Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:12 pm
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Let the debate begin anew over whether it's time for the National League to adopt the designated hitter.
Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett is out two to three months with a broken orbital bone suffered while bunting in the batting cage. And while he waits for the healing to begin, plenty of folks are chiming in, using him as Exhibit A for those who think it's time pitchers stopped batting altogether.
That's all well and good. But don't tell that to Reds pitcher Homer Bailey. The Cincinnati right-hander batted .282 with a .300 on-base percentage in 45 plate appearances last summer. He knocked home two runners.
"I think pitchers should hit in both leagues," Bailey says.
As for Burnett's injury ... hogwash, says Bailey.
"You have position players that foul balls off their feet and get hurt," Bailey says. "It's just a freak deal. You could have a position player do the same thing.
"Typically, pitchers are better bunters."
He's right. As ever, there remains no reason why pitchers should be such non-athletes that they're hopeless cases at the plate. Pitchers who can handle a bat, even to get a bunt down, help themselves. That's an advantage. Why take that advantage away?
"If it's that much of a problem," Bailey said of Burnett and the idea of pitchers injuring themselves batting, "then how come position players get hurt fouling balls off of their legs? They suffer torn hamstrings running to first, or torn knees.
"Look at what happened to Ryan Howard last year."
Howard this spring continues rehabbing the Achilles he tore during the last play of the Phillies' NLCS against St. Louis.
Sunblock Day? Nah. Jackets needed Friday morning as the temperature continues to struggle to get past 60 and a stiff wind blows.
Likes: Copies of USA Today's daily crossword puzzle and Sudoku puzzle stacked on a table in the middle of the Cincinnati clubhouse and several Reds stopping by to pick one up to work it. Those Reds, they're thinkers. ... Eric Davis in Reds camp, as usual, as an alumni coach. He loves everything about it, but don't tell him that the players keep him young. "I look younger than most of these guys in here," Davis says, and he's right. ... The jerk salmon at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville restaurant in Glendale. Surprisingly tasty. ... Heard a tune by The Hollies in a restaurant the other day, which reminded me of how unappreciated The Hollies are today. So much good stuff -- Bus Stop, Carrie Anne, Just One Look, (Long Cool Woman) In a Black Dress, On a Carousel, Under My Umbrella, The Air That I Breathe. They're celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, too, just like the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. ... The burgers at Five Guys. ... Learning that the Monkees actually have a direct link to David Bowie. Turns out, the latter's real name was Davy Jones. Yep, same as the Monkees' legend who passed away this week. So as an aspiring musician in the 1960s, knowing he couldn't be known as Davy Jones, he became David Bowie.
Dislikes: The photo cameras at red lights and, especially, the ones designed to catch speeders. They had a bunch of those on the freeways in Arizona a couple of years ago, but they're gone now. Someone told me one of the problems was the gun-toters here periodically would shoot the cameras on the freeways to put them out of operation. No idea whether that's true. But I sure like to think it is.
Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"If you don't eat your meat
"You can't have any pudding
"How can you have any pudding
"If you don't eat your meat?"
-- Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall
Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:09 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:47 pm
The Pirates, spurned by free agents Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt this winter, need pitching. The Yankees, bastion for tabloid headlines run amok, need less chaos and fewer knuckleheads.
Call the deal sending A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh a win-win for both clubs.
Talks for this trade have been so interminable that they've made Best Picture Oscar nominee Tree of Life seem rapid-fire. But the deal finally is moving from the on-deck circle to completion: Colleague Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates have agreed to pay $13 million of the remaining $33 million on Burnett's deal, and that two low-level minor-leaguers will move from Pittsburgh to New York: right-hander Diego Moreno, 25, and outfielder Exicardo Cayones, 20.
Only losers in this trade are the New York tabloids ("After Yankees ace flops, here comes joker" read one classic headline as Burnett followed CC Sabathia in the playoffs against the Tigers last October).
It wasn't official, but Burnett's departure papers from the Yanks' rotation were punched on that dramatic Friday evening last month when general manager Brian Cashman deftly moved to acquire Michael Pineda from Seattle and sign free agent Hiroki Kuroda. The moves were stellar and stealth, immediately adding depth and talent that has been lacking from Joe Girardi's rotation for at least the past couple of years.
