Some quick notes as the Yankees recover from the 3-9 beating they took on their just-completed romp through the heartland:
Rey Sanchez has two bulging disks in his neck and may land on the DL prior to the Pirates series. Should that happen, the Yanks are expected to call up Felix Escalona, following the logic that Sanchez is a back-up infielder and thus should be replaced by one. This is, of course, nonsense. Tony Womack should be sent to the bench, where he can back-up Cano at second. Alex Rodriguez can back-up Jeter at short, and Russ Johnson can back-up Rodriguez at third. There is no need for an extra infielder on this team.
By that logic, it would seem there’s no need for Sanchez on this team, which is something I’ve been saying since spring training. Upon closer examination, however, Sanchez could be useful as a spot-starter at second against lefties (Cano vs L: 3/29, 1 HR, 1 BB–.122 GPA; Sanchez vs L since 2002: .285/.328/.369–.240). That is unless you believe this season is a lost cause and the Yankees would be better off exposing Cano to lefties now in the hopes that he can learn to hit them, making him a more complete player for next year and beyond. With the Yanks two games under .500 less than a month from the All-Star Game but just six back in the AL East in mid-June, I change my mind about this several times a day.
As for Escalona’s ability at the plate, his .308/.371/.431 (.275 GPA) as the Clippers’ starting shortstop last year was head and shoulders above anything he’d done outside of A-ball. This year, at age 26, he’s hitting .279/.364/.413 (.267), a solid-follow up to his break-out 2004 campaign. But solid at triple-A is not reason enough to put a guy on the major league roster. Crushing at triple-A is. For that, we turn to Andy Phillips, who is hitting .340/.389/.670 (.343) with Columbus on the heels of a .318/.388/.569 (.317) performance with the Clippers in 2004. I know Andy fell into a rut when he was here previously, but with Tino 3 for his last 35 with a double and just three walks (.088/.158/.114) and a roster spot opening up, I think it’s time for Phillips to get his second shot to nab the starting job at first base. Besides which, Phillips, like Russ Johnson, can play several infield positions and is serviceable as a back-up outfielder. This team is better with those two men in the Bronx and Andy Phillips could make this team better in the future as well.
Speaking of Tony Womack (I did mention him back there somewhere), according to The New York Times Joe Torre is thinking about moving him into center field, which would allow Hideki Matsui to stay put in left, where he’s a much better defender than he is in center. Meanwhile, Womack (who of course shouldn’t be starting at all, but we’ll get to that shortly) has the potential to improve on Matsui’s defense center thanks to his speed (something I had suggested when initial move of Womack to the outfield was made in early May). There are also rumblings that Womack is rumbling about playing the outfield, telling the press (when asked) that he still considers himself a second baseman. There are also rumblings that there are rumblings that could result in a more significant roster moves than Escalona-for-Sanchez-due-to-injury. Sez Brian Cashman, “I’ve got a lot of things going on behind the scenes.” This after he was seen talking with Womack twice on Sunday.
Could Womack, whose $2 million salary and stellar reputation combined with complete lack of production makes him a top trade candidate, be on the move? We can only hope. In the mean time, Womack could be seen in centerfield during the upcoming home stand, even as soon as tomorrow’s game against the Pirates.
In a related story, Hideki Matsui celebrated his 31st birthday yesterday with a clutch hit and a sprained ankle (he slipped while making a play in right field, where he was starting in place of the resting Gary Sheffield). That puts both his consecutive games streak and Tony Womack’s centerfield debut in jeopardy, as there have been no further rumblings about Bernie Williams playing left field. That suggests that Womack moving to center and being shopped could mean that the Yankees are indeed in the market for a real-life centerfielder (oh pleasepleasepleaseplease).
As for Matsui’s prognosis, despite leaning on Gene Monahan when coming off the field yesterday, wasn’t limping noticeably once back in the dugout, and will likely keep his streak intact, even if it comes via a DH start or a pinch-hitting appearance.
And thus concludes another post that would have been largely unnecessary had the Yankees ponied up for Carlos Beltran.