With Saturday’s win the Yankees are now on a season-high four-game winning streak


i (20)

Masahiro Tanaka – ESPN

After beating the Oakland Athletics, 5-1, on Saturday in Oakland, the Yankees are not in last place in the American League East for the first time since April 23. That was their longest stretch in last place since the last four weeks of the 1990 season. They have gone 11-5 in their last 16 games and have really turned their season around, as they are now 20-22 and 6.5 games out of first place.

This was their fourth consecutive win and in each of those wins their starting pitchers have pitched six innings or more and have impressively allowed only one run. CC Sabathia came off of the disabled list on Friday and showed the same dominance that he did in his start before going on the DL as he allowed one run on three hits and a walk. He struck out a season-high eight batters, and it appears that his knee brace has really been helping him.

Masahiro Tanaka got the start in Saturday’s game and allowed one run on five hits and two walks in seven very effective innings. In the fifth inning, with the Yankees leading 4-0, Danny Valencia hit a sacrifice fly to center that scored catcher Matt McBride, who walked to lead off the inning. Tanaka, who has been the team’s best starting pitcher this season, has a 3.24 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 50 strikeouts. This was a big bounce back game for Tanaka because he was able to rebound after allowing four and six runs in his last two starts, respectively.

The fifth run that the Yankees scored, a double by Starlin Castro in the seventh that scored Ronald Torreyes, was able to allow Nick Goody to pitch the last two innings and give the team’s big three of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman the game off. Goody, who was pitching in his seventh game this season and made his debut in 2015, allowed one hit and no walks in his two innings pitched. He has a 1.64 ERA (two earned runs) and 12 strikeouts in 11 innings pitched this season. Girardi might rely on Goody more as some of the other middle relievers before the big three haven’t been very reliable.

Entering the bottom of the fourth the score was still 0-0, but then the Yankees would score all the runs they would need off of Oakland starter Sean Manaea for the win. The Yankees, who scored five runs off of Manaea, capitalized off of a pitcher who had been struggling this season since he had allowed 8, 4, and 4 and three of his four other starts this season.

With the bases loaded and no outs, Carlos Beltran hit a single to left center that scored Jacoby Ellsbury for the team’s first run. Then, with one out, Aaron Hicks hit a sacrifice fly to left that scored Castro. To make the score 4-0, Rob Refsnyder hit a double to deep right that scored Beltran and Mark Teixeira. Refsnyder, who was playing right field, appeared in a game for the first time since being called up from Triple-A with Luis Cessa and James Pazos on May 17.

Refsnyder has really mastered Triple-A pitching since he had a .293 average with two homers and 10 RBIs in 133 at-bats this season, but from April 26 until May 12 he had a 16-game hitting streak with six multi-hit games and nine runs scored. He also slugged his first two homers of the season in his second to last game before being called up. He will be able to provide offense off of the bench while being able to play right field, third and second.

Castro, who has the highest batting average of any regular on the team, was 3-5 to improve his average to .277. He has adapted well to playing with the Yankees after being traded from the Cubs in the offseason and he forms a solid young middle of the infield with Didi Gregorius. Castro was able to break out of his mini slump since he had only one hit in 13 at-bats before Saturday’s game.

Beltran, who leads the team in RBIs with 26, was two for four to improve his average to .268. After finishing April of 2015 with a very low .162 average, Beltran has been able to continue the improved production that he had during the last five months of last season. He has been a major part of the team going 5-2 in the last week as he has .385 average (10-26) with four runs scored, four doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs in the last seven days.

With a win Sunday afternoon against Oakland (4:05 p.m. EST) they will have swept the Athletics and will have finished the road trip with a 5-2 record. After this series in the Bay Area the Yankees will return for three games against the last place Toronto Blue Jays and then go on a 10-game road trip. Those 10 games will be important because nine of those 10 games will be against AL East teams.

Betances, Miller and Chapman were used in a game for the first time in the Yankees 2-1 win over the White Sox


i (25)

Ivan Nova – Yankees

The win that the Yankees had on Saturday afternoon was one that Brian Cashman envisioned when he traded for Aroldis Chapman in the offseason. Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox was the first time that the flame-throwing trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Chapman all pitched in a game and they lived up to their potential.

Chapman’s first game active this season was May 9 after being suspended for 30 games due to domestic violence, and Saturday was the first game when Joe Girardi thought it made sense to use all three given the score and that each of the three were rested. Betances came into the game in the sixth after Ivan Nova walked Todd Frazier with two outs and then pitched 1.1 innings while striking out every batter he faced, Miller only allowed a single in the eighth inning and Chapman struck out two of the three batters he faced while getting his second save as a Yankee.

“We knew these would be the type of games that we would use all three of them, and that if we could line them up, it’d be pretty good,” Girardi said.

In total, Betances, Miller and Chapman pitched 3.1 innings while allowing only one hit, no walks and they combined to strikeout eight of the 11 batters that they faced. The most fearsome trio in baseball could not have been any better and all three will likely be available for Sunday’s game, when the Yankees will try for the third consecutive series win.

