Saturday, April 8, 2017

Insult to Injury: Sanchez Gets Hurt, Bullpen Blows Lead. Yanks Drop Third Straight, 5-4

On a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon in the Ballpark at Camden Yards, the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles squared off in game two of the three-game weekend set. Both of today's starters, Masahiro Tanaka and Kevin Gausman, were looking to rebound from subpar 2017 debuts. But for the second straight game, neither starter was able to work into the sixth and it became another battle of the bullpens. And for the second straight game, New York's bullpen played the role of choke artist.

Although there were no runs to speak of in the first inning, there was a bit of history to report. Matt Holliday collected the 2000th hit of his career by lining a single into right field in the top of the first. According to YES Network color commentator Ken Singleton, Holliday became just the 279th player of the 19,000 player history of Major League Baseball to reach the milestone. Congrats Matt.

After a scoreless opening frame, the Yankees were first to hit the scoreboards in the top of the second. Chase Headley started the rally with a one-out walk, advancing to third when the next better Aaron Hicks drilled a double into left-center field. The number nine hitter Ronald Torreyes then came through with a ground ball single to right field that scored both runners to put the Bombers up 2-0. Impressively, the RBI were Torreyes' fourth and fifth in just five games, which actually leads the team now. Not too shabby for a guy who's supposed to be the defensive specialist who's taking over for the injured Didi Gregorius.

Baltimore waited a few innings but was able to get one of those runs back in the bottom of the fourth. Manny Machado started the frame off with a walk, advancing to second on a rare Orioles steel of second. After retiring Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, Tanaka served up a humpback liner to Wellington Castillo for a single, scoring Machado from second to make it a 2-1 contest.

Yankee fans held their collective breath in the top of the fifth when Gary Sanchez had to be taken out of the game. During a lengthy leadoff at bat, Sanchez stepped out of the batter's box to take a practice swing and bellowed over in pain while clutching his right arm. Manager Joe Girardi immediately came out of the dugout with an interpreter to talk to Sanchez, only to find out that his star catcher needed to be taken to the clubhouse with what was later reported as a right biceps strain. Austin Romine took over for Sanchez and completed the at-bat by earning a leadoff walk, advancing to third base on a Jacoby Ellsbury single to right. And then in the "not something you see every day" department, Gausman balked a pickoff throw to third that allowed Romine to score and moved Ellsbury to second. And Ellsbury being on second proved costly as Starlin Castro smacked a single into left field, plating Ellsbury and extending New York's lead to three. It was nice to see the Yankees finally add some insurance runs, but you hate to see it come at the expense your best player.

It didn't take long for the O's to respond as they got both of those runs back in the bottom of the fifth. Seth Smith started the inning with a single to right, advancing to second when Adam Jones was hit by a pitch. Manny Machado then smoked a double to right field that scored Smith and moved Jones to third, 4-2. After Chris Davis walked to load the bases with still no outs, Mark Trumbo grounded into what looked like a double play but was later overturned as an RBI fielders choice, leaving runners on first and third with one out. Tanaka then walked Wellington Castillo to reload the bases, only to strike out Hyun-Soo Kim and then got Jonathan Schoop to pop out to end the inning and the threat. Having thrown 36 pitches in just the fifth, Tanaka's day was done; leaving after throwing five innings, allowing three runs on six hits with a rare four walks, two hit-batsmen and five strikeouts.

Although Adam Warren worked a perfect 1.1 innings, a combination of Tommy Layne and Dellin Betances allowed the Orioles to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Layne served up a double to Chris Davis and was taken out for Betances. Dellin immediately gave up a single to Trumbo that scored Davis to tie the game at five. The next batter Hyun-Soo Kim lined a single into right field that drove in Trumbo and gave the Orioles their first lead of the night at 6-5. For the second straight night, I had to do everything in my power not to throw my remote through the television.

