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Monthly Archives: July 2005

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Leiter Fluid

Al Leiter was hit hard last night in California as the Angels beat the Yanks, 6-3. The Red Sox lost as well, so the Bombers are still only a game-and-a-half back. I can’t stand the Angels. Did you see the two Molina brothers celebrating like mad after they both truckulated their fat asses home against Leiter. Calm down, boys. The whole team gets really geared up to beat New York. Makes it tough to watch. Ugh. Hopefully, the boys can rally and win these last two.

It’s in the Numbers

Meanwhile, I was hanging out with Jay Jaffe yesterday afternoon, and we were talking about how well Jason Giambi has been playing. Using David Pinto’s terrific Day by Day database, we looked to see just how long he’s been doing well for. While we were at it, we took a look at Tino Martinez’s numbers over roughly the same time. The dates may seem arbitrary, but they were selected to best illustrate how much better an offensive player Giambi has been (of course, you could counter this by showing Giambi’s numbers while Tino was on that hot streak, but that was more of a fluke than the norm).

From close to two months, from May 24 through July 22, Giambi has been a monster: .352/.497/.689. On the other hand, from May 20 through July 19 (the day before Tino’s two home-run game), Martinez hit a most unflattering .122/.215/.183. Yikes.

The Angels

Due to some technical difficulties (I’m breaking in a new laptop to increase my ability to post on the go, but it always seems you have to take one step backwards to get two steps forward when these new-fangled fire-boxes are concerned), I was unable to get a series preview post up yesterday, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t write one. Here’s how what I wrote yesterday afternoon kicked off:

The Yankees enter this weekend’s four-game series with the Angels having gone 5-2 on their current roadtrip and 8-3 to start the punishingly difficult portion of their schedule. Considering that fantastic level of play (for the month, the Yankees are winning at an even 75 percent clip: 12-4), it seems like sour grapes to complain about some of Joe Torre’s bullpen decisions, as I (among countless others) did following Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Rangers. Still, having done so then, I feel I must follow up by pointing out that using both Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera with a four-run lead in last night’s 8-4 win is exactly the sort of thing that lead to letting Wayne Franklin pitch against the heart of the Texas line-up in the eighth inning with a one-run lead the night before.

Sure, watching Gordon and especially Rivera blow away Rangers hitters with a comfortable lead inspires tremendous confidence on the part of the team and its fans, but on a night that Aaron Small made his first major league start in seven years and held the Rangers to just three runs in 5 1/3 innings, it was worth a shot to see if Scott Proctor and the re-purposed Alex Graman could take care of business, saving Gordon and Rivera for a game such as Tuesday’s in which they were desperately needed. With a four-run lead, there was enough margin for error that Gordon and Rivera could have been brought in should either of those lesser pitchers faltered, but by going to those lesser pitchers first, one creates the opportunity for them to succeed thus rendering Gordon and Rivera unnecessary.

Well, last night, Joe Torre took my unpublished advice and turned to Scott Proctor in the seventh inning with a three run lead. Even better, he did so with the bottom of the order coming up, as per my assertion following Tuesday’s loss that with weaker hitters due up a manager can get away with using his less dominant pitchers.

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Vladi Dadi

The Yankees hit four home runs last night (Matsui, Rodriguez and two more by Jason Giambi), and Randy Johnson pitched reasonalby well before leaving the game with an injury, but the bullpen blew a three-run lead as Vlad G’s grand-slam sunk New York, 6-5. I wasn’t up late enough to catch it. Sounds like it was a real heart-breaker.

Rockin’ Rumor

According to Bob Klapisch, George Steinbrenner is interested in bringing the legendary Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone to the Bronx next season.

Ding Dong

“We’re back in order,” Manager Joe Torre said. “We’re dragging a little bit, but I thought we showed a lot of dogfight in us over the last three games. I’m very proud, but it’s a little bit too early to pat ourselves on the back, because we have a lot of work to do.”
(N.Y. Times)

Aaron Small has a big chin and from the profile looks like the protagonist from the recent animated movie, “The Incredibles.” He’s not fat at all, he’s tall and well-built, but he’s got some kind of jaw. Jason Giambi’s high-school teammate had a decent outing for the Yankees last night, throwing a lot of off-speed pitches and working into the sixth inning. The offense gave him plenty of support as New York beat Texas, 9-4 to remain a half-game behind first place Boston. I liked the headline on the back page of today’s Daily News: “Biggie Small.”

