What’s Happening in Baseball – July 8, 2021

Happy Friday, everyone!

For my “What’s Happening in Baseball” entry for today, I present Daniel Camarena of the San Diego Padres. Camarena is a native San Diegan, who made his major league debut with his hometown team, after ten seasons in the minor leagues.

Drafted by the New York Yankees in the 2011 Amateur Draft, Daniel toiled in the minor leagues for seven years. Eventually Camarena left as a minor league free agent. He bounced around several other organizations until the Yankees brought him back in 2019. The Yankees needed an extra arm, and got the call, but never appeared in the game. His MLB debut had to wait, and he returned the next day to their Triple-A team in Scranton – Wilkes Barre.

Here is video of Camarena I captured in Buffalo during one of his starts with the RailRiders when they played the Buffalo Bisons in June, 2019. Sahlen Field received massive upgrades in 2020 and ’21, becoming the temporary home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

At the end of August, the Yankees cut Camarena loose and he signed with the Padres on February 13, 2020. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the minor leagues, leaving only “alternate sites” for MLB teams in 2020. I’ll be happy if I never hear the term alternate site for the rest of my life.

Minor League Baseball is back this year, and Camarena performed well for the El Paso Chihuahuas. Across ten appearances, he pitched to a 3.74 ERA in 45.2 innings. Finally, Daniel made his MLB debut on June 19 with 2.2 innings against Cincinnati, in a game the Padres won, 7-5.

Last night, he made his second appearance a very memorable one – but for reasons no one saw coming. Summoned in the top of the 4th inning after the Washington Nationals battered Padres starter Yu Darvish for six runs in three innings, the Nats tallied a couple more runs off Camarena, taking a 8-0 lead. In the bottom of the inning, the Padres let Daniel hit for himself. After all, Manager Jayce Tingler figured they were going to need some length with many innings for the bullpen to cover.

Camarena walked to the plate with the bases loaded against Nationals ace Max Scherzer, and history unveiled itself.

In addition, his brother and other family members were in the house to see it live.

It’s nice to see good things happen to good people. See ya next time! 😎⚾

Yankees Progress Report – 60 Games

When we left off after the Yankees 50 game report, the team was playing much better. The offense was still lagging but they were getting good pitching and just enough offense to win seven of their ten games from May 17 through the 27th. To quote a worn-out cliché from manager Aaron Boone, it looked like the Yankees were turning the corner.

Fast forward another ten games later, and the team is back where they were three weeks ago, treading water and playing barely over .500 ball. The Yankees played three games against the Tigers in Detroit and got swept. They returned home to play a four-game set against the Rays, which they split, followed by three games at home against the Boston Red Sox. In any case, it ended in a demoralizing sweep in front of the Yankee Stadium faithful.

Let’s go over the carnage.

The offense – let’s just say it was offensive. To save the aggravation of re-living it, I’ll just summarize. Yankees hitters need to be better. When they weren’t striking out, which was often, they were hitting into double plays. When they weren’t hitting into double plays, they were making dumb outs on the base-paths. And that’s only when they were finding ways to get on base. 

Yankees beat-writer Sweeny Murti summed it up well.

Honestly, it’s been painful. To save space, I’ll just say that Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela are really the only hitters that are performing as expected. The rest are spinning their wheels in the mud. 

Pitching – the rotation and pitching staff as a whole suffered a tremendous blow when Corey Kluber went on the injured list. He left his start against the Blue Jays after three innings on May 25. Just six days prior, he pitched a no-hitter against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Diagnosed as a shoulder strain, Kluber has reportedly sought 2nd and 3rd opinions.  Kluber played catch on June 4 and felt good, which is encouraging.

Gerrit Cole was roughed up at home against the Rays on June 3, giving up five runs in five innings. Uncharacteristically, a pair of lead-off walks in the 4th and 5th innings ended up scoring. Additionally, his spin-rates were down, which made some ask if he was curtailing his supposed use of sticky substances in the wake of MLB’s announcement that they are going start randomly checking pitchers for illegal use.

The bullpen is beginning to show signs of wear, with Chad Green and Justin Wilson suffering poor recent outings. Green let in four runs against the Red Sox while recording just a pair of outs in a 7-3 loss on June 5. Wilson was walked off in the 10th inning in Detroit on May 28, when Robbie Grossman hit a two run shot. In essence, Wilson should have been out of the inning with a save and a Yankees win. Home plate umpire Vic Carapazza had other ideas. According to MLB Gameday, Wilson hit his spot which should have been called strike three. Carapazza called it a ball.

Murphy’s law took over and Grossman ended the game on the very next pitch. 

