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Miraculous 8th Inning Comeback Propels Yanks To 6-4 Win

APTOPIX White Sox Yankees Baseball.JPEG-01d77

Despite going up against arguably the best pitcher in baseball in White Sox ace Chris Sale, it still would’ve been a disappointment had the Yankees lost last night. There’s no need to explain that the team has to go on a 2011 Cardinals-esque run to even have a shot at the playoffs in a few weeks, so any loss against a lesser team is simply unacceptable.

Unfortunately, it looked like the Yanks had accepted their fate in last night’s game, as Sale had gone out and completely dominated the lineup. If it weren’t for yet another defensive miscue by Chicago that allowed Vernon Wells to steal home in the 2nd inning, the 24-year old lefty would’ve been working on a shutout as  he started the 8th inning after allowing just three hits.

After recording an out, Sale surrendered a single to Derek Jeter and a double to Robinson Cano that put runners on second and third. Manager Robin Ventura elected to bring in Nate Jones to face Alfonso Soriano with Chicago’s  4-1 lead still in-tact.

But, it probably shocked no one who was on the field when Soriano poked a single into center field, scoring Jeter and Cano to make it a 4-3 game. Even on nights when he may not have his A-game, Sori just keeps on producing and coming through in the clutch. It’s pretty remarkable.

Anyway, Jones stayed in there to face Alex Rodriguez who singled to center as well, putting runners at the corners. As Joe Girardi went to his bench and pinch-hit Curtis Granderson for Vernon Wells, Ventura did some match-making of his own by bringing in Donnie Veal.

Yet, it was Joe who won this battle of the skippers as Grandy picked up the Yankees’ fifth straight hit of the inning with an RBI single. The game was now tied up at 4, and fans who were watching could swear a DeLorean picked them up and brought them back to 2009. It was that magical of a comeback, and the best part was that it was far from over.

Mark Reynolds struck out, but Ventura again went to the bullpen, bringing in Matt Lindstrom. Although it really didn’t matter who was on the mound, because the momentum had shifted completely. People knew that the Yanks were going to find a way to get it done no matter what.

So when Eduardo Nunez laced a two-run double down the left field line, the Yankees had a 6-4 lead and it was time to “put it on the left side”, as Michael Kay once said. In came Mariano Rivera and in a matter of minutes the ballgame was over, as Mo racked up his 40th save of the season.

While the Yanks may not have gained any ground as the Rays defeated the Angels, they luckily did not lose any. The team was well on its way to a well-deserved loss through the first 7 1/2 innings, but luckily they found a way to claw back in what may turn out to be their best game of the season.

But as is the case during a playoff chase like this, last night’s likely Yankee Classic is exactly that – in the past – and the Yanks have to focus on winning TODAY. It’ll be our former ace CC Sabathia going up against right-hander Erik Johnson, who is making his Major League debut. Game time is 7:05pm, and it’s can’t-miss television, folks. Now is the time to be fully invested in this Yankee team. It’s got talent, it’s got heart, it’s got pride, and it’s got the mentality Mariano Duncan and the 1996 world championship team had – that “We play today, we win today, das it!”

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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.

Yanks edge Red Sox 5-2 with three run outburst in 6th

The Yankees hadn’t exactly played their best baseball to start off Spring Training, but they racked up another win against the Boston Red Sox, giving fans a small preview of their Opening Day match-up. The Yankees remained silent until the 6th inning where all nine hitters batted around, pushing three runs across with the aid of a Corban Joseph single, an error that allowed Bobby Wilson to reach first, a Brett Gardner walk, an RBI single for Eduardo Nunez, a fielder’s choice from Jayson Nix and an error that allowed Juan Rivera to reach first.

The Yankees pushed two more runs across in the eighth inning after an RBI double by JR Murphy plated Jose Pirella and in the ninth inning on a homer by Thomas Neal. Before the three run outburst in the 6th inning, the only hit going into the 6th was the lead-off single by Brett Gardner in the 1st. Gardner has now hit  safely in every game he’s played in Spring Training thus far.

Notes:

– After the game, Joe Girardi confirmed that once Curtis Granderson comes back, Granderson will be the CF and Gardner will move to LF.