The Rangers’ starter, Joaquin Benoit started off well, striking out the first four batters he faced (he would get Alex Rodriguez on strikes three times in all, and the three-four-and-five batters in the line up would go hitless on the night). Benoit’s stuff looked good early on as he combined a good change-up with a lively fastball. But he left an off-speed pitch over the plate to Jason Giambi in the second, and the Yankee DH lifted a high fly to center field. Gary Matthews Jr lined it up and narrowly missed robbing Giambi of a dinger. I didn’t think it would make it over the fence, but it did and the Yanks were on the board. Before you knew it, Jorge Posada reached out and slapped another hanging off-speed pitch into the upper deck in right field.

Richard Hidalgo answered with a solo home run in the second, but the Yanks came back with two more homers in the fifth, a solo shot by Tino Martinez and a three-run job by Robinson Cano–both off Benoit’s slow stuff. With the Yankees ahead 7-2 (Jason Giambi added another solo dinger), Small walked two men in the bottom of the sixth and was relieved by Tanyon Sturtze, who promplty left a high fastball over the plate. Hidalgo pounded it into right field. One run scored and men were on second and third. Next, Gary Matthews Jr. walked, putting the Yanks in a tight spot. Sturtze got Rod Barajas to pop out for the second out, but then fell behind 3-0 to the lead-off hitter Dave Dellucci. He did manage to get two strikes however, then Dellucci fouled off two more pitches before grounding out to Tino Martinez.

Sturtze recorded two outs in the seventh, but then allowed a single to Hank Blalock and a walk to Alfonso Soriano. Tom Gordon relieved him and got the Yanks out of the inning. A run would score in the eighth when a ball went through Martinez’s legs at first, but Tino hit his second home run of the night in the top of the ninth, and that was that. (Both Martinez and Giambi’s second homers came off lefties.) To cap it off, Rivera overwhelmed the heart of the Texas order in the ninth. Mark Teixeira led-off and swung at two cutters, up and in for strikes, then went down looking at a two-seamer on the outside corner. Blalock took an outside fastball for strike one, fouled off a cutter for strike two, laid off a high fastball, then swung through another high heater for strike three. Soriano took a cutter for a strike, leaned back at a fastball that came up and in, then split his his bat in two on a cutter, and grounded out weakly to second. It was vintage Rivera and the Yanks left Texas with another series win.

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Let ‘er Rip

With two less than stellar starting pitchers on the mound tonight, there is a good chance we’ll see plenty of offensive fireworks down in Texas. The Bombers have five games left on their current road trip, and the way we figure it, they’ve got to come home with three more victories, no matter how they get ‘em.

I don’t have a gut feeling about tonight’s game, but I do think Giambi and Rodriguez and Cano will be strong. Maybe Jeter will break out of his slump too.

Let’s Go Yan-kees!

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda . . . Didn’t

There were just two run scoring plays in last night’s 2-1 Yankee loss to the Rangers in Arlington, both coming in the eighth inning.

In the top half, Robinson Cano (now hitting .305 on the season) singled Bubba Crosby home for the lone Yankee run (Bubba, starting in center, walked on five pitches to start the inning and was bunted to second by a slumping Derek Jeter–2 for his last 19–Crosby also singled earlier in the game, going 1 for 3 on the night).

In the bottom half, Hank Blalock hit a two-out, two-run homer to right center off of lefty Wayne Franklin to provide the Rangers with the eventual margin of victory.

The latter provoked many questions as to just what exactly Wayne Franklin was doing pitching to the heart of the Rangers order in the eighth inning of a one-run game. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first it’s worth mentioning that the only inning in which the Yankee batters were retired in order was the first. Thirteen Yankees reached base, yet they only managed to plate one run against Texas starter Chan Ho Park (5.64 ERA) and were unable to break through against relievers Kameron Loe (4.77 ERA) and Francisco Cordero (4.02, five blown saves). The Yankees as a team left eight men on base, a number artificially lowered by the fact that they hit into three double plays and ran in to one unnecessary out on the bases.

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Dis Muss Be De Place

In a game that saw Alfonso Soriano Cadillac a double into a single–then hit a homer in his next at bat–and Derek Jeter stretch a single into a double, the Yankees out-bombed the Rangers last night in Arlington, 11-10. It wasn’t pretty: Kevin Brown was knocked around, Bernie Williams made a critical two-run error, and Ruben Sierra injured his hamstring crossing first base in the eighth after his two-run single scored the game-winning run. Tanyon Sturtze and Mariano Rivera provided the relief the Bombers needed to hold off Texas. Jorge Posada hit a three-run dinger and blocked the plate nicely to nail Hank Blalock in the first. The Yanks have pitching problems, and defensive issues in center field, but after the Red Sox lost to the Devil Rays, they are alone in first place this morning.

