Saturday, April 24, 2004


I hardly have the heart to write about today's 3-2, 12-inning Red Sox victory over the Yankees. With this the Yankees have dropped the second of their two April series against the Sox (they won't face them again until June 29), and have lost three in a row for the first time this season. The Yanks have won two in a row three times this year, all three have been followed by a minimum of two loses. The Yankees are two games under .500 after 17 games and their offense has scored three runs or less in 11 of those games. They are 2-3 in one-run games, and are actually one win ahead of their Pythagorean won-loss record. That means they're not playing in bad luck and they're not giving away games due to mismanagement (well, not in-game mismanagement), they're just losing.

The primary problems have been the offense and 3/5 of their starting rotation. The bullpen has lost just two games. One of those was Monday's game which was actually lost by the defense (the ball that Hideki Matsui lost in the mid-day sun), the other was today's contest, which could really be said to have been lost by the offense (four hits in twelve innings, three of them singles in the seventh--which means just one hit through six). Both of those games were started by Kevin Brown.

This team sucks right now. It's still early, but May is fast approaching. I'm starting to worry.

More later . . .

posted by Cliff at 11:15 PM


The big news prior to tonight's game against the Red Sox was that the Yankees believed that Jose Contreras had been tipping his pitches in his previous starts and Mel Stottlemyre had been working with him in correcting that, among other aspects of his delivery.

At the start of tonight's game, Contreras's work with Mel looked like it was paying off. His delivery was a bit more compact. He struck out Johnny Damon without falling behind him to start the game. He then got Bill Mueller to pop out to third on just two pitches. Then David Ortiz came to the plate. Contreras got out ahead quickly 1-2, but Ortiz worked the count full by laying off Contreras's biting splitter before fouling off pitch number six and flying out to center. Jim Kaat wonders aloud if Contreras is still tipping, allowing Ortiz to lay off that split finger fastball. Still, three up, three down. Looked good.

After striking out Manny Ramirez to start the second, Contreras gives up a single to Ellis Burks, who then steals second on the big righthander's slow delivery home. Jason Varitek hits a nubber to the third base side of the mound, which Contreras fielded smoothly to get the out at first as Burks moved over to third. Two outs, man on third. I'm feeling okay about El Titan tonight and have gotten wrapped up in conversation, watching the game out of the corner of my eye.

Then Kevin Millar walks on five pitches. Then Mark Bellhorn laces a 3-1 pitch into right for an RBI single. Pokey Reese works the count full before popping out to Giambi to end the inning. The confidence Contreras showed in the first is already melting away and he's gone to three balls on each of the last three batters. Trouble.

In the third he walks Damon on five pitches. Goes full on Mueller. Damon steals second. Mueller flies out to left. Ortiz sees six pitches, swinging at none of them. The first two are strikes, the last four are balls. Mercifully, Manny Ramirez swings at two of the three pitches he sees, flying out to deep center. Bubba Crosby, perhaps unaware of exactly how deep in center he is, tries to catch Damon tagging up and going to third. His throw doesn't even make it to the infield on a fly and rolls on to the dirt while Derek Jeter, who had been calling for the ball behind second, watches Ortiz trot into second base. Burks grounds out to third. Disaster averted.

Fourth inning. Contreras throws three straight balls to Jason Varitek before recovering and striking him out on the next three. Kevin Millar then deposits a 2-1 pitch in the left field seats. 2-0 Sox. Uh-oh. Mark Bellhorn does the same to a 1-1 pitch. 3-0 Sox. That's it. Contreras is a wreck. Pokey Reese fouls himself into a 0-2 hole, watches two more pitches fall outside of the strike zone, fouls off another, then singles to right and steals second. Johnny Damon walks on five pitches for the second straight at-bat.

His first inning confidence a distant memory, Contreras is now just one out into the fourth and has already thrown 93 pitches, only half of them for strikes. Joe Torre pops out of the dugout. This is going to get worse before it gets better if he leaves Contreras in there. Down just 3-0 with men on first and second and one out, there's still a chance to keep this a game. In comes Donovan Osborne. Up steps Bill Mueller. Out goes Osborne's third pitch, 6-0 Sox. Derek Lowe is on his game and the Yankee offense is not about to break out tonight. This game is over.

It's also raining in the Bronx. I've got a buddy at this game so I figure I'll give him a call to try to shake up the mojo. "You at the game?" "Yeah." "How's that going for ya?" "It's raining and we're losing." "Good job with that. Now you're that jackass on the phone at the game." "Yeah, I'm that guy." "Right. Well. Talk to you later." It doesn't help.