What’s Next:

The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow, meaning that there will be no news at all. No one will be at the ballpark except for a few players to get treatment but other than that, no one will be there. On Tuesday, the Yankees will host the Atlanta Braves in the first night game of the Spring Training season. That game will be on YES Network and coverage will start at 7:00 p.m with play-by-play at 7:05 p.m.

Yanks drop both split squad games vs. Blue Jays, Astros

Ir seems to me that things aren’t turning out the way the Yankees planned during Spring Training. However, we have to remember a couple of things before we get crazy about the standings (which we shouldn’t be doing).

1. The Yankees Major League starting pitchers haven’t even been in a game so far.

2. The Yankees hitters have only went about 5-6 innings before getting taken out.

3. It’s Spring Training. Almost everyone’s rusty.

However, it would be nice to see the Yankees win a game or two. Let’s break down the good (and bad) that came out of each game. That seems like an easier way to recap the split-squad games.

Blue Jays vs. Yankees

Gardner & Ichiro are locked in: If the season started today, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki wouldn’t mind. At all. Both of them as of right now are easily the best hitters on the team, with both of their batting averages over .500. Gardner went 1-for-3 today, now successfully hitting in four-straight games. Ichiro also had a 1-for-3 day, extending his hitting streak. It’s nice to know that out of the gate the two speedsters are ready for the 2013 season. Now if everyone else behind them can catch up, that would be great.

Clay Rapada is unstoppable (and undefeated): Clay Rapada had the quickest 1-2-3 inning, that if you went to the kitchen to get a glass of water and come back, the inning would be over due to his sheer brilliance on the mound. There’s also an interesting fact that YES gave about Rapada: He’s been in 148 games and his overall record is 8-0 in the Majors. That means that Clay Rapada has never lost a game in his Major League career. Never. Ever. Just judging by today’s game, I would already have a nice roster spot for Mr. Rapada. He looked in mid-season form.

Chris Stewart ejected: Chris Stewart only had one at-bat. And that one-at bat would be the last at-bat that he would have on the day. He hit into a bang-bang play at first base. YES instant replay showed Stewart’s foot touched the bag before the ball went into the first baseman’s glove. However, Marty Foster called him out. Stewart said something and then was ejected from the game, making him the first ejection of the Spring. Just so you know, Spring Training ejections don’t happen very often, so that must mean Marty Foster in in mid-season form.

David Phelps pitches strong: David Phelps had another strong outing, going 3 innings, giving up 2 hits, 1 walk and 1 strikeout. Phelps’ future with the Yankees could be either one of two things at this point: he could either be in the rotation, taking the 5th spot from Ivan Nova, or he could be in the bullpen, helping out in later innings. I don’t see him going back to the minor leagues, at all.

Yankees vs. Astros:

Melky Mesa has great game: The young CF looks to be in the front running of who could take Curtis Granderson‘s job for the next 4-6 weeks after the big day he had at the plate. The young CF went 2-for-3 with 3 RBI’s on the day. I wonder what John Sterling’s HR call would be for the young OF if he ever had a chance to play on the big league club–and if he homered.

Nunez helmet won’t stay on: Another day, another chance to see Eduardo Nunez‘s helmet fall off his head. Just as I had hoped that Nunez would be able to keep the helmet on while running down the first baseline, it came off when he hit a lead-off single in the first inning. Maybe someone should add a chin strap or get him a helmet like Francisco Cervelli‘s. That way it can’t come off.

Cervelli’s strong day behind the plate: Speaking of the young catcher, Cervelli had a great day behind the plate, throwing out two runners who were attempting to steal. Offensively, he went 0-for-3. Maybe it didn’t help that Chris Stewart was ejected because judging by what happened today, it looks like Cervelli took the lead in the catching competition.

Marshall has a good start: Another Brett on the Yankees ball-club had a great day as well, and his name is Brett Marshall. Through three innings, he struck out three and only allowed one hit. Now that is some impressive numbers from the young starter, who is one of the few players actually impressing this Spring Training.

WHAT’S NEXT:

– The Phillies will take the drive from Clearwater to Tampa in order to play the Yankees at GMS Field tomorrow. Robinson Cano is expected to be in the lineup tomorrow and Saturday before leaving on Sunday for the World Baseball Classic. The game will be at 1:05 p.m. on the YES Network.

