Monday, June 30, 2008

What To Expect From Gardner

Brett Gardner is a legitimate burner on the basepaths - he already has 34 stolen bases and 59 runs scored at AAA. His speed ranks as an 80 on the scouting scale [which ranges from 20-80]. Basically, Gardner has gamebreaking speed and should showcase it during a 3-game series against Rangers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

While Gardner's hitting prowess is a major topic of debate amongst prospect watchers, there is no arguing his plate discipline and patience. His .412 OBP this year is a testament to his ability to work counts, find a pitch to hit or take his walks. Essentially, Gardner can do whatever it takes to get on base - a great sign from a potential leadoff batter.

Where Gardner's power projects in the majors is tough to say. Most say he has gap power, but I would call it more of gap+ power in that he can turn around on an inside fastball with more conviction than most might think. That said, he won't be putting balls over the right field short porch with regularity like, say, Johnny Damon can.


Gardner is not as polished an outfielder as say Aaron Rowand, but he has that same tenacity and gritty approach to the game. It comes out most clearly in his fielding. You won't see any Bobby Abreu type plays at the warning track - in other words, if making a catch in centerfield means cracking his head into a fence [like Rowand], there will be no hesitation. As is the case with his baserunning, Gardner's speed allows him to get to balls that other fielders cannot. He takes good routes to flyballs in the gap, but his instincts are not elite.


Gardner's arm is not a cannon in center, and is probably just about average in left tonight, but he has a good enough arm to play in the middle of the outfield and is very accurate as well. There will be no confusing Gardner with Melky in that regard, so that will be something to keep an eye on should Gardner ever supplant Cabrera.

Here's a bit on Gardner's 2007 accolades taken from
Over the last two seasons, [Gardner] has successfully stolen a base in 83.6 percent of his tries (97-for-116)...led all Yankees Minor Leaguers in stolen bases and tied for the Thunder team lead with five triples...successfully stole a base in 21-of-24 attempts with Scranton/WB...

following the season, was named to the 2007 Arizona Fall League Top Prospects Team after hitting safely in 24-of-26 contests with the Peoria Javelinas...led the AFL in stolen bases (16) and runs scored (27) while ranking second in hits (37), tying for third in walks (17), and placing fourth in on-base percentage (.433) and fifth in batting average (.343).
That two season stolen base percentage of 83.6 is an excellent indicator of Gardner's breakaway speed and great instincts in base thievery.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Horne Leaves Start With(out) Injury?

UPDATE 7:45 - Jennings has the news on Horne. Apparently he is suffering from sort of peculiar dead arm period:

Alan Horne is not injured, but he's not perfectly fine either. For whatever reason, he said his arm had no energy when he went to the mound this afternoon.

“It was almost like I couldn’t get the ball there," he said. "It didn’t matter what I tried to do. I’d try to add something to it and it seemed like the harder I tried to throw it, the less effective it would be. My breaking stuff was just as slow and loopy as I think I’ve ever thrown it, and I can’t tell you why. Physically I’m fine. They came out there and checked me out and I said, ‘Nothing hurts. I just feel dead. My arm especially. It’s like I have no life, no drive through anything.’ ”

Horne said he's hoping his arm is simply going through a slight dead period after the extensive rehab work he did in Tampa. He's planning to throw on the side tomorrow and prepare for his next regularly scheduled start. As for shaking his arm throughout the start, Horne said it had nothing to do with aches and pains.
Horne said that he did strength tests after the game and was told his shoulder was strong and healthy. You hear people talk about a "dead arm," and maybe that's what Horne's going through right now. It's weird to say the least.
This is neither horrible or encouraging news. Just strange. I would have to assume the Yankees doctors will do further testing to discover what the cause could be for such a condition.

After just two thirds of an inning, Alan Horne exited today's start for AAA Scranton with what appears to be another arm malady. Horne had thrown 30+ pitches during that time and walked three batters.

From Chad Jennings:
He was constantly shaking his right arm in between pitches.
After walking the first two batters, then getting back-to-back outs, Horne walked the bases loaded, leading pitching coach Rafael Chaves to go to the mound to check on him. Horne promptly went down in the count 3-1 before allowing a single to left field. After the base hit, the Yankees manager, pitching coach and trainer went to the mound and Horne walked away after a brief discussion.
The barrage of injuries to Yankees pitching is becoming obscene at this point. Wang, Hughes, Kennedy, Betances, Garcia, Whelan and now Horne - [not to mention minor injuries to Cox and Heredia]

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Robertson Called Up

Looks like someone read my last post. Naw, but Mr. Robertson's neighborhood will now be the Bronx, NY and no longer the less desirable minor league station of Scranton Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Hat tip to Ed Price of the Star Ledger who broke the news on Robertson and also reported "no corresponding move yet." Looks like Dan Giese's stay in the majors will be a shortlived one.

Seems rather unjust considering of his two starts, one was very good [a accurate toss to second from pitching seven scoreless] and one was horrible. Giese may only have an abbreviated stay at AAA before being called up again, but I personally believe he deserved another shot at starting.

Not to say I expect much from Giese, but journeymen like him are worthy of a second chance. We saw what Sidney Ponson did with his last night.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Here's To You Mr. Robertson Or...
It Can't Be Long Now

Dave Robertson just keeps getting nastier. Struck out the side Thursday night.

This year he's split time at AA and AAA, piling up 74 strikeouts over 51.2 innings-pitched.

Everyone within the Yankees organization realized the only thing holding back Robertson was his high walk rates. Enter the month of June. Over his last 10 appearances [beginning on June 3], Robertson has posted a 27-to-5 strikeout to walk ratio over 17 innings. Oh, by the way, he has a 1.06 ERA and only 7 hits allowed during that time.

When people talk about Nintendo numbers to describe a pitcher's statistics, just look at Dave Roberton's career minor league numbers. Just to keep you posted, that now makes it 136 career minor league innings without allowing a home run. As the former Alabama closer continues to shrink his bb/9 rate, the only question remaining is when?... as in when will he get the call?

At this point, is there anyone on Earth who would rather have LaTroy Hawkins pitching instead of Robertson? Well, besides Red Sox fans. Seriously, what a waste of a roster spot.

Meanwhile, JB Cox is back with the team and back to dominating late AAA innings.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Do Not Trade For The Cornrows

1+ innings pitched. 11 hits. 10 earned runs. 3 home runs.

Just another reason [of many] why Bronson Arroyo does not belong in a Yankees uniform. Regardless of how badly some people want you to believe that he's some sort of dominant AL East warrior, Mr. Arroyo is merely an above league-average pitcher with a 89 mph fastball and a 7.41 postseason ERA.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Great American Ballpark is a great American bandbox. I don't see it holding Edinson Volquez back and I seem to remember Aaron Harang putting together three straight impressive seasons there over the past three years.

Not to mention Tuesday's beatdown of Arroyo took place in the Rogers Centre against a suspect Blue Jays offense that's ranked 18th in batting average, 27th in runs/game, 25th in doubles, 27th in home runs, and 27th in RISP.

Every starter has poor outings. But this just seems to be an exclamation point at the end of a very cautionary sentence.

