My Baseball People Said Brian Gordon

    Friday, June 17, 2011, 12:58 AM [General]

    SUBJECT:  Pitcher Available

    Recipient: All 30 Teams

    Fellow General Managers,

    This is to advise you that a pitcher from our Triple-A team in Lehigh Valley is going to become available sometime next week. He an opt-out clause you are more than welcome to sign him.


    Ruben Amaro

    That might not be the context of the actual industry-wide email circulated by the Phillies but that is basically how the process of acquiring Brian Gordon began last week. It accelerated when Bartolo Colon went down with a hamstring injury as the Yankee front office did video scouting while examining the numbers.

    That led to Gordon filling the vacancy and while he did not get a win, the Yankees might be glad they responded and expressed interest because no matter how it unfolds, it is a tremendous story.

    "The butterflies were at full charge," Gordon said, "So I pulled my hat down low. I figured if my hat was down and I just saw the catcher, it would be like what I was doing a week ago in Triple-A."

    Consider this, Gordon began the season as a relief pitcher for the Triple-A affiliate of the Phillies. Then he changed to a starting pitcher when Vance Worley was needed to replace Joe Blanton in late-April. Just think if the situation was reversed and Gordon started off hot as a starting pitcher perhaps he would have been summoned to Philadelphia.

    Many things happen for a reason and there's something that led Gordon from Eastern Pennsylvania to New York. It was because the Yankees needed a starting pitcher and did not want to throw a young arm such as David Phelps or anyone else like that into a major league rotation before they are ready.

    The Yankee baseball people studied the tape, crunched the numbers and at the end of the day, Cashman's baseball people told him, "Brian Gordon, Brian Gordon".

    And some of what they saw on film appeared against the Rangers who had a few of his former minor league teammates on their roster.

    Pitchers Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter were teammates with him two years ago in Oklahoma City. Nelson Cruz, Craig Gentry, Taylor Teagarden, Matt Harrison were among his teammates three years ago in Oklahoma City while Elvis Andrus was his shortstop three years ago for the Frisco RoughRiders.

    In his previous incarnation as an outfielder in places such as Round Rock, Salt Lake, Tucson, El Paso, Lancaster, High Desert and South Bend others would make the majors while Gordon stayed behind.

    Some of his teammates in the Arizona organization between that went on to steady major league work were Javier Lopez (lefty reliever San Francisco Giants), Brandon Webb (former CY Young winner, Diamondbacks, rehabbing with the Rangers), Brian Bruney (Yankees, Nationals), Lyle Overbay (Pirates), Chris Capuano (Mets), Jack Cust (Mariners).

    After joining the Angels' affliate in the Pacific Coast League for 2004 and 2005, some of Gordon's future major league teammates included Casey Kotchman (Rays), Joel Peralta (Rays), Derrick Turnbow (Brewers), Dustin Moseley (Yankees/Padres) and Ervin Santana (Angels).

    In his lone season with the Astros' organization in 2006, some of Gordon's future major league teammates included Luke Scott (Orioles), Humberto Quintero (Astros), Wandy Rodriguez (Astros).

    Also among his group of minor league teammates are players who like Gordon have chased the dream of one day becoming major leaguers and either haven't found it or haven't been able to make it stick.

    Hours before Gordon took the mound in front over 40,000 fans that included some family and friends, Brian Cashman wasn't sure what to expect from someone he had never seen in person. His uncertainty could be detected when he said : "They got Cliff Lee. I got Brian Gordon. I don't think they have anything worry about."

    Cliff Lee may be in Philadelphia, but Brian Gordon's story was so much more interesting than some of the things the prominent names in the game tend to say in their often short media sessions.

    Gordon's session seemed like it would never end and it probably took a half hour before he had to go. He didn't have to go into New York to find a place to stay or anything else, he had to board a bus that would take him to the airport for a flight to Chicago.

    His riveting session that produced the quote you'll see in articles such as this, kept the New York media captivated for about a half hour. 

    We heard him discuss his desire to pitch because he didn't want to regret not giving it a chance. We heard him discuss the amazement at being a major leaguer that carried him and his wife through a car ride to the Bronx. We heard him discuss how much Nolan Ryan means to him and how his mother working for Ryan's Round Rock Express actually led him to being with the Rangers' organization. We heard him mention that he threw longtoss at the park across the street from Yankee Stadium and somebody passing by said "he had a good arm"

    "This is the greatest stage in baseball," Gordon said, "And I'm one of five guys starting . . . It leaves me breathless."