Teixeira, Ichiro, Murphy provide offense as Yanks fall to Phillies 4-3

Spring Training is Spring Training so the Yankees losing three in a row shouldn’t be that alarming, especially since the Yankees placed all their minor leaguers in during the 6th inning. However, if you’re a fan, you’d like to see more than one win come from the Yankees so the Yankees are going to have to try and go back to the drawing board to figure out what they have to do to win tomorrow. But instead of talking about how the Yankees lost, let’s take a look at some positives from today’s game.

Mark TeixeiraTeixeira provided the Yankees with an early lead in the ball game, hitting an RBI double that scored Ichiro Suzuki. Teixeira was 1-for-3 on the day, but we’ll take the RBI.

Ichiro SuzukiIt looks as if Ichiro and Brett Gardner are having their own little competition. After Gardner had a three-hit day yesterday, Ichiro answered back with a three-hit day of his own. He also showed hustle and was a thrill to watch as he ran around the bases. Typical Ichiro.

David RobertsonDavid Robertson made his Spring debut today and proved that he still had it, pitching a scoreless inning although he gave up a walk. I would say Robertson is in mid-season form if he can have constant 1-2-3 innings.

Joba ChamberlainJoba Chamberlain (along with his unpopular mustache) made his Spring debut as well, also working a scoreless inning although he gave up the first hit for the Phillies to Ryan Howard. Still, it was a good outing. He also made sure to ruffle some feathers when he said that he believes he could be a starter again.

J.R Murphy: J.R Murphy came into the game during the 7th inning, but he made a lasting impression during the end of the game when he hit a towering 2-run HR to give the Yankees at the time a 3-1 lead. He then doubled in the 9th while the Yankees were trailing 4-3 yet he just missed his second HR of the game.

HONORABLE MENTION

Eduardo NunezNunez went 0-for-3 today, I know–but at first he gave some fans a warm and hearty laugh when his helmet fell off after showing some hustle to first base. The warm and hearty laughter soon turned into annoyance after his helmet fell off another two times, making us wonder if Nunez might want to consider getting a new helmet size.

WHAT’S NEXT: 

– Tomorrow the Yankees will play the Baltimore Orioles at GMS Field at 1:05 p.m. only on YES Network.

Winter Meetings Day 3: Chavez, Keppinger off the market as Yanks do nothing

It’s Day three of the Winter Meetings and every team in the AL East has done something to spice up their team. Every team, except for the New York Yankees. After being told that they were the favorites for Eric Chavez, he went and inked a 1 year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jeff Keppinger who was the Yankees main target for a replacement third baseman since Alex Rodriguez went down went ahead and signed with the White Sox, avoiding New York once again.

Once again what the Yankees are doing is simply “talk.” The Yankees have been asking around for players such as Kevin Youkillis (who the Yankees asked for his medical records) and most recently Mark Reynolds. We could call him “Curtis Granderson 2.0″ if you’d like. He doesn’t hit for average, he strikes out a lot but–he has enough power to send the ball over the right field porch at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees don’t have a lot of options and they don’t have a lot of backup.

A lot of speculation went around today, wondering if the Yankees would now consider Eduardo Nunez for the 3B role (part time of course) and if the Yankees would move Mark Teixeira from 1st to 3rd since Tex played 3rd base in the minor leagues. Both ideas were shot down with a firm “no”.

The Yankees haven’t been close to making a deal with a new player all winter (Kuroda, Pettitte and Mariano don’t count) and all they’ve been doing is asking around.

To quote a famous Neon Trees song: “Oh my, my dear. Everybody Talks too much.” Apparently, that’s all the Yankees have been doing: talking too much and not getting anything done. There’s still two more days of the Winter Meetings, but don’t hold your breath for something exciting to happen.

One other note to think about:

Here is how many legit starters the Yankees could have by Opening Day:

Derek Jeter
Curtis Granderson
Mark Teixeira
Brett Gardner
Robinson Cano

Right now it doesn’t sound too promising for Opening Day, now does it?

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.

2012 Yankees Keep Em’ Or Dump Em’ Results (So Far)

Last Saturday, I posted a Keep Em’ or Dump Em’ article where you voted who you wanted to keep or who you wanted to dump. The results…weren’t very surprising. Let’s break down who you’d strongly keep and who you’d strongly throw away.

