- Yankees first baseman Greg Bird could make his season debut during the upcoming week, manager Aaron Boone told Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News and other reporters Sunday. Bird hasn’t played this year on account of the right ankle surgery he underwent in late March, after missing most of last season with foot problems and all of 2016 with a torn labrum. Owners of the majors’ best record (29-13), the Yankees have gotten off to a great start without the talented Bird, thanks in part to first base fill-in Tyler Austin’s production. The 26-year-old rookie has smacked two HRs on Sunday to give him eight on the season and raise his OPS to .930 through 100 PAs.
- The Yankees have brought back right-hander David Hale on a minor league contract, according to a team announcement. Hale, who will report to Triple-A, has now signed three separate minors deals with the club since January. He saw action with the Yankees under each of his previous two accords and combined for five innings of two-run ball. Between inking those pacts, the Twins claimed Hale off waivers from New York on April 26. Hale made just one appearance as a Twin, with whom he threw three frames of four-run ball, before they designated him for assignment. The Yankees have also designated Hale this season (twice, in fact), the latest occurrence coming earlier this week. The 30-year-old then elected free agency, where he sat on the market for a day before returning to the Yanks. Hale owns a 4.58 ERA during his 186 2/3-inning major league tenure.
Aaron Boone recently offered some words of encouragement regarding the imminent return of first baseman Greg Bird to the lineup (h/t Marc Carig of The Athletic). But while Bird’s activation appears to be “around the corner”, news surrounding fellow Yankees hitter Jacoby Ellsbury is not as promising. Ellsbury is reportedly dealing with a minor back injury and as such is not participating in baseball activities at this time. The outfielder made just 406 plate appearances last season and has yet to make his 2018 debut. Unfortunately, Ellsbury’s absence is not the end of the bad news for the Yankees this week, as it turns out hard-hitting outfield prospect Estevan Florial will require surgery on a broken hamate bone (according to a tweet from George A. King III of the New York Post). The injury will keep him sidelined until at least August. Florial was off to somewhat of a slow start at the High-A level, posting a .246/.353/.343 slash line across 156 plate appearances.
More out of the East…
- Phillies righty Jerad Eickhoff is set to begin a rehab assignment, according to Matt Breen of the Philly Enquirer. He’ll kick it off at Triple-A LeHigh Valley. Eickhoff has been sidelined since spring training due to a lat strain, and at this time it’s not clear how he’d fit into a suddenly crowded Phillies rotation that includes Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta, Jake Arrieta, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin.
- The Red Sox haven’t gotten any particularly good news about Carson Smith in recent days. According to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe, manager Alex Cora says the club can’t determine at this time whether or not the righty will pitch again this season. Smith was off to a serviceable start this season, posting a 3.77 ERA and 11.30 K/9 in his first 14 1/3 innings before going down with a shoulder subluxation.
- The Blue Jays are describing left-hander Jaime Garcia’s injury as “left shoulder inflammation”. He’s been placed on the DL retroactive to May 16th. The Jays brought Garcia into the fold this past offseason on a one-year deal worth a guarantee of $10MM, but he’s disappointed thus far with a 6.28 ERA across his first 38 2/3 innings. In a related move, the club has recalled righty Deck McGuire from Triple-A Buffalo.
Righty David Hale has elected free agency after clearing outright waivers, the Yankees announced today. He had recently been designated for assignment.
Roster churn is nothing new for Hale, who has had multiple stints in New York and one with the Twins this year, in addition to the time he has spent at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 30-year-old has allowed 15 earned runs in his 22 2/3 innings at all stops on the year.
This is the most extensive action that Hale has seen at the game’s highest level since the 2015 season. All told, he carries a 4.58 ERA with 6.1 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 over 186 2/3 MLB innings.
The Yankees announced this afternoon that they’ve recalled outfielder Clint Frazier from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and designated right-hander David Hale for assignment in order to open a spot on the roster.
