Category: Mariano Rivera

The bullpen for the Yankees has potential this season

Dellin Betances pitching for the Yankees.

Dellin Betances pitching for the Yankees.

The bullpen for the Yankees will look much different in 2014 than it did in 2013. They will be without Mariano Rivera, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain and David Huff. David “Houdini” Robertson will also be in a different role as he will be the closer this season after pitching in the eighth inning in 2013 as Rivera’s set-up man.

Mariano Rivera, who has 652 saves, has retired as the best closer in Major League history. He will be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Boone Logan, who was a reliable lefty pitcher for the Yankees for four seasons, signed a three-year contract with the Colorado Rockies. Joba Chamberlain signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Tigers after seven seasons as a starting and relief pitcher with mixed results. He was very successful as a relief pitcher (Joba Rules) early in his career helping the team get to the playoffs, then mostly struggled as a starter and then his return to the bullpen included a dispute with Rivera. David Huff, who did not add much as a reliever last season, was traded to the San Francisco Giants for cash considerations in January.

The Yankees will be counting on David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Preston Claiborne, and Dellin Betances even more this season. David Phelps and Adam Warren could return to the bullpen as well. They have brought in Matt Thornton to essentially replace Logan as the primary lefty in the bullpen. Left-hander Cesar Cabral could replace Warren or Phelps.

Robertson is ready to handle the pressure of being the closer as he has pitched well as the primary eighth inning pitcher for the last three seasons. He had a 1.08 ERA in 2011, 2.67 ERA in 2012 and a 2.04 ERA last season. He has repeatedly proven that he can get a big strikeout or grounder to strand runners that are in scoring position. Robertson has a very effective curveball that he uses when he needs to get an out. All of the advice that Robertson has received from Rivera should help him adjust to the pressure of the ninth inning.

The eighth inning is currently  up for grabs. Kelley appears to have the inside track based on how he pitched last season in the seventh. He had a 4.39 ERA last season, but that is a result of not pitching well in September. This was likely because he pitched in 57 games, while his previous high was 47 games with the Seattle Mariners. His ERA was consistently in the mid 3’s in July and August. His ability to record strikeouts is an asset as he had 71 in only 53.1 innings.

Thornton, who signed a two-year contract for $7 million after pitching last season with the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox, had a 3.74 ERA in 2013. The lefty pitched a lot better against lefties (.235 batting average against) than righties (.333 batting average against) last season. His first two seasons were for the Mariners in 2004 and 2005, but he truly established himself as a solid relief pitcher in his seven full season with the White Sox. His ERA was below 3.00 from 2008-2010, and he even picked up eight saves in 2010. For the Yankees, he could close in an emergency, come in to get a lefty out in a key situation and even come in to pitch the whole inning.

Another pitcher that has the potential to be a key member of the bullpen based upon his performance last season is Claiborne, who is entering his second season. He finished his rookie campaign with a 4.11 ERA, 42 strikeouts in 50.1 innings and four holds. The righty from Dallas who was called up on May 5 did not allow any runs in his first seven appearances, and had an outstanding 1.46 ERA after his 20th game. He was on track for finishing with an ERA below 3, but struggled in September like Kelley did.

Betances, who is a towering 6’8″ righty who grew up in the Lower East Side and went to Grand Street Campus High in Brooklyn, pitched very well last season in AAA in relief. He had been a one of the team’s best prospects as a starter along with Manny Banuelos and Andrew Brackman a few years ago, but the decision was made in the middle of the summer that he would have more value in the bullpen as a result of his struggles with control. In 10 games before being called up to the Yankees at the end of August Betances pitched a total of 19.1 innings and only allowed one run (0.47 ERA).

He is able to use his intimidating presence to his advantage out of the bullpen. So far in spring training he has converted 6 and 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. His started using a slurve, which is a mixture between a slider and curveball, in 2012 after mechanical issues with his curve and has been able to use it very effectively during the spring. He has been able to control his 95 MPH fastball so far, and he needs to continue doing that.

Betances is a dark-horse, but if he continues pitching the way he has been, he could prove to be a valuable relief pitcher in the seventh or eighth inning. He is great stuff and has been commanding his pitches, so it seems like he could start the season in the seventh for the Yankees, even though a he can still be sent to AAA without being released.

