A trip to the other side and the Mets win

    Saturday, April 23, 2011, 11:25 PM [General]

    One of the advantages of living in this area is having two baseball teams either to watch in person or read closely in the papers and the blogs. I can only imagine what it must have been like until 1957 with three teams in three different boroughs and if the social media existed then.

    Though I watch the Yankees more for obvious reasons, I don't stop paying attention to the Mets and even occasionally venture to their games, though less now since they moved from Shea. In the two years the Mets have been across the parking lot, I've been there 11 times and since things have not gone well recently, the Mets have lost seven of those instances.

    Friday when I made my first appearance there, the mood was not the greatest since the Mets had began by losing 13 of 19 and though they won rather decisively the previous night against the Astros, it seems like something is moments from going wrong.

    That being said, the Mets played one of their better games, especially on the mound and in the late innings and wound beating the Diamondbacks, 4-1.

    Though ticket prices and HD-TV have sort of ruined the motivation of going to live games for many of us, there are still some things you can't necessarily see from your couch.

    From our seats in the promenade box, which is probably equal to the mezzanine box at Shea, we were able to speculate what pitches were coming and try to make our best guess when runners were going.

    The night started with Mike Pelfrey coming out to the Nirvana cover of "Lake of Fire", which actually is quite a depressing and dreary song. That would describe Pelfrey's performance until last night but it's hard to argue with success and he pitched very well and would have been a tough-luck loser.

    That's because the Mets left my friend wondering how they could get two freaking hits (well some variation of that word) off Joe Saunders, whose pitches rarely generated a pop in catcher Miguel Montero's glove. Well they did make contact but didn't follow the advice of Wee Willie Keeler.

    We saw David Wright navigate the wind to catch a foul pop and then fail to do so again on a regular pop-up that would have been an unearned run if that same runner was not thrown out trying to steal second.

    We also wondered if Kirk Gibson would let Saunders continue in the seventh when his 104th pitch was a leadoff walk to Wright. We both felt Saunders had performed well enough to remain in the game but Kirk Gibson felt differently and went to Esmerling Vazquez.

    Vazquez is a right-handed pitcher and retired Carlos Beltran, who was batting from the left side of the plate. It was the assumption that Gibson would go to the lefty to face Ike Davis, though I pointed out that Vazquez had retired one lefty in Beltran.

    Out of all the Mets, Davis seemed to have to worst swings off Saunders. With all the talk about bringing in the lefty, it was kind of amusing that we couldn't name the lefty in the Arizona bullpen since this would have been the first time seeing them.

    With that being said, it was a move we correctly first-guessed when Davis hit a home run to center field that was reviewed and awarded after a brief delay.

    That turned out to be the difference as the Mets added two in the eighth and closed it out easily. And when 10:25 approached we headed for the seven train satisifed for different reasons.

    I was content at seeing a well-played game and my friend was satisifed with seeing a Met win after watching numerous losses on TV in Chicago.

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    A weekend with the Yankee veteran newcomers

    Monday, April 18, 2011, 3:52 AM [General]

    During the week of October 16-23, the Yankees stopped hitting and stopped pitching in a six-game series with the Texas Rangers and lost their chance at repeating as World Series champions. During that mostly unproductive week, Eric Chavez, Russell Martin, Rafael Soriano and Freddy Garcia were elsewhere.

    Since the regular season and in Soriano's case, postseason had ended a few weeks earlier, the quartet might not have necessarily been thinking of future plans then. Eventually they would have to, either by having the benefits of free agency or being unwanted by a previous team.

    Martin was the first since the Dodgers non-tendered him on December 2 and decided to go with Rod Barajas. Although Martin is considerably younger than Barajas, it didn't seem like the Dodgers had confidence in staying healthy and two weeks later he was a Yankee because Brian Cashman decided it was worth taking a chance on

    "As long as he's healthy, Russell Martin is going to be our everyday catcher," Cashman said at the time. "He was one of the premier catchers in the game not too long ago. From performance and injuries the last two years, he's slipped from that status, but we feel he's a low-risk, high-reward scenario."

    Although 14 games may be too small of a sample, Cashman's words have so far proven correct. Martin's next home run will equal his total from 97 games last year and he is hitting over .300 while appearing in all but one game.

    Soriano was the second to come aboard and the one with the most  controversy and money involved. Cashman didn't feel it was justified spending $35 million on a setup man even if he had 45 saves for a division winner in Tampa Bay. Nonetheless, Soriano was here for better or worse and one April stumble in cold weather does not make it for the worse and last night it was for the better when he pitched a nine-pitch eighth and was the winning pitcher.

    Next was Chavez, who had a significant option for this year that the Athletics decided on November 4 not to pick up, especially after he was limited to 167 at-bats over the previous three seasons.

    "If things had been different, I would have wanted to stay in Oakland my whole career," the six-time Gold Glove third baseman said. "I've had therapy, I've had treatment, I've had surgeries. The only thing left is to change scenery. ... To go back to Oakland, even with the direction they're going, I'm not even sure there would be a spot open."

    Three months and seven days after leaving Oakland, the same place that had watched Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Miguel Tejada and others leave, Chavez officially departed by signing a minor league deal with the Yankees.

    The parameters were this: perform well in spring training, make the team and play once or twice a week. Chavez did that and is content with that line of work, which he showed when he calmly stroked a 2-2 Arthur Rhodes fastball up the middle in the eighth inning and again in the ninth when he stopped the final ground ball.

