Tagged: Aroldis Chapman

The Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman to a five-year and $86 million contract, which is the highest ever for a reliever

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Aroldis Chapman – USA Today

Late on Wednesday, it was reported by Ken Rosenthal that the Yankees had signed the free agent elite closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. He has an opt out after the third year, a full not trade clause in the first three years and for some reason has a partial no trade clause in the last two years to all of the California teams.

Every since the Yankees traded Chapman to the Cubs before the trade deadline for top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres and three other prospects the Brian Cashman had been interested in signing him again. When Chapman played for the Yankees in the first half of the season after his 30-game suspension for domestic abuse the previous October, he proved that he could excel playing in New York as he had a 2.01 ERA in 31 games (31.1 innings) with 20 saves, 44 strikeouts, 20 hits allowed, only eight walks and an excellent 0.894 WHIP.

Including his time pitching with the Yankees and Cubs last season, Chapman had a great 1.55 ERA (1.42 WHIP), with 40.5 percent strikeouts and 8.1 percent walks in 58 innings pitched. According to River Ave Blues, he walked 11.7 percent of batters faced from the 2013 through the 2015 seasons, which means that based on his 8.1 percent walk rate last season his control is getting better and this trend could be here to stay.

The Cuban Missile has been an All-Star in four out of his six full seasons and his stats in his seven seasons overall are a 2.08 ERA in 383 games (377 innings) with 182 saves, 1.88 FIP, 19 homers allowed, 636 strikeouts, 201 hits allowed and a very good 0.92 WHIP. In 2012, when he was an All-Star and finished eighth in Cy Young voting, he had an outstanding 1.51 ERA in 68 games (71.2 innings) with 122 strikeouts, 23 walks allowed, a 1.55 FIP and a 0.809 WHIP, which is the lowest of his career.

Chapman’s five-year contract is the first five-year contract for a reliever since the Blue Jays gave B.J. Ryan a five-year deal that they regretted in 2005. Chapman, who has a fastball that can go up to 105 mph and a very good slider, is a much better pitcher than Ryan but the signing could be a little risky because Chapman would break down three or four years from now since he throws faster than everyone else. He is the only pitcher who can throw 105 mph in all of Major League Baseball.

He does have character issues as the Yankees were able to acquire him for much lower rated prospects based on his domestic abuse where he choked his girlfriend in a domestic incident. Also, in 2012, Chapman was arrested after being clocked going 93 mph on a suspended license. Hopefully he will not have another incident similar to his previous ones. The domestic violence incident is not defensible, but he has served his punishment and if the Yankees didn’t sign him another team would have.

Chapman was the best reliever available this offseason and Brian Cashman was intent on upgrading the bullpen. The bullpen that the Yankees have now, if their current pitchers perform like they did last year, is likely better overall than it was in the first half of last season when they had Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Chapman pitching the last three innings Now, in addition to Chapman and Betances, they also have Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren as proven commodities.

They also have a situational lefty, Tommy Layne, who is 32 and had a solid 3.38 ERA in 29 games (16 innings) after coming over from the Red Sox. Young relief pitchers who have come up through the system and spent some time in the majors last season who could be in the bullpen on Opening Day include Johnny Barbato, Nick Goody, Ben Heller, Chasen Shreve and Jonathan Holder.

Signing Chapman and not Kenley Jansen, who could have made sense because his stats are not that much different and Jansen will likely break down later than Chapman, meant that the Yankees will not lose a first round draft pick like they would have if they signed Jansen. The team is now trying to develop as many high draft picks as possible.

The signing of the 6’4″ Cuban lefty who will be 29 in February means that Dellin Betances will go back to pitching in the eighth inning. It is possible that Betances could be an effective closer but he has been one of the best set up men in the American League the last three seasons as he was an All-Star in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Having Chapman in the 9th inning means that Joe Girardi will be able to put Betances, who throws a high 90s fastball and a knuckle curve, into the game in the 7th or 8th inning depending on matchups and who else is available. In the 2014 season, when Betances was a set up man the whole season and a rookie, he had a 1.40 ERA in 70 games (90 innings) with a career-high 135 strikeouts, a career-low 24 walks, a 1.64 FIP and an outstanding 0.778 WHIP.

