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Monthly Archives: March 2009

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Mr. Baseball

Arthur Richman, who died in his sleep this morning at the age of 83, was the sort of off-field utility man we don’t see very much of any more. In his long career, he was a copy boy, a columnist, a publicist, a traveling secretary, the Yankees’ Senior Vice President and Senior Advisor for media relations, and a general baseball scenester who had George Steinbrenner’s ear and whose lasting influence on Yankee history was his role in making Joe Torre the Yankee manager prior to the 1996 season.

Perry Barber wrote about Richman for Bronx Banter in her contribution to our Lasting Yankee Stadium Memory series:

Until he suffered a debilitating heart attack two years ago at age eighty, Arthur Richman was probably the oldest active man in baseball. He spent more than sixty years total as an award-winning sportswriter and columnist for the Daily Mirror and other New York newspapers, traveling secretary for the Mets, then senior advisor and vice-president of media relations for the Yankees, starting in 1990. I was introduced to him in 1983 by Dennis D’Agostino, the Mets’ assistant P.R. director at the time, now a respected author and sports statistician.

Arthur’s sixteen-year tenure with the Yankees was marked by both elation and turmoil. His showdowns with Steinbrenner were legendary, and he used to regale me with tales of how they would yell and scream at each other over some mishegos, then George would “fire” him and Arthur would just show up at work the next day, both of them acting as if nothing had happened, best friends forever.

John Blanchard, 1962 ToppsEx-Yankee Johnny Blanchard also passed away today, of a heart attack at age 76. The Minnesota native had the bad timing of joining the Yankees as a catcher in the late 1950s, when the Bombers already had Yogi Berra and Elston Howard on the roster. Still, after a one-game cup of coffee in 1955, he forced his way onto the roster in 1959 and in 1961 the Yankees moved Berra to left field. Blanchard had a tremendous season as Howard’s backup in ’61, bating .305/.382/.613 (168 OPS+) with 21 homers in a mere 243 at-bats as the Yankees set a record with six hitters surpassing 20 home runs (with Blanchard being the tough part of the trivia answer that also includes Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Berra, Howard, and Moose Skowron).

Blanchard never came close to repeating that performance, but he remained a key part of the Yankees’ pennant-winning teams of 1962-1964 and hit .345/.387/.690 in 29 at-bats across five World Series before being flipped in April 1965 at age 32 to the Kansas City A’s (for punchless backup catcher Doc Edwards) and subsequently sold to the Milwaukee Braves that September. Blanchard never returned to the majors after 1965, but he was a constant presence at Old Timers’ Day, and exactly the kind of backup catcher the Yankees could use right about now.

Yankees 7, Red Sox 1

This game was far closer than it looked. The two teams were held scoreless on just three combined hits through five innings and heading into the bottom of the eighth, it was tied 1-1. The Yankees then broke it wide open, a grand slam by Austin Jackson doing the heavy lifting. Thus the 7-1 final.


L – Johnny Damon (LF)
R – Derek Jeter (SS)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
L – Hideki Matsui (DH)
S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
R – Xavier Nady (RF)
R – Cody Ransom (3B)
L – Brett Gardner (CF)

That looks a lot like the Opening Day lineup.

Subs: Shelley Duncan (1B), Doug Bernier (2B), Ramiro Peña (SS), Angel Berroa (3B), P.J. Pilittere (C), Todd Linden (RF), Melky Cabrera (CF), Austin Jackson (LF), Eduardo Nuñez (DH)

Pitchers: A.J. Burnett, Jonathan Albaladejo, Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte, Edwar Ramirez

Opponent: The Red Sox’s B-team.

Big Hits:

Brett Gardner (1-for-2) tripled off Jacoby Ellsbury’s glove in center, setting up the first Yankee run. Angel Berroa (1-for-1) broke the 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth with an RBI double. Austin Jackson (1-for-1) crushed a Devern Hansack pitch over the left-field foul pole for a game-breaking grand slam.

Who Pitched Well:

A.J. Burnett dominated for five innings, allowing just one hit and issuing one walk while holding the Red Sox scoreless. In the sixth he allowed an infield hit and hit a batter before giving up an RBI single to David Ortiz. He then walked a man and was pulled after 81 pitches (he had been scheduled to throw 75). Jonathan Albaladejo came in with two outs and the bases loaded and got Rocco Baldelli to ground into a force out to end the inning. Mariano Rivera was perfect again, striking out two in the seventh. Edwar Ramirez, who is no longer wearing his prescription goggles, pitched around a single and struck out two in a scoreless inning and a third.

Who Didn’t:

Damaso Marte allowed a walk and a single and committed an error in the eighth while recording just two outs.


Brett Gardner created the first Yankee run by himself by turning a misplay by Jacoby Ellsbury into a triple, then scoring ahead of the throw home on a groundout to first base that didn’t leave the infield grass. Melky Cabrera walked in his only plate appearance. Ramiro Peña was credited with an infield hit on an attempted sacrifice bunt on which the Red Sox’s pitcher flattened the first baseman as he attempted to field the ball. Angel Berroa delivered a tie-breaking RBI double in his only at-bat. Jonathan Albaladejo retired the only man he faced to escape the bases-loaded, two-out jam he was brough into. Edwar Ramirez has likely firmed up his bullpen spot as he’s struck out six against just one walk and no homers in 5 1/3 spring innings, posting a 1.69 ERA, though Alabaladejo and David Robertson‘s spring stats are even better. If it were me, I’d take Robertson, Albaladejo, and Coke, and make Edwar and Jose Veras battle it out for the last spot. Instead, we’re likely to see Ramirez, Veras, Brett Tomko, and Coke head north, though Tomko’s non-roster status and the Yankees additional need to make room for a non-roster infielder could save us from that decision.


