Catching up & prepping for Spring

My apologies for my delinquency in posting this off-season. Like many of us bloggers, I have another job that promoted me last fall, which meant that much of my extra time normally reserved for blogging and baseball vanished into paperwork and emails.

Tomorrow officially kicks off the 2020 Yankees baseball season. And in camp are pitchers Albert Abreu, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Aroldis Chapman, Gerrit Cole, Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Chad Green, J.A. Happ, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder, Tommy Kahnle, Michael King, Brooks Kriske, Jonathan Loaisiga, Luis Medina, Jordan Montgomery, Nick Nelson, Adam Ottavino, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and Miguel Yajure; catchers Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sanchez; infielders Miguel Andujar, Thairo Estrada, Mike Ford, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, and Tyler Wade; outfielders Estevan Florial, Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Mike Tauchman.

Non-roster invitees include: pitchers Domingo Acevedo, Luis Avilan, Chad Bettis, David Hale, Tyler Lyons, Dan Otero, Clarke Schmidt, Nick Tropeano, Alexander Vizcaino, and Tony Zych; catchers Kellin Deglan, Chris Iannetta, Erik Kratz, Wynston Sawyer, and Josh Thole; infielders Chris Gittens and Kyle Holder; outfielders Trey Amburgey, Zack Granite, Rosell Herrera, and Thomas Milone.

And there’s a few new rules for the 2020 season. Among them include changes to the roster, pitching, and injured list length. First, the roster expands from 25-players to 26 during the regular season, but reduces to just 28 for the September call-ups rather than 40 from previous years. Plus, only half of the roster can be composed of pitchers for both scenarios. Pitchers must face at least 3 batters, except in the case of injury, effectively eliminating the “specialist reliever” who was brought in for a single tough batter. Being on the injured list returns to 15-days from last season’s 10-day length. This does allow for longer periods of healing and won’t push teams to force shortened recovery times just to get a player back sooner, and anything that helps increase player health is a good rule in my book.

But as we prepare for another season, there’s a bit of catching up to do in other areas. While there weren’t many major deals made this off-season, the Yankees had some minor splashes. We said farewell to a few Yankee favorites like Didi Gregorius (Phillies), Dellin Betances (Mets), and Austin Romine (Tigers) and breathed a sigh of relief when they re-signed Brett Gardner for another year. But that still left room for a new starter in Gerritt Cole, who arrived at camp earlier this month and got a standing ovation by fans during an open practice.

Cole was originally signed with the Pirates in 2011, moving up through that organization and into the big leagues in 2013. The Pirates traded him to the Astros in 2018 for a handful of prospects. Cole was part of the Astros’ championship runs in 2018 and 2019 (more later) before signing with the Yankees in December as a free agent. His best year as a pitcher was last year, which made him a hot commodity on the free agent market this off-season, and the Yankees have desperately needed starters for about as long as I’ve been blogging about them.

Now with Sabathia in retirement, some strong veteran presence on the mound is necessary, and the Yankees think Cole could be the answer, adding to the roster with Happ and Tanaka, among others. Jordan Montgomery is back in camp this year, hoping to re-earn his spot on the rotation after Tommy John surgery, and it looks like Luis Severino might be dealing with some yet-to-be diagnosed arm soreness. In addition to Montgomery, this could open a spot for Cessa and Loaisiga or potential prospects King and Garcia.

Pitcher James Paxton is going to be out of commission for a few months. Earlier this month, he underwent spinal surgery to remove a small cyst. He has been battling some lower back pain for quite some time, so doctors finally made the decision that surgery was the best option for both pain relief and long-term care. He will be out 3-4 months for recovery. So, no Spring for “Big Maple”, but he might be back in time for the Summer Classic.

Last month, at the BBWAA dinner, DJ LeMahieu was awarded as New York’s Player of the Year, an honor from the writers’ association’s local chapter to the player they believe has had the most impact on baseball in the City.

CC Sabathia was named a Special Adviser to the Yankees, a position held by his former teammates like Swisher, Rodriguez, Beltran, and Pettitte. This keeps Sabathia in the New York area, where he is currently raising his family.

Former Yankee legend (and current Marlins owner) Derek Jeter was almost unanimously elected to Cooperstown, missing that coveted honor by a single vote. He will join his former teammate Mariano Rivera in the Hall of Fame during his induction ceremony this coming summer.

