Monday, May 10, 2010

Game 31: Jackson

Hey Fans! Guess which storyline is going to be beaten into your head by a certain large craniumed play-by-play man over the next four games. Did you know that Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson is currently on the DL? Did you know that Yankees number two hitter Nick Johnson is perpetually injured and will be out for several weeks? Of course you did.

But as the Yankees begin a four game series in Detroit, did you know that Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson is a former Yankee prospect and was the centerpiece of the trade that brought Granderson to New York? And did you further know that Tigers left fielder Johnny Damon was the Yankees number two hitter last year, and that he so desperately wanted to return to New York for a handsome salary?

And did you know that while Granderson and Johnson, both of whom slumped in their limited playing time thus far, languish on the DL, Jackson is hitting .371/.420/.508 and Damon is hitting .294/.409/.431? Well if you didn't know by now, you will by the time this series is over, because it's the single easiest storyline around which to frame this series.

But there's another storyline that will come into play, at least over the first two games, and it's far more important to the Yankees right now. Mother Nature and Father Time have conspired to leave the Yankee pitching staff in a bit of bind. Saturday's rain delay ended CC Sabathia's outing after just four and two thirds. Alfredo Aceves' sitff back and Joe Girardi's match ups forced the Yankees to run through five relievers to finish that contest. Elder statesman Andy Pettitte's stiff elbow leaves the pitching staff a man short. Romulo Sanchez did yeoman's work in his 3.2 IP of shutout relief last night, saving the rest of the pen, and thanks to today's roster move, the Yankees aren't short a long man tonight. But with Sergio Mitre spot starting tonight and limited to about 75 pitches, and Javier Vazquez, who has not yet completed the sixth inning this year, starting tomorrow, the Yankee bullpen may be further taxed over the next two games.

But hey, Austin Jackson has a magical .511 BABIP (despite a 28.0% K rate) and Johnny Damon, according to his agent at least, has magical DNA. So it's much easier to ignore more pressing issues and just declare Brian Cashman's off-season moves a bust a mere five weeks into the season. Because if 2009 taught us anything, it's that the way things are on May 10th, is exactly how they will be at season's end.

This will be Sergio Mitre's first start of 2010 and his first career appearance against the Tigers. Mitre has pitched well enough in limited relief/mop-up duty this year. In nine starts in 2009, he posted a 7.16 ERA and 1.75 WHIP over 44 IP. He'll was slated to oppose his former Florida Marlins teammate, Dontrelle Willis, but Willis is a late scratch with 102 degree fever. If the Tigers were the Royals, Willis would be pitching.

In Willis' stead, long reliever Brad Thomas will get the start. Alright, spot starts all around! Thomas is an Australian southpaw who, despite making his Major League debut just short of nine years ago, has logged only 40.1 IP in his career. Before surfacing with Detroit this season he hadn't pitched in the Majors since a three game cup of coffee with the Twins in 2004. In fact, he's only pitched one season in the states since then, spending 34 games at Seattle's AAA affiliate in 2007. His seven appearances this year have already set a new career high. This will mark the second time this year Thomas makes an emergency spot start for Willis. The results were not pretty the first time.

After a long off-season of negotiating, Johnny got his cash and Austin Jackson is playing hotter than a pepper sprout. As former Yankee products, I wish them both the best of luck over the course of the season, except of course when they're playing the Yankees. Depleted or not, Yankee pitching will spend the next four games looking to put their fire out.

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout
We've been talking 'bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out
I'm going to Jackson, I'm gonna mess around
Yeah I'm going to Jackson, look out Jackson town

[Song Notes: Little known fact - Johnny Cash absolutely did not want to wear the shirt he's sporting in this performance. But, the previous night he had gone to dinner with some friends, and his buddy's new girlfriend, a bit of a low-talker, muttered something unintelligible. Trying to be polite, the Man in Black just nodded in agreement. Little did he know he'd agreed to wear a puffy shirt on national TV]


Jorge Posada is behind the dish for the first time in a week. With a lefty on the mound, Marcus Thames is in the lineup, though after his misadventures in left field last night, he's mercifully the DH.
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jorge Posada C
Marcus Thames DH
Brett Gardner CF
Randy Winn LF

Austin Jackson CF
Johnny Damon DH
Magglio Ordonez RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Brennan Boesch LF
Brandon Inge 3B
Scott Sizemore 2B
Gerald Laird C
Adam Everett SS


  1. Why isn't the fully stretched out Nova starting and the not fully stretch out Mitre left where he was before?

  2. You forgot to mention Phil Coke. He's pitching to a 1.76 ERA after 15.1 IP. We could really use some bullpen help right now. Cashman!!

    I'm sure the announcers over the next few days are going to prove themselves more tedious than usual. Oh well.

  3. @JGS

    That's a fair question. I think there are a number reasons. Firstly, the Yankees hatched this whole plan prior to Friday's game. I don't want to say they're making it up as they go, but a lot has happened since then that's impacted the roster: the Johnson and Cano injuries, the rain delay, Aceves' back, Burnett's poor outing, etc.

    The hope was probably that they could call Sanchez up Friday, and with their top 3 starters going in Boston, he and Alf would still be ready to go for the Mitre and Vazquez games. Clearly things didn't work out that way.

    Secondly, though I'm no big fan of Mitre and though I'm bullish on Nova, at this point Mitre is probably the better option. Or at least the more bankable option. Nova didn't exactly beat down the doors in Spring Training. Mitre earned his spot on the team, and they've been committed to giving him this start since Friday, and he's likely been preparing for it since Wednesday. Any incremental upgrade Nova would offer wouldn't be worth the collateral damage of making the swap right now.

    @ Matt

    Yeah, I just don't figure Coke is going to work into the narrative as well. I suppose with some of the bullpen struggles, particularly Marte and Logan, but I get the impression a lot of folks soured on Coke after he hit that rough patch last summer.

    I liked Coke, and I wish him well too. But I don't think he's a huge loss. I think he'll carve out a decent enough career for himself, but I'm not going to lose any sleep over turning him around for Granderson.