Game 70: A Second Helping of Lasagna

More Lasagna, please!

Jonathan Loáisiga will make his second MLB start Wednesday night in the Bronx as the Yankees take on Félix Hernández and the Seattle Mariners in the second game of a three-game set.

Johnny Lasagna, as the Internet calls him (which he approves of, by the way), impressed many with his five scoreless innings in his first start. Loáisiga showed great poise as he struck out six, walked four and allowed three hits in his first five innings above Double-A ball. He managed to equal his MiLB walk total in one start, though that can easily be attributed to MLB-debut jitters and more disciplined MLB hitters.

Facing the Yankees and Loáisiga will be Félix Hernández, Gleyber Torres‘ workout partner and the “pitcher that [he] … would like the opportunity to face him and have some fun” against. The Venezuelan has certainly fallen from the “King Félix” that won the Cy Young Award in 2010. Through six starts this season, Hernández has an unsightly 5.34 ERA and has already allowed 12 home runs. The most he’s ever given up in a season was 23 in 2006 and 2015. He lost his last time out against Boston, allowing just two runs over seven innings. Before that, he lasted just three innings against Tampa Bay allowing six runs (five earned). The Yankees look to make it three straight losses against an American League East club.

Brett Gardner is out of the lineup yet again with a sore right knee, though Gardner did tell reporters he expected to start Wednesday and that he would go through his full pre-game routine. Clint Frazier gets his second consecutive start in left field. Aaron Hicks remains the leadoff hitter against a righty, though his usual job is to leadoff against lefties. Gleyber Torres might just be permanently living in the No. 5 spot until the likes of Gary Sánchez (hitting 6th) and Greg Bird (hitting 7th) show some life.


Some other notes floating around before this middle game against Seattle:

  • Aaron Boone provided a nice non-update about Jacoby Ellsbury, who’s had approximately four different injuries since the end of Spring Training. “I think he’s getting close to getting back into baseball activities. But he’s doing pretty well and progressing,” Boone told Randy Miller of NJ Advanced Media on Wednesday. He visited a back specialist and got a good diagnosis, but the Yankees have no place for him realistically until the September 1 roster expansion date.
  • Both Frazier and Ronald Torreyes have had fantastic attitudes regarding their recent MiLB demotions that were dictated by need at the MLB level. Both players bring MLB-ready talent to the table, but it just depends on who the Yankees need to round out their bench. Frazier was recalled with Gardner’s knee issues, and Torreyes took his demotion in stride: “[Torreyes] wanted to know where Scranton was right away so he could get going. I told him I want him back here sooner than later,” per Boone. The Yankees manager similarly had praised Frazier for continuing to hone his craft at Triple-A: “One of the conversations I’ve had with him, both times I sent him back, is, ‘Keep on working, keep on getting better, taking your craft seriously every day,'” Boone said. “I think he’s done a really good job of that. He’s gone back down each time and played really well and produced and all the reports are what you want to hear. So it’s not a player going down there and frustrating and sulking and that kind of stuff. That gets me excited.”

Mariners Lineup:

  1. Dee Gordon – 2B
  2. Jean Segura – SS
  3. Mitch Haniger – CF
  4. Nelson Cruz – DH
  5. Kyle Seager – 3B
  6. Denard Span – LF
  7. Ryon Healy – 1B
  8. Ben Gamel – RF
  9. Mike Zunino – C

Nationals 5, Yankees 4: Soto’s Shots Sink Yanks in Finale

The Yankees had no solution for 19-year-old phenom Juan Soto‘s power stroke Wednesday night, as the phenom slugged two home runs to power the Nationals to a series split in the Bronx.

Sonny Gray did not have his best stuff, but battled his way through five innings on 89 pitches. The toughest pitch he threw was a 1-0 fastball to Soto in the fourth inning, which looked like a lazy fly ball to left field. But, even with its 14% Statcast hit probability, it managed to carry out over the left field wall for a go-ahead three-run shot.

Soto struck again in the seventh inning once Chasen Shreve had retired the Nats in order in his first inning of relief. Once again, a 1-0 fastball came back to haunt a Yankee pitcher. But, this home run for Soto was no wall-scraper. With an exit velocity of 111.2 mph and an estimated distance of 436 feet, it’s safe to say Soto got all of that Shreve pitch.