Betances grew up a Yankees fan and attended David Wells’s perfect game in the bleachers, so it would be fitting if he is able to be a key pitcher out of the bullpen for the Bronx Bombers. He is unproven pitching in the seventh or eighth inning, but based on his numbers so far as a reliever and the effectiveness of his pitches, he has the possibility of being a better option than Kelley in May or June.

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The Yankees loss to the Giants effectively ended their season

Mariano Rivera with his wife at the retirement ceremony.

Mariano Rivera with his wife at the retirement ceremony.

The Yankees lost to the San Francisco Giants 2-1 Sunday afternoon effectively ending the slim hopes they had of getting a wild-card spot. They are now four games back with six games left to play.

They got vintage performances from Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who both did all they could to get a win for the team during Pettitte’s last start at Yankee Stadium and the day where there was an hour-long ceremony for Rivera before the game, but the offense was not able to come through in clutch situations.

Andy Pettitte, who will likely fall just below qualifying for the Hall of Fame based on his 3.86 career ERA and admitted PED usage, is one of the best pitchers in Yankees history. Pettitte’s 19 wins are the most in playoff history and has been able to come with clutch performances repeatedly throughout his great career. He has pitched in three All-Star Games in his career but has never won a Cy Young award. Pettitte had eight seasons where he won 15 or more games on his way to 255 career wins (as of now). He has won 102 more games than he has lost. During yesterday’s game, he pitched seven excellent innings while only allowing two runs.

Mariano Rivera, who was honored before the game with a live singing of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica will obviously be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a result of being the best closer in baseball history. The Yankees retired his number 42 (he will be the last player to wear the number) before the game with his wife and three sons right next to him. Also in attendance were Jackie Robinson’s widow Rachel Robinson and his daughter, as well as some of his former teammates including Hideki Matsui, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neil, Jorge Posada and Jeff Nelson. Some of the gifts from the Yankees to Rivera included a custom-designed Watorford Crystal of his glove from 2013 that even included his signature and “Phil:13” that he has written on it, a $100,000 check to the Mariano RIvera foundation, a baseball-bat rocking chair and a watercolor artwork by a San Francisco artist depicting Rivera’s appearance at AT&T Park on June 22, 2007. Rivera pitched 1.2 scoreless innings while only allowing one hit.

The game would have been even more special if Pettitte would have been able to have been awarded a win and Rivera a save but at least they did their part. Pettitte took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and the first hit that he allowed was Ehire Adrianza’s first career homer. In the top of the eighth, Pettitte allowed a lead off double to Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval, which prompted Joe Girardi to bring in David Robertson. Tony Abreu hit a double off of Abreu, which accounted for Pettitte’s second earned run. With one start left, in Houston, Pettitte is in danger of finishing under .500 for the season for the first time in his career.

Holding the Giants to only two runs should have been enough to win the game on Mariano Rivera Day, but the Yankees did not convert with runners in scoring position in four different innings. In the seventh inning, the Yankees had an opportunity to put multiple runs on the board after having runners on second and third with one out, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells both struck out swinging. In the eighth inning, after Robinson Cano’s double put runners on second and third with no outs, Alfonso Soriano grounded into a fielder’s choice and Curtis Granderson struck out.

In the eighth inning, adding to the team’s bad luck was that Zoilo Almonte and Cano were both thrown out at home. Almonte was not even close. The only run that the Yankees scored was Mark Reynolds’s 20th homer of the season. In the past week, the Yankees have two losses to the Blue Jays and their loss yesterday to the Giants. They would still have a chance if they would have won those games against sub .500 teams.

It is unfortunate that Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte will not be able to play in the playoffs in their final season. Pettitte and Rivera have both won five World Series championships with the Yankees and Rivera has pitched in the playoffs with the Yankees every season from 1996 until 2011, except for 2008 when they missed the playoffs.

Yankees vs. Blue Jays preview

Andy Pettitte throwing a pitch

Andy Pettitte throwing a pitch

The Yankees, who are currently 2.5 games behind the Texas Rangers for the second wild-card spot, play the first of three games in Toronto against the last place Blue Jays tonight at 7:07 p.m. The Yankees are 13-3 against the Blue Jays this season.