This’ll be the first big league stint for Frazier in 2018 after sustaining a concussion during Spring Training and spending the first few weeks of the season on the disabled list. He’s played in four games with Class-A Tampa and another 12 in Triple-A, raking at a .362/.423/.702 clip with three doubles, two triples and three homers in Scranton. He’ll add some additional depth in the outfield for a Yankees club and, for the time being, return the club to a 12-man pitching staff with the subtraction of Hale. His presence will also give the Yankees an additional bat on the bench for an upcoming NL series, which undoubtedly played a role in his promotion.
It’s the second time the Yankees have designated Hale for assignment this season. The 30-year-old inked a minor league pact with the Yankees this winter and was designated after tossing a pair of shutout innings on April 23 against the Twins. Once he hit waivers, it was actually Minnesota who claimed Hale, though the Twins were forced to DFA Hale themselves after just one rough appearance when their bullpen was stretched to thin levels by a series of rough losses. Hale wound up back with the Yanks on another minor league deal, had his contract selected once again, and allowed a pair of runs in three innings in yet another one-appearance stint with the Yankees last week.
The Yankees announced on Monday that they’ve reinstated infielder Brandon Drury from the 10-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The move means that for the time being, New York will continue to rely upon Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, Tyler Austin, Neil Walker and Ronald Torreyes around the infield, with Drury somewhat surprisingly waiting in the wings at Triple-A on the heels of a very productive minor league rehab assignment.
Drury hit the disabled list last month due to ongoing migraine issues and blurred vision. He’s reportedly tried out wearing some yellow-tinted glasses during rehab games in an effort to aid his vision, and while it may have been mere coincidence, the results from his recent stretch of 11 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre were impressive; in 42 plate appearances, he hit .343/.452/.514 with a homer and three doubles.
[Related: Updated New York Yankees depth chart]
However, Drury’s placement on the DL opened the door for some younger prospects to make their debuts, and during his absence, Walker’s bat began to show signs of life. The veteran Walker is hitting .346/.514/.462 in 35 plate appearances this month and has provided the Yankees with some key hits, while Andujar and Torres have shown varying degrees of promise. In the case of Torres, he’s hitting .319/.360/.493 with three homers through his first 76 big league plate appearances and hasn’t done much of anything to give the Yankees cause to send him back down to the minors.
It’s more arguable that Andujar has shown some cracks at the big league level and could yet be in need of refinement. While he’s hitting .282 with a .458 slugging percentage, Andujar has drawn just three walks in 135 plate appearances, resulting in a paltry .296 on-base percentage. While he’s not striking out much, his .337 average on balls in play is considerably higher than the league norm of .295. If that BABIP regresses at all, then he could very well see his OBP fall into the .280 range. For the time being, he’s hit in six straight games (8-for-25), though all of his hits in that time have been singles.
The Yankees could’ve created a temporary solution by sending Austin to Triple-A, but the 26-year-old has slugged five homers in 89 plate appearances despite hitting just .222 with a .292 on-base percentage. Austin seems likely to be a roster casualty when Greg Bird is ready to be activated from the disabled list anyhow.
Whether due to an injury somewhere around the big league infield or a slump from Andujar, it still seems reasonable to expect that Drury will be back with the Yankees at some point in the relatively near future.
The Yankees may soon have a welcome problem on their hands with multiple infield options, with youngsters Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres performing well as Brandon Drury has tried to sort out a long-standing migraine problem. (Neil Walker and Ronald Torreyes are also on the MLB roster, along with everyday shortstop Didi Gregorius.) As MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch discusses in response to a reader inquiry, there continues to be progress in Drury’s health issue and he could soon be ready to return. While he could be optioned, Hoch suggests the organization could consider moving him around as well, possibly giving Drury time at second, third, and the corner outfield. Hoch also checks in briefly on injured first bagger Greg Bird, explaining that he’s on track to return later this month. Barring further injuries, there’ll certainly be some interesting decisions to be made for a ballclub that has been on a tear.
As expected, Major League Baseball has announced that it is taking its show across the Atlantic to the United Kingdom next year. The Yankees and Red Sox will play a two-game set on June 29th and June 30th at London Stadium, the facility that hosted the 2012 Olympics.