Juan Miranda, who could be the player dropped to make room for a non-roster player, was optioned to Triple-A. Austin Jackson and Eduardo Nuñez were reassigned to minor league camp. Nuñez will head to Double-A where he’ll try to prove he can hit, though he never has before. Jackson will be the starting center fielder in Scranton. Should Gardner and Cabrera fall on their faces, Jackson could be given a shot at the major league job mid-year, but I expect he’ll be a September call-up and will battle (and likely defeat) the incumbent for the major league job in camp next year. He’s just 22, so I wouldn’t mind seeing things play out that way as he could use a full year at Triple-A.


Jorge Posada threw out Jacoby Ellsbury stealing last night. It wasn’t a perfect throw. Derek Jeter had to make a leaping swipe tag to get Ellsbury on the helmet (which he missed, by the way, but Jeter got the call). Still, Posada reported no discomfort afterwords and the throw was fast, strong, and straight, if a bit off-target. Phil Coke, who has been out due to a bruise suffered when a combacker hit him in the leg, is scheduled to pitch tomorrow.

News of the Day – 3/25/09

Let’s dive right in . . .

  • Ken Rosenthal lists the Yankees CF battle as one of the top positional tussles of the Spring:

The team only will benefit from the way Brett Gardner has pushed Melky Cabrera. Gardner looks like the favorite to win the job, but Cabrera also has played well, knowing he is less secure.

Gardner can loosen up a defense with his speed and bunting, but he lacks power and is not necessarily the answer over a full season. No problem; Gardner can start 100 games and Cabrera 60, or vice versa. Ideally, they will continue bringing the best out of each other.

  • PeteAbe puts his two cents in on the Derek Jeter decline conundrum:

I find the idea that Derek Jeter should go play the outfield to be ridiculous. We have no idea if he can as he’s literally never played there a day in his life. So his lack of range at shortstop will disappear in the outfield?

He’s your shortstop until his contract expires after the 2010 season. Then you have two choices: Bid him a fond farewell or offer him some sort of DH/super utility role at a respectful salary.

The Yankees painted themselves into a corner when they signed Posada for four years, A-Rod for 10 (Seriously, great idea Hank. Just excellent.) and Mark Teixeira for eight. You can’t move Jeter to first or third and Posada isn’t going to be an everyday catcher forever. He’ll DH at some point.

  • Apparently the Colorado fans are wondering if Jeff Baker is going to the Bombers:

Baker would make sense for the Astros or Yankees. However, the Yankees,a source close to their situation said tonight, are committed to giving Cody Ransom a shot while Alex Rodriguez is out. They liked him as a utility player before A-Rod’s surgery and he has enjoyed a strong spring. Remember, when Derek Jeter was hurt a few years ago, they went with a no-name for a few weeks.

Circumstances could change, but they don’t want to be held hostage in a trade for a player they might only need for 75 at-bats or so.

Wang is going to be a free agent after the 2010 season so to keep him the Yankees are going to have to pay him elite dollars over a long-term to stay: He will likely have a case that he should be paid commensurate with the five years at $82.5 million bestowed A.J. Burnett. And the Yanks, internally, are not positive about going to such extents with Wang. He has pitched four seasons in the majors and two have been interrupted by injury. They wonder how a pitcher who does not strike out batters will age as he loses some bite on his sinking fastball, especially since he has been sketchy in developing the rest of his repertoire. And he would begin a new contract in 2011 at age 31, so you almost certainly are buying declining years.

Because of all of this, the Yankees have weighed trade scenarios in the past involving Wang and, I suspect, they will continue to at least listen, especially if they believe that (Phil) Hughes is capable of being, at minimum, a cost-effective, mid-rotation starter.


A Death In The Family

I can’t say I knew John Brattain, or that I’d ever read his stuff, but I join The Hardball Times in mourning his death. He was part of the fraternity of baseball writers, but far more importantly, he was a husband and a father. Brattain died from complications following surgery at the age of 43.

You can find Brattain’s writing via his page at The Hardball Times and reminisce about the man and his work over at Baseball Think Factory, where he was a frequent participant.

News of the Day – 3/24/09

Today’s news is powered by a guy who built a wiffle ball field in his own backyard . . .

  • Notes from Joe Girardi:
    • Alex Rodriguez is making progress in his rehab program after right hip surgery, but is unlikely to rejoin the team before it breaks spring training camp on April 1.
    • If the regular season were under way, Xavier Nady would be the starting right fielder over Nick Swisher.
  • More on the Nady/Swisher battle:

Nady, 30, was not impressed by his own performance this spring, hitting .256 with one homer and six RBIs in 43 at-bats through Monday. He said that he never viewed his situation as a competition.

“I still had the same mind-set going in, to try and get ready for the season,” Nady said. “I know Swisher is obviously going to be a big part of this team. We both plan on playing a lot, and I think we’re going to need everybody in order to have success.”

Swisher now projects as a reserve outfielder and first baseman for the Yankees as he attempts to rebound from a troublesome 2008 season with the White Sox.The 28-year-old is hitting .257 with no homers and eight RBIs in 35 spring at-bats through Monday.

“They wouldn’t have brought me over here if I wasn’t going to do something,” Swisher said. “We’re just going to see how it goes.”


Japan-Korea V: The WBC Final

Japan and Korea play one last time in the WBC, this time to crown a champion. Once again, I’ll be liveblogging all of the action for SI.com over on FanNation. Also, check out my preview of the game on SI.com’s main baseball page.

Phillies 8, Yankees 3

My apologies for not recapping the Yankees’ 5-0 loss to the Rays yesterday. The big news from that game was that Damaso Marte pitched around a walk for a scoreless fifth inning and said he felt good afterwards. Less significantly, Kei Igawa finally gave up a run, Brett Gardner was finally caught stealing, and Robinson Cano went 2-for-3 as the DH. Meanwhile, Jorge Posada caught CC Sabathia in a minor league came and threw out three of four attempting basestealers, saying his shoulder felt 100 percent, which was the best news of all.

This afternoon, the Yankees lost to the Phillies 8-3.


