- Yankees third baseman Chase Headley failed to amass a single extra-base hit in April while batting .150/.268/.150 in 71 plate appearances, and his struggles are thanks in part to his home ballpark. “Everybody talks about how good of a ballpark Yankee Stadium is to hit in, but it’s pretty big with the exception of right field,” he told FanGraphs’ David Laurila. “The rest of it plays as big, or bigger, than most yards. It’s maybe a better fit for guys who hit the ball high down the line than it for guys who hit the ball like I have for a lot of my career.” Headley is “working on” hitting the ball in the air more to right field and wants to increase elevation in general to combat defensive shifts. The 31-year-old has a 46.8 percent ground-ball rate and a fly ball percentage of 29.8 percent this season. Both of those numbers are worse than his career rates of 44.6 and 33.6, respectively.
The short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium isn’t an advantage anymore for the Yankees, Joel Sherman of the New York Post argues. The fact that defensive shifting has become so common means the Yankees can no longer fill their lineup with pull-oriented lefty swingers and rack up singles and doubles at their home park, which has the least right field square footage of any stadium in the majors, Sherman writes. “It definitely has lent to us realizing that a stadium design that used to move us to gravitate to stack lefty hitters and take advantage of our stadium for 81 [home games] has been negated to a significant degree by the shift,” said general manager Brian Cashman. “You have to be aware of it when you acquire talent.” This isn’t necessarily a new problem for the Cashman-led Yankees, who have been shifted against a major league-leading 3,677 times on balls in play since 2010, according to Sherman. In those instances, the Yankees have put up the second-worst batting average in baseball, .193, on grounders and short line drives.
- Performance-enhancing drugs are a hot topic in baseball right now in light of the suspensions given to Chris Colabello and Dee Gordon since last week. Unfortunately, Yankees manager Joe Girardi doesn’t expect PED use in the sport to ever go away, he said Friday (via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald). His reasoning: “Because I think the rewards are too great from a financial standpoint and I think guys get caught up in being ultra-competitive and they do things that they wish they could’ve done a little bit different.”
- The Yankees aren’t known for selling at the trade deadline, but if their woeful April performance drags into the coming months, lights-out relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller could be two of the most appealing players available over the summer, Rosenthal says. Chapman, whose 30-game suspension stemming from domestic violence allegations is almost over, will be a free agent at year’s end. Miller has two years and $18MM left on his deal after this season, and Rosenthal doesn’t expect the Yankees to move him if they intend on competing in 2017. If not, though, they could use the deadline to erase his money from their books and stave off a possible decline in their uniform. Miller, 30, hasn’t shown any negative signs this year, having amassed 15 strikeouts over nine scoreless, walk-less innings.
- Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira could appeal to plenty of teams on a short-term deal if he hits free agency in the offseason, according to Rosenthal. Teixeira’s dedication to fitness might allay some teams’ fears about his age (he’ll turn 37 next April), but he’ll obviously need to stay healthy and compile significant production this season in order to cash in over the winter. Teixeira was terrific last year, slashing .255/.357/.548 with 31 homers in just 111 games to revive his career, but his 89 plate appearances this season haven’t been nearly as promising (.230/.360/.365).
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi lost a no-hitter in the seventh inning Wednesday after Nomar Mazara beat the Yankees’ infield shift with a ball that would’ve been scooped up by a more traditional defensive alignment, but general manager Brian Cashman tells John Harper of the New York Daily News that he’s a steadfast believer in infield shifts. Cashman is dismissive of the the notion of abandoning infield shifts, likening the decision not to use them to playing hunches at the blackjack table. “It’d be like sitting next to the guy who’s hitting on 19,” said Cashman. “You’d be like, ’dude, what are you doing?'” Cashman tells Harper that the Yankees have their own independent definitions for what constitutes a shift and adds that in some instances, the data can point to an 85 percent (or higher) likelihood of a ball being hit to a certain side of the field. “If a guy beats you on a 13 percent tendency, you tip your hat,” says the GM. Regardless of the results of that single batted ball, New York has to be pleased with what it’s seen from Eovaldi thus far. He’s running a 10.2 K/9 strikeout rate against just 1.8 BB/9, and his unexciting earned run average (4.38) has likely suffered in large part due to a somewhat unlucky 16.0% HR/FB rate.
- Lefty Phil Coke will head to Triple-A for the Yankees after his rights were acquired from the indy league Lancaster Barnstormers, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Coke, 33, has bounced around quite a bit in recent years and was most recently released by the Braves during spring camp. He appeared in the majors last year with the Cubs and Blue Jays, allowing eight earned runs with 12 strikeouts and five walks (two intentional) over 12 2/3 frames.