Keep Em’

David Robertson (96.83%): David Robertson wasn’t as good as he was in 2011, but he was still very effective in 2012. Let the good pitching keep on going, D-Rob.

CC Sabathia (95.59%): CC Sabathia coming back in 2013? No brainer. He’s the ace. The workhorse. He’s CC. Enough said.

Derek Jeter (95.33%): It’s not a surprise that fans would want to keep Derek Jeter after a great 2012 season but after his ankle injury where he had surgery, going into the future you wonder if Jeter can continue to play SS or if he might have to go to the DH Spot.

Hiroki Kuroda (94.12%): For his first year in the American League East, Kuroda did a good job. If Ichiro re-signs with the Yankees, Kuroda would have to be a no-brainer to follow.

Brett Gardner (93.55%): So Brett Gardner proved that you don’t have to play in order to be extremely valuable to the Yankees. After seeing Cirque Du Left Field in 2012, Yankees fans can’t wait to get their speedy outfielder back into playing shape and defending LF like we know he can.

David Phelps (91.18%): In his first rookie year with the Yankees, Phelps was back and forth from the bullpen to the starting rotation. For a first year–he did good. Would be great to see him get a shot in the rotation in 2013.

Andy Pettitte (91.04%): Andy sure was dandy in 2012, so there’s no question why he’s on the Keep Em’ list. I’d bring back Andy too. Who cares if Andy’s 40 years old? He still pitches like he’s 25!

Boone Logan (90.63%): Boone Logan being in the category where players were to be strongly kept surprised me just a tad bit. But hey. Boone Logan was good in 2012. Can he do it all over again in 2013?

Ichiro Suzuki (90%): Ichiro was a mid season trade for the Yankees. A mid season trade that made Brian Cashman look like a pure genius after a plethora of failure trades (hint, hint: Javier Vasquez, Curtis Granderson, A.J Burnett). Ichiro might come back to the Yankees next season–if you guys were the GM and not Cashman. Honestly, I’d like Ichiro back to. No doubt about it.

Eduardo Nunez (89.93%): Eduardo Nunez is (almost) the perfect back up shortstop. He can run and he can hit. Why he’s not perfect? He can’t field. Hopefully Winter Ball will help him in 2013.

Dump Em’

Freddy Garcia (95.59%): Look at the number of people that don’t want Freddy Garcia. I can’t explain that any further.

Andruw Jones (91.94%): After the terrible 2012 season he had, I can see why Yankees fans wouldn’t want him back in 2013. He says he wants to keep playing. Unfortunately, it’s not with this team.

Nick Swisher (85%): Nick Swisher had a good 2012 regular season but consistent playoff failures according to Yankees fans could be what ultimately sends Nick Swisher and his smiling face–out the door.

Derek Lowe (80%): Derek Lowe could be a great starting pitcher (or bullpen) pitcher for any team–but according to fans, it won’t be with the Yankees.

Alex Rodriguez (70%): Let’s admit it. A-Rod’s contract could possibly be the worst contract in baseball history. He’s deteriorating…and the Yankees still have to give him $110 Million dollars in the next 5 years.  Does any team want A-Rod? Going once? Going twice?

* Not all players from the poll are listed. Just the ones that fans strongly wanted to keep and wanted to get rid of.

Yankees Offseason Notes: Cashman on Nunez, Pineda, Long, CC & A-Rod

Good evening everyone. Hope everyone is enjoying the offseason (and if not, hope you’re counting down to Spring Training). Tonight is Game 7 of the 2012 NLCS with the Cardinals and Giants so if you are still watching baseball, watch that game. A reminder that tomorrow night at 7pm, I will be hosting a live chat so make sure to come with questions or comments about the Yankees, free agent market, possible trades, etc. Here are some notes that have been floating around today that have to do with the Yankees.

Brian Cashman had a radio interview yesterday and covered some topics on certain players. Players like Eduardo Nunez, Michael Pineda (I know, you probably forgot all about him), Kevin Long, CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez. Here is what Brian Cashman had to say about each player.

