Split Decision

Considering how the series started, escaping Boston with a split of the series seems a victory. Granted, expectations are low, before yesterday/today the Yankees had gone over a month since they last won consecutive games.

To me the biggest takeaway from this series is the quality of the starting pitching. Montgomery bended, but did not break. Severino was great. Ditto that for Sabathia and Tanaka. If they can collectively keep doing that, the Yankees will be a force in the second half, no matter who the fifth starter is.

And while Tanaka lost tonight, you can’t emphasize enough how big that start was. 7-2/3rd innings was exactly what a depleted bullpen needed. With tomorrow’s starter still TBD! the Yankees are going to need a full bullpen, and they should have close to that when they land in Minnesota.

2-2 coming out of Boston and seven games left on the road trip. This week will determine a lot.

Pray for Rain-UPDATED AFTER GAME 1

The Yankees pulled out a victory by the skin of their teeth on Saturday. A dramatic homer in the ninth followed by some nifty escapes in extras, and a bizarre play at first, gave the Yankees a sixteen-inning victory. Now they get to play a doubleheader!

Expect some big roster changes. The Yankees have already announced that CC Sabathia, and not Bryan Mitchell, will start this afternoon. Mitchell will almost certainly be recalled for depth. Luis Cessa hasn’t been down in the minors long enough to be recalled without injury, but the 26-man rule for doubleheaders lets the Yankees get around that. I would expect them to add a third pitcher as the bullpen is a mess right now. It wouldn’t shock me to see Chad Green as the closer today. And if the Yankees have to pitch a lot of bullpen innings today, tomorrow will be really interesting as the scheduled starter already is “TBD”.

UPDATE-Three new pitchers it is. Mitchell is the 26th man, Domingo German and Caleb Smith promoted from AAA. I suspect Cessa will start tomorrow and is on a plane to Minnesota. The interesting thing is that they opened a 40-man spot for Smith, a late bloomer who has had a nice year at AAA. I wonder if they are going to look at him as a possible Pineda replacement?

UPDATE- Cessa is starting Tuesday, so tomorrow is still TBD. I wonder if the Yankees are going to see if Caleb Smith pitches in game 1 today, and if not get him on an evening flight to Minnesota?

UPDATE- The Yankees have now won consecutive games for the first time since June 11th/12th. Getting six innings out of CC was huge as they only used the bullpen for three.

Ugh

That’s all I have to say about that.

Pineda’s Done

Michael Pineda has a partial UCL tear and is headed to the DL. The recommendation is Tommy John surgery, but considering he is a free agent after this year, I imagine he will seek out a second or third opinion to try and avoid that. Either way, this almost certainly marks the end of his Yankee career. He wil, finish it with a record of 31-31 and an ERA of 4.16. He was brilliant at times and terrible at others. Considring what happened to Jesus Montero after he left NY, the Yankees won the trade, but it doesn’t really feel like it.

In the long run, this injury could actually help the Yankees. I don’t think there was any way they would have brought Pineda back next year, so now they get a jump on filling his spot in the 2018 rotation. For now, Brian Mitchell is getting the ball, but I suspect the Yankees will promote Chance Adams in the near future.
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The Yankees also announced that Greg Bird has two options. First is another cortisone shot, the second is surgery. If he has surgery, it is a 6 to 8 week recovery, so he could be back theoretically in September. The Yankees will bring Garret Cooper up to play first this weekend. Stay tuned.
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The Yankees are saying they will be “careful buyers” at the trade deadline, but I think this road trip will actually be the deciding factor. Eleven games in ten days with a cross-country trip included. This could go really badly and if they limo back home off of a 4-7 or 3-8 trip, o would expect that they quickly become “careful sellers”.
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Give the Red Isc credit for owning up to a huge mistake today. They DFA’ed Pablo Sandoval, meaning they are going to pay him about $50-million for nothing over the next few years. I suspect the Yankees will reach a similar point with Jacoby Ellsbury in the future, and I hope they have the guts to do the same thing.

