Saturday, March 2, 2013

Three More Yankees Minor League Cuts From Spring

Matt Daley, Kyle Roller, and Ryan Pope have been added to the Yankees roster cuts today from Spring Training. Kind of sucks that Daley got cut because he was doing so well after missing 2012 with Tommy John surgery but none of the three had a legit shot at making the roster anyway so it was understandable. Hopefully Daley, Pope, and Roller can have successful and healthy seasons in 2013.

Yankees Spring Of The Injury Continues

The Yankees announced that two more of their players are battling injuries this spring joining an impressive list that includes Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes, and Kevin Youkilis. Slade Heathcott has a jammed thumb which may or may not have occurred when he ran into Ronnier Mustelier the other day in the outfield. Boone Logan has not seen much work this spring and his elbow soreness may be the reason. Boone is scheduled to head for an MRI and will be shut down"for a few days" which means six months in Yankees doctors terms.

No official time table has been set on either player but I can see the Yankees being extremely cautious with both players. Slade has a definite history of injuries and playing hard so no need to risk this being a huge issue in spring training. Boone is coming off of a career high 80 appearances last year and has been an integral part of the Yankees bullpen over the past few season so I can see them letting him take all the time he needs to rest this up.

Yankees Cut Six Pitchers From Spring Training Camp

The Yankees have announced that they have cut six minor league pitchers from camp. Zach Nuding, Corey Black, Nick Goody, Shane Green, Mikey O'Brien,  and Bryan Mitchell have been cut from the spring training squad. None of these men had a legit shot at making the roster so this is not much of a shock or news but it is worth bringing to you. The closest to the majors is Bryan Mitchell but he is probably still two years away. It is unfortunate for Nick Goody because his spring was cut short with a sprained ankle acquired in a car accident. Goody and Black both could be quick movers through the Yankees system this year and look to be in the Yankees bullpen as early as September to mid 2014.

Phil Hughes To Throw Off Flat Ground Tomorrow

In an interview with Meredith Marakovits Yankees general manager Brian Cashman announced that injured starting pitcher Phil Hughes plans to throw off of flat ground for the first time tomorrow since finding a bulging disc in his back. Hughes hurt his back covering first base during routine pitchers fielding practice drills and spent a week on anti inflammatory medications followed by a weeks worth of pool exercises and treadmill work. Hughes says he has felt no pain in his back since the injury so hopefully he gets the green light by the teams doctors soon to get into a game and hopefully tomorrow's throwing session goes well.

Yankees Defeat Tigers 10-3

Brett Gardner continued his torrid hitting this spring as he started off with hits in each of his first two at bats today. Gardner also stole a base in the top of the first inning to get into scoring position before being left there by Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira. Gardner again stole a base in the third inning while Ichiro was caught looking at strike three.

Ivan Nova looked marvelous in his 2 IP allowing 0 runs and striking out one while pounding the bottom of the strike zone. Nova got ground ball after ground ball and looked like a guy who could win 15 games or more this season if he pitches like that. His velocity, command, and secondary pitches all looked to be in mid season form.

Chris Stewart jacked a two run home run against the Detroit Tigers to put the Yankees up 4-2 and help end their seven game spring training losing skid. We cannot expect many of those to happen this year. He also threw out a would be base stealer helping out Mark Montgomery who was having a tough inning.

Yankees 2013 Starting Catcher

It's hard to believe that we'd miss Russ and his .211 batting average.

When Russell Martin signed a 2 year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates a lot of Yankee fans figured Cashman had something up his sleeve. Sure, he said that the team had it's 2013 starting catcher in house, but how many fans actually believed him? I mean, this is the same guy that called signing Mark Teixeira a "pipe dream" not even a month before signing Mark Teixeira.

But alas, here we are on March 2nd with not a single rumor about a catcher being on the move, from free agency or trade. So it looks like the ninja was indeed telling the truth. So what are the options for the Bombers behind the plate?

First, there is Francisco Cervelli, who owns a career batting line of .271/.339/.353, and a wOBA of .311, in 562 MLB plate appearances. Not that Martin was anything great with the bat, as his triple-slash of .211/.311/.403 last season was cringe-worthy, but his 21 home runs made up some of the difference. Even if we take their defense into account, Martin's 30% caught stealing percentage looks much better than Cervelli's 20%. On top of that, some Yankee pitchers let it be known that they liked playing with Martin.

Chris Stewart played a lot more for the Yanks than Cervelli did last year (55 games to 3), so we knew Chris had a good chance at taking the starting gig on Opening Day 2013. But let's be honest here, we're talking about a guy with a career triple-slash of .217/.281/.302. And let's not pretend that this is a prospect that just needs a few more MLB at bats, either. Stewart turned 31 last month, and the last time he played in AAA (2011) he hit .221/.312/.274 in 33 games. To be fair, Stewart's caught stealing percentage is a bit higher than Cervelli's (34% to 20%), but does that make up for the significant downgrade with the bat (Stewart's career wOBA is .259, to Frankie's .311)?

