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Stephen Drew and the pursuit of a .200 batting average — August 31, 2015

Stephen Drew and the pursuit of a .200 batting average

By Chad Jennings

New York Yankees' Stephen Drew, center, celebrates a two-run home run as Didi Gregorius lifts his helmet in the third inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)
New York Yankees’ Stephen Drew, center, celebrates a two-run home run as Didi Gregorius lifts his helmet in the third inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

For the first time in more than a year, Stephen Drew will wake up this morning as a better-than-.200 hitter in the Majors. He got there with a four-hit game yesterday, but the truth is, he’s been hitting well over .200 for quite a while now. Here’s Drew’s month-by-month slash line:

June: .230/.310/.514
July: .245/.315/.408
August: .236/.313/.417

Those certainly aren’t overwhelming numbers, but they’re better than most teams have gotten out of their No. 9 hitter this season (no team in baseball has come even close to a .700 OPS out the No. 9 spot this year).

Granted, Drew’s solid three months came after a bad April and an even worse May. And those bad months came after a brutal 2014. There’s a good reason why many Yankees fans have pushed for a change at second base this season, but the calls for change seemed to escalate at the All-Star break and beyond. The Yankees got a glimpse of top second base prospect Rob Refsnyder, but decided to stick with Drew after that break. It was, in many corners, not a popular decision. I was among those who wasn’t sure it was the right choice.

RefsnyderDrewSince the All-Star break, though:

Drew: .248/.315/.416 in New York
Refsndyer: .222/.292/.363 in AAA

No one can say for certain how Refsnyder would have hit had he stayed in New York and gotten a chance to play every day, but the numbers since the break don’t necessarily back the popular opinion that Refsnyder is clearly a better immediate option at second base. Long term is a different issue — clearly there’s youth and potential in Refsnyder’s favor — but Drew has not been the overwhelming drain on the Yankees’ lineup that he’s often made out to be.

Does waking up this morning as a .201 hitter make him feel any better about his season? Probably not much, but it’s been a long road for Drew to get back to that modest benchmark. Through his first eight big league seasons, Drew was a career .264 hitter. He hit .291 in 2008, dropped to .223 in 2012, and bounced back to .253 in 2013. In the offseason before 2014, Drew held out for a contract he liked and wound up not joining the Red Sox until early June. Since then, it’s been a struggle reaching the Mendoza Line.

Here’s Drew’s past 15 months, the path that took him from a late start in 2014 to finally finishing a day as a .200 hitter again:

Jose Bautista; Mike NapolJune 2 – June 18, 2014
Through his first eight games last season, Drew hit .222 with two walks and one RBI.

June 19, 2014
After an 0-for-3 in Oakland, Drew’s season batting average dropped to .200. It would be more than a year before it would be that high again.

June 18 – June 28, 2014
Falling to .200 was actually part of an extended slump in which Drew went 1-for-32 in a span of nine games. His average at the end of play on June 28 was .125. That was the low point.

June 29 – July 22, 2014
A modest surge! In a span of 16 games, Drew hit .235/.350/.529 and raised his season batting average to .178. Nine days later, the Yankees traded for him.

July 31, 2014
Traded to the Yankees with a season slash line of .176/.255/.328 in Boston. The Yankees said they’d seen positive signs in his recent at-bats.

Ichiro Suzuki, Derek Jeter, Stephen DrewAugust 3, 2014
Third game with the Yankees, Drew went 2-for-4 and raised his season batting average to .183. It was the highest his average had been since that .200 day in mid-June.

August 26 – September 7, 2014
A 10-game stretch during which Drew went 1-for-23 to drop his season batting average to .159, the lowest it had been since mid-July.

September 28, 2014
In his final game of last season, Drew went 0-for-4 to finish the season with a .162 batting average. He’d hit .176 with the Red Sox and .150 with the Yankees.

January 6, 2015
Drew re-signed with the Yankees on a one-year deal worth $5 million. Having acquired Didi Gregorius a month earlier, it was clear the Yankees planned to use Drew at second base.

Stephen Drew, Didi GregoriusMarch 3 – April 4, 2015
Getting his first full, healthy spring training since 2011, Drew hit .259/.310/.481 in the Grapefruit League. Of the projected big league regulars, only Chase Headley and Alex Rodriguez had a higher spring slugging percentage for the Yankees.

