Tag:Sergio Mitre
Posted on: February 4, 2011 1:51 pm
Edited on: February 4, 2011 1:57 pm

The $200 million question

The Yankees aren't the only team that enters spring training with huge questions unanswered.

The Yankees are the only team with $200 million to spend -- and a $200 million question.

Money doesn't guarantee you success. But shouldn't this much money guarantee that you don't reach Feb. 4 -- 10 days before pitchers and catchers report -- with this shaky a starting rotation?

Cliff Lee says no, Andy Pettitte says no, and now the Yankees are left with this?

"Our starting rotation's not where it needs to be right now," general manager Brian Cashman admitted at Friday's Pettitte retirement press conference. "I'm up for the challenge."

Sorry, but the challenge began last October, when Pettitte said he left Rangers Ballpark after Game 6 feeling like "I was done." Or the challenge began before that, because it's been clear for a while that the Yankees' strong crop of pitching prospects might be arrive as quickly as the need for reinforcements would arise.

Maybe Cashman should have used the weight of his huge offer to Lee and pushed for a decision earlier. He admits now that by waiting so long for Lee, the Yankees found other options closed off.

Maybe Cashman should have been willing to rework the proposed trade for Lee last July, because maybe after half a year in New York Lee would have been open to staying.

Maybe if Lee had said yes, then Pettitte would have been more interested in returning to a team that would have been one of the favorites to go to (and win) the World Series.

Instead, the Yankees have this: a strong but heavily-worked top two of CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes, a completely unreliable No. 3 of A.J. Burnett (coming off an historically bad season), and then a mix of candidates for the fourth and fifth spots that would be more suited for a team with a $70 million budget: young Ivan Nova, middle-aged Sergio Mitre and old Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.

Could they trade for Felix Hernandez? Unlikely. A Yankee official said bluntly: "They're not trading him."

Could they get by for half a season and hope that some other top-level starter hits the market? Sure they could, but that's not a great option for a team that regards anything short of a World Series win as a lost season.

As for the free agents or trade targets they could get right now (Kevin Millwood, Joe Blanton, for example), would adding either of those really answer that $200 million question?

The obvious answer is no. Spring training is 10 days away, the Yankee rotation "is not where it needs to be," and there are no obvious answers.

And still no Plan B behind Cliff Lee.

Posted on: January 13, 2011 5:35 pm
Edited on: January 13, 2011 9:13 pm

Are the Yankees in trouble?

Three years ago, the Yankees began the season with two unproven starters in their rotation.

And maybe it's no coincidence that the 2008 season was the only one in the last 16 that ended with the Yankees out of the playoffs. Or that the Yankees reacted to that failure by throwing nearly $250 million at their rotation that winter.

So now here we are, with spring training a month away and with the throw-money-at-it plan not having worked nearly as well. Here we are, a month after Cliff Lee shunned and stunned the Yankees by signing with the Phillies, and we understand even more why even Yankee officials always admitted that this winter included no real Plan B.

Here we are, thinking more and more with each passing day that maybe Andy Pettitte really doesn't want to pitch this year -- although still not knowing for sure.

Here we are, looking at a Yankee rotation that for now includes two unproven starters (Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre, perhaps, behind CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and the always undependable A.J. Burnett), and with seemingly no significant starters available as free agents or in trades.

By adding Rafael Soriano to Mariano Rivera, the Yankees might be assembling a bullpen that reminds you of 1996, when Rivera was setting up John Wetteland in the first title of this two-decade run. But you wonder if it's a bigger problem that their rotation reminds you of 2008, when those two unproven starters (Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy) combined to go 0-8 with a 7.51 ERA in their 17 starts?

Are the Yankees in trouble?

Maybe not, but when you're the Yankees, with $200 million-plus committed every year, and with an organizational philosophy that regards anything shy of a title as failure, can you take the chance that it is?

