Eovaldi to undergo TJ surgery

New York Yankees catcher Brian McCann, left, talks to starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016, in New York. Eovaldi gave up two home runs in the inning. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Yankees starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi announced today that he will undergo Tommy Johnsurgery after tearing the flexor tendor and partially tearing the UCL in his right elbow. Eovaldi lasted just 12 pitches in a August 10 start at Boston before having to come out of the game.

Eovaldi will miss the entire 2017 season and is due to become a free agent in 2018, so his Yankees career might well be over.

Acquired in a trade with Miami before the 2015 season – David Phelps and Martin Prado went the other way – Eovaldi has had his ups-and-downs in the Bronx. He went 14-3 in 27 starts last season but did so with a 1.451 WHIP. He allowed 175 hits in 154 1/3 innings last year.

This year, he was 9-8 with a 4.76 ERA in 24 games, 21 of which were starts. Eovaldi gave up fewer hits this year, but he allowed more home runs. He allowed 1.7 homers per nine innings this season, compared to 0.6 last year.

Eovaldi is one of the hardest throwers in the game. He averaged 98 miles per hour on his fastball from May through July.

Eovaldi had Tommy John surgery in high school and typically a second procedure requires a longer recovery time. Could his future come as a reliever? He has one great pitch – the fastball – and could thrive in a one-inning-at-a-time role in the later innings. Eovaldi, however, will have to prove that he’s healthy enough to pitch after he recovers from the surgery.

In case you didn’t catch the late Mets game from Arizona last night, the Mets lost another game to the Diamondbacks and again hit the .500 mark at 59-59. Arizona has won all four games in the season series with the Mets.

There is some light on the horizon for the Mets. Yoenis Cespedes is slated to return on Friday. Asdrubal Cabrera could be back by the weekend.

The Mets will bank on those additions to an offense that has struggled mightily. Only the Braves (422) have scored fewer runs than the Mets (438) in all of Major League Baseball. The Mets are dead-last in batting average (.236), 27th in on-base percentage (.306) and 23rd in slugging (.401).

The other good news is that the club remains in the thick of the NL Wild Card race. The Mets are three games out and trail the Dodgers, Marlins, Cardinals and Pirates with 44 games to play. Many of those games are against the Braves, Phillies and Marlins, so despite the rough past few months, a playoff trip isn’t out of the question.

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Austin, Judge join Bronx Bombers

New York Yankees' Aaron Judge flies out during the second inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Miami Marlins Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The Yankees didn’t waste any time ushering in a youth movement following Alex Rodriguez‘s release.

Outfielder Aaron Judge, a top prospect, has been recalled from Triple-A Scranton to become the Yankees’ everyday right fielder. Tyler Austin, a corner infielder and outfielder, has also joined the team from Triple-A. Austin has had a bounce-back 2016 in the minors and has regained some of his promise.

Judge, a first round pick in the 2013 draft, is 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds and has great power potential. He’s hit 56 home runs in three minor league seasons and hit .270 with 19 homers and 65 RBI in Triple-A this year. Judge is 24 and looked like a September call-up possibility at the beginning of this season. Yet with Carlos Beltran being traded to Texas and Aaron Hicks continuing to struggle, it is time to give Judge a chance to prove it at the major league level.

Austin was a 13th-round pick in 2010 but after a great 2012 season in which he climbed from rookie ball to Double-A, Austin was listed among the top 100 prospects in baseball heading into 2013. He struggled to live up to that promise over the next three seasons but hit .323 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI in 57 games at Triple-A this year. It’s unclear exactly where the 24-year-old figures into this Yankees team, but he can play a variety of positions and should get plenty of at-bats.

The Yankees are three and a half games out in the AL Wild Card standings heading into Saturday. The playoffs remain a long shot. But these call-ups will give the front office a good look at a few young players as the organization thinks about how to rebuild for the future.

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Rodriguez to play final game on Friday

In this Monday, June 6, 2016 photo New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez (13) reacts after striking out swinging in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium in New York. The New York Yankees have announced they will hold a news conference with Alex Rodriguez before the game against Cleveland on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

Don’t call it a retirement.

The Yankees announced at a press conference at the stadium this morning that Alex Rodriguez will play his final game at home on Friday against Tampa Bay. Rodriguez will be unconditionally released after the game and will receive the remainder of the money he is owed through the end of the 2017 season.

Rodriguez will stay on in the Yankees’ organization as an instructor, reporting to Hal Steinbrenner. Rodriguez would be able to sign with another club following his release but the odds of him playing for another team in 2017 seems unlikely.