April 13, 2015
Pinch hit grand slam in Baltimore. It was the second game in a row in which Drew had homered. His season batting average was .190.

April 27, 2015
Second two-hit game of the year raised Drew’s season average to .193. That would be his high-water mark until early August.

April 28 – May 30, 2015
In a span of 28 games, Drew went 13-for-96 with one home run. He hit .135 during that span, and at the end of it, his season batting average was down to .157.

Stephen DrewJune 1 – June 21, 2015
Immediately after his worst extended slump of the year — after the Yankees benched him for two games — Drew hit .267/.328/.617 in a stretch of 18 games during which he homered six times and had more walks than strikeouts.

August 2, 2015
A three-hit game in Chicago nearly got Drew over the hump. He finished the day hitting .199 for the year, the highest his batting average had been at the end of a day all season. It hasn’t been below .190 since.

August 19 – August 24, 2015
While much of the Yankees’ lineup went cold, Drew hit .353/.476/.353 through a six-game span that again brought his sason average up to .199.

August 30, 2015
Yesterday in Atlanta, Drew had his first four-hit game of the year. It included his 16th homer and let him with a .201/.274/.385 slash line for the season.

Luis Severino the starter the Yankees can trust the most — August 30, 2015

Luis Severino the starter the Yankees can trust the most

By Ken Davidoff

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 29:  Pitcher Luis Severino #40 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch in the first inning during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on August 29, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA – AUGUST 29: Pitcher Luis Severino #40 of the New York Yankees throws a pitch in the first inning during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on August 29, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

ATLANTA — Would you trust him?

Maybe the better question is, why wouldn’t you trust him?

Luis Severino has five major-league starts on his record now, and not one of them is a stinker. Number five, his first in a National League setting, allowed the Yankees rookie to display his all-around athleticism in addition to his pitching prowess.

And as Severino led the Yankees to a tense 3-1 victory over the Braves Saturday night at Turner Field, the club’s second straight here, he provided more evidence to answer our question of the night in the positive.

From what we’ve seen so far? Absolutely, you’d trust him to start for the Yankees in a one-and-done playoff game, which looks to be the team’s fate as long as the Blue Jays keep treating the rest of the industry like their personal batting-practice session.

The Yankees (71-57) trail the Blue Jays (73-56) by a game and a half in the AL East, thanks to Toronto’s 15-1 bludgeoning of Detroit, and the Yankees in turn raised their AL wild-card lead over Texas to 4 ¹/₂ games as the Rangers and Baltimore engaged in a late contest.

Plenty of action remains, yet it wouldn’t surprise if the Yankees went down to the wire with something in play, be it the division title, the wild-card home field advantage, a mere postseason slot or some mix of these options.

That means the Yankees might not be in position to plan ahead. They might not have the luxury of scheduling Masahiro Tanaka, or anyone, to start their playoff opener. So if you’re the Yankees, you hope the scheduling fates allow you to put someone out there whom you trust.

And whom do you trust besides Tanaka? Nathan Eovaldi? A little. Ivan Nova or Michael Pineda? Not at this juncture. CC Sabathia, if he actually makes it back to the active roster? While there’s trust, there can’t be much faith, based on his health and his results of recent vintage.

Severino? Why not?

On this night, he threw six shutout innings, scattering four hits, walking three and striking out five. He now has walked a total of 10 batters in his last three starts, so room exists for improvement. Nevertheless, the 21-year-old has consistently displayed a knack for avoiding big trouble — the Braves’ four hits against him included a double and three singles — and working his way out of trouble. On Saturday, he kept the Braves hitless with a walk in four plate appearances with runners in scoring position. That he worked with little room for error, with the Yankees scoring a run off Braves rookie Matt Wisler in the first inning and none more until the seventh, didn’t seem to faze him.

He has displayed cool as well as heat since his Aug. 5 call-up to make his big-league debut against the rival Red Sox. Then came an Aug. 11 start at Cleveland, in which he tried to halt a three-game losing streak, and after that was an Aug. 16 start at Toronto. Each time, Severino pitched presentably, never allowing more than three runs.

