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Pondering Andy Pettitte’s Future

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees2013 will rightfully be remembered as Mariano Rivera’s final season. He announced his intent to “hang ‘em up” at a press conference during spring training, and has not backed down from those statements. This truly is it for the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history.

So, as the calendar flips to September, all eyes will be on Mo as he and the Yankees try to will their way into the playoffs. It will take a big, and possibly historic run for the team to do so, but no matter how far the Yanks go, we are all experiencing the final weeks of Rivera’s legendary career.

Two players who have been through it all with him are of course Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte. Aside from Andy’s three-year stint with the Houston Astros, the trio have been together for their entire adult lives. Starting out as fresh-faced minor leaguers who became fan-favorite youngsters of the late-90′s dynasty, the “Core Three” are now grizzled, battle-tested veterans in the twilight of their careers.

While Rivera has made it clear that his future in baseball extends no further than this fall, and Jeter seems intent on at least playing one more season, Andy Pettitte appears very uncertain if his days in pinstripes are numbered.

Or, if he wants them to be, that is.

Andy has had quite a frustrating 2013 season. Pettitte picked up right where he left off in 2012 by having a strong start in April until back issues forced him to go on the disabled list and miss two weeks. When he returned, he was not the same pitcher, allowing 38 runs in 68.1 innings in June and July. Many people believed he was done, some suggesting he should be removed from the rotation. He has since rebounded with four straight quality starts, but certainly cost the Yankees and himself a fair share of wins during the dog days of summer.

When he came out of retirement last year, it wasn’t just because he got the “itch” to go back out and play. Pettitte has always been a competitor and his sole focus is winning. Had he not been effective in 2012, it’s likely he wouldn’t have come back. But, thanks to his injury-shortened season and glimpses of ace-like performances, Andy decided to give it another go this year.

Even though he has rebounded, he still isn’t the same. He runs out of gas very quickly once he hits 85 pitches, and has gotten extremely lucky with players popping up or completely whiffing on easily hittable breaking pitches left up in the zone. Yet, (and though it has almost become a cliche) it is true that 85 quality pitches from Pettitte is better than what they’ve gotten out of Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and even Hiroki Kuroda as of late.

Still, Andy will turn 42 years old next June, and he is one awkward delivery away from another injury. He is that fragile. Does he really want to return next year, knowing he will be extremely limited as far as the leash he is given in each start? And, to ask the even bigger question – is it worth it? The Yankees are no where near World Series contention, even if they do make it to October or come into next season with a somewhat formidable team. And surely all that is on Pettitte’s agenda at this point is winning it all. He has come back, he has pitched well for the most part, and certainly has assessed any regrets he had about retiring back in 2011.

That’s why I just can’t see any reason for Andy to want to pitch in 2014, and right now I don’t think he will. He has a had a long, successful Major League career, and his comeback has been better than I think any of us expected. But at some point, every player eventually comes to the realization that it is time to walk away. Andy thought he had after the 2010 season, but I think this winter he truly will “hang ‘em up” for good.

So, while we all relish each time Mariano Rivera jogs in from the bullpen to “Enter Sandman”, we should also take pleasure in watching the final starts that ol’ number 46 makes this season. Because like Mo, he is almost certainly in his final weeks with the New York Yankees.

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Yankees creeping closer to second Wild Card Spot

Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and the Yankees have a big task this September--get into the second Wild Card spot.

Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and the Yankees have a big task this September–get into the second Wild Card spot.

All right, let’s play a quick game. Raise your hand if on May 1st you thought this team was going to be in a position to take the second Wild Card spot in September with a lineup that didn’t have Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson or Mark Teixeira. Be honest, because from Twitter from May-July there were some pessimistic tweets about them.

It is September 1st. The Yankees are 3.5 games back for the second Wild Card spot entering play today and they have 27 games remaining. The Tampa Bay Rays have been fading recently, going 3-7 in their last ten games, playing the first Wild Card spot team the Oakland Athletics. The Yankees in their last 10 games are 7-3.  The team the Yankees need to keep below them in the Wild Card, the Baltimore Orioles are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Yes, the Yankees have been playing with the cards that have been dealt to them but it’s easier now, considering the Yankees have some power in the lineup.

Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter have returned. The Yankees have traded for Alfonso Soriano. They claimed Mark Reynolds off waivers. The world (and the season) no longer falls on Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki‘s shoulders. They are now a small (but important) part of a large puzzle. The rotation has been getting quality work from Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte. Hiroki Kuroda is expected to turn it around after a dismal August, which could be because of fatigue. The bullpen has been flawless this year (well, majority of the bullpen). The Yankees pieces are all clicking together at the right time and if they keep playing the way they are playing, they have a legitimate chance to knock Tampa Bay out of the second spot and claim it for themselves.

Two weeks ago, the Yankees chances seemed slim. They had to hop over three teams to even get behind the Rays. Going into September…the Yankees hope to pass the Rays and get into postseason contention and prove all the naysayers wrong. This team could be good enough to get into the playoffs, but how far could they possibly go?

Starting Pitching Needs to Step Up

The New York Yankees have completely turned their offense around during the month of August behind Alfonso Soriano, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano.

