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Tag: Chad Gaudin

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According to Mark Feinsand, the Yanks have re-signed Chad Gaudin. The Bombers need help in the bullpen as Alfredo Aceves had a set-back in his rehabilitation yesterday.

Serging Ahead

There wasn’t much variation in their performances to this point in spring training. That Chad Gaudin had pitched his way to the bottom of the list of the five “starters” competing for the last four spots on the Yankee pitching staff was clear, as was the fact that Sergio Mitre had simultaneously pitched his way out of that elimination spot. Exactly what the Yankees were going to do about that was less clear until the Yankees placed Gaudin on waivers on Tuesday, effectively removing him from the 40-man roster.

Gaudin, who pitched relatively well down the stretch last year (3.43 ERA, 7.3 K/9 in 6 starts and 5 relief appearances), was actually the Yankees’ (unused) fourth starter in the 2009 postseason, earning that distinction over Joba Chamberlain, who instead made ten appearances out of the bullpen. In January, Gaudin avoided arbitration with the Yankees by signing a one-year deal worth $2.95 million, but the contract was not guaranteed, meaning that the Yankees will owe him just $737,500 if he clears waivers and they release him (if they send him to Triple-A, they’ll still owe him the entire amount, but if he’s claimed, they’ll be off the hook entirely). Given that all they sent the Padres for Gaudin last August was cash, there will have been little waste involved in Gaudin’s brief time with the team.

With Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Alfredo Aceves, Jason Hirsh, and Zach McAllister all on hand and to different degrees ready to step into either the rotation or the bullpen, Gaudin is no great loss. Rather, Gaudin’s removal from the roster places increased emphasis on what Sergio Mitre has to offer.

With Gaudin out of the picture, it now seems likely that Mitre will be the twelfth man on the Yankees’ Opening Day pitching staff. His primary rivals are potential second lefties Boone Logan and Royce Ring, but Ring is a non-roster player and Logan has an option remaining, whereas Mitre is, like Gaudin was, a member of the 40-man roster on a non-guaranteed contract who would have to be passed through waivers to be sent to Triple-A. Mitre’s contract is small enough at $850,000 for the Yankees to eat the $212,500 they’d owe Mitre if they released him, but the club seems legitimately enthusiastic about how Mitre has been pitching this spring, and not without good reason.

I know that the prospect of Sergio Mitre on the Opening Day roster is anathema to a large part of the Yankee fanbase and the Bronx Banter readership in particular, but I still can’t completely hate on the Yankees interest in Mitre. I shrugged off the Mitre signing entering camp a year ago, remarking in my 2009 campers post that, “Mitre was never a high-ceiling starter, but rather a moderately successful sinkerballer, who had yet to put it all together in the majors prior to his [July 2008 Tommy John] surgery. He’ll be 29 next February and hardly seems worth even the minimal commitment.” Five months later, after Chien-Ming Wang had blow up twice and Phil Hughes had begun to establish himself as a dominant set-up man, I took a different view:

Mitre’s career line in the majors is certainly unimpressive (5.36 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 5.4 K/9), but he was rushed to the majors in just his third professional season at age 22, jerked between the majors, minors, rotation, and bullpen in each of his three seasons with the Cubs, and came down with shoulder problems in May of his first season with the Marlins in 2006. Given all of that, I’m tempted to just toss out those first four partial major league seasons in which Mitre went 5-15 with a 6.01 ERA in 25 starts and 26 relief appearances.Instead, I look at what Mitre did with a healthy arm and a rotation spot in the first half of the 2007 season under manager Joe Girardi. In 16 starts (not counting one aborted start in which he tore a blister during the first inning), Mitre posted a 2.82 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and a 3.1 K/9. Ten of those outings were quality starts and two others were scoreless but cut short by a tight hamstring. Mitre’s season fell apart in late July due to the elbow problems that led to his Tommy John surgery and wiped out his 2008 season.

As you can see, Mitre’s problems have had far more to do with health than effectiveness. That’s a red flag when a team throws $80-million, five-year contracts at a pitcher, but when the pitcher in question comes in on a make-good minor league deal, health concerns don’t concern me as there’s nothing there but upside.

