"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Tag: eduardo nunez

Observations From Cooperstown: Nix, Nunez, Garcia, and The Mystery Man

The Yankees’ decision to sign journeyman Jayson Nix to a make-good contract might end up as inconsequential, or it might be a harbinger of a larger transaction to come. A utility infielder who can play both the infield and the outfield, Nix looks like he’s part of the Triple-A backup plan, but I wonder if there is more at work here. There have been rumors that the Braves and Yankees are talking about a deal that would send Eduardo Nunez to Atlanta as part of a package for Jair Jurrjens. If the Yankees do trade Nunez, they will need a new utility infielder. Ramiro Pena is clearly not the answer, and the organization has shown no confidence in minor league veteran Jorge Vazquez.

What kind of a player is Nix? He had a miserable 2011, hitting so poorly and striking out so frequently for the Blue Jays that they released him in mid-season. But he does have some power–he hit 26 home runs combined for the White Sox and Indians over the 2009 and 2010 seasons–and can play third base, second base or shortstop, in addition to the outfield corners.

So should the Yankees trade Nunez? He has loads of natural talent, but is very raw, and must find a way to cut down on his throwing errors. He could be a very good utility infielder, ala Randy Velarde or Luis Sojo, but I don’t know if he has enough patience at the plate to be an everyday player. In the meantime, Jurrjens is a very effective right-handed pitcher who has been good in three of his four full seasons. He’s a strike thrower who won’t turn 26 until January, with the one concern being his ability to stay healthy. If the Braves would be willing to part with the native of Curacao in exchange for a package of Nunez, Brandon Laird, and a middling prospect, I’d have to give some serious thought to such a trade…

* * * *

The Yankees’ wise decision to re-sign Freddy “The Chief” Garcia should not be interpreted as a sign that they will not pursue additional starting pitching; rather it’s part of a plan to stockpile as much pitching depth as possible for a long season. The reliable Garcia is an insurance policy, a No. 5 starter under a worst-case scenario, and possibly a long reliever. The Yankees still plan to pursue pitching via both the trade and free agent routes. If they can add someone like Mark Buerhle (free agent) or John Danks (trade), the rotation will look like this:

1) CC Sabathia

2) Ivan Nova

3) Buerhle or Danks or someone else

4) Phil Hughes

5) A.J. Burnett

Under this scenario, Garcia would start the season out of the bullpen and would be available as a long man and spot starter. The Yankees could then give Hector Noesi some more time to develop as a fulltime starter at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre. With Noesi, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos at Scranton, the Yankees would have exactly the kind of young pitching depth that Brian Cashman desires as mid-season insurance. But the plan depends on adding a starting pitcher of some pedigree, something that Cashman has not been able to do since signing Sabathia in 2009…

* * * *

Over at The Hardball Times, I’ve been writing a series of baseball card mysteries where I ask readers to assist me in identifying players on cards. One of the cards has proved particularly vexing: the 2001 Topps Golden Moments card featuring Bucky Dent’s historic home run against Mike Torrez. I’ve been able to identify most everyone on the card. There’s Dent himself (wearing No. 20), who’s being trailed by Chris Chambliss. The welcome wagon of congratulation includes Yankee trainer Gene Monahan, backup catcher Cliff Johnson and manager Bob Lemon (all in jackets). Behind Lemon is Jay Johnstone, the veteran backup outfielder. Behind Monahan is Willie Randolph, who was injured and unavailable to play in the tiebreaker game against the Red Sox.

That leaves one mystery man. Who is the player to the right of Randolph, the one right next to the gold Topps logo? Among our readers suggestions have been backup outfielder Gary Thomasson, first baseman/DH Jim Spencer, and backup catcher Mike Heath. Still others claim that this player has no number on the back of the uniform, which leaves open the possibility that it is not actually a player, or not a player who was eligible for that game against the Red Sox. Could it be a ballboy or a batboy?

Who in the world is it? At this point, I really have no idea. Perhaps someone at the Banter knows.

Bruce Markusen writes “Cooperstown Confidential” for The Hardball Times.

Magic Number Shmagic Number

Freddy Garcia

Freddy Garcia suffered his first loss since July 15th. (Photo Credit / Darren Calabrese - Canadian Press)

Author’s Note / Excuse: Apologies for the delayed post. If you need further proof that the NFL, not Major League Baseball, is the National Pastime, try getting online between 1 and 4 p.m. on a Sunday to access photos from a baseball game to include in a recap. The requisite sites were performing at speeds not seen since 1997.

