Why the Yankees have to go with A.J. Burnett tonight

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I said earlier that who the Yankees pitch tonight is not a debatable point because Joe Girardi has already made up his mind. But it’s still obviously a discussable point, so let’s discuss it.

My take: pitching CC Sabathia tonight would be a panic move that would accomplish little.  Why? Because it doesn’t eliminate A.J. Burnett from the rotation, it only pushes him back a day. That’s because pitching Phil Hughes on short rest is simply not a viable option as he has never done it before and he is already well beyond any workload he has ever had. While Sabathia is a horse, the numbers for pitchers on short rest overall are fairly poor. As such, there is no reason to expect you’d get a particularly sharp Phil Hughes.

If the response is “well, we need to win tonight, so just pitch Burnett tomorrow night,” you’re still loopy, because tonight’s matchup is way more suited for Burnett. The Rangers are pitching Tommy Hunter. Hunter has started two games against the Yankees. In those games he has given up seven runs on 14 hits in nine and a third innings. In other words, he’s hittable and thus the Yankees do not need a shutdown start in order to win this game. They simply need to hit the ball for once and hope for no worse than a mediocre start from Burnett.  If the Yankees can’t hit Hunter, well, they’re screwed anyway. Assuming you get past Hunter with a win, the Yankees then throw Sabathia and Hughes on regular rest, and both of those games are winnable.

Look, I know it’s tempting to bring back Sabathia. But the series is at 2-1 right now, not 3-1. You can’t punt Games 4 and 5 simply because you’re freaked out over what happened in Games 2 and 3 and scared to death about facing Cliff Lee in Game 7. By throwing Burnett against Hunter and then Sabathia and Hughes on their regular schedule, the Yankees give themselves the best chance they have to win all three of those games. And that’s all a manager can do. Ultimately, the players have to perform.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.