A series in which the Yankees initially had to contend with the two good starting pitchers on a bad team has taken a fortuitous turn. The Yankees scored nine runs off Erik Bedard last night and Felix Hernandez has been scratched from his start today due to continued soreness from a right calf cramp he experienced during his last start. Instead, the Yankees will face Carlos Silva a day early and Hernandez will pitch against the Red Sox on Monday. Seems things are finally starting to break the Yankees' way this season.
Silva's always been a punching bag for the Yankees and enters this afternoon's contest with a 9.62 ERA in five career starts against the Bombers. Silva's faced the Yankees once every year since 2004, and the only start in which he gave up fewer runs than innings pitched came back in 2005, the best overall season of his career. Today marks Silva's second start of the year against the Yankees. In the last, he gave up eight runs in three innings including back-to-back home runs to Robinson Cano and Melky Cabrera which account for a third of the home runs he's allowed all season. Jarrod Washburn and his 6.99 ERA will go tomorrow as the M's take advantage of this past Monday's off day by moving Silva and Washburn up to normal rest.
Mike Mussina starts against Silva today. Moose broke a string of five great starts on Tuesday by turning in with the worst start of his career. The upside is that he only threw 41 pitches, thus enabling him to come back on three-day's rest to give tomorrow's starter, Chien-Ming Wang, suffering from a sore right calf of his own, an extra day off. Better still, Moose will be backed up by the second extended relief outing in Joba Chamberlain's conversion back to starting. If Moose goes five or six, you can expect Chamberlain to follow him into the game and pitch two or three frames, with the Yankees looking for a slight increase on the 35 pitches Joba threw in his last outing.
After three games against lefty starters motivating three starts by Shelley Duncan, the Yankee lineup against the righty Silva resets to it's default position.
Poking around the other blogs, there's some buzz about some upcoming roster moves. Wilson Betemit is eligible to return from the DL on Monday and will likely do so on schedule as he's playing rehab games with Scranton right now. Meanwhile, Jason Lane has an out in his contract that would allow him to become a free agent at the end of the month, which is now a week away. Finally, with Jorge Posada increasing his workouts and hoping for an early June return, Chad Moeller is trying engage Jose Molina in a battle for the backup job.
Pete Abe and Chad Jennings both wonder if Morgan Ensberg will make it to June in pinstripes. Pete thinks Ensberg, not Alberto Gonazalez, should be the one to go when Betemit returns. Jennings reports that Betemit is scheduled to start at second base today and thus assumes Gonzalez is the goner when Wilson returns, but wonders if Lane might take Ensberg's spot before that out in his contract comes due. Steve Lombardi contemplates Moeller-Molina.
Taking the last first, Moeller is 3 for his last 10, all singles and no walks, is hitting .255/.314/.362 on the season and is a career .225/.285/.347 hitter in the majors. Jose Molina is 3 for his last 13 with a double, but no walks, is hitting .205/.220/.307 on the season and is a career .240/.275/.342 hitter in the major leagues. Behind the plate, Moeller has thrown out 4 of 14 basestealers, allowed no passed balls, and committed two errors. In twice as many innings, Molina has thrown out 12 of 21 basestealers, allowed three passed balls, and comitted one error. The Yankees can't keep Molina if he's going to post a .220 OBP, but Moeller's not exactly tearing the cover off the ball. It's a situation worth watching, but things could change considerably before Posada's ready to return.
As for Lane, he has ten home runs and 31 RBIs for Scranton, but is hitting just .247 with a correspondingly low .333 on-base percentage. He's also still extremely redundant on a team with Shelley Duncan. Still, Lane's hit .274/.379/.521 in May with four homers and as many walks as Ks (11 of each in 21 games), and Morgan Ensberg is giving Molina a run for his money with a .205/.266/.247 season line which drops to .167/.242/.167 if you erase his first four appearances of the season. Ensberg is nice to have around so that the team can rest both Rodriguez and Jeter in blowouts, but that's not enough of a reason to keep a player who's otherwise useless. Ensberg hit .230/.320/404 between the Astros and Padres last year. That's a damn sight better than what he's doing this year and a damn sight better than Lane has hit in the major leagues since 2005, but it's still not enough to motivate his continued presence on the roster if there are viable alternatives given his performance thus far.
Alberto Gonzalez is hitting .214/.283/.262 on the season and is carrying a 13-at-bat hitless streak into today's game (he's walked once in that span). Gonzalez has yet to prove he can hit at triple-A. Then again, prior to his current slump he was hitting .310/.375/.379 over 12 major league games, and, unlike Ensberg, is a player the Yankees believe has a future with the franchise.
Given all of that, I'd give Ensberg another week to snap out of it, then give Lane his spot on the roster if he doesn't. Meanwhile, I'd option Gonzalez in favor of the activated Betemit and let Gonzalez get his feet under him at triple-A. If Lane scuffles as bad as Betemit and Gonzalez hits for Scranton, you can alway bring the Attorney General back up and pass Lane through waivers (which Ensberg is likely to do as well).