The Nationals got the scoring going in the first inning. Adam Eaton doubled, Trea Turner moved him to third with an infield single before Anthony Rendon hit a sacrifice fly to score Eaton. In the bottom of the first, Brett Gardner singled, stole second and moved to third on a Spencer Kieboom throwing error before Aaron Judge knocked him in with a sac fly of his own.

Greg Bird, demoted to the No. 7 spot in the lineup, smoked his third homer of the year off Nats’ spot-starter Erick Fedde in the bottom of the second. Giancarlo Stanton knocked Judge in with an RBI single in the bottom of the third to give the Yankees a 2-run lead prior to Soto’s unfortunate homer.

Gleyber Torres drilled his 12th home run of the year to lead off the fifth against Fedde, which marks a career-high for the 21-year-old. From there, however, the Yankees offense would grind to a halt. They finished the evening 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position on the evening, with the one being Stanton’s RBI single. Bird doubled to leadoff the seventh but was stranded. A Didi Gregorius walk and Stanton single were wasted in the eighth.


Some postgame notes:

  • Juan Soto and Gleyber Torres have a combined age of 41 years, 48 days, the lowest by opposing players to homer in the same game since Mike Tiernan and Egyptian Healy on May 19, 1887, per Stats by STATS (Twitter).
  • Masahiro Tanaka was sent home with an unspecified illness prior to Wednesday’s game, George A. King III of the New York Post reported (Twitter). After the game, Aaron Boone told reporters it was an inner ear infection (Twitter).
  • Sonny Gray was spotted with a “soft brace” on his right elbow, but would not say what it was for, per MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch and The Athletic‘s Marc Carig. Carig told Pinstripe Point of View that it was the first time he’d seen Gray wear it, but he “could have missed it” before. It’s something worth watching.

What’s Next:

The Tampa Bay Rays, who have won three straight but just four of their last 10, come to town for a four-game series. Lefty Blake Snell, who is breaking out in 2018, faces Domingo Germán, who is looking to settle into the No. 5 spot in the Yankees rotation now that Jordan Montgomery is out for the season.

Game 62: Two-Game Sweep in Sight

Can Sonny figure it out at Yankee Stadium?

Sonny Gray gets the ball as he looks to pitch the Yankees to a win in a third straight start, while the team also looks to sweep the visiting Washington Nationals quickly out of town.

Gray’s 2018 has been, well, weird. In an equal sample size (6 starts), he has been an ace on the road (2.83 ERA, .578 OPS) and just lost at Yankee Stadium (7.22 ERA, .914 OPS). He got knocked around in his last start in the Bronx, allowing the Los Angeles Angels to hang five runs on seven hits in 3⅔ innings on May 26. Since then, however, Gray has allowed just one run in 14 innings while striking out 14 batters. The 28-year-old received an unfair no-decision in his last start June 6 against the Toronto Blue Jays, where he tossed eight innings of shutout ball. The Yankees won that game, but not until a three-run 13th inning when Gray was long gone. He hopes to continue that trend so that people will stop talking about this outrageous statistical split.

The Nationals had to make a roster move to recall tonight’s starter, Erick Fedde, from their Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse. Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the team’s No. 4 prospect, Fedde has “potential as a mid-rotation starter”. His Triple-A statistics don’t show that however, where he has a 4.76 ERA in 11 starts for the Chiefs. He made one spot-start for the Nationals on May 23, picking up a loss against the San Diego Padres allowing three runs in 5⅔ innings.

Gary Sánchez continues to sit out as part of a campaign by Aaron Boone to rest the struggling backstop. “I just felt like it’s a chance to give him essentially three days to freshen him up a little bit, get some good days of recovery and work and then have back at it,” Boone said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Austin Romine is slashing .410/.467/.821 in 39 at-bats since April 30 so Boone has no issue giving Sánchez all the time he needs. Miguel Andújar returns to the lineup after a night off to allow Neil Walker into the lineup against Tanner Roark. Greg Bird remains in the lineup, but loses his No. 3 slot in the lineup to Didi Gregorius. Bird, who has struggled (1-for-18 since June 6), drops down to the No. 7 spot.


Washington Nationals Lineup

  1. Adam Eaton – RF
  2. Trea Turner – SS
  3. Bryce Harper – CF
  4. Anthony Rendon – 3B
  5. Daniel Murphy – DH
  6. Matt Adams – 1B
  7. Juan Soto – LF
  8. Wilmer Difo – 2B
  9. Spencer Kieboom – C
    Erick Fedde – RHP

Jonathan Loáisiga To Be Promoted, Pitch Friday

With the injury to Masahiro Tanaka requiring a 10-day disabled list stint that could be much longer than that, the Yankees have decided to turn to an internal option to take his rotation spot: No. 12 prospect Jonathan Loáisiga. Manager Aaron Boone announced Loáisiga would start Thursday in a news conference prior to Tuesday’s game, but corrected himself postgame to say his debut would be Friday.

With the timetable for Tanaka’s return uncertain, the Yankees opted to go with one of the better arms so far in their minor league system this year in Loáisiga. Though he has not appeared above Double-A, the 23-year-old has demonstrated impressive control through 10 starts in the minors. In 45 innings, he has walked just four batters compared to 58 strikeouts. His 4.32 ERA in the Double-A Eastern League was inflated by his most recent outing, where he allowed four runs in 2+ innings because he reached a 50-pitch limit imposed in anticipation of him starting Friday.

“We feel like Loáisiga coming up in a spot situation where we may only need him for a start — two or three depending on Tanaka — I certainly feel good about the decision to bring Jonathan up,” Boone said. “I think he has a chance to come in, because of his stuff and the way he pounds the strike zone, I don’t think he’ll be overwhelmed by all of it. I think it’s a sound decision.”

Loáisiga was picked up by the Yankees at a tryout camp once he was released from his contract with the San Francisco Giants. He signed in February 2016, but made it through one start at Low-A before requiring Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He recovered in time to make 11 starts in 2017, and impressed enough there and in instructional league to land a spot on the 40-man roster after the season.

His scouting report, per MLB Pipeline:

While Loáisiga is small and skinny, he has surprising power to his three-pitch repertoire. His quick arm repeatedly generates 93-96 mph fastballs that top out at 98 with life down in the strike zone. His low-80s curveball features a high spin rate and his upper-80s change-up has nice fade, albeit with a bit too much velocity.

Loáisiga has a clean delivery that he repeats well, allowing him to work the bottom of the strike zone and issue just three walks in 32⅔ innings last season. His stuff and control give him a ceiling of a mid-rotation starter, though his size and health history are concerns.

The Yankees passed over a veteran with MLB experience, David Hale, and a heralded top prospect, Justus Sheffield, in order to tap Loáisiga for this start. They likely did not want to risk losing Hale to free agency again as he is out of options, and they do not want to start Sheffield’s service clock until they are confident that he won’t be returned to the minors again.

Greg Bird Activated; Ronald Torreyes Optioned to SWB

The Toe-Night Show moves to Scranton, at least for now.

We all knew Greg Bird was coming back today. Yankee manager Aaron Boone told Mike Francesa as much during Thursday’s off-day. He also mentioned that the team had not quite figured out who was going to be demoted to Triple-A when the slugging first baseman returned.

“It’s something that we’ve had a lot of conversations about,” Boone said before Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. “We are still mulling it over; we just met a little bit ago to work through things and what we think the best way to go is. It leads to a difficult decision, not a simple one, not an obvious one. It’s something, frankly, that we’re still kind of working through.”

That decision has been made, and it must not have been easy. The Yankees demoted fan-favorite utility infielder Ronald Torreyes to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and activated Bird as expected. Torreyes was hitting .339/.349/.435 with six doubles in 62 at-bats this season. His value came from his ability to hit for contact even without much playing time, as well as suit up at any non-first base infield position and even in the outfield corners.

It’s worth noting that last season, where Torreyes played in 108 games and Bird in just 48, that Bird had an OPS+ of 84 and Torreyes’ was just 81. Bird actually managed to contribute more offense despite having 166 fewer plate appearances. That’s because of Torreyes’ 153 hits as a member of the Yankees, a whopping 83.7% of them have been singles. Out of Bird’s 69 hits as a Yankee, just 47.8% have been singles.

Bird brings some badly needed lefty power to the Yankees lineup. Lefty hitters have only hit 18 home runs for the Yankees this year, and 11 of those have come from Didi Gregorius. When healthy, the 25-year-old Bird does quite well against lefties. His OPS is actually 69 points higher against southpaws than righties, which is impressive for a young player.

The Yankees choose to keep Tyler Austin and A.J. Cole around, who were my top candidates for a demotion upon Bird’s return. Austin will likely platoon at first until Bird is ready to play everyday, as well as get some at-bats as a designated hitter when the Yankees face a tough lefty. With the Yankees struggling to get consistent innings from Domingo Germán and Sonny Gray, it makes sense to keep an arm like Cole’s around in case of mop-up and/or long relief situations.