Osborne pitches fine after the Muller home run until a pair of doubles by Damon and Ortiz produce another run with two outs in the sixth. Torre brings in Scott Proctor, who gets Manny Ramirez to fly out to end the inning on his very first pitch. Proctor then gives up three more runs with two out in the seventh (walk, K, fly out, single, 2-RBI double, RBI single, walk, K). 10-0 Sox.

The Yankees get two back in the bottom of the seventh on a Sheffield single and a Matsui homer, but that's all she wrote. Alex Graman comes on in the eight to give up a 2-0 homer to Manny Ramirez before settling down to pitch around a Gary Sheffield error on a ball hit to shallow right and pitch a 1-2-3 ninth. The Yanks go down in order for Rule-5 pick Lenny DiNardo in the ninth. Sox win, 11-2.

Not good. He's only had three starts, but I'm starting to really worry about Contreras. I wonder how many more starts like this he's going to be allowed. If Jon Lieber comes back and pitches well, might Contreras have a date with Billy Connors while Alex Graman and Donovan Osborne keep his spot warm? Anyone got a league average pitcher their willing to trade for a pair of million-dollar outfielders in their late 30s? Anyone? Bueller?

I'm not in the mood to dwell on this. Hopefully Kevin Brown will even it up tomorrow. If so, we should be in for a hell of a game on Sunday with Javier Vazquez now officially announced as the Yankee starter taking on Pedro in what very well could be the rubber game of this series. And I've got a ticket. Hello, silver lining, how are you today?

posted by Cliff at 12:02 AM

Friday, April 23, 2004


Oh man, can you believe the season is 1/10 of the way over already! Hoo boy, seems like they just started! All-Star ballots are out already and . . . wait a second. Is this a joke? All-Star ballots? In mid-April!?!?!

Okay, so it's still insanely early, but I was tempted to "evaluate" this team after Monday's loss to the Red Sox and promised myself I'd wait until the season was at least 1/10 of the way over. Last night the Yankees played their sixteenth game of the season. C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me. Here's a look at how the Yankee offense have been doing thus far, with some letter grades for yucks. I'll get to the pitchers later.

1B - Jason Giambi: .227/.460/.500, 3 HR, 15 BB, 5 K; Wednesday was the first game this year in which Giambi didn't reach base. Last night was the first in which he didn't start. Most of his games have come at first-base, but with Travis Lee off the DL and Kenny Lofton on it, that looks likely to change. Thus far Jason's hitting .276/.475/.586 while playing first and .133/.435/.333 while DHing. Looking at his overall numbers, only his OBP is above his career average. The other two numbers are well below his usual standard. He's "on pace" for 30 dingers and he's not striking out much at all, but he's not really getting his hits either. Once again he's proving the value of plate discipline. He's sixth on the team in hits, but third in runs scored. B-

2B - Enrique Wilson: .167/.200/167, 0 XBH, 0 SB, 1 CS; Since 2001 Enrique has hit .209/.249/.308 with 4 steals and 7 caught stealings. It's not that he's "not hitting yet" or "not hitting like he did in spring training" (.462 AVG with 7 XBH in about the same number of ABs). It's that he's terrible. Fortunately, Miguel Cairo is beginning to get the starts against lefties. I say fortunately, not because of Enrique's splits (.111/.167/.111 vs. righties; .267x3 vs. lefties), but because it means that the door is open for Cairo to take the second base job from Enrique on a full-time basis. F

SS - Derek Jeter: .209/.284/.254; Despite the awful numbers, Derek's only taken four 0-fers all season, walked twice in one of those games, and put together a nine-game hitting streak. Still, he stinks right now. Last night he came up with 2-outs in the seventh, the Yanks down by one and the tying run on second. Miguel Cairo got hit by a pitch in the previous at-bat to bring Jeter up. I was actually upset that Cairo didn't get a chance to hit and was convinced Jeter was going to make an out. He did. I think that says it all. D

3B - Alex Rodriguez: .206/.296/.349, 2 HR; The similarities between A-Rod and Jeter's numbers are creepy:

Jeter: 16 G, 67 AB, 6 R, 14 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 17 TB, 5 RBI, 5 BB, 9 K, 1 SB, 0 CS
A-Rod: 16 G, 63 AB, 8 R, 13 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 22 TB, 4 RBI, 7 BB, 14 K, 1 SB, 1 CS

The only significant difference is the home runs, which boost A-Rod's slugging almost 100 points above Jeter's. That's about right. A-Rod is Jeter with power. Give him the same grade. D

C - Jorge Posada: .314/.410/.804, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 9 BB, 8 K, 12 R; Jorge leads the team in runs, hits, homers (by more than twice), total bases (by 17), RBI (by twice), average (by 36 points) and slugging (by 404 points!). He also leads the AL in homers and RBI (tied with Jermaine Dye in both). As I said, we're one-tenth through the season. You want to have some fun? Multiply his homer and RBI totals by ten. Then remember that while Jorge is hot right now, the rest of the offense isn't. That is to say that while his homer place will likely fall off considerably, he could keep driving in runs all year (not 180, but . . .). As of this writing, Jorge has five more at-bats from the number-six hole than Hideki Matsui, and I think Joe's finally beginning to realize that he belongs there. A+