    Moments after Nick Swisher, encouraged the media by saying: "You better get this guy", Chavez obliged by saying things such as:

    "People talk about changes of scenery, and whatever that means, I don't know. But I'd been there my whole career, and the last few years hadn't been working, so I needed to change some things up. It's worked out so far.

    "I really like (my role) a lot. I really didn’t like having that title (in Oakland) anyway, you know. I just like to get my work in, and whe Joe puts me in, I just try and do my best. I don’t have to worry about all that other stuff."

    "I haven't really thought about whether this town was gonna eat me up or not. I'm just trying to do my job. Maybe it would have been a lot different when I was younger, but as close as I was to maybe not even being in a uniform this year, my perspective on things has been so simple."

    Simple might have been the best way to describe Freddy Garcia's performance Saturday. Garcia joined the Yankees the same day as Chavez after being unable to agree with the White Sox following a respectable 12-6 season, his best in four years following several injuries.

    Garcia holds the distinction of beating the Yankees twice in the 2000 ALCS, which also was Alex Rodriguez's last shot at the World Series before coming to New York.

    "He’s a lot like David Cone,” Rodriguez said "It’s funny he wears his number, because he finds a way to win . . . he’s very smart. He knows what the hitters are looking for and he knows how to run away from the barrel."

    It was the kind of language sometimes used to describe Mike Mussina in his final 20-win season in 2008. It also was the type of comments you wondered if you might ever hear about Garcia, who for two weeks kept fresh with bullpen sessions.

    That was because rain skipped one start and pushed back another, making it nearly 20 days of being idle from live hitters (other than a relief appearance last Sunday). So it would have been understable if precision was not entirely there, especially during a rainstorm but it was as Garcia allowed two hits in six innings.

    "You're talking about some guys who have played in really important games, guys that are really experienced, have been in the playoffs a lot in their career," Girardi said. "I think that makes somewhat of a difference."

    There is no guarantee any of this will last, but it does not seem like it's close to ending, especially when a weekend like this occurs.



     

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    Items of Interest - Primetime National TV edition

    Sunday, April 17, 2011, 6:30 PM [General]

    Today is April 17 and 60 years ago, Bob Sheppard worked his first game as a Yankee Stadium PA announcer when the Yankees knocked off the Red Sox 6-1. That game happened to also be Mickey Mantle's debut and he had one hit in four at-bats during a Tuesday afternoon game that was completed in two hours, 12 minutes.

    One name that will not be mentioned by the PA announcer is Alex Rodriguez, who is day-to-day with the famous oblique injury that seems to be trending throughout baseball.

    "We’ll take it day by day," said manager Joe Girardi, while not totally ruling out having him for one at-bat tonight if he feels able. “We’ll shoot for Tuesday. If he can’t go Tuesday, we’ll shoot for Wednesday."

    Rodriguez is still sore and said he hopes it feels better in a day or two. He also said it was might have been caused when he felt tight on a swing and that he has done nothing but get treatment (ice and ultrasound). He also won't swing a bat unless Girardi calls on him to pinch hit tonight.

    In Rodriguez's place at third is Eric Chavez, who starts at third base for the first time in two years with the A's. Chavez is off to a .455 start in his limited action and Texas manager Ron Washington is well aware of his talent, mostly from his years on the Athletics' coaching staff.

    "Eric Chavez is no slouch," Washington said. "It might not be the Eric Chavez that people remember from his first five or six years of baseball, but he can still hurt you. They do miss Alex in there, but Eric can hurt you also."

    Chavez will bat sixth in a lineup that includes Brett Gardner batting ninth for the first time this year against a right-handed pitcher. Gardner returns after not playing against lefties Derek Holland and Matt Harrison and following a video session with hitting coach Kevin Long it was discovered that his lower half was not being used properly.

    "Some swings I was taking, I was not using my lower half," Gardner said. "Not only was I getting behind in the count in most of my at-bats but when I was taking a swing, it wasn’t always my A swing and that’s something that’s very, very important."

    Very important is getting Phil Hughes back on track after three bad starts and a dead arm period. That is why Hughes was doing some longtoss work with pitching coach Larry Rothchild.

    Bartolo Colon will start Wednesday if that doesn't go well maybe the Yankees get to show everyone Kevin Millwood.

    Millwood took a no-hitter into the fifth inning today for Trenton and though anything is possible, Alexi Ogando could do the same considering the way he has pitched so far.

    You might remember Ogando from being a relief pitcher during Texas' run to the AL pennant and now he is being converted to a starting pitcher and based on the big items in the Ranger game notes, the conversion is going well. How well you might ask, well consider these tidibts:

    Ogando has pitched 13 scoreless innings in his first two starts and is the second Ranger to pitch scoreless baseball in his first two starts as a member of the season-opening rotation. The other was ex-Met Jon Matlack, who began 1980 with eight scoreless innings.

    According to baseball-reference, Ogando is the fifth pitcher of the live ball era, which began in 1920 to win his first two starts while going at least six innings and allowing two hits or less. The others were Lon Warneke (18 innings in 1934), Floyd Bannister (13 innings in 1988), Runelvys Hernandez (13 innings in 2003) and Roger Clemens 13 2/3 innings in 2004).

    And of course Ogando's showing is part of Texas' overall mound sharpness. During the 14 games, their 2.71 ERA is the third lowest. Only the 1989 and 1983 teams were better at that point but those editions won 77 and 83 games respectively.