S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Johnny Damon (LF)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
R – Xavier Nady (RF)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
R – Cody Ransom (3B)
S – Melky Cabrera (CF)
S – Ramiro Peña (SS)
R – Chien-Ming Wang (P)

Subs: Juan Miranda (1B), Doug Bernier (2B), Eduardo Nuñez (SS), Angel Berroa (3B), Jose Molina (C), Nick Swisher (RF), Brett Gardner (CF), Austin Jackson (LF), John Rodriguez (PH)

Pitchers: Chien-Ming Wang, Brian Bruney, Dan Giese, Brett Tomko

Big Hits:

Mark Teixeira doubled in three at-bats. Ramiro Peña went 2-for-3.

Who Pitched Well:

Brett Tomko pitched around a single for a scoreless eighth inning. His spring ERA is 1.46. Chien-Ming Wang gave up just one run in his first four innings, then was pulled after the first two runners reached base in the fifth.

The Yankees had wanted Wang to pitch in a minor league game in Tampa so as to avoid having to bat against the Phillies, but the Tampa game was rained out, as the Triple-A game in Dunedin. Wang and Jorge Posada traveled from Tampa to Dunedin to Clearwater, arriving just minutes before game time. Two of the runs Wang allowed came as he tired in the fifth. As for his hitting, under instructions not to swing. Wang struck out looking three times, though Phillies starter J.A. Happ started him off 3-1 and 2-0 in his first two at-bats according to Pete Abe.

Who Didn’t:

Dan Giese gave up three runs on four hits, including a two-out, two-run home run by Miguel Cairo. Brian Bruney allowed the two runner he inherited from Wang to score, then gave up two of his own on a Raul Ibañez double and a Matt Stairs homer, though he also struck out two in his lone inning of work.


The big news is that Kei Igawa was reassigned to minor league camp and Joe Girardi has said that Xavier Nady is leading the right-field battle. Nady had an RBI single in two at-bats this afternoon and, more importantly, drew his first walk of the spring. Nick Swisher went 0-for-1. Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner both singled (in three and two at-bats respectively), though Gardner was thrown out stealing.

Roster moves:

Kei Igawa was reassigned to minor league camp. As well as he pitched this spring, don’t expect to see him in the majors at any point this season unless it’s with another team.

As Diane reported this morning, the Yankees have reacquired catcher Chris Stewart, who went 0-for-3 with a strikeout in one start behind the plate for the Yankees last year. The 27-year-old Stewart is a career .188/.235/.229 hitter in 54 major league at-bats and a .256/.318/.363 hitter over seven minor league seasons. Originally drafted by the White Sox in 2001, he spent 2007 in the Rangers’ organization, last year in Triple-A Scranton, and had been back with the Pale Hose this spring before the Yankees acquired him for “future considerations,” which could be a player to be named later or cash. The return for Stewart will be insignificant, but even that seems a waste given that Stewart is actually a less productive catching option than Kevin Cash.

Banter Battle draft tonight – One opening

We’ve had a last-minute dropout (note to that person: I totally understand), so if you want to get into tonight’s Banter Battle 2009 fantasy baseball draft, go here.

(Edit: someone has snapped up the opening … thanks)

League ID#: 112369
Password: cashman

Otherwise, we’re still on for 8:30 pm Eastern.

News of the Day – 3/23/09

Much to discuss . . . so let’s go:

  • Could Kei Igawa be pitching his way towards a trade, to a team that wants him?:

Including a three-inning outing against Team Canada on March 5, Igawa has scattered seven hits in seven spring appearances, striking out 11. The outcome has drawn interest — during the Yankees’ game at Fort Myers, Fla., on Friday, professional scouts in attendance were said to be asking specifically about Igawa.

“He’s had a heck of a spring,” Cashman said. “He seems assertive, he’s moving fast and he’s throwing strikes. He’s always had good stuff. His command hasn’t been there. Now he’s showing stuff with commitment.”

Some of Igawa’s success may be due to the fact he is facing some batters who will not begin the season on big league rosters. There is little left to prove at the lower levels for Igawa, who was 14-6 with a 3.45 ERA in 26 games (24 starts) for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year.

  • Jorge Posada is showing further progress in his recovery from shoulder surgery:

In the surest sign yet that Jorge Posada’s surgically repaired right shoulder will be prepared for Opening Day, the Yankees catcher unloaded strong throws to cut down three baserunners on Sunday.

Continuing to strengthen his shoulder, the 37-year-old Posada received CC Sabathia in a Minor League game against Pirates prospects, nabbing three of four potential basestealers with clean tosses to second base.

“You can’t compare what I was feeling last year,” Posada said. “I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t make three throws like that. It’s good to be back.”

  • CC Sabathia seems to be adjusting quite well to his new teammates:

Beginning the process to combat Spring Training downtime, the left-hander stepped into a role of group organizer, his cohesive personality drawing the Bombers together for dinners and courtside seats at Orlando Magic games.

“I don’t know if I’m a leader,” Sabathia said. “I like to hang out with my teammates. I like to get to know them. Going to Magic games and going out to eat, I just feel like that’s something guys on the same team should always do. If I’m a leader in that regard, I guess. But I’m just trying to get to know my guys.”

  • Richard Sandomir writes about Jim Kaat’s return to the broadcast booth.
  • At LoHud, PeteAbe posts a Q&A with Joba Chamberlain, with the questions coming from readers, including this snippet:

Kirsten writes:: Your career has moved at a much faster pace, more so than that of most younger players. If you could go back and give advice to your 2007 self, what would you say?

Joba: “Slow things down. They’re so … especially in New York, things are going so fast. I did a terrible job my first year of slowing things down. Not so much on the field but probably off the field. You’ve just got to be happy for the situation but slow a lot of things down.”


WBC Semifinal: USA v. Japan

Join me on my SI.com liveblog for tonight’s single-elimination showdown between native All-Stars of the two best professional baseball organizations in the world.

