Sunday, March 28, 2021

Injuries are Un-a-Voit-able…

Injured List claims Luke Voit, opens door for Bruce…

Hopefully, it is a not a case of “here we go again”, but the first major injury of the year occurred when the Yankees announced several days ago that Luke Voit would undergo surgery for a meniscus tear in his left knee. He had been dealing with swelling in the knee after games and decided it was better to take care of the issue now, rather than later in the season. With no baseball activity for the next three weeks, he is expected to be out until May…possibly into June, depending upon how his rehab goes. 

The beneficiary of the Voit news is obviously Jay Bruce who had exercised his opt-out on Thursday and was within the 48-hour window for the team to decide their plans for the veteran outfielder/converted first baseman. If Voit had been healthy, I fully expected Bruce to be handed his walking papers. There was no way the team was going to trade Mike Tauchman (versatility plays, versatility pays). If Tauchman had stunk it up this spring, I would have been all in favor of his trade, but he showed enough flashes of his 2019 version. If he can prove 2020 was the fluke and not 2019, he will play a very vital role for the Yankees this season even if first base is not one of his positions. Maybe he should pick up Luke’s glove. Just kidding…maybe. Meanwhile, Bruce is the one trying to prove he can get better as a first baseman with regular playing time, at least for the foreseeable future. Let us hope Bruce’s defense does not make us miss Voit’s glove, who is not exactly in Don Mattingly’s realm as a superior defender.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, New York Post

It is anybody’s guess what happens when Voit returns. Given his linebacker’s mentality, I’d bet the under for his return. If Bruce is playing well, it will be extremely difficult to cut him. I guess that is a question the Yankees will have to address when the time comes. Other injuries will certainly determine present and immediate needs. 

To make room for Bruce on the 40-man roster, the Yankees moved Clarke Schmidt (right elbow strain) to the 60-day injured list.

The loser of the Voit news is Mike Ford. As a choice for Luke’s replacement, he will instead start the season with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Granted, he will be the first option for help if Bruce has any difficulty at first or gets hurt.  Ford cannot just sit back and wait for the phone call. He has Chris Gittens breathing down his neck. Not that I ever try to read too much into spring stats, but Gittens certainly represents a first base option for the future based on the past few weeks. He played more games this spring than Ford even if he did not get as many overall at-bats. He hit three homers and drove in 7 runs in 20 games while Ford had one home run and 3 RBIs in 11 games. Gittens delivered 6 hits in 19 ABs, while Ford had only one more hit despite 8 more at-bats. At 27, Gittens is a year younger and four inches taller. Not that either factor is meant to imply Ford cannot do the job or that Gittens is better, but Chris has shown flashes he may be ready to help.

I had really wanted Derek Dietrich to make the team, but he has not played well enough to justify it. After his opt-out Thursday, the Yankees gave him his release. I certainly have no issue with the Yankees’ decision. I am only disappointed Dietrich did not show or do more. I suppose there is a chance he could sign a new minor league deal with the Yankees to be a phone call away, but I think it is more likely he will try to catch on elsewhere. 

Lucas Luetge, 34, has certainly proved dreams come true. With improved spin rates, he appears to be a lock for the Yankees bullpen during the absence of the injured Zack Britton. In 10 1/3 innings, Luetge has given up only two runs and two walks while striking out 18.  The strikeouts lead the relievers and are second most on the team behind Gerrit Cole. I have my doubts Luetge will be able to sustain his spring training performance over the course of a long season but for now, he will get to experience life in Pinstripes on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. That is something no one can ever take from him. 

The clear loser is Tyler Lyons. While Lyons has struck out 13 batters in 7 1/3 innings, he has also given up six runs. Not that the Yankees need to replace a lefty with a lefty, but Lyons goes down as a camp disappointment and lost opportunity as a result.

Of the right-handed relievers, I thought Kyle Barraclough had some potential to open eyes, but he appears to be just bullpen depth to be stashed away in Eastern Pennsylvania. Maybe that is all he ever was. I just try to be a little more optimistic than I should at times. 

I am glad to hear Justin Wilson is making his first steps to return. Despite an unimpressive spring, he will be counted on as a high leverage reliever this season and we need him to round into form. 

