Friday, May 29, 2015

Adam Warren Will Be Joba-Ruled Soon,
So Is It Too Soon To Call Him Trade Bait?

By Barry Millman

Another week has passed and another 12 innings has been rung up on the odometer of the Yankee's best long reliever for the last two years.

The problem with that is Adam Warren's no longer a long reliever. A bigger problem is the Yankees don't have one. But perhaps the biggest concern should be how much longer the Yankees can expect him to be effective in any role.

The rotation is still short of reliable starters, the bullpen is in dire need of a long man, it looks like he's not going to be replaced by the returning Masahiro Tanaka and the discussion about which role is best for him and the team has revved up a notch. But it's all going to become a moot point soon because he's quickly approaching an innings wall that will likely require some serious brake-tapping on his usage if they want him around in any role through the second half of the season. And that strategy hasn't gone particularly well in the past for the Yankees.

More by accident than design, the Yankees now find themselves with a successful relief pitcher who has just made three successive starts lasting six innings for the first time in his MLB career and shown adequate competence (a sub-4.00 ERA as a starter, also a first) to have earned a place in the Yankees' -- and likely many other teams' -- rotation. With Chris Capuano and CC Sabathia struggling, Ivan Nova 's return near but still not scheduled and Tanaka's near-term effectiveness and future health a question mark, the lure to keep him starting is strong. 

On the other hand, his absence from the pen as a long reliever -- his most effective and valuable role by far over the past two seasons -- has been keenly felt. Esmil Rogers, the pen's other long man, had a decent April, but has since self-immolated under the increased workload and been reduced to a janitor who can only be trusted to mop up zero-leverage situations. Likewise, the rest of the pen which started the season strong has been frayed by increased usage due to short starts because Warren -- the escape artist of yesteryear who used to safely deliver abbreviated outings to the safety of the back end of the bullpen -- has been absent from the job and, truth be told, has actually fanned the flames of the  problem in many of his own starts until only recently.

The choice of what to make of Warren is further complicated by the fact that his new career as a starter  has put mileage on him at a pace he hasn't seen in years.

Since Opening Day, Warren has thrown 50 innings on an arm that threw a total of  78 last year and 77 the year before. Once upon a time, Warren was a young farmhand who threw 152 innings in back to back seasons. But that was before the team told him to forget about being a starting pitcher and going for length; just get in the the pen and pound the zone when the bell rings.

So regardless of whether they decide to keep penciling him into the lineup card or give him back his chair in the pen, as he approaches that high 70-innings threshold you can be sure the organization that authored Joba's Rules will convene its best minds to decide upon a theory that gives them the most production from him for the longest possible time before  his arm goes dead (we'll call them the Warren Commission) and then put that theory into practice through a system  that will involve documenting full details of every pitch of  every inning he throws, with printouts to be added daily to a new chapter in Joe Girardi's binder (call it the Warren Report) and from that a formula for mandatory days off, pitch counts and other limits will be implemented. They'll have no choice and wouldn't be able to help themselves even if they did.

Absent any limits as a starter and assuming his current pace of  roughly 5 2/3 innings per start, he only has five more games before he'd reach those totals. That would get him to the end of June.

As a reliever, assuming his regular usage of the past two years, he'd make it to the All-Star break before he reached it.

How he'll respond to innings limits and additional forced rest days after working all winter, spring and early summer to stretch himself; how he'd respond to a swingman role bouncing between the bullpen and dugout if the team chooses to go that route; and how far past his innings threshold of the past two season he can pitch effectively is anyone's guess.

But as anyone who witnessed firsthand the roller coaster wreck of  Joba Rules and bullpen/rotation bingo can tell you, those are ventures fraught with great risk, to say the least. They can reduce an amazing asset to a painful liability with an astonishing efficiency one would not want to witness twice in a lifetime.

And that's the haunting specter that now looms ahead for Warren and the Yankees. He spent the entire winter, spring and early summer stretching himself to be a successful starter and now he's become one. He's a back-end rotation starter on the right side of 30 whose trade value has never been higher and is going to be out of that job in a matter of days or weeks at most. In a season that quickly became plagued by abbreviated starts crying out for a solid long man in the bullpen -- the role he performs best -- the team chose to keep him in the rotation and expend his most productive innings there. 

And as a result of those conflicted choices, he may well have become more valuable to other teams looking for rotation and bullpen help over the next three years than he is to his own.

With Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Nathan Eovaldi and CC Sabathia locked in, he has virtually no future in the Yankees rotation for the remainder of his contract.  There's no guarantee how long or how effective he can be returning to the bullpen, and the team's farm system has impressive young guns Bryan Mitchell and Luis Severino already lining up to audition  for his former role there. He doesn't own it anymore and it's not his to lose anymore. 

So it may not be the Yankees' intent right now, but he has potential trade bait written all over him -- and if they aren't thinking about it already, perhaps they should.

Because with the Warren Commission convening soon to Joba-Rule him, you have to wonder if the window is opening or closing on the Yankees' best long reliever.

You can email Barry Millman at or follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dad. I talked to Slade. He made it to the bigs! A Father's Yankee Dream Comes True

By Barry Millman

One of the nice things about Yankee Universe is every member has their own unique  moments they cherish and love to share. And one of the nice things about Yankee Twitterverse is you never know who you might bump into with one that really knocks you out.

Yesterday, those two nice things converged, and I got to meet a really happy guy who hadn't gotten much sleep the night before because he was living one of the rarest Yankee moments imaginable.

Wednesday morning,  Slade Heathcott, the  team's first pick and 29th overall in the 2009 amateur draft, sent out his first official joyous tweet as a bonafide New York Yankee. Like many  Yankee fans who have been following his progress and twitter page for years, I was thrilled for him so, again like many others, I favorited his tweet, and replied with a congratulatory message of encouragement.

A little while later, someone favorited my reply and when I checked the notification it was Jeff Heathcott, Slade's father. He had sent out a touching tweet earlier in the day announcing his son's promotion, which I had missed as I imagine many did due to a small following, so I retweeted that too. We started chatting and ... that's about all the setup this thread needs. 

During a week when there hasn't been much of anything to make Yankee fans smile, Jeff was reveling in a cherished Yankee moment few of us will ever experience ... and if his son can hit, run, catch and throw in the bigs like he has at every stop on the way there, Jeff's Yankee moment could wind up being one every Yankee fan cherishes too. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

All-Star Case For ARod Is Overwhelming

By Barry Millman

Alex Rodriguez's march up the career home run list was accompanied by a lot of noise about marketing and milestones and other media-driven minutiae. But the fact is Alex has hit the fourth most home runs all-time. 

It's done. Over. Finito. He's fourth. Get over it.  Time for the next order of business.

All-Star balloting is underway, and the fact is if Alex doesn't win a spot in that game the Yankee fan base doesn't deserve a pennant this or any other year-- and neither does anyone else  who considers themselves a true fan who appreciates the sport.  As I wrote in a story two days ago, he's authoring a comeback story for the ages this season -- and whatever your opinions may be of him personally or of his career stats professionally, there can be no doubt that what he's doing at the plate THIS year is a whole different animal that should be judged on its own merits. 

This is an updated version of a similarly titled story  I wrote more than a week ago, and the only things that have changed are the numbers, and they just keep getting better by the day. 

As of Sunday morning, May 10th, of the nine designated hitters with a minimum 125 plate appearances, Alex ranks:

*First in Home Runs: 10

*First in At Bats per Home Run ratio: 12.4

*First in Slugging: .565

*First in OPS: .918

*Tied for First in Extra Base Hits:  18

*First in WAR: 0.9

*Second in walks: 19 

*Second in Runs Scored: 21

*Tied for 2nd in RBI: 22

*Third in On Base Percentage: .354

*First in Isolated Power: .315

*Tied for fewest grounded into double plays: 2

*First in secondary average: .468

Among ALL American League hitters at ANY position, he's tied for third in HR, 4th in extra base hits, 7th in slugging percentage, 10th in OPS, 15th in RBI and 21st in runs scored.

So there you have it --  the case for All-Star Alex. It's legit. It's compelling. It's a Yankee that deserves everyone's vote no matter which team is your favorite.

For Yankee fans, it's time to ante up and give Alex the only bonus that really matters and one he's truly earned. Click on the MLB All-Star ballot here  right now and vote for him with your head held high.  

Time to #FORG1V3 and #BEL13VE.

You can email Barry Millman at Follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dear Hal, Pay ARod His $6 Million Bonus
For The Yankees History He's Making Now *Updated Sunday, May 17th

By Barry Millman

Dear Hal Steinbrenner,

In the aftermath of the Yankee's 12-1 curb-stomping Friday night at the hands of the reigning AL champion Royals, the humiliating dethroning of newly crowned strikeout king Big Mike Pineda and the team's fourth consecutive loss, Yankee Universe had exactly two things to cling to the next morning.

