No Melk Delivery

So the rosters expand in 13 minutes and the Yankees plan on adding a total of two players.  Not only that, but the two guys they are adding (Coke and Moeller) are not currently on the 40-man roster.

Melky Cabrera is remaining in AAA.  That is not a vote of confidence and tells you that the Yankees have basically moved on from the idea of Melky as a regular.  The interesting thing to watch from here on out is if they let Gardner play.  7 back, 26 to play, why wouldn’t they? 

You Can’t Do That

The loss was bad enough today, but this story really bugs me.  Cano has been terrible this year and that was another half-assed play in a season with too many of those from him.  But, to not stick around and face reporters makes it even worse. 

Girardi needs to put an end to this and get in this kids’ face.  I would bench him tomorrow and make sure everyone knows why you are benching him.  It’s pathetic to say, but Cano obviously needs a babysitter like Larry Bowa harping at him, the Yankees need to find someone for that role next season.   

Up and Down

News abounds for the Red Sox.  First off and most importantly, Josh Beckett’s visit with Dr. James Andrews resulted in the righty being diagnosed with a strained right elbow.  No damage, just a strain.  The Red Sox were so pleased with the results that they have him scheduled to start this Tuesday but not before placing him on the DL retroactive to August 18th.

Also, Sean Casey was put on the DL retroactive to August 20th, Michael Bowden was called up from Pawtucket to make his major league debut today, Julio Lugo was transferred from the 15 day DL to the 60 day DL which usually means a player is done for the year and catcher  David Ross was brought up to Boston as well.

The Ross transaction is puzzling as he could have been brought up when roster expanded, but I guess they wanted him eligible for post-season play.  Kevin Cash, watch out.

So keeping tabs on the 25-man roster was a challenge on Friday.

Back to Beckett, obviously the news is great, but there must still be some doubt in his mind if the elbow doesn’t feel right.  Hopefully he is a go for Tuesday.

How Many Can He Get?

Joba is coming back to the Yankees this week and the big question is how many innings can he throw between now and the end of the season?  The Yankees are going to bring him back as a reliever and build him back up the same way they did back in May/June.  The problem is, they have less than a month to do it.

Joba has thrown 89 innings so far and the Yankees need to get him as many innings as they can over the remaining weeks of the season.  Realistically, I think it is going to be hard to get him more than 25 innings and that is being very aggressive.  That would leave him at right around 115 for the season and probably mean that Joba is going to have an innings cap of 145 next season.  

Add in the fact that Phil Hughes has thrown a total of 51 innings this season and Ian Kennedy 109 and you basically start 2009 in the same place you did 2008- three young pitchers with innings limits.  The Yankees could send one or all of them to the Arizona League, but would they risk that with these arms?  I’m not sure what the right answer is here, but it is something to keep a close eye on over the last few weeks of the year. 

Oh No

Josh Beckett, originally scheduled to start Friday night, has been scratched and will instead visit Dr. James Andrews ESPN is reporting.

Andrew’s name is so closely linked with Tommy John surgery that any mention of him sends chills down my spine.

Theo Epstein was quoted as saying that ‘though the numbness in Beckett’s fingers has subsided, the elbow "doesn’t fell 100 percent."

According to Francona, "I think the best word I can use is we’re just trying to get some closure.  We never want to send anyone out there that’s not 100 percent. We’re no more pessimistic about him today than we were, but when he goes out there we want him to be able to pitch with peace of mind."

Just visiting Andrews requires that the Red Sox get ready for a playoff push without Josh Beckett.  Not a good scenario by any means.

The optimist in me says that the Red Sox having been winning without Beckett’s "A" game this year and have done well in his recent absence, but the realist in me says sure the Red Sox can win without him, but the job gets much harder.

The Red Sox have piled up the injuries this year with 3 regulars currently on the DL (Lowell, Drew and Lugo) and their ace looking for answers.

