"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Spilt Lemonade

There are hot summer days when a ballgame is a familiar companion, an occasion for a cool drink, a light snack, and an excuse to get off your feet and out of the heat for a while and do a whole lot of nothing. There are other days when the game slowly turns into a blackhole, adding to the oppressiveness of the temperature, ticking by minutes like hours, and leaving you exhausted and bitter about having failed to pull yourself away and done something constructive or even enjoyable with your day.

Saturday’s afternoon tilt between the White Sox and Yankees was the latter. On one of the first genuinely hot days of the year, the Yanks and Sox milled about on the field for nearly four hours, working the opposition for a total of 374 pitches, drawing 11 walks, stranding 15 runners on base, and ultimately leaving the home crowd deeply unsatisfied by the entire experience.

Javy Vazquez was again ineffective. The damage was slight early on. In the second, the Sox loaded the bases with no outs on an infield single and a pair of walks, but Vazquez escaped with just one run scoring thanks in part to being able to face Juan Pierre (who popped out on the first pitch) and Omar Vizquel (who plated the one run via a sac fly) and in part to A.J. Pierzynski getting caught off second when Mark Teixeira cut Curtis Granderson’s throw home on Vizquel’s sac fly. The White Sox also scored a lone run in the first and third innings, both times on a solo homer by Andruw Jones, who owns Vazquez (.392/.446/.824 with five homers in 56 plate appearances entering the game). The Yanks scratched out a run against Jon Danks in the third following a leadoff single by Brett Gardner to close the gap to 3-1, but Vazquez failed to get an out in the fourth.

After an infield single by A.J. Pierzynski, Vazquez gave up a long home run to Mark Kotsay, of all people, then walked the scuffling and typically impatient Pierre on four pitches before giving up a single on an 0-2 count to Vizquel. That single, with none out in the fourth, came on Vazquez’s 83rd pitch. Just 55 percent of those pitches were strikes, the walk to Pierre was the fourth he had issued, and the homer by Kotsay was the third he had allowed. YES didn’t put up it’s radar gun readings until the third inning, and then recorded Vazquez striking out Gordon Beckham on a 91 mile-per-hour fastball, but most of Vazquez’s fastballs were in the high 80s, and there was no bite on his breaking stuff. In other words, he was no better and probably a bit worse than he had been in his first four starts.

If Vazquez’s struggles weren’t mental to begin with, they likely are now. Despite his poor performance, the entire infield came to the mound to reassure him when Joe Girardi came to take him out of the game with two runs in, two men on, and none out in the fourth. Girardi seemed like he was trying to say something positive to Vazquez as well when he got to the mound, but Javy just handed him the ball and pushed past him (though he didn’t display any obvious anger and did stay in the dugout to watch Sergio Mitre strand both inherited runners).

Attempting to make lemonade out of the lemons Vazquez handed them, the Yankees scratched out another run against Danks in the fifth, albeit barely as Alex Rodriguez beat out a would-be double play with one out and bases loaded by mere inches, thanks in part to a hard, clean slide by Mark Teixeira at second. Though they didn’t cash in a big inning there, the Yankees did work Danks over thoroughly, sending him to the showers after that inning having thrown 118 pitches. They then jumped all over righty reliever Scott Linebrink in the sixth with one-out singles by Marcus Thames, Granderson, and Gardner, and RBI groundout by Derek Jeter, and a two-run home run by Nick Swisher, who seemed elated to get a big hit in his home park.

Swisher’s hit gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead, erasing Vazquez’s poor start, but even amid that rally there were more lemons, as Curtis Granderson pulled up lame rounding second on Gardner’s single and left the game with a Grade 2 strain of his left groin that has since landed him on the 15-day disabled list. Damaso Marte then came in and knocked over the glass of lemonade, relieving David Robertson to face the lefty Pierzynski with two out and men on first and second. Pierzynski launched Marte’s 1-0 offering deep into the left field gap, scoring both runners and giving the Sox a 7-6 lead that Linebrink, lefty Randy Williams, J.J. Putz, and Bobby Jenks cashed in for the win.