This past season, after Andrew Miller & Chapman had been traded, the 28-year-old struggled as the closer. He had an excellent 2.05 ERA on September 5 but at the end of the season his ERA climbed all the way up to 3.08. He allowed 10 runs in his final nine games, which means he might be better suited for the 7th and 8th innings right now. He also would make a lot of sense to replace Chapman if he opts out of his contract in three years.

 

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The Yankees should sign an established closer and move Dellin Betances back to the 8th inning

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Kenley Jansen – ESPN

The first impact move that the Yankees made during the offseason was trading Brian McCann to the Houston Astros. They obviously need to add two or three starters since Hal Steinbrenner has said that he expects to have two rotation spots open to begin spring training. This means that it is unknown who will be in the rotation after Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.

A move that the Yankees should make that involves their bullpen is acquiring an elite closer so that Dellin Betances can go back to being an elite set up man. Betances broke down and was much less effective during the end of last season and it’s possible that that might not happen if he is pitching primarily in the eighth inning instead.

He was outstanding in the first five plus months of the season as he had an ERA of 2.05 and a WHIP of 0.94 before his appearance on September 5, which was his 64th game of the season, but his results were much worse after the 5th of September. After allowing eight earned runs combined from June through the first two games of September, he allowed 10 earned runs in his final nine games of the season.

Betances struggled with his control as he walked eight batters in September, which came after allowing eight walks combined in April, May and June. He was an All-Star for the third season in a row this season after being an elite set up man during the first half of the season while Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman were still on the team. The 28-year-old who grew up in New York City had a 3.08 ERA after finishing with a 1.50 ERA while still having a very good WHIP of 1.123 and striking out 126 batters, which was the most in the American League among relief pitchers. Betances primarily throws a nasty 12-6 curveball (85 mph) and a fourseam fastball (98 mph)

As of now, the primary set up men behind Betances are Tyler Clippard, Tommy Layne, Chasen Shreve and Richard Bleier. The veteran Adam Warren could be in the rotation or the bullpen, and other young pitchers who could open the season in the bullpen are Jacob Lindgren, Jonathan Holder, Nick Goody, Ben Heller and Johnny Barbato. There is not much proven major league success beyond Betances, Clippard and Warren if he ends up in the bullpen, which is why the Yankees should sign a veteran closer and another relief pitcher to lengthen the game and add to the depth of the bullpen.

The Yankees are rumored to be interested in signing Chapman, who they traded to the Cubs on July 25 for top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford and Warren. Chapman, who regularly throws 100 mph or faster, had a outstanding 2.01 ERA in 31 games (31.1 innings) with 44 strikeouts, eight walks and an outstanding 0.894 WHIP with the Yankees this season before they traded him to the Cubs. During his 28 games with the World Series champion Cubs, the Cuban Missile had a 1.01 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 26.2 innings.

He is a proven commodity in the league as he has performed at an elite level in his last five seasons. Chapman was an All-Star with the Reds in every season besides his rookie season and he pitched well enough last season to be an All-Star but didn’t pitch in the first month of the season because of his suspension for domestic abuse. Chapman has recorded between 33 and 38 saves in every season since 2012, his ERA has been at 2.54 or below in all those seasons, he recorded an astounding 122 strikeouts for a reliever in 2012 and his low in that span was 90 strikeouts this past season and his WHIP has been between 0.809 and 1.146 in every season.

Another proven commodity at the closer spot who is currently available is Kenley Jansen. The native of Curacao started in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization as a 16-year-old catcher and made his debut as a relief pitcher for the Dodgers when he was 22 in 2010. Jansen is coming off of his best season of his career as he was an All-Star for the first time after finishing with a 1.83 ERA in 71 games (68.2 innings) with 47 saves, 104 strikeouts, 11 walks, 35 hits allowed and a remarkable 0.670 WHIP. Jansen also has the ability to be effective in more than one inning, which is a plus if some other relievers aren’t available or are struggling.

