Troubles

Andy Pettitte’s line in Florida today: 5-2/3IP 10H 6R 5ER 0BB 10K’s. The strikeouts are good, but this was a start against low level minor leaguers. He threw 96 pitches, but the thought that he may be ready in a start or two seems far fetched- even if the wind was blowing out. The Yankees seem intent on promoting him for a start May 11th or 12, but I think that speaks to their desperation more than anything else.

Beyond that, I think the Yankees are playing a risky game tonight with only two guys on the bench. Because Nick Swisher has a hamstring pull that isn’t serious enough for the DL and Brett Gardner looks like he will be ready to be reactivated May 3rd the Yankees are going to play shorthanded against the Orioles. We can probably add the current state of the 40-man roster as another reason. Other than Ramiro Pena, the Yankees don’t have anyone on the 40-man who can play the outfield in the bigs. Almonte and Mesa are both in the lower minors and Pena has a grand total of 11 games in the outfield in his career. When you add in the fact that his bat is a minus, you can understand why the Yankees aren’t rushing out to promote him to the majors.

But, Pena could certainly play the infield and the Yankees would have been smart to promote him tonight. If a position player gets hurt tonight, the Yankees have only Stewart and Jones on the bench. That’s a foolish way to enter a series and while I understand the reasons, I don’t agree with them.

The Wrong Question

In the wake of Freddy Garcia’s latest blowup, the Yankees are asking “how can we fix him?” I wish they would ask, “who could pitch worse that he has?”

The first question is certainly logical, but it also ignores some realities. Garcia hasn’t thrown hard in years, he is 35 and this could be the end of the road. I can’t see him coming back in 2013, so his time with the Yankees is limited.

On the other hand, if the Yankees asked who could pitch worse, they would probably come up with the answer of almost nobody. That could lead to some interesting moves. For example, the Yankees could put David Phelps in Garcia’s spot. Or they might turn to D.J. Mitchell, who pitched well at AAA last year and is looking good so far this year. Obviously, the bar isn’t set very high right now. Five innings a start would be an improvement over what Garcia is giving them. I think the Yankees could find that pretty easily if they looked elsewhere.

What I suspect they will actually do is use the schedule to their advantage and keep waiting for Andy Pettitte. With an day off on May 7th, the Yankees could pitch Garcia May 3rd and then skip his spot in the rotation until May 12th. That would let Andy make two more starts in the minors and then pitch sometime that weekend of May 11th. I hope I am wrong because this clearly isn’t working and the Yankees should just pull the plug now.

Sunday Morning Update Yankees PR (their official feed) tweeted this morning that D.J. Mitchell has been recalled from Scranton. No word on a corresponding move, but it wouldn’t shock me if Freddy is headed to the DL.

Of course Eppley pitched three innings yesterday so he could be sent down as well.

Later Sunday Morning LoHud reporting that Garcia is headed to the bullpen! It sounds like, though not confirmed, that Phelps will start (for now) and Eppley will head to Scranton. Mitchell was due to start today, so he is protection if the Yankees need a long guy.

Trouble

Mark Feinsand just reported on Twitter that Michael Pineda has a labrum tear and will undergo surgery Tuesday. Of all the things that can go wrong with a pitcher, shoulder problems are the worst. Brian Cashman has pronounced Pineda as out for 2012.

I am sure this will send people into a tizzy about how stupid it was to trade for Pineda in the first place and how you never trade a hitter for a pitcher. Let’s tackle that last part first.

Yes, I totally agree you never trade a hitter for a pitcher unless you don’t have a place to play the hitter. Until proven otherwise, Montero is not a big league catcher. Maybe he turns into one, but until he does don’t rush to judgement because the Yankees did not have a place to play Montero if they didn’t think he can catch on a regular basis. Some will argue that they could have made him an everyday DH, but that spot is taken by a player rotation and will become A-Rod’s permanent spot in the next few years. Montero’s value wasn’t going to go higher this season, in fact you could argue it is lower right now, so they had to act when they did.

So that brings us back to how stupid it was to trade for Pineda. I have a hard time believing that the people who think that today thought that back in January. Back then, most intelligent baseball people thought the Yankees were getting a future ace. He represented a very talented young player who was under team control for the next five years and had a very solid season of pitching at the big league level under his belt. And please, don’t tell me you think the Mariners knew he was hurt or the Yankees doctors missed something. Pitchers get hurt, it’s the nature of the business.

