Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New York Yankees: CC Sabathia unravels again

The New York Yankees faced former second baseman Robinson Cano for the first time since he signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners this past offseason. Cano was not a big factor in the Mariners 6-3 victory over the Yankees. Instead, CC Sabathia once again had a meltdown inning and forced an overused bullpen to work four more innings.

As has been the theme in all but one of Sabathia’s starts this season, there was a particular inning (or in one case two innings) in which things got away from him. What’s especially frustrating is there seems to be no immediate indication that the meltdown is coming, other than the fact that it’s been a regular occurrence at some point in all but one of Sabathia’s starts.

Monday, April 28, 2014

New York Yankees: Late-game arms earn Monday rest

Masahiro Tanaka was once again the headliner of a New York Yankees victory and rightfully so as he struck out 11 batters during an “off” night. But, the bigger story in my view is the continued excellent performance of the men manning the crucial late innings out of the bullpen.

Adam Warren and David Robertson combined for 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief allowing for a suddenly sluggish offense to claw out two runs over the Yankees final two at-bats and earn a 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels.

During Saturday’s 4-3 victory, the Yankees bullpen stifled the Angels across 4 2/3 innings, also allowing zero runs. At first thought to be a deficiency of the team, the bullpen has performed well beyond expectations and late-inning roles have been clearly defined.

Below is a statistical breakdown of the bullpen’s relievers mostly used by manager Joe Girardi thus far when the game has been close in the late innings through Sunday's game.

Friday, April 25, 2014

New York Yankees rise from the tar

On the same day New York Yankees starter Michael Pineda was suspended for 10 games after he was caught with a slathering of pine tar on his neck Wednesday night, the club went out and pummeled American League East rival Boston Red Sox into submission.

The Bombers tallied 14 runs and forced Red Sox manager John Farrell to use outfielder Mike Carp to wrap things up on the mound. New York received a fine performance from CC Sabathia as the Yankees turned the page on Wednesday’s embarrassing event.

Coming off such an emotional letdown, the Yankees performance Thursday had a sprinkling of positives throughout the lineup and pitching corps.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pineda’s foolishness affects Yankees in many ways

The New York Yankees will lose another member of the starting rotation for potentially two starts as Michael Pineda was ejected in Wednesday night’s 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox for use of pine tar while pitching.

The ejection came less than two weeks since Pineda was seen with pine tar on his palm, in a game against the Red Sox, but he was able to remove it before being questioned by umpires.

MLB Rule 8.02(a)(2) states, “The pitcher shall not have expectorate on the ball, either hand or his glove.” To read the entire rule click here.

While the rulebook says the suspension would be an automatic 10 games (for National Association Leagues), there is precedent that the suspension could be less as Tampa Bay Rays reliever Joel Peralta was suspended eight games for the exact same violation in 2012.

The Yankees will be affected in more ways than one because of Pineda's actions.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka calmly handles another test

When the New York Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year $155 million contract in addition to spending $20 million for the posting fee, the talk around baseball was of course how his talent would translate to playing in the major leagues. Four starts into his MLB career and the talk could soon turn to whether he can be one of the best transports from Japan to ever take the mound.

Tanaka passed yet another test Tuesday night working 7.1 innings of two-run ball in the Yankees 9-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Tanaka calmly brushed off back-to-back home runs to David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, and was otherwise stingy and displayed his filthy splitter to baffle hitters throughout the lineup.

Across 29.1 innings (yes an extremely small sample size) Tanaka has delivered as advertised. He’ll likely have mishaps along the way in his inaugural MLB season, but there is one thing that should make Yankees fans particularly happy and that is Tanaka’s ability to shake off a bad inning or stretch of batters.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New York Yankees looking to build on fine start

The New York Yankees began the season with several question marks. Some have been answered and others are still unknown. There have been pleasant surprises and some not-so-pleasant results. Most importantly, as the Yankees enter their first series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park this season, the club sits all alone in first place.

Masahiro Tanaka gets the start against Jon Lester Tuesday night in what looks like a fantastic matchup on paper. Tanaka has yet to see the Red Sox from the mound, giving the 25-year-old hurler a slight advantage.

Tanaka has managed to produce results potentially above some expectations despite his lofty resume from his playing days in Japan. Tanaka owns a 2-0 record with a 2.05 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and has struck out 28 batters in 22 innings. He has allowed just two walks.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

New York Yankees: Brian McCann’s offensive slump overshadows work behind plate

The New York Yankees suffered a tough loss Wednesday night to the Baltimore Orioles by a score of 5-4. Catcher Brian McCann continued to slump at the plate and received a brunt of the blame from the fans in the stands and via social media.

