Game 2

The Boston Globe is reporting Mike Lowell is a scratch for game 2.  So is Jed Lowrie.  Lowell is sitting because Terry Francona wants a healthy Lowell vs. Angels game 3 starter lefty Joe Saunders.

Lowrie is sitting because Francona decided before the series began that Alex Cora would get the start.  No injury, no benching.

Lastly, Josh Beckett is a definite for game 3.

Table Turner

Game 1 sort of snuck up on me.  So I figured I’d cover a few quick things first.

Playoff Roster:

C (3)- Jason Varitek, Kevin Cash and David Ross

IF (7) – Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie, Mike Lowell, Alex Cora, David Ortiz and Sean Casey

OF (5) – Jason Bay, Jacoby Ellsbury, J.D. Drew, Coco Crisp and Mark Kotsay

SP (3) – Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett

RP (7) – Manny Delcarmen, Javier Lopez, Justin Masterson, Hideki Okajima, Jonathan Papelbon, Paul Byrd and Tim Wakefield

Notable left off:  Mike Timlin – Great teammate, but not viable option anymore.

The 10 man staff is all that is needed given the Red Sox have 2 long/extra long relief options in Byrd and Wakefield.  Let’s hope they don’t need them.

Red Sox players making playoff debuts:  Jason Bay, Justin Masterson, Jed Lowrie and Kevin Cash (yet to appear).

Last night’s win was a great start for Boston.  Winning game one on the road gives them home field advantage and proves they can beat this Angels team despite going 1-8 against them during the regular season.

That being said, this series is far from over.  Josh Beckett threw an "aggressive" side session today and threw all of his pitches without limitation.  That is very good news for Boston.

Much was made of the blooper over first where Vlad Guerrero was thrown out at 3rd base.  Great play by Youkilis and a poor play by Guerrero to be sure.  But even if Vlad had stayed at 2nd, the inning would have ended on a double play.  Yes, I’m assuming all post-Guerrero blunder events would have stayed the same.

Jason Bay looked absolutely terrible in his first 2 at bats but sure made up for it with one swing.  Glad he got a couple of big hits in game one to get that potential "first game in the playoffs" monkey off his back.

Lowrie’s error, which led to the Angels run, was his first error as a Major Leaguer at shortstop.

Lastly, the Angels fans look utterly deflated last night.  Granted losing game one in any playoff series is a bad idea, but they look as though it was a one game playoff.  Game 2 tomorrow night Angels fans.  Cheer up, your team is good and this series ain’t over.  But have some respect, keep cheering until the end and support your team.  No sulking until the game is over.

Pitchers Part II

If there is one area that you can say Joe Girardi did a very good job in this year it was his handling of the bullpen.  Joe Torre had a tendency to overwork certain guys to death, leaving Rivera as the only healthy arm by the end of the season.  Girardi took a more democratic approach using different guys in different spots and generally not defining too many roles.  He even got Kyle Farnsworth to be productive which is simply amazing.  There are ten guys on the 40-man who are relieved this year that we haven’t spoken about, let’s look at them in the groups we used yesterday: Get rid of, allow to compete, pencil into a spot:

The get rid of pile consists of two pitchers: Damaso Marte and Chris Britton.  Marte was a good idea that just didn’t work out. He has an option for next year at $6-million which is way too much money for his performance.  He actually pitched pretty well against lefties in New York, but righties shelled him.  Either way, it’s time to move on.  As for Britton, I don’t know who he pissed off in the organization, but it is clear it is someone.  I have a feeling it may have something to do with his conditioning, or lack thereof.  Either way, the Yankees have a bunch of younger pitchers who they should protect on the roster and Britton is a casualty to make room for them.

The pencil them in pile consists of three pitchers: Rivera, Bruney and Veras.  Mo is obvious and Bruney and Veras showed enough in 2008 to warrant spots in 2009.  The thing that impressed me the most about Bruney this year was his rehab from injury.  He could have settled for surgery, but he worked hard got back into the bigs and pitched well.  Veras’ second half swoon concerns me, but I think it might have more to do with a tired arm (he only pitched 30 innings in 2007 due to injury) than anything else.  Either way, he showed enough to get a spot in the 2009 pen.

And that bring us to the five other guys who pitched in 2008, but don’t have a role yet in 2009: Albie, Coke, Ramirez, Robertson and Sanchez.  Coke is going to get every chance to be a lefty in the pen in ’09 and I hope the Yankees save their money this offseason and don’t sign any reliever to a big deal because guys like Robertson, Ramirez and Sanchez can probably be just as effective at a much cheaper cost.  I liked what I saw in Albie before he got hurt and he should be given a chance to make the club.