I wrote yesterday that I fully understand the low-budget Rays taking chances. I'm writing today that it's a whole lot tougher to accept that when it's the big-money Yankees (although I'm not sure where they'd go to find a proven starter now).

By all accounts, the Yankees have quite a bit of young talent in their minor-league system. One scout who follows the Yankee system closely said he'd have no problem relying on the kids right now.

"They have two or three guys in the minors who could pitch in the big leagues right now, and I'm talking besides Nova," the scout said. "They have three other guys just waiting for a shot. If I worked there, I'd be pushing for them, instead of Mitre.

"Nova will be fine as a fourth starter."

That may be true, but Nova won just one of his seven starts last year (although the Yankees won five of the seven games). Mitre has never had more than five wins in a big-league season.

As for those kids the scout mentioned, Dellin Betances and Manuel Banuelos have each made just three starts above Class A, while Adam Warren has just 10.

"If this were a team like the Indians, yeah, you could let them learn on the job," said another rival scout, who also likes the young Yankee starters. "But they can't do that. The Yankees have a lot of young players, but you wonder how they can fit them in while they're trying to win, and also how they'll live with the mistakes that all young players make.

"They had enough trouble living with [Robinson] Cano's mistakes early, and he's a great talent."

The Yankees have other issues, most notably an aging group of position players ("The third baseman is getting older, and the first baseman is getting older fast ," the first scout said).

But the biggest issue this year is still exactly what it was when the winter began, and that's the starting rotation.

Remember, each of the last two Octobers, the Yankees had just three starting pitchers that they wanted to count on, when you really need four.

And each of those years, one of those three dependable starters was named Andy Pettitte.

There was no Plan B behind Cliff Lee. If we didn't know that a month ago, we sure know it now.

Is there also no Plan B behind Andy Pettitte?

Posted on: July 22, 2010 10:43 am

3 to watch: The Showdown in the West edition

The last time the Angels were this far out of first place on July 22, they were playing in Texas against the first-place Rangers.

It was 2004, and the Angels pounded the Rangers 11-1 that night . . . and went on to win the American League West.

It fits the stereotype, doesn't it? The Angels are AL West royalty, and can always come back. The Rangers can always fade in the late-summer Texas heat.

You wonder if it will happen again, and you wonder if the turnaround will begin one of the next two weekends, when the top two teams in the West will meet for seven seemingly crucial games.

But you also wonder if what we're seeing is less the makings of a turnaround than of a turnover, a takeover of the division by a young Rangers team that's finally ready to win.

There's a sense that this year is different, and that the Rangers' current five-game lead feels bigger than the six-game lead the Rangers woke up with six years ago today.

The Angels remain dangerous, but without Kendry Morales, they seem to lack the needed punch (despite 16 runs the last two days in New York). And while the Angels say they'll try to trade for help in the next week, the general sense around the club is that this isn't 2008, they're not one Mark Teixeira trade away from being a threat to win it all, and the farm system isn't going to be deep enough to allow a significant addition.

And the Rangers?

The Angels are convinced they're good. Torii Hunter called them "one of the top three teams in baseball right now," and another Angels player said the Ranger lineup is better than the Yankee lineup.

"They've been playing great baseball for the last month and a half," Hunter said. "They really play well in their own park. They hit for power. They just hit."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia insists that the standings don't matter in July, that individual series aren't crucial and that the only key is that the Angels "play our game."

But the Angels have "played their game" in the month and a half since Morales was lost for the season in that home-plate celebration. They were 24-27 when he got hurt, and they're 27-19 since.

The reason that the Rangers are five games up in the standings is that they've gone 29-14 over the same span.

"Five games is not a great lead," Hunter said. "If we were up five, Texas would be good enough to catch up. We have a good enough team to catch them."