In the short-term, the loss of Granderson won’t hurt as much as it might seem. In fact, it could actually have a positive effect on the roster, which despite the Yankees early success, could use some tending in places. Granderson had been ice cold since the final game of the last homestand, going 4-for-37 (.108) without an extra base hit in 12 games leading up to his injury. Marcus Thames, meanwhile, has been on fire, though admittedly he had just one at-bat against a righty before singling off Linebrink. With a more-than-capable center fielder in Brett Gardner and Randy Winn as Thames defensive caddy in left, the Yankees can get by without Granderson for a couple of weeks if the duration of his DL stay doesn’t drag on much past the minimum.

The increased exposure that will give Randy Winn should force Joe Girardi to either find a role for him or ask Brian Cashman to replace him. As I mentioned in my pregame post, Granderson was hitting .172/.200/.242 against lefties this year and was 1-for-19 with no walks against Danks in his career before flying out twice against him on Saturday. I understood Girardi’s desire to put a strong defensive outfield behind Javy Vazquez, but if the combination of that desire and Granderson’s splits wasn’t an occasion to put Gardner in center and start Randy Winn in left, then Randy Winn has no role on this ballclub. Girardi did insert Winn for Granderson after the latter’s injury, but when that spot in the order came back around to lead off the eighth, he pinch-hit for Winn with Nick Johnson, effectively sacrificing the DH (Thames, who started as the designated hitter, went out to left field in the ninth) in order to avoid letting Winn hit.

In that situation, Girardi was trying to get a man on base while trailing by one run at a point in the game at which the DH spot wasn’t going to hit again unless that run was scored. I understand that, and I understand that Nick Johnson is the man you want at the plate when you desperately need a baserunner, but it tells you something about Winn’s role on this team that after 23 games he’s made just three starts and come to the plate just twice in the other 21 games. I’m not going to argue that Winn should be playing more, but if his playing time is a true reflection of his value to this club, he has no value and should be replaced.

That is particularly true given the fact that Johnson and Thames have, effectively, no defensive value (Johnson because he’s blocked at first base by Mark Teixeira and can’t play another position, Thames because he’s a butcher in the outfield). If Girardi is opting to start Thames over Winn in left field and Granderson over Winn against lefties, Winn has no role on this team. If Winn hasn’t made a case for a larger role by the time Granderson is ready to return, Winn should be released and replaced with someone like David Winfree, the 24-year-old righty-hitting four-corner man from the Twins organization who went down to the last cut in camp and is off to a .300/.350/.486 start for triple-A Scranton.

In the meantime, Granderson is being replaced on the roster by Mark Melancon, whom I’m hoping will stick in the bullpen past Granderson’s return. Of course, Melancon is here in part because the Yankees needed six innings from their bullpen on Saturday and used five relievers (everyone but Joba and Mo) to fill them. His replacing Granderson reduces the bench to three players (Francisco Cervelli, Ramiro Peña, and whomever isn’t playing left field). That situation is clearly temporary and could be rectified by the arrival of Winfree rather than later (though they’d need to make room for him on the 40-man roster, perhaps by removing Christian Garcia, who just underwent a second Tommy John surgery). The only question is if the reliever sent down will be Melancon or the struggling David Robertson (who has earned the loss in his last two appearances and allowed eight runs in his last 3 2/3 innings, which includes two who scored on Marte’s watch but not two of four inherited runners who have scored on Robertson’s watch).

The long-shot there is that the Yankees come up with some injury excuse for Vazquez’s performance, place him on the DL and replace him in the rotation with Sergio Mitre, who threw three scoreless innings in relief of Vazquez on Saturday and has allowed just one run and two hits in 7 1/3 innings this season. Vazquez’s next turn falls on an off-day before a weekend series in Boston, and after Saturday’s game, Joe Girardi refused to say that Vazquez wouldn’t be skipped. The last time Vazquez pitched this poorly, he later revealed he had a shoulder injury, and the last Yankee starter to get off to this poor of a start (Chien-Ming Wang last year) did indeed get a DL timeout to work on his mechanics (only to return and suffer a far more serious, and legitimate, injury . . . the danger of tempting fate).

And here I was thinking the only injury note on this game would be the healthy return of Jorge Posada to the lineup. At least there was that.

Categories:  Cliff Corcoran  Game Recap

Tags:  Javier Vazquez  Randy Winn

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1 a.O   ~  May 2, 2010 1:40 am

Trade Vazquez for a decent outfielder and bring on the Meat-Tray.

2 Bobtaco   ~  May 2, 2010 2:44 am

Elijah Dukes?

