The Yankees have placed 1B Luke Voit on the 10-day injured list with an abdominal strain. New York has also sent down RHP Chance Adams and called up LHP Nestor Cortes Jr. and 1B/DH Mike Ford.
The Voit move is retroactive to June 30, meaning he will be eligible to return on July 10, the day after the All-Star Game. Therefore, Voit could just miss this week’s games, though the team will inevitably be cautious with his injury suffered during London Series Game 1.
Voit has proven himself to be more than a one-hit wonder this season with a .901 OPS that likely deserved more All-Star consideration in a weak year for AL first basemen. The injury almost certainly knocks him out of Home Run Derby consideration.
The IL move allows the team to bring back Cortes before he’s been down in Triple-A for 10 days on his option. Cortes saw an excellent outing against the Red Sox fall apart in London when he faced the second time through the order, but the southpaw has been a revelation for New York as the bulk guy in opener games. (Shameless Plug: Wrote about him for YESNetwork.com last week, so you can check that out.)
Meanwhile, Ford has been raking in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with a .318/.426/.650 batting line and 19 home runs to lead the RailRiders. He was set to play in next week’s Triple-A All-Star Game as well as participating in their Home Run Derby, though he’ll surely take the time in the Majors over that opportunity.
The first baseman spent a few weeks in the Show from April to May and showed his prodigious eye at the plate with eight walks in 37 plate appearances. Overall, he hit .179/.378/.321 with one homer in 10 games, his first appearance in the Major Leagues.
Adams allowed four runs in 2/3 innings in Sunday’s 12-8 Yankee victory over the Red Sox after getting called up for Cortes.
Well, the Kendrys Morales experiment continues to be interesting. Let’s go with interesting. The Yankees announced today that they put Morales on the 10-day IL, retroactive to 6/12. He has a left calf strain. They’ve called up Nestor Cortes Jr. and Mike Tauchman as corresponding roster moves.
Morales is hitting .194/.313/.253 (64 wRC+) on the year. The Yanks called up two players because they sent both Chance Adams (26th man for the doubleheader) and Stephen Tarpley back to AAA two days ago.
Starting Pitcher: RHP Chance Adams: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HBP, 4/3 GB/FB — 47 of his 73 pitches (64%) were strikes … First start since picking up his first MLB win Saturday in KC … Picked up six swings and misses … His Triple-A ERA is down to 4.00.
In Relief: LHP Danny Coulombe: 1 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 2/0 GB/FB — The former Oakland A’s reliever was a bit wild but effective … Was relieved by RHP David Sosebee, who threw 1 1/3 scoreless frames.
Hitting Star: 1B Mike Ford: 2-for-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 K — Showed off that Ivy League Player of the Year power with a three-run jack.
On Deck: 2B Tyler Wade: 2-for-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB — First homer of the season for the infielder.
Other Notables: 3B Breyvic Valerastayed hot with an RBI single, going 1-for-3 with a run scored and two walks … CF Mike Tauchmanwas 3-for-4 with a walk, run and RBI … DH Brad Millerhad a hit and two RBI.
Starting Pitcher: RHP Albert Abreu: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 WP, 5/7 GB/FB — 55 of 84 pitches (66%) were strikes … This was easily Abreu’s best outing in Double-A … Lowers his ERA to 4.11 … Topped out at 100 mph in the fourth inning, according to the Trentonian’s Greg Johnson.
In Relief: RHPs Brooks Kriste and Domingo Acevedo each had scoreless innings of relief … Each didn’t give up a hit or walk and got two groundouts … Kriste’s fifth save while lowering his ERA to 1.93.
Hitting Star: 2B Hoy Jun Park: 3-for-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI — A pair of RBI singles gave Trenton all the runs they needed … Is now batting .324 with an .874 OPS
On Deck: LF Zack Zehner: 2-for-3, 1 BB, 1 K — Also had a sacrifice bunt.
More to know: 0-for-4 with two strikeouts forSS Kyle Holder.
Starting Pitcher: RHP Shawn Semple: 5 1/3 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 4/5 GB/FB — 57 of his 86 pitches (57%) were strikes … 2017 11th-round pick … Had allowed 12 runs in his last 8 2/3 innings over two starts.
In Relief: RHP Brady Lail: 2 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HR 3/3 GB/FB — Allowed a go-ahead two-run homer to Pirates No. 10 overall pick Travis Swaggerty.