We Have A Trade

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have traded Tyler Webb to the Brewers and according to Jon Herman the player they are getting in return is Garrett Cooper.

Cooper is a 26-year old righty who has hit .305 in his Minor league career with plenty of power. He is tearing up AAA this year at .366/.428/.652 but those numbers need to be viewed carefully because of his age, the fact that the PCL is an offense-heavy league, and that he plays his home games in Colorado.

And here’s the catch, Cooper is primarily a first baseman, so this doesn’t bode well for Greg Bird. The Yankees wouldn’t make a trade for a firstbaseman at the expense of a bullpen piece at this point unless they thought Bird was going to be hurt for the year. Bird went to the doctor Monday, but the Yankees have not announced anything about the visit. This makes me think the visit didn’t go well.

On the plus side. Cooper has shown a lot in the minors, so he deserved a shot in the bigs. The Brewers have Thames and Aguilar, so they weren’t going to give him one. The Yankees clearly needed help at first and got it. Cooper should help, but despite the gaudy stats, he won’t help as much as a healthy Bird could have.

Who Ordered The Code Red?

If there is anyone among the New York baseball writers who could speak to the ghost of George Steinbrenner, Bill Madden would be the guy. He always had a close relationship with the boss and his piece this morning really makes you wonder if he can communicate beyond the grave. Consider this section about Greg Bird.

Much as the Torres and Fowler injuries were downright heartbreaking, the Bird mystery ankle bruise has become merely annoying. Despite numerous tests that have turned up nothing, Bird continues to insist the ankle is still sore — too sore to allow him to play. The Yankee brass has become exasperated with Bird, who’s never been able to stay healthy, and it has gotten to the point where if he doesn’t get back on the field after the All-Star break, they are prepared to move him over the winter.

So The Yankees are threatening to trade Bird if he doesn’t start to play by next week? That’s interesting, almost as interesting as these quotes:

“You really have to wonder what’s with this guy,” a Yankee insider complained to me earlier this week. “You’d think with Judge and Sanchez, the guys he came up through the system with, doing so well up here he’d want to be a part of this. Apparently not.”

That’s classic George reasoning there. The guy is obviously faking the injury and doesn’t want to play hurt, so the Yankees should send him packing.

But assuming Madden can’t communicate with the dead, who would have made these quotes? O can’t prove it, but I would bet a fairly sizable amount that it is Randy Levine.

Levine likes to talk tough and channel George. He was the guy in February who ripped Delin Betances after beating him in arbitration. Does this seem any different?

It’s also stupid and somewhat ironic. It was in 2015 that Mark Teixeira’s broken leg was not diasgnosed by doctors for weeks. In the interim, the Yankees called up Greg Bird and he dazzled them with 11 homers over the final 46 games of the season. He also got one of the three hits the Yankees managed in their Wild Card game loss to Houston. But 2016 was wiped out by shoulder surgery and 2017 has been a disaster. Bird is still just 24 and giving up on him because of injuries at this point is nuts.

Luckily, Hal listens to Cashman on personnel issues and not Levine. Randy would do well to remember that the Boss’ bombastic ways and impetuous decisions didn’t win any titles after an initial flurry of success. It was his suspension in 1990 and the rebuilding of the farm system under Gene Michael that led to the dynasty teams of the 1990’s.

Next Stop: Trade Market

I didn’t think the Yankees really thought of Ji-Man Choi as a legitimate option at first, but he just became the starter. After today’s game, the Yankees DFA’ed Chris Carter for the second time in twelve days and recalled Choi.

I suspect the ball Carter dropped in the seventh inning sealed his fate. It was an easy play to make, a throw from Didi, but Carter couldn’t handle it and it almost cost the Yankees. If you aren’t going to hit, you have to at least add value with your glove, and Carter wasn’t doing that.

In steps Choi who has a reputation as a good fielder and contact hitter without much power. He appeared in 54 games for Anaheim last year and hit .170 with 5 homers, so don’t expect miracles.