The Yankees are third in the AL in homers in August (29), fifth in wOBA (.330) and sixth in OPS (.751)  The Yankees have averaged nearly 4.5 runs per game in Soriano’s 30 games as a Yankees and he trails only Miguel Cabrera in home runs after the all-star break.

Rodriguez (.284/.369/.473/.842 with a 133 wRC+) and Granderson (.291/.412/.456/.868 with a 140 wRC+) have both been terrific since they returned from the DL. Assuming that this continues, the Yankees should have plenty of offense for them to make a run at the second wild car in September. The question will be whether the starting pitching can be good enough.

There have been some good signs and some bad signs out of the starting pitchers lately. Andy Pettitte turning it around and Ivan Nova maintaining his performance have been good ones.

Over his last three starts, Pettitte has allowed just two runs on 15 hits over 19.2 innings. The first of those three starts was the biggest, as Pettitte delivered a huge performance in the opening game of the series in Boston. He allowed three unearned runs over 6.2 innings and gave up six hits, one walk and struck out five. He was given a huge first inning lead to work with, but big leads can evaporate quickly at Fenway Park.

Pettitte’s last two outing came against the Blue Jays and he allowed only one run over 13 innings. Toronto is not a great team but the starts were still very encouraging. When the stakes get raised Pettitte raises his game, which is why I have a lot of confidence in him pitching big games down the stretch in September. You know he is going to battle and not be afraid of any moment. Pettitte’s ERA is now down to a respectable 4.05 for the season.

Nova has not been as dominant in his last three starts, but he has still battled and managed to have good results. That is big for a pitcher who has had the physical tools, but lacked knowledge in just how to pitch. Nova has allowed 27 hits to only 11 strikeouts over those last three starts, but the most amount of runs that he allowed was four over 6.1 innings on August 20th against Toronto. In his previous start, he allowed three runs over 7.1 innings against the Angels and came up with a big performance in a game the Yankees had to have Sunday in Tampa.

The problems in the Yankees rotation are CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. Hiroki Kuroda has struggled as well over his last two outings, but I will chalk that up to just a blip on the radar for him.

Sabathia has shown signs of improvement but has still been unable to put it all back together. His fastball velocity has improved lately, as he has averaged 93.24 MPH on his fastball in August, including averaging 93.88 MPH and 94.07 MPH over his last two starts. However, as Sabathia has added velocity his control has vanished. He has allowed an abysmal 4.70 walks per nine innings in August.

Sabathia has thrown quality starts in three out of his last four outings, but he still has not been the dominant Sabathia we have come to know over the last few years. He had an egregious performance in the rubber match of the Boston series but got bailed out by his offense.

Then, on Saturday, Sabathia blew a 2-0 lead when he imploded in the sixth inning. He was absolutely dominant over the first five innings with his fastball humming at over 94 MPH and his slider breaking as sharply as it had all season. It all fell apart when Sam Fuld hit a bloop single to lead off the sixth inning and Sabathia could not find the plate out of the stretch. That game is the type of game that the Yankees will need Sabathia to finish down the stretch of the season if they want to make the playoffs.

There seems to be little hope for Hughes to be an effective pitcher at all this season. Hughes has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this season with an ERA of 4.91, which ranks 80th out of 85 qualified starting pitchers.

With only 30 games remaining in the season the Yankees cannot afford to give any games away, which is essentially what they have been doing by running Hughes out there every five days.

Unfortunately, the options that the Yankees have to replace Hughes are not very appealing. David Huff and Adam Warren are the only in-house options with David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno all injured.

Huff has thrown 8.1 innings of shutout baseball over his last two relief appearances against Toronto and has only allowed one hit. However, Huff’s 5.25 ERA and 4.74 FIP in almost 300 career innings inspires little confidence. Warren has been o.k. this season, but I still do not believe that he has the stuff to be a good MLB starting pitcher. At the very least the Yankees need to skip Hughes’ start this weekend in Baltimore.

The Yankees are currently five games behind Oakland in the chase for the second wild card. They will have to play close to flawless baseball in September to catch them and they cannot do it without great starting pitching. They have not gotten that consistently since the beginning of the season and it needs to reappear right now for the Yankees to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs.

Yankees First-Half Awards: Results

Will Brett Gardner take home BOTH the Defensive MVP and Offensive MVP award? Read to find out!

Will Brett Gardner take home BOTH the Defensive MVP and Offensive MVP award? Read to find out!

Welcome back Yankees fans! Now, on July 6th, I posted a poll about the Yankees First-Half awards. The poll had now closed and now it’s time to give the results.

DISCLAIMER: I was not allowed/couldn’t vote for anyone in any category in anyway. All of these votes are from you guys.  Now that we are perfectly clear, let’s start with the Pitching Category, shall we?

Who Is the Yankees Starting Pitcher MVP?

For this category, I listed the pitchers that have had either great or s0-so years. (Ivan Nova wasn’t added because he wasn’t in the rotation the entire half and Phil Hughes was plain terrible when I made the poll). So, here were your nominees for the Starting Pitcher MVP.