Yankee Panky: Not O-Kay to Be Ethnocentric

Politics has become a focal point of the sporting world in the past year, particularly on the international stage. For example, there were numerous protests leading up to, and during, the Beijing Olympics last August. Six weeks ago, the Israeli female tennis player Shahar Peer was barred from the Barclays Tennis Championships in Dubai, due to Israel’s military action in Gaza. The Emirate’s decision caused a strong response, including Andy Roddick boycotting the men’s event and The Tennis Channel removing the tournament from its broadcast schedule.

The World Baseball Classic has not been immune to politics. In fact, it was a topic of conversation this week on some sports talk radio programs. I happened to catch one of these discussions, between Michael Kay and Al Leiter. Prior to the Puerto Rico-U.S. game in Miami, Kay, like many of his broadcasting brethren, lauded the enthusiasm of the Latin American players and fans, and how seriously they took the WBC. This should be a non-story. So why is that not the case? Because Kay demonstrated a shallowness and a lack of understanding of the sport he covers and the people who play it.

Yadier Molina, who hit the home run to put the Cardinals into the World Series in 2006, delivered a go-ahead double in the eighth inning against the Netherlands to advance Puerto Rico into the second round of the WBC. Afterward, Molina told reporters that the moment would “be in his heart all his life,” and that he considers the WBC “to be his World Series and that he enjoys it more.” That the game took place at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan likely added to the emotion.

Kay was incredulous at the Molina quote. “I don’t get it,” he said. “You mean to tell me that that base hit meant more than getting to the World Series? Come on.”

Come on? I beg to differ with my former YES Network colleague. He’s been around the game long enough to know that Molina’s comment makes perfect sense. Playing Major League baseball is a job to many of the Latino ball players; a means to help their families and/or communities out of poverty. Prime examples can be found in Roberto Clemente, Rico Carty, Juan Marichal, Luis Sojo, and Pedro Martinez.
Leiter, replying to Kay, issued an impressive response. He understood Molina’s point and went into a short explanation of Latino pride and nationalism, adding that it is even greater at the annual Caribbean World Series. Leiter also added that Venezuelan fans booed Magglio Ordoñez because he supports Hugo Chavez. (You didn’t see fans who are registered Democrats booing A-Rod because he donated to George W. Bush’s 2004 presidential campaign.)

Former Met Endy Chavez, who’s playing for Luis Sojo’s Venezuelan contingent, had a telling quote in an interview with Tyler Kepner:

When we’re in the majors, it’s our job. We are professionals. You play for your team, but you just try to do your job. Here [in the WBC], it’s something special. You feel like a little kid. It’s not money. No matter who you are, you have to play hard for your country. I think it’s the biggest thing that has happened in my life.

The U.S. complacency is as understandable as the Latinos’ fervor. It’s a matter of conditioning. We’re taught that being a Major Leaguer and playing in the World Series is the pinnacle of the baseball experience here in the United States. That’s not the case elsewhere, where representing your country is the greatest honor you can achieve. With that in mind, the U.S. players give the impression they’re playing out of deference to the public relations disaster it would cause Major League Baseball, which runs the tourney, if they didn’t play. Thus, on a game-by-game basis, the U.S. team has been forced to match the intensity of their opponents, a reaction to the “playoff atmosphere” that many have described.

Deep down, I believe Michael Kay knows this and understands this. If he was playing the “Ugly American” ethnocentric card for radio, it was a poor strategy that only made him look bad.

Yankees 4, Tigers 3

In a see-saw game, the Yankees beat the Tigers 4-3 for their ninth-straight victory.


S – Melky Cabrera (CF)
L – Johnny Damon (LF)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
L – Hideki Matsui (DH)
R – Xavier Nady (RF)
L – Robinson Cano (2B)
R – Cody Ransom (3B)
R – Jose Molina (C)
R – Angel Berroa (SS)

Subs: Juan Miranda (1B), Doug Bernier (2B), Eduardo Nuñez (SS), Justin Leone (3B), Francisco Cervelli (C), Todd Linden (RF), Brett Gardner (CF), John Rodriguez (LF), Shelley Duncan (DH)

Pitchers: Joba Chamberlain, Jonathan Albaladejo, Mariano Rivera, Edwar Ramirez, Jose Veras, Zach Kroenke

Big Hits:

Juan Miranda hit a two-run homer in his only at-bat. Melky Cabrera went 2-for-3 with a double and a stolen base. Mark Teixeira (1-for-2, BB), Johnny Damon (1-for-3), and Francisco Cervelli (1-for-1) all doubled.

Who Pitched Well:

Joba Chamberlain struck out five in 3 1/3 innings, walked no one, and allowed just one run on a quartet of singles. Returned Rule 5 pick (from the Marlins), Zach Kroenke pitched a perfect ninth inning. Mariano Rivera struck out two while pitching around a single for a scorless fifth inning.

Who Didn’t:

Edwar Ramirez vultured the win by giving up a run on two hits and a walk in the seventh to blow a 2-1 lead. The Yankees then scored two in the bottom of the seventh, and Jose Veras gave one right back in the top of the eighth on a solo home run by first-base prospect Jeff Larish.


Melky Cabrera had a good day as the only Yankee with a multiple-hit day, going 2-for-3 with a double and a stolen base. Brett Gardner then singled in his only at-bat in relief of Cabrera. Xavier Nady went 0-for-3 and left four runners on base. Angel Berroa went 1-for-3 and is still hitting over .400 (.409 to be exact in official spring games).

Jonathan Albaladejo allowed three singles in just 1 2/3 innings, but didn’t allow any of those runners to score, dropping his official spring ERA to 1.08. Edwar Ramirez and Jose Veras didn’t help their causes, but didn’t do themselves all that much harm either. Steven Jackson was optioned to Triple-A.