The Yankees will see if Choi can contribute, but unless some good news comes about Tyler Austin or Greg Bird, I expect them to scour the trade market.

Eric Hosmer’s chances of ending up in the Bronx just got bigger.

The Halfway Mark

Tonight the Yankees play their 81st game, meaning the season is half over. They are on pace to win 87 games, a bit higher than I would have thought in March, but a bit lower than I would have thought a few weeks ago. That’s because the Yankees played their first sixty games 37-23 and the next twenty, 6-14. And that’s the enormous challenge facing this club. What should they do, if anything, to fortify the team for a possible pennant race?

If you say they should fix the root causes of the 6-14 stretch, then the answer is, get more pitching. The Yankees have a team ERA of 4.96 in that stretch while the offense has averaged 5-runs per game.

If you focus on the entire first half, you would say, first base, third base, Tanaka, and the bullpen. Let’s dive into each of those.

First is clearly a disaster. Bird may be the second coming of Nick Johnson and Carter has been terrible in relief of him. Tyler Austin is on the DL, and the farm system doesn’t have much else in the way of help at first. The luxury rental is Eric Hosmer, and I don’t think the Yankees are there yet, but if they stick close to first over the next four weeks, I wouldn’t bet against it.

Third is a simple equation. The Yankees will tolerate Chase Headley until they feel that Andujar is ready to play defense at a major-league level. Barring an injury to either, that won’t change.

Tanaka is simply not going to be removed from the rotation. The Yankees are praying at this point that he can turn things around enough to opt-out of his deal after the season. If he can’t, the Yankees are stuck with him for three more years. Either way, he will be in the rotation as long as he is healthy this season.

And that brings us to the bullpen, and this is an area the Yankees will wait and see on. Before Warren got hurt, things we’re going well. Betances has been bad lately, but overall has been brilliant. Clippard is a mess, but Warren’s return will minimize him. Chad Green has looked good out of the pen, but needs to get thrown into some high leverage situations to see what happens.

The season has been a huge success overall. Judge has shown he can be a great player. Hicks took a huge step forward. Montgomery and Severino look to be rotation pieces for the future. A lot of other prospects have taken big steps forward and the future looks really good. The next four weeks will show how close that future is.

June 29th

On Thursday, June 29th, 1905, Archibald Graham entered a game for the New York Giants in the top of the ninth and his team at bat against the Brooklyn Dodgers, but the inning ended with him in the on deck circle. He played the field in the bottom half of the inning, but never returned to the major leagues and became a historical footnote famously recounted in the movie “Field of Dreams”.

If you are a baseball fan, you know that movie. Ray Kinsella goes in search of recluse author, Terrance Mann, really JD Salinger but he threatened to sue, and then runs into Moonlight Graham before meeting his long dead father. It’s a wonderful movie and it always makes me cry at the end when he plays catch with the younger version of his Dad.

My Dad died on June 29th, 1999, and I live about a five minute walk from the remnants of the ballpark in Brooklyn where Moonlight Graham made his only appearance in the bigs. It’s a Con Edison lot, but there is a wall that remains from the ballpark, abandoned over 100 years ago when the Dodgers moved to Ebbets Field. I go there every June 29th to remember the ghost of Moonlight and dream of one more catch with my Dad.

Yesterday was a perfect day for baseball here in New York. As I watched the early evening sun gather around the ruins of Washington Park, I could picture Moonlight out in right field, sprinting after anything that came close to him. I could picture my Dad, an Englishman who thought baseball was the most boring thing ever but a father who wanted to bond with his son, making me learn to hit lefty and exhorting me to keep my glove up higher and be ready for the ball.

So I was more excited than usual to watch last night’s game. Baseball was swirling in my mind and I was really excited to see Dustin Fowler’s big league debut. He was playing right and hitting sixth. But, the weather in Chicago was terrible, and the game didn’t start until almost 11pm here in NYC.