Jansen has been the Dodgers closer since the 2012 season and has had an ERA of 2.76 or lower in every season since then. In 2014, he had a 2.76 ERA, which is a good bit higher than his ERA from this season, but he did have 101 strikeouts and 44 saves. The pitches that he throws are a cutter (94 mph), slider (83 mph) and sinker (95 mph), according to Brooks Baseball.

Jansen and Chapman both made their major league debuts in 2010. Jansen turned 29 in September and Chapman will be 29 in February. Chapman’s ERA in his seven seasons in 2.08 and his WHIP is 0.992 and Jansen’s ERA in his seven seasons is 2.20 and his WHIP is 0.893. Their stats are similar and the Yankees couldn’t really go wrong with either one.

An advantage to signing Jansen instead of Chapman would be that he likely would not command as high of a contract as Chapman (he is rumored to want a $100 million contract for five years). Another positive for Jansen is that he doesn’t regularly throw 100 + mph like Chapman does, which means that he will be able to keep his fastball at the mid 90s velocity that his is at longer than Chapman’s velocity will stay over 100.

The Yankees won after trading away Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova

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Carlos Beltran – ESPN

After trading away Carlos Beltran, who was the team’s best offensive player in the first four months of the season, and Ivan Nova, who had been a pitcher with the Yankees since 2010 and was signed when he was 16, on Monday, the Yankees beat the Mets 6-5 in 10 innings.

The Yankees made the right decision in trading away their most valuable assets before the trade deadline because they had to improve the minor league system. They now have likely the best collection of prospects in baseball and those prospects will either be part of the next championship team or can be traded for players who can help the team win.

The Yankees had a middle of the pack farm system before trading Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Beltran but their minor league system has now vaulted to the top. Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner hit the reset at the right time because the team did not have a realistic chance at making the playoffs and in making these trades they are closer to winning their next World Series. If they didn’t make these trades the team would have been in contention for the second wild card spot for the next few seasons, which is not the goal that the Yankees have.

In return for Beltran, who should make it to the Hall of Fame when he retires, and two of the top five relievers in baseball in Miller and Chapman, the Yankees received a total of 10 prospects and Adam Warren. For Beltran, they received two lower profile prospects and Dillon Tate, from the Rangers, who is a pitcher that was the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft. For Miller, they got back highly rated outfield prospect Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Ferereisen.

Frazier’s “bat speed and raw power are among the best in the Minor Leagues and suggest the ceiling of an All-Star” according to his MLB Pipeline scouting report. Frazier will be in Triple-A Railriders lineup on Tuesday, and Heller, a relief pitcher, has also been assigned to Triple-A.

Chapman is the only pitcher in baseball who can throw 105 mph. When the Yankees traded him the Cubs, who needed a closer, last week, the Yankees got back Warren, the Cubs top shortstop prospect in Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford.

In addition to those trades, Cashman also traded Nova just before the 4 p.m. trade deadline for two players to be named later. This made sense because Nova had struggled this season (4.90 ERA) and they likely would not have signed him in the offseason anyway. They also reacquired Tyler Clippard from the Arizona Diamonbacks for Vicante Campos. Clippard and Warren are not as talented as Miller and Chapman, but those two pitchers will be able to be valuable in the 7th and 8th innings and were important to get back since they lost so much production in the bullpen.

Cashman was able to get back a lot of top prospects for Miller and two players who might be rentals for the Cubs and Rangers. The Yankees had help from players who will be part of their present and future when they beat the Mets on Monday.

Didi Gregorius hit a two-run single in the 8th inning to tie the score at five. He has an impressive .291 average and is only 12 RBI away from setting a career-high. Starlin Castro was 0-3 but his sacrifice fly to right in the 10th that scored Jacoby Ellsbury ended up winning the game for the Yankees.

Dellin Betances, who is now the closer, recorded his first save of the season after James Loney, who owns the Yankees, doubled to leadoff the 10th. Betances was able to execute his pitches after that as he struck out Curtis Granderson to end the game after throwing two batters out at first.

The Yankees attempted to run more on the bases than before all of these trades. Austin Romine had his first steal of the season, Castro had his third steal of the season and Brett Gardner was thrown out at home attempting an inside the park home run.