The Tampa Bay Rays, who currently have the first wild-card spot, and the Rangers are seemingly doing all they can do allow Mariano Rivera to have a chance of pitching in the postseason during his final season as they are limping to the finish line. This can especially be said for the Rangers who have lost seven games in a row while not holding a lead in any of those games. Since August 29, the Rays have won seven games and lost a grand total of 11 games.

It obviously would have helped the Yankees if they would not have been swept by the Red Sox over the weekend, but Cleveland and Texas both lost last night while they were idle, which helped them gain ground without playing. To have a chance of making up the 2.5 games in the final 12 games they will have to sweep the Blue Jays and have help from the teams ahead. They will have to go 10-2 or better, which is possible because besides the Rays, they play two last place teams (Toronto and Houston) and a team that is half-a-game ahead of last place (San Francisco).

Some of the help they need is for the Rays to sweep the Rangers, which is possible because of the rapid downward spiral that the Rangers are on, because the Yankees play the Rays for three games in their second to last series of the season. The Red Sox will start a series against the Orioles tonight and the Yankees will be rooting for Boston once again because the Orioles half-a-game ahead of them in the standings.

Andy Pettitte, who has been the team’s most reliable starter of last, and has pitched in many must win games over the course of his great career, will get the start for the Yankees tonight at the Rogers Centre. He has a 3.55 ERA in away games this season and against the Blue Jays his ERA is 1.77 in 20.1 innings. The Blue Jays, who have underperformed based on many preseason predictions, have lost five of their last six games.

R.A. Dickey, who won the N.L. Cy Young last season, has pitched well against the Yankees this season. He has struggled in his last two starts, but Dickey does have a 3.38 ERA in 21.1 innings against the Bronx Bombers this season. This will be Dickey’s fourth start against the Yanks this season, so it is crucial that the offense is able to figure out his knuckleball this time.

The offense struggled during the weekend series in Boston, as they scored a combine seven runs, but Alfonso Soriano does come into the series hitting .363 in his past three games. Also, the Yankees have some good news as Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup after having to leave Sunday’s game because of tightness in his right calf. He will DH for the foreseeable future.

The Yankees will have to overcome the injuries to Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner, which will likely keep both of them out for the rest of the season.

Phil Hughes (4-13, 5.07 ERA) will pitch on Wednesday and Hiroki Kuroda (11-11, 3.13 ERA) will get the start on Thursday.

Mariano Rivera will make his final career appearance at the Rogers Centre. They will honor him before Thursday’s game.

Cano, Granderson and Pettitte helped the Yankees pull within a game of a Wild-Card spot

The Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 on Wednesday night at Camden Yards behind 6.1 solid innings from Andy Pettitte. He allowed three runs and nine hits and struck out three Orioles. However, like he has been able to do so many times in his career, Pettitte was able to induce a double play when he needed one. They were led offensively by Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson.

The win, as are all the ones they get for the rest of the season, was a needed one for the Yankees since the Indians and obviously the Orioles lost. As of now, the only team the Yankees have to jump is the Tampa Bay Rays, who have lost seven of their past 10 games.

Luckily for the Yankees, Andy Pettitte is getting better as the season has progressed since his ERA was 4.71 on August 5 and is now 4.04. He has allowed three runs or less in all of his last seven starts and is not pitching like 41-year-old. In the sixth inning, Pettitte got J.J. Hardy to hit into a double play to end the frame.

Shawn Kelley got the final two outs of the seventh, which continued his bounce back from allowing two runs in a loss to the Orioles on September 1. Even though he allowed a run in Tuesday’s game against the Orioles, the Yankees were still able to get the win and he got the hold. David Robertson, who has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season, allowed two hits and recorded a strikeout in a scoreless eighth inning. He is on track to being the closer next season after Mariano Rivera retires.

Rivera, recorded his 43rd save of his final season, but he did allow a run in his third of his last four appearances. He allowed a rare double to Nate McLouth because it is not often that somebody will hit a ball over the speedy Brett Gardner in center. After Brian Roberts singled to drive in McClouth, Manny Machado struck out to end the game. There is still nobody the Yankees would count on more to end the game than Rivera. It could be that his increased usage of late is getting to him.

One of the offensive stars for the Yankees was Robinson Cano, He hit his 27th homer to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead in the ninth while also driving in Brett Gardner on a ground out to the shortstop in the first. Cano had two hits and his homer was his 100th RBI of his season. His homer was one of three that the Yankees slugged in the win over Buck Showalter and the Orioles.