The first was that the team was still in sole possession of first place, but somehow that didn't seem to be making anyone feel any better as the lineup had one again gone ice cold facing a replacement level pitcher. The second was that Alex Rodriguez is continuing to author a comeback story for the ages, doing everything through hot spells and cold alike to will the team to score from his new role as a full-time DH. 

For the second game in a row, he was central to the team's only run scored in an otherwise pitiful teamwide effort at the plate. After launching a bomb to break up a shutout in the  Rays series finale, he started and finished the only scoring sequence of the Royals series opener by leading off the top of the 4th with a double, advancing to third on a heads-up baserunning play when shortstop Alcides Escobar looked for a moment like he had speared a grounder up the middle by Mark Teixeira, and then scoring on a Brian McCann sac fly. 

And for six more outs, the Yankees were back within a run and had hope again.

Saturday night, he once again sent one deep late, slamming the door on the Royals in the 9th inning with an insurance home run in a badly needed win to end a four-game losing streak.

Producing runs and bringing stability and hope to a schizophrenic offense is what Alex's season has been all about, and more often than not it's been rewarded.

With the season nearly at the quarter pole, the 22-16 Yankees are 14-5 whenever he drives in or scores a run -- and only 9-10 when he doesn't.

Near the end of spring training, I projected that, given his time off to get healthy and train coupled with his well-known work ethic and relentless motivation to excel, it was reasonable to expect Alex to have a season similar to Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui's celebrated 2009 swan song.

It was, to say the least, a minority opinion at the time.

As it turns out, he's on pace to blow Matsui's 2009 numbers out of the lineup and send them to the bench. 

Matsui through game 38 in 2009:  5 HR  14 RBI  .250/.336/.445/.781.

Rodriguez through game 38 in 2015: 9 HR 21 RBI  .250/.354/.565/.919

Think about it, Hal. Alex is your very own new and improved Godzilla.  Running wild in the Bronx at your ballpark. He's making Yankee history right now before our eyes in a year nobody gave the team much of a chance -- and they're in first place now due in no small part to him. 

There's also a very good chance he could be the only Yankee All-Star this season and he's probably a lock for Comeback Player of the Year too. 

You can't market that?

I get that you have the right not to exercise your option to pay for milestones you feel are unmarketable. But what Alex is doing this year is Godzilla 2.0. tell-your-grandkids type of stuff that will go down in Yankees lore and, yes, the lore of baseball itself.

So whaddayasay, Hal? Exercise that option and pay the man his $6 million. Right now.  Not for the old history you can't market, but for the history he's making right now that you can. Give the fans something to smile about when all the bats but ARod's go cold.

Because this team could use some new history, especially during the down times -- and the new Godzilla is a pretty great story about second chances and redemption anytime. 

It could be a monster best-seller -- if it's marketed right.

Please think about it, won't you?

Yours truly,


You can email Barry Millman at Follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Losing Starting Pitcher Chase Whitley
Is A Big Blow - To The Yankees Bullpen

By Barry Millman

The loss of starting pitcher Chase Whitley might seem relatively minor to some with the anticipated return of veteran Chris Capuano to the rotation this weekend.

After all, it's been pointed out by many fans and more than a few members of the media,  Whitley was destined to be replaced anyway by either Capuano or fellow rehabber Ivan Nova, who will follow him back to the Bronx in a few weeks.

But the immediate impact and ripple effects from Whitley's loss are significant, both in the near term and down the road. And here's why.

Whitley's injury means that Capuano will replace him in the rotation instead of converted long reliever Adam Warren. Whitley was able to provide roughly the same length as a starter as Warren and was a better starting pitcher, and Warren is a far better pitcher out of the pen than he is as a starter. Warren remaining in the rotation means Esmil Rogers will continue to be used in an extended reliever role that isn't wearing well on him. With Warren and Rogers both forced to continue  in uncomfortable roles producing diminishing returns instead of where their best value lies, that doesn't bode well for the rotation, the bullpen or anyone. And when Warren finally does return to the bullpen to pick up some of the long relief slack from Rogers, both their innings counts are going to be dangerously inflated, further impacting their likely value later in the season.

More than anything else, Wednesday's game underscored both the urgent need for Adam Warren to return to the bullpen as a long reliever, and how ill-suited Esmil Rogers is for that role. 

Rogers' 3.1-inning two-run appearance was the 5th time in 11 appearances this season he's gone past two innings. Last year, Rogers made 34 combined  appearances for the Blue Jays and Yankees totaling 45.2 innings and only went past two innings twice -- and one of those was an emergency spot start. That comes to 1.3 innings -- or roughly four outs -- per appearance.

