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.