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Posts tagged ‘New York Yankees’

No Tanaka on Opening Day…?

Spring training hasn’t even officially started, and there is already panic about Masahiro Tanaka’s arm.

Earlier today, news broke that Tanaka said he wasn’t sure whether or not he would be ready to pitch on Opening Day. As soon as I read the headline, I knew there would be panic from Yankee fans, and doubts about his status as an ace from everyone around baseball.

When asked about his first regular season start today, Tanaka said:

“Can’t really say. We’ll take it day by day. I feel that I can’t really talk about that at this point. I just want to see myself go into the bullpen, get the innings in and see how I feel.”

It is his first day in Tampa – his first workout since the offseason. What is so wrong with that?

Yes, the Yankees made a huge investment in Tanaka (7 years $155 million, plus a $20 million posting fee) and yes, they expect him to be an ace. We already know about his partial UCL tear, trips to the disabled list in 2014 and again in 2015, and he underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his throwing arm this offseason. I understand fans concern about Tanaka. I understand fans frustration about what we’ve seen from Tanaka during his first two seasons in MLB.

I, too, would love for Tanaka to put the injuries behind him and be the ace the Yankees expected him to be when they signed him. But for right now, it’s entirely too early to judge his upcoming season. Likewise, it’s entirely too early to panic about his arm.

Regardless of whether or not he had surgery in the offseason, this is Tanaka’s first workout after the offseason. No pitcher is going to feel 100% ready to go on Opening Day after one workout. Spring training doesn’t even officially start until Thursday for pitchers and catchers. There are a lot of workouts and a lot of throwing for Tanaka (and all the pitchers) between now and Opening Day.

There are many factors that will go into deciding when Tanaka is ready to make his first regular season start. There are doctors, trainers, management, and even Tanaka himself who will all have a say in when he’s ready to pitch. For the amount of money the Yankees have invested in one arm, I don’t blame them for being cautious – and they’ve shown they’re not afraid to rest him when needed. Being overly optimistic about his Opening Day status right now is of no benefit to anyone.

Had Tanaka said this a week before the regular season, this would be an entirely different situation. We are just under a week until spring training starts. As much as we all want baseball back right now, there are still several weeks to go.

Before fans lose faith in Tanaka or raise your blood pressure worrying, ask yourself this: Would you rather Tanaka rehab properly and pitch well this year (Opening Day or not), or rush his rehab just to pitch Opening Day and suffer a worse injury later?

The answer is simple to me.

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Chapman comes to New York

Since the Yankees shocked the baseball world by trading for Aroldis Chapman, I’ve been trying to decide how I felt about the trade; there’s the potential for huge reward, but with big risk. I’ve actually started this post several times trying to sort out the many thoughts in my head about the trade, the current Yankees roster, and Chapman’s personal problems.

After a whole lot of thought…I think this deal is going to turn out alright.

First, there is the trade itself. At least for now, Yankee fans have seemingly forgotten they hate Brian Cashman. No one seems to miss the four young players sent to Cincinnati, because there is so much excitement about what good Chapman could bring to this team.

This deal creates an amazing back end of the Yankees bullpen. Dellin Betances. Aroldis Chapman. Andrew Miller. They are all among MLB’s best relief pitchers, and they are all together on one roster. Even if you hate the Yankees, you have to admit that is a very powerful trio.

via sportsonearth.com

 

 

We’ve seen the super bullpen work with the Royals in 2014, and even better in 2015 when they won the World Series despite losing Greg Holland to injury (and Tommy John surgery) in mid-September. We all know having a powerful bullpen shortens games, and for the Yankees, that can be extremely beneficial.

There are significant concerns about the Yankees rotation. Cashman insists the rotation is “full” and that the Yankees are not signing any big free agents – so let’s just assume they keep the starters next year. In 2015, the top six Yankee starters (Eovaldi, Nova, Pineda, Sabathia, Severino, and Tanaka) averaged 5.83 innings per start. (Tanaka had the highest average with 6.42 innings and Nova had the lowest average with 5.53 innings.) Whether the starters were unable to go deep into games was a result of their pitching ability or an overly anxious manager is a whole other debate. For argument’s sake, let’s each starter lasts approximately 6 innings per start – that leaves 3 more innings to play, and there are 3 super arms sitting in the bullpen.