I was a little bummed when the Boston Red Sox grabbed Yankees pitching prospect Garrett Whitlock in last December’s Rule 5 Draft and probably a little more disappointed that he has been a camp surprise who has ensured a place on Boston’s Opening Day roster. I guess it is good for him given he probably would not have achieved similar success with the Yankees. At least not right now.  The likelihood the Red Sox will be a division bottom feeder this year probably means Whitlock will be able to stay on the roster for the duration of the season. Perhaps it is just a testament to the strength of arms the Yankees have in their system. It is simply not possible to keep all of them. I would never begrudge Whitlock opportunity to play in the Major Leagues. This is what he has played for, even if he is now wearing the wrong uniform.

Speaking of the Red Sox, the COVID-19 diagnosis for Matt Barnes probably means Boston will open the season with Adam Ottavino as their closer. Look, I loved Otto as a Yankee, but I am glad he is not my team’s closer. When he is on, he is unhittable. But when he is off, balls are going everywhere except into the catcher’s mitt. Good luck with that, Alex Cora. 

Last off-season, I wanted the Yankees to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka. Instead, the team made the decision to use Masa’s money to sign Corey Kluber and trade for Jameson Taillon. It seemed a bit risky given the recent health history for the latter two pitchers. Yet, the healthy pitchers this spring have been Kluber and Taillon. As for Masa, a calf injury will sideline him and delay his return debut for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. For Masa’s sake, I am glad it is just a calf injury and nothing to do with his arm or shoulder. Hopefully, he will be back soon and ready to show Rakuten fans what they have missed while he was away in New York.

It is always tough when former Yankee greats pass. The latest is 96-year-old Dr Bobby Brown. At 96 years, he had a good run. I primarily remember him as the President of the American League, but he did have a successful post-playing career as a cardiologist in Texas. I would say it was a life well served. As a third baseman, Brown won four World Series titles with the Yankees and was the last surviving member of the 1947, 1949 and 1950 World Series champions. Brown was noted for his post-season success. In 17 World Series games and 46 plate appearances, he hit .439/.500/.707/1.207, with five doubles and three triples. I like the story of when he told his wife during their courtship prior to marriage and before he had met her parents. “Tell your father I’m a third baseman for the Yankees. Tell your mother I’m in medical school.” Dr. Brown, thank you for your accomplishments, for your memories, and for your service. You will be missed but never forgotten. Rest peacefully.

As always, Go Yankees!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Deivi Pleads the Fifth...


Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, NY Post

Garcia states his case today…

Today is a big day for Deivi Garcia (well, as big as Spring Training games can get). For him, it is a battle for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Facing expected top AL East challenger, the Toronto Blue Jays (sorry Rays fans), Deivi can make a statement for Manager Aaron Boone and others with a strong performance.

Personally, and although I do not care for him personally, I think Domingo German has the leg up (arm up?) on Garcia. German has pitched very effectively this Spring and with a stronger MLB resume, I think German will receive first consideration. There will be opportunities for the young guys like Garcia, I just do not think he starts the year in the rotation (barring injuries, of course).  If I had my choice, I would love to see Garcia beat out German, but the realist in me says it will not happen. Yet, I think he will receive his opportunities over the course of the long season, and it will be fun to watch him get better and better with every pitch. Maybe this time next year, we are not asking if he will make the rotation, but which spot in the order of the starters.

I am starting to think Jay Bruce is going to make the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. When he was signed to a minor league deal, I did not really see how he fit the roster, but he continues to prove he can add value with his bat, plus playing some time at DH and first base. Not sure how much I would want to throw him in the outfield, but an occasional spot start is not the end of the world. I had wanted Derek Dietrich over Bruce but at this point, if one makes it, it is more probable it will be Bruce. I think the loser if Bruce makes the team is Mike Ford, not Mike Tauchman, but who knows. There are surprises every year.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

I am not a big fan of Tyler Wade, but his ability to play shortstop provides him with some degree of roster protection. So, I cannot really see the versatile Dietrich taking Wade’s roster spot. Kyle Holder, currently in camp with the Cincinnati Reds through Rule 5, could be returned to the Yankees if he does not make the Reds (he is presently 1-for-11 this Spring). Not saying he would make the Yankees roster, but he will be a resource at the alternate training site if the Yankees need shortstop help in a pinch. The less the Yankees must rely upon Wade the better, in my opinion. I feel his position can be upgraded. Holder is probably not that guy, but he has excellent defensive skills which is a plus and if Gleyber Torres is down for any time, I would want a strong glove more than a bat at the position (considering the overall offensive strength of the team).

