Good news and bad news as Yankees pummel Tampa Bay to open series

nestor cortes, yankees

The New York Yankees took on the Tampa Bay Rays down south on Thursday night, walking away with a win to open the series. This year, the Rays have won 26 games, now sitting 5.5 games behind the Yankees for first place in the AL East. The Bombers have won 32 games, securing a .711 winning percentage with a +73 run differential.

Luckily, starting pitcher Nestor Cortes got the first crack at the Tampa Bay offense, putting together yet another stellar performance.

Good news and bad news as Yankees grab first game of series against Rays:

Cortes entered Thursday’s match-up with a 1.80 ERA over 45 innings this season. He hosts a career-best 11.20 strikeouts per nine and a 9.3 home-run/flyball ratio. He’s also posting an 87.6% left on base rate and generating a 35.2% ground ball rate.

He finished the win giving up four hits over 8.0 innings, securing five strikeouts. Cortes gave up one run, lowering his ERA to 1.70. He tossed 109 pitches, with the only run coming in the bottom of the 9th inning when he was simply out of gas. Wandy Peralta entered to clean up, allowing a few singles before Tampa ran out of juice.

Offensively, the Yankees started slow but began piecing together quality contact in the middle-innings against Ryan Yarborough. They finished with six hits and six strikeouts over 32 at-bats. Aaron Judge tallied a hit and two RBIs on the evening.

Fellow slugger Joey Gallo struck out three times over four at-bats, lowering his average to .165 with a .278 on-base percentage.

The Yankees have been completely decimated with injuries over the past week, losing DJ LeMahieu to wrist discomfort and Giancarlo Stanton to a sore ankle. It was first reported that Stanton had suffered a calf injury, an issue that has kept him out in the past.

The Yankees featured Miguel Andujar in the cleanup spot, supplementing Stanton’s loss. Andujar recorded one hit and an RBI on the night, making a positive impact on the team. There’s a legitimate argument to make it Andujar could begin eating into Aaron Hicks and Joey Gallo’s time in the outfield.

Yankees giving veteran bullpen arm a second chance at life in Major League Baseball

Manny Bañuelos, New York Yankees

All the injuries that the New York Yankees‘ roster didn’t suffer in the first few weeks of the season have accumulated in the last week. First, it was Chad Green who complained about forearm tightness, and he ended up needing Tommy John surgery. Then Aroldis Chapman went to the injured list with an Achilles problem, and Jonathan Loaisiga joined them with shoulder discomfort on Wednesday. It has been a nightmarish week in the Bronx.

The situation has created several needs for healthy, effective arms in the major league roster. That’s why we saw rookie JP Sears starting on Wednesday, and that’s why the Yankees are bringing up a longtime friend to help in the bullpen.

The Yankees signed left-handed pitcher Manny Bañuelos to a Major League contract and selected him to the 26-man roster from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the team informed.

A former top prospect in the Yankees system

As you may recall, Banuelos was a top prospect in the Yankees system in the early 2010s, but injuries and underperformance derailed his career. He was traded in 2015, when he made his MLB debut with the Atlanta Braves. The Los Angeles Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Chicago White Sox all tried to salvage his career, without much success.

The last time he pitched for an MLB organization was in 2019, when he had a 6.93 ERA in 50.2 innings with the Pale Hose.

But the Yankees brought him home in 2022, and he was pitching very well in Triple-A: in 30.2 innings in Scranton, he had a 2.35 ERA and a 2.88 FIP, with 12 walks and 30 strikeouts.

If anyone can help Banuelos have a role in an MLB organization, it’s the Yankees, with Sam Briend and Matt Blake giving him all the resources he may need to succeed. At this point, at 31 years old, expectations should be much, much lower than those years in which he was a can’t miss prospect, but if he can be a reliable reliever, the club will be more than happy.

Banuelos, with a career 6.31 ERA in 77 MLB innings, is eager to take advantage of his second chance.