An Humberto Sighting

Humberto Sanchez pitching in a real live game? Hold the phone.

That's right. The overweight Bronx native with the million dollar arm has finally made it back to the mound and pitched this afternoon for the GCL Yankees.

The results weren't great, but they're also meaningless. For the next month or so, the sole objective for Sanchez [like Cox and Melancon early on this year] is to pile up innings. As the innings increase, so will his velocity, command and strength.

As those factors return to their pre-surgery levels, the results will undoubtedly follow. I still find it hard to believe Sanchez has enough time left in the season to make his way to the bigs.

Dellin Betances pitched in the same GCL game and had a poor showing as well by tossing 2 innings and allowing three runs on four hits. As is the case with any pitcher returning from a shoulder injury, the focus remains on regaining his strength and comfort.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Cheap Pitcher Worth Trading For

Here's an underrated starting pitcher that I have yet to have heard mentioned as a potential target for the Yankees this trade deadline:

Last season he pitched to a 3.70 ERA over 175 innings in a hitter's ballpark, and in the tough AL East division.

This year, over 102 innings-pitched, he has compiled an impressive 3.51 ERA and 1.21 WHIP and his last start saw him toss 8 solid innings of one-run ball against a powerful Astros lineup - while striking out 8, walking 1 and allowing only 3 hits.

This right handed pitcher possesses a 93-95 mph fastball, a plus curveball in the high 70's as well as a strong changeup to compliment a career 2.61 ERA against the Red Sox.

If you haven't figured it out already, I'm talking about Jeremy Guthrie of the Baltimore Orioles who is still just 29 years old and is making a mere $770,000 this year. Baltimore is by no means the most agreeable trading partner, and there is little reason for them to deal such an inexpensive, effective starter.

The Orioles, however, could not be selling any higher and would likely never get a better deal for Guthrie than right now. A couple years ago Guthrie was a flamed out bust who the Orioles picked up off the Indians scrapheap. A couple years from now he could be back on that heap. Is that possibility strong enough to coerce a trade out of the elusive Camden Yards fortress Angelos so stubbornly protects?

Doubtful, but the Yankees have the type of depth with young starting pitching which could make even Peter Angelos jump. Sabathia he is not and it probably won't happen, but that doesn't mean Guthrie isn't a stopgap worth discussing.

Tribe Scoping Out Baby Bombers

According to Jon Heyman, the Cleveland Indians are now scouring through the Yankees minor league system with the intent of finding a worthy package for their ace CC Sabathia:
The Indians have begun scouting the Yankees' system to see if they can find anything to interest them in case they decide to trade C.C. Sabathia. They have told teams they have to get better than the two draft choices they'd get if Sabathia left as a free agent. Sabathia, who's likely just a rental pitcher (though a great one), is believed to be interested in a "Johan Santana contract.'' Good luck there. Sabathia's a nice kid and he's lefthanded, but he should get into Johan Santana shape before anyone agrees to give him six years. The Dodgers, Red Sox, Phillies and Cubs also are believed to be interested.
Not that Sabathia is on Santana's level, but Heyman's dismissal is so strong he would have you believe the topic of conversation was Jarrod Washburn and not a 27 year-old southpaw who throws 97 mph and is coming off a Cy Young season.

Heyman seems to really enjoy lauding Santana and the Mets at times and has a little bit of Lupica in him regarding the Yankees. Nothing wrong with that, but the grand slam Felix Hernandez [yes, the pitcher] hit off Santana tonight might make him pipe down a bit on that front.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mike & The Mad Dog Split?

From Neil Best of Newsday comes a report that famed sports talk hosts Mike Francesa and Chris Russo may have reached their end as the preeminent sportsradio machine in the country. Apparently, their personal differences have reached unbearable heights as of late and one of the two media giants will move on to another gig:
Barring a change of heart, the partnership between Mike Francesa and Christopher "Mad Dog" Russo is not expected to survive to see its 19th anniversary Sept. 5, industry sources with knowledge of the situation said.

They may have already done their final show together; their next scheduled broadcast is not until July 11.

It is not clear which host would remain on WFAN, only that it would not be both of them. One factor appears to be a fraying of their personal relationship in recent months.

Reached on vacation Saturday night, Francesa flatly said, "No comment."

Russo, meanwhile, denied knowledge of a potential breakup, and said that his contract, including a no-compete clause, runs through October of 2009.
Say what you want about the frustrating duo, the show has long provided New Yorkers with great baseball coverage, interviews and breaking news. In recent years there had been many rumors regarding a potential M&MD break-up - including buzz that Russo would join ESPN - but this particular report seems to have some credibility.

Sunday's updated post from Best did not change tenure and maintains the belief that "this matter will play itself out relatively quickly." In other words, the M&MD split is imminent, according to the Newsday columnist.

Mr. Caldera, You Slay Me

Want to read a completely uneducated attempt at educating the casual Yankees fan on its minor league system?

Click here.

Which is more obvious: a fledgling big league columnist clearly not having a handle on a team's farm system or a "scout" who clearly knows next to nothing about Yankees prospects?

Quoting a scout whose job likely involves covering the Texas League - and not monitoring the Yankees farm - is about as solid a report as a Roger Clemens deposition. Zinger!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

SNY: Give Horne A Shot

The SNY site had an article up yesterday on Alan Horne regarding his place within the starting pitching pecking order.

Though the piece makes several strong points [i.e. the team's reluctance to rush pitching prospects in lieu of Hughes and Kennedys' tough starts], the author seems to forget Horne has only started twice since missing over a month with a bicep strain.

There is also the fact that he has only tossed a total of 24 AAA innings. After Phil Hughes spent so little time at AAA, the Yankees are reasonably hesitant to push Horne into the majors and are not simply being "gun shy" as the article portends.

Otherwise, the post has some insightful remarks thanks to Deric McKamey of BaseballIQ:
The injury to workhorse starter Chien-Ming Wang seriously threatens to submerge the Yankees' playoff hopes, which already were taking on water despite the recent spate of wins against the overmatched National League.

Deric McKamey of and author of the Minor League Baseball Analyst thinks Horne deserves a shot.

“I’d definitely gamble on Horne’s upside before recycling guys like Rasner and Giese,” McKamey said. “I think there’s concern, though, given what happened to Kennedy. But Horne’s stuff is better than Kennedy’s. Of course, Phil Hughes disappointed, too, but now that’s being blamed on the injury. Their bad luck with pitching prospects is making them reluctant [with Horne].”

Horne’s fastball is his best pitch, clocking in at 94 mph consistently and with decent movement.

“He has very good stuff and obviously can miss bats,” McKamey said. “But the worry with him is his command. What’s going to happen when he falls behind to big league hitters? But, again, I think the Yankees are feeling a little gun shy right now and aren’t being as aggressive as maybe they should be.”

The 92-95 mph fastball is an enticing thought - especially when its paired with a filthy power curveball, serviceable slider and developing change. However, Salfino does not emphasize enough that 24 innings at the AAA level is pretty premature in promoting a starter to the big leagues - particular if said pitcher has not been completely dominant and is returning from injury.