That wasn't supposed to be the case with Burnett, who donated his arm to the Bronx cause (and, apparently, his brain to science) when he signed the six-year $82.5 million deal before the 2009 season. For that, the Yankees got 34 victories from him over three seasons, and a clutch (and pivotal) Game 2 win in the 2009 World Series against Philadelphia.
But more often than not, it was the Land of 1,000 Headaches with A.J. as the Yankees spend inordinate amounts of time over the past two seasons trying to fix him like a broken-down sports car on the side of the road. Who knows how many man-hours pitching coach Larry Rothschild invested in him alone last season? And just think how much quality time Rothschild now will have available for Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and others.
And for his part there's a good chance that, away from the New York spotlight and howling masses, Burnett can put some of the pieces back together again and help the Pirates. For one thing, he won't be freaking out about whether yet another potent AL East lineup will bash his brains in every fifth day. Facing St. Louis without Albert Pujols, Milwaukee without Prince Fielder and the Astros without anybody in the NL Central might be just what the shrink, er, doctor ordered.
Look, Burnett is a nice guy, a well-meaning guy and a hard-worker. But there historically has been a disconnect between his million-dollar arm and his brain. He was great at times, but always inconsistent, in Florida. He was at his best in Toronto when he was trying to emulate Roy Halladay and Doc's incredible work habits. He's a classic second-fiddle guy, needing to play Robin to someone else's Batman, even he's had the arm of Superman.
Pittsburgh, which has now suffered losing seasons dating back to Pie Traynor (or something like that), happily showed some signs of bounceback last year, especially early. At the All-Star break, the Bucs were in the thick of the NL Central race. But a pitching staff that owned a 3.17 ERA on July 25 fell apart thereafter. Not enough stamina or talent to last. No staying power.
Manager Clint Hurdle has some pieces in James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton. GM Neal Huntington acquired Erik Bedard over the winter, which is worth a shot. Problem for the Pirates is, in their current state, their most folks' 10th or 11th choice on the free agent market. Jackson signed with the Nationals. Oswalt remains unsigned, scouring high and low for another landing spot.
Which is why focusing on a trade, and Burnett specifically, maybe isn't the first choice for the contenders out there but is the perfect move right now for Huntington. As maddeningly inconsistent as he's been, Burnett did throw 190 1/3 innings for the Yanks last summer, 186 2/3 before that and 207 innings in 2009.
Pittsburgh can use that. And Burnett can use a low-key place -- at least, a place lower key than Yankee Stadium -- as he reaches out to recapture lost glory for a team doing the same.
Here's hoping he does. Pittsburgh can really use it. And, from Burnett, the Yankees no longer need it.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:40 pm
Their winter hibernation just ended. And just like that, the New York Yankees made themselves into AL East favorites.
Adding Michael Pineda from Seattle has all the earmarks of acquiring a young CC Sabathia or, ahem, Felix Hernandez -- the ace the Mariners wouldn't trade.
Adding Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year, $10 million deal adds the kind of rotation depth they could only dream of last summer -- and, presumably, a right-hander with more staying power than Bartolo Colon had.
"Wow," one scout said Friday night. "They've been laying in the weeds. They hadn't done anything."
Though the Yankees gave up a consensus future star in young slugger-to-be Jesus Montero, exactly the kind of young bat the Mariners need and a great move for them, Pineda and Kuroda join CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and maybe even Freddy Garcia in giving the Yankees the talent, depth and clout their rotation needs to take them deep into October.
Just a few days after meeting with the representatives for free agent Edwin Jackson, the Yankees became the talk of the industry on what had been a slow Friday night with their stealth move for Pineda, who, at 22, already is within sight of becoming an ace.
"He's got that kind of stuff," a scout who spent part of last summer focusing on AL West clubs said Friday night. "If you wanted to be conservative, he's a No. 2. He's got velocity, he came up with a slider that got better and better last year and he throws strikes. When he gives up a home run or a hard-hit ball, it does not chase him out of the strike zone.
