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And Now For Something Completely Different
2008-05-21 20:26
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

The Yankees didn't just break a four-game losing streak last night, they stomped the Orioles, cruising to a lopsided win for the first time since they beat the Mariners 8-2 on May 4, more than two weeks ago. Darrell Rasner and Joba Chamberlain combined to recorded just the third Yankee shutout of the season and first since April 27, while five Yankees had multi hit games (led by Alex Rodriguez, who went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a solo homer) as the Bombers scored eight runs for just the fifth time all season and first time since that May 4 game against Seattle.

Rasner, who is now 3-0 in as many starts, was nails, retiring the first eight Orioles in order, striking out a career-best six men, and allowing only that many to reach base while using up only 95 pitches in his seven scoreless innings. Rasner has walked two men in his three big-league starts this season, has a 1.89 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and is averaging 6 1/3 innings per start. What makes that all the more impressive is that he was even better in his five triple-A starts before being called up, going 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, and averaging 6 2/3 IP/GS. Darrell Rasner isn't this good, but I've long believed he's a legitimate back-of-the-rotation starter. At this moment, he's the Yankees best starter. Not bad for a pitcher who was claimed off waivers while still in double-A two years ago and then slipped through waivers this past offseason and wasn't even on the 40-man roster until he was called up in early May. Heck, Rasner was skipped the last time through the rotation (I'm still trying to figure that one out).

That's the great thing about Rasner. He's so dull, you barely even notice him. He doesn't have any eye-popping pitches. He dominated the Orioles last night, but never looked dominating. He just mixes his four pitches, throws strikes, and works fast. Before you notice he's pitching, he's back in the dugout. Even his post-game interviews are impossible to pay attention to. All of that makes the nickname Shelley Duncan used for him while introducing the Yankee lineup on FOX a couple of Saturday's ago perfectly inappropriate: "Razzmatazz" it is. Razzle Dazzle 'em, Mister Cellophane.

By the way, that game for which Rasner was called up in early May was that May 4 game against the Mariners. Though he's needed just seven runs total to win his three starts, Rasner has received an average of seven runs of support per game, making him just about the best thing to happen to the Yankees this year. Last night, the offense in support of Rasner drew five walks and bounced left-handed Baltimore starter Gregg Garrett Olson in the third inning after plating six men and making Olson throw 79 pitches. Queens native Dennis Sarfate, part of the Miguel Tejada booty from Houston, shut things down for a couple of frames after that, but the Yanks pounced on subsequent reliever Lance Cormier for two more tallies in the sixth.

Both of those sixth-inning runs should have come on Alex Rodriguez's second home run of the game (his third in his two games since returning from the DL), but, in an echo of the botched Carlos Delgado home run call on Sunday, the umpires erroneously ruled Rodriguez's hit, which bounced off the yellow stairs in front of the right field bleachers, a double. Rodriguez seemed a bit too concerned about the extra two bases with one out in the sixth inning of a 7-0 game, but a passed ball and an RBI groundout from Shelley Duncan got Alex home with the final run of the Yankees 8-0 victory.

So the Yankees got what they'd been desperate for, not just a win, but a clean, crisp victory with errorless play on the bases and in the field and dominating performances on both sides of the ball. What could possibly overshadow a win like that?

How about the Yankees officially starting the process of turning Joba Chamberlain back into a starter?

Yup. It's official. Joba Chamberlain finished last night's game by throwing 35 pitches over two shutout innings, allowing a single and two walks and striking out three. According to Joba, four or five of those pitches were changeups, which is more than he threw in the majors all of last season. Immediately after the game, Joe Girardi admitted to the YES Network's Kim Jones on the field, "the process has started." Despite extensive questioning in his office, however, Girardi didn't offer many more details.

Right now it sounds like the Yankees will work to extend Joba in the majors, using him in multi-inning relief assignments, though not necessarily as a mop-up man. Girardi mentioned possibly using Joba in a multi-inning set-up role for the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, but wouldn't specify the rate at which his pitch counts and innings would increase. Girardi did say that Joba's days to pitch would be somewhat predetermined, and implied that the process of converting him all the way to a starting assignment could take a month or more. He did not, however, comment on the need to complete the process with a minor league assignment.

Girardi was specific in saying that the decision to begin Chamberlain's return to the rotation now was entirely based on the organization's pre-season accounting of his target innings total, and has nothing to do with the emergent need created by the struggles of and injuries to the team's original five starters.

Speaking of which, Chien-Ming Wang had an MRI on his right calf and was diagnosed with what Girardi called "a mild, mild strain." He's not expected to miss his next turn, but could get bumped to Sunday with Mike Mussina, who only threw 41 pitches in his last start, going on short rest.