The credibility of the piece also comes into question with this utter glibness:
Hughes (rib fracture) is ready to start throwing again in about a week. But Hughes has become sort of the new Mark Prior minus the good pitching.
Right. That wouldn't be a Mets fan writing for the Mets TV network, would it?

Friday, June 20, 2008

When Ambidextrousness Goes Awry

In case you missed it last night, Brooklyn took on Staten Island in the NYP league and newly drafted Pat Venditte [drafted three times total by the Yankees] was at the center of a hilarious controversy. Venditte is a switch pitcher who can throw with either arm and he faced a switch hitter in the ninth inning. What followed took a page out of Abbott and Costello.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Is Cy Young In Mo's Future?

Mariano Rivera is turning back the clock in 2008. He hasn't just been good or very good. He's been unbelievable, even by Rivera standards. The 38 year-old's season is even more jaw-dropping when you isolate his performances during save situations...and oh yeah, remember that he's 38 years old.

With no particular AL starting pitcher yet emerging as a no-brain selection for the Cy Young, this may be the season Rivera picks up the elusive hardware. Actually, Cliff Lee may have something to say about that.

From Ed Price:

Not only has Rivera converted his first 20 save chances, making him the third pitcher to do so since 2000, but he has not allowed a run in any of those games. He is just the third pitcher since the save was instituted in 1969 to complete his first 20 save opportunities without allowing a run, joining Detroit's John Hiller in 1973 and Boston's Jonathan Papelbon in 2006.

When the Yankees have a slim lead, he is nearly untouchable. Rivera has retired 25 of the last 26 batters he has faced when protecting a one-run lead -- 0-for-25 with one walk and 15 strikeouts. The only hit he has allowed all year with the Yankees up a run came April 3, to Toronto's Vernon Wells.

That last bit is the definition of automatic. Here's the pitching line thus far for Rivera: 34 innings, 15 hits, 39 strikeouts, 3 walks, 0.79 ERA and 0.53 WHIP. At some point The Sandman will decline - just not this year.

Where'd All Those People Go
Who Wanted Joba In The Pen?

You don't waste your best arm in one-inning relief.

Joba Chamberlain has thrown 18.1 innings since becoming a starting pitcher for the Yankees. Over that period, he has 19 strikeouts, 14 hits allowed and a 2.45 ERA. Considering the fact that today was the first time Chamberlain had been giving a full slate of pitches to work with, it would appear the "Chamberlain belongs in the pen" crowd have meekly scurried off to their holes.

Excluding two intentional walks, Chamberlain has handed out 10 free passes to the 19 punchouts he's issued as a starter. Although he needs to bring down his walk rate, Chamberlain's superior strikeout ability and overall stuff covers up that wart nicely. This fact was emboldened today when Chamberlain escaped a bases loaded, zero-out jam without allowing a single run to score.

I guess that second inning situation would be better suited for Dan Giese - because Joba belongs in the eighth inning, even when there's no lead to protect. Had Giese or Rasner worked himself into similar trouble, the Yankees may have been pondering a 3-2 loss - their first in six games. Instead, Chamberlain refused to let in a run and a 2-1 victory kept a seven game winning streak alive.

As I stated when the transition to the rotation was first announced, Chamberlain's only big problem in the minors was conserving his pitches and remaining economical, which was somewhat evidenced today. Had he been on a longer leash, Chamberlain would have likely completed six innings of one-run ball and earned the W. Chamberlain is 22 years old and he will eventually learn to manage his pitchcount more effectively and do a better job of holding runners on.

In the mean time, however, a few poitns have been proven true:
1) Joba has frontline stuff.
2) That stuff is maintained deep into games.
3) He has the repertoire of five pitches [fastball, sinker, slider, curve, change] to succeed as a starter
So we will continue to wait for Fatso & Fruit Loops to admit they were wrong on this particular topic. I won't hold my breath, though.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Minors Injury Updates:
Cox, Garcia, Betances

JB Cox began throwing again Monday after being shelved with what was labeled as shoulder soreness a week ago. This is excellent news for the Yankees and proves Mark Newman was correct in implying Cox's injury was nothing serious after some miscommunication had Brian Cashman stating Cox would be out "at least three weeks." It seems this tired shoulder and soreness is something expected after such a long layoff from elbow surgery. It does not appear the Yankees are very worried about this injury as Newman's comments were bordering on dismissive.

Apparently Dellin Betances pitched in a simulated game today and is making his way back from a similar shoulder malady to what sidelined Cox. Betances is rumored to have hit the high 90's mph with his fastball and had no discomfort. The flamethrowing righthander may return to the Charleston rotation in the very near future. It may just be the conspiracy theorist in me, but the Yankees may have simply decided to give Betances a breather in an attempt to limit his innings this year. The same type of blueprint was mapped out for Phil Hughes when he was at Charleston.

Chris Garcia
has been MIA of late and an injury has been the only possible explanation. Though the Tampa Yankees are about as forthright as the Bush administration, rumor has it Garcia is suffering from the same slight soreness which bothered him while working his way through Extended Spring Training.

That's a lot of tired shoulders. It's important to remember how precautionary the Yankees have become with their minor leaguers, particularly when those players are high ceiling pitching prospects.

Garcia and Betances both have #1 starter type ceilings and will therefore be handled with as much care as professional athletes can be - regardless of what Jim Kaat thinks. Is anyone else completely perplexed by Kitty's inability to put together a coherant written column? I loved the guy in the broadcast booth, but somewhere between the microphone and the keyboard Kaat knocked his head on a toilet bowl and thought pitchers should once again throw 200 pitches per start like he did.

Wolf Fails Audition As NY Dominates,
[A-Jax & Aceves Are Red Hot]

Was at the stadium tonight to witness Andy Pettitte's second straight dominant start and another offensive explosion from the Yankees offense. Over his past two starts Pettitte has tossed 15 innings, struck out 15 batters, walked two, allowed 10 hits and just one run. Looks like that second half trend is beginning a little bit earlier this year.

Out of the visitor's dugout came Randy Wolf, another lefthanded starter who has recently been linked to the Yankees as a potential trade target. Unfortunately for Wolf fans, the lefty's try-out did not go as planned. [I'd like to state that I have zero interest in Wolf and would much rather see McCutchen, Horne, Aceves, for an extended period of time instead]

After retiring the side in the first, Alex Rodriguez welcomed Wolf to New York in the second inning with a bomb to straight away center field. As soon as A-Rod connected I was thinking double off the wall [which he did later in the game], only to watch in amazement as it landed in the Yankees bullpen a hundred feet in front of me. Rodriguez is beginning to heat up - after Tuesday night's game he is now hitting .328 and to lead the team in batting average.

Jason Giambi
added two moonshots of his own, and the Wolf-to-the-Bronx experiment met an abrupt finish. The two homers were numbers 16 and 17 on the season and his three RBI gives the Big G a very respectable 40 RBI this season. Giambi has a lot of people, myself included, eating crow considering the type of production many expected from him this year [i.e. a .230 batting average and 10 homers before an extended stay on the DL].

The final line on Wolf: 4 innings, six hits, seven runs [five earned], two walks, two strikeouts and three home runs.

