Reinforcements On The Way

Sean Henn and Edwar Ramirez have been recalled from Columbus with Karstens sent down and Brower DFA’ed.

After last night’s debacle, it was clear that Karstens wasn’t ready to pitch in the bigs again and Brower was still lousy. Getting rid of them is a plus. Henn probably becomes the longman in the pen right now and that leaves the question of what role does Ramriez fill?

Based on his 40 innings of work in Scranton where he struck out 69 with a 0.90 ERA, he should be in the mix for the late innings. But, in his first stint with the Yankees he pitched twice in three days and then was left to rot for two weeks. When he finally got into a game, he was destroyed by Tampa. Why Joe didn’t use him more is hard to understand, but that is going to have to change now.

With the “Joba Rules” stating that Chamberlain never pitches on consecutive days (Joe said yesterday that is “set in stone”) there are a lot of bullpen innings that need to be filled. On days when the Yankees need someone to pitch in the seventh and Chamberlain isn’t available, it will have to be Ramirez unless the team suddenly decides to trust Farnsworth (not recommending that) Vizcaino can pitch the 8th and Rivera the 9th in that scenario.

The real key to this bullpen remains the same, getting rid of Farnsworth. The New York Post reported that he went got through waivers (no surprise there) so he can be traded at any point. Yes, the Yankees might have to eat some money, but unlike the Igawa situation (BTW- the Yankees pulled him back yesterday) Farnsworth is hurting the team while Igawa is stashed in the minors. Cashman needs to hold his nose, admit his mistake and make the best deal he can. Then, get Chris Britton or Russ Ohlendorf up to the Bronx to fill his spot. Then you have Henn and Villone as your long guys, Vizcanio and Joba for the 8th and Ramirez and Britton or Ohlendorf for the 7th and 8th as needed. The Yankees need more flexibility in the bullpen and getting rid of Farnsworth would provide them with that.

Of course, Ramirez has to prove he can pitch here as well. That is still an unknown, but we will never find out unless Joe starts using him.

Back after the game.

UPDATE: Brower has been optioned back to Scranton because he agreed to an option when he signed with the Yankees. I guess he is insurance in Scranton, but I hope Britton is the next guy called up if they need someone.

It’s About Time

The Red Sox are now, get this, 2-41 when trailing entering the 8th inning.  Talk about clutch.  Clutch baby!

With the Red Sox down 1-0 entering the 9th, Mike Lowell tied the game with a solo shot and Coco Crisp delivered Jason Varitek from 2nd a few batters later to pull out the come from behind win.  Their 2nd 8th inning or later come back this year.  Yippee.

This was a good win and hopefully one that will jog the collective memory of this team.  Specifically that they used to be very good (i.e. in April and May).

Jonathan Lester was outstanding pitching 7 innings of 1 run ball.  It’s just one start, but it had to give him a confidence boost.

While this was a good win, the Red Sox did only score 2 runs.  J.D. Drew has been a non-factor of late…er…all season and with Manny and Ortiz not producing like years past, the Red Sox are very lucky the pitching has been so good.  If the Red Sox had last year’s pitching staff, this would probably be a disaster season.  I’m now convinced the Red Sox should have given up Wily Mo Pena and either Manny Delcarmen or Justin Masterson to get Jermaine Dye.  Since the trading deadline, Dye has gone: .351/.442/.838 (1.280 OPS) with 5 HR’s, 11 runs and 10 RBI.  Imagine if the Red Sox had plugged Dye into J.D. Drew’s spot.  Drew since the deadline:  .394/.474/.545 (1.019 OPS).  Not bad you say?  Check out his production, 5 runs, 0 HRs and 4 RBI.

There’s no point in complaining as the waiver trade deadline isn’t likely to help the Red Sox much and once Pena is dealt and Bobby Kielty promoted, this team won’t be much different.  Let’s hope the offense, specifically Drew, Ortiz and Manny, only our 3-4-5 hitters, figure out their respective issues.

More Tampa Bay tomorrow and then an off-day Thursday.

