by Brendan Kuty
New York Yankees’ Gleyber Torres (81) celebrates with Chase Headley (12) as he crosses home plate after hitting a home run in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers during spring training at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
by Brendan Kuty
Cashman said he wants the 20-year-old shortstop to “take the next step” at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where the Yankees promoted him from Double-A Trenton on Sunday.
Cashman didn’t rule out moving Torres to the majors this year. According to the report, the GM talked about whether the team could move him up sooner than expected in case they need him due to poor performance or an injury.
“That’s possible,” Cashman said, according to the report. “That happens all the time where, ‘Hey, we’d rather him stay down, but the need is there and he’s the best alternative.’ A lot of times guys get brought in here even when they haven’t finished all aspects off. You saw Didi playing here when he came over from Arizona and he wasn’t a finished product, he couldn’t hit lefties. So guys continue to finish their development up at the big-league level. And Aaron Hicks is doing what he’s doing this year and he’s been finishing off his development the last few years with Minnesota and us.”
Torres hit .273 with five homers and 18 RBI and a .863 OPS at Double-A. In its early-season top 100 prospects update, Baseball America ranked Torres No. 2 in the game. Torres has been learning second base and third base, too.
The Yankees acquired him amid last year’s trade deadline sell off. Torres was the jewel of a package they got in exchange for closerAroldis Chapman, whom they re-signed to a five-year, $86-million deal in the offseason. In addition to Torres, the Yankees got 2013 first-round pick outfielder Billy McKinney, outfielder Rashad Crawford and swingman Adam Warren.
Blazing starts from Castro & Gregorius are helping Yankees stay atop AL East
By A.J. Herrmann
Yankees Castro-Gregorius middle infield duo playing their best baseball in 2017
In 2016, Yankees middle infielders Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro became the first pair of teammates in franchise history to both surpass 20 home runs from the shortstop and second base positions in the same year.
This year, the Bombers’ double-play duo (and “Step Brothers” in spirit) are on pace to threaten those career-high marks, and put forth their best season in pinstripes yet.
Castro has hit the ball as well as any infielder in baseball this year, and enters Tuesday ranking top-five in the American League in runs (31), hits (58) and batting average (.335).
Among all major league second basemen, Castro ranks first in each of the aforementioned categories, as well as top-five in home runs (7), RBI (27), on-base percentage (.372), slugging percentage (.514) and extra-base hits (17).
If Castro were to maintain his current slash line totals (unlikely as it may be), he’d finish with career-highs in each category; and with seven round-trippers in his first 42 games this year, Castro’s on pace to finish the full season with 27, which would best his previous career-high of 21, set last year in his first season with the Yankees.
While some have dubbed Castro the “unsung hero” of this dynamic Yankees lineup, his impact has helped the Bombers stay near the top of the AL East division for much of the 2017 season.
The Yankees offense has also been thriving despite the early absences of Gregorius, who has hit the lights out since his return from the disabled list on April 28, and Greg Bird, who has continued to recover from an ankle injury.
Following Monday night’s 4-2 Yankees win over the Royals, New York skipper Joe Girardi remarked that Gregorius has “picked up where he left off last year” since rejoining the Yankees lineup. Sir Didi finished the night with two hits, including a two-run home run, raising his batting average to .333 (30-90) on the season.
Despite playing in just 22 games so far this year, Gregorius’ bat appears to be in mid-season form, and the Yankees are thrilled to welcome him back to the clubhouse. Of those 22 games, Didi has recorded multiple hits in 10 of them (including each of his first three games of 2017), to go along with a pair of home runs, one of which came against a fellow leftyMonday night against Kansas City.
Gregorius’ 30 hits on the year are tied for 10th-most among AL shortstops with Baltimore’s JJ Hardy (who’s gotten 58 more at-bats than Didi this year), and Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar (who’s gotten 75 more at-bats than Didi this year).
Didi’s .333 batting average ranks second among AL shortstops with at least 20 games played, and his 16 RBI (again, in only 22 games!) ranks eighth. The 27-year-old shortstop is on pace to finish 2017 with 30 doubles, 82 runs and 118 RBI, and if last year was any indication, his power numbers should continue to grow.
It’s hard to forecast what Didi’s trajectory might look like over the rest of the season based on his small sample size, but after the blazing starts from both Gregorius and Castro, the Yankees middle infield once again looks like it could be one of the best keystone combos in all of baseball.
New York Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro (14) hits a sacrifice RBI during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
By BRENDAN KUTY
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The ice bags were huge and they covered his lower back and right knee.