To be sure, it was a tough 10-game stretch, with the Yankees losing five out of seven at home. The Yankees started an eight game road trip with an 8-4 win against the Twins, with the offense looking much more like themselves. By and large, it’s a good head start for the next ten game stretch. Like YES Network broadcaster David Cone says, “Home runs are a great deodorant”. So is winning!

See ya next time!

Who Gets the Final Yankees Roster Spot?

As spring training wound down, New York Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch sent a tweet saying INF Tyler Wade and pitcher Michael King made the team’s Opening Day roster.

Yes, one spot remains. With lefty reliever Justin Wilson out for the short-term, it could make sense to replace him with another pitcher. Lucas Luetge immediately comes to mind. The 34 year old Luetge hasn’t pitched in the bigs since 2015, but he had an impressive spring. He struck out 18 over 10.2 innings and allowed only a pair of runs. The Yankees could do much worse than Luetge.

 

On the other hand, with everyone fresh, the team could decide to add an extra bench player for a few days until the team needs an additional arm. Thairo Estrada may be a good option, adding another infielder to the mix. Estrada made his presence known at the end of camp, hitting home runs in back to back games. As of this moment, Wade is the only backup infielder on the squad.

The rest of the team is ready to go, the Yankees are back in New York. And FANS WILL BE THERE! I love Opening Day. 😎

UPDATE – According to Max Goodman of Sports Illustrated, Luetge appeared to be at Yankee Stadium with the team this afternoon. Stay tuned.

And it’s officially official. Lucas Luetge has indeed made the Yankees 26 man roster.

Could Yankees Really Trade Gleyber Torres?

 

Last night, on YES Network’s “Yankees Hot Stove” program, Meredith Marakovits interviewed Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Cashman. Meredith asked him about several Yankees players, including star infielder Gleyber Torres, who struggled on both sides of his game for the majority of the truncated 2020 campaign. Cashman cut right to the chase.

Courtesy of YES Network 2020

 

“He wasn’t in the best shape to start the second spring training.”

Ouch! But it does explain why Torres had troubles for most of the season. It also explains why he was so hot in the postseason when he raked to the tune of a 1.292 OPS. He had his feet under him and was in proper playing shape.

While 2020 was a year unlike any other (and hopefully we won’t ever see again), it’s a bit troubling Gleyber apparently let himself go during the layoff. No one knows what he was doing or not doing at the time. For Cashman to take this public, he evidently wasn’t impressed.

Which leads me to wonder. If (a big if) Yankees re-sign free agent DJ LeMahieu, would Cashman consider trading Torres for much needed pitching help? Remember, Cashman says Gleyber’s a better second baseman. Gleyber’s value is still high, considering the hot postseason he just had. He also hit 38 home runs in 2019, driving in 90 runs. But what happens if he has another punchless season in 2021 and his defense hasn’t improved? His trade value would drop precipitously. Of course, if LeMahieu leaves to go elsewhere then all bets are off.

Almost two and a half years ago, Cashman said “I have to walk around in this city”, when asked if he could consider trading Torres.

 

Now, it may not be as far-fetched.

 

Yankees 40 Game Report

It seems like it was just the other day when I cranked out the 30 game report for the New York Yankees. Time flies when you’re having fun, right?

The last ten games for the Yankees and their fans have been anything but fun. The same can be said for the ten games before that. It’s been a very ugly stretch for this battered team. Let’s get on to assess the carnage, shall we?

Hitting

Or lack thereof. Where do we even begin? I guess we will start with the guys actually producing. D.J. LeMahieu came back for the team’s 30th game after missing ten games with a hand injury. He picked right up where he left off. “LeMachine” logged 10 hits in 36 at-bats in this ten game stretch, including back to back two hit games against the Tampa Bay Rays. The second of which he slammed a pair of home runs in a rare Yankees win over the Rays.

First baseman Luke Voit was productive against the Mets and Rays, but cooled off considerably against the Baltimore Orioles. Backup catcher Erik Kratz has been a pleasant surprise for many reasons (see this YES Network video about him helping Latin pitchers realize their dreams), but he has swung the bat well (8 hits in 27 AB’s) and gunned down a couple runners. Saturday night, he caught O’s catcher Pedro Severino napping off 2nd base from his knees. Not bad for a 40 year old.

There’s not much else positive to say about the rest of this Yankees lineup. 3rd baseman Gio Urshela has battled a troublesome bone spur in his throwing elbow, and was placed on the IL. Gary Sánchez still looks lost at the plate (13 hits in 100 AB’s), including strikeouts in each of his last seven plate appearances. He did manage a home-run, a grand slam that proved to be a game-winner against the Mets in the first game of a doubleheader. However, Aaron Boone is planning to sit him for a couple days to get himself right.

Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Mike Ford and Tyler Wade continue to struggle and give non-competitive at bats. Mike Tauchman has one hit over his last 17 at bats. Clint Frazier is still hitting well (8 for last 26), but only drove in three runs. It’s hard to drive runs in when no one else gets on.

Pitching

You know things aren’t going so hot when Jonathan Holder has the lowest ERA on the team (minimum 10 IP). Sigh.

It’s been a tough last few turns for Gerrit Cole, but he deserved so much better Saturday night against the Orioles. He has his best stuff of the season. Cole struck out five of the first six hitters and sat 97-99 with his four-seamer. He had nine K’s through five innings on only 63 pitches. The next inning, the roof caved in. D.J Stewart hit a home-run. Hanser Alberto reached on an error. Cole issued back-to-back walks, then followed those up with a two-run single and a ground-rule double. Next thing you know, five runs have scored (one earned) and that’s all she wrote.

Masahiro Tanaka tossed six innings of two run ball in a 5-3 Yankees win against the Rays on September 1, punching seven tickets. Sunday against the Orioles, Masa was charged with four runs (two earned) over 5.1 innings in Baltimore. Like Cole the night before, Tanaka deserved a better fate. Luis Cessa relieved him for some reason only Manager Aaron Boone knows (more on this later). Cessa inherited two of Tanaka’s runners and allowed a single to load the bases. He went on to walk in a run, followed by a single for another Baltimore run. The O’s went on to a 5-1 win Sunday. Again, Tanaka deserved better.

Jordan Montgomery imploded in a his start against Tampa on September 2, giving up five straight hits and two home-runs to a fired-up Rays team. The day before, closer Aroldis Chapman sailed a 101 mph fastball just inches over the head of Mike Brosseau. The Rays felt they had something to prove, and they made a statement, jumping on Montgomery, who only recorded two outs on 39 pitches.

J.A. Happ made a start in Thursday’s makeup game against the Mets, going five innings, giving up 4 runs on eight hits. His season continues to be up and down.

Deivi García pitched a beautiful six innings against the Mets in his debut on August 30, striking out six. He looked like a seasoned veteran, allowing a scant four hits. He drew praise across MLB, including Pedro Martínez, whom García is often compared to.

His second start wasn’t as great, but pitched into the 5th inning before he was relieved by fellow rookie Clarke Schmidt, who was just called up to make his Major League debut. It didn’t go well, with the Orioles ripping him for three straight hits, allowing four runs to score. We’ll also touch on this move by Boone later.

Michael King made a couple of uninspiring starts and abbreviated starts, against the Mets and Orioles, respectively. King didn’t pitch badly, only giving up a total of five runs between the two starts. But Boone doesn’t give him a lot of rope. His longest outing of the season was his start against the Mets, four innings. That puts a lot of work on the bullpen.

Speaking of the bullpen, it’s worn out. Any starter not named Gerrit Cole or Masahiro Tanaka simply doesn’t get to pitch very deeply into games. Sometimes it’s for a good reason (they are getting shelled), sometimes it’s because Aaron Boone gets an itchy trigger-finger or analytics call for a move.

Adam Ottavino (16 appearances), Chad Green (15) and Zack Britton (13) are getting worked a lot, and the team is averaging 4.5 innings per start from their starting pitchers. Things are getting thin, and cracks are beginning to show. Jonathan Loaisiga, who’s been valuable as an opener and multi-inning reliever, was put on the IL with an illness unrelated to COVID.

As mentioned earlier, Aroldis Chapman threw a pitch above Mike Brosseau’s head. This ended up getting him a three game suspension from Major League Baseball. He has appealed and is awaiting a hearing. Even if reduced, it adds more to an overworked bullpen. Another unwise and selfish move by Aroldis.

Britton returned from the injured list last week, and will help ease the burden. He looked a bit rusty in his first couple games back, but should be fine with more work.

Luis Cessa and Jonathan Holder have received higher-leverage innings out of necessity, reaffirming how much the Yankees miss Tommy Kahnle (Tommy John surgery).

Aaron Boone/Coaching

The Yankees have now lost 13 of their last 18 games. Aaron Boone has made some questionable decisions. Bringing in Luis Cessa into a runners-on situation in relief of Tanaka trailing only by a run (it didn’t work). Having Clarke Schmidt, a starter, make his debut in the middle of an inning with runners on base (it failed miserably) when he had a couple other arms to chose from. Not having Erik Kratz catch J.A. Happ (who raved about working with Kratz after the game) when the pair was spectacular together in Happ’s previous start, having Kyle Higashioka catch him instead (it didn’t go that well).

