The Yankees were supposed to be one of baseball’s premier teams this year, but they haven’t looked the part so far. The club is currently in a tailspin, having lost five in a row to fall to an American League-worst 5-10. Nevertheless, general manager Brian Cashman isn’t panicking. The longtime executive gave votes of confidence to the Yankees’ roster and manager Aaron Boone on Monday, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. Cashman indicated the Yankees aren’t going to make any knee-jerk decisions with their roster or in their dugout as a result of their poor start. “That’s the message to our players: ‘We do believe in you,” he said. “We know what you’re capable of. This is a bad stretch, and we’re going to get through this together.” Cashman did admit that owner Hal Steinbrenner is “disappointed” with how the team has performed, but it doesn’t seem as if that will lead to any kind of drastic changes. “I’ve got a lot of trust in the people we have,” Cashman declared.
“After 14 incredible seasons, I’ve decided to make the very difficult decision to retire from baseball. All I ever wanted to be ’when I grew up’ was a baseball player, and to say that I got to live out my dream would be the understatement of a lifetime. This sport gave me more than I could’ve ever asked for,” Bruce wrote as part of his announcement (the full statement is available at the above link).
A first-round pick of the Reds in 2005, Bruce would quickly become one of the sport’s most promising young talents. He was a top 100 prospect in each of his first three years in pro ball, eventually becoming Baseball America’s #1 farmhand entering the 2008 season. Bruce made his major league debut in May of that year and hit a decent .254/.314/.453, earning a fifth-place finish in National League Rookie of the Year balloting.
Two years later, Bruce settled in as the middle-of-the-order bat many evaluators expected he’d become. Between 2010-13, the left-handed slugger hit a very productive .262/.337/.489 (119 wRC+), earning back-to-back All-Star selections in 2011-12 and a pair of Silver Slugger awards and down-ballot MVP support in 2012-13. Bruce fell off a bit in 2014-15, but he rebounded offensively in 2016 and earned his third and final All-Star selection.
The bulk of Bruce’s career was spent with the Reds, but he continued to produce for a few years after leaving Cincinnati. He hit a career-high 36 home runs during a 2017 season split between the Mets and Indians and popped 26 homers as recently as 2019. He was an above-average hitter during his time with the Mets, as well as in his brief stints in Cleveland and Seattle.
Unfortunately, Bruce’s production has fallen off as he’s entered his 30’s, with increasing struggles to reach base at a passable clip. He didn’t perform well with the Phillies last year and had to settle for a minor-league deal with the Yankees over the offseason. A Spring Training injury to Luke Voit opened up an opportunity for Bruce to begin the year as New York’s first baseman, but he’s stumbled to a .118/.231/.235 line in 39 plate appearances as a Yankee.
Struggles in his final couple seasons notwithstanding, Bruce had a very strong career. Not including any stats he may accrue in this afternoon’s game, the Texas native concludes with a .244/.314/.467 slash line across 6642 MLB plate appearances, making him six percentage points better than the league average hitter by measure of weighted runs created plus.
Bruce had five separate seasons in which he was at least fifteen points above average at the plate. The well-respected veteran had 1455 hits, including 319 home runs, scored 839 times and drove in 951 runs. Altogether, Bruce was worth around 20 wins above replacement and accrued just shy of $103MM in career earnings, per Baseball Reference. MLBTR congratulates Bruce on a fine career and wishes him the best of luck in his future endeavors.
2:15 pm: Sánchez has been diagnosed with a contusion on his index and middle fingers, but x-rays came back negative (via Hoch). He is currently listed as day-to-day.
2:08 pm: Yankees catcher Gary Sánchez was removed from this afternoon’s game against the Rays before the bottom of the fifth inning, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com was among those to relay (Twitter link). Sánchez was struck in the right hand by a foul tip in the prior inning. While he stayed in the game to take his next plate appearance, Sánchez was replaced by Kyle Higashioka thereafter.
There’s no indication Sánchez’s injury is serious at this point. If it does require he miss time, Higashioka would figure to pick up the bulk of the playing time behind the dish. Those two are the only catchers on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, so another move would be forthcoming if Sánchez isn’t able to make an immediate return to action.
Rob Brantly and Robinson Chirinos are both in the organization on minor-league deals, but the latter remains on the mend from surgery to repair a wrist fracture last month. That seemingly suggests Brantly is next in line should additional catching depth be required in the Bronx.
- Yankees righty Clarke Schmidt, who is dealing with an elbow strain, received a cortisone injection Monday, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. He could go back to throwing either this week or next if all goes according to plan. Schmidt was only supposed to sit out four weeks when he went on the shelf in February, but his injury hasn’t healed as quickly as expected.
- Yankees manager Aaron Boone provided updates on Miguel Andujar and Clarke Schmidt to reporters (including ESPN.com’s Marly Rivera and Newsday’s Erik Boland). For Andujar, he is already hitting off a tee and will start hitting out of the batting cage next week as the 26-year-old is trying to recover from right carpal tunnel syndrome. Schmidt, meanwhile, is getting a second opinion on his bothersome right elbow, which is still giving him discomfort after almost seven weeks. Schmidt was shut down back in February for what was supposed to be three or four weeks due to a common extensor strain in his right elbow — for what it’s worth, Boland noted that Boone today described the injury as simply a “right elbow strain.”
