Man Down

Josh Beckett was placed on the DL today with back issues.  I really hope that’s the reason he has stunk so far in 2010 and that he can get himself health for his sake and the team’s sake.

Taking his place is Joe Nelson who had a cup of coffee with Boston in 2004.  He can strike you out and he can also walk you.

Given Nelson’s promotion, I have to assume Tim Wakefield will step into the rotation.

Speaking of Wakefield, as is normal with scuffling teams, there have been snippy moments in the past few days starting with Wakefield voicing his unhappiness with his role on the team. 

Daisuke Matsuzaka and Victor Martinez vaguely criticized one another after Monday’s game.  It was clear they weren’t on the same page all night long and the results back that up.

And Mike Lowell made comments suggesting he and the team would be better of if the Red Sox just released him.  Disappointing comments from Lowell and Wakefield as they are always referred to as a perfect gentlemen.  Obviously they want to play, who doesn’t, but these are "me first" statements, not team first statements.

What will cure general grumpiness?  How ’bout a 10-game winning streak.

The positive to take out of things with this team is that they hopefully cannot pitch any worse than they have and hopefully their defense improves with the return of Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron.  If the staff can put it together and if the offense keeps going the way it’s going, their might be life yet on this team.  Lots of "hopes" and "ifs" but what else do I have to work with?

Another Move

The Yankees hadn’t made a move in five days, so they were certainly due.  But today’s move does surprise me a bit, they have demoted Golson and promoted Melancon.

Now, don’t take my surprise as dismay.  I want Melancon in the big league pen, but I wonder why they made this move at the expense of a bat with Posada’s foot aching.  Furthermore, demoting Golson leaves them a bit short in the outfield, though I suppose they think Pena could play center in a pinch.  

I imagine this is only a temporary move to 13 pitches because Sergio Mitre is currently unavailable after Sunday’s start. But, at some point this week, Mitre will be ready to be the long guy again and that means the Yankees can demote a pitcher.

Back after the game.

Here Comes More Fun

Dr. Galea, who is known to have treated A-Rod, was indicted today.  Among the interesting details is a list of 23 athletes who received treatment, when they received it and what they received. 

Before you label A-Rod as "Athlete B", it’s important to note that he wasn’t in New York on at least one of the dates where treatment was given.  In fact, looking at the Yankees and Mets schedules, the best guess for the identity of "Athlete B" would be an injured player who wasn’t traveling with his team or someone who was in their offseason.  (If I had to bet, I would bet on an injured New York baseball player based on a description of some of the treatments.)

"Athlete E" could be a Red Sox because they were in town those two dates, but it could also be an offseason athlete.

Athletes M, P, L and Q are probably not baseball players because they all received treatment in Cleveland on August 27th and the Indians were in the middle of a road trip. 

What does it all mean?  Another round of names leaking out and blank stares from players when confronted with the evidence.  What will be interesting to see is since this seems to include players outside MLB will other sports finally receive the scrutiny that baseball has?

*****

It’s pouring here at the blog’s southern HQ, about 9 miles from 161st Street.  I would guess they won’t play, but the best source for info is the YankeesWeather feed on Twitter.

Slow Motion Car Crash

Over the last decade, the New York Yankees, on a few occasions, started a season flat and fell out of contention early on.  But they always righted the ship and made a 2nd half surge and ended up in the thick of it.

I’m sure hoping the Red Sox can do the same thing.  They are bad right now and every possible thing that can go wrong, is going wrong.  They are 19-20 and look totally dysfunctional.  They do have moments of good play, but then things come crashing back down.  Last night’s game was a perfect parallel to how their season has gone.

For a starting rotation that was mentioned in the same breath as other great rotations, the Red Sox starters have posted a 4.99 ERA with a 1.442 WHIP.  Sure their starting catcher has a .623 OPS (a catcher known for his bat, not his defense), but it isn’t the Red Sox offense that is the problem.

What happened to improved run-prevention?  We were all worried about scoring runs but so far that worry was misdirected as the Red Sox have scored 203 runs which puts them in 3rd place in MLB, behind the Yankees  – 219 and the Phillies – 212.  The Red Sox have allowed 212 runs which puts them 4th worst in baseball.

The defense has been suspect as evidenced by the play of Jeremy Hermida and Darnell MacDonald last night.  Both players combined to turned 3 outs into 3 extra-base hits.  MacDonald was there in time but booted it while Hermida might have looked to make a good effort, which he did, but he took the worst routes to the baseball.  Had he taken the best routes, or even mediocre routes, those would have been outs.

No matter, the inability to shut down other teams offenses is the problem right now.  I suppose if the offense can keep things up and the pitchers can learn to pitch, this team might be capable of a surge, but it doesn’t look good.  I’m left scratching my head.

Humdinger

Paul Quantrill would have loved playing for Joe Girardi.  Ditto that for Scott Proctor and all the other relievers who blew out their arms in the Joe Torre years.  Girardi was not going to use Robertson and Joba tonight and it almost cost him the game.

Don’t view that as a critique of Girardi, I actually admire him for seeing the big picture in this case.  If you want to criticize Girardi tonight, you should knock him for sticking with Hughes for too long and sticking with Park for too long.  The Hughes decision is understandable, he was trying to get his starter a win.  His Park decision was also understandable, he was trying to preserve his bullpen and it didn’t work.  In the long run, both decisions are justifiable.  We can debate how big a psychological impact a loss tonight would have been, but Girardi rolled the dice and came up with a huge win.