Having converted 51 consecutive save opportunities, the Yankees had no chance of making any offenseive noise against Zach Britton in the ninth, dropping their third consecutive game.

After spending the off-season in such excited anticipation, the first week of the season has been an absolute letdown and doesn't appear to be getting better anytime soon.

The Yankees will look to avoid the weekend sweep tomorrow afternoon, with the first pitch scheduled for 1:35 PM/EST.

Game Thread: New York Yankees @ Baltimore Orioles 4/8

Ladies and gentleman it is finally game time as the New York Yankees have made the trip back to Oriole Park and Camden Yards to take on the Baltimore Orioles in the second of a three game weekend set. In this middle game of the three game series the New York Yankees will send Masahiro Tanaka to the mound, Happy Tanaka Day everybody, to square off against Kevin Gausman for the Baltimore Orioles. The game will be played at 4:05 pm ET and can be seen on the YES Network, Fox Sports One and MLB TV. You can also follow along on the radio locally on WFAN.

Follow us on Twitter by giving @GreedyStripes a follow as we root for the Yankees together all season long. Go Yankees!

Yankees Prospects & The Beginning of the 2017 MiLB Season

The 2017 regular season for Major League Baseball has begun which means in the coming weeks the 2017 minor league seasons will begin as well. I wanted to take the time today to fill you in on where the Yankees top prospects will be beginning their 2017 seasons so you can keep up with them all season long. By the way I fully intend on bringing back the “Weekly Check In” posts so you can check in with them there as well but this is a good post to have bookmarked as well in my opinion. Enjoy and have a great Saturday everyone.

(1)    Gleyber Torres (SS) – Double-A Trenton Thunder
(2)    Clint Frazier (OF) – Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders
(3)    Blake Rutherford (OF) – Low-A Charleston Riverdogs
(4)    Aaron Judge (OF) – New York Yankees starting right fielder
(5)    Jorge Mateo (SS/2B) – High-A Tampa Yankees
(6)    James Kaprielian (RHP) – High-A Tampa Yankees (disabled list)
(7)    Justus Sheffield (LHP) – Double-A Trenton Thunder
(8)    Chance Adams (RHP) – Double-A Trenton Thunder
(9)    Dustin Fowler (OF) – Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders
(10) Miguel Andujar (3B) – Double-Trenton Thunder
(11) Albert Abreu (RHP) – Low-A Charleston Riverdogs
(12) Tyler Wade (INF) – Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders
(13) Jordan Montgomery (LHP) – Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders
(14) Domingo Acevedo (RHP) – High-A Tampa Yankees
(15) Dillon Tate (RHP) – Extended Spring Training

This Yankees team is going to be scary here in a year or three, isn’t it? Not too long ago the biggest knock on the club and specifically their farm system was that all their good prospects were so far away from the Major Leagues and that there were no blue chip prospects in the system. Not anymore.

Game Preview: New York Yankees @ Baltimore Orioles 4/8

Happy Tanaka Day ladies and gentleman! The New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles continue their three-game weekend set this weekend at Oriole Park and Camden Yards with the second game of the series this afternoon in Baltimore. As I alluded to earlier the New York Yankees will send their ace Masahiro Tanaka to the mound looking to bounce back from a bad start in Tampa in the season opener while the Baltimore Orioles will counter with a perennial thorn in the Yankees side in Kevin Gausman. This should be another fun one so let’s look at the pitching matchups.

Tanaka made his first start of the season Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays and the start did not exactly go as planned for the righty. Tanaka gave up seven earned runs in the loss which is a career high for the Yankees ace in a 7-3 loss to Tampa. Tanaka has made five career starts against the Orioles posting a 1-1 record with a 2.39 ERA.

Gausman is slowly and quietly becoming a Yankee-killer for Buck Showalter and the Orioles as he has given the Yankees offense absolute fits over the past couple of seasons. Gausman last started on Opening Day against the Toronto Blue Jays where he held their offense to two runs on five hits with four walks in a no decision.

