Saturday, April 2, 2022

Stretch Run to Opening Day...


Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Mike Stobe, Getty Images

The dawn of 2022 Regular Season is upon us…

Winter is leaving. I know, it already left, but the upcoming week will feature the official return of the 2022 MLB regular season with Opening Day scheduled for Thursday. It has been a long, difficult road through the atypical and frustrating off-season that included 99 days of the owners’ lockout. I am glad it is over, and happy Spring Training is nearing an end. I know we had hoped for more notable upgrades, yet the 2022 Yankees as presently structured can and will compete hard in the AL East.

With rosters expanding to twenty-eight players until May 1st, the Yankees are contemplating carrying 15 to 16 pitchers on the active roster until the May restoration of the maximum of thirteen pitchers (and thirteen non-pitchers). Between now and Opening Day, the Yankees will need to create room on the 40-man roster. I would like to see LHP Manny Banuelos make the team but then it becomes a question of who loses their spot on the 40-man to make it happen. Aaron Boone has given assurances that Albert Abreu and Mike King will be on the roster. Abreu is out of options. Boone’s assurance of a player’s spot, lately, has proven to be a precursor to a trade. I like Abreu but he seems to be a candidate to be moved if necessary.

Albert Abreu / Photo Credit: John Minchilli, AP

If I felt strongly about the other arms for the bullpen, I would consider trading Chad Green. He has been a good reliever for the Yankees, but if you could get a decent return, it would potentially be worth it. Considered one of the better relievers in the game, he is a good ‘sell high’ candidate if you feel he is replaceable. Not saying Banuelos is better than Green but looking at the composition of all the pitchers who could potentially step up, there are impact arms waiting for an opportunity. There are certainly plenty of internal options available and pitching coach Matt Blake has proven to be extraordinarily successful in his role, along with the other “new-thinking” pitching instructors in the organization. Plus, there are always guys like Clay Holmes who can be poached from other organizations.

I do not envy GM Brian Cashman for his upcoming roster decisions. The bench guarantees only one player…DJ LeMahieu. From there, it becomes a deeper shade of grey. Infielder/outfielder Marwin Gonzalez has seemingly done everything possible to make the Opening Day roster. As a non-roster minor league invitee, moves must be made a clear a spot for him. If the Yankees carry sixteen pitchers, then it seems Tim Locastro could be the odd man out. The Yankees need a backup catcher, expected to be Rob Brantly, until Ben Rortvedt is ready to play. It almost appears the Yankees must pick the worst of their available catchers for the backup role because whoever it is will most likely be designated for assignment when Rortvedt returns. Here is hoping Kyle Higashioka’s fabulous Spring carries over into the regular season. I have seen many fans projecting 20-23 homers and 70 RBIs for him. I am a little skeptical, but if he reaches those numbers with his excellent defense, it will be tremendous.

Kyle Higashioka & Gerrit Cole / Photo Credit: Tony Dejak, AP

Circling back to Locastro, it seems if the Yankees do carry an additional outfielder, besides Gonzalez, the choice will be between Locastro and NRI Ender Inciarte. I have to say it, the third option could be the return of Brett Gardner. Never rule out the Gardy Party until the party is over. Locastro seems to be favorite since he holds a spot on the 40-man. I have really liked Inciarte over the years and he might be my personal preference but either guy will be fine. Their Spring stats are oddly similar, slightly tilted toward Inciarte. Probably not enough to make a difference so I see Locastro retaining his spot. Speed plays.

Triple A games start on Tuesday so yesterday saw the following players re-assigned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: RHPs Matt Bowman and Ryan Weber, INF/OF Phillip Evans, INF Jose Peraza, 1B Ronald Guzmán, and OF Ryan LaMarre. I liked what I saw from Guzmán. I would love to see him crush it in Triple A. The former Rangers farmhand may forever be one of those 4A type of players, but I am still pulling for him.

Ronald Guzmán / Photo Credit: Charles Wenzelberg, The New York Post

Hopefully, the next few days will bring an announcement the Yankees have signed Aaron Judge to an extension. The rumors circulate about $30 million average annual value, with the number of years being the point of contention. Judge turns thirty later this month and it seems his camp wants six or seven years. Judge is the face of the franchise. He is the most visible player since Derek Jeter. Pay the man. I get the rub of multiple guys with heavy contracts into their late thirties (Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton), but Judge is the franchise player. If there is a single player on the team that I could never see (or rather never want to see) playing for another team, it is Judge. Do the right thing, Hal.

Aaron Judge / Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman, MLB Photos

After Manager Aaron Boone had said Luis Severino was dealing with “general soreness” last week, thoughts of worst-case scenario began seeping in. It proved to be nothing as Sevy was able to throw a bullpen session the next day after a cancelled start.

I am ‘cautiously’ excited about Severino’s return this season. I know he was back late last year, but it was a limited relief role. It has been several years since he was a force in the rotation. Yet, any excitement is tempered when we hear words like ‘general soreness.’ I am hopeful it is nothing and the season represents a full return for Sevy. We need a strong #2 and he can be that guy. He is not today, but he CAN be if health proves to be his friend.

When I heard yesterday that Mets ace Jacob deGrom has been shut down for four weeks due to “a stress reaction on his scapula that has caused inflammation in the area,” it brings up fears we could get the same kind of news about Severino. Sevy is scheduled to make sixty pitches today in his last Spring start. I will be crossing my fingers that all goes well. As for deGrom, I am sorry the best pitcher in the game has suffered a setback. He will undergo another MRI in four weeks. Not that I care about the Mets, but I wish deGrom well in his recovery and hope he is back sooner than later.

Not sure why Brian Cashman mentioned 2017 again this week. Look, we were all wronged. It was a bad situation, but it is water under the bridge. There is nothing that can be done about it, and the Yankees are not going to be anointed a mythical World Series champion as a result. It seems like the Yankees are trying to deflect attention from the impending release of the “Yankees Letter” which the Yankees intend to appeal…again. I have no idea if the two are related but the timing of Cashman’s words is odd. If the Yankees Letter unfairly portrays the Yankees in bad light (singles them out for actions taken by other team as well), I can see the team’s resistance to its release. But if they singularly violated the rules, the letter should be released.

Final Word: I am incredibly happy and excited for the return of Derek Jeter. Jeter will be honored with Hall of Fame Induction Tribute Night on Friday, September 9th at Yankee Stadium. 

If Jeter had still been the Miami Marlins CEO, this night might not have been possible. Selfishly, I am glad he is free from his loyalty to the Marlins and can make the high-profile appearance at Yankee Stadium. His long absence from Yankee Stadium has been difficult. He helped bring the twins, Mystique and Aura, from the old to the new Yankee Stadium. I will love seeing him back in the Bronx. Hopefully he brings the magic back home. 

As always, Go Yankees!

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)