"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

All Your Pitch Are Belong To Bucs

While Angel Berroa continued to sit idle on the Yankees’ bench, the team designated right-handed pitchers Steven Jackson and Eric Hacker for assigment to make room for catcher Kevin Cash, in wake of the injuries to both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina, and veteran right-hander Brett Tomko, in wake of the bullpen’s struggles and his own dominance in spring training and Triple-A Scranton.

This all amounts to very little as Jackson was on the 25-man roster for nine days in April without ever getting into a game, Cash is serving as a back-up to Francisco Cervelli and has gone 1-for-10 since being recalled, Hacker struggled in three starts for Scranton (0-1, 7.88 ERA), and Tomko has thrown just 2 1/3 innings since being called up. Still, it’s worth noting no that Jackson and Hacker have reached their destinations.

In both cases, that destination is Indianapolis, as in the Indianapolis Indians, the Triple-A club of the Pittsburgh Pirates. There they join former Yankee farmhand Daniel McCutchen and aspire to join the major league team which features former Yankees Ross Ohlendorf and Jeff Karstens in its rotation, those last three having gone to Pittsburgh along with outfield prospect Jose Tabata in the Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte trade. Here’s a quick look at each of these former Yanks as well as Romulo Sanchez, the hard throwing reliever the Yankees obtained in exchange for Hacker.

Ross Ohlendorf, 26, is one of nine pitchers (also including ex-Yankee Ted Lilly) tied for the National League lead in wins with five. After working out of the bullpen for the Yankees, he’s only started for the Pirates. Thus far this year, he has five quality starts in eight tries, and though he’s not getting ground balls at a particularly high rate and his strikeouts are down, he’s looking like a competent league average starter. That said, his .250 opponents’ average on balls in play fortells a less pleasant future.

Jeff Karstens, 26, has also pitched exclusively out of the rotation for the Pirates. He has three quality starts in six tries thus far this year, including his last two against the Mets and Cardinals. He still doesn’t strike anyone out and gives up too many fly balls, though those last two starts were encouraging as he didn’t walk a batter and allowed only one home run. Still, his 1.08 K/BB ratio and 1.7 HR/9IP rate are alarming. Like Ohlendorf, his .257 BABIP suggests things will only get worse, which could mean his days as a viable major league pitcher are numbered.

Daniel McCutchen, 26, is pitching well for Triple-A Indianapolis, but not so well that he’s an automatic choice to replace Karstens should the latter stumble. He has solid peripherals (8.69 K/9, 2.47 K/BB), but just two quality starts in seven outings, a 2-3 record, and a 4.23 ERA. He may have reached his upper limit.

Eric Hacker, 26: Here’s what I wrote about hacker in my spring training piece on all of the Yankee campers:

A late-round draft pick in 2002, Hacker missed the 2004 season due to Tommy John surgery, and the 2006 season due to shoulder surgery. As a result, his progress through the Yankee system has been slow; last year marked the first season in which he wasn’t returning from an injury since 2003. After nine strong starts for High-A Tampa, he excelled in his Double-A debut, posting a 2.76 ERA over 17 starts, though there’s some reason to believe that was largely a product of the offense-suppressing environment in Trenton. Hacker will be 26 in March, and I’m not entirely sure why he was given a roster spot over fellow 26-year-old righty Jason Jones or 25-year-old lefty Zack Kroenke, both of whom also had strong 2008 seasons on the banks of the Delaware and have since become Rule 5 picks, particularly given Hacker’s injury history.

Hacker wasn’t particularly good in three starts for Trenton this year, but was forced up to to Scranton by necessity at that level and was hit hard in all three of his starts there. I still can’t figure out why he was ever put on the 40-man roster.

Steven Jackson, 27: Here’s my campers comment on Jackson:

The last remaining player from the deal that sent Randy Johnson back to Arizona after the 2006 season, Jackson is a big righty who utilized an improved split-finger fastball to have a break out season in relief for Triple-A Scranton last year. After the All-Star break, he posted a 0.87 ERA while striking out 26 in 20 2/3 innings against just eight walks and no homers. On the season, he struck out 91 in 79 2/3 innings while allowing just four homers. Jackson, who will be 27 in March, was added to the 40-man in November, which gives him a clear path to a roster spot should he turn in a strong performance in camp.

Jackson pitched well for Scranton (2.45 ERA in five appearances out of the pen), and did earn his first call to the majors, but sat unused for the duration of his nine days as a New York Yankee. After returning to Scranton, he made one relief appearance, throwing three scoreless innings, then returned to starting with four solid innings before being designated for assignement and claimed off waivers by the Pirates. Jackson isn’t a huge loss, however, and he’s replaced in the system by Romulo Sanchez, who was obtained from the Bucs for Hacker.