There were plenty of scoring opportunities along the way that went by the wayside of which McCann seemed to be a part.

McCann signed a five-year, $85 million contract in the offseason and the main component fans saw was that he’s a 20+ home run hitter. Indeed McCann possesses very good power and of course any strong lefty hitter coming to the Stadium is going to be perceived to get a boost in the home run department.

Thus far, McCann is 5-for-33 (.328 OPS) on the young season and he’s already feeling the wrath of the fans. I get it; there is a lot of money invested in McCann and fans want/expect to see immediate results. What is going unnoticed thus far is that McCann has been contributing behind the plate. It’s a measure of his value to the Yankees that is unsung by many fans.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Yankees must resist signing free-agent reliever

One week into the regular season and the New York Yankees are without their newly appointed closer David Robertson. It is the second time that Robertson was elevated to the role before quickly suffering an injury forcing him to the disabled list. The Yankees will automatically be linked to any number of free-agent relievers looking for a roster spot. They should avoid the temptation of “experience,” turn their attention toward their own roster and let their talent blossom.

First, Robertson’s injury is not all that serious. He suffered a grade-one strain of the groin and anticipates the minimum time served on the DL. The concern for some is not just about the immediate future, but this bullpen was considered suspect prior to Robertson’s ailment. The Yankees should not make decisions based on the chance that the experiment could fail, certainly not eight games into the season.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New York Yankees: Ivan Nova is consistently inconsistent

The New York Yankees hoped Ivan Nova’s completion of the 2013 season was a sign of things to come. Maybe, just maybe he had figured out pitching at a high level for an extended period of time.

After two starts into the regular season, and seasons worth of ups and downs, it is apparent to me at least, that Nova is never going to be an elite starter. He might never be a very good starter.

Nova recorded the win in his first outing of the season, but was effectively wild. He walked five batters in that game but was able to induce four ground balls into double plays. The rally cry was that he was resilient and worked around his troubles. He fought hard and it would be different in his next start. Different? Yes. Good? No.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Yankees win clouded by David Robertson injury

The New York Yankees won their home opener Monday afternoon 4-2 over the Baltimore Orioles in front of a sellout crowd. The celebration was short lived as Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced after the game that closer David Robertson will be placed on the disabled list due to a strained groin suffered in Sunday’s victory.

When Adam Warren came on to preserve a two-run lead in the eighth inning instead of Shawn Kelley, speculation was that Robertson was not going to be used because he had pitched in three of the last four days. Unfortunately that was not the case.

The bullpen has been a strong suit for the Yankees thus far on the young season despite being regarded as a weakness by many. Now, there will be even more questions with Robertson gone for at least a couple of weeks.

New York Yankees topple Toronto Blue Jays for series win

The New York Yankees used a balanced hitting attack, a better performance from CC Sabathia and stingy bullpen work to earn a 6-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays Sunday afternoon at Rogers Centre.

Each player in the Yankees' lineup except Brian Roberts recorded a hit, knocking out Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison in the fourth inning. Derek Jeter had two hits including number 3,320 pushing him into eighth place on the all-time list ahead of Hall of Famer Paul Molitor.

The Bombers finally received a home run, albeit from an unlikely source when Brett Gardner took Hutchison deep in the fourth. Yankees manager Joe Girardi suggested everyone is going to need to pitch in this season for the team to succeed.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

New York Yankees: Michael Pineda sharp, offense dull in loss

The New York Yankees fell to the Toronto Blue Jays Saturday 4-0, despite a superb effort from Michael Pineda in his first regular season big league start since September 2011.

R.A. Dickey and three Blue Jays relievers held the Yankees (2-3) scoreless despite having two runners on base in each of the final five innings.

Pineda was sharp and did not look like he has missed a beat since his final regular season start with the Seattle Mariners. His fastball was still reaching 95-mph in his final inning of work. He allowed one run on five hits, no walks and struck out five hitters. He threw 58 of his 83 pitches for strikes.

The sixth and eighth innings were particularly frustrating to watch as Jacoby Ellsbury and Derek Jeter singled and walked respectively to start each frame. Carlos Beltran grounded into a double play in the sixth and Brian McCann struck out to end the first rally. In the eighth, Beltran struck out, McCann grounded out and Alfonso Soriano whiffed. Soriano is now 0-for-16 this season with five strikeouts.

What seemed surprising to me was the non-call made by Yankees manager Joe Girardi with Soriano in the eighth. The Blue Jays (3-3) had brought in closer and right-hander Sergio Santos on for a four out save.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

New York Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka shows poise in MLB debut

The New York Yankees signed Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year contract worth $155 million in the offseason and most clamored on and on about his impressive split-finger fastball. Indeed the pitch can be devastating, but in his MLB debut against the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night, it was Tanaka’s poise that stood out.