There have been a bunch over the last day or two, the most notable being Phil Hughes. Due to the Yankees’ flurry of offseason activity, the rotation is full, and with CC Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Joba Chamberlain pitching deeper into games now that we’re just two weeks from Opening Day, Hughes had to go to minor league camp to continue the fine work he’s been doing this spring. His spring line, including his start against the USA’s WBC team, was 15 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 2 HR, 7 BB, 10 K, 3 HBP, 0.93 WHIP, 3.00 ERA. His strikeout and walk rates aren’t quite in the right place, but he was nonetheless impressive, showing good command of all of his pitches, rediscovering his groundball tendencies, and busting lefties under the hands (thus those three HBPs). Brian Cashman has said he’ll be the first man called upon in the event of an injury to one of the other five starters, and if Hughes can build on what he’s done since returning from his broken rib last year (including ditching his slider for a very effective cut fastball, a solid Arizona Fall League performance, and his good work this spring), he’s a shoo-in to take Andy Pettitte’s spot in the rotation next year.

Others: Francisco Cervelli, Anthony Claggett, Steven Jackson, Humberto Sanchez, Sergio Mitre, Jason Johnson.

Jackson was a longshot candidate for the underside of the bullpen. He pitched well (2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6K, 1 BB in 7 IP), but everyone already ahead of him pitched as well or better. Claggett, who finished 2008 in Double-A, was not a candidate for the bullpen, but got everyone’s attention with a 1.13 spring ERA and 0.65 WHIP. Add him to the list of potential in-season replacements as he’s headed for Triple-A to start the year. Mitre is coming off Tommy John surgery. Sanchez is to, in a way, and didn’t pitch this spring due to tightness in his right forearm and is ticketted for Double-A. Johnson endured treatments for optical cancer and managed to throw 2 3/3 fairly effective innings, but really never should have been in camp to start with, and was rendered irrelevant by Brett Tomko’s success.

As for Cervelli, he went 4-for-19 with a double and a walk between Yankee camp and playing for Italy in the WBC. Having finally gotten a look at Cervelli between his cup of coffee last September and his work this spring, I fear he’s going to be yet another solid defensive catcher who can’t hit in the majors. The good news is he’s just 23 and will now get to have the season in Double-A he missed last year. Give him that year to work on his hitting and check back in on him in September.

News of the Day – 3/21/09

Today’s news is powered by a “60 Minutes” profile of Bill James . . . (and don’t trot out the “he works for our sworn enemy” line . . . I still enjoyed the piece).

  • Mark Feinsand writes that Joe Girardi is quite happy with Jorge Posada’s arm strength:

. . . Girardi told reporters before the bus split for Fort Myers around 8 a.m. that Posada’s arm strength nearly resembled regular-season form Thursday night – and that watching the former All-Star throw to second between innings of his six-frame stint behind the plate “really made my day.”

“I feel good about it, I do. And last night’s the best I felt, because of what I saw,” Girardi said. “When he threw it, I went, ‘wow.’ That’s the expression I used when I looked at Tony (Pena). He said he felt great, and that was really positive.”

  • Speaking of Posada, Andy Pettitte helped Posada test out his shoulder with a special workout on Friday:

Pettitte has worked with Posada since they were Minor Leaguers in the Yankees’ chain in the early 1990s — with the possible exception of Mariano Rivera, Pettitte is probably the pitcher Posada has caught most — so their workout Friday seemed appropriate.

Girardi said that he did not want Pettitte, now 36 and with a history of cranky back issues, making the trip to Fort Myers and then pitching. That assignment instead went to 22-year-old Phil Hughes, who allowed a run on three hits in 4 1/3 innings.

Striking out all seven batters from the third inning on, Pettitte said his stamina is improving. He said that it was difficult to believe that nearly two decades have passed since he and Posada began their journeys with the Yankees.

“But then I look around and see how big my kids are getting and how old they are,” Pettitte said. “It flies by when you blink your eyes. I’ve said it a hundred times, but it’s been a special run and great. Time definitely goes by fast.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Thursday that Cabrera is very much alive in the spring battle to break camp as the team’s starting center fielder, despite a scorching-hot start by the challenger Gardner.

“It’s good to see both guys playing well, because it somewhat backs up your beliefs,” Girardi said. “The season is different than Spring Training, but they both look very comfortable playing and they’re both playing very hard. I’m happy with that. It’s always nice to have your beliefs backed up.”

Gardner entered Thursday batting .382 in Grapefruit League play, showcasing his plus speed on the bases and a surprising three home runs. But Girardi said that Cabrera has come on in the last week to 10 days, raising his average to .242 with two doubles and a triple in 33 at-bats.


Yankees 4, Twins 2

Again, nothing but good news as the Yanks beat the Twins, 4-2.


L – Brett Gardner (CF)
R – Robinson Cano (2B)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
L – Hideki Matsui (DH)
R – Jose Molina (C)
R – Shelley Duncan (RF)
R – Austin Jackson (LF)
S – Eduardo Nuñez (SS)
S – Ramiro Peña (3B)

Subs: Juan Miranda (1B), Doug Bernier (2B), Justin Leone (3B), Frank Cervelli (C), Todd Linden (RF), Seth Fortenberry (LF), P.J. Pilittere (DH)

Pitchers: Phil Hughes, Jason Johnson, Anthony Claggett, David Robertson, Kei Igawa

Big Hits:

Solo homers by Mark Teixeira (1-and-3), Austin Jackson (1-for-4), and Todd Linden (1-for-2), and a double by Shelley Duncan (1-for3). Teixeira’s name hasn’t popped up much in my recaps, and this was his first home run of the spring, but he’s hitting .414/.455/.621 on the spring. This is what I expect from Teixeira, not that batting line, but that sort of quiet, almost stealthy excellence.

Who Pitched Well:

Phil Hughes didn’t strike anyone out in his 4 1/3 innings, but he also only allowed one run on three hits and a walk and got 10 of his 13 outs on the ground, which is an especially good sign, as Hughes major league struggles have often been accompanied by a spike in his flyball rate. David Robertson struck out three of the five batters he faced, the other two walked and flew out. Anthony Claggett pitched around a walk for a scoreless seventh inning.