Dellin Betances has three more strikeouts (32, 2.20 ERA) than any other reliever in the American League, Miller has a near flawless 0.61 ERA and has only six fewer strikeouts than Betances and Chapman’s 116 strikeouts were tied for the 45th most in the National League last season and were 25 more than any other relief pitcher in the NL. Chapman also threw 77 of the 77 fastest pitches in Major League Baseball last season, which proves how much faster he throws than every other pitcher.

Nathan Eovaldi threw a 101.6 mph fastball last season and Chapman was able to actually throw 77 fastballs that were faster. He overpowers hitters with his fastball and catches them off guard with his slider that can be 13 or 14 mph slower than his fastball.

Nova had his second consecutive dominant start since replacing CC Sabathia in the rotation, who went on the disabled list due to a strained left groin on May 6. In Saturday afternoon’s game, Nova pitched 5.2 innings, gave up only four hits and only allowed Todd Frazier’s solo homer to left in the fourth inning. He is still getting stretched out after pitching in the bullpen before May 9, but was able to throw 48 of his 74 pitches for strikes. Nova’s sinker was really working on Saturday since 12 of the 17 outs that he recorded were via the groundout.

Nova only allowed one run in 4.2 innings in his start on May 9 and should be able to stay in the rotation for at least a few more starts. Luis Severino went on the 15-day disabled list with a right triceps strain after his start on Friday. He will likely need more than the required 15 days and he hasn’t been anything like the pitcher he was during the last two months of last season anyway.

Severino, who is 22 and made his big league debut last August, made 11 starts from the beginning of August through the end of September last season and had an impressive 2.89 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and a 2.0 Wins Above Replacement. However, possibly partly due to his triceps strain, this season he has a 7.46 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, eight homers allowed and a -0.7 Wins Above Replacement in seven starts. It might make sense for him to throw a few starts at Triple-A before coming off of the DL.

The Yankees did all of their scoring in the second inning. Aaron Hicks continued his improvement on offense as he was 1-3 and had an RBI double in the second. In the last seven days, Hicks has a .333 average (8-24) with one homer, two doubles, four RBIs and five runs scored. He has raised his average from .122 to .210 in the last seven days and is playing like the player that the Yankees thought they were getting when they traded for him in the offseason.

Didi Gregorius’s RBI single in the second that scored Hicks ended up being the winning run for the Yankees. Gregorius was 3-3 during the afternoon and the bottom third of the order had all five of the team’s hits. Gregorius has six RBIs in his last four games, which are as many as he had in his previous 17 games combined.

It is a positive sign that the Yankees have been getting more production from the bottom of the lineup recently. The Yankees will have a dangerous offense when the top, middle and bottom of the order are locked in at the same time.

Jose Quintana has been one of the best pitchers in the American League as he only has a 1.54 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in eight starts this season, but the Yankees were able to do just enough to even the series.

Masahiro Tanaka will get the start in the series finale and will look to get the team a series win against the first place team in the AL Central. Chase Headley will get the day off at third and will be replaced by Ronald Torreyes and Dustin Ackley will get the start in right with Hicks getting rest.

The Yankees beat the Royals on Thursday for their second consecutive series win


i (24)

Chase Headley – ESPN

The Yankees defeated the Kansas City Royals, 7-3, on Thursday night in the Bronx. That victory gave them the series win over the defending World Series champions and their second consecutive series win.

The Bronx Bombers, who are now starting to earn their nickname again, have won six of their last nine games to pull within five games of .500 (14-19). Their winning percentage has been equal to or worse than five games below .500 everyday since April 27 when they were 8-12.

Offensively the Yankees scored six runs or more for the fourth time in their last six games. They had previously scored three runs or less in five of six games. The Yankees are becoming a good team and the Yankees were able to have production from the bottom of the lineup in this game, which teams need to have in order to win consistently.

Chase Headley was 2-3 with two runs scored, two RBIs and his first home run of the season. His homer in the second inning that drove in Carlos Beltran was his first extra-base hit of the season as well. Noah Syndergaard, who is a starting pitcher, had two homers for the Mets on Wednesday.

“It’s been a long time,” Headley said. “Felt like it’s been a really long time.” Headley finished 5th in the National League MVP voting in 2012 after his .286, 31 homer, 115 RBI season, so he is obviously capable of producing power numbers.

The Yankees need Headley, who was hitting 8th in the lineup, to continue his turnaround at the plate as he is 7-20 (.350 average) with five runs scored, one homer and four RBIs in his last six games. This improved play in the last week has increased his average from .151 to .194. Headley’s work in the cage after games recently is now showing on the field. He also made a Gold Glove caliber play to end the game on a ball that took a bad hop.

Didi Gregorius, who was hitting 7th Thursday night, was the second of three Yankees to hit a round tripper. Gregorius’s homer was his only hit of the game, but it was important as it gave the team two more insurance runs in the 4th after the Royals had made the score 3-2. His homer to deep right off of former Yankee Ian Kennedy over the WB Mason sign was off of a hanging curve ball.

It is always a positive when four of the team’s seven runs are driven in by the seven and eight hitters in the lineup.