The Yankees looked to have a great inning on their hands in the top of the first. Brett Gardner singled, Aaron Judge walked, and then Didi got a run home thanks to an error. 1-0 good guys, and they were threatening to do much more. But Sanchez hit into a double play and Ellsbury flew out to left, so the inning ended with Fowler in the on deck circle.

Almost seven years ago, I was walking my daughter to school on a beautiful October morning. As we got to the middle of the street, I realized the car heading towards us wasn’t going to stop in time. I pushed my daughter forward, and turned to scream, “STOP” at the car. I remember feeling the impact on my left leg, pounding on the hood while I yelled, and being knocked back. Amazingly, I was ok, I walked over to my sobbing daughter, scooped her up and sat down next to a chain link fence while people and cops swarmed around us to make sure we were ok. A short while later, an ambulance came and the EMTs convinced me to go to the hospital and get checked out. A neighbor took my six-year old, and I took a ride. It was only about an hour later, after sitting in a wheelchair and then being asked to walk to x-ray, that I realized something was wrong. I tried to stand but couldn’t. The diagnosis was a tibial plateau fracture, the x-ray technician told me I was lucky, usually that injury included damage to the patella tendon, but since I was standing initially, my patella must be ok.

Luis Cessa was on the mound and he got two quick outs, a strikeout and an infield grounder. His first pitch to Abreu was a 96-mph fastball that Abreu was late on, fouling it away. Abreu watched a similar offering go down the pipe, for strike two. Having no reason to change things, Cessa went back to the fastball for his third pitch.

Fowler was racing as the ball flew towards right. Abreu was late on this one too, so the ball was tailing towards the stands. Fowler had a chance, but it was going to take everything he had. At the very last second, he realized that an impact with the stands was imminent and he tried to put his left hand out to absorb the impact.

He was going too fast at this point, and his right knee took the brunt of the collision. He almost went completely over the railing and into the stands, but quickly righted himself, grimaced and tried to walk. A step, a grimace, and then a hop. Something was clearly wrong. He tried one more step, but crumpled to the ground. You could see the security guy waive at the dugout for help and Girardi race out of the dugout with the Yankee trainer, Steve Donahue.

Donahue went to examine the knee and placed his hands just below Fowler’s kneecap. Fowler’ expression never changed, he was probably in shock, but Joe Girardi put his hand up to his face to stop the tears. Donahue signaled frantically for the cart to come out as Fowler’ teammates circled around him thinking of what to say.

I watched it all in horror. Seeing the hop he took and the way he collapsed, I figured it was the tendon. I cursed the baseball gods and history. I cried for Fowler, Moonlight, and myself. And I went to bed thankful that I won’t have to face another June 29th for 364 more days.

Meet the New Guy at First….

Guess what, Chris Carter is back! How did this happen? Well Tyler Austin was apparently dealing with a hamstring injury when they promoted him and it has turned into a bigger thing. He is going to be out awhile.

Greg Bird isn’t doing so hot, so he is going on the 60-day DL. That sounds worse than it is because he has been on the DL since the start of May, and that means he can be activated whenever he is healthy, or if he is healthy again this year.

That left the Yankees with a couple of choices. They could keep sending Romine out there, but that leaves them exposed at catcher. They could try Refsnyder there, but he isn’t hitting and hasn’t looked great at first. So, Carter gets the call because he is already getting paid, so the Yankees will see if a week off makes a difference.

The interesting thing is the Yankees made another move, sending Andujar down and promoting Dustin Fowler. Andujar had a great debut, you really couldn’t ask for more, but the Yankees wisely want him to get reps at third, and they are not benching Headley.

And that brings us to Fowler, another top prospect who is getting a shot. Fowler is 22, a lefty, and is hitting .293/.329/.542 in AAA. He has 13 steals, so he has speed. He’s spent most of his time in center, but he can play right and left.

His promotion is interesting because they could have recalled Mason Williams with the injury to Austin, but instead they are DFA’ing him to clear a roster spot. Is Fowler being showcased for a possible trade, or are the Yankees looking at him as a possible replacement for Gardner or Ellsbury? Time will tell.