On Eduardo Nunez: “I don’t look at Nunez being valuable in an everyday role other than a shortstop, and we have a shortstop. In terms of everyday status for Nuney, I don’t see one as long as Derek Jeter is standing there.” When asked about why Nunez can’t/won’t be in the outfield, Cashman said “All the calls of putting him in LF. I don’t understand.”

On Michael Pineda: “We have to keep [Pineda] off our radar for now. We’re talking June of next year.” – on Pineda’s shoulder injury.

On Kevin Long: “Kevin Long without question is one of the best hitting coaches in the game. And what took place here is a collective failure  not an individual one, and no one is going to be pointed at as a scapegoat.”

On CC Sabathia: “If he has anything, it’s not considered major, but it’s obviously the time of year to really focus on it.” – on CC’s elbow.

On Alex Rodriguez: “Is he a superstar at that position (third base)? No. But I think when anyone signed that contract, expecting him to be at that level at that age would be unrealistic also.”

2012 Yankees: Keep Em’ or Dump Em’?

It had been a long, trying season for the Yankees where so much has happened. Yankees have lost Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, at a point lost Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, suffered through hitting slumps by Russell Martin, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson and a surprisingly good regular season by Nick Swisher. But the Yankees didn’t realize that the season doesn’t end after 162 games and fell flat against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS and will now spend their offseason trying to piece it all together. The Yankees have to make decisions before the 2013 offseason, but if you were the GM of the Yankees who would you keep and who would you dump? Infield

Yankees Postseason Notes: Who makes the roster, Rangers or Orioles and Bobby Valentine?

Good evening everyone. There’s no baseball at all tonight so we’re going to post some tidbits and notes that have been stirring around from Yankee Land. Here are some evening notes.

– The Yankees have yet to make the postseason roster but there are 3 definite players aside from the other starters for the roster: David Phelps, Eduardo Nunez and Brett Gardner (Brian Cashman confirmed Gardner today).

– The Yankees might either face the Orioles or Rangers on Sunday so the question is–who would you rather face?

Andruw Jones might get a roster spot for the postseason. I don’t think he should be on the roster considering he had a pretty bad 2012 regular season and there are hitters that could be of assistance on the bench. Players such as Chris Dickerson perhaps?

– A lot of writers believe that Andy Pettitte should start Game 2 of the play-offs instead of Hiroki Kuroda. Here I would have to agree. Kuroda has a better home record than an away record and since the Yankees are on the road to begin the play-offs, it would make the most sense to have  CC Sabathia and Pettitte for Games 1 & 2 and Kuroda and Hughes for Game 3 & 4. Sabathia would pitch Game 5 if it came down to that.

– In other news that has nothing to do with the Yankees but the Red Sox fired Bobby Valentine after 1 year with the Red Sox. Honestly, the Red Sox never should have fired Terry Francona to bring in Bobby Valentine. Francona won 2 championships and had one bad year. Bobby Valentine came in and made everything worse.

Nightly Notes: Postseason, Hughes, Teixeira

Good evening everyone and what a great game by the Yankees that was jump started by the Eric Chavez home run in the 3rd inning. Orioles and Yankees win but Texas lost the first game. If Texas Rangers win the second game then the Yankees, Orioles and Rangers would all punch their ticket into the postseason whether it would be the division or the wild card. Here are some nightly notes.

– Speaking of the postseason, in case you haven’t read it, I posted an article of what the 25 man roster should be for the 2012 postseason. It could work whether the Yankees get the wild card or get the division.

– ESPN New York is calling Phil Hughes ‘useless’ after giving up 5 runs in 4 2/3 inning today in the Yankees 9-6 victory over the Blue Jays.

– Mark Teixeira is slated to return to the Yankees lineup tomorrow. That could give the Yankees some great depth in their lineup.

Also some notes:

– Jayson Nix will miss 10-14 days with a Grade 1 strain to his left hip flexor. He received the injury on Thursday while diving for a groundball and said it had been sore ever since.

– IF the Yankees have to play a tie breaker with the Orioles then Andy Pettitte would get the start. Not CC Sabathia.

– Also Eduardo Nunez said that he’s going to play Winter Ball this winter as the shortstop. Great. So that means he’ll be in top notch shape come Spring Training, right?

Morning Bits: Backup infielders, Tied for AL East, Hughes

Good morning everyone. A bad day in baseball for the Yankees as they now share the AL East lead with the Orioles (again). Today is a must win game with Phil Hughes on the mound. Here are your morning bits.