Sierra will be placed on the disabled list today. Also, according to the Daily News:

The Yanks announced yesterday that [Chien-Ming]Wang has an inflammation and a strain of the right shoulder. The 25-year-old will take part in an exercise program for two weeks and then begin a throwing program in the hopes that the rehab work will allow him to return to the Bombers near the beginning of September.

If Wang doesn’t respond, however, season-ending surgery “may be necessary,” according to a statement from team doctor Stuart Hershon.

Lots of stuff to talk about today, but right now the Yankees are thriving in spite of their many flaws.

The Rangers (after a lot of rambling)

Well, the second half of the season sure has been an exciting for the Yankees thus far, no? Before returning to action on Thursday with a four-game series against the rival first-place Red Sox, who lead them by 2 1/2 games in the standings, the Yankees learned that their best starter, who was scheduled to start on Friday, had been placed on the DL and could be done for the year. They then found out that Carl Pavano, who was expected to start Sunday, was still two weeks away from coming off the disabled list. Suddenly, the Yankees had Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny starting half of this crucial series in Boston, making the first and third games of the series, stared by Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson, must-wins of the first order.

So what happened? Mike Mussina gave up four runs in the first inning on Thursday, but the Yankees came back to win on a ninth-inning home run by Alex Rodriguez against Curt Schilling in the latter’s first relief appearance since being actived from the DL himself. The Yanks then got creamolished on Friday, losing to the Sox by a score of 17-1 for the second time this season. Unshaken, the Yankees then overcame a shaky outing by Randy Johnson by beating up on Boston ace Matt Clement to win Saturday’s game, accomplishing their revised goal for the weekend. With the Yankees still scurrying on Saturday to find a spot starter for Sunday, most fans on both sides assumed a split. Then Brian Cashman pulled of a coup.

On Thursday, Al Leiter, a big-name free agent who signed a one-year, $8 million contract this offseason, had been designated for assignment by the Marlins after a poor first-half performance. On Saturday, he was acquired by the Yankees along with $2.4 million to help pay his contract in exchange for a player to be named later. On Sunday, Leiter dominated the Red Sox for six-plus innings, allowing just one man past second base (and just two past first) while striking out eight, giving the Yankees a shocking series win and vaulting them over the Orioles into second place, just 1/2 game behind the reeling Red Sox, and putting them in a tie with the Twins for the lead in the AL Wild Card race.

Eight games into the punishingly difficult portion of the Yankees’ mid-summer schedule, the Bombers are 6-2 (one of the two being a game they probably should have won). The Yankees are now 10-3 in July against the Tigers, Orioles, Indians and Red Sox.

Tonight they get Kevin Brown back, restoring their rotation, which had been down to two men as late as Saturday night, to four strong. They’ll still need a spot starter for Wednesday’s game (Aaron Small gets the call, more on him in a bit), but that fifth spot in the rotation will fall on Monday’s off-day the next time around. That means that Carl Pavano should be ready to come off the DL when the Yankees next need a fifth starter on July 30 against the Angels at home.

It seemed that during the Yankees’ struggles during the first half every other week they would pull out one come-from behind victory against the sub-.500 A’s or the last place Devil Rays and everyone would say “maybe this is the win that turns it all around.” Then the Yankees would go out the next day and lose to the very same opponent. Wise voices at the time would say that a single win against a clearly inferior opponent couldn’t possibly be the turning point of a disappointing season. That would require a gutsy effort resulting in multiple victories against a team the Yankees weren’t supposed to beat. Something like going into Boston for a four game series with two starting pitchers and taking 3 out of 4, pinning the loses on Curt Schilling, Matt Clement and Tim Wakefield. Things couldn’t have looked worse for the Yankees Thursday afternoon. Now, on Monday afternoon, the Yankees are at their high water mark of the season.

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All Leit

“You have what should be a comfortable lead, but you know that it is not going to wind up that way, for some strange reason,” Joe Torre said. “This place, this team, they never stop.
(Newsday)

It was close to a perfect return for Al Leiter last night in Boston as the Yankees beat the Red Sox 5-3, and won the weekend series. Senator Al, wearing number 19 in honor of former teammate Dave Righetti, pitched into the seventh inning, striking out eight, allowing just one run, and walking only three. Leiter was able to throw strikes and he was also able to get the Red Sox to swing at balls that weren’t strikes. Tim Wakefield surrendered five hits to the Yankees, but they all went for extra bases, two doubles and three home runs. Jorge Posada and Gary Sheffield hit two-run dingers, and Alex Rodriguez added a solo shot in the eighth.