It's hard to say what we should expect when it comes to Austin Romine, but it's not a whole hell of a lot. At one point Romine was quite the Yankee prospect, as he was the #2 Yankee prospect according to Baseball America before the 2010 season (behind some "Montero" kid). But after batting .268/.324/.402 with AA Trenton, along with battling a back injury, his ranking was dropped to #6 before the 2011 season. And finally he fell to #8 the following year. It's a shame that Romine didn't get more playing time in 2012, as he only appeared in 33 AAA games and 3 MLB games, but it's not like he did a lot with the at bats he did get (.243/.333/.408 in AAA, and 3-for-19 with no extra base hits and 5 strikeouts for the MLB Yankees). As for Austin's defense, VP of Baseball Operations Mark Newman told Chad Jennings that "[Romine's] a plus, plus defender … He can really play the position". It's hard to take that very seriously, since of course a Yankee executive is going to talk up a Yankee prospect (these are the same people that said Jesus Montero could be a MLB catcher), but many others outside the organization have said Austin is a pretty good backstop.

"Do you really think I'd lie to you about a prospect? Come on!"

So how are things looking? Well, you can't take a handful of Spring Training at bats with anything but a huge grain of salt, so I'm going to toss them out the window right away. Actually, other than health and a gut feeling after seeing them play a bit, I'm not sure there's much of anything you can take away from Spring Training when making this decision. But knowing how Joe Girardi feels about his defensive catchers it's clear to me that Francisco Cervelli is going to be receiving for CC Sabathia when the Yankees open the season against the Red Sox on April 1st.

If you haven't been watching the Yankees this pre-season, and seeing after seeing their 1-7 record so far I can't say I blame you, then you probably don't know that Francisco Cervelli has thrown out 5 of 6 runners trying to steal a base.

When the Yankees traded for Chris Stewart last season, and demoted Cervelli to AAA, it didn't go down well with the soon-to-be 27 year old. Frankie was in AAA, on the road day in and day out while a new stadium in Scranton was being built, and wasn't feeling very good about himself. Until his parents came to town and told him "Hey, you came here to the States to play baseball. That's what you like to do. Be a man." Cervie had a strong second half last season, and in winter ball worked on his throwing (a weakness he and Girardi targeted).

"Stop crying and play ball, you pansy!"

I can't say I'm looking forward to having Francisco as the team's primary catcher this coming season, but if guys like Hafner and Youkilis can stay healthy (a big "if") and keep the offense afloat, then I believe Mr. Cervelli is going to be okay.

By the way, I'd take Austin Romine over Chris Stewart as the backup catcher.  But since Stewart has no options remaining, and therefore can't be sent to AAA without going through waivers first, then we should fully expect Romine to be the regular backstop for the RailRiders.

The Ol' College Try: The Yanks' History vs. Amateurs

[caption id="attachment_15060" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Ruth & Gehrig at West Point in 1927 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) Ruth & Gehrig at West Point in 1927 (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)[/caption]

On March 30th the Yankees will travel to West Point for a final exhibition game before their season opener with Boston on April 1st, reigniting a familiar matchup that has occurred nearly two dozen times over the years.  The first meeting between the two fabled institutions occurred on May 26, 1927 when the Murderers' Row Yankees of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Earle Combs beat the cadets 2-0.  Ruth's Yankees returned to the academy six times over the next seven years. In 1934, during his final game at Doubleday Field, the Sultan hit a colossal 500-foot blast over the right field wall, still regarded as the longest ball ever hit at West Point.

The closest the Pointers came to besting the professionals was in the 1966 tilt when the Yanks eked out a 1-0 victory thanks to a first inning RBI groundout by an aging Mickey Mantle. Between 1927 and 1976 the Yankees played the cadets twenty-one times, winning each contest:

  1. 5/26/1927 | 2-0

  2. 5/3/1928 | 20-9

  3. 5/23/1930 | 20-2

  4. 4/17/1931 | 15-1

  5. 5/31/1932 | 9-3

  6. 4/10/1933 | 9-0

  7. 6/11/1934 | 7-0

  8. 4/22/1935 | 5-1

  9. 6/1/1936 | 6-2

  10. 4/19/1937 | 19-4

  11. 5/8/1944 | 14-0

  12. 4/14/1961 | 14-0

  13. 5/7/1962 | 8-4

  14. 4/22/1963 | 15-2

  15. 4/27/1964 | 8-2

  16. 4/29/1966 | 1-0

  17. 5/9/1968 | 9-0

  18. 5/22/1969 | 4-0

  19. 4/27/1972 | 10-1

  20. 4/23/1974 | 7-0

  21. 4/19/1976 | 2-0

Over the years the Yanks have played a number of amateur squads, including last season's victory over the University of South Florida. Perhaps the most legendary matchup between the Yanks and an NCAA club occurred on March 26, 1951 when the Bombers faced the University of Southern California during a pre-season, west coast barnstorming tour. During the contest a young, relatively unknown ballplayer from Commerce, Oklahoma began his 17-year foray on pitching with two blasts that remain an indelible part of Trojan lore.