However, the big story this off-season hasn’t been any particular trade or signing, but rather on the scandal of the Astros’ postseason cheating to win their championships in 2017 and 2018. Basically, after some investigation by MLB, they determined that the Astros used cameras, buzzers worn under jerseys, and banging on a trash can in the dugout (so both high and low-tech) to communicate stolen signs from opposing pitchers to their batters to win. While the only official consequences are firing their former coaches, team fine, and a stern lecture in the form of a letter from the Commissioner, the backlash from the media, the other players, and the fans has been, well, overwhelming.

It’s all most people can talk about in regards to baseball, including Yankees’ players like Judge, Torres, and Tanaka. And in all the mess, some star players were mentioned as holding key roles in the scandal, including Mets’ recent hire for their manager, former Yankee and Astro Carlos Beltran. However, people who know him best, like Yankees manager Brian Cashman, question the accusations. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe the worst of people you know and like, but sometimes, innocent people get caught up in the drama.

That’s the tough part about these kinds of things — because of how it was handled from its start to today, it’s a big mess, and that mess is going to get on people who were in the vicinity but had no part in it. But when dealing with a team issue, it’s kind of hard not to fault the entire team, much like the “Black Sox” scandal from the early days of baseball. Almost everyone on that team got dragged through that mud, and they still aren’t cleared or forgiven.

Further, those who both admitted and were accused of steroid use, even during the so-called “Steroid Era” are forever marked with an invisible asterisk by their name. Their accomplishments, once touted as greatness, are permanently marred by suspicion and tinged with the shame of “cheating”. There’s a reason many from that era have trouble getting into Cooperstown, even today.

And it’s not like other teams haven’t been doing something similar in recent years. In 2017, both the Yankees and Red Sox were accused of cheating via technology — the Yankees via their TV cameras and the review room and the Red Sox with their Apple watches. MLB investigated and warned the entire league of potential consequences for their choice to participate in such activities, as it clearly was just the tip of the iceberg as far as what they were doing. And yet, things still persisted. Call it arrogance or stupidity (or both, according to my friend) — but the Astros developed (and/or continued) a system and kept cheating even after they were warned.

Whatever happened during these last few years within the organization, people everywhere will question the players and coaches’ reputations for the rest of their careers. It will never go away. When it comes time for some of those championship Astro players to be considered for the Hall of Fame, I certainly won’t be surprised if the writers opt to exclude them. It’s hard to be considered great if there’s always going to be that asterisk by your name, whether it’s officially there or not.

Go Yankees!

Game 155: TOR vs. NYY — Close call in weekend opener

For the second weekend in a row, New York faced the Toronto Blue Jays for a 3-game series, this time at home in the Bronx. Hopes were high for another win after last night’s game earned the Yankees their 100th win and clinched the AL East Division title.

JA Happ got the start for the Yankees, throwing 82 pitches, giving up 4 hits ans 2 runs. Happ allowed no runs for the first 3 innings, but in the 4th, Happ gave up a double and an RBI single, allowing for the 1st run for the visitors. In the 5th, Happ gave up a home run to center. Facing only one batter for a swinging strikeout in the 6th, Happ was replaced by Ottavino who struck out 2 batters to close the inning.

At the top of the 7th inning, Tommy Kahnle took the mound and gave up a walk and a home run that put Jays ahead. Then, in the 8th inning, the Yankees sent in 3 pitchers for 3 batters — Gearrin, Lyons, and Heller. Heller remained on the mound for the 9th, giving up a single, a double, and a walk to load the bases, but shut down the inning with a strikeout and escaping his own jam.

Yankee bats struggled to get in scoring position for most of the game. Scoreless and behind by a run in the 4th, Aaron Judge led off the inning with a home run over the left center field fence to tie up the game. Gardner led-off the 5th with a single and then scored on a 2-run home run by Tyler Wade that put New York ahead by a run.

In the 8th, the Yankees were behind, but they loaded up the bases with a double, a single, and a walk, giving the Yankees the opportunity to tie up or even jump ahead, but all three were left on base after a force out ended the inning. Still behind by a run in the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees failed to reach base for any further scoring opportunities.

Final score: 4-3 Blue Jays

Injury updates: Gleyber Torres slipped on a play in the 4th inning and left the game in the 7th will undergo cautionary tests on his sore hamstring. And it looks like Dellin Betances does not require surgery for his partially torn Achilles’ tendon. He will remain in a walking boot and travel with the team as they pursue their quest into the post-season, watching their efforts again from the sidelines.

Finally, our condolences go out to the friends and family of Howard “Hop” Cassidy. The former NFL player served as a scout, coach, and instructor with the Yankees for 30 years before passing away today at the age of 85. As a “treasured friend” of the late George Steinbrenner, Cassidy and his legacy still impacts the organization, as Hal Steinbrenner shared his thoughts: “Always humble and with a kind word, Hop will be missed by my family and the entire Yankees organization.”

