Yankees Daily Briefing 06/20/11

Although Ivan Nova's last start involved the Yankees winning 12-4, Nova himself was only okay, surrendering four runs in just 5.2 innings pitched. He'll have the ball on Monday for the Yankees, who will face the Reds' Johnny Cueto as the Yankees travel to Cincinnati. Cueto has faced the Yankees before, getting tagged for the loss despite allowing just four hits and striking out seven.

1) Phil Hughes' first rehab start highlighted the day for the farm system.

Triple-A Scranton lost to Columbus, 2-0.

Jesus Montero went hitless.

Carlos Silva allowed five hits and two runs in 4.2 innings pitched; he walked none (but hit a batter) and struck out five in his first start back from the disabled list.

Double-A Trenton beat Binghamton, 10-8.

Cody Johnson was a single shy of the cycle and walked in his final at bat.

High-A Tampa is off for their All-Star break.

Low-A Charleston beat Hickory, 7-4.

J.R. Murphy had three hits in five at bats, including a double, and struck out twice. Gary Sanchez did not play.

Short Season Staten Island lost 5-3 to Brooklyn.

Hughes pitched 4.1 innings, allowing three hits and one run (on a home run), walked one and struck out seven. He hit 95 mph on the gun, certainly a step forward from where he was.

2) Matt Imbrogno at The Yankee Analysts writes about the improved A.J. Burnett. Burnett's last two starts have been notably better, even though his team's offense couldn't score for him against Cleveland. This might not be all that surprising this season -- by more than one measure, Burnett is pitching better in losses than in wins; and two of his losses have occurred in games in which he surrendered just one run.

Though Burnett is known for his inconsistency, it's hard to argue against his importance for the Yankees; it's unlikely the team would have won the World Series in 2009 without his contributions, and his historically bad 2010 certainly didn't help the Yankees, who lost the AL East by one game. With Hughes injured this season and Andy Pettitte now retired, Burnett is supposed to be the team's number two pitcher behind CC Sabathia, and while this has not yet been the case, with some luck the improvement trend will continue.

3) Stephen Rhoads at River Ave Blues takes a look at Robinson Cano's walk rate and argues that instead of 2011 representing a decline in his walk rate, it was 2010 that was an outlier. Cano's 2011 numbers are not last year's near MVP-caliber, but an .864 OPS is hardly lackluster. In fact, his 2011 OPS+ of 131 is second only to last season's, so while his 14 walks might show less-than-ideal plate discipline, he's hardly unproductive.

4) Mike Vaccaro writes that Joe Girardi has been a very good manager for the Yankees.

It's hard to argue. While Girardi may have a penchant for bunting that does not necessarily mesh with American League baseball, he has on the whole had a successful tenure with the Yankees. In three seasons, he has one World Series ring and another deep October run. The Yankees currently have the third-best winning percentage (.586) in baseball, and unlike Philadelphia or Boston, their biggest offseason splash was a relief pitcher who has now spent most of the season on the disabled list. The players might do most of the work, but it's hard to fathom that Girardi hasn't helped.