Romulo Sanchez, 25, is a big, hard-throwing righty reliever from Venezuela. He’s straight out of central casting: lots of strikeouts, but too many walks and homers. He saw some major league action as a late-season call-up in 2007, which went well until three ugly outings in late-September, and again in a couple of short stints last year, though little can be gleened from those 31 1/3 innings. He had strong peripherals for Indianapolis before the trade (10.95 K/9, 3.00 K/BB) and was getting a fair number of ground balls. He’s really just a fastball pitcher, but he’ll be fun for the Star Trek references if nothing else.

Tags:  Pittsburgh Pirates  Transactions

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1 Shaun P.   ~  May 19, 2009 11:38 am

Small sample size alert!

That said, I found it interesting that Tabata, he of the .348/.402/.562 line after last year's trade, is currently hitting .250/.324/.297 for the AA Altoona Curve, with a nice BB:K (6:4), but 3 doubles and no other XBH. Its only 17 games . . . but his post-trade hot streak last year was in only 22 games.

/Small sample size alert!

Perhaps the Yanks are being careful in terms of taking Berroa off the 40-man roster. Imagine a roster with no Berroa, A-Rod needing to DH for a week, and Pena starting at 3B. What happens if Pena/Jeter/Cano gets hurt? That almost makes Berroa (kinda sorta) useful. OTOH, I shudder to think that the Yanks' current option for such a situation is Angel Berroa.

Can Kevin Russo play SS/3B?

2 Rich   ~  May 19, 2009 12:47 pm

Ohlendorf's FIP is 5.16, so he seems to have been somewhat lucky.

3 Rich   ~  May 19, 2009 12:51 pm

[1] Russo has been battling hamstring problems all season.

As for Berroa, even if a situation arose that called for another infielder, it's hard to believe that there isn't a better option than Berroa. That he is even on their roster says something very troubling about their decision making. A $200 million payroll (plus mL expenditures) has to yield a better alternative.

4 JL25and3   ~  May 19, 2009 12:56 pm

[3] At the very least, a not-worse option shouldn't be all that difficult to find. Isn't that the whole idea of a replacement player?

5 RIYank   ~  May 19, 2009 1:06 pm

What is Berroa's role supposed to be right now? He's not the utility infielder: that's Pena. Excluding Berroa, the Yankees have five IFs and four OFs and two catchers. Since they insist on having seven (!) bullpen pitchers, the last man should be a bat. Why not Miranda? Or even Duncan?

6 JL25and3   ~  May 19, 2009 1:25 pm

[1] The other question is: how long does it take to decide whether Rodriguez can play every day? He's played 10 straight days - has there been any sign of weakness or pain? If not...what are they waiting for?

7 Horace Clarke Era   ~  May 19, 2009 1:29 pm

Buster Olney:
"After five homers were hit in the Yankees' win over the Twins on Monday, there have now been 63 homers in 17 games in new Yankee Stadium: 32 by the Yankees, 31 by the Yankees' opponents. Last year, the Yankees' pitchers allowed 68 for the entire season, and the Yankees' hitters mashed 92, for a total of 160. So at the current rate, there will be more homers hit in new Yankee Stadium by July 17 -- the first home game after the All-Star break -- than there were during the entire 2008 season in old Yankee Stadium.
Is it still too early to say the new place plays small?"

8 standuptriple   ~  May 19, 2009 2:47 pm

So as the saying goes, "If I can make there, I can make it anywhere," as it applies to NY, does that mean "if you can't make it there, I can probably make it in Pittsburgh"?

9 Shaun P.   ~  May 19, 2009 3:00 pm

[7] I read that this morning, and I had to keep myself from screaming, "Cripes Buster, YES! 17 games is the very definition of 'small sample size'! And don't you realize 'pace' is statistically meaningless, especially after just 17 games?!?!"

Because sample size is such an easy concept to grasp, I get upset when someone as intelligent as Olney writes junk like that. Aiieee!

10 thelarmis   ~  May 19, 2009 3:17 pm

[0] Great title!

All Your Bass Are Belong To Us!!! : )

11 rbj   ~  May 19, 2009 3:26 pm

[5] Berroa's role is "keeper of those pictures Cashman doesn't want to get out"
It's the only logical explanation.

12 unmoderated   ~  May 19, 2009 3:30 pm

hmm... i posted a blog entry on Forgotten Bookmarks today around the same time as this entitled "Someone Set Us Up The Bomb."


13 unmoderated   ~  May 19, 2009 3:30 pm

oh, and

how are you gentleman?

14 ms october   ~  May 19, 2009 3:56 pm

nice to see you jl25and3.

i would bet frankie c could play 3b better than berroa.

15 cult of basebaal   ~  May 19, 2009 4:23 pm

some notes from chad jennings on Romulo

When I saw Romulo Sanchez (right) throw a few offspeed pitches last night, I assumed it was the curveball I had read about. Turns out, Sanchez doesn't throw a curveball. The pitch Travis Hafner missed so badly was a changeup. The same pitch that made Trevor Crowe look silly. Sanchez throws a slider, but last night he was all fastball-changeup. His fastball was steadily at 95 mph on the stadium gun, and the Yankees had him hitting 96.

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