    Big stages sometimes produce great stories and no matter what happens from here on out, Brian Gordon can know that he had his day. And if he has more days like yesterday for the Yankees, the story will only get better.

    "Incredible stories," said Curtis Granderson, who was the second major leaguer Gordon faced in his cup of coffee in Sept. 2008.

    During his three-game stint, Gordon also faced Mark Teixeira. Now they are teammates, reaching the Bronx for the same cause and sought after for different reasons.

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    Freddy is Ace of the Bases

    Monday, June 13, 2011, 1:15 AM [General]

    Many times when a Yankee pitcher puts a runner or two on base, the fan's first reaction is to either panic on some social networking site that begins with a "T" and ends with an R". Another reaction is not to sweat it and focus on the next batter.

    If he was a fan and not a major league pitcher, Freddy Garcia is the type of person who fits into the second category and that's a good trait for a pitcher to have.

    In other words, if there is a runner on base, he's not the type to worry about it and does not get distracted by it. If you want proof consider this statistic of Garcia's at the time of his first pitch.

    That would be his batting average with runners on base, which stood at .221 (21-for-95) with men on base.

    By the time the Yankees wrapped up the win, that number dropped to .198 (21-for-106) with men on base. It fell because 11 times, Garcia faced a hitter with someone on the bases and each time that batter did not get a hit.

    The eight-run margin takes some of the emphasis off Garcia's effort with one exception. For five innings, he was throwing in a one-run game, meaning that he was giving the Yankees a chance at eventually having a big inning.

    "It is probably the experience he has had," Yankees Joe Girardi said. "He has pitched in big situations. He is able to relax and just make his pitch."

    Yesterday, Garcia threw 44 pitches out of 102 with runners on base and each time Cleveland made an out, it was an example of him going into shutdown mode and not giving in. It also helped that his splitter was vastly improved from Tuesday against the Red Sox but even without one pitch being as effective, you get the feeling Garcia can get it done more times than not.

    "The big thing is him physically going ahead and looking like he’s going to dominate you and get it by you and him knowing that he can get you out with everyone else; but also keep good velocity in the tank when he needs to,” Curtis Granderson said. "I think it’s just a matter of hitters swinging at his pitches versus trying to swing at everything they want to. He does a great job of not giving in at any situation – no matter what the count may be."

    It's a great lesson for pitchers and the ultimate definition of what a crafty pitcher should be. Pitchers don't need to have overpowering or flamethrowing stuff all the time, they just need to get the outs.

    That is what Garcia has consistently done and many times, the offense has eventually assisted him with a big inning.

    By now, the skeptics might be saying well he hasn't pitched well against the Red Sox and the Indians are a struggling offense. The counter to that is to say that pitchers often create batting slumps by getting hitters to sometimes overthink because they don't know how to prepare for pitchers such as Garcia.

    "You never know what he is going to throw," Derek Jeter said. "He has five or six different pitches that he can throw at anytime. He has a lot of off-speed pitches that can keep you off-balance. He is not afraid to throw any pitch, regardless of what the situation is. It makes for an uncomfortable at-bat for a hitter."

    It also makes for a comfortable time for the Yankees, knowing that their serene even-keel ace of the bases is on the mound.


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    Joba goes from Semisonic Arm to Surgery

    Friday, June 10, 2011, 2:41 PM [General]

    Recently, I went to a book/cd sale at a local church where for five dollars I could fill up a bag with as many books/cds as possible.

    To my surprise, I found the album for a band called "Semisonic", whose most-known hit from their 1998 album “Feeling Strangely Fine”, is called "Closing Time".

    The song, which I first heard on a WFUV sampler CD for members, was believed to be about last call at a bar. Years later, it turned out to be about fatherhood.

    Closing time
    Open all the doors and let you out into the world
    Closing time
    Turn all of the lights on over every boy and every girl...

    I know who I want to take me home
    I know who I want to take me home
    I know who I want to take me home...

    By now, you might be wondering what this has to do with the Yankees and perhaps the biggest news that developed from this week’s sweep to the Red Sox.

    That was the news that within a 24-hour span, Joba Chamberlain went from being out for about a month with a forearm injury to having "Tommy John" surgery next Thursday because an MRI found a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

    During the course of Chamberlain’s much-chronicled Yankee career that began with a flame-throwing reliever in August 2007 (was that really four years ago), continued with a much-hyped debut as a starter on June 3, 2008 against the Blue Jays, it seems like the events of his Yankee life are enough to have lasted a lifetime and not just four years.