If That Was It…

What a great way to end the Yankees-Red Sox series at the Stadium.  Babe Ruth got things started, Jason Giambi finished them. Once again, a big hand to MLB who scheduled Boston-New York at Fenway for the last weekend of the season.  Nice work fellas!

Hank Nails It

You have probably read the quote ("they sucked") but Newsday has a video of Hank giving his evaluation of the Yankees last night.  You can’t say he is wrong, this train is going off the rails fast and while there is still hope mathematically, that’s about all there is. 

Consider that with last night’s loss the Yankees fell seven games behind Boston in the wild card with 30 to play (they are also 4-1/2 behind the Twins).  If Boston plays .500 ball the rest of the way, the Yankees need to go 22-8 to tie them.  That’s possible, just highly unlikely.  So, the Yankees need to think about 2009 and there are a lot of big, big questions that need to be answered. 

First and foremost is who will be part of the rotation in ’09? I will assume Joba and Wang are back and healthy, but Pettitte and Mussina are free agents.  It’s time to bring Kennedy and Hughes back to the majors and let them have some on the job training.  The games are essentially meaningless and the Yankees need to know if they can count on either of these guys for next year.

Next on the list is who will play center in 09?  It’s time for a daily dose of Gardener, he should play every game the rest of the way and we should see if he can handle the position.

How about the bullpen?  Let’s take the kids and put them in tight situations and see what happens.  Maybe they will blow up like last night, but we need to maximize their opportunities.

Biggest on the to do list has to be waivers.  Some of the Yankees’ big contract players might have value for a team still in the pennant race.  Passing a guy like Giambi through waivers and seeing if you can trade him for something of value makes sense at this point.  If you can’t hold onto him and take the draft picks, but at least find out.

This will be a weird September for some, anyone who was born after 1988 or so probably never remembers an October without the Yankees.  Those of us a little longer in the tooth remember plenty.  Speaking from experience, it isn’t fun.  The teams of the 1980’s prolonged their postseason drought by never planning for the future, this team can avoid that mistake. 

The Last Stand

I am not one of the many who believed the Yankees had to sweep Boston this series to stay in the playoff hunt.  But, losing the series would eliminate them in my mind.  So, I definitely count the next two games as "must wins"  Yes, even if they do that, four games back with less than 30 to play is a lot to overcome, but it is possible. 

One interesting thing to keep an eye on is Sunday.  The 31st is the last day teams can trade players and put them on postseason rosters.  I found this little nugget burried in the bottom of this article, the Yankees have not put any of their "significant" players through waivers yet.  If they lose another game to Boston I would expect that to change.  I will leave it at that for now until we see what happens on the field. 

Good Stuff

Thanks to blmeanie for this link.  Blmeanie gave us this site which is a hoot.  This guy does some hysterical impressions of Red Sox batters.  He actually has all teams covered and you can find them on his site.

The Youkilis impression had me struggling for breath.  Good stuff.

Oh yeah, Peter Gammons, via ESPN, is reporting that the Red Sox are working on a deal to acquire Mark Kotsay.  Kotsay is nothing special with the bat (.752 career OPS), but he does play good defense and is needed with J.D. Drew going on the DL today with a strained lower back as a result of a herniated disc (previously diagnosed).

A Kotsay deal reminds me of the Bobby Kielty signing last year.  Let’s hope he too can hit a game deciding home run in game 4 of the World Series.  By the way, Kielty never made it back to the Majors this year having struggled in the minors.

Anyway, The Fielding Bible by John Dewan, says about Kotsay, "Kotsay covers a good amount of ground in center field.  He combines good range with good reads on the ball, good routes and a strong, accurate arm.  His 18 baserunner kills over the past 3 years (2003 – 2005) is second only to Jim Edmonds in center field in that time period."

