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Gerrit Cole and the Brinks trucks carrying his staggering nine-year, $324 million contract roll into The Bronx this week, when the stud right-hander will be introduced at a Yankee Stadium press conference that will be drowning in the bells and whistles the club saves for high-profile acquisitions.

Gerrit Cole New York Yankees Jersey

There will be talk of the 29-year-old Cole leading the franchise to multiple World Series titles, tales of him growing up in Southern California a Yankees fan and big doses of hope will be in the air.

And when Cole splits for his Orange County home, the Yankees’ front office will continue to look at acquiring a left-handed bat. Because the only position a left-handed hitter can be squeezed into is first base, that should likely be the fit.

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“Our lineup is very right-handed,’’ vice president and assistant GM Michael Fishman said on the way out of the Winter Meetings in San Diego on Thursday. “Ultimately, we are trying to find the best players. If it can balance the lineup, even better. It’s good to balance the lineup with another lefty.’’

Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman could be the only two left-handed hitters on the 26-man roster taking aim at the cozy right-field dimensions of the Stadium. Tyler Wade is a lefty hitter who isn’t a lock to make the team, and switch-hitter Aaron Hicks isn’t expected back from Tommy John surgery until June at the earliest.

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Gerrit Cole’s plan made Yankees his destiny
After dropping a record deal on Cole, which puts them over the third level ($248 million) of the luxury tax, and watching the left-handed-hitting Didi Gregorius leave for Philly and Austin Romine to Detroit (for a combined $18 million) the Yankees aren’t likely to be spending more at first base, where they have Luke Voit and Mike Ford.

The right-handed-hitting Voit is rebounding from hernia surgery that wrecked the second half of his season, and the lefty-swinging Ford gets a look based on him hitting .259 with 12 homers and driving in 25 runs in 50 games.

Of course, DJ LeMahieu, who will handle second with Gleyber Torres moving to short, can also play first, where he started 28 games a year ago and all nine in the postseason.

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So who is the best left-handed-hitting first baseman on the free-agent market? A healthy Greg Bird, who the Yankees dropped from the roster and became a free agent.

Enlarge ImageBrandon Belt; Mitch Moreland
Brandon Belt; Mitch MorelandGetty (2)
Even if they were inclined to spend, the first base group of free agents is underwhelming. Switch-hitter Justin Smoak and Mitch Moreland are the likely two best options.

As for trade options to acquire a left-handed bat, the Yankees have pieces led by Miguel Andujar, who could get spring training work at first.

The Orioles would love to move left-handed-hitting first baseman Chris Davis, who is owed $69 million for the next three years. If that doesn’t make him impossible to deal, he hit .179 with 12 homers and 36 RBIs in 105 games this past year when he fanned 139 times. In the past three seasons, Davis has hit .188 with 54 homers, 146 RBIs, a .626 OPS and 526 strikeouts.

Some believe Brandon Belt would hit for more power if he escapes spacious Oracle Park in San Francisco, but he is owed $34.4 million across the next two seasons after hitting .234 with 17 homers, 57 RBIs and a .742 OPS this past year.

Of the two, Belt is the better option, but only if the Giants pay a big chunk of the cash owed and are willing to take back a second-tier prospect.

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Gerrit Cole has arrived in NYC — and here’s the first video of the superstar pitcher talking about his new team, his new $324 million deal … and the Yanks famous NO-BEARD policy!

The 29-year-old was swarmed by fans on the way into the Mandarin Hotel in New York where he signed baseballs, posed for selfies and was super nice to the media.

The questions were rapid-fire … but here’s the gist of it.

— Cole says signing with the Yanks was a hard decision, which is shocking considered he had 324 MILLION reasons to put pen to paper.

— Cole explained why he’s excited to be a part of one of the most storied franchises in all of pro sports … “The history. The fans. Competitiveness.”

— And, the beard … that famous, beautiful beard? He seems to be coming to terms with the fact it’s a goner.

Getty
We asked Gerrit if he would try and keep his scruff or if he would embrace the Yanks decades-long, clean-cut tradition.

“That’s nuts,” Cole said … before saying he would “unfortunately” part ways with his face-warmer. (At least that’s what it sounded like he told us. It was super loud.)

The Yankees’ courtship of Cole has been one of the biggest stories in baseball … the guy had a ton of suitors in free agency these past few weeks — from the Yanks to the Dodgers to the Angels. Everyone was willing to throw insane amounts of cash at him.

Of course, Cole ultimately landed with NY … and despite him saying it wasn’t the easiest choice ever — he added he’s sure as hell happy he made it.

Cole’s official welcome press conference is set for Tuesday — so enjoy the beard while you still can.

PHILADELPHIA — The Yankees made it clear Gerrit Cole was their top free-agent priority. With the Yankees needing to save some payroll, Didi Gregorius had to find a new home.

What a home he has found in the middle of the Phillies lineup.

Joe Girardi, Didi’s old manager with the Yankees and his new manager with the Phillies, said Monday that Gregorius will be in the middle of the action — not only at shortstop, but in the lineup, too — for his new team.

“Part of this depends on the [possible new] rule. If the pitchers have to face the minimum of three hitters, you think about dividing your lefties up differently,’’ Girardi said at a Citizens Bank Park press conference to introduce Gregorius and ex-Met Zack Wheeler. “Part of it depends on our young players, but it is going to be in that middle area. When I think of Didi, I think somewhere in the three, four, five area, but so much of it depends on the construction of our team when we leave spring training.’’

Enlarge ImageDidi Gregorius
Didi GregoriusAP
Gregorius, who turns 30 in February, did not fit into the Yankees plans with the money they were about to drop on Cole.

“[Brian] Cashman made it loud and clear that Cole was their priority,” Gregorius said.

So Didi knew it was time to go in another direction, and Girardi was thrilled to take his old shortstop to his new job, while the Yankees will likely will move young Gleyber Torres from second to shortstop.

Gregorius came back from Tommy John surgery in 2019 and was not at his best, but he fully expects to be 100 percent healthy with the Phillies. He hit just .238 with 16 home runs and 61 RBIs in 82 games last season.

“I wasn’t at my best [in 2019] coming back from the surgery, but I showed that I can compete and the more I played the stronger I got,’’ Gregorius said. “It was a good step and now I will play this year fully healthy and just go from there and see what I have more in store.”

Gregorius loves the passion of the Phillies fans and said he would be open to signing a long-term deal with the Phillies if things go well after he plays 2020 on a one-year, $14 million deal.

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It’s been nearly 10 years since the Yankees last won the World Series. If they don’t find a way to stand atop the league this year, it will be the first time since 1988 that the Yankees went a decade without winning the Fall Classic. While the cast of characters has mostly changed since the 2009 championship, the 2019 club has similar title aspirations. As the postseason approaches, it makes sense to look at the strengths and weaknesses of these two teams as well as their similarities and differences.

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To begin with, the 2009 Yankees consisted of a team of veterans. The Core Four were all playing in the latter halves of their careers, and the Yankees brought in a lot of experienced players hungry for a championship. That included a 28-year-old CC Sabathia, 28-year-old Nick Swisher, 29-year-old Mark Teixeira, and 32-year-old A.J. Burnett.

The Yankees of 2019, on the other hand, feature an electrifying young core. The storyline of the season, however, has been the roster’s incredible depth. The group, led by second-year manager Aaron Boone, has rallied around the “next man up” mentality and almost everyone on the 40-man roster has made a significant contribution to the team’s success.

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The 2009 Yankees couldn’t be more different. Seven out of the nine players in their starting lineup played at least 140 games that year; Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada were the only two who fell under 140 games respectively due to injury and regular rest. From April to October, you knew what you were getting from that team. The same players trotted out onto the field every day.

Quietly, Aaron Judge, the big guy for the Yankees, once again plays like a star at the time of year when star Yankees are expected to do just that. Of course, his Yankee teams haven’t won it all yet. He’s not yet had the great stage of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. The big guy has still been something to see, and not just with home runs. But then, he’s always the one to come to see.