Of course, Starlin Castro said he was fine.
“(Trainer Stevie Donohue) just wanted me to put them on,” Castro said after the Yankees’ 9-5 loss to the Rays at Tropicana Field on Saturday. “I’m fine.”
Castro was obviously still feeling the effects of colliding with hulking right fielder Aaron Judge on Friday. The second baseman and Judge, who stands 6-foot-7, 27o pounds, slammed into each other going for a foul ball in right field foul territory.
In addition to the soreness, Castro had a bandage covering a huge gash on his left forearm.
Count catcher Gary Sanchez as shaken up, too.
Sanchez took a foul tip to the mask in the loss.
He appeared dazed as he rubbed his chin while on his knees behind the plate. The Yankees’ medical team came out to check on him. When he got to his feet, the crowed cheered. Sanchez stayed in the game.
Afterward, Sanchez said he has bruising on his right cheek, near his ear.
Sanchez missed a month this season with a strained right biceps.
Manager Joe Girardi said he was a little concerned for Sanchez, who’s taken quite a few foul tips off the mask lately and was bothered by stiff neck on Friday.
As both were changing in the Yankees’ clubhouse, Donohue stopped by each of their lockers to tell them to check in with him before they went home.
Will the Yankees outbid the Houston Astros for Pirates ace Gerrit Cole?
by Joe Giglio
If the early-season standings are any indication, last weekend’sYankees vs. Astros series could be a preview of an October playoff tilt.
Right now, the Astros own baseball’s best record and look like the strongest team in the American League. If the Yankees are going to do enough to qualify for the playoffs and put together a contender capable of knocking off Houston, reinforcements are likely needed.
That could come in the form of Pittsburgh Pirates ace Gerrit Cole–assuming the Astros don’t outbid New York between now and the trade deadline.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Cole–along with left-handed reliever Tony Watson–is on the Astros’ radar already.
The Pirates, currently in last place in the NL Central at 16-23, have two pitchers who intrigue the Astros, sources say – right-hander Gerrit Cole, who is under control through 2019, and left-handed closer Tony Watson, who is a free agent at the end of the season.
It is not yet clear if the Pirates will be sellers, or if they would be willing to move Cole. But with center fielder Andrew McCutchen batting only .206 with a .670 OPS, a trade of Cole might be the Pirates’ best chance of landing significant value in a season that looks increasingly lost.
If Houston adds Cole (3.06 ERA) to a rotation that already includes Dallas Keuchel (1.84 ERA), Lance McCullers (2.65 ERA) and Charlie Morton (3.97 ERA), the title of AL favorite would automatically shift.
If a bidding war commences, the Yankees farm system could have enough to outbid the Astros–assuming general manager Brian Cashmanwants to go for it this season.
By Ken Davidoff
Hal Steinbrenner’s moment of truth might be coming earlier than anticipated. It could force the Yankees’ managing general partner to forgo the methodology that got him to this point and dive back into the frame of mind that long identified this franchise.
If the Yankees keep playing so well, they’ll have to seriously consider trading prized youngsters to better equip them for a 2017 championship run that few, if anyone, saw coming.
“That’s clearly going to be the second half of July,” Steinbrenner said Wednesday at Major League Baseball’s Manhattan headquarters, where he attended the quarterly owners’ meetings. “We’re going to see where we’re at, what options are available and what those options would cost. That’s something we go through every [year], the last two weeks of July.
“And you know us. Every year, we think we’re in it. That’s why we go through that exercise the last two weeks in July.”
Last year, when the Yankees went through that exercise, they decided to trade relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, starting pitcher Ivan Nova and veteran bat Carlos Beltran in an attempt to reboot their farm system. Just as telling, in the several years prior to that, they didn’t trade any of their top minor league players. In 2015, the Yankees watched the Blue Jays load up in July — and ultimately overtake them in the American League East — as they largely stood pat and protected Greg Bird, Aaron Judge and Luis Severino.
“I think we’ve been pretty consistent about not trading away the young talent the last three to four years. I think, in part, that consistency has paid off in several areas,” Steinbrenner said. “So that’s not something I’m looking to do, is trade away our top prospects.”
Yet if these Yankees, fueled by Severino and Judge among many other contributors, can stay atop the division as the July 31 non-waivers trade deadline arrives, then they’ll owe it to themselves and their fan base to be on the buying side this time.
They have developed an enviable surplus of prospects, too many for all of them to actually play for the Yankees someday. Enough so that the Yankees can deal a blue-chip guy or two — let’s say Clint Frazier and Jorge Mateo, for argument’s sake — to land a starting pitcher or reliever of note.
