I don’t recall a spring training game being talked up as much as yesterday’s Yankees-Phillies tilt, which the New York press breathlessly reported as Joba Chamberlain’s make-or-break day. Certainly Chamberlain needed a good outing — he’s been pitching terribly so far this spring — but it’s not like the Yankees are so shortsighted that they’d decide who their fifth starter would be in mid-March.
But he did pitch well. One run over four innings, pounding the strike zone and pitching very economically, which for him is the biggest challenge. Girardi called Chamberlain’s effort “outstanding.” Which, if I can anticipate the tabloids I have yet to read this morning, will somehow thrust Chamberlain out front in the horse race they’re calling.
Which is just as silly as saying he was so far behind before. Girardi and Cashman and everyone will probably wait until just before opening day to decide this thing. And once it’s decided, the repercussions of the decision, such as they are, will likely only be felt for a few months. If Hughes wins the job, the stricter innings pitched limit he’ll be under will likely lead to Chamberlain or someone else making spot starts. After this season, both Hughes and Chamberlain will likely be in the Yankees rotation.
In a spring filled with very few compelling storylines in Yankees camp, this one is being overblown.
Kurt Suzuki will wear a Braves’ uniform through the 2018 season after signing a one-year, $3.5 million extension with the club on Saturday, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal adds that the two had been in talks for weeks and Suzuki made it clear that he wanted to remain in Atlanta for the foreseeable future. The team has yet to announce the extension.
Suzuki, 33, initially signed a one-year contract with the Braves back in January. The veteran backstop stepped into a backup role behind starting catcher Tyler Flowers, but still found a way to impress at the plate with a .271/.343/.525 batting line, career-best 18 home runs and an .868 OPS through 287 PA. According to FanGraphs, Suzuki’s 2.2 fWAR makes 2017 his most valuable season since his run with the 2009 Athletics.
It’s a prudent move for the Braves, who would have lost one of their most dynamic second-half hitters to the free agent market this offseason. Entering Saturday, Suzuki is second only to Freddie Freeman with 11 homers and 1.4 fWAR since the All-Star break. His stunning comeback also confirmed the team’s decision to look outside the organization for a backup catcher, rather than turning to fellow veteran Anthony Recker behind the plate.
“On a personal level, this season exceeded my expectations,” Suzuki told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s just one of those things I can’t explain. I put a lot of work in and really didn’t have a job until late January. I got an opportunity here and took advantage of it. It was definitely a good fit.”
Tigers’ outfielder Mikie Mahtook is unlikely to play again this season, club manager Brad Ausmus announced Saturday. Mahtook was diagnosed with a Grade 2 left groin strain following Friday’s series opener against the Twins, when he appeared to injure himself after chasing down Byron Buxton‘s two-RBI double in the fourth.
This is the second time Mahtook has sustained a groin injury over the past month. The 27-year-old exited Friday’s game with a .276/.330/.457 batting line, 12 home runs and a .787 OPS through 379 plate appearances with the team.
With the Tigers out of contention, there’s no reason to trot out Mahtook for the remaining eight games of the regular season. The club has yet to specify a timetable for his return, but there’s no reason to believe he won’t be in fine shape to compete for a starting role next spring.