• ALDS presented by Doosan, Game 3: Tonight, 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1

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Through Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Twins on Saturday night, Judge is already batting .500 in the postseason. He has played 20 postseason games in his young career, and has recorded 20 hits, scored 18 runs, hit seven homers, knocked in 15 runs and walked 16 times. Judge has an OPS of 1.021, a .616 slugging percentage, a .404 on-base percentage, a batting average of .274.

By the way, these numbers include a disastrous division series against the Indians in 2017, even though the Yankees came back from 0-2 down to win that one in five games. Judge got just one hit and struck out 16 times over 20 at-bats in those five games. But it tells you plenty about “All Rise” Judge that he rose right back up after that against the Astros in the American League Championship Series.

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Game Date Time Matchup/Results TV/Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 4 NYY 10, MIN 4 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 5 NYY 8, MIN 2 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 7 8:40 p.m. NYY @ MIN FS1
*Gm 4 Oct. 8 8 p.m. NYY @ MIN FS1
*Gm 5 Oct. 10 ^5 or 7 p.m. MIN @ NYY FS1
*- If necessary | All times ET
^- View a complete list of contingencies for the Game 5 start times.
shop Shop for postseason gear: Twins | Yankees
• Postseason schedule and bracket
Since that Indians series, Judge has hit .347 in 14 postseason games, hit six home runs, knocked in 11, scored 14 runs, had 17 hits. Against the Red Sox in the Yankees’ 2018 division series, he hit two homers in four games, had six hits and batted .375. Judge continues to show Yankees fans, his teammates and the world that is way more than home runs. This is the kid the Yankees got with a compensation pick when they offered Nick Swisher arbitration and he declined and signed with the Indians.

“In all ways,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said from Minneapolis on Sunday, the off-day before Game 3, “that pick is the gift that keeps on giving.”

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You see the numbers that Judge has put into the books over his first 20 postseason games. I called Jimmy Wright at the Elias Sports Bureau Sunday (they know everything) and asked for a comparison between Derek Jeter’s first 20 postseason games and Judge’s. This is what he came up with: Twenty-nine hits in the 20 games, 18 runs, three homers, five RBI, on-base percentage of .411, slugging percentage of .512, OPS of .923.

Obviously, Jeter and Judge are different hitters. But from the start, Jeter showed up at this time of year. So, too, has Judge. And it isn’t just the numbers that are similar. Judge carries himself the way Jeter did. He has accepted all of the responsibilities of being the face of the team the way Jeter once did, embraced all of the old-Yankee values, the same as Jeter did in his team’s biggest games from the start.

Must C: Judge’s 2 diving catches
Must C: Judge’s 2 diving catches
01:04
Oct. 4th, 2019
Jeter’s team won it all when he was a rookie. When Judge was a rookie, his Yankees team led the Astros 3-2 in the 2017 ALCS before that series went back to Houston and Judge stopped hitting, the way all of the Yankees did. But when you see the job Cashman has done over the past few years building something to last the way Jeter’s Yankees were built to last, it is impossible to believe Judge may not have to wait long to make his first trip to the Canyon of Heroes. Maybe as early as the end of this month, even if the Astros look to be a better team now than they were two years ago.

“All of our players are hungry,” Cashman said. “But no one is hungrier for this than Aaron is.”

Then Cashman was talking about all of No. 99’s strength as a player.

“Because of his size, I’m not sure people appreciate just how much amazing plate discipline he has,” he said. “He sees how carefully they work him, how afraid they are to pitch to him sometimes. But he simply won’t give in.”

MLB Tonight: Judge breakdown
MLB Tonight: Judge breakdown
02:31
Oct. 4th, 2019
I told Cashman something Buck Showalter, who’s doing studio work for the YES Network right now, told me about how fundamentally sound Judge is, both offensively and defensively.

“Aaron’s not just a good defensive player,” Cashman said. “He’s a great defensive player.”

He is a great baseball player, period. He can hit balls out of sight and take easy hits to the opposite field when they put on a shift against him. He can run and throw and go over the wall to take back home runs. He just missed taking one back out of the seats from Miguel Sanó on Friday night. You were actually surprised when he didn’t.

When Judge is healthy, something he hasn’t always been the past two seasons — he hit 54 home runs across 2018 and ‘19 after hitting 52 in ‘17 — he isn’t just the Yankees star. He is one of the biggest stars in his game. Guys like that usually show up in October. They’re supposed to show up. And rise up. “All Rise” Judge does.

While the identities of the two teams are vastly different, their offensive productions were rather similar. The 2009 Yankees scored 915 runs while the 2019 Yankees scored 943 runs. Both teams finished with the same regular-season record of 103-59 and both won the AL East.

The 2019 Yankees broke their own home-run record, hitting 306 homers. The rate of home runs being hit is much higher than it was 10 years ago, however, the 2009 Yankees still hit 244. This year’s Yankees had 14 players on the roster who had double-digit home runs, while the 2009 team had nine. On top of that, both teams had exactly seven players clear 20.

More specifically, the 2009 Yankees had two great hitters in Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. They hit .334 and .320, respectively. The 2019 squad has had good hitters in DJ LeMahieu and Gio Urshela, but they have been on a different level than the rest of the team all year. The 2009 team had a .283 team batting average while this year’s team has a .267 team batting average

How about the pitching? To begin, they had very similar team earned run averages with the 2009 teams posting a 4.26 ERA and the 2019 team posting a 4.31 ERA. Adjusting for season averages, meanwhile, shows that the 2009 team had slight edge in the pitching department. The 2009 Bombers had a 93 ERA-, while the 2019 Yankees checked in at 94.

The biggest difference between these two pitching staffs is the bullpen the 2019 squad has. This is easily the best bullpen in baseball boasting three pitchers with under a 2.50 ERA. The only reliever from the 2009 team that could fit in that category was the closer Mariano Rivera.

In the last 10 seasons, the play style and overall strategy of winning in baseball have changed dramatically. These teams have incredibly different identities and have found success in different ways. Yet in the end, they were able to produce remarakbly similar seasons. On top of all this, just another weird coincidence is both of these teams met up with the Twins in the ALDS. The 2009 playoffs ended up with the Yankees on top. Will the 2019 Yankees have the same luck? We’ll soon find out.

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NEW YORK — When the Cheap New York Yankees Jerseys decided to stand pat in advance of the Trade Deadline this July, general manager Brian Cashman voiced the belief that a healthy Luis Severino Jersey could provide more of an upgrade than any other available player in the marketplace. That vision is becoming reality, just in time for the club’s most important games of the year.

Making his second start since being activated from the injured list, Severino’s electric arsenal produced nine strikeouts over five scoreless innings on Sunday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, concluding the Yankees’ regular-season home slate with an 8-3 victory over the Blue Jays. With the win, the Yankees secured home-field advantage for the American League Division Series.

• Box score

“I think it’s huge for us,” Severino said. “We’re a better team when we play at home. We’ve got the fans. We are comfortable when we are at home. I know we’ve clinched [the American League East], but this is not over. We have to go out there and play and do our best.”

Yankees hit 3 homers in 8-3 win
Yankees hit 3 homers in 8-3 win
01:50
5:05 PM EDT
Severino scattered three hits and hit a batter with an 0-2 offering in his 80-pitch effort, running his season tally to nine scoreless innings after having his debut delayed by injuries to his right shoulder and right lat.

The first Yankees pitcher since Pascual Perez in 1991 to throw at least four scoreless innings in his first two appearances of the year, Severino is expected to join James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka in the rotation for the American League Division Series.

“Our ace is back,” Aaron Judge Jersey said. “I’m excited about it; just at the right time. He’s coming back, he’s healthy and that’s the most important thing. I really don’t care what he’s doing right now on the mound but just as long as he’s healthy and we have him for the postseason, I think we’ll be in a good spot.”

Judge’s solo home run
Judge’s solo home run
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1:51 PM EDT
Following a pregame tribute to retiring hurler CC Sabathia Jersey, Judge hit a solo homer and Brett Gardner Jersey connected for a three-run shot in a four-run first inning against Toronto opener Wilmer Font. DJ LeMahieu Jersey added his 26th homer in the second inning, a two-run shot off Trent Thornton.

“We’re set up in a lot of ways with our power for this ballpark,” manager Aaron Boone said. “It’s a place where you’re pretty much playing in front of a packed, energized crowd every night. I think it certainly fuels our guys.”