It is really run to watch Corey Kluber pitch. He has such a strong presence on the mound. I hated to see the Yankees face him during his dominant years with the Cleveland Indians and I am hopeful that he can create that same type of intimidation for non-Yankee fans this year. Not that Gerrit Cole needs any help to be one of the top pitchers in all of baseball, but there are things to be learned from a veteran ace like Kluber. He is just one of those guys with the ability to make everyone around him better. I like it. I look forward to the first Yankee Stadium start this year for the Klubot. Still trying to get used to number 28 on the mound (feels a little like Joe Girardi pitching) but no doubt that Kluber will soon make 28 his own. I am glad he is here (and healthy). It must be a little bittersweet for Texas Rangers fans, wondering what could have been.   

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

I am really excited about the Yankees’ starting rotation this year. The front four of Cole, Kluber, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery is the best I have felt about the Yankees in years. Whether it is Domingo German, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt (when he returns to good health), Michael King or someone else, the fifth starter will be no slouch. Then, on the summer horizon, looms the return of the great Luis Severino. Life is good.

I know there’s concern about the bullpen loss of Zack Britton for the next 3-4 months, but the Yankees seem to believe the arms they have will step up. They could be right. The Tampa Bay Rays are notorious for seemingly rebuilding their bullpen almost every year with unknown names, yet they find success.  So long as none of the relievers give me that “shell-shocked” feeling we experienced with Tyler Clippard, I am confident they can get the job done. Like everyone else, I am quietly pulling for 33-year-old Lucas Luetge. Ten strikeouts in 4 games are an achievement, even in meaningless Spring games. With improved spin rates and the assistance of the Yankees’ pitching and analytics teams, maybe Luetge is not just a flash in the pan.  If not Luetge, then I hope Tyler Lyons claims the lefty role. Not that the Yankees need a lefty to replace Britton, but it would be nice. I liked Darren O’Day’s comment after yesterday’s game that the Yankees bullpen, as presently constructed and even without Britton, brings a different look from every reliever. I am glad Aroldis Chapman has been working on adding a split-change to his arsenal. After the recent playoff failures, we need Chappy to be the last man standing in October and not because the opposing team just hit a game-winning, World Series-ending home run off him. I want the famed Chapman stare as the last batter of the 2021 season goes down swinging.

Photo Credit: USATSI

It was not great news to read the reports Miguel Andújar has soreness in right hand/wrist and will see a specialist on Monday. With Gio Urshela’s delayed start to the regular season, Miggy is being counted on to hold down third base until Gio’s return. The Yankees can move D.J. LeMahieu to third base in the interim if Miggy misses time. I suppose if that happens, Dietrich’s chances to make the roster improve since he can play second base. Hopefully, the news about Miggy will not be serious enough to deter his availability for Opening Day but it is certainly a concern until we know more. Hoping to hear good news about Miggy on Monday.

Robinson Chirinos, we hardly knew ye. Non-roster invitee Chirinos was a long shot before he fractured his right wrist, but now, it is probably the last we have seen of him in Pinstripes. Some Yankee fans were upset about his presence, but it did not bother me. If he has rapport with Gerrit Cole, why not roll the dice? Rob Brantly’s home run on Friday was his statement that he is more than happy to be the third catcher. I feel bad for Chirinos. At age 36, any injury can be a career-ender. The wrist is always so problematic, and it is not as easy as just letting the bone heal. Wrist injuries always remind me of the struggles Mark Teixeira experienced when he injured his wrist. Brantly will not make the Opening Day roster, but he will be a phone call away in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, most likely, if the Yankees need help. With no offense to Brantly, I hope he never receives the call but that is beside the point. Sadly, injuries happen, and the Yankees need to be prepared. Hopefully, this is the year we see less injuries than in recent seasons, but we are not off to a great start. 

We are starting to move into that part of Spring Training where the excitement about the return of baseball has moved to the ‘let’s just get this over so we can get to Opening Day’ stage. With the limited travel of this year’s Spring schedule, I am starting to get tired of seeing the Phillies, Pirates, Tigers and Blue Jays repeatedly.

As always, Go Yankees!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Have Heart, Will Travel...