Farm News:
The unbelievable story of Alfredo Aceves continues to grow as the 25 year-old RHP proved tonight he has no challenges left for him at AA-Trenton. Over eight scoreless innings Tuesday night, Aceves allowed just one hit, struck out four and walked two. Over six starts at AA, Mr. Aceves has a 1.64 ERA over 44 innings [7+ innings per start], striking out 33, walking just 5, with 33 hits and a ridiculous WHIP of 0.86.

In the same game, Austin Jackson went 4-for-5, hit his fourth homer in as many games [his seventh] and picked up four RBI [his 45th] while upping his batting average to .283 this year. After a slow start Jackson has shown all the reasons he scorched up prospect lists - interestingly enough, it was last June when A-Jack began to catch fire at Tampa. This is an exceptional athlete who possesses "easy speed," a strong glove/arm, all of which compliments an impact bat whose power is just beginning to emerge.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hank Takes On The NL

Hank Steinbrenner holds the National League responsible for the devastating injury suffered by Chien Ming Wang when running the bases in Houston on Sunday.
"My only message is simple: The National League needs to join the 21st century," Steinbrenner said. "They need to grow up and join the 21st century. I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He's going to be out. I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s."
Not to be picky, but the designated hitter rule was not instituted until 1973. Hey, what's three quarters of a century between friends. Most American League fans may agree with Steinbrenner's logic, as self-centered as it may currently seem. NL fans will preach "baseball purism" with equal vigor, and nothing will change.

Wang Out With Lisfranc Injury

According to multiple sources, Chien Ming Wang has been diagnosed with a Lisfranc injury to his right foot:
Imaging studies revealed a mid-foot sprain of the Lisfranc ligament of the right foot and a partial tear of the peroneal longus tendon of the right foot.
This is the same injury which has kept Brian Bruney out and Wang will be stuck in a protective boot for six weeks before beginning rehabilitation. Looks like a late August return would be the ideal situation though Wang could be out until the postseason starts.

These recovery periods are purely speculative on my part, though the Sabathia rumors will certainly gain a life of its own. No doubt about it, this injury is a devastating blow to a team which had just recently begun playing good baseball.

BL's Sabathia Trade Proposal

As the Yankees universe waits with baited breath to hear how long Chien Ming Wang will be out due to yesterday's foot injury, the trade rumors have begun to circulate with frenetic pace. In the offseason the Yankees passed on a Johan Santana trade because they felt the asking price [players & money combined] was far too steep.

Should Wang be out for an extended period of time or for the season, the need for an ace-type pitcher becomes a necessity and not a luxury for the Yankees. The fact that a Sabathia deal would not demand as much talent as a Santana trade is also interesting.

However, any trade for CC Sabathia must give the Indians more value than they perceive they could possibly acquire in the form of two compensation picks in next year's draft. Essentially, a trading partner looking to pick up Saba must put together a package with equal talent to a couple of first rounders.

Here's my first proposal though I preface by admitting some other players [mentioned later] would also be feasible additions during further negotiations:
Cleveland gets: Jose Tabata; Ian Kennedy; Alan Horne and JB Cox [or Dan McCutchen and Ross Ohlendorf]

New York gets: Carsten Charles.
The Indians would be buying low on Kennedy/Horne who are both working their way back from injuries. But, they would also be getting two young starters who totally dominated last season and are at or on the verge of staying at the big league level.

In Tabata, the Indians will be getting the high ceiling corner outfielder they desire. The Yankees are - like Kennedy - selling a top prospect at a bargain price. The upside on Tabata is still tremendous, and Cleveland scouts know this.

Finally, to offer a little bit of flexibility, the Indians can choose from a high level prospect close to the majors [Horne and Cox] or a more serviceable, versatile starter [McCutchen]
as well as a power pitching reliever already with big league experience [Ohlendorf]. Scott Patterson could also be substituted in any deal as a viable reliever on the brink of the bigs.

The Untouchables:
The following players in my mind would be completely untouchable in a Saba deal -
Robinson Cano, Phil Hughes, Mark Melancon, Austin Jackson, Jesus Montero, Andrew Brackman.

Tough Sells:
These players should be available to deal, though it may be difficult for the fanbase to accept -
Dellin Betances, Zach McAllister, Dave Robertson, Brett Gardner, Humberto Sanchez.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sabathia Rumors Abound

BL favorite Dan Graziano has a story appearing in Sunday's Star Ledger which describes the increasing buzz around a potential CC Sabathia trade.

The Indians have seen multiple tough injuries hit multiple important players like Victor Martinez and an already slumping Travis Hafner. Combined with a poor start [currently 6.5 games behind a mediocre White Sox squad], the Indians have been forced into entertaining offers for their Cy Young lefty.
About a month and a half ago, The Star-Ledger reported that the Cleveland Indians had told their scouts to pay special attention to the farm systems of certain select teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets, some others) that would be likely to have interest in ace lefty C.C. Sabathia if the Indians decided to put him on the trade market this summer.
Stay tuned on Sabathia, because if the depleted Indians don't go on a real serious hot streak soon, you're going to be hearing his name a lot.
Graziano also mentions that Boston and Wrigleyville have already expressed interest in Saba, though nobody knows if this is yet another smokescreen [see: Santana, Johan] perpetrated by the Red Sox.

Seems unlikely the Indians will simply accept two first round picks and let Sabathia go without at least exploring his trade value. Whether or not a trade actually takes place is in Shapiro's hands. It would be hard to fathom the Yankees giving up an immense package and mega contract to CC if they wouldn't do it for Santana.

Rest assured, we'll be hearing a lot about Mr. Carston Charles.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cox Injury A Mystery

JB Cox, who is knocking on the major league door as a potentially very valuable bullpen contributor, was recently placed on the seven-day DL. Then all hell broke loose.

Pete Abraham first reported via Brian Cashman that Cox had a case of shoulder tendinitis which would keep him out of action for "at least three weeks."

However, Tyler Kepner of the NY Times spoke to Mark Newman - the VP of baseball operations - that Cox's injury was a minor case and that he should be out only a few days. Somewhere in this jumble, Cash and Newman either crossed signals or there is a liar in our midst.

Here's what Kepner posted:
When the Yankees placed reliever J.B. Cox on the disabled list Wednesday without specifying a reason, it did not seem to be a good sign. But in talking to Mark Newman just now, it seems to be just a minor problem.

Cox, a top prospect at Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, has tendinitis in his right shoulder. Newman said it was only supposed to sideline Cox for four or five days, but because Class AAA allows for a seven-day disabled list, the Yankees put him there to give Scranton an extra reliever while he’s down.