Jacoby Ellsbury scored the first run of the game for the Yankees on a wild pitch and then the Yankees scored their second and third runs in the 5th. Brett Gardner had an RBI double and Ellsbury’s single drove in Gardner.

Warren and Clippard were big contributors out of the bullpen as they combined to pitch three innings, only allow one hit, not allow a run and strikeout four. This was Warren third appearance out of the bullpen since the trade and after struggling with the Cubs he has pitched like he did the previous few seasons with the Yankees, as he has only allowed one hit and no runs in four innings pitched.

The Yankees are now a game over .500 and can now play like they have nothing to lose since there is not much pressure after all of the trades thad were made. The Yankees recalled Ben Gamel and Nick Goody on Monday and will could bringing up catching prospect Gary Sanchez on Wednesday. Outfielder Aaron Judge, who is about to be reinstated from the disabled list and has performed well this season, and Tyler Austin, will both likely be called up in the next few weeks to continue the youth movement.

Since Sanchez will be coming up to the Yankees will have to decide what they will do with Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod has not hit at all recently (one hit in his last 16 at-bats) so they could cut him, but they might decide to have him DH until he hits his 700th homer (he is at 696). However, the Yankees don’t really want him taking at-bats away from a younger player.

 

Betances, Miller and Chapman pitched three perfect innings as the Yankees beat the Twins

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Masahiro Tanaka – ESPN

The Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins, 5-3, at Yankee Stadium on Friday night to get back to .500 (36-36). They have gone 2-2 in their last four games but the previous time that they were .500 before they were 34-34 the Yankees went on to lose four out of five games.

The Yankees will look to win the next two games against the Twins to extend the winning streak to four games and give them momentum heading into the series against the Texas Rangers. Minnesota has the worst record in all of baseball so it is important that the Bronx Bombers take advantage of playing an opponent that they are better than.

Joe Girardi’s ideal scenario happened in this game as Masahiro Tanaka pitched six innings and kept the Yankees in the game, which led to the Big Three of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman closing out the game while not allowing a hit.

Minnesota committed three errors, which helped Tanaka leave the game with a 4-3 lead. Carlos Beltran hit a double to left to score Brett Gardner and then Alex Rodriguez singled to left to score Beltran to tie the score at two. The Yankees scored two more runs in the fourth off of a sacrifice fly by Austin Romine and a RBI single to left by Rob Refsnyder.

Refsnyder, who will likely not be playing first as much with Mark Teixeira coming off the disabled list on Saturday, is hitting 6 for 17 (.353 with four runs scored, two doubles and two RBIs in his last five games. His average is an impressive .286 in 56 at-bats this season, which proves that he really knows how to produce offensively when given the opportunity.

Tanaka ended his start with his sixth quality start in his past seven. He allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out seven. He also had a higher swing and miss percentage than most starting pitchers. Tanaka had allowed two runs or less in five of his previous six starts, but he was able to make pitches when he needed to in this one.

“Tanaka has the ability to pitch and get big outs when he needs them,” Joe Girardi said.

Aaron Hicks, who was playing against his former team, hit a solo home run with one out in the 8th to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. His homer landed in about the second row in left field. That was his first right-handed homer of the year and third homer overall. He now has a .310 average with two RBIs in his last 11 games.

“I am feeling good on both sides,” Hicks said. “I feel like as the season goes on my at-bats are getting better.” He was hitting .205 on June 12 and his average is now up to .217 and he has at least one hit in six of the last seven games he has started.

Tanaka got Kurt Suzuki to ground into a double play to end the sixth inning in what ended up being his last batter because Betances was ready to come into the came with the Yankees leading. Betances had a 10-pitch inning in the seventh, and he got Robbie Grossman to strike out on a nasty curve that bounced before getting to the plate.

Miller pitched the 8th inning and came into the game having struck out 50 percent of the batters he had faced. That is an outstanding ratio and only two relief pitchers have done that before. His fastball and slider combo worked to perfection in the eighth as he retired the side in order and struck out the dangerous Brian Dozier to lower his ERA to 1.14.