Starlin Castro, whose .300 average is higher than any everyday player on the team, went 2-4 with two RBIs. He hit his fourth homer of the season in the first inning and singled to right in the seventh to score Headley. Castro is by far the best second baseman that the Yankees have had since Robinson Cano left to go to the Seattle Mariners after the 2013 season. Brian McCann gave the Yankees their seventh run on a bases loaded walk in the 7th, which was his team-leading 16th run batted in.

Nathan Eovaldi (3-2) did not pitch nearly as well as he did in his previous start when he allowed only two runs in eight innings, but he was able to keep the team in the game without having his best command of his pitches. The Royals scored three runs off of him in five innings off of eight hits and two walks.

The Yankees were leading 3-0 going into the 4th but then Alex Gordon hit a homer to deep right center and Christian Colon hit an RBI double to make the score 3-2. Eovaldi nearly finished the fifth inning without allowing a run but Eric Hosmer hit a double with two strikes and two outs. However, he was able to pitch will with two outs and a runner in scoring position since after Gordon’s RBI single he got Salvador Perez to fly out to right to end the inning.

Four Yankee relievers combined to pitch the sixth, seven, eighth and ninth innings and they combined to only allow one hit.

Kirby Yates, who pitched the sixth inning, has somewhat gone under the radar since he has not allowed a run in his last seven innings (7 games) and has struck out eight batters and lowered his ERA from 5.06 to 2.19. The 29-year-old Hawaii native, who is in his third season, is having much more success than he did last season for the Tampa Bay Rays when he had a 7.97 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 20.1 innings. He will be a valuable pitcher before Girardi gets to his Big Three of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.

The duo of Betances and Miller combined to pitch the 7th and 8th innings and not allow a hit and strikeout two batters. Miller has an outstanding 0.66 ERA and the only run he has given up this year was a solo homer in the second game of the series against the Royals.

The Yankees had a 7-3 lead in the ninth so they were able to save Chapman for the opening game of the series against the first place Chicago White Sox on Friday night. Chicago is somewhat surprisingly 23-12 and five games ahead of the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. The Yankees, who need to win their third consecutive series, could be facing the White Sox at the right time as they have lost their last two games.

 

The Yankees lost to the Royals on Wednesday as Pineda struggled in the 1st inning again


543305

Aaron Hicks – MLB

The Yankees (13-19) lost to the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night, 7-3, at Yankee Stadium. Michael Pineda allowed six runs in 5.2 innings pitched, but he allowed four of his six runs in the first inning. This continued his trend of struggling early in the contest but then rebounding. He needs to find consistency, so that he is a reliable pitcher in the beginning of the game.

He has really struggled in the first two innings this season as 20 of the 27 earned runs that he has allowed this season have come in the first two frames. He has been a completely different pitcher after the second frame, but his inability to prevent runners from scoring in the first two stanzas has led to him having a very high ERA of 6.28, a WHIP of 1.60 to go along with hitters having a .306 average against him in his seven starts.

After Alex Gordon’s sacrifice fly scored Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez would go onto smash a three-run homer to left that gave the Royals their fourth run of the first inning. That homer by Perez ended up being the difference in the game. Pineda has struggled with the long ball this year as his nine homers given up are tied for the fourth most in the American League.

Pineda has allowed a solid two earned runs in four of his seven starts, but that is not good enough because in his other three starts he has given up six, seven and six runs, respectively. He is obviously not injured based on the way he has pitched after the second inning, but he just needs a different mindset so that he doesn’t have starts where he allows four runs in the first inning.

With Wednesday night’s loss, the Yankees now have a 5-3 record in the last eight games. They are starting to turn the season around because in their previous eight games they had a record of 1-7. A factor in the team winning more games in the last eight contests is that they have scored 38 runs in that span versus only 17 runs in the stretch when they went 1-7.

A positive development during this stretch of improved offense has been the play of Aaron Hicks, who was traded to the Yankees in the offseason. He has gotten consistent at-bats since he has been playing everyday in the outfield as a result of Carlos Beltran being the DH with Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list. Hicks was 3-4 on Wednesday night, and in the last seven games he is an impressive 9-21 (.429) with one double, two homers, five RBIs and five runs scored. His average was .067 on May 4 and is now a much more respectable .216.

Beltran, who was 2-4 last night with a solo home run, has hit well during the month of May. He is 10-36 (.278) with three homers, four doubles, five runs scored and six RBIs. There have been 10 of the team’s 32 games during May, and three of his seven homers have come during May in addition to six of his 15 RBIs.

Beltran also hit his 399th career homer last night, which puts him in a three-way tie for 54th on the all-time list with Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga. Three Yankees are in the top five on the all-time switch hitter home run list as Mark Teixeira has 397, Beltran has 399 and Chipper Jones retired with 468, Eddie Murray retired with 504 and Mickey Mantle retired with 536.

Chase Headley had a single to shallow left in the second inning to score Hicks for his only hit of the game. He has a very low .178 average this season, but the third baseman has a .278 average (5-18) in the last seven days to show some signs of improvement. However, Headley still does not have an extra base hit this season and has only four RBIs. Proving how Headley has not done his part as an everyday player is that 26 pitchers have an extra base hit this season while Headley does not have one.