Bash brothers

Judge and Gardner are enjoying their playful home run competition, which Judge referred to as “the race of the century.” Judge’s first-inning homer was his 26th, equaling Gardner’s total. That lasted until Gardner stepped to the plate later in the inning, parking his career-high 27th over the right-field wall.

Gardner’s massive 3-run homer
Gardner’s massive 3-run homer
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1:59 PM EDT
“Every time I seem to get a home run, he seems to answer right back,” Judge said. “And then he gives you a little look in the dugout. It’s all fun, because we’re all competitive and we want to win, that’s the main goal. But there’s a little competition in there, trying to get those home runs as well. He says one of these days I’ll catch him, so we’ll see.”

Gardner, who is tied for the MLB lead with nine homers in September, joked that it seems like Judge is trying to keep up with him. Judge has 14 homers in his last 29 games (since Aug. 20).

“We’ll see how this week goes,” Gardner said. “I told him a few weeks ago, I was pulling hard for him to get to 30 [homers]. I think he’ll get there.”

LeMahieu’s 2-run home run
LeMahieu’s 2-run home run
00:40
2:19 PM EDT
No place like home

The next game played at Yankee Stadium will be Game 1 of the ALDS on Oct. 4, as the Yankees finished the regular season with a 57-24 home record — identical to the 2009 club that went on to win the 27th World Series championship in franchise history, and the most recent.

“We seem to play well at home,” Gardner said. “Obviously this team is built for this ballpark, but we like being at home with our families, sleeping in our own beds and playing in front of our own fans. We like it here in our own clubhouse. Hopefully we’ll finish up strong this last week.”

Voit’s RBI single
Voit’s RBI single
00:21
3:13 PM EDT
The Bombers are continuing to battle the Astros and the Dodgers for the Majors’ best record, which would provide home-field advantage throughout the World Series.

“First and foremost, we’ve got to take care of our guys,” Boone said. “But we’re going to pour everything into winning games, too.”

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Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez’s engagement is unsurprisingly changing the couple’s real estate portfolio.

According to Mansion Global’s sources, A-Rod sold his Hollywood Hills home to an unknown buyer for $4.4 million in a sale finalized earlier this month. He first listed the home last November for $6.5 million and eventually lowered the asking price to $5.25 million in March. The retired baseball pro was repped by Carl Gambino from Westside Estate Agency in the sale.

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Alex Rodriguez is about as polarizing a former MLB star as you can find. The former Yankees slugger experienced the highs of being an all-time great — a World Series title in 2009, he’s a three-time American League MVP, 14-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove-winner.

He has also been maligned for poor decisions both on and off the field, and is deemed one of the faces of baseball’s steroid era, whether fair or unfair.

But he’s usually a pretty decent baseball analyst and had something to say Sunday during ESPN’s broadcast of the Mets-Phillies game.

However, this one doesn’t seem to make much sense on its face and has fans of the game scratching their proverbial heads.

Here’s what he said, according to Yahoo Sports:

“You always want even leads versus odd leads. Why? The solo home run doesn’t tie it, and the grand slam does not beat you,” Rodriguez said during the game. “Keep it simple.”

Okay, so even leads are good and odd leads are bad.

And big leads are good and little leads are bad.

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Got it.

Why he felt the need to say that, I don’t know, and neither does anybody else, it seems.

Timothy Burke

@bubbaprog
As noted by @WayTooCrisp, this is A-Rod saying one of the dumbest things ever stated by a baseball analyst—and it’s on the marquee national baseball broadcast

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11:16 AM – Sep 2, 2019
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Per his explanation, maybe a 100-run lead would better than a one-run lead.

The problem is, we already knew that because it’s common sense.

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But, thank you A-Rod for this great baseball lesson.

Buy Yankees-Rangers tickets: StubHub, SeatGeek, PrimeSport

During Rodriguez’s career with the Yankees, he was named AL MVP in 2005 and 2007.

After retiring as a player, Rodriguez became a media personality, serving as a broadcaster for Fox Sports and ESPN.

And, well, you get what you pay for.

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Rodriguez purchased the property from Meryl Streep in 2014 for $4.8 million, meaning that he offloaded the property at a slight loss.

Keep reading for a look inside the midcentury modern home.

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Like the Polish rooted for Yaz and the Dominicans rallied around Manny, if you were an Italian-American kid growing up in Rhode Island in the 1950s during the DiMaggio, Berra, Rizzuto, Raschi, Lazzeri, Billy Martin (we knew his mom was Italian) era, there was a good probability you were a New York Yankees fan.

Such was my case, especially when my father’s best childhood friend and Navy buddy Pete Previte was the clubhouse manager for the pinstripes during that period.

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As a boy, I played ball in the Smith Hill-Wanskuck Little League in the north end of Providence. Looking back, it seems like almost everyone on my club and All-Star teams was Italian-American: Cioli, Marcantonio, Pontarelli, Fiore, DeCesare, Amitrano, Corsetti, Simone, and many others, including good friends Mike Lepore and Joe Rocchio, whose family’s Rocchio Oil business was our team sponsor.

Aaron Boone gives off a lanky surfer vibe before and after games. He is cool, calm and connected to inner peace. His eyes are mischievous, not vicious, his tone reassuring, not reverberating.

Before a recent game, I went off about something bothering me in the business while we stood near the Yankee Stadium home dugout, and Boone responded by giggling at my 0-to-60 fury, giving me a look like how could someone go so quickly from making a point to unhinged?

But then games begin, and more this year than last, Boone transforms from Dr. Jekyll to certified — from serene to, well, savage. The guy hired and hailed as a Joe Torre 2.0 for his tranquility has found his Lou Piniella, his Billy Martin, his Bobby Cox.

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In fact it is Cox, who played for but never managed the Yankees, of whom Boone’s tactics most remind me. Cox, a Hall of Fame manager, is the champion of ejections, getting tossed 161 times, including three in the postseason. That covers a lot of issues over many years.

Cox, though, was renowned for being relentless about the strike zone. His Braves were built on starting pitchers, and Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux were finesse masters who lived on the edges — and beyond. Cox was unceasing in fighting for every millimeter, every borderline call, keeping a running dialogue — and diatribe — with the home plate umps.

Cox was hunting three benefits:

1. His players, notably those invaluable starters, recognized and appreciated the support Tuesday night in June, primetime in October — first day of the season or big divisional lead in August. Cox was not letting up. He was fighting for them. This was his team’s strength and no way was he allowing one potential strike to vanish without at least a verbal protest.

“It didn’t matter the circumstances, in any game Bobby was fighting for every inch for his players,” Glavine said by phone. “Not just the pitchers. He would fight every inch for the hitters, every inch on the basepaths. He was always fighting. Bobby wanted to win as much as any player. The players noticed and respected it, and players wanted to play and fight for Bobby because he fought so much for his players.”

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Enlarge ImageAaron Boone
Aaron BoonePaul J. Bereswill
2. Cox was trying to get the 50-50ish calls for his team. Were umps mad at Cox? Sure. But they also wanted him to stop. Human nature is human nature and the way to get it to cease — even subconsciously — is to call the close ones strikes. Think how NBA coaches, for example, tirelessly work the refs.

“I can’t imagine it doesn’t happen,” Glavine said of swaying borderline calls. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease. When someone is constantly yapping at you, somewhere in the recesses of the brain when you have to make a call so quickly, I’m sure you just don’t want to hear it anymore. There’s no way to prove it, but I bet it happens.”

3. Cox was trying to tell a team that was winning, often with big division leads, that every game was still precious.

“It would be that Sunday in August and 130 degrees on the field and we are 12 up, and this was Bobby’s way to not let us get complacent,” Glavine said. “It was his subliminal way to remind everyone that we have to win and play right. He didn’t believe in coasting and flipping switches come the playoffs. He was still fighting every pitch to keep us with an edge and engaged.”

Boone is 154 ejections behind Cox. He has four this season after three in his rookie 2018. But it is clear he has become more assertive, and there are Cox parallels.

SEE ALSO

Why Aaron Boone calls his Yankees ‘savages’
Boone believes he has a lineup that understands the strike zone from the batter’s box how Glavine and Maddux did from the mound. He constantly talks about controlling the zone to create the scenario — often a favorable count — to hunt a hittable pitch and put your “A” swing on it.

