Monday, July 24, 2017


The Yankees win the Series! The Yankees win the Series!

July 22, 2017 - Source: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images North America
No, not THAT Series. But after going 0-for-18 in games that could've clinched a series win against 10 opponents over the last month and a half, the 19th game against the 11th opponent, the Mariners on Sunday, turned out to be the streak-busting charm.

It was a game that was started by raw rookie Caleb Smith, who came within an out of finishing the fourth inning (one inning fewer than Sabathia in Game 2 of the series)  but got the hook from Joe after allowing his fourth run of the frame to cross the plate (as many as Tanaka in Game 3 of the series) -- a disappointing end that began with three eye-popping innings of command and control that saw only one Mariner reach base.

Photo: Getty Images
A month ago, when Smith was still a nearly unknown (to most Yankee fans as well as most beat writers) Triple A All-Star-in -the-making sporting an 8-0 record and a 2.07 ERA in 15 starts, I drew a ton of flak among friends and  Yankee fans on social media for predicting he'd be the next new face to start a game in pinstripes despite all the allegedly expert rumors suggesting more recognizable arms were imminent or forthcoming.

But as a strong believer in Brian's commitment to his blueprint for the rebuild, I felt strongly there was no way he would make a move before evaluating everyone they already have that can help them both now and in the  future.

"He may not be the Chance anyone wants the team to take. But he looks like a safer bet to pitch at Yankee Stadium than anyone else I'm hearing rumors about," I wrote back then. And I was right.

Unfortunately for Caleb and for evaluation purposes, the Yankees did what they almost always do with their young starters and instead of keeping him on his regular rotation schedule when they brought him up from Moosic, they stuck him in the Yankee pen for awhile as binder fodder for Joe  -- and worse, held him back from his last start on the farm before doing so.

(July 16, 2017 - Source: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images North America)     
So the rook had to wait 20 days between his last start as a RailRider and Sunday's as a Yankee, with just one relief appearance of work in between to keep him sharp -- a three-inning spot a week ago that included five strikeouts, one walk and two perfect innings before giving up two runs in the third.

In Joe-speak, that's not what you want if you're trying to get  a true read on a young starter's stuff, and it sure as hell isn't what you want if you're the young starter wanting to make a best impression.

Therefore, thanks in no small part to the crappy Yankee Way of bringing up young starters (he's still 25 and only nine months older than Aaron Judge) Smith is now tattooed with an ugly 8.10 ERA after his first 6.2 innings in the Bigs.

However, he who dies by the small sample size may also may live by them.  Caleb only allowed one baserunner in four of those innings, and he's got seven strikeouts against just two walks. And he's allowed no dingers. Seven strikeouts. Two walks. 6.2 innings.  No dingers... Let that sink in a moment.

Joe sucks at developing young pitchers. But Joe likes pitchers with "presence" who challenge hitters and can throw strikes instead of nibbling around the edges and walking a ton, and can keep the ball in the yard -- and the length they can give him is of secondary importance to him, as he explains in this clip about what he likes about Smith but which could apply to virtually all Yankee pitchers.

This kid has a valuable arm and is under team control just as long as Judge and the rest of the new kids on the block. He just needs to be allowed to battle through tough innings and learn to finish -- and also not to be dicked around and Joba-cized like a bouncing ball between the the rotation, the pen and Pennsylvania.

So what he needs is to be in a rotation in one place or the other and kept on a regular starting schedule. In the end that can only make him more valuable -- either to the Yankees or as a trade chip to another club.

If he stays on schedule, his next start would be Saturday against the Rays.  If he's not on the mound against them, hopefully he'll be liberated from Joe's binder brigade and  in Charlotte that day whiffing the Knights for the RailRiders.  For the sake of both Smith and the Yankees strategic future handling its young arms, I sincerely hope they dont blow it with him.

In the meantime, I'm donning my flak jacket  because I have another prediction to make.

(Photo By: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
It's been awhile since the beat writer-fueled buzz surrounding a potential Chance Adams promotion was squashed hard by Yankee management, and ever since then the beats mantra has been he's not ready for the bright lights of the Bronx.

But I spotted something Saturday on Twitter from an all-too-often ignored "Yankee insider" that tells me management may have changed its tune, so I'm going out on a limb here like I did on Twitter that day and call it like I feel it.

Between Montgomery closing in on his inning limit for the season and CC's brutal home/away splits (5.29 ERA in six starts at the Stadium vs. 2.29 in 10 starts elsewhere), the team has got to be seriously considering either a six-man rotation or, at the very least, skipping turns for both in the coming weeks, creating even more gaps in the rotation to be filled beyond merely Pineda's.

I was right about Smith, so please don't hit me with the flak quite so hard this time -- or make fun of my Adams "insider", who beats the heck out of Bill Madden's imaginary rumor-mongering Bird-hating sock puppet insider any old day.

Just remember, when it happens, you read it here first in Bleeding Yankee Blue!

--Barry Millman
BYB Writer
Follow me on Twitter: @nyyankeefanfore

Be Read. Get Known. 

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