played in the A.L. since 2005 (with Texas). He will have to adjust back to the pitching in the American League, but expect to see him do some damage; his swing is tailor-made for Fenway Park. Last year he hit 31 homers for San Diego, batted in 101 runs, and scored 87 times.
2nd base: Robinson Cano vs. Dustin Pedroia
The Yankees’ second baseman had arguably the best season of his career in 2010, setting career-highs in home runs (29) and RBIs (109). Robinson Cano came in third in the A.L. MVP voting and played in 160 games, showcasing his durability.
It’s safe to say Cano’s New York star is shining and he will continue to come into his own as a hitter this year. In 2010 on defense, he only committed three errors on the way to his first career Gold Glove.
Just as Cano was setting the Bronx on fire last season, Dustin Pedroia was igniting Beantown. That is until he fouled a ball off his left instep and was sent to the disabled list, ultimately ending his season. The night before he was injured, he went 5-for-5 and hit three home runs off the Colorado Rockies.
Pedroia ended the season with 75 games played, 12 homers, 41 RBIs, and an average of .288. He is bound to come back in the same form this year. On defense, Pedroia is one of the more solid second basemen in the A.L. He is always in the running for the Gold Glove Award and he already has captured one (in 2008).
In what could be a mini-storyline during the season, Pedroia made a recent comment about Cano, saying something along the lines of, “He’s become a (expletive) ballplayer.”
Cano should take that as a compliment. I would.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter vs. Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie
Ever since Nomar Garciaparra left Boston, it doesn’t seem as though the Red Sox have ever fully recovered at the shortstop position. They have had a parade of shortstops come in and out while none of them have really been mainstays. From Orlando Cabrera to Julio Lugo; now to Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie.
Combined last year, Scutaro and Lowrie hit 19 home runs and knocked in 80 runs. It’s possible they might be solution to Boston’s shortstop dilemma in recent years, at least in terms of their offense.
Their defense, however, is nowhere near perfect.
From the shortstop position last year, Scutaro and Lowrie combined for 19 errors, which by my math are 13 more than Derek Jeter, who only committed six errors last season en route to a Gold Glove.
Jeter’s offense last season wasn’t the best, though, as he hit a career-low .270 with 10 homers and 67 RBIs. He is hoping to return back to his normal BA of above .300. The Yankee Captain will also, in all likelihood, get his 3,000th career hit this year, as he is 74 base hits away from the milestone.
3rd Base: Alex Rodriguez vs. Kevin Youkilis
In 2004 Alex Rodriguez came to New York and was forced to make the transition from shortstop to third base. Under the tutelage of former Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles, Rodriguez has become one of the better third basemen in the A.L., although he has never won a Gold Glove.
Kevin Youkilis has played a total of 219 career games at third base, so he may not have to adjust to the position as A-Rod did. Simply put, he has been there before. However, Youkilis only played two games at third in 2010, which may or may not have an affect on him.
As far as offense goes both players are established hitters, although some critics contend that Rodriguez is on the “down-side” of his career. If 30 home runs and 125 RBIs (Rodriguez’s offensive numbers in 2010) is a “down year,” I’m sure A-Rod will take it.
Youkilis hit 19 home runs in 2010 with an average of .307 and 62 RBIs.
Catcher: Russell Martin/Jorge Posada/Jesus Montero/Austin Romine/Francisco Cervelli vs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek
I have heard it said that a catcher that can hit is a bonus.
Right now, it’s unknown who exactly will be the everyday catcher for the Yankees, but each of the candidates, whether they are on the MLB level or not, have proven that they can hit to some capacity.
Jorge Posada was named the everyday Designated Hitter, but there’s no doubt he will see some time behind the plate in what will most likely be his final year in pinstripes. Last season however, he showed that his defense is declining, as he only threw out 15 percent of base runners, allowing 72 stolen bases.
On offense last year Posada belted 18 homers and recorded 57 RBIs. His batting average was only .248, however.
A few weeks back Russell Martin admitted he “wasn’t 100 percent” but will be by the time camp breaks. Last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Martin hit five home runs with 26 RBIs. His batting average matched Posada’s, .248.
According to Hitting Coach Kevin Long, Jesus Montero is ready for the major leagues. Last season in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Montero smacked 21 home runs and had 75 RBIs. Austin Romine is almost right behind Montero, as he blasted 10 minor league homers last years and knocked in 69 runs.
These two young studs are likely going to duke it out for a spot on the roster during Spring Training, so it’s anyone’s spot to win.