Go Yankees!

 

 

Game 152: LAA vs. NYY: Shutout in the Bronx for the 99th win

After a long (and disappointing) weekend across our northern border, the Yankees were back home in the Bronx for to host the Los Angeles Angels. It ended up being a good game for the hometown crowd that witnessed another strong pitching debut this season.

Yankee Stadium welcomed back Luis Severino who took the mound for the first time since last year’s division series playoffs. Severino pitched 4 scoreless innings to a constantly cheering hometown crowd, giving up 2 hits and 2 walks and striking out 4 LA batters. Unlike Betances who was injured in his debut on Sunday, Severino came out of the game healthy and ready for the playoffs.

Loaisiga came on in relief of Severino, pitching 2 full innings, allowing 1 walk, but striking out 3 batters and allowed no runs. Tarpley took over in the 7th inning, giving up a single to center, followed by a wild pitch and a hit by pitch to put runners on the corners. But Tarpley managed to get that last strikeout to get out of the jam. He gave up 2 singles in the 8th and was replaced by Gearrin, the inning ending with a solid double play and no runs. In the top of the 9th, Adams took the mound, giving up a walk and single to center, but keeping the Angels scoreless and closed out the game with two solid strikeouts.

After a quiet 1st inning for Yankee batters, the 2nd inning began with a solid line drive to left by Torres and a walk by Voit. An RBI single to left by Gio Urshela scored Torres and gave the Yankees an early lead. Cameron Maybin doubled to left field that moved Urshela to 3rd and allowed Voit to score.

But it was the 4th inning that padded the lead for the Yankees. Urshela singled, moved to 2nd on a single by Maybin, and scored on a single by DJ LeMahieu. Judge’s walk loaded the bases, and Didi Gregorius then hit a 2-run double, scoring Maybin and LeMahieu. Finally, a 3-run home run hit by Gleyber Torres to left center field allowed Judge and Gregorius to cross the plate.

That 4th inning ended with the Yankees way ahead, much to the delight of the cheering hometown crowd.  Except for a few walks and a couple singles, the final innings were quiet for the Yankee lineup. But the Angels were kept scoreless the entire game for the Yankee win tonight.

Final score: 8-0 Yankees

Injury updates: Dellin Betances made his season debut in Toronto over the weekend, but he’s now back on the IL and is out for the rest of the season. Returning to New York with a sore ankle, tests today revealed a partially torn left Achilles tendon that apparently happened when Betances jumped on the mound in celebration after his second strikeout in Sunday’s game. After working so hard to come back this season, and with a strong outing facing the Blue Jays, this is truly heart-breaking, season-ending news for Betances.

Our congratulations to retired Yankee pitcher, Mariano “The Sandman” Rivera,  who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award, on Monday at the White House. The Hall of Famer, a 13-time All Star with 5 World Series Championships, entered the ceremony to his familiar entrance music, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”. Rivera received this well-deserved award for his extraordinary contributions to sports, culture, and the community.

Go Yankees!

 

 

 

Game 151: NYY vs. TOR — Pinstripe troubles in Canada

Today’s game in Toronto may have been disappointing for New York, but the good news is that the Yankees welcomed back Dellin Betances and Jordan Montgomery to the mound.  Unfortunately, the Yankees could not capitalize on it for the win in today’s rubber match.

Chad Green took command of the ball as the “opener” for just the 1st inning. Throwing 19 pitches, 12 for strikes, Green gave up a double, but allowed no runs. In the 2nd, Jordan Montgomery took the mound, his first start for the Yankees since last year’s Tommy John surgery. After 2 quick outs, Montgomery gave up a double to left. A single allowed that runner to score. Montgomery then allowed another double and thus another run before a strike out swinging ended the inning. And in the 3rd, Montgomery game up a 1-out solo homer.

Dellin Betances got his long-awaited season debut in the 4th. With the game tied, Betances faced 2 batters for 8 pitches and 2 strong strikeouts before Nestor Cortes, Jr. was called upon to end the inning with a solid strikeout. Cortes had some trouble in the 5th, giving up a bunt single, a walk, and a 3-run home run to put Toronto ahead. He then gave up another single and walk before a line out to right field ended the inning and the threat.

In the 6th inning, Heller replaced Cortes, Jr. giving up a walk and a sacrifice bunt, but no runs. Heller remained on the mound in the 7th for 3 straight strikeouts. Lyons took the mound in the 8th for 2 strikeouts and a line out to right field.

