Okay, so it isn't exactly that hot. I mean, it will get hotter this summer, but I want to save the "Hotter than July" headline for a later date. So today gives a Neil Simon reference (and believe me, that's not something you are likely to see often around these parts). It am mighty steamy here in the Bronx this morning, and I can only imgaine what it is like down in Washington D.C.
It's gunna be a schvitz-a-thon for sure.
Chien-Ming Wang takes the hill for New York today and the Yanks are praying he can go at least seven innings if not more. Farnsworth won't be available out of the pen today, and I doubt that we'll see Rivera either. Slim pickings as far as healthy, rested relievers go. So it'll be up to Wang and the offense to lead the Bombers today. How about another good day from Rodriguez and Damon? And Cano...wait, it seems like he has a good day every day. No matter who does well, so long as the Yanks can pull out a victory, we'll take it.
Let's go Yan-Kees.
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Cliff here with a note on today's starting pitcher for the Nationals. Michael O'Connor is a scrawny 25-year-old lefty from Dallas who was drafted by the Expos out of George Washington University in 2002. Over his first four professional seasons he progressed slowly from the New York-Penn League through to the Carolina League where he turned in a strong but unexceptional season for the Potomac Nationals last year. O'Connor was not invited to major league spring training this year, but still managed to skip double-A entirely and start the year with the triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs. After four strong starts with the Zephyrs, he was promoted to the majors in late April to take the place of the injured John Patterson in the rotation. Since then, O'Connor has acquited himself well, displaying a Jaret Wright-like tendency toward effective five-plus inning starts. O'Connor has made it past the sixth inning just once this year, but has pitched a minimumm of five innings in all ten of his major league starts. While that may not be terribly impressive, it is reliable, and until his last start in which he gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings at home against the Rockies he had not allowed more than three runs in any of his first nine-starts.
Curiously, T.J. Beam, the righty reliever the Yankees promoted yesterday to take Aaron Small's spot in the bullpen, is also a 25-year-old (just 11 days younger than O'Connor, actually) college product who had never pitched above A-ball until this year. Beam, however, posted some dazzling strikeout rates in A-ball last year after having been converted to relief after spending his first two seasons in the pros as a starter. Beam began the 2006 season in double-A, where he posted an 0.86 ERA in 42 innings before earning a promotion to Columbus two weeks ago today. After Beam posted a 7.5 K/BB rate over 9 2/3 triple-A innings, the Yankees, to my shock and delight, decided he couldn't do any worse than Small, whom they correctly identified as a fluke at long last.
Over the past two weeks the Yankees have designated Terrence Long, Scott Erickson and Aaron Small for assignment while keeping Kevin Thompson and Matt Smith on the 25-man roster and Melky Cabrera and Andy Phillips in the starting line-up. I'm floored. All they have to do now is convince Joe Torre to let Smith and Beam share Scott Proctor's work load (Ron Villone can assume Small's long-man role) and give Thompson his share of starts in right field. The idea is to assume these three players can contribute and make them prove than they can't.
Speaking of which, did no one tell Torre that Beam had worked an inning and two thirds in Columbus on Friday and that it might not have been the best idea to have a kid called up to the majors for the first time in his life throw on a second consecutive day after having had to pack and fly to Washington overnight? I'm just sayin' . . .
Update: Take Kevin Thompson off that list. He's just been optioned to Columbus to allow the Yankees to add Jose Veras, another 25-year-old making his major league debut, to the roster. With Kyle Farnsworth out with back spasms, but not far enough gone to require a DL stay, and with everyone else other than Ron Villone having pitched yesterday (though Matt Smith and Mike Myers combined to throw just nine pitches--seems Smith just might be a LOOGY after all), the Yanks needed to add an arm to their pen. Not needing a DH for the next four days, the least-active player on their bench was the one they felt they could get rid of.
Here's what I wrote about Veras in the spring:
The big Dominican rose to triple-A as a starter in the Devil Rays' organization, only to struggle in two seasons bouncing between the rotation and bullpen in Durham at age 22 and 23. After signing a minor league deal with the Rangers organization, he made a marked improvement as a pure reliever in 2005 despite moving to the hitting-heavy Pacific Coast League, increasing his K-rate to an impressive 10.51/9IP, dropping his hit rate to almost exactly one per inning, cutting his homer rate almost in half, and shaving nearly a run and a half off his ERA. Still, there's plenty of room for improvement remaining, especially in his 4.82 BB/9. Then there's the matter of avoiding regression. Curiously, when Veras signed with the Yankees, he made it sound like he'd be replacing Tom Gordon.
Well, Veras did improve on that walk rate with Columbus this year, walking just 3.55 men per nine with the Clippers while continuing to strike out more than a man per inning and allow less one hit per frame. I remain dubious about Veras's ability to get the job done in the majors, but can't really complain about the Yankees giving him a look (then again, click that LOOGY link and check out Veras's splits below Smith's, seems the righty Veras just might be a LOOGY too . . . right-handed Dominican LOOGY with a history of control problems? Those are unwelcome reminders of Felix Rodriguez). The only bummer is that Thompson can't be recalled on Friday when the Yankees return to AL rules and will thus need to expand their bench back to the bare minimum of four men because optioned players have to spend ten days in the minors before they can be recalled. This could mean the return of Kevin Reese, the arrival of Carlos Peña, or, say it ain't so, the return of Terrence Long, who has been producing for the Clippers since clearing waivers. Whomever it is, one assumes that if Farnsworth is able to avoid the DL, Beam, Veras and maybe even Smith will have a very small window in which to prove they belong. But no pressure, guys.