Results tagged ‘ Lance Pendleton ’

Colon provides relief for Yanks’ pen

The national holiday of Memorial Day turned out to be a full day off for the Yankees’ bullpen as well Monday. The relievers have Bartolo Colon to thank for that with an old-fashioned complete game shutout, the ninth of his career but the first in five seasons, in a 5-0 dusting of the Athletics.

Except for the date on his birth certificate, there doesn’t appear anything old about Colon, who turned 38 last week but has turned back the clock for the Yankees this year. Still wounded by a no-decision May 18 at Baltimore when he came out of the game after eight scoreless innings of three-hit, seven-strikeout ball only to watch the game go 15 innings before the Yankees finally pulled it out, Colon took care of business for himself Monday.

His pitch count was still a manageable 96 entering the ninth inning, and Colon remained on the mound after he gave up a leadoff double. The runner got to third base but no farther as the A’s for a second time in the game wasted a leadoff double.

The other occasion was back in the second, one inning after the Yankees had staked Colon to a 3-0 lead. The veteran righthander, who pitched a game reminiscent of his 2005 American League Cy Young Award season, set the tone of the game in that inning by keeping the runner at second by getting a foul pop, a strikeout and an infield out.

That began a stretch of 12 consecutive outs that Kevin Kouzmanoff ended with a leadoff single in the sixth. Colon ran off six more outs in a row before yielding another leadoff hit, an infield single by Kurt Suzuki in the eighth. Mark Ellis followed with a grounder up the middle that Colon wisely let go past him to shortstop Derek Jeter, who fielded the ball, stepped on second and threw to first to finish off a double play.

Except for some warm-up throws by Joba Chamberlain in the ninth, the bullpen was quiet. After being forced to use his relief corps for 7 2/3 innings in Saturday night’s 12-inning loss at Seattle, Yankees manager Joe Girardi enjoyed watching Colon and CC Sabathia combine to pitch 17 of the next 18 innings. Only Lance Pendleton’s mop-up job for CC Sunday counted as a work day for the bullpen.

The victory was welcomed by Colon, who had not had a winning decision in his previous five starts and was 0-2 with a 4.60 ERA during that stretch. Colon’s first victory since April 27 got his season record even at 3-3 to go with a spiffy 3.26 ERA.

In what has been a habit for the Yankees on this West Coast trip, they struck early against the starting pitcher, in this case Trevor Cahill, who got off to a 6-0 start this year but is now winless in his past four starts despite a decent 3.51 ERA during that stretch. With an offense ranked 12th among the 14 AL teams, Oakland leaves little margin for error to its pitchers.

On the 16th anniversary of his first major-league hit, Jeter opened the game with a knock and scored one out later on Mark Teixeira’s two-run home run. That made it 16 jacks for Tex, who tied Curtis Granderson for the club lead and passed the center fielder in RBI, 38-37. Teixeira is on a homer binge lately with four in his past five games and seven in his past 11. Tex hit 10 homers in May. He didn’t get to 16 home runs last year until July 9.

Colon hadn’t stepped on the rubber yet, so who knew that would be all the runs the Yankees would need. Robinson Cano mae it 3-0 with a double to score Alex Rodriguez, who had walked. Jeter and Francisco Cervelli, who caught while Russell Martin nursed a sore left foot, supplied pad-on runs with late-inning sacrifice flies.

Cervelli sure didn’t act like a catcher on the bases. He had two steals, as did Brett Gardner. The duo’s running in the seventh after drawing walks helped the Yankees to a run without a hit. The rest was all Colon, who made this Memorial Day memorable.

I’ll be out of town the next few days to attend the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, an annual event at the National Baseball Hall of Fame where academics and other baseball aficionados gather to discuss seriously through individual presentations and panel groups the connection between the game and the American experience. I am honored to give the keynote address. I only hope my delivery is as effective as that of Bartolo Colon.

Starters, anyone?