1) CC Sabathia

2) Hiroki Kuroda

3) Andy Pettitte

4) David Phelps

The Winner Is:

Hiroki Kuroda!

Hiroki Kuroda had a whopping 92% of the vote among Yankees fans. Andy Pettitte was second in the voting at 3% and CC Sabathia and David Phelps were tied with 2%. So pretty much Kuroda had this category in the bag.

Who is the Yankees Bullpen MVP?

Our next category takes us to the bullpen, where we have some of our top relievers that have outperformed above and beyond. (Shawn Kelley, Preston Claiborne and Adam Warren were not listed in this category because there was a specific category for them. We all know why Joba Chamberlain wasn’t nominated in any category, so that’s that.) Here were your nominees for Yankees Bullpen MVP.

1) Mariano Rivera

2) David Robertson

3) Boone Logan

The Winner Is:

Mariano Rivera!

Mariano Rivera had 85% of the vote, so it wasn’t shocking who won. It was shocking who came second. Boone Logan had 11% of the vote and David Robertson came in third with 4% of the vote. I would have figured more people would have voted for D-Rob. Interesting.

Who is the Yankees Bullpen Standout?

Here is the category where I listed some pitchers that weren’t in the other category. (Again, Joba is not in this category). These are some first time Yankees that have opened everyone’s eyes with what they could do. Here are your nominees for Yankees Bullpen Standout.

1) Shawn Kelley

2) Preston Claiborne

3) Adam Warren

The Winner Is:

Preston Claiborne!

Preston Claiborne had 63% of the vote among Yankees fans while Shawn Kelley had 34% of the vote. Adam Warren finished last in this category with 2%. I was surprised with Warren getting the least amount since he has helped out the bullpen so much as well

Now we move on to the Defense Category. 

Who Is The Yankees Defensive MVP?

This category involved multiple players that have opened our eyes with their defense. Luis Cruz wasn’t added to this category because he came after I already made the poll, but we could give him a pat on the back for the great defense he provided. Here are your nominees for Yankees Defensive MVP:

1) Robinson Cano

2) Brett Gardner

3) Ichiro Suzuki

4) Jayson Nix

5) Vernon Wells

The Winner Is:

Brett Gardner!

Brett Gardner quickly ran away (pun not intended) with this category with 69% of the vote. Robinson Cano came in second with 17% of the vote while Ichiro Suzuki came in third with 11% of the vote. Jayson Nix had 2% of the vote while Vernon Wells had 1%.

Onto the biggest award: The Yankees Offensive MVP

This is the final category of the awards. It also was the tightest race out of all the categories. I pulled up the Yankees best three offensive players throughout the first half and the winner…may shock you. Here are your nominees:

1) Robinson Cano

2) Brett Gardner

3) Ichiro Suzuki

The Winner Is:

Robinson Cano AND Brett Gardner!

I know what you’re thinking, how could BOTH of them win the Offensive Award? It was simple. The race was SO tight that by the time voting closed–they were tied. Both Gardner and Cano had 47% of the vote. Ichiro unfortunately was left in the dust with 7% of the vote.

And those are your winners for the Yankees First-Half Awards! Join me again in September after the regular season when we have 2013 Yankees Awards (awards that are for the entire year, instead of the first half).

Yankees First Half Awards Poll

Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner are MVP's for the Yankees, but who will take home  the Offensive and Defensive MVP?

Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner are MVP’s for the Yankees, but who will take home the Offensive and Defensive MVP?

With the All-Star break approaching us, it’s time to reward the Yankees on the team for their hard work that they’ve done for half of the year. It’s been a tough 3 months, but with a loss of many players, the Yankees are still in the hunt for a play-off spot (yes, I know it’s hard to fathom). So, with the first half of the season closing in, it’s time to have a poll on some deserving players who have went above and beyond in trying to help the Yankees. So here are the categories:

Yankees Offensive MVP:

The Yankees have been through a lot through the last 3 months of the season, some good, some bad, some terrible and some horrendous. However, for the Yankees there have been a few bright spots on the team. I had to find at least three players to be nominated for this award and with this lineup–it was very easy to make my decision. So thank you to the rest of the lineup for constantly struggling. Anyway, here are your nominees for Yankees Offensive MVP:

Yankees Starting Pitching MVP:

There haven’t been a lot of bright spots for the Yankees Starting pitching, but so once again it was pretty easy to find at least three (or four) nominees for this subject. So here are your nominees for Yankees Starting Pitching MVP:

Yankees Bullpen MVP:

The Yankees bullpen MVP was the hardest part to choose Yankees nominees (thanks for being so good guys). These nominees went above and beyond to protect the leads for the most part, and even shut down the opposing team’s offense. Here are your nominees for Yankees Bullpen MVP:

Yankees Bullpen Standout:

Now, there are Yankees MVP, and then there are players that have joined the Yankees in the pen for the first time in 2013 and have shut down the offense. So this category is for those players. Here are your nominees for Yankees Bullpen Standout:

Yankees Defensive MVP:

Now, there are some good catches…and then there are catches that leave the offense wanting to throw their helmets down on the floor in anger. Here are your nominees for the Yankees Defensive MVP for the first half of 2013:

Here are the polls, Yankees fans! You have until July 14th to get your votes in and I’ll have the winners posted up during the All-Star Break! You can vote as many times as you want for a player, so good luck and may the best player win.