    At one point, he was a starter. Then he was the man many thought would be responsible for taking the Yankees home in the ninth inning once Mariano Rivera decided to end his legendary career.

    Perhaps the weirdest thing of all of this is that Chamberlain has repeatedly said that he feels “no pain” or in other words, he is feeling "strangely fine".

    "I was kind of in shock there when I heard the news,” Chamberlain said at his locker. "I wanted to get out of [the doctor’s office] before I broke down. I shed a few tears, but you can’t let it beat you."

    Two songs past "Closing Time" is a five-minute song called "Made to Last". The opening line is "Made to Last a While and Roll On" and part of the hook is "I Hope You Last a Long Time".

    Nobody knows if anyone on the Yankees has even listened to this album. But the themes in the album correspond to the front office's thoughts and hopes that by designing the "Joba Rules" with the occasional amendment, that Chamberlain would last a long time.

    And he still may since he is 25. The next time anyone sees him on a major league mound will after his 26th birthday and perhaps this is what will get him back to his 2007 levels or even the level of his July 25, 2008 game in Boston.

    At least that’s what his father Harlan Chamberlain thinks, as he boldly told the Times and others.

    "Pitching as well as he has with the ailment, I can only, from a positive perspective, look at it being repaired — and you’re talking about ’07 again,".

    "You’ve got to stay upbeat. I have no doubt in my mind, whatsoever, that he’s going to come back better than he is now, and that’s scary. With the level of maturity he’s attained, the knowledge and experience he’s had, all that coupled together with his arm being restored? It’s going to be astronomical."

    In the meantime, the Yankees will use what they have internally and possibly find someone externally or from the DL (Rafael Soriano, Pedro Feliciano).  If they go the external route, they can only hope the move succeeds as much as Kerry Wood did last year and not like Armando Benitez in 2003.

    And if Chamberlain successfully returns, it will be just as the line from "Closing Time" - every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end and right now that is what the Yankees are hoping for.



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    Cracking the Burnett code against the Red Sox

    Thursday, June 9, 2011, 3:14 AM [General]

    Two years ago the Yankees failed to win their first eight games against the Red Sox and spent a portion of that summer answering questions worded a hundred different ways about that issue. Eventually they finally answered with a resounding four-game sweep during the first weekend of August that resembled the five-game sweep in Boston three years earlier.

    That weekend happened to be A.J. Burnett's best start against the Red Sox as a Yankee. During the second game of the series, a 15-inning victory, Burnett walked six but allowed just one hit in 7 2/3 innings. Since that game, Burnett is 19-23 with a 4.94 ERA.

    And even that could be a misleading number. Since that Friday night, Burnett has allowed at least five runs 15 times and failed to get past the six 22 times.

    Last night, Burnett added to both categories with a putrid 5 2/3 innings that saw the Red Sox pound him for eight runs and seven hits.

    Those are not numbers Burnett was recruited from Toronto to put up against the Red Sox, but some interesting stats might sneak beyond the surface of Burnett's recent history.

    Entering last night, Burnett's average fastball has been clocked at 92.5 mph and is being used a career-low 61.3 percent of the time. Since the night of August 7, 2009 and going into last night, that pitch had been thrown over 3,000 times (3,036 to be exact) for an average velocity of 93.3. Before that night, Burnett had thrown 1,481 fastballs for an average speed of 94.2 as a Yankee.

    And considering that Burnett turned 34 this winter, it might seem likely that the velocity will decrease as Burnett completes the life of the contract, which takes him through his 36th birthday and you won't see him pitch as well against the Red Sox as he did with the Blue Jays.

    "I'm not in Toronto anymore. So I'm tired of hearing that. That's just ****ed. OK? If anything's different, I made pitches in Toronto. I didn't make pitches tonight. That's the most stupid thing I ever heard."

    That was Burnett's response to a question about why he pitched so well against Boston with New York but has not continued that as a Yankee.

    It was a terse response but the fan reaction might be similar if this one turn into the bad A.J. becomes a recurring show.

    It might not play out that way if Burnett can pitch with slightly diminished velocity but being successful at it is similar to real estate, location, location and location.

    Last night Burnett did not come close to having it - just freeze frame the 3-2 pitch that David Ortiz launched into the right center field seats in the first inning for a three-run home run.

