ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Though Yankees manager Joe Girardi insists his team is "going for it" and is focused solely on a postseason berth, yet another sign of the franchise's transition will be in evidence on Saturday, when 24-year-old right-hander Luis Cessa is scheduled to make his first major league start against the Angels.
Cessna has been shuttled back and forth between New York and its Triple-A affiliate this season. His recall on Aug. 11 is his fourth stint with the Yankees and, with Nathan Eovaldi's season-ending injury opening up a position in the starting rotation, Girardi will hand the ball to Cessna to keep the team's slight playoff chances on track.
"As a young player, you're looking to make an impression and Luis has that opportunity now," Girardi said. "His ability to mix up his pitches and locate his fastball has been good."
Though the game is a milestone in his progression, Cessa was relaxed when discussing his first big-league start.
"I'm ready, I don't feel nervous," Cessa said. "It's a great opportunity to show the team what I can do. I will be ready because the Angels have dangerous hitters throughout their lineup."
While the Yankees are still playing games that matter, the Angels are attempting to find some consistency in their game after one of the worst stretches in franchise history plummeted them into the cellar of the AL West. With nothing more than personal achievements to play for, the Angels have been reduced to the spoiler role for their final 40 games.
Ricky Nolasco will make his fourth start as an Angel trying to improve on a 1-1 record with a 5.40 ERA since being acquired from the Minnesota Twins on Aug. 1. Nolasco pitched well in a start against New York earlier this season with the Twins, tossing seven innings and allowing two earned runs on eight hits with no walks and five strikeouts. Pitching for two last-place teams this season is a contributing factor in Nolasco's 4-10 record but his struggles on the hill (5.10 ERA, 1.352 WHIP) places his status in question despite having one year left on his $ 49 million, 4-year contract.
Third baseman Yunel Escobar's status for next season is the polar opposite from Nolasco's. Escobar, acquired from the Washington Nationals last December, is the Angels' leading hitter with a .320 average and is a lock to have the Angels exercise his $ 7 million option for the 2017 season. Despite his defensive deficiencies at the base (17 errors in 108 games), he has been a consistent offensive force in the leadoff spot. Escobar fell prey to the injury bug dogging the team this season on Friday. He fouled a ball directly off his face and cheek during a bunt attempt in the fourth inning and while X-rays were negative, Escobar may have to go on the disabled list.
"Yunel is as good as we have on this team at putting the ball in play at hitting it sharply. He's having a terrific season." said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "He's sore and we will have to make a determination on his status."
Despite the Angels being on track to miss the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, Scioscia is not in jeopardy of being fired. General manager Billy Eppler addressed the manager's status on Friday and expects him to return for his 18th season as the Angels' bench boss. Eppler feels the injuries that plagued the team all season are a major factor in their poor performance.
"I have no reason to believe Mike wouldn't be here managing our team next season," Eppler told MLB.com. "You have to have the horses to pull the cart. If your horses get hurt, we can only do so much."
Scioscia signed a 10-year extension in January 2009 that runs through the 2018 season.