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.
The Yankees made two more cuts Tuesday, sending the presumed third-string catcher Kyle Higashioka and No. 1 prospect infielder Gleyber Torres to minor league camp. Each player is on the 40-man roster, so the team used an option year on each player.
Higashioka impressed with the bat this spring. But, it was not enough to take the backup catcher job away from Austin Romine, who has shown a similarly hot bat. Higashioka hit .333/.444/.467 in nine games before his demotion. As the third catcher on the 40-man, he’s only an injury away from coming back to the big leagues. He made a nine-game cameo last season when Gary Sánchez went down with a bicep injury, going hitless in 20 plate appearances. Higashioka, barring any injuries of his own, will be the starting catcher at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Torres struggled at the plate in his return from Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow. Many expected Torres to run away with the second base job, but the rust that comes with missing an entire half a season reared its ugly head. That resulted in a slash-line of .160/.250/.240 in 11 games. Torres also looked like he was trying to do too much both at the plate and in the field, where he had some miscues typical of a player trying too hard.
Plus, the Yankees gain an extra year of control over Torres if he remains in the minor leagues for at least 16 days. I think the Yankees would have demoted Torres for those 16 days regardless of his performance in the spring. One extra year of control over a player MLB Pipeline says “has the tools to be a star” could make a ton of difference in the future. In the minors, Torres will likely continue his rotation of playing at third base, shortstop and second base.
The Yankees’ matchup with the Detroit Tigers today ended locked in a 2-to-2 tie after Giovanny Gallegos blew a one-run lead after just two batters in the ninth inning.
It was a low-scoring game from the start, with the Tigers scoring first on a Leonys Martín solo shot off CC Sabathia in the third inning. That was all the offense that the Tigers got until the ninth inning.
The Bronx Bombers did not look like themselves until their two-run rally in the eighth inning. Didi Gregorius launched his third home run of the spring to cut the lead in half. Aaron Hicks followed with a single, Miguel Andújar moved him to second on a ground out, Adam Lind walked, Gleyber Torres walked to load the bases, then Shane Robinson beat out a double play ground ball to score Hicks and tie the game.
The Tigers came right back in the ninth. JaCoby Jones singled off Gallegos then moved to second on a wild pitch. Victor Reyes promptly singled to center field, and Jones beat Estevan Florial’s throw to the plate.
The Yankees threatened in the bottom of the ninth after Jeff Hendrix made it to third after a leadoff walk. But, strikeouts from Jace Peterson and Kyle Higashioka set the stage for Estevan Florial to ground out to second base. Hendrix was stranded on third, and that ended the game in Tampa.
- Neil Walker is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut in pinstripes (at least the pants) for Friday’s evening matchup with the Houston Astros. He had been working out at the free agent camp setup by the MLBPA in Bradenton, Fla., and is scheduled to workout at the Yankees’ minor league complex over the next few days to prepare for full game activity.
The Yankees send Chance Adams to the hill to take on Miguel Castro of the Baltimore Orioles at their complex in Sarasota, Fla.
The Yankees are off to a great start this spring, grabbing a 3-to-1 win over the Detroit Tigers in the season opener.
The first inning was the only one where Yankees pitching tripped. Leonys Martín led off with a single for the Tigers, then moved to second on a deep fly ball from Nicholas Castellanos. After a groundout, Martín came into score on a Chad Huffman single. That run off Luis Cessa was all the Tigers got. After Cessa, Ben Heller, David Hale, Brady Lail, Cale Coshow and Giovanny Gallegos combined for seven shutout innings.
The Yankees’ offense struck in the sixth inning. Tyler Wade led off with a hustle double, then moved to third on a balk during Kyle Higashioka‘s at-bat. Higashioka walked, Danny Espinosa then was hit by a pitch. Jake Cave drove Wade in on an RBI groundout, and then Jorge Saez finished the job with a two-run single to score Higashioka and Espinosa.
Both sides played a clean game with the exception of a fielding error by Wade at shortstop.
Tomorrow brings another game (isn’t baseball season great?) for the Yankees. Domingo Germán gets the ball at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla., to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Per NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty, notable names making tomorrow’s trip are: Frazier, Florial, K. Holder, Andújar, Wade, Austin, Espinosa, Drury, German, Warren, Tate, J. Holder, Kratz.
The Yankees added to their catching depth Wednesday, inking veteran Erik Kratz to another minor league deal. There is no word if the deal carries an invite to MLB Spring Training.
Kratz originally came to the Yankees ahead of the postseason roster deadline of Aug. 31. He was added to the 40-man roster because of an injury to the other third-string backstop Kyle Higashioka. Kratz was perfect at the plate, hitting to a 1.000/1.000/1.500 slashline with two RBIs.
Embed from Getty Images
The veteran was not on the postseason roster, though he traveled with the team during the ALDS and ALCS. The Yankees attempted to outright Kratz at the end of the season, but he declined the assignment and became a free agent. Kratz has previously played with the Pirates, Phillies, Blue Jays, Royals and the Astros prior to the Yankees.
To get the bad taste of Shohei Ohtani‘s spurning of the Yankees out of our collective mouths, here’s some good news about players the Yankees actually do have. Baseball America’s Josh Norris ranked the top 10 prospects in the Yankees system leading up to 2018.
Without further ado (* indicates player on 40-man roster):
- INF Gleyber Torres *
- OF Estevan Florial
- LHP Justus Sheffield
- RHP Chance Adams
- 3B Miguel Andújar *
- RHP Albert Abreu *
- RHP Jorge Guzman
- RHP Luis Medina
- SS/2B Thairo Estrada *
- RHP Domingo Acevedo *
One of the biggest knocks against the Yankees is that they cannot develop pitchers. However, this prospect list clearly indicates that the Yankees have some promising arms that could be MLB-ready soon. Sheffield is the most MLB-ready of the bunch, having hit 98 mph with his fastball and the best slider in the system. Norris listed the pitching depth as the system’s biggest strength.
The system’s biggest weakness? Catching. That won’t be a short-term problem since Gary Sánchez will control the starting catching job for years to come, barring anything unexpected. Their next best catcher is Kyle Higashioka, who went hitless in 20 plate appearances while Sánchez was injured in 2017. Higashioka did hit .338/.390/.797 in the minors in 2017, but in just 21 games because of injuries. Norris lists Jason Lopez and Saul Torres as the “next catching prospects,” but notes they “played at short-season Staten Island and Rookie-level Pulaski, respectively.”
Norris opines that the Yankees’ system is trending downwards, but that is only because of trades and graduations to the big leagues. When talents like Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, Chad Green and Jordan Montgomery are no longer “prospects,” it’s easy to see how the system takes a hit.
Be sure to read through the whole post on Baseball America (linked above), as Norris projects the Yankees 2021 lineup and also lists which players have the best tools in the system.
Catcher Erik Kratz has elected to become a free agent rather than accept an outright assignment to the minor leagues, the Yankees announced today.
The move comes as no surprise since Kratz was added simply as a depth option once Kyle Higashioka was ruled out for the season. Kratz served as the third catcher on the roster once they expanded to 40 for the month of September. He finished with a 1.000/1.000/1.500 line after going 2-for-2 in four games with the Yankees. He also drove in two runs.
Kratz debuted with the Pirates in 2010, and has bounced around between a myriad of different teams since then. He has a career .203/.250/.366 line through 228 MLB games.
Embed from Getty Images