– With the injury to Jayson Nix and Joe Girardi making a panic move to take Eduardo Nunez out of the game yesterday, sometimes it leaves fans wondering–where is Ramiro Pena now.

– The Yankees were supposed to use this time to gain some distance between themselves and the Baltimore Orioles. Instead the Yankees lost a 1.5 game lead in 3 days and are now tired with the Orioles again.

– The Yankees have to win today–and they turn to Phil Hughes to get that possible win. Yankees will also be scoreboard watching the Red Sox and Orioles and will try to (once again) gain some ground.

Standings from Foxsports.com

How should the 2012 postseason roster look?

Right around the corner is the most exciting time of the year for any team—the postseason. While there are teams that have clinched their spot in the postseason, there are teams like the Yankees that are so close to clinching that they could taste it. However, they still have to battle to stay in 1st place in the American League East. While it is almost certain that the Yankees will be in another postseason, the Yankees have other things on their minds as in after they clinch a spot. What will they be doing? They will be preparing their 2012 ALDS roster (if they are in first place by the end of the season). After observing the Yankees for a while, I decided to compile a list of who would make the 25-man roster for the ALDS series against what looks to be the Detroit Tigers. (Statistics are as of the morning of September 28, 2012).

Infield

Derek Jeter (2012 Season: .318 AVG, 15 HR, 57 RBI): Of course, you cannot be in the postseason without the Captain Derek Jeter. Jeter has had a phenomenal year and will end the year with an average over .300. The last time Jeter finished with an average over .300 was in 2009. How did that end out for the Yankees? Jeter had silenced the critics and had done his thing, but can he continue into the postseason and lead the Yankees to another championship?

Robinson Cano (2012 Season: .300 AVG, 30 HR, 82 RBI): Robinson Cano is one of the best second baseman in the game and he knows how to hit. While Cano has been up and down this year, he has been consistent defensively and can help Yankees pitching by preserving runs and getting double plays with a flick of a wrist. He makes that pivot to first base better than any second baseman than I have seen. Cano was one of the very few Yankees who had a hot bat during last year’s ALDS (along with Jorge Posada and Brett Gardner respectively), so it would be nice to see Cano get on a tear.

Mark Teixeira (2012 Season: .255 AVG, 23 HR, 81 RBI): Comparing Teixeira’s numbers from 2011 and from this year, this year has not been Teixeira’s best. But can you blame the guy? He has been sidelined with a Grade 1 strained calf. While he will make the roster for the play-offs, I doubt he will be 100 percent healthy. Teixeira also is one of the few culprits that seem to mysteriously lose his hitting talents in the play-offs. He needs to have a hot and consistent bat in the play-offs or else it could be an early exit for the Yankees—again.

Alex Rodriguez (2012 Season: .276 AVG, 18 HR, 56 RBI): Now, if the stats were for another player say maybe Eduardo Nunez, Chris Dickerson or Brett Gardner that would be a hell of a year. Unfortunately, it is for the guy that the Yankees gave a lucrative contract that last for another 5 years and did not hit the way that the Yankees were expecting. A-Rod is going to make the roster…but all season he has looked terribly lost at the plate. He is also another culprit that has not hit in the postseason in recent years (no, I am not counting 2009). A-Rod needs to get his act together and very quickly or else…you know. A first round exit for the Yankees.

Russell Martin (2012 Season: .209 AVG, 19 HR, 49 RBI): So this hasn’t been Russell Martin’s best year offensively (the 19 HR’s make the .209 AVG look less hideous) but the reason he makes the postseason roster is because of his defense. He also has been heating up at the plate as of late which means he could be on a tear any day now. He also was the only one that did not look lost during the ugly 6-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday night, cranking 2 hits off Morrow. Martin could add to the offense, which could be something that the Yankees need.

Is it time to move on from Jones & Ibanez?