Once upon a time, the Yankees needed to develop more of an emotional attachment to their drafted and developed players and less to veterans of other teams. That prescription could reverse itself soon.
“I don’t know if I will be more open to it,” Steinbrenner said of such a possibility, “but I will absolutely divert all of my attention to any one deal that’s brought across my table. That’s the way I’ve always been. I’ll do the research. I’ll read the scouting reports. I’ll talk to [Yankees general manager Brian Cashman] and all his people. And I’ll consider any option.”
In other matters:
— Steinbrenner didn’t sound concerned about Chapman, the $86 million closer who resides on the disabled list with inflammation in the rotator cuff of his left, throwing shoulder.
“I’m not [concerned] because he is a physical specimen,” Steinbrenner said of Chapman. “He said he’s had this issue in the past. It’s not uncommon. It’s inflammation of a tendon, right? I had the same exact thing a few years ago because I waxed too many cars in a two-day period. The morning of the third day, I couldn’t lift my arm.
“It’s not an uncommon injury. He’ll bounce back, and he’s a strong guy, as we all know.”
(Unfortunately, none of the reporters thought to ask Steinbrenner whether he had been waxing so many cars as part of his karate training with Mr. Miyagi.)
Regarding temporary Yankees closer Dellin Betances, whom team president Randy Levine derided in February for not being a closer, Steinbrenner said: “Dellin knows he’s got a job to do. He does have a job to do. I think he’s going to do a great job.”
— Asked whether 20-year-old infield prospect Gleyber Torres, currently at Double-A Trenton, could reach the big leagues this year, Steinbrenner said: “It’s a good question. Not only is the ability there, but he’s very mature for his age. He really is. I think he’s going to come fast. I just don’t know how fast. Long way to go.
“We don’t want to push these guys faster than they need to be pushed, but he’s one that really has the potential to move quickly.”
— “Clearly there’s a very good chance” of the Yankees’ payroll dropping below the luxury-tax threshold, which will be $197 million, next year, Steinbrenner said. He added: “At the same time, still having a significant amount of money to spend where we feel we need to spend it. And we will, if we feel we need to spend it.”
— Of his most significant concern moving forward, Steinbrenner said: “I don’t think there’s a year that can go by of any owner not worried about starting pitching at some level.” He noted the team will have some openings in its starting rotation, with Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka all eligible for free agency after this season.
— Steinbrenner wished former Yankees captain Derek Jeter, whose No. 2 the Yankees retired Sunday night, the best of luck in his pursuit of buying the Marlins.
“He’s a very intelligent, even-keeled guy,” Steinbrenner said. “I think he’d be a great asset to any organization.”
Asked whether it would be odd to see Jeter involved with another club, Steinbrenner said: “Obviously we all consider him a Yankee, and hopefully that’ll remain the same his whole life. I haven’t thought about that. I’m sure for a brief amount of time, kind of like seeing [Don] Mattingly as a Dodger manager or a Marlin manager was a little odd. I always think of him as a Yankee. [Mattingly] was always one of my favorites growing up. I’m sure it will be [odd] for a time, but we’ll see what happens.”
Asked whether it would be easier seeing Jeter own a team in the National League, Steinbrenner said: “We’re just going to be happy for him. If this is a dream of his, being involved in a high level at a major league club, it doesn’t matter to me which league or which team, quite frankly. I just wish him the best.”
— He expressed satisfaction with Alex Rodriguez’s approach to his new role as adviser and special instructor.
“He’s always asking, ‘What do you need me for? What can I do?’” Steinbrenner said of A-Rod. “He’s been down to Tampa several times, not including spring training. He’s been great working with the young kids. He’ll be the first guy willing to get on the phone with one of the young kids if we feel it would be beneficial in some way.”
by Randy Miller
KANSAS CITY — Yankees first baseman Chris Carter was an all-or-nothing guy playing for the Milwaukee Brewers last season.
His 206 strikeouts are one of the highest single-season totals in history — seventh to be exact — yet the right-handed slugger from Vegas made up for them and then some hitting 41 homers.
That’s what the Yankees thought they were getting in February when they made a late decision to sign the still-out-there free agent to a one-year, $3.5-million contract.
That’s not what they’ve been getting from the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder.
Carter’s first two months as a Yankee consisted of one big hit before Tuesday night, when he was 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in a 7-1 Yankees win over the Kansas City Royals.
