Last night, Joe Girardi confirmed that Zoilo Almonte would need a DL stint after spraining his ankle while running to first base. That's just the way this year has gone for the Yankees, and it sadly seems fitting that the second half began with two players going on the DL in the same day (including Derek Jeter). Zoilo got off to a great start with the Yankees, but since then, his triple slash had fallen to .261/.305/.341 with a 76 wRC+. With big-league pitching slowly figuring him out, some time away might ultimately be for the best, I suppose.
To replace Zoilo on the roster, Scranton writer Donnie Collins reported that both Thomas Neal and Melky Mesa packed their bags for Boston. If accurate, that means another roster move is expected prior to this afternoon's matchup with the Red Sox. Since the recently-called up Brent Lillibridge can play the infield, the smart money is on either Luis Cruz or Alberto Gonzalez packing their bags. It will probably be Gonzalez since Joe Girardi seems to prefer Cruz in the field, but it really doesn't make a damn bit of difference and it's frankly quite depressing that we're debating the merits of friggin' Luis Cruz and Alberto Gonzalez.
(UPDATE: It is indeed Gonzalez who is going off the team.)
Prior to the Zoilo experiment, the Yankees called Neal up to see if he could find some way to hit the righthanded pitching that befuddled Vernon Wells, but Neal did not fare much better in a brief four-game trial (2-for-11 with a walk and a hit by pitch). He was named to the International League All-Star Team for his .316/.392/.407, 125 wRC+ first half in Scranton though, and since Zoilo is on the shelf, it's worth giving Neal another shot. It's hard to be much worse than Wells anyway. Wells is a miserable .207/.244/.342 against righties while Neal hit .317/.395/.401 against them in Triple-A. He should see some regular time in the outfield even though he's an underwhelming defender. Joe Girardi said today that Neal will be the DH against lefties.
If Mesa is indeed also getting the call to the Show, then it's a bit of a curious selection. It would be Mesa's first time with the Yankees this year after a cup of coffee in September 2012 somewhat infamous for a baserunning snafu. Mesa does bring strong defense to the table, so that makes him a solid bench player with extra infielders like Cruz and Gonzalez expendable anyway. However, as Jesse Schindler noted last night, his 36.8% strikeout rate and 2.walk rate in Scranton will be something to behold in the majors. Mesa could probably run into a pitch for his first big-league homer since he's always had decent-to-strong power in the minors (.183 ISO since 2011), but he is too much a of a free-swinger to be very effective. He hit .252/.281/.430 with an 89 wRC+ in 63 games with Scranton. Curiously, the righty hitter has a reverse platoon split; lefties dominated him to a .177/.215/.258 line while he hit righties at a .278/.303/.489 clip. Maybe Mesa should grab a beer with Vern sometime while he's up and they could make perhaps 2/3 of a legitimate MLB player.
Chad Jennings at the invaluable LoHud Yankees blog has provided injury update to numerous players over the past week:
- Derek Jeter should not need a rehab assignment for his quad strain. Brian Cashman said that the Yankees will have to assess how Jeter's doing around the 27th before committing to activating him immediately after his 15 days are up.
- Alex Rodriguez will play third base for Scranton today, DH for them tomorrow, then hopefully join the team in Texas on Monday. The latter is only pending on whether or not A-Rod needs a day of rest after playing for four days in a row. I have a hunch that adrenaline for his first MLB game in nine months will energize any weariness, but the Yankees should definitely play it safe if there's any concern at all.
- David Phelps strained his right forearm earlier in July and has been on the DL since July 5th, but he recently threw a bullpen session and will start a rehab assignment somewhere to be determined on Tuesday. The Star-Ledger's Andy McCullough reported that Phelps will not automatically regain his rotation spot upon his return to the Yankees. He's been inconsistent in the rotation this year with a 5.01 ERA and 121 ERA-, so it might not be the worst thing in the world for him to spend a little time in the bullpen, especially with Ivan Nova pitching well and Phil Hughes being advertised for the trade market.
- Curtis Granderson, out on the 60-day DL since Tampa Bay's Cesar Ramos broke his finger on May 25th, has been taking indoor batting practice in Tampa. The Yankees target early August for his return, and they hope he can begin a rehab assignment in a week to 10 days.
- Jayson Nix has been on the 15-day DL since incurring a hamstring strain on July 2nd, and he has been "going through drills" in Tampa. Like Phelps, he should be getting into rehab games soon somewhere, perhaps on Tuesday or Wednesday. He'd obviously be an improvement over Luis Cruz, but so would your Uncle Gerald.
- There's still not much to report on Francisco Cervelli, who hasn't played since mid-April due to a broken hand and had an injury setback at the beginning of July thanks to a stress reaction in his right elbow. That reaction forced the catcher to shut it down for two weeks so that it didn't develop into a stress fracture. He has now begun throwing again, and hopefully nothing more will come of the stress reaction. Cashman and Jennings did not hazard a return date, but it will probably be at least another three-four weeks since Cervelli has a lot to do before he can even start rehab games and the Yankees will want to take it slow.
- Third baseman/outfielder Ronnier Mustelier returned to Triple-A Scranton last night after being out for about a month with an injury. He was only hitting .273/.312/.398 with a 93 wRC+ prior to getting hurt and his bad timing likely cost him a shot at the pros. If he gets back into the swing of things seemlessly and starts hitting again though, the Yankees should take a flyer on him since he could be righthanded help for the lineup while playing all around the field.
- Relief prospect Mark Montgomery is still down in the Gulf Coast League rehabbing from a tired shoulder that has kept him out of Triple-A since mid-June. No word yet on when he should join Scranton though. His numbers have been disappointing in Scranton (5.6 BB/9!) but he can still turn his season around if he returns productive and healthy.
- According to Josh Norris, first round draft pick Ian Clarkin is not close to first professional games in the organization yet. The former high school lefty sprained his ankle around the time he was drafted but will throw off flat ground soon.
- Lefty Scranton starter Vidal Nuno had a PRP injection for his groin injury, but is not quite ready for baseball activity yet.
- Jason mentioned this in the news a few days ago, but infielder Corban Joseph is done for the season due to shoulder surgery. That's a shame; hopefully his recovery goes well and he will be ready for 2014. Since he's not on the 60-day DL yet, it seems like he could be a candidate for that at some point to free up a 40-man roster spot since service time isn't really an issue with him, unlike Manny Banuelos.