Saturday, April 1, 2023

A Grand Yankees Opening and Debut...


Anthony Volpe (Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post)

Yankees win in Volpe’s debut…

Opening Day 2023 was about as perfect as the day could be. Gerrit Cole, in a dominating performance after the opening walk on four pitches, led the Yankees to a 5-0 victory over the San Francisco Giants. He struck out eleven Giants in six innings of work. The first Yankees home run of the season was courtesy of the 2022 AL Most Valuable Player, and the game featured the exciting debut of an extremely talented 21-year-old shortstop.

A good start. Now rinse and repeat for one hundred sixty-one more games. I wish all games could be as non-stressful as the first of the new season.

The next two games against the Giants will prove to be more challenging if for no other reason than Cole is not starting. With no disrespect to Clarke Schmidt and Jhony Brito, the scheduled weekend starters, they are not Cole, a potential Cy Young Award winner if he can continue to shove all season. I have been hoping 2023 proves to be Schmidt’s breakout year and hopefully, it begins today when he takes the Yankee Stadium mound. I am not denying Brito is an exciting young talent, but as the team’s Triple-A emergency starter, I would have preferred the emergency was not the first series of the season. Losing three starting pitchers before the season started is difficult, but in difficulty, there is an opportunity to shine.  Schmidt and Brito can make statements with their performances and prove they can be useful rotation pieces in the years ahead.  Not that one game will define anyone, but you must start somewhere.

I liked Anthony Volpe’s decision to go with number 11 for his Yankees career. It was a classy touch that he sought permission from Brett Gardner, who wore the number proudly from 2008 through 2021. Even better that Gardy gave his blessing. I had no problem with 77 had Volpe chosen to stay with his Spring Training number. Mickey Mantle is one of the greatest legends in franchise history, and seeing his number twice on the back of a jersey was kind of cool. But now that Volpe has taken 11, I like his choice.

1st Major League At-Bat for Anthony Volpe (Photo Credit: Andrew Mills/NJ Advance Media)

I thought it was funny as soon as Volpe relinquished 77, it was snapped up by pitching coach Matt Blake. Manager Aaron Boone, with his Reds number of 17, is the only coach with a number below 60. It is kind of funny there is a movement for managers and coaches to not wear numbers due to the shortage. The Yankees have retired twenty-two numbers, the most in MLB. I feel for future generations who may see triple digits on jerseys. I would go with alpha-numeric characters before adding a third digit.  Give the manager “M1”. His bench coach could be “C1”.  Seriously, I wish the Yankees held the criteria for retiring numbers much higher than they do. Reggie Jackson had a nice five-year run with the Yankees, but it was only five years. Sure, he helped win two World Series, and his three-home run game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1977 World Series stands out as his greatest performance, but many guys have helped the Yankees win with much longer tenures of success. 

I am not a fan of Alex Rodriguez, but he helped the Yankees win a World Series and had a long Yankees career. Yet, his number is still in circulation, most recently worn by former Yankee Joey Gallo. No doubt his history with PEDs contributed to the decision not to retire the number, but still, he was a good baseball player, every bit as good if not better than Jackson. Mike Mussina pitched eight great years with the Yankees and won twenty games in his final season, yet his number 35 immediately went back into circulation and is currently worn by reliever Clay Holmes. Mussina’s sin is never winning a World Series, but it did not stop the Yankees from retiring Don Mattingly’s number. The Yankees have not re-issued CC Sabathia’s number 52 (or Masahiro Tanaka’s 19 for that matter). I guess the lack of numbers is a problem for the 2173 Yankees which should not be our concern.

New Acquisitions

I had expected Rafael Ortega to make the Yankees’ Opening Day Roster, so I was slightly surprised when he opted out of his minor league contract after the Yankees made the decision not to promote him. The Yankees had their eye on former Boston Red Sox outfielder/first baseman Franchy Cordero who was cut by the Baltimore Orioles after a strong Spring performance. They signed Cordero and he was in uniform on Opening Day.

It is rather humorous that the Yankees could not re-sign Andrew Benintendi, so they signed the guy he was once traded for. Not expecting much with Cordero but it would be nice if the Yankees could tap into some of the potential he once held. He has prestigious power if he could ever learn to hit consistently. Cordero stands out in my mind for a misplayed popup when he was the first baseman for the Red Sox in a game against the Yankees last July. The dropped ball allowed Aaron Hicks to score in a game eventually won by the Yankees, 6-5.