 

3 starting pitchers the New York Mets should target at the trade deadline

Mets

With Max Scherzer’s injury sidelining the right-hander for 6-8 weeks, the New York Mets ventured into familiar territory. When Jacob deGrom missed the second half of the 2021 season, the Mets found themselves scrambling to find quality MLB starters to fill the void. Without Scherzer, deGrom still rehabbing, and Tylor Megill wrapping up his injured list stint, this team may be in an even more tenuous position than the one that preceded it.

The Mets’ first turn around the rotation without Scherzer went swimmingly. Trevor Williams tossed a serviceable 4 innings, surrendering 4 runs in the high altitude of Coors Field. Taijuan Walker had perhaps his best start as a Met, throwing 8 scoreless innings to clinch a series win vs Colorado. And David Peterson followed with arguably the best start of his career, limiting a lethal San Francisco Giants lineup to just 2 runs over 6 innings.

But what’s transpired since has been anything but operable. The Mets lost a back and forth see-saw game Tuesday long after Chris Bassitt exited, giving up 8 runs in the process. With the Mets searching for answers from their farm or the waiver wire, Thomas Szapucki made his first big league start on Wednesday. It didn’t last long. Szapucki gave up 8 earned runs in just 2 innings pitched. It was the first time Mets starters gave up 8 runs or more in back-to-back outings since 2014.

While Bassitt still remains one of the few sure things in the current rotation, the results from Szapucki warrant concern. Szapucki, seen as the last line of defense, could be tabbed for at least one more start until the Mets aces get healthy. While the Mets are now reportedly targeting a late June return for deGrom, the team will certainly be careful as they ramp up the two-time Cy Young Winner. With that, here are three starting pitchers the Mets should target to fill in for the time being.


1. Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds

Tyler Mahle debuted with the Reds in 2017 and has enjoyed varying degrees of success throughout his big league career. In his first two full seasons, Mahle made 48 starts but pitched to a 5.06 ERA. His 1.44 WHIP, in part due to a high walk rate, was one of his downfalls during that time.

But from 2020 to 2021, Mahle lowered his WHIP to 1.27, and in turn his ERA to 3.72 over 227.2 innings pitched. This year, however, Mahle has once again struggled with free passes and watched as his ERA has ballooned to 6.32 over his first 47 innings in 2022.

Despite some ugly traditional numbers, could Mahle simply be the victim of a hitter-friendly ballpark and a team on pace to be one of the worst in league history?

Mahle’s FIP, which eliminates the defensive standouts or shortcomings of a pitcher’s team, sits at 3.84. In other words, pitching in a more neutral ballpark instead of Great American Ballpark, and without one of the worst defensive teams in baseball behind him, Mahle could, in fact, have a much better-earned run average.

According to Jon Heyman, the Mets reportedly have already scouted Mahle along with Oakland Athletics starter Frankie Montas. Montas is the superior pitcher, though, and will likely command a stronger group of prospects in a trade. For those reasons, the Mets may be better served to target Mahle, who should come at a more affordable price tag.

2. Michael Pineda, Detroit Tigers

Michael Pineda is far removed from his once-promising tenure with the New York Yankees. At the time, it appeared Pineda may be the Yankee’s future ace. After three average years with the Bombers from 2015 to 2017, the veteran right-hander has flown under the radar while quietly putting together three consecutive solid seasons with the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers.

From 2018 to 2021, Pineda pitched to a 3.80 ERA over 282 innings. His ERA+ 113 during that time suggests he was 13% better than the league average pitcher. Last year, Pineda made 21 starts for the Twins and had a 3.62 ERA. So far this year, Pineda has a 3.22 ERA over his first 5 starts.

Unfortunately, Pineda is currently on the Injured List after taking a comebacker off his finger. Tigers manager AJ Hinch has said that Pineda will not require surgery but may miss up to a month. With the Mets pressing need for starting pitching, Pineda may not be the solution they are in need of unless his timetable for return is sooner than currently reported.

3. Jose Quintana, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates are 7 games under .500, looking to finally emerge from the doldrums of their rebuild. Unfortunately for fans of the Black and Gold, it just won’t be this year. The Pirates looking for any veteran presence to help carry the load in their rotation, signed Quintana to a one-year deal worth a minuscule $2MM dollars.