In the first inning the fresh-faced, 19-year-old outfielder strode to the plate and cracked a right-handed moonshot that left the stadium via left field, soared over a street and hit a house. In the 6th the rookie dug in against the Trojans' Tom Lovich. On the fateful pitch the catcher, John Burkhead, thinking it was a wild pitch, dove to his left but found nothing but dirt. The batter, stepping out of the box and across the plate, had sent the ball hurtling toward right-center field. When the projectile finally came to rest it had cleared Bovard Field, entered the football team's practice field, and rolled into the huddle. After the game a relief pitcher named Ed Hookstratten walked off the shot and placed its distance between 600 and 650 feet. The 3,000 in attendance were stunned by the raw power of the lithe teenager and wouldn't soon forget his name.

Before the game's end, Mickey Mantle added a bases-clearing triple to the deepest part of center field in the 7th and showcased his blinding speed in the 9th, beating out a routine grounder to shortstop. His final line:

5 AB | 4 H | 2 HR | 1 3B | 1 1B | 7 RBI

Rod Dedeaux simply christened it, "The greatest show in history." The next morning's Los Angeles Times led with the headline, "One for the Mantle, Yanks Dismantle Troy." Though it came against a college team, Mantle's display was so dazzling that it may have been what finally convinced the Yankee brass to place him on the big league roster. When the Mick arrived for spring training, manager Casey Stengel was looking to groom him for another year to become Joe DiMaggio's successor in center field. Mantle was not expected to make the squad, but after putting together a string of solid play during their west coast swing, punctuated by his offensive explosion in Los Angeles, it was clear that the kid was ready for a crack at the big time. Mantle made the roster for the 1951 season and hit 13 home runs while manning right field. The rest, as they say, is history.

On March 30th the Yankees will add another chapter to their longstanding tradition of competing against amateurs. Who knows? We may just see some fireworks.

Melky Mesa Backs Out Of WBC

Melky Mesa has told Team Dominican Republic that he plans on backing out of the World Baseball Classic. The Yankees did not urge Mesa to back out and actually encouraged it but Mesa instead wants to use the time to try and win the starting left field job for the Yankees. Much like Francisco Cervelli putting the starting catching job ahead of an exhibition tournament Mesa is putting the big league club before the WBC.

World Baseball Classic Is Underway

Team USA still has almost a week before they start playing World Baseball Classic games but the WBC is officially underway over in Japan this morning. The Netherlands team that has former Yankees player Andruw Jones and Braves short stop Andrelton Simmons is leading big against the Korea team. Chinese Taipei and Chein Ming Wang beat Australia behind six shut out innings behind Wang and hopefully the Yankees were watching. The two time defending champion Japan team started their title defense with a win over Brazil and Cuba and Brazil are still left to play today but we will have World Baseball Classic games all weekend long to enjoy, thank God competitive baseball is back.

Team USA will start their WBC next Saturday, March 9th, against Team Italy. That would have been interesting to see Francisco Cervelli playing against us but he is using his time well in camp and seems to be the front funner right now for the starting catcher job so maybe that was a good decision. Team USA will play next Sunday as well against Team Canada, who will be Russell Martin-less after the Pirates did not want him to play short stop in the WBC. I cannot say I am the hugest fan of the WBC but competitive baseball is competitive baseball so I will be watching.

Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees 3/2

The Yankees have lost seven consecutive games in the Grapefruit League, not exactly how you want to start out Spring Training. The Yankees will look to stop that skid today against the Detroit Tigers in a split squad game that will be televised at 1:05 pm ET on YES and will play on MLB Network on a delay. Ivan Nova will head to the mound for the Yankees for his spring debut. here are the lineups which consists of mostly regulars.

Brett Gardner CF
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Travis Hafner DH
Matt Diaz LF
Jayson Nix SS
Chris Stewart C

Spring Training 3/2/13 Lineup

Brett Gardner CF
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Travis Hafner DH
Matt Diaz LF
Jayson Nix SS
Chris Stewart C

RHP Ivan Nova

Start Time: 1:05 p.m.
T.V: YES Network