The Yankees will play the series finale against the Royals tonight at 7:05 p.m. They will win the series if they win tonight’s game that will be started by Nathan Eovaldi (4.78 ERA). In Eovaldi’s previous start, he dominated in eight innings as he allowed two runs and struck out six.

Joe Girardi has said that the goal is to win consecutive series that they play, and the Yankees should be able to get back into the race in the American League East if they can win the next five series that they play. They went into this series having won their previous two.

 

Eovaldi’s most complete start of the season helped the Yankees beat the Red Sox 8-2


i (23)

Nathan Eovaldi – ESPN 

The Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox, 8-2, at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon for their second consecutive win against their rivals to the north. The Yankees (11-17), who have now won three of their last four games, will have their first three-game winning streak since the first week of September if they can beat the Red Sox tonight on Sunday Night Baseball.

The Yankees are still six games below .500, but it is a positive sign that they have had four consecutive quality starts and the offense is scoring more runs than earlier in the season. The offense has scored seven or more runs twice in their last four games after previously only doing so once in 20 games.

Nathan Eovaldi dominated against the Red Sox offense on Saturday afternoon, which helped save the bullpen and defeat David Price. He threw eight innings, which is a season-high, and gave a season-low zero walks. He also allowed six hits, only two earned runs and struck out six batters. He lowered his ERA from 5.36 to 4.78 and rebounded well from his previous start when he allowed 10 hits, six runs and three walks in five innings pitched.

Before his meltdown in his last start against the Red Sox on May 1, he had progressively improved in every start this season. In order he had allowed five, four, three and then zero earned runs. He showed what he is capable of during Saturday’s start and he just needs to consistently not walk batters, limit his homers and combine his overpowering fastball (99mph) with his improved splitter, slider and curve.

Joe Girardi will need Eovaldi to be consistent because CC Sabathia, who threw seven shutout innings on May 4, was put on the 15-day disabled list with a left groin strain on May 6. Eovaldi has the ability to be a No. 2 caliber starter but he along with Michael Pineda just need to learn to not get sidetracked to adversity during the game.

On offense, the bottom third of the Yankees order won the game for the team as the trio of Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius and Austin Romine scored three runs and drove in five. Headley, who has not hit a home run yet this season and has been one of the worst players on offense in the league, had his first multi-hit game since April 19 and crossed home plate for the first time since April 12.

Headley went 2-4, which improved his average from .151 to .169, and scored his third and fourth runs of the season. The Yankees hope that this is a sign of his improving at the plate and of him hitting more like he did at the end of August last season when he had one or more hits in 12 of 14 games.

Austin Romine, who has an impressive .348 average this year as the back-up catcher, smashed a double to right center in the third that scored Headley, for one of this three hits. He also hit a double in the eighth to drive in Headley for the team’s eighth run of the contest. Romine has to this point greatly improved his hitting at the plate compared to previous seasons.

Didi Gregorius’s double in the fourth that scored Starlin Castro, Mark Teixeira and Dustin Ackley made the score 4-1 and gave the Yankees all the runs that they would need to defeat Boston. A positive sign from Gregorius was that his double was his first extra base hit since he slugged a homer on April 20 against the Oakland Athletics.

Carlos Beltran had a two RBI double in the fifth and Aaron Hicks had a sacrifice fly in the sixth to give the Yankees their three other runs.

Hicks is also gradually starting to improve offensively since he has one hit in each of the last three games after previously starting his season with two hits in his first 30 at-bats. His increased playing time in the outfield due to Alex Rodriguez being on the disabled list could lead to more production.

The Yankees will look to sweep the Red Sox tonight on Mother’s Day and get some revenge for when the Red Sox swept them last week at Fenway Park. If the Yankees win and the Orioles lose today, the Yankees could only be 4.5 games out of first place, which isn’t that bad considering the start that they have had.

 

The Yankees beat the Orioles 7-0 in a game that was a must-win


i (22)

CC Sabathia – ESPN

On Wednesday, in the middle game of their three-game series at Camden Yards, the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 7-0 to end their six-game losing streak. Before Wednesday night’s game, the Yankees had only scored more than four runs once in their previous 10 games.

The Yankees are currently last in the American League with 89 runs scored after finishing last season with the second most runs scored in the AL, which means that the team is due to continue to score runs more runs than they had been the previous 10 games. They will need to based on the teams that they play coming up.

CC Sabathia did not allow a run in seven innings pitched to go along with only allowing six hits and recording six strikeouts. It was a throwback performance for Sabathia, who was the ace of the staff when the Yankees won the World Series in 2009, as this was the first time that he allowed zero runs in seven innings pitched since April of 2013. He was able to lower his ERA from 5.06 to 3.81 and picked the perfect time to have his best start of the season.

Sabathia, who won his 99th game as a Yankee, entered the season as the team’s No. 5 starter but his ERA is second best of the five starters, he has allowed the second fewest hits and his one homer allowed this season is lower than any other starter.