RF - Gary Sheffield: .263/.373/.421, 1 HR, 6 2B, 10 BB, 5 K; Sheff is sort of Giambi light thus far this season. A little more average, fewer homers, fewer walks. He's clearly not locked in yet, but again, plate discipline doesn't slump, and he's getting his doubles (leading the team and fourth in the AL). He's also second in the team in RBI's (9) and runs scored (11). Of course this is a team that's not scoring runs, nor driving them in. C

CF - Bernie Williams: .191/.333/.234, 2 XBH, 9 BB, 10 K; Ugly. Bernie's taking his walks (is there an echo in here), but that's about it. He's not hitting the ball with authority on the rare occasions that he's hitting it at all. Both of his extra-base hits are doubles. Bernie missed a lot of time in the spring due to his appendectomy, and he's a notorious slow-starter, but he's also coming off a dreadful season, nagging injuries, and at 35, with his dreadful play in the field, some are concerned that he's pulling a Roberto Alomar. F

LF - Hideki Matsui: .278/.409/.407, 1 HR, 11 BB, 10 K; Hideki seems to have gotten his plate discipline back to where it was in Japan (average 106 BB, 99 K in his last six years), but otherwise, he's exactly the same hitter we saw last year. The OBP is great, and on this team he's just one of four hitters making any kind of contribution right now, but unlike with the others (save Wilson) there's little hope for improvement. C+


No one else has really had enough at-bats to get a stand-alone evaluation. Kenny Lofton is on the DL with a .167/.310/.250 line and one steal. Trade rumors are already circulating although the Yankees can't deal him until June 15 because he's a new free-agent signing. Still, he's extremely expendable thanks to the continued success of rookie Bubba Crosby (.333/.333/1.000, 2 HR), who has more power, just as much speed, and plays a better center field with a much stronger throwing arm (runners are running wild on Lofton's arm this season).

Believe it or not, Travis Lee already has more at-bats than Tony Clark (14 to 10). Clark has 2 homers and 4 walks. Lee has goose eggs in both categories. That about says it all for me. Lee's showy defense at first is no match for power and patience at the plate. Witness:

Lee: .143/.143/.214; Clark: .200/.429/.800

Miguel Cairo is putting the heat on Enrique Wilson with a .333/.455/.667 line. In just over one-sixth as many at-bats, Cairo has as many runs scored and twice as many RBI. He also has three doubles to match up against Enrique's lack of extra-base hits.

Ruben Sierra is hitting .185/.214/.185 with no extra base hits in 27 at-bats. He can't field and he's taking at-bats away from Tony Clark by the fistfull. Once someone else comes of the DL, Sierra must be released.

John Flaherty has two hits and two Ks in six plate appearances. Whatever.

posted by Cliff at 3:41 PM


The Yankees came up about twelve inches short last night. With one out in the ninth and men on first and third, Travis Lee follows a Jorge Posada single, Ruben Sierra fly out and Hideki Matsui single by bouncing a lazy ground ball to shortstop. The ball scoots past the reach of pitcher Damaso Marte to Juan Uribe. Uribe fires to Willie Harris at second to retire Matsui for the second out. Harris makes the pivot to first with Lee doing his firstbaseman's best to bust it down the line. With pinch-runner Enrique Wilson crossing the plate with the would-be tying run, Harris's throw nears Paul Konerko's mit just as Lee makes a lunging last step toward the bag. The throw beats Lee by about a foot. Game over. Yanks lose 4-3.

Jason Giambi watches the entire game from the bench.

It was a tough loss, but as I said yesterday, it wasn't so much the result that mattered last night as how Mike Mussina pitched.

When Mussina first came to the Yankees in 2001, I remember a Yankee announcer (most likely Jim Kaat) saying that part of what makes Mike Mussina the pitcher that he is is his ability to hit the catchers glove. In the seasons since, I've found this to be true. When Moose is on, Posada doesn't have to move his glove to catch his pitches. Last night in the first inning, Mussina had Posada reaching for everything. Moose was missing Jorge's mitt by a couple feet with regularity. The result?

Lead-off hitter Willie Harris walks, steals second, and is driven home on a pair of groundouts. Bases empty, two outs, Moose is in position to get out of the inning but gives up a single to Carlos Lee (who also steals second) and walks Konerko. By this point in the game he's coming much closer to Jorge's glove, but seems to be throwing nothing but breaking balls. He's got a nice drop on these pitches, but without mixing in the fast ball, the White Sox are able to sit on the breaking ball. Ross Gload does just this and launches a high curve into the gap in left center for a double that plates Lee and Konerko.