3 tommyl   ~  May 2, 2010 4:10 am

[1] I hear Melky might be available. Think they'll throw in Vizcaino again as well?

4 OldYanksFan   ~  May 2, 2010 8:18 am

I think with Grandy out (for what could me months), our OF problems are bigger then the JV problem.

If/when JV loses a spot in the rotation, is it possible that the Yanks put Joba in the SR? It's the perfect opportunity if the Yanks truly would prefer, circumstances providing, for Joba to Start. If the DON'T use Joba, I think that Tells us the Yankees have decided, for whatever reason, that Joba will not ever be a starter.

5 Yankster   ~  May 2, 2010 8:41 am

Top Notch write up. And a hell of a depressing one. I wonder if there's any chance they use Joba which I see is asked above [4], but it seems unlikely at this stage since Mitre is already the long relief and Joba has been mostly short relief.

6 Yankster   ~  May 2, 2010 8:44 am

Also, the offense last night continued to be impressive. Danks is a great pitcher and they did a decent job fouling off pitches and getting him out of the game. Gardner, whatever his lack of offensive skills, doesn't seem to have any psychological problems coming up to the plate in big situations (or he's just been lucky). But some guys can seem over-eager to be heroic in that situation, and gardner just does his nintendo physics thing. It was great to see Swish get his hr too.

7 monkeypants   ~  May 2, 2010 9:01 am

[4] I would love to see Joba in the rotation for a variety of reasons, but I really don't think it will happen, at least not any time soon. Joba has only thrown 5 and 3 pitches in his last two appearances. He has been used for no more than 1.1 INN, 7 BF and 33 pitches since the season began. To put him in teh rotation would mean the old in-season stretch-'em-out routine. And again, I just don't see that happening, especially with the rest of the short BP (Robertson, Marte) struggling. Once again, Mitre will inherit the spot over someone who is (or is supposed to be) the next one in line (see Hughes 2009).

Now, Joba did not pitch yesterday. If he comes in for two innings today, then things might be different. The Yankees could then option him to AAA to stretch him, instead of returning Melancon. Then they skip Javy next time around (following the offday), use Mitre as a spot starter once or twice, then replace him with Joba.

Nah, it's just never gonna happen.

So, let's just hope that Mitre is good, or at least not bad, rather than Lucky.

8 monkeypants   ~  May 2, 2010 9:07 am

The most frustrating thing about Javy so far is not that he has not repeated his excellence from last season. As someone pointed out yesterday, his Atlanta season is just not representative of his career. That being said, neither is this season representative. For as good and as bad as he has been over his long career, he has always been able to put up at least serviceable numbers. More important, he has basically thrown 200+ innings every season since 1999.

And that is the killer. Even mediocre-to-bad Javy, let's 90 ERA+ or more, would be fine if he were at least chewing up innings.

Now, we have to hope that some Mitre + Javy combo can provde those 200+ INN.

9 randym77   ~  May 2, 2010 9:56 am

I think Granderson is going to be on the DL a lot longer than two weeks. Grade 2 groin strain...I wouldn't be shocked if he missed months, and was bothered by it the whole season.

I don't mind Gardy in CF, but he needs a real backup. I don't want to see Winn or Swisher in CF if Gardner runs into another wall.

10 OldYanksFan   ~  May 2, 2010 10:12 am

Some one suggested we get Malky back in trade. Truth is, he's doing so badly, he may be undervalued, and I wonder if he can be had. At $3m, he ain't cheap and needs to have 100 OPS+ of better to earn he keep....

But some deep, demented part of me likes to explore the idea.
Do the Braves have any OF help on the farm?
Melky's not a great bat, but he fit's in with keeping good D even if we sacriface some O.

If Grady IS out for 6 weeks of more, would Mekly be a good fit?

11 The Hawk   ~  May 2, 2010 10:21 am

[10] I would take Melky's season with the Braves thus far with the same amount of salt the Yankee brass ought to have taken Vasquez's season with the Braves last year.

I bet if he came back he'd improve. However Cano might go in the tank.

Speaking as a Melky fan, I'd rather get rid of Vasquez than get Melky back. But neither is gonna happen.

12 monkeypants   ~  May 2, 2010 10:23 am

[10] I'd rather the Yankees explore the possibility of getting a more or less real corner OF and not worry about getting a BUCF. Sure, it's dangerous to play with only one legit CF, but then again, I'm not sure a team can realistically plan to go three deep at every position.

