Apparently there was an early Score Truck sighting (a rare breed this season) as the team decided to do a few things done early today; of import to the game was scoring nine runs off of surprisingly happless starter Ricky Nolasco and his understudy in the first four innings with contributions from just about everyone in the lineup (except Beltran, who might want to reconsider surgery to remove those bone chips in his elbow at this point). Of note, the Captain got hit number 3,400 for his career with a single in the ninth; the eighth player in baseball history to do so. That’s rather significant when you stop to take that in. Hiroki Kuroda pitched into the sixth and gave up four runs; he was fairly cruising in the early innings when the Yanks were scoring, but he started getting pretty iffy near the end. The tired bullpen (which has been a source of mostly inspiration for the Yanks this season) gave up a few more runs to turn a laugher into a near picklement, but managed to hold off a disastrous wave of bad karma (that seems to be the notion of the weekend), with Tha Hamma saving it once again for a 9-7 win. If this continues, the Yanks might convince themselves they can make a run at the playoffs (uh-oh…) and make some moves to help them in their endeavor. Let’s not hold our breaths on that just yet, though clearing some current roster flotsam might be in order.
Among the other things the Yanks did early was trading a sort-of young lefty starter in Vidal Nuño (who’s pitching had grown old a whole lot quicker) for righthander Brandon McCarthy from the Arizona Diamondbacks. If the name strikes a bell, he’s the same pitcher who was on the almost tragic end of a line drive through the mound a few years ago with the Oakland A’s and has since bounced around a couple of places and was having as much luck with the Diamondbacks as Nuño was with the Yanks. What the Yanks hope McCarthy brings, besides a veteran presence (he’ll be 31 on Monday, helluva birthday present) is a consistent ability to miss bats, a low walk ratio and a high propensity for ground balls; something the 26-year old Nuño was sorely lacking in a hitter-friendly park (and will likely continue to haunt him in a new hitter-friendly park). Both pitchers were having a rough time to the tune of plus-5 ERAs, though with McCarthy it seemed more a product of a porous defense. He still has to deal with the same issue of pitching in a hitters park, but the defense will be somewhat more of a help (more often than not, you hope). McCarthy will take Chase Whitley’s spot in the rotation, with Whitley moving to the bullpen and Shane Greene for now taking Nuño’s spot.
The other early move, which had become as much of an unfortunate necessity as sending down Port Jervis a few days ago was, was to DFA Alphonso Soriano. Sori had become a virtual black hole in the lineup, and this was coming like a Pinto stuck on a train track with a diesel engine bearing down on it, but it’s sad considering the trade for him brought about some positivity in a frustrating season last year when he made an immediate impact with several key homers and extra base hits (he finished with 17 HR for the Yanks, 34 for the season with 101 RBI in total with nearly identical numbers in each league) and nearly helped push the team over the hump and into the playoffs. Also, as thelarmis noted, Sori needed 11 stolen bases in order to join the exclusive 300-300 club (300 HR/300 SB). Sori is said to be considering retirement at this point, so it’s likely he’ll never reach the door for that club. And all nostalgia aside, it was the right thing for the Yanks to do as they were getting practically nothing from him in any part of the lineup and looking very bad in the process. For all the complaining and such we’ve done about Jeter’s visible decline this season, the decline and fall of Soriano, who was also a perennial All-Star at one point in his career, has been far more pronounced from last season to this.
I think in the balance he will be fondly remembered mainly for his early career when he was a young phenom international free agent signing who played in Japan and spoke Japanese as fluently as he spoke his native Spanish, wore his socks up to his knees and swung the bat like he was trying to smack the opposing team clear out of the old Yankee Stadium in one fell swoop. One can only think of what may have happened if Cashman had not answered the phone that February ten years ago…