Francisco Cervelli is basically the odd man out here. Last year he showed inefficiency behind and at the plate. In addition to allowing 55 steals from the catcher position, he didn’t hit any home runs and drove in only 38 runs with a .271 batting average in 93 games.
As of press time, the Yankee catching job is not yet locked down.
For the Red Sox, it looks as though Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be their everyday backstop, with Captain Jason Varitek behind him. Saltalamacchia hasn’t really had the chance to prove his worth yet, as he only played in 10 games for the Red Sox last season with not many stats to look at.
Varitek only batted .232 last year in just 39 games with seven home runs and 16 RBIs. Clearly, he is nearing the end of his career. But much like Jeter, he is a born leader and he brings experience and veteran know-how to the clubhouse. This spring he will most likely be teaching the Red Sox catching prospects a thing or two about calling a ballgame behind the plate.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And right now, it’s really no secret the Yankees are turning to desperate measures. As reported yesterday, the Yankees signed Bartolo Colon to a deal worth $900,000 plus incentives. According to Buster Olney, Colon pitched for Tony Pena’s team this winter, which may have played into the Yankees’ decision to sign him.
This signing caused a little bit of an uproar from Yankee fans and analysts. One source said, “Bartolo? Maybe he can be Alex Rodriguez’s personal batting practice pitcher. 22-for-51 lifetime with eight home runs.”
Colon is 14-21 with a 5.18 ERA since 2005. His signing puts him in line with Mark Prior, another starting pitcher the Yanks acquired with a history of injuries. The Yanks inked Prior to a minor league deal this off-season and to my best estimate would be a bullpen pitcher, if he is healthy and makes the team.
On the edition of Yankees Hot Stove I watched tonight, the starting rotation and lineup for 2011 were both projected. As far as the rotation goes, the YES Network has CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and Sergio Mitre penciled in as the five starters.
Nova in 2010 was 1-2 with a 4.70 ERA. He allowed 21 earned runs in 42 innings, which doesn’t seem bad. He also hasn’t really had the opportunity to showcase his stuff, but for some reason he doesn’t excite me. Nova will get the chance next year to show what he’s got.
I just hope that he doesn’t become another Ian Kennedy or Darrell Rasner.
Mitre was 0-3 in 2010 with an ERA of 3.33 in 27 appearances. Since becoming a Yankee, Mitre has only three wins under his belt and hasn’t been very effective, to say the least. The only start of note Mitre made was in August of 2009 against the White Sox when he took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. Eventually he ended the outing with 6 1/3 scoreless innings recorded with one hit allowed.
Aside from that outing, Mitre hasn’t done much to benefit the team.
The Yankees have now made several moves in terms of signing free agents. But judging by tonight’s Yankee hot stove report, they will be turning to the Minor Leagues this year. It seems as though they have a few youngsters who will be looking to make the team and from their own words, the Bronx is where they want to be come March 31 when the Yanks open up at home against Detroit.
Since we already know the so-called “Baby Bombers” might get a taste of the show this year, I have singled out five top Yankee prospects that we could see in the Bronx this season–and others we will surely see in the near future. Some of them may have to wait a few more years; others may get the call to the show in ’11.
Nonetheless, we’ll undoubtedly see each of them in Spring Training at the end of next month.
5) Cito Culver
He is a player I do not expect to see in the Bronx in 2011. However, we could be looking at the heir apparent to Derek Jeter’s shortstop throne.
I saw Cito Culver play this summer. The Hudson Valley Renegades, the Minor League affiliate of the Rays (and a team I interned for this past summer), played the Staten Island Yankees a few times, as both teams are in the McNamara Division of the New York Penn League. With that I was able to watch him play, but the only game he played in: 0-for-2 with a walk.
Not much to look at there.
Culver, who will be 19 this August, has played in 56 games since getting drafted in June of last season–51 with the Gulf Coast Yankees and 15 with the Staten Island Yankees. So far in his young career he has a .251 batting average and has only hit two home runs with 18 RBIs. He has shown ability to hit the ball in the gap, as he has legged out eight doubles and a triple over that span.
He is very young and is a work in progress. But by the time Jeter’s contract expires in 2014, Culver might be developed enough to succeed him. Culver will still be in his early 20s while Jeter will be in his early 40s.
If I were the Yankees I would start getting him ready now. If they play Culver wisely, he produces, and he doesn’t he injured, he can potentially be the next long-term Yankee shortstop. From the scouting reports I have read, he has great bat speed for a kid his age and can play above average on defense.