     

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    My watching streak ends and I miss six double plays - whoa!

    Saturday, April 16, 2011, 4:05 AM [General]

    The year began with an 11-game watching streak as in I had watched every Yankee game to date. That came to an end last night when I elected to step out to a bar and watch the Rangers-Capitals game, which was a failure in itself for the Rangers.

    Technically I saw enough, since the Yankee game was on another TV, but six double plays were missed, something I didn't know until hearing it on the radio updates. That tied an AL record and was the 13th time in a nine-inning game when Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Andruw Jones and Nick Swisher did it against Matt Harrison in last night's 5-3 loss.

    So naturally I wondered what other games that occurred in and time was wasted looking for it until I found it on baseball-reference.com. Now my next source of curiousity was the players in the double play events and since the dates and teams are listed, I can find that information.

    What is interesting is the list of names who managed to achieve that feat in the previous 11 instances:

    8/7/09 - Asdrubal Cabrera (2), Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Trevor Crowe and Jhonny Peralta against White Sox ace Mark Buehrle in a 6-2 Indians win. The first three double plays also occurred after the Indians scored their runs in each of the first three innings.

    4/30/09 - Vernon Wells, Marco Scutaro, Jose Bautista, Kevin Millar, Raul Chavez and Aaron Hill in a 8-6 loss to the Royals. Kyle Davies was responsible for five and Jamey Wright was the pitched for the sixth and four of the double plays occured in innings Toronto scored runs.

    4/21/09 - Coco Crisp (2), Alberto Callaspo, David DeJesus, Miguel Olivo and Mark Teahen for Kansas City in a 8-7 loss at Cleveland.  Aaron Laffey was responsible for five by getting in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. Jensen Lewis recored the other double play doing so after the Royals scored four in the eighth and turned a five-run game into a one-run game.

    6/17/03 - Jose Valentin (3), Ben Grieve, Travis Lee and Julio Lugo for Tampa Bay in an 11-2 win at Yankee Stadium. This is kind of hard to believe but it did happen and just think how worse this game would have been for the Yankees without those double plays. Grieve opened the double plays by ending the first inning with one in a 1-0 game. Valentin hit into his first in the second after Marlon Anderson was picked off. Lugo was next in the sixth but that came in a 5-1 game off Sterling Hitchcock. Valentin's second occurred off Al Reyes for the final out of the seventh but that came after  five runs were scored. Lee and Valentin then ended the eighth and ninth with double plays to end the first game of a doubleheader.

    5/17/03 - Bobby Abreu (2), Jim Thome, Jimmy Rollins, Brandon Duckworth and Ricky Ledee in a 9-4 Philadelphia win at Houston. A month before the six at Yankee Stadium, it occurs in Houston, starting with Thome's double play to end the first off Scott Linebrink.  Two batters later and this time with a 3-0 deficit, Abreu is next but instead of a 3-6-3, he hits into a 4-6-3.  The Astros then go up 4-0, so two double plays and four runs for the Astros. The third double play is achieved by Rollins, whose 6-4-3 ends the third. The next one is achieved by Duckworth in the fifth, whose 6-6-3 drives in a run. Ledee is next in the sixth but does it off Peter Munro, who gets it after the Phillies took a 5-3 lead. Ricky Stone is the next pitcher to induce a double play by getting Abreu but this one occurs after Placido Polanco homered.

    4/16/96 - Travis Fryman (2), Chris Gomez, Tim Hyers, Chad Curtis and John Flaherty for Detroit in 13-8 win at Toronto. This was one of 59 wins by the first Tigers team after Sparky Anderson and so far the only instance that the starting pitcher did not induce any of them. Erik Hanson started but was gone in the third, leaving Giovanni Carrara to get the first DP, which he does when Gomez bounced into a 5-4-3 to end the third after Detroit went up 7-2.  The next one occurs in the fourth by Fryman and it's a good thing because Cecil Fielder followed the 5-4 DP with a two-run home run. Curtis is next in the fifth and his DP off Bill Risley occurred two batters after Flaherty hit a solo home run. Risley continued in the sixth and had a home run and double play in the same inning as Fielder homered and Hyers hit in a 4-6-3. Flaherty had the fifth DP as his 5-4-3 off Brian Bohanon erases Mark Lewis in the seventh. Bohanon becomes the third reliever with two DPs in the eighth when Fryman hits into his second right before Fielder is walked intentionally.

    7/18/90 - Kevin Romine (2), Mike Greenwell, Tim Naehring, Jody Reed and Carlos Quintana for Boston in a 5-4 win over Minnesota.  Reed is the first to do this in the opening inning of a 1-0 game when his 6-4-3 off David West erases Wade Boggs. Romine is second as his DP erases Tony Pena. Quintana becomes number three doing so after Kent Hrbeck homered off Mike Boddicker for a 3-0 Twins' lead. Romine's second occurs in the fourth and right after Al Newman's base hit gives Minnesota a 4-0 lead. The Red Sox then tie it in the fifth but could have had more if only Greenwell didn't hit into a 3-6-3 off Juan Berenguer. The final double play occurs in the eighth by Naehring, whose 4-6-3 turns the game over to ex-Twin Jeff Reardon. Reardon allows a leadoff single to Brian Harper but not to be outdone by his teammates, gets a double play of his own as John Moses bounces into a 4-6-3.