The Yankees’ starting rotation has been an Achilles’ heel for the majority of this campaign, which is why the team engaged the Tigers in trade discussions for David Price. When the Yankees made clear they wouldn’t be giving up Severino or position players Greg Bird or Aaron Judge for a rental like Price, however, the two teams had nothing to discuss, and Detroit dealt Price to the Blue Jays in return for a lucrative package of youngsters.

Now, as the Blue Jays can boast of Price, the Yankees can boast of Severino, the man they kept at the expense of even taking a shot at Price. It’s likely that Price will play a large role in Toronto’s postseason chances. It’s increasingly possible that Severino will do the same for the Yankees.

Of course you’d trust him. Now it’s on the Yankees to assure that of being a relevant question.

Fan falls two decks at Turner Field during Yankees-Braves game —

Fan falls two decks at Turner Field during Yankees-Braves game


Rescue workers carry an injured fan from the stands at Turner Field during a baseball game between Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Atlanta

ATLANTA — With Yankees‘ slugger Alex Rodriguez pinch-hitting in the seventh inning Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves, a fan in section 401 at Turner Field apparently fell out of an upper deck, plunging more than an estimated 50 feet into concrete on the field level.

The fan needed emergency care. His immediate condition is unknown.

A fan, who didn’t want to be named, in section 401, told NJ Advance Media it was a man, who was apparently drunk, screaming at the Yankees when A-Rod came to bat. This person said the man flew over her and her two sisters from a row behind her and barely touched them as he went.

The man was in the second row of section 401. It was almost as if he jumped, she said.

She said the fan had been acting belligerently drunk all game. There was still a large wet stain on the railing in section 401 from what she said was his drink. The fans in the area soon left their seats with security, and several rows from the section were cleared out.

The Braves issued a statement: “There was an accident during tonight’s game involving a fan. The fan was immediately treated at the scene and transported to a local hospital.”

An usher from the section told NJ Advance that the man who fell was a season-ticket holder.

The fan, sitting in section 401, said she saw him fall and hit a railing, then bounce, and hit another one.

Saturday’s incident occurred two years after Ronald Lee Homer Jr., a 30-year-old Georgia native, fell 85 feet to his death from the fourth deck at Turner Field. The death was ruled a suicide by the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Yankees’ Andrew Bailey, of N.J., close to returning to majors — August 28, 2015

Yankees’ Andrew Bailey, of N.J., close to returning to majors

andrew bailey

Yankees minor league relief pitcher Andrew Bailey, of N.J.

The Yankees‘ Jersey Boy might make it to the Bronx after all.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said former All-Star reliever Andrew Bailey, of Haddon Township, has a chance at being among the many relievers expected to be called up when rosters expand Sept. 1.

“He’s pitched himself into the discussion,” the general manager told NJ Advance Media Thursday.

Bailey, 31, had a 1.85 ERA with a 10.9 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 34 innings split between four levels of the minors entering Thursday. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the right-hander had a 2.38 ERA in 11 1/3 innings.

Bailey’s had a long, hard road back to the majors.

Bailey had surgery to repair tears in his shoulder labrum and capsule while with Boston in 2013. He signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees and rehabbed with the team through all of 2014 before getting back into action during spring training.

Bailey pitched well this spring and early on, but suffered a minor setback when he experienced soreness in the shoulder. He sat out about a month and hasn’t missed time since.

Cashman said the organization considers Bailey healthy now.

“He has had massive shoulder problems in his history,” the general manager said. “But he’s currently healthy and you hope he stays healthy.”

Brian Cashman: Yankees’ slide a ‘concern’ —

Brian Cashman: Yankees’ slide a ‘concern’

cashman  27

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman before a game against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.

By Brendan Kuty

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is a little worried.

He’s watched his team’s seven-game lead in the American League East on July 28 turn into a two-game deficit to the Toronto Blue Jays in just less than a month.

He’s seen the Yankees’ offense sputter big-time over the last week, as New York has lost five of its last seven games.

And he’s banking on a turnaround when the club hits the road to face the Braves for a three-game set starting Friday, followed by another three-game series in Boston beginning Tuesday.

