Colin Curtis: This New York Yankee Rookie Might Stick Around

June 28, 2010

He opened some eyes in spring training, when on opening day in Tampa, Colin Curtis belted a three-run, walk-off home run in the first exhibition game.

That was huge for two reasons. First, no one likes to go extra innings in spring training games, and Curtis’ 9th inning blast helped everyone go home at the correct time. Second, extra innings mess up the teams pitching plans.

Curtis has shown a little pop over his Yankee career, and the former 2006 4th-round draft pick (the 7th player from that Yankee draft to make the major leagues) out of Arizona State only has 27 career minor leauge home runs.

That is one reason why I wrote last August when discussing possible Yankees Rule 5 draft decisions: “Curtis likely won’t stick with another team if taken (outfielders stick much less than infielders), but he is a sparkplug type of guy. A little pop, good defense, some speed. Of the maybe tweeners (for the 40 man roster), I would keep both George Kontos and Jason Stephens, but let Curtis dangle. Yankees might feel otherwise as Curtis is destined for the Arizona Fall League. Is it maybe an audition for Colin to make the 40 man roster this year? Kevin Russo did the same last year. He was a surprise pick for the AFL, but really blossomed out west and worked his way into the Yankees plans.”

However, despite having a good AFL, Curtis was not taken by any team and stayed in the Yankee organization, a team he loves. Due to the recent inter-league games in NL parks, he made his major league debut this past week. When Jorge Posada was catching, Curtis was the primary left-handed bat off the Yankee bench.

Curtis likely would have been called up sooner, but he suffered a high ankle sprain in April and missed significant time.

He has a couple hits thus far in six at bats, while driving in four runs. This included his first career hit, a two-run double in Arizona, a place where he played his college baseball.

His great at bat last night led to a game-tying RBI ground ball.

He has shown a good knowledge of the strike zone, takes great swings and can play better than average defense.

Read more about Curtis here in my 40 man roster advice from last season.

It is a good deal for Curtis, who is a very likable guy, cancer survivor and all. Grwoing up in Washingotn State, he matriculated to and played his college baseball at Arizona State. I remember in 2008, after the Trenton Thunder won the Eastern League title, I asked Curtis if that title was bigger than starring in the College World Series his junior season. He smiled, took a few seconds, and said “the College World Series was awesome.”

In that College World Series, he faced Joba Chamberlain and former Yankee Zach Kroenke of Nebraska in Game 2, doubling off Kroenke in the 8th.

It would be a shame if Curtis gets sent down now that the Yankees are back into the DH mode, with having fewer needs for double switches.

Right now the roster looks pretty good with all those youngsters making contributions.

Lets hope that both Colin Curtis stays a while.

UPDATE: Colin Curtis made his first major league start tonight against King Felix Hernandez, and doubled in three at bats. He played pretty well in left field, making a nice catch near the wall late in the game. Granted the double was a pop up to the second baseman, which was not seen in the early evening twilight, but many runners (like Hanley Ramirez and BJ Upton) would not have hustled to second out of the box.  

Other Curtis you tube video: http://uk.video.yahoo.com/watch/122342/1322152 

He is a great story.

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Young Kids Propel NY Yankees to Comeback over LA Dodgers

June 28, 2010

In the top of the 9th inning Sunday night, the New York Yankees scored four runs to turn a 6-2 deficit into a 6-6 tie game.

In the middle of the rally were Chad Huffman, acquired off the waiver wire in May, and Colin Curtis, a 2006 Yankee draftee who made his major league debut this past week. I repeatedly contend that the Yankees 2006 draft will go down as the greatest draft class of all time.

Both outfielders, Huffman was brought up from Triple A two weeks ago, and Curtis was promoted for the inter-league games in National League parks where the DH is not used. Curtis has yet to start a game, but has appeared as the primary left-handed bat off the Yankee bench (at least when Jorge Posada is catching.)

Huffman came through last night with a big two-run single, and was followed by Curtis who hit the score tying ground ball to first base.  Before plating the tying run, Curtis had a tremendous at bat, fouling off four two-strike pitches from Jonathan Broxton, one of baseball’s hardest throwing closers.

Huffman and Curtis made their major league debuts this season, as has utility man Kevin Russo, and right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova. Two other players, OF Greg Golson and RHP Romulo Sanchez, had cups of coffee for other teams, but until this year, both had not played in the majors in basically two seasons.

The four Yankee position players all connected for their first major league hits this season, and have helped the Yankees win games this year. Nova and Sanchez were each brought up in May to give an overworked bullpen some fresh arms. In fact, Nova’s promotion was to replace Sanchez.

That is four guys getting their first hits, and four guys making their major league debuts.

Joe Girardi has no issues in using his young players.

But this would not have happened if Joe Torre were still managing the Yankees. Torre was more of a veteran player type manager, continuously using veteran players, guys he trusted to do certain jobs. That is why Torre always used the same guys out of the bullpen. He didn’t really trust certain players, especially youngsters.

That makes last night’s game so ironic in that two rookies knocked in three runs in that last inning, helping to tie the game which Robinson Cano won with a two-run homer in the top of the 10th.

With the exception of Ivan Nova, probably all of the young players mentioned here will not have a impact during future seasons, but in 2010 they have all a little something to help win games for the Yankees.

The turnaround in organizational philosophy towards using their younger farm system talent is getting better all the time. Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, Francisco Cervelli, David Robertson and Ramiro Pena have greatly contributed in recent seasons.

There are even more young players “down on the farm” who will continue to get their shots at the major leagues in a Yankee uniform.

And that is a good thing to see, as the precedent set by their predecessors has been quality, winning baseball.