“It’s a short-term deal,” Newman said by telephone from the Dominican Republic. “It’s not something to worry about.”
Cox seemed to have been very, very close to a big league promotion so this is a very interesting topic. More as it becomes available.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Star Ledger's Dan Graziano
Sits Down With Bronx Liaison

The incomparable Dan Graziano of The Newark Star Ledger was kind enough to sit down with BL and answer a few questions regarding the Bronx Bombers. Dan covers both the Yankees and Mets for the Ledger, breaks MLB news in print, appears on SNY's SportsNite and also contributes to the paper's online outlet at Topics included Alex Rodriguez, the Joba Debate, the explosion of online sports media, the "Young Elephants" and the 2008 postseason.
BL: For Yankees fans the 2008 season has not begun as they had hoped. The team has hovered around the .500 mark, endured costly injuries to two of their biggest offensive threats and witnessed horrible starts from their two young starters [Hughes & Kennedy]. Have you yet been surprised with their poor overall performance and the proverbial "lack of fire" demonstrated under Joe Girardi's stewardship? After all, this was supposed to be a more fiery ballclub than the teams we saw during the final years of Joe Torre's tenure, retaliation hit batsmen aside.

Graziano: I'm not surprised they've started slowly. The biggest question facing the Yankees going into spring training was starting pitching, and that remains their biggest question. Their lineup is very strong and will score a lot of runs, slow starts notwithstanding. Their bullpen has its flaws, but it's not perceptibly worse than anybody else's. The plain fact is, if they get enough starting pitching, they'll be fine, and if they don't, they'll probably miss the playoffs. Right now, Mussina and Rasner have been their best guys while Wang and Pettitte have been struggling and Joba is still morphing. They have reason to believe that quintet will get it done, but they need to put together some consistent turns through the rotation. As for "fire," the clubhouse seems pretty lively to me, and lately they've shown a lot more late-game spunk.
BL: As unbelievable as Joba Chamberlain has been in the setup role, doesn't it seem like they're wasting his talents if the starting pitchers aren't even able to carry a lead into the seventh or eighth inning for him to protect?
Graziano: I agree that Joba should be a starter, and I think moving him to the rotation is the right move for the Yankees in 2008 and beyond.
BL: The Star Ledger sports section has always been my personal favorite daily to turn to, particularly for their coverage of MLB. With your recent foray into the blogging world what have you recognized within the online format when contrasted with the conventional newspaper form? Do you feel there is validity to the idea that blogging threatens to "dumb down" the content for both writers and readers, or do you believe there's space for it as a unique journalistic niche?

Graziano: There's no doubt there's space for it, but I do caution against calling it journalism. Sure, some blogging is journalism. But much of it is opinion and observation from people who don't go out and find out information. The blogging I do for the site is mostly journalistic, since it is generated from the reporting I do -- talking to baseball people in person at the park and on the phone to find out what's going on, how the game is played, etc. There is certainly some opinion in there, and we do try to have some fun, but I think in general there is a difference between "journalism," which I define as procuring and disseminating information, and blogging by people with no access to said information. Please understand, I do not look down on blogging or bloggers at all. I think there's a lot of brilliant stuff being done out there. Some of it qualifies as journalism, because it's based on research and reporting. But much of it is not, and therefore doesn't, for me, fall into that category. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as Seinfeld would have said...
BL: As someone who's worked as a print reporter, is under the age of 30 and somehow still religiously reads (and hopes to someday be read) daily in the sports pages, I find myself extremely conflicted over the explosion of online media. Considering you are a veteran newsman who is neither Buzz Bissinger-like (thinks online writing is blasphemous) or completely cyber-reliant, what is your take on the rise of the blog machine?
Graziano: If I can try to condense, so as not to be Bissinger-bashed, I enjoy blogs and I love the role they play in our society. I think some of the media-criticism blogs probably don't take into account what actually goes into the daily performing of our jobs, but turnabout is fair play. For years, we've critiqued ballplayers who think we don't fully appreciate how hard their jobs are.
BL: At least one Yankees beat writer has painted Alex Rodriguez as a socially perplexing interview subject who frequently just walks off or puts on headphones to signal the end of an interview. Do you notice an increasingly obvious disconnect between players, writers and, by extension, the fans or is the media microscope simply more keen and relentless on professional athletes than ever before?
Graziano: There's no doubt there's a disconnect. We don't live in their world, and they don't live in ours. Some of them hate us and resent that we're there. Some of them understand why we're there and work hard at their end of the reporter-subject dynamic. Most are quite pleasant and accommodating, some aren't. Alex is generally very distant, but sometimes you can get him one-on-one and he'll be great. He obviously knows a lot about how the game is played, and when he's willing to share it, he can be a big help to your reporting.
BL: It seems some New York writers forget that though he may seem mute in comparison with his elder, louder brother Hank, Mr. Hal Steinbrenner actually has equal say in all Yankees matters. What is your take on the new direction of Yankees ownership? Does the "mellow versus macho" dynamic [Hal and Hank] smell like a recipe for disaster or are they just a great source of backpage copy?

It certainly smells like trouble, and there does seem to already have been some behind-the-scenes head-butting between the two. For instance, Hank Steinbrenner said last week that he planned to talk to Cashman about a new contract. Hal said it wasn't true, then Hank went ahead and did it. I wonder, going forward, how the two will operate together. And I suspect that the unknown aspect of that is part of the reason Cashman is holding off on deciding whether he'll be back. If it looks like working for Hank/Hal will be as bad as or worse than working for their dad was, he might want to skedaddle. And I think it's too early to know for sure.
BL: You said earlier that this team's clubhouse has shown some fire of late. What sort of uncharacteristic behavior would the casual baseball fan be surprised to hear about the Yankees who are often portrayed as robotic, corporate, drones?

Graziano: The mustache thing, I guess. Mussina's quote board. I just get a different feel in there than I used to. I mean, fans like to talk about those Tino Martinez/Scott Brosius/Paul O'Neill teams playing with "fire," but that didn't translate to the clubhouse. That clubhouse was quiet, corporate and stuffy. This one is much looser in general, and a more comfortable place for us to do our jobs for sure. This is a more approachable, friendly group of players who seem to like each other a great deal. They've even come to tolerate Alex. [laughs]
BL: Finally, what do you tell the large segment of the Yankees fanbase who are contemplating a Brooklyn Bridge swan dive? Are the Bombers poised for their first quiet October since the strike year or will they take advantage of an underwhelming crop of American League contenders - Tigers, Mariners, etc. - and pull out a playoff berth?
Graziano: I picked them to make the playoffs (and the Tigers to miss) before the season started. Personally, I'm thinking the Rays, A's, White Sox are all poised for a fall and the Yankees will play better. It won't be easy, and I have no way of knowing if they'll make it, but there's no way to rule them out. They've come back from worse, for sure.
Again, a big thanks goes out to Dan for taking time out of his hectic schedule to offer some knowledge and insight on the Yankees universe. And if you don't already, be sure to check out his work in the Ledger in print as well as online.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kobe Fires Back @ Schilling

Curt Schilling likes to talk a lot. As you've probably already heard, Schilling ripped Kobe Bryant on his blog today after allegedly witnessing Bryant berate his teammates during Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Bryant is not my favorite athlete in the world, but he did have a nice reply to the blathering hypocrite that is Mr. Red Light:
Asked if he was disappointed in Schilling's comments, Bryant responded, "Go Yankees!" and pumped his fist, drawing laughter from reporters Wednesday.
I would say the Kobe fanbase just gained about 10 million new disciples.

