Sunday, February 28, 2010

Another Lazy Sunday

As February draws to a close the Yankees are now only three days away from playing in their first exhibition game. The opener on Wednesday, March 3rd, against the Pittsburgh Pirates and will air on YES at 1:05 p.m. The fans will finally start to see some baseball on television and it will surely be a welcome sight. Get up to speed with the links.

Chan Ho Park finally arrived in camp and he finalized his deal with the Yankees. He's been throwing in Korea and he said he feels that he's ready to pitch in a game. He participated in some long toss today and will get in a bullpen session tomorrow. Brian Cashman said that the team will treat Park as if today is his first day of spring training. He still has plenty of time to be ready for opening day.

Park's arrival meant that someone on the 40-man roster needed to be sent down, so Edwar Ramirez was designated for assignment. No big surprise there, Ramirez really struggled last season. LoHud has the full press release announcing the move

The New York Post did a story on the upcoming game on March 5th, when both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes will be facing the Tampa Rays. It's the first official step in the much anticipated competition.

Speaking of the competition, Hughes and Chamberlain both threw batting practice today. Link comes complete with interview audio.

Now that Jorge Posada is entering the twilight of his career questions abound about how much more time he'll spend behind the plate, or even in baseball. Posada's reply, "They're going to have to rip the uniform off me."

Chad Jennings sits down for "Five Questions" with Greg Golson.

C.C. Sabathia threw a batting practice and declared himself ready for game action. 

The Post did a write up on the different batting order possibilities that Girardi has to choose from. The two, five, six and seven spots in the lineup are up in the air heading into the exhibition games. Look for who Girardi slots into those spots on Wednesday and how they each perform.

To put a close to the weekend, here are the always informative LoHud notes from Sunday.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday in the Park

It's been raining for most of the day down in Tampa, so the Yankees didn't get out on the field. Instead some pitchers threw side sessions and several hitters took indoor batting practice, resulting in a very light day. Still plenty of links.

Alex Rodriguez was involved in a minor car accident yesterday. His $400,000 Maybach was involved too, ouch. Thankfully, everyone is OK.

The Yankees have set their spring rotation. The opener on March 3rd will feature Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves on the mound - further confirming that all three are a big part of the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation. Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain will pitch on March 5th against Tampa Bay.

Joe Girardi is planning another team outing for Tuesday. Last spring, the manager arranged a surprise team trip to a pool hall and it served as great bonding session for the players. No word yet on where they'll go this year, but I think it's a great idea to keep this going. There's also a note in there about Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner - Girardi plans on playing them in both left and center during the exhibition season in order to figure out the best alignment.

The Daily News has a video of the players participating in yesterday's photo day. It's a nice HD quality video with some good comments from players like Nick Swisher and A.J. Burnett.

Mark Feinsand did a write up on the Chamberlain vs Hughes competition. Whoever wins out of the five contestants, it will be well deserved. Joel Sherman notes that the competition doesn't truly start until the exhibition games begin.

I love LoHud's new "Five Questions" series, where Chad Jennings interviews some of the new faces in camp. He recently spoke with Christian Garcia. The first part in the series was with David Winfree.

Chan Ho Park has still not arrived in camp, but he's expected to show up later today and be in uniform tomorrow. He's only 10 days behind all the other pitchers. takes an in-depth look at Nick Johnson and his adjustment to being a full-time DH. This is normally a tough transition for every day players to make, but Johnson's health concerns make the move logical.

Here's a very detailed LoHud notes from Saturday.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday's News

Although I may be completely snowed in, under a foot of accumulation, I can still deliver the links. Dig in.

The Joba Chamberlain vs Phil Hughes competition for the fifth spot in the rotation is under way. They both threw live batting practice today under the watchful eye of Joe Girardi. LoHud chronicled the session. Each player threw around 30 pitches (mixing in a lot of change ups), with Hughes throwing first and then watching Chamberlain. Afterwards, the pitchers ran together and it seems like a friendly competition... for now. LoHud also has interview audio from both pitchers. As expected, many stories followed - sees today as just a taste of what's to come. The Daily News is already captivated by the spirited competition. While Bombers Beat got some good quotes from Jorge Posada on his impressions of today's throwing session.

Marcus Thames can opt out of his contract if he doesn't make the major league roster. I truly think Thames could be an excellent source of power off the bench against lefties and his experience would come in handy in the event of injury, but the team does have an excess of outfielders right now.

Robinson Cano is looking to build on his spectacular season of 2009. On top of his solid production at the plate, Cano's defense was magnificent last year and he seems to really be coming into his own.

Joel Sherman believes that A-Rod's legacy all depends on this upcoming season and wether or not he can sustain his productivity while staying out of the TMZ headlines. Rodriguez also has an ever-growing respect for Derek Jeter.

Without further delay, your LoHud notes from Friday.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kids Making Noise

Every season, for every team, there are always a couple prospects who get called up and make a significant impact with the big club. It never fails. It's one of the many beautiful things about the game. The transition between generations that can be so clearly perceived - the talented young guys coming in and providing energy, the resistant veterans showing diminishing skill sets and slowly fading away.

The most common pathway to the majors for young pitchers is in the bullpen. Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes are the prime examples, but even last year 24 year-olds David Robertson (43 innings, 2-1, 3.30 ERA) and Mark Melancon (16 innings, 3.86 ERA) had positive impacts out of the pen. While Alfredo Aceves, a 27 year-old who bounced around Mexico for a little while, showed that he can pitch effectively in the big leagues.

Keeping that in mind, there are several young pitchers that are already opening eyes in camp. Over the next few days I'm going to be taking a close look at the young guns that could possibly make an impact this season. Let's start with a guy you've seen already.