I posted earlier tonight about why skipping Vazquez made sense.  Look at the bullpen situation tonight.  When Javy came in, he represented the last line of defense before Mariano.  The Yankees needed a long man tonight and it worked out better than they could have hoped.  Also, Vazquez has to feel more confident based on what he did tonight.  

We may have a game tomorrow, we may not based on the forecast.  Either way, expect a post sometime tomorrow afternoon.  

Surgery For Johnson

Well that didn’t take long!  Nick Johnson is having wrist surgery which will keep him from "baseball activities" for 4-6 weeks.  That means he probably won’t be back until July 1st at the earliest. But, I think the Yankees have to be realistic here.  The fact that he had the cortisone shot only a couple of days ago and his injury history make me believe he won’t be back anytime soon, if at all.  So the question goes back to, can Juan Miranda hold up the lefty half of a DH platoon?  

Neither Baseball Prospectus not Fangraphs projects Miranda to do much of anything.  (Both project him to have a sub .400 slugging which isn’t going to get it done).Thames has destroyed lefty pitching this year (1.135 OPS) but struggled against RHP (.611 OPS) so you don’t want him playing full time (or wearing a glove, but that’s a different issue.)  Jon Weber could be a thought and he has been hitting very well in May, but I don’t know if the Yankees are going to go in that direction.

A more unique way to handle the DH spot would be to call Robby Hammock up from Scranton and use Posada as the DH.  Hammock isn’t going to hit, but he can play the corners in the infield and outfield plus catch (3 games behind the plate for Scranton so far this year).  With Hammock on the bench, you could safely DH Posada and let Cervelli catch most of the time.  That would improve the defense and keep Posada fresher.  Unless a good trade or solid free agent drops in their lap, I think it is the best way for the Yankees to go right now. 

What’s The Big Deal?

Look at the ERA’s of the Yankees starters: 3.71, 3.38, 1.79, 1.38, 8.10.  Now tell me which one of these guys should currently be labeled "5th starter".

So why are the papers today filled with hysterical columns about the Yankees decision to move Vazquez’s next start to Friday?  With the rain last week, they needed to put Mitre back into the rotation for a turn which gave them flexibility to move their starters around.  When you have four starters with ERA’s below 4 and one with an ERA above 8, logic dictates you maximize the starts for the former and limit the starts for the latter.

The other reason for moving Vazquez to Friday is a practical one; the Yankees need to keep a starter rested to protect the bullpen.   With Mitre pitching yesterday and Ivan Nova about to be sent to Scranton, the Yankees will be without a long reliever this week.  If a starter has to be lifted early, the Yankees need someone to be able to step in a pitch multiple innings  That guy is Vazquez, but assuming the Yankees get through this week without a blowup, Vazquez will pitch Friday and the Yankees will have Mitre back in his long relief role.

In reality, it doesn’t matter at all who is called the #1 starter and who is called the #5 starter right now.  That only matters come October.  

Anyone Care To Bet?

The news today is that Nick Johnson will have a cortisone shot and then will wait 7-10 days to see how he responds.  If the isn’t getting better, he will need surgery which will put him out 4-6 weeks after that. So, by that math Johnson will decide on surgery around the 25th of May and if he had surgery he would be back somewhere between June 22nd and July 6th.  Does anyone believe that in light of Johnson’s injury history?  Plus, this is not the first time Johnson has hurt this wrist, the last time costing him a full season.  

For now, the Yankees need to get Juan Miranda a lot of AB’s against RHP to see if he can produce.  Thames is a nice player, but he really should be simply a RH bat against LHP at DH and nothing more.  There’s value there, but you need other parts to make that work and the Yankees are short in that area right now.

I’m wondering if Randy Winn is simply done.  A .575 OPS following a season where he put up a .671 makes me think this is it for him.  I wouldn’t expect a move right now, but unless Winn shows some life before Granderson returns, I think he gets the axe.  

Now We Have A Problem

T

Top of the 4th here in the Bronx and Nick Swisher has been pulled from the game.  Swisher looked like he hurt his bicep again in the bottom of the second when he dropped the bat after striking out.  He played in the field in the top of the third, but was shown shaking his arm and didn’t have to make a play.

Chad Huffman is currently the only other outfielder on the 40-man.  Huffman popped 20 HR’s in AAA last year and is off to a .274/.337/.453 start at Scranton.  

UPDATE (11pm) Kim Jones reported on the YES postgame that Nick Swisher had a MRI which revealed a "slight strain" in his bicep.  He is listed as day-to-day

Yankees Sign Nuke LaLoosh

I’m just kidding, but it does sound like they have found someone who can replicate many of the characteristics of the immortal LaLoosh in Shane Lindsay. 

Lindsay, who the Yankees added to the 40-man roster today instead of a lefty outfielder has pitched 13 innings at AAA this year.  In those 13 innings he has struck out 19 hitters and walked 17 while hitting two batters and uncorking 4 wild pitches.  Can we get Robert Wuhl to be the Yankees pitching coach now?

Lindsay has had control problems his entire career, walking 6.1 hitters per nine innings while striking out 12.5.  He has only given up 6 homers in 270 career innings which probably means he can get a lot of groundballs.  Add it all up and the Yankees are taking a flier that they can teach Lindsay how to get the ball over the plate.  It’s a worthy gamble, but let’s hope it also doesn’t come at the expense of additional help in the outfield for 2010.  Sadly, Susan Sarandon is a Mets fan, so she probably won’t help Lindsay, but maybe he can learn to breathe through his eyelids.