    5/08/88 - Tim Wallach (2), Dave Engle, Hubie Brooks, Andres Galarraga and Luis Rivera for the Montreal Expos in a 7-2 loss to the Astros. Wallach opens it up by bailing Bob Knepper out of first-and-second with a nice 5-4-3 to end the first. Next is Rivera, whose 5-4-3 ends the second and a rally that saw Engle open the scoring with a base hit. After Houston fails to get its first hit in the fourth, another DP occurs, this time by Wallach, who bounces into the third 5-4-3 of the game. By the sixth, the Astros have five hits, a four-run lead and have knocked out Floyd Youmans. Then they get their fourth DP ending the 5-4-3 trend when Galarraga ends the inning with a 4-6-3.  The fourth 5-4-3 occurs against Ernie Camacho in the eigth when Brooks erases Mitch Webster in a 7-1 game. Finally, it ends when Engle hits into the fifth 5-4-3 off Camacho.

    4/13/84 - Jim Rice (2), Glenn Hoffman, Tony Armas, Dwight Evans and Rick Miller for the Boston Red Sox in a 13-9 loss to the Tigers. The Tigers opened their last championship season with nine straight wins and win number eight of a 104-win campaign features six of the 134 double plays induced by Detroit pitching that season.  Ten runs are scored before the first double play, which also scored Rice for the game's 11th run. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, Armas' 5-4-3 off Milt Wilcox only makes it 8-4 Tigers. Hoffman is next and does it in a 9-6 game with a 4-6-3 off Doug Bair in the fourth.  An inning later with the same score, Rice hits into a 5-4-3 off Bair.  Hoffman doesn't get a chance for a second DP in the sixth but Miller pinch hits off Glenn Abbott and hits into a 1-6-3.  Evans does the same in the seventh for the fifth DP. The final DP occurs after Detroit adds four runs and brings in Willie Hernandez. Hernandez gave up three runs in the eighth but prevents more and is aided by Rice's 4-6-3 in the ninth.

    4/29/75 - John Ellis (3), George Hendrick, Alan Ashby and Jack Brohamer for the Cleveland Indians 3-1 win over the Yankees at Shea Stadium. Only 6,320 people saw this one which also featured a complete game by Don Hood and this one began with Ellis hitting into a 1-6-3 off Larry Gura for the final out of the first.  Next is Ashby, who comes up with a 2-0 lead in the fourth and hits into a 6-4-3. Hendrick follows in the fifth with the same score and hits into a 5-4-3. Dick Tidrow then replaces Gura in the seventh and ends the inning by retiring Ellis on a 6-4-3, moments after Elliott Maddox does the same against Hood. With the bases loaded, the eighth ends against Tidrow when Brohamer hits into a 4-6-3 for the final outs.  Ellis' three double play night happens because Hendrick reached on catcher's interference and Ellis doesn't disappoint by hitting into a 4-6-3.

    5/06/72 - Johnny Oates (2), Boog Powell, Davey Johnson, Don Baylor and Mark Belanger for the Orioles in a 9-1 loss the Royals. In a game featuring five future managers and a complete game by Dick Drago, the festivities begin in the second and with the Royals already up 7-0.  Baylor starts it in the second with a 6-4-3 that erases Brooks Robinson. That is followed by Oates' 1-6-3 in the third that erases Paul Blair. Belanger is next with an inning-ending 5-4-3 in the fifth that occurs after Oates hits a home run. In the sixth, a future hitting coach (Merv Rettenmund) is erased when Powell  bounces into a 4-6-3. An inning later, Oates hits into a 1-6-3 double play that erases Blair. The final double play occurs when Johnson hits into a 6-4-3.

    5/1/66 - George Scott (2), Rico Petrocelli, Bob Tillman, Joe Foy and Lenny Green for the Red Sox in a 6-1 loss to the Angels at Fenway Park. Scott opens the double play party in the fourth when his 6-4-3 erases Carl Yastrzemski in a 3-0 game. An inning later, Petrocelli homers but Green fails a pinch hitting for Jim Lonborg by hitting into a 5-4-3 double play.  Lew Burdette saved 31 games in his career and begins his first save for the Angels with a double play by getting Scott on a 6-4-3 that ends the sixth. An inning later, Burdette does it again by getting Tillman on another 6-4-3. And in keeping with the pattern, Burdette ends the eighth by retiring Foy on a 6-4-3 and almost on automatic pilot at this point, Burdette ends it by getting Petrocelli on what else a 6-4-3.

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    Phil Hughes and Roy Halladay have a thing in common

    Friday, April 15, 2011, 2:49 AM [General]

    Phil Hughes stood in front of his locker, the one formerly occupied by Andy Pettitte and tried to explain why he could not locate and find the elusive velocity after it made a re-appearance during the opening two innings.

    Eventually the topic of the discussion with the media touched on the topic of going to the minors.

    If that happened and before I advocate it happening or not happening, it's not my job to do so, but you'd have to think it might be possible if there were a few more clunkers like Hughes' first three starts of this season. And if that happened, Hughes would not be the first pitcher to return to the minors to fine tune some things.

    He might be a rare breed getting sent down there after winning 18 games but there is a precedent. Just look at two pitchers currently occupying the top spots in Philadelphia's rotation - Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.