Threads in this space, elsewhere in the Blogosphere, the Twitterverse, Facebook — basically anywhere you search for Yankees information — have featured criticism of Joe Girardi for managing passively over the past week and a half. That judgment was typically reserved for his bullpen maneuvering, specifically in the one-run losses in Baltimore, Anaheim and Seattle, and then again in the series opener at Rogers Centre Friday night. Not as prevalent in those threads was that the “A” lineup, while physically present on the field, was doing little to help the winning cause.

Then on Sunday, with the Yankees’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot at five, the starting lineup looked more like one you’d see in mid-March than mid-September. Girardi has stated publicly that he’s been looking for places to give the regulars some rest. The counter, “Win the games, win the division, secure the playoff spot and then rest people.” And so it was that the only regulars in the starting lineup were Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, A-Rod and J Martin.

The result was a feeble, fundamentally unsound 3-0 defeat that left the Yankees 4-6 on this season-long 10-game, four-city road trip. Brandon Morrow dominated the Yankees, striking out seven and walking only one. The Yankees had five hits, only two of which left the infield. Like in the early going Saturday, they ran themselves out of potential scoring opportunities. In the first inning, with Eduardo Nuñez Nuñez on second and Robinson Canó on first, Canó was thrown out on the tail end of a double steal. Later, in the top of the sixth, Nuñez, who Michael Kay and John Flaherty lauded on the YES telecast during his first at-bat, once again incited fans’ ire by inexplicably trying to turn a single into a double. Nuñez hit a clean single to rightfield. Nuñez tried to catch Jose Bautista napping, but it didn’t work. Bautista fired behind the runner to first base, where Edwin Encarnación fired to second to catch Nuñez by a mile. Inning over, potential rally over. Nuñez’s one-out double in the ninth inning marked the only other time in the game the Yankees had a runner in scoring position.

Meanwhile, Freddy Garcia surrendered three runs on five hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings, and he made a throwing error that contributed to one of the three runs. In short, Garcia did little to pitch himself into consideration for either five-man rotation over the final two weeks of the regular season, or the playoff rotation.

Other things we learned …

* The Ghost of Raul Valdes, who pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh, may have shown that he could be the Yankees’ LOOGY over the next two weeks and into the postseason.

* The Yankees’ bullpen, in the last two games, pitched 9 1/3 innings of shutout ball. The group allowed just two hits and walked four — three by Scott Proctor — in that span.

* The Rays are white-hot. They beat up the Red Sox again and are surging toward a September comeback to rival the 2007 Colorado Rockies. The Yankees have a six-game edge over the Rays in the loss column, which may seem cushy with only 10 games left, but this week’s series at Yankee Stadium cannot be taken lightly. Depending on Monday’s result against the Minnesota Twins, sweeping the Rays would clinch that coveted playoff spot for the Yankees, leaving next weekend’s series against the Red Sox open for clinching the division.

This week features the games the regulars get paid the big money to play. Let’s see how the manager and the team respond.

Magic kit



Russell Martin, Carlos Pena

Russell Martin absorbed heavy contact and kept the Yankees ahead. (Photo Credit / Getty Images)

Former Marlins teammates AJ Burnett and Ryan Dempster squared off in the middle game of the marquee interleague series of the weekend, at Wrigley Field. There was potential for a pitchers’ duel, if the “Good AJ” showed up, and if Dempster maintained the good control he’s shown at home thus far (almost a 4-to-1 K/BB ratio in 52 1/3 innings pitched at Wrigley this season).

That wasn’t to be, though. The game was tight and low-scoring, but more because both teams missed opportunities, rather than Burnett and Dempster dominating. Both pitchers followed the “bend but don’t break” M.O. Burnett allowed two runs, struck out eight and walked three in 5 1/3 innings pitched, while Dempster allowed only three runs while walking a season-high six batters, and struck out six.

The Yankees had their chances. They had base runners every inning, but were only able to push runners across in the third and sixth innings. In the third, Curtis Granderson led off with a single — doesn’t it seem like when the Yankees score, he’s in the middle of the rally? — and later scored on Robinson Canó’s double. Nick Swisher followed with a sacrifice fly to bring in Alex Rodriguez, who singled and advanced to third on the Canó double.

The Cubs tied the game in the fourth, making Burnett pay for issuing a leadoff walk to Blake DeWitt. Two batters later, Carlos Peña hit a laser into the right-field seats.