- Short-term injuries to Aaron Hicks and Alex Rodriguez have left the Yankees with some roster difficulties, writes River Ave. Blues’ Mike Axisa. With both players sidelined around five to six days, the Yankees are looking at playing with a two-man bench, which of course is hardly ideal. Axisa notes that the club does have some 40-man flexibility due to other more serious injuries, though, and opines that placing both Hicks and Rodriguez on the 15-day DL (even if it’s longer than needed) is preferable to simply playing short for a few days. Axisa runs down some bench options in the duo’s absence, including Nick Swisher, who is hitting well in Triple-A and will see his first outfield action tonight.
- Yankees’ minor-league righty James Kaprielian, the club’s first-round choice from 2015, has been shut down with elbow inflammation, the club announced (via Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal, on Twitter). He’ll hit the minor league DL and will be “treated conservatively” before he begins throwing again, per the club, which says there’s still no timetable for his return. Kaprielian, 22, was seen as a quick-to-the-majors arm, and he has impressed thus far in his professional career. Over 18 innings in three starts this year at the High-A level, he owns a 1.50 ERA with 22 strikeouts against just three walks and eight hits.
- Alex Rodriguez left the sixth inning of today’s game with left oblique stiffness, and a postgame MRI was negative, according to a Yankees media release. The veteran slugger will travel to Arlington with the rest of the team for a series with the Rangers, though it’s yet unknown if A-Rod will be able to play. Joe Girardi told reporters (including Josh Thomson of the LoHud Yankees blog) that if Rodriguez needs some time off, it could necessitate a DL move so the club wouldn’t be playing two men short. Aaron Hicks is resting a shoulder injury suffered on Friday and is expected to miss a few games after receiving a cortisone shot, so he could also be a DL candidate should the Yankees need to bolster their depth.
SUNDAY: Pinder will visit renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews during the upcoming week for a second opinion, the Yankees announced. He’s currently leaning toward having Tommy John surgery, according to manager Joe Girardi (Twitter link via the Lohud Yankees Blog).
SATURDAY: An MRI on Yankees right-hander Branden Pinder revealed a UCL tear in his pitching elbow, reports Brendan Kuty of NJ Advance Media (Twitter link). Pinder is currently undecided about whether to undergo Tommy John surgery, according to Kuty. If he does, he’ll join Nick Rumbelow as the second Yankees reliever to require the surgery this season.
Pinder has been a member of the Yankees organization since they used a 16th-round draft pick on him in 2011. After climbing up the ranks in the minors, Pinder made his major league debut last season. The fastball- and slider-heavy 27-year-old tossed 27 2/3 innings of 2.93 ERA ball in 25 appearances out of the Yankees’ bullpen, also putting up an 8.13 K/9 and 4.55 BB/9. Pinder threw five innings this year, four in Triple-A and one with the Yankees, before landing on the disabled list earlier this week with a right elbow strain. The team subsequently called up fellow righty Nick Goody to replace him on the roster.
Yankees infield prospect Sandy Acevedo was killed in a car accident Saturday night, the team announced. Acevedo was 18 years old. The native of the Dominican Republic signed with the Yankees last year as an international free agent. MLBTR extends its condolences to Acevedo’s family and friends.
Blake Snell looked impressive in his Major League debut, holding the Yankees to one run on two hits and a walk over five innings on Saturday, while striking out six. “I just settled in, and it felt like it felt my whole life when I went out there and pitched,” Snell told reporters, including Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Snell has already been optioned back to Triple-A since the Rays only needed him for one start (due to Erasmo Ramirez being needed in the bullpen) but it seems quite likely that you’ll see Snell back in the Show later this season. Here’s some more from around the AL East…
- Aaron Hicks will be out of action for four-to-five days after receiving a cortisone injection in his left shoulder, Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters (including Dan Martin of the New York Post). Hicks suffered the injury, described as Girardi as traumatic bursitis, when diving for a ball in Friday night’s game. If there’s no improvement shown over the next couple of days, the team could end up placing Hicks on the DL.
- Losing the right-handed hitting Hicks will only worsen the Yankees’ problems against left-handed pitching, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes, an issue that developed late in 2015 and seemingly hasn’t been solved after the offseason’s moves. The Yankees entered today’s game with a .235/.324/.315 cumulative line against southpaws, and middling numbers overall against all pitching. A lackluster offense, Sherman notes, isn’t helping the team take advantage of its greatest weapon, the Andrew Miller/Dellin Betances combo at the end of games.