Series Preview: NYY @ Rays 4/9 - 4/11
We are approaching the end of our first full week of the 2021 season now as the Yankees have completed two series against the Jays and Orioles. While the results have been mixed and at times very frustrating to watch, the Yankees are sitting at 3-3. They now head to Tampa, to face the team that eliminated them from last year’s playoffs. The Rays are coming off of six straight games on the road to open the season and just finished getting swept by the Red Sox in three fairly non competitive games earlier this week. A strong weekend could vault the Yankees into first place in the early goings of the season, lets take a look at the matchup.
Game 1: Friday, April 9 | First Pitch: 3:10pm | TV: YES Network
Corey Kluber (0-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. Rich Hill (0-0, 9.00 ERA)
Game 2: Saturday, April 10 | First Pitch: 1:10pm | TV: YES Network, MLB Network
Domingo German (0-1, 9.00 ERA) vs. Chris Archer (0-1, 13.50 ERA)
Game 3: Sunday, April 11 | First Pitch: 1:10pm | TV: YES Network, MLB Network
Jordan Montgomery (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. TBD
As we head through the Yankees rotation a second time, there is a lot to be hopeful about and for sure some concerns to keep an eye on. Mostly as a pitching staff, the Yankees have been very good and we should look for that to continue this weekend against a Rays team that has had mixed results so far this season. Corey Kluber will take the ball for his second turn on Friday. It will be the Rays home opener and they will surely enjoy raising an American League pennant with the Yankees in the building to watch. These teams had some high profile dust ups last season and it will be interesting to see if any of those feelings roll over into this season. Kluber looked solid in his first turn, turning in four innings and 70+ pitches. The Yankees are being cautious with Kluber and Jameson Taillon as they return from serious injuries and this should present a good opportunity for Kluber to build on his last outing and get deeper into the game. He showed promising stuff and good movement on his pitches last time out. He’ll face 17-year veteran Rich Hill. The 41 year old is coming off a rough outing against the Marlins. He’s not gonna blow it by anyone at this point in his career, so it will be interesting to see how he attacks this Yankee lineup.
Saturday’s matchup will pit Domingo German against returning Ray Chris Archer. German had a rocky first outing, lasting just three innings and surrendering two home runs. Domingo is 3-0 with a 5.73 ERA in his career against the Rays. He has had mixed levels of success against this team. He is coming off a strong spring and will hopefully get his season off on the right foot in his second turn this weekend. Chris Archer is coming off a lost season in which he underwent surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. While Yankee fans might remember him repeatedly dominating them as a young up-and-comer, or the years worth of trade speculation, he has not been that caliber of pitcher for a while now. His last season with an ERA under four was in 2015. He returns to Tampa Bay now after a stint with the Pirates as he tries to reinvigorate his career. He has a career record of 6-7 with a 3.14 ERA against the Yankees, but is coming off a relief outing allowing three runs in just two innings against the Marlins. Not quite sure what to expect from him in this one.
Jordan Montgomery, who gets the ball in the series finale, is coming off a fantastic first start against the Orioles. We had mentioned previously that he was feeling confident in his cutter and changeup heading into the season. All his offerings looked superb as he carved up the Orioles, generating swings and misses and soft contact through six strong innings. The Rays are not an offensive juggernaut and are missing a lot of talent from last season's team due to injuries and offseason departures. This could prove to be a good matchup for the crafty lefty. It is not yet known who Montgomery will face off against.
What to Watch For:
Aaron Judge health concerns...again – Aaron Judge has gotten off to a decent start this season. While he had several failures in RISP situations, he has generally looked good at the plate and there was reason for optimism as he eased into this season. Judge has a famously lengthy injury history and has been on record that he is going to be cautious as he manages his body this season. Well...its been six games and there’s already injury concerns with Judge. Judge was lifted late in Tuesday’s 7-0 game for what seemed like a break in a comfortable win. On Wednesday we learned that Judge was dealing with “general soreness in his side” and was kept out of the lineup. There were situations where Judge probably could’ve been called upon to pinch hit, but with yesterday's off day, Aaron Boone likely wanted to give Judge the benefit of at least two full days off. What happens from here is anybody's guess, Yankee fans have mostly jumped to the doom and gloom scenario of him missing time. While Judge does have a history of oblique injuries, Kyle Higashioka was diagnosed with a similar thing in spring and came through it OK. Its unclear to us now if he is undergoing any testing or when we will see him next, but Judge’s health is once again a cause for concern and squarely in the spotlight.
Chapman vs. Brosseau - The Yankees and Rays traded close pitches and hit batters for much of last season and these teams do have a recent history going back multiple years of dangerously close pitches. No one likes to be hit and as it happened repeatedly, an incident like this was simmering. This all culminated in early September, after a fairly obvious intentional HBP by Masahiro Tanaka in the first inning, Aroldis Chapman, after several high and tight pitches to multiple batters, threw a 101 MPH fastball over Mike Brosseau’s head. This led to the benches clearing and a heated Kevin Cash press conference after the game. Brosseau ultimately got the last laugh on Chapman in the ALDS. While its a new season and you’d hope this has been put to bed, you never can be too sure when it comes to two players and two teams with a recent history of bad blood. Look out for potential fireworks here.
Gleyber Torres’ Defense – Gleyber Torres has been in the spotlight and dealt with high expectations since coming over from the Cubs in 2016. He has been a top prospect and has had success at the major league level. While he is still only 24 years old and hardly at a point where he can’t get better, he seems to be approaching a potential crossroads. Gleyber has long been a feature of the Yankees long term plans, but there has been a nagging concern about his defense and his play thus far this season has revived those concerns. Wednesday night, in a close game, Gleyber fielded a routine grounder to shortstop and threw a sinker to Jay Bruce at first. The throw was well short and missed badly, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Coming off an offseason in which the Yankees resigned Gold Glove second baseman DJ LeMahieu to a six-year deal, Gleyber seemed to be cemented at his natural position of shortstop. Gleyber has plenty enough talent to play anywhere in the infield, whether its his former position of second base or his current shortstop, but it has not consistently shown on the field. Gleyber received praise for his work in camp as he tried to stabilize and improve his defense. It was even made known that he had been shadowing DJ to try and improve his own processes. While this shouldn’t be disregarded, it is time that we see real improvement in meaningful games.
Gleyber is in his fourth full season and no longer a prospect. it is far too early to think about moving on from a 24-year-old talent like Gleyber, but if he continues to play defense as he has, that time table for that conversation will move up. Next offseason’s free agent market for shortstops will be one of the best in recent history and the Yankees have been rumored to have interest in at least a few of them. He doesn’t need to correct it overnight, but he cannot continue to fail at routine plays such as the one he misplayed last night. It contributed to a loss last night and will continue to do so if it is not corrected, especially in the playoffs. The pressure and scrutiny on him has now turned way up overnight, hopefully he responds well to it. There isn’t a place on the field where you can hide a player who can’t throw. We’ve seen players get the yips before and it has undone careers. If he doesn’t begin to show real improvement in this area soon, there’s going to be some uncomfortable conversation taking place among Yankee fans. Look out for how Gleyber responds this weekend against the Rays on a tricky turf surface at The Trop.
Article by Matt GrazianoFollow @mattgraz930
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