I realize managing a team is difficult, managing a struggling team in New York magnifies it tenfold. But it seems like Boone is making things harder than it needs to be.

It’s easy for me, other writers and fans to be armchair managers. One thing is obvious. The Yankees need to turn this around, or they may be watching the playoffs along with us in our armchairs.

 

Waiting for the Kraken to Release 🦑

The New York Yankees are off to a torrid start to their 2020 season, winning eight of their first nine games. Catcher Gary Sánchez has been off to a dreadful start with his bat.

This isn’t unusual. Gary has a lifetime batting average of .207 with a slash-line of .207/.531/.806 in March and April. It’s no surprise he is struggling at the onset of the season, because he has always been a streaky hitter. Hits and home runs come in bunches for Sánchez when he gets hot. When the Kraken is on fire, Yankees games are fun to watch because he puts on a show.

Sánchez’s hitting is secondary to me, though. Make no mistake, his towering blasts are jaw-dropping. What matters most to me about Gary’s game is the work he does behind the plate. Watching the way he and new ace Gerrit Cole interact in the dugout after each inning tells me how much his defense and calling games means to him. Although Cole grew up a huge Yankees fan, I don’t think he would make a nine year commitment if he didn’t feel good about his main battery-mate.

Sánchez worked diligently on his techniques behind the plate this past winter with Tanner Swanson, the new catching coordinator. YES Network filmed Gary doing drills in Florida back in February.


In seven games behind the dish, Sánchez has thrown out one out of two would-be base stealers and recorded one passed ball. It wasn’t long ago when his defense was a liability, drawing the ire of then-Yankees manager Joe Girardi, a key reason why the manager wasn’t retained.

The hits and home runs will come, albeit in bunches. The good news is the calendar now reads “August”, a month that historically has been scalding-hot for Sánchez (1.075 OPS).

The Yankees are 5-7. Let’s Not Panic.

The 2019 season in Major League Baseball is two weeks old (except for the Mariners and Oakland A’s, who began a week earlier in Japan). The New York Yankees have started off winning only five of their first dozen games, and Yankees Twitter is already ablaze with a lot of bad takes interspersed with several others being much needed voices of reason.

I’m not sure what’s more disturbing. Is it people blaming manager Aaron Boone or Twitter GM’s creating polls asking whether this is Boone’s fault or GM Brian Cashman for creating the roster? WE’RE TWELVE GAMES IN, PEOPLE! The Yankees have played 12 damn games! Get a grip on reality.

Listen. There are several players injured. The team has Luis Severino, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andújar and Aaron Hicks among others on the injured list. Sure there have been some players not performing well, most notably Zack Britton and James Paxton after last night’s loss and sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros. I’ve had some wingnut tweet me during each of Paxton’s three Yankees making sure he tells me how bad he is.

Thank God for the mute button. I can’t think it’s an exercise in good judgement to write a guy off after his first three appearances in Pinstripes, but there are people out there doing that.

Rest assured, Yankees players, coaches and front office don’t want to have a record of 5-7, but it’s EARLY. We’re not even halfway through April. So please, hang in there. When players get healthy and the temperatures warm up, these Yankees will be the Bronx Bombers we all know and love.

Didi admiring Judge 495

Yankees Extend Aaron Hicks

Just before 8 o’clock this morning, Jack Curry of the YES Network announced via Twitter that the New York Yankees signed center-fielder Aaron Hicks to a 7 yr./70 million dollar contract extension.

The extension begins with this season, replacing the one year contract Hicks signed in January, and extends through his age-35 season. This is an extremely wise move by Yankees GM Brian Cashman and the front office. It ensures that Hicks, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton will stay together through 2022 at the earliest.

Hicks will man centerfield for the foreseeable future, at least until highly-touted OF prospect Estevan Florial is ready for major-league action. Florial is in Yankees camp as a non-roster invitee, but probably two years away. Chances are Hicks will shift to left field when that time comes.

For this season, it looks like long-time Yankee Brett Gardner will get most of the playing time in left. Gardy is 35, and wears down as the season goes on. He could split time with Clint Frazier, or Jacoby Ellsbury (remember him?) if he actually plays. The Yankees have to pay Ellsbury anyway, so they may as well see if he can contribute.

Long term, I have a feeling Cashman will try to trade Frazier if he has a healthy spring. With Hicks, Judge, Giancarlo and Florial, there’s really no room for Clint. They may as well trade him for prospects and start replenishing the farm system for the future.

Also of note, according to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are now shifting their attention to try to sign Dellin Betances to a long-term deal.

The Yankees play this afternoon against the Toronto Blue Jays at 1:00 on YES Network. The Big Maple, James Paxton makes his spring debut against Marcus Stroman. See you there!