Freddy Garcia will get his first starting assignment for the Yankees Saturday as they search for a quality effort from someone in the rotation. Ivan Nova had another disappointing outing Friday night in what is seemingly becoming a daily occurrence. The news wasn’t bad enough that Phil Hughes was placed on the disabled list with a dead arm, and then Nova began throwing baseballs nowhere near the plate.

Who would have thought that the winningest starting pitcher for the Yankees at this point would be 2010 bust A.J. Burnett? He is 3-0 despite an unsightly 4.67 ERA. Nova, who fell to 1-1 in the 5-3 loss to the Rangers, is the only other Yankees starter with a victory. Cut CC Sabathia (0-1) some slack, however. His 1.45 ERA is by far the best of the starting unit.

Yankees starters have a combined record of 4-3 with a 5.90 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting .287 against them. Hits were not as much a problem Friday night as bases on balls for Nova, who walked five batters and watched his ERA climb to 7.36. Nova also threw a wild pitch, one fewer than David Robertson, and hit a batter in a very sloppy performance.

Conversely, the Texas rotation is a combined 9-1 with a 2.41 ERA.

It was a pretty horrible game overall for the Yankees, who grounded into six doubles plays for the first time in franchise history and tied an American League record. Impressive starter Matt Harrison allowed one earned run in eight innings on a home run in the eighth by Curtis Granderson. All three of Grandy’s homers this year have come off left-handed pitchers.

The highlight on this lowlight of a night for the Yankees was the big-league debut of righthander Lance Pendleton, who pitched three perfect innings in relief.

There would be no dramatic comeback such as Thursday night against the Orioles, although the Yankees rallied against Neftali Feliz in the ninth and had the potential tying runs on base when the game ended. Unless the starters start providing some quality innings, the Yankees might be playing catch-up on a regular basis.

Scheduled to work behind the plate for Garcia will be Gustavo Molina (no relation to Bengie, Jose and Yadier), the last player on any club’s opening day roster who has yet to play in a game. Russell Martin is the only catcher in the majors who has caught every inning of his team’s games.

Hughes’ dead arm a major rotation ailment

The Yankees finally acknowledged that Phil Hughes needs fixing. They were so concerned about the righthander’s inability to maintain velocity through three starts that they considered sending him down to Triple A. Instead, they chose the option of placing him on the 15-day disabled list because of arm fatigue.

“My level of concern lessened when I saw him reach 92 [mph],” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, referring to a radar gun reading of Hughes’ fastball in the first inning of Thursday night’s 6-5, 10-inning victory over the Orioles. “Then it fell off. He gets there [velocity] but not at the strength where it needs to be to pitch seven competitive innings every five days.”

Hughes (0-1, 13.94 ERA) lasted 4 1/3 innings and got racked for five earned runs and seven hits. Bartolo Colon, who kept the Yankees in the game with three shutout innings of relief, will take Hughes’ spot in the rotation for the time being. The Yankees also recalled righthander Lance Pendleton from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to pitch out of the bullpen. Pendleton was with the Astros during spring training as a Rule 5 selection but did not make the Houston roster and was returned to the Yankees.

When it was suggested to Hughes that he might be optioned, he basically talked them out of it, saying that he needed to build up arm strength on a schedule different from the one he was on. Girardi agreed, adding, “Throwing him every five days in Triple A wouldn’t accomplish much. We’ll get him on a long-toss program and get rid of that fatigue.”

So Hughes will remain with the Yankees and begin a conditioning program.

“The arm strength isn’t there,” Hughes said. “I can’t continue to go out there and tax our bullpen. There is a significant drop off in my velocity.”

Pitchers occasionally go through dead arm periods, but two months? Hughes has not thrown with the authority he showed in 2010 when he had a breakout year with an 18-8 record and 4.19 ERA. I am still of the belief that he has fallen in love with the cut fastball, and the strain of throwing that pitch has affected his four-seam fastball. The best example I can give is that of Jim Abbott, the former Yankees pitcher who once threw very hard but less so after developing a cutter.

It is a situation that bears close scrutiny. Hughes was supposed to be a sure thing in a rotation filled with question marks. Now he is the biggest question mark.