Game 41 Lineup: Mariners vs . Yankees

Brett Gardner CF
Jayson Nix SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Vernon Wells LF
Lyle Overbay 1B
Curtis Granderson DH
David Adams 3B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Chris Stewart C

LHP Andy Pettitte

- Ex-Yankee Hector Noesi will be on the mound for Seattle.  Aaron Harang was scratched.

- Andy Pettitte trys to right himself after a couple of rough starts

- Yankees called up Dellin Betances from Scranton and sent down Brett Marshall who was spent after throwing 108 pitches yesterday

- Jayson Nix gets his shot batting 2nd today.  Nix has had a very quiet season offensively but suprisingly, his .319 OBP% is 4th among healthy regulars behind Wells, Cano & Gardner.  Nix has hit 2nd 6 times this year and has hit .261/.293/.261 (6 for 23 with 5 Walks).  Not many Yankees have faced Noesi but Nix is 1 for 3 with a HR.

One year ago today, Andy Pettitte returned

andy-pettitte-360x540Amazingly, today marks the one year anniversary of Andy Pettitte’s return from retirement.

It had seemed that the old lefty had left the game for good following the 2010 season, as absolutely no murmurs of a potential comeback were spread during 2011. Andy was enjoying life at home in Texas, being there for his family like he hadn’t been for almost his entire adult life.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were doing just fine without him. Piecing together a starting rotation featuring Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, the team won 97 games and the A.L. East. Andy even threw out the first pitch to Jorge Posada prior to Game 2 of the ALDS, making a brief re-appearance in New York. It was a great, yet unfortunate moment, as fans knew he went out on the top of his game, and probably could have helped the Yanks that October.

The season ended and soon after it was reported Andy Pettitte would be back with the Yankees – as a spring instructor, that is. Any remaining fans holding out for a return of #46 probably finally gave up when the team bolstered its pitching staff by acquiring Michael Pineda and signing Hiroki Kuroda. If there wasn’t even a rotation spot open, how could anyone expect him to put the pinstripes back on, or longer than the two weeks Andy was scheduled to be down in Tampa that is.

Spring training beckoned and indeed Pettitte was back in uniform. Throwing BP, helping out minor leaguers, and getting his chops busted by his former teammates, Andy was reportedly in incredible shape. Of course, a beer belly wouldn’t form over one year, but still it looked as if he was keeping his body in baseball shape.

And that’s when our sneeky general manager Brian Cashman got to work. Andy had indeed been working out, and wanted to pitch again. It was a shocking development that was kept under wraps for a few weeks, as the then 39-year old threw a few bullpen sessions testing how it felt to be back on a mound after so long.

The Yankees must have been pleased with what they saw, for on March 16th, 2012 it was announcedby YES Network’s Jack Curry that they had signed back their homegrown ace to a minor league contract worth up to $2.5 million in incentives. To the public, it seemed completely out of the blue and many fans were shocked but elated to have Pettitte back.

Still, there was no guaruntee of him even getting back to the major leagues. He had to mak e a number of starts at various levels in the Yankees’ farm system while the regular season was underway, to make sure that his “stuff” could still get out professional baseball players.

When the Yanks finally purchased his contract and called him up to officially return to Major League Baseball, it just so happened to be Mother’s Day. Facing the Mariners, Pettitte quickly settled down and before you knew it he was pitching like he never left. Four earned runs in 6.1 innings was a start typical to Andy’s career, but his performance following that was exceptional.

He would pitch to a 2.87 ERA in an injury-shortened season, posting an 8.2 K/9 ratio while striking out batters at an astronimcal rate. In the postseason he was dandy as he’s always been, allowing just 5 runs total in two starts. He didn’t add to his record 19 postseason wins, but he certainly deserved to.

And so here we are today. Andy Pettitte is back for 2013 as well and is pitching [aside from two subpar outings] as well if not better than many of the top flight starters in MLB. Each night he takes the mound it really is a treat to watch, because a little over a year ago we were certain to have seen the last of old #46. He’s gotten a new appreciation and love for the game thanks to his year off, and hopefully the rest he got then can keep him healthy and productive for the Yanks throughout this season. As in each of his past 17 seasons, we’ll need him.

Andy proves Dandy as Yanks avoid sweep with 4-2 victory over Red Sox

If you made a bet with someone that Andy Pettitte was going to be the first Yankees pitcher to lead the Yankees to victory, then congratulations. You’re correct. If you made a bet with someone that Mariano Rivera would come in the 9th inning and save the game as he’s done time and time again for the Yankees, then congratulations. You’re correct. Now, if you made a bet that a player like Robinson Cano would hit a HR before players like Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli, then you’d be wrong. As a matter of fact, a lot of people didn’t see those HR’s coming. In the end, the Yankees were able to shut the door on the Red Sox and avoid the sweep with a 4-2 victory.