4) Manuel Banuelos
The majors in 2011? Maybe. Maybe not. Right now, I am thinking not.
Left-handed pitcher Manuel Banuelos is going to be 20 years old on March 13 and has risen through the ranks of the Yankees’ Minor League system. He has been down on the Yankees’ farm since 2008 and had his best season in 2009.
For the Tampa Yankees and Charleston River Dogs in ’09, Banuelos compiled a 9-5 record with a 2.64 ERA, making 19 starts and 26 appearances. In three Minor League seasons, he is 13-10 with an ERA of 2.59 which includes 37 starts and 215 2/3 innings.
An upside about Banuelos: he seems to be a strikeout machine while not allowing as many free passes. In the 215 2/3 innings he has logged in the minors, he has sat down 228 batters on strikes–only issuing 66 career walks.
228:66 strikeout-to-walk ratio: not bad.
Banuelos has only been up to the Double-A level, pitching three games in Trenton last year. He will have to prove himself worthy again with a tough 2010 (0-4 overall with a 2.51 ERA coming off his solid ’09 campaign) but expect good things from him in the future.
If he has a great bounce back year, he may be a September call-up. A scouting report said he features a smooth, easy delivery and he demonstrates the ability to repeat it. They say he throws a devastating 12-6 curve ball. His fastball has been clocked at 94 on the speed gun and shows tailing action on right-handed batters.
The same report compared him to Johan Santana.
3) Dellin Betances
The Show in ’11? Yes. I can see him there.
I think what benefits the 6’8, 245-lb. right-handed starting pitcher is his age. Dellin Betances will be 23 by the time the 2011 season begins, unlike most of his comrades who are still in their late teens. Betances has been in the Yanks’ system since 2006 and has put together a career Minor League record of 20-14.
He has registered 349 strikeouts over that span, but has walked 135 batters. He has given up less than a run per inning, as he has thrown 299 2/3 innings for his career and has given up 134 runs.
One of his downsides is the fact that he has had reconstructive surgery, which was apparently a ligament reinforcement procedure. His surgery may have been what has stopped him from making it all the way to the majors this early in his career.
Scouting reports indicate Betances exhibits a fastball, a curve ball, and a changeup. His fastball has been gunned at 96-97 and he has the ability to pound the strike zone with it. From what they say, he starts most hitters off with his fastball and eventually finishes them off with it, using it as an out pitch.
His curve ball is said to stay down in the zone and he does not overuse it. The changeup is about 82-85 mph and if he can obtain better command of it, it will become faster over time.
Betances has the ability to be an ace. Look out for him. With the lack of starting pitching this year, he may finally get his chance to show Yankee Universe what he has got. I think it will all depend on how he performs this spring.
2) Austin Romine
Not only will he probably make a big league appearance this year, he has the possibility to make the team out of Spring Training.
Austin Romine, 22, was the Yankees’ second-best prospect in 2010 according to Baseball America. Drafted in 2007, Romine has been a solid catcher down on the Bomber farm. In 2007 he played one game for the Gulf Coast Yankees and had one hit, a walk, and two runs scored in that game.
From there on out, he has had at least 10 home runs in every season he has played and through four Minor League seasons, he has batted in 191 runs. He has played as high as Double-A Trenton and his overall batting average is .281. He also won the 2009 Florida State League Player of the Year Award and participated in the 2010 Futures Game.
Scouting reports say he is a well-rounded catcher, but his defense is a hair above his offense. They say his arm strength is very good and it will probably get better as he develops. What’s more, he is a gap hitter with 84 career doubles and four career triples.
“Expect those extra base hits to turn into home runs as he fills in his 6’1, 195-lb. frame,” one report suggested.
Romine said he hopes it comes down to the wire in Spring Training in terms of making the team. He would like to do battle for the final roster spot with…
1) Jesus Montero
The Yankees’ number one top prospect and the fifth best prospect in all of baseball.
The cream of the crop. The sure thing? Perhaps.
Catcher Jesus Montero, 21, has already been declared ready for the majors by Yankee Hitting Coach Kevin Long. However, his defense is what has kept him down. His height (6’4) is what apparently makes him not a viable catcher. Some have even suggested that he switch positions, moving to first base or a corner outfield position.
While that remains to be seen, he has demonstrated stellar offensive numbers. In 380 career Minor League games he has recorded 449 hits with 58 homers and 251 RBIs. Last season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he averaged .289 with 21 home runs (a career-high) and 75 RBIs.