Aroldis Chapman struck out the first two batters on six pitches and all of the pitches were above 100 mph. He would strikeout out the side on a 90 mph off speed pitch. He threw a circle change that completely froze Suzuki to end the game.

In the ninth inning, Chapman threw 10 pitches that were 101 mph or faster and then his 11th pitch was 90 mph. There is basically not another relief pitcher in baseball who could have 11 consecutive pitches like the ones that Chapman had.

“They are going to have their lumps but I feel pretty good about them,” Girardi said about the Big Three.

In 10 games Betances, Miller and Chapman have appeared in together before this game they had a combined 1.48 ERA and 52 strikeouts. Those numbers are even more impressive after Friday’s game.

The Yankees play their next 16 games until the All-Star break against teams outside of the AL East, which is a positive for the Yankees since they are 10-17 against AL East opponents this season. Saturday’s game will be at 1:05 p.m., and Michael Pineda will get the start for the Yankees. He will look to rebound from allowing three runs on one homer and six hits in 5.1 innings in his last start.

Michael Pineda’s best start of the season allowed him to keep his spot in the rotation

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Michael Pineda – ESPN

The Yankees were able to end their three-game losing streak with their 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers in Detroit on Thursday night. They previously lost three consecutive games in Toronto where they scored a total of only three runs.

Michael Pineda got the start during this makeup game from the beginning of the season and he definitely pitched well enough to stay in the rotation. General Manager Brian Cashman talked before the game about demoting him from the rotation if had another subpar start. Going into last night’s game, Pineda’s 6.92 ERA was the worst ERA of any pitcher who had thrown enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.

However, in this game, he pitched like he is capable of as he allowed one earned run in 5.2 innings pitched. He recorded an impressive eight strikeouts, allowed seven hits and didn’t walk a single Tiger. He has been limiting the walks and piling up the strikeouts most of the season, but he has struggled mightily in the first inning and with the long ball and with allowing minor issues to turn into multiple runs.

This game was different for Pineda compared to what had happened to him in many previous starts. He struck out Cameron Maybin to begin the game, but then allowed back-to-back hits to J.D. Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. However, this time he didn’t allow those runners to score since he was able to get Victor Martinez to hit into a double play to end the frame. Proving how much the opening frame has been a problem for Pineda is that 36 percent of the runs that he has allowed this season have come in the first inning (15 of the 42 earned runs).

He allowed more hits (7) than innings pitched but he managed to limit the damage to only one earned run. His slider was a strength tonight – generating 13 whiffs with the slider tonight, good for a 40.6% rate. When his slider is on it is a sign that Pineda is pitching well. What is so frustrating about Pineda is that last season on Mother’s Day he had 16 strikeouts and allowed only one run to the Orioles and this season he has now allowed two runs or less in a start five times, which proves his potential.

However, what has led to his ERA being 6.41 in the beginning of June is that he has given up five runs or more five times (with one start where he allowed three runs). Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild hope and need him to be more consistent than he has shown because he has been by far the worst pitcher in the rotation.

Last season he ended the campaign with a 4.37 ERA but he was able to truly show what he is capable of in the 2014 season. He missed about a month and a half due to injury but was able to have an outstanding 1.89 ERA in 13 starts. He had 59 strikeouts and seven walks, which is a very good strikeout to walk ratio, and he allowed two runs or less in 12 of his 13 starts.

He has the ability to be a No. 2 type starter. Thursday’s start could be the one that leads to him having sustained effectiveness similar to what he showed in 2013, which was his first healthy season as a Yankee after being traded to the team before the 2012 season. They will need Pineda to pitch well to have a chance of getting back in the race in the AL East.

It appeared that the Yankees would win easily as they had a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning. The Yankees exploded for four runs in the seventh on a Rob Refsnyder RBI single that scored Chase Headley, an RBI single by Aaron Hicks that scored Austin Romine and a triple to deep right by leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury that scored Refsnyder and Hicks.

However, in this game, the trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, which has been extremely reliable when all pitching in the same game, was not during the seventh through ninth innings. But they were able to luckily limit the damage to three total runs, which led to the Yankees escaping Detroit with a win.