The Giants have acquired infielder Thairo Estrada in a trade with the Yankees in exchange for cash considerations, the two teams announced. Estrada will head to the Giants’ alternate training site and be added to the 40-man roster. Outfielder Jaylin Davis (left knee tendinitis) was placed on the 60-day injured list in a corresponding move to open up a 40-man roster space.
New York designated Estrada for assignment earlier this week to free up roster space for the newly-acquired Rougned Odor. Estrada has spent his entire professional career in the Yankees organization, hitting .280/.337/.389 with 26 home runs over 1949 minor league plate appearances from 2013-19 and .214/.267/.348 over 121 PA at the Major League level in 2019-20. Rather than his bat, Estrada’s value came from his defensive versatility, as he logged a lot of playing time at shortstop, second base, and third base in the minors, and also made a few appearances as a corner outfielder in 2019.
Estrada may have a tough time breaking into a Giants depth chart that is already full of multi-positional infielders, but he might be a better depth option behind Brandon Crawford at shortstop than Donovan Solano or Mauricio Dubon, particularly since Dubon has been increasingly deployed as an outfielder.
Davis was already expected to be sidelined for four-to-six weeks due to his knee issue, so the 60-day placement will allow Davis some time to fully ramp up in the minors before the Giants consider finding a spot for him on the active roster. The 26-year-old has seen action with San Francisco in each of the last two seasons, appearing in 21 total games with a .515 OPS over 59 PA.
The Yankees optioned Domingo German to their alternate site following today’s game, the team announced. A corresponding roster move has not yet been announced.
German’s first start on the season came on April 4th against the Blue Jays. The 28-year-old surrendered three runs in three innings, including a pair of home runs. It was German’s first start since posting 2.0 fWAR during the 2019 season. He went four innings today against the Rays giving up another pair of long balls. His entire line featured eight hits, one walk, four earned runs and five strikeouts.
The Yankees have not been getting much length out of their starters during their current three-game losing streak. As much as this move may very well be about German, the Yankees may also just want to add a fresh arm. Corey Kluber went just 2 1/3 innings on Friday, a game after Jameson Taillon was bumped after 4 2/3 innings in a game that went to extras.
The latest coronavirus-related situations from around baseball…
- Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez isn’t available today due to COVID protocols, manager Alex Cora told reporters (including Julian McWilliams of the Boston Globe). Martinez isn’t feeling well and could be back in the lineup as early as tomorrow, though the team is being cautious until Martinez gets his test results back. UPDATE: Martinez has been placed on the COVID IL, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Glove (via Twitter). Michael Chavis has been recalled to take his roster spot for the time being.
- The Blue Jays placed Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on the COVID-19 injured list, per Scott Mitchell of TSN Sports (via Twitter). Santiago Espinal was activated to take his roster spot. Gurriel left Friday’s game after feeling vaccine-related symptoms, so he’s not likely to be out for too long.
- Ryan Borucki, meanwhile, makes a quick return from the COVID IL. Ty Tice has been optioned. Tice made one appearance, tossing a pair of scoreless innings.
- The Astros shifted Pedro Baez from the COVID-19 injury list to the regular 10-day injured list. Baez is suffering from right shoulder soreness, as manager Dusty Baker told MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart and other reporters that Baez “was trying to do too much too soon” in his preparations to return from the COVID list. Baez was placed on the COVID list in early March, so he missed a good chunk of Spring Training while sidelined. Since being put on the normal IL required Baez to be returned to the 40-man roster, the Astros had to move Austin Pruitt to the 60-day injured list in a corresponding move.
- The Yankees reinstated both Gio Urshela and Rougned Odor from the COVID-19 injury list, the team announced. In corresponding moves, infielder Tyler Wade was optioned to the alternate training site, and first baseman Mike Ford had been optioned to the alternate site after last night’s game. It was only a brief absence for Urshela, who ended up missing just last night’s game due to some side effects after receiving a vaccine. Odor himself was only in COVID protocols due to standard intake and testing procedure after he was acquired in a trade from the Rangers earlier this week.
- Cubs first base/catching coach Craig Driver has tested positive for the coronavirus and has returned to Chicago, the team told reporters (including The Chicago Tribune’s Meghan Montemurro). Contact tracing and testing revealed no other positive results within the team’s traveling party over the last three days. Driver is in his second season on the Cubs’ coaching staff, after spending the previous two seasons as the Phillies’ receiving coach and bullpen catcher.
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- Yankees third baseman Gio Urshela landed on the COVID IL on Friday because of side effects from the vaccine, according to a club announcement. The hope is that Urshela will return Saturday, manager Aaron Boone said (via Marly Rivera of ESPN). In the meantime, the Yankees recalled first baseman Mike Ford to take Urshela’s roster spot.
The Yankees announced this afternoon they’ve activated reliever Justin Wilson from the injured list. The veteran southpaw’s start to the season was delayed by shoulder inflammation. He’s now in line to make his first appearances as a Yankee since New York traded him to the Tigers for Chad Green and Luis Cessa in December 2015. Wilson spent last season with the crosstown Mets, where he pitched to 3.66 ERA/3.92 SIERA, before signing with the Yankees in February.
- Blue Jays righty Nate Pearson came out of a bullpen session yesterday feeling fine, manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters (including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet). The hard-throwing righty suffered a groin injury in Spring Training that currently has him on the 10-day injured list. A productive season from Pearson, Baseball America’s #19 overall prospect entering the year, would go a long way towards the Jays’ hopes of sticking with the Yankees and Rays in the American League East.