Montero obviously has it right on offense. A source called him the Yanks’ best hitting prospect since Jeter–that’s something that cannot be taken too lightly.
One scouting report said he is expected to eventually average .300 with 30 homers a year.
The Yankees have signed Russell Martin this off-season, which gives them the chance to continue to mold Montero on defense. I suppose they can try him out at different positions during the spring if his defense at the catcher spot is a major concern and will keep him down.
Either way, expect big things from him. And soon.
Last night, several memories from October of 2006 came back to me. That was a month which started off nicely and ended terribly. The Yankees had made the postseason after convincingly winning the American League East and were the favorites to win the World Series.
The Detroit Tigers dashed the Yanks’ dreams of winning the fall classic by eliminating them in the ALDS. What’s more, by the end of the month, my girlfriend broke up with me. Needless to say, in more ways than one, my spirit was overwhelmed within me; my heart was broken.
Minus the girlfriend issue, the same defeated feeling enveloped me after last night’s 6-1 loss.
The Yanks will not go back to the World Series to defend their crown and the Texas Rangers will represent the American League in the fall classic. Texas will face either the San Francisco Giants or the Philadelphia Phillies, pending the outcome of the NLCS.
28 will have to wait. Until next year, at the very least.
A number of things went wrong for the Yankees in the ALCS and there are plenty of things to consider heading into the off-season.
The ALCS: WHAT IN THE WORLD HAPPENED?!
I’ll start with the obvious: Phil Hughes.
In the division series against the Twins, Hughes started Game Three and he was an absolute stud. The young righty shut the Twins down in seven scoreless innings of work and picked up the win in the clinching game.
When I heard Hughes was starting Game Two of the ALCS vs. Texas, I was confident. Knowing Hughes’s past against the Rangers and taking into account that he won 18 games during the regular season, I had a great feeling about his chances. After Game Five, I had said that Hughes possessed the ability to bounce back after a rough outing, and he usually did during the regular season.
Although those feelings were well-founded, it did not translate to anything good.
Hughes pitched 8 2/3 innings over his two ALCS starts and coughed up a total of 11 earned runs on 14 hits. He walked seven batters and struck out six, becoming a huge part of why the Yankees lost this series. He did not give the Yankees quality, he did not give the Yankees a chance to win the two games he started, and he put the Yankees in a tough spot heading into Game Three.
In both games Hughes started in the ALCS, he registered the loss.
If Hughes had been able to win Game Two, with the Yankees going into a Game Three vs. Jesus Christ A.K.A. Cliff Lee, things could have been quite different. Every news outlet had the Yankees defeated in Game Three at the hands of Lee, and unfortunately for the Yanks it came to fruition.
And speaking of Lee, he was another vital part of the Yankees’ failure to win the pennant.
In Game Three, Lee simply dominated. He made the Yankees look like Little Leaguers and his numbers this postseason (vs. Tampa Bay and New York) are absoluteLEE ridiculous.
· 24 innings pitched
· 13 hits
· Two runs (both earned)
· One home run allowed
· One walk allowed
· 34 strikeouts
· Record of 3-0
· ERA of 0.75
Lee was plugged into the number three spot in the Rangers’ rotation because he started the final game of the ALDS vs. Tampa Bay and could not take the hill in Game One. If the pitching matchups had gone accordingly (Lee vs. CC Sabathia, ace vs. ace) I suppose things could have been different–not saying they would have, but who knows.
The Yankees would have had to face Lee tonight of they had gotten past the Rangers last night. I have a feeling now that it would not have gone well for the Bronx Bombers, but as I stated, anything can happen in a Game Seven. Would the Yanks finally have been able to get to Lee and finally remove him as thorn in their side?
Who’s to say what could have been. I guess it makes no difference now.
Another reason they were done for was the inconsistency in the offense. Save for their 7-2 Game Five win, when runners were in scoring position, the Yankee bats turned into ghosts. They could not get it done when runners were on second and third.
Prime example: Game Three. Brett Gardner led off with a single. Derek Jeter struck out, but Gardner moved to second on a stolen base. Nick Swisher grounded out allowing Gardner to move to third. Finally Mark Teixeira came up and was set back down, ending the frame without a Yankee crossing the plate.
They were only down by two runs at that point. They could not build the run; could not even cut the lead in half. And that was just one issue.
The two key players that needed to be producing and igniting the bats were about as silent as a 1920s picture film. Teixeira (before the injury) and Alex Rodriguez were as off as they could be and could not come up with the big hit when the Yanks needed it.
