Up next for the Yankees is Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, a converted reliever who had a 3.35 ERA in his first full year as a Major League starter and pitched 6.1 scoreless innings in Game 2 of the division series. He’s a legitimate No. 2 starter who would have pitched his way into the No. 1 spot on a lot of teams.
On Wednesday, though, Wilson was a small part of the conversation after the Yankees final Bronx workout before flying to Texas. Certainly his name was brought up, but he was easily eclipsed by two things: Cliff Lee and the Rangers base running.
In finishing off the Rays in Tuesday’s Game 5, the Rangers ace once again stole the show, and it was the team’s aggressive base running — twice scoring from second on a ground ball — that gave them an early lead.
“As you saw last night in the first five innings, they stole three runs,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Obviously defensively we have a great challenge. We have to be heads up and we have to expect the unexpected from them.”
Said Girardi: “They’re more aggressive (than the Twins) on the basepaths. That’s a big part of their game. They’re more of a right-handed power lineup where the Twins were more split up. They’ve got a huge left-handed bat in Josh Hamilton. They’re going to throw a lot of big, powerful right-handers at you. They’re a much more aggressive club than the Twins are.”
And they have Cliff Lee.
The Yankees don’t need to be reminded of how good Lee has been in the postseason. They saw it first hand last year. Last night, he used his curveball more than usual, something all of the Yankees seemed to either notice or hear about.
“We know we’re going to face him,” Girardi said. “Their other guys threw the ball (well). C.J. Wilson, his start against Tampa was outstanding. It’s not like it’s going to get any easier. We’re not going to face him until Game 3, but we better worry about Game 1 first.”
• Lee and CC Sabathia are old friends from their days in the Indians organization. So was Sabathia rooting for his buddy last night? “Sure,” Sabathia said. “You want your friends to pitch well and play well. Not so much in Game 3.”
• Did today’s workout feel different because the Yankees knew who they would be playing? “We all knew when we were going to be playing,” Nick Swisher said. “I think more than the team itself, we were ready for the opportunity and the time. You’ve got to take care of the things that you need to take care of. You can’t worry about how good the other team is or what they’ve accomplished. We feel like we’ve got a good team, and we’ve done that all year long by taking care of the things we need to take care of.”
• Girardi said the team had not decided whether Franciso Cervelli would catch Burnett. “That’s something that we’re going to talk about,” Girardi said. “The most we’re going to play is three days in a row, unless there’s some crazy rainout. I really haven’t gotten beyond the first couple of games as far as our schedule right now.”
• Even though the day was full of Cliff Lee questions, Girardi said he wasn’t worried about his players looking too far ahead. Several players — Swisher, Posada and Teixeira stood out to me — brushed off most of the Lee questions throughout the day. “I don’t think our guys have any focus on Game 3,” Girardi said. “These are professional guys that have been here, that know we’ve got to worry about Game 1. And I don’t think our guys are going to talk about Game 3, I really don’t, because our most important game right now is Game 1 and that’s what you worry about.”
• Mark Teixeira began his career with the Rangers and played in Texas for most of five seasons. Michael Young remains one of his best friends in the game. That being said, he was traded away as part of a rebuilding process, and that rebuilding has been pretty thurough. “It was actually more odd last year with the Angels because it was basically the exact same team that I left,” Teixeira said.
• Although Lee dominated most of the conversations, Wilson was certainly discussed this afternoon. “His style of pitching over the last couple of years has changed,” Swisher said. “He’s not throwing 96, 97 any more. He’s really spotting the ball. He’s pitching now. And I think he’s a lot tougher now. He’s really doing a good job of changing speeds, working the plate, staying down in the zone. The mistakes he does make, we’re going to have to take advantage of because it seems of late they’ve been few and far between.”
• The Yankees will workout in Arlington tomorrow at 5:30 p.m. central.
Associated Press photos of Swisher and Girardi