Curtis Granderson (.248) hit a deep homer to right in the fifth inning to pull the Yankees within a run of the Orioles. It was his fifth homer of the season in 45 games played. Granderson was the only player on the team besides Cano to record two hits. He is hitting .333 in his last nine at-bats, which is obviously a small sample size, but the Yankees need him to continue that level of production.

Alex Rodriguez hit the other home run for the Bronx Bombers. His solo homer to right in the sixth inning tied the game. That home run gave him 653 for his career. He is now eight homers away from passing Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time homer list. However, A-Rod’s homer total is obviously tainted.

The Yankees will try for the series win on Thursday against the Orioles. If they win their third game in a row against Baltimore, on Thursday night, it will make sweeping the upcoming series less crucial. The Yankees always want to beat the Red Sox, but after that series, nine of their last 12 games are against last place teams.

Ichiro’s run scored in the ninth gave the Yankees a win that they needed

Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki

In the bottom of the ninth, Ichiro Suzuki had a single, stolen base and run scored on a wild pitch by Brandon Workman, which gave the Yankees a big walk-off win against the Red Sox in the last game of the series. This 4-3 win came after three consecutive losses in which the Yankees scored eight or more runs against Boston.

Brett Gardner came close to giving Ichiro a Gatorade shower but might have decided not to as a result of their not being a walk-off hit.

Mariano Rivera came in for a rare two inning save because Joe Girardi had relievers including David Robertson and Boone Logan who were unavailable due to injury, and Rivera told Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild that he was available to pitch two innings if needed. Rivera is obviously the best option out of the bullpen so it makes sense that Giradrdi put him in when he did. He continued to struggle like he has recently, as the homer he gave up to Will Middlebrooks in the top of the ninth was the third earned run that he has allowed in his last three appearances. The Yankees were luckily able to get the win even though Rivera blew his seventh save of the season.

Hiroki Kuroda, who had allowed four runs or more in each of his past three starts, showed improvement this afternoon as he only allowed five hits and two runs in a solid six innings pitched. He had an ERA of 2.41 on August 17, but his ERA is now all the way up to 2.99. That is still very good ERA but it has taken him out of CY Young consideration. However, he was able to pitch out of trouble as his pitch count got high early in the game and was still able to give the team six innings.

Shawn Kelley, who had been suffering from triceps inflammation, came into the game in the seventh and was able to record his 10th hold of the season. He has been a great acquisition by Brian Cashman as he his a high amount of strikeouts and is limited most of his inherited runners from scoring. His scoreless inning with a strikeout is an improvement from his previous game on the first of the month when he gave up a two-run homer to the only batter he faced.

Mark Reynolds, who has a hit in four of his past five games, had a double to the warning track in center in the fourth that drove in Alex Rodriguez. The other standout on offense was none other than the best second baseman in baseball, Robinson Cano. In the fifth, Cano hit a double to left that scored Chris Stewart and Ichiro. That was one of his three hits during the contest. His two RBIs where his 96th and 97th of his stellar season.

As a result of the win by the Bronx Bombers and losses by the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians the Yankees are now half-a-game behind both of those teams in the wild-card standings. The Yankees are currently 2.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays with 19 games remaining. They will now play a crucial four-game series at Camden Yards against the Orioles.

The last time they played the Orioles, from August 30 to September 1, the Yankees won two out of three games. It is important to win three or four games so that they will be able to move closer to the Rays.

The Yankees lost the series finale after Rivera’s rare blown save

Mariano Rivera smiling.

Mariano Rivera smiling.

The Yankees lost the last game of the series against the Baltimore Orioles as a result of Mariano Rivera’s second blown save of the season. This loss ended the Yankees winning streak at six games.

Rivera entered with the score 1-0 and Nick Markakis nearly tied the game with a deep homer to right field, but it was inches wide of the foul pole. However, Markakis would get on base and the next batter, the All-Star Adam Jones, hit a homer to left center that would be the game winner.

The only other save that Rivera did not convert this season was against the Mets on May 28. He had saved 41 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium so Rivera proved that he is human with this performance. Rivera has closed 29 saves in 31 chances this season.