    Halladay entered the majors late in 1998 and like Hughes pitched a no-hitter deep into his second career start on September 27, 1998 against the Tigers. A year later, Halladay won eight games with a 3.92 ERA but in 2000, he showed a 10.64 ERA in 19 appearances and the following year, he was sent to Single-A to refine his delivery.

    When Halladay came back with a better arm angle, more deception and an explosive sinker, the pitcher we see today was born and that one has been pretty good by winning 158 times since that point.

    Since it is three starts, it might be a bit early to consider a trip to the minors, but if this persists a month or two from now, it might seem to be an option for Hughes.

    And like Halladay, Cliff Lee also experienced a similar occurance.

    Starting with his 22-3 CY Young season of 2008 with the Indians, Lee has dominated baseball and especially the Yankees but before that could happen, he also struggled by going 4-9 through the end of July 2007. That sent him back to the minors for a month and he was not even on the playoff roster of the 2007 Indians that beat the Yankees and came within a game of the World Series.

    So should it be done, perhaps, but not necesarily now and is there precedent, definitely and when you see the results Lee and Halladay have turned in since returning from brief time in the minors, it certainly should not be ruled out.

    One thing though worth noting and seeing if he can follow up on is this: Hughes had 18 pitches at or above 90 miles per hour during the first two innings and you'd like to see if that can last longer the next time he starts whenever that is.

    If he doesn't get skipped it would be Wednesday in Toronto, which is 364 days after his no-hit bid was broken up in the eighth inning by Eric Chavez in Oakland.

    And for the most part, people calling up late night on WFAN don't seem inclined to do this to a 24-year-old pitcher, but if it did happen, it worked out well for the pitchers who tossed Philadelphia's consecutive games for the first time in 12 years.

     

     

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    Items of Interest - Orioles vs. Yankees

    Thursday, April 14, 2011, 6:35 PM [General]

    Today is April 14 and a year ago Pedro Feliciano was in Coors Field, pitching the eighth inning for the Mets in a 6-5 loss. That night, he faced Brad Hawpe, Sean Smith, Dexter Fowler and Todd Helton. It was one of 174 2/3 innings thrown during the past three regular seasons with the Mets and among the roughly 2,800 pitches thrown in game action during that span.

    So why bring that it up now? It just so happens that the next time Feliciano faces an opposing hitter on a major league mound will not be until next April. That is because an MRI found a torn capsule in his left shoulder (the same injury Met ace Johan Santana is coming back from) and assuming Dr. James Andrews tells him to get it surgerically repaired, that appears to be the course of action Feliciano will take sometime next week.

    Of course he is disappointed, who wouldn't be, pitchers are competitors and would want to work everyday is possible.

    "It’s really disappointing," Feliciano said. “I love to pitch and I want to be a guy that pitches every day like I’ve been doing for the past three or four years. Now to be shut down for maybe a year, I don’t know how I’m going to handle it – it’s going to be hard."

    Speaking of hard, Brian Cashman had a hard time being concise when he clarified his remarks about Feliciano being abused, so below to the best of my transcribing ability are some of his comments:

    "In fairness, I’m not going to back away from the answer I gave to the question but the question was provided on a day when you guys were not really there. I’m not attacking the Mets, the question posed from the group at the time was one of those loaded, already know the answer to the question. I was asked and I answered properly.

    "He was used extensively over there. I wasn’t blaming the Mets with what he is dealing with now. He’s on the DL and the first question was how long is he going to be down and I was trying to assess and say he’s going to come back. And then the follow up question was when you signed him, you knew he was used a lot by the Mets, was that a concern and my answer was he was definitely abused over there but we knew that and I certainly went ahead and signed him anyway. I’m not sitting over here blaming them for it but I did answer the question honestly.

    "People took shots a little bit and rightfully so because they weren’t willing to call me and ask questions. Some people referred to me as hypocrite because of Scott Proctor and stuff like that. If you want to get Joe Torre on the phone, you’ll know I’m not a hypocrite.

    "I dealt with our pitching coach, I dealt with our manager and we have new people here that utilize people in a certain way now. These guys are finite assets out there right now. There’s a very limited group of people capable of performing on the major league level on a consistent level, so you can’t put your assets in jeopardy and you can’t overuse them or you lose them. From my perspective and from the front office and if you’re a player development director or if you’re a scouting director and you’re trying to find replacements for those, we work 12 months a year to do that and it’s not easy. It’s definitely easy and when you have someone of quality that makes it all the way, you have hopes to use them for an extended period of time. So you have to use them properly.

    This is the part where Cashman says he shouldn't be blamed for players such as Scott Proctor or Ron Villone being overused during the Joe Torre era.

    "I’m talking on a general basis. I think the game has evolved and grown and people have learned over time, including us. Did we have players here with me as GM overused, yes but if you asked those players, if you ask the manager and did I meet with Joe, yes. Did I meet with our pitching coach – yes. When they said the same answer which obviously hear when this became public, I asked the player if he was OK. You got to understand  these players are competitors, they’re never going to say no. It’s just the way they are wired. So you pay people to know the answer. I’m not paying a pitcher to be the pitching coach for instance. I’m paying the pitching coach to be the pitching coach.

    "I met with Proctor and said you better stop telling the manager this because of the way he manages and I’m not criticizing Joe and that’s just the way he is. He wants an honest answer. Just tell him no.

    You can draw your own conclusions just like you can make your own evaluations of Phil Hughes, who will try to generate his first swing and miss on a four-seam fastball. Hughes also will try to generate some more velocity and power from his lower half because as manager Joe Girardi put, when you focus on your upper half, you tend to fly open.