The surprisingly brisk game slowed down for some predictable drama in the bottom half of the ninth. Tom Gordon started the inning with New York up 5-1. After getting ahead of Manny Ramirez, Gordon hung a breaking ball that Manny promptly deposited over the Green Monster. Kevin Millar walked and in came Rivera. The first two pitches to Trot Nixon were in the strike zone. The first, a fastball, was taken for a strike; the second, a cutter which was fouled off, was right down Broadway. But then Nixon tapped a grounder to second. Robinson Cano fielded the ball cleanly but could not grip the ball properly and wound up throwing it into left field.

Instead of two men out and nobody on, there was nobody out with men on the corners. Jason Varitek pinch-hit for Mirabelli and lined a single past a diving Tino Martinez, scoring Millar to make the score 5-3. Bill Mueller blooped a single to shallow center (making him 5-11 lifetime versus Rivera) and the bases were loaded. Still nobody out. Joe Torre and the entire infield came to the mound. Rivera told them everything was going to be okay. But he fell behind the ninth-place hitter Alex Cora 2-0, and Fenway started to rock. Talk about a tight spot. But Rivera worked the count even and then Cora hit a ground ball on one hop to Rodriguez at third, who, in turn, fired a bullet home to Posada, who then fired to first to complete the double play. The replays showed that Cora was safe, but it was an excellent play by Rodriguez and Posada. (It was the second close play at first of the game–Jason Giambi had been called out earlier in the game.) Two men out, but the tying run was still on second base. Johnny Damon, who had a poor night against Leiter, but nevertheless extended his hitting streak to 29 games (the team record, held by Dom DiMaggio, is 34), was up. Rivera got him to ground out to Cano, and just like that, the game was over.

“Coming into the second half, these are the guys we wanted,” said Gary Sheffield, who tomahawked a two-run homer in the third off Tim Wakefield (complete-game five-hitter) for a 4-0 Yankee lead. “We got ‘em, and we played well when we needed to.”

But, Sheffield added, “I don’t want those guys to wake up. We’re getting out of here just in time.”
(Boston Globe)

It was a big win for the Yankees, who move on to Texas and then Anahiem this week without a day of rest. It’s hard to know how many more performances like this Leiter has in him, but if the Yanks can manage to get another half-dozen or so, they would be ecstatic. Perhaps Leiter could eventually come out of the bullpen as a left-handed specialist. Who knows? But one thing is for sure, his return could not have been finer.

A Bullet Point History of Al Leiter

  • Toms River, New Jersey native Alois Terry Leiter was originally drafted by the New York Yankees on June 4, 1984. Two months and one week later, Melky Cabrera was born.
  • The left-handed Leiter pitched in parts of three seasons for the Yankees from 1987-1989. His career line as a Yankee in 22 games, all starts, is: 4.98 ERA, 7-8, 106 2/3 IP, 96 H, 110 K, 69 BB, 10 HR, 9.28 K/9, 5.82 BB/9, 1.59 K/BB
  • Leiter struggled with blisters early in his career to such a degree that the Yankees gave up on him at the age of 23 and dealt him to the Blue Jays straight-up for Jesse Barfield on April 30, 1989.
  • In Toronto, Leiter’s blister problems were so severe that he appeared in just nine games with the Blue Jays during his first four seasons with the club (5.17 ERA, 15 2/3 IP, 14 H, 10 K, 11 BB, 1 HR, 1 GS, 0-0)
  • Leiter finally got over his blister struggles in 1993, making 32 appearances (12 starts) for the Blue Jays. That year he appeared in 5 postseason games and even picked up a win in relief (and cracked a double) in Game One of the World Series as the Blue Jays went on to win their second-consecutive World Championship.
  • For the next two years, Leiter was a permanent part of the Blue Jay rotation (4.18 ERA, 7.73 K/9, 5.28 BB/9, 1.45 K/BB)
  • Leiter signed with the Florida Marlins as a free agent following the 1995 season. In 1996, at the age of 30, he had his best year yet as a major league starter, posting a 2.93 ERA, striking out 200 men and winning 16 games for the Marlins (while also leading his league in walks for the second consecutive year). His crowning achievement came on May 11, when he no-hit the Rockies, retiring the final five batters on five pitches. Less than two months later, Leiter made his first All-Star team.
  • In 1997, Leiter was less effective, but the Marlins, behind team OPS leader Gary Sheffield and team ERA leader Kevin Brown, surprised everyone by winning their first World Championship, giving Leiter his second World Series ring despite going 0-1 with three no decisions in the post season.
  • As part of Wayne Huizenga’s post-Championship fire sale, Leiter was dealt to the Mets in February 1998 along with middle infieder Ray Millard for lefty Jesus Sanchez, minor league outfielder Rob Stratton and a 21-year-old righty named A.J. Burnett
  • Leiter finally came into his own with the Mets at age 32, turning in what remains his finest major league season in 1998 (2.47 ERA, 17-6, 8.11 K/9, 3.31 BB/9, 2.45 K/BB). He finished sixth in the Cy Young voting that year, the highest finish in his career (his other top-10 finish coming in 1996).
  • In 1999 and 2000, the Mets reached the playoffs with Leiter as their ace (he made his second All-Star team in 2000). Leiter pitched well in the postseason for the Mets, but failed to earn a win in seven starts and is probably best remembered for giving up Luis Sojo’s series-winning dribbler up the middle on his 142nd pitch in Game 5 of the 2000 World Series. Leiter’s win and double for the Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series remain his only postseason win and his only postseason hit.
  • In seven seasons as a Met, Leiter posted a 3.42 ERA, a 95-67 record (.586 winning percentage), 7.32 K/9, 3.61 BB/9, 2.03 K/BB, 0.78 HR/9.
  • The Mets declined Leiter’s $10 million option following the 2004 season and Leiter signed a complicated one-year, $8 million contract with the Marlins.

