04/23/07 11:30 AM ET
Mailbag: Will pitching do Yanks in?
Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers Bombers fans' questions
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
I realize it's real early in the season, but let's face facts, this team isn't a playoff team, period. From what I've seen so far, there is a lot more reason to show concern for this team than hope. Calling up inexperienced rookie pitchers like Jeff Karstens isn't going to help, nor is adding Roger Clemens. Let's face it; he isn't going to save this team's season. They need a lot more than Clemens. I really don't think they are even good enough to compete with the Red Sox, so I really doubt they can get into the playoffs.
-- Matt S., Sunnyvale, Calif.
Let's step away from the ledge for a second. Yes, the first 17 games haven't shown the Yankees to be world-beaters, but they've held their own despite injuries and making do with a skeleton roster that lacked some key components.
As Derek Jeter said over the weekend, there isn't anybody in the clubhouse who thinks the Yankees are simply treading water.
Chien-Ming Wang returns to the team this week, as does Hideki Matsui. Mike Mussina is probably about a week to 10 days behind them, and then the Opening Day roster that we all believed the Yankees would have will take shape ... just in time for May.
Alex Rodriguez did his fair share of the heavy lifting to keep the Yankees competitive, and now it'll be up to some of the cast around him to get hot and do the same. Baseball goes in cycles like that.
Nobody planned on the Yankees having Carl Pavano starting on Opening Day, or having Chase Wright pitch a game against the Red Sox at Fenway Park -- throwing to Wil Nieves, no less. When the Yankees begin to look whole again, you'll see a different team. At this early point in the year, it's just too early to begin calling out doomsday scenarios.
Given A-Rod's recent tear, how long do you think it will be before he begins receiving the "Barry Bonds" treatment in terms of intentional walks?
-- East Meadow, N.Y.
I'm surprised it hasn't happened already, though the looming specter of Jason Giambi batting behind Rodriguez has certainly helped to stave some of that off. It's incredible that, of Rodriguez's seven walks this season entering Sunday, just one has been intentional -- a fifth-inning pass on April 10 at Minnesota.
That move didn't work out for the Twins, as Giambi ripped a run-scoring single off reliever Jesse Crain. The Indians had a chance to walk A-Rod intentionally in the ninth inning on Thursday, but manager Eric Wedge decided to pitch to Rodriguez instead of loading the bases for Giambi. Of course, Rodriguez hit a game-winning three-run homer off Tribe closer Joe Borowski.
Have a question about the Yankees?
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Ever since the Yankees acquired Bobby Abreu, what are A-Rod's numbers (besides postseason)? I mean, he is in-between two lefties with excellent on-base percentages and has been hitting well since.
-- Tom E., New York City
Excellent point. Rodriguez has already said that having Abreu in the lineup makes it like "an at-bat before your at-bat," and estimated that Yankees hitters see an extra 30 pitches per night because of Abreu.
For the record, Rodriguez batted .310 (60-for-193) with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs last season after Abreu's first game in a Yankees uniform on Aug. 1, and has obviously started this year on a torrid streak.
With all the recent injuries to the starting rotation, why haven't I heard any news about the Yankees calling up Phil Hughes?
-- Anthony I., Marlboro, NJ
There are a few reasons. The Yankees called up Chase Wright because he was off to a blistering start at Double-A Trenton and he was on the 40-man roster; to call up Hughes would have made another roster move necessary.
While the Yankees see Hughes as a major part of their future, they've made a conscious decision not to rush him. Torre said that they might call upon Hughes later in the year after he's compiled some more work at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
I am concerned with the Yankees pitching. All of the pitchers on the disabled list seem to have soft tissue injuries. It would seem to me this might be a problem with their warmups and training. You can't tell me it's age when younger guys are on the DL as well. What do you think?
-- Joel S., East Providence, RI
That suggestion has definitely been floated. For the moment, general manager Brian Cashman has said that the injuries are something that the team has to deal with, but he doesn't want to attribute it to the team's performance management team.
With a new tandem in charge of keeping players strong and injury-free -- Marty Miller and Dana Cavalea, hired before the 2007 season -- the recent string of injuries could not have come at a worse time.
Do you think Scott Proctor will get as many relief innings this year as he did last year?
-- Christine S., Maple Shade, NJ
At this rate, maybe, but the Yankees certainly don't want to have to call upon Proctor 83 times again. The Yankees have had to work their bullpen harder than any other team in the American League this year, logging 70 2/3 relief innings through Sunday's action.
Proctor remains a valuable piece of the setup command, but I'd expect Torre to begin using Brian Bruney later and later in games, especially with Kyle Farnsworth's non-availability in most back-to-back situations.
With Josh Phelps' lack of playing time and the fact that Doug Mientkiewicz has become an offensive non-factor, do you think Joe Torre is regretting leaving Andy Phillips, who has proved he can hit on the Major League level, off the roster? Did Phillips make it through waivers? Is there any chance we could see him in pinstripes this year?
-- Bret L., Birmingham, Ala.
The Yankees made their decision in keeping Phelps over Phillips based upon Phelps' hot spring and power potential, and I don't believe they're second-guessing it.
Phelps' ability to serve as an emergency third catcher is an added bonus. But the Yankees were fortunate that Phillips made it through waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. There's always a chance that he helps the Yankees later in the year. For right now, he's added depth in the system.
Kevin Thompson seems to have serious big-league ability to me. What is the overall opinion of him by most scouts?
-- Terry J., Weare, N.H.
Thompson definitely has talent, but he's considered a touch on the raw side. He has the ability to play all three outfield positions and won't hurt a team defensively, and has speed, though his basestealing ability is a bit unrefined. He's shown the promise of a good contact hitter with some power potential.
Does Humberto Sanchez have a chance to start in the big leagues when he comes off the disabled list?
-- Max B., Tustin, Calif.
Sanchez underwent reconstructive elbow surgery last week and is out for the season. That news was surprising to a lot of us, who'd seen Sanchez work out daily in Spring Training to come back from a strained forearm. The Yankees still view him as a piece of their plans down the road.