Gload blows past second as the ball comes in from Williams to cut-off man Jeter to Rodriguez at third. With Cairo having also gone out to center in anticipation of the cut-off, Gary Sheffield has come all the way from right field to cover second as Gload slams on the breaks and scampers back to second. Gload is in no-man's land, but A-Rod's throw to Sheffield tails high and toward first base. Sheff is able to snag the ball, but having not played the infield in about a decade, makes a dreadful tag attempt. Catching the ball in his gloved left hand while facing third, Sheffield follows his momentum, turning his back on third base and attempting to tag Gload who, as a result, is sliding in behind Sheffield rather than in front of him. Gload is clearly safe and Sheffield tangles himself up so badly that he stumbles and plants a cleat right on Gload's left hand. Fortunately, Mussina gets the next batter to ground out to end the inning at long last. 3-0 Sox.

From there, Moose seems to settle down, though it's a gradual process. What's most impressive is how economical he becomes. Mussina gives up a single on the first pitch in the second but needs just ten pitches to retire the next three batters. A two-out single in the third ruins a 12-pitch inning. Two White Sox single in the fourth, but a double play erases one and Moose needs just eleven pitches to get through the inning. In the fifth, another single, another double play, just seven pitches.

Things get a bit rocky in the sixth. After retiring the first two batters on six pitches, including a three-pitch strikeout of Ross Gload, Mussina hangs a curve to Joe Crede, who deposits it in the seats to increase the White Sox lead to 4-2 (the Yanks scraped out a pair in the third on a Matsui double, Clark walk, a Cairo RBI double that finished an at-bat in which Miguel fouled off six of the eight pitches he saw, and a Jeter RBI ground out). Uribe singles on the next pitch and steals second (the game time temperature was 46 degrees and Posada never seemed to be able to get a good grip on his throws to second--of the three White Sox steals, two, including this one, failed to draw a throw from Posada). Olivo grounds out. Despite giving up two more hits and one more run, Mussina requires just fourteen pitches to get through the inning.

The Yanks get one back in the seventh on a Posada lead-off double and a pair of groundouts. Moose returns to the hill in the bottom of the frame to survive a Rodriguez error on fourteen more pitches. It hasn't been pretty, but Mussina has needed just 92 pitches through seven and held the White Sox to just one run over the last six innings. He's back on the bump in the eighth. Konerko works a full-count walk but is erased on a double play. Joe Crede lifts one over second base. Miguel Cairo goes back on it like Ike Hilliard, but it bounces off the pinkie finger of his glove for an error. Uribe flies out to end Mussina's night with the following line: 8 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 K, 104 pitches, 67 strikes.

It's not gorgeous, and it drops his record to 1-4, but it's Moose's best start of the year. The question is, was this a case of Mussina beginning to find himself (the pop never did return to his still sparsely used fastball), or a case of a near hall-of-fame level pitcher using all of his pitching know-how to get by with average stuff? Much as I want to say it's the former, I fear it's the latter. Still, it'll put the panic on hold for one more start.

Just for yucks, here are Moose's innings, pitches and strikes totals for his five starts this season:

4/17@ Bos5995960%
4/22@ Chi81046764%

By way of comparison, Javier Vazquez threw about 64 percent of his pitches for strikes in his 8-inning gem on Wednesday night.

The Yankees finish their season series with the White Sox with a 4-3 record.

Moving on, tonight Jose Contreras and Derek Lowe face of in a rematch of the one game the Yankees won in Boston. Both starters were knocked out in the third inning of that game. It seems very unlikely that that will happen again. For one thing, the Yankees believe that Contreras was tipping his pitches in his previous two starts. Mel Stottlemyre worked with Contreras during his bullpen session on Wednesday to eliminate the quirks in his delivery that were sending messages to the opposition. As a result, the Yankees are looking for a strong outing from El Titan de Bronze tonight.

In other news, Torre is expected to sit Posada tonight in favor of John Flaherty. The decision is not the result of a match-up as much as it is the result of a late flight out of Chicago. Flaherty would likely have gotten the start on Saturday, a day game following a night game. Instead, Torre will start Flaherty tonight, giving Posada some extra rest following the travel day and both weekend starts. Fine by me.