As you may know, the deal in which the Yankees acquired Leiter has the Yankees sending a player to be named later to Florida in exchange for Leiter and $2.4 million. Exactly how that $2.4 million is being applied to Leiter’s contract, however, is a bit confusing.

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Hello, I Must Be Going

During a rousing 7-4 victory at Fenway this afternoon, the Yankees acquired Al Leiter from the Florida Marlins. Leiter looks as if he might just end his career where it started. I have gone back-and-forth in my appreciation of Leiter over the years, but I generally enjoy watching him pitch. He knows what he’s doing, is animated on the mound, and is a real pro.

The Yankees are desperate for starting pitching. In Leiter they get the kind of cagey veteran they had in El Duque or even David Cone before him. Part of what makes watching him enjoyable–and alternatively agonizing–is knowing that his margain for error is so thin. He might keep the Yanks in the game, but he’ll throw 126 pitches over five innings doing it. The tank is almost empty for Leiter, so what does he–or the Yankees–have to lose? He may be shot, who knows? But I’d gladly take my chances with him over Tim Redding. Look, if the Yankees are going to be successful in the second-half of the season, they’ll need a little of that old bullcrap Pinstriped magic to help them along. It would be a Made-for-YES story if Leiter came in and won a half-a-dozen games.

I’m looking forward to watching him pitch tomorrow night. Welcome back, Al.

Was Anyone Surprised By This?

Concluding my recap of Thursday night’s thrilling 8-3 Yankee victory over Curt Schilling and the Red Sox, I wrote:

the Yankees have been in this position before. Their last series against the Red Sox opened with a hard-fought victory to cap a 16-2 streak, only to be followed by a pair of dominating Red Sox victories and a 1-9 slide that saw the Yankees get swept by the AL-worst Royals. The current outlook, with the 46-41 Rangers replacing Kansas City, doesn’t appear much brighter. But with the way this team is playing right now, it seems like anything is possible.

I stuck that last line on there because I couldn’t bring myself to end the recap of one of the team’s biggest wins of the year on such a downer. I should have known better.

After that hard-fought victory back in late May, the Yankees came out the next day and got shelled by the Red Sox 17-1, the most lop-sided Red Sox victory over the Yankees ever. Last night, they repeated the feat, losing to the Sox again by the score of 17-1.

Curiously, the first 17-1 loss was the beginning of the end for Paul Quantrill as a Yankee as he posted the following line in relief of Carl Pavano: 2 2/3 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 3 HR, 1 BB, 2 K. Last night, the two pitchers aquired from the Padres for Quantrill, Darrell May and starter Tim Redding, combined to post this line:

3 2/3 IP, 10 H, 12 R, 1 HR, 7 BB, 2 K

Those two were replaced by Jason Anderson who actually set down the first four men he faced (Renteria, Ortiz, Ramirez and Nixon, no less), only to load the bases with no outs in the sixth. Anderson then struck out Mark Bellhorn and got Johnny Damon to fly out to shallow left, holding the runners, only to walk Renteria on four pitches to force in the thirteenth run. Joe Torre then brought in Buddy Groom to face David Ortiz.

Do I have to tell you what happened next? After a called strike, Ortiz crushed a grand slam into the Yankee dugout to cap the Red Sox night. Groom and Proctor spaced out two more Red Sox hits through the two remaining frames.