We have three guys who didn’t pitch this year but are on the 40-man: Brackman, Marquez and Chase Wright.  Brackman is rehabbing and has an ETA of 2010.  Marquez was bad this year, but he will be given another chance at AAA.  Chase Wright had a very nice year at AA/AAA and should get a shot in camp to pitch his way into a job. 

So, we have three starters and three bullpen roles set.  I would suggest that Hughes should get a starting role in 2009 and the bullpen will probably shake out with some combination of Ramirez, Sanchez, Robertson, Albie, Coke and Aceves filling the remaining three or four spots.   I therefore wouldn’t spend a lot of money on pitching, with the exception of adding one starter.  We will talk about that starter next week, but for now we will focus on the offense tomorrow.

This Just In

This Just In…like a few hours ago, both Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew are expected in the line-up tonight for game 1, with both playing the field.


Pitchers Part 1

Thanks to injuries and poor performance, the 2008 Yankees used a total 13 starting pitchers.  Unlucky 13 it was and when you start planning for 2009, you start with the rotation.  You can group these 13 into three categories.  Those you pencil in for starting next year, those you get rid of and those you bring to camp with a chance to compete.

Let’s start with the good-byes and it comes down to four pitchers: Pavano, Ponson, Igawa and Mussina.  The first two are obvious and I doubt there is a Yankees’ fan out there who disagrees.  Igawa is a bit tougher because of the investment they made, but the money is spent and the Yankees need to peddle him off for as much salary relief as they can find.  At this point, there is really no reason to keep him on the 40-man roster and the Yankees could use the space.

It is obviously the inclusion of Mussina on this list that will spark the most outrage.  Yes, I know he "reinvented" himself and pitched very well in 2008.  He cut his walks and increased his strikeouts, it was a very impressive season and it was great to see him win his 20th.  But, he is about to turn 40 and history shows that pitchers over 40 do not hold up well.  Maybe he can replicate his 2008 season, but I am betting he can’t and history is on my side.  Throw in the fact that if he returns he will want a multi-year deal ("If I’m in for one, I am in for three," he said) and bringing him back becomes an even worse idea.  Mussina may make this all moot be retiring on his own, but the Yankees need to avoid the temptation of bringing him back.

Next is the bring to camp and let compete for a role group which include 5 pitchers: Rasner, Giese, Aceves, Kennedy, Hughes.  Now if you want to tell me Rasner isn’t good enough for the bigs and you point me to his second half stats, I can’t really argue with you.  But, I think there is enough there that you bring him to camp and let him try and earn a spot.  Plus, he is cheap, so why not?  Giese is probably in the same category as Rasner, but he pitched better in 2008.  I would recommend the same treatment.

Aceves is intriguing because he looked good on the mound and the results were very good.  But, it was only 30 innings and September is not a good month to use to evaluate a pitcher (See Kennedy, Ian- 2007)  I think Aceves ultimately becomes the long man in the pen/spot starter.  If the Yankees want to limit Joba’s innings in 2009 (and every indication is they do) then Aceves could be very valuable because you could drop him in for a start here and there.  He may be better than that though and he should enter camp with a chance to make the rotation.

The same should be said of Ian Kennedy.  Kennedy really had an awful year on and off the mound with his comments.  But, the talent is there and the Yankees need to give him every chance to make the club in 2009.

And that brings us to Hughes.  On my 2009 Yankees Hughes is in the rotation.  But, Brian Cashman cannot go out on that limb again after 2008.  Hughes is frustrating because you can see he has the stuff, you just have to hope he brings it together.  He comes to camp with that chance. 

And that leaves us with the "final four" so to speak: Wang, Joba, Pettitte and Bruney (yes Bruney started a game)  Bruney is coming back with a role in the 2009 bullpen which we can discuss later.  Wang is obvious and Joba is too with the caveat that he should be a starter full-time in 2009.  The Yankees should get creative with his usage, six innings a start and 25 starts would bring him to 150.  Wang and Joba are a nice 1-2 punch and the Yankees can supplement that with some free agent spending (more on that tomorrow)

It’s Pettitte who is the tough call.  His second half numbers were awful, but he had elbow problems.  I don’t want him as the top guy in the rotation, but bringing him back to eat innings at a reduced salary is not a bad idea.  If you break down Pettitte’s 2008 season in comparison to 2007 the difference really comes down to "batting average for balls in play" which went from .329 to .341.  In other words, he suffered more bad luck in 2008 than 2007.  If you could bring him back for say $8-million I say do it.

That leaves you with 3 starters penciled in for 2009.  More tomorrow