“Yeah, I’m concerned,” he told NJ Advance Media Thursday. “When you’re not playing well, it’s a concern this time of year.

“You need to be playing your best baseball. Right now we have a collective that, for the most part, is filled with guys who are in slumps, who are banged up, slumping at a bad time. But I think the off day is just what the doctor orders and hopefully we can get back on trick starting in Atlanta.”

One of the biggest issues has been the recent slide of slugger Alex Rodriguez. The 40-year-old had helped carry the Yankees’ offense all season, but he’s hit just .138 with two homers and eight RBI in August.

Cashman, however, believes A-Rod isn’t tired. He’s just scuffling, the GM said, and he hopes he’ll get back on track.

“Hopefully he can get his mind cleared,” Cashman said. “When you’re slumping, you start fighting through it. Your mind starts focusing overly hard.”

Here’s what the Yankees’ lineup has done in the past week — August 27, 2015

Here’s what the Yankees’ lineup has done in the past week

By Chad Jennings

Home plate umpire Eric Cooper signals out as New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez heads to the dugout after striking out swinging during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. Astros catcher Jason Castro heads to his dugout. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Home plate umpire Eric Cooper signals out as New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez heads to the dugout after striking out swinging during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2015. Astros catcher Jason Castro heads to his dugout. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

In the past week, the Yankee have lost five of seven at home. They’ve averaged slightly more than three runs per game. This is another situation when nearly the entire lineup has gone stone cold. Here are the Yankees slash lines for the past seven games:

(By the way, we’re going to do a chat tomorrow at noon, so swing by if you have some time)

Jacoby Ellsbury: .304/.333/.348
Brett Gardner: .136/.296/.273
Alex Rodriguez: .158/.200/.316
Brian McCann: .217/.250/.348
Carlos Beltran: .318/.346/.455
Greg Bird: .130/.200/.130
Chase Headley: .192/.222/.231
Didi Gregorius: .217/.250/.435
Stephen Drew: .278/.409/.278

Chris Young: .100/.182/.100 (10 at-bats)
John Ryan Murphy: .250/.222/.250 (eight at-bats)
Brendan Ryan: .000/.000/.000 (six at-bats)
Mark Teixeira: .000/.000/.000 (three at-bats)

Why Girardi thinks less A-Rod, Teixeira is better for Yankees — August 24, 2015

Why Girardi thinks less A-Rod, Teixeira is better for Yankees

By Dan Martin

tex  rod

Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira

The surprising comebacks of Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez helped carry the Yankees through the first half, and now manager Joe Girardi is hoping to figure out how to get both of them firing again.

Teixeira was out again with a bone bruise in his right leg and though he was able to take batting practice and jog a bit before Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Indians, Girardi all but ruled him out for Monday’s game.

“My hope was he was going [to play] Monday, but I’m not sure about that now,” Girardi said. “I would question that now.”

Teixeira said he was still sore and Girardi said he needed to be able to run comfortably before he’s reinserted into the lineup.

And for a second straight game, Rodriguez didn’t start — although he entered as a pinch hitter in the seventh and struck out.

“I want to freshen him up as we go down the stretch,” Girardi said. “If you look at the last two weeks, it’s been a little bit of a struggle. There’s been some good days. Obviously, the grand slam was a huge hit for us.”

Brian McCann again started at DH in Rodriguez’s spot, but the decision didn’t provide an immediate payoff. McCann went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

And with Sunday’s pinch-hit strikeout, Rodriguez’s funk extended to 5-for-41.

“I see him go out of zone more,” Girardi said of what happens when Rodriguez slumps. “He comes out of his legs more as a hitter. He gets forward. Could that be fatigue? It could be. It could be just not seeing the ball well.”

Still, Girardi tried to be optimistic the time off for both Teixeira and Rodriguez would be beneficial.

“I’m trying to make sure all of our guys stay on the field,” Girardi said of his team that was ravaged by injuries each of the past two seasons. “We’ve had a lot of moving parts in the lineup the last few years. This year, we’ve been pretty consistent and tried to stay ahead of the curve and keep these guys on the field. We’ve been proactive.”

The real test will be the final month of the season.

“We’re going to need these guys a lot,” Girardi said. “Both of them.”