The worst moment of the game came in the second inning. Tim Redding, who completely lost the strike zone soon after striking out Ortiz and Ramirez in the first, loaded the bases on two walks and a Renteria single to start the inning. With the score still a reasonable 3-0, Joe Torre then called on the left-handed Darrell May (taking him out of the running for an upcoming start). May got David Ortiz to hit a weak grounder to third that scored one run, then got ahead of Manny Ramirez 0-2 only to load the count and surrender an RBI double that made the game 5-0. That brought Trot Nixon to the plate with one out and Ramirez on second and Ortiz on third.

May’s first pitch to Nixon was a called first strike. His second was looped out to center. The ball had a diving action on it and Melky Cabrera charged in and attempted to make an awkward diving catch only to miss the ball completely as it knuckled away from his glove and rolled all the way to the wall in dead center. With Sheffield nowhere to be seen, Cabrera chased the ball all the way to the wall as Nixon, who was inexplicably loafing out of the box, rounded the bases and scored standing up for what was ruled and inside-the-park home run. Cabrera had barely gotten the ball back to Derek Jeter, who had come out almost to where Cabrera made his ill-advised dive, when Nixon crossed home. That made it 8-0 in the second inning and the route was on.

Today the Yankees play another must-win game, as they have their other starter on the mound. A win behind Randy Johnson today would earn them a split and a chance to pull out a fluke victory to take the series behind Ole Saint Nick (possible true identity: Al Leiter via a PTBNL) tomorrow. Boston ace Matt Clement takes the hill for the Bosox.

In other news, Kevin Brown had a solid bullpen session yesterday and could be Monday’s starter if he still feels good today. Brown’s activation could coincide with the return of Felix Rodriguez, who pitched two scoreless innings with Trenton yesterday and is scheduled to make one more rehab appearance with the Thunder (possibly on Sunday) before being activated. Further down the line, old pal Ramiro Mendoza has started throwing batting practice as he attempts to come back from the rotater cuff surgery he had back in January.

Duck and Cover

Rochester, New York’s own Tim Redding makes his Yankee debut tonight, taking the hill against ex-Yank David Wells. Here’s what I wrote about the 27-year-old righty when the Yankees picked him up in the Paul Quantrill trade that is suddenly the source of half of their active rotation:

Redding has been absolutely terrible this year (9.10 ERA, 1.79 WHIP, .328 BAA) and was on the Padres 15-day DL with shoulder problems at the time of the trade. At the same time, those shoulder problems could explain away the terrible line. Here are some interesting snippets from his ESPN.com scouting report:

During an impressive rise through the minors, he was expected to one day be one of the [Astros'] best pitchers, with a two- and four-seam fastball, hard-breaking curve and slider. . . . Astros officials still believe he has great stuff and can be a strong No. 4 or 5 pitcher.

Redding turned in a solid season for Houston in 2003, posting a 3.68 ERA and 5.94 K/9 in 32 starts at age 25, and he holds a minor league career K/9 of 10.80. The problem is his control of both his pitches (career 3.71 BB/9 in the majors, 4.45 BB/9 in the minors) and his emotions (think Jeff Weaver). Still, at age 27, having now passed through two organizations in a matter of months after spending his entire career in the Astros system, there is hope that Redding can put it all together. Certainly the Yankees haven’t risked anything to find out if he can.

Redding actually had one strong outing for the Padres this year. Starting against the Rockies in Petco Park (not exactly the Red Sox in Fenway) back on May 3, Redding posted this line: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 BB, 5 K, 71 percent of 95 pitches for strikes. In his final outing as a Padre (just his second since being activated from the DL), Redding came on in relief against the Dodgers in LA and pitched 1 2/3 hitless innings allowing just one baserunner via a walk and striking out two. So there’s some lightning in this bottle, though the fact that I felt that his relief appearance in LA was worth mentioning should tell you something about how likely it is we’ll see a flash tonight.

Storybook Ending

On the day that the team made public an injury that, if serious, could mean the end of their playoff hopes, the Yankees played a must-win games against their hated rivals, fell behind 4-0 in the first inning, but battled back to tie twice before Red Sox Nation’s most hated Yankee hit a go-ahead shot to dead center off everyone else’s most hated Red Sock in the ninth and the legendary Yankee closer who has famously struggled against Boston struck out the top three men in the Boston order to nail down the win.

You can’t make this stuff up.