Goodbye Scooter

Phil Rizzuto died today at 89. While I was much too young to ever have seen him play, Scooter was the voice of the Yankees when I was growing up. Whether it was talking about cannolis, or complaining about traffic on the GW, Rizzuto always was entertaining. From Seinfeld to Meat Loaf, his famous “Holy Cow” became know to millions outside of New York. I only hope they got a chance to hear the real thing, it was a treat.

Quite The Weekend

Six games into the critical stretch of the season and the Yankees are 5-1. They are now 15 games above .500 and tied for the wild card. Oh yes, they are only four games in back of the Red Sox, but it is still silly to talk about that because the math while better is still ugly. (Red Sox play at current clip of .600 Yankees have to go 31-14 to tie. My advice, focus on the wild card).

As positive as things look right now, in some ways a stricter test is coming up Monday. Cleveland ran out two bad pitchers against the New York lineup, Baltimore won’t do that. Jermey Guthrie and Erik Bedard have ERA’s of 3.22 and 3.11. Daniel Cabrera, while sporting a 5.14 ERA for the year, still has managed 122 K’s and has electric, if erratic stuff.

This will be very interesting to watch and while many would look at the schedule and expect an easy series, I wouldn’t do that. Things are good right now and it will be interesting to see if the incredible offense continues against two very good pitchers.

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The news that Kei Igawa has been claimed by San Diego and could be traded to them has prompted a lot of cheers in the Bronx. After all, with all the young pitching, why do we need Igawa?

Count me in among the crowd that doesn’t want to see Igawa pitching in a Yankees’ uniform anytime soon, but you simply can’t give him away. The Yankees spent $46 million on him and $26 of that is a sunk cost. No team is going to eat that big a chunk of money without something to show for it. Whatever team gets Igawa will have the next 4+ years to try and fix him and only have to pay $4-million in the process. As much as I want him gone, I would rather let him try and get things back together in AAA instead of giving him away for a song.

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One thing that the Yankees have to do is resolve the Farnsworth situation. Yesterday, Joe Torre had the following options for the 8th inning: Vizcaino, Rivera, Farnsworth and Villone. Chamberlain was out because he had pitched two innings Friday. (The Joba rules state that he gets the same number of days off as innings pitched, so two innings of use=two days off) Brower was with his wife who just gave birth. Karstens is being saved to start tomorrow, which means four guys were left and Joe trusts two of them. Protecting Chamberlain is vital, but it would be easier to do if the Yankees had someone else to pitch the seventh or eighth. Obviously, Kyle is never going to be that guy again in Joe’s eyes, so get someone who could possibly fill that role.

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Last but no least, as good as the offense has been, Andy Phillips is not pulling his weight in the lineup, if they won’t let Giambi or Damon play first, how about unchaining Shelley Duncan from the bench? The guy has five home runs in 35 AB’s, shouldn’t we see some more of him?

Say Hey Clay?

With the Red Sox playing a doubleheader Friday, there is some speculation that Terry Francona will not pitch Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling on the same day because it would force one of them to pitch next week on only 3 days rest.  With that in mind, we might see Clay Buchholz get the call.

I have mixed feelings on this one.  Buchholz has impressed at every level he has played, but with only 30.1 IP at AAA, is it too soon to call him up?  I think so.  My preference would be to have him finish the year starting at AAA and then get a late season call-up to watch the big league club, not pitch for them.  That’ll give him some food for thought in the off-season and the Red Sox can give him a legitimate change to make the rotation in 2008.  Buchholz has been good at AAA, but not dominating like he was at A and AA.  He has some growing left to do and I like to the the Red Sox are going to let him do that in Pawtucket.

On another note, Peter pointed out to me that the Red Sox (and all MLB teams) have until Tuesday night to sign their draft picks or else the un-signed picks do back into next year’s draft.  They have not reached terms with 5 of their first 10 picks.

Peter Gammons reports that the commissioner’s office is putting pressure on teams to sign their picks at their "pre-set" slot price.  Problem is, the CBA has no such language and any slot a player fits into would be purely a number the commissioner’s office came up with themselves.  As Gammons points out, the Yankees most likely have deals in place about the slot for most of their top picks.  If the Yankees sign all of their guys, shouldn’t Boston?  Come on now, we all want what’s best for baseball, but some of us want what’s best for Boston.