Who Didn’t:

Jason Johnson allowed a run on two doubles, a single and a walk in 1 2/3 innings.


Brett Gardner went 1-for-3 with a stolen base. David Robertson helped his cause yet again. Kei Igawa loaded the bases in the ninth before stranding all three runners to end the game.


Robinson Cano (shoulder) played the first five innings at second base and went 1-for-3. He said he felt fine. Catching Andy Pettitte in a minor league game, Jorge Posada (shoulder) made three throws to second base. All three runners were safe, but two of the throws beat the runner, and the third attempting thief stole the bag off Pettitte (at least according to Pete Abe‘s account). The third throw, chronolocially speaking, was the best, which was a good sign. Posada had made just one throw in his three prior games behind the plate, that one going to third base, but again failing to catch the runner. MLB.com’s Brian Hoch has a full story on Posada’s day and the state of his throwing arm.

Observations From Cooperstown: The Bard, Knuckleballs, and Godzilla

The Yankees tend to treat the waiver wire as an afterthought, but I’d like to see them take an aggressive approach and make a play for Josh Bard, newly released this week by the Red Sox. Perhaps Bard would take a minor league deal, with the stipulation that he has to be on the major league roster by a certain date. Why am I singing the praises of Bard, he of the .270 on-base percentage and .279 slugging percentage in 2008? There are several reasons. Over a much larger sample size of games in 2006 and ’07, Bard was a very good offensive catcher. Anyone who can slug .537 while playing half of his games at Petco Park, as Bard did in 2008, has some measure of offensive talent. Bard is also a switch-hitter, giving the Yankees some flexibility in case Jorge Posada hits the disabled list for the second straight season. Additionally, Bard is a relatively young 30, having never caught more than 108 games in a single season dating back to 2002.

Bard was hitting over .400 for the Red Sox this spring, but fell victim to the Tim Wakefield hex. On a team where Jason Varitek, a highly skilled defensive catcher, has inexplicably never adjusted to the nuisance of the knuckler, the Red Sox’ backup catcher must be able to catch Wakefield every fifth day. (The job goes to rookie George Kottaras.) Bard cannot handle the knuckleball with any more dexterity than Varitek, but that’s not a problem for a Yankee franchise that hasn’t had a knuckleballer since Joe Niekro in 1987. (I’m not including Wade Boggs’ one-game cameo in 1997.) At the very least, Bard would represent an upgrade over no-hit wonder Kevin Cash, currently slated to do most of the catching at Scranton-Wilkes Barre . . .


While we’re on the subject of the knuckleball, the Yankees have had very little connection to the pitch during the expansion era. According to research, they have had only three fulltime knuckleballers over the last 50 years. Not surprisingly, two of them were the Niekro brothers, whose Yankee days stretched from 1984 to 1987. The third was a journeyman right-hander named Bob Tiefenauer, who appeared in ten games for the Yankees in 1965.

At least five other Yankee pitchers have thrown the knuckleball with some regularity over the past five decades. They are Doyle Alexander (1976, 1982-83) and Luis Tiant (1979-80), who mixed occasional knucklers into their wide assortments of pitches. (Perhaps Alexander should have used the knuckler more often during his second Yankee stint.) From the 1960s, we find relievers Bud Daley, Ryne Duren and Pedro Ramos as intermittent practitioners of the knuckleball.


The Yankees’ announcement that Hideki Matsui will not play the outfield until at least June is one of the least surprising developments I’ve heard this spring. With five fulltime outfielders (Damon, Gardner, Cabrera, Nady, and Swisher) expected to be on the Opening Day roster, the Yankees really have no need to play Matsui—the worst defender of the bunch—in the outfield over the first two months. If the Yankees want to work Posada into the DH mix, they can always use him against left-handers, sitting Matsui down and making him available for late-inning pinch-hit chores.

The more pertinent news has to do with the way that Matsui looks at the plate this spring. Through Wednesday’s action, Matsui had compiled a .588 slugging percentage in his DH-only role. After watching “Godzilla” play on Tuesday night against the Pirates, I’m ready to proclaim him the early favorite for AL Comeback Player of the Year honors. The game marked Matsui’s fourth consecutive start at DH, an indication that his right knee is nearly ready for the start of the season. In his first at-bat, Matsui turned on an inside fastball, launching a tower-scraping drive high over the right field wall at Steinbrenner Field. It was the kind of swing missing most of last season, as Matsui struggled on balky knees, one of which was recovering from surgery while the other was anticipating a similar procedure. While much of Yankee camp has centered on the abilities of new third baseman Cody Ransom, Matsui’s early season role has been underplayed. With Alex Rodriguez on the DL, Matsui will serve as the Yankees’ cleanup hitter, making him resident protection for Mark Teixeira. A good start for Godzilla will help soften the blow of losing A-Rod for any length of time, whether it’s four, five, or six weeks.

Bruce Markusen can be reached via e-mail at bmarkusen@stny.rr.com.

Yankees 7, Blue Jays 4

My apologies for being a bit behind the curve on these game recaps over the past week. The Yankees haven’t seemed to mind, as they’ve won seven straight going back to Saturday’s split squad sweep. Yesterday’s patsies were the Blue Jays, who went down 7-4.


S – Jorge Posada (C)
L – Johnny Damon (LF)
S – Nick Swisher (1B)
L – Hideki Matsui (DH)
R – Xavier Nady (RF)
R – Cody Ransom (3B)
S – Melky Cabrera (CF)
R – Angel Berroa (2B)
R – Ramiro Peña (SS)

Subs: Shelley Duncan (1B), Doug Bernier (2B), Eduardo Nuñez (SS), Justin Leone (3B), Kevin Cash (C), Todd Linden (RF), Austin Jackson (LF-CF), John Rodriguez (LF), Francisco Cervelli (DH)

Pitchers: A.J. Burnett, Brian Bruney, Steven Jackson, Mariano Rivera, Edwar Ramirez, Dan Giese

Big Hits:

A two-run homer off David Purcey by Eduardo Nuñez in the latter’s only at-bat. A triple by Xavier Nady (1-for-3), and doubles by Jorge osada (1-for-3), Nick Swisher (2-for-2), Ramiro Peña (1-for-3), and Kevin Cash (1-for-2).