Quintana, who spent the beginning of his career in Chicago, first with the south siders and then with the Cubs, was traded mid-season last year from the Los Angeles Angeles to the Giants. He worked exclusively out of the bullpen for San Francisco down the stretch but has made eight starts with the Pirates this year.

In that time, Quintana earned a 2.43 ERA for Pittsburgh over his first 40.2 innings. The left-hander has 34 strikeouts compared to just 15 walks issued during that time. And his ERA+ 168 is among the top 10 in the NL if he were qualified based on innings pitched.

With the Pirates still a ways away from competing for a playoff spot in the National League, the team should be ripe for the picking. Quintana should be one of the more talked about names as the deadline draws closer. With a minimal amount of financial responsibility owed in his walk year, Quintana could be a perfect solution for the Mets rotation in the interim and could even be used out of the bullpen later in the season.

Nets have the stars but Knicks still the most searched team in NY, NJ

Despite the Brooklyn Nets drawing superstars Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden over the last three years, the New York Knicks remain the undisputed top draw in one of the biggest NBA markets.

On top of drawing the better attendance in games, the Knicks continued to be the most searched team in the states of New York and New Jersey in the last four years, based on a new study.

The study by odds comparison experts at Sidelines.io used Google Keyword Planner to determine which NBA team is the most popular in each state by analyzing the number of searches over the past four years for each of the 30 teams in the league. This included searches for the team’s full name and their commonly searched nickname, such as ‘Knicks’ or ‘Nets.’

The Los Angeles Lakers cemented their royalty status as the most popular team in the NBA by topping the list in 25 states, including California, Kentucky and Nevada. The Boston Celtics, poised to return to the NBA Finals, place second, ranking as the most searched in all six New England states, including Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The Utah Jazz were the third-most searched team statewide, coming out top in three states; Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. The Knicks were tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for the fourth spot in the list by topping two states.

Based on the study, the Knicks averaged 550,000 searches on average per month in New York, while the Nets drew a paltry 165,000 searches on average per month. The Nets have been more competitive in their old stomping grounds averaging 90,500 searches on average per month in New Jersey. But the Knicks still came up on top with 165,000 searches on average per month.

The Nets are approaching an interesting summer with Irving set to command a max extension that they are reportedly reluctant to give. On the other hand, the Knicks are hoping to reshape their injury-prone roster that finished 11th in the Eastern Conference after making the playoffs as the fourth seed in the previous season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Yankees sign former Cardinals All-Star infielder to Major League contract

matt carpenter, yankees

With a number of injuries arising in both the outfield and infield, the New York Yankees made a free agent acquisition on Thursday afternoon.

Yankees PR announced:

The New York Yankees announced today that they have signed three-time All-Star INF Matt Carpenter to a Major League contract and added him to the active roster.

The Yankees brought in veteran infielder Matt Carpenter to help supplement deficiencies in the infield. The lefty batter is 36 years old and coming off a disappointing 2021 season with St. Louis.

Over 130 games and 207 at-bats, Carpenter recorded a .169 average with three homers and 21 RBIs. Back in 2013- 16, Carpenter earned three All-Star appearances. He recorded a career-best batting average of .318 in 2013 with 55 doubles and 199 total hits. In 2018, he slapped 36 homers, but his power has dropped off significantly in the past few years.

Matt has been a free agent this off-season, awaiting an opportunity to help a big league club. With utilityman DJ LeMahieu suffering from a wrist injury, having a player who has experience at nearly every infield spot is a benefit. Over 11 seasons, Carpenter has enjoyed 5,367 innings at third base, 2,316 at first base, and 1,903 innings at second base.

Looking at Carpenter’s power metrics, his hard-hit percentage last year sat at 42% with a 21.1 launch angle. As a lefty batter, he still might have a bit of juice left in his bones to take advantage of the short right porch in Yankee Stadium.

Nonetheless, this could indicate that the infield is in a bit of trouble due to injury. LeMahieu received a cortisone shot for his wrist earlier this week. The Yankees expecting him to return shortly.

Nonetheless, at 36 years old, Carpenter likely won’t make a significant impact, but at the very least, he can offer a supplement at first base to give Anthony Rizzo rest days.