Mark Melancon - Drafted by the Yankees in the ninth round of the 2006 MLB June Amateur Draft. Underwent Tommy John surgery in November of 2006 and subsequently missed the entire 2007 campaign. He resurfaced in 2008 and quickly worked his way from High-A Tampa all the way to Triple-A Scranton, posting great numbers and re-establishing himself as a promising prospect every step of the way. Has shown excellent control in the minors, issuing only 35 walks in 155 2/3 career minor league innings. Appeared in 13 games in the majors last season, posting a 3.86 ERA, .217 BAA, striking out 10 and allowing 13 hits and 10 walks in 16 1/3 innings. His normally good control failed him during his brief time with the Yankees (he also hit four batters on top of the 10 walks) and it seemed like he was being too careful and trying to paint corners, which is typical of a pitcher in his first stint in the majors. Melancon possesses a mid-90s fastball, a devastating curve, a slider and a change up. His pitches have a distinct downward movement, which induces a lot of grounders and keeps the ball in the park. He has allowed only nine home runs in 172 career innings. He also gives righties fits, holding them to a .161 batting average with no extra-base hits in the majors and a .180 mark in the minors. Has the stuff and the makeup to succeed. The Yankees are counting on his arm out of the bullpen and he has the chance to have a huge impact, he could end up being called upon in high leverage late inning situations.

Mark Melancon Statistics

News From Thursday

While the tri-state area is being completely engulfed by a blizzard, Yankees camp continues to move forward. It's picture day at George M Steinbrenner Field, so the baseball cards will be ready soon. Plenty of stories to report, here are the links.

LoHud has a breakdown of the live batting practice session. It is noted that this session is more for the pitchers than the hitters - most of them called out location and pitch type before making a throw.

It was previously reported that one of the candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation would pitch the spring opener on March 3rd. Well, Joe Girardi said today that Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes probably won't be pitching that first game, seemingly leaving the assignment to either Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre or Alfredo Aceves.

Alex Rodriguez held a press conference today, LoHud has audio. According to the Daily News, Girardi already sees a more relaxed A-Rod. While the Post also notices the lack of stress for Rodriguez this preseason. It's evident that the third basemen is enjoying the low-key profile this spring. takes note of just how much A-Rod has changed.

Curtis Granderson will wear contact lenses this year for the first time in his career. Apparently, Yankees doctors determined that he had 20/30 vision and wanted to improve it to a perfect 20/20. I don't think this was the source of his problems against left-handers, but hey, every little bit helps.

Derek Jeter's expiring contract is sure to be a topic of media scrutiny all season long. John Harper did a story on all the questions that Jeter faces. The Post did a piece on Jeter's stance on the situation, specifically that he won't address questions about free agency until the season is over. While Joel Sherman wrote a nice article on the captain's legacy.

The 2010 Yankees Universe launched today. The "Pinstripes Pack" is very enticing, but there's also the "Blue Pack" membership for those of you that are fiscally responsible.

To end, here are the LoHud notes from Thursday.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The First Full Team Workout

The first full-squad workouts of the spring were held today. All the position players have reported and participated in fielding drills and light batting work. A few guys threw bullpens, but most of the pitchers have a day off and will throw live batting practice tomorrow. It's finally starting to feel like spring training. Check the links.

Derek Jeter held a press conference today and entertained questions about his contract, which is set to expire at the end of the season. It was unmistakably the story of the day. The 35 year-old shortstop was steadfast in his stance that he won't think about the contract until the time comes and there's no other place he wants to play. LoHud posted audio of the press conference for your listening pleasure. The Daily News wrote a piece on Jeter's loyalty and the Post published an article on the captain's focus for the season.

John Harper thinks that Robinson Cano needs to come through in clutch spots this season. Cano has notoriously struggled in those situations, but now with Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui gone, he needs to improve and must be counted on for big hits.

Andy Pettitte was the last Yankee to throw an official bullpen of the spring and he will abide by the team's desire for him to take it easy in the early going. The Yankees have taken this stance with several of their starters due to the heavy workload they endured during the playoffs.

Alex Rodriguez quietly arrived in camp today completely devoid of steroid scandals and media circuses.

Joel Sherman wrote an excellent article comparing the career paths of Curtis Granderson and Paul O'Neill. He draws some very interesting connections.

The locker room was unexpectedly quiet today, but that's because Nick Swisher forgot the cord to hook up his iPod. He promised Joe Girardi he would pick up the cord tonight and fill the room with music tomorrow. has some great photographs of the team doing drills. The picture of Jeter and Posada pointing to A-Rod is priceless.

Bombers Beat does a nice job wrapping up the day. That post comes with a couple great pictures of batting practice. Follow the link at the bottom for even more photos.

Curtis Granderson is wondering how to address the "Bleacher Creatures" during roll call and is making it a part of his preseason preparation. Now here's a guy who understands what it takes to fit in.

And your nightcap, a very thorough LoHud notes from Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tuesday's News

The first official workouts for position players begin tomorrow, things are moving along. It's time take in your daily links.

Aaron Boone, Yankee playoff hero, officially announced his retirement from baseball today. I'll never forget the elation I felt after that grand slam he hit off Tim Wakefield in the 11th inning of game seven in the 2003 ALCS. Truly a magical moment. Boone is set to join ESPN as a baseball analyst and I wish him all the best.

According to Joel Sherman on Twitter, left-hander Kei Igawa is expected to work exclusively as a relief pitcher in camp and in the minors. He's now certified as the biggest waste of money in the Yankees organization.

Johnny Damon is a little angry with how he was handled by the Yankees this offseason. He takes some parting shots. Don't blame the team Johnny, blame your agent.

Marcus Thames is ecstatic about getting a fresh start in pinstripes, he could be a great source of power against lefties off the bench.

Andy Pettitte threw his first official bullpen of the spring today and reported that his elbow and shoulder are both 100 percent.

Robinson Cano enjoyed his best season as a pro last year, but he's still looking to improve. Specifically, he wants to get better hitting with runners in scoring position. LoHud also touches upon Cano's outstanding defense and the departure of Melky Cabrera, his best friend in the clubhouse.

Mark Teixeira arrived at camp with his mind focused on one thing, repeating as world champions. LoHud also grabbed an interview with Teixeira, complete with audio.