"He's got that rare combination of stuff and control. He's young, he's not afraid, he's big, he's still growing and he's got makeup. He's a prize.
"And the Yankees will have, what, five years of control over him? He's the kind of guy you build around. Holy cow."
The Mariners were worried about rushing him too quickly last summer when they installed him into their rotation coming out of spring training. He pretty much immediately showed them, no sweat.
By season's end, over 28 starts, he struck out 173 hitters while walking just 55 over 171 innings. His average fastball was clocked at 94.7 m.p.h., according to FanGraphs.
What's notable about that? The fastballs of only three other AL starters checked in higher: Texas' Alexi Ogando, Detroit's Justin Verlander and Tampa Bay's David Price.
Kuroda? He turns 37 next month. But he gave the Dodgers 202 innings in 2011, going 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA. He's a competitor with fierce pride.
"Solid No. 3," the scout said. "He throws strikes, he's got good stuff, a crisp fastball that's deceptive and he throws harder than people think. He's at 90 to 94 with sink down in the zone, a crisp breaking ball and a good split.
"He's got out pitches. I'd love to have Kuroda."
Now the Yankees do. And Pineda. And Sabathia and Nova and Hughes and Burnett. ...
And as they search for a hitter, for now, they've still got 6-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and lefty Manny Banuelos, who opened many eyes last spring.
"Hanging onto Betances and Banuelos [and with Pineda on board], they've got three young-gun studs who should pitch for them for a long time," the scout said. "And Nova's not that old and Hughes isn't that old.
"They've got the makings of a young, under-control staff."
Yeah, sure, why not? On a night on which the Yankees proved they're not sleeping through the winter, why not add to their opponents' misery just a little bit more?
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:42 pm
On Tuesday, they held a conference call with Brian Cashman, fresh off of signing a thee-year deal to remain as the club's general manager.
"I don't anticipate a bat being of need at all," Cashman said on the call Tuesday afternoon.
As for what the Yankees will focus on, here's a hint:
"Pitching, pitching, pitching," Cashman said.
Offense, the GM said, is "not a problem with this club at all, despite what happened with Detroit." The Yankees ranked second in the American League in both runs scored and on-base percentage and third in slugging percentage this summer and, despite Tigers pitching shutting the Yankees down earlier this month, Cashman said he thinks New York has enough sticks to contend again in 2012.
While he maintains that "that doesn't mean I'm not open-minded, realistically, offense is not something we're focusing on." Improving the depth in both the rotation and the bullpen? Now you're talking.
With Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and a post-surgery Joba Chamberlain on the horizon, Cashman called the New York bullpen "one of the strongest in the game." He would like to add another lefty to team with Boone Logan, if possible.
All of this is why Cashman's time the past few days was monopolized by making sure that Sabathia did not become a free agent.
"We all know what CC brings to the table," Cashman said. "Pitching in front of the rotation, he he's created a great atmosphere in the clubhouse, he's one of our team leaders, he's influential in the community ... regarding all aspects of what you want the team to be, he's a major, major piece.
"You're comfortable every time he takes the ball."
His continued presence also allows the Yankees to approach free agency differently this winter because they can play from a position of relative strength.
"Securing CC allows us to be very open-minded and conservative in our approach," Cashman said. "We're in position now to take out time, explore and digest, pursue things at our own pace and not be over-reacting because we're vulnerable."
Some other Cashman thoughts heading into the winter:
-- On Alex Rodriguez's health: "I don't have any health concerns with Alex." Cashman said time will heal his sprained thumb, and it already has helped his surgically repaired knee.
-- On the club's interest in Jorge Posada: "He's been one of the best catchers in Yankees history, he's a borderline Hall of Famer and he's a free agent. That's something we'll have discussions on in the short term. It's not something I'm prepared to talk to you about today. He's been part of a lot of special moments here. He's created a lot of special moments."
-- On whether he feels more in control as GM with a three-year deal: "I don't think it's healthy to feel like you're in control. ... If you feel like you're in control, you've probably very vulnerable to some severe disappointments coming down the line."