As for who will take over Chamberlain's eighth-inning role, Girardi troublingly praised Kyle "Four-Bagger" Farnsworth's work thus far this year, but if you look over the team's Baseball-Reference page, Edwar Ramirez's zero runs allowed, 0.90 WHIP, and 11 Ks in ten big league innings this season jump off the page and compare favorably to the 11 1/3 innings that put Brian Bruney in the seventh-inning role before he broke his foot. Ramirez hasn't been used in anything approaching a close game thus far and, in fact, has pitched in only one Yankee win, but given his performance thus far, it's time for the Yankees to start using him in some high-leverage situations.

Comments
2008-05-22 03:36:27
1.   williamnyy23
I think the early prep for Joba is a concession to the Yankees poor start. Basically, if the Yankees fall out of it, they will probably transition Joba to the rotation asap. If they climb back into it, however, I have a feeling they will keep him in the bullpen, especially if Moose and Rasner continue to pitch well (you have to assume IPK's tenuous spot would got back to a healthy Hughes).
2008-05-22 04:27:47
2.   JL25and3
He's so dull, you barely even notice him.

I thought the same thing last night. Rasner reminded me very much of Tommy John. Economical motion that's not only effortless but entirely colorless. Pitches that don't move too fast or too much - a little this way or that way, a couple of mph more or less, harmless-looking pitches that result in harmless-looking outs.

2008-05-22 05:06:57
3.   ms october
1 i'm sure the poor start played a part - but this move is a long term move at heart - for joba to be a starter the process obviously has to start at sometime - this is probably about when the process should start anyway in order to keep him within his inning cap but also allow him to reach his inning minimums to be able to get closer to pitching a full season as a starter next year

2 i don't mean this statement as a knock rasner - because he has done a great job in his 3 starts and i don't think it is a fluke - but "harmless-looking pitches that result in harmless-looking outs" is what we think when the yanks aren't hitting who we we think they should be hitting - is that how orioles fans felt last night?

2008-05-22 05:17:31
4.   OldYanksFan
So do we just attribute Raz's success to RCNB (random chaotic natural of baseball)?
Iggy threw strikes and got pounded.
Last outing, IPK threw strikes and was hit hard.
So did Raz happen to pitch 19 IPs where the opposition was constipated?
Baseball is such a weird, unpredictable game.

Seattle and the O's are both weak hitting teams. Whom was his other start against? (Notice the use of 'whom').

1 I disagree William. While there might have been some leeway in exactly when the 'Joba Transition' took place, the Yankees main goal here is for Joba to hit his IP limit, 145, or whatever it is. They are not gonna screw with him just to try and squeeze in 2 or 3 additional starts.

Any news on Bruney? Any news on Phil? Do we know when he is expected back? How about Po?

2008-05-22 05:19:07
5.   Rob Middletown CT
Good for Rasner (and the Yanks, obviously). He's had some bad luck, was (inexplicably, IMO) buried behind the likes of Jeff Karstens on the depth chart, etc. He's finally on a roll. I love the work fast/throw strikes thing, and I really hope Kennedy has been watching.
2008-05-22 05:19:57
6.   Bagel Boy
1 I disagree completely. The Yanks, as an organization, are transitioning to a younger squad this year and next year, regardless of the consequences. Joba is a part of that (as was, of course, the Santana non-deal). He's a starter through and through and this is the year to get him close to 140 innings. The only way to do that is to get him starting soon. With Mussina and Pettitte likely gone next year, they have four slots in the 2009 rotation to fill behind Wang. Best to figure out now who that's going to be. If they win in the process, great. If not, so what? We seen four world championships. I can deal with one youth movement studded with studs.
2008-05-22 05:26:31
7.   Alex Belth
"He's so dull, you barely even notice him."

Great call, Cliff. So true. That's why the game is so rewarding. Because guys with "stuff" aren't always the best guys. You look at Farnsworth or AJ Burnett, or even J. Verlander (who I hope will bounce back) and you don't know how they could ever lose based on stuff.

Got to like the boring guys.

Word to Eddie Lopat!

2008-05-22 05:31:03
8.   ms october
4
rasner's other start was detroit
will be intersting to see how he does with back to back starts aganist the o's

posada might begin a rehab assignment the middle of next week

http://tinyurl.com/5bn278

2008-05-22 05:37:02
9.   ChrisS
4 I don't think so. I think Rasner might hide the ball a little better with a more consistent delivery (i.e., each of his four pitches come from the same arm angle). Igawa goes out there throwing a here-it-is-hit-it fastball at 90 up and over the plate, which ML hitters naturally do.

Kennedy is still young (Rasner has been around awhile) and it'll take a little bit to discover that ML hitters are the same as AAA hitters, but at they same time they're better. Meaning that although ML hitters are the very best at hitting a baseball, they're still prone to failing 70% of the time.