A lot of articles came out about the home run Jesus Montero hit at George M Steinbrenner Field yesterday. was particularly impressed by the power show. The Daily News was also impressed, but reiterated that Montero has a long way to go.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday in Florida

On top of the Chan Ho Park signing, there's plenty of news to report from Yankees camp. Spend some quality time with the links.

A lot of stories today on the relationship between A.J. Burnett and Jorge Posada. There was some tension there last season, but now they are excited about possibly working together. LoHud has an interview with Burnett, complete with audio. Bombers Beat caught a great picture of the two players shaking hands after today's bullpen, along with some notes on the session. It seems both players are determined to make it work. picked up the story as well.

The Yanks look back on what Johnny Damon meant to the team and wish him well with his new squad.

John Harper of the Daily News takes a close look at former first round pick Andrew Brackman. The right-hander is looking sharp in camp and the Yankees are hoping he finally lives up to his potential.

Jesus Montero, everyone's favorite prospect, put on a show during batting practice today. Rumor has it that he hit a home run off of the top of the scoreboard in left field, displaying some serious power.

Now that the bullpen is effectively crowded, Joe Girardi weighs in on what he expects from the pitchers and reveals that he expects to carry 12 on the roster. That link comes with audio of the talk with the manager, he covers a whole range of subjects.

The Daily News has a short piece on the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation. Apparently, there are other names involved besides Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. You could've fooled me.

Kevin Long has the arduous task of attempting to correct Curtis Granderson's swing against lefties. If anyone could do it, Long is the guy.

Mike Bauman of takes notice of just how quiet it's been around Yankees camp this spring. Not having a steroid scandal to deal with will do that. Coming off a World Series victory probably helps too. It seems the team is enjoying the relaxed environment right now, things will pick up soon enough.

Lastly, the always informative LoHud notes from Monday.

Add Another Pitcher to the Mix

The Yankees signed right-hander Chan Ho Park to a one-year deal worth $1.2 million with incentives that could add an additional $300,000. has the story.

Last season Park went 3-3 with a 4.43 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 83 innings with the Philadelphia Phillies. He made seven starts early in the season, with not much success, but pitched primarily out of the bullpen. He did some of his best work against the Yankees in the World Series where he threw 3 1/3 innings and gave up no runs on two hits and one walk.

He possesses a low 90's fastball with a lot of movement, a sharp slider, a decent curve and a change up. He has the arm to go multiple innings if necessary. He induces a lot of ground balls (career 1.29 ground ball to fly ball ratio) and doesn't allow many home runs. Fangraphs did a story today on Park's amazing home run rate.

He is expected to work exclusively out of the pen, his name is not being entered into the competition for the fifth spot in the rotation. The Yankees 40-man roster is completely full, so that means either someone will have to be sent down or a trade will be made to make room. It'll be interesting to see who he replaces, but Park is a very capable arm out of the bullpen and a nice addition to the team.

"I think we have a terrific bullpen," Brian Cashman said. "The more, the merrier. You can never have enough." I agree wholeheartedly.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lazy Sunday

As expected, the first weekend of Yankees camp has been fairly slow, but you'll find no shortage of links here. Dig in.

Phil Hughes was handed a framed American flag and certificate this morning as a birthday present from June 24th, 2008. LoHud has the story - apparently, the flag was flown above the U.S. Capitol for the pitcher's 22nd birthday at the request of Bill Pascrell Jr., the U.S. Congressman from New Jersey's eighth district. Hughes was both grateful and baffled. Bombers Beat has a picture of the memento.

The Daily News reports that Jorge Posada is looking forward to catching A.J. Burnett this season. Last year Jose Molina was assigned as Burnett's personal catcher in the postseason after the pitcher struggled with Posada behind the plate.

Speaking of Burnett, he wants a second ring. He's also hoping to give Derek Jeter a whipped cream pie-in-the-face this season, since he never got the chance to get the captain last year.

Posada enjoys playing the role of mentor to all the young talent the Yankees have at catcher.

George Steinbrenner made an appearance down in Tampa yesterday to watch his grandson play a game. The Boss told the New York Post that he's "feeling good."

A few more stories on C.C. Sabathia today. According to the Post, Posada compares the lefty to ex-Yankee David Wells. The comparisons go beyond their body structures. Joel Sherman of the same paper did a story on Sabathia's gravitating personality. And the Daily News reports that Sabathia's arm is feeling as good as ever, despite the hefty postseason workload.

The Daily News has an excellent article by Anthony Mccarron on how Derek Jeter reinvented himself as a defensive shortstop. Jeter earned his fourth Gold Glove last year, showing tremendous range and skill, and effectively silenced the critics.

Javier Vazquez was scheduled to throw his first official bullpen on Wednesday, but asked Joe Girardi if he could get some light throwing in today. Girardi values this type of communication. picked up the story as well.

Andrew Brackman looked good in his bullpen session today, he was down in the zone and Girardi believes his mechanics have improved.

Justin Milo, a hockey and baseball star from the University of Vermont, was drafted by the Yankees in the 37th round of the draft last year and is hoping to make an impact in the Bronx. For reasons unknown, he was dismissed by the UVM hockey team this week, allowing him to now focus solely on baseball.

To put an end to the weekend, here's LoHud's notes from Sunday's action along with a wrap up from Bombers Beat.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Johnny on the Spot

After much deliberation, the Johnny Damon saga has officially come to an end.

ESPN is reporting that Damon and the Detroit Tigers have reached an agreement on a one-year $8 million deal. The 36 year-old outfielder is scheduled to take a physical tomorrow.

I don't know why it took so long for Damon to sign with a team. Plenty of clubs could use what he brings to the table. His defense is atrocious, yes, but as he showed last year he's still very dangerous at the plate. He's a great guy to have in the clubhouse and he was an integral part of last year's championship team. His positives far outweigh his negatives in my mind.