Andy Pettitte pitched 8 innings of one run baseball before handing it over to his longtime teammate and friend Mariano Rivera to shut the door on the Red Sox. Rivera did give up a run, but that is easily overlooked because:

a) The Yankees won

b) It’s his final season

c) He’s Mariano Rivera.

The Yankees offense was supplied with a two run single by Lyle Overbay in the second, which plated both Travis Hafner and Eduardo Nunez. Brett Gardner followed with a solo home-run in the third and Francisco Cervelli hit his own in the seventh after the Red Sox scored their run off Pettitte to bring the lead back to three runs for the moment.

Positives:

– Brett Gardner went 2-for-3 tonight with a home run, a walk and a great defensive catch. Eduardo Nunez went 2-for-3 tonight while flashing the leather. Francisco Cervelli was 1-for-2 with a HR and a walk.  Andy Pettitte pitched 8 innings of one-run ball. Mariano Rivera received career save #609.

Negatives:

– Robinson Cano went 0-for-3 and now he’s batting .091. It’s a small sample size but that’s his average for the Red Sox series. Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-3 and his average is .111. Again, it’s a small sample size.

What’s Next: 

The Yankees are going to fly off to Detroit to play the Tigers in a 1 p.m. match-up. Honestly, who made the schedule. Anyway, tomorrow’s pitching match-up is Ivan Nova vs. Doug Fister.

Opening Day is coming, so how’s the team shaping up?

Brett Gardner could be a valuable player in the Yankees lineup...

Brett Gardner could be a valuable player in the Yankees lineup…

In a little less than three weeks, the Yankees will begin their home-opener against the Boston Red Sox with CC Sabathia on the mound. However, this year’s Opening Day lineup might be a little different than what we’re used to due to all of the injuries the Yankees were plagued with during the 2013 season. The Yankees are missing Curtis Granderson (broken forearm), Mark Teixeira (strained forearm) and Alex Rodriguez (hip surgery) in their offense which is sure to look like the ‘Robinson Cano Show’ for the first month and a half. But with still some time to go, just how are the Yankees shaping up as they prepare for the season?

Lineup:

The Yankees lineup has many question marks after losing so many players to free agency and injuries. The bats of Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez will be with different ball clubs, while we will most likely have to wait for Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson to return to their post in early to mid-May. However, the lineup hasn’t looked as puzzling as it did when Spring Training started. The Yankees proved that they can manufacture runs by using a key element that they possess: speed. Players like Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Eduardo Nunez are capable of getting on base, going station to station on their own before a key teammate has to drive them in with an RBI. Speed will play an important part this season since the Yankees have lost over 100 home runs than in season’s past. But just because the Yankees are relying on speed, it doesn’t mean we should start calling them the ‘Bronx Bunters’. They will still find a way to hit home runs with Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira making their way back into the starting lineup.

Starting Pitching:

Throughout the course of Spring Training, the starting pitching has been one early glimpse of how our starters will perform during the 2013 season. It looks as if they left off from last season. Hiroki Kuroda looks to be in mid-season form, David Phelps has a 0.63 ERA 14 Spring appearances  Ivan Nova has an ERA of 1. Andy Pettitte has still proven that his pitches are effective although he’s the oldest starting pitcher in Major League Baseball. And as expected, there is no concern over CC Sabathia, whatsoever. The starting pitching looks to be one of the Yankees strong points like it was in season’s past. Let’s hope that the pitching can carry the Yanks this season.

Bullpen:

...while Mariano Rivera could be a dynamic piece to the Yankees bullpen

…while Mariano Rivera could be a dynamic piece to the Yankees bullpen

The Yankees bullpen was another one of their key pieces that helped define the Yankees last season. With pitchers such as David Robertson, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Joba Chamberlain, it seemed like an easy task to get the ball to the 9th inning before handing it off to the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. Last season’s bullpen dynamic was different since there was no Mariano in the bullpen due to an ACL injury, giving the Yankees a glimpse of what it would look like if Mariano Rivera wasn’t there. With Rafael Soriano, the Yankees were able to still close games with a dominant force but this year there is no Rafael Soriano. Mariano Rivera plans to retire after the 2013 season, which gives Yankees fans one last look of the greatest closer before he hangs up his cleats and says goodbye to the game. The bullpen is expected to be a strong part of the Yankees once again, and from Spring observations, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shawn Kelley and David Phelps get spots in the bullpen. With both of their arms this spring, the Yankees bullpen could become an iron gate to prevent runs from scoring.

There’s only 17 days until Opening Day so from now until Spring Training is over, it would be a good time to start watching the games to see who has a legitimate shot of making the team. And from what I’ve seen all Spring so far, there are quite a few who have a chance to go north.

“Experienced” players will decide the outcome of 2013

Turning 39 years old this June, Derek Jeter has re-iterated over the past few years that age is simply just a number to him and the rest of his veteran teammates.

Of course, most baseball minds have thought otherwise, saying as they have in prior offseasons that this upcoming season will be the season the old guard finally breaks down and prevents the Yankees from making the playoffs.

“I’ve heard it before,” Jeter told the New York Post in response to the skepticism. “Regardless of how old anyone is, it’s our job to come here and be ready to play and help us compete. We’ve been able to do that pretty successfully over the years. Our plans don’t change.”