Obviously the super trio cannot pitch 7-8-9 in every game, but there is some flexibility here. Last season, we saw Girardi frequently use both Betances and Miller for more than one inning. He didn’t wait for the 8th inning to bring in Betances, and he wasn’t afraid to use Miller for a 4 or even 5 out save. He pushed them – and it often worked out well for the team. Adding that third arm can (hopefully) cut down on the workload for both of them, which could then give them more opportunity to rest and stay healthy. There is always the possibility Girardi starts brining in relievers in the 5th inning as one of my friends at The Greedy Pinstripes (somewhat jokingly) suggested, but I am going to cross my fingers Girardi hasn’t totally lost his mind this offseason.

That still leaves a big question – who’s the closer? The Yankees have three potential closers, which is an excellent problem to have. Surprisingly, since I am a big Andrew Miller fan and call him my hero, I would actually chose Chapman as the closer – and the flexibility of the other two is part of the reason why.

 

So far, both Betances and Miller have been quoted saying they’re excited about the addition of Chapman, and each willing to do whatever they can to help the team win games. Miller, especially, has said since he signed with the Yankees last offseason, that he is willing to do any job given to him. He never demanded he be the closer, and he never assumed he would be the closer. Betances is a New Yorker, and wants to bring a championship home. Of the three, Betances is the least likely to be the closer (although perfectly capable). Chapman has always been a closer, while the other two have not, so I would have to assume he is the most comfortable – and obviously successful – in that role.

Which leads me to my first concern about Chapman – how long can a human arm withstand throwing pitches at such great speeds? There is a great deal of mechanics/physics that go into pitching (read some interesting articles HERE and HERE), and we see “average” MLB pitchers suffer injuries by throwing pitches significantly slower than Chapman’s. At some point, will his arm just give out?

The medical professional in me thinks about things like this. There is a certain point (the actual speed seems debatable) where the human body just cannot handle throwing a baseball any faster. Chapman is likely nearly that point. Part of me will worry with each pitch – is this the one that will tear his UCL? Betances and Miller are not throwing quite as fast as Chapman (but really, no one in baseball is). Because of that, I would feel more comfortable allowing Betances and Miller throw more pitches per outing than Chapman. Considering that along with the flexibility they’ve already demonstrated, and we could potentially see 6+ outs from just the two of them. To wrap things up, bring in Chapman for 3 quick outs on probably less than a dozen pitches thrown (3-9 pitches would be even better).

Of course, the biggest concern about Chapman is a possible suspension for domestic violence. Before I go any further, it’s important to mention I am against violence of any kind, against anyone. However, from a legal standpoint, Aroldis Chapman has never been charged with domestic violence.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t a shit human being. The entire story makes me uneasy – and the fact that he was ever in such a volatile situation at all – but the fact is the investigation did not bring up enough evidence to charge him. He may be a bad person, but he certainly wouldn’t be the first in baseball.

If MLB does find cause to suspend him, a few things can happen. There is the possibility he is suspended long enough to delay his free agency eligibility until the end of next season. If that happens, Brian Cashman will look like a genius for getting two years of Chapman at the cost of four young players. There’s also the possibility the suspension is shorter, or maybe there is no suspension at all.

Suspension or not, there will be a lot of attention focused on Aroldis Chapman. Of the two teams, who would you expect to handle the possible media circus better – the Cincinnati Reds, or the New York Yankees? Remember, the Yankees are a much larger organization and were recently very involved with the longest suspension MLB had ever given, and all the public spectacle that went along with it.