Damon will most likely bat leadoff for the Tigers and provide veteran leadership for a young team. They also filled their need for a left-handed bat in a righty heavy lineup. It remains to be seen if he'll be the full time left fielder or assume some DH duties, he'll probably settle into a rotation playing both spots.

I wonder if Damon regrets not taking the Yankees initial two-year $14 million offer? I also wonder how angry he is at his agent Scott Boras? Well, at least it's finally over.

To wrap things up tonight, here are your LoHud notes from Saturday's action.

Weekend Update

Plenty of news today about the competition between Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. The New York Post has details, along with each player's thoughts on the situation. The New York Daily News also has an update on what to expect from the two young guns once the exhibition games begin.

Hal Steinbrenner stopped into Girardi's office to talk baseball, the relaxed manager enjoys these visits. has an exclusive interview with Brian Cashman that's must read material.

C.C. Sabathia stepped onto the mound and threw his first official bullpen of the spring. He threw 35 total pitches, all fastballs and change ups. Bombers Beat was also there to witness the session. According to, Sabathia is ready to do some heavy lifting this summer.

LoHud has a few notes on how the Yankees rotation is shaping up. As for the exhibition games, either Chamberlain or Hughes will pitch the opener on March 3rd and Sabathia is scheduled to start on March 4th against the Phillies.

The World Series trophy is making it's way around the United States. Click for pictures from it's stop at the White House.

In the most bizarre news of the day, Ben Affleck got the go ahead from Warner Brothers to direct, and possibly star in, a film entitled The Trade. It's the story of Yankees teammates Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich and their decision to swap wives in 1973. Affleck is interested in playing Peterson while Matt Damon wants the part of Kekich.

Hideki Matsui made his first appearance in Angels camp yesterday, he already admitted that his knees aren't 100 percent.

The Blue Jays signed Jose Molina, he's going to compete with Raul Chavez for a backup position.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Daily Dose

While the entire sports world was captivated by Tiger Woods' press conference plenty of happenings were going on down at George M. Steinbrenner field. Get your links here.

Nick Swisher took up boxing this offseason and as a result he's lost 12 pounds, he hopes the new agility and stamina will make him a better player.

The Joba Chamberlain vs. Phil Hughes competition has begun and it's already under close watch. Bombers Beat was also there to observe both guys throwing.

Andy Pettitte is prepared for the challenge of the upcoming season, ready as ever to provide veteran leadership.

The always informative LoHud notes from Friday's action. LoHud also has some audio from interviews with Chamberlain and Hughes regarding their competition.

The New York Daily News reports that pitching coach Dave Eiland hinted that Joba might be best suited for the bullpen. I find this curious being that the competition between Chamberlain and Hughes is the most talked about story of camp so far. This is more John Harper reading between the lines than anything else in my eyes.

Yankees Stadium is scheduled to host a boxing match, tentatively set for June 5th, between undefeated WBA champion Yuri Foreman and Miguel Cotto. It'll be the first time a fight is held at the ballpark since 1976, when Muhammad Ali beat Ken Norton at the old Stadium.

Chien-Ming Wang finalized his deal with the Nationals today.

What update would be complete without news on the Johnny Damon saga? Well, the White Sox pulled their offer to the outfielder today. Not too long after that report was released, the Tigers front office tweeted that the club has offered Damon a contract. It's starting to look like the saga is drawing to a close, stay tuned.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Down on the Farm

Jesus Montero is a catcher in the Yankees minor league system who has firmly established himself as one of the best position prospects in the game. He was dubbed "untouchable" by Baseball America last season and he continues to improve. Montero already has a major league ready bat and is making strides in his defense, the area that needs the most work. Apparently, he already has a fan club. Photos courtesy of River Avenue Blues.

Brilliant. Get that on a t-shirt so I can buy one immediately. Montero approves as well and was kind enough to sign an autograph.

He's posted very impressive numbers in the minors. He's the heir apparent to Jorge Posada. The New York Daily News did a feature on him recently. You don't mess with the Jesus.

To wrap things up, here's some quick notes on Thursday's action from LoHud and a great article by Peter Gammons about the AL East.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Staff?

Since Joba Chamberlain first took the league by storm a fascinating debate has emerged. It centers around the idea that Chamberlain has more value to the team pitching out of the bullpen. The debate gained momentum last season, when Phil Hughes experienced his most successful stretch in the big leagues while pitching out of the pen.

The argument continues. Put on a New York sports radio station and soon enough you'll hear someone call up and suggest that Chamberlain be put in the bullpen for good, that he should be "groomed" as future closer and successor to Mariano Rivera.

Personally, I've always been adamantly against relegating a talent like Chamberlain or Hughes to the bullpen. Let me outline my reasoning.

1. Both Chamberlain and Hughes have been starters their entire baseball lives. They were first brought into the organization as starters and they were starters in the minors before being called up. Even in the majors both Chamberlain and (to a lesser extent) Hughes have shown that they can be successful starting pitchers.

2. With the talent that a player like Chamberlain has displayed, would you rather have him pitch 200+ innings for your team or do you want him to pitch 70-80 innings? This is a no brainer. Sure, those 70-80 innings might come in high leverage situations, but you first need a starter to get you to those later innings and give you a chance to win.

3. While the numbers that Chamberlain and Hughes have put up as starters are not what was expected, they're by no means terrible. It takes a long time for a pitcher to adjust to the big leagues. So many front line starters have faltered at the start their careers only to eventually put it all together. Take a look at John Lackey's career numbers, or Dan Haren, or Jake Peavy. All struggled greatly in their first 30+ starts. Chamberlain's numbers in his first 20 career starts are better than all of those comparables. Plus, you cannot lose sight of the fact that Chamberlain is 24 years-old while Hughes is only 23. They deserve more time before making any judgements.

