Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Time to Reflect

They say that the first real measuring stick for the success or failure of a baseball team comes on Memorial Day, roughing a quarter of the way through the regular season. For the Yankees and the expectations set for them before the season began, they have jumped above and beyond to show the non-believers that they are a competitive team. On the morning of May 29th, the Yankees are 30-21, nine games over .500, which is a great place to be coming into the month of June. They are one game out of first place, only behind the Boston Red Sox who have excelled as well. The standings on May 29th are opposite of what people in baseball believed they would be by this time in the season. The Yankees have been able to win with outstanding starting pitching from unexpected places and have also been able to get big hits in places where they are desperately needed. Players like Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner have come up huge for the Yankees in multiple big spots, with Overbay leading the pack in clutch hits. However, this season is a marathon and I don't expect the Yankees to win long term with these players that were brought to the Bronx in case of emergency.

Following the Yankees recent three game losing streak, their first such streak of the season, there may be hope on the horizon. Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis both began their rehab assignment with AA Trenton this morning and are expected to be activated off the disabled list as early as Friday, just in time for the weekend series against the Red Sox for a battle for the top spot in the division. Teixeira will need time to adjust, as he has not played in a major league game since October. For Youkilis, it is all a matter of whether or not his back is feeling good. If his back is injury-free Youkilis knows what is expected out of him. Although they have been contributing early in the season, David Adams and Lyle Overbay will need to find a spot either on the bench or in the minors. For David Adams, I see a demotion coming his way. With Youkilis coming back the Yankees don't need three third basemen, as they already have Jayson Nix as a more than capable alternative. Overbay will most certainly stay on the team, but will be a nice pinch hitter/back-up first baseman to give Teixeira a day off in the field when he first returns.

The starting pitching has really what has held the Yankees so high in the standings thus far. Even though CC Sabathia is not pitching like an ace this year, pitchers like Hiroki Kuroda and David Phelps have stepped up when the team struggles to find answers. Because of those pitchers, the load is somewhat lifted off Sabathia's shoulders. However, CC still needs to find his stride if the Yankees want to be a true contender this season. Michael Pineda is slowly making his way back to the big club after being sidelined with a shoulder injury that required surgery last spring. Andy Pettitte is nearing a return to the Bronx as well after suffering an injury to his upper shoulder/back. Francisco Cervelli had the pins from his hand removed earlier in the week, meaning he is beginning real baseball activity. Look for Cervelli to return in the middle of June to give the Yankees more options behind the plate.

The Yankees relief situation has really been great this year, despite the bullpen blowing both leads late in the games over the past two days. The duo of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera have been a lethal combination for opposing batters this year, as most of the time they are left shaking their heads on their way back to the dugout. Joba Chamberlain who went on the DL two weeks ago is nearing a return as early as today. Aside from the best two relievers, Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne have been better than anyone would have hoped early on in the season. Kelley is striking batters out at an incredible pace and Claiborne is as cool as a cucumber despite pitching only a handful of innings in the Major Leagues.

Overall, the Yankees have been able to overcome the plethora of injuries that they have sustained early in the season but their holes are beginning to show. They are not scoring as many runs and are not winning as consistently as they were early on in the season. The timing of the returns of Teixeira and Youkilis couldn't have come at a better time, as the Yankees are in desperate need of an offensive spark to get the team going again.

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