Hughes Out Until August?
Sore Shoulder For Cox

According to, Phil Hughes may not return to the big leagues until early August:
Right-hander Phil Hughes is expected to be examined this week and his timetable for a big league return has been pushed back to early August.
Tough break for Hughes. The other Yankees beat reporters have yet to collaborate Bryan Hoch's report, so this may simply be a tentative date to shoot for. Until Yankees brass or other writers support the report I'll assume Hughes will be ready sometime in July.

Update on JB Cox: he was placed on the seven-day DL with shoulder soreness according to Chad Jennings. There's no word on how long he will be out or how severe the injury may be. Jennings did confirm that the injury was "not related to his elbow or his Tommy John surgery."

TROUBLE: Cox Placed On DL

From the SWB Blog comes news that JB Cox, AAA reliever and projected bullpen contributor for New York after the all star break has been placed on the seven day disabled list. [the seven day DL is the shortest allowable time period in the minors with the 15 day being the shortest in the majors].

No word yet on what the injury might be, as it could be something as mild as a sore calf. It could, however, be as serious as an arm strain. No place for speculation yet, but will definitely keep an eye on this one as Cox is expected by many to ultimately pitch in the late innings to alleviate the absence left by Joba Chamberlain.

The Downfall Of Jeff Marquez

So whatever happened to Jeffrey Marquez? As recently as last season many were referring to the former 1st rounder as the next Chien Ming Wang type. Though it is understood how unique a case CMW is, and that Marquez most likely would not duplicate his major league success, the similarities were there.

The turbo sinker. The declining strikeout rates yet consistent success. He was catapulted after a very good year at AA-Trenton, the minor league level recognized as the proving ground for rising pitching prospects.

During that 2007 season, Marquez was overshadowed by rotation mate Alan Horne, who won the Eastern League version of the Cy Young, as well as Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, who blistered through Trenton on their way to the big leagues.

However, prospect watchers didn't sleep on Marquez and his status as a groundball machine. Last year saw Marquez compile an impressive 15-9 record, log 155+ innings and post a solid 3.65 ERA. Over those 155.1 innings Marquez only walked 44 batters [bb/9 of just 2.45] but his strikeout rates dropped dramatically from 7.99 k/9 in 2006 to 5.45 k/9 in 2007. That trend continued into 2008 as Marquez is currently striking out just 4.38 batters per nine innings at Scranton Wilkes-Barre.

Though Marquez allowed more hits than innings-pitched in both 2006 and 2007, that is to be expected from a prospect who pitches to contact and induces scores of groundballs. There is nothing to be alarmed about there, as he is often able to produce GIDP's much like Yankee fans saw from Wang last against Oakland. However, his 2008 hits per nine innings has seen another decided increase from just over a hit per inning last year to 11.97 h/9 this season. To be blunt, Marquez has been bombarded during his foray into AAA competition and there's been little silver lining to consider.

When he is at his best, Marquez commands a true power sinker anywhere from 88-94 mph that saws off righthanded bats with regularity. He controls the pitch well and expertly varies the speed at which he throws the two-seamer - he can sit 93-94 or create more movement with an 88-90 mph sinker. Marquez also mixes in the occasional four-seam fastball which can hit 95 mph. His best secondary offering has always been a power changeup which he throws in the low 80's. It's a swing and miss pitch, but it also gets lefties out-in-front and pound the ball into the dirt.

The Achilles heal for Marquez has been his curveball. The pitch can be above-average at times [some have even projected it as a plus pitch], but it is consistently inconsistent for Marquez and can be hung up in the zone and punished by opposing batters. In response to the inconsistency of his curve, Marquez recently introduced an effective slider, a pitch which by all accounts came from out of nowhere. Though he reportedly had just begun playing around with the pitch, it showed solid life and depth, and could ultimately prove to be the third pitch he's been searching for.

Two starts ago Marquez put together the best performance of his brief AAA career, tossing seven innings of one-run ball on four hits. Though Marquez did not strike out a batter, the slider he had overused in his previous start was working well that night and it appeared as though he had turned a corner. His previous two starts had gotten progressively better and it seemed this seven inning outing was the exclamation point. [During those previous two starts Marquez threw 14 innings and allowed just 4 runs]

Assuming Marquez had made the necessary adjustments, one would predict another strong outing last night against the Richmond Braves. The results were dominant or disastrous as Marquez put together a very pedestrian five innings, allowing three runs on four hits and again striking out zero batters. His ERA rose to 5.13 on the season, with 90 hits allowed over 73.2 innings.

On this particular player my conclusion is that it's inconclusive. Marquez has become an enigma that The Riddler wouldn't attempt solving. His near future may involve a demotion to Trenton in order to regain confidence, or his last four starts and the development of his slider could equal a major step forward. There had also been some buzz about Marquez turning to the bullpen and eventually becoming a version of Ramiro Mendoza - a guy who can pitch multiple innings and get key groundouts. Whatever takes place over the duration of the '08 season, it's safe to say Marquez has confounded us all thus far.

Reynolds No Like Joba Starting

Harold Reynolds - of Seattle Mariners and ESPN harassment fame - has his own blog now and what better way to drive traffic there than a post on why Joba Chamberlain needs to stay in the bullpen.

If you've ever visited BL before, you realize where I stand on the Chamberlain debate. Let's just say I believe it's harder for a team to find a Jake Peavy than it is to find a Guerillmo Mota. In other words, the top-line starter is much more rare and consistent than the dominant setup man who can fall of the face of the earth after a couple superb seasons.

Here's the latest kneejerk reaction to Joba's transition into the starting five:
When I first heard the Yankees were considering moving Joba Chamberlain to the starting rotation, I didn't like it. When it became official, I liked it even less! The end of a dynasty! Some might say that would be too extreme or maybe too harsh. Okay, how about: "The Yanks won't make the playoffs this season, ending a 12-year run."

Sorry Yankee fans, I know you don't want to hear it, but unless they can find someone to close the gap from the 6th inning on, and get the ball to Mariano Rivera, the streak will end.
To be fair, I've always been a Reynolds fan and thought Baseball Tonight took a big step back in his absence. However, as much as I agree Chamberlain shortened games in the Rivera-to-Wetteland vein, you just can't waste the best arm on your team in late inning relief.

And, should Joba prove to be a better reliever than starter it's not as if he will be locked out of the bullpen, he can always return as closer once Mariano Rivera rides off into the sunset. I doubt that would be necessary, but it's nice to know you have a lights out closer in waiting should the rotation plan falter.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hughes Is "Pain Free"
Will Throw Soon

Phil Hughes reports on his website that he hasn't been having any pain in his ribcage for a week and should begin throwing again soon:
"On another note, I have been pain free for about a week and hope to be throwing again soon. I also received my new Oakley prescription glasses for when I’m back on the mound. Should be pretty intimidating."
The phrase goes you can never have too much pitching. Hughes is a nice insurance plan to have on tap should Darrell Rasner or Mike Mussina suddenly come back to earth. It's amazing how quickly a 21 year-old can transform from the future of the franchise into an injury-prone disappointment in the minds of some fans.