4. Of course they've had success in the bullpen, they have an absurd amount of talent and pitching out of the pen is simply easier than starting. You only need to get three outs, maybe six. You rarely see a batter more than once in an appearance. You don't need to bring out the entire arsenal, usually just throwing a fastball and one out pitch (either slider, curve or change). That's a major hindrance on guys like Chamberlain and Hughes who have three or more plus pitches and a need to continue developing a repertoire. Think about a guy like Daniel Cabrera - a player who probably should've been moved to the pen a long time ago, but they keep trotting him out in the first inning and hoping one day he'll put all that talent together. That raw stuff is too tantalizing and teams want to maximize it in a starting role.

5. A pitcher isn't "groomed" for a spot in the bullpen. Unless the player has been pitching out of the pen throughout his college and minor league career, the role is usually reserved for guys who either couldn't make it as a starter or have suffered an injury to their throwing arm and can't handle a large pitch count. Joe Nathan and Eric Gagne are prime examples of guys who couldn't make it as starters and were moved to the bullpen. You can't make a decision on Chamberlain or Hughes like that yet, they need more time.

6. An ace starter is harder to come by than a dominant bullpen man. This is just a simple fact of baseball. Capable bullpen pitchers pop up every year, yet dominant starters are a rare breed. Both Chamberlain and Hughes have the chance to be top of the rotation pitchers.

Now, I think Yankees fans have a unique perspective on this debate because of Mariano Rivera - unquestionably the greatest bullpen man of all time. He's been in the league long enough where it's time to start thinking about what's going to happen when he retires. Fans desperately want a seamless transition and they know how hard that's going to be. Well, Mo is going to impossible to replace. Don't let the desire to supersede him cloud your judgement and call for a talent like Chamberlain or Hughes to spend the rest of their careers trying to live up to Rivera in the pen. It's only setting them up for failure all while not maximizing their potential.

This upcoming season will only fuel the debate. The competition for the fifth spot in the rotation will produce an odd man out and that player will most likely end up in the bullpen. The Yankees view Chamberlain and Hughes as long term projects and are in no rush to make a decision, but it's clear that they want them to succeed as starters and will afford them every opportunity to do so.

Enter Sandman

Once pitchers and catchers report and the initial excitement wanes, things understandably begin to slow down. After day one, it seems to be a very casual environment in Tampa and all the players are in good spirits.

The best stories of the day involve Mariano Rivera. He had a nice introductory conversation with Bombers Beat after making his regal entrance into the locker room. Also, the LoHud Blog was able to sit down with Mo and conduct an interview, that link comes complete with audio. published a piece on Mo's youthful outlook. This only reinforces the idea that the closer isn't planning on hanging up his cleats anytime soon.

Joe Girardi needs to figure out a batting order he's comfortable with and the decision of who will fill the number two hole is at the forefront. Right now, it's a battle between Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson.

Randy Winn believes he can be a great help to his new team. Check out the breakdown of the interesting number streaks Winn currently holds.

The Yankees have one goal in mind coming into camp, to repeat as World Champions

The team is holding back their starters from intensifying workouts right away, Girardi wants to take it slow because of the extra workload in the postseason. The Daily News reinforced those sentiments.

The Johnny Damon saga continues to drag on - White Sox GM Kenny Williams is set to address the press regarding Damon on Sunday, this implies that the outfielder is signing with the Detroit Tigers. That notion is further confirmed by who reveal that the Tigers have already emptied a locker in anticipation of Damon's signing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Still Looking For a Home

Couple of quick updates regarding former Yankees.

The Texas Rangers view Jose Molina as their number one target at catcher according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The Johnny Damon saga continues with the White Sox making a strong push.

On a side note, I got my 2010 Baseball Prospectus in the mail today. If you're unfamiliar with the work of the people at the Baseball Prospectus check out their website. It's well worth your time.

Competition Breeds Excellence

The most compelling story line of the Spring is sure to be the competition for the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation. Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes are expected to be in an even battle. Whoever pitches better during the course of the exhibition season wins the job. It's been over four years since we first starting hearing these two names, since they were considered the future of the staff. The Yankees are confident that one of them will step up, win the job, live up to the potential and spend the entire season in the rotation.

The main question is, what happens to the player that loses the competition?

The most likely answer is a move to the bullpen, where both players have had success in the past. Another possibility is sending the runner-up down to AAA where he can stay stretched out as a starter and continue to develop pitches. This could prove very useful in the event of an injury.

So, who is more likely to win the spot?

Well, it was reiterated today by Joe Girardi that it's a completely equal competition, neither player has the leg up right now. Here's my evaluation of each players chances:

Joba Chamberlain - Has 43 starts and 281 big league innings under his belt. During that time he's compiled a 15-9 record with a 3.61 ERA and 285 strikeouts, solid numbers for any pitcher in their first three seasons in the majors. Working out of the bullpen he has 27 holds and one career save. He's also put up some very concerning stats - 27 HR allowed, 121 walks and a rising number of hits allowed. Certainly, the bouncing between bullpen and rotation and all the 'Joba Rules' didn't help. Now that he's free of those restrictions the 24 year-old should respond well - a power pitcher doesn't need those types of limitations. In the rotation he would be able to show off his entire repertoire - 97+ mph fastball, devastating slider, 12-6 curve and a developing change.

Phil Hughes - Has 28 starts and 192 big league innings on his resume and put together a 13-10 record, 4.20 ERA and 177 strikeouts in that time. In the bullpen he has 18 holds and three career saves (all accumulated last season). Last year he worked masterfully out of the pen, but he struggled after September and ended up allowing six earned runs in six postseason innings. Hughes has been very inconsistent as a starter, showing flashes, but posting bad numbers overall. He definitely gained a lot of confidence last season and that's a huge step for a 23 year-old. Possesses a 91+ mph fastball, deadly curve, a developing cutter and a change up. Hughes' most valuable assets are his command and poise, he seems to be mature beyond his years on the mound.

I give the edge to Chamberlain. He's had more success than Hughes as a starter in their brief time in the majors and as a power pitcher he is more able to rely on his stuff. Hughes' fastball leaves less room for error, but he does have far better control and keeps his emotions in check. Both pitchers have the capability to post outstanding numbers.