Before this, Carter’s one shining moment was his three-run, pinch-hit homer in Pittsburgh that broke an eighth-inning tie in a Yankees victory back in April.
Finally, the big man showed a little something else almost two weeks after he went from struggling backup to struggling starter when Greg Birdwas placed on the DL with an ankle injury.
On a night left-hander CC Sabathia’s slump-busting six shutout innings was the big story and Gary Sanchez’ three-run homer that opened the scoring was the next biggest, Carter received the bronze for his bat work.
“I’m just trying to have good at-bats and make solid contact, and whatever happens from there happens,” Carter said.
Solid contact in the fourth inning resulted in a homer to center that put the Yankees’ fourth and fifth runs on the board.
About time, huh?
Even Carter feels that way.
“It gives you that confidence back,” said Carter, who now is hitting .232 with two homers, 10 RBIs and 28 strikeouts in 69 at-bats over 25 games, 16 of them as a starter at first base.
This could be huge for the Yankees because even though we haven’t a Carter hot streak, this guy is capable of going on an Aaron Judge 2017/Sanchez 2016-like homer binge.
Again, Carter hit 41 homers last season. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson did that just twice in his career, and he’s 14th all-time with 563 homers.
Maybe, just maybe, Tuesday was the start of something big … or at least the start of Carter being a semi-regular contributor, al least until Bird gets healthy and returns in perhaps 10 days to two weeks.
It seems more possible now than before because Carter is feeling himself again at the plate … which undoubtedly still will lead to a lot of strikeouts but maybe with more homers.
“”I don’t think it was (hitting) mechanics (than was an issue),” Carter said. “I think it was just timing and being ready for a fastball all the time and not getting beat by it.”
These first two months as a Yankees have been frustrating and rewarding at the same time for Carter, who is greatly enjoying being part of a first-place club after hitting those 41 homers last season for a team that finished 16 games under .500.
“Winning’s definitely a lot more fun than losing,” Carter said. “I’m just happy to be here. It’s an exciting group of guys and it’s fun to come to the ballpark every day.”
It’s even more fun contributing to a winner.
“You have to trust the process and keep working every day and build off of days like today,” Carter said.
By Steven Tydings
Many relievers live off intimidating opposing hitters. Aroldis Chapman comes at you with 100+ mph and a changeup that hits 90. Dellin Betances can touch 100 and has a curveball that can’t be touched when he’s on. Former Yankee Andrew Miller comes at you with his 6-foot-7 frame and tosses his signature slider with a fair dose of imposing fastballs.
Tyler Clippard doesn’t really fit that category. But that hasn’t stopped the Yankees now-setup man from not only carving out a solid career, but continuing to excel at 32.
Thoughts of doom crept in when Clippard was traded to the Yankees at last year’s deadline. A flyball pitcher at Yankee Stadium? A guy seemingly on the downside of his career having a sub-par season? Yikes. The idea that he would replace Miller seemed laughable. For me personally, I had most recently seen Clippard struggle in the 2015 postseason for the Mets, leaving an impression that was at least somewhat misleading.
But his 3+ months back in pinstripes have been fine. Actually, better than fine. He’s thrown 40 2/3 innings over 46 appearances, allowing just nine earned runs while striking out 47 batters. That’s good for a 1.99 ERA and 10.4 K per nine. His ERA had steadily climbed since his 2014 All-Star appearance and he was typically worse in the second half, so his resurgence has been surprising and that much more rewarding and exciting. This is a homegrown talent returning to the Bronx and thriving, even if it’s been less than a full year’s worth of work.
And it doesn’t hurt to have a goofy guy who seems to be genuinely nice getting big outs for you, adding to the overall Clippard experience.
He goes out there with a top-notch changeup and a fastball with some “rising” action, a quality slider and splitter, and all of this plays up in part thanks to his quirky motion. It’s not something to teach your kids, but you can’t say it doesn’t work.
Don’t get me wrong, he can terrify you with some of his appearances. We’re still talking about a flyball pitcher in a park that plays very small. He’s typically off to fast starts (2.50 and 2.14 ERA in first two months, respectively for his career) before the summer air aids a few more flyballs in their pursuit of becoming home runs in June and July. His 2016 return was all rosy in August until hiccups came in September.
We were indoctrinated early in 2017 about his potential pitfalls when he earned a loss against the Orioles with a two-run homer allowed to Seth Smith. And don’t act like you weren’t biting your nails on the edge of your seat during his save against the Cardinals. Perhaps the best example of how the Clippard experience can frustrate is the Adam Jones catch from March’s World Baseball Classic. Clippard’s “Oh my” reaction was all of us in that moment.
