The Yankees have been playing regular season baseball for just over a week now, going 4-4 in their first eight games. We've seen some good games in the early going, and we've seen a couple of tough losses -- like the 14-5 blowout against the Baltimore Orioles yesterday -- leaving us with quite a few things for me to talk about. Here are some thoughts after just a week of play:
Never nervous Yangervis: Probably the best story coming out of the Bronx right now is the hot start Yangervis Solarte is off to right now. A 26-year-old that had bounced around a couple of organizations before landing with the Yankees this winter, he finally got to make his major league debut in the second game of the season and he's making the most of his opportunity.
He's played in seven of the Yankees' eight games so far, hitting a team-high .458 (11-for-24), with a major league leading six doubles to this point. He's also driven in seven runs, which also leads the team.
It's funny to think that he almost didn't even make the team out of spring training. It seems almost a lock that Eduardo Nunez would make the club mostly because he was on the 40-man roster coming into camp, but Solarte outplayed Nunez in the spring, and it wasn't even close. The Yanks took a chance on him, and it's worked out very well, as Solarte is hitting the ball just was well as he did down in Florida.
More importantly, with Mark Teixeira going on the DL, it's given Joe Girardi more of a reason to keep him in the lineup for a little longer.
Originally, the plan would have been to platoon Solarte with Kelly Johnson at third base, but now with Teixeira down, Johnson will get to play a lot more first base, leaving Solarte by himself over at third. The Yankees might have been worried about that happening, not knowing what Solarte would do on a daily basis, but now that he's mashing the ball, it seems like a goo thing for the club.
It should be mentioned, though, that Solarte just got his first big league hit at 26-years-old this past week. It took him a while to get to the majors, so we'll have to see is this hitting streak can last for a few more weeks.
Injury bug not quite gone yet: The Yankees have already had to place three players on the DL in the past week and a half.
Infielder Brendan Ryan was placed on the DL with what the Yanks are calling a nerve injury in his back. Ryan has been out of commission since March 4th, and hasn't been doing any type of baseball work in the past couple weeks. Even when he does begin doing stuff, he'll basically have to start spring training all over again to make up for the lost at-bats. He's expected to be back sometime in early May, at the earliest.
The Yankees have been able to make up for his loss with Dean Anna and Solarte, as I mentioned above, is player pretty well. Ryan was suppose to be Derek Jeter's backup at shortstop, but that spot is currently being filled by Anna.
Teixeira is on the 15-day DL with a Grade 1 hamstring strain, the least serious of the injury. The Yanks have made up for his loss by giving Johnson most of the reps at first base, while also using Francisco Cervelli over there, as they did Tuesday. I might be safe to say that Teixeira's days as a presence in the middle of the lineup are over, but he would easily be a better bet than Johnson or Cervelli over at first base, especially considering neither has ever spent much time at the position in their careers.
I mentioned this above, too, but Teixeira going on the DL and needing Johnson to play more first base gives more at-bats to Solarte, and they need him in the lineup with the way he's hitting.
And then there's David Robertson, maybe the most effective injury of them all. Robertson's injury leaves a big hole in the bullpen, and even though the relievers are doing their jobs so far, it's still really hurts the pen to lose Robertson.
As we saw yesterday, Girardi didn't want to have to use his bullpen in a game that was pretty much over early on, so he left Vidal Nuno out there to absorb most of the damage. Being that he threw 67 pitches, he'll be out for a couple of days, so the Yankees sent down Austin Romine to call up Shane Greene this afternoon, adding another arm to the pen.
Hopefully Robertson is able to come back in the minimum 15 days, because the bullpen is a better place when he's closing, Shawn Kelley is the setup man, the everybody else is wroking from the 7th inning downward.
Starting pitchers start off on a struggle: We're almost two turns through the starting rotation, and I must say, the Yankees' starting pitchers could have been a lot better in their first or first two starts of the year.
CC Sabathia looked terrible in his Opening Day start against the Houston Astros, but looked a lot better against the Blue Jays this past Sunday until giving up three runs in the 6th inning. He's clearly not an ace anymore, but if he can pitch the way he did during the spring, when his pitches looked sharp, he was commanding the strikezone, and velocity was an afterthought, he can still be a good starter.
Hiroki Kuroda has battled through two starts, we can say that, but he hasn't looked like the 2013 Kuroda that was one of the best pitchers in baseball for most of the season. I'm sure he'll get things on the right track, however, because he's a pro and knows what he's doing, and how to fix things.
Nova, he's bee disappointing. Especially yesterday, giving up seven runs in 3.2 innings. The Yankees expect a lot out of him this showing after showing a lot of potential in the second half of last season. Again, it can't be said that he won't turn things around, but for a young pitcher, it's more important for him to do so more than an experienced veteran like Kuroda.
Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. What's there to be picky about? Tanaka made his major league debut against the Blue Jays on Saturday and looked great. The Yankees gave him a lead, and he worked with it all the way to victory. He's making his Yankee Stadium debut tonight against the Orioles, and I expect that to be quite the show. And with Pineda, he's been away from the majors for two year, so anything he does now, you should just be glad he's healthy.
However, the one thing about this group of starters that has really impressive me the most -- and I guess it can be said about the pitching staff as a whole -- is that they're not walking anybody.
Through eight games, Yankees starters have walked just seven batters through 46.2 innings -- and five of those walks are Nova's. The pitching staff altogether was walked 18 in 69 innings this season.
That just shows how well the pitchers are throwing strikes, and keeping the ball near the strikezone, which can help and hurt you at the same time, though. Either way, I like it, and hope that continues as the season goes on.