He does not pitch with the same velocity that he used to, but he has figured out how to change his pitching style to be more reliant on his change-up and still be effective. The Yankees will need Sabathia, who is in his 17th season, to continue pitching more like a No. 3 starter than a No. 5 because Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino have been struggling.

The offense for the Yankees had a much needed seven-run outburst. They were able to do this after Alex Rodriguez was put on the 15-day disabled list earlier on Wednesday due to a strained right hamstring that he suffered while running to first on Tuesday. A-Rod was only hitting .194 on the season but his five homers are most on the team and his 12 RBIs are tied for most on the team with Starlin Castro.

A positive sign from Wednesday’s game offensively was that Jacoby Ellsbury was 3-3 with two walks, two steals and one run scored. He was active on the basepaths, which the Yankees need him to do more of. Ellsbury has five hits in his last three games (including Wednesday night’s game) after previously only having one hit in four games. The Yankees need Ellsbury to continue to get hits and steal bases at the top of the lineup.

It was a scoreless game going into the sixth inning but then Ellsbury scored on a Carlos Beltran sacrifice fly, Brett Gardner scored from second after Brian McCann’s single and then Mark Teixeira scored after an error by Orioles pitcher Tyler Wilson with Castro batting.

The Yankees would add four more insurance runs in the eighth inning. McCann’s double to deep right scored Beltran and Teixeira, Didi Gregorius’s single scored McCann and Gardner’s hit by pitch scored Gregorius. This was a much needed performance from McCann since he had not had a homer or RBI in his previous eight games. The Yankees were 4-12 (.333) with runners in scoring position, which is an improvement on how the team has hit in the clutch in many games this season.

Aaron Hicks, who will be playing a lot more now since Beltran will mainly be the DH with A-Rod on the DL, went 0-4. He will make the outfield defense better because he covers more ground and has a much better arm than Beltran, but he needs to start to produce offensively. Hicks only has two hits in his 30 at-bats this season, which gives him a very low .067 average.

Hicks’s performance was basically the only negative. Dellin Betances, who had allowed a homer in each of his previous three appearances, was able to retire both batters that he faced and strikeout one of them. The Yankees bullpen will get even better and deeper when Aroldis Chapman returns from his suspension on Monday.

The Yankees, who are now 9-16 after the win over Baltimore, will go from May 5 until May 22 without an off day. They will need solid performances from the starting pitchers so that the dominant bullpen will not be overworked. This 18-game stretch could go a long way towards determining if the Yankees will be able to turn their season around.

During these next 18 games, they have one more in the series against Baltimore (15-11), then three against the Red Sox (16-11), four against the Royals (14-13), three against the White Sox (19-9), three against the Diamondbacks (12-17) and then four against the Athletics (13-16). The Yankees need to pitch and hit like they did on Wednesday during the next 11 games because those teams have a combined 64-44 record.

 

 

 

The Yankees lost to the Blue Jays as only one starter has an ERA below 4.50


i

Luis Severino – Jim McIsaac – Getty Images

 

The Yankees lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-2, on Thursday night in Toronto to even their record at 4-4. The Yankees had a  2-0 lead in the fourth on a fielder’s choice by Carlos Beltran that scored Alex Rodriguez and then a a wild pitch by Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman that sent Mark Teixeira home, but the Blue Jays would take the lead for good when the fearsome Josh Donaldson hit a three-run homer to deep center in the fifth.

Stroman, who is a Long Island native and one of the best starting pitchers in the American League, threw 106 pitches  and only allowed three hits and two runs in a dominant eight innings pitched. Further proving the Yankees offensive ineptness during Thursday’s game was that the only hits they had all game were singles by Teixeira, Brian McCann and Beltran.

The first three hitters in the lineup – Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Rodriguez – were a combined 0-10 with one run scored and a walk. It is a plus that they didn’t strikeout at all, which means that it could partly be due to bad luck since they put the ball in play every at-bat, but they have to be able to get on base at the top of the lineup. Gardner and Rodriguez have really struggled to begin the season as Gardner has a .174 average with only one steal and three runs scored in 23 at-bats and Rodriguez has only three hits in 25 at-bats (.120 average) with one homer and two RBIs.

The Yankees need Gardner to get on base often and steal bases from the two spot in the lineup and they need Rodriguez to have a similar statistical season as last season when he slugged 33 homers and drove in 86 runs. The issue could be that they haven’t really found their swing yet and will have better production by the end of the month. Sometimes established major league players have a slow start to the season like Beltran did last April, but they both need to show some signs of progress.

Nate Eovaldi, who made his second start of the season, only allowed a single, a walk and a double in the first four innings. However, his effectiveness ended in the fifth as he gave up a two-out three-run homer to Donaldson to give Toronto a 3-2 lead. Eovaldi needs to be a better pitcher with two outs and be more careful with hitters like Donaldson, who led the American League with 123 RBIs last season.

Eovaldi also allowed a solo homer to Troy Tulowitzki with one out in the sixth inning, which took away his quality start. He needs to prove that he can be successful pitching five and more importantly six innings and not fade after the fourth inning. Eovaldi ended up throwing 98 pitches in 6.2 innings while allowing four earned runs, seven hits, two walks and two homers. The only positive from Eovaldi’s performance was that he recorded eight strikeouts.