If so, this weekend would be a good time to prove it.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Remember back this spring, when the Angels said they didn't really need a true ace? Well, it sure would help if Jered Weaver acts like one now, beginning with his series-opening matchup with Cliff Lee, in Angels at Rangers, Thursday night (8:05 EDT) at Rangers Ballpark . Weaver pitched seven shutout innings when the Angels beat the Rangers 2-1 on July 1 in Anaheim, but he gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings in a May start in Texas. As for Lee, so far he's given the Rangers 18 innings in two starts -- and no wins. Despite missing the first month of the season, he's second to Roy Halladay in complete games (with six), and rival executives are already speculating that the Rangers will push him every bit as much as the Brewers pushed pennant-race rental CC Sabathia in 2008.

2. Like the Angels, the Red Sox seem to be at a crucial point in the schedule, as they're now seven games behind the Yankees in the American League East, and 4 1/2 games behind the wild-card leading Rays. Unlike the Angels, who lost Morales for the season, the Sox are getting key players back from injury. This week has already seen the return of Clay Buchholz, Jed Lowrie and Jeremy Hermida, and next week could see Victor Martinez rejoining the lineup. And, perhaps most crucially, Boston is getting Josh Beckett back, with his first start since May 18 scheduled for Red Sox at Mariners, Friday night (10:10 EDT) at Safeco Field . How has Boston done in Beckett's absence? A lot better than you would have thought. The Red Sox are 33-22 since he last pitched, which means they lost only 1 1/2 games to the Yankees, who are 34-20 over the same span. They gained ground on the Rays, who are 29-26.

3. Normally, there's no way I'm including a Royals-Yankees game in 3 to watch. But here goes, because there are two things that make Royals at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 EDT) at Yankee Stadium potentially interesting. It's Sergio Mitre's first start since replacing Andy Pettitte in the rotation, which means that if he fails, there's sure to be an outcry in New York for general manager Brian Cashman to trade for a starting pitcher (not that Cashman worries about outcries). It is worth remembering, as Cashman has tried to remind people, that Mitre pitched well enough this spring that some people in the organization preferred him over Phil Hughes as the fifth starter. But it's the other starting pitcher that really could make this interesting, because the Royals' Kyle Davies is the same guy who gave up Alex Rodriguez's 500th home run three years ago. A-Rod, who has been at 598 since Sunday, hit both 499 and 500 against the Royals, although those two home runs were two weeks apart.
Posted on: March 23, 2010 1:56 pm

Hoping for a rematch -- but which rematch?

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel is hoping for a World Series rematch.

So is Joe Maddon.

The reason is the same. The rematch is different.

Manuel said again this morning that he'd love for the Phillies to play the Yankees again this October, because he'd like another chance at the team that beat the Phils in six games in 2009.

Maddon's response? If the Rays get back to the World Series, he wants the Phillies, because he'd like a chance to beat the guys who beat him in five games in 2008.

"I'd love it to be Charlie and the Phillies," Maddon said. "I would absolutely love it. First of all because I respect Charlie so much, and like Charlie so much, but also because it's like unfinished business. I still remember standing in the clubhouse after the last game, talking to our team, and it just didn't seem right.

"It was destiny, and they screwed up our destiny. We have to rewrite destiny against the Phillies."

The Rays and Phillies are playing today in Clearwater. The Yankees and Phillies played yesterday in Clearwater.

Two World Series rematches. And maybe, if one manager or the other gets his way, one World Series preview.


People who have talked to the Yankees say while they expect Phil Hughes to win the job as fifth starter, manager Joe Girardi likes Sergio Mitre, enough so that Mitre can't be completely ruled out. Joba Chamberlain, who has been portrayed as the other main candidate for the job, is apparently headed for the bullpen. . . . The Tigers, meanwhile, seem to have settled on Jeremy Bonderman as their fourth starter, with the fifth job to be decided between Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis. Willis hit 93 mph on the radar gun yesterday, but Robertson is still thought to have a slight edge. The plan is that whichever of the two doesn't open in the rotation would go to the bullpen as a long man.
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