After Robinson Cano ran into an out in the top of the first trying to stretch a bloop double spectacularly misplayed by Manny Ramirez into a triple, the Red Sox took full advantage of a clearly rusty Mike Mussina in the bottom of the inning. Following singles by Johnny Damon and David Ortiz that produced the game’s first run and a walk by Manny Ramirez, Mussina fell behind Yankee killer Trot Nixon 2-0 before evening the count only to wind up in a full count with one out (via a Renteria sac bunt that advanced Damon) and two on. Mussina’s next pitch stayed up in the zone and Nixon crushed it into the Red Sox’s bullpen for a three-run homer. Mussina then walked Kevin Millar on four pitches. Having only recorded one out (on a sacrifice, no less) Mussina was already down 4-0 with another man on. He then managed to pitch around another walk (his third of the inning, due in part to the fact that home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt was calling pitches over the black on left side of the plate balls through the early part of the game) to escape without any further damage. It took Mussina 34 pitches to get through the inning.

Fortunately, the Yankees got right back in the game in the top of the second with a pair of Pesky Pole home runs by Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams. Giambi’s shot landed in the front row just beyond the right field pole. Boston right fielder Trot Nixon lept into the crowd with an apparent bead on the ball, but a fan caught it just in front of Nixon’s glove.

Mussina settled down in bottom of the second by striking out Damon and erasing a Renteria single via a surprising 3-4-3 double play turned by Jason Giambi and the Yankees drew closer yet in the top of the third. Robinson Cano lead off with a single and was driven home when Gary Sheffield pounded a Bronson Arroyo pitch off the wall in dead center. The ball hit well above Johnny Damon’s leap and rolled to Nixon in right. Had, Sheffield been sprinting out of the gate, he could have had a triple. Instead, he would up with an RBI double and was stranded at second by a Rodriguez strike out and fly outs by Matsui and Posada. It was a mistake Sheffield would not make twice.

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The Red Sox

note: the above-fold portion of this post has been revised since it was initially posted

With the Yankees having won nine of their last twelve games and having scored an average of nearly nine runs in their last six games, I was champing at the bit during the three-day All-Star break, enthusiastically anticipating this weekend’s four-game showdown with the rival Red Sox.

Then I heard the news that Chien-Ming Wang, whom I recently dubbed the Yankees ace, was placed on the 15-day DL with inflamation in his pitching shoulder, the same shoulder he had operated on four years ago, causing him to miss the entire 2001 season. That surgery was to repair a torn labrum and was performed by Dr. James Andrews. Wang will be examined by Andrews in Birmingham, Alabama on Monday morning for a second opinion. Yankee team doctor Stuart Hershon has already made a diagnosis that the Yankees are not releasing until after Wang sees Andrews, though according to the comments to Alex’s last post, Ruben Sierra (?!) has said that Wang could be out for the season. I’m going wait until I hear something from a more official source, but if that’s the case, the Yankees should start planning for 2006, because Wang’s won’t be the only season ended by this injury.

The Yankees have actually known about this injury since Monday. Wang pitched what appeared to be an uneventful bullpen session on Sunday, but woke up with pain in his shoulder on Monday morning, at which point Hershon examined him and made his undisclosed diagnosis.

To replace Wang, Tim Redding has joined Darrell May in the Yankee rotation, which is still only four men “deep.” The Yankees still hope to have Carl Pavano and Kevin Brown back soon (both of whom are already eligible to be activated), but according to Cashman, Pavano is still about two weeks away. Brown meanwhile is scheduled to pitch a bullpen session tomorrow and could start in Texas or Anaheim next week. Still, it seems likely that the Yanks will need a spot starter in addition to Redding and May, the latter of whom has not been officially announced as the starter for either Sunday or Monday.

ESPN has Tanyon Sturtze listed among their probables for the Red Sox series (though they are clearly incorrect as they also have Wang listed, but not Randy Johnson). If Sturtze is indeed Torre’s choice (and a quick look at the Clippers’ stats doesn’t result in a preferable option), I would hope the Yankees would be able to activate Felix Rodriguez to take his spot in the pen (though, there’s no guarantee that he’d do any better than Jason Anderson, whose hasn’t had an opportunity to prove himself, and whose spot Rodriguez will likely take).

However you shake it, the Yankee rotation is in shambles just when their offense appears ready to carry them to another pennant. In order to make hay against the Sox this weekend, they may have to score an average of 15 runs per game.

Speaking of whom . . .

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What’s Up?

Who do the Yankees play this weekend again?

How About That!

Book Excerpt

A slow day in baseball makes for an ideal time to catch up on some current Yankee literature. So, for your reading pleasure, please enjoy the following cherce selection from Stephen Borelli’s biography of legendary Yankee broadcaster Mel Allen, “How About That! The Life of Mel Allen.” It’s a blast, with or without the Ballantine.