The game will be played at 4:05 pm ET inside Oriole Park and Camden Yards and can be seen on the YES Network, Fox Sports One and MLB TV. The game can also be heard on your radio with John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman on WFAN. Enjoy the game and Go Yankees!! Beat those birds. 

My Thoughts on Masahiro Tanaka, Opt-Out Clauses and Conflicting Reports

Holy conflicting reports Batman. At the beginning of the day yesterday I read that if Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka opted out of his contract after the 2017 season that the New York Yankees would not pursue him only to read a complete 180 by the time I went to bed. One news publication has it that the Yankees won’t pursue and another, albeit by citing Randy Levine of all people as their source, says the Yankees haven’t made that decision and never said they wouldn’t pursue the Japanese-born right-hander. So which is it? Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Tanaka signed a huge deal worth $155 million when he came to the United States from Japan that included the opt-out clause after the 2017 season as a safety net for Tanaka. No one knew if Tanaka would like playing in New York or if he would rather play on the West Coast like many Japanese-born players do since it is closer to their homes in Japan so the Yankees gave him the opt-out clause that likely sealed the deal for his decision to come here. In Tanaka’s first season after signing the monster deal the righty suffered a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow that would normally require a season-ending and potentially career threatening Tommy John surgery. The Yankees, under the advice of many doctors and specialists including Dr. James Andrews, decided a rest and rehab program would be the best route to handle it and the team and Tanaka did just that despite varying degrees of criticism.

To date, and I am knocking on wood as I type this, Tanaka’s elbow has been fine and the diagnosis from the doctors looks to be a good one but as we all know pitchers are fragile in nature. Any pitcher at any time could suffer a torn UCL and require Tommy John surgery without any signs or warnings, see the very durable Bronson Arroyo as a prime example of this, so it makes sense that the Yankees may be weary and decide to let his “ticking time bomb” of an elbow be someone else’s problem if he opts out but I still don’t buy it.

After the season Michael Pineda is already coming off the books and so is CC Sabathia so losing Tanaka as well would leave the Yankees with exactly zero reliable starting pitchers for the 2018 season. Zero. James Kaprielian cannot be relied upon as he is already battling a second round of elbow concerns this season after missing most of last season with the same injury, Luis Severino has been inconsistent as a starter at best as has Chad Green and Luis Cessa, and as much as I love them as a fan Jordan Montgomery, Bryan Mitchell and Chance Adams have yet to prove themselves at the Major League level just yet. Granted they haven’t been given a huge shot, or no shot at all in the cases of Montgomery and Adams, but they wouldn’t give even me the warm and fuzzy feeling if all three of them started out next season in the Yankees starting rotation. I’m sorry but it’s the truth.

The free agent market looks barren at best for starting pitchers next season, especially considering that the Yankees plan on getting under the luxury tax threshold after this season, and the trade market requires prospects that the Yankees and Brian Cashman just don’t seem willing to part with at this time. It’s a bit of a Catch 22. Do you save money by using your farm system at the Major League level only to get under the cap and blow everyone out of the water for the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado or do you trade those prospects for proven, and more expensive, pieces like Jose Quintana and continue to rebuild while also trying to win? Honestly I’m glad I’m not the one making those decisions because I don’t truly know what I would do.

I have been on board with trading for Quintana all winter long and I won’t back away from that for obvious reasons. He’s been great, he is still young and his contract is extremely cheap for what you would get back from the lefty. The Yankees need to do it now though because he will only get more expensive, prospects wise, as the year goes on. If they are truly worried about Tanaka opting out then they need to pounce on Plan B now, to improve the team and to show Tanaka that they are serious about moving on if he decides to opt-out and hold the opt-out over the teams head for more money.

Ultimately I think I would bring Tanaka back because not every pitcher and player is made for New York but Tanaka has shown that he is. You can’t really put a number on that in my opinion. Sure there are concerns with his elbow but using history as an indicator of the future you could conceivably say that about any and all pitchers that the Yankees throw out there on a day-to-day basis. Some pitchers have never required Tommy John surgery after partial tears of their UCL like Tanaka (Felix Hernandez and Ervin Santana) while some pitched for what seems like forever (Adam Wainwright) before the problem popped up again so who really knows? The human body is an amazing, and yet very unpredictable, thing. It truly is.

Week One has been Anti-Fun…

The hope for the Yankees to get off to a great start are dissipating.  I know, it’s still early with just four games played, but winning only one out of four is not great, especially to lose one that should have been a win like last night’s game against the Baltimore Orioles.  

The game started very good as the Yankees raced to a 5-1 lead, thanks to home runs from Gary Sanchez and Matt Holliday.  But momentum turned when Manny Machado connected on a three-run shot off Luis Severino in the 5th to bring the O’s within one, 5-4.  It set the stage for outfielder Seth Smith to deliver the eventual game winning two run home run in the 7th off Tyler Clippard.

The game seemed to a microcosm of the season so far.  A few good performances (homers by Sanchez and Holliday, and Brett Gardner’s 3-for-5) surrounded by an overall ineffective offensive effort.  Marginal pitching susceptible to the random home run.  Poor fielding setting up the winning play (Chase Headley’s ill-timed throwing error that started the sequence leading to Smith’s game-winning HR).  Poor base-running to shut down potential big innings (like when Gary Sanchez was thrown out at second in the top of the 7th inning).  

It’s way too early to push the panic button with 157 games to be played.  But we’ll need more than Greg Bird’s .063 batting average to be successful.  Counting the next two games in Baltimore, the Yankees face AL East opponents eleven more times this month.  This includes a trip to Boston later this month for a three-game set.  The Yankees will also play the perennial playoff contending St Louis Cardinals next weekend at Yankee Stadium.  In other words, the April schedule is not forgiving.  It’s important for the Yankees to get on a roll for overall good performances, consistent from day to day.  This could easily swing in the wrong direction, sending the team on a downward spiral and mental funk.  

This is really the test of a good manager.  Now is the time for Joe Girardi to get inside the heads of his players and help challenge and motivate them to be their best.  If the team gets on a roll with a few consecutive wins, the mood changes and everybody’s talking about how exciting the young Baby Bombers are.  The time is now to start giving closer Aroldis Chapman a few save opportunities.

This has been the week of false news reports.  First, we had the reports that top prospect Clint Frazier asked the Yankees if they would un-retire Mickey Mantle’s #7.  It was quickly shot down as the Yankees said it didn’t happen and Frazier said that he’s only concerned about what’s on  the front of the jersey, not the back.  But something happened for the story to be written.  We may never know the genesis of it but there had to be a reason someone wrote about it, even if it was just a case of words being taken out of context.  I personally do not believe Frazier made that request but the player does bring his share of controversy (The Case of the Flaming Long Red Hair).  Next, it was reported that the Yankees would not attempt to re-sign Masahiro Tanaka if he decides to opt out of his contract at season's end.  While that does sound like something President Randy Levine would say after a few beers, I really do not believe that’s the Yankees official position on the subject.  The Yankees denied the reports, and Managing General Partner Hal Steinbrenner said no discussions have yet been held.  To the Yankees’ defense, if Tanaka does opt out, his next contract will extend primarily past his age-30 seasons (he turns 29 this November).  He is player that will need eventual Tommy John surgery so even if he is the ace, there must be discussions about the team’s strategy if Tanaka opts out.  

Sounds largely to me that writers are trying to find things to write about.  I get it.  Everyone’s trying to find the major story for sensationalism.  Rummaging through a few smoking cinders is likely to uncover a fire if you dig long enough.

This has not been a great week in the Yankees Universe.  Aside from the team’s struggling performance in Week 1, top pitching prospect James Kaprielian has been moved to the Minor League Disabled List and underwent a MRI (which included dye-contract in his elbow).  He is off to Los Angeles to consult with noted Tommy John surgeon Neal S. ElAttrache, M.D.  Dr. ElAttrache is the team physician for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Rams.  He is also on the Board of Directors for the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic, which was co-founded by Frank Jobe, the pioneer in Tommy John surgery.  This doesn’t sound good for Kaprielian and if he needs TJ surgery, it’s very likely that we will not see him again in any significant role until 2019 at the earliest.

I had been very optimistic about Kaprielian and had hoped that he would have a very successful 2017 minor league season to set him up as a potential rotation candidate next Spring.  Now, there is doubt whether he’ll ever be able to make the major leagues.  I hope that Kaprielian receives the best possible news from Dr ElAttrache and if surgery is the path, I wish him well on his long road to recovery.  I remain hopeful that we’ll one day see Kaprielian step out on the Yankees Stadium turf wearing pinstripes.

Masahiro Tanaka takes the mound today for the Yankees.  We could use some good news.  Here’s hoping that Week Two is much, much happier and more successful.

Have a great Saturday!

Quick Hit: Miguel Sulbaran Suspended Under Drug Prevention Program

Photo courtesy of Robert Pimpsner and Pinstriped Prospects

The New York Yankees saw one of their own suspended this week as left-handed starting pitcher Miguel Sulbaran was suspended for 25 games under the league’s minor league drug prevention and treatment program. If the name Sulabran sounds familiar it is because he was the pitching prospect that the Yankees got from the Minnesota Twins when they traded utility infielder Eduardo Nunez there a few seasons back.

Sulbaran was slated to begin the season in Double-A this season with the Trenton Thunder after going 3-5 with a 4.77 ERA there last year in 14 starts. Sulbaran also pitched for Triple-A Scranton last season as well pitching five scoreless innings for the RailRiders before heading back down to Trenton.

Here’s the press release in its entirety:

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that five Minor League players have been suspended following their violations of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

San Francisco Giants Minor League right-handed pitcher Jose Dominguez has received a 142-game suspension without pay after testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol, his second positive test for a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the program.  The suspension of Dominguez, who is currently on the roster of the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats of the Pacific Coast League, is effective immediately.

New York Yankees Minor League left-handed pitcher Miguel Sulbaran has received a 25-game suspension without pay following a violation of the program.  The suspension of Sulbaran, who is currently on the roster of the Double-A Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League, is effective immediately.

The following three players, all of whom are on their respective Club's rookie-level Dominican Summer League roster, have each received suspensions for performance-enhancing substance violations, effective at the start of the 2017 DSL season:

Seattle Mariners Minor League right-handed pitcher Frank Encarnacion has received a 72-game suspension without pay after testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol.

Detroit Tigers Minor League right-handed pitcher Jose Ramirez has received a 72-game suspension without pay after testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol.

Mariners Minor League right-handed pitcher Andy Taveras has received a 72-game suspension without pay after testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol.

This Day in New York Yankees History 4/8: Yangervis "Doubles" Solarte

On this day in 2014 the New York Yankees rookie third baseman Yangervis Solarte set a major league record when he hit his sixth double of the season in the first seven games of his career. Solarte achieved the feat on this day when he hit two doubles in a 14-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles inside Yankee Stadium. Solarte would end the day batting .429 for the season after going 12-28 to start the season.

Also on this day in 2003 on a 35 degree home opener for the New York Yankees Hideki Matsui hit his first career major league home run, a grand slam at that, against the Minnesota Twins. The rest, my friends, is history.

Finally on this day in 1975 Frank Robinson became the first black manager in MLB history and started his managerial career with a victory over the New York Yankees 5-3. The Cleveland Indians new player-manager also hit a home run in his first at bat as the designated hitter.