I’ll get to the Orioles in a second. First here’s what’s new about the Yankee roster:
- Alex Rodriguez is back, playing third and hitting fourth in the tonight’s lineup.
That’s huge. Joe Girardi has posted a lineup without Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada in roughly one third of the Yankees’ games this season (nine of 28). Amazingly, the Yankees have scored 5.67 runs per game in those nine games, but their record in those games has been 3-6, and four of those games have occurred during the team’s current five-game losing streak, with the Yankees averaging just four runs per game in those four games. Losing Posada for a month or so has undermined the impact of Rodriguez’s return, but Rodriguez’s return similarly negates the impact of the loss of Posada. Yankee third basemen have hit .202/.248/.283 in Rodriguez’s absence. It’s difficult to underestimate the importance of his return.
- Jose Molina is on the DL with a Grade 2 strain in his left quadriceps. Kevin Cash, who hurt his right shoulder on a slide in April and was just activated from the DL on Tuesday, has been called up to take Molina’s place.
Francisco Cervelli draws the start tonight. I have no idea how Girardi is going to dole out the starts going forward, but I would be surprised if Cervelli and Cash are much more productive in place of Posada and Molina than the Yankee third basemen were in place of Alex Rodriguez. Here’s what I wrote about Cash in my Yankee Campers piece back in February:
Kevin Cash is only three years younger than Chad Moller and a whole lot worse at the plate. He has a great arm, but that simply makes him a younger, less-productive version of Jose Molina. At 31, he’s a career .184/.248/.285 hitter in 557 major league plate appearances. His career OPS+ is 38. He’s among the worst of a worthless breed. The Yankees should be publicly apologetic for not being able to do better.
And here’s what I said about Cervelli:
Cervelli played just 21 games for Trenton last year, but hit .315/.432/.384 in them. That high on-base and poor power is typical of Cervelli, a strong defender who turns 23 in early March and could yet emerge as a major league starter. The Yankees hope Cervelli, the leader in their parade of low-minors catching prospects, will advance quickly, but they’d be wise not to rush him out of desperation. He looked completely overmatched in his five major league plate appearances last September.
And here’s what I wrote about Cervelli when he was called up earlier this week:
After losing most of last year to a broken arm, Cervelli now looks not unlike the catcher-version of [Ramiro] Peña. He’s a strong defender, easily major league quality, with little to recommend him at the plate other than a good batting eye. Cervelli looked overmatched at the plate in his very brief September call-up last year, while playing for Italy in the WBC this March, and in spring training after Italy’s elimination from the tournament. The sample size is minuscule, of course, but the competition in each was something less than what he’s likely to see in the majors in May, and he went a combined 4-for-25 (.160) with just one extra base hit and, despite that good batting eye, just one walk across those three appearances. Thus far this year, he’s hitting just .190/.266/.310 for the Trenton Thunder.
Though I did temper that a bit with this:
I’m not particularly worried about the Yankees “rushing” the 23-year-old Cervelli because Jesus Montero is now just a level behind him at High-A Tampa and is crushing the ball. Montero’s defense is far from major-league-ready, if it ever well be, but he’s nipping at Cervelli’s heals. Peña has handled the jump to the majors wonderfully. Cervelli, who has a veteran disposition—despite his lack of production he was a clubhouse leader on Team Italy—seems as likely as anyone to do likewise.
The way I see it, Girardi might as well start Cervelli and hope for the best given that Cash has already proven himself to be an incompetent major league hitter. That said, if one of these guys has a good day at the plate, he should ride the hot hand.
- Mark Melancon has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton.
That makes room for Rodriguez, but it doesn’t clear a 40-man roster spot for Cash, so another move is coming. If it doesn’t involve Angel Berroa getting designated for assignment, I’ll hit the roof. The problem is that the need to add Cash takes that 40-man spot away from Shelley Duncan, but then Shelley sat out Scranton’s double-header yesterday with a sore shoulder (his left, not the one he separated last year). Oy.