Clearly the team isn't getting greedy and is only expecting one of the two to perform up to expectations. Whoever ends up claiming the spot, it's a win for the Yankees either way and they'll address all the other questions that arise when the time comes.

Pitchers and Catchers Have Arrived

Among baseball fanatics the day when pitchers and catchers report to spring training is a celebrated holiday. It officially signals the start of the new season. With each passing day more and more players will be joining the team and taking the field. Soon enough (March 3rd to be exact) the exhibition games will begin. All the speculation and hopes about the upcoming season can now be attended by observation. We can finally kick it into gear, even though I still see some snow outside my window.

Links aplenty:

Yankees report to camp in sunny Tampa, Florida. Quote from Jorge Posada: "To repeat you have to have a good team, and we have a very good team. It's all up to us to put it together like we did last year and click at the right times."

Joe Girardi press conference via the LoHud Yankees Blog, complete with audio.

Javier Vazquez reports to camp excited to be back in pinstripes.

C.C. Sabathia has begun his throwing program and is hungry for another title.

Yanks might be interested in Chan-Ho Park. He had some excellent performances in the World Series last year.

The Yankees invited five additional players to Spring Training yesterday, bringing the total number of non-roster invitees to 25.

In Red Sox news, Dice-K is hurt and will likely miss the start of spring. The first comment on the post, by a disgruntled Sox fan, is priceless.

NY Daily News spring preview, the five biggest story lines heading into camp.

New uniform numbers have been dished out, as expected Joe Girardi is now sporting the number 28.

You can find your basic Spring Training information and schedule on the Yankees official website. If you want a more comprehensive guide, complete with promotional giveaway details (C.C. Sabathia Bobble Head Day is March 3rd) and hotel recommendations, check out the Steinbrenner Field website.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rotation Review

Coming into spring training the Yankees boast a deep rotation with all the ingredients for success. They have a legitimate ace to build around, several veterans to provide depth in the middle and significant potential at the back end. It's easy to see that the team has constructed a top five big league rotation. Let's do a quick breakdown of all the starters and their roles on the roster.

Ace: C.C. Sabathia
Veteran with high upside: A.J. Burnett
Veteran depth: Andy Pettitte, Javier Vazquez

Those spots in the rotation are in place. I'm personally in favor of going with a lefty-righty succession and therefore keeping the above four in the order I've listed them. The most interesting story line in Yankees camp this Spring will no doubt be the competition for the fifth spot.

Competition: Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes
Insurance: Chad Gaudin, Alfredo Aceves, Sergio Mitre

According to the New York Daily News the 'Joba Rules' are longer in place. At 24 years-old he'll finally be able to let it fly and not worry about how many pitches he's thrown or how many innings he's pitched. That can only be a good thing. Chamberlain really struggled towards the end of last season and his command completely failed him at times. Things need to improve.

Hughes took a big step forward last year with his dominant work out of the bullpen, but the 23 year-old still struggled in the occasional start. The low point being a 1.2 inning, eight earned run, shellacking at the hands of the Orioles on May 9th. It was soon after that he was placed in the bullpen and something seemed to click. He showed excellent control, posted outstanding numbers and was a sturdy eighth inning bridge to Mariano Rivera.

Having capable guys like Gaudin, Aceves and Mitre to back up the two young guns is key, but obviously the Yankees are looking for either Hughes or Chamberlain to live up to the potential as a starter. Beginning tomorrow I'm going to go in-depth into the competition while trying to put to rest the whole "better in the bullpen" argument, because it's perfectly clear to me that both of these guys are starters who are capable of one day anchoring a rotation.

Chien-Ming Catches On

According to Bill Ladson of the Washington Nationals have agreed to a deal with Chien-Ming Wang. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed but a press conference is scheduled for Friday. The assumption is that it's an incentive-laden contract. Wang has only pitched a combined 27 games over the past two years and he's expected to miss at least the first month of the 2010 season while he continues his rehab from shoulder surgery.

The Nats were a good landing place for the right-hander. He'll automatically get a shot at the rotation, his sinker ball should play well in that ball park and he's now in the NL. Let's not forget that he's just a few years removed from posting back-to-back 19 win seasons. It's a very astute signing by Washington, he could very well end up being the ace of their staff.

5 p.m. - Update on the terms of Wang's contract. It's a one-year $2 million contract with the chance to earn $3 million in performance bonuses. Very little risk involved for the Nationals.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Countdown

At the time of this posting the countdown for when pitchers and catchers report to spring training is at 1 day, 16 hours and 56 minutes. I can almost hear the sound of a fastball popping in a catcher's mitt.

That article touches upon the roles of Curtis Granderson and Brett Gardner. Apparently Granderson is more than willing to play left field and doesn't have a preference where he bats in the lineup. He seems to be an amicable and accessible guy to the media, as shown by this in-depth interview from

The Yankees have two very capable center fielders on the roster and this is an exciting position battle to closely monitor during the Spring.

The Johnny Damon Saga

Johnny Damon still doesn't have a home. Quite shocking when considering the season he had last year - .282/.365/.489 batting line, 24 homers, 107 runs, 12 steals in 12 attempts, World Series champion.

The Detroit Tigers are said to be the most likely suitors and there were rumors that they proposed a two-year $14 million deal, which is exactly what the Yankees originally offered the 36 year-old outfielder, but no signing has been made official. There's also been rumors of interest from the Braves, White Sox and Rays.

Chien-Ming Wang is in the same boat, still without a team, but that's more understandable with the pitcher just coming off major shoulder surgery. Wang is expected to end up with the Washington Nationals on an incentive-laden contract, but nothing has been finalized there either.

Back to Damon, how could no team be interested in what he brings to the table? The blame for him not being signed yet falls squarely on the shoulders of his agent, Scott Boras. He's obviously trying to drive the market up for his client, but may be digging himself into too deep of a hole.

It's clear that Damon is nearing the end of his career and it'll be very interesting to see where he ends up and how much money he'll make.