This year he's already  pitched 22.1 innings. That means he's staying in an average of six outs per appearance and he's already hit half his total workload from last season with less than a quarter of the season gone. At this rate of usage, he'll surpass last year's innings total and pitch count before the All-Star break -- and there are already disturbing signs the rate of usage is affecting him.

 He's allowed multiple hits and at least one run in four consecutive appearances now after doing so just once in his previous four games. Thursday's game was the first time he'd walked two batters in an appearance this season. In his six April appearances he pitched to a 2.35 ERA. In his five May appearances, he's pitched to a 6.43 ERA.

Rogers has performed a difficult task admirably, but it's not one that he likely can keep up much longer. And despite Warren's last start in which he finally broke the six-inning barrier for the first time, his greatest value to the team is giving length to faltering starters out of the pen. 

As a career starter, Warren carries a 5.03 ERA -- right about where his current 4.50 has been bouncing this month --  with a 6.0 SO/9, 1.68 SO/W and opposing batters hit .279 against him with a .761 OPS. As a reliever, he carries a 3.23 ERA with a 8.0 SO/9, 2.59 SO/W and batter are .246 with a .698 OPS. There's no question he's a valuable reliever and little question he is, at best, a mediocre starter. The problem for Warren is that with Whitley going down, the mediocre starter must now remain in the rotation instead of the excellent long reliever returning to the bullpen to help out Rogers when Capuano returns as planned. He's currently at 38 innings on the year, which is roughly half his 2014 total of 78.2 innings with less than a quarter of the season gone -- just like Rogers.

The loss of Whitley means the two key relievers the team had counted on to add length to the bullpen will likely continue to be liabilities instead of assets, will continue to burn through innings at an accelerated rate and may ultimately be of little or no use later in the season.

You can email Barry Millman at Follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Chris Capuano Only Days Away From
Long-Awaited Return To Yankees Rotation

By Barry Millman

The Yankees' other CC, Chris Capuano, will make what is likely his final rehab start Tuesday night for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders before joining the big club's rotation.

The 36-year-old lefty, who was re-signed this winter to provide depth for the rotation, went down in a March 11th spring training game with a quadriceps strain. His rehab has gone smoothly with no reported complications, and his rehab game action has been encouraging to date. The Yankees will be looking for him to go 90 pitches or six innings on Tuesday, and if that benchmark is met he could be on a major league mound facing the Royals this Sunday or the Nationals on Tuesday. 

Capuano had started the 2014 season as a reliever for the first time in his career in the Red Sox bullpen and pitched to a 4.55 ERA over 31.2 innings with a  8.2K/9 and 4.3BB/9 before being released. The Rockies signed him to a minor league deal and sent him down to the farm to stretch him back out into a starter again. There he threw 19 innings of  impressive 2.84 ERA ball over four gradually longer appearances, registering 9.9 K/9 aand 2.4 BB/9 ratios, before the Yankees came calling in July to purchase him as a cheap band-aid for their hemorrhaging rotation. He provided a surprising measure of stability and much needed length down the stretch with a 4.25 ERA in 12 starts, lasting at least six innings in eight of them -- something Adam Warren has been unable to accomplish even once in six starts this season.

He goes into his third rehab start with a 1.93 ERA over 8.2 innings with eight strikeouts, two walks and one earned run allowed. He threw his first rehab assignment last Saturday at the Boss for the high Single A Tampa Yankees against the Detroit Tigers' Single A affiliate Lakeland Flying Tigers. On a balmy afternoon in the 80s with a steady, 10 mph breeze blowing out to straightaway centerfield, he surrendered a single unearned run on two hits over four innings. He struck out four, didn't walk anybody, threw 43 of his 59 pitches for strikes, and seven of the eight balls he threw that batters managed to put into play were grounders. He was on a 60-pitch/four-inning limit, whichever came first. An encouraging first step back after two and a half months away from game action. 

In his second start on Thursday for the Railriders facing  the Atlanta Braves Triple A affiliate Gwinnett Braves, he went 4.2 innings and upped his pitched count to 72. Once again, he gave up only one run, earned this time, and struck out four again. He pitched more cautiously than he did in his Tampa start though as he faced a more proficient lineup and it affected his efficiency. He walked two and threw 47 of his 72 pitches for strikes. However, he continued to keep the ball down, alllowed only four hits and induced six groundouts to just two flyouts.  