The key to this working as well as it can is keeping the three pitchers together. The Yankees bullpen already lost two of their best pitchers (Adam Warren and Justin Wilson) this offseason, and aside from Betances/Miller, there were a lot of question marks. Adding Chapman is almost enough to make fans forget Warren and Wilson are even gone, but removing any of these three puts the Yankees back into that same position. There have been rumors all offseason that the Yankees have been listening to trade offers for Andrew Miller. Honestly, it’s a smart thing to do – the Yankees could be blown away with an offer they can’t refuse. But trading Miller for a starter? That doesn’t make much sense to me either. Even the best pitcher, who would assumingly go deep into games and take stress off the bullpen, is only going to pitch every five days. The Yankees have six starters and, while it’s not ideal, it looks like those are the six they will have going in to Opening Day. Trade Miller for even the best starter available and you’re left with seven starters, two reliable relievers, and still a whole lot of question marks.

It will be interesting to see how Chapman fits into the Yankees organization, what his punishment will be (if any) and how it will all play out in New York and MLB. For the time being, we Yankee fans can smile because our team has the Betances/Miller/Chapman trio.

If the whole season falls apart, I’m fairly confident at least those three will still keep things exciting.

A Tale of Two Cities

When you have the opportunity to travel 786 miles to see four MLB teams play in two separate games, you just have to do it. Because after all, this is summer. And even if football has returned to our TV screens, summertime is baseball time.

So maybe that’s not exactly there reason these two games happened within days of each other. As luck – and my work schedule – would have it, I had the chance to drive to Cleveland midweek to see the Yankees and Indians play, and then travel to Baltimore to see the A’s and Orioles that weekend. It was a lot of baseball in one week, or as I would call it – heaven.

11873495_806461130381_1585491247349533703_nWednesday August 12 Yankees at Indians
Final Score: Yankees 1, Indians 2
WP: Danny Salazar LP: C.C. Sabathia S: Cody Allen
Distance traveled: approximately 694 miles

The circumstances surrounding this game might make it the most perfect game I will experience all season long. After spending Tuesday and most of Wednesday with my family, I met up with my best friend Lisa who is the reason I ever started watching baseball. We made plans to head into Cleveland so I could be fitted for my matron of honor dress (Lisa is getting married next July), have dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, and see two of our favorite teams play. Lisa decided to wear an Indians shirt since we were in our hometown and her beloved Jeter is retired, and was very supportive of my Rodriguez jersey. For friends cheering for competing teams, we were very peaceful. And our seats were so good, I could have probably carried on a conversation with Chase Headley if I yelled loud enough.
Before the game, I was worried for the Yankees for a number of reasons: the previous night’s game lasted 16 innings (past midnight), the Blue Jays were closing in on 1st place in A.L. East, and the struggling C.C. Sabathia was starting. Surprisingly, it was a fairly good game despite the Yankees loss. Sometime Wednesday afternoon I had a sudden feeling of confidence in Sabathia. Cleveland is where he started his career in 2001 and won the Cy Young Award in 2007. He was incredibly gracious when he left, and I’ve always felt there was a mutual admiration between him and the city. Sure enough, he settled in well and allowed only 2 runs (all the Indians needed to win) on 9 hits in 6IP (2BB, 2SO).
Another cause of pregame nerves was hearing the Yankees had brought up Chris Capuano after he was previously been designated for assignment. When I saw a left handed pitcher warming up during the 6th inning, I was nearly in tears in the stands expecting Capuano to appear for the 7th inning. Much to my surprise, the lefty was actually Chasen Shreve who is not only a far better pitcher than Capuano (at this point in their careers at the very least) but one of my favorite players to watch this season.
A funny thing about this game are the Indians’ bullpens. During the past off season, the bullpens were moved closer to center field and are “stacked” (they used to be parallel to the foul lines and had very limited exposure to fans in the stadium). Late in the game, both Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances were halfheartedly warming up (neither made an appearance in the game). Both are so tall (Miller 6’7” and Betances 6’8”) they both looked like they might hit the ceiling of the bullpen just by walking. It was a little surprising (at least from my angle) they were able to bring their arms up and around to throw.

11892035_807091866381_7279539388366583417_nSaturday August 15 Athletics and Orioles
Final Score: A’s 3, O’s 4

WP: Zach Britton LP: Pat Venditte
Distance traveled: only about 92 miles
When you think of a really good baseball games, this was one of them.
Camden Yards was packed, and everyone was wearing orange thanks to the J.J. Hardy jersey giveaway. (Some of us arrived too late for the jersey, but were already wearing orange Chris Davis and Manny Machado shirts.)
It started out rough. After Billy Burns hit a triple (to center field – but he’s kind of fast), Mark Canha grounded out to first and of course speedy Butler scored. Miguel Gonzalez settled down for a few innings, and then gave Sam Fuld a nice pitch to hit over the right field wall for his second home run of the season (right after I laughed at home for having only one).
There we stayed with a score of 3-0 and about 44,000 disappointed Orioles fans (the 10 A’s fans in attendance were quite content). In the 4th inning, Gerardo Parra (one of the newest Orioles) hit a single, and stayed there until Chris Davis sent a pitch over the right field wall. Two innings later, Parra continued his impressive start with the Orioles by also hitting a home run over the right field wall – tie game.
After that, the game was up to the pitchers. First, fan favorite Darren O’Day came on to pitch for the Orioles in the top of the 8th, followed by closer Britton in the top of the 9th. The A’s left their starting pitcher Chris Bassitt in through 8 innings, and was relieved by SHP Pat Venditte.
Seeing Venditte pitch was a unique experience. The scoreboard listed him as a RHP, and he did throw considerably faster with his right arm. When he was first announced, I quickly looked to see who was up for the Orioles – Parra (L), Jones (r), Davis (L). If I had the chance to see Pat Venditte pitch, I wanted to see him pitch with both arms! After Parra flew out, Venditte switched to RHP as my husband watched in disbelief. When Adam Jones grounded out and Venditte switched back to LHP to face Davis, my husband yelled “What kind of gimmick is this?!” Suddenly, the ball goes flying into the air – and again, over the right field wall. (Wouldn’t you know we were sitting in left field?)
The Orioles won in the bottom of the 9th by a walkoff home run, and the place exploded in excitement. As is Baltimore tradition after such a big moment, Adam Jones came out of the dugout to throw a pie in Davis’ face, which he gladly accepted after being the hero of the game.

This past week met a few weird fan goals for me this season. First, I (again) saw my 4 favorite teams play in their home stadiums (Yankees, Orioles, Indians, and Nationals). To top that, I’ve seen my favorite team (Yankees) play in all four of those cities.
From this point, it’s a long wait for another live MLB game. Next game on the schedule is September 18 when the Marlins take on the Nats in DC, followed by Yankees at Orioles to close out the regular season the first weekend in October. So far – and looking ahead – it’s been a good baseball season for this fan!

My 2015 Yankee Stadium Adventure

This weekend was incredible. Not only was I in New York City (something went from in the universe; I swear I’m meant to live there) but I got to see two games at Yankee Stadium – one great, and one kind of terrible.

My travel companion was Michelle, an old friend/neighbor from Ohio. She drove the 5 hours from Ohio to Maryland on Friday, and Saturday morning we made the 4 hour trip to NYC. I had traffic in all the places in I didn’t expect – like getting onto the freeway near my house, and later crossing into NJ – and no traffic where I expected it – like going through the Lincoln Tunnel or across Manhattan on 42nd Street.

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   Here we are approaching the Lincoln Tunnel

Because Saturday’s game was Old Timer’s Day, fans were encouraged to be in their seats by 4pm. Since we arrived at our Midtown hotel just before 4pm, we were obviously a little late to the game. Amazingly, we didn’t miss a whole lot.

First, I have to mention my appreciation for the owner of Pinstripe Collectibles across from the stadium. I went in to ask about a jersey, and rather than sell me a an adult jersey for $100+, the owner convinced me to buy a child’s size for only $55. At 5’6” (let’s just say average weight) I’m not a petite woman, but the jersey still fits. And with a $40 Visa git card I saved from Christmas, my child size Rodriguez jersey was $15.

Saturday June 20: Tigers 3, Yankees 14
W: Nathan Eovaldi L: Alfredo Simon S: Bryan Mitchell

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      Hey there, Yankee Stadium…and rain.

The weather was the worst part of this Detroit ass-kicking. For most of the game, there was a fine misty rain, although never enough to delay the game. Concession stands probably ran out of napkins from fans wiping off their seats, and I can’t remember another June game when I wore a hoodie.

Old Timer’s Day: It’s always cool to see former players and members of the Yankees family back at the stadium, and this was the second year I was fortunate enough to be there. The most memorable, without a doubt, was Mel Stottlemyre. As if the surprise of honoring him with a plaque in Monument Park wasn’t enough, his speech really tugged at the heartstrings. To see a man, who’s battling cancer, stand there and say “If I never make it to another Old Timer’s Day” and reference coaching in Heaven… I’m not sure who the entire stadium wasn’t crying their eyes out because I almost did.

Yankees Museum: Somehow, I missed this gem last year. If you haven’t seen it yet – go. It’s free with your ticket and well worth the time. As luck would have it, the Yankees brought the plaques for both Stottlemyre and Willie Randolph (also honored) into the museum. Michelle and I were able to see the actual plaques right in front of us before they were hung in Monument Park.

As for the game, Nathan Eovaldi could not have had a worse night than he did his previous start in Miami when he gave up 8 runs on 36 pitches and couldn’t make it through the first inning. Saturday night he walked off the field to applause after allowing 6 hits and 2 runs in 6 innings pitched, walking just one and striking out 4. I think Yankee fans let out a collective sigh of relief after bracing for the worst.

In the bottom of the 2nd, Didi Gregorius hit a beautiful homerun, his 2nd in as many days and 4th of the year, over the right field wall. There were a few questionable defensive plays between Saturday and Sunday, but I think he’s settling in. He had another deep hit to center later in the game that looked like it would fall in for a hit, but incredible fielding by Anthony Gose shattered that dream.

Yankee fans know and appreciate him, but Brett Gardner should really get more recognition across MLB. He is a tremendous outfielder, and an outfield that with him and Jacoby Ellsbury is almost drool-worthy. Saturday’s Yankee outfield consisted of Chris Young, Gardner, and Carlos Beltran. Obviously, Gardy is the defensive strength of the three, and he proved that by robbing hard hitting Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez of hits.

Speaking of Yoenis Cespedes, the dude is built like a beast. I’ve never seen him in person before, but even from the bleachers it’s obvious the guy is 5’10” and 210lbs of solid muscle.

And on the subject of outfielders, Carlos Beltran is a source of constant frustration for me when it comes to his defense. Last year, I screamed the F word at Kelly Johnson because of his ineptitude at third, and I nearly did the same seeing Beltran attempt to field in right. He won a few points with me by hitting two homeruns in the game, and just for good measure he hit one from each side of the plate.

The Yankees have called up about a million players from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and one in particular for Saturday was Bryan Mitchell. I’m not really sure what it is about him, but I like him. It could be just because he was up last year and familiar, but whatever the reason it’s good to see one of the kids come up and perform well as he did in 3 innings of solid work (4 hits, 1 run, 2 strikeouts, and no walks).

The best part of the game (at least for me) was Alex Rodriguez’s monster night at the plate. I arrived one day after his 3,000th career hit, but saw his next two hits Saturday night. His 3,001st hit looked a lot like the 3,000th – except that it was a 3-run homerun (career number 668) to left field instead of a solo shot to right as it was the night before. (Ironically, this happened right after I said “I’ve never seen Alex hit a homerun in a game before.”) In his 3 at bats he totaled 2 hits, 2 runs, and 5 RBI. Considering that a year ago I didn’t know if I would ever see Alex Rodriguez play another baseball game – for any team – this was as great of a performance as I could have asked for.

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It’s just rain… You all didn’t have to leave...

Sunday June 21: Tigers 12, Yankees 4

W: Anibal Sanchez L: Masahiro Tanaka

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We’re back! And we’re 3 strong today!