    Hughes will try to do that against an Orioles lineup featuring Matt Wieters. Wieters hit a two-run home run last night in the seventh inning off A.J. Burnett and has been doing so with a different batting stance.

     

     

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    Items of Interest - Orioles vs. Yankees

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 6:14 PM [General]

    Today is April 13 and the weather is similar to yesterday, just without the rain that caused yesterday's postponement and a year ago, Hector Noesi was in the early stages of spliting the year between three different minor league levels and ending the year.

    Noesi is here because Luis Ayala is not due to being on the DL with a strained lat and his promotion means only one lefty is present in the pen and that is Boone Logan, who was in that situation late last year after Damaso Marte went down. Not much is known how long that will be the case since Pedro Feliciano is not slated to return anytime soon from his elbow injury.

    That means in spots that Logan is not used, Davd Robertson could face some left-handed hitters, especially if it occurs before the eighth and ninth inning.

    "It's something that we dealt with last year and Boone seemed to handle the workload pretty well," Joe Girardi said. "He got off to a pretty slow start, but got two pretty big outs for us and we'll get him on track.You can talk about bringing up another lefty, but if your best arms are right-handers in the situation, you're probably going to go with your right-handers."

    Had the Yankees decided on a second lefty, it might have been Steve Garrison but since he pitched Tuesday and does not have extensive relief experience, Noesi was selected.

    Elsewhere, Derek Jeter remains a hot topic mainly because of the slow start through nine games and the fact that he is hitting a lot more grounders than usual.

    Since he is an optimistic type, Girardi treated that with a "What me Worry Look" by saying:

    "Derek has been through so much in his career. I don't think you have to worry about looking into his head. He is going to continue to work. He's out there taking his early BP like he does all the time after days off.

    "This is a guy that has been some kind of player for a long time and had to go through some ups and downs in his career and had to battle some certain things. When you talk about Derek's mind, Derek mind is very strong and he knows how to shut things out and I think he's capable of doing that. I think sometimes people want to evaluate quickly because of who he is and you look at his age, but we don't do that because we know it's a long season and there are a lot of guys that get off to slow starts and have very good years."

    As for the things that he worked on during spring training to prevent the large amounts of grounders, Girardi said the following:

    "When I watch his at-bats against Boston, he's pretty much doing the same thing he did last year when he was hot after he made the adjustments in Texas. You look at it - it's basically the same. I think Derek doesn't want to talk about it anymore just because, Derek doesn't like talking about himself, he'd prefer to talk about the team and how we're doing as a team and he just wants to go to work."

    And so does Freddy Garcia, who will have to wait until Saturday afternoon against Texas for his Yankee debut. He originally was slated for a week ago but was rained out and when rain wiped out yesterday's game, that caused his scheduled start on Friday to be pushed back.

    In the mean time, Garcia has pitched a relief outing and has been working out and throwing bullpen sessions, consisting of 40 to 50 pitches.

    As for Buck Showalter, Jeter's first manager in 1995, he likened him to Edgar Martinez as being the type of player who would be slumping and then would want to make an opposing team pay the price. Without looking up Edgar Martinez, it seemed slump or no slump, he always torched Yankee pitching.

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    Welcome to 1961 in Strat-O-Matic

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 12:38 PM [General]

    It was 50 years ago that Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run mark by hitting 61 during a 162-game season. It was an expansion year and eight more games were added, therefore comissioner Ford Frick decided to add an asterisk when Maris needed more than 154 games.

    For most of the year until a late injury, Mantle joined Maris in pursuing the record, but in the end it was Maris' record.

    In real life the chase began on April 11, 1961 and neither Maris or Mantle connected against Minnesota's Pedro Ramos. On opening day at the stadium, Ramos pitched a three-hitter and struck out the M and M boys three times during a 5-4 loss.

    When I replayed that game with Strat-O-Matic's computer baseball game, the results were slightly different.

    The Twins wound up winning 5-4 but Maris and Mantle each went deep. Maris took the early lead in the race by hitting a solo home run in the fourth.

    Maris' blast to left field gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead and that came after Mantle drove in two with a single.  Mantle added to it with a one-out solo home run in the sixth that went to the same spot as Maris.

    The only problem for the Yankees was Whitey Ford could not keep Harmon Killebrew in the ballpark. Killebrew hit a solo home run in the third and then hit a two-run shot in the eighth off Ford.

    Ford threw over 120 pitches and gave up the go-ahead run in the ninth when Billy Gardner singled. Mantle and Maris had chances in the ninth but did not come through as Ray Moore retired Mantle on a groundout and then struck out Maris to end it.

    Mantle - 2-for-4, 1 home run, 2 RBI

    Maris - 1-for-4, 1 home run, 1 RBI

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    Items of Interest - Orioles vs. Yankees

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011, 6:01 PM [General]

    Today is April 12 and weather.com is "assuring" a 100 percent chance of rain for tonight's game. Actually they're right, it's pouring as I'm typing.

    A year ago, the Orioles were already beginning their descent into what ultimately became the Buck Showalter era and since August 3, the results have been mostly positive.

    The Orioles are the fourth club since 1990 to begin the season with three straight road victories by allowing one run or less.

    The others were the 2007 Mets, 2003 Twins and 1991 White Sox. Each team won at least 87 or more games.