Chapter 9: Yankee Doodle Dandy

When Horace Stoneham needed a new lead Giants broadcaster for the 1949 baseball season, he asked Mel for recommendations. “Russ Hodges,” Mel said. Mel didn’t want to lose his faithful partner, but he thought Hodges deserved a shot at a No. 1 job. Stoneham and Liggett & Myers tobacco scooped up Hodges, who, along with Mel and Barber, serenaded the city of New York with a trio of Southern baseball voices.

The Yankees conducted a national search for Hodges’s replacement, sending out 300 letters to potential candidates. One of them reached Curt Gowdy, a kid announcer for station KOMA in Oklahoma City. Mel listened to a record of Gowdy’s voice, which rolled over the airwaves steadily and harmonically, much like the wind whipped through Gowdy’s home state of Wyoming. Allen and Gowdy met in person at the Yankees’ Fifth Avenue offices in December 1948. “Curt,” Mel said over lunch at Al Schacht’s, “I’d like to have you with me and I’m pretty sure it will work out that way.”

Later that day, general manager George Weiss offered Gowdy the job of assisting Mel with Yankees baseball and All-America Conference football. About as quickly as he accepted the position, Gowdy realized how far he was from Oklahoma. As KOMA’s top announcer for University of Oklahoma football and Texas League baseball, he had broadcast alone. He wasn’t used to bantering back and forth on the air, something Mel liked to do with Hodges. When Gowdy first started working games with Mel, he uncomfortably shook and nodded his head in response to his partner’s questions. “Nobody can see you,” Mel said.

When Gowdy read commercials for Ballantine beer and White Owl cigars, the Yankees’ joint principal sponsors from 1947 through 1955, he sounded stiff and awkward. Meanwhile, Mel was as crisp as that first sip of Ballantine after hard day at the office: “Well, while the fans are out here takin’ that stretch, it’s a mighty good time for you to take a quick trip to the refrigerator for a bottle of Ballantine beer. If you’re listening at your favorite tavern, don’t just say, ‘One up,’ but be sure to ask the man for Ballantine. Enjoy the two B’s, baseball and Ballantine. As you linger over that sparkling glass of Ballantine beer, as you feel it trickling down your throat, you’ll say, ‘Ah, man, this is the life.’ Baseball and Ballantine beer. And while we’re on this pleasant subject, folks, I’d like to remind you that it’s a smart idea to keep plenty of Ballantine on ice at home at all times, to serve at mealtimes, to enjoy during leisure hours, so at your dealer’s be sure to look for the three rings. Ask him for Ballantine beer.”

Mel described a Yankees home run as a “Ballantine blast” or a “White Owl wallop.” He could even work both sponsors into one call: “Folks, that ball was foul by no more than a bottle of Bal-…No, that ball was foul by the ash on a White Owl cigar!”

Between innings, Mel moved swiftly from game to commercial without changing his tone of voice: “Boy, that sure was close—a tough decision for the umpire. But you don’t have a tough decision when it comes to White Owl cigars.”

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Woof

Sheff is barking again.

All-Star Rosters: NL

Late last week I attempted to assemble a superior 32-man All-Star Roster for the American League given the fans’ elected starting line-up and the requirement that every team be represented. With the All-Star game almost upon us, here’s my take on the National League:

First the starting line-up selected by the fans:

C – Mike Piazza
1B – Derrek Lee
2B – Jeff Kent
3B – Scott Rolen
SS – David Eckstein
OF – Bobby Abreu
OF – Jim Edmonds
OF – Carlos Beltran

Then the starters I voted for not included above:

C – Paul LoDuca
3B – Aramis Ramirez
SS – Bill Hall
OF – Jason Bay
OF – Miguel Cabrera

Then the two players I had the most difficulty eliminating to make my original picks:

3B – Morgan Ensberg
OF – Brian Giles

Next we’ll fill in players from the teams not yet represented:

Nationals: 1B – Nick Johnson
Braves: OF – Andruw Jones
Reds: OF – Adam Dunn
Diamondbacks: 3B – Troy Glaus
Giants: OF – Moises Alou
Rockies: RP – Brian Fuentes

Now, in addition to all of that, we need a starting DH as, unlike the American League, the fans were not able to vote for a National League Designated Hitter because there is no such thing. Albert Pujols is second in the NL in EQA and VORP but didn’t make it through any of the above methods. He’s our starting DH, one of our four third basemen or nine outfielders can be his back-up, giving us a minimum of two men at every offensive position except for second base. I’ll take Chase Utley there.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver