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Yankees’ master plan isn’t working on any level — April 22, 2016

Yankees’ master plan isn’t working on any level

By Ken Davidoff

kirby  yates

The master plan made sense. It still makes sense.

It just happens to fall to pieces for three or so hours each day.

The Yankees let the nondescript Athletics bolt The Bronx without as much as a scratch. Joe Girardi’s group suffered a 7-3 loss Thursday night, and a three-game sweep to Oakland, that left the American League’s highest payroll with a 5-9 record and an increasingly comfortable spot in the AL East’s basement, five games behind division-leading Baltimore.

Many of us expected the Yankees’ offense to regress from last year, and boy, has the lineup delivered on those expectations in these first couple of weeks, struggling more with runners in scoring position than did Ted Cruz with New York voters. Age figured as an area to monitor, too, and this 14-game sample has only magnified that concern. The starting rotation remains a work in progress, although sophomore Luis Severino provided some encouragement Thursday with his best effort of the season.

The bullpen, though? For this team, the bullpen has to be the glue, the caulking that covers up the other blemishes. And this losing streak has extended because the Yankees’ relief corps has failed to clear that high bar.

“They did really good all year long. And it’s going to happen from time to time,” Girardi said of his second-tier bullpen guys. “It’s just tough when you’re playing the way we are and you’re trying to salvage a win out of the series.”

“That’s how it goes in this game. It snowballs,” losing pitcher Chasen Shreve said. “That’s what frustrated me about it is, we’ve been struggling and I wanted to go out there and put up a zero, especially in this situation. It just didn’t happen.”

Shreve, who entered the game with a perfect 0.00 ERA in six appearances covering 5 ¹/₃ innings, took over for Severino to start the seventh inning and saw his first two pitches of the night leave the yard, with Khris Davis and Coco Crisp each going deep to put the Yankees in a 4-2 hole.

After the Yankees closed within 4-3 on Starlin Castro’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh, rookie Johnny Barbato, who also has excelled, served up a two-out, two-run, eighth-inning blast to Chris Coghlan. And just in case the Yankees held hope of a miracle comeback, Kirby Yates allowed another cushion run in the top of the ninth.

For this series, the Yankees’ relievers totaled 11 innings and permitted eight runs, a 6.55 ERA. It’s, of course, a tiny sample within the small sample of two weeks, yet in what figures to a very competitive race for AL playoff spots, such deviations from the plan can feel extra painful.

Speaking of that plan, Castro has been a success in his maiden Yankees voyage, and outfielder Aaron Hicks, after a quite sluggish start, exhibited his talents more in this series. He made a pair of fine defensive plays Thursday night, and he even produced the Yankees’ first hit of the night with runners in scoring position, a soft, second-inning single that fell in front of Burns and drove in Mark Teixeira from third base for an early 1-0 lead. Overall, the Yankees went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position, an improvement from how they had been performing but still substandard; all three hits were singles.

Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees’ other significant offseason acquisition, prepares in Tampa for his May 9 return once he serves his 30-game suspension for violating baseball’s domestic-violence policy. None of the three new guys cost the club what it considered to be a serious trade asset — although pitcher Adam Warren, sent to the Cubs for Castro, would look pretty helpful right about now — and none seriously stretched the franchise’s payroll flexibility down the line. The Yankees clearly are not all-in this year, and their chance to actually win it all hinges on a dominant bullpen.

“We’re going to get better, and it should start [Friday],” said Alex Rodriguez, who looked better at the plate, and Brett Gardner said, “I’d rather lose 9-of-14 in April than September.”

Both veterans probably are right. Without a stellar bullpen, though? This plan has no chance.

The reason Yankees deal for Aaron Hicks is backfiring —

The reason Yankees deal for Aaron Hicks is backfiring

By George A. King  III

aaron hicks

The Yankees acquired switch-hitter Aaron Hicks from the Twins for John Ryan Murphy because he hit well against left-handed pitchers — and he has started all four times the club has faced a lefty this season.

In Thursday’s 7-3 Yankees loss, Hicks had a bloop RBI single and a walk against Athletics lefty starter Rich Hill before Brett Gardner pinch hit for him in the seventh inning.

Inserting Hicks in the starting lineup meant manager Joe Girardi had to sit one of his two lefty-hitting outfielders — Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury. Gardner has sat three times this season, including Thursday, and Ellsbury once. Girardi said that had the A’s thrown a right-hander, Gardner, who missed Wednesday’s game with a stiff neck, would have been in the lineup.

Hicks is batting .095 (2-for-21) overall and 1-for-14 as a right-handed hitter. Yes, 14 games isn’t enough to make major decisions. However, it is a results-oriented business and Gardner is batting .300 (12-for-40). Ellsbury, who went 3-for-5, is at .255 (14-for-55). Both of them have better numbers than Hicks against lefties: Gardner is 2-for-6 (.333) and Ellsbury is at .250 (4-for-16).

How long can Girardi hang in with Hicks? Will there come a time when the manager believes he has a better lineup with Gardner and Ellsbury playing against lefties?

“I am sure it could but when you look at Hicksie’s at-bats, the at-bats are better than the numbers indicate,’’ Girardi said. “He has hit the ball pretty hard left-handed and hasn’t had a lot of success. That because frustrating, too.’’

Hicks turned in two strong defensive plays Thursday night. He raced near the wall in foul territory beyond the foul line in left to snag Chris Coghlan’s fly ball in the fourth and threw out Jed Lowrie attempting to stretch a single into a double in the sixth.

Hicks started Wednesday night against A’s right-hander Kendall Graveman because Gardner’s neck was stiff and went hitless in three at-bats and made a terrible throw home in the fourth inning. He also created a buzz in the same inning with a throw to home plate that got Danny Valencia and was clocked at 105 mph.

“I got about 50 text messages yesterday, just talking about the throw. ‘Who’s controlling the radar gun?’ That kind of stuff,’’ Hicks said. “It’s definitely cool to be the first person to make a throw like that, especially with the situation that we were in.”

As a high school pitcher, the right-handed Hicks said he reached 98 mph and said he would volunteer to pitch if Girardi needs him.


Alex Rodriguez requested that Prince songs be played for his walk-up music. Rodriguez used four different songs by the singer, who died Thursday, in four plate appearances.

“Tribute to one of the great legends,’’ Rodriguez said.


Brian McCann had a first baseman’s glove on during batting practice Thursday night and was fielding throws at the bag. McCann has yet to play first base this year, but has played 26 games at first in his career.

McCann took a foul ball off the big toe on his left foot on April 12, and is 2-for-22 (.091) since. The left-handed-hitting catcher wasn’t in the lineup with Austin Romine catching starter Luis Severino, but whiffed twice after entering the game in the seventh as a pinch hitter.

Romine went 1-for-2 with an RBI single that gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning before McCann pinch hit for him in the seventh.

 

What Girardi must do to put a stop to this terrible baseball — April 21, 2016

What Girardi must do to put a stop to this terrible baseball

By Kevin Kernan

clueless  joe

Joe Girardi is limited in what he can do with the Yankees’ feeble and aging lineup, but he must do something to get these hitters moving in the right direction.

The Yankees can’t just sit back and wait for the day Bryce Harper becomes a free agent.

After Wednesday’s night’s horrible 5-2 loss to the light-hitting A’s at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees once again were hitless (0-for-4) with runners in scoring position and for the season own a grand total of six hits with two outs with runners in scoring position.

That is off-the-charts ugly and dead last in the majors.

Their Baseball IQ is terrible too.

Didi Gregorius made a critical base-running blunder in the seventh, the kind of mistake Derek Jeter never made. Add another clutch-less performance by Alex Rodriguez and you had a disaster in the Bronx as the Yankees lost for the sixth time in the last seven games.

After Brett Gardner was scratched from the starting lineup with a stiff neck, Girardi had to toss his original lineup and move Starlin Castro from seventh to second and insert Aaron Hicks into left field, batting ninth, with the original No. 9 hitter, Chase Headley, moving up to seventh.

The Yankees had five starters hitting .220 or lower.

Girardi’s lineup 1 through 9 went this way: Jacoby Ellsbury, Castro, Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, Headley, Gregorius and Hicks.

The Yankees desperately need to get more bang for their buck, and with that in mind, here is a lineup I would post: Gardner, Beltran, Teixeira, McCann, Castro, Ellsbury, Rodriguez, Headley and Gregorius.

A-Rod struck out looking with the bases loaded in the first, setting the tone for the night. Hicks somehow hit into a 5-5-3 double play to end the seventh because Gregorius ran into the out at third, a Little League mistake, something Girardi labeled a “blunder.’’

Both Yankees runs came on solo home runs, one by Gregorius, the other by Beltran.

Moving Beltran into the 2 hole would give the Yankees a switch hitter in that spot and not make them so vulnerable to left-handed pitching. He would be followed by another switch hitter in Teixeira and then the lefty McCann would be batting cleanup.

The right-handed-hitting Castro would follow at fifth, the lefty Ellsbury (.220), and then by dropping A-Rod to seventh, that should take pressure off the aging slugger, who needs to start driving the ball the other way.

This lineup also breaks up some of the slow-moving runners in the middle of the lineup.

Of course, if the Yankees managed to just get a couple of big hits, no one would be talking about changing the lineup.

Big hits make a big difference.

Overall, the Yankees are batting .189 with runners in scoring position, 27th in the majors, and a horrendous .125 with two outs and runners in scoring position, dead last.

A’s starter and winner Kendall Graveman locked up A-Rod in that crucial first at-bat.

“This guy has got good stuff, he made a perfect 2-2 pitch,’’ Rodriguez said.

“Don’t overcomplicate it,’’ he said as the key for the hitters, including himself. “I feel great.’’

As for the mistakes, A-Rod said, “We do have to tighten up and play good fundamental baseball.’’

When multiple hitters are struggling, it is difficult to come up with any lineup that works.

“You can’t take all nine of them out,’’ Girardi said. “When you have one or two guys struggling, you think about tweaking [the lineup], but we are getting runners on. We just need to get them in.’’

Girardi mentioned the middle of the Yankees order is not speedy when asked about the team’s base-running shortcomings. Yet the speedy players like Gregorius run into outs.

“I wouldn’t say that we have world track athletes that are paid to run 100 meters in the middle of our order,’’ Girardi said. “”They’re doing the best they can.’’

A-Rod is a major problem, batting .163 with five RBIs. But he is not alone.

Teixeira is hitting .182, the same as Headley. Hicks is hitting .050.

This is beyond bad and can’t go on.

Shake it up, Joe.

Nick Swisher Goes 2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI on Monday for Class-AAA Scranton, Now Hitting .429 — April 19, 2016

Nick Swisher Goes 2-for-3, HR, 2 RBI on Monday for Class-AAA Scranton, Now Hitting .429

By Douglas Rush

Nick Swisher is making the most of his second opportunity with the New YorkYankees and with the way he’s been hitting in the minor leagues, he may see his second chance with the major league team very soon.

On Monday, Swisher, who was already off to a good start with the Class-AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, continued his hot streak in his fourth game against Class-AAA Buffalo.

In the bottom of the first inning, Swisher struck out with runners on second and third to end the inning.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Swisher cranked out his first home run of the season in the minors, a solo shot that tied the game at 2-2.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Swisher singled to center field.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Swisher hit an RBI sac fly to tie the game at 6-6.

Before Swisher could get one last at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, Slade Heathcott struck out with runners on second and third to end the game and Scranton lost 9-6.

For the game, Swisher finished 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI. In his first four games, Swisher is now hitting .429 on the season (6-for-14) with one home run, three RBI and a double. He also continues to play a good enough first base that would warrant a potential promotion to the major leagues and be the backup if needed.

In a radio interview, Swisher told Michael Kay on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio and the YES Network that he was so excited to come back and prove to everyone that he had something left in the tank and while it’s only minor league pitching, Swisher so far is excelling at Scranton and it may be only a matter of time before he’s getting the call to return to the Bronx.

Upcoming Series Athletics at Yankees : Pitching Probables —
Yankees’ CC Sabathia to Wear Custom Made Cleats Honoring Jackie Robinson for Friday Night — April 15, 2016

Yankees’ CC Sabathia to Wear Custom Made Cleats Honoring Jackie Robinson for Friday Night

By Douglas Rush

On Jackie Robinson Day, everyone in Major League Baseball playing on the day; April 15, wears his number with the Brooklyn Dodgers, 42, to honor him and what he did for the game of baseball.

Robinson broke the color barrier that existed at the time in baseball and even though his arrival in the game was met with racism and hatred, it sparked a new era in the game; one that allowed African American players to play in the game; racism aside.

On April 15, 1947, Robinson made his debut for the Brooklyn Dodgers and never looked back, as he became a fabric in the sport of baseball. Robinson is enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame ans his number 42 is universally retired around the sport of baseball.

Mariano Rivera was the final player that was allowed to wear the number 42 because he was grandfathered in when the rule was made to retire Robinson’s number in baseball.

On Friday night, to go along with everyone wearing the number 42, Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia will also honor Robinson by wearing special-made cleats as part of his uniform.

cc kleats

Sabathia isn’t pitching on Friday night against the Seattle Mariners, so he won’t be wearing them on the mound and will only be in the dugout with the cleats. Sabathia’s former teammate in Robinson Cano, whom he’ll see come into town for the series, was named after Robinson.

Eovaldi Tipping his Pitches ? —

Eovaldi Tipping his Pitches ?

nathan eovaldi ';

By Wolf

Josh Donaldson may have given us the answer to why Nate gives up a lot of homers ?

I was watching the Toronto feed of last night’s game between the Yankees and the Blue Jays , and on the pre game Hazel May interviewed Josh Donaldson who may have given us the answer to why Nate was crusting along and then was finally assaulted last night by the Blue Jay bats ?

Hazel asked him what his approach was when facing a guy like Nate who can throw 100 MPH but still has a breaking ball in the lower 80’s , Josh’s answered may have addressed more that he thought he was giving up ?

Josh said  “With a guy like Nate my approach is just to watch how the ball comes out of his hand for the first 2 times around  and then try to figure what’s coming  by watching his hand ”

That made perfect sense last night , Nate was breezing along for the first 2 times around and then the floor collapsed , Josh may have given us the reason why, and hopefully the Yankees pitching  coach gets word of what Donaldson said and works on correcting the problem  because most time it’s difficult to diagnose what’s wrong, but now that we know it should be fixable.

Are you listening Larry ?

Brian McCann day-to-day with bruised big toe — April 13, 2016

Brian McCann day-to-day with bruised big toe

Brian McCann

New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann makes the catch on a foul ball by Toronto Blue Jays’ Kevin Pillar near the dugout during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 12, 2016, in Toronto

By Chad Jennings

What initially seemed to be a non-issue had the Yankees holding their breath by the end of the night.

Brian McCann took a foul ball off his left big toe in either the fourth of fifth inning — seemed like such a non-event at the time that I didn’t even write down when it happened — and eventually had to leave tonight’s game to have blood drained from under the toenail. The fluoroscope at Rogers Centre showed no break, and the Yankees said they’re “comfortable” with that diagnosis. If there’s more concern tomorrow, McCann will go for an X-ray, but for now the Yankees believe it’s just a bruise.