Mitre posted a 6.79 ERA in nine starts and three relief appearances for the Yankees after I wrote the above, but his solid 2.46 K/BB, swollen .333 opponent’s batting average on balls in play, and absurd 22.2 percent home-runs-per-fly-ball rate (the major league average is around 8 percent) all suggested that bad luck played some role in that poor performance. Clearly Mitre was getting hit hard, but he was also unlucky and, theoretically, still building his arm back up after rehabbing from his TJ surgery.

In my campers post this year, I repeated much of the above about Mitre, but described Mitre’s 2009 K/BB ratio, which was a single-season career best for the right-hander, as “mildly encouraging,” later adding, “there’s some small hope that being two years removed from surgery could allow him to recapture some of his form from 2007, when over his first 17 starts he posted a 2.82 ERA with just five home runs allowed and a 3.10 K/BB.”

I don’t want him to be the fifth starter, and I don’t think there’s any real risk of that unless another starter suffers a significant injury, but I just can’t completely trash the Yankees continued interest in Mitre. I realize that spring training statistics are about as predictive as campaign promises, but Mitre really has been throwing the ball better this spring. Ignore his ERA, or even his slim hits total, and look at his 14 strikeouts in 14 innings against just three walks and one homer. Better yet, read the comments from Mitre, his manager, and catcher collected by Chad Jennings:

. . . what might have tipped the scales in Mitre’s favor?

He’s further removed from surgery: “Last year I felt good early when I was coming back from Tommy John and toward the later months of the year, I just kind of fatigued,” Mitre said. “The offseason really helped. Nothing hurts right now.”

His sinker is moving more: “I think the pitches are the same,” Mitre said. “I think the only thing that’s different is there might be more life to it as opposed to being flatter.”

He’s throwing harder: “His velocity is better,” Joe Girardi said. “He doesn’t seem to fatigue as easily. There is a difference.”

His command is better: “He’s a different guy,” Jorge Posada said. “You can tell that he’s healthy and the ball is just coming out of his hand a lot better. He’s throwing strikes. Location, that tells you that he’s back on track… He’s putting it wherever he wants.”

Mitre is a year younger than Chien-Ming Wang, further removed from injury, walked just 2.3 men per nine innings in his awful 2009 season, and now reportedly has more velocity and movement on his top pitch and is proving it with impressive spring training peripherals. There’s only one thing that upsets me about the Yankees taking another chance on this guy as the last man on the pitching staff, and it has nothing to do with how Mitre might pitch.

Going back to my campers post, I concluded Mitre’s entry by saying, “there are better, younger arms who deserve a shot at that last bullpen spot should it open up.” Gaudin’s struggles have opened that spot up, and 25-year-old fellow Tommy John survivor Mark Melancon, who has struck out eight in 6 1/3 spring innings against one walk and no homers, is more deserving than Mitre of that last spot, though I’m pretty well convinced at this point that Mitre will claim it.

I’m also convinced that Melancon will find his way into high-leverage work out of the the major league pen during the upcoming season the way David Robertson did last year, but there’s not as clear a path for Melancon as there was for Robertson last year when Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez seemed ready to cough up their spots. Maybe Mitre is that guy this year, but right now the Yankees seem to think he could be the new Ramiro Mendoza, and I’m not particularly motivated to argue with them.

Everything’s Different Now

Last night’s series opener was the most important game the Yankees have played all season. With the pitching match-up firmly in their favor, a loss, which would have pushed them to 0-9 against Boston on the season, could well have set the tone for the remainder of the series, opening up the possibility of yet another Red Sox sweep. With the win, however, they got of the schnide and reinforced their belief that they’re a different and better team than they were during those first eight games. And they didn’t just win, they crushed the Sox, 13-6.