My suggestion for adding another bat is that the Yankees release the perpetually injured Christian Garcia, who is taking up a 40-man roster spot while working out in extended spring training. The hope there being that they could resign him like they did Humberto Sanchez. John Rodriguez or a recovered Duncan could then take Berroa’s 25-man spot while Berroa and Garcia will have made room for Cash and the extra bat.
As for the Orioles, they’re still a terrible team. Adam Jones is having a breakout season at age 23 (.346/.413/.598) and he and Nick Markakis (.355/.438/.582) are a lot of fun to watch both at the plate and in the field, but beyond that, there’s not much to see here. The O’s have allowed 6.07 runs per game, better than only the Yankees and Cleveland, and their offense has been dragged down by a complete lack of production from catcher, shortstop, third base, and every left fielder and designated hitter not named Luke Scott. Just look at these team splits:
Throw in their underperforming first basemen (.265/.313/.410) and they have a half a line-up at best. The hitting might improve, but the pitching likely won’t.
Jeremy Guthrie starts tonight in a rematch of Opening Day. Guthrie emerged from a rocky spring training/WBC to put up a quality start against the Yankees on Opening Day, then shutout the Rays for six innings in his second start. He followed those with two rocky outings and has since settled down somewhere in the middle, meaning his season line is properly representative of how he’s pitching (2-2, 5.05 ERA, 4.8 K/9). The most encouraging sign for the Yankees is that he’s allowed six home runs in his last four starts.
CC Sabathia was awful on Opening Day, but followed that up with 7 2/3 shoutout innings in Kansas City. He has looked sharp in his last two starts, but has fallen prey to the One Bad Inning (a three-run sixth in Detroit and a four-run seventh against the Angels). He’s also fallen prey to Joe Girardi’s fear of his bullpen, as Girardi has twice left him in one batter too long to face a veteran right-handed bat in a crucial situation with a pitch count above 110. Melvin Mora lurks tonight. Here’s hoping CC and Joe can iron out the kinks and break this dispiriting losing streak with the help of an Alex Rodriguez welcome-back tater. That’d be just what the doctor ordered.
2009 Record: 12-17 (.414)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 12-17 (.414)
Manager: Dave Trembley
General Manager: Andy MacPhail
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Oriole Park at Camden Yards (103/104)
Who’s Replaced Whom:
- Luis Montanez (minors) has replaced Ryan Freel (DL)
- Adam Eaton has replaced Matt Albers (minors)
- Brad Bergesen (minors) has replaced Alfredo Simon (DL)
- Bob McCrory (minors) has replaced Dennis Sarfate (DL)
1B – Aubrey Huff (L)
2B – Brian Roberts (S)
SS – Cesar Izturis (S)
3B – Melvin Mora (R)
C – Gregg Zaun (S)
RF – Nick Markakis (L)
CF – Adam Jones (R)
LF – Felix Pie (L)
DH – Luke Scott (L)
R – Ty Wigginton (UT)
R – Luis Montanez (OF)
R – Robert Andino (IF)
R – Chad Moeller (C)
R – Jeremy Guthrie
R – Adam Eaton
R – Koji Uehara
L – Mark Hendrickson
R – Brad Bergesen
L – George Sherrill
R – Danys Baez
R – Chris Ray
R – Jim Johnson
L – Jamie Walker
R – Brian Bass
R – Bob McCrory
15-day DL: UT – Ryan Freel (head injury), RHP – Alfredo Simon (elbow ligament), RHP – Dennis Sarfate (circulatory problems in bicep and shoulder), LHP – Rich Hill (stiff elbow)
S – Brian Roberts (2B)
R – Adam Jones (CF)
L – Nick Markakis (RF)
L – Aubrey Huff (1B)
R – Melvin Mora (3B)
L – Luke Scott (DH)
L – Felix Pie (LF)
S – Gregg Zaun (C)
S – Cesar Izturis (SS)