Franchy Cordero (Photo Credit: Mary Schwalm/AP)

Cordero signed with the Orioles through free agency last December. He had a surprisingly strong Spring, slashing .413/.426/.674 (1.100 OPS) in eighteen games, but it was not enough to make the Orioles’ Opening Day Roster. He was released by the Orioles on March 27th and signed with the Yankees three days later. 

Regardless of past miscues and failed potential, it is a new beginning for Cordero. Maybe the Pinstripes are magical for him. Maybe not. There is only one way to find out.

The other new acquisition is reliever Colton Brewer. Brewer, who spent time with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders in 2017, is another former Red Sock.  He was in camp with the Tampa Bay Rays this Spring after spending 2022 playing for Kansas City’s Triple-A club, and when he failed to make the Rays’ Opening Day roster, the Yankees acquired him for cash considerations. Brewer has subsequently been assigned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. When he was first acquired, it appeared that it would be for a Major League spot which I did not see as a fit. It seemed like the Yankees would have had to end their love affair with Albert Abreu to make room (or move on from outfielder Estevan Florial). Brewer seems to be a depth/insurance piece to be stashed in Triple-A until if/when the need arises. 

I thought the Yankees would be more aggressive in bringing in a veteran pitcher given the injuries to the pitching staff. Not sure why Aaron Boone said the other day the Yankees were working on a potential deal to add a pitcher to the staff. If Brewer was the pitcher he was talking about, it probably was not worth the mention. Perhaps the potential deal fell apart. Sometimes it is best to say nothing until it happens.

Oswald Peraza, RailRider

I feel bad for Oswald Peraza. I felt like he was ready for the Major Leagues, and at the start of Spring Training, I had thought he would be the starting shortstop for the Yankees. I am not disappointed Anthony Volpe has the job, but I am saddened it cost Peraza a spot on the Major League roster. Peraza started at short on Friday night for the RailRiders in their 2-1 win over the Buffalo Bisons. He was 1-for-4, striking out three times. He had an eighth-inning single and a stolen base. Not a great night for him, but hopefully he stays positive and productive until he gets the call to the Show. 

Oswald Peraza (Photo Credit: Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Granted, with Volpe making the roster, there was no room for Peraza. I seriously thought Peraza would be the shortstop based on the stronger throwing arm, with Volpe representing the future at second base. Volpe carved his own future to take shortstop, and good for him. So now what happens? I am not ready to part ways with Gleyber Torres, even if I recognize he seems to be the most tradeable asset. If the Yankees are willing to commit to Torres long-term, I would not have an issue with trading Peraza to give him an opportunity elsewhere. If there is no intent to extend Torres, then the Yankees should pull the trigger on a trade when a reasonable offer presents itself to open the door for Peraza. 

Peraza spending the summer in Triple-A proves nothing. His development needs to continue in the Major Leagues. I hope the Yankees can figure this one out without harming the player’s future.

Gary Sanchez to the Giants

Great for Gary Sanchez to get an opportunity with the San Francisco Giants. A minor league deal, with a 30-day opt-out, but it is a chance for him to start anew. Despite the shortage of catching in the Yankees’ system, I did not want a reunion with Sanchez. However, I equally did not want to see him show up in Boston, Toronto, or Tampa Bay. Going to a National League club on the West Coast is best case scenario.

The Kraken (Photo Credit: Dan Fappiano)

I hope he is successful in reclaiming a Major League job. I wanted him to succeed as a Yankee and held my support for him longer than most fans. When the Yankees parted ways, it was time. So even though I do not wish to see his return to New York, I would like to see him find happiness and success so long as it is not with a Yankees rival. 

Speaking of ex-Yankees, Luke Voit signed a one-year deal with a club option for 2024 with the Milwaukee Brewers. I am glad to see him land a Major League job. It has been a tough road for him since leaving the Yankees. San Diego, Washington, and now Milwaukee. Although never a fan of Voit’s glove, I liked the guy’s bat and his personality in general. Armed with the mentality of an NFL linebacker, his home runs were a joy to watch.  Cheers to Luke in Brew City!

He may not have played for the Yankees at the big-league level, but former Yankees prospect outfielder/second baseman Nick Solak was acquired on Friday by the Seattle Mariners. He had been designated for assignment by the Cincinnati Reds. Solak went to the Tampa Bay Rays a few years ago in the deal that brought Brandon Drury to New York from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Solak found some later success with the Texas Rangers. Once a touted prospect, his journeyman status proves GM Brian Cashman was right to include him in a trade. I am always worried that the prospects traded away turn out to be Hall of Famers like Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff.  An unfounded fear, for the most part.

As always, Go Yankees!

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