Sunday, April 1, 2018

A High View in Center...

Photo Credit: Associated Press (Fred Thornhill)
Continuing the long line of great Yankee Centerfielders…

Aaron Judge, Center Field.  

It was an odd sight on Saturday when Manager Aaron Boone inserted the 6’7” slugger into the lineup at center rather than his customary spot in right field. Injuries and the need to rest Brett Gardner force Boonie’s hand. While Judge played well, the move turned out to be for naught when Gardy had to enter the game anyway after Billy McKinney crashed into the left field wall and was removed from the game. Boone kept Judge in center and put Gardy in left for McKinney which was the right move. 

Given how uncomfortable Giancarlo Stanton looked in left field during Spring Training, Judge handled center field very smoothly. Unorthodox, sure, but Judge did play center in college so it’s not like he has never played the position before. I liked the move as position versatility is a big part of the 2018 Yankees. Stanton will be in left field for today’s game so that’s a riskier move than Judge in center, in my opinion.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Charles Wenzelberg)
After the game, McKinney was placed on the disabled list with a sprain of the acromioclavicular joint, or AC joint, in his left shoulder. He is expected to miss a few weeks. With neither Jacoby Ellsbury nor Clint Frazier ready to come off the DL, the Yankees are running short on outfielders. Of the outfielders on the 40-man roster, four are now on the DL and the remaining three are on the active roster. So, to add an outfielder would have necessitated the elimination of a spot on the 40-man roster to add someone. The next available outfielder in the organization is probably Shane Robinson. The Yankees opted to call up third baseman Miguel Andujar (already on the 40-man roster), and indicated Tyler Wade would be in the mix for outfield work. Brandon Drury also has played the outfield but the Yankees preference seems to be to keep him at third. Of course, Twitter was ablaze yesterday with The Curse of Jabari Blash tweets over the outfield calamities.  

Andujar will see time at first base, third base and DH, so it will be interesting to see how Boone mixes and matches the lineups in the coming days. He’s penciled in at DH for today’s game. Jacoby Ellsbury is eligible for activation on Thursday, assuming he is ready, so Andujar’s stay may be short. I never thought I’d look forward to Ellsbury’s return but here we are. For now, Andujar gets the chance to display some of the magic he wielded early in training camp. At decision time when Ellsbury returns, I’d probably keep Andujar and send Jonathan Holder down to Triple A, especially if he hits the way we know he can.   

Welcome back to the Show, Miguel! We hope the second appearance is as magical as the first.


Congratulations to Tyler Austin. His two home runs in yesterday’s 5-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays tied the game twice. That’s a great way to take advantage of an opportunity. Austin is tied for the team lead in home runs and is two homers ahead of Aaron Judge. I know, it’s early but good for Austin. Naturally, the day earned him a spot on the bench for today’s game. Still, Austin should be good for a pinch hit appearance.  

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)
It wasn’t a great game for the big guys. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez were combined 0-for-8 with a strikeout. Giancarlo Stanton with 1-for-3 with a walk, but no runs. The trio went 0-for-12 the day before so hopefully it’s time for some big hits today. It’s a rest day for El Gary so the power show will be up to Judge and Stanton.    

Aaron Boone is already taking heat for the bullpen. I was surprised to see Aroldis Chapman on Opening Day when the Yankees had a five-run lead. After pitching both Thursday and Friday, the Cuban Missile was not available on Saturday. The bullpen struggled yesterday and was responsible for the loss despite Tyler Austin’s heroics. Adam Warren got the first call in relief of starter CC Sabathia. He took over in the bottom of the sixth and recorded the first out on a grounder to third. But he walked the next batter, Kevin Pillar. Aledmys Diaz followed with a come-backer to the mound that struck Warren on the right ankle. Warren’s ankle diverted the path of the ball to first base so Tyler Austin was able to make the tag play on Diaz, but Pillar advanced to second. Warren was unable to continue and his replacement, Jonathan Holder, was greeted by Luke Maile’s run-scoring single.  

Austin tied the game with his second home run, a shot to left, so the score was tied when Dellin Betances entered in the bottom of the seventh inning. Betances allowed a single to the first batter he faced, Curtis Granderson, but a perfect strike from Gary Sanchez to Didi Gregorious on a steal attempt nailed the Grandy Man at second. The Blue Jays challenged the play but replay showed Didi got the glove down on Grandy’s sliding hand a split second before it reached the bag. It was a tremendous play that helped Betances get out of the seventh unscathed and should have been momentum for better things.  

But Boone overplayed his hand and brought Betances back for the bottom of the eighth.  Enter Betances; exit potential win. Former Yankee Yangervis Solarte, with a bat flip, blasted a leadoff homer to give the Blue Jays a one-run lead.  Betances struck out Randal Grichuk but then the comedy ensued. Kevin Pillar reached base on a single to right. After striking out Aledmys Diaz for the second out, Pillar stole second off Betances who then lost Luke Maile on a 3-2 count to put the runner at first.  Pillar and Maile advanced on a double-steal with no play by the Yankees. Pillar then made a break for home and Dellin’s erratic throw to Gary Sanchez allowed Pillar to cross the plate easily for the second run of the inning. Betances managed to strike out Gift Ngoepe to finally end the inning, but the Blue Jays were up, 5-3. From there, the Yankees went down quietly against Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna in the top of the 9th, and the Yankees had suffered their first loss of the season.

I am not ready to condemn Betances (well, maybe I am) but the Blue Jays clearly got into his head in the 8th inning. Runners on base are never a good thing when Betances is on the mound but the Blue Jays wrote a blueprint for the rest of the league. Four steals in one inning. This is something Betances needs to figure out in the games ahead or teams will routinely exploit this weakness.  I don’t trust Betances with the game on the line right now. I would have preferred David Robertson in that spot. Actually, I’d take D-Rob, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green as my late inning, high-leverage guys over Betances. I really hope he is able to turn this around. Otherwise, I’d be in favor of dumping Betances in a trading deadline deal. When he is on, there are not many better than Betances, but when he’s off, he makes Tyler Clippard look very, very good. Love the arm but he’s too much of a head case for me.

Photo Credit: New York Post (Corey Sipkin)
The Yanks look to rebound today in the getaway game. Sonny Gray will take the mound to face Marcus Stroman. Many are predicting a great season from Gray and it starts here. Hopefully he carries the team to victory so that the flight back to New York is an enjoyable one. 

I have to admit that I felt very underwhelmed on Saturday morning when I saw that the Yankees had signed left-handed reliever Oliver Perez, 36. He’ll add depth at Triple A, which is a little short on lefties. Perez pitched for the Washington Nationals last year (appearing in 50 games with an 0-0 record and 4.64 ERA). The former Met failed to make the Cincinnati Reds in Spring Training and was released last weekend. Hopefully injuries do not force the Yankees to add Perez to the Major League roster (where he’d make $1 million). If that happens, it is not a very good sign for the state of the Bullpen. It would have made for a great April Fool’s Day joke except that’s today, not yesterday.  

Let’s get a win today and head back to New York with a 3-1 record. Go Yankees!

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