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May 22, 2006

Treading Water
by SG

The injuries continue to pile up, and with it have come losses that you can't help but think might have had different outcomes if the Yankees weren't forced to bat Kelly Stinnett in key moments. Unfortunately, you can't do much about injuries, although you could try to build depth on your team to mitigate against them. That is where the Yankees have failed recently. There is no excuse for a team with the highest payroll in baseball to not even have a replacement level bench. However, right now, that's where the Yankees are. Part of it is the ridiculous need to carry 13 pitchers, which makes no sense on any level, but the bigger part of it is just overspending on the starting nine and basically ignoring the complementary pieces, as well as a distrust of players who are not "proven veterans", but whose minor league track records indicate potential to be cheap and useful pieces if given a a fair chance.

While missing the starting LF, RF and C are big issues, the starters who remain are also picking the worst time to slump. Since Matsui went out, here are some lines from some Yankee starters:

Giambi .143/.342/.179
Rodriguez .275/.356/.475
Cano .282/.326/.308

If not for Derek Jeter hitting .357/.400/.548 over this stretch, who knows how bad the Yankees would be.

The series with the Mets was an odd one, in that the Yankees could very easily have been swept, or could have swept. I did not expect the Yankees to take more than one out of three, so the end result matched my intuition. Now, they just have to do the same over the next three games against Boston. Taking one of the three games allows them to be 2.5 games out of first on the weekend, at which point it's possible Gary Sheffield will be back. A sweep would have them 4.5 games back, and more likely to panic and do something dumb.

There was a lot of roster churn and injury news over the weekend, some of it potentially good, some of it asinine and stupid.

1) Yankees placed RHP Shawn Chacon on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to May 17, with a bruised left leg.
I'm glad there was a physical explanation for Chacon's struggles last time out. Hopefully he shouldn't be out too long. Aaron Small was ok aside from one awful inning, so I assume he'll get the next start.

2)Yankees purchased the contract of outfielder Terrence Long from Triple-A Columbus.
In case you were wondering what I was referring to as asinine and stupid. Long's a bad defensive OF who has broken a .400 SLG mark once in the last 4 years, and had the following OBP over the last 4 seasons, .298,.293,.335,.321. But, since he's now 30, expect him to get priority in Joe Torre's pecking order over people who have the potential to be better than mediocre.

3) Yankees signed designated hitter Erubiel Durazo to a minor league contract.
I like this move quite a bit, as it looks like all upside to me. Durazo's got zero defensive value, but he can hit if he's healthy, and would make a fine DH if the Yankees decide to go that route, although it would seem that the Yankees would have to choose from either Durazo or Carlos Pena. Durazo's probably a better hitter, but the fact that he is useless defensively may not make him the better choice here.

4) Gary Sheffield did take a cortisone shot after saying he would not, and had a good batting practice session yesterday.
He may get a few rehab games in this week and be activated by the weekend, according to Peter Gammons on last night's broadcast. Update: According to this article in the New York Times, "Sheffield will play for Class AA Trenton at New Britain tonight, and he will rejoin the Yankees tomorrow in Boston if he feels ready."

5) Colter Bean was called up and pitched last night.
After one scoreless inning, he threw five straight pitches out of the strike zone and Joe Torre came out and pulled him. I'd be shocked if he sees another inning under Torre's watch.

Tonight's matchup seems to be the best chance for the Yankees to win one of the three games against Boston. Chien-Ming Wang has been very solid in his last three games, and Curt Schilling has been struggling of late. The good thing about Wang is that even in his worst games, he doesn't usually give up a ton of runs. Wang's made three starts against Boston in his career, and none have been particularly good, although none have been horrendous. His career line:

16.1 IP
16 H
10 R
8 ER
1 HR
11 BB
6 K
4.41 ERA

If Wang can throw strikes tonight, I think he'll be fine. With Jaret Wright and The Big Useless starting the next two games, I think he has to be.