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Bench coach Josh Bard said earlier this year, “We slug to walk.” In other words, they are not looking to take pitches. They are looking to do damage, and by doing it, scare pitchers out of the strike zone. But they need that zone called correctly, in Boone’s view, to operate most efficiently.

So Boone fights every borderline pitch to protect his “savages,” who in turn appreciate it, creating a bond with each other, respect toward the manager and a fervor for the pitch-by-pitch battle of the game. Perhaps it helps sway a borderline call now and then. And there is no doubt it has helped keep the Yankees feisty even with a big division lead.

They are taking nothing for granted — not a game, not a pitch. That starts with their manager.

Mike’s dad worked at the Department of Motor Vehicles and most of the dads were, yes, Yankees fans. This was a time before what we now refer to as “vanity plates” were available. When Mr. Lepore learned about the release of a new “Y Series” of license plates during an All-Star run, he got an idea and suggested to the other dads that they band together to display their neighborhood Yankees pride with new tags.

He suggested the letters “YH” to represent “Yankees Hitter” followed by the uniform number of their or their son’s favorite player. They jumped at the opportunity.

My dad, also named Vincent and a coach on the team, quickly called dibs on my boyhood hero, Mickey Mantle and number 7. Others grabbed #5 DiMaggio, #8 Berra, #1 Martin, #3 Ruth, #9 Bauer… and so on.

And that’s how we got YH-7. That was in 1959 — 60 years ago.

Unlike a vanity plate that passersby may decipher, only old teammates and our family’s Yankees fans know its meaning. The plate was passed on to me in the 1980s and then to my son, Craig, in the 1990s. His son, Cameron, can’t wait to turn 16.

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Mel Stottlemyre, the Yankees’ pitching ace in their lean years of the late 1960s and early ’70s and later the longtime pitching coach for Mets and Yankees teams that won the World Series, died on Sunday in a Seattle hospital. He was 77.

His wife, Jean Stottlemyre, said the cause was complications of multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer for which he had been treated for many years. At his death he also had the flu and pneumonia, she said. Stottlemyre, who grew up in Washington State, lived in the Seattle area.

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Stottlemyre made his last visit to Yankee Stadium in June 2015, when the Yankees surprised him by dedicating a Monument Park plaque in his honor when he attended their annual Old-Timers’ Day gathering. The tribute came after their former second baseman Willie Randolph received a plaque as scheduled.

Stottlemyre, walking with the aid of a cane, told the crowd, “It’s been a thrill over the years for me to wear this uniform.” He said that if it was to be his last Old-Timers’ Day, he would “start another baseball club, coaching up there, whenever they need me.”

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Arriving at Yankee Stadium in August 1964, Stottlemyre posted a 9-3 record while helping the Yankees win a fifth straight pennant. He then faced Bob Gibson, the St. Louis Cardinals’ future Hall of Fame pitcher, three times in the World Series.

The Yankees were beaten by the Cardinals in seven games, but Stottlemyre became an anchor of their pitching staff. In his 11 seasons with the Yankees, a long stretch of largely lean years after decades of dominance, he was one of their few bright spots. A right-hander featuring a superb sinkerball, he was a five-time All-Star and a three-time 20-game winner.

Mel Stottlemyre, who pitched for the New York Yankees for 11 seasons and won five World Series titles as a pitching coach for the Yankees and the Mets, died Sunday in Seattle after battling cancer for almost 20 years. He was 77.

Stottlemyre’s wife, Jean, told the New York Times that he died as a result of complications of multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer.

Enshrined in Monument Park by the Yankees on Old Timers Day in 2015, Stottlemyre had a career record of 164-139 with a 2.97 ERA and 1,257 strikeouts from 1964-74. He won 20 games or more in a season on three occasions (1965, ’68 and ’69), lost 20 games in a season (1966) and was a five-time All-Star selection. He had seven career home runs, including an inside-the-park grand slam in 1965, and once had five hits in a game.

Former New York Yankees player and coach Mel Stottlemyre poses with his plaque placed in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium in 2015. Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
“Today in this Stadium, there is no one that’s happier to be on this field than myself,” Stottlemyre said after being surprised by the Yankees with his plaque in 2015. “This is such a shock to me because the era I played in is an era where, for the most part, the Yankees have tried over the years, I think, somewhat to forget a little bit. … If I never get to come to another Old Timers Day, I will take these memories and I’ll start another baseball club, coaching up there, wherever they need me.”

After his playing career, Stottlemyre was a scout with the Seattle Mariners before he was hired as the pitching coach for the Mets in 1984. In 10 seasons there, he mentored the likes of Doc Gooden, Ron Darling and Sid Fernandez and won his first World Series ring in 1986.

After a two-season stint as pitching coach of the Houston Astros, Stottlemyre rejoined the Yankees in 1996 and quickly factored into the team’s success as they won the World Series that season — the first of four championships, including three straight from 1998-2000, with him in that role. Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera were some of the pitching stalwarts of that era.

Stottlemyre resigned from the Yankees in 2005, and he served as pitching coach of the Mariners in 2008 before retiring after that season.

The Yankees and people associated with the team expressed their condolences on social media Monday.

New York Yankees

@Yankees
Mel’s popularity transcended generations, all of whom thought of him as their own. His plaque in Monument Park will forever serve to celebrate the significance of his legacy. We extend our deepest condolences to Mel’s wife Jean & the entire Stottlemyre family. – Hal Steinbrenner

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Ken Singleton

@29alltime
So sad to hear of the passing of Mel Stottlemyre a very decent and kind man to say the least. Tremendous pitching coach & pitcher in his day. #RIPMel

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Michael Kay

@RealMichaelKay
Mel Stottlemyre was class personified. What a battle he waged with multiple myeloma. 20 years ago he was given about 5 years. He never stopped fighting. RIP.

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David Cone

@dcone36
He was more than a great pitcher and fantastic pitching coach. He was a father figure and touched so many in a positive way. We lost a great man. RIP Mel Stottlemyre

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Two of his sons — Todd Stottlemyre and Mel Jr. — were second-generation major league pitchers. Another son, Jason, died of leukemia at age 11.

“He is the greatest champion that I ever met,” Todd Stottlemyre posted on Facebook on Dec. 23 when his father was ill. “… I love you pops.”

ImageStottlemyre after signing a contract with the Yankees in 1966. With him was General Manager Ralph Houk. “Here’s a 21-year-old kid nobody knew coming out of nowhere with this great arm and super control who has all the confidence — not a big head, mind you, but a quiet self-assurance — of a Whitey Ford,” his teammate Tom Tresh once said.
Stottlemyre after signing a contract with the Yankees in 1966. With him was General Manager Ralph Houk. “Here’s a 21-year-old kid nobody knew coming out of nowhere with this great arm and super control who has all the confidence — not a big head, mind you, but a quiet self-assurance — of a Whitey Ford,” his teammate Tom Tresh once said.CreditAllyn Baum/The New York Times
Stottlemyre coached the Mets’ pitchers for 10 seasons, including their 1986 World Series championship year, and the Yankees’ pitchers for another 10, during which he won four World Series championship rings. He was being treated for multiple myeloma, which affects plasma cells, for much of his time as the Yankees pitching coach.

Stottlemyre was the quiet type, but even as a rookie pitcher he possessed uncommon poise.

“Here’s a 21-year-old kid nobody knew coming out of nowhere with this great arm and super control who has all the confidence — not a big head, mind you, but a quiet self-assurance — of a Whitey Ford,” his teammate Tom Tresh was quoted as saying in the oral history “Bombers” (2002), by Richard Lally.

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Years later, Stottlemyre was admired by the pitchers he coached for his optimism and his ability to relate to them. The Yankees’ David Cone once said that Stottlemyre anticipated how pitchers liked to be treated. Stottlemyre, in turn, said he had benefited from talking with his sons Todd and Mel Jr., both of whom pitched in the major leagues. “It’s like he never got older,” Cone said of Stottlemyre.