Both before and after the game, general manager Brian Cashman made it clear he intends to address any roster issues from within the organization.

With the Aug. 31 waiver deadline approaching, Cashman said he’s made some attempts to acquire players, but had no success.

“Nothing that’s gotten to me,” Cashman said. “I’ve done a lot of claims. I’ve never been awarded any of them.”

The Yankees issued 10 walks Sunday, their most in a game since May 11, 2011, in an 11-inning game and most in a nine-inning game since June 26, 2010, against the Angels, when they walked 10.

Report: Yankees GM told Jeter he’d rather have Tulowitzki at shortstop in 2010 — August 20, 2015

Report: Yankees GM told Jeter he’d rather have Tulowitzki at shortstop in 2010

By Brandon Wile

jeter cashman

Things may not always have been civil between New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and former shortstop Derek Jeter, but they were honest.

The infamous contract negotiations between the team and Jeter in 2010 became especially contentious when the Yankees’ captain asked Cashman to name a player he’d rather have at shortstop, according to a profile of the iconic GM by S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated.

From ESPN:

Cashman’s answer: Troy Tulowitzki, among others.

“Do you really want me to answer that?” Cashman told Jeter, according to a source who spoke to SI. “We’re not paying extra money for popularity. We’re paying for performance.”

Cashman told the New York Daily News’ Anthony McCarron that he didn’t provide SI with any quotes from Jeter’s negotiations, though he didn’t confirm or deny the report or take issue with what was written.

“I didn’t provide the information,” Cashman said. “I didn’t confirm it or deny it. He (Price) asked me about it. I said it was a private meeting.”

He added, “If players ask me questions, I’ll answer directly and honestly.”

The 36-year-old Jeter was coming off a season in which he slashed a career-low .270/.340/.370 with 10 home runs and 67 RBIs. The two sides eventually agreed to a three-year, $51-million deal.

Klapisch: A perfect day for Yankees rookie Greg Bird —

Klapisch: A perfect day for Yankees rookie Greg Bird



Yankees first baseman Greg Bird, center, is congratulated by teammates at the end of the game against the Minnesota Twins, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, in New York. Bird drove in all of the Yankees runs with two two-run home runs, his first home runs of his major league career.

NEW YORK – It’s not often you run into a story blessed by its own synchronicity, which is exactly how it felt as Greg Bird was crushing two home runs on Wednesday. His performance in the Yankees’ 4-3 win over the Twins wasn’t just good, it was breathtaking. Not just memorable, but powerful enough to possibly change the Bombers’ calculation of who fits where in these final 43 games.

But first things first: The Yankees finished off a sweep of the Twins, seemingly regaining their balance after last week’s scare by the Blue Jays. The Bombers are still barely in first place, but look more composed after a series in which Nathan Eovaldi and CC Sabathia both pitched well, Alex Rodriguez finally hit a home run and Bird introduced himself to the Yankees’ family in impressive fashion.

The Yankees will have one more chance to fatten up this weekend on the last-place Indians before a critical three-game test against the Astros, whom the Bombers would face if the playoffs began today.

The postseason is close enough for Joe Girardi to abandon long-range thinking and instead start thinking of strategies to win those short series. Does Bird have a place in that calculus? He was summoned last week from Class AAA as a mere accessory to A-Rod and Mark

Teixeira in the middle of the order, but wouldn’t you know it, the fates had other plans for the kid.

Teixeira is out of the lineup with a deep bone bruise in his right shin, one that’s healing slowly. So, ready or not, Bird was asked to replace the Yankees’ most productive run-producer. That’s a lot of weight to put on a 22-year-old who started the year in Class AA and wasn’t supposed to transition to the Bronx until 2016 at the earliest.

But Bird is blessed with power to all fields, patience at the plate and what Girardi calls “a slow clock.” The choice of words might be odd, but the manager means Birds is remarkably calm, even reminding Girardi of a young Miguel Cabrera, who’s about as unflustered as it gets.

Bird has been on full display all week at the Stadium – not hyperventilating, but rewarding the Yankees’ faith in him with every at-bat. Remember, it was Brian Cashman who refused to budge when other teams kept trying to pluck Bird away at the trade deadline. The general manager had a sense of what was just around the corner. All Bird needed was the chance.