-- He called catcher Russell Martin "Thurman Munson-like" in what he meant to the 2011 Yankees both on the field and in the clubhouse. Will that translate into a multi-year contract for the former Dodger, whom the Yankees control for one more year? Cashman said the Yankees right now enjoy the flexibility to go one more year with Martin, or "more than one if we find common ground."
-- He said the club will not consider moving A.J. Burnett to the bullpen. "If he is with us, without a doubt he is in the rotation," Cashman said. Cryptic? Maybe. The GM said "it would be hard to replace his innings. But I'm open-minded if anybody wants to approach us on anybody on the roster who does not have a no-trade clause. The worst that can happen is I say no. I'm open to creatively listening to anything anybody has to offer."
-- The biggest thing, Cashman said, is, like always, he has to improve the club's talent. He noted that the club "did not play to the best of our ability" against Detroit, and "part of that was under our control and part of that is what the Tigers put forth." With 97 wins, the Yankees were one of the best teams in baseball, Cashman said, "but October is a lot different. That's not an excuse. October is a lot different from April to September. You saw it with the crowning of the world championship team in St. Louis. They finished in the money the last day of the season, and then they ran the table. ... Is there a way to make it better? I'd like to think so. That's my job. I don't think all of our answers are in the clubhouse. Not at all. But I think some of the answers are in our clubhouse."
Posted on: November 1, 2011 3:34 pm
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Posted on: October 4, 2011 11:47 pm
DETROIT -- The scariest sentence of the summer for Yankees fans turned into the most surprising sentence of the year.
From "The season depends on A.J. Burnett" to "Good Lord above, look who saved the day!" in 81 pitches on a gorgeous night at Comerica Park for everything and everyone but the Tigers.
Mark it down. Burnett rides in on a white horse. The Yankees blast Detroit 10-1. This Division Series is headed back to New York even-steven at two games apiece, with the winner Thursday spraying champagne.
All hail A.J.
Maybe it was his 2009 World Series victory frozen in time inside of his laptop that spurred him. Perhaps it was getting kicked one too many times while he was down, getting taunted one too many times in public, getting spurned one too many times from the Yankees' brass.
Whatever it was, after a wobbly first inning in which he loaded the bases with walks -- including an intentional pass to Miguel Cabrera -- Burnett was, dare we say it, ace-like. He lasted 5 2/3 innings, the perfect amount for a bullpen that includes Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera.
And the thing is, after New York's six-run eighth, the latter two weren't even needed.
"You can't count me out," Burnett had said on the eve of his latest make-or-break start. "I'm going to bring everything I've got and just let A.J. loose out there."
Good thing for him, they let Curtis Granderson loose, too. That bases-loaded first inning? Two out, and Don Kelly smoked a screaming liner dead ahead to center field. Granderson broke in at first, then quickly recovered, scrambled back and made a leaping stab that ended the inning.
It was a spectacular catch made possible by an initial misread. Bottom line, it saved Burnett at least two runs and possibly an inside-the-park grand slam.
Granderson would make another sensational catch to end the sixth. But, by then, the Yankees led 4-1 and thanks to Burnett, they were out of the rough.
"I've been proving people wrong my whole career, it seems like," Burnett had said on Monday evening. "People are entitled to their opinion.
"Obviously, I give them reasons here and there do doubt."
In Game 4, Burnett gave them reasons neither here nor there to doubt. The dude was stellar, just in the nick of time.
Tuesday was a very, very good night for the Yankees also in that the blowout allowed Robertson and Rivera to watch idly from the bullpen and maybe get some crucial rest for what should be a terrific final act to what has been a riveting series.
Posted on: February 14, 2011 7:37 pm
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Outtakes from a day with a Phillies' rotation that is moving into history's on-deck circle (maybe):
-- It bears repeating, because Cliff Lee mentioned it a couple of times Monday: He signed with the Phillies, he said, because "it was really about what team gave me the best chance to win world championships over the life of the contract."
He did not say he signed with Philly because it was best for his family. He did not say his wife loved it there. He did not say he signed to be close to Philly cheesesteak sandwich heaven (though he did allow, "I like Philly cheesesteaks. But that had nothing to do with me coming back to Philly.").