In the 1st, the Yankees were the first to score when Aaron Judge hit his 23rd homer of the season to right field. Wade hit a 1-out single in the 3rd and then scored on DJ LeMahieu’s double. Judge worked a walk, and a single by Didi Gregorius that allowed LeMahieu to score.

After 3 quiet innings for the Yankee batters, the 7th inning began with a double sent to left field by Romine. LeMahieu reached base on a throwing error that also allowed Romine to score. Despite a few base runners, the Yankees were unable to capitalize on any further scoring opportunities.

Final score 6-4 Toronto, Toronto takes the series 2-1

Next up: After a travel day tomorrow, the Yankees head home for a 3-game series against the Angels, when Luis Severino is expected to make his season debut with the team on Tuesday. The Blue Jays come to the Bronx to close out the home stand next weekend before the Yankees hit the road for their last week of the regular season, visiting the Rays and Rangers.

Roster moves: Before today’s game, both Jordan Montgomery and Dellin Betances were activated and added to today roster. In order to make room for them on the 40-man roster and prepare them for the postseason roster, the Yankees transferred pitcher Jonathan Holder from the 10-day to the 60-day IL due to his lingering shoulder inflammation. They also designated reliever Ryan Dull for assignment.

Go Yankees!

Game 142: NYY vs. BOS –Yankees sink in Fenway opening

It was a disappointing outing for New York as they faced Boston for the first game tonight for a 4 game wraparound series this weekend. The Yankees, 15.5 games ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East, struggled both on the mound and at bat.

Domingo German started the game with a solid 1st inning, facing 3 batters for 3 strikeouts. Allowing a walk in both the 2nd and 3rd inning, he managed to get out of the innings without a run. But German began to struggle in the 4th inning, allowing a single followed by a home run to right field to put the scoreless Yankees behind by 2 runs.

In the 5th, German faced just 2 batters for a strikeout and a walk before he was replaced by Nestor Cortes, Jr. to finish the inning. With one man already on base, Cortes gave up a walk and a double that ultimately allowed 2 more runs for Boston to widen their lead. After an intentional walk, a force out and a strikeout ended the inning.

Lyons took the command of the ball in the 6th, allowing a walk but a great 6-4-3 double play and a solid strikeout ended the inning. Gearrin came in for a 12-pitch 7th, and Adams added another strikeout to their total and kept the Sox from adding any further runs.

The Yankees struggled throughout tonight’s duel with their rival to get the hits needed to even get in scoring position. The first three innings were 3-up, 3-down. The first chance they got was in the 4th, after a Boston pitching change. Gregorius doubled on a grounder to left field, followed by a walk from Sanchez, but a strike out swinging ended their chance to score.

In the 5th, Brett Gardner sent a long ball to right field for a home run, and the Yankees were finally on the board with a lone run. The only other moment was in the 7th, but despite Sanchez working a walk and a single by Gardner, New York was unable add any more runs. At the top of the 9th, three quick outs for the Yankees ended the game in favor of the Red Sox.

Final score: 6-1 Red Sox

Injury updates: On their rehab assignments, Luis Severino, Dellin Bettances, and Thairo Estrada all had impressive moments during tonight’s game. They played with the AA Trenton Thunder tonight and helped that club sweep their series and get into their postseason with a great victory.

Yankee Universe news: The AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team is working their way through the minor league post season, taking their division and set to play in the Governor’s Cup semi-finals on the way to their league’s championship. The RailRiders are hoping to take home another championship, something they last did in 2016.

Go Yankees!

Game 140: TEX vs. NYY: Big Maple in command

After yesterday’s dreary shutout at Yankee Stadium, tonight’s team roared back with a near shutout of their own. A strong pitching outing from New York in the form of James Paxton and Jonathan Loaisiga, plus stellar defense and more record-breaking batting, showed the crowd why the Yankees are on a hopeful path to the Fall Classic this year.

James Paxton, “Big Maple”, took a firm command of the mound for the Yankees tonight. He faced the Rangers and easily breezed his way through the lineup for 7 scoreless phenomenal innings.

A pitching change in top of the 8th brought Jonathan Loaisiga to the mound allowing a walk, but the defense easily shut down the inning with a double play by the Wade-Gregorius-Voit combination to keep the Yankees firmly in the lead. Loaisiga was back in the 9th, and while allowing one home run, the New York defense shut down the inning with a final ground out maintaining the Yankee lead for a solid win for the pinstripes tonight.

The Yankee bats were alive and well throughout the game. In the 1st, Gary Sanchez sent a fly ball over the fence in center field for the first home run, scoring Didi Gregorius and the Yankees were on the board and in the lead 2-0.

