Stepping From Class AAA to Majors, Young Yankees Pitchers Can’t Deliver


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Melky Cabrera hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning Saturday night, one of 11 hits for the White Sox.

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Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

CHICAGO — When General Manager Brian Cashman decided he did not want to trade his top prospects for the starting pitchers his first-place team needs at the moment, it was a show of faith in the farm system, particularly the pitchers he will be counting on now.

As Cashman bluntly put it, he was doubling down.

That decision did not deliver any return Saturday night, however, as Bryan Mitchell and Diego Moreno, the two young pitchers the Yankees turned to, were not ready for their opportunity in an 8-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Mitchell, struggling with his command, quickly put the Yankees in a 3-1 hole, and Moreno ensured that they remained there when he yielded a three-run homer in the fifth inning to the former Yankee Melky Cabrera. All three pitchers the Yankees used — Mitchell, Moreno and Nick Rumbelow — were in Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at the beginning of the week.

Mitchell was stepping into the rotation for Michael Pineda, who went on the disabled list this week with a right forearm strain. But because the Yankees have so many pitchers whose durability is in question, they will turn to the heralded prospect Luis Severino on Wednesday against Boston.

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“With some of the offers that have come our way, whether it played out this way or not, I’d rather try relying on the Mitchells and the Severinos than bring in somebody with more experience and maybe less ability,” Cashman said Friday after the nonwaiver trade deadline had passed, with the Yankees’ only move having been to acquire the backup outfielder Dustin Ackley from Seattle.

The patient approach was made easier because the Yankees have separated themselves from the rest of the American League East, though their lead was trimmed to five games over Baltimore, and they will have six games in the next two weeks with Toronto, who trail by six.

Mitchell, 24, has shown promise in sporadic appearances — almost all in relief — since he made his debut last August. A right-hander with a fastball in the upper 90-mile-per-hour range and a wide-breaking curve, Mitchell was sent back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre two weeks ago so he could acclimate again to starting.

When Manager Joe Girardi was asked what a barometer would be for Mitchell’s evening, his answer was telling: not falling behind hitters. But that is precisely what Mitchell did, getting behind in the count to 12 of the 20 batters he faced.

“He’s got great stuff, but stuff doesn’t play well if it’s not in the strike zone,” catcher John Ryan Murphy said. “Once he gets strike one, his stuff is going to play.”

Murphy said Moreno had the same problem when he came on, leaving a 1-1 changeup up in the strike zone that Cabrera hit over the center-field wall.

“Veteran hitters like that are going to punish your mistakes,” Murphy said.

Cabrera’s seventh homer of the season, which put the White Sox ahead by 6-1, was the pivotal moment, but there were other influential ones. White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia leapt above the wall to snatch a potential three-run homer from Didi Gregorius. The homer would have put the Yankees ahead in the third inning, though Murphy did tag up and score on the play.

Asked if he had thought the ball was out, Gregorius said, “Until I got robbed, yeah.”

Then in the fifth, Mitchell just missed getting his glove on Adam Eaton’s single up the middle. After a wild pitch, Tyler Saladino followed with another grounder up the middle, which gave the White Sox a 3-1 lead and spelled the end for Mitchell, who gave up seven hits and struck out five.

Moreno came in for his first appearance since throwing five and a third innings of no-hit relief Tuesday against Texas, a stint that kept him from being returned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre for a fresher arm. But it quickly became apparent that Moreno would not repeat that performance. He nicked Jose Abreu on the elbow and then surrendered Cabrera’s home run.

Only Rumbelow, who had arrived from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier in the day, had a smooth outing. He retired the side in the eighth.

The Yankees finally chased John Danks in the sixth, but reliever Jake Petricka retired pinch-hitter Brian McCann on a groundout to end the inning. McCann hit a solo homer in the ninth, his 17th of the season, but like any success the Yankees pitchers had, it was too late to do any good.

Mitchell was pleased with his performance but said he could do better.

“I tried to make a case for myself,” he said.

Whether he did enough to warrant another start — his turn would be next weekend against Toronto — is uncertain. Girardi was noncommittal.

“You have the rotation for the next three days,” Girardi told reporters. “We’ll have to make some decisions after that.”



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