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Friday, July 18, 2008

Pinstripe Pulse: Yanks sign Sexson; Damon, Matsui experience rehab setbacks

The Yanks yesterday came to terms with the recently released Richie Sexson, formerly of the Seattle Mariners. Sexson, in his twelfth major league season, has seen his offense inexplicably disappear in the last year and a half. A lifetime .261 hitter with 305 homers and 937 RBI, Sexson has had five career thirty homer seasons, yet over his past 175 games has only hit 33, while hitting an anemic .211. So far this season, he has hit .211/11/30, with a woeful .178 average against righthanders. He has posted .344/5/12 numbers in 61 at-bats against lefty pitchers, the Yanks subsequently will platoon Sexson exclusively against southpaws. Sexson is a good fielding first baseman, he likely will see some late inning defensive assignments in place of Jason Giambi on days when he is not in the line-up.

Despite the pick-up, the Yankees are still in the market for a full time outfielder with a power bat, preferably from the right side. With Hideki Matsui likely out for the rest of the season, the Yanks will need to fill holes both offensively and defensively. ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kirkjian, during his weekly appearance with ESPNRadio affiliates, reported Brian Cashman and Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington spend considerable time during this past weekend's Futures Game discussing a possible deal for, surprisingly, Jason Bay.

The Yanks had targeted Sexson as the righty first base option since his release last week, thus eliminating the need for Xavier Nady. While Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner are adamant they will not mortgage the future by trading off three or four prospects, Kirkjian reported Huntington to be open to a deal involving one or two prospects, a current member of the 25 man roster, and, in lieu of the extra prospect, cash.

The flux of the Yankees current roster is also up in the air. Johnny Damon is scheduled to be activated from the DL on Sunday, however, he cut short his hitting session on Tuesday due to discomfort in his injured left shoulder.

The situation with Hideki Matsui's injured left knee has taken an unfortunate turn for the worse, it appears he will have surgery and will be lost for the rest of the season. Matsui had been rehabbing the the Yankees Class A franchise in the Florida State League, he too cut short his rehab after a hitting stint on Tuesday resulted in pain and swelling. Matsui returned to New York on Wednesday and is scheduled to see Team Physician Dr. Stuart Hershon today, it is expected Dr. Hershon will recommend surgery.

Righthander Phil Hughes, on the DL since May with a broken rib on his rightside, threw his second bullpen session on Sunday in Tampa, cutting loose 25 fastballs and a dozen breaking balls, and reported no discomfort in the area. Because of the injury, Hughes was severely limited in his rehab option, not only will he need to regain arm strength, but leg strength and his stamina as well. The Yanks have put no ETA on Hughes' return to the rotation, the same can be said for Chien-Ming Wang. Wang, on the DL since June 17th with a torn tendon in his right foot, won't return until September at the earliest. The Yanks will need to activate Wang by August 31st for him to be eligible for possible postseason action, from that date he can have a maximum ten day rehab assignment, meaning he would have to be placed on the active roster no later than September 10th. The question is will he be strong enough to pitch by that date. The Yanks don't want to risk activating him too early, they also don't want to risk not activating him and losing him for October play if he needed another couple days of rehab.

Ian Kennedy was activated from the DL on June 28th, after missing five weeks with a back strain caused by bursitis in his throwing shoulder. Kennedy has made three rehab starts with Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, going 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in 11 innings, allowing 13 hits while striking out eleven.

Reliever Brian Bruney, on the shelf since May 4th with a broken foot, took the loss in his first rehab outing this past weekend while pitching in Double A Trenton. The Yankees also signed former top draft pick and Minnesota Twins ace Eric Milton to a minor league contract. Milton, out since June, '07 after Tommy John surgery, threw a 25 pitch bullpen last week and reported no stiffness or swelling.

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