UFC announces Long Island event with Brian Ortega – Yair Rodriguez headlining

Brian Ortega, UFC

Today the UFC announced that they are heading to Long Island in July and they are bringing a banger of a main event from the featherweight division. Former two-time title challenger Brian “T-City” Ortega (15-2, 1 NC) will be taking on top contender Yair Rodriguez (13-3, 1 NC).

The fight will headline the UFC’s July 16th card. For Rodriguez, this will give him a chance to get right back in there with one of the very best guys in the featherweight division.

Back in 2019, Rodriguez defeated Jeremy Stephens by decision. This win came on the heels of a knockout win over Chan Sung Jung. It looked like Rodriguez was right in the title picture. However, injuries and outside issues kept him out of the UFC for over two years.

He returned back in November when he took on former UFC champion Max Holloway. I was expecting Holloway to runaway with the fight. However, Rodriguez put on one of the best performances of his career.

Yes, Rodriguez ultimately came up short, but he came up short against one of the best of all time. Getting him right back in there against Ortega will keep him active amongst the best at 145.

UFC bounce back opportunity

This potential matchup isn’t just a bounce back opportunity for Rodriguez, but it’s also one for T-City. The last time we saw Ortega was back at UFC 266 in September when he took on Alexander Volkanovski for the featherweight title.

It was Ortega’s second crack at the featherweight strap. Ortega had his moments including almost locking up Volkanovski in two fight ending submissions in the third round. However, Volkanovski powered through and walked to a lopsided decision victory.

Ortega has had two title fights against the two best featherweights in the UFC. Both times, he’s been on the losing side of a lopsided fight. He’s proven how good he is, but he’s struggled against the very best.

This fight against Rodriguez will once again give Ortega the opportunity to prove he’s third in the world. If he can win, he’s perhaps only one more win away from his third crack at the featherweight championship.

Mets legend Darryl Strawberry to attend Old Timers’ Day

Simeon Woods-Richardson

New York Mets legend Darryl Strawberry confirmed, through the team official website, that he will be in attendance for this year’s Old Timers’ Day, to be celebrated on August 27 at Citi Field. It will be the first time in 32 years that the former outfielder will step onto a field wearing the Mets colors.

“Shea was always a wonderful place for me,” Strawberry said to MLB.com. “The fans were always great. They supported me in the good and bad times.”

Strawberry was one of the league’s top outfielders in the eighties and won the 1986 World Series with the Mets, against the Boston Red Sox. He said he is looking forward to meeting his friends and former teammates, but he won’t be playing.

“Sorry to say, I don’t think I will be able to play,” Strawberry said. “My knees and shoulder won’t let me swing a bat anymore. It’s the wear and tear and the years catching up with me. I will be there supporting the guys who will be on the field.”

One of the best hitters ever to wear a Mets uniform

The Mets picked Strawberry first in the 1980 Draft. He made his MLB debut in 1983, winning the National League Rookie of the Year award after slashing .257/.336/.512 with 26 home runs and 74 RBI. In 1988. As of today, Strawberry is the Mets’ all-time leader in home runs with 252.

With the Mets, Strawberry hit .263/.359/.520 with the 252 blasts, an .878 OPS and 191 stolen bases in eight years with the franchise.

More than 60 former Mets will join Strawberry at Old Timers’ Day, with names such as Mike Piazza, Johan Santana, Pedro Martínez, Tim Teufel, Josh Thole, John Franco, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling, Al Leiter, Ed Kranepool, Frank Thomas, Ron Swoboda, Jon Matlack, Félix Millán, Mookie Wilson, Howard Johnson, Bobby Ojeda, Robin Ventura, Turk Wendell, Endy Chávez, Cliff Floyd, Billy Wagner and Daniel Murphy.

Yankees have found an exciting, young starting pitcher to help rotation

jp sears, yankees

When the New York Yankees trotted out Triple-A star JP Sears on Wednesday as their primary starter, they didn’t expect him to be as dominant as he was.

