Tagged: Tampa

Jacoby Ellsbury will return from the disabled list on Wednesday

Jacoby Ellsbury on the field before the Yankees' spring exhibition game against the Pirates in Tampa, Fla., Friday, March 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Jacoby Ellsbury on the field before the Yankees’ spring exhibition game against the Pirates in Tampa, Fla., Friday, March 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Jacoby Ellsbury, who has been on the disabled list since May 20 with a right knee strain, will return to the roster on Wednesday. It is important that he is returning from the DL because Carlos Beltran, who been productive offensively since the beginning of May, is on the 15-day disabled list as of July 3 due to a left oblique strain.

He played in four games for High-A Tampa (Florida State League) during his minor league rehab stint and had a .154 average in 13 at-bats. His health is more important than his average in Florida and the minor league games are for getting him back in playing shape.

He was supposed to play in another game for High-A Tampa on Monday, but he was held out of the game due to “wet fields” in Tampa. This makes sense because those conditions could potentially cause a setback.

“We scratched him because the fields were wet,’’ GM Brian Cashman said of the playing surface Monday in Tampa, where Ellsbury was on a rehab assignment with the Single-A club. “He did some simulated stuff [Monday] and will do it again Tuesday and be activated Wednesday.’’

In 37 games (148 at-bats) before going on the disabled list, Ellsbury had a .324 average with six RBIs, four doubles, 29 runs scored and 14 steals. He is currently tied for fifth in the American League in steals even though he has not played in the previous 42 games.

Ellsbury, who will likely return to the leadoff spot, will make the top of the lineup even better because he will combine with Brett Gardner, who will bat in the No. 2 spot and is having an All-Star caliber season, to add a player who gets on base often and can easily get into scoring position with his speed. With Beltran on the disabled list, the outfield will consist of Ellsbury, Gardner and Chris Young.

Ellsbury will be activated for the second game of the series at Yankee Stadium against the Oakland Athletics, who are currently 38-47 and 11 games out of first place in the AL West. The Yankees (44-38) and Athletics will play the first game of the series tonight at 7:05 p.m.

Pitchers and catchers reported for the Yankees today in Tampa

Joe Girardi

Joe Girardi

It might not feel like it in New York City, but spring training has officially begun for the Yankees in Tampa, Florida.

Pitchers and catchers officially reported for their physicals at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa this morning. The Yankees will have their first full squad workout on Feb. 26 and will play their first spring training game on March 3 in Clearwater against the Philadelphia Phillies.

One pitcher that the Yankees will need to keep healthy the whole season is Masahiro Tanaka. He was outstanding when healthy last season, as he had 2.77 ERA, 141 strikeouts and only 21 walks in his 20 starts, but he missed 2.5 months because of a partially torn UCL in his right elbow. Tankaka also allowed five earned runs in only 1.2 innings in his final start of the 2014 season.

However, there is positive news from Tanaka as he threw his first bullpen session yesterday and came away feeling normal. He threw 21 pitches with pitching coach Larry Rothschild watching. A lot can’t be taken out of bullpen session at the minor league complex, but it is a good sign that he came out of it without any pain and “smiled and waved” after it was finished. Tanaka also added that he is confident that he will be able to make it through the whole season.

During Joe Girardi’s start-of-spring-training press conference, Girardi answered questions about distractions that A-Rod might cause, the injury question marks in the rotation (CC and Tanaka), the increased youth on the roster, the competition for various spots, the possibility of a six-man rotation and the possibility of co-closers. He said that they could decide to have a six-man rotation when they play 18 games in a row without an off day early in the season.

Here is Girardi’s response when he was asked about Alex-Rodriguez’s recent hand-written apology:

Marcus Thames should be the next hitting coach for the Yankees

Marcus Thames when he played for the Yankees

Marcus Thames when he played for the Yankees

The Red Sox have recently hired Chili Davis as their next hitting coach. He previously did well as the hitting coach with the Oakland Athletics, since they scored the fourth most runs in baseball, played with the Yankees during the last two years of his career from 1998-1999 and would have been an ideal next hitting coach for the Yankees.

As of now, the hitting coaches that the Yankees should target should be Marcus Thames or James Rowson. They both have good reputations and have a few years experience as hitting coaches.