Sunday Michelle and I were joined by another old friend, Sadie (now living in Queens) and the game was almost the complete opposite of Saturday in every possible way. The good guys didn’t win but it was hot and the sun was shining! Of the bleachers are in direct sunlight, which we anticipated – but we didn’t expect our sunscreen to be confiscated by Yankee Stadium security. And you just can’t do that to pale people!!

This is the second year in a row I’ve went to a Sunday game with Masahiro Tanaka pitching, and both years the Yankees have lost – badly. Victor Martinez hit one homerun and J.D. Martinez hit two homeruns off Tanaka (3 total in the game), while several other hits and 2 walks combined for a total 7 runs credited to Tanaka. Oof!

When Tanaka finally got the hook, he was relieved by Danny Burawa, who made his major league debut. From our seats, we can see when a pitcher is throwing in the bullpen, but we can’t see who. Sunday, we could hear the ball crashing into the catcher’s glove after each pitch – leading me to wonder who in the bullpen can possibly throw that hard? Enter Burawa, who consistently threw pitches faster than 95mph. He did not have a great MLB debut giving up 3 hits and 4 runs, but what a first impression with that speed!

In the 3rd inning I witnessed a miracle when Mark Teixeira beat the shift (!) for a single. Not to be outdone in miracles, Stephen Drew hit not one but TWO homeruns in the game. The second one came right as I said to my friends “Stephen Drew will not be on this team next year.” Impressive timing.

Honorable mention goes to Alex Rodriguez, because he’s my favorite. In a fairly weak offensive game for the Yankees, Rodriguez had just one hit, bringing his career total after this series to 3,003. I mention this because a Twitter friend (and fellow member of Team A-Rod) reminded me that even if I missed hit 3,000, every hit from this point on is historic – and that’s absolutely true. He’s still playing, and he’s playing well. Who knows when this journey will end for him, but we keep counting each hit and marking every milestone until the day he’s done. And when that time comes, we can look back and fully appreciate what he’s accomplished in his career.

One more quick note: during the 7th inning stretch Yankee Stadium witnessed an on-screen proposal. Luckily, she said yes! I would hate to see how much it cost to propose in such a dramatic way (but how cool!!), and if she had said no… Yikes.

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People even leave on sunny days? What is this??

Now I enter a stretch of almost a month before I attend another MLB game unless something happens between now and then. For now, I’ll count down the days until the end of July when I see the Braves play the Orioles in Baltimore, and I’m sure there will be plenty of baseball news between now and then.

Last Minute Yankees-Orioles game in Baltimore

For the second time this season, the Yankees came to Baltimore for a series with the Orioles. Also for the second time this season, I was about to miss the Yankees while they were in town.

Long story short, this weekend was packed full of prior commitments I could not break – some scheduled as far back as February. The only day I had the slightest chance of flexibility was Sunday, and at first I only considered breaking my commitment for the possibility of Alex Rodriguez recording his 3,000th career hit during that game (we know now, of course, that he still sits at 2,995).

Ironically enough, it ended up being my Yankees hating, Orioles loving husband who convinced me to go. While I was debating back-and-forth whether or not I should even try to go to the game, he was searching ticket prices – and found quite a deal. Two seats in left field lower reserve that normally sell for $55 were available for $11. When a deal like that comes along, you’ve just got to take it.

As for the game itself, it was nothing exciting and just baseball as usual. Both teams had good plays and bad, with the eventual victory coming to the Yankees with a final score of 5-3. With every game I attend, I try to find something memorable or significant about the game. There were no history-making moments in this game, but a few players who stood out.

Adam Warren

This was the second MLB game I attended this season, and the second game Warren started. He is not the most exciting pitcher on the Yankees, but I have to take a minute to appreciate what he brings to the team. This year, he has shown he has the ability to be an effective starter. His stats won’t blow your mind, but he can pitch decently and for both of these games, I felt confident having him on the mound. Last year, he showed he was reliable out of the bullpen, and is more than likely headed there again in the near future. Analysts and fans can debate whether Warren is better in the rotation or the bullpen, but the point is…he can do both! He’s not the first pitcher to work as both a starter and a reliever and he won’t be the last, but the Yankees are lucky tohave some flexibility with where the can use Adam Warren.