Four home runs shy of 700, Rodriguez has been largely stuck to the Yankees’ bench for the last four weeks. He is hitting .204 with nine home runs this season. Combined with the club’s recent youth movement – the Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran at the deadline and Mark Teixeira recently announced his retirement at the end of this season – Rodriguez did not fit into the Yankees’ future plans.

Rodriguez has had a brilliant, Hall of Fame Caliber career. 3,114 hits. 696 home runs. A .295 career batting average. Three MVP awards. A 2009 World Series champion.

He has had his fair share of controversy as well. Rodriguez admitted to using PEDs as a member of the Texas Rangers and missed the entire 2014 season while serving a suspension. Despite his bounce-back season in 2015, both in terms of reputation and production on the field, Rodriguez will have a tough time gaining entrance to Cooperstown, if Barry Bonds‘ plight is any guide.

Rodriguez won’t disappear after Friday’s game. He’ll work with Yankees’ minor leaguers and is slated to be a guest instructor at spring training in 2017. Rodriguez has prided himself on being a mentor and a teacher to younger players since he arrived in New York in 2004. His future in the game could well be as a hitting coach or as a manager.

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Mark Teixeira to retire at season’s end

New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira watches his three-run home run off New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz during the second inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. today to announce his retirement following the 2016 season. Teixeira, who signed an eight-year contract with New York before the 2009 season, was set to be a free agent after this year.

Teixeira’s career has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons. He played only 15 games in 2013 after suffering a wrist injury while preparing for the World Baseball Classic.

With less than half a season to play, Teixeira has 404 career home runs, 400 doubles and a lifetime .269 batting average. He won five Gold Gloves at first base, was named to three All-Star games and finished second in the AL MVP voting to Joe Mauer in 2009. That big first season in pinstripes helped lead the Yankees to a World Series title.

We will see how history views Teixeira. He probably won’t be as beloved in New York as Don Mattingly, who played all 14 years of his career in the Bronx, or Tino Martinez, who was a part of four World Series championship teams.

Teixeira probably isn’t bound for Cooperstown. A few more healthy seasons at the end of his career might have given him a shot at 500 home runs. But 400-something is pretty good. He probably won’t get his number retired in Monument Park either. But Teixeira was a big part of the 2009 World Series team and had a switch-hitting power bat and a tremendous glove at first base for a long time. He’s one of baseball’s Hall of Pretty Good players of this generation…and that deserves recognition because it’s pretty hard to do.

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Yankees send Chapman to Cubs

New York Yankees pitcher Aroldis Chapman delivers the ball in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles Monday, July 18, 2016, at Yankee Stadium in New York. Chapman got the save as the Yankees won 2-1. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

With one week to go before the MLB trade deadline, the Yankees made a move, sending closer Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs for three prospects and former Yankees pitcher Adam Warren. (Warren was traded to Chicago for Starlin Castro this past offseason).

Chapman is one of the best closers in baseball and his 100-MPH-plus fastball makes the already deep Cubs that much better. He is a free agent at season’s end, but the Cubs are trying to win now and this trade certainly makes sense in the short term. (Chapman has said he wants to test free agency this winter and it is possible he could reunite with the Yankees, but he will get a ton of money from someone).

Let’s take a look at what the Yankees receive for the long term.

Shortstop Gleyber Torres

MLB.com rated Torres the No. 28 prospect in baseball prior to the 2016 season. He’s 19 and has moved from rookie ball to High-A in three years in the Cubs’ system. In 94 games with Myrtle Beach this year, he hit .275 with 23 doubles, nine home runs, 49 RBI and 19 steals. He has a strong defensive resume and many scouts say his bat will play at an All-Star level in the major leagues. He is quite far from the majors – ETA late 2018 at the earliest – and joins a deep group of shortstops in the Yankees organization. Torres could move to second or third or could be part of another trade down the line. Whatever happens, the Yankees added a major prospect to the farm system in Torres.

Outfielders Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford

McKinney was a first round pick in the 2013 draft by the Oakland A’s and came to Chicago in the 2014 Jeff Samardzija trade. MLB.com had him ranked as the No. 88 overall prospect in baseball coming into this season. He has been at Double-A Tennessee each of the last two seasons and has hit .252 with 12 doubles, one homer and 31 RBI in 88 games this year.  McKinney doesn’t have a lot of power and won’t steal many bases but he’s a lefty-hitting outfielder who plays good defense and has a good eye at the plate. He’s drawn 47 walks against 68 strikeouts this year, making his .355 on-base percentage more than 100 points higher than his batting average. Think a Brett Gardner-like ceiling here. That’s still a good player to add to the farm system.