It’s definitely great to hear The Captain having that mindset, and he’s right. With the old age and doubt at its highest, the Yanks have won consecutive division titles and made two ALCS appearances in three years. Mind you, the reason there was even a chance for a pennant last October was thanks to a 40-year old carrying the team on his back in the late innings – Raul Ibanez.

So whether it’s the experience factor, fate, plain luck, or some other reason, time nor age has phased this Yankees team. They have remained just as big a threat to win the World Series as they were when Robinson Cano was a teenager in the late nineties.

Without saying its a problem, however, the oldest guys on the roster must do the un-expected once again to keep the Yanks at the top of the American League’s totem pole.

That may have been stating the obvious, but the team is definitely centered around a group of extraordinary, extra-old veterans who somehow have kept up with the rest of MLB over the past decade. Jeter (38), Andy Pettitte (40), Hiroki Kuroda (38), Ichiro Suzuki (39), and Mariano Rivera (43) are absolutely essential parts of this year’s ball-club. As I said, it’s not too often players their age are still in the game, let alone performing at a high level.

Now is it fair to doubt them, with all they’ve done in each of their careers? No. But people will, and have some reason to do so. To think that these players can lead the team through a six-month season and still have it in them to keep it up [hopefully] in October is a lot to ask. It’s not impossible, but I wouldn’t consider it the most likely scenario.

I refuse to say this will be the year the Yankees’ age finally catches up to them, as each year in thinking that they surprise me and win the division. They are not too old to compete, but we’ve seen in the past few seasons the team dominating in the regular season, and just running out of gas come October. Things could change between now and September, but a realistic take on the 2013 Yankees is that they have the talent to return to the postseason. But their efforts to win in the postseason may again derail their quest for a 28th title.

Spring Training Notes 2/16/13: Rivera, Sabathia, Chamberlain, Cervelli

Mariano Rivera watching Andy Pettitte throw a bullpen session

Mariano Rivera watching Andy Pettitte throw a bullpen session

The main event for the Yankees today was the bullpen pitching, provided by none other than Andy Pettitte, CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. Rivera threw his second official bullpen of the Spring, and feeling more and more comfortable on the mound.

“There’s no piece of mind when I say ‘OK, I feel good now.” Rivera said. “No, I knew the job that I put in during the whole year, it’s been a hard job and I always tell you guys I trust myself. I trust God first, then I trust myself. I’m capable to do this. I was expecting this, it feels good. I feel good.”

So what would be the biggest test for Rivera as he gets ready for the season while wearing a knee brace?

“Bunting. Comeback liners. Cover first. All that stuff. You can’t think, you have to react.” Rivera said. “That will be, what I think, the biggest test.”

CC Sabathia is also coming back from surgery, and hopes to make all his starts while staying healthy.

“After the season I had last year, being on the DL a couple of times, getting a little older, I just want to concentrate on staying healthy.” Sabathia said. “Any kind of numbers I feel will be there if I’m healthy, so that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”

Francisco Cervelli has confirmed that he will not play in the World Baseball Classic for Team Italy and made sure that he let the manager know.

“I talked to the manager a couple of days ago, and he understood the situation.”

So what was the situation? Apparently, Cervelli wants to win the catching job with the Yankees in Spring Training.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for.”

– In…interesting…news, Joba Chamberlain has been reportedly been acting a little–out there at camp today. According to Bryan Hoch, he got into a laundry cart and asked Boone Logan to push him in it. That just shows that 1) Chamberlain has an awesome child-like imagination and 2) it’s not all work and no play with that guy.

– Even the manager of the Yankees has to get in some Spring Training workouts this season. After workouts were finished, Joe Girardi spent time doing batting practice with his son Dante, warming up his catching arm. I wonder if Girardi is considering the role of ‘emergency catcher’ this season. I think he still has some game in him.

Spring Training Notes 2/13/13: Cervelli, Pettitte, Rivera

Day two of Spring Training has come to an end and there were interviews from three different Yankees: Francisco Cervelli, Andy Pettitte and of course Mariano Rivera. Let’s cover Francisco Cervelli first and then go from there.

Francisco Cervelli

As we all know, Cervelli’s names were handwritten on the Biogenesis report which meant that Cervelli at least visited the Miami clinic after his foot injury.

“When I got my foot injured in 2011, I checked with doctors and someone recommended me Biogenesis. I went there for maybe suggestions, and that’s it. I walked away without nothing in my hands. I just went there and talked, that’s it.” Cervelli said during the 11 minute press conference.

“Right now, I realize that it was a mistake to go there, but it already happened so what can I do?”

Cervelli wouldn’t say who recommended him to go to the Miami clinic but he did say that it wasn’t a player (and it wasn’t Alex Rodriguez). Cervelli went to Biogenesis once and he met with Anthony Bosch during that one visit.

“Sometimes when we’ve got injuries, we get a little desperate to come back quick and we always want a second opinion. I went there. Someone told me. I take my responsibility. Nobody put a gun to my head to go there. And that’s it.”