It would be interesting to hear the complaints today if Montero was still a Yankee. Since he is hitting .254/.270/.373, I imagine we would hear cries of overrated and bust attached to him. We’ll never know for sure. But, we need to wait a few years before we can truly declare a winner or a loser in this trade. Noesi has an ERA over 9 while Campos has a 1.23 ERA in 22 innings at A ball. In five years maybe we refer to this as the Montero for Campos trade, who knows?

What we do know is that for 2012 the Yankees made a gamble and lost. Personally, I don’t think it will be the lack of Montero’s bat that keeps them from winning this year, rather it will be a lack of pitching. That’s what the Pineda trade was supposed to address in the first place.

Rainout

Not a shocker to see tonight’s game rained out, at least based on the weather here in NYC. I think monsoon season must have started because it is ugly out.

I know there is a segment of the fanbase that is upset about not playing tonight. There seems to be some sort of foolish idea that the Yankees could have finished the Red Sox with a sweep tonight. Sorry, but teams don’t pack it in with 145 games left in the season. The Red Sox may be a mess now, but they have more than enough time to recover. Plus, the Yankees could use the break.

The rainout allows them to get out of Boston at 8pm (I read that is when their flight is departing) instead of after the conclusion of tonight’s game (probably 2am or so by the time they get to the airport) Furthermore, it gives them a break to to rest their bullpen and prepare for a rough week of 3 @Texas and then 3 vs. Detroit. Sure they will have to reschedule the game, but their two remaining trips to Boston are preceded by an off day.

Amazingly, we won’t see Boston again until the first week of July. I would bet anything that the Yankees encounter a very different team when that series commences. Count out Boston at your own risk.

“WW”*

Due to plans made months ago, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to watch the end of today’s Yankees-Red Sox game. I had made my peace with things and to be honest I was more upset about the fact that I would miss tonight’s Rangers-Ottawa Game 5. So, I had zero problem turning the TV off when the Red Sox took a 9-0 lead. I had to get ready and leave anyway.

In the car, on the way to dinner, I didn’t check the score, but when I walked into the restaurant I saw the game on the TV and couldn’t believe 9-0 had turned into 9-8. After a quick talk with the maitre’d, a table with an angle looking at the TV was secured and thus I got to watch the action from that point. I couldn’t hear what they were saying on TV, but I can only imagine. What a comeback and what excellent timing on my part. (In a separate bit of luck, I didn’t see a minute of the Rangers 2-0 loss)

Not to put a downer on things, but Freddy Garcia looked like he couldn’t get me out with his stuff today. You have to wonder how long the Yankees will stick with him? While his $4 million contract isn’t a ton of money for the Yankees and they have certainly blown a lot more on other pitchers, I suspect they will try and squeeze as much value as they can out of him. That leads me to believe he will be pulled when/if Andy Pettitte is ready to pitch in the bigs. It sounds like Pettitte is going to make three more starts in the minors which would mean Garcia gets three more big league starts, a luxury the Yankees may not be able to afford. Tonight was like drawing an inside flush, the smart gambler doesn’t bank on those odds coming around very often. If Garcia gets lit up in his next start, I don’t think the Yankees will have any choice but to make a move. Back later today after the finale.

*Longtime fans will recognize the title of this post as a tribute to Phil Rizzuto who used “WW” in his scorecard to signify a play he “wasn’t watching”.

You Really Can Never Have Too Much Pitching

The word is Michael Pineda was pulled from his start today because of weakness in his shoulder. His next stop is the team doctor to see if they can find something wrong with him. Even if they don’t, you have to assume that this setback means we won’t see him before June 1st and I think that is a wildly optimistic projection.

And a quick glance around the Yankees’ roster shows that their pitching depth has been depleted. Manny Banuelos is on the DL in the minors with a back issue. Dellin Betances seems to be channeling Andrew Brackman and has walked 11 guys in 13 innings while striking out 13. His ERA is an unsightly 10.38. Adam Warren has a 5.17 ERA. Only D.J. Mitchell has pitched well, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 3 starts with 15 K’s in 17 innings.

It’s early and some of these guys will turn things around, but the Yankees’ decision to sign Andy Pettitte is looking like a very smart move.

It’s a Bryd, it’s a Plane

Mlbtraderumors.com is reporting that the Red Sox are close to acquiring Marlon Byrd from the Chicago Cubs. I guess there are no hard feelings between Theo Epstein (he wasn’t invited to the Fenway birthday bash yesterday).

While Bryd is an upgrade to Jason Repko, he is only 3-43 this year. So hopefully he has already had his slump for 2012. The other day, Repko was pinch hit for by Nate Spears which tells you all you all you need to know about the state of affairs of the Red Sox offense. An outfield of Sweeney, Repko and Ross isn’t going to strike fear in an opponent’s heart.