Sign those picks!

Where’s the Spark?

I’m not sure I can put my finger on when it happened but the Red Sox have completely lost their fire.  There just don’t seem to be capable of coming back late in games.  The only recent exception was Friday night when the Sox plated 5 in the 8th only to give up 4 in the bottom of the 8th and 1 in the 9th to lose it.

Where is David Ortiz?  What gives?  Where is Manny Ramirez when it counts?  I’m not claiming originality with this idea as I think the Boston Globe recently made reference to the success of Ortiz and Ramirez when it is "late and close" in a game.  Late and close is when the game is in the 7th inning or later and your team is ahead by one, tied or the winning run is on deck, at the plate or on base.

2007:

Ortiz: .269/.367/.385.  How HRs?  0.  None.  Zip.

Manny:  .157/.283/.294 with 2 HRs.

2006:

Ortiz:  .314/.443/.756 with 11 HRs.

Manny:  .262/.459/.525 with 4 HRs.

Career:

Ortiz:  .295/.386/.595 with 40 HRs in 665 plate appearances.

Manny:  .274/.409/.486 with 48 HRs in 935 plate appearances.

Now Manny has never performed up to his career averages in "Late and Close," but Ortiz has.  So what’s up with these guys?  Ortiz has been a total disaster when he is needed most.  His 2006 was the essence of perfection when it counted most, but 2007 has been the polar opposite.

We can’t put the blame entirely on Ortiz.  Scoring runs early in the game is important too.  The worst part about the Red Sox is watching them get runners on only to seem the stranded at a rate I cannot remember.  It makes me think about 2004 when the Red Sox were scuffling along and in late July, the infamous ARod vs. Varitek brawl took place.  That lit a fire under their collective arse.  One that carried them to the World Series.

That leaves us with the question of what it will take to shake them out of this coma.  A brawl, a trade (not much hope of that), a major benching action?  Your guess is as good as mine.  If the clubhouse chemistry is as good as we’ve heard, these guys should be able to figure it out.  Terry Francona and Theo Epstein better know what they have in these guys or else they might lounge there way out of the AL East lead.

ROI – Negative Returns

The Red Sox return on investment with Eric Gagne has been negative…like John Henry’s hedge funds.  Boston gave up 3 players and paid a hefty bonus to Gagne (and his agent Scott Boras) thinking he’d be a shutdown pitcher.  Here is his Red Sox game log thus far:

Aug 2 – 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K

Aug 4 – 1.0 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

Aug 8 – 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

Aug 10 – .1 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

Gagne imploded Friday night ruining what had been a very impressive late game rally.  Gagne certainly doesn’t throw as hard as he used to and his K’s per 9 are quite a bit lower than in his prime (i.e. before arm problems).  With all of this in mind, Gagne probably has struggled most with the idea of not being a closer anymore.  They say closers can struggle with non-save situations and Gagne has been placed in 4 straight non-save situations since the Red Sox acquired him.

Gagne absolutely has to figure out how to excel in his 8th inning role or else this trade will end up being a stinker.  I assume Gagne will figure things out, but it was disappointing to see him blow the lead Friday.  On a more positive note, don’t forget the Red Sox will most likely receive 2 first round picks when Gagne signs a long-term deal elsewhere in the off-season as there is not chance he’ll stick around being a closer and all.

No Blood

Would a sweep have been nice? Absolutely, it would have, but let’s not get too upset by the drubbing the Yankees took last night. Yes, losing that badly is never fun and when Kyle Farnsworth is the night’s most effective pitcher, you have really stunk it up, but the fact remains the Yankees won the series. That’s really all you can ask for.