No one is delusional enough to laud Hughes for his horrific start to the '08 season, but if this is what passes as patience for the Yankees fanbase, I'd hate to see them at the DMV. As someone who's seen him in person at Trenton and in the Bronx, few times have I been more confident about the future of a young player.

We could throw out the "struggling young pitcher" caveat which includes countless starting pitchers like Tom Glavine [7-17 in his first full season] and Greg Maddux [6-14 with 5.61 ERA in his], but we already know 21 year-old pitchers take time to adjust to the big league level of difficulty.

This is not to suggest Hughes will become a 300 game winner or a first ballot HOFer, but it allows for a bit of sanity within an insane conversation. Just remember this kid's arm possesses a 91-95 mph plus fastball, 75 mph plus hammer curve, 80 mph slidepiece and a developing changeup. This is not Nook LaLoosh we're talking about here - i.e. fastball, fastball and more fastball.

To suggest we've seen the peak of Hughes' abilities is just as knee jerk a reaction as it would have been had the Braves and Cubs organizations not allowed 21 year-olds Glavine, Maddux and 22 year-old John Smoltz develop. A World Series, a playoff streak and seven Cy Youngs later, it appears to have worked out pretty well for them.

Knowing how competitive, determined and proud a guy Hughes is, I will be very interested to see how he responds to his second consecutive injury impacted season.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Phil Hughes will get another scan on his injured rib later this week and if the test reveals a healed bone he will begin throwing again.

Joel Sherman Is Funny

Had Joel Sherman's latest trade fodder post passed along to me and immediately laughed myself into near catatonia inspecting his ridiculous trade proposals for the Yankees.

Sherman prefaces his article by citing Oakland GM Billy Beane who suggests no trade is fair unless both sides feel some pain. Unfortunately, Sherman's following trade proposals essentially have the Yankees receiving a back alley lobotomy in exchange for Marisa Miller and a ticket to Ibiza.

To review, Sherman has the Yankees picking up Damaso Marte for Alan Horne and Ross Ohlendorf. Hmm. Let's trade the Yankees top starting pitching prospect and a solid late inning reliever [both in their early or mid-20's] for a 33 year-old one inning reliever who throws about 50 innings per season. That seems feasible.

Melky Cabrera, Austin Romine and Ian Kennedy for Huston Street. Can this post be a joke or something? Looks like Sherman is trying out for The Onion. Street can be a lights out reliever, but he is extremely injury prone and probably a week away from his latest visit to the disabled list. Sherman would make for an Isiah Thomas like general manger as this is about as low as you could sell regarding Kennedy.

#3: Hideki Matsui, Jose Tabata and Alberto Gonzalez for Jonathan Sanchez and RANDY WINN. Wow. Gets worse, huh. That's the Yankees current top contact hitter [Matsui], top position prospect [Tabata] and top utility man [A-Gon] for an unproven starter and an absolute bust of an outfielder.

#4: JB Cox and Edwar Ramirez for Ty Wigginton. Ok, Sherman realizes A-Rod and Cano will man third base and second base respectively for the next decade or so. There goes any position for Wigginton to play, as amazing as his 3 homeruns, 9 RBI this season and career OBP of .329 appear.

Did Sherman really think he could get away with this?

Royals Diss Joba

According to a NY Post report, the Kansas City Royals were not impressed, much less intimidated, by Joba Chamberlain's electric stuff during his start Sunday afternoon.
"Nothing like we haven't faced before," leadoff man David DeJesus said...

DeJesus called Chamberlain "all right," saying, "Just a guy throwing hard."

Kansas City right fielder Mark Teahen praised Chamberlain's pitches but said that he was "more or less the same as he was as a reliever," adding, "Nothing special."
Yep. DeJesus and Teahen are the first hitters I think of when discussing dominance.

Times Q&A With A-Jack

Austin Jackson may have leapfrogged Jose Tabata this year to become the top position prospect in the Yankees farm system [though Jesus Montero may soon have something to say about that]. Thus far this season A-Jack is batting .275 with 3 homeruns, 18 doubles, 37 RBI and 10 stolen bases for AA-Trenton.

Tyler Kepner of the NY Times sat down with Jackson for a brief question-and-answer session with the two sport star coming out of high school:

Q: You played two sports in high school, baseball and basketball. Now that you’ve had a chance to devote yourself to baseball, what kind of talent are you tapping into?

A: I think I’m starting to definitely become a smarter baseball player. In rookie ball, I knew how to hit, but I didn’t know how to work the count. I’d swing early in the count, maybe at a bad pitch, because I was just a ballplayer. But I’m starting to study the game a lot more, know what the pitchers have, things like that. I think I’m definitely becoming a better baseball player as opposed to just an athlete.

Q: Whether it’s you or Brett Gardner at AAA, what can your kind of speed do to change a game?

A: It can change the outcome of a game, one stolen base, getting yourself into scoring position, that puts a burden on the pitcher and the guy hitting behind you can drive in a run. It’s definitely good to have speed. It helps out in all aspects of the game. They say speed kills. It’s the one part of my game that I can rely on.

Q: If you’d stayed with basketball, do you think you could be in the NBA right now?

A: (laughs) I think I could. I’ve been checking out some of the talent in college basketball, I’ve been sizing them up. I think I’d have what it takes.

Twice this year A-Jack [his preferred nickname over A-Jax] compiled seven RBI in a single game. One of which included an important grand slam. If Jackson's 2007 second half of the season is any indicator, the Texas product could put together a pretty special year for the Thunder.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Horne K's 7 In AAA Return

Alan Horne reportedly did not have good command Sunday night in his first AAA start since leaving his April 10th outing with a bicep injury. Horne did, however, show his great stuff and an uncanny ability to bare down by keeping the damage to a minimum.

Horne lasted only four innings, allowing three hits, one run and striking out seven to two walks. Over those four erratic frames Horne used 82 pitches with only 44 going for strikes. Impressively, Horne was able to strike out the side twice, both times coming during high pressure situations.

According to the SWB Yanks blog, Horne was gassed early on in the outing because of a rushed bullpen before the game began:
Alan Horne said he was really struggling to stay cool. He felt light-headed on the mound through the first two innings and things got so bad in the second that he thought he was going to have to tell the bench to take him out. It's not a matter of not being in shape -- "All I've been doing is lifting and running in the Tampa heat and humidity," he said -- but he had to rush his bullpen, then rush out to the field and he never had a chance to catch his breath.
Maybe even more impressive was the fact that Horne could not command his fastball, was unable to grip his curve and consequently threw sliders and changeups for the majority of his outing. Even without his best stuff and obvious discomfort on the mound, Horne was able to sit down Syracuse batters with regularity.

Apparently Horne's fastball was 88-90 mph Sunday night which certainly is not representative of his ordinary velocity - especially considering how little Horne utilized the four-seamer.

Following Horne on the mound was rising prospect Dave Robertson who tossed three scoreless innings of relief. Robertson allowed only one hit Sunday night, struck out four and walked zero.

Over his 44.2 innings split between Trenton and Scranton this year, Robertson has an aggregate ERA of 1.77 as well as a WHIP under 1.00 - to go along with 56 strikeouts and 17 walks. Allowing just 23 hits in his 44+ innings works out to a .162 opponents batting average.

