This weekend was a perfect snapshot of why the Yankees had such a difficult decision to make, and why they finally made the done they did.
Ivan Nova was good on Friday. Without his best stuff, Nova allowed one run through five innings. He would have gone out for a sixth, but the Yankees chose to pinch hit for him in an attempt to break the game open.
Nova was good on Friday, but Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia were better on Saturday and Sunday. Colon pitched six scoreless yesterday, Garcia allowed one run through seven innings today, and tonight the Yankees will fly to Cleveland while Nova prepares for a return to Triple-A.
“It’s good to have the hard choice, but it was a tough one,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “He’s grown into being a starting pitcher in the major leagues, and he was learning on the job. He was doing well with it and had progressed, but this should be a bump in the road for him if he keeps going and progresses like he should. Good players get through stuff like this, so hopefully that’s what he does.”
Rothschild said the Yankees talked about several options, but Joe Girardi said it ultimately came down to either a six-man rotation or optioning Nova to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The six-man rotation always seemed a little too far out of the box. The Yankees briefly discussed Nova in the bullpen, but they worried it would hurt his development.
“In a lot of other places he wouldn’t be out of the rotation, but because guys are throwing so well, it just happens,” Girardi said. “He’s not the first guy that has thrown the ball extremely well and has had to go down… Going into spring training would you have said we had an excess of starting pitching? I probably would have said no, but the guys have thrown great. This kid, he’ll be back at some point. We know that.”
All around the Yankees clubhouse, the team seemed to feel badly for Nova. But they also seemed to understand the situation. Every option came with its positives and negatives, but the Yankees wanted to get Phil Hughes back, they wanted to keep all of their veterans in the rotation, and they wanted to keep Nova on an every-five-days schedule.
“It sucks the moves that correspond with it,” Hughes said. “I feel bad for Nova, but I’m real excited to get back. I’m ready, and I feel up for it.”
• A lot going on today, huh? The rotation decision, the all-star announcements, the blown save by Mariano Rivera, the errors by Ramiro Pena and finally the Yankees first loss in a week. “When you have two outs in the ninth inning and (Rivera)’s on the mound, you feel pretty good about your chances,” Brett Gardner said. “Things just didn’t work out our way today. We’ve been playing really good baseball. We let one get away from us today, but we can’t let what happened in the ninth inning with two outs change the way we feel about ourselves the last couple of weeks.”
• About Rivera: Russell Martin said it was simply a nice job of hitting by Lucas Duda and Ronny Paulino. He thought those pitches were good, but the Mets did just enough with them. Of course, it started with the Jason Bay walk. “Bay has had some success off of Mo,” Girardi said. “He was going to be somewhat careful and not just throw one down the middle. He missed his spots a little bit and ended up walking him.”
• About Pena: Three errors in Cincinnati last week, then two errors in two innings today. Very strange for a player as good defensively as Pena. I wasn’t in the group when Pena talked, but the consensus seemed to be that Pena was simply trying to get himself in position when the ground ball went through his legs, and the second error was a ball that took a hop and hit the heel of his glove. That one should have ended the 10th inning before Bay had a chance at a game-winner.
• One late-inning bright spot: Gardner’s throw. Outfielders are always taught to never give up on a ground ball that looks like it’s going to be caught, but Martin said he was impressed that Gardner actually stuck with that ball. A lot of outfielders would have quit on the play when it looked like Pena had it. “Just a case of not giving up on it,” Gardner said. “Backing him up in case something happens, and sure enough something did happen. I knew I had plenty of time.”
• Another late-inning bright spot: Boone Logan. The Yankees only lefty has been much better lately, and this time he should have gotten two key outs in the 10th inning. He would have gotten out of the inning — including a Carlos Beltran strikeout — if not for the second Pena error.
• Rivera had converted 26 consecutive saves against the National League, including two in the World Series. It was tied for the second-longest streak of interleague saves (Troy Percival also had 26, Eric Gagne had 29)
• The Yankees were told today’s game was likely to start at 4 p.m., but just before 2, they were told to be ready by 2:30. That didn’t give Garcia enough time to warmup — which tells you something about what he might be like in the bullpen — and that’s why he was just walking out of the bullpen when R.A. Dickey was getting ready to throw his first pitch. “I went to the umpires and I went to Terry Collins and said, ‘Our guy needs more time,’” Girardi said. “‘I don’t know what to tell you but he needs more time. He’s not going to be ready by 2:30.’ And they pushed it back a little bit.”
• Robinson Cano, by the way, seemed especially upset at the sudden game time announcement. The Yankees didn’t take batting practice today, and Cano felt they didn’t have time to get ready. “You could see how it went the first three innings,” he said.
• When Russell Martin was called out between second and third, Girardi argued that he was never tagged. The third-base umpire thought he was tagged, and when he asked the second-base umpire, the second-base ump said Martin was out of the baseline.
• Regardless of Jeter’s return, Girardi is hopeful that Eduardo Nunez will be available tomorrow. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and we’ll make a decision,” Girardi said. For whatever it’s worth, Nunez thought he could have played today.
• Mark Teixeira on the Home Run Derby: “I’d been texting with David (Ortiz) a little bit. I told him if I was on the team we’d talk, but if I’m not on the team, I’m not going to go to the Home Run Derby. It’s just too long of a trip and I’m going to spend those days with my family.”
• Would Curtis Granderson want to take that spot? “If no one else is left and I’m the last one left, then I’ll do it,” Granderson said.
• CC Sabathia wasn’t upset at not making the all-star team. “Not at all,” he said. “I wasn’t going to pitch anyway.” Sabathia said, since he won’t be able to pitch, he won’t go as a replacement player.
• Obviously the Yankees were rooting for Dave Robertson to make the team, and they’re still hoping he can find a way to get on the roster. “He’s definitely pitched like an all-star,” Martin said. “He’s the guy I want on the team. I think he can get anybody out.”
• As I’m posting this, Jeter is 0-for-1 with a walk, strikeout and throwing error. The important thing seems to be that the weather is letting him play, which seems to keep him on track to play tomorrow. Always nice when the minor league teams have special uniforms when a big-name guy is on a rehab assignment. I once watched Cole Hamels pitch wearing a pink t-shirt for Mothers’ Day. Literally, the uniforms for the day were pink t-shirts with numbers that were falling off some guys’ backs. Hilarious.
Associated Press photos