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Game 140: Yankees vs. Red Sox

The Yankees begin a crucial four-game set with the Boston Red Sox tonight at the Stadium. While the division may be out of reach, this is still a must-win series, as is practically each one for the remainder of the season. After this, they play the Orioles for three games in Baltimore and then the Bo-Sox again for three games at Fenway. These next 11 games likely will decide the Yankees’ fate, so here’s hoping they win every one! 

Anyway, here are the lineups for tonight…

RED SOX

#2 Jacoby Ellsbury CF
#18 Shane Victorino RF
#15 Dustin Pedroia 2B
#34 David Ortiz DH
#29 Daniel Nava LF
#12 Mike Napoli 1B
#7 Stephen Drew SS
#20 Ryan Lavarnway C
#16 Will Middlebrooks 3B

Pitching: #44 Jake Peavy

YANKEES

#11 Brett Gardner CF
#2 Derek Jeter SS
#24 Robinson Cano 2B
#12 Alfonso Soriano LF
#14 Curtis Granderson DH
#13 Alex Rodriguez 3B
#55 Lyle Overbay 1B
#31 Ichiro Suzuki RF
#19 Chris Stewart C

Pitching: #47 Ivan Nova

Game time: 7:05pm
TV: YES Network
Radio: WCBS 880

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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!”

Interview with Charleston Hitting Coach Greg Colbrunn

Charleston RiverDogs Hitting Coach Greg Colbrunn

I had a great opportunity to interview Greg Colbrunn yesterday and he provided a lot of feedback on the hitters in the Yankees organization.  Colbrunn played 13 seasons in the Major Leagues as a career .289/.336/.460 hitter and was part of the World Series Champion Arizona Diamondbacks team that beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2001 season.

He has been with the Yankees since 2007, serving as Hitting Coach of the Charleston RiverDogs every season except for 2010 when he stepped in as Manager.  This will be his 6th season with the team so he has worked with nearly every hitter in the Yankee system above the Rookie ball level.  With his knowledge and experience I thought he’d be a great resource to find out more about the hitters in the Yankee chain.  My questions are in BLUE.

How did you get into coaching for the Yankees and do you prefer Managing or coaching hitting?

I live here in Charleston, we moved her in 1999/2000 when I was still playing. I took a year off after I stopped playing but I knew I wanted to get into coaching. I met Gary Denbo (Yankee organization hitting coordinator), and we had some of the same beliefs about hitting. It seemed like a great fit and great opportunity to coach for the RiverDogs and the Yanks have been a very good organization.

I enjoyed Managing but I prefer Hitting Coach more. I have more impact on the kids and I really enjoy working in the cage. I relate well to hitters.

Between Kevin Long, Gary Denbo, Butch Wynegar, yourself, etc., a young hitter progressing through the system will work with different hitting coaches all the time. How much communication is there between you and the other hitting instructors talking about individual players, tendencies and areas to work on?

Its kind of the same philosophy. We have good communication. When one guy moves from one level to another, we talk about him and what type of drills he’s doing. When you have different coaches that are on the same page but may go about it in different ways , you can find out what works with certain hitters.

It seems the Yankees at the MLB-level, stress the importance of going deep into counts and wearing down pitchers. Is that an organizational philosophy they try to instill early on?

When kids are starting out you want to see what a kid can do first. See what they do well, see what they can and can’t hit so we can develop a program from there. The main thing we stress is to get a good pitch and hit it hard somewhere. Learn how to recognize a curve ball from a Fastball. We talk about the importance of OBP.

During their 1st or 2nd year, the kids are still developing so you don’t want to tell them they can’t hit a certain way or that’s not gonna work. When you watch the big leagues, you see a lot of different styles, different stances – hands up, hands down. There are a lot of different ways to hit. We kind of let them go and just put them in a good position where they can have some success and be able to repeat their swing. If we see something that’s getting in the way of having success I’ll make an adjustment. I might alter hand position or something like that. But for most part in the 1st or 2nd year, I kind of let them go and make some suggestions here and there. If they’re struggling I might step in and tell them what I think but as far as any big mechanical adjustments, I try to stay away from that for the most part.

You’ve been in the organization sine 2007 and have worked with most of the highly thought of hitters. If I were to list some specific characteristics, tell me who comes to mind as the prospect in the organization that best epitomizes these skills/strengths. (NOTE: Greg hasn’t seen the hitters below the Charleston level yet)

Strike zone Recognition

Ramon Flores gets rave reviews from Colbrunn

Ramon Flores. It’s something we work on but for some reason he’s always had a real good sense. He picks up pitches as well as anyone I’ve seen come through here. He picks up pitches right out of the pitcher’s hands and has real good strike zone discipline and pitch recognition – and he recognizes it real early. The biggest thing with him was getting him to be more aggressive in counts where he could take advantage of it and let some of his natural ability take off more.