Lastly, the Yankees' clubhouse page on ESPN.com reports that the Yankees expect Jorge DePaula's recovery from Tommy John surgery to take 10 months, not 12-18 as reported by Mark Feinsand at MLB.com. A ten month recovery would allow DePaula to rejoin the team for spring training in 2005.

posted by Cliff at 10:46 AM

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Javy 'nother 

After Tuesday night's 19-run slop fest, last night's 3-1 Yankee victory was the good kind of boring. Coming off a rough outing pitching on seven day's rest in Boston, Javy Vazquez returned to form, holding the White Sox to one run in eight innings in a performance that mimicked his stellar opening day start in the Bronx:

Opening day: 8 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 106 pitches, 73 strikes
Last night: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K, 113 pitches, 72 strikes

Four of the five hits Vazquez allowed were singles. Two of them didn't leave the infield. Both walks and one of those infield singles came in the third inning, which ended when Vazquez got the dangerous Magglio Ordonez to ground out to third with the bases loaded. Two more singles came in the fourth. Carlos Lee lead off that inning by crushing Vazquez's first pitch, a hanging curve, into the White Sox bullpen in left. And that was it. The Sox went in order in the 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th and 8th innings, managing only an infield single in the fifth.

Mariano Rivera worked a scoreless ninth, though he struggled some, walking Ross Gload (who has been playing in place of the hamstrung Frank Thomas) on five pitches and needing 15 pitches to retire the last two batters.

On the flip side, John Garland nearly matched Vazquez (7 IP, 5 H, 2 BB, 6 K), allowing only a solo home run to a very confused Alex Rodriguez through six. In the seventh, however, after a lead-off single by Gary Sheffield, Garland ran smack into the AL's leading home run hitter, Jorge Posada, who launched a ball to dead center to put the Yankees up by the eventual final score of 3-1.

Last night's win did a few things. It clinched a series win for the Yankees for the first time this season (again, not counting the one-game win against the Devil Rays last week). Their 3-1 record over the past four games matches their best run of the season, a 3-1 run extending from their getaway win in Japan to their opening day victory against the White Sox. It also marks the third time this season the Yanks have won consecutive games. They have yet to win (or lose) three straight. Something they will try to accomplish tonight with Mike Mussina on the hill.

I've got to be honest. I'm a bit worried about Mussina. A lot has been said about how Moose had a shortened spring training because of the ten days he missed following the death of his father-in-law and the fact that the Yankee spring training was short to begin with due to the Japan trip. A lot has also been made about the effects of jet lag and irregular rest on Mussina. I think all of those are legitimate reasons for his struggles thus far this season. But I also think that with tonight being his fifth start of the season, he's had plenty of time to work through these problems.

Let's look at his previous four starts. I expected him to get rocked in Japan and again in Tampa. He did: 5 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 2 K in Japan; 4 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 1 K in Tampa. Not a problem, he was on irregular rest/jetlag/short spring, etc. I then expected him to put things together back in the Bronx. Instead he struggled again, though after an ugly first inning he managed to salvage a win: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R (3 ER), 2 BB, 6 K. Concerned about his overall lack of sharpness in that start but buoyed by the improvement made over his previous starts, particularly in the strikeout department, I figured he'd be the Moose of old in Boston. Instead, he posted this line: 5 IP, 7 H, 4 R (3 ER), 4 BB, 2 K.

Okay, now I'm worried. Four walks and two strikeouts? Then comes the news that his fastball is a few miles per hour slower than normal. This is bad, not because his fastball is a dominating pitch, but because the decreased speed differential between his fastball and breaking pitches reduces the effectiveness of the latter. It's been painfully clear in each of his starts that he hasn't had his usual pinpoint control. I'm still not ready to say that Moose has lost it, but I'm certainly less confident about his putting things together than I had been prior to his last two starts. Frankly, I don't even want to think about the possibility of Moose's problems being long term. As my good buddy Steve Goldman of Pinstriped Bible and BP fame said to me Tuesday night, "if one of the best control pitchers in the major leagues loses his control, would you rather it be mental or physical?" Exactly.

At any rate, while tonight's game may not mean much as far as the schedule is concerned (the Yanks have the series wrapped up and are back over .500), it's a very important start for Mussina and the Yankee rotation.

Speaking of which. Word is that Torre and Stottlemyre are giving some serious thought to pitching Vazquez on short rest against Pedro and the Red Sox on Sunday. Their alternatives are Alex Graman and Donovan Osborne. With Felix Heredia on the shelf, Osborne is the second lefty in the pen, which makes Graman, who had a dreadful outing in the rain on Tuesday, the most logical choice. As someone who has tickets to that game, my preference should be obvious. Then there's this from Larry Mahnken over at the Replacement Level Yankee Weblog:
With an off day on Monday, the rotation next week can shake out like this:

5th Starter vs. Boston
Vazquez vs. Oakland (5 days rest)
Mussina vs. Oakland (5 days rest)
Brown vs. Oakland (4 days rest)
Contreras vs. Kansas City (6 days rest)
5th Starter vs. Kansas City

or this:

Vazquez vs. Boston (3 days rest)
Mussina vs. Oakland (4 days rest)
Contreras vs. Oakland (4 days rest)
Brown vs. Oakland (4 days rest)
Vazquez vs. Kansas City (4 days rest)
5th Starter vs. Kansas City

So you've got Vazquez twice or the fifth spot twice. With the former you have everyone but Javy on normal rest. With the latter you've got every one but Brown on irregular rest (actually, that's a little misleading, they could keep Contreras and Brown in order and have everyone on one extra day, which is really no big deal). Still, seems like a no-brainer to me.