Who Pitched Well:

Mariano Rivera needed five pitches to toss a perfect sixth. Edwar Ramirez pitched around a single in the seventh. Steven Jackson retired the only man he faced.

Who Didn’t:

Brian Bruney gave up two runs on a single, a double, and an alarming four walks in a mere inning and a third. Dan Giese gave up four hits in his two innings of work, one of which was a home run by Bradley Emaus. Giese is looking awful homer-prone this spring, allowing four in 12 1/3 innings (or 2.9 HR/9).


The only other Yankee to allow four home runs this spring is Alfredo Aceves, who has done so in a mere ten frames. With Joe Girardi recently mentioning Kei Igawa as a long-man candidate for the bullpen, it would seem Giese and Aceves have both punched their tickets for Scranton.

That said, Igawa isn’t on the 40-man roster, nor is long-man leader Brett Tomko, and there’s no longer any obvious dead weight on the 40-man that can be removed to make room for him. The Yankees will also need to clear up a 40-man spot for a reserve infielder with Cody Ransom set to start the season as the everyday third baseman in place of the injured Alex Rodriguez. The only solution I can see would be to drop Juan Miranda, who is something of an afterthought with Mark Teixeira having secured first base. The Yankees would have to eat the $800,000 left on Miranda’s major league contract, but he just might slip through waivers.

Two other ways to clear space on the 40-man would be: 1) a trade; 2) outrighting Melky Cabrera, handing Brett Gardner the center field job without a net and exposing Cabrera to waivers. I imagine the Yankees are agressively shopping Cabrera right now–prompting Joe Girardi’s recent praise for him–though I can’t imagine that anyone would offer them anything beyond a marginal single-A player for him given the impending roster cruch.

Cabrera went 1-for-3 yesterday and has gone 2-for-9 with a double while Gardner has been away attending to a personal issue the last three days.

Here’s the latest on the Nick Swisher extra-base hits vs. Xavier Nady walks battle: Swisher XBH 3, Nady BB 0. All three of Swisher’s extra-baggers have been doubles. That said, with both outfielders getting their averages up to the .280s, Nady’s composite line is starting to look better to GPA (which is like OPS, but adjusted to the batting average scale and with on-base percentage properly weighted):

Nady: .286/.306/.571, GPA: .280

Swish: .281/.415/.344, GPA:.273

Of course, those stats don’t include the two WBC exhibitions, which included the first of Swisher’s three doubles.

Edwar Ramirez has quickly gotten his hat back in the ring with three scoreless, walk-less innings in which he’s struck out three batters.

Finally, I find myself leaning toward Ramiro Peña for the temporary utility infielder job. Angel Berroa continues to smack the ball around, but I’m convinced that once he cools off (likely upon facing better pitching), he’ll stay cold. Peña, meanwhile, won’t hit a lick, but he’s a better fielder and has a better plate approach (14 PA/UIBB, 2.22 K/UIBB in his minor league career vs. Berroa’s 27 PA/UIBB and 3.93 K/UIBB in the majors).

Obviously some part of me is seeing what it wants to see in the small-sample/weak-competition stats compiled by Berroa and Brett Gardner, but that part of me is guided by track record and scouting. Berroa’s just not a good baseball player, even if he gets hot now and again. Gardner, and to far a lesser degree Peña, are good baseball players, and while Gardner will surely cool off, he and Peña both do other things well that will help them retain value when they’re not hitting an unreallistic .415. In Peña’s case, that value is minimal, but it should be enough for three-to-six weeks of riding pine and serving as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement, rolls for which Berroa is a particularly poor fit.


A.J. Burnett seems to have had no ill-effects from the ball he took off his pitching arm. Because of his tatoos, Joe Girardi can’t even tell if he bruised. Phil Coke does have a bruise from a comebacker that hit his leg on Wednesday, but he’s still expected to pitch over the weekend. Damso Marte (shoulder) threw another bullpen yesterday and is scheduled to pitch in Sunday’s game.

News of the Day – 3/20/09

Let’s get right to it ….

  • Chien-Ming Wang has been getting some pitching advice from . . . A.J. Burnett?:

One of the points that Burnett has stressed to Wang since arriving in camp has been the urgency of developing his other pitches, playing off a bowling-ball sinker that has been regarded as one of the league’s best.

The suggestion is not a new one for Wang, who was tinkering with his offspeed pitches leading up to a season-ending injury last season. But hearing it from a power pitcher like Burnett may ratchet up the intensity of the message.

“A.J. told me a lot about changing speeds,” Wang said. “More changeups, more sliders.”

As the days of Spring Training begin to wane, Wang is making a conscious effort to mix in more variety. Though Burnett wasn’t in the ballpark on Wednesday — remaining behind with the Yankees in Tampa, Fla. — credit him with a long-distance assist.

  • BaseballProspectus.com has their Team Health Report for the Yankees posted, and as you can expect, BP’s injury database system has lots of “reds” and “yellows” scattered throughout the Bomber’s lineup. A-Rod was a “green” . . . here’s his write-up:

Injuries can happen to even the least risky of players. The hip problem was undervalued by the system since he played through it, leaving him green when we ran the rankings in late January. He’s had the ‘hybrid’ surgery now, and while he’ll miss some time at the beginning of the season, there are no comps at all for how he’ll come back, or even when. The prognosis is solid . . . The interesting thing here is that PECOTA catches a comparison of Rodriguez and Henry Aaron, who had a “down” season at a similar age. (Anyone remember why?) One last thing to keep in mind, since we’ve discussed it already, is the “iron man syndrome” we hinted at with Damon and Matsui; Rodriguez hit the DL last year with a bad quad, and now he’ll begin this season on the DL with the hip. Will this be the new norm for him? . . .