    Burnett will not get another crack at the Red Sox until August and by then the flaws in the Yankee code might be fixed.

    Perhaps Francisco Cervelli will have cured his throwing woes that led to two errors. Perhaps Brett Gardner will snap out of his season-long fog on the bases that surfaced again in the sixth inning when he failed to score on a passed ball.

    Assuming the Yankees figure it out and play as well as they did during their nine-game trip, they will be right there with the Red Sox. And if they don't, the first really hot days of the 2011 baseball season will have shown us that the Red Sox are a few ticks better than the Yankees.

    "When you don’t make pitches, they’re going to beat you," Burnett said. "That’s the bottom line. I don’t think our season is going to dictate over this season, by far, but they’re making pitches and we haven’t."

    The season won't be dictated by the events of the last two nights. 

    For the Yankees a reversal tonight would remove some of the uneasiness in the air after two losses and for Burnett a few quality outing would remove some of the stain of his latest clunker against the Red Sox with the hopes that his next matchup in the rivalry is similar to August 7, 2009.

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    Good Results on a Rare Itinerary

    Monday, June 6, 2011, 12:36 AM [General]

    What you witnessed from the Yankees was a rare thing these days and that is not just a series victory against the Angels in Anaheim.

    The rarity is the Seattle-Oakland-Anaheim trip and making all those stops on the same trip. That trip is rarity because of things like having to play six series against division rivals and having to play interleague games.

    The unbalanced schedule has been in place since 2001 and interleague play has existed since 1997, meaning that the three city West Coast trip is mostly a thing of the past. It usually gets combined with something strange like Chicago-Seattle-New York, which the Yankees did in 2007 or Anaheim-Seattle-Toronto, which the Yankees will do in the middle of September.

    The last time the Yankees had a trip that actually was scheduled in this manner was July 28-August 5, 1998 when the destinations were Anaheim-Seattle-Oakland. During that trip won seven of 10 games, doing so in a different manner than this successful trip.

    While these Yankees won six of nine games and six of the last seven in mostly low-scoring affairs, that trip saw 65 runs cross the plate.

    This trip was different but in a good way besides the wins, the Yankees pitched and hit enough when various moments called for it, especially against a high caliber of starting pitching.

    "I don’t know if we’ll ever face a nine-game stretch of that kind of starting pitching," Mark Teixeira said to reporters following Sunday's 5-3 win. "To win six of those games is big."

    They won on days like Sunday when relief pitchers did not have their best stuff. They won on days like Saturday with an ace (CC Sabathia) nearly going the distance and getting timely home runs.

    They also won by getting a complete game from Bartolo Colon, a 10-run display by their offense and two big home runs from Nick Swisher, who has struggled through a significant portion of the first two months.

    And in case you might be wondering, how each player did on this trip, keep reading the list below.

    Derek Jeter 10-for-35, batting average increases from .255 to .260

    Curtis Granderson 9-for-37 with one home run and five RBI, batting average drops from .280 to .274

    Mark Teixeira 10-for-35 with five home runs and nine RBI, batting average increases from .253 to .258

    Alex Rodriguez 10-for-35 with one home run and seven RBI, batting average stays at .287

    Robinson Cano 10-for-37 with three home runs and six RBI, batting average dips from .279 to .277

    Russell Martin 1-for-22 with one RBI, batting average drops from .266 to .236

    Nick Swisher 8-for-29 with three home runs and five RBI, batting average increases from .204 to .215

    Jorge Posada 3-for-20 with one RBI, batting average decreases from .183 to .178

    Brett Gardner 5-for-30 with one RBI, two out of three stolen base attempts, average decreases from .270 to .258

    The Yankees actually batted .231 (71-for-307) with 13 home runs, 41 RBI and 43 runs scored but when 3-4-5 combine to go 30-for-107 with nine home runs and 22 RBI, that is one of the ways a team wins six games on this trip.

    It also helps when your team ERA decreases from 3.66 to 3.45, continuing its drop since the night of May 15, which happened to be the last time the Yankees faced the Red Sox. In the last three weeks, the Yankees have won 13 of 19 games while seeing their ERA drop from 3.81.

    The trip began with concerns over the good pitching facing the Yankees, starting with Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez in Seattle; followed by Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez in Oakland and Jered Weaver in Anaheim.

    It turned out that as the Yankees welcome themselves back to the Bronx, they also pitched fairly well, return in a fairly good state and now that they survived the three city West Coast trip, they can float on with the next phase of the season.



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