Crawford was an 11th round pick out of high school in 2012 and was playing at High-A Myrtle Beach this year. He’s hitting .255 with 18 doubles, eight triples and three homers in 83 games. Crawford isn’t as highly rated a prospect as the other players in the trade but the Yankees are hoping he can continue to hit as he climbs the ladder. If so, he could be useful as a fourth outfielder.

Pitcher Adam Warren

Warren struggled with the Cubs after leaving the Bronx in the Starlin Castro trade. He was 3-2 with a 5.91 ERA in 29 appearances and was optioned to Triple-A Iowa. His walks were up and his strikeouts were down. Some baseball beat writers have wondered if Joe Maddon‘s bullpen usage messed with Warren’s stuff. Perhaps a return to familiarity in New York will help him get back on track. Warren turns 29 in August and won’t hit free agency until 2019. He can pitch out of the bullpen and also slot into the rotation and adds a major-league ready component to this trade for the rest of the 2016 season. If Warren can pitch well in the seventh inning, Dellin Betances takes the eighth and Andrew Miller takes the ninth, the loss of Chapman won’t sting as much.

Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman said this afternoon that this trade doesn’t necessarily make the Yankees buyers or sellers. Chapman was a free-agent-to-be and this trade made the Yankees’ farm system considerably stronger. We will see over the next week if the Yankees continue to wheel and deal and look to the future.

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MLB’s second half set to start

The second half of the baseball season begins in just a few hours.

I had some MLB stories in the paper earlier this week. Here are the links.

Column: Mets face long road to playoffs

Five questions for the second half: Mets

Column: Time for the Yankees to sell

Five questions for the second half: Yankees

With the trade deadline looming – it’ll be 4 p.m. on August 1 this year as July 31 is a Sunday – let’s take a look at the upcoming schedules for both local teams.

Yankees

  • 3 games at home vs. Red Sox
  • 4 games at home vs. Orioles
  • 3 games at home vs. Giants
  • 3 games on road at Astros
  • Day off
  • 3 games on road at Tampa Bay

If the Yankees have any hope of being a playoff team this year, they’re going to have to gain some ground on Baltimore, Boston and Toronto, currently 1-2-3, respectively, in the AL East. So these first seven games at home will be key. Say the Yankees go 5-2 over that span and they’d be 49-44 heading into a series with San Francisco, which has the best record in baseball.

Houston has come back to life after a sluggish start, so that won’t be an easy series either. So even with a good record here against division opponents, 3-3 against the Astros and Giants seems realistic. That puts the Yankees are 52-47 a few days before the deadline. Sitting five games over might leave the Yankees feeling better about their second half chances and could dampen the club’s likelihood of selling any players at the deadline.

But that’s the best-case scenario. So it will be interesting to watch. The Yankees won’t have any lack of suitors for Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, so they can wait until August 1 to make any trades. This stretch of games, including those final three in Tampa Bay, could determine the course of the franchise moving forward.

Mets

  • 3 games on road at Phillies
  • 3 games on road at Cubs
  • Day off
  • 3 games on road at Marlins
  • 3 games at home vs. Cardinals
  • 4 games at home vs. Rockies

The Mets are tied for second in the NL East with the Marlins at 47-41, six games behind Washington.

The good news for the team is that the second-half schedule opens in Philly. The Mets have always played well in Citizens Bank Ballpark, so at least two wins in that series are a must. Then it’s three games in Chicago against a Cubs team looking to get back on track, but the Mets have won eight straight against the Cubbies dating back to the 2015 NLCS. After a day off, it’s three big games against the Marlins as the Mets look to create a bit of separation in the NL East.

As far as the trade market, the Mets don’t have any obvious holes at the moment outside of the bullpen. A significant injury to Steven Matz or Noah Syndergaard over the next few weeks, however, might have the Mets looking at a thin starting pitching market.

Really, these next few weeks are all about keeping pace with Washington.

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Harvey to DL; shoulder problem feared

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey throws during the second inning of the baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Monday, July 4, 2016 in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Mets placed Matt Harvey on the 15-day disabled list this afternoon and he will visit Dr. Robert Thompson in St. Louis on Thursday. Thompson is the director of the Washington University Center for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

It is yet unclear whether Harvey is suffering from TOS at this point. Thursday’s visit will likely provide an answer.

TOS happens when excess pressure is placed on a neurovascular bundle near the collarbone and shoulder. In layman’s terms, there are a bunch of nerves and arteries and veins that pass between bones and muscle and can get pinched from repetitive strain.

A number of pitchers have been diagnosed with TOS in the past, including Chris Carpenter, Josh Beckett, Chris Young and Matt Harrison. Surgery is sometimes required to relieve the problem and some pitchers, Young, most notably, have returned and pitched well.

