After scoring 15 runs on opening night, the Yankees have scored a total of eight in losing their last three games. But as tempting as it might be to point to a team-wide offensive slump, the fact of the matter is that they've simply run into some outstanding pitching. Rich Harden, Dan Haren, Justin Duchscherer, Huston Street, Kelvim Escobar, Scot Sheilds and Francisco Rodriguez are some of the best pitchers in the American League. Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera are the only Yankee hurlers who could crack that line-up and Rivera, shamefully, has yet to throw a pitch this season. It's no wonder the Yanks are 1-3. The good news is that Randy Johnson will take the ball tonight looking to stop the Yankees' losing streak. The bad news is that the pitcher he's facing is the promising Ervin Santana, who was the winning pitcher in relief in Game 5 of last year's ALDS. Truth be told, I'd take the 23-year-old Santana over any member of the Yankee rotation other than Johnson himself.
In other news, Wil Nieves was designated for assignment yesterday to make room for new third-string catcher Koyie Hill, who joined the Yankees in Anahiem last night. Nieves will now have to pass through waivers in order to remain in the organization and report to Columbus. All of this proves that Nieves only made the opening day roster because he was out of options and the Yankees didn't think they could afford to lose him to waivers, which should tell you something about how dire the organizational catching situation is. With Hill in the fold, however, the Yankees can afford to expose Nieves, and if Nieves clears, they can then risk exposing Hill, thus opening up that final roster spot for a more deserving player such as Ramiro Mendoza or one of the Kevins. Indeed, DFAing Nieves removes him from the 40-man roster, which means there's now an open spot on the 40-man for Mendoza, who could replace Jaret Wright in the bullpen once Wright is needed in the rotation.
Odds are Nieves won't be claimed, but it will be interesting to see what the Yankees do if he is. One fears the loss of Nieves could freeze Hill on the 25-man for the forseable future, which would be a dreadful waste of a roster spot unles Joe Torre uses the situation to DH Posada on days he doesn't catch. Still, the fact that Hill fell all the way to the Yankees (the Angels and White Sox are the only teams that don't have waiver priority over the Yankees when it comes to wavied National Leaguers, though that will change on the 30th day of the season, at which point this year's standings will be used to determine the waiver order) strongly suggests that there are no other teams out there desperate for a triple-A catcher with out a past or a future. The Yankees should should just suck it up and DFA Hill either way, besides which, they can always withdraw him from waivers and return him to the 25-man roster if he is claimed.
Finally, Joe Torre made the first of what I expect will be several small tweaks to his batting order last night. I've not said much about Torre's bizzare choice to pair up the four lefties in his line-up, placing Giambi and Matsui and Cano and Damon back-to-back, in part because I didn't expect it to last. Indeed, starting last night, Torre has swapped Cano and Bernie Williams in the order, thus using the switch-hitting Williams to break-up the left-handed Cano and Damon. Torre said he made the move because Cano was swinging the bat better than Bernie. That's encouraging because it indicates that Torre is capable of recognizing that Williams, who is now batting ninth, is the worst hitter in his lineup.