As for the corner OF, I'm not sure Melky is a real corner OF. But if he can be had for cheap...

13 The Hawk   ~  May 2, 2010 10:25 am

This is probably unhealthy but here's Austin Jackson's line with the Tiggers:

BA: .356
OBP: .412
SLG: .481 .

That kinda hurts

14 monkeypants   ~  May 2, 2010 10:27 am

[13] Some here may recall that I was among the most skeptical of trading Ajax for Granderson. That said, what's done is done, I've grown to like Grandy (slump and all), and we all know that AJax is not going to hit .350 this year.

15 randym77   ~  May 2, 2010 10:29 am

I don't think Melky's that great on defense, to be honest. Compared to Bernie and aging Damon, he looked good. But the various defensive ranking systems find him below average. One of them even rated him the worst defensive CFer in the league.

16 ms october   ~  May 2, 2010 10:29 am

[7] oh mp we just need mitre to be lucky as he was so *unlucky* last year.

if joba goes to the rotation i will prepare a 4 course meal for mk and sit there and listen to him blab the entire meal.

[8] what to me is the big red flag is his just complete lack of control. he has always put up reasonable walk rates and managed to eat up innings because he is not a high walk guy.

[9] yeah i would like a real cf backup as well.

we also need to hope gritner sustains good numbers (i certainly don't expect he sustains a 390 woba - but mid 300s would be wonderful)

17 randym77   ~  May 2, 2010 10:30 am

[13] I was really bummed to lose Ajax. I'd been following him in Scranton, and was really looking forward to seeing him called up to the Bronx.

18 The Hawk   ~  May 2, 2010 10:33 am

[14] Yeah, I'm the same way but I guess when you factor in another "stat" (23 vs 29) it stings even more.

We'll see what happens with Jackson; he probably won't hit .350 but I think there's a good chance he'll make us regret the move.

19 Yankee Mama   ~  May 2, 2010 10:49 am

Cliff, that was some opening paragraph; one that synthesized the whole baseball experience.

I'm wondering if Javy pitching in the big-boy league is example of the glaring difference between the American League and the National League in terms of offensive strength. I know he has velo issues. He pitched well in spring training, but he was pitching against both leagues. I didn't love his signing, but I wasn't at-arms about it either, mostly curious.

The fictional dl might be their only recourse because they can't automatically pencil in a loss every five days.

As for a new outfielder, I say that they start from within the organization and give Dave Winfree a shot. Why not?

20 ms october   ~  May 2, 2010 11:00 am

[19] i'm definitely in favor of using the dl judiciously - the sox have been masters at this with their pitchers for several years now.
the yanks were off to the right start with putting cmw on the dl last year before they foolishly rushed him back.
i think they should give it a shot with javy and see if they can fix any mechanical issues - and if there really is a more serious health issues by all means he should be on the dl.

21 Yankee Mama   ~  May 2, 2010 11:38 am

[20] The other thing is that Javy didn't come cheap, so their options are limited. They can't trade him or release him. So fixing him is the only potential solution. He looked absolutely defeated. Between his mechanics and his brain, he needs to regroup and hope for a rebirth.

22 The Hawk   ~  May 2, 2010 11:53 am

[21] I bet the could trade him. They might have to eat some of his salary but I know if I were an NL team in need of starting pitching, I'd take him. Definitely seems mental at this point so it would figure that a change of scenery would benefit him.

I'd advocate releasing him as an option, just to get his stench out of the clubhouse.

23 Raf   ~  May 2, 2010 11:57 am

[19] Vazquez has pitched in the AL before. Part of the problem is the expectations that he was going to post a season similar to the one he posted last year. While he may not be that good, he shouldn't be as bad as he as shown so far. What I find amusing is that analysis seems to boil his ineffectiveness down to the events of 2004, which I find ridiculous.

24 monkeypants   ~  May 2, 2010 12:51 pm

[23] Agreed. There is no reason he should not be expected to be around a league average pitcher in the AL, which is basically what he was with the White Sox for three years. And he was fine in NY in 2004 through half the season. Surely he is better than what he has done so far, but how long should the team try to let him work things out in the rotation. right now I lean toward pulling him and giving Mitre a turn or two. In effect, I don't care who pitches the innings so long as they get 200 INN of not awful production out of the Javy-Mitre-Pitcher X spot in the rotation.

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