Chasen Shreve

To be honest, the name and strange haircut caught my attention first. I didn’t know what to expect with Shreve but the truth is, I’ve been really impressed so far this season. He’s only 24 and has a few years of team control ahead of him, and I could see him developing into a really great pitcher. I hope that growth happens in pinstripes, but for the time being, I’m glad I got to see him pitch in a game (even though I knew Girardi would not leave him in a full two innings, although he’s capable).

Mike Wright

The rookie starting pitcher for the Orioles is one of several players who have been drafted out of East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. This past May, my brother-in-law Mike Prunka graduated from ECU where he reported on many of the baseball players at the school (he’s now a sports reporter/editor in NC). Wright was drafted before Mike started covering the baseball team (2011), but he did cover other players who’ve also been drafted such as Jeff Hoffman (Blue Jays in 2014), and follows any ECU grad. He actually knew before I did that Wright was called up specifically to start Sunday’s game for the Orioles.

Nolan Reimold

This is a guy I’ve been hearing about for a few years now even though he’s struggled to establish his place with a major league club (drafted by the Orioles, played for the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks, and returned to the Orioles on a minor league contract this year). Most non-Orioles fans may not have even heard of him, but he is one of the biggest sports stars to come out of Mercer county, PA… Which most of you have probably never heard of. My connection to Mercer county is through my husband’s family. His mom grew up in Greenville, PA. Two of her brothers still live there and know the Reimold family. My husband Will attended Thiel College (also in Greenville) before coming back to Maryland to go to law school. Because of the personal connection to the area, we’ve been hearing about Reimold for awhile and hoping for his success. We were all very excited to hear he signed with the Orioles, and even more excited to finally see him play at Camden Yards this weekend. He had an average day, but played well enough for Will to yell “Mercer county pride!” from our seats. Of the three MLB autographs we have, Reimold’s is the only one in a place we see every day.

Next up on the agenda are two games in the Bronx – this Saturday night for Old Timer’s Day and Sunday afternoon against the Detroit Tigers. There’s a chance for a lot of excitement this weekend: If the current pitching rotation remains through this week, I should be able to see Masahiro Tanaka pitch. We are still waiting for that allusive 3,000th hit from Alex Rodriguez, which could possibly happen during either of those games. I look forward to sharing stories from those games soon!

Andrew Miller is the Yankees closer

Last night’s weird rally and eventual Yankees victory was some of the craziest baseball I’ve ever seen, but I learned something important about this team – Andrew Miller is the closer.

No, there has been no formal announcement (at least not that I’m aware of) but if last night’s performances by Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were any kind of an audition for the role, Miller won. Easily.

In the 8th inning, Betances faced 6 batters and needed 32 pitches to escape the inning, allowing Toronto to score just one run. He walked two in the inning with only about half (15) of his pitches resulting in strikes. When Miller took the mound in the 9th, he efficiently retired all 3 Blue Jays batters he faced. He threw 10 pitches with only 2 missing the strike zone, struck out one, and was credited with the save while Betances picked up the win.

Anyone who was watching the game could see an obvious difference between Betances and Miller without even knowing the results of their outing. Betances just didn’t look like the dominating setup man we saw last year: he looked shaky, much like we saw in spring training. Miller looked completely locked in and focused. There was no uncertainty, and he quickly worked the count to 0-2 on two of the batters he faced.

Hopefully, Joe Girardi was watching the same two innings Yankee fans saw last night. There should be no more debate, or “it’s something we’ll discuss” from now on. From what I understand, bullpens function better when they have a chosen leader (the closer) and relievers know what their roles are ahead of that closer. Andrew Miller acted like a closer, and he pitched like one. This isn’t a decision that’s locked in for a lifetime – teams often change closers during the season – and if Betances returns to his 2014 self and outpitches Miller, he absolutely should take over the role. For now the answer was obvious last night: Andrew Miller is the new Yankees closer.