Rowson is currently the Yankees’ minor-league hitting coordinator. He has already interviewed for the position that has been vacant since Kevin Long was fired after the season. Rowson served as a hitting coach in the Yankees organization before leaving for the Cubs in 2012 when he took over as their hitting coach midway through that season. He left after the 2013 season to return to the Yankees.

Rowson knows New York well since he grew up in Mount Vernon, which is just outside of the Bronx, and went to high school at Mount St. Michael in the Bronx. He was drafted in the 9th round of the 1994 draft by the Seattle Mariners.  He is 38 years old so he will be able to relate well to the veterans and younger players on the team. He played five seasons in the minors with the Mariners and Yankees before retiring in 1997 at the age of 20. He played in an independent league when he was 21.

The candidate that would likely be a better choice is the 34-year-old Thames. He has more success in Major League Baseball and was the Double-A hitting coach at Trenton this season. This means that he has experience with many of the up and coming hitters and already likely has some experience with the established players on the Yankees.

Thames is from Louisville and was drafted by the Yankees out of Texas State University in the 30th round in 1996. He also went to East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi. He would play seven games for the Yankees in 2002 and then played for the Texas Rangers in 2003, the Detroit Tigers from 2004 to 2009, the Yankees again in 2010 and then his last season was with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011. In 2010, he hit 12 homers and had a career-high .288 average with the Yankees.

He had 115 homers, 301 RBIs and 83 doubles in his career mostly as a fourth outfielder. Thames averaged a home run every 15.4 at-bats and reached 100 homers in 1,549 at-bats which is few than any other player who has 100 homers. He also holds the Tigers franchise record for average at-bats per homer, at 14.8. He was in the Yankees minor league system from 1996 to 2001, so he knows what it takes to develop young hitters.

Thames helped Rob Refsnyder, who could be the second baseman (or the back-up second baseman) next season, retool his swing at Double-A. In 2013, the was the Yankees Single-A hitting coach in Tampa. A benefit with Thames is that he knows the young prospects well and will be able to make sure the continue to improve once they are called up.

He is also a young coach who has made a difference in his first few years, which is a pleasant change from Long because he was older and didn’t make much of a difference last season. A hitting coach doesn’t always make a huge difference, a new voice with new ideas could be the difference between making the playoffs and advancing to the next round.

The Yankees were 13th out of the 15 teams in the American League in runs scored in 2014, and Marcus Thames could make a difference with the players who underperformed such as Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. It will also be important for those three to stay healthy the whole season.

Derek Jeter will have a press conference on the YES Network at 11:30 a.m.

Jeter at Steinbrenner Field

Jeter at Steinbrenner Field

Derek Jeter will have a highly anticipated press conference about his retirement at the end of the 2014 season, at George M. Steinbrenner Field at 11:30 a.m, this morning on the YES Network. Today is also the day that position players report to Yankees camp in Tampa, but this press conference by the 13th captain in team history will have many more stories written about it.

He will likely have to address why he announced his retirement on Facebook. This is because Jeter has never been into social media as it has become more and more popular over the last few years. Jeter will also probably get many questions about if he will embrace a similar farewell tour to the one that his longtime teammate, friend and future Hall of Famer, Mariano Rivera, had last season. The timing of the announcement surprised many people, so he might reveal why now and if he thinks he can repeat his performance from 2012.

Derek Jeter has meant a lot to the Yankee over his career that started in 1995, and most fans and players around baseball respect the way he has played the game and acted off of the field. Retiring after this season will hopefully mean that he will be able to go out after a productive season similar to the way that Rivera did. Unfortunately, the Yankees missed the playoffs in Rivera’s final season, so after the spending spree that brought the team Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, Jeter definitely wants to go off into the sunset with his sixth World Series.

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.

The Yankees will look to Phil Hughes to get back on track

Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes

The Yankees won two out of three game in the weekend series against the Baltimore Orioles. However, they definitely had a chance to win the third game on Sunday.

They were winning 3-0 in the sixth inning when Joe Girardi took Andy Pettitte out of the game with runners on first and second. It made sense that he put Shawn Kelley into the game, since he had prevented a very small amount of inherited runners to score this season, but unfortunately Kelley gave up a single and a home run to J.J. Hardy, which was the start of a seven run inning for the Orioles.