“When you’re struggling, he’s always there for you,” the relief pitcher Mariano Rivera told the New Jersey newspaper The Record in October 1998, after the Yankees defeated the San Diego Padres to begin their string of three straight World Series titles.

Dwight Gooden remembered how Stottlemyre came to the mound and steadied him when he was two outs away from a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium in May 1996. Gooden had walked two batters and thrown a wild pitch to Jay Buhner, putting runners on second and third with the Yankees leading by 2-0.

“There’s something about his demeanor — so trusting, so trustworthy — that makes you want to tell him the truth,” Gooden said in his memoir, “Heat” (1999), written with Bob Klapisch.

Gooden recalled Stottlemyre using his nickname while telling him: “I’m not taking you out, Doc. I’m just here to give you a breather. This game is yours, Doc. Yours unless you tell me you can’t go anymore.”

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Stottlemyre in April 2000. He was the pitching coach for the Yankees teams that won the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Stottlemyre in April 2000. He was the pitching coach for the Yankees teams that won the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.CreditBarton Silverman/The New York Times
When Gooden insisted that he still had it, Stottlemyre told him, “Go get him.”

Gooden struck out Buhner and got Paul Sorrento to pop up to Derek Jeter, the shortstop. The no-hitter was his.

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Stottlemyre’s fellow coach Don Zimmer recalled that after Stottlemyre revealed he had multiple myeloma in April 2000, he remained strong and steady while coaching the Yankees’ pitchers for most of the regular season, even as he received chemotherapy.

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“He was a rock,” Zimmer said in “Zim: A Baseball Life” (2001), written with Bill Madden.

After a stem-cell transplant in September 2000, Stottlemyre could not return to the Yankees that season, since he risked contracting an infection. When the Yankees beat the Mets in the World Series, Zimmer called Stottlemyre at his home.

“When Mel answered the phone, he sounded ecstatic,” Zimmer remembered. “Later on that night, I found out that Mel’s brother had died earlier in the day of a brain tumor. He never said a word about it on the phone because he didn’t want to ruin the night for the rest of us. That’s what kind of a person he is.”

Melvin Leon Stottlemyre was born on Nov. 13, 1941, in Hazleton, Mo., and grew up in Mabton, Wash., the son of a construction worker. He was signed by the Yankee organization in 1961 out of what was then Yakima Valley Junior College (now Yakima Valley College) in Washington State.

When Stottlemyre joined the Yankees, Ford, the Hall of Fame left-hander, became his mentor. When Ford hurt his shoulder pitching in the 1964 World Series opener, the Yankees rested much of their hopes on Stottlemyre. He beat Gibson in Game 2, pitched to a no-decision in Game 5 and was the loser in Game 7.

The Yankees never returned to the World Series during Stottlemyre’s playing career, but he became one of the American League’s leading pitchers.

He had a 20-9 record in 1965, when he led the A.L. in complete games, with 18, and innings pitched, with 291. The Yankees were beginning to fade by then, finishing sixth in what was then a 10-team league. Stottlemyre won 12 games and lost 20 in 1966 when they finished last for the first time since 1912. But he rebounded to go 21-12 in 1968 and 20-14 in 1969.

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In June 1974, while pitching against the California Angels, Stottlemyre tore his rotator cuff. Over the winter, he was advised by the Yankees to rest until at least May 1. When they released him at the end of spring training, he was stunned. The move was made by the team’s general manager, Gabe Paul, but Stottlemyre was convinced that the Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had been behind it, and it left him embittered.

Stottlemyre retired with a record of 164-139 and an earned run average of 2.97 before turning to a second career as a pitching coach. But a family tragedy took him away from baseball for a time and ultimately colored his already bittersweet feelings toward Yankees management.

In March 1981, Stottlemyre’s son Jason died of leukemia a few days after his 11th birthday. Stottlemyre left his post as a roving pitching instructor for the Mariners the next year to be with his family. Two decades later, reflecting on the possibility of a connection between his multiple myeloma and his son’s leukemia, Stottlemyre thought back to radiation treatments he had received on his shoulder from the Yankees’ team doctor in the late 1960s as a means of reducing calcification. A radiologist had advised him to stop the treatments because of potential health consequences, and he eventually did so despite what he said were reassurances from the Yankees’ medical staff that the radiation would not harm him.

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“I’ve become convinced it played a role in both of the diseases,” Stottlemyre said of the radiation in his memoir, “Pride and Pinstripes” (2007), written with John Harper. “The medical care the Yankees provided was not up to the standards you’d expect in professional sports, and certainly not from one of the most successful sports franchises in history.”

After a break from baseball, Stottlemyre became the Mets’ pitching coach in 1984, Gooden’s rookie season. He did not tinker with the mechanics of the immensely gifted Gooden, but counseled him on how to handle the spotlight and saw himself as something of a father figure.

When the Mets defeated the Boston Red Sox in the 1986 World Series, Stottlemyre oversaw an outstanding pitching staff featuring Gooden, Bob Ojeda, Sid Fernandez, Ron Darling, Roger McDowell and Jesse Orosco.

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Stottlemyre at an Old-Timers’ day ceremony at Yankee Stadium in 2013. At the same event two years later, the Yankees dedicated a Monument Park plaque in his honor.
Stottlemyre at an Old-Timers’ day ceremony at Yankee Stadium in 2013. At the same event two years later, the Yankees dedicated a Monument Park plaque in his honor.CreditBarton Silverman/The New York Times
Stottlemyre was fired at the end of the 1993 season and was the Houston Astros’ pitching coach for two seasons before being asked by Steinbrenner to return to the Yankees. Stottlemyre had torn up invitations to the Yankees’ Old-Timers’ Days for two decades in anger over what he considered the bad faith the team showed by releasing him in 1975. But he decided to accept the offer, joining the staff of the new Yankees manager, Joe Torre, when he came to believe that Paul, the general manager, not Steinbrenner, had been responsible for letting him go.

The Yankees won the World Series in 1996, then captured consecutive championships from 1998 to 2000, the year Stottlemyre began treatments for multiple myeloma.

Stottlemyre guided pitching staffs that included Cone, Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina, David Wells and Gooden, who was coming back from battles with drug abuse. Stottlemyre left the Yankees after the 2005 season and was replaced by Ron Guidry, their former star left-hander.

Stottlemyre was the Mariners’ pitching coach in 2008, but he was not retained when Don Wakamatsu replaced Jim Riggleman as manager the next season.

In addition to his wife, the former Jean Mitchell, he is survived by a brother, Jeff; a sister, Joyce Lawerence; his sons, Mel Jr. and Todd; and eight grandchildren. Todd Stottlemyre pitched for 14 seasons in the major leagues. Mel Jr., who pitched for one season, became the Miami Marlins’ pitching coach in December 2018 and had formerly been in that post for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Mariners.

By his last few seasons with the Yankees, Stottlemyre had cemented his reputation as an outstanding pitching coach. But his resentment of Steinbrenner resurfaced in the face of criticism from him when the team was unable to make it back to the World Series. Stottlemyre was also irked by what he saw as undue interference from Billy Connors, the Yankees pitching adviser who worked out of the team’s facilities in Tampa, Fla., and was close to Steinbrenner. (Connors died last June at 76.)

In an interview with USA Today in May 2005, Steinbrenner complained that Stottlemyre had not been improving the Yankees’ pitching staff. But Torre was quick to defend Stottlemyre, who had been alongside him on four championship teams. On Monday, Torre, in a statement, called Stottlemyre “a role model to us all and the toughest man I have ever met.”

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Two baseballs signed in 1949 by then 17-year-old minor league shortstop Mickey Mantle will appear in Mile High Card Company’s “The Event” auction that runs from September 23-October 10.

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These early-signed baseballs are new to the market and come directly from the family of Bob Mallon, a former teammate of Mantle’s on the 1949 Independence Yankees of the Class D Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri League (K.O.M League).

Mallon, then an 18-year-old pitcher, and Mantle were roommates during the ’49 season.

One of the baseballs is dual-signed by both Mantle and Mallon, although the Mantle autograph is printed. According to Mile High, the two minor leaguers were discussing how they would spend their money once they were rich and famous in New York, and Mantle grabbed a K.O.M. league ball and wrote his name on it, saying “This is how I’m gonna sign it, Bob, how about you?”