"I think Philadelphia fans should feel real proud about that," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro said, referring not to the scrumptious sandwiches, but to Lee's feeling that Philadelphia can become Titletown. "I think things really started rolling as far as putting us back on the map, so to speak, when Jim Thome came here [in 2003].
"Ed [Wade, former Phillies GM] did a fantastic job bringing Jim here.. I think it legitimized what we were trying to do."
-- Lee's decision to bypass the Yankees and Texas reinforces what has been becoming fact these past few years: Philadelphia has become a destination for ace pitchers. Lee by choice, Roy Halladay waving no-trade powers to land with the Phillies and Roy Oswalt doing the same.
Which is very interesting, given that Citizens Bank Park has earned a unanimous reputation for being a hitter's haven.
"It's kind of a testament to the fans' support, and to winning, too," Amaro said. "It's a testament to the faith that our ownership group has in the front office to make these moves. It's a testament to all in our organization creating an atmosphere where Philadelphia has become a place where people like to go, from the guards who watch the cars in the players' lot to the people who take care of the wives' lounge, the medical staff.
"We make a concerted effort to build relationships here."
-- Manager Charlie Manuel opted to pass when asked which of his Murderers' Row rotation members would get the opening day start.
"We've got a chance to have a special club," Manuel said. "We've got a guy who threw two no-hitters and won a Cy Young [Roy Halladay] last year, and the other three guys standing there are tremendous pitchers.
"We're going to have a No. 1 starter going every day, so it doesn't really matter."
Of the Phillies' quintet, Cole Hamels is the only one never to have started on opening day. Halladay did it in Toronto and in Philadelphia last year, Lee's done it, Oswalt did it plenty in Houston and Joe Blanton did it in Oakland.
"The real good part of it is, it doesn't matter who you pick, it doesn't faze the other guys," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "I don't think any of them has a big enough ego to say 'I have to have the ball on opening day.'
"They all want the ball 33 to 35 times."
Sunblock Day? It was perfect. High right around 70 degrees.
Likes: Great line from Yankees' starter CC Sabathia, that he lost a bunch of weight over the winter because he "stopped eating Capt'n Crunch." I would have picked A.J. Burnett as the Captain Crunch eater of that group. ... Phillies pitching prospect Justin DeFratus, who pitched in the Arizona Fall League last year, taking it all in early Monday morning before the first workout for pitchers and catchers. "It's been crazy here so far," DeFratus said ... Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro wearing a baseball cap with the final scoreboard line score from Halladay's playoff no-hitter against Cincinnati stitched onto the front. ... Arcade Fire winning a Grammy for best album for The Suburbs. Excellent. Great performances, too. ... Winter's Bone.
Dislikes: Getting to the gate for your flight at 6 a.m. and hearing the attendant say, "Sorry, this flight is delayed until at least 10." ... Missed Bob Dylan on the Grammy's Sunday night because of a too-long travel day.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"Kids wanna be so hard
-- Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
Posted on: July 9, 2010 1:22 pm
Edited on: July 9, 2010 4:20 pm
The Yankees, with baseball's best record, are deep in discussions with the Seattle Mariners to acquire ace left-hander Cliff Lee, the most sought-after starting pitcher on the market this month, according to CBSSports.com sources.
The deal was not yet finished as of midday Friday, but sources say the Yankees were aggressively trying to move it toward the finish line. Among the pressure points: Lee is scheduled to start tonight's game in Seattle against the Yankees.
Lee's 2.34 ERA currently leads the American League. He also leads the league with five complete games. If they acquire him, the Yankees would add a tremendous insurance policy to a rotation that already ranks third in the AL with a 3.79 ERA.
Along with CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte, Lee would give the Yankees a fourth starter who has been named to Tuesday's All-Star Game. A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez would be the only odd men out, and that could go literally for Vazquez: The Yankees would need to clear room in their rotation and they appear moving along in talks to spin him off in a separate trade elsewhere.
The move also would add depth to a rotation that could need it down the stretch, even as dominating as its been so far: Hughes has worked 94 innings so far this season and, at 24 and as they work to ensure his long-term health, the Yankees really prefer he doesn't exceed much more than 170 innings pitched this season. That could become an issue in September and October.