Girardi can’t really be blamed for bringing in Kelley because Pettitte was approaching 100 pitches (93) and that has been his limit this season. He is 41, so it makes sense for him not to throw too many pitches especially because it has been working recently. The bullpen has been very reliable recently and that was a situation where Kelley should have come through for the team.

Another factor that contributed to the loss for the Yankees was that they left 10 men on base and went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. For the rest of the season, the Yankees can’t afford to waste opportunities like they did Sunday afternoon.

The Yankees had a chance to move within 2.5 games of a Wild-Card spot if they had won because the Tampa Bay Rays lost yet again to the Oakland Athletics. Their loss on Sunday makes the upcoming series against the Chicago White Sox even more important for the Yankees to sweep.

Phil Hughes, who has a 1.38 ERA in 10 games pitched and six starts against the White Sox, will start Monday afternoon. He has been the least reliable and inconsistent pitcher this season for the Yankees, but Hughes does pitch better at home and has a history of pitching well against Chicago. Hughes, whose 4.91 ERA is one of the worst in baseball, has pitched better recently as he has not allowed more than three runs in his last three starts.

The Yankees will need Hughes to pitch into the the sixth inning allowing three runs or less and the offense will have to come through with runners on base. The White Sox (56-79) have the second worst record in the American League and have scored the fewest runs in the AL.

Hiroki Kuroda (11-10, 2.89 ERA) will pitch on Tuesday and CC Sabathia (12-11, 4.91 ERA) will get the start on Wednesdy. This the first of 12 games that the Yankees have against last place teams in their final 26 games. They will need to win 10 of the 12 games against the cellar dwellers if they are going to make the playoffs.

Nova’s super start led the Yankees to victory. Pettitte takes the hill on Sunday.

Ivan Nova

Ivan Nova

Behind another brilliant start from Ivan “Super” Nova, the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday afternoon, 2-0, to move within 3.5 games of a Wild-Card spot. After their second win in a row against the Orioles they moved ahead of them in the process in the standings.

Nova’s very effective 12-6 curveball was working for him all afternoon helping him record his first complete game shutout. He had pitched one other complete game this season, but in that contest he allowed two runs and a homer. Based on his performance since the middle of July, where he has pitched at least seven innings in six of his last eight starts and only allowed more than three runs once, he is the ace of the staff right now.

In this start, Nova limited the Orioles offense to only three hits as his curveball repeatedly kept them off balance. He recorded five strikeouts and only one walk. In his start against Tampa, on August 25, he allowed five walks. He needed to improve on that number and that is exactly what he did.

Joe Girardi showed confidence in Nova in the ninth as there was a runner on first with Chris Davis at the plate. He could have easily brought in Mariano Rivera in that situation brought brought proved that he thought Nova could complete what he started. Crush Davis, who has hit a major league leading 47 homers this season, hit a deep fly ball to Ichiro at the warning track. Adam Jones, who has driven in a career high 95 run so far this season, lined out to Derek Jeter to end the game.

Robinson Cano proved to the team that he is healthy after being hit by a pitch earlier in the week as he hit an RBI double in the first and then hit a solo homer to right later in the game. The Yankees obviously need to resign him in the offseason as they will not be able to replace his offense. He has been the most consistent offensive force this season and now forms a formidable middle of the order with Alfonso Soriano, Alex Rodriguez, and Curtis Granderson.

Like Bob Klapisch wrote in the Record, Nova should definitely get the start if the Yankees play in the one game Wild-Card playoff. CC Sabathia has been the team’s ace since 2009, but he obviously doesn’t deserve based on how he has pitched this season due to his reduced velocity. They do need him to rebound down the stretch. Hiroki Kuroda, has been the best starter for the duration of the season, but Nova has been better recently. Andy Pettitte, who at 41 has 255 wins and has given the team many clutch starts throughout his career and has only allowed a run in his last three starts, is the other pitcher who should get consideration.

Pettitte will get the start this afternoon in the series finale. In his last start, in Toronto against the Blue Jays, he threw seven shutout innings while only giving up five hits. He has proven throughout his career that he knows how to pitch well in big games. If the Rays lose again to the Athletics, and the Bronx Bombers get the win, the Yankees could be 2.5 games out of a Wild-Card spot after today.