I wouldn’t expect Torreyes to be gone long, as the Yankees likely will not want to rely on Gleyber Torres as their sole backup shortstop. While the decision to send Torreyes down must’ve been tough, it makes the most short-term sense for this team. It’s not like they abandoned him on a deserted island. Torreyes had the most flexibility because of his minor league options and I see him continuing to contribute in the Bronx this season.

Erik Kratz Traded to Brewers; Adam Lind Released

The Yankees made two minor league moves Friday afternoon, trading Triple-A catcher Erik Kratz to the Brewers and releasing 1B/OF Adam Lind. The Yankees signed utility man Wilkin Castillo, primarily a catcher, out of the independent Atlantic League yesterday likely knowing Kratz would be dealt today.

Kratz, 37, came to the Yankees in exchange for cash considerations ahead of the September 1 roster expansion date in 2017. His acquisition came at a time where the Yankees needed catching depth because of looming suspensions to both Austin Romine and Gary Sánchez. Kratz went 2-for-2 with a double and two RBIs in four appearances for the Yankees. This season in Triple-A, he was hitting .269/.356/.538 with four home runs and six RBIs in the International League. The Brewers selected Kratz to their 25-man active roster today.

Lind was released as the Yankees await the return of Greg Bird to the everyday lineup. This all but confirms that Tyler Austin will be demoted to Triple-A when Bird is officially activated Saturday. Lind was hitting .241/.302/.414 with one home run and seven RBIs in eight games prior to his release. The minor league contract he signed contained an opt-out for June 1, and the Yankees gave him a head-start on his free agency with this release.

Castillo was with the Yankees in 2017, though only in minor league duty. The 33-year-old is a switch-hitter, and has appeared at every position except for center field in his minor league career. Between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, he slashed .196/.243/.286 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. He’s there to play defense and give the other minor leaguers a breather every once in a while. Castillo was hitting .314/.400/.486 through 20 games with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League.


The Yankees activated RHP Tommy Kahnle from the 10-day disabled list prior to Friday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

Tommy Kahnle to Return Friday; Greg Bird on Saturday

Badly needed reinforcements are headed to the Bronx, as key contributors RHP Tommy Kahnle and 1B Greg Bird are set to be activated from the disabled list during the upcoming series against the Los Angeles Angels. Manager Aaron Boone provided the information in a radio interview with Mike Francesa.

The bullpen proved overworked in an ugly loss Wednesday in Texas, where the Yankees’ offense scored 10 runs but were bested by 12 from the Rangers. Tommy Kahnle will provide extra length as he serves as another arm Boone can trust in a high-leverage situation. Kahnle last pitched April 12 in Boston, before a concerning velocity drop led the Yankees to discover his right shoulder tendinitis. That likely explains his unsightly 6.14 ERA (5.69 FIP) as well as astronomical 9.8 walks-per-nine rate. So far on his rehab assignment, Kahnle has allowed two earned runs in five innings of work.

Greg Bird returns to a first base position that has actually been handled well in his absence. The 25-year-old did not make the trip north for the Yankees’ opening series in Toronto due to another surgery on a small bone spur in his right ankle. Doctors removed a coin-sized calcium deposit from the joint. Yankees first basemen have combined to hit .238/.296/.431 with nine homers and 33 RBIs to this point in the season, so they have the luxury to ease Bird back into things. I would expect the Yankees to demote an extra reliever (likely A.J. Cole) so that they can keep both Tyler Austin and Neil Walker on the active roster. On his rehab assignment, Bird has slashed .205/.367/.436 with three home runs. He likely will play one more game with the RailRiders Friday in Scranton.


Gary Sánchez, who left Tuesday night’s game with calf cramps and did not start in Wednesday’s game, will likely start behind the plate as normal to catch Luis Severino in Friday’s series opener. He’ll get at least the half-day-off Saturday as Sonny Gray will start.

Prior to Boone’s interview with Francesa, there was nervousness regarding Sánchez’s health as the team signed catcher Wilkin Castillo out of the independent Atlantic League and assigned him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. No word at this point if either of their catchers, Kyle Higashioka or Erik Kratz, are going through any injury issues. Castillo is actually quite versatile as well, logging innings at first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field and right field. And, yes, he logged 6⅔ innings on the mound for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians in the Pittsburgh Pirates system in 2015.

Earlier today, the Yankees activated outfielder Billy McKinney (left shoulder sprain) from the 10-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

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