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, The New York Post

Aaron Boone’s eventful week…

It is hard to say Aaron Boone’s procedure this week for a pacemaker was unexpected given he had open-heart surgery to replace his bicuspid aortic valve in 2009, but it was certainly a shock to hear the news this week that he needed to step away for the pacemaker. It is incredible how positive Boone was before this week’s procedure and after. It is a testament to the man. I certainly cannot say I would have handled the news as well as he did. I am glad he emerged from the procedure in good spirits and that all went as well as it could have.

With Boone back in the dugout today (weather-permitting), it sounds awfully quick to me. My uninformed, not medically educated, opinion is he should have taken his time. I would probably prefer to see him take at least a week off before returning to the grind of Spring Training. Carlos Mendoza, “Mendy”, is certainly capable of handling managerial duties while Boone is away. But, as we know, that’s not Boonie. There was no doubt he would be back as soon as he felt physically and mentally capable to do so. In other words, yesterday. I admire his attitude and the incredible role model he sets for his coaches and players, and it is a strong trait that, in combo with other strengths, makes him a good Major League manager. I hope the pressures of being an MLB manager do not wear on him. Managing the most storied franchise in baseball, in front of the most demanding and passionate fans in the Universe, comes with a wee bit of stress, one would think…on top of everything else (media scrutiny, ownership demands, family obligations, etc.).

So, Aaron, we are glad everything went well, and we are happy you are back. But, please, take it easy, we want you for the long haul. You have proven to us you have heart. We want it to keep beating for many championship-filled years. 

It was too bad Corey Kluber’s debut pitching performance for the Yankees was not televised, but looking at the photos, he has such an incredible presence on the mound. I remember hating how good he was as a member of the Cleveland Indians during those playoff years. If he can be that guy, I would love every minute of it. I thought James Paxton could be soft at times but that certainly will not be the case with Klubot.  Win or lose, he is going to battle hard.  I really hope he can make it back to his previous levels.  I will miss Masahiro Tanaka, but I am really looking forward to watching Kluber pitch for the Yankees over Paxton and J.A. Happ. I qualify this by saying I do respect Paxton and I would have supported his return, but I think Kluber, if healthy, can be a force a rotation without the first inning jitters Paxton routinely delivered last year.

Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, The New York Post

Is it wrong that I like Derek Dietrich better than Tyler Wade? Okay, Dietrich cannot cover short like Wade, but otherwise, there is something about Dietrich and feel he is a gamer. Wade has good speed, yes, but I am hopeful Dietrich makes the team. I like Jay Bruce; however, I think Dietrich fits the team better. If Mikes Tauchman and/or Ford must go, so be it. I always hate it when the Yankees cut guys like Ji-Man Choi, Trevor Rosenthal, or Kirby Yates…only for those players to find success elsewhere but if Tauchman and Ford must go elsewhere to find success, it is what it is. I know, rosters are a numbers game, and you can only protect so many people. I cannot help it I am selfish and want all the best players on my team. 

Photo Credit: Randy Miller, NJ Advance Media for

I may not care about the man, but congrats to Domingo German for the strong performance in his return for the Yankees. He pitched two innings in yesterday’s 1-1 tie with the Detroit Tigers, giving up only one hit (a second inning double), no runs, and struck out four. It was the first game he has pitched for the Yankees since he was suspended late in the 2019 season for domestic violence. I believe everyone deserves a second chance but of course that is on German to show he is a changed man. Good pitching performances are meaningless if he has not changed.  Any repeat domestic violence episodes should be grounds for immediate termination (no tolerance policy at this point).

Photo Credit: Frank Franklin II, AP

I was pleased to see former Boston Red Sock Jackie Bradley, Jr. sign with the Milwaukee Brewers. JBJ’s bat never scared me but the guy was an elite defender in center. I am glad he is no longer there (Fenway Park) to snag everything hit anywhere in his jurisdiction. The entire Red Sox outfield that won the World Series on October 28, 2018 is no more. Mookie Betts is counting the big bucks in Los Angeles, Andrew Benintendi is leading a Royal life, and JBJ is pulling up his mug for a cold one in Brew City.

Speaking of Boston, I will hate to see Adam Ottavino pitching for them, but I figure he is just there until July when the Red Sox unload him for prospects with free agency impending. 

As always, Go Yankees!