This initiative is the latest in a line of MLB overseas adventures, but the first that is located in Europe. Previously, the league has held regular season contests in Japan, Mexico, and Australia. (Additionally, games have been held on U.S. territory in locales that lack MLB franchises, with recent events in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.) That’s all in addition to the World Baseball Classic.
It’s not surprising that the league has first focused on other international markets. The game of baseball has a greater foothold, of course, in Asia and Latin America. That’s not to say that it’s completely unknown in Europe, though. Those interested in learning more about Euroball may enjoy listening to the MLBTR Podcast episode on the topic, featuring subject matter expert Josh Chetwynd, from a few years back.
International engagement is hardly a new concept in baseball or other professional sports, of course. Even the NFL has recently been holding games in London of late. But staging games that actually count in the standings is a relatively more challenging undertaking — and one that was specifically contemplated in the most recent collective bargaining agreement. That’s particularly true for baseball, with its intense travel schedule and near-daily games.
- Yankees right-hander Domingo German made a strong impression in his bid for a long-term rotation spot on Sunday, firing six no-hit innings in his first big league start. Manager Aaron Boone spoke to reporters after the game about the decision to pull German despite not having allowed a hit, revealing that German was actually given a bit of lenience and allowed to stay in the game beyond the pitch limit the Yankees had set on him for the game (link via Dan Martin of the New York Post). “I was hoping in the best case for five [innings] and a little more than 70 [pitches], but he was so efficient and attacking so much,” said Boone. German told the media that he was well aware of the limit he was on for the day and had no issues with being lifted from the game. With Jordan Montgomery on the shelf, the Yankees’ rotation had an opening, though German should get several more starts in that spot following Sunday’s outing. It’s nonetheless worth noting that top prospect Justus Sheffield was promoted to Triple-A over the weekend, so he may not be far off if German begins to struggle.
If the Yankees win the World Series this season, C.C. Sabathia will take it as the perfect ending to his 18-year career. “I want one more parade and pretty sure that will be it,” the veteran southpaw tells George A. King III of the New York Post. Sabathia also added that he would’ve retired had the Yankees won last year’s World Series, rather than suffer a tough Game Seven loss to the Astros in the ALCS.
Sabathia turns 38 in July, so retirement was coming sooner rather than later for the former AL Cy Young Award winner. Should the Yankees again fall short in the playoffs, of course, the obvious question would be if Sabathia would be willing to stick around for one more year, since New York’s contention window doesn’t seem to be closing anytime in the foreseeable future. Health concerns will be paramount for a pitcher who has dealt with significant knee problems during his career (plus smaller but still-notable issues with his elbow, hamstring, groin, and hip), though in terms of performance, Sabathia is still a quality asset on the mound.
This late-career revival seemed unlikely at the height of Sabathia’s injury woes, when his knee injuries limited him to just 46 innings in 2014. At the time, it seemed as if Sabathia’s career would end after his five-year, $122MM extension with the Yankees was up, though a lack of shoulder-related injuries caused his $25MM option for 2017 to vest, and he managed to return as a solid, innings-eater at the back of New York’s rotation. He posted a 4.12 ERA, 7.4 K/9, and 2.48 K/BB rate over 495 2/3 innings from 2015-17, topping it off with a 2.37 ERA over 19 postseason frames last October.
There seemed little doubt of a reunion between Sabathia and the Yankees last winter, and sure enough, the left-hander rejoined the team on a one-year, $10MM contract. Thus far, Sabathia actually has the lowest ERA (1.39) of any New York hurler with more than two innings pitched, though he has received quite a bit of BABIP (.211) and strand rate (81.4%) luck thus far. Even ERA predictors, however, still paint a respectable picture (3.60 FIP, 4.42 xFIP, 4.20 SIERA) of the veteran’s performance this season. Sabathia’s strong start has been particularly helpful for a Yankees rotation that has seen Sonny Gray struggle badly, and Jordan Montgomery head to the DL with a flexor strain.