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In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees placed right-hander Dellin Betances on the 60-day injured list with a partial tear of his left Achilles tendon. The injury, sustained on Sunday in Toronto, will be season-ending for Betances. Surgery has not been recommended at this time, but it has not been ruled out, and Betances is seeking a second opinion.

Before his latest knee injury, the 29-year-old Stanton missed 68 games from April through mid-June due to biceps and shoulder issues. Stanton’s return from that first stint on the injured list lasted six games.

“You’ve just got to lock it in and go with what you know,” Stanton said. “If it’s going to take a little bit of time, it will. It’ll be back and forth for a little while. I’ve got a week and a half to figure it out.”

Keeping it 100

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The Yankees entered Wednesday on the precipice of securing their second consecutive 100-win season, having finished 100-62 in 2018. Boone would thus become the first manager in Major League history to earn 100 victories in each of his first two seasons.

Additionally, with one more win, Boone would join Ralph Houk (205 wins with the Yankees from 1961-62) as the only Major League managers to earn 200 wins over their first two seasons.

“I think our staff has done a great job of preparing these guys each and every day, from a game-plan standpoint to how we go about things,” Boone said. “I think our staff has put these guys in a really good position to go out and be their most successful. It’s put us in good position right now.”

Bombers bits

Masahiro Tanaka will start on Thursday against the Angels, moving up in the rotation one day as the Yankees move J.A. Happ to Friday’s start against the Blue Jays. The decision potentially lines up Tanaka to start Game 1 of the American League Division Series on regular rest, or to start Game 2 on one extra day.

Right-hander Ryan Dull was claimed on waivers by the Blue Jays. Dull allowed five earned runs in 2 1/3 innings over three appearances (19.29 ERA) for New York. He was designated for assignment on Sunday when the Yankees activated left-hander Jordan Montgomery and Betances from the injured list.

This date in Yankees history

Sept. 18, 1956: Mickey Mantle hit his 50th home run of the season, an 11th-inning blast at Chicago’s Comiskey Park that powered the Yankees to a 3-2 victory over the White Sox.

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Mallon placed a more traditional autograph on the ball, but this is the first known ball Mantle signed as a professional.

Another historic ball in The Event auction is the first known single-signed and dated Mantle ball, a game ball from Mallon’s first career victory. According to Mallon, after the win Mantle said, “Toss me the ball, Bob, I’m gonna sign it for you.” Mallon, perhaps a little amused, said, “Why would I want you to sign my game ball?” To which The Mick replied, “Because one day I’m going to be a famous player and you’ll be happy that I signed it.”

Mallon tossed the ball to Mantle who printed “My First Pro Win July 19, 1949, 6-3 on 7 hits” across the panel, then signed it “Mickey Mantle.”

Both balls feature signatures that don’t resemble how Mantle signed his name later in his career, but both carry authentication by PSA/DNA and Jimmy Spence (JSA). Mantle’s signature became far more elaborate later in his career and post-career.

Mile High president Brian Drent called the early Mantle signed balls “extremely unique” in that Mantle had just recently graduated high school and almost certainly did not sign any baseballs alone while playing for The Whiz Kids travel team out of Baxter Springs. “He was literally just a few weeks from his high school graduation,” Drent told Beckett.com.

Other items consigned by the Mallon family include a 1949 Independence Yankees team-signed ball in which Mantle signed as “Mick” Mantle,” an 8 x 10 original type I 1949 Independence Yankees team photo and a rare 1949

Independence Yankees KOM League Souvenir Booklet that was autographed by Mantle in his more familiar signature style, likely decades after the two teens first shared a room, also double-authenticated.

“If there are two people in the hobby that make the world go round, it’s Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle,” Drent told Beckett.com. “Mantle is a backbone to the industry.”

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The Blue Jays have claimed right-handed reliever Ryan Dull off waivers from the Yankees, per announcements from both teams. Lefty Tim Mayza, who suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament over the weekend, was transferred to the 60-day injured list in a corresponding roster move.

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Dull, 29, has bounced from the A’s, to the Giants, to the Yankees and now to the Blue Jays via waivers in the past six weeks alone. The righty hasn’t had success in the Majors or in Triple-A this season, but he’s only a few seasons removed from looking like a quality bullpen piece in Oakland. While Dull has been tagged for 17 earned runs through just 11 1/3 innings in the big leagues this year and also has a 5.29 ERA across three Triple-A affiliates, he was one of Oakland’s best relievers back in 2016. That year, he tossed 74 1/3 innings of 2.42 ERA ball with nearly a strikeout per frame and just 1.8 BB/9.

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It’s a Dull news day around here (sorry, couldn’t resist) as the Blue Jays announce they have claimed a RHP off waivers from the Yankees.

Reliever Ryan Dull was DFA’d by New York on Sunday after their series versus the Jays. He pitched in the 9th inning of Saturday’s 13-3 loss, giving up doubles to Brandon Drury and Richard Urena, and a walk to Danny Jansen. After making his major league debut in 2015, he had a solid 2016 season with Oakland, posting a 2.42 ERA (3.58 FIP) with a 0.874 WHIP.

His 2017 and 2018 seasons weren’t as great, as he was limited to only 67 innings over two seasons. He batted a couple injuries and rode the shuttle back and forth between the minors. He has a 13.50 ERA over 11 innings on the 2019 season (most of his year has been spent at the AAA level).

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Dull was claimed off waivers by the Giants last month, then claimed by the Yankees less than two weeks later. Dull has been on the Yankees active roster since Sept 1st, until he was designated yet again on September 15th.

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To make room on the 40-man roster, Tim Mayza has been moved to the 60-day injured list.

Injuries have hit Dull rather hard since that breakout campaign. A knee injury limited him to a total of 45 2/3 innings in 2017, and shoulder trouble hindered him in 2018. Multiple clubs have been willing to dedicate a roster spot to taking a shot at getting Dull back into form, though, and the Jays will now try their hand.

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Dull does have a minor league option remaining beyond the current season, so the Jays could certainly carry that experiment over to the 2020 campaign if they’re willing to carry Dull on the roster all winter. He’ll be arbitration-eligible this offseason but played the 2019 season on just an $860K salary, so his price tag wouldn’t be prohibitive.

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Landing James Paxton was the Yankees’ most exciting move of the offseason, and gave the team a left-handed power pitcher who would pair as a brilliant 1B to Luis Severino. Of course, the Severino part of that plan has only just come to fruition, and for a while, it looked like Paxton would have a disappointing first year in the Bronx, too.

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At the end of June, Paxton was almost exactly a league average pitcher—useful to have, but far from the dominant force that Yankee fans were expecting. He of course was one of many Yankees dealing with injury, in this case a balky knee, and more than likely came back too early to relieve pressure on an overworked starting staff. This rush led to a string of games where he failed to reach the fifth inning in five of six starts.

Since getting healthy, Paxton has looked much more like the pitcher the team thought they acquired. He worked at least six innings in two-thirds of his starts in the second half, saw his strikeout rate climb while his walk rate dropped, and his ERA fell a quarter of a run. His knee is undeniably a big part of his season, but there’s been another factor at play too:

As Paxton has gotten closer to 100%—and grown much more effective—he’s also leaned more on his curveball. In particular, he’s worked it inside to right-handers, to counter his lack of the now-ubiquitous hard slider that seemingly everyone throws these days.

NEW YORK — On Tuesday night, in the Yankees’ 152nd game of the season, staff ace Luis Severino finally made his 2019 debut. The 25-year-old righty, who after back-to-back All-Star seasons had been laid up by shoulder woes since spring training, spun four scoreless innings in an 8-0 rout of the Angels. His fastball sizzled, topping out at 98.8 mph and sitting 96-97, and his tantalizing performance fuels hopes that he can make a substantial postseason contribution to a 99-win team whose rotation has been its weakest link.

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“That’s Sevy out there,” gushed catcher Austin Romine afterwards. “We need Sevy where we’re going. He’s pitched in big games for us and we look forward to him pitching in more big games for us.”

