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Archive for June, 2008

Previously on this seldom updated blog, I made a huge rant on why Sidney Ponson should not start a game on Friday against the Mets.

Since then, Dan Giese had an excellent start against the Cincinnatti Reds, pitching 6.2 innings allowing 3 runs, all unearned, lowering his ERA to 0.64. He’ll stay in the rotation and make a few more starts. However, there is still an opening for one of the games in the doubleheader against the Mets on Friday, June 27. In the minors, Jeff Karstens just got the International League Player of the Week award, mainly because of his excellent 11 strikeout performance against Toledo on Sunday. Because he started Sunday, he is lined up to pitch on Friday, like Ponson, who pitched the day before.

River Ave. Blues, a Yankees blog, makes the argument that Jeff Karstens should start over Ponson, in a much more concise manner, agreeing with Mike Ashmore, the Trenton Thunder (Yanks’ AA affiliate) beat writer for the Hunterdon County Democrat.

We’ll see what happens… but I sure hope that #58 is on the mound on Friday.

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In 2006, the Yankees had some pitching troubles. The first three slots went to an aging Randy Johnson, the first full year of Chien-Ming Wang, and an aging Mike Mussina. Jaret Wright had the fourth spot, though he barely had any starts that were more than 6 innings, in his final year as a Yankee. The fifth spot went to a bunch of different people, starting with Shawn Chacon, who pitched remarkably as a Yankee in 2005, and the late Cory Lidle, who was acquired in the trade deadline deal that brought Bobby Abreu to the Yankees. A few spot starts, however, in between Chacon leaving the rotation (and ultimately being traded) and the acquisition of Lidle, went to an Aruban Knight named Sidney Ponson. In 5 games (3 of them being starts), Ponson went 0-1 with a whopping 10.47 ERA in 16 1/3 innings. A month and nine days after the Yankees signed him, the Yankees released Ponson, because frankly, it took them a month and nine days too long to realize that he has been an awful pitcher since 2004.

OK. That’s all good. Let’s fast forward to 2008.

On June 15, Chien-Ming Wang, who has developed into an ace pitcher for the Yankees, hurt his foot while running the bases in an interleague game against the Houston Astros in Houston. A MRI exam revealed that Wang had a mid-foot tearing of the Lisfranc ligament and a partial tear of the peroneal longus tendon. Wang could be out for as little as 10 weeks, taking us into late August, or even, worst-case scenario, out for the year. He hopes to pitch in September, but only time and rehabilitation will tell us how that turns out.

In the meantime, the Yankees need to have someone make his starts. The first option will be Dan Giese, who signed with AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as a reliever, and was converted into a starter during the season, with great success. He was called up to the team during Joba Chamberlain’s transition to becoming a starter to shadow the 22-year old as he had limited pitch counts. As an insurance policy, the Yankees recently signed a pitcher to a minor league deal, to pitch at AAA for now, and he could be called up in case Giese falters, or if the Yankees decide to call up a pitcher to start a game in a doubleheader on Friday June 27 against the Mets. That man, believe it or not, is the same man who pitched for the Yankees just two years ago, with an ERA over 10. Yup, the Yankees signed Sidney Ponson to a minor league contract. Yikes. Let’s see what happened to our Aruban Knight friend after his time with the 2006 Yankees.

After the Yankees released Ponson in 2006, he signed with the Minnesota Twins for the 2007 season to provide a veteran presence for a young pitching staff. He started 7 games and went 2-5 with a 6.93 ERA, and was then released. In 2008, he signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. He was called up on April 26 to make some starts for the team, and he was actually doing decently, with a 4-1 record and an ERA of 3.88, though his WHIP was a pretty bad 1.56 and batters were hitting .307 against him. While he didn’t have the best statistics in the game, he was managing and it seemed like he had a secure spot with the team. Nope. He was designated for assignment on June 7 and released ten days later. He, according to Jon Daniels, the GM of the Rangers, was disrespectful towards his teammates and the ballclub.

So, the despirate Yankees are considering taking a flyer on Ponson. I think this is unnecessary. First of all, Ponson has just been awful. The numbers don’t lie. Let’s look at some basic statistics: Since 2004, Sidney Ponson has been released by five teams, and aside from this year, hasn’t had an ERA under 5 (and only in 2004 was it under 6) or a WHIP under 1.55. Batters have been batting .307 or better against Ponson in the same time period. I really hope that the Yankees don’t think that Ponson is the answer here.

Second, there are plenty of interal options the Yankees can use to replace their ace. Giese, after he was stretched as a starter this year, had a 1.98 ERA in AAA and has done well in his limited time in the bigs so far. Jeff Karstens seems to be healed from his injury, so he could be ready to start with the big league club if need be. Dan McCutchen was recently called up to AAA, and has done a pretty good job so far; his last start was a complete game. Al Aceves is an intriguing prospect who last year pitched in the Mexican League and now is rocking in AA. After a few AAA starts, he could do the job. Ian Kennedy is probably not a suitable option at this point, as he is healing from an injury and could use more experience in AAA. And these are just a few options. The AAA starting rotation has been excellent recently (which includes Kei Igawa, a man the Yankees shall never call up again, frankly).

Third, the Yankees could always get a pitcher from outside the organization, whether it’s making a trade with another organization, like how Shawn Chacon was acquired in 2005 or Cory Lidle in 2006, or signing a free agent who isn’t Sidney Ponson. While it’s not necessary to give up the entire farm system for C.C. Sabathia of the Indians, the Yankees could make a smaller trade for a solid pitcher. One intriguing option that the Yankees could quite possibly look into is Freddy Garcia, a pitcher who was out with a shoulder injury for most of 2007 and is currently rehabbing the injury. He could be available for the final few months of the season, and it’s an interesting option. Between 2001-2006, he pitched 200+ innings every year, with a WHIP no higher than 1.33 and an ERA no higher than 4.53. The Yankees could take a flyer on him, have him rehab in the minors, and see how he could do in the pinstripes. I cannot imagine him putting up any Ponsonesque numbers as long as he is healthy. All the Yankees would risk here is money, and not much of it, in terms of the payroll. Garcia cannot make an immediate contribution, but he is an option the Yankees should definitely look into while he is rehabbing.

Simply put, Sidney Ponson is NOT the answer to the Yankees pitching woes. First, let’s see how Giese does. If he does well, he gets more starts — it’s that simple. If he doesn’t after 2-3 starts, I’d much rather look interally for another answer first. As for the June 27 doubleheader against the Mets, I sure don’t want to see Ponson in a Yankee uniform that day. I’d rather see Karstens get called up for the day, even to make one start and then get sent down immediately after it. The chances of him doing well are better than Ponson’s chances. Let’s also recall that when it comes to rookies starting against the Mets, history has shown that two pitchers made their major league debuts against the Mets and did well — Brandon Claussen in 2003 and Tyler Clippard in 2007. So the Yankee fan in me would say that there is hope for Karstens, or a minor leaguer, to do a decent job on the 27th. So here’s to not seeing Ponson in pinstripes!

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