Speaking of that fifth spot, in his post-game interview on YES last night, Torre was asked about Sunday's starter (he said they hadn't decided yet) and in the process mentioned that Jon Lieber was not in the mix because he wants to give him one more start in Tampa. That's news because yesterday I reported that the Yankees were going to give Lieber two more starts in Tampa (though I suggested that a rough outing by Graman on Sunday might get Lieber up here sooner). Now it sounds like Lieber is being penciled in for that second game against the Royals on May 1. That, in turn, means that starting Vazquez on short rest on Sunday could eliminate the need for another start from Graman altogether. Yet another reason to give Javy the ball.

One final note on the back of the Yankee rotation. It was announced yesterday that Jorge DePaula, who was placed on the disabled list with tightness in his pitching elbow on Saturday, is going to have ligament replacement, aka Tommy John surgery, thus ending his season. Actually, there's a very good chance that the 25-year-old DePaula won't throw another pitch for the Yankees (or any other major league club) until 2006, as the recovery time is estimated at 12-18 months. Eighteen months from now is October 2005. My sympathies go out to DePaula, who seemed like a good kid with a future as a back-of-the-rotation starter. I hope for his sake that he's able to put his career back on track following this surgery. Unfortunately, it will most likely have to happen with another franchise.

Some notes on the Yankee line-up: Last night Joe Torre hit Jorge Posada sixth against a righty starter with Matsui batting seventh, something he hasn't done since last Friday against Tim Wakefield. Never mind that Posada is historically the better major league hitter and should be hitting sixth anyway, Jorge is currently leading the AL in homers and RBI while hitting .298/.404/.809 to Matsui's .260/.403/.380. Here's hoping Joe's finally seen the light. I'm also hoping it doesn't really take 429 points of slugging and a lead in two of the three triple crown categories to get his attention.

Meanwhile, yesterday's lead-off hitter was Bubba Crosby, who got his second start of the season in center field. Some of my fellow bloggers have expressed displeasure with the decision to hit Crosby lead-off, but I don't see a problem with it. True, he hasn't walked yet this season, but he's also 3 for 9 with a hit in every game in which he's had an at-bat, and thus a higher OBP than Derek Jeter, who's currently hitting .222/.300/.270. Yesterday Bubba lead off the game with a drag-bunt single. No complaints there.

What does mystify me about Bubba's start yesterday is that Torre started Bernie Williams in center in the rain on Tuesday, where Bernie played, by all reports, a dreadful centerfield, taking lazy, uncommitted routes to balls in a completely legitimate attempt to avoid injuring himself. Joe then gives Bubba the start in center the very next day in ideal weather conditions and bumps Bernie all the way to the bench. What gives?! Isn't half the point of having a guy like Crosby on the team to use him to protect Bernie in the exact sort of situation that presented itself on Tuesday night? This bass ackwards method of defensive replacement is quickly becoming a pattern (remember Joe starting Giambi in the field on the Tokyo Dome turf in exhibition games). At this rate I would not be surprised to see Giambi or Williams land on the DL at some point this season as a direct result of Torre's misuse of his bench.

Note: the above post was updated at 7:30 EST with a paragraph about Jorge DePaula. That paragraph was added to the original post at the original post time, but technical problems have kept me from republishing the sight since then.

posted by Cliff at 10:39 AM

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Jonny Five Alive 

Things didn't go so well for Alex Graman last night. He he lasted just 2 2/3 innings, while allowing five runs on eight hits and two walks. Of course, it's very possible that the rain delay played a large part in his struggles. Here are his numbers before and after the game's 72-minute rain delay.

Before: 2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K

After: 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 1K

Still, looking at Graman's overall line from last night, you're likely to have just one question: How's Jon Lieber coming along? Answer: Really well.

Now that the Yankees are going to be in regular need of a fifth starter, Lieber's extended spring training starts have been synced to the occurrence of those fifth-starter spots in the Yankees rotation. That means he took the hill yesterday down in Tampa. Here are the results: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K, 53 pitches, 41 strikes.