The Replacements - Part V

The time has come to wrap up The Replacements series. While the big acquisitions have been discussed in detail, I'm going to do a quick overview of the two moves that might have been overlooked.

Boone Logan - A 25-year-old lefty acquired in the Javier Vazquez deal. His numbers in the big leagues are just bad - In four seasons he has a 5.78 ERA, 1.69 WHIP and 102 strikeouts in 127 career innings pitched. Those numbers indicate that he's been a borderline bullpen option. The Yankees already have a trustworthy lefty in the pen in Damaso Marte, so Logan was added just to give Joe Girardi another left-handed option if he feels the need for one. With Phil Coke and Mike Dunn gone there really aren't any other options. Logan is a lefty specialist, he's held lefties to a .266 batting average over his career, but improved that number to .231 last season with the Braves. He's got quality stuff (88-90 mph fastball, good curve and decent slider) and looks to induce ground balls, but he has inconsistent control and command. Has always had the talent to succeed and has shown flashes, but hasn't fully learned how to pitch at this level yet. Logan is still young so he's worth a shot and the Yankees are hopeful he can carve out a role for himself.

Marcus Thames - Agreed to a minor league contract that would be worth $900,000 over one-year if he's added to the 40-man roster. A former Yankee draft pick who was last with the team in 2002. Brought in to further stabilize outfield depth with a veteran presence. Owns a career .243 batting average, strikes out way too much and doesn't walk enough. Thames has tremendous power, he has averaged 21 homers per season over the past four years despite only averaging 97 games played over that stretch. Since 2006 he has averaged one home run every 14.52 at-bats. He absolutely crushes lefties, has 40 homers in 620 career at-bats against left-handers. If he makes the roster, he'll be a very good source of power off the bench and should be a solid pinch hitter against lefties.

Monahan to Miss Spring Training

It was reported today via that longtime Yankee trainer Gene Monahan is going to miss spring training due to a "serious illness." They're also speculating that it may extend into the regular season. Steve Donohue, his assistant of 25 seasons, will serve as head trainer in his absence.

Whatever Monahan is dealing with right now I wish him all the best. He's been with the Yankee family for over 47 years and is as distinguished and respected as any trainer in the sports industry. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. Get well soon.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Replacements - Part IV

Hideki Matsui turned in one of the best seasons of his career last year, smashing 28 homers and posting a .274/.367/.509 batting line in 142 regular season games. His performance in the World Series was the stuff of Yankees lore - eight hits in 13 at-bats, three homeruns and eight RBI, powering the team to victory and rightfully taking home the World Series MVP. Despite the remarkable season he was allowed to leave via free agency and soon signed a one-year $6.5 million dollar contract with the Los Angeles Angels. As I've expressed before, it was sad to see him go. He was a proud man who always acted professionally, even at 36 years old, and on two bum knees, he still believes he can play the outfield. He knew exactly what a privilege it was to be a professional ball player and what it meant to be playing for the Yankees. I wish him the best of luck as he continues his storybook career.

There's a vacancy at DH, so call on a replacement. Another former Yankee rejoins the ranks - you may remember him as a promising prospect who was dealt to the Montreal Expos in 2003.

Nick Johnson - Signed to a one-year $5.5 million deal (with a $5.5 million mutual option for 2011) to be the teams full-time DH. Can still play a great first base and will probably spell Mark Teixeira on rare occasions. Last season he played 133 games and posted a .291 batting average with 99 walks and 84 strikeouts. He did only hit eight homers, but he has the ability to hit upwards of 20, especially as a lefty in Yankee Stadium. His most valuable assets are great plate discipline and on-base skills - he sports an impressive .402 OBP for his career. He'll take whatever a pitcher is giving him and could hit the ball to all fields. Johnson is one of those rare left-handed batters that has hit lefties (.292) far better than righties (.266) over his career. I'm guessing he's going to take Johnny Damon's spot in the lineup and operate out of the two hole where his ability to get on base will play wonderfully in front of Alex Rodriguez and Teixeira. Johnson has been itching to play for a contender since he was first dealt from the Yankees, so he's sure to be motivated. Why was a player of his skill level signed for so cheap you may ask? Well, because of his extensive injury history which River Avenue Blues does a great job of chronicling. The Yankees are hoping that being a full-time DH will alleviate the injury concerns and that makes perfect sense. His injuries have been more of the fluke variety and he doesn't have any persistent issues, like Matsui's knees. If he stays healthy it will surely prove to be a great signing, if not, there was little risk involved.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Replacements - Part III

The departures of Johnny Damon and Melky Cabrera left the Yankees in dire need of some outfield depth. Signing Curtis Granderson helps a great deal, but more was desired. Someone else had to be brought in to compete with the young Brett Gardner and occasionally spell the slump-prone Nick Swisher. The rigors of the marathon baseball season take a toll on outfielders and having a competent fourth man off the bench is essential. The fact that Hideki Matsui physically couldn't put up with the demands of playing the field last season caused guys like Damon and Cabrera unnecessary levels of fatigue and injury.

That's where the next replacement enters the picture. Although it might not have been the most notable move, I think this was an excellent acquisition.

Randy Winn - The consummate professional. A savvy veteran entering his 12th year in the league and donning a new uniform for the fourth time in his career. Winn has solid defensive range and can play all outfield positions, he'll be able to spell any of the team's outfielders on any given day. A switch hitter that sports a career .286/.344/.418 batting line and knows how to make the most of his abilities. Hits from both sides of the plate equally well (.280 career vs. lefties, .288 vs righties). Even at the age of 35 he can still work the base paths - he stole 56 bases in 63 attempts over the past three years and has averaged 37 doubles per season over the past four. He has proved to be very durable over his career appearing in at least 149 games each year since 2002. His numbers did start to slip last season, but while with the Giants he was expected to be a major producer in the lineup, that no longer will be the case. His body should respond well to not having to be an everyday player. I believe he has a lot of wisdom he can impart on a guy like Brett Gardner and that's invaluable. Randy Winn is one of the few veterans out there that will take being a fourth outfielder in stride and that fact alone makes him a great signing. The team has lacked this type of veteran outfield depth for some time now and his positive presence will be a welcome site to fans and players alike.