The Red Sox are too good a team to let one lop-sided win get in their heads, but one could just as easily see a Yankee sweep today as one could see a Red Sox sweep yesterday. After all, the Yankees just keep rolling. Last night’s win extended their current winning streak to four games and also put first place out of reach for the Sox in this series (even if the Sox take the last three, they’ll leave town a half game behind the Yankees in the AL East).

A.J. Burnett & Josh Beckett - 2005 ToppsThe catch is A.J. Burnett, who has exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations thus far this year with one glaring exception: he’s been awful in his two starts against Boston. One of the selling points for Burnett over the winter was the fact that he’d dominated the Red Sox in four starts last year (2-0, 2.60 ERA). This year has been a different story. Staked to a 6-0 lead at Fenway Park on April 25, he coughed up eight runs. Then, on June 9, he failed to get out of the third inning, allowing five runs on five hits and five walks in just 2 2/3 innings. The Red Sox hit .382/.512/.765 against Burnett in those two starts, and though he followed the last with a string of eight quality starts (6-1, 1.68 ERA), he seems to have run out of magic just in time to rematch with Boston, having allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings to the White Sox in his last start.

Curiously, both of Burnett’s starts against Boston matched him up against his former Marlins’ teammate Josh Beckett, who is once again his mound opponent tonight. Beckett was equally awful on April 24, but pitched well in his two starts against the Yankees since, combining for this line: 12 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 13 K, 1 HR. Beckett had a rough April, but since then has gone 11-2 with a 2.28 ERA and a 4.39 K/BB over his last 16 starts.

The Yanks have their work cut out for them tonight, but thanks to last night’s win, a loss today would only mean the battle’s on, not that the battle’s over.

Ramiro Peña replaces Anthony Claggett on the Yankee roster while the Yankees run out their standard lineup. The Red Sox have designated Billy Traber and, get this, John Smoltz for assignment. They’ve been replaced by 23-year-old Japanese rookie right-hander Junichi Tazawa and former Yankee camper Chris Woodward, the latter claimed off waivers from the Mariners. Josh Reddick, who was recalled yesterday when Rocco Baldelli hit the DL, is in left tonight with Victor Martinez at first base, Kevin Youkilis at third, and Mike Lowell on the bench.


Observations from Cooperstown: Cody, Jerry, Chad, and Thurman

The great Yankee mystery of the month finally came to an end this week. I must confess that I’m as clueless as everyone else as to why Cody Ransom occupied space on the 25-man roster for as long as he did before finally being thrown into the baseball limbo known as being “designated-for-assignment.” Ransom has never hit curve balls, now struggles to hit waist-high fastballs, and has shaky hands on the infield. So what else is there? Even the explanation that the Yankees simply wanted a second utility infielder (to go along with the newly acquired Jerry Hairston, Jr.) fell short of justifying Ransom’s presence on the roster. If the Yankee high command believed that another utility guy was required, Ransom should have given way to rookie Ramiro Pena, currently playing a jack-of-all-trades role at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. Pena is a better defender than Ransom, has a touch more speed, and now has the same level of versatility, considering that he’s been learning to play the outfield at Scranton. When a team is involved in a dogfight for a division title, every roster spot counts; it’s about time the Yankees either sent Ransom back to Triple-A or perhaps let him loose to try his wares with one of the weak sisters in the National League…

Speaking of Hairston, the reaction to his acquisition from Cincinnati has drawn a tepid reaction in these parts, but I’m slightly more enthusiastic. At the very least, he’s a major upgrade on Ransom, who had become the 2009 version of Mike Fischlin. Looking deeper, Hairston provides six-position versatility, can steal a base in the pinch, and has a modicum of power. He’s also highly regarded as one of the game’s most intelligent players, which is not so surprising considering his family’s baseball heritage. With grandfather Sam Hairston (a former Negro Leagues catcher and longtime coach and scout) and father Jerry, Sr. (a longtime backup outfielder and accomplished pinch-hitter with the White Sox), Hairston has received a good baseball education. And on a team that doesn’t always play the game smart (see Jorge Posada tagging a baserunner with an empty glove or failing to slide into home plate), that’s a nice attribute to have coming off the bench…


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