To preface, Sears has been electric with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, posting a 0.83 ERA over 21.2 innings. He’s recording 12.46 strikeouts per nine and a 46.7% ground ball rate. Sears has taken his game to another level this season, just in time for the Yankees to supplement the back-end rotation spot after the injury to Luis Gil.

Gil will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his 2022 season prematurely. The Yankees had a big decision to make: target a starter at the trade deadline or give a young prospect an opportunity to steal the show.

The Yankees have themselves a polished young starter:

Impressively, Sears didn’t back down from the fight, working his way out of trouble on a number of occasions to help the Yankees win their second consecutive game over the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.

“I definitely felt more comfortable as I went,” Sears said. “The stuff was sharper each inning I was out there.”

JP lasted 5.0 innings, giving up three hits and two walks, striking out five batters. An error from Gleyber Torres in the 1st inning put Sears’s start in jeopardy, but he forced a pop-out for the second out and struck out Ryan Mountcastle after falling behind with a 3–0 count.

Sears isn’t known for his blazing velocity but rather impeccable accuracy. His fastball averages out at 94 mph and slider at 81.6. Opposing batters are only accumulating an 84.3 mph exit velocity off Sears, meaning they’re making weak contact on his pitches. In fact, batters are swinging at pitches outside the strike zone at nearly 30%.

Given it was Sears’s first start in the MLB against a low;y Baltimore squad, we need to see him take on more talented teams. But with the Yankees trying to supplement fatigue, we should expect the 26-years-old to get more action in the next few weeks. He was immediately recalled to Triple-A following the game, but he definitely left a positive impression on the coaching staff.

“It was awesome. I had my family here and 15 friends,” said Sears. “I got to see them all and it makes it even better because they were here and I look forward to the next one, whenever that is.”

The Giants could face an interesting decision if Saquon Barkley has a comeback season

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

The New York Giants front office and new GM Joe Schoen did their best to assemble a competent offensive line for the 2022 season. Ultimately, they had plenty of draft capital but not enough financial flexibility to overhaul the unit entirely. They still managed to inject several quality players into positions of need.

Drafting Evan Neal with the 7th overall pick and signing Mark Glowinski, former Indianapolis Colts interior lineman — the Giants took a big step forward.

Neal is known for his physicality in the running game. He is a massive human being at 6’8″ and 345 pounds. He can move bodies at the line of scrimmage and get to the second level with his strength. On the other hand, Glowinski is an incredibly aggressive guard who features alpha male power. While pass protection is the key for Daniel Jones, running back, Saquon Barkley might have a brick wall of bodies to run behind this upcoming season.

Barkley is looking for a big 2022 season, coming off another injury-riddled campaign. The injuries have piled up since joining the NFL in 2018, stained by a torn ACL against the Chicago Bears in Week 2 of the 2020 season.

A list of Saquon Barkley’s injury history, via Draftsharks.com:

Sep 22, 2019 NFL Pedal Ankle Sprain Grade 2 He suffered a high ankle sprain in the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sep 20, 2020 NFL Knee ACL Tear Grade 3 Barkley suffered a torn ACL during the Week 2 contest at Chicago. His season was over after just two games.
Sep 20, 2020 NFL Knee MCL Sprain Grade 2 Barkley suffered an MCL strain during the Week 2 contest at Chicago.
Oct 10, 2021 NFL Pedal Ankle Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1 Barkley suffered a low-ankle injury in Week 5 contest against the Dallas Cowboys.

Last year, Barkley suffered an ankle sprain in Week 5 against Dallas, which hampered his ability for the remainder of the year. He will be looking to stay healthy for the first time since 2018, and running behind a better OL could contribute toward that.

The Giants need the rookie-version of Saquon Barkley:

Barkley put together a phenomenal performance during his rookie season, totaling over 2000 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns. He also posted a career-best 75.2% catch rate, hauling in 91 receptions for 721 yards. Barkley looked like a superstar, but the injury bug has completely derailed his career.

If Saquon manages to mount a magisterial comeback, the Giants could be put in a tough spot. General manager Joe Schoen doesn’t seem to have much stock in the running back position, especially with the Buffalo Bills utilizing a myriad of mid-round picks. The Bills currently feature Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, and newly drafted RB James Cook out of Georgia.

The Giants were reportedly intrigued by Cook but went with Wan’Dale Robinson out of Kentucky instead, offering them plenty of value as an extension to the running game and possessing intriguing receiving qualities.

Based on Schoen’s system in Buffalo, even if Barkley has a dominant 2022 season, it is very unlikely the Giants will extend him on a big contract. At this point, his injury history is simply too tumultuous, and guaranteeing millions of dollars to a player who has failed to stay on the football field would be a huge mistake.

However, another team would undoubtedly be willing to bite on Saquon, so his personal success would fare much better from a productive season.

Assessing the New York Jets supporting cast around Zach Wilson

jets, zach wilson

Zach Wilson is entering his second season with the New York Jets, a pivotal one in his development. General manager Joe Douglas has allocated a great amount to the collection of talent surrounding his young signal-caller. Let’s take an in-depth look at all of the pieces surrounding Wilson.

Offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur

Starting out with the coaching Wilson has, there is tremendous optimism with Mike LaFleur. In his first year calling plays, LaFleur made significant strides as the season went on. Early on in the season, he showed his leadership when things were not going well. He stayed true to the process, and things ultimately started to come together. He proved his innovative mind with creative play designs. LaFleur comes from good company with his brother Matt and seven years under Kyle Shanahan. LaFleur is the right offensive coordinator to help Wilson grow and maximize his potential.

Running backs

The top three running backs at Wilson’s disposal make for a good trio with potential. It is hard to ask for a better and younger running back duo than Breece Hall and Michael Carter. The first and second-year runners complement one another perfectly. In Hall, size and speed are added to the Jets backfield. Carter is built lower to the ground and very quick. They each have contact balance, receiving, and pass blocking ability. Both Hall and Carter fit the LaFleur zone running scheme. Tevin Coleman is the veteran of the group who provides quality depth. He has a ton of experience in the offensive system with LaFleur. Coleman still has great speed and can help as a pass-catching back.

Wide receivers

Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, and Corey Davis are an exciting starting group of wide receivers for Wilson. Davis is the experienced target who thrives on the intermediate level. Moore brings exceptional route running ability with his speed and quickness. His hands are close to automatic. Wilson can help as a contested-catch receiver in one-on-one situations and in the red zone. He runs great deep-level routes as well. Braxton Berrios is a solid fourth option. Berrios can play in the slot or be utilized in a gadget role. Also, in the screen game, he can be dynamic after the catch. The fifth receiver of the group should be Denzel Mims. He is the size and speed player of this receiving core. Mims has the talent to win downfield outside the numbers and in the red zone. This group is more than capable of getting the job done for Wilson.

Tight end

Out of all the position groups around Wilson, this one is easily the most improved from the offseason. C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin were both signed in free agency to three-year deals. With Uzomah, size, speed, yards after the catch, and vertical ability are his most notable attributes. Conklin is a great route-runner with sure hands and looks to be entering his prime. Then, in the draft, the Jets selected Jeremy Ruckert in the third round. Ruckert has the size, toughness, and athletic ability to help early on. To top it all off, all three of these players can help as both run and pass blockers.

Offensive line

The five starters along the Jets’ offensive line are George Fant, Laken Tomlinson, Connor McGovern, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Mekhi Becton. With a healthy Becton and the addition of Tomlinson, this group has what it takes to do a great job for Wilson. Fant, Vera-Tucker, and McGovern are three respected players. The Jets know what they have in them upfront. The depth of the offensive line is also better. It is rounded out by Max Mitchell, Nate Herbig, and Dan Feeney. Mitchell is a rookie tackle with upside. Herbig and Feeney will backup on the interior of the line. Both players are relatively experienced for backups. They each offer the versatility and durability needed.

Across the board, it is hard to find a specific weakness with what Douglas has built around Wilson. The starting talent and even the depth are solid and improved from a year ago. Now, it will be important for the unit to stay healthy. If so, Wilson has been set up for success by Douglas and the Jets. Wilson has the talent to take a big year-two jump.