“It was on my mind basically the whole rest of the game,” McCann said. “I was just hoping it was the blood that was filling up in my nail and that it wasn’t broke. I just had that thought, and that’s what it was.”

McCann hit his game-tying home run after the injury, and he kept insisting to the training staff that he was healthy enough to play, but eventually he had to be removed. He came out in the ninth inning.

“It was hard to throw,” McCann said. “If I had to make a throw if a guy got to first base, I didn’t want to do that to the team. … It’s hard when you’re catching. If something happens to (Austin Romine), you’re sitting there with no catcher. I was just hoping the whole time that it was just blood in the nail and that it wasn’t broke.”

Now, the Yankees are breathing a sigh of relief, but in the minutes immediately after the game, there was concern.

“You’re kind of anxious what’s going on,” Joe Girardi said. “Is it just a bruised toe — a bruised big toe — or is it more than that?”

Without knowing the full diagnosis, Girardi said he did not expect McCann to play tomorrow. It’s likely Romine will start behind the plate for at least one game this series.

“I’ll see how I feel when I get up,” McCann said.

Yankees’ Nick Rumbelow to have Tommy John surgery — April 12, 2016

Yankees’ Nick Rumbelow to have Tommy John surgery

By Brendan Kuty

TORONTO — Promising Yankees reliever Nick Rumbelow needs Tommy John surgery and will miss the rest of the season, general manager Brian Cashman said Monday.

The surgery, first reported by The Journal News’ Chad Jennings, is a blow to the Yankees’ bullpen, though the 24-year-old didn’t make it out of spring training and was pitching in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when the injury was first discovered.

Rumbelow, who came out of Sunday’s game while warming up, figured to be part of the team’s revolving door in the front end of the bullpen. He made his major-league debut in 2015, appearing in 17 games, after mowing through hitters in the minors.

Rumeblow gave up five runs and 15 hits in 8 2/3 innings this spring. It’s unclear weather he was feeling pain during the spring.

 

Is this Yankee star David Ortiz’s Red Sox replacement? — April 11, 2016

Is this Yankee star David Ortiz’s Red Sox replacement?

tex

Mark Teixeira #25 of the New York Yankees celebrates with Alex Rodriguez #13 and Brett Gardner #11 after hitting a three run home run against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning during their game at Yankee Stadium on April 7, 2016 in New York City.

By Joe Giglio

David Ortiz has be a thorn in the Yankees‘ side for years. As the Red Sox prepare for his departure and filling the shoes of one of the best designated hitters in baseball history, Ortiz’s replacement may hurt New York in more than one way.

When the season ends, the Red Sox could look to the free-agent market to sign a DH-type. At the end of 2016, Yankees first baseman (and probable future DH) Mark Teixeira will be available.

Already, the dots are being connected in Boston. Per Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe in this week’s Sunday Notes column:

Another potential replacement for Ortiz is Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira, a free agent after this season. But scouts are concerned that Teixeira, who turns 36 on Monday, could break down and miss time with injuries.

Said one AL special adviser, “Don’t know if he can handle the DH role but he can still play first base. He’s a guy you have to look at and see how he responds this year. If he responds with the type of year he had in 2015, he’ll draw a good amount of interest [in free agency].”

The column centered on Toronto’s Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion (also both pending free agents next winter) as likely Ortiz replacements, but Teixeira makes sense for the Red Sox—and might not be back with the Yankees, even if he doeswant to play five or six more years.

With Greg Bird in the system, a replacement could be ready in New York. Add in the team trying to lower payroll—likely for a big trip into free agency in a few years—and Teixeira could hit the market.

If he does, a team with a gaping hole for power (and one that was interested in him when the Yankees originally landed the first baseman after the 2008 season) could be lurking to impact baseball’s best rivalry.