Andy Pettitte

Now, let’s move on to a non-controversial topic: Andy Pettitte. Pettitte threw a bullpen session today and then met with the media about how he’s feeling along with if he plans to retire in 2014.

“I feel like I’m better than I am at age 30. Heck, I want to win 20 games. That’s it.” Pettitte said during his 11 minute press conference. Joe Girardi even spoke about Pettitte during another press conference this morning in Tampa.

On the topic of whether Pettitte will retire in 2014, Girardi said “I think Andy still loves to compete.” To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andy Pettitte return in 2014. That’s a true competitor right there.

Mariano Rivera

And last but definitely not least, everyone’s favorite closer: Mariano Rivera. Mariano Rivera said that he made a decision on whether or not he will pitch next season–but he’s not telling anyone just yet. However, he did say that he was going to reveal whether he planned to retire or not before the season begins.

“You guys have been patient enough.” Rivera said during his press conference. When it came to rating how his knee was doing, he said it was a 9 out of 10 but by the time Opening Day rolls around, Rivera plans to feel 100%. He’s doing agility drills and threw a bullpen session his first day of camp, which is out of the norm for Rivera since he doesn’t throw bullpen sessions his first day.

Now, the main question that came from Rivera’s press conference: will he shag fly balls this season even though he tore his ACL doing what he loved last season? Yes. He will. He will just have to be careful about it when he’s in the outfield. It didn’t take much convincing for Joe GIrardi to let him shag again.

“I don’t want to take it away from him.” That’s the verdict from Girardi–but with one small, tiny exception. “Just not in Kansas City.”

Courtesy of Bryan Hoch from MLB.com, here are some pictures from today’s Spring Training’s events:

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Reactions from Alex Rodriguez PED report (Plus other Yankees notes)

While the baseball world is not at all shocked that Alex Rodriguez has been linked to PED’s (again), there are more statements and news surrounding the latest chapter that is the Alex Rodriguez-saga. Earlier today both Joel Sherman and the Yankees issued statements about the Alex Rodriguez Miami report. Here’s what the Yankees had to say:

“We fully support the Commissioner’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The matter is now in the hands of the Commissioner’s office. We will have no further comment until the investigation has concluded.”

Here’s the statement A-Rod’s camp gave to Joel Sherman.

” The news report about a purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true. Alex Rodriguez was not Mr. Bosch patient, he was never treated by him and he was never advised by him. The purported documents referenced in this story –at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez– are not legitimate.”

As soon as the PED story broke from the Miami New Times, ESPN reported that Rodriguez hired a lawyer, Roy Black, who has represented several celebrities. Along with Alex Rodriguez being linked to the PED report, Nelson Cruz and Gio Gonzalez were also linked. Gonzalez gave his own statement to the press.

“I’ve never used performance enhancing drugs of any kind and I never will. I’ve never met with Bosch or used any substance provided by him. Anything said to the contrary is a lie.”

As we get more information on the A-Rod saga, we will post it here so stay tuned.

Pettitte won’t pitch in the WBC

Andy Pettitte had an extended invitation to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, especially after Kris Medlen of the Atlanta Braves pulled out but now, Pettitte won’t pitch for Team USA and will instead be with the Yankees at camp during Spring Training. With Pettitte now out of the mix, the Medlen roster spot could now go to Justin Verlander. As much as I love the World Baseball Classic, Andy Pettitte and the Yankees made the right decision. This could possibly be the last year for Pettitte (provided he doesn’t make another comeback in 2015 after taking a one year break in 2014) so to preserve him for the 2013 season was a good idea.

Chris Dickerson signs a deal with Baltimore

Chris Dickerson easily became a fan favorite for the Yankees, but it became apparent that he wasn’t going to have a spot on the roster and in return the Yankees granted Dickerson his release. As of today, Dickerson has a ball club. He signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles with an invitation to Spring Training. Although I’ll be sad that I can’t see Dickerson play for the Yankees anymore, I am glad that he will finally get a chance to show the talent that he has.

Freddy Garcia finds a job. Yes, really

After I was almost a thousand percent positive that Freddy Garcia was going to hang it up after a bad year with the Yankees, he eventually found a new job with the San Diego Padres organization. He has a minor league deal worth $1.3 Million and another $1.25 Million in incentives. Good luck to him.

Yankees Offseason Notes: Teixeira + Pettitte = USA! USA!

The roster isn’t supposed to be announced until Thursday but some names have been confirmed for the World Baseball Classic. Mark Teixeira and Andy Pettitte made that list and they will represent Team USA in March. That would mean that they would miss Yankees Spring Training, yes (along with Robinson Cano who is playing for Team Domincan Republic) but they will get the workout they need to be prepared for the upcoming 2013 season. Pettitte would be reunited with former Yankees manager Joe Torre so it would be great to see those two working together again, although it will only be for as long as Team USA plays in the World Baseball Classic.