    Anyway, the Yankees will face a team that is 40-26 since Buck Showalter took over in August and the difference was very noticable when these teams met at Yankee Stadium Sept. 6-8.

    As for the Yankees, should they actually play, which seems like it is in question now, A.J. Burnett will make his third start. Like many Yankee pitchers over the years, Burnett has enjoyed success over the Orioles, going 11-4. Unlike those 18 previous start, he never faced a Baltimore team with Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrerro and Mark Reynolds in the middle of the lineup.

    Though Burnett has pitched well in two starts, there's plenty of room for skepticism. That being said, whenever his third start occurs, you might see more of the changeup, especially to lefties. Though only 12 of his 99 pitches were changeups, Russell Martn said it was Burnett's best pitch Thursday afternoon.

    Speaking of pitching, Phil Hughes is next in the rotation and his six innings so far have been less than impressive. Diminished velocity and poor location have contributed but also playing a supporting role is the fact that swings and misses are lacking.

    Swings and misses are not frequent, but when a pitcher only generates two out of 137 pitches and none out of his four-seam fastball, which he has thrown 49 times, he takes notice, which is what he did during a fairly lengthy media session in the clubhouse today:

    "You can tell by swings," Hughes said. "I’m normally getting swings and misses on my fastball. When I’m not – that’s the indicator."

    Hughes prepared for this start by playing catch and doing side work with pitching coach Larry Rothchild. Speaking of playing catch, lefty Pedro Feliciano (strained left rotator cuff) also did the same. Feliciano hadn't done that in 10 to 14 days but felt confident he would come out of it decently.

    Hughes has a limited track record of succeeding with 18 wins, several fueled by run support and dominant relief work during the 2009 season, so ruling him out from bouncing back would be foolish.

    Chris Tillman will start for the Orioles. Tillman is known for being one of the players the Orioles fleeced from ex-Mariner GM Bill Bavasi in the Erik Bedard but around here he is known for being the pitcher who gave up Derek Jeter's 2,722th career hit that moved him past Lou Gehrig on the Yankees' all-time list.

     

     

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    That Didn't Take Long - Jeter and Posada start slow

    Monday, April 11, 2011, 1:25 PM [General]

    In case you haven't noticed, professional sports is an occupation where icons tend not to age gracefully in terms of production. When that happens, it becomes a delicate balance and issue for those in charge of getting the team to succed.

    Though it is only nine games, it may be the case concerning Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada's early struggles.

    Jeter spent most of spring training tinkering with his stride and it seemed to work, but one week in, he is batting .206 after a 1-for-13 weekend and looks lost in one paper. A year ago, he batted .333 through nine games before tumbling to .270.

    That being said, what if Jeter is still batting .206 a month from now? Would he be moved from second to the lower part of the order by Joe Girardi. The track record of Jeter seem to indicate he won't hit so poorly all year, but the realities of age always are a possiblity.

    And when that happens in a major media market, you see differing views, including one that has Kevin Long appearing to flip-flop on comments made to Newsday and ESPN New York.

    Based on what Girardi said to the Bergen Record, don't expect any change with Jeter until 100 to 150 at-bats have occurred.

    "I think you have to see 100 to 150 at-bats,” Girardi said before the game. "But I just don’t want to judge it too quick. It’s not fair to the player. We know how resilient Derek has been in his career and all the great things that’s he’s done, and I think you have to give him an opportunity."

    As for Posada, we've been down this road within the last few years between his DL stints in 2008-2010 and now his becoming the full-time DH. While Posada has three home runs, he is hitless in 0-for-17 with eight strikeouts, but facts are facts and numbers are numbers.

    Right now, neither looks good for either Yankee icon, but before anyone considers changes, let's see what happens in the next few weeks.

    And in case you're wondering, here are what Yankee icons did after the age of 35:

    Babe Ruth - Turned 35 in 1930 and still had it for the next four seasons by batting .359, .373, .341, .301. You'll notice the 40 point-drop from 1932 to 1933. The following year was his final year as a Yankee and he batted .288. He reached .324 by June 15 but a 3-for-34 slump dropped Ruth to .279 11 days later and when he finished with 22 home runs and 88 RBI, the Yankees sold him to the Braves after they did not want to make him the manager to succeed Joe McCarthy.

    Joe DiMaggio - Turned 35 following the 1949 season that saw him sign a record $100,000 contract but due to injuries did not make his debut until late-June.That was the famous pennant race year with the Red Sox and DiMaggio finished with a .349 average. His two years after turning 35 were 1950 and 1951. In 1950, DiMaggio batted .301 and the following year, he slipped to .263 and never saw .300 after mid-May. He then decided to retire.

    Mickey Mantle - Turned 35 following the 1966 season, which was the second straight losing season for the Yankees. While Mantle hit a respectable .288 during 1966, he only appeared in 108 games and played the outfield for the last time. Mantle played two more years as a below average first baseman and while he appeared in 144 games each of those seasons, he hit .245 and .237 respectively before deciding to retire.

    That's a small example of Yankee icons after that age, but many icons from other teams performed similar. So while things for Jeter and Posada might improve as they get more at-bats, it still is possible they might not go back to levels from past years such as Jeter in 2009.

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    A.J. Burnett's changeup - an evolving process

    Friday, April 8, 2011, 12:38 AM [General]

    For years, the book on A.J. Burnett has been high-velocity fastball and a curve that sometimes comes with a devastating hook.