Sometimes, the most important moment in a game isn’t a timely hit, it’s a baserunning mistake. Following a one-out walk to Kosuke Fukudome, Starlin Castro lined a single to center. On that hit, Fukudome was running on the pitch but did not advance to third. On the FOX broadcast, Tim McCarver said there was “no excuse for Fukudome to not be on third base with one out, or at least get thrown out trying.” The next batter, DeWitt, who figured in the Cubs’ first rally, bounced into a 4-6-3, inning-ending double play.

Eduardo Nuñez carried the positive vibes from the solid turn of the double play into the top of the sixth, lining a single up the middle on an 0-2 count and later scoring on a Granderson sac fly to give the Yankees the lead. (The Granderson RBI was off lefty James Russell. Granderson, versus lefties this season: .277/.341/.651, 20 RBI.) In the ninth, Nuñez drove in what would be the go-ahead run with a double.

Mariano Rivera made things interesting, yielding a leadoff home run to Reed Johnson and a single to Alfonso Soriano. But he needed just four more pitches to record three outs, inducing Geovany Soto to ground into a double play and striking out Jeff Baker.

That would be the high-level overview of the game. Two plays in particular preserved this victory for the Yankees: the first was the double play that ended the fifth. The second came in the sixth inning. Canó missed an easy catch on a force attempt that turned a potential first-and-third, two-out situation into a bases-loaded, one-out scenario. On a full count, Soto lined to left. Brett Gardner made up for his base running gaffe in the top of the sixth by making a nice catch on the liner and firing a one-hop strike to home. A huge collision ensued between Peña and catcher Russell Martin. Martin hung onto the ball, showed it to both Peña and home plate umpire Sam Holbrook.

Sometimes over the course of a season, winning teams win games despite an odd boxscore. Saturday, the Yankees walked 10 times and only scored four runs. They got 11 hits and went 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position yet left 13 men stranded. They committed two errors and ran themselves out of an inning.

Yet in the end, the formula that usually leads to a victory — timely hitting, a few key defensive plays, above average starting pitching and a capable bullpen effort — put a W up for the Yankees. By all accounts, they should have beaten the Cubs about 11-3 in this game. But as the better team, being able to hang on and win the close game is encouraging and should serve them well as the season wears on.

No Pain, No Gain

It started ugly but ended, if not pretty, than well enough for the Yanks today in the Bronx as they beat the Mariners, 9-5. Ichiro! led off the game with a home run against Javier Vazquez and then Russell Branyon became the first man to hit a home run into the right field upper deck at the new Yankee Stadium (Branyon is also the only player to hit the Mohegan Sun bar in center). The Yanks scored four in the bottom of the first (two-run single by Robinson Cano and a two-run dinger by Jorge Posada) but Vazquez gave it back and didn’t last long–three innings. This after not making it into the fifth in his previous two starts.

Right now, it’s CC Sabathia and pray for the Score Truck…

Jason Vargas, meanwhile, retired fifteen straight Yankees after the tough first inning. The score remained tied at four until the bottom of the sixth when Eduardo Nunez got his first big league hit–punching a high change-up, well out of the strike zone, through the hole in the right side of the infield for an RBI single. The ball came back to the infield and was passed over to the Yankee dugout. On its way, Nunez, briefly held it. He was standing on first, smiling. He kissed the ball, smiled some more and tossed the ball to Gene Monahan, the Yankee trainer, for safe keeping.

The Yanks added a couple of more runs, then another one in the ninth on their way to the win. Mariano Rivera, that bum, that zero, that dog, allowed a run in the ninth raising his season ERA to 1.18 (bum!). Otherwise, the Yankee bullpen was terrific, especially Chad Gaudin, who pitched three scoreless innings.

A nice win for the Yanks, though another rotten outing for Vazquez does nothing to help the digestion. On top of that, Alex Rodriguez is headed to the DL. “We’re going to play it safe,” Joe Girardi said after the game. “We don’t think he’s any worse than the time before.”

Right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova will take his place on the active roster. Nova will make his first major league start on Monday.

* * * *

Elsewhere, around the majors, Cliff Lee got beaten about the face and neck again today, this time by the Orioles (eight runs in 5.2 innings). The Red Sox and Jays play at 7, the Rays are in Oakland again later tonight.

[Picture by Bags]

Hope is the Thing Wearing Pinstripes (Just Win, Baby)

Fresh direct from the Lo-Hud Yankee oven, today’s line-up:

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Nick Swisher RF
Jorge Posada C
Curtis Granderson CF
Austin Kearns DH
Ramiro Pena 3B

Also, Lance Berkman has been placed on the DL. Drag. Eduardo Nunez was been called-up.

Meanwhile, tough day for Mr. Clemens.

[Picture by Bags]

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