Teixeira was 0-for-14 in the ALCS before the hamstring injury put him out for the remainder of the year.
Rodriguez hit .190 in the ALCS with no homers, two RBIs, three walks and four strikeouts.
No offense, no pennant.
Teixeira and Rodriguez are two huge bats in the Yankee lineup. When they are not coming up when it matters, the Yankees do not win games. The offense went dead cold at the absolute worst time to go dead cold and as a result, they did not win.
Along with the offense, the middle relief served no help. Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, Sergio Mitre, and David Robertson practically gave it up in the middle-to-late innings in close games, notably Games Three and Four. In Game Three the Yankees were trailing by two runs entering the top of the eighth inning.
Because of them, two runs turned into eight runs, making it impossible for the Yanks to even attempt to mount a comeback in the last two frames. The Yanks lost Game Three 8-0.
In Game Four, the Yankees were only down by two runs (5-3) going into the late innings. Logan and Chamberlain both surrendered earned runs and Mitre gave up three, once again not giving the offense a chance to come back from a deficit.
The Yankees lost Game Four 10-3.
One last factor I believe was pivotal in the Yankees’ ALCS loss was Manager Joe Girardi’s decision in Game Four. I am not going to say A.J. Burnett pitched a bad game; that could not be anything further from the truth. He made maybe one or two bad pitches (notably the Bengie Molina home run) but other than that he held his own very nicely; decent command of his pitches, nasty breaking ball, and a fastball up around 96-97 mph.
The Yankees were down two games to one. They had just been dominated by Lee and they were up against a pitcher who could easily be beaten in Tommy Hunter. Down by two games and in danger of going down 3-1 (which ultimately they did) I feel Girardi should have used CC Sabathia to get them back in the series.
Had Sabathia pitched Game Four, he would not have been on three days rest, but in actuality he would have been pitching on the fourth day of rest. I truly believe that had Sabathia started, pitched the way he usually does, and won Game Four, it would have gotten the Yanks’ morale back and things may have been different.
Burnett could have pitched Game Five on Wednesday afternoon and he probably could have won, especially if he had gone out and thrown the ball as well as he did in Game Four. Not to mention it would have given the Yankees a good chance to go up 3-2 on the way back to Arlington as opposed to down 3-2.
Again, who is to say if it would have been different. But I do know that if I were Girardi, I would have gone in a different direction down two games to one and going into Game Four. Using Sabathia on three days rest worked out perfectly in 2009.
If it worked then, why should it be any different now?
There were so many things not going the Yankees’ way; the Rangers had everything clicking for them. And for a team to win the World Series (let alone get to it) everything has to be going their way.
As for Next Year…
I expect a number of things to be different and the Yankees need to make a few decisions regarding some of their players.
· For one, Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez should not be welcomed back. If the front office so much as talks to either one of these two at the possibility of coming back, they need to have their heads examined.
· Marcus Thames. Do they want him to be the everyday designated hitter or would they rather have an All-Star in Lance Berkman? It’s a toughie. Thames hit 12 homers and came up in some big spots during the season. But aside from being a DH, Berkman can play the field and alleviate some pressure on Mark Teixeira at first base.
· Something needs to be done about the catching situation. As much as I love Francisco Cervelli, he has no power and struggles in terms of throwing runners out. Jesus Montero and/or Austin Romine in 2011? We’ll see how they do in Spring Training…
· Derek Jeter’s contract is up. The Yankees need to pay the captain and show him some respect. I would say give him four years with the option for a fifth and pay him well.
· Mariano Rivera said at the beginning of the year that he doesn’t know if he is going to pitch next year. I get the feeling he will (call it a hunch) but like Jeter his contract is up. The Yankees need to make him a respectable offer and get him back.
· Andy Pettitte will be 39 years old next June and a groin injury sidelined him for the better part of this past summer. His contract is also up, so it’s certainly up to him what he intends to do. If he wants to give it another try and re-sign with the Yanks, great. But if he wants to hang it up, that’s alright with me too. He’s done pretty darn well for himself over the years.
· If I were the Yankees I would definitely hold onto Kerry Wood. Unlike the majority of the bullpen, he pitched like a champ in the postseason. If Rivera signs back, he is the perfect man to set him up.