Lieber threw 15 more pitches in the bullpen after his start against minor leaguers from the Phillies system, bringing his total pitch count to 68. He is expected to get two more starts in Tampa before joining the Yankees. He'll throw 70 pitches on Sunday, as Graman takes on Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox, and will likely be asked to extend his pitch count even further on May 1 when Graman faces the Royals. Provided everything goes according to plan, and Lieber said yesterday that there is no trace of tenderness left from the groin injury that has delayed his Yankee debut, Lieber would then make his first start for the Bombers in Seattle on Friday May 7 or Saturday May 8.

With the caveat that Lieber is clearly a gamer, with a black knight-like willingness to play through pain, his arm is said to have been strong all spring, his control has certainly been sharp and every report on him has been positive. It would not surprise me to see Lieber called up to start on May 1 if Graman gets lit up against Boston on Sunday (not that I want that to happen, I've got tickets to that game). It would also not surprise me if, once with the big club, Lieber establishes himself as the Yankees number four starter, ahead of the maddening Jose Contreras (not that that designation really means anything until the postseason rolls around or Cashman trades to get Brandon Claussen back).

Speaking of infuriating Cuban pitchers, El Duque pitched in a game on the 19th. Here's his line from that outing: 3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 2 K. His fastball topped out at 87 miles per hour. He's still considered a month away. A month away from what, I'm not entirely sure.

Javier Vazquez makes his third Yankee start tonight against John Garland and the White Sox. Look for a much stronger outing than the one he had on seven day's rest in Boston. Following last night's free-for-all, I expect a close, low-scoring contest tonight.

posted by Cliff at 2:47 PM

What thu . . . 

I missed tonight's game. Looks like it was a real wild one. Read the summary here. The good news is the Yanks are back at .500 and need only split the next two to win their first series of the season and head into this weekend's showdown with the Red Sox with balanced record.

posted by Cliff at 12:55 AM

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Sox put Valentin on the DL 

Some good news for the Yankees prior to tonight's game in Chicago: the White Sox have placed Jose Valentin on the 15-day DL with a pulled left hamstring. Valentin was 5 for 17 (.294) with two walks, two homers, a triple, three RBI and five runs scored against the Yankees in their four game series two weeks ago (of course, he also made three errors at short). Expect Juan Uribe to start at shortstop in place of Valentin. Acquired from the Rockies for Aaron Miles this offseason, Uribe has been the White Sox's second baseman against lefty starters thus far this year. Uribe had a stellar series against the Royals last week. Starting all three games against the Kansas City's all-lefty rotation, Uribe went 7 for 12 (.583) with a walk, a double, a homer, four RBI, and three runs scored. When starting at second in place of Willie Harris, Uribe has lead off. I expect him to take over Valentin's second spot in the order behind Harris tonight.

Twenty-nine-year-old, righty-hitting infielder Kelly Dransfeldt will take Valentin's place on the roster. His only time in the major leagues was spent as a Texas Ranger from 1999 to 2001. He sports a career .430 OPS in 82 at-bats with one homer and no stolen bases. In AAA with the Reds and Red Sox in 2003 he displayed a similar inability to hit for average, power or patience.

With Valentin on the DL, the White Sox have just three lefty hitters on their entire roster: starting second baseman Willie Harris, back-up centerfielder Timo Perez, and rookie OF/1B Ross Gload. There are no switch-hitters on the White Sox 25-man roster.

Tonight, lefty Alex Graman makes his major league debut against the massively right-handed White Sox. His mound opponent is Sox ace Mark Buehlre. Buehlre mowed down the Yankees in the Bronx, allowing just three hits and two walks while shutting them out through eight innings. A lot of things will have to go the Yankees way for them to even out their record tonight. A lot more than not having to face John Valentin.

posted by Cliff at 3:35 PM

Monday, April 19, 2004

Game 4: Red Sox 5, Yankees 4; Sox take series 3-1 

Ouch. I was tracking today's game on ESPN GameCast and I have to say, this one smarts. Kevin Brown wasn't dominating, but he did his job. He only gave up one run through four and the Yankee offense staked him to a 4-1 lead thanks to a 3-run second keyed by a two-run Travis Lee double and a solo shot by Giamni in the third.

Then Boston started to chip away.

Fifth inning. Two outs. Full count. Mueller doubles. He's singled home by Ortiz. 4-2

Sixth inning. Varitek leads of the inning with a home run to right. 4-3

Seventh inning. Reese singles off Brown. Gabe White comes in to pitch to Johnny Damon, who singles on the first pitch he sees, sending Reese to third. Mueller strikes out. Ortiz hits a broken bat dribbler to the left of the mound that Rodriguez fields. With no chance to get Reese at home he turns to second, but double pumps the throw and sails it into right field. Sheffield keeps Damon at second. Tom Gordon comes in to get a double play ball from Ramirez to avoid further damage. 4-4

Eighth inning. Gordon strikes out Varitek but then gives up a 0-2 double to David McCarty (in the Bronx Banter comments here, Steve claims that the double was the result of a poor play by Matsui in left). Crespo moves McCarty to third on a groundout. Kapler singles to center, scoring McCarty. 4-5.