In the 6th, LeMahieu and Aaron Judge singled on grounders and scored on Didi Gregorius’ homer to right center field. Gary Sanchez followed him with another homer also to right center. Encarnacion then singled and scored on a home run sent to right field by Brett Gardner to increase their lead over Texas.

The 7th inning saw Sanchez take his base after being hit by a pitch and promptly scored on a fly ball home run to left field from Edwin Encarnacion, placing the Yankees ahead by double-digit runs, and a shutout seemed probable. But then that homer in the 9th gave a run back to the Rangers that quashed the near shutout. It was quite the game. Another strong display of the the range of talent the Yankees have in abundance this year.

Final score: 10-1 Yankees

Injury update: CC Sabathia remains on the IL until at least Sept. 10. After his knee was drained and treated with a cortisone shot and lubricant, Sabathia is feeling better but has yet to test the knee. Apparently on a “wait and see” list, his day-to-day will be monitored in hopes to see Sabathia on the mound at least once more before his retires. Whether he gets to pitch again this season or not, Sabathia’s legacy is already well established.

While pitchers David Hale and Jake Barrett are definitely out for the season, others like Dellin Betances, Thairo Estrada, Aaron Hicks, Gio Urshela, Jordan Montgomery, Stephen Tarpley, Giancarlo Stanton, Jonathan Holder, and Luis Severino are expected to return in later this month. A few, like Montgomery, are already starting their rehab assignments to work their way back to the Bronx.

Go Yankees!

Game 126: CLE vs. NYY — Coming up a little short in series split

CC Sabathia faced his former team for the final time in the regular season in today’s game, the final game of this 4-game series and this home stand. And the other guys won the battle, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Sabathia threw 67 pitches through 3 innings, gave up 4 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs, and still struck out 5 Cleveland batters.

And almost all of that was the result of the 2nd inning. He gave up consecutive singles that moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. The next batter hit into a fielder’s choice, but everyone was safe and a runner scored. Then a big 3-run home run eased the Indians into a large early lead. Then after loading the bases with 3 straight walks, he got himself out of the jam with one of those strikeouts.

Nestor Cortes Jr had a slightly better out when he came in to pitch for the next third of the game. With 1 out in the 4th, he gave up a solo home run that needed to be reviewed by the umpires as there was a possibility of fan interference, but upon review, the call was upheld as it clearly was over the fence (and the fan was not). After a clean 5th, he gave up a lead-off double in the 6th that scored on a 1-out single. He then gave up another single that put runners in the corners.

So the Yankees turned to Luis Cessa, who got a great double play to get out of that jam. Then in the 8th, Cessa gave up a lead-off ground-rule double that bounced over the wall in centerfield. A grounder moved that runner to 3rd. But it would be a 2-run home run to cap off the Indians’ runs today.

The Yankees’ bats, meanwhile, were quite slow to start this afternoon. Unable to get past the Indians’ starter or their first reliever for the first 6 innings, they finally got on the board in the 7th. Ford led-off with a single, and then DJ LeMahieu smacked a 2-run home run into the right field seats to break the shutout.

Finally, in the 9th, Torres was hit by a pitch and ended up at 3rd on Tauchman’s 1-out single. LeMahieu’s single scored Torres, and Aaron Judge’s solid double bounced off the back wall and scored Tauchman to halve the visitor’s lead. But the Yankees ran out of outs in the end.

Final score: 8-4 Indians, they split the series 2-2

Next up: After an off-day/travel day tomorrow, the Yankee head off for a long road trip to the West Coast. First up are the California teams — the Athletics and Dodgers. The Mariners will host the Yankees to finish off their road trip before they head home the final weekend of the month to host the Athletics and Rangers.

Injury updates: Thairo Estrada becomes the 28th player to be placed on the injured list. His right hamstring tightened up on him during yesterday’s game, so after a diagnosis of a strain, he’s head to the 10-day IL. The Yankees recalled infielder Tyler Wade to help with the bench.

Luis Severino got some workouts earlier today, throwing some from the mound to simulated hitters. Dellin Betances also got some throwing time, though he has yet to throw to live hitters. Both pitchers will travel to Tampa to continue their workouts while the team is on the West Coast. Severino could begin his minor league rehab shortly after a simulated game, but Betances is further away from his return.

And Luke Voit will continue his workouts on Monday and should start his rehab games on Friday. He will miss the road trip, but he could rejoin the team when they’re back in the Bronx in 10 days. In other words, he’s the one we’ll be seeing in pinstripes before anyone else at this point.

Go Yankees!