Pure bat speed

JR (Murphy) has some bat speed…….Kyle Roller, big 1B – he’s got some unbelievable bat speed coming through the zone and that’s something you cant really teach. Of course Montero.

Pull Power

Montero, Gary Sanchez. Melky Mesa hit some balls a long way when he was here but Montero had the most pure power.

Power to All Fields

Gary Sanchez, Kyle Roller had some tremendous power, he hit some balls that were unbelievable. Great all around power, oppo power. Gary, being only 18 is impressive and has ability to drive the ball the other way.

Hits for Average

Rob Segedin, he was 22 but he kind of dominated, he uses the whole field and I could see him hitting for a high average throughout the system as he gets acclimated and gets his feet on the ground. Also David Adams and Corban Joseph too.

Uses the Whole Field

Segedin, Corban Joseph. Gary (Sanchez) does a good job when we convince him to use the whole field. He’s still only 18 and gonna be real good.

Best Fastball Hitter

Brandon Laird. Romine was a good fastball hitter.

Best Breaking Ball Hitter

(Ramon)Flores does a real good job, Laird was good at hitting the hanging breaking balls, Montero, Sanchez

When I watched Slade Heathcott play this year, his physique and immense natural talent really stood out. What are his strengths as a hitter and how do you see his shoulder injuries effecting his development?

He’s got all the talent in the world. His first year here, he was 19 yrs old and we just let him go. This year he was able to make adjustments and apply them early on until his shoulder started bothering him. Hopefully the shoulder thing he can put it past him and go out there and get enough ABs so he can move up through the system. He has ability to adjust his swing, we call it “Adjustability” with his swing – he can be fooled and still get the bat head to the ball. He definitely has the power, has the bat speed, can run, put the ball in play, get on base…..so he has all the things you look for in a Major League player

Gary Sanchez has been getting some high praise as one of the best hitters in all of the Minors. Talk about Gary’s strengths and what you see for him down the road.

Gary Sanchez is the top hitter in the system

I see a bright future. He has a cannon for an arm, he’s got power, he’s got bat speed, uses the whole field, has good pitch recognition – all the things you look for in a good young hitter The praise is justifiable. He’s still learning how to play. This was the first year he played every day and was just getting the feel for it and it took him until the last 3 or 4 weeks of the season to really get going and put it all together before he got hurt. He just needs repetitions, getting games behind the plate and playing baseball.

JR Murphy looked like he was hitting everything hard with Charleston in 2011. Do you see him developing his gap to gap line drives into HRs as he progresses?

Yes, I do. He’s still 20/21. He swung the bat real well the first half of last year where he was hitting 3 or 4 balls hard per game. He ran into a little lull before he was promoted. In Charleston, the wind blows in 80% of the time, it’s not a big HR park, so power numbers might be down when you look at Charleston hitters. I think he’s gonna hit some HRs since he does hit the ball hard. As he gets bigger and stronger, when he learns to sit on pitches and take advantage of some pitches he can really handle the HRs will come.

Ramon Flores has a pretty swing for a 19-yr old. Do you see him developing enough power to be a Corner OF in the Bigs?

I do. He has one of the most natural swings we’ve had come through here. And he does have some power. Last year he took advantage, he hit 11 HRs which is pretty good for a 19 year old in Charleston. The difference between 2 years ago when I first saw him and last year when his body filled out and the strength he had was big and hopefully he’ll continue to make that progress. I’m looking forward to see him in the spring to see what kind of shape he comes in. He hit some balls well, has a great swing, a natural swing, and a real great feel. Definitely one of the best natural hitters I’ve seen come through here.

Austin Romine seems like his Catching skills will lead to a long MLB career. Do you see him being a good hitter once comfortable in the Majors?

Yes, especially for a catcher. He had a real high leg kick when he was here 3 years ago – kind of out of control with it. The time he spent here we calmed it down some, got it under control some. In the bigs, the more he gets accustomed to better pitching, he’ll hit. He has characteristics of a big league hitter – real good feel for the barrel, power, power to all fields and ability to use the whole field too. That’s something he did show as a young hitter. I think he will be an above-average hitter.

Corban Joseph and David Adams have shown ability to hit at every level. What is your opinion of them as hitters?

Colbrunn called David Adams a poor man's Jeff Kent

They are hitters. We’re fortunate that the Yanks do a great job in the amateur scouting department to bring in pure hitters. They are natural hitters. David went through some changes at Virginia (in college), when he came to us we simplified some things and he just took off, took right to it. He’s gonna hit wherever he goes, a line drive hitter who works hard. If there’s one guy I could compare him to probably a poor mans Jeff Kent, that type of hitter.

Corban is natural, gets bigger & stronger every year, ball comes off the bat a little crisper. He has an uncanny ability to get the barrel to the ball. He can be fooled, he can be beaten by a fastball and still be able to get the barrel to the ball. Great set of hands on him, he can go out and flick some things or jump on some things. Corban’s going to hit wherever he goes.

How does it feel to work with a kid, watch him progress up the ladder, then see him traded to another club right when he’s ready to make an impact in the Majors a la Montero?

I’m happy for him. I’m glad he’s going to get the chance. When I came up through the Montreal system, that was one thing they always told us – there are 27 (now 29) other teams out there. Working for the Yankees you want to see a young player come up and play for the Yankees but you have to be realistic. We try to get them better whether they are gonna help us out or help another team out.

Yankees Top 40 Prospects for 2012

Could Mason Williams be #1 on this list next year?

Based on their recent actions and remarks, it seems the Yankees are serious about sticking to a smaller payroll now and at least through the 2014 season in an attempt to get under the $189 Million Luxury Tax threshold.  In order to do so, the club will need to look  to fill important positions from within and develop both impact and role players.

The Yankees system became known in recent years as being deep in Pitchers and Catchers but lacking in strong position prospects.  This was definitely a weakness identified by Mark Newman & Damon Oppenheimer and they addressed it by adding several solid up the middle athletes and corner players who can rake in the last 2 years.  Now, the system is more well-rounded although there is definitely a lack of upper-echelon hitters in the higher levels of the organization.

The system is still strong in upper level pitching. Even with Nova & Noesi graduating to NY, they still have 5 potential MLB starters in AAA (Banuelos, Betances, Warren, Phelps, DJ Mitchell).  The next level of pitching is led by Brett Marshall and several guys that need to take a step forward in 2012.  Oppenheimer has a history of drafting good college relievers and there are many strong-armed righties in the pipeline who could advance quickly.

Today, I will list the Top 40 with a quick blurb, then will follow-up with more in-depth on the Top 20 or so players in the coming weeks.  Each player has their position, Opening Day 2012 Age & expected level to start season.

1) Jesus Montero - C/DH, 22 – MLB

Has an elite bat that will make him a middle of the order MLB hitter for the next decade+. Rare blend of natural power to all fields with ability to make adjustments and take what pitcher gives him.   Only question is whether he will be anything more than a DH but a .300 hitter with 30 HR power will always find a spot even if he’s eventually a full-time DH.

2) Manny Banuelos- LHSP, 21 – AAA

Manny Banuelos

Had control issues in AA/AAA but most believe it’s just a matter of trying to be too fine as he has solid mechanics and repeats his delivery well.  Threw a career-high 130 innings so will be in line for 150-160 this year and could be ready to pitch for NY in 2nd half.

3) Gary Sanchez - C, 19 – HiA

Has big-time raw power and still growing into his 6’2″ frame.  His defense has been poor but I think he has the athleticism to convert to corner OF or 1B down the line and his bat is definitely strong enough to support such a switch.

4) Dellin Betances - RHSP, 24 - AAA

This is a big year for Betances. At 24, he needs to have a good year in AAA to prove he can pitch in a MLB rotation. Has plus, swing-and-miss stuff but most improve his control to cut down his pitch counts.

5) Mason Williams – CF, 20 – LoA

Dynamic player with plus-plus MLB speed and defense already. He put on a show in rookie ball and if he shows his offensive skills are for real this year in full-season ball, he may vault to #1 on this list next year.

6)  Dante Bichette, Jr. - 3B, 19 – LoA

Drafted for his plus power, he’s shown better defense than was thought. He’s really impressed the organization with his intangibles & makeup - namely his work ethic, advanced approach, knowledge of the game & leadership. Baseball America named him top prospect in Gulf Coast League and VP of baseball operations Mark Newman calls him “a special player and person.”

7) Austin Romine- C, 23 – AAA

His defense behind the plate is MLB-ready now.  His bat isn’t special but will be good enough for him to have a long career as a starting catcher in the bigs.

Phelps is a winner.

8) David Phelps - RHSP, 25 – AAA

Phelps is a winner who knows how to pitch. He’s 38-15 with a 2.61 ERA in his 4 years in the organization. He’s maintained the same solid numbers at every level including a 7.4 K/9 & 2.0 BB/9. Reminds me a little of Ian Kennedy. Missed time with shoulder issue but came back strong in August and was solid in AFL also.

9) Ravel Santana – OF, 19 – LoA

Tremendous physical skill set with power & speed. BA rated the wiry 6’2″ 160 pounder  right behind Bichette as best in the Gulf Coast League after he put up a .425 wOBA. Will have to overcome the broken ankle & torn ligaments he suffered last season so will likely start in extended ST this year.

10) Tyler Austin- 3B, 20 – LoA

Tyler Austin can hit for average and power.

I seem to be in the minority but I  really like this guy. He made his debut in the Gulf Coast and smashed to a .517 wOBA in 20 games, then followed up with .448 wOBA  in Staten Island. Has power to all fields and an advanced approach that helps him drive off-speed pitches. How many 20-year olds can you say that about? BA ranked him 8th best prospect in NY Penn League. Only question mark is his defense at 3B but he’s athletic enough to play the OF if need be. He even stole 18 of 18 bases in just 47 games which tells me he has good instincts and a feel for the game.

11) J.R. Murphy - C/3B, 20 – HiA

Improved his game offensively & defensively before ending season early with leg injury. Rips line drives to all fields and scouts now believe he has the ability to remain as a catcher while also showing the athleticism to play 3B and OF. Could become a very versatile asset in the Majors.

12) Slade Heathcott - CF, 21 – HiA

He’s Gardner-like in the OF right now and has more offensive potential. However, I’m a little concerned with his constant injuries and questionable makeup. To have his speed and get thrown out stealing 17 times in 38 attempts is baffling. But, if he matures and stays healthy, he could be special.

13) Brett Marshall- RHSP, 22 – AA

Brett Marshall

Now fully recovered from his 2009 Tommy John Surgery, he threw career high 140 IP with 3.24 FIP. Has good low 90s sinker and makings of a plus slider. Has flashed mid 90s velocity at times and will be interesting how he does in AA this year.

14) Adam Warren- RHSP,  24 – AAA

Warren is next in a succession of Yankee right handers, behind Nova and Noesi, ready to advance to the majors. He threw 152 IP in AAA with a 3.60 ERA and on a lesser team without depth, he’d have a great chance to make the rotation.

15) Corban Joseph - 2B, 23 – AAA

Has patient approach and nice lefty stroke that generates hard line drives but there are concerns about his defense at 2B and 3B. He had .346 wOBA in Trenton with 38 doubles and 8 triples but doesn’t get the lift and backspin to hit HRs.

16) Zoilo Almonte – OF, 22 – AA

Solid all-around skills. Good defense, speed and power that has improved the last 2 years. Yanks added the switch-hitter to their 40-man to protect him from Rule 5 draft and he could be a candidate to make the team in 2013.

17) Graham Stoneburner - RHSP, 24 – AA

Season was marred by a neck injury that kept him out 2 months and he was never quite effective as excellent debut in 2010. But he still has a great sinking fastball that gets tons of grounders.

18) David Adams - 2B, 24 – AA

The ankle injury he suffered in 2010 lingered all season and the Yankees were very careful with Adams. He played sparingly in only 29 games.  If he’s finally healthy this season he could progress quickly as he has an excellent bat that rips line drives to all fields.

19) Angelo Gumbs- 2B, 19 – LoA

Great up the middle athlete shows lightning quick bat speed and raw power to go with strong arm and nice speed. BA rated him 14th best prospect in NY Penn League where he had .341 wOBA, 4 triples & 11 SB in 220 PAs.

Nik Turley has that Andy Pettitte look down pat.

20) Nik Turley - LHSP. 22 – HiA

6’7″ lefty reminds me a litle of Andy Pettitte.  Took a step forward with 2.51 ERA and 8.9 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 82 IP in Charleston til a broken hand ended his season after being promoted to Tampa.

21) DJ Mitchell - RHSP, 24 – AAA

Similar to David Phelps, Mitchell is someone who just keeps pitching well and winning. Sinker/slider pitcher with solid change-up could be another back end starter/long-relief candidate.

22) Mark Montgomery - RHRP, 21 – HiA

Overwhelmed hitters with low-mid 90s Fastball and an unhittable slider leading to a 16.4 K/9 and 1.91 ERA as closer in Charleston.  His slider is just unfair to young hitters and he needs to be tested against more advanced hitters to see how quick he can advance.

23) Brandon Laird - 3B, 24 – AAA

Strong defensive 3B with good power but he doesn’t take many walks or hit for much average.  Has also played some 1B & LF so could be a backup candidate in NY.

24) Cito Culver- SS, 19 – LoA

Showed strong arm with smoothness in the field and compact swing from both sides of the plate. BA rated him 6th best prospect in NYPenn League where he hit .250/.323/.337.  He’s a project that will take time to develop his offensive game.

25) Ramon Flores - OF, 20 – HiA

Sweet lefty stroke and patient approach at plate, had .350 wOBA in Charleston. Good OF with strong arm and solid all-around tools. Only 5’10″ 160 so should get stronger and develop some pop.

26) George Kontos - RHRP, 26 – MLB

Standard FB/Slider reliever, held RH hitters to a .182 BAA in AAA.  Averages about a strikeout per inning but is a fly-ball pitcher who is prone to HRs.

27) Claudio Custodio - 2B, 21 – LoA

Talented 2B/SS with very good speed.  Hit ball well in GCL and  showed willingness to take a walk.  Hit .325 with .433 OBP and 26 SB in 28 attempts.

28) Tommy Kahnle - RHRP, 22 – HiA

Power reliever had 2.45 FIP in 81 IP with 12.4 K/9 but also 5.4 BB/9. Sits around 93-95 and can dial it up to 96-97 with a developing slider.  Needs to improve his command and secondary pitches.

29) Isias Tejada – C, 20 – LoA

Next in line of promising Yankee catcher prospects, Tejada showed his ability to make good, hard contact with a .971 OPS in the GCL with only a 12% strike out rate.

30) Brandon Pinder - RHRP, 23 – LoA

Dominated mostly younger hitters as closer in Staten Island with 11.0 K/9, 1.4 BB/9 and 1.16 ERA.  Has great command of 94-95 mph Fastball but has no quality secondary pitch yet.

31) Bryan MitchellRHSP, 20 – LoA

Plus stuff but still very raw. Put things together by end of year and shows strikeout (8.6 K/9) and ground-ball stuff (2.19 GO/AO rate)

32) Jose Rosario- SS/2B, 20 – LoA

Hit just as well as teammate Bichette with .331 average and .529 SLG%.  He’s a hacker with a 3.2% Walk rate but he’s caught the attention of the organization and earned a late season promotion to Charleston. Mark Newman stated, “He can run (11 SB in 43 games) and throw. He hit 6 HRs, so he has some ability to impact the ball.  By diligence, he’s turning himself into a quality prospect.”

33) Taylor Morton - RHSP, 20 – LoA

Made impressive debut in GCL. The 6’3″ righty should get stronger and he already possesses a plus change, low 90′s FB and good command.

34) Rob Segedin - 3B, 23 – HiA

Big 3B/OF with strong hitting skills. Earned promotion with .395wOBA at Charleston but struggled some in Tampa. Yanks put him in AFL this Fall where he went .250/.367/.407.

35) Daniel Lopez – CF, 20 – LoA

Another emerging all-around athlete with good speed. Showed power potential this year hitting .327/.413/.490 with 27 SB in 61 games across 3 levels.

36) Jose Ramirez - RHSP, 22 – HiA

Promising arm took a step back this year but still notched strong K rates so stuff is still there.

37) Evan Rutckyj- LHSP, 20 – LoA

Big strong 6’5″ lefty got stronger as the season progressed and generates a lot of ground-balls.

38) Cesar Cabral - LHRP, 23 – MLB

Rule 5 pick from Red Sox system, he’ll have chance to make team in ST as second lefty in pen. Gets a lot of Ks with good Fastball and plus Changeup.

39) Pat Venditte SWRP, 26 – AAA

Doesn’t have dominating stuff but continues to post good overall numbers and solid K rates at every level.  Biggest drawback is he’s a heavy flyball pitcher.

40) Abe Almonte – OF, 22 – AA

Plus defender and baserunner but wildly inconsistent at the plate. Switch-hitter had huge 2nd half, riding a 30-game hitting streak and showing off good extra base hit power.  Needs to prove 2nd half surge was real at AA this year.

Other NotablesWalter Ibarra, Kyle Roller, Zach Nuding, Dan Burawa, Chase Whitley, Ronnie Mustlier, Yeicock Calderon, Robert Lyerly, Melky Mesa, Dan Brewer, Brad Suttle, Jorge Vazquez, Ben Gamel, Gabe  Encinas, Matt Tracy, Zach Wilson, Evan DeLuca, Mikey O’Brien

New Additions to Watch in 2012: Greg Bird, Jake Cave, Matt Duran, Jordan Cote, Justin James, Dan Camarena, Hayden Sharp, Rookie Davis, Miquel Andujar

Expecting (Hoping For) a Hughes Bounceback

Now that it is looking less and less likely that the Yankees will be able to acquire a number-two starter for at least the first half of the 2012 season, it has become obvious that Phil Hughes must absolutely be back with a vengeance next year. We have seen from the first half of 2010 how dominant he can be – a true number-two starter. However, after a poor second half of 2010 and a miserable, injury-ridden campaign in 2011, it has become hard to picture Hughes at his highest potential. Because confidence in the team’s current pitching situation is quite low right now, what better time to show some optimism about Phil Hughes next year?

Simply put, Phil Hughes’ 2011 season may just have been an outlier. A pitcher who relies heavily on his ability to throw his fastball past hitters, usually does not fare well with decreased velocity. With his mystery dead-arm injury, that is exactly what Hughes had to go through this past year. Phil Hughes’ 2011 campaign exemplifies the belief that 1-2 mph can have a profound impact on a pitcher.

If you look at the fastball column, you can clearly see how effective the pitch was in 2010 (or at least the first-half). At 92.6 mph, he had a 14.6 wFB, which is quite good. All of a sudden, with a drop of 1.3 mph from 2010 to 2011, the value of his four-seamer plummeted. Virtually the same thing occurred with his cutter. With a loss of 1.4 mph in 2011, it became just as ineffective as it was effective in 2010.

Therefore, we can make the argument that if Hughes can recover the 1-2 mph lost on his fastball, he will be a very effective pitcher in 2012. Unless the problem is more serious than we were ever told, I really doubt Hughes will continue to suffer from the same arm issue. With a faster fastball: (1) Hughes’s secondary pitches will become much more deceptive and effective, and (2) he will get more swings and misses (and more strikeouts). Ultimately, Phil Hughes’s problems are much simpler than anyone really thinks. With a pitcher like him, increased velocity = increased success. That’s all it comes down to.

We all know it – Phil Hughes is vitally important to the Yankees’ success in 2012. There is certainly room for optimism. If he can fully recover from the shoulder problems of this past season, and regain the lost fastball velocity, I think he should be very effective moving forward.

Oswalt News…

Oswalt News

by Matt S.

According to Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York, the Yankees are “very
worried” about Roy Oswalt’s history of lower back problems.

Oswalt has two degenerative disks in his lower back and while
he has never had surgery, he has received numerous cortisone shots in recent
seasons. The Yankees are expected to make a play for a starting pitcher this
winter, but if Matthews’ source can be believed, it’s unlikely they will take a
chance on the veteran right-hander.

Source: ESPNNewYork.com

Looking at Granderson’s success 1 year after his adjustments

A year ago this week, Curtis Granderson was lost. He was hitting a career worst .239 with 10 hrs through 87 games and against lefties he was an anemic .206/.243/.275.  This led Kevin Long to work with Grandy on a “total reformation of the swing”  in the midst of an August pennant race.

Long got Curtis to close his stance to become more balanced, eliminate extraneous movement, shorten his swing and follow through with both hands on the bat rather than finish one-handed. Amazingly, the changes paid immediate dividends and have continued to help him to this day.  Now that we are almost exactly one year from those fateful sessions in Texas, it’s a good time to measure the progress.

Granderson has played in a season’s worth of regular season games (158)  since the reforms and here are the results:

— .271 ba - .364 obp - .562 slg - .926 ops with 157 hits in 580 AB

— He has 76 extra base hits including 24 2Bs, 10 3Bs, 42 HRs – 120 RBIs & 127 runs scored

— His strikeouts are still high with 162 Ks & 79 BB, he’s stolen 24 bases in 35 attempts

Those are huge numbers and they cannot be considered as lucky or Small Sample Size anymore as they have covered 665 Plate Appearances.

Is this sustainable?

No doubt that KLong’s work with Curtis has been paramount in this turnaround. He throws left handed batting practice to him on a regular basis and he will be vital if Granderson is to continue this success. Grandy had a similar season in 2007 only to go into a 3 -year regression which led to the reformation.

— His 2007 Ratios .250 ISO, .913 OPS, .395 wOBA & 141wRC+ with 84 XBH & 122 Runs

— His 2011 Ratios  .289 ISO, .928 OPS, .398 wOBA & 152 wRC+ and is on pace for 93 XBH & 143 Runs

So as indicated, Granderson has shown this type of ability before but the main reason he is on pace to eclipse his 2007 career year has been his complete turnaround vs LHP. Even in 07′ he was a .160/.225/.269/.494 OPS hitter vs lefties and entering this yr was a career .215/.277/.353/.630 hitter.

But this year he has seen success vs LHP that he hasn’t even come close to in his 6 prior yrs in MLB.  His .277/.347/.600/.947 line is a massive improvement.  What is even more impressive is that he leads ALL  MLB hitters with 11 HR & 33 RBI vs LHP!  That’s not a misprint – he leads ALL of MLB, not just lefties but also right handed hitters. So he went from one of the worst hitters vs LHP to leading all of baseball in HRs & RBIs vs LHP. Amazing!

Is he A.L. MVP?

He is definitely in the conversation. Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez & Jacoby Ellsbury are his competion up til now. Bautista has had the best year but playing for a 4th place team will hurt him.  Gonzalez has hit very well and been a popular choice but Curtis has 10 more HRs and is very similar to AGonz in most categories except for BA & OBP. Ellsbury has come on very strong lately and has been great in every category. Grandy has a chance if he finishes strong and the two Boston players steal votes from each other. But my vote would go to Bautista at this point.

In any event, he’s proven this year that the adjustments he made last August weren’t just luck. Let us know if you think he will continue to bash lefties in years to come and whether he should be the A.L MVP.

NYY @ LAA – 6/4/11

Lineup:

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Russell Martin C
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada DH
Brett Gardner LF

Pitchers:

C.C. Sabathia (6-3, 2.98) vs. Ervin Santana (3-4, 4.34)

Don’t know particularly why they’re going with a 9PM EST start time on a Saturday, but enjoy the game.

Afternoon Notes: Pitching, Nova, Injury News (or lack of), Angels

Good afternoon all. Here are some mid afternoon links.

  • According to Joel Sherman, “Pitching will be primary target as Yankees seek to upgrade roster”. Here are some snip-its from the article:

“We are a championship-caliber-contending team with areas of need that I need to work on,” general manager Brian Cashman said in assessing the first third of the season. “We are going to have to continue to look for ways to improve our pitching.”

From all I have heard, the Yankees currently do not imagine pursuing a significant bat between now and July 31 (so we can close the Carlos Beltran rumors for a bit). Instead, they see signs of life up and down the order everywhere but from Jorge Posada. And they feel that if the DH ultimately has to be changed that could come internally from Eric Chavez getting healthy, Jesus Montero being promoted or Eduardo Nunez playing the field more to allow Alex Rodriguez, in particular, to DH more frequently.

Cashman badly wants to add a lefty reliever because the farm system does not have many (if any) options. But it could be the Yankees will just have to wait to see if Feliciano and, perhaps late in the year, Damaso Marte can return.

Thus, for the next third of the season Cashman will — as expected — be fixed on upgrading his rotation, although the Yankees currently are the only AL East team with four qualified starters (CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett) with ERAs below 4.00.

“Overall, the pitching is going to be the defining thing for us,” Cashman said. “The pitching has excelled, but it is not wise or prudent to sit back and try not to reinforce and improve on it.”

  • From Lohud, Joe Girardi has said that Ivan Nova’s job is not on the line tonight. Article HERE. This may be what Girardi said…but I wouldn’t say that Nova’s job security is too good right now. He has been very inconsistent, and much less consistent than he needs to be.
  • Also via Lohud: According to Brian Cashman, there is no new news regarding injured Yankees. This isn’t a great sign, but at least there hasn’t been any new bad news.
  • If you didn’t hear already, the Angels flight from Kansas City to Orange County had to make an emergency landing late Wednesday night. Here’s an article on it from the LA Times.

Have a good afternoon. Really nice weather today. Hopefully you can get outside and enjoy it.

Minor Night-Cap 6/1/11

SWB W 1-0

Player Pos AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG
Krum CF 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .208
Pena, R SS 4 0 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 .272
Montero C 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 .302
Vazquez 1B 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 .282
Laird 3B 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .249
Parraz RF 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .293
Russo 2B 4 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .263
Brewer LF 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 .284
Nunez, L DH 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .186

Pitching

Player IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Mitchell (W, 4-3) 7.0 5 0 0 1 5 0 2.78
Flores, R (H, 3) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.00
Whelan (S, 16) 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1.88

Read the rest of this entry

NYY @ OAK – 6/1/11

Lineup:

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Russell Martin C
Andruw Jones LF
Eduardo Nunez 3B

Pitchers:

A.J. Burnett (5-3, 3.99) vs. Gio Gonzalez (5-2, 2.17)

Enjoy the game.

NYY @ OAK – 5/31/11

Lineups:

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Russell Martin C
Nick Swisher RF
Andruw Jones DH
Brett Gardner LF

Pitchers:

Freddy Garcia (3-4, 3.26) vs. Brett Anderson (3-4, 2.84)

 

Gotta love the 10:05 PM start on a week-day. Not really.

Martin to Play Today?

Here’s the latest as of 7:28 PM yesterday on Martin, from Lohud. There hasn’t been any talk about his ability to play tonight’s game, today. I’m sure we’ll know, closer to game time.

About three weeks ago, a batted ball hit Russell Martin in the left foot during batting practice. It bothered him for a while, got better, and Saturday night he fouled a ball off the exact same spot, right on the big toe.

It bothered him yesterday, and it was still bothering him after stretch this afternoon. Joe Girardi decided to give Martin another day off, but the Yankees believe they could have their regular catcher back in the lineup tomorrow.

“My hope is he’s available,” Girardi said.

Colon Dominates A’s in 5-0 Victory

Game recap from MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch:

OAKLAND — The Yankees had absolutely no expectations for Bartolo Colon when he arrived in camp this spring, but by now they’ve figured this out: When he’s on, expect plenty of zeroes.

Colon again recaptured his old form on Monday, dominating the Athletics for nine scoreless innings as the Yankees posted a 5-0 victory at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

The A’s lineup seemed to be consistently flailing at everything the 37-year-old Colon fired their way, as the right-hander limited Oakland to just four hits while striking out six.

Wearing Stars & Stripes Memorial Day caps in the field, the Yankees provided Colon with all of the support he’d need in the first inning, getting to Trevor Cahill for three runs.

Derek Jeter led off the game with a single, his 2,981st career hit. The captain was aboard when Mark Teixeira homered for the fourth time in five games — a two-run shot to right field, his 16th.

Robinson Cano followed an Alex Rodriguez walk with a run-scoring double to right-center field before being cut down on an outfield assist rounding second base.

Against an Oakland lineup that has less homers (30) than Teixeira and Curtis Granderson (16) combined, the lead held up, even as Cahill settled in and limited the Yankees to just one hit over the next six innings.

With Cahill’s pitch count climbing in the seventh, the Yankees manufactured a fourth run. Brett Gardner walked, stole second, executed a double steal with Francisco Cervelli and scored on a Jeter sacrifice fly.

Cahill allowed four runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings, walking five and striking out two before yielding to Craig Breslow.

Working efficiently, Colon allowed only a second-inning Josh Willingham double that struck the wall in right-center field and then a sixth-inning Kevin Kouzmanoff single. Kurt Suzuki had an infield single in the eighth and was promptly erased on a double play, while Cliff Pennington hit a leadoff double in the ninth.

It was a solid bounce-back for Colon, who was commanding two starts ago on May 18 over eight scoreless innings in Baltimore but allowed a season-high six runs to the Blue Jays on May 23. It was Colon’s first complete game since July 5, 2006, when he was a member of the Angels.

Boxscore:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
NYY
3 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1   5 7 0
OAK
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0   0 4 0

 

NY Yankees AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Jeter, SS 3 1 1 1 1 0 2 .259
Granderson, CF 4 0 0 0 0 1 3 .276
Teixeira, 1B 4 1 1 2 0 1 1 .258
Rodriguez, Al, 3B 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 .277
Cano, 2B 4 0 2 1 0 0 0 .284
Posada, DH 4 0 0 0 0 2 1 .169
Swisher, RF 3 0 1 0 1 0 0 .212
1-Dickerson, PR-RF 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 .308
Gardner, LF 3 1 1 0 1 0 1 .255
Cervelli, C 2 0 1 1 1 0 0 .200
Totals 30 5 7 5 5 5 8 .253
NY Yankees IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Colon(W, 3-3) 9.0 4 0 0 0 6 0 3.26
Totals 9.0 4 0 0 0 6 0 3.56

NYY @ OAK – 5/30/11

UPDATE, 3:18 PM EST: Martin has been scratched from the lineup with a sore toe. Here’s the new lineup:

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada DH
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner LF
Francisco Cervelli C

Lineup:

Derek Jeter SS
Curtis Granderson CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Russell Martin C
Jorge Posada DH
Nick Swisher RF
Brett Gardner LF

Pitchers:

Bartolo Colon (2-3, 3.77) vs. Trevor Cahill (6-2, 2.02)

Series Preview: NYY @ OAK – 5/30/11-6/1/11

5/30/11: Bartolo Colon (2-3, 3.77) vs. Trevor Cahill (6-2, 2.02)

Against the Blue Jays, Colon pitched five strong innings but faltered in the sixth. A five-run explosion, fueled by three walks — two intentional — led to his third loss of the season. He struck out eight in defeat but walked four overall.

Cahill wasn’t at his best in his last start, giving up back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning to the Angels. He lasted six innings, scattered 10 hits and five walks while being tagged for four runs (three earned) and just his second loss.

5/31/11: Freddy Garcia (3-4, 3.26) vs. Brett Anderson (3-4, 2.84)

Garcia looks to string together back-to-back wins after defeating the Blue Jays with 6 1/3 innings of three-run ball on May 25. The veteran has allowed three runs or fewer in three of his last four starts.

Anderson was dominant against the Angels in his last outing. He tossed a three-hit shutout over eight innings and struck out four batters en route to the win. He has allowed just four runs combined in his last three starts.

6/1/11: A.J. Burnett (5-3, 3.99) vs. Gio Gonzalez (5-2, 2.17)

Burnett ran out of steam after needing 97 pitches to grind through five innings against the Mariners on May 27, tying a season high with five walks. He completed the month of May 1-2 with a 4.06 ERA, logging quality starts in three of five outings.

Gonzalez didn’t earn a decision the last time out, but saw his stellar May come to an end after five innings in which he gave up two runs, fanned seven and walked five. For the month, he was 3-0 and struck out at least six in all five of his starts.

Pitcher Probables/Previews from MLB.com’s Gameday.

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