The bullpen has not surprisingly by far been the strength of the pitching staff so far. Rookie Johnny Barbato, Chasen Shreve, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller all have 0.00 ERAs. Barbato, who is from Miami and came to the Yankees from the Padres in the Shawn Kelley trade in December of 2014, appears that he will be able to help the bullpen the whole season after getting outs in clutch situations.

However, Masahiro Tanaka is the only Yankees starter with less than a 4.50 ERA. It is a small sample size, but Tanaka has a 3.38 ERA in two starts, CC Sabathia has a 4.50 ERA in his one start, Luis Severino has a 5.40 ERA in his one start, Michael Pineda has a 6.55 ERA in his two starts and Eovaldi has a 6.94 ERA in his 11.2 innings pitched.

It will be important for the rotation to be more effective so that the bullpen will not have to be overworked. The bullpen will have more depth once Aroldis Chapman returns from his suspension, but the team will win a lot more games when the starters can effectively throw six or seven innings. The Yankees need Severino, who is in his first full season, to be similar to the pitcher he was in the final two months of last season when he had a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts.

For the Yankees to live up to their potential Pineda and Eovaldi will need to be consistent and pitch like they are capable of and Tanaka will need to step up and be the ace of the staff for the duration of the season. Proving Pineda’s inconsistency he allowed six earned runs in his first start and then two runs in his second outing.

Severino will look to regain his form from last season during today’s start against the Seattle Mariners. Based on how the starting pitching and some of the hitters have underwhelmed so far this season it is somewhat impressive that the Yankees are 4-4.

Gary Sanchez was optioned to Triple-A, which means that Austin Romine will likely be the backup catcher


i (21)

Gary Sanchez – ESPN

The backup catcher competition was one of the major position battles of spring training for the Yankees. It seems like with the 23-year-old Gary Sanchez being sent to Triple-A late last week  that the 27-year-old Austin Romine will start the season in the Bronx.

Sanchez, who only had one hit in 21 at-bats in 13 spring training games before being sent to minor league camp, was likely putting too much pressure on himself. He has been in the Yankees minor league system since he was drafted when he was 17 out of the Dominican Republic and is thought of as being the next Yankees starting catcher after Brian McCann‘s contract is finished after the 2018 season.

Sanchez played well at Triple-A and in the Arizona Fall League (AZFL). He had a .295 (132 at-bats) average with six homers, 17 runs scored, 26 RBI and a .500 slugging percentage in 35 games with Triple-A Scranton to end last season. Also, as one of the team’s top prospects, he played in the AZFL, and he had a .295 average (88 at-bats) with seven homers, six doubles, four steals, 21 RBI and a .625 slugging percentage in 22 games for the Surprise Saguaros. He hit the most homers on his AZFL team and his RBI total was tied for the team lead.

However, even though he performed well offensively with Scranton and in Arizona, it makes sense that he will be starting the 2016 season with Triple-A. His weakness is his defense and Sanchez will be able to better improve his mechanics behind the plate by playing everyday with the RailRiders than once a week with the Yankees.

Another factor that has caused his development to take longer is that in the 2014 season the Double-A Trenton Thunder manager Tony Franklin benched him multiple times to discipline him because of his behavior.

“That benching was the low point of his career, it was his rock-bottom,” a team executive told Pinstriped Prospects. “He has come a long way in the last year and a half, his attitude has seen a drastic improvement and it has allowed him to grow as a player and a person.” It is a plus that his attitude has drastically improve but it can only help for him to continue to improve his leadership abilities as a catcher at Triple-A.

Sanchez has greatly improved defensively in the last few years but there is still some room to grow. He allowed a very high career-worst 26 passed balls in 2011 for Single-A Charleston, but with determination he was able to bring that number down to only two in 2015.

Sanchez, who is 6-2 and 230 pounds, allowed fewer errors last season than he did in 2014, proving his defense is getting better, but his skills behind the plate still need some more refining. He had 17 for Double-A Trenton in 2014, but with Double-A and Triple-A combined in 2015 he had 10 errors. In comparison, John Ryan Murphy, who was the Yankees backup catcher last season, only had three errors in 2015 and in 46 starts for Triple-A in 2014, he only had two errors.

Another benefit of Sanchez beginning the season at the Triple-A level is that 35 days in the minors this season will delay Sanchez’s free agency by another year. That is significant because five weeks with the RailRiders could equal control of Sanchez’s age 29 season in 2022.

Romine, on the other hand, performed better in spring training than Sanchez did. Romine had seven hits in 27 at-bats (.259) with five RBI and four doubles. He had two and 13 at-bats respectively the last two seasons, but in 2013, Romine had a .207 average in 135 at-bats with only one homer, 10 RBI and a .296 slugging percentage. He had 37 strikeouts and eight walks.

However, the California native who was drafted by the Yankees in 2007 is more known for his defense and if he can hit about .240 or .250 then he can be serviceable as the backup catcher. He has experience being the backup from his 60 games in 2013 and will be a catcher that most of the pitchers have experience with. Romine was out of options and couldn’t be sent to Triple-A out of spring training, which means that the team’s depth at the catcher position would have been hurt if Sanchez had opened the year in the Bronx.