Turns out Bird beat the Twins single-handedly, crushing the first two HRs of his career in the fourth and sixth innings. That was just enough breathing room for Eovaldi, who took a perfect game into the sixth. The right-hander maxed out at 102 mph on the radar gun and would’ve been the star of the day had the Twins not finally broken through with three runs in the sixth.

Bird took care of starter Earvin Santana, first nailing a fastball over wall in right, then jumping on his change-up for the second HR. The Twins’ starter was less than impressed with Bird’s power display, however, telling reporters after the game, “In another park [that home run is] probably a double. But here it’s a joke.”

The Yankees won’t apologize for the short porch – the dimensions are the same for both teams, after all – but it sure makes Bird’s swing more dangerous against right-handed pitching. Add in that “What, me worry?” demeanor, and you have the makings of a pennant-race asset.

Bird is remarkably humble for a fast-track prospect, maybe because he was largely ignored in the 2011 draft. The Yankees picked him in the fifth round as other teams were unimpressed or unaware that Bird was still available.

Growing up in Colorado didn’t help his Q-rating; scouts tend to ignore high school players from that part of the country, partly because of unfavorable weather and the high altitude, which skews offensive statistics.

Bird used the snub to his advantage, working his way up the Yankees’ system with one only thought in mind: Be ready.

“You put in your work every day and do your job,” Bird said. “It’s an honor to put on this uniform and play in front of these fans.”

Bird smiled and exhaled. His parents were in attendance throughout the series to see their son – “crazy week” he said – and turned to acknowledge them when the Stadium crowd rose as one in the sixth inning, demanding a curtain call.

How long does the feel-good narrative last? It largely depends on Teixeira’s injury; the longer he needs to heal, the more we’ll see of Bird. The Yankees like to think of him as a second-tier player for now, but crazier things have happened in September.

Just look at Eovaldi, who fattened his record to 13-2 after unleashing his best stuff of the year against Minnesota. No one imagines Eovaldi anywhere near the mound in a Game 1 or Game 7 postseason scenario, but try telling that to the Twins, who were helpless with the stunning differential in his velocity readings.

In any given sequence, Eovaldi could hit 100 with his fastball, drop in a 77-mph curveball or make the bottom drop out of his splitter at 90. The Twins were happy just to make contact, at least for those first five innings. He finished with 15 swings and misses, although it felt like dozens more.

Eovaldi said, “I was really locked in” and admitted it’s rare that the moving parts are so perfectly aligned. But if ever there was a day for synchronicity, it was Wednesday afternoon, when a rookie, asked to carry the lineup for a day hits two HRs.

Someone asked Bird how it felt to rule the world, even for a day.

“Great,” is what he said, smiling so broadly his eyes turned to slits.

Wouldn’t yours?

Yankees Finding More Scouts Among Young Retired Players — August 19, 2015

Yankees Finding More Scouts Among Young Retired Players

Young retirees are handed a radar gun and sent on the road to assess the same players they were competing against a few months before

Matt    Daley

Matt Daley was a Yankees reliever before a shoulder injury forced him into early retirement last year. He quickly became a scout, one of a growing number of recently retired players to do so in the Yankee organization



The moment it hit ex-Yankee pitcher Matt Daley that his life would never be the same came on his second full day as a big-league scout, when he got his hands on perhaps the most famous tool of the trade: the radar gun.

Accustomed to being the one in the cross-hairs of the gun, Daley picked it up, started measuring velocity ratings on pitchers at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, and realized that it was all real: He was no longer a baseball player. Now it was his job to find others.

“It was weird,” Daley said. “That was a very ‘what am I doing right now?’ moment. Picked up the gun, and there we go—I’m a scout.”

Daley, 33, pitched parts of five seasons in the major leagues for the Yankees and Colorado Rockies, appearing in a total of 112 games. The Long Island native and Bucknell University graduate was effective against righties, but he struggled with lefties. When the shoulder injury that had cost him the 2012 season continued to hamper him in 2014, he knew the end was near.

When the call came that the Yankees were releasing him in September 2014, it came with a sort of lifeline: Why not come on board as a scout, if he was interested?

