On Thursday morning, Bronx Pinstripes spoke with NJ.com’s Yankees beat writer Brendan Kuty on the team’s upcoming series with the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS. The full Q&A can be found below.
Q: What’s your reaction to the Yankees’ rotation alignment? People are surprised that Luis Severino isn’t getting the nod in either Games 1, 2, or 3.
BK: I’m not shocked. It is a little suprising. You could see them wanting to go with their best pitcher in Games 1, 2, or 3. I actually still think they will. I think that if they go down 2-0, I think you’ll see Severino start in place of [Masahiro] Tanaka in Game 3. I think it is a little surprising, but at the same time, you’ve got [Sonny] Gray on normal rest, you don’t want to mess with him. You’ve got [CC] Sabathia, and you don’t want to start him on some crazy rest, too. I think it makes sense. Yeah, you could start Severino, but then you risk your other guys and throwing them off of their regular typical rotation and such.
Q: Do you think there’s a bit of a trust issue with how Severino performed on Tuesday?
BK: Maybe. We’ve seen him pitch well after bad starts. He had that bad start against the Twins (Sept. 20) and then came back and pitched pretty well. So, I don’t think it’s really a trust thing. I think it’s more of a, ‘Let’s not throw everybody off their game because we’re going to need to use everybody anyway.’
Q: It seems like it’s certainly a trust thing with Dellin Betances. What do you expect his role to be in this series?
BK: They may not have any choice but to go to him tonight. I think it was kind of interesting that they left Chasen Shreve off the ALDS roster. They had him warming up before Dellin in the AL Wild Card, so that indicated to me that they might’ve thought Shreve was ahead of Dellin. I’m a little surprised that happened. But going back to Dellin, they’re going to have to throw him in there at some point. If the time arises and the need arises, he’s going to have to show up because they’re not going to have David Robertson or Chad Green available tonight.
Q: What did you make of MLB Network host Brian Kenny’s theory of using the bullpen for all nine innings of that Wild Card game? He turned out to be right on Tuesday.
BK: I don’t know. These guys are such creatures of habit. Starting pitchers, relievers, position players, they all have routines. Just to say, ‘Alright, we’re going take the biggest game of the season, screw your routine, and we’re going to do this with you’… that’s a challenge. That’s risky. That’s dangerous. I don’t like it, to tell you the truth. I think in a box, in a computer, in a video game, sure it makes sense. But these are people you’re dealing with. The more relievers you use, the better chance you’re going to have someone who’s just off. Not everyone’s going to pitch to their averages or their capabilities every single time. So that’s why you want to have a good, dominant starting pitcher because he starts half the game for you.
Q: Didi Gregorius’ homer was huge. For Green to come in and step up built some momentum. But is it fair to say that David Robertson was the MVP of the Wild Card game?
BK: Yeah, him and Green. Robertson came in and pitched a great 3.1 innings. It’s incredible what he did. I think Green did it in a tighter spot. He did it with the Yankees down and desperately needing help. Robertson did it with the game tied and he had a lead at some point. I think I’d give Green the nod just a little bit, but I can see how you’d say David Robertson.
Q: Heading into March, it seemed like the Yankees were “a year or two away from being a year or two away” (as a legitimate playoff contender). You must be surprised by their 91-71 record this season.
BK: Oh of course. I really thought Gary Sanchez might step back a little bit. I thought that pitchers might figure him out a little bit, thought he might struggle in his first full season behind the plate. I definitely didn’t see this from Aaron Judge. What I tell everybody is that [Judge] is really smart. You talk to him, he thinks about everything he says before he says it. Super smart. I guess maybe we should’ve seen this coming. But there’s no way you would’ve thought that, especially with an almost 5.00 ERA from Masahiro Tanaka, that the Yankees would win 90 games or come close to winning 90 games.
Q: Do you think Judge is the AL MVP, or do you think that six-week slump hurt his chances?
BK: I don’t get to watch [Jose] Altuve enough. My gut says that Judge should be the MVP. He changes the Yankees’ lineup. The Yankees made it into the wild card as a team. They may not be as good as the Astros, but the guy hit 52 home runs and did some things that a rookie has never done.
Q: Aside from Judge, is there one other particular player that you think deserves the most credit for keeping this team afloat while Judge was slumping?
BK: Didi. He’s one of the best defensive shortstops that I’ve ever seen. And he’s added power, and he keeps everybody light. I think Didi would be that guy. And in September, how about Aroldis Chapman. Look at him coming back from the depths of whatever the heck he had going on to become the dominant Aroldis Chapman again. I think he deserves a lot of credit, too. Obviously there are other guys who have done great things, but he just sticks out in my head as someone who came back from serious adversity.
Q: How much credit does GM Brian Cashman deserve for their success? Joe Girardi?
BK: A huge amount. Cashman put this roster together, and you see where it is. Cashman had to deal with a lot of stuff this year. Gleyber Torres broke his elbow. If he doesn’t end up having Tommy John surgery, he probably is coming up and playing second base when Starlin Castro hurt his hamstring, which also means that when Castro comes back, he probably moves to third base, which means the Yankees never trade for Todd Frazier. But that Todd Frazier trade ended up being a good one. Adding [Tommy] Kahnle and adding Robertson, how huge have they been? So Cashman deserves a ton of credit. And Girardi, people complain about his usage of pitchers. They complain about his predictability, his binder. But it gets the job done. He’s coldly efficient, and I think the Yankees should already have a contract drawn up for him for another four years.
Q: What do you make of this “Toe-Night Show” with Ronald Torreyes and the players doing fake interviews in the dugout after home runs?
BK: It’s great. Anything that adds fun to baseball, I’m all about it. I don’t think there’s enough personality in baseball sometimes. I think these guys are a little too cautious sometimes in their interviews. Now that being said, I would be too. I think it’s great. I think have more fun, do more ridiculous stuff, show more of your personality, be more human. I love it. I love the thumbs down. I love the finger guns thing they do. I think this team is probably the most fun team I’ve covered, and this is my fourth year covering them.
Q: Last Sunday, the Yankees announced that protective netting will be significantly expanded during the offseason at both Yankee Stadium and George M. Steinbrenner Field. Considering the young fan was struck by a foul ball two weeks ago, do you believe the franchise should be chastised for waiting so long to make this announcement?
BK: I think they were and they should’ve been chastised. I think they had no reason to not do it. I’m sure there was a business angle to it, and that’s what the Yankees are thinking about, which is awful. So yeah, they obviously deserved to be chastised. In my heart, I say you’ve got to go and put that netting up right now. Not next season, but right now. But I wonder if there would be any kind of legal challenges from fans who purchased tickets in areas that didn’t have netting in front of them and would want refunds from the Yankees or would want to complain that they’re not getting what they bargained for. At the end of the day, the Yankees have billions and billions of dollars. They could’ve handled it, they should’ve handled it, and I don’t think they handled it well. And they let money get in the way.
Q: Should this team be considered a postseason dark-horse? Could they make a World Series run?
BK: Yeah, sure. They’re definitely going to be given the longest odds out of any other team but they’re constructed to go far, especially if they’re at the top of their game. Yeah, you could say that about any team, but look at the Yankees’ bullpen. You know how big a deep, effective bullpen is in the playoffs. Their lineup can mash and the rotation can be good enough. I think that this team is built for this, now it’s just a matter of living up to it.