Trading Places?

Wouldn’t it be funny if three starts in 2012 truly indicate a shift of huge proportions and not a simple statistical anomaly? But, so far in 2012 the former top prospect, Phil Hughes, has looked lousy while the not so touted guy, Ivan Nova, has looked sensational.

Let’s start with the bad first and that is Hughes, but there are some reasons for optimism. Hughes spots an ugly ERA of 6.75, but his FIP shows a figure of 5.97. That’s still not good, but there are some encouraging numbers. Start with the strikeouts, 15 in 13.1 innings, that’s a very good sign. Next move to the BABIP of .366, far above his career of .290. That coupled with a higher walk ratio have proven deadly when he gives up a homer and he has given up 4 of them already this year. Now some reasons for concern are he is giving up more flyballs than ever before and despite the talk about his arm being in great shape his fastball is only 0.6 mph faster than last year. (And 0.7mph lower than it was in 2010) I don’t know what it means ultimately, but you have to figure that Hughes is running out of chances with the Yankees. If Pettitte makes it to the majors and Pineda makes it back, Hughes is probably headed to the pen.

Contrast that with Nova who has a better fastball this year and is missing bats like never before. Today he struck out 5, bringing his season total to 20. Nova’s paint a bit of a mixed picture. (They also don’t include today’s start) His BABIP is .417 which means he is suffering from some bad luck. He is walking more guys and giving up more flyballs, yet his 2012 ERA is currently below his career ERA. If Nova was striking out guys at his 2011 rate, his ERA would be a lot higher. So, can he keep up the strikeouts and will his other numbers moderate?

It’s impossible to say, but the first three times through the rotation have had some surprising results.

Choices

Three plays in the first inning of tonight’s game make me think that the Yankees need to consider the future a bit more.

Start with the “throw” Nunez made from second that was very wide of first.

Follow that up with Ibanez’s attempt to catch a liner in left.

Cap it off with the “throw” Ibanez made from left on a play at home.

Here’s what I come up with- Ibanez is an awful outfielder while Nunez is an awful infielder. With Gardner on the DL, the Yankees need an everyday leftfielder, so why don’t they try something else?

Nunez may or may not have a true big league bat, I don’t think anyone can say for sure at this point. Even if he does, his glove is going to cost you runs. He could become a competent hitter in the bigs, but in the infield his glove is just too messy. So, if you believe in his bat, why don’t you try him in the outfield for an extended period?

Think about it, the Yankees have a hole in their outfield for the next two weeks. Ibanez is not someone who inspires confidence and Andruw Jones doesn’t seem that interested in playing the position. So, why not put Nunez in left for the majority of the next two weeks? Unless something weird happens, the Yankees will have an opening in right next season. I’m not saying Nunez could fill that opening, but there is a chance he could. Why don’t they find out?

The Yankees normally do not focus on the future. But, with Gardner’s injury they have a chance to experiment. Why not take it?

We Want A Pitcher!

As I write this, Hiroki Kuroda is headed for a shower in the fifth inning. With Kuroda’s early exit the Yankees have only three quality starts in their first 12 games. In six of those games, their starting pitcher hasn’t made it to the sixth inning. This is obviously putting a strain on the bullpen and Joe Girardi has had to get creative using Corey Wade for multiple innings and unleashing Clay Rapada against righties. And here’s the scary thing. The Yankees are about to play a series in Boston followed by a series in Texas, two places that are not easy on pitching.

I may be in the minority, but I believe the starting pitching will get better. Well, maybe not Freddy Garcia, but I believe the other four starters will stabilize. The problem is, I don’t think the Yankees can wait for that to happen without making a move now. Nothing major, but I think the Yankees need to give serious consideration to calling up another starter from AAA and saying goodbye to Rapada.

Let’s face it, a second lefty is a nice thing to have, but it isn’t worth burning out the bullpen over. Rapada has been very tough on lefties in his career, but absolutely murdered by righties. The fact that Girardi is using him in a 6-4 game right now to get out righties (.675 slugging) tells you how desperate the Yankees bullpen situation is. So, designate him for assignment, hope he gets through waivers and bring up a arm who can help out this team with some innings. You don’t want to burn out the pen in April.

UPDATE 10:45PM We are going to get a pitcher, but not the way we expected. According to Mark Feinsand, Gardner is headed to the DL and the Yankees are recalling Cody Eppley. The Yankees got Eppley at the end of Spring Training when he was DFA’ed by the Rangers. Yankee fans may remember him as the guy the Yankees tattooed for six runs in a third of an inning last May.