Sanchez will likely serve an important role at some point this season once his defense improves. His bat is likely already ready and when the Yankees feel that his skills behind the plate are on par he could be able to win some games with his offense, and there are not many backup catchers who are potent offensively as he is. Sanchez slugged 25 homers in 119 minor league games last season, which proves how much power he has.

 

 

 

Aaron Judge could have a similar impact to the one that Greg Bird had last season


judge8s-9-web (1)

Aaron Judge – Corey Sipkin – NY Daily News

On Sunday, the Yankees announced that top prospects, including outfielder Aaron Judge, shortstop Jorge Mateo, right-hander James Kaprielian and relief pitcher Jacob Lindgren, were sent to minor-league camp. None of those highly regarded players were expected to make the Opening Day roster, but it is somewhat surprising that the Yankees decided to send them to minor-league spring training this early.

Judge had only one hit in his 14 at-bats in spring training before being sent down, Mateo had only three hits in 15 at-bats (with a homer and a steal) before being demoted, Kaprielian had a 4.91 ERA after allowing two earned runs and four hits in his 3.2 innings pitched and Lindgren had a sky high 15.43 ERA after allowing four earned runs on four walks and a hit in 2.1 innings pitched. None of these four prospects performed like they are capable of in this small sample size and proved that they need more seasoning in the minors. However, it might have made sense for them to learn from and be mentored by the established major leaguers on the Yankees roster for about one more week.

All of these players will likely make some kind of an impact in the Bronx this season or next season, but the player who is most likely to make a major impact in August or September is Judge. His size (6-7, 275 lbs) can be compared to former Yankee Dave Winfield and current Marlin Giancarlo Stanton and he hit a homer during batting practice in February that cleared the massive left field scoreboard at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

“Did you see the balls he hit today? [I’ve] never had that,” Brian McCann said. “It’s super impressive. Then you meet the guy, and he’s actually, he’s top of the line.”

Judge (23 years old), who is from Linden, California and was drafted with the 32nd pick in the 1st round out of California State University Fresno in 2013, performed well at Double-A Trenton last season but struggled when he was called up to Triple-A Scranton. In 63 games with the Trenton Thunder last season (250 at bats), Judge had a solid .284 average with 12 homers, 44 RBIs, 16 doubles, 36 runs scored and a .516 slugging percentage.

However, Judge’s productivity decreased once he was promoted to the Scranton RailRiders, who face many pitchers who have previously pitched in the majors and have better command and off-speed pitches. In 61 games with the RailRiders last season (228 at bats), Judge had a sub-par .224 average with eight homers, 28 RBIs, six steals, 10 doubles and a .373 slugging percentage. He hit a similar amount of homers at Double-A and Triple-A, but he needs to improve in every other category to prove he is ready.

According to Meredith Marakovits, Judge reported early to spring training and the biggest thing that he worked on during the offseason was his approach and patience at the plate. Another positive sign is that Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson believes that Judge’s issues at Triple-A were mental and not physical. Marcus Thames, who was the RailRiders hitting coach and is now the Yankees’ assistant hitting coach said that Judge was having trouble with the advanced breaking pitches that the Triple-A pitchers were throwing to him.

Judge said that he spent part of the offseason working on pitch recognition and hitting the breaking ball. He has the work ethic to improve on hitting that pitch and if he can do that his stats should greatly improve in April, May and June. He has the most upside of any Yankees outfield prospect, and if Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner gets injured or if Beltran underperforms in August then Judge could make a similar impact this season as the one that Greg Bird made last season.

Bird made his major league debut on August 13 and went 0-5, but in the fourth game that Bird started after replacing the injured Mark Teixeira, Bird hit two homers and drove in four runs. He finished the season with a .261 average with 11 homers, 31 RBIs and an impressive .529 slugging percentage. The Yankees might not have made it to the wild card playoff game without him.

Judge said that he has to better adjust to the Triple-A pitchers and he realizes that he has to improve on the little things.

“It’s a learning process, and just making adjustments,” Judge said. “I really didn’t make enough adjustments that I needed to. Pitchers made adjustments. That’s what the game of baseball is, just little adjustments to fine tune your swing, your approach, and I’m still trying to get ready for the 2016 season.”

The mammoth outfielder can cover a lot ground in right field and has a strong arm will now get to improve on his weakness in minor league camp, which has less pressure. He is capable of doing well against Triple-A pitchers because from June 25 through July 2 he had 15 hits in 27 at-bats (.625 average) with one homer, three RBIs and six runs scored. However, he needs to be more consistent because from July 29 through August 6, Judge only had two hits in 30 at-bats. Further proving his inconsistency was that he ended the season with no hits in 11 at-bats over two games, but previously had three multi-hit games in his previous five games.

Lindgren could get called up at some point in the middle of the season and have a minor impact in the bullpen after the big three, Mateo could get called up in September for his speed and be able to win the Yankees a game or two with his speed on the base-paths. However, it is most important for Judge to improve mentally and prove that he can hit above .280 for three or four months at Triple-A so that he can be called up as a replacement if an outfielder gets injured.