Romine could be forgiven for forgetting the quality of Severino’s last big game (six runs in three innings in Game 3 of last year’s AL Division Series against the Red Sox) and focusing on the fact that the Yankees simply don’t have any other starter of Severino’s caliber. In both 2017 and ’18, the young righty threw least 190 innings, notching at least 220 strikeouts and 5.0 WAR, and receiving down-ballot Cy Young consideration. His 11.0 WAR in that span trailed only Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom, and Corey Kluber, a group that accounted for three of the four Cy Youngs awarded.

Tuesday night qualified as a big game only in the grand scheme of things, as relatively little was at stake in the standings. The Yankees began the night with a nine-game AL East lead over the Rays, and a magic number of three to clinch, though in the battle for the AL’s top postseason seed, they were also tied with the Astros at 98-53. The Angels (68-83) have not only clinched a losing season, but their lineup has been defanged, as Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Justin Upton have recently been shut down due to season-ending injuries, while Tommy La Stella hasn’t played since July 2.

At the other end of the spectrum, Severino experienced seemingly endless delays in getting his season started. Less than three weeks after signing a four-year, $40 million extension, he was scratched from his Grapefruit League debut due to a bout of rotator cuff inflammation. Soon afterwards, he suffered a Grade 2 strain of his latissimus dorsi, then experienced a significant setback while rehabbing in late June. Not until early August did he resume throwing off a mound, and with the minor league season dwindling, his rehab became something of a race against the clock. He did manage to squeeze in a trio of minor league starts earlier this month, one at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on September 1 and then two for Double-A Trenton during the Eastern League playoffs, maxing out at 64 pitches on September 11.

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Prior to Tuesday’s game, manager Aaron Boone said he expected Severino to throw a maximum of 70-75 pitches. He was upbeat about his ace’s potential: “His stuff has been good, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes out and pitches really well. He may have some rust on him, some nerves, those kind of things for being the first start.”

Severino did indeed show some rust right off the bat. Leadoff hitter Brian Goodwin fouled off five straight two-strike pitches and battled his way to a 12-pitch walk, before David Fletcher followed with a single. Severino escaped by starting a forceout off the bat of Kole Calhoun, then inducing Albert Pujols to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. Still, the fact that he threw 19 pitches in the first inning without getting a single swinging strike was a bit unsettling.

The rest of his outing went much more smoothly, as Severino retired nine of the final 11 Angels he faced. In the second inning, he notched his first swinging strike of the night (on his 30th pitch) and his first strikeout, blowing a 97-mph four-seam fastball past Jared Walsh, then fooled the next batter, Luis Rengifo, with an 85.7 mph slider for his second K. After issuing an eight-pitch walk to Michael Hermosillo to lead off the third, he came back to strike out Anthony Bemboom on a foul tip on a 97-mph heater, then needed just four pitches to dispatch Goodwin and Fletcher.

Calhoun led off the fourth with a single into left center; at 98.7 mph, it was the first hard-hit ball Severino surrendered all night. He needed just seven more pitches to get three outs, including a four-pitch strikeout of Andrelton Simmons, who foul tipped an 88.1 mph changeup into the glove of Romine. Walsh’s 106.5 mph routine grounder to second base, on Severino’s final pitch of the night, was the only other hard-hit ball he gave up.

Per Baseball Savant, Severino’s four-seamer averaged 96.6 mph for the night (one full mile per hour lower than last year’s average) and peaked at 98.8; in the fourth inning, he emptied the tank, averaging 97.8 mph on his final nine fastballs.

“I felt very comfortable out there, the pitches were working great, everything was working great,” said a cheerful Severino afterwards. “I’ve been looking forward since [the injury] happened in spring training. It’s been a long time, a long road back.”

He felt stronger as the game progressed: “[Boone] told me I was getting a little bit tired because he saw a couple 93-94. I said ‘No, I’m not done. You want to see more, I can go out there and throw 98, it’s not a problem.”

Severino generated nine swinging strikes from among his 67 pitches, for a healthy swinging strike rate of 13.4%; throw out that first inning and it was 18.3%. Seven of his nine swinging strikes came via his four-seamer, with the other two via his slider. The quality of competition aside — only the top three Angels in the lineup had a wRC+ of at least 100 — the only nit to pick was with his lack of efficiency; he averaged 4.47 pitches per batter, and generated 18 foul balls, 16 of which came with two strikes. Both hits he allowed came on two-strike pitches.

“What I loved is just how in control he was with his delivery,” said Boone. “The stuff was very good, but it wasn’t like he was reaching for it or trying to do it. He really stayed within himself the entire night and really gave us four outstanding innings… I thought he really commanded his fastball well, flashed some really good sliders, the changeup was decent. All things that hopefully will continue to get tightened up even more.”

Said Romine, “I don’t really know anything other than what you saw out there tonight from him. He’s a fierce competitor and he really likes to be out there on the mound and get after it. I enjoyed seeing the 97-98, that was fun to see. The slider had good depth… He wanted to throw [his changeup], he was confident in it. Three-pitch mix and he was throwing hard, so that’s good for us.”

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Indeed, Severino’s performance was a most welcome sign for the embattled Yankees rotation, which entered Tuesday ranked sixth in the league in ERA (4.61), 10th in FIP (4.83), and eighth in WAR (9.6), all of which would be less of a problem if the AL’s other five potential postseason teams — one of which will be left on the outside looking in — didn’t outrank them in all three categories:

Rotations of AL Playoff Contenders
Team ERA ERA- FIP FIP- WAR
Astros 3.67 82 3.90 86 17.3
Rays 3.62 81 3.34 75 16.7
Indians 3.75 77 4.04 87 16.4
Twins 4.16 89 4.17 90 14.9
Athletics 4.12 92 4.63 103 10.7
Yankees 4.61 100 4.83 103 9.6
All statistics through September 16.
Of the Yankees’ starters, only James Paxton owns an ERA and a FIP better than league average. Walks and homers have been significant problems across the board:

Yankees’ Starting Rotation
Pitcher IP ERA ERA- FIP FIP- HR/9 K% BB% K-BB% WAR
James Paxton 143.2 3.88 84 3.92 83 1.38 29.4% 9.1% 20.3% 3.3
Masahiro Tanaka 172.0 4.60 100 4.33 92 1.41 19.6% 5.4% 14.2% 3.0
Domingo Germán 134.2 4.28 93 4.92 104 2.00 25.3% 6.6% 18.7% 1.6
J.A. Happ 151.0 5.07 110 5.39 114 1.97 20.3% 7.5% 12.8% 1.1
CC Sabathia 103.2 4.95 107 5.81 123 2.34 22.4% 8.2% 14.2% 0.3
Lg Avg SP 4.75 102 4.64 100 1.52 21.9% 7.6% 14.3%
All statistics as starters only, through September 16.
Paxton aside, things have very much gone downhill in the second half:

Yankees Rotation Splits by Half
Pitcher Split IP ERA FIP WAR
Masahiro Tanaka 1st Half 105.0 3.86 4.26 2.1
2nd Half 67.0 5.78 4.46 1.0
James Paxton 1st Half 76.1 4.01 3.65 2.0
2nd Half 67.1 3.74 4.23 1.4
Domingo Germán 1st Half 74.0 3.77 4.18 1.5
2nd Half 60.2 4.90 5.82 0.1
J.A. Happ 1st Half 89.2 5.02 5.37 0.7
2nd Half 61.1 5.14 5.42 0.4
CC Sabathia 1st Half 76.0 4.03 5.27 0.6
2nd Half 27.2 7.48 7.30 -0.3
All statistics as starters only, through September 16.
With Severino back in the fold, and so many problems elsewhere, Boone has already made up his mind to take a decidedly unorthodox approach with his rotation in the postseason, telling Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, “We’re going to be a little untraditional. The only one we might use as a traditional starter is Paxton.”