The Big Hurt Retires

Just wanted to tip my cap to one of my baseball heroes growing up. Frank Thomas had a towering career and finishes with numbers that scream Cooperstown. Some highlights include winning back-to-back MVPs in 1993-1994 and finishing with a career .974 OBP + SLG, good for 15th overall, right behind such names as Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. This is the type of player they're referring to when they say the phrase "First-ballot Hall of Famer."

What I'll remember most about The Big Hurt is the fear he struck into opposing pitchers. He was a menacing figure at the plate and more often than not he got the best of his opponent, whether working a walk or knocking a pitch out of the stadium. For a player of his stature and power to have the type of plate discipline he displayed was astounding. In 18 seasons in the league as a full time player he only had more strikeouts than walks three times! His legacy as the greatest DH of all time can now be discussed.

Thanks for the memories Frank.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Replacements - Part II

Another area of need the Yankees addressed during the offseason was starting pitching depth. Last season, Chien-Ming Wang went down with a serious injury early. Phil Hughes performed beautifully in the bullpen, but struggled in some spot starts. Joba Chamberlain faded down the stretch and posted some concerning numbers overall - 4.75 ERA, 167 hits + 76 walks in only 157 innings pitched (1.54 WHIP), 21 HR allowed. Many were expecting much more from Joba, including myself, and now one is left wondering if he will start spring training competing for a rotation spot or in the bullpen, but let's leave that for another post.

Those circumstances forced the team to rely on Sergio Mitre (nine starts), Phil Hughes (seven starts), Chad Gaudin (six starts) and Alfredo Aceves (one start, excellent long relief work). While those players performed admirably it was clear that a durable starter who could eat innings was a necessity. On to the next replacement, you may remember this one, he's worn the pinstripes before.

Javier Vazquez - To say Vazquez was a disappointment when last with the Yankees would be an understatement, posting some of the worst numbers in his career (14-10, 4.91 ERA, 150 K's in 198 innings). You also may remember, painfully, game seven of the 2004 ALCS. Coming in for an ineffective Kevin Brown in the second inning Vazquez promptly served up a grand slam to Johnny Damon. Afterwards he was shipped out of a town for Randy Johnson and earned a reputation for not being able to get it done in the big game. While it's possible that Vazquez's struggles in the big city linger, there is reason for optimism. The Yankees needed an innings eater and they certainly got one - he has averaged 215 innings per season since 2000, his durability is his main asset. In 2004 he was brought in to be the ace of the staff, he will no longer have that type of pressure with a guy like C.C. Sabathia in the clubhouse. I'm assuming he'll slot behind Andy Pettitte into the number four spot of the rotation, in order to keep a lefty, righty system going, but that remains to be seen. Nobody would question his talent and arsenal - he has the tools to be an ace, as he showed last season when he went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and struck out 238 batters in 219 innings for the Atlanta Braves. He has a dominant fastball, solid curve and above average change-up. He does tend to struggle when men are on base and has some trouble giving up the long ball, but he always keeps his walks down and therefore is able to minimize the damage. It's going to be interesting to see how he fares this season, but I believe he'll do well. I think he'll fall somewhere in between what he did last year and what he did in 2008 while pitching for the White Sox in another homer-friendly ballpark. My prediction: 16-8, 3.80 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, .250 BAA and 200 K's in 210 innings. Not too shabby for a third or fourth starter.

The Replacements

Coming fresh off their 27th World Series championship the New York Yankees weren't content to just try and ride the same team into the 2010 season. I applaud the front office for realizing the need to address glaring weaknesses. In this game, it's necessary to stay hungry and adapt constantly.

The team needed to get younger and more athletic, especially on defense, so goodbye Johnny Damon (FA) and Hideki Matsui (LAA). Those two were very valuable assets over the past few seasons and it was sad to see them go. I'm glad they were both able to win a championship while wearing the pinstripes because if they didn't do it last year they would probably be gone anyway. I'm particularly happy for Matsui finally winning it all in America and taking down the World Series MVP, it must've been very fulfilling. Melky Cabrera (ATL), Chien-Ming Wang (FA), Phil Coke (DET) and promising prospect Austin Jackson (DET) were also sent packing.

Over the next couple of days I'm going to be taking a close look at the replacements. The select few who were brought in to bring a 28th World Championship to the Bronx. It's only appropriate to start with the most polished prize.

Curtis Granderson - 28 years old and entering his fifth full season in the league. Made the All-Star team last year for the first time in his career. Very athletic and plays outstanding defense, will most likely enter the season as the starter in center field. His range and defensive metrics are well above average - he has ranked among the top three center fielders in the AL over the past three seasons. The defensive upgrade will be tremendous, it can't be understated. He has great speed (57 career triples) and is a smart baserunner (67 stolen bases in 84 career attempts). He does have a few holes in his swing, he has trouble with the breaking ball, strikes out a lot and struggles against lefties (.210 career, he'll probably end up sitting against some lefties), but he knows how to take a walk (70+ BB each of the past two seasons) and he has been an extra base hit machine since he came into the league. As a lefty in Yankee Stadium he shouldn't have any trouble matching the 30 homers he hit last year. He doesn't have to hit for average to succeed in this lineup, just ask Nick Swisher. He's also a great character guy, very well spoken, a hard worker and has a firm grasp of the history of the game and what it means to be a Yankee. He's locked up over the next three years - he'll earn $5.5 million in 2010, $8.25 million in 2011 and $10 million in 2012, the Yankees then hold a $13 million option for 2013 with a $2 million buyout. He's a perfect fit. I'm really looking forward to seeing him patrol the outfield. Plus, he has a blog!

A New Season

With pitchers and catchers set to report in one week, I'm officially excited for baseball.
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