Through three unique and weird games, the Yankees are 3-0 while using the opener strategy. They’re 4-0 if you go back to Jonathan Holder’s opener debut last season. (Some might consider this 2017 win a precursor to the opener, but it was more of a bullpen game with no defined bulk pitcher).
In 2019, two things have tied together the Yankees’ opener games: Chad Green to start and a bulk of runs by the end. Outside of that, the Bombers have used three different bulk pitchers, three different ending strategies and beaten three different teams.
Before we get into the actual pitching, it’s important to emphasize the offense: The Yankees have averaged eight runs per game and put up at least five in all three of these outings. That takes a tremendous burden off the pitcher when the offense is scoring with great fervor.
Let’s get into the early returns on the opener strategy in the Bronx, even though the Bombers won’t need one this weekend anymore.
Green’s the right opener… when he’s right
Assuming the Yankees are going to keep their Fab Four relievers at the end of games, they have two real options for openers: Green and Holder. While Holder has been OK this season, Green would be the ideal option. He’s shown the ability to be an elite late-inning reliever when right.
His most recent opening act was vintage Green. On Memorial Day against the Padres, the right-hander needed just 14 pitches to dispatch with the top third of the Friars’ nine, striking out all three batters. Derek will get into Green’s post-MiLB-trip performance later today, but this was the best of Green, getting swings and misses with both his fastball and slider.
Green hasn’t had the same dominance in his other “starts.” He allowed three hits to the Royals while giving up two home runs to the bottom half of the Rays’ lineup. Welp.
While Monday’s game was encouraging, we don’t quite know what the real Green looks like right now. If he’s right, then he can be the ideal opener.
The Bulk Guys
The Yankees have used three “bulk guys”: Nestor Cortes Jr., Chance Adams and David Hale. Cortes had the shakiest of the three outings, going in and out of trouble against the Rays and giving up a long three-run homer. Still, he may have had the hardest offense to face and subsequently looked better in mop-up duty against the Royals.
Adams similarly gave up three runs, though it would almost all be attributable to poor defense with Brett Gardner losing the ball in the KC lights and Clint Frazier … struggling in right. His ability to keep a grip on the game despite the miscues behind him was impressive for the rookie, even if he uses the wrong warmup music.
Meanwhile, Hale had a rough inning, just like the other two, before retiring 10 straight Friars to end his outing. He picked up five swings and misses combined on his two-seamer, changeup and curveball while gaining efficiency as the outing went on.
With Adams starting in Scranton on Thursday Friday, Hale would have been the likely bulk guy this weekend. The rainout eliminates the need for one.
Super bullpen shortening game
In each of these opener games, the bulk guy has gotten the game through the fifth inning, though none of them have completed the sixth. They haven’t had to: The Yankees can basically cut off the game after the fifth if the opener keeps game tight or hands them lead. From there, it’s Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman in some order.
Since that foursome has been taxed heavily, Jonathan Holder has also gotten some run in closing out opener-started games. Can you imagine how short the games can be once Dellin Betances is back? Woah.
The other option for ending an opener game is using a second mop-up reliever. That’s how the “start” against the Rays ended after a seven-run sixth inning allowed Adams to earn a three-inning save. Having the second mop-up guy allows the main bullpen arms to rest and then gives the Yankees an option to shuffle between available Triple-A arms.
Born by necessity, not choice
The Yankees toyed with using the opener by their own volition before the year with potential openers for Domingo Germán and Jonathan Loaisiga. Yankees tossed that idea aside and Germán hasn’t looked back: He has allowed one run in 10 first innings after having an 8.36 ERA in the first last year. Loaisiga, meanwhile, struggled to give the Yankees length in his few starts.
Concurrent injuries to James Paxton, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino and Loaisiga gave the Yankees just three starters for a short period and required the improvising that the 2018 Rays underwent. With Tampa’s blueprint easy to follow, the Yankees jumped on it. Fortunately, with Paxton and Sabathia back, the opener can be put in the bag for the time being.
If Yankees sign Dallas Keuchel or acquire another starter before July 31, there’s strong chance we don’t see opener until their pair of August doubleheaders. Severino’s pending return lessens the need for an opener further. Still, New York will have plenty of options for “bulk guys” and could have more if Jordan Montgomery or Loaisiga return to health.
The strategy has been successful in large part due to the offense, but it also has simply spared the bullpen in a bizarre stretch full of doubleheaders. It may still be a bad look for baseball with no normal starter, but it’s worked in a small sample for the Yanks.