I’ve seen enough of Andruw whiffing in the field and at the plate

When Brian  Cashman was assembling the 2012 Yankees in the offseason, Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez were two of the last pieces to be added.  Their roles were to essentially serve as a DH platoon with occasional starts in the OF.   However, when Brett Gardner was injured in early April, they both became the recipients of added playing time.  At first it  seemed like Gardner’s injury was fairly minor so it was thought that Jones/Ibanez could fill-in for the short-term.  Gardner had 2 set-backs in his recovery but wasn’t deemed to be essentially done for the season until mid-July so the Yanks stayed with Ibanez as his primary replacement  until Cashman added Ichiro.  But Ichiro’s arrival also coincided with an injury to Nick Swisher and subsequent injuries to ARod, Granderson & Teixeira.  So playing time for the 2 veterans just kept popping up.

Ibanez and Jones did a yeoman’s job for much of the first half.  Ibanez cracked a Grand Slam on Opening Day and continued his hot hitting thru April and May with a .268/.318/.543/.861 line,  9 HRs and 28 RBI in the first 2 months.  Jones was also doing a solid job filling in for most of the year and his season was highlighted by his huge 4 HR outburst in a 3-game series at Fenway in early July.  When that series ended Jones’ season numbers stood at an impressive .244/.326/.535/.862 with 11 HRs in 144 PAs.  So, while neither of them supplied great average, they drew some walks, supplied a ton of power and held their own in the OF defensively.  Both players are to be commended for their early season contributions and their ability to handle expanded roles.  I admit I was not on board with the Ibanez signing as I thought the team needed a better bat.  But Ibanez surprised me with his strong start and despite his defensive shortcomings, he always tries hard and hustles on the field.

However, both players have fallen off a cliff in recent months.  Since June 1st, Ibanez has hit .191/.278/.330/.608 with just 6 HRs in 234 PAs.  That’s more than half a season of games with an OPS barely over .600.  Terrible numbers for a DH/LF who’s only asset is his bat.  Lately, he has been even worse with just 4 hits in his last 55 ABs (.071 BA & .330 OPS).  He is clearly not the same player he was the first couple of months.  The popular theory is that he is worn out from playing the OF so much.  That may be true but he has always been a streaky hitter and his overall season numbers are nearly identical to what he put up last year in Philly. Last yr he hit .245/.289/.419/.707 and this year he’s at .222/.294/.415/.708.

Jones’ decline has been even more pronounced.  It seems like he sold his soul to the devil to get that huge series in Boston because since then he’s hit .137/.250/.225/.475 with just 2 HRs in 120 PAs.  He’s misplayed fly balls in the OF and has had awful at bats.

Due to injuries and Girardi’s dual-love of veterans and platoon splits, both have still been trotted out there to get regular playing time.  Yesterday, however, Joe finally left Jones on the bench vs a LHP and it payed off big as Ichiro won them the game.  Did Joe play Ichiro because he had a .360 career BA vs Romero and Jones had a career .154 BA against him?  Or has Joe finally realized that Jones & Ibanez are shot and he needs to go in another direction?  Unfortunately, I think it was more a case of the former but with Ichiro’s success maybe he’ll make it a permanent change.

With players coming back from injury, Girardi finally has other options.  Eduardo Nunez is clearly a better option right now than Ibanez/Jones and should be a factor the rest of the season including the playoffs.  Against a LHP, Nunez & Jeter MUST continue to split SS & DH.  There is NO excuse to play Jones over Nunez right now.  If you figure McGehee at 1B until Tex returns, it leaves you the choice of Ichiro, Jones or Steve Pearce in LF.  The Yankees have not used Pearce in the OF although he played 20 games there with Baltimore this year and 3 with Houston.   Pearce isn’t really hitting anyway so I think the clear choice is to go with Ichiro over Jones.  He’s swinging a hot bat over the last month at .351/.365/.468/.833 with 2 HRs and 7 SBs in 99 PAs.  He brings speed and defense to the table every day in addition to a hot bat.  He & Nunez need to play over Jones the rest of the way.