As an added bonus, Cleveland and Detroit lost. Yes, Seattle won, but the Mariners are playing over the head (expected winning percentage right now is 56-55) and I don’t see them in the mix at the end of the year. No, I think this race boils down to the Yankees, Tigers and Cleveland fighting it out for two playoff spots. (Note, despite any worries in Boston, I just don’t see the Red Sox losing seven more games than the Yankees over the final 48. Not to say it can’t happen, but I wouldn’t put any money on it)

If you want to handicap the race, I think you have to give a slight edge to Detroit. Of the three squads, they have the most home games, (28 out of 49) and play the easiest schedule (opponenets have a .503 winning percentage). The Indians will be on the road a lot (27 of their remaining 48 games) and also have opponents with a .503 winning percentage. As for the Yankees, they have 25 of their last 48 on the road and face a .511 winning percentage. The big thing in the Yankees’ favor is that Detroit and Cleveland faceoff eight more times. Ideally, you want one of the teams to take six of those eight.

But, as Tim pointed out in the comments section, this is the key stretch for New York. From now until the end of August the Yankees play @Cleveland three times, Baltimore three, Detroit four, @Anaheim three, @Detroit four and then host Boston for three. 20 games over 21 days that will most likely determine the fate of the season. If the Yankees can get through this stretch at .500 or above, they should be in great position to feast on a September schedule that is much easier.

Phil Hughes starts it off tomorrow night in Cleveland.

Bullpen Assist

After losing the first two in Anaheim, the Red Sox bounced back thanks to a solid offense and a bullpen that all but closed the door.  That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?  You trade for Eric Gagne and with the help of Hideki Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon, they keep Anaheim off the scoresheet for 3.1 innings (Mike Timlin was effective too making it 4.2 IP).

Boston has a much needed day off today, something that will help both players and fans alike as these 10pm starts are brutal.  They start a weekend series in Baltimore on Friday.

One major concern has been the performance of Jon Lester.  Lester has allowed 4, 4 and 5 earned runs in his last 3 starts.  His ERA stands at 6.43 and his whip at 1.71.  Lester had a bad tendency last year to miss the strike zone thus raising his pitch count prematurely and leading to bad results.  He eventually picked himself up and figure things out.  After pitching a solid 2007 debut, Lester has gone back to his early 2006 struggles.  Boston has a tough call on this one as if Lester doesn’t figure it out, who do they turn to?  Julian Tavarez?  David Pauley?  Clay Buchholz?

Lester probably deserves 2-3 more starts to figure things out.

Some notes on the farm:  Justin Masterson won AA player of the month in Portland.  In 6 starts for Portland he has gone 4-0 with 45 K’s in 39 IP yielding a 1.38 ERA and a 0.72 whip.  Not bad.  Masterson struggled at High-A ball in Lancaster CA, but from what I can tell, that league is a hitters haven and both offense and pitching stats can be deceiving.

Clay Buchholz has also performed nicely at AAA Pawtucket.  39 K’s in 25.1 IP with a 3.20 ERA.  He is 0-1 in 5 starts.  His 5 IP per game are the reason he is not getting decisions.  He is probably being held to 5 per start so they can save him for use later in the year (perhaps in Boston) what with the Red Sox holding all of their pitchers to strict innings pitched limits.

As for the prospects of any power at AAA, don’t hold your breath.  There seems to be a shortage of offensive help at Pawtucket.  With their season 80%, the leading home run hitter at Pawtucket is Jeff Bailey.  But he only has a .429 SLG%.  At AA Portland, things aren’t any better, in fact they are worse.  At High-A Lancaster, there is plenty of power where 1b Aaron Bates has 24 HR’s and OF Bubba Bell has 22 HRs, but most of that is probably a function of where they play.

A good indication that Lancaster (and not so much the California League) is a hitters haven, the Lancaster Jethawks, the Red Sox affiliate, have the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th best hitters in the league (measured by batting average).  Wow.  I don’t think it is a good idea for Boston to send any pitchers of importance to Lancaster as it might permanently kill their confidence.

No A-Rod Tonight

Tonight’s lineup is as follows:

Cabrera CF
Jeter SS
Abreu RF
Posada C
Matsui LF
Giambi DH
Cano 2B
Betemit 3B
Phillips 1B

Should be interesting to see the pitching duel between Wang and Halliday.