Hiroki Kuroda pitched an excellent seven shutout innings, only allowing three hits, after it was announced on Friday that his start would be delayed until today as a result of a sore left hip flexor. It can be argued that Joe Girardi should have left Kuroda in to pitch the eighth after 88 pitches, but Robertson, (who you can vote for here the All-Star Game) retired the side in order in the eighth, and when Rivera enters the game he always instills confidence.

It was a smart decision for Rivera to take Kuroda out after seven innings because he was coming off of the minor injury. If Kuroda did not have his previous start delayed then Girardi should have left him in to pitch the eighth inning.

(Rivera revealed after the game in an interview that he wore the high socks in honor of David Robertson’s campaign to be the last player added to the American League All-Star team.)

The Yankees were only able to manage six hits off of five Orioles pitchers and they all came off of starter Jason Hammel. Eduardo Nunez’s sacrifice fly in the second accounted for the only run of the game. He has been able make a difference from the offensive side since his return yesterday. However, the Yankees should have been able to score more than one run off of Hammel who had a 5.19 ERA entering today’s contest.

It is a good sign for the Yankees that Kuroda was able to bounce back against the potent Orioles offense because in his last start, also against the Orioles, he gave up four earned runs in six innings. This is not like how he has usually performed this season since he has a 2.95 ERA and has allowed two runs or less in more than half of his starts.

That was definitely a game that the Yankees let slip away, but the fact that Kuroda dominated like he often has and Robertson did not allow a run for his ninth outing in a row is important.

Manny Machado made an outstanding play on a Luis Cruz grounder that absolutely robbed him of a single. Cruz hit a ball in Machado’s direction at third that he bobbled, which led the ball to bounce a few feet from from the foul line and Machado still threw Cruz out at first. There are not many third baseman that could make that throw.

The Yankees will look to start a new winning streak against the Kansas City Royals. On Monday night, they will play the first of four games against the Royals. Kanas City is better than they have been in previous seasons. The Yankees can’t let an inferior team win the first game of the series.

Hughes, Cano and Alberto Gonzalez lead the Yankees to victory

Alberto Gonzalez in the field

Alberto Gonzalez in the field

Phil Hughes, who has a 4.55 ERA on the season, pitched his second solid start in a row helping the Yankees beat the Twins 7-3 for their second win in a row. After scoring only eight runs in the three-game sweep to the Orioles, the Yankees have now scored 17 runs in their past two games.

Joe Girardi has repeatedly said that he has confidence in Hughes and has said that it is important for the team for him to pitch well. The Twins are not the caliber of competition that the Yankees face in the AL East, but Hughes did limit the Twins to one run in seven innings while only allowing two walks.

Hughes proved to be able to overcome adversity in this game because in the fourth inning the Twins had runners on second and third with no outs and Hughes was able get three outs in a row.

In his last start, against the Rangers, Hughes allowed two runs in eight innings, so it is possible that he is starting to turn the corner. Another factor that could have led to Hughes pitching well tonight against the Twins is that he has a 3.33 ERA against them in his career.

If he can regain the form that he showed in 2010, when he won 18 games, was an All-Star and had a 4.19 ERA, he would be an asset to the team in the second half of the season. Two solid starts in a row is obviously a small sample size, but Hughes has shown the ability to dominate starts in between allowing five or six runs in a start.

Just for good measure, since Preston Claiborne gave up two runs and didn’t dominate like normal, Mariano Rivera recorded the last out of the game for his 27th save of the campaign.

There were two different offensive positives from this game. One was Robinson Cano’s continued excellence and the other was the sudden emergence of the left side of the infield.

Cano went 2-4 with one homer and three RBI. Since going 0-2 on June 27, Cano’s average has raised from .276 to .295 in the span of five games. He has gone 11 for his last 21, has five straight multi-hit games and has driven the ball out of the park in three straight games. Robinson Cano is the leading vote getter for American League second baseman in the All-Star Game voting.

For the majority of the season the shortstop and third base positions have struggled offensively for the Yankees, but that was not the case for this win at Target Field. Alberto Gonzalez (.200) and David Adams (.189) combined to go 4-8, and Gonzalez, who had only had 21 at-bats with the team so far this season, drove in three clutch runs.

The Yankees (44-39) need to win the last two games against the Twins (36-44) to continue to make up ground in the competitive AL East. CC Sabathia will pitch for the Yankees on Wednesday night. Sabathia will hope that the Twins are the team that he needs to rebound from a shaky previous two starts.