Masahiro Tanaka pitched effectively in his first start of spring training


i (20)

Masahiro Tanaka – ESPN

The Yankees lost their spring training game on Sunday in Clearwater against the Philadelphia Phillies, 6-5, but Masahiro Tanaka pitched well in his first game action of the exhibition season.

Tanaka was not perfect but was effective against the Phillies. In his two innings pitched, Tanaka did not allow a run, recorded two strikeouts while allowing two hits and a walk. He was still finding his control based on his two walks, but he was able to use his movement and his array of plus pitches to not allow any of the three runners to score.

A scout who was in the stands during Sunday’s game said that Tanaka’s fastball was 87-88 in the first inning, got up to 90-91 in the second inning and his slider and splitter were both effective. It is a positive that he was able to increase his velocity in the second inning and that his slider and splitter showed good movement.

“His feel for pitching, command and control were excellent,” the scout said.

In the second inning, with runners on first and third, Rob Refsnyder, who is learning how to play third so that he can back-up the position, made an outstanding play to start a double play. With runners on first and third and two outs, Tanaka was able to throw a slider to strikeout David Lough. The righty was pleased with his performance.

“Pretty satisfied (with) how I pitched out there,” Tanaka said. “… For me also, just to see how I feel the next day (is) important. Other than that, mechanics is one of things I’m aware of. Also, just being able to hit my spots.”

In 2015, according to Brooks Baseball, he relied primarily on his (elite) splitter (88mph) and slider (84mph), while also mixing in his four-seam fastball (93mph), cutter (90mph) and curve (77mph). His splitter is his most effective pitch. His splitter generates more groundballs compared to other pitchers’ splitters. His slider has a 12-6 movement, which leads to more fly balls than other pitchers’ sliders and his cutter results in more flyballs than that of other cutters and has slight above average velocity, according to Brooks Baseball.

It was an important sign that he was able to hold the Phillies scoreless because two weeks after after he pitched for the Yankees during their loss to the Houston Astros in the American League Wild Card Game, Tanaka underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow. This was his first major step towards proving that he is recovered from the surgery. Going into Sunday’s game, manager Joe Girardi wanted to see how Tanaka would command the strike zone.

After finishing last season, which was his second season with the Yankees after coming over from Japan, having pitched 154 innings (24 starts) with a 3.51 ERA, an outstanding 0.99 WHIP, 139 strikeouts, only 27 walks, 12 wins and a .221 opponents batting average, his goal is to be able to significantly increase his workload this season.

“The goal is to go 200 innings, and I think that the important part is to be healthy enough to pitch throughout the season,” Tanaka said.

In his rookie season, in 2014, Tanaka was the first Yankees rookie to win 12 games by the All-Star break, which helped lead to him being selected to the All-Star Game as a reserve. Tanaka and Dellin Betances were the first Yankee rookie pitchers to be selected to the All-Star Game since Spec Shea in 1947. He made 20 starts in 2014 (136.1 innings) and finished the season with an excellent 2.77 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 3.3 WAR, 141 strikeouts, 21 walks, 13 wins, three complete games and one shutout.

The 27-year-old, like other members of the Yankees rotation, needs to prove that he can stay healthy the whole season. In his rookie season, he experienced discomfort in his right arm after his loss to the Cleveland Indians on July 8. This led to him being placed on the disabled list the next day due to elbow inflammation. An MRI revealed that he had a partially torn UCL, and doctors recommended that he get a PRP shot and rest for six weeks instead of having Tommy John surgery.

After Tanaka’s six weeks of rest and rehab, he would only make two more starts that season. He returned on September 21 winning his 13th game of the season against the Toronto Blue Jays, and in his final start of the season he allowed seven runs in 1.2 innings against the Boston Red Sox. On April 28 of last season, Tanaka was placed on the disabled list due to forearm and wrist soreness, and would make his next start on June 3 against the Seattle Mariners. He pitched seven innings and recorded nine strikeouts while leading the team to a 3-1 win.

The Yankees need him to be a workhorse at the top of the rotation this season. When he is using his splitter with confidence to go along with the rest of his pitches he is one of the best pitchers in the American League. Tanaka pitched well to end last season as he allowed three runs or less in eight of his last 10 starts and allowed two runs or less in three of his last five starts.

Girardi will likely be very gradual in increasing his pitches per outing during spring training to try to keep him healthy and durable. There is no need for him to be overworked during exhibition games, and he just needs to be able to have command of all of his pitches so that he can dominate the opposition during the regular season. If he does indeed throw 200 innings then that will increase the team’s chances of making it back to the postseason and it will put less pressure on the rest of the rotation.

NBA.com | Hang Time Blog

The official news blog of NBA.com with commentary and analysis from NBA.com's staff of writers.

Alysha Tsuji

ATsuji@gmail.com

On Cloud Conine

From Charlie Hough to The Clevelander… a blog for the #DiehardFish fans living the #LinsLife!

Another Day In The Office

I run around and pick up baseball bats for the Oakland Athletics

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 47 other followers

%d bloggers like this: