Although Spring does not officially end until Tuesday, June 20th, it is coming to an end for Major League Baseball.
Today is the final day off for the Yankees during the Spring Training schedule which concludes Friday at Sun Trust Park in Atlanta, GA, the new home for the Atlanta Braves. After returning to Tampa after the Georgia trip, the Yankees will have an off day on Saturday before they embark on the bus trip down I-275 to St Peterburg to kick off the 2017 season next Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
This means there are only four exhibition games left to decide the future of the starting rotation or at least the one leads off the season. Manager Joe Girardi has stated the team could skip the fifth spot in the rotation early in the regular schedule due to the number of planned days off. While the Yankees have two days off during the first week of the season, they’ll also need to push Masahiro Tanaka’s second start by a game to allow him to pitch the home opener at Yankee Stadium against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, April 10th. This most likely means that both CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda will make their second starts of the season on short rest.
Prior to yesterday’s game against the Rays, the Yankees announced that they have released Jon Niese. Niese was never under consideration for the starting rotation, but his release means that he is out for bullpen consideration. This probably enhances the chances for reliever Ben Heller to make the Opening Day roster. Heller has done a fine job this Spring and certainly deserving of the opportunity. Ernesto Frieri hasn't shown me enough to warrant the creation of a spot on the 40-man roster.
It’s possible that Niese stays with the organization. He’ll have a couple of days to see if he can find another major league opportunity or he could stay with the Yankees for extended spring training as he continues his rehabilitation from last year’s season-ending knee surgery.
This should be a very active week on the transactions wire. There have already been a few opt-out’s like outfielder Drew Stubbs, formerly with the Minnesota Twins, and pitcher Ross Detweiler, formerly with the Oakland A’s. Former Yankees outfielder Austin Jackson, who could have opted out, elected not to, a potential sign that he has made the Cleveland Indians roster in a bench role. There will be much more activity in the coming days as teams begin their final cuts. I am sure that there will be a surprise or two along the way. Probably nothing that will bring help to the Yankees but there’s always the chance the team swings a minor trade to open up some room on the 40-man roster.
I do not expect the Yankees to make a trade for a replacement shortstop to fill-in while Didi Gregorius is out. I think they’ll go with the in-house options for now. The question remains who but Tyler Wade or Pete Kozma seem like the most obvious choices (assuming the Yankees don’t slide Starlin Castro over from second). Ronald Torreyes slots in only as a platoon at best. I don’t see him as the full-time starter in any scenario. But then again, I am not the manager of the team and stranger things have happened.
It has been reported that the Tampa Bay Rays have interest in Rob Refsnyder. Although none of us really want to see Refsnyder go, it would be tough to watch him traded within the AL East We’d then be reminded of the trade 19 times a year. It could certainly be a trade that we’ll eventually regret.
Aaron Hicks is turning up the heat on Aaron Judge in the fight for right field. I still want and expect Judge to win the battle, but Hicks was the man of the day in yesterday’s 7-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Grapefruit League action. He hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning and drove in a total of 3 RBI’s for the game. Bryan Mitchell was the starter and winner, but it was a less than impressive outing for the young right-hander. He went three innings, struggling in the third. He allowed six hits and three runs, while walking two. His struggles, combined with those of Adam Warren on Saturday, could very well open the door for Jordan Montgomery to snag a spot in the rotation.
With the win, the Yankees improved their Spring record to 22-7-1.
On Tuesday, Masahiro Tanaka will make his final Spring appearance at Steinbrenner Field against the Detroit Tigers as he tunes up for Opening Day. Only Tiger batters stand between Tanaka and his impressive Spring 0.00 ERA. Hit now or forever hold your peace.
Jordan Montgomery will start Wednesday, with Luis Severino slated for Thursday in their respective final auditions for the rotation. The odds favor Severino if for no other reason than he is already on the 40-man roster. But Montgomery is everyone’s sentimental favorite. Cashman, make room!
Have a great Monday!