The Ibanez situation is a bit more cut and dry.  When Tex comes back, it becomes academic with Chavez  and ARod sharing 3B & DH vs RHP and Swisher and Ichiro as the Corner Outfielders.  It basically comes down to Chavez vs Ibanez and that’s a no-brainer.  Chavez  has hit .296/.353/.522/.876 with 13 HRs vs RHP in 249 PAs.   But until Tex returns or IF Tex returns, there’s no clear alternative to Ibanez.  Swish will play 1B so there is need for another corner OF.  The alternative is to go with Chris Dickerson.  Dickerson started the first 3 games after his September call-up and went 2 for 7 with a HR.  Since then he’s been only a defensive replacement with 2 scattered PAs – a Walk & a SO.  The only other possibility is rookie Melky Mesa or to go with McGehee or Pearce at 1B and Swish in the OF.  For now, I’d give the playing time to Dickerson.  He plays a great OF, has a little speed and has hitting ability.  He had a great year in AAA with a .316/.417/.515/.932 line with 7 HRs and 17 SBs in 321 PAs.  Give Dickerson the chance.

What do you all think?  Should the Yanks be giving time to Nunez, Dickerson & Ichiro the rest of the way or keep trotting out Ibanez & Jones despite their pathetic recent numbers?  The Yanks swept a DH yesterday without hitting a HR thanks to good fundamental baseball, productive outs,  some key hits and stealing some bases.  Nunez, Dickerson & Ichiro can definitely help in those categories.  The upside with Jones/Ibanez is the potential to hit a HR which have been few and far between lately.  So which way do you go for the last 2 weeks of the season and into the Playoffs?

A-Rod and Nunez Key Turnaround

Once Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez went on the DL the Yankees were rolling out lineups that would not have looked in split- squad spring training games. The Yankees had to pencil in the likes of Steve Pearce, Jayson Nix and Andruw Jones consistently against lefties, which combined with the struggles of Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano against lefties killed the team. When Alex Rodriguez and Eduardo Nunez returned to the lineup they sparked the Yankees to their first winning stretch in awhile.

Rodriguez returned on September 3rd, which was about the low point of the season for the Yankees. The Yankees had lost eight of their last twelve games and only had a one game lead over Baltimore. Since his return the Yankees are only 7-6, but have won five out of their last seven games, including pivotal division games against Baltimore and Tampa Bay.

It is no coincidence that since A-Rod returned the Yankees have started winning again, and it’s also no coincidence that they struggled without him. You can say what you want about him, but he is still one of the most important players on the team.

A-Rod just adds a presence to the Yankees lineup that numbers cannot measure. It didn’t matter how well Chavez was doing the Yankees still seemed to be missing something without him. Pitchers still fear him and he has taken on a much greater leadership role then he has in the past.

In his thirteen games back, A-Rod is hitting .300, with 3 HR’s, 11 RBI and an .871 OPS.  This is great because it was assumed that with his hand injury that he would need to time to adjust. His bat speed and power do not look diminished at all due to the injury. A-Rod has seemed to hit a lot of balls up the middle since his return, which has always been an indication that his swing is right.

The key over these next 16 games in 15 days is to keep A-Rod healthy. The good news is that other than the hand injury, which was a freak injury that could have happened to anybody, he has been relatively healthy this year. A-Rod has been the DH in six of his thirteen games since coming back, but Derek Jeter might need to keep that spot with his injury, so it might be tougher to get A-Rod his DH at-bats.

The other spark to the Yankees’ recent turnaround has been Nunez. Why on earth the Yankees waited this long to bring Nunez up I will never know. I never agreed with sending him down in the first place, although I could at least understand their reasoning behind it. Nunez has provided the energetic spark that the Yankees so desperately needed.

Nunez’ line since his return is .294/.333/.529/.863. He started off the Yankees’ big third inning on Sunday with a walk and a stolen base off Matt Moore. His three stolen bases on Sunday game gave him ten for the season, which is good for second best on the team in limited opportunities.  Nunez can help create runs in a way that nobody else in the lineup really can. He really helped rattle Matt Moore in a way the Yankees haven’t been able to rattle pitchers this season.

Nunez’ defense has always been brought into question, but he only has one major error in his return to the field. He has also shown noticeable arm strength and range on some plays that are better than Jeter. Nunez has the tools defensively, he just needs to settle down and make the routine plays. Once Jeter returns to the field, Nunez should be the DH vs. lefties at least for the remainder of the season.

The jolt that Nunez and A-Rod have given the Yankees, combined with a weak schedule, should help the Yankees once again reach the postseason. Hopefully before that time Mark Teixeira returns to give the Yankees another jolt. He would add another power bat to give the Yankees the middle of their order back. They then can finally have a full lineup to go to battle with to try to bring home their 28th championship.

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