Ninth inning. Keith Foulke in to close it. Jeter works the count full then strikes out looking. Bernie flies out. Rodriguez singles for the first time in an age. Giambi strikes out looking on four pitches. Game over.

And yes, it was the devastating combination of McCarty, Crespo and Kapler that put together the winning run for Boston.

The Yanks now head to Chicago to begin a three-game series against the White Sox. The Chisox have won 5 of 6 against KC and Tampa Bay since splitting a four-game series in the Bronx two weekends ago. Pitching match-ups are posted on the side-bar. Now a game below .500, the Yanks could really use a series win in Chicago (don't look now, but other than their one-game win against the Devil Rays last week, the Yankees haven't won a series yet this year). Unfortunately, they'll be kicking things off with Alex Graman making his major league debut against the White Sox ace, Mark Beuhrle. On the brighter side, for the Yanks that is, Frank Thomas and Jose Valentin left yesterday's game with hamstring injuries. Both are day-to-day. The White Sox are off today.

posted by Cliff at 2:47 PM

Game 3: Yanks 7, Sox 3 

Happy Patriots day, folks! The Yanks and Sox are gonna wrap things up today starting at 11:05 am. Once again, it's beautiful weather for a ballgame (though awful weather for a marathon). With Kevin Brown on the hill, the Yanks are hoping to get the split.

They won yesterday thanks to a six-run third inning that knocked Derek Lowe out of the game. In the bottom of the third Jose Contreras fell apart and got knocked out his own self, but the bullpen (namely Quantrill, White, Gordon and Rivera) shut out the Sox for the remaining six-plus while allowing just four men to reach base to nail down the win. The Yankees scored more runs in the third inning yesterday (which went walk, single, double, single, double, K, single, RBI-groundout, double, fly out) than they had in any other game this season with the exception of their 12-1 victory over the Devil Rays in Japan. Travis Lee got the start at first. He was the K in that third inning, but made up for it with some key plays in the field.

Sorry for the quickie post, the early game plus a morning meeting here at work mean I'm outta time this morning.

posted by Cliff at 10:05 AM

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Game 2: Red Sox 5, Yanks 2; Lee Activated 

As I said on Friday, I spent yesterday enjoying the beautiful weather (and going 3 for 4 with a homer in an epic wiffle ball game). Turns out that was the right move, as the Yanks dropped their second straight to the Sox behind yet another disappointing outing by Mike Mussina.

By the looks of things it wasn't pretty. After loading the bases with two walks and a single in the second, Mussina walked in one run, then hit Bill Mueller with a pitch to force in a second. In the third a Derek Jeter error and a bunt single by Jason Varitek set up the third Boston run. With Donovan Osborne on in relief in the eighth, a hit-by-pitch was followed by a Posada throwing error on Bellhorn's attempted steal of second, allowing the runner to advance to third where he scored on an out for the final Boston run (Manny had homered off Moose in the fifth for the other run).

All the Yankees could manage off of Schilling was a Tony Clark homer in the fifth. Their second run came in the ninth with two outs when Sierra got a pinch-hit single, moved up on fielder's indifference and was singled home by Jeter.


Meanwhile, as long threatened, the Yankees activated Travis Lee yesterday. But wait! Tony Clark got his first North American start at first base yesterday, homering for the only run off Schilling. Does that mean they demoted Bubba? No! Joe "figured something out" alright. They put Felix Heredia on the disabled list with a bruised finger!

Sounds like a classic phantom injury to me. Heredia hasn't pitched since he faced four White Sox last Friday, all of whom scored. He's been residing in Torre's dog house ever since (or so it seemed). But now Joe tells us that Heredia caught his left index finger in a door back in Tampa and "It just never got better. He couldn't get a feel for the ball." I don't know whether or not to believe him, but frankly I don't care. I said I was going to be unhappy no matter what was done to clear room for Lee, but I guess I was wrong. Taking over the second lefty role, Donovon Osborne allowed one run on three hits and no walks while striking out four in three innings yesterday. He has a 1.93 ERA on the season.

This should also mean that Jorge DePaula will indeed get his second start on Tuesday. The one snag there is that, after losing the strike zone on Friday night, DePaula reported to the park yesterday and complained of tightness in his elbow. He was then sent to New York to be evaluated.

[Game 3 has started . . . more later]

Roster Update: Today's moves - DePaula and Quaddy Lofton placed on the 15-day DL. Scott Proctor and Alex Graman recalled from Columbus. Graman will get the start on Tuesday.

posted by Cliff at 12:19 PM

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