So a defensive bench player.  My question, if Coco Crisp is also good defensively (with the glove, not with the arm), what gives?  If Drew comes back is Crisp or Kotsay a goner?  Kotsay has hit better than Crisp.  But, Crisp has another year left at $5.25mm or so.

Interesting development.  Anyway, enjoy the batting stances.  Mo Vaughn was great too.  Also, glad to hear Yaz is back home after triple bypass surgery.  Be well number 8.

Last Call

The Red Sox open a 3 game set in New York tonight marking their last ever regular season visit to Yankee Stadium.

Of course it would have made far more sense to have flip-flopped the locations of the last 2 series meetings between Boston and New York (the 2008 regular season ends with New York at Boston), but some schedule maker was asleep at the wheel on that one.  No matter, we can all expect a barrage of images and memories of all the great games played between these two teams at Yankee Stadium.

Ok, enough on nostalgia, let’s talk baseball.

If the Red Sox want to hang on to their 1.5 game lead in the Wild Card, the starting pitching has to come around and get healthy.  Josh Beckett is hurt, Tim Wakefield is hurt, Clay Buchholz was banished to Caribou Maine, Daisuke Matsuzaka remains quite painful to watch while winning, Paul Byrd is doing what he always does (allowing plenty of base runners) and Jon Lester has been good.

As we head down the stretch, I feel comfortable with Lester, Matsuzaka and Byrd.  I say this only because those are the only health starters Boston has.  I’m worried about Beckett as any kind of tingling in the  hand makes me think of Tommy John.  Buchholz is no longer an option in 2008 and Wakefield had to miss a big chunk of the 2007 playoffs with the same injury he is battling now.

Not a good place to be in.  Bartolo Colon is doing well in his minor league rehab and should be an option in 7-10 days, but if the Red Sox want to lock down a post-season spot, they need Beckett healthy.

Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Wakefield sounds much better than Lester, Matsuzaka, Bryd, Colon if the post-season were to start today.

As you’d expect, with these injuries creeping in, the Red Sox pitching has not been good over the past 28 days posting a 5.00 ERA, yet still going 14-10.  Over the past 14 days a 6.25 ERA, but 8-4 and over the past week, 6.00 ERA yet 4-2.  So while the pitching is not good, the offense is.  28 days, .283/.367/.462.  14 days, .297/.383/.507 and over the past week, .275/.361/.477.

A big contributor to the offense has been Jason Bay.  Since being acquired at the trade deadline, he has gone .333/.385/.529 scoring 20 runs, 4 HRs, 18 RBI and 3 SBs.  Bay hustles every play and seems to be actually thinking while playing baseball.  It is refreshing to see.  Add to it, he has played some good defense thus far.  His range is well below league average but that tends to happen in left at Fenway.

Notice few if any have talked about Julio Lugo’s return?  Jed Lowrie has done a much better job as his replacement and I don’t expect he’ll lose his job even if Lugo were to return today.

Jason Varitek has shown some life, going .265/.375/.559 over the past 14 days.  Good to see.

I have not given up on the Red Sox winning the AL East, but the Tampa Bay Rays need to lose a few now and again for that to happen.  Boston has 6 games remaining against the Rays after all and can make up all ground necessary in a matter of days if they play well.  With the injuries to Crawford, Longoria and Percival, I really expected them to falter a bit, but no such luck.  They are good.

Where the Rays are not good is at having good fans.  They drew just 19,157 for Sunday’s game against the LA Angels?  That is a joke.  Tampa ranks 26 out of 30 teams in attendance at 21,303 per game or 51.1 % of capacity.

Attendance ranks based on capacity from ESPN:

Boston – 37- 104.1% capacity

Detroit – 39,896 – 99.4%

Chicago (N) – 40,728 – 99.1%

Philadelphia – 42,325 – 97.3%

New York (A) – 52,869 – 92.0%

Los Angeles (A) – 41,204 – 91.5%

Much baseball to be played, but this time of year tends to go by in a flash.