By untraditional, Boone means a departure from the expectation that his starters will pitch as deep into games as possible before turning things over to the bullpen. Severino, Tanaka, Germán (whose 144.2 combined innings are 52.1 more than last year and 21 beyond his previous career high, set in 2017), Sabathia (who’s limping to the finish line, having just concluded his fourth stay on the injured list this season), and Happ (who’s battling biceps tendinitis) could all be used in piggyback type outings, not unlike what the Yankees did on September 12 against the Tigers, with Sabathia, in his latest return from the IL, throwing 3.1 innings and 56 pitches, and Germán following with four innings and 50 pitches. Chad Green, who’s made 14 starts totaling 18.1 innings, could be used as an opener as well. The idea is to aim for favorable matchups and limit pitchers’ exposure the third time through the order. By wOBA, all five of the above starters have been worse than league average under such conditions:

Times Through the Order by wOBA
Pitcher 1st 2nd 3rd
Domingo Germán .268 .330 .363
Masahiro Tanaka .274 .311 .394
James Paxton .306 .286 .375
CC Sabathia .322 .355 .420
J.A. Happ .331 .325 .355
AL SP Average .316 .335 .334
All statistics as starters only, through September 16.
Of the 53 AL pitchers who have faced at least 80 batters in third-time-through situations, Sabathia’s wOBA ranks 52nd, Tanaka 50th, Paxton 44th, Germán 39th, and Happ 36th. Not pretty.

The other facet of this, of course, is the Yankees’ bullpen, which entered Tuesday ranked fifth in the AL in ERA- (89, via a 4.11 ERA), but second in FIP- (also 89, via a 4.18 FIP) and first in WAR (7.0). Their relief corps — Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, and Tommy Kahnle — haven’t collectively been as strong as last year’s unit, however, and after the game, the team found out that Dellin Betances, who had rehabbed his way back from his own shoulder miseries to make his season debut on September 15, partially tore his left Achilles tendon during that outing, shelving him for the year. Nonetheless, they do have additional depth. Green has pitched very well (2.88 ERA and 2.74 FIP in 56.1 innings) since returning from a Triple-A refresher course, Luis Cessa has been solid in the second half (2.75 ERA and 4.13 FIP in 36 innings), and Jordan Montgomery, who started 29 games as a rookie in 2017 but just six last year before undergoing Tommy John surgery, made his season debut on September 15 as well.

How that all plays out remains to be seen, but with time on the calendar for two more outings — and health permitting, of course — Severino could build up his pitch count towards 100. A fully operational ace, something the Yankees have lacked all season, would be a most welcome shot in the arm.

Throwing curves inside, to right-handers, is not something you generally see. Paxton is in the top 10 among left-handed pitchers in inside curves, and top 15 of all pitchers in baseball. If you hang the curveball, it’s a slow moving, flat pitch right over the middle-in swing-path of a hitter. Showing the confidence to attack hitters inside with this kind of risky pitch has become a hallmark of Paxton’s resurgence, and a credit to Yankee development.

Thinking about player development only in terms of prospects and the farm system misses so much about what MLB teams are trying to do. Others have covered this better—The MVP Machine to start—but clubs work just as hard to tweak and improve the players on their 25-man roster as they do the guys on the Double-A roster. The Yankees have excelled at this, despite struggling with in-house pitching prospects.

We used to think the Yankees were just an anti-fastball team, but we know that’s not true. Paxton has always relied on his four-seamer, and even Masahiro Tanaka, the poster child for working away from the fastball, has seen his four-seam usage climb 20% in 2019. The Yankees’ philosophy isn’t built on avoiding fastballs, but on developing more ideal pitches and focusing on them, whatever they happen to be.

James Paxton looks to be the best pitcher in the Yankees’ rotation right now —at least until Luis Severino reestablishes himself—and is certainly the one the team will ask the most of come October. Having a healthy knee can’t be overstated, but trusting that curve and attacking hitters directly with it has been every bit as critical.

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — It’s the bottom of the 9th and there’s a call to the bullpen. Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” begins playing. Jogging into view is New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera but instead of stepping on a mound, it was a stage in the East Room of the White House and instead of being handed a baseball, he received one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.

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“Maybe the greatest pitcher in the history of baseball, Mariano Rivera,” President Donald Trump said as he awarded the hall-of-famer with the Presidental Medal of Freedom.

Trump said Rivera’s dominance on the mound was mesmerizing and when he stepped onto the field, the game was more often than not closed out with a victory for the Yankees.

“I knew he was the best but this is crazy: Mariano broke the Major League Baseball record for the most games finished and saves made,” Trump added.

Following his history-making April 14, 1955 debut, the St. Louis native would become a legend in the Bronx and a fixture in Bergen County. He moved his young family to Teaneck in 1958. Three years later, the mayor gave Howard his own day: November 30.

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Demure, yet still a superstar, Howard couldn’t help but stand out — even absent Yankee pinstripes. The 6-foot-2-inch catcher invited attention at charity events and awards banquets in Bergen County.

In 1963, Howard told The Record he found Teaneck and its people wonderful. Nine years later, he admitted to the New York Times he initially made the move to the historic transportation hub and one of the largest towns in Bergen County due to the proximity to Yankee Stadium and the culture of the historic franchise.

“We came here because it was close to Yankee Stadium by car, the same reason that caused a lot of the Yankees to do it,” Howard said. “The traveling secretary of the ball club helps the players get located and the Yankees have always had guys all over North Jersey. Now it’s our home, and I’m getting more active in things.”

Prior to his death in 1980 at the age of 51, Howard sat on the Board of Education for Bergen County’s vocational and technical high schools. He served as vice chairman for a Teaneck-based bank. He co-owned a local business selling weighted bat doughnuts.

Elston Howard, a New York Yankees player and coach who had his number retired, was a popular Teaneck resident in the 1960s and 1970s.
Elston Howard, a New York Yankees player and coach who had his number retired, was a popular Teaneck resident in the 1960s and 1970s. (Photo: File Photo)

His wife, Arlene, ran an art gallery in Englewood. His children, Elston Jr., Cheryl and Karen, attended Teaneck public schools, where he established a scholarship fund.

Shortly after bringing the Yankees to the World Series as the league’s best player in 1963, The Record reported that Howard’s unoccupied car rolled down the hill near his Howland Avenue home, hitting a retaining wall and ricocheting into a telephone pole near the home of Al Hibbler, the vocalist in Duke Ellington’s band.

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A few weeks later, Howard was in The Record again. This time, he was photographed accepting calls of congratulations from his new home on Edgemont Place. The 33-year-old had just been named the American League’s Most Valuable Player for 1963. Another color barrier was broken.

New York Yankee players congratulate pitcher Bud Daley after final out in game five to win the 1961 World Series at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct. 9. Cincinnati Reds center fielder Vada Pinson (28), who made final out with fly ball to left, walks by at left. The Yankees, from left, are, Daley, right fielder John Planchard, who did not play the ninth inning, first baseman Bill Skowron, and catcher Elston Howard. A bat boy runs behind Daley. (AP Photo)
New York Yankee players congratulate pitcher Bud Daley after final out in game five to win the 1961 World Series at Crosley Field in Cincinnati, Ohio, Oct. 9. Cincinnati Reds center fielder Vada Pinson (28), who made final out with fly ball to left, walks by at left. The Yankees, from left, are, Daley, right fielder John Planchard, who did not play the ninth inning, first baseman Bill Skowron, and catcher Elston Howard. A bat boy runs behind Daley. (AP Photo) (Photo: AP)

During his 14-year Major League run, Howard won two Gold Gloves, earned four World Series rings, and made the AL All-Star team nine straight years. Known for his versatility as a catcher, outfielder and first baseman, he later became the American League’s first black coach. With Howard on the staff, the Yankees would earn two more World Series titles in 1977 and ’78.

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The Yankees retired Howard’s number 32 in 1984. Prior to recent additions to the stadium’s Monument Park, his plaque started a row ended by National League barrier breaker Jackie Robinson’s.

Rivera was also known for being the last player to wear the number 42, which has since been retired across the league in honor of Jackie Robinson.

Rivera saved a record 652 games over the course of his career and was feared by batters for his cut fastball. At Monday’s ceremony, he spoke about his struggles as he first arrived in the US from his native Panama.

“I was able to realize that I can do something for others because I knew the language,” Rivera said.

In his 19 seasons in the MLB, Rivera established himself as the greatest relief pitcher of all time. Off the field, he established a foundation for empowering children in need to achieve a better future.

“I’m proud to be an American,” Rivera added.

Rivera is the latest athlete to receive the Medal of Freedom, which was recently awarded to Jerry West, Bob Cousy, and Tiger Woods.