2008-05-22 06:01:38
10.   Bagel Boy
9 Problem is, they fail just a bit differently - causing problems for youngsters. I'm still shocked that a guy like Masterson can get smacked around by the Trenton lineup then, in his next start, pitch shutout ball in the majors. There's a learning curve, no doubt. I hope they don't waste any of Joba's innings in AAA. Learn on the job. At the rate this season is going, they won't have much to play for any ways.
2008-05-22 06:10:15
11.   Alex Belth
I got an e-mail from Cliff this morning about the audio misque from the game last night. When Ken Singleton mentioned Terry Crowley, all of a sudden, Earl Weaver's infamous audio prank could be heard over the air, including a curse word (the prank was filthy with them). I thought I was having an acid flashback, so I was relieved that Cliff heard it too. If you want to hear the entire tirade, plus Lee Elia's great rant, Goose Gossage's "fat man" spiel and a bunch of classics from Tommy Lasorda (including the Kingman three home run rip, without the bleeps), go over to alexelth.com, and go to music and scroll down to the bottom to the "Awww, Nutzo" section.
2008-05-22 06:14:55
12.   tommyl
4 7 Command, command, command. Rasner hits his spots, he moves the ball in and out effectively and changes planes. All of that combines to disrupt the batters eye level and balance, so even when they do make contact, its often not on a solid, in balance swing. Igawa has no command, zero. He leaves almost every ball up in the zone, and over the middle. The occasional ball up is fine if you're moving stuff around, but if you throw it there every time you are going to get pounded, even if you throw 100. I keep beating this somewhat dead horse, but I really believe stuff is secondary to command at the major league level. Every hitter up in the show can hit a 95mph fastball down the middle. They pretty much can all hit a curveball over the middle. What they all can't do is hit a fastball on the black at any speed, or a curveball breaking out of the zone. Watch Moose's starts. When he's on, its because he's hitting his spots, whatever the speed of his "fast"ball is. When Mo is off for his one week or so a year its because his command is off and balls start drifting more over the middle.

IPKs problems lately are somewhat different. He seems prone to either big innings or stringing together a few too many mistakes in a row. That's a learning thing. I'm very encouraged by Rasner (though I don't kid myself into thinking he's really this good). If a guy can bounce around, be picked up off waivers, go up and down, come back from injuries and be an effective ML starter at 27, I feel less rushed with IPK and Hughes. With them actually transitioning Joba, I'm happy with this season so far. I want them to win now, but I'd much rather see them build the foundation for a new dynasty. Makes the early season losses much easier to take.

2008-05-22 06:34:47
13.   RIYank
Forty-six years ago today Roger Maris set an MLB record by drawing four IBB. Exactly 28 years later, Andre Dawson broke that record by drawing five. Go check out Bob Timmerman's account at The Griddle. Among other interesting facts: Maris didn't draw a single IBB the previous season (which was, of course, 1961).
2008-05-22 06:39:45
14.   JL25and3
12 I think stuff and command are more or less complementary. The better the stuff, the more you can get away with occasional lapses in command. If your stuff is like Rasner's - or Igawa's - your command better be perfect.
2008-05-22 06:44:58
15.   williamnyy23
3 4 6 I wasn't saying Joba should stay in the bullpen, just that if the Yankees had been playing well, or if they start to play well soon, Joba's insertion in the rotation will come later than sooner. I still think the poor start has greased the skids a bit. I also wonder if seeing another Red Sox young arm throw a no-hitter didn't hasten things as well.

I realize the plan for Joba has for him to be a starter, but I think if the Yankees had been playing well, they would have tried to get as many bullpen innings as possible.

2008-05-22 06:53:34
16.   ChrisS
10 Yeah, that's kinda what I was trying to get at. There's a big talent gap between ML hitters and AAA hitters, but they can still be gotten out on the same stuff. That's part of the learning curve.

I think Sterling said Girardi compared Rasner to Jon Lieber in terms of attacking the zone and working quickly. If Rasner can do what Lieber does, give innings and a 4-something ERA, then I'd be mighty happy.

2008-05-22 07:03:25
17.   bp1
11 Alex - that "Awwww, Nutzo" section was freakin hysterical. Man, I just about bust a gut at the Earl Weaver rant. Geez. Thanks for pointing that out. Those are some gems.
2008-05-22 07:06:01
18.   Alex Belth
You bet.
2008-05-22 07:33:37
19.   mehmattski
11 Awful Announcing heard it too, and had a video up for a while, but now it's gone. Wish I could have seen it!
2008-05-22 08:07:59
20.   williamnyy23
11 There were two points in the game when the renegade audio appeared. After the second incident, the booth was quiet for a few seconds before Singleton started to speak. You could plainly hear suppressed laughter in his voice.
2008-05-22 08:26:47
21.   williamnyy23
11 Love the tirades...that's a young Paul Olden, former Yankee announcer, asking Tommy about Kingman's performance.