These are sickly numbers. Another three weeks of this type of dominance from Robertson should lead to a big league call-up.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hughes Injury "Update"

Missed it last week, but maybe some of you guys did as well:

According to a NY Daily News report on May 29th, Phil Hughes underwent a bone scan recently which revealed a "hot spot" in his injured rib. The lack of progress meant he would have to hold off on throwing until the results of his next bone scan [this week] are revealed. Once Hughes is actually given the OK to again pick up a baseball, it will likely take about a month before he can rejoin the big club.

Get Your Gerrit Cole News

Gerrit Cole - a lifelong Yankees fanatic - is pictured left as a youngster holding a sign during the 2001 World Series. Plus Cole was labeled the #1 high school player in the country by PerfectGame Crosscheckers, so how could the Yankees resist.

Here are a few stories from the local Anaheim media including one on his upcoming decision to go pro or collegiate as well as another article describing his final start of the season.

Granted, high school pitching stats are skewed, particularly when you can throw fastballs in the upper 90's, but take a look at Cole's 2008 line: 8-2 record; 0.58 ERA; 75.2 innings; 30 hits; 121 strikeouts; 18 walks.

Finally, here's some video of Cole talking about...Cole.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Melancon: I'm Ready For Bigs

A confident Mark Melancon told NY Times scribe Tyler Kepner he could pitch in the majors right now in an insightful, if not excitable, piece today:
Reliever Mark Melancon sat alone with a reporter in the vacant stands before Wednesday’s game, and he did not flinch when asked if he was ready for the majors.

“I think I could be ready as soon as they want me,” Melancon said. Later, he added there was no reason to think a call-up was far away.

“If I pitch well and continue to do what I’m capable of doing, I don’t see why not,” Melancon said. “Why not? Why isn’t it close? I really do believe I am capable of doing what they’re doing, all those guys out there. So, yeah, I think it’s close.”

“He’s getting extended right now in Double-A,” said Jeff Patterson, the Yankees’ West Coast scouting supervisor, who helped sign Melancon. “He’s definitely not a guy who can only pitch one time through a lineup. He can turn a lineup over.”

Against San Francisco Giants minor leaguers Wednesday, Melancon allowed one hit and faced the minimum nine batters. He mixed changeups and curveballs with a fastball between 91 and 94 miles per hour, and threw just 32 pitches.

“The stuff has to be there, but you have to have the will and the determination to get better,” [Mariano] Rivera said. “You don’t see that a lot in the rookies and minor leaguers. He always asks questions, interesting baseball questions.”
Melancon says his stuff is better now than it was before the injury, because he developed the changeup while he was hurt. He throws his curveball across his body now instead of fully extending his arm, which led to the elbow damage.
Though I've now seen Melancon multiple times in person, it will be very fun to watch him at the major league level. That hammer curve and bending fastball up to 94 mph is going to be tough to hit at any level. Not to say Melancon won't have some growing pains at the highest level, but his toughness will make it easier on him than most rookies.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Stanford LHP Bleich

With their second pick in the 2008 draft, the Yankees selected Stanford southpaw Jeremy Bleich. It comes as no surprise that the Yankees picked up a lefthanded pitcher with the sandwich pick, and though Christian Freidrich would have been my favorite, there was no way he would last until pick #44.

Bleich's favorite pitcher - and his most comparable - is Andy Pettitte, minus the cut fastball. Both pitchers are from Louisiana but Bleich's family is originally from Brooklyn and are huge Yankees fans. Therefore, Bleich is a lifelong Yankee fan who is comparable to Pettitte. Probably a bit of a reach [Tim Mellville would have been nice], but the Yankees must like what they saw from Bleich and made their move.

Jeremy Bleich is a good looking 6'2/185 LHP from Metairie, LA, high 80's LHP, outstanding command, excellent hard dropping 76 mph CB, arm works fluidly, mechanics are solid, highest level college prospect with high draft potential, excellent student.
To be honest, I've never heard of Bleich before, but I will do some digging as the day progresses.

Yanks Select Cole

Not to toot my own horn but I predicted Gerrit Cole would fall to the Yankees a week ago and that they would select him at 28th overall - before Keith Law and John Mayo's mock drafts were published.

This kid needs to refine his slider and changeup - like most prepsters - but already possesses an elite arm that can run fastballs in the upper 90s and touch triple digits. Cole will command a hefty signing bonus but he is a great get at the bottom of the first round.

Keith Law on the Yankees 1st round pick:
This is a great pick; he fell to the Yankees for financial reasons. Cole has the best arm among the prep pitchers in the draft. He has a loose, quick arm. He has the best fastball of the high school pitchers; it tops out 97 mph. He needs more consistency on the breaking ball. And he needs to just throw his changeup instead of guiding it. He's a high-ceiling arm that could be a No. 1 starter. If that doesn't work, he could be a dominant reliever.
And some video.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Horne To Rejoin Scranton,
Kontos, Melancon Dominate AA

Alan Horne will return to the Scranton rotation and, as a result, one of Karstens, Igawa, Giese, McCutchen or Marquez will be getting demoted or converted to the bullpen. Horne is now officially scheduled to pitch Sunday for Scranton.

Phil Coke's stay at AAA will be an abbreviated one as he is to be sent down to Trenton in order to make room for Horne. Though Dan McCutchen has been struggling during the start to his AAA campaign, the recent big league bullpen problems may call for converting Danimal to the bullpen.

It may have been the plan for McCutchen all along to become a major league bullpen contributor. And, considering someone must be moved to make room for Horne, now might be the opportune time for such a conversion. [This is merely spitballing on my part]

McCutchen's fastball, which regularly hovers above and below 92 mph, could receive a few extra ticks. The compliment of his changeup and curveball as potential outpitches could make him a valuable commodity out of the pen. Maybe most importantly is McCutchen's bulldog mentality on the mound and his eagerness to attack the strikezone.

Meanwhile in Trenton, George Kontos continues to flash dominance over AA hitters by tossing 7 innings of one-run ball, allowing 3 hits, striking out 7 and walking 2. Wednesday night's performance from Kontos lowered his season ERA to 3.01.

It's been a major turnaround for Kontos considering early April saw him pile up more walks than strikeouts. As of today, Kontos now boasts a very respectable 63 strikeouts to 25 walks over 68.2 innings. In his last five starts Kontos tossed 33 innings [going seven innings in four of five starts] with 30 strikeouts, 9 walks and 8 earned runs on just 19 hits.

Joining Kontos in AA dominance is Mark Melancon who tossed another three scoreless innings of work, earning his third victory of the year. Over the three frames Melancon struck out 2, walked zero and allowed one hit, dropping his ERA to 1.53 on the year. Through 17.2 innings at the AA level, Melancon has allowed just 10 hits and 2 walks while striking out 15 and limiting opposing hitters to a .169 batting average.

A promotion to AAA may soon be in order for the dominant Melancon should he continue such a high level of success. I would venture to guess Melancon will find himself pitching to AAA hitters by mid June.