Betances struck out three in his 1.1 innings but he allowed an RBI double to make the score 5-2. Miller, who still has a very low 1.25 ERA, walked two batter in the eighth and gave up an RBI double. Chapman was really able to get out of trouble in the ninth since he loaded the bases with no outs and then got J.D. Martinez to hit into a double play, which scored the Tigers fourth and final run.

Refsnyder, who has gone back and forth from Triple-A Scranton this season, should stay with the Yankees. They would not have won the game without him since he scored the team’s first run in addition to scoring and driving in a run in the seventh. He is now hitting .400 in 10 at-bats this season and is valuable off of the bench because he produces offensively and can play second, third and outfield.

The Yankees, who are now 25-28 and 6.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox (32-22) for first place in the AL East, will begin a three-game series in Baltimore against the second place Orioles (30-22) on Friday night. It will be important that the team continues to get the offensive production that they did on Thursday during the series in Baltimore.

 

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

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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.

Ivan Nova could be a valuable piece of the bullpen after Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances

Ivan Nova Spring

Ivan Nova in spring training.

Unless there is an injury during spring training the starting rotation is pretty much set for the Yankees. It’s not known what order the rotation will be, but the five starters in the rotation will most likely be Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nate Eovaldi, CC Sabathia and Luis Severino. There are some injury question marks with three of those five starters, but that rotation has the potential to be a very reliable one if they all stay healthy and pitch how they are capable of.

Severino is the wild card of the five and the one who might have the most upside. The 21-year-old Dominican, who was the team’s #1 prospect after the 2014 season according to Baseball America, made his major-league debut on August 5 and in his 11 starts he had a 2.89 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 56 strikeouts. He only allowed more than two earned runs in three of his 11 starts and if he can pitch with that kind of effectiveness for the majority of the 2016 season, after other teams have more of a scouting report on him, the rotation could be better than it was last season.

Ivan Nova, who had a below average 5.07 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in his 17 starts last season, recently avoided salary arbitration by signing a one-year, $4.1 million contract. The 29-year-old righthander will be headed to the bullpen due to the emergence of Severino. He is an intriguing option as a long-reliever and sixth inning option before the flame-throwing trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.

Nova made four starts in April of 2014 before having to leave his start on April 19 with an elbow injury that led to him needing Tommy John surgery. He had a 8.27 ERA in those four starts and hasn’t been able to perform like he did in the 2013 season. In the 2013 season, Nova showed what he is capable of as he had an impressive 3.10 ERA in 23 games (20 starts) to go along with two shutouts and a career-low 1.28 WHIP.

Last season Nova proved that he can still be productive since he had six starts where he pitched five innings or more and allowed less than three runs. He is far too inconsistent to start games consistently this season, but based on the ability he showed at times last season it would make sense for him to be the top candidate to make a spot start.

Relievers only need two pitches that they can count on to be successful, which makes Nova an ideal candidate for the bullpen. Nova has 12-6 curveball that can be un-hittable at times and a slider that he throws between 85-89mph that can be also be a strikeout pitch for him when it is on. If Nova is restricted to one or two innings besides occasional spot starts then his pitches should be more reliable than they have been the last two seasons as a starter.

The Yankees bullpen likely will be the most dominant backend of a bullpen of all-time because of the last two seasons that Chapman, Betances and Miller have had. However, the bullpen will need depth and Nova can provide another quality pitcher with experience that Joe Girardi can have pitch in the sixth or seventh inning when one of the “Big Three” need a day off.

Chapman, who has been an All-Star in each of the last four seasons and throws the fastest fastball in baseball, will likely be suspended to begin the season because of his serious domestic abuse allegations. The league could suspend him under its new domestic violence policy. According to John Heyman, the league might not have enough evidence to give him a long suspension.

Other pitchers who will likely come north with the Yankees after spring training are Branden Pinder, Chasen Shreve, James Pazos and Bryan Mitchell. Pazos, Shreve and Pinder are all pitchers who had success last season and are used to pitching in the bullpen but they don’t nearly have the experience of pitching in the big leagues that Nova does.