Command struggles doom Morales vs. Yanks

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Command struggles doom Morales vs. Yanks

For three starts, Franklin Morales looked like a world-beater.

That came to an abrupt stop at Fenway Park Saturday afternoon, when Morales ran smack into the New York Yankees.

The Yankee clubbed four homers and reached him for six runs in just 3 13 innings. The lefty, who entered the game with a 2.51 ERA, saw his ERA jump almost exactly a full run in the disappointing start to 3.50.

"His fastball just kept coming back over the middle of the plate, obviously,'' said Bobby Valentine. "Instead of running away from the righthanders, it was cutting in. He couldn't control it on the outside part (of the plate) and he got hit, throwing fastballs in fastball counts.

"I tried to throw my pitches and I missed,'' confessed Morales. "I didn't have the command of my two-seamer and when I tried to throw strikes (behind in the count), they hit it. That's going to happen. That's the game.''

And the game effectively over in the first inning. With Derek Jeter (single) and Robinson Cano (hit by pitch) on base, Nick Swisher homered into the Monster Seats, giving the Yankees a quick 3-0 lead. Andruw Jones then followed with a solo homer.

Looking back, the key at-bat may have been hitting Cano when Morales was just an out away from getting out of the first without being scored on.

"I tried to go in with my two-seamer,'' recalled Morales. "That's my best pitch against a lefty and I missed.''

Things seemed to stabilize for the next two innings, but then Morales got hit by the long ball again, with Jones -- again -- and infielder Jayson Nix hitting back-to-back solo shots.

Two batters later, Morales, who had pitched five, six and seven innings in his first three starts, was done after just 3 13 innings.

Morales said pitching out of the bullpen in Oakland -- his previous start had come on June 28 and he had extra rest -- wasn't a factor.

"That (relief outing) was good for me,'' maintained Morales. "Everything's fine.''

Pitching coach Bob McClure said all four of the homers hit off Morales were "behind-the-count fastball. He was having a little trouble with his grip. The ball kept cutting on him, which is unusual for him -- it usually tails. I think that had something to do with some of it.

"Against a team like this, he's a fastball guy, he's going to throw a lot of fastballs and they know it. And if you don't locate, they don't miss them. But he'll turn it around the next time.''

Anniversary of Andy Marte trade a reminder that not all prospects hit

Anniversary of Andy Marte trade a reminder that not all prospects hit

In a week that has seen the Red Sox trade arguably the best prospect in baseball, Thursday can serve as a reminder that not all prospects -- even the great ones -- end up hitting. 

Eleven years ago today, the Red Sox traded Edgar Renteria to the Braves, and in eating some of the veteran shortstop’s contract got Atlanta to give them third baseman Andy Marte. 

Andy freaking Marte. Those stupid, stupid Braves.

If you were a baseball fan at the time, you were flummoxed at the notion that the Braves, who were a factory for developing good, young players, would trade the No. 9 prospect in all of baseball from 2005, according to Baseball America. At 22 years old, he was coming off seasons that saw him hit 23 homers in Double-A and 20 in Triple-A. 

“There’s nothing not to like about Andy Marte. He’s and outstanding defender with a chance to be an impact player offensively,” an opposing Double-A manager said of him, per Baseball America. 

Some of the other guys in the top 10 that year? Joe Mauer, Felix Hernandez and Scott Kazmir. Sitting one spot behind Marte on the list? Hanley Ramirez. 

And when the Red Sox got Marte, he immediately shot up to No. 1 on the Baseball America’s list of Boston’s prospects. Look at the rest of this list. Hell, there’s a combined 10 All-Star nods between Nos. 2 and 3 alone, and that’s not to mention the American League MVP sitting at No. 5. 

So what did Marte do for the Red Sox? Well, he got them Coco Crisp. After Theo Epstein returned from his hiatus, he shipped Marte, the recently acquired Guillermo Mota (dude got traded three times in six months), Kelly Shoppach, a player to be named later and cash for Crisp, Josh Bard and David Riske. 

Crisp didn’t exactly rip it up in Boston, but Epstein’s (and then-Braves general manager John Schuerholz’) foresight to trade Marte proved wise. Marte spent six seasons in Cleveland, seemingly given every chance to break out, but never played more than 81 games. He was designated for assignment in 2009 and cleared waivers, allowing him to stay with the organization as a Triple A player. The next season was his final one in Cleveland, and he left a six-season stint in with the organization having averaged just 50 games, three homers and 16 RBI at the Major League level. 

Marte would bounce around a bit in the Pittsburgh and Angels organizations, but he didn’t make it back up to the bigs until 2014 on a July 31 callup with the Diamondbacks. He’s now playing in Korea. 

Great prospects often become great players, and the Red Sox’ roster is proof of that. Strikeout concerns aside, there’s not much to suggest Yoan Moncada won’t be an absolute stud. Fans looking for silver lining to losing a top-tier prospect (other than the fact that you could Chris Sale for the guy), can look back 11 years and hope for the best. A lot of people were wrong about Andy Marte.

Report: Chapman, Yanks reach agreement on five-year, $86 million deal

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Report: Chapman, Yanks reach agreement on five-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. - Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen - a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever - that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.