Thoughts On D-Rob, Miller, Banuelos And Everyone's Favorite Third Baseman


By Sweeny Murti
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There is no shortage of reaction to Alex Rodriguez’s situation returning to the Yankees, unless of course you’re waiting to hear from A-Rod himself. That day will come.

On Thursday night, Andy Pettitte was honored by Joe Torre at the 12th annual Safe At Home Foundation Gala. Pettitte offered his thoughts on A-Rod and the familiar position of facing the music with fans, media and teammates again:

“Just get everything out,” Pettitte said said of Rodriguez, who reportedly admitted his role in last season’s performance-enhancing drugs scandal to federal investigators. “You know what I’m saying? Everything has to be out, or it seems like something’s always chasing you around. That’s just the best way to do things, I think, the easiest way to do things.”

Bernie Williams, David Cone, and John Flaherty were among other former Yankees on hand for the Torre gala. For more on Torre’s foundation visit www.joetorre.org.

Meanwhile, in Yankee-land:

— Justin Miller is a hard-throwing lefty who has had some control issues. Certainly not the first one we can say that about. But the upside could make him a valuable reliever and that’s why the Yankees acquired him from Pittsburgh.

Yankee fans love their Cisco, but backup catcher Francisco Cervelli wasn’t going to get you an All-Star shortstop or front-line starter in return. Let’s see what Miller turns into, and remember the Yankees are still pretty well off with Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy competing as backups.

David Robertson’s situation is still unsettled and it’s no surprise. Free agency in the salary cap leagues like the NFL, NBA and NHL are like a jailbreak where a player has to get his money right away before it goes somewhere else. In baseball, it’s just a slow dance. This could take a while to figure out.

Should Robertson sign elsewhere, it would be a blow to the Yankees bullpen for sure, the strength of a team that stayed on the fringes of contention in 2014. Let’s remember that the Yankees have had three different set-up/closer combinations in the last three years and Robertson has been part of all of them.

In 2012 Robertson set up Rafael Soriano (after the injury to Mariano Rivera). In 2013 it was the familiar Robertson and Rivera combo. And in 2014 we had Dellin Betances and Robertson.

The Yankees never lost more than five games when leading after seven innings in any of those seasons (79-5 in 2012, 65-4 in 2013, 68-5 in 2014).

Despite what you may think of Betances and his ability to step into the closer’s role, it’s the set-up combo that is most important. In other words, who takes Betances’s place if he becomes closer? Not as easy to answer, is it?

— Listening to Hal Steinbrenner’s interview on the YES Network Hot Stove show this week I was interested to hear the first two holes he mentioned on this team were shortstop and a starting pitcher.

Not that it’s a big secret the Yankees need a shortstop–you may have heard about Derek Jeter’s retirement–but that Steinbrenner mentioned it immediately surprised me a bit considering the uncertainty with A-Rod and third base, as well as the potential loss of Robertson. It tells me that maybe the Steinbrenner mentality of making a splash is still a factor when looking at filling the the shortstop position.

We’ve already heard the names Elvis Andrus and Jimmy Rollins floated about this winter, along with Stephen Drew’s potential return. Another run at Didi Gregorius is certain, but the Yankees would have to part with some young, cheap pitching which they sorely need themselves.

Anyway…I know it’s a big deal to see who replaces Jeter at shortstop. To hear the owner mention it first off the top just made it sound like a bigger deal.

— Something I found interesting…with Jeter’s retirement, Brett Gardner is the longest tenured homegrown Yankee (debut 2008). Robertson is next (also 2008), but since he’s a free agent and not on the roster, do you know who’s next? Ivan Nova (2010).

— The Baseball America Top 10 Prospect list that came out last month was interesting, as always. No surprise that RHP Luis Severino and OF Aaron Judge vaulted to the top of the list after their standout minor league seasons. Greg Bird landing at number four matches with the buzz I heard on him during the season. The Yankees love his plate discipline, compared by some to that of Nick Johnson, who when healthy compiled a lifetime OBP of .399. Bird’s impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League makes him a guy to watch in spring training.

Of the names that didn’t make it to the list, I’m still hearing positive things about 3B Eric Jagielo, OF Tyler Austin, OF Jake Cave, RHP Austin DeCarr, LHP Tyler Webb and SS Tyler Wade. Some of these guys were mentioned to me by execs as players who belong in the top 10.

Ty Webb intrigues me just to see how many Caddyshack jokes I can get out of it. My guess is one too many.

— You know what name I’d like to hear more in the spring? Manny Banuelos. It’s time. Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees babied his innings last year. He’s ready to be a 150-plus innings guy, and I’m excited to see the possibilities. Remember, he’s still only 23 years old.

— Still time to get tickets for a special night in Danbury featuring Hall of Famer Joe Torre and Bernie Williams, teaming up to help the Hillside Food Outreach battle hunger in the Hudson Valley. Plenty of great Yankee-related auction items available to help the cause. Plus Bernie on guitar alongside Rick “Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo” Derringer. To come out and support the cause go to www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org.

Sweeny Murti
@YankeesWFAN

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