Thursday, May 28, 2009

Yanks Tie For First, But Enough Of Veras

I want to wax poetic about A.J. Burnett's six shutout, three-hit innings.

I'd love to boast about the offense getting back into the grove, pounding out 15 hits, including four homers, two by Hideki Matsui.

It kills me that I can't focus on Chien-Ming Wang's very sharp two flawless innings.

I should be going on about the Yankees moving into a tie for first in the AL East following their 9-2 victory over the Rangers Wednesday in Arlington, Texas.

But I can't.

Something -- or rather -- someone just has me far to annoyed and angry.

That would be Jose Veras.

I've had enough of him. The next time I see him on the mound in pinstripes will be too soon. It is time for him to go.

It's tough to write about this after an easy win that put the Yankees into a tie for first, but I've had it. Enough is enough.

Aside from a 3-1 record, the numbers are simply ugly. In 19-2/3 innings over 21 games, Veras has a 6.41 ERA allowing 14 runs on 17 hits and 14 walks. That's a 1.58 WHIP. He's allowed three homers and hit two batters.

He has struck out 15, which translates to 6.41 per nine innings, down from 9.83 last season.

In his 12 outings in May, there have been only three in which he has not allowed a hit or walk. And none of those flawless outings have been a full inning.

With runners in scoring position, batters are hitting .308 against him. When there is a runner on first, .500. And when there is no one out, .280. Veras has become a fire-starter.

And Wednesday was just inexcusable. Leading 7-0, Veras entered the game. All he had to do was attack the hitters and throw strikes. But he couldn't even do that.

Jerrod Saltalamacchia led off with a double. Elvis Andrus followed with a ground out to first, then Ian Kinsler launched a homer to left. Michael Young followed with a walk and Veras' night was done. It was a miracle that he recorded one out.

Veras is out of options and can't be send down. The only way to get rid of him would be to trade him (yeah, right!) or to release him. I understand why the Yankees don't want to designate him for assignment. He throws 95 mph. His fastball is lively. He has good stuff.

But he can't throw strikes.

The Yankees are afraid if they cut him, someone will pick him, he'll blossom and come back to haunt them.

In the meantime, he's killing them. He's unreliable and untrustworthy. Joe Girardi can't give him a set role as a result. Kyle Farnsworth at his worst wasn't this bad.

If the bullpen was stable and performing well overall, maybe the Yankees could have the patience to let Veras work out his problems. But this unit is woefully short and needs reliable arms.

It is time for Veras to be DFA'd.

Mark Melancon has had some struggles since returning to Scranton, allowing four runs and eight hits in 6-1/3 innings over six outings, but those four runs have come in just two of the appearances.

If Girardi commits to giving Melancon regular work, I would consider bringing him back to replace Veras. At least he's an arm that can be developed.

In the meantime, please, please, please no more Veras.

OK, now that I've gotten that off my chest, a little on the game that has vaulted the Yankees into a first-place tie. Gee, that sounds good. And it's been a long time since we've been able to say "first place" and "Yankees" in the same sentence.

They've done it by winning 12 of their last 15, getting a lot of timely hitting, some very strong starting pitching and better -- though no where near satisfactory -- outings out of the bullpen. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have gone 14-14 since their 11-game winning streak in April. And the Blue Jays, well, they've lost nine straight are fading fast.

Burnett finally got going in the right direction, striking out seven and earning his first victory since April 14. It wasn't a perfect outing, he did walk four and threw 118 pitches -- 70 strikes -- but the Rangers couldn't touch him.

He said after the game that he was able to repeat his mechanics throughout the outing, when in his recent struggles, his mechanics would get out of whack for three or four batters and he'd get burned. It's a good first step that he'll need to repeat in order to regain that confidence and swagger he had when the season began.

He also benefited from a ton of offense. A game after going 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position Tuesday, the lineup up cranked out the runs, despite leaving 10 runners on base. Mark Teixeira had a two-run homer in the first to take some pressure of Burnett. Matsui broke out of 3-for-23 slide with his two blasts and Robinson Cano added one more in the ninth, tying the Yankees with the Rangers with 77 homers on the season, most in the majors.

Derek Jeter also went 3-for-4 with a double, raising his average to .297 and Kevin Cash went 2-for-4 with two RBI.

Cash's time with Yankees may be running short. Jorge Posada might be activated for the Yankees' game at Cleveland Friday, leaving the Yankees with a choice of whom to cut: Cash or Angel Berroa. I think the wiser move would be to DFA Berroa, who really doesn't fit on this team. Berroa is not a great fielder, runner or hitter. He's pretty much useless.

Cash, however, is a solid catcher and has started to hit a bit. He'd give the team three catchers and give Girardi enough flexibility to DH Posada or use him as pinch hitter.

But, aside from claim a share of first (that reads really well, no matter how many times I type it), the best news of the night was Wang's performance.

While his velocity topped out at only 92 (remember, at his best he was hitting 95), his pitches were diving through the zone. He struck out two and threw 18 of 26 pitches for strikes, lowering his ERA 20.25. The Rangers struggled to get the ball into the air or even make contact. It appeared Dave Eiland had been to correct Wang's mechanics

It was a big step for Wang and boost to his confidence. He'll be staying in the bullpen for a little while, but a few more outing like this will force Girardi to get him back into the rotation pretty soon.

And once Wang is fully back, just imagine what this team will be able to do.

Couple Of Notes
The initial diagnosis on Melky Cabrera's injury right should is a strain and he'll miss five to seven days. The Yankees sent him back to New York for a second opinion, but if it comes back the same, it's great news. The Yankees won't make a roster move and will ride out Melky's absence short-handed in the outfield. Ramiro Pena and Berroa have been talking fly balls as a precaution.

My big fear is that Melky would have to go on the DL and Brian Cashman would decide to rush up Austin Jackson. He is the Yankees' best prospect and doing very well at Scranton, but let's not make the same mistakes that were made with Cabrera and Bernie Williams. Let Jackson get a full season under his belt at Triple A. Let him develop. Performing well for two months at Triple A does not make him ready for the majors yet. Give him time.

Also, Brian Bruney saw Dr. James Andrews and the news was good. Andrews confirmed the diagnosis of a strained flexor muscle. All the ligaments are structurally sound. So it's back to step one for Bruney with rehab and a new throwing program. I hope this time he'll be honest with the Yankees and tell them if he still feels pain. Don't rush back, just get back fully healthy and ready to help this team win.

Runners In Scoring Position
3-for-9 (.333)
118-for-425 (.278)

Up Next
Friday at Cleveland, 7:05 p.m., YES
Andy Pettitte (4-1, 4.30) vs. Cliff Lee (2-5, 3.04)
Lee dominated the Yankees the first time he faced them and has been pitching better. He will be tough again, but the Indians just aren't a very good team right now. The Yankee are going to need to grind out at-bats, spoil pitches and get Lee out of the game early so they can pound on the Indians' weak bullpen.

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