While we worry about Pettitte and the workload that the World Baseball Classic will give him (let’s remember, Andy is 40), this could be just the thing for Teixeira (who is notorious for slow starts to seasons). As Bryan Hoch of MLB.com said, “Given his history of slow regular season starts, perhaps this is a new way of trying to avoid those April struggles.” Yes, let’s hope that’s the case. The rest of the rosters will be released on Thursday and you can check back here to see which of your Yankees (besides Pettitte and Teixeira) will get the prestigious honor of representing their country.

In Other News:

Derek Jeter is still working hard towards Opening Day. Good for the Captain!

– I had an article about the Hall of Fame shutout published on Yahoo! that discusses how much of the voting process focused on Steroid Speculation. Read it and if you like it, tell your friends to read it. Tell your neighbors to read it! Tell your cat to read it! Tell anyone you know to read it!

Andy Pettitte responds after signing one year contract

Yesterday, the Yankees signed Andy Pettitte to a one-year deal worth $12 Million after Pettitte pondered (once again) that he would pitch in the upcoming season. He wasn’t quite sure after the 2012 season ended and he said he needed to “think about it”. He spent about the month that he promised he was going to need to think it over, and at the end of November–the Yankees had a #3 starter in their rotation by the name of Andrew Eugene Pettitte. Pettitte had a conference call last night shortly after the deal was made official. Here’s what Pettitte had to say:

Did Pettitte strongly consider retirement?

“I think everyone, the way I was feeling, was kind of assuming I still had a great desire to pitch. It was still a point where I still felt like it

Andy Pettitte will officially pitch for the Yankees in 2013

was pretty important to go home whenever I tried to start making the decision on if I was going to play again or not, and obviously still talk to the family about the situation and what they were thinking. Just to make sure, they — especially my wife — hadn’t had a change of how she was feeling about things. So it was for me pretty easy once I started working out and trying to decide if I felt like I had the desire to do the work that needed to be put in. It was pretty easy for me to realize that this was something I wanted to try and do again.”

Did last year’s injury impact his decision to return for the 2013 season?

“I’m not real sure exactly how that played into it. I definitely think that if I would have pitched a full season and thrown 200 innings that I definitely wouldn’t feel as fresh and physically feel as good as I do right now, and obviously (I) was able to I feel like that helped lead me to a quick decision. … I would imagine if I’d thrown a full season and 200 innings, my body would be beat up pretty good and it would have definitely been a more difficult decision. I may have maybe fully exhausted myself of feeling like this is something I can still do. With the injury, I still have the desire. For me, it was when I tried to start working out on the 16th or 17th of this month, really having strong desire still to work and looking forward to doing the work to pitch a big league season this year.”

Did he feel that his competitive nature was as strong as when he was younger. 

“When I retired, I just did not have the desire to work. Whenever I came back last year, when Cash spoke to me about would I consider coming back, when I started working out, that desire was there again. Last year, I felt my desire to compete was as strong as it’s ever been in my career. I still feel like that right now. There’s obviously a point where that desire will be there and the competitive nature will be there, but you just can’t do it. I feel like I’m healthy, the desire is there, the family is behind it and I feel good about it in my heart to do it. I would say it’s pretty strong.”

Would he consider pitching in the 2014 season for the Yankees?

Whenever I shut it down again, that is going to be it. It wouldn’t be smart for me to just say right now that I would never play next year. I just don’t think that would be smart because I have no idea. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know what this year is going to hold. There’s a lot of things that will go on during the course of this year, I would imagine, that will play into that decision at the end of this season.”

Is the 2013 Yankees team good enough to win a World Series?

“I think we’re good enough to go all the way, I really do. I’m at the point where, if I didn’t feel like we had a chance to win it, deep down, I wouldn’t do this. I feel like we’ve got a certain group of guys that are still there and that know how to win and know how to get it done, and we can go do that. Very disappointed in the way last year ended. I know everyone is. What I’m hoping is that we can learn from that. We can learn from the failure that we had last year in the playoffs, the disappointment, and we can be better and hopefully get back to where we were last year and have an opportunity to go to a World Series. That’s all you can ask. We know the division is going to be nasty, tough again. It is going to be an absolute grind the way the teams have built themselves up, but we’re looking forward to it. We’re looking forward to the competition and I know that we’ve got a team that has a chance to win.”

Yankees Offseason Notes: Andy Pettitte returns in 2013

The Yankees rotation looks less and less uncertain with the signing of Andy Pettitte. Over an hour ago, the Yankees signed Pettitte to a 1 year, $12 Million contract which also includes a $2.5 Million awards bonus meaning that Pettitte could earn up to that much should he win awards in the 2013 season. To make room for Pettitte, the Yankees designated catcher Eli Whiteside for assignment even though the Yankees signed him to a 1 year contract to avoid arbitration earlier this week. The Yankees next order of business? Signing the greatest closer in all of baseball, Mariano Rivera.

In Other News

– Yesterday, Russell Martin revealed that he wanted a 4 year deal for $9-$10 Million per year, and the team that could give Martin what he wants is the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates (along with the Yankees) are one of the front runners for Martin and it could all come down to what happens in the Winter Meetings next week. Come on Pirates, we gave you A.J Burnett. That should be enough.

– Yankees reserve shortstop Eduardo Nunez joined Twitter today, so if you want to follow him you can do so here.

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