So we will see how  Harvey fares tomorrow. If he is diagnosed with TOS, surgery could be in the future and his return to the majors could be delayed. On the other hand, a DL stint could be all Harvey needs to get back on track. Harvey is 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts this season. After a rough start, Harvey had five consecutive solid starts between May 30 and June 23, going at least six innings in each outing. He has gone just 3 2/3 innings in each of his last two starts and has just one double-digit strikeout performance this season.

The club announced Seth Lugo would be recalled from Triple-A.

Starting pitching depth figured to be one of the Mets’ strengths in 2016 but if Harvey is out for any significant amount of time – with Zack Wheeler still working on coming back from Tommy John surgery – the staff will be a bit thin heading into the second half.

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Reyes returns to Mets; Yankees nearing buy-sell decision

Jose Reyes takes ground balls at third base, Tuesday, July 5, 2016, in New York. Reyes, a former New York Mets shortstop, was signed by the Mets after the Colorado Rockies released him. Reyes served a 51-game suspension under Major League Baseball's new domestic violence policy. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Jose Reyes makes his return to Citi Field tonight, as the former Mets’ shortstop will play third base and lead off against Miami.

Reyes, released by the Colorado Rockies last month, will play in the majors for the first time this season. He had been suspended 52 games at the start of the 2016 season for a domestic violence incident involving his wife this past offseason.

Reyes spent nine years with the Mets, capping his career with a National League batting title in 2011 before leaving via free agency for Miami in 2012. Miami then traded Reyes to Toronto in a megadeal following the 2012 campaign. Reyes spent two and a half injury plagued seasons with the Blue Jays before he was flipped to Colorado in the Troy Tulowitzki trade last summer.

Reyes has played 20 games in the minor leagues this season with the Rockies and Mets, hitting .239 with two home runs and four RBI. With David Wright out for the season, the Mets do need some backup at third base and they’re hoping Reyes still has what it takes to be an offensive force at the big league level.

Speed was always Reyes’ biggest skill during his heyday with the Mets but that appears to be gone now at age 33. He’s hit 20 triples since leaving the Mets, a far cry from the 19 triples he hit in the 2008 season alone. Reyes led the National League in steals from 2005-07 (60, 64, 78) but stole just 54 bags between 2014-15. He’s never played a single inning at third base in the majors, so he’ll have some defensive adjustments to make.

Yet this is a low-risk move for the Mets. One, Reyes has apologized for his off-field actions. That doesn’t erase what Reyes did, but the Mets seem willing to give him a second chance. Two, the Rockies ate the remainder of his contract when he was released, so this doesn’t cost the Mets very much. If Reyes doesn’t pan out, the Mets can dump him at any time. If he does, it provides the team with some infield depth an a top-of-the-order hitter.

Just over the halfway point of the season, the Yankees are two games under .500 at 40-42. Baltimore (47 wins), Boston (45) and Toronto (46) have pretty significant leads in the AL East and the Yankees are 4 and 1/2 games back in the AL Wild Card standings.

The Yankees finish up the first half of the season with two games against the White Sox in Chicago and four games in Cleveland before the All-Star break.

Even if the Yankees were to win six straight, 46-42 isn’t a position in which this team normally finds itself in mid-July.

So do the Yankees become sellers?

Increasingly, the answer looks like yes. If so, there are two players that the Yankees have to move before the trade deadline.

Carlos Beltran, a free agent at season’s end, is having a tremendous year and could be a major help to AL clubs in need of a designated hitter. Beltran has a long history as a postseason performer and would likely accept an opportunity to make another October run. With Alex Rodriguez a DH only at this point in his career, trading Beltran would free up some much-needed space on the Yankees’ 25-man roster. Outfield prospect Aaron Judge could get a chance to prove himself at the major league level over the final 75 games of the regular season. The Yankees could conceivably get a close-to-ready starting pitching prospect in return for Beltran, which would benefit the team greatly in 2017.

One other player the Yankees have to seriously consider dealing is Aroldis Chapman. A team going nowhere doesn’t need a great closer – never mind three – and Chapman, like Beltran, is a free agent after this season. The Yankees could offer Chapman a qualifying offer and get a pick at the end of the first round of the 2017 draft when Chapman signs elsewhere. The Yankees could also get much more value for Chapman in a July trade, including players who are closer to the majors. A left-handed closer who throws 100 miles per hour is going to fetch quite a haul on the trade market and the Yankees would be foolish not to entertain offers from contenders over the next few weeks. If this team is serious about rebuilding for 2017, a Chapman trade could net the Yankees a player or two who could be contributors in a hurry.

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Sanchez gets the call

New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez prepares to catch the ball in the bullpen during a spring training workout Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. Photo Credit: AP / Chris O’Meara

With the Yankees’ offense sputtering and some lineup regulars out with injuries, the team has called up catching prospect Gary Sanchez for this weekend’s series against the White Sox.

With Brian McCann being one of the most durable catchers in the game, it is surprising to see Sanchez called up this early in the season with McCann at full strength. The Yankees will start Sanchez at designated hitter on Friday with White Sox southpaw Chris Sale on the mound.

It could be a short stint in the Bronx for Sanchez. Another lefty, Jose Quintana, starts on Saturday. Perhaps the Yankees call up Rob Refsnyder after that. Or Sanchez could stick around as the DH until Alex Rodriguez returns from the disabled list.

Sanchez made his major league debut at the end of 2015 and got two at-bats. He played 27 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season, hitting .288 with 11 doubles, five home runs and 21 RBI. The 23-year-old catcher has displayed a good bat throughout his seven seasons in the minor leagues, hitting .275 with 94 home runs and a .339 on-base percentage in 2,518 MiLB plate appearances.

McCann is signed through the 2019 season and would seem to block Sanchez’s path to a regular job. It also doesn’t make sense to have a talented young player resigned to a backup role where he plays once a week. So perhaps Sanchez’s future in the Bronx is as a DH – or in some part-time role with McCann between the two positions.

He will get a tough test against Sale tonight but it will be interesting to see how Sanchez fares at the big league level. The Yankees sure could use a bat like his.

The Wall Street Journal recently did a story on the Mets and how the team has relied heavily upon the home run this season. Click here to read it.

Does that sound familiar, Yankees’ fans?

Entering Wednesday’s game in Los Angeles, the Mets had scored 77 of 139 runs via the home run. That’s ahead of the record pace of 53.1 percent of runs via homers set by the Blue Jays in 2010. Tampa Bay (56.5 percent), the Mets (55.4), Baltimore (53.2) and Seattle (51.4) are scoring the majority of runs via the long ball this season.

The Mets will certainly take runs any way they can get them. The question is, can the team sustain this homer-happy pace?

Yoenis Cespedes leads the team with 11 home runs. Neil Walker is second with nine and is followed by Lucas Duda (7) and Curtis Granderson (6). Noah Sydergaard (2) and Bartolo Colon (1!) have also contributed.

Walker almost certainly won’t keep up his power hitting. He’s on pace for 45.6 home runs yet his career high is 23, which he set playing in 137 games in 2014.

Cespedes is on track for 59.4 homers. His career high is 35, which he set last year between Detroit and New York.

The Mets are tied with the Cardinals with 51 home runs for first place in the majors. Mets’ hitters rank 16th with 57 doubles. So expect some of those home runs to turn into doubles and balance things out for the offense in the weeks and months to come. As long as the Mets are still getting runners on base, those doubles are still going to result in runs.

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Yankees to call up Ben Gamel

New York Yankees' Ben Gamel and Minnesota Twins' John Ryan Murphy watche Gamel's hit to right during a spring training baseball game against the Minnesota Twins on , Sunday, March 20, 2016, in Fort Myers, Fla. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

With Alex Rodriguez recently landing on the DL – pitcher James Pazos took his spot on the 25-man roster – and Brett Gardner dealing with a sore elbow, the Yankees have called up Triple-A outfielder Ben Gamel.

Gamel, who turns 24 later this month, was a 10th round pick in the 2010 draft out of Bishop Kenney, a Jacksonville, Fla. high school. Darren O’Day and Jonathan Papelbon are also Bishop Kenney grads.

In seven seasons in the minors, the left-handed hitting Gamel is a .284 hitter with 21 home runs and 269 RBI. He can play all three outfield spots, but has primarily played in left and center. He’s also drawn a decent amount of walks in his career, as his .341 on-base percentage attests.

So Gamel isn’t going to save the Yankees’ offense but he gives the team a pretty good Brett Gardner clone in the meantime. He had a solid 2015 season in Scranton, hitting .300 with 28 doubles, 14 triples and 10 homers over 129 games. He was batting .286 with one double, one triple and one homer through 23 games this season at Triple-A.

There’s no indication yet who the Yankees will swap off the roster to make this move. They could send down Pazos or another pitcher or he could plug in for Gardner should he land on the disabled list as well. The Yankees could also use this opportunity to use a Gamel-Ellsbury-Hicks outfield and use Carlos Beltran as DH until Rodriguez returns.

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