I also have audio of Lasorda during a pitching change in which he lifted Doug Rau during a World Series game. It's classic.

2008-05-22 08:38:31
22.   OldYanksFan
Our language would be very dull if not for curse words and the emotion they express.

15 William, I understand you point and still disagree. I estimated Joba would get 54 IP in the BP and then 15 starts at 6 IPs each. However, when your team is losing, your prime BP guns don't get as many IPs.

Before yesterday, he had 18 IPs in 45 games. At that rate, he was not getting the 50+ he needed for an ASB break transition. If we are going to just give him BP IPs in non-critical situations simply to get his count up, then why not move him into the rotation earlier.

If we were winning more, Joba's 7th/8th inning role would have been more important, and he would have 30+/- IPs by now.

Do you REALLY think that Cashman would allow that fact that a Red Sox pitched a no hitter to influence how he develops maybe the most important player we have had in decades? Are you serious?

The plan is to get Joba 145+/- IPs. Best use was to split him between starts and hi-leverage BP IPs. But ya gotta go with the flow, so based on the teams performance, Joba might end up with 2 or 3 more starts then originally planned.

It's why I'm glad Cash and Joe do NOT answer all questions.... because what happens is somewhat fluid based on what happens on the field, with injuries, etc.

So now, we are looking at 18 starts? or 108 IPs? He's got 20 now, so an additional 15-20 to stretch him out? over maybe 5 appearances? Over maybe the next 20+/- games?

That would get him to the rotation early-mid June. Sound about right guys?

2008-05-22 08:50:02
23.   williamnyy23
22 Then you do agree with me. My main point was the Yankees bad start has pushed the Yankees thinking about Joba up. Your analysis suggests the same.

Like or not, the Yankees and Red Sox do react to each other. I wouldn't be surprised if Hank or someone of that ilk looked at Lester and said why the hell are we waisting our comparable talent in the 8th inning...Joba should be throwing no-hitters, not getting holds".

Regardless of motive, I think the process will be deliberate and still feature a lot of high leverage bullpen work. I would be shocked to see Joba in the rotation before July. I also think the likliehood of making the playoffs will play a role. If the Yankees look out of it, they will ramp things up, but if they turn it around, then I'd expect them to throttle him back.

2008-05-22 09:05:26
24.   pistolpete
1 Didn't Maddux make an entire HOF career out of not being noticed? :)
2008-05-22 09:09:18
25.   pistolpete
24 Sorry, last post should have referred 0 .

And while I'm referring to 0 , doesn't anyone remember Edwar getting shellacked at the end of last season? I'm still very, VERY nervous about him pitching in anything resembling a pressure situation.

2008-05-22 09:25:23
26.   Sonya Hennys Tutu
25 I'm still worrying about him crying. He always has that verge of tears look to me...
2008-05-22 09:29:36
27.   SF Yanks
25 I get a bit nervous when he pitches but I think he could be something special. He can't pitch in low leverage situations forever.
2008-05-22 09:36:59
28.   horace-clarke-era
If the Joba Shift is on, then everyone best get used to messy 7th and 8th innings. This was ALWAYS going to happen, once we started steering him towards 140-50 innings. There are no happy options for set-up man on this team if Farnsworth, Ex-#21, and Edwar are the prime options. If Baltimore would only fall out of it, I'd trade for George Sherrill and give real talent for him. Oh, right, we're at least as close to falling out of it as they are.

I do disagree with Cliff as to Rodriguez being 'too concerned' about a hilariously dreadful call. I thought he made his points, he was saying that (you can lip-read A Rod very easily) the shortstop was laughing at him and the umpires, that the ball was clearly out - and it was. He didn't stomp or swear, he just knew he and the team were robbed. It would have seemed odd to me to shrug when you KNOW it was gone. I thought his approach was professional and appropriate. And more importantly - the shot was phenomenal ... didn't get it all, right center, and that - I think - is why the umps messed up. One should not be able to put that swing on that ball and hit it that far.

2008-05-22 09:57:11
29.   SF Yanks
Anyone know where I can find video of Arod's "2nd" homer? I checked yes network and yankees.com but can't find it. I missed it last night and I just want to see how they missed the call.
2008-05-22 09:59:28
30.   Bagel Boy
16 I'm totally with you. It's weird that there's a learning curve to trust your stuff, but it makes alot of sense.
2008-05-22 09:59:42
31.   SF Yanks
Nevermind. I found it on yankees.com. I just didn't look hard enough.
2008-05-22 10:02:36
32.   SF Yanks
Stupid umpires.

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