· Carl Crawford is a free agent. The Yankees need to decide whether or not Brett Gardner is the left fielder of the future or if they want a player with a little more power in Crawford (19 homers in 2010). I heard it said best earlier this year: “Gardner is almost like a cheaper version of Crawford.” Very true. If you want my opinion at the moment, Crawford no. Gardner yes.
· The manager. Along with Jeter, Rivera, and Pettitte, Joe Girardi’s contract is up. There has been some speculation as to whether or not he will come back to manage the Yankees and I have heard some chatter about the possibility of the Chicago Cubs wanting the Yankee skipper to manage them.
That speculation has me wondering, especially since the Cubs recently told Ryne Sandberg they do not want him to manage them. Are they waiting to negotiate with Girardi? I’m unsure. Kim Jones of the YES Network tweeted last night that she expects Girardi to return. She is more of an insider than me, so right now I believe her.
But then again, anything is possible when a lot of money is involved. If the Cubs make him the right offer, he might be leaving town. And the question is, if he does leave town who replaces him? I certainly have no answer to that question.
· The biggest free agent of them all: Cliff Lee. This past July, Lee was literally within hours of becoming a Yankee. The Yanks were ready to ship out minor leaguers and money to Seattle and land the dominate lefty, but it was not meant to be. Texas swiped him out from under the Yanks’ nose and as a result, he helped lead them past the Yankees to the pennant.
Next year Lee is a free agent and according to several insiders, Texas will never be able to pay him, especially if the Rangers win the title; if Texas wins it all, Lee’s value will steadily rise and all the big market teams including the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels will undoubtedly be out to get him.
If you want my insight as of right now, Lee will be in pinstripes in 2011. When the Yanks almost got him from Seattle this year, Lee and Sabathia’s wives were talking about where he might live in New York.
Plus from their Cleveland days, Sabathia and Lee are great friends. In fact when they squared off against one another in the ’09 World Series, they spent time with each other off the field. Just from that, I have a feeling Lee is headed for the big apple.
Derek Jeter usually says, “It’s a failed season if we (the Yankees) do not win the World Series.” The captain has the attitude of the late George Steinbrenner, and I know that somewhere in Heaven last night, the Boss had that disappointed look on his face; he was turning his head and throwing his hands outwardly as if to say, “The hell with this.”
I know that’s what I was doing.
I felt at the beginning of the season that a lot of the magic had left the team. I know Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera did not have the best years numerically this season (especially Cabrera) but they were all part of what made the 2009 Yankees so special.
While the yanks were getting beaten last night by a clearly better team in the Texas Rangers, I thought about Damon stealing two bases in one play and later scoring on an Alex Rodriguez double. I thought about Matsui single-handedly tearing apart the Phillies in Game Six of the World Series last season–an accomplishment worthy of the World Series MVP honor.
I even thought about Cabrera’s weak groundout that turned into an error in Game Two of the ’09 ALCS, in which Jerry Hairston came around and scored the winning run.
And then I wondered where that all magic went? It simply wasn’t inside the group of players known as the 2010 Yankees.
Yet it was inside the Texas Rangers and I tip my cap to them. I won’t act as a sore loser; I won’t be angry with them, they wanted it more. The magic that was in the 2009 Yankees is in the 2010 Rangers. Perhaps now they can do what the Yankees did last year; go into the fall classic and show the National League who rules the MLB.
In any event it was disappointing for every Yankee fan. We took a huge step forward last year, we seemed to be moving in the right direction but it was just halted at the hands of a hotter team.
Yet who knows what can happen next year. If the Yankees make the correct moves in the off-season, they will be the team to be beat. 2009 may serve as our modern day 1996, meaning:
The Yanks won it all in 1996. They lost it in 1997, only to go on a huge World Series winning streak in 1998, ’99, and ’00.
In 2009 the Yankees won the World Series, but came up short in 2010. Maybe 2011, 2012, and 2013 can be the next Yankee Dynasty.
At this time I’d like to extend a HUGE THANKS to everyone who read and kept up with Yankee Yapping this year. It was a fun season. I only wish it had turned out a little better in the end for our beloved Bronx Bombers.
The Yankee Yapping Facebook page is up to just over 730 “likes.” I hope it can grow a little more and maybe get up to 1,000 soon! Once again thanks for the support. This blog would be nothing without its loyal readers.
I’ll definitely be blogging during the off-season and over the winter while the hot stove cooks.
Just keep your heads up Yankee fans. And remember that we’ll always have 2009 and our 27 titles. It’s not the end of the world and the Yankees WILL be back on top in the future. It always happens.
Until then, GO YANKEES!!!