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I’m Not Worrying About Tanaka – And Neither Should You

Who would have thought that one of the biggest stories from Opening Day 2015 wasn’t any particular game, but rather the status of Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow?

Baseball Tonight referred to today, the day after Opening Day, as “Overreaction Tuesday” and had fans tweet them their most ridiculous hot takes for the season. Most of the responses were completely over the top and great for comedy, but would never truly happen. Still, Overreaction Tuesday is not such a crazy idea…

By day, I am a medical assistant for an internal medicine physician. Just last week I was taking care of a Hospice patient in heart failure and his wife. The two of them were incredibly cheerful throughout the entire visit; you would have never known he was seriously ill and that his heart could literally give up at any moment. When my coworker and I mentioned this, they simply said “You can’t be too serious in life.” They completely understood the severity of their situation, but they also weren’t going to let it hold them back. They were going to enjoy life as much as they could, and enjoy every minute of it.

How does this relate to baseball? Because it reminds me why I am not worried about Tanaka’s arm: because there’s no need to worry until it’s time to worry.

We all know about the partial UCL tear in Tanaka’s elbow – we’ve been talking about it since last summer. Here were are now, just two days into the new season, Tanaka named the Opening Day starter for the Yankees at home…and they lose. Not only is it disappointing, but suddenly everyone around baseball is a medical expert. And not just any expert – they’re all orthopedic specialists with particular knowledge about Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow. Without medical degrees. Without examining him. Without seeing his MRI results.

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Tanaka got the loss yesterday with 4 innings pitched and 5 runs scored (2 walks, 5 hits including 1 homerun), but he also threw 6 strikeouts. It’s not his best work, but it’s far from the worst showing a starting pitcher has ever made. It’s also not a good enough reason to strap him to a gurney and wheel him into the nearest operating room.

Without even considering velocity or evaluating the number of each pitch he threw, this is a different year for Tanaka in Major League Baseball. He is not a unknown pitcher from Japan anymore; he’s been in the year for a league now, and opposing teams have had all that time to study him. Many of the American League batter have already faced him. Quite simply, he’s more familiar this year than he was last year.

Even so, he is a very talented pitcher – otherwise, the Yankees wouldn’t have signed him (we hope), and he wouldn’t have had such a successful rookie season. But one bad day (or one really bad inning) does not mean Tanaka’s arm is doomed. Remember, the Yankees only had three hits all day and without Brett Gardner’s homerun, would have been shut out. (Doesn’t that sound like the 2014 Yankees? Good work by pitchers and little offensive support?) And what about Headley’s error? What should have been a sacrifice bunt and an out turned into a run scoring and two runners in scoring position – and just one hit to right later, two more runs score.

One game (with one really bad inning) and one loss does not mean Tanaka is broken, and it doesn’t mean the Yankees season is a lost cause. Personally, I’m just looking forward to tomorrow night’s game and hoping for a better result – and I still won’t be worrying about Tanaka’s arm.

There is a very real possibility the UCL may tear and require surgery at any time, but think about how true that is for all pitchers. Already this year there have been a handful of pitchers in spring training whose seasons have ended because of Tommy John surgery. There are several theories why so many pitchers are heading for TJS but the fact is, it’s happening. All the time, and at every level including high school and college.

The difference with Tanaka is we know about the small tear. Several orthopedic surgeons know about the tear and have evaluated Tanaka and have all agreed: No surgery. Where did baseball fans and writers suddenly get their medical degrees? When did any of us give Tanaka a physical exam?

Call it a ticking time bomb if you want, but none of us know if and when the ligament will actually require surgery. Right now it’s a possibility (maybe even a probability) but it’s not a necessity. The true experts have agreed he’s okay – Tanaka and the Yankees insist he’s okay – so let’s let him do his job. Right now, Masahiro Tanaka is the Yankees’#1 starter and a nearly $200 million investment.

Don’t worry until it’s time to worry.