Any player making his big league debut is already feeling some pressure to perform well. Any individual, in any job wants to do their best especially on their "first" day. It’s about showing they belong. Tanaka, had about as rough a beginning as possible, but he persevered and came out on top in the Yankees 7-3 victory. In the process he showed he can hold his own as a major leaguer.

After the Yankees staked Tanaka to a two-run lead courtesy of RBI-singles from Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira in the top half of the first inning, he took the hill with flashbulbs popping all over Rogers Centre.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Yangervis Solarte helps New York Yankees find win column

All it took was a rookie backup infielder to get the New York Yankees their first win of the 2014 season. Yangervis Solarte, just days after grabbing the last roster spot, went 3-for-3 scoring two runs and driving in another helping the Yankees defeat the Houston Astros 4-2 Thursday night.

Solarte flashed some leather in this one as well, demonstrating he is not just all bat. Being a switch-hitter and his versatility around the infield are undeniable benefits for the Yankees. He can spell Kelly Johnson at third base as his did Thursday when a lefty is on the mound, or he can sub for Brian Roberts at second base when manager Joe Girardi wants to rest his starter at the keystone.

If Solarte continues to make the most of his playing time, it will be difficult for the Yankees to send him back down to the minors during the season. For now, the spot is safe and it looks as though Girardi will try to get him time when he can.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New York Yankees offense fails Hiroki Kuroda; fans cry doom

It’s become more than just a trend; the New York Yankees seem unable to back Hiroki Kuroda with sufficient run support when he is on the mound. The Yankees lost their second straight game to open the 2014 season against the Houston Astros, by a score of 3-1, despite Kuroda’s six innings of two-run ball.

While Kuroda did put the Yankees behind in the first inning allowing a home run to Dexter Fowler, the offense was virtually non-existent again Wednesday night. When the Bombers were able to get runners in scoring position they couldn’t find the hit they needed, going 0-for-10 in such opportunities. They’ve hit a collective 2-for-18 with RISP so far this season.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New York Yankees: Brightside of ugly

The New York Yankees opened the season with a large thud in a degrading 6-2 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park Tuesday night. Much of the defeat can be attributed to the total ineffectiveness of CC Sabathia and some sloppy play in the first inning. The Yankees have now lost five of their last six openers, all started by Sabathia.

While Sabathia labored through the first two innings, helping the Astros jump to a six-run lead, there were some positive developments along the way.

First, both Derek Jeter and Brian McCann had injury scares early on. In Jeter’s first at-bat he was drilled by a Scott Feldman fastball on the top of the left forearm. He stayed in the game and ended up contributing a base hit, putting him two short of tying Paul Molitor on the all-time hit list. McCann took a hard foul ball to his exposed right hand early on. He too stayed in the game and delivered a RBI single in the Yankees’ half of the eighth.

Last season, it seemed the Yankees found many ways to get injured. Any time there was a hit by pitch or a freak occurrence it turned into a DL stint. Fortunately both Jeter and McCann stated they would be fine after the game. According to Chad Jennings of The Journal News, neither player will undergo tests.

After Sabathia calmed down the Yankees were able to get two of their younger relievers some time on the mound. Dellin Betances, who had a marvelous spring came on in the seventh inning and struck out two batters in a scoreless frame. Right after him, lefty Vidal Nuno struck out the side in the eighth, allowing one hit along the way.

Another positive occurrence was watching Mark Teixeira at the plate. He swung the bat as well as we’ve seen since spring training, rapping out two hits and working a walk in four plate appearances.

So in a night where Sabathia continued to stink during an Opening Day start, the Yankees walked away with a feeling that things could have been worse. Jeter summed it up as well as anyone could.

“Well we’re not going to go undefeated,” Jeter said via the New York Daily News. “It’s only one game. The good thing is we come back tomorrow.”

We’ll see if Hiroki Kuroda can right the ship and the Yankees offense can get something started against Houston’s Jarred Cosart in Wednesday’s 8:10 p.m. EST start.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer/editor and the Director of Content Strategy for Sportsideo.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

2014 New York Yankees Preview

Finally the regular season is upon us and the New York Yankees have broken camp with very high aspirations. This is nothing new, but very magnified this season as the Bombers went out and spent more than $500 million on free agents this offseason.

What can we expect from this season’s crew? I’ll break it down into several sections – infield/catcher, outfield/DH, starting rotation, bullpen, bench and manager/front office. I’ll provide my prediction for the Yankees record, order of finish in the American League East and any postseason aspirations at the end of the article.