Yankees Daily Briefing 08/13/11

Phil Hughes (2-4, 7.11) could go a long way in cementing his rotation spot with another good start on Saturday; he and the Yankees will face the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson (10-7, 3.05), who has beaten the Yankees once before this season.

Discussion of the Day: Do you agree with Brian Cashman's <a href=http://yankees.lhblogs.com/2011/08/12/cashman-defends-burnett/comments that A.J. Burnett can be a decent starter on a pennant-contending team?

Behind Enemy Lines: Mark at The Ray Area wonders why James Shields isn't getting more attention in the Cy Young race. It might seem unlikely that a pitcher from a non-contending team takes home the prize -- but Felix Hernandez did exactly that last season.

1) Wallace Matthews wonders how much longer Mariano Rivera will be automatic, while Jay Jaffe writes that Rivera's greatness is so routine that failure or frustration almost never come through.

Rivera's August slumps are well known, but, Rivera's age means that three bad outings in a row will prompt a different reaction now than had it happened several years ago. If Rivera returns to form and pitches like his normal self, the bad week will go to being a blip on the season's radar, as it has so often in the past; if Rivera continues to struggle,

the concerns will become more prominent. Rivera, however, has earned every benefit of the doubt, and one can argue that he has been so good that so long that a slump that might go unremarked upon for any other closer is magnified in his case.

2) Moshe Mandel at The Yankee Analysts takes a look at how the Yankees have turned around their season on the basepaths.

As Mandel notes, a large reason for the success is that Brett Gardner has turned his season on the basepaths around, to the point that he recently had a streak of 22 consecutive stolen bases without getting caught. As a team, the Yankees now trail only the Padres in stolen bases, and, more importantly, are in the top 10 when it comes to their success rate -- indicating not just that they have hitters who are fast, but that they have hitters and coaches who know when to steal. The latter, in fact, is so important that it played a significant role in the Yankees' last World Series win.

3) Kevin Kernan writes that Curtis Granderson's swing change has him the thick of the MVP race, while Mike Axisa considers Granderson's success on the one-year anniversary of his work with hitting coach Kevin Long.

Granderson trails only Jose Bautista, Dustin Pedroia, Ben Zobrist and Jacoby Ellsbury in wins above replacement for American Leaguers, and unlike Bautista and Zobrist has the (arguable) benefit of playing for a contending team. Granderson's numbers are much better than they were for most of last season. One could argue that the Yankees would be hurt more without Granderson in their lineup than the Red Sox without Ellsbury, and that unlike Pedroia, who had a poor start, Granderson has been consistent all season.

4) Alex Rodriguez began his minor league rehab.

Triple-A Scranton lost to Syracuse, 7-4.

Jesus Montero had two hits in four at bats, including a home run, and struck out twice.

Manny Banuelos allowed three runs on six hits in 5.2 innings; he walked four and struck out three.

Double-A Trenton lost to Harrisburg, 3-2 on a Bryce Harper walkoff home run.

Dellin Betances allowed one run on five hits over seven innings; walked one and struck out six.

High-A Tampa lost to Dunedin, 6-4.

Rodriguez had two hits in three at bats, including a home run and an opposite field double.

Low-A Charleston beat West Virginia, 3-1.

Gary Sanchez has been placed on the disabled list with an undisclosed injury.

Short Season Staten Island lost to Auburn, 12-3, while the Rookie GCL Yankees beat the GCL Tigers, 12-8.