Even in Daley’s playing days, it turned out, the Yankees had been looking at how he might project into the front office when his arm finally gave out.

“A lot of people got to know him in the organization, and the resonating thought was that he had a very high degree of baseball acumen, baseball savvy, was a very good thinker,” said Yankees assistant general manager Billy Eppler. “Understood the game and could look at it from multiple angles.”

Daley took the gig and suddenly he was a rookie, of sorts, all over again. He started in spring training this year and is now responsible for scouting the full systems of the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets, as well as portions of several other teams’ systems.

Over the past decade, the Yankees have tripled the size of their scouting staff, and many of the recent hires have been young ex-players, some only months from retirement. They’re handed a radar gun and a stopwatch, and sent on the road to assess the same players they were competing against a few months before.

“They understand from a competitive makeup standpoint exactly what it’s like to go through a season, to compete at the major-league level, to go up and down—everything players go through in that way,” Eppler said.

Of the Yankees’ 18 pro scouts—meaning those who scout the major- and minor-league systems of other teams—seven have major-league pedigrees, including former regulars Eric Chavez and Tim Naehring; longtime veterans Brandon Duckworth and Tom Wilson; and Drew Henson, the erstwhile Michigan star who played eight games with the Yankees, then nine games as an NFL quarterback.

Eppler said the key to an effective scouting crew is assembling a mix of ex-pros and people with other backgrounds—amateur scouting, international scouting, coaching—to create what he called a “yin and yang in the department.”

But with a few exceptions (Chavez among them), the types of players who become the best scouts are usually from one mold. They are the ones—like Daley and the ex-player he calls his scouting mentor, three-year major-league vet Dan Giese—who had just enough physical talent to reach the majors but needed to use their minds to stay there.

“The superstar guys, they can roll out of bed and hit a 500-foot home run, or throw 99,” Giese said. “I was rearing back and grunting out 88 on my best day, and so I had to figure out how to get people out. That can definitely help in scouting.”

I have to go pick up a rental car? And I have to drive? I’m where? I’m in this town? Goodness, how do you get there?’ Thankfully we get them an unlimited cellphone plan so they have GPS on the phone and can figure out where they’re going.

—Yankees assistant GM Billy Eppler

For all of them, scouting is a major adjustment. The former hitters must learn how to evaluate pitchers, and the former pitchers have to learn about swing mechanics and the intricacies of position-player defense. The biggest shock, though, is often the simple logistics. Like not getting lost.

Players who have spent their whole professional lives counting on someone else to handle the details for them suddenly need to do everything on their own.

“A lot of times these guys have just relied on [traveling secretaries], and have been told where to go and what time to be there for much of their lives,” Eppler said. “Now it’s a totally different aspect—‘I have to go pick up a rental car? And I have to drive? I’m where? I’m in this town? Goodness, how do you get there?’ Thankfully we get them an unlimited cellphone plan so they have GPS on the phone and can figure out where they’re going.”

Daley said his first few weeks were a whirlwind of planning the likes of which he hadn’t endured in years. “It’s how to do expenses, it’s travel-booking, how the scouting scale works. I came home from that [first] day and I told my wife, my head is spinning right now. It’s just an information overload. But it was fun using my brain again; it was almost like back to college again.”

The newbies also learn fast how to look the part. Scouts all look like they’re heading straight to the driving range, with a uniform of golf shirts and tan pants that is almost as standard as the players’ on-field attire. As a player, Daley couldn’t understand why all the scouts dressed like that if they didn’t have to.

“I would just see all these guys dressed up in golf gear, all looking like they were going golfing,” he said. “And then I spent one or two days in the Florida heat in spring training, in my normal clothes, and realized pretty quickly I needed to go out and get some Dri-Fit stuff.”

Eppler said Daley has excelled thus far, calling his rookie scouting season the “first step” in a front-office career. Perhaps because he’s taken to it so quickly, Daley said he hasn’t missed playing. Despite working on his game virtually every day for a decade, he said he hasn’t picked up a baseball since he last pitched, with the exception of playing in his high-school alumni game (as a shortstop) in April.

“I think I’ve even surprised some in my family how at peace with it I am,” he said. “I’m where I want to be. I’m doing what I want to do, and there’s no looking back at this point.”