Warren's value out of the bullpen far exceeds what he brings to the rotation, and replacing him with Capuano would provide an immediate upgrade to both; making him the favorite to be moved. With next Monday coinciding with what would be both Capuano's and Warren's next start date and also being a scheduled day off, the team will have some flexibility deciding where and when the other CC makes his 2015 major league debut. 

You can email Barry Millman at Follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

All-Star ARod Draws First Blood
In 5-4 Yankees Win Over Orioles

By Barry Millman

Alex went 1-for-3 with a triple and a sac fly that drove in the first run of the Yankees' 5-4 win over the Orioles on Friday.

Read the daily updated All-Star Case For Alex here and then click on the MLB All-Star ballot here and vote for him today!

You can email Barry Millman at Follow him on Twitter @nyyankefanfore.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The All-Star Case For Alex Rodriguez
*Updated Daily: As of Saturday, May 9th
Read, Share, Click On The Ballot & Vote!

By Barry Millman

Alex Rodriguez's march up the career home run list has been accompanied by a lot of noise about marketing and milestones and other media-driven minutiae. But the fact is Alex has hit the fourth most home runs all-time. 

It's done. Over. Finito. He's fourth. Get over it.  Time for the next order of business.

All-Star balloting is underway, and the fact is if Alex doesn't win a spot in that game the Yankee fan base doesn't deserve a pennant this or any other year. 

Not only was he the straw  stirring the drink through those early horrific days opening the season, but he's raised all boats in the team's lineup ever since and been an essential factor in their march from worst to first..

Does anybody seriously  believe the absence of gluten is the only thing fueling Tex's resurgence? Or that mustaches grant the growers special prowess at the plate?

[Full disclosure: The fact that Alex is fulfilling all my preseason projections for a Matsui-esque Godzilla-like season as a full-time DH is just a happy happenstance and in no way influences my objectivity in this analysis.]

Of course, the All-Star game isn't intended to recognize players who are crucial to their own teams' success. It's meant to bring together  the best of the best  across the league; and on that score Alex's numbers compare more than favorably to his fellow DHers around the league.

[Second disclosure: For those who prefer to see asterisks attached to Alex's stats, I've inserted a bunch here for them to enjoy.  Have a ball!]

As of Saturday, May 9th, of the eight designated hitters with a minimum 100 plate appearances, Alex ranks:

*First in Slugging .546

*Third in OBP: .348

*First in OPS: .894

*First in HRs: 7

*First in extra base hits: 14

*2nd in RBI: 18

*First in walks: 16

*Second in Runs Scored: 16

*Second fewest GIDP: 2

*First in Isolated Power: .299

*First in at bats per HR ratio: 13.9

*First in secondary average: .464

So there you have it --  the case for All-Star Alex. It's legit. It's compelling. It's a Yankee that deserves everyone's vote no matter which team is your favorite.

For Yankee fans, it's time to ante up and give Alex the only bonus that really matters and one he's truly earned. Click on the MLB All-Star ballot here  right now and vote for him with your head held high.  

Time to #FORG1V3 and #BEL13VE.

You can email Barry Millman at Follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Eovaldi Evolving Into A Dominant Force
In Yankees Rotation ... And Just In Time

By Barry Millman

The Martin Prado-Nathan Eovaldi trade looks better every time the young fireballer steps on the mound.

The 25-year-old took another giant step in his development toward becoming a dominant force in the Yankees rotation Saturday with an efficient 6.2 inning 2-run start that gave him his second win and dropped his ERA back below 4.00 for the first time since his 7-inning shutdown of the high-powered Detroit Tigers three weeks ago.

Consistently locating his high 90s fastball and knee-buckling slider for strikes to lefties and righties alike, he kept Boston hitters in a defensive swinging posture throughout; and with the exception of a 4th-inning mistake pitch that Dustin Pedroia hit for a solo home run -- the only extra base hit he surrendered -- the Red Sox never looked comfortable against him in the box. He struck out two, walked only one and most struck balls were lazy flyballs and groundouts.

His final line was even more dominant than it appeared in the box score. After walking his first batter of the day with two outs and a 3-1 lead in the 7th inning, manager Joe Girardi decided to give reliever Chris Martin a chance to close out the inning -- and Eovaldi was forced to watch from the dugout as Martin promptly coughed up an RBI double to hang him with his second earned run.

With Masahiro Tanaka out for at least a month nursing wrist tendonitis, it was exciting to watch Eovaldi duplicate his ability to provide precious length to go with his emerging skill at throttling a potent lineup three times through the order.

Until more precise return dates for the rehabbing Tanaka and Ivan Nova are known, fellow gunslingers Michael Pineda and Eovaldi represent the best hope this rotation has to continue the team's series-winning ways.

You can email Barry Millman at Follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Fenway, Not Yankee Stadium, Was The Perfect Place For ARod's 660th Home Run

By Barry Millman

If number 660 couldn't happen in Yankee Stadium, I thought, Boston would be the next best place.

I thought wrong. 

It was a pinch-hit, pay-me-my-six-million-Hal,  bite-me-Bud-Selig, Say-Hey-Willie-tying, in-your-face-Fenway, rivalry-reviving, game-winning bazooka shot fired by Alex Rodriguez straight at the heart of the Green Monster and all the hypocrisies of the baseball establishment.

It came in a game that saw two Red Sox fans make fools of themselves over game balls; the  first by trying to catch one in the field of play and preventing a crucial Boston run from scoring; and the second by wildly celebrating his successful battle to gain possession of Alex's valuable home run ball and then comically reversing himself to feign displeasure it had been hit.

It was a game that saw the hero put the Yankees back on the winning track by doing something only four players in history had ever done before just two days after a frustrating defeat in which he had gone 0-for-6 at the plate -- something he had never done before.

Failure. Resurrection. Victory. Redemption. 

With only his teammates, coaches and manager to embrace and congratulate him upon his return from circling the bases, Alex's unofficial Yankees celebration lasted about two minutes in the visitor's dugout of Fenway Park amid a halfheartedly booing crowd of stunned and dispirited Boston fans.

It would've been a great baseball moment even without the historic number attached to it. 

Then, a few minutes later, from 200 miles away in the Bronx, the official Yankees celebration of Alex's milestone came and went with the transmission of the following message.

No congratulations. No best wishes for many more -- or any more, for that matter. No joy at all.

With that, Hal Steinbrenner, who this Yankee fan has long supported in the face of overwhelming criticism, suddenly looked as foolish over a game ball as those two Red Sox fans.

And as the Yankee bullpen locked up the win and I basked in the final fleeting glimpses of the subdued, defeated faces occupying the seats in Fenway, it suddenly struck me this wasn't the next best place for such a great baseball memory.

It was the perfect place.

You can email Barry Millman at Follow him on Twitter at

Friday, May 1, 2015

Mayday! Mayday! Yankee Bats
And Joe's Binder Are CC's Best Friends
When He Steps On Fenway Mound

By Barry Millman

The education of CC Sabathia, backend rotation pitcher, continues Friday night at Fenway with another lesson in how to pitch without the stuff that once made him an ace. And in a young season that has already been filled with lessons in humility, the first day of May may bring his most humbling yet.

The Boston ballyard, to put it in cinematic terms, has been like a Bates Motel for the big guy throughout his career. Whenever he checks in, a bloodbath is almost sure to follow.

Of the 18 major league ballparks not named Yankee Stadium where he's made at least three starts as the visiting pitcher in his 15-year career, there's been virtually no more dangerous place for him to try to throw a baseball past a batter than Fenway.

Forget about his career .249 batting average against and .690 OPS. Over 86.2 innings spread over 14 starts between the shadows of the Green Monster and Pesky's Pole, CC has brightened the backs of Boston baseball cards to the tune of a .304 BAA and .860 OPS.

Coming into tonight's game lugging a career worst 5.96 ERA and facing a Boston lineup that's produced MLB's 3rd-most runs, it's not hard to picture those career numbers taking a further beating unless manager Joe Girardi releases the bullpen dogs earlier than has been his habit to date with CC.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the bullpen has had a day off and is largely rested and ready to put out any dumpster fires CC ignites -- with the above caveat regarding Joe's willingness to pick up the phone and call them in.

More good news: Despite Fenway being so unfriendly to CC, he sports a serviceable 5-5 record there thanks to the park being friendly to Yankees hitters at least half the time.

Still more good news is that Red Sox starter Justin Masterson, who is 2-0 through four starts and coming off a respectable seven-inning, three-run outing, gave up seven hits in that start and struggles with his command. He carries a weighty 5.16 ERA of his own and averages barely five-innings per start.

Couple that with a Boston bullpen that is second in MLB with four blown saves in eight opportunities to its credit already and dragging an 18th-ranked 4.17 ERA into tonight's game, and it's pretty clear the Yankees will be best served if both starting pitchers don't go deep in this one.

You can email Barry Millman at Follow him on Twitter @nyyankeefanfore.