But he also turns it on at times. He changed the complexion of the 18-inning win vs. the Cubs, ending the 9th inning rally before striking out the side in the 10th. Watch the video below: He utilizes his entire arsenal to create three punchouts.
Compared to most team’s “7th inning guy”, Clippard is light years ahead. Some teams would even kill for him to be their setup man.
Which, coincidentally, is where he’ll be for the next month, taking the 8th with Betances closing. We were spoiled last year with No Runs DMC. Miller is gone and Chapman is hurt, although the Yankees hope he’ll be back in a month or so. However, Clippard is adept. He’s certainly a non-traditional back-end reliever with below-average velocity, but he’s out here with career-best strikeout and walk rates in 2017.
The Tyler Clippard renaissance will only last so long. He has a .161 BABIP and a 98 percent strand rate. His home runs per fly ball are actually up vs. last season, but his 1.17 ERA isn’t going to hold and it would be foolish to expect it. He’s going to blow at least a game or two, but, then again, so does every reliever.
But Clippard is a pitcher worth enjoying for what he is. Clippard is an above-average reliever who won’t overpower or intimidate, but he’s beat expectations and he’s doing it in a Yankees uniform, coming full circle. If that’s not something to sit back and appreciate, then I don’t know what is. I suggest enjoying the ride.
Trenton Thunder pitcher Chance Adams is interviewed on Thunder Media Day in Trenton on April 4, 2017.
By Brendan Kuty
One of the Yankees‘ best pitching prospects just moved a step away from the Bronx.
Right-hander Chance Adams was promoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Here’s what you need to know about the 22-year-old:
Team top prospect status: MLB.com: No. 7; Baseball America: No. 8; Fangraphs: No. 10
What he’s done this season: In six starts, Adams has a 1.03 ERA. He’s struck out 32 batters and walked 15 in 35 innings. He allowed just two runs in seven innings against the Indians’ Double-A affiliate Monday.
Scouting report from MLB.com: “Adams’ fastball was at 92-94 mph at Dallas Baptist and 94-96 in his pro debut, and last year he averaged 94 mph in Advanced Class A and 95 following a mid-June promotion to Double-A. His heater doesn’t feature a lot of life, but his combination of velocity and command makes it tough to hit. His slider has gotten harder and sharper in pro ball, arriving in the mid-80s and giving him a second well above-average pitch at times.
“Adams’ fading changeup has also blossomed as he has used it more, and his curveball ranks as his worst pitch yet still grades as average. He locates his pitches well and loves to attack hitters. He held up well during his first season as a starter, albeit while averaging five innings per outing, and New York will stretch him out further in 2017. If all continues to go well, he could finish the year in the big leagues.”
In his own words: Adams made three appearances during the Yankees’ major-league spring training. Here’s what he said he needed to improve afterward:
“I’ll focus on my changeup,” he said. “Locating it, being able to throw it where I need it and not worry about it. I understand I’m not going to be able to throw it 100 percent every single time, but at least somewhere near the zone where I might get a swing and miss rather than bury it. That and my fastball command is very important. I’d say probably those two things.”
Drafted: Fifth round, 2015, Dallas Baptist University
From: Scottsdale, Ariz.
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman watching batting practice prior to their spring training game against the against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
By Joe Giglio
It’s never too early to think about the MLB trade deadline.
With the Yankees off to a red-hot start and in American League playoff position, a popular opinion has taken hold among fans and baseball insiders: One year after selling in late July and early August, the Yankees could pivot, buy and go for October a year (or two) ahead of schedule.
It sounds like he’s ready to do what’s necessary to win now–if the team continues to play well over the next couple of months.
“I think as a general manager you’re in both short-term and long-term planning, especially in New York,” Cashman said. “You’ve got to do both. Ultimately, last year our team declared itself in a way that we had to react to and recognize that it just wasn’t going to be good enough. Now–August through now, which includes spring training when we had the best record in baseball–we’ve been playing superior baseball.”
“So if this team declares itself in a positive way and it needs reinforcements, the opposite is going to come,” Cashman continued. “We’re full-service baseball operations. We’ll recommend what’s necessary, whether that’s buy or sell. I’d be more than happy to be in a conversation with ownership about how we can finish off and improve upon what we already have and see if we can connect with someone on that.”
Heading into play on May 10, the Yankees own a 21-10 record (second in the AL East) and plus-56 run differential (best in baseball). Rumors have already connected the Yankees to Pirates ace Gerrit Cole and Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.