Bronx Banter Interview: Bob Smiley

By Hank Waddles

Imagine that it’s the spring of, say 1931, and you’re starting to think that Babe Ruth just might end up being one of the best players ever to grip a bat. The recent downturn in the economy has left you without a job, so you figure, hey, why not spend the year following the Babe – every game, every at bat, every swing. You drive to places like Boston and Philadelphia, take the train to Washington, and ride busses to Detroit and Chicago. Along the way, you make friends in the bleachers in Cleveland, catch a series with a cousin in St. Louis, and sleep on couches in all corners of the American League. Your bank account feels the bite of your mission, your wife and children become strangers, and close friends question your sanity, but somehow it’s still worth it. I mean, this is Babe Ruth we’re talking about, right? If you could, you’d go back in time and do it in a heartbeat, wouldn’t you?


Now flash forward to 2008 and the Babe Ruth of this generation, Tiger Woods. Writer Bob Smiley shadowed Tiger for every swing of every hole of every tournament in places like San Diego, Augusta, and Dubai, and the result is an extremely engaging book, Follow the Roar: Tailing Tiger for All 604 Holes of His Most Spectacular Season. Last week Bob was kind enough to spend some time talking about his journey. Check it out…

BronxBanter: One of my favorite aspects of the book was that it wasn’t just about Tiger Woods, it was secretly about you, so I thought we might start with Bob Smiley. How important was golf to you when you were growing up?

Bob Smiley: It was really important. It was the first and really only sport I could every really play with my dad. I mean, I played little league and basketball, but golf was something that he taught me how to do when I was eight years old. We would go out and he would try to teach me the point of the game, but I would purposely hit it in the sand trap so I could play in the sand. He really wanted me to embrace the fact that golf is fun and when you get older you’ll appreciate the challenge of it. So for me it was always just a great place, and I had so many memories with my father as I was growing up. When my parents split up when I was a teenager that sort of remained the one spot, even to this day, where he and I still see each other is on the golf course.


News of the Day – 3/19/09

Today’s news is powered by Belgium (have a safe trip Alex!):

  • As Alex mentioned yesterday, Hideki Matsui will be limited to DH and PH duties until at least June, as per Joe Girardi.
  • BP.com’s Kevin Goldstein ranks the Yanks as the 13th best organization (talent-wise) this year (down from 6th last year):

Why They Might Be Better Than This: Who knows? Maybe Jesus Montero really can catch after all; Andrew Brackman has breakout potential; so does lanky, ultra-projectable righty Dellin Betances; as always, there are plenty of young Latin American talents in the system.

Why They Might Be Worse: Austin Jackson is solid across the board, but he doesn’t really have any star-level tools; Brackman’s had breakout potential for six years without the breakout; after Montero and Jackson, there’s not much to talk about when it comes to position players.

Outlook For 2010: Lots of risk, and lots of upside; this one could go anywhere.


Yankees 4, Astros 1

My apologies for failing to do a recap of the Yankees’ 9-2 victory over the Pirates Tuesday night. The news from that game was all good. CC Sabathia was dominant (striking out seven in four innings while allowing just one run on a walk and a hit), as was Mariano Rivera. In his first spring game, Mo worked an 11-pitch 1-2-3 fifth, striking out two. Hideki Matsui had a big day at the plate (2-for-2, 2B, HR, 4 RBI), after which Robinson Cano replaced him as DH and doubled in three trips. Jorge Posada went 1-for-3 and survived a bad throw to third base (he said he had a bad grip, but his arm felt fine). Edwar Ramirez and Alfredo Aceves both pitched well in relief.

The news from last yesterday’s game was all good as well, though to a lesser degree, as the Yankees dropped the Astros 4-1.


L – Johnny Damon (LF)
L – Robinson Cano (DH)
S – Mark Teixeira (1B)
S – Nick Swisher (RF)
R – Cody Ransom (SS)
R – Jose Molina (C)
S – Melky Cabrera (CF)
R – Angel Berroa (2B)
R – Justin Leone (3B)

Subs: Juan Miranda (1B), Justin Snyder (2B), Addison Maruszak (SS), Eric Duncan (3B), P.J. Pilittere (C), Shelley Duncan (RF), Austin Jackson (CF), Todd Linden (LF), Eduardo Nuñez (DH), Kevin Cash (DH)

Pitchers: Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Coke, Brett Tomko, Jose Veras, Jonathan Albaladejo

Big Hits:

The Yankees didn’t have an extra base hit in this game, but Robinson Cano went 2-for-4 as the DH, and Jose Molina went 2-for-3. The biggest hit of the game was Eric Duncan‘s two-RBI single in the ninth.

Who Pitched Well:

Everyone. Chien-Ming Wang fixed a flaw in his release point and held the Astros to one run on three hits and no walks over five innings. Twelve of his 15 outs came via strikeout (2) or groundout (10). Jonathan Albaladejo pitched a perfect ninth. Phil Coke and Brett Tomko each pitched around a single for a scoreless inning.

Who Didn’t:

If you want to nit-pick, despite throwing a hitless inning, Jose Veras walked two, the first of whom stole second . . . 0r so the box score would have you believe, but if you check the batting order, the two Astros who walked were too far apart to have both done so in a scoreless, hitless inning.


Melky Cabrera went 0-for-3, though he drove in a run on a groundout to second and had an RBI double on Tuesday night. Nick Swisher went 1-for-3. Phil Coke, Jonathan Albaladejo, and Brett Tomko all helped themselves, while Jose Veras didn’t do any significant damage to his cause, no matter which version of his inning you believe. Coke’s 2.00 spring ERA is the highest of that bunch.


Robinson Cano (shoulder) had a good day at the plate as the DH and is still on schedule to start at second base on Friday. Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada felt fine after playing in Tuesday night’s game. Damaso Marte threw 30 pitches in the pen on Tuesday and felt fine. Ramiro Peña has a tender groin.


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