Sunday, May 28, 2023

A Sliver of Pinstriped Optimism...


Luis Severino (Photo Credit: Robert Sabo/NY Post)

Severino upgrades Starting Rotation…

No offense, but the Yankees have none (offense). Lately, the Yankees have been Aaron Judge or bust. 

The Yankees were fortunate that Luis Severino brought his “A” game on Saturday against Juan Soto and the San Diego Padres. Sevy pitched into the seventh inning and would have completed it if not for an error by Gleyber Torres that unnecessarily extended the inning. Sevy yielded only one hit over 6 2/3 innings, giving up two runs although the second one was unearned after Michael King, in relief of Sevy, gave up a hit following Gleyber’s error. By holding the Padres to only two runs, the Yankees were able to escape with the win, thanks to a clutch RBI single by Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the bottom of the tenth inning.

Isiah Kiner-Falefa & Greg Allen (Photo Credit: Bebeto Matthews/AP)

Yankee fans were able to take a break from the latest game of “What has happened to DJ LeMahieu?” LeMahieu’s home run in the seventh inning tied the game at two after the Padres had taken a brief one-run lead.  He was also responsible for the game’s first run when he doubled to left in the bottom of the first inning, scoring Aaron Judge. Almost two runs were driven in with that hit, but a perfect relay from left fielder Juan Soto to shortstop Ha-Seong Kim, covering third, to the catcher, Brett Sullivan, erased Anthony Rizzo at the plate. LeMahieu advanced to third but was left stranded.   For the game, LeMahieu was 2-for-3 with two runs batted in. He was intentionally walked in the bottom of the tenth when Padres Manager Bob Melvin wanted to take no chances with the suddenly hot LeMahieu. 

Credit to Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who has proven to be the team’s valuable utility player this season. For as much as I was down on him as the starting shortstop last year, he has proven he deserves a place on the Yankees’ roster. This season, he has embraced his role and it has been evident in his play. He is an optimistic player who values wearing Pinstripes despite the past wrath of the fans. 

For Severino, he made eighty-two pitches, striking out five batters. The only hit he surrendered was a fourth-inning home run by Fernando Tatis, Jr. It was a strong performance and exactly what the Yankees needed as the season progresses. After three consecutive losses, the Yankees needed a shot in the arm and Sevy delivered.

Nestor Cortes, Jr’s inability to pitch deep into games is getting magnified and despite his brilliant 2022 performance, the Yankees’ rotation has suffered from Nestor’s placement as the second starter behind Gerrit Cole. Thankfully, Nestor slides down the rotation order with Sevy’s return, and hopefully, he falls further when/if we see Carlos Rodón. It is not that I want to see Nestor fail. Just the opposite. However, something is not right. His Grade 2 hamstring strain in February disrupted his Spring Training and may be the likely cause. Hopefully, Nestor will persevere and get back to his old self.  It remains to be seen if he can do it without a trip to the Injured List. 

So long, Aaron Hicks

The Yankees officially severed ties with Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks when he was released on Friday. With two years remaining on his contract, it was unlikely any team would have placed a waiver claim. I will always wonder if the Yankees could have lessened the financial impact if they had traded Hicks in the off-season, paying part of but not all the dollars remaining. 

As much as I was down on Hicks in recent years, I appreciated his play at the end of the Joe Girardi era. When he was healthy (and productive), he was a fun player to watch. Part of me wishes he had embraced a part-time role like IKF has, but Hicks’ production in recent years leads me to believe a parting of ways was in the best interests of both the player and the club.

I hope Hicks can find a nice role with another team (one which he can embrace) to help extend his career for a few more years until he drifts off to the golf courses in Arizona. 

Aaron Hicks & Cheyenne Woods (Photo Credit: Beth Ann Nichols/Golfweek)

Hello, Domingo German

Domingo German is back. The Yankees activated him today after he served his ten-game suspension for the “sticky stuff”. 

I will never be a fan of German, but his presence is needed…at least until the Yankees can find a better option. Playing a man short was tough on the Yankees’ roster for the past week and a half since the Yankees were unable to fill the spot while he was suspended. There is too much uncertainty with Nestor Cortes, Jr (as previously alluded to) and Clarke Schmidt. German can give the Yankees a chance to win. I will be excited for the day he becomes the long man in the pen instead of a starter (or better yet, finds new residence in another city), but for now, if he can hold teams to two or three runs over six to seven innings consistently, sign me up. 

With the departure of Aaron Hicks, my list of least favorite Yankees has been updated.

  1. Josh Donaldson
  2. Domingo German
  3. Jake Bauers
  4. Albert Abreu
  5. Kyle Higashioka

I did want Bauers to succeed, but he is what he is…which is not very good. With Estevan Florial tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A, I would cut Bauers to give Florial a shot. Yet, it does seem likely Florial will have to go elsewhere to get a true shot. The Yankees seem convinced that Florial cannot hit Major League pitching. I am still surprised that no team took a flyer on him when the Yankees placed him on waivers earlier this season. It seems a given that Bauers’ time will end when Giancarlo Stanton is activated. If the Yankees upgrade left field between now and the trade deadline, Willie Calhoun should be the next to go. 

I am not sure why I am so down on Donaldson. Maybe last year was an aberration with the shortened Spring Training. We all know that Donaldson knows how to handle the glove at third base. If he can find a rejuvenated bat, he can serve a purpose. Yet, I have not missed Donaldson in the lineup. If the Yankees do not trade Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu is more than capable of handling third base with some assistance from Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Since Donaldson is currently on a rehab assignment, his return is imminent. He will have the next couple of months to prove his bat has not retired ahead of his playing career. If he continues to hit like last year (or rather, not hit), the Yankees should cut bait, just like they did with Hicks. I know I would prefer to have Oswald Peraza on the active roster over Donaldson. Not sure what Peraza has to do to earn a promotion since he should be playing in the Major Leagues right now.  Peraza is literally the team’s best fielding shortstop and he, like Florial, is playing very well in Triple-A. Not saying that he should start over Anthony Volpe, but Peraza should be on the MLB roster.  If given a choice, I would take the upside of Peraza over the ‘past-his-prime’ Donaldson. 

Oswald Peraza

Albert Abreu was once my favorite pitching prospect. While it seems likely the Yankees will demote Matt Krook when it is time to activate Tommy Kahnle, Abreu is the one who should go. We have seen enough. There are more deserving arms in the system, including Krook. The Yankees like Abreu so he continues to hang around, but it seems inevitable he will be bounced off the island at some point.

For as strong as Kyle Higashioka is behind the plate, the bat does not warrant a place on the roster. If the Yankees decided to replace Higgy with Ben Rortvedt after Jose Trevino returns from the Injured List, I would not be disappointed. Higgy has one more year of arbitration before he hits the open market, but the Yankees should move on from him this coming off-season if they do not part ways sooner. I like Higgy, but his performance does not match his rising salary (he is making $1,462,500 this season). Through eighty-one plate appearances, Higgy is hitting .173/.235/.333 (.250 wOBA) with seven home runs and eleven RBIs. If there is a player I would like to see turn it around, it is Higgy. Trevino’s injury gave him a chance to shine, but he has chosen to take the dull path. It would be nice if Rortvedt seized the opportunity, but his chances have been limited. 

The Yankees are 31-23, seven games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East and three games behind the Baltimore Orioles. As the Yankees continue to get healthy, there is reason for optimism. Giancarlo Stanton’s return will take pressure off hitters not named Aaron Judge which will benefit everyone.  If the Yankees can get back to winning series consistently, they can make up ground in the division. Today is a good day to start.

As always, Go Yankees!

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