    When you’ve gone 10-15 relying on those two things, there comes a time to evolve or change it up slightly. For Burnett, his recovery this year might be contingent on the development and success of the changeup - a pitch that is designed to compliment his primary pitches.

    Yesterday Burnett threw 12 changeups - primarily to lefties and that doubled his total he threw in five innings against the Detroit Tigers Saturday.

    Last year, Burnett threw 3,175 pitches and just 84 were changeups. In 2009, he threw 4,117 pitches and just 77 were changeups.

    Three years ago as an 18-game winner with the Toronto Blue Jays, Burnett threw 3,530 pitches and 130 of those were changeups.

    In winning his second game, Burnett did not use at as an out pitch, but one to set up the next pitch. At least if you’re basing it on these examples, such a 1-1 changeup thrown to Jason Kubel in the second.

    Kubel fouled that pitch off and then struck out swinging on a curve that clocked in at 82 – six miles slower than the previous pitch.

    When he faced Joe Mauer a second time with Denard Span on third following a wild pitch, he threw the three-time AL batting champion two changeups. The first was a 1-0 pitch that was a swinging strike and the next was a 3-1 pitch that was a called strike setting up the four-seam fastball that struck Mauer out looking.

    "I came in and I asked Larry (pitching coach Larry Rothchild), 'Did I throw Mauer a 3-1 changeup?'" Burnett said "And I did. I've said all along it's a big pitch for me, and hopefully this year I can use it more.

    The next time he faced Kubel with Jim Thome on third and one out in the fourth, Burnett threw three changeups all at 88. At 1-1, the third changeup went past Mark Teixeira and into right field for a double.

    After that, Burnett threw the pitch four more times for two foul balls and two balls, but even with limited use catcher Russell Martin said it was his best pitch and this is what he felt made it his best pitch yesterday:

    "His changeup is a good pitch, especially when he’s keeping his fastball down in the zone. It comes off the same plane. It is a few miles an hour different – just enough to get the ball off the hitters’ barrel.”

    The obvious angle from a pitching standpoint would be to focus on Rafael Soriano’s rebound in the eighth inning, but keep this in mind: Soriano might not get that opportunity if Burnett does not pitch well with his changeup and other pitches.

    "It gave them something else to look at, and that's the importance of having another pitch," manager Joe Girardi said. "You can't maybe sit on one pitch. Now you've got something slow going away from you as opposed to coming in to you against those left-handed hitters, and I thought that made a difference."

    Whether it makes a difference over the course of six months and 30 or regular-season starts is up to Burnett.

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    Items of Interest - Twins vs. Yankees

    Thursday, April 7, 2011, 12:00 PM [General]

    Today is April 7 and 34 years ago, Catfish Hunter pitched seven shutout innings and held the Milwaukee Brewers to seven hits to kick off the 1977 season.

    That happened to be four days after A.J. Burnett turned three months old and today Burnett makes his second start in what he hopes will be a significant bounce-back campaign from a year ago. Burnett began the season Saturday against Detroit with five servicable innings in a 10-6 win.

    The Yankees would love to get the type of performance from Burnett that Billy Martin received from Hunter 34 years ago, though they'll take seven innings with something like five hits and two runs, especially since Burnett does not have the head cold he had last week.

    "It makes you feel better about his stamina and being able to give you a substantial amount of pitches and not worrying if he can catch his breath or has to cover first base, how fatigued he is," manager Joe Girardi said. “I do feel a lot better about that and we’d love to get seven innings out of him."

    Of course everyone needs to see more than two decent performances from Burnett to see is he back to pitching somewhat like the 2009 or 2008 version, which won 31 games.

    Burnett also has a good track record in April, which as athletes tend to say, it's just one of those things. Since becoming a Yankee, he is 6-0 with a 3.99 ERA. It's those other five months that tend to be problematic.

    Should Burnett hit a bump or two in the road, Freddy Garcia might make a relief appearance and if that occurs, it would mark his first since August 18, 2000 when he relieved Paul Abbott in a 9-8 Mariner loss in Cleveland. Of course, Bartolo Colon could make an appearance and in those funny coincidences, Colon happened to be the opposing starter pitcher for the Indians on the same day of Garcia's lone relief appearance.

    If the opposite happens, Rafael Soriano likely will be available. He might not have pitched had last night's game been played due to throwing 51 pitches in his previous two outings.

    Speaking of relief pitching, Pedro Feliciano's next throwing session was pushed back to early next week. Originally, he was supposed to have a catch with pitching coach Larry Rothchild this week but they don't want to rush things.

    Elsewhere, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez return to the left side of the infield while Russell Martin catches and since there is a lefty going for Minnesota, Andruw Jones gets his second start. Jones homered in his first start Tuesday but that was overshadowed by Soriano.

    The Twins were also planning on using Wednesday as a day off for Joe Mauer despite some good numbers off Garcia. Mauer return to the lineup and face Burnett, whom he is 7-for-17 against and here's an interesting take on when to give Mauer games off.

    So there you have it and after today, it's off to Boston, which is experiencing an unexpected start by the team picked by virtually everyone as World Series locks. Chances are if the Yankees are paying attention, they will know it the Red Sox finally have that highly-anticipated victory.

    The players might not be paying attention but you know the fans will, though they might be more concerned with Phil Hughes' lack of velocity and location if those issues persist Friday afternoon.

     

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