I had a feeling that Curtis Granderson would be the perfect man to talk to about today being Jackie Robinson Day, and he didn’t disappoint. Always well-spoken, the Yankees’ centerfielder pointed out that Robinson’s courage created opportunities for more than just African-Americans.
“As you look around this clubhouse and see other minorities such as Latin-Americans, Asian-Americans, Europeans and everywhere else get a chance to play this great game all because of one person,” Granderson said. “I don’t think Jackie’s intention was just, ‘Hey, I want to get African-Americans to play,’ because in the negro leagues what a lot of people don’t realize is that they had Latin-Americans playing baseball because they couldn’t get a chance to play in the major leagues. It opened up doors for everybody, and I think that’s something he would be proud of.”
Granderson noted that he’s worn his socks high “for as long as I can remember” to pay homage to all of the players who played in the negro leagues. Tonight, he’ll be wearing a pair of custom made shoes with the number 42 on them, which will be auctioned off, with all of the proceeds going to the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
Players all over the major leagues will wear No. 42 today to pay tribute to Robinson.
“I think it’s extremely important that we recognize Jackie every year because of what he endured, and he how did it with such dignity and how well he carried himself,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s an example for all of us, because I think at times we’re all going to be tested in life. It’s a great day, and I think players look forward to it. It’s an honor to put on No. 42.”
• Once again, the majority of Girardi’s press conference was focused on the lack of production from the middle of the order — particular Mark Teixeira. In the offseason, Tex altered his swing and lost some weight in an attempt to raise his batting average and become less pull-happy. The switch-hitting first baseman hit .248 last season — the lowest mark of his career — and was especially prone to pulling the ball while hitting from the left side (where he hit.224, compared to .297 while hitting right-handed). As we’ve seen so far this season, more and more teams are using the shift against Teixeira, and he’s been hitting right into the teeth of it. “Sometimes you hope when a guy makes changes that he gets hot right away so he can really buy into it, but Tex is a notoriously slow starter,” Girardi said. “We’ve been through this before, and he’s put up some pretty good years, so I don’t get too worried about 30 at-bats — I really don’t. I think it’s something you’re going to see hitters go through. If he goes through it in the middle of the year, people aren’t really going to say much, but if you go through it in the beginning, it’s a glaring stat”
• Girardi was also asked about Robinson Cano, who is also off to a slow start. There seems to be less concern about Cano, who is almost unquestionably the Yankees best hitter at this point in his career. One thing I have noticed, though, is while Cano used to draw criticism about his lack of patience, he seems to be taking more pitches so far this season. He uncharacteristically struck out twice yesterday — including one strikeout looking. Patience is a good thing, Cano’s Guerrero-like ability to make contact is nearly unmatched. “I look at some of Robby’s at-bats, and he’s hit some bullets just foul with runners in scoring position,” Girardi said. “He’s a guy that’s going to spray the ball all over the place, and we want him to continue to do that.”
• Here’s Girardi’s take on the hitting with runners in scoring position statistic, which the Yanks have struggled with at times. “It’s a stat where you’re going to see players that are very successful at it, you’re going to see some struggle with it and do you have to look deeper?” he said. “Do their at-bats change? Are they running into bad luck? Those are the things I think you have to look at the most, but I think there’s something about being able to relax in those situations and being able to come through.”
• Good news on the Andy Pettitte comeback trail. The 39-year-old lefty pitched four scoreless innings for Class A Tampa this afternoon, allowing two singles and no walks while striking out three. Apparently, his fastball was sitting in the 87-89 MPH range, but there was no official word on how many pitches he threw. He was expected to be around 45-50. ” I heard he had 12 outs via the groundball or strikeout, so that’s obviously a really good sign if that’s the case,” Girardi said. “He has the sinking fastball and the cutter, and anytime you can get guys to hit the ball on the ground, you have a pretty good chance of getting outs.”
• Girardi said that Pettitte’s pitch count should increase by about 15 pitches in his next outing, but there was no word on where that would be. He expects him to make about four more minor league starts, which makes a mid-May return very realistic. “I consider this his second start,” Girardi said. “And you usually give a guy six starts.”
• Girardi also had an update on Michael Pineda. He’ll throw a bullpen on Monday, and Girardi noted that, “Everything so far has went well.” With Pineda officially getting hurt about two and a half weeks ago, his timetable to get back to the majors should be a little longer than Pettitte’s. “The more time he’s off, the more starts he’s going to need,” Girardi said.
• I thought I was going crazy for a minute, but new YES Network reporter Meredith Marakovits asked Girardi about what he was looking for from Freddy Garcia tonight. Girardi answered the question, as I sat there scratching my head thinking that I had possibly missed an injury announcement on Ivan Nova. Thankfully, upon further questioning, both Girardi and Marakovits each realized that it will be Nova taking the ball tonight. Here’s what Girardi said he’s looking for out of the right-hander. “Just continue to do what he did last time,” he said. “He attacked the zone. I thought he pitched inside effectively; I thought he used his changeup effectively. He’s going to see his share of right-handed hitters tonight, so I think his curveball and slider will be important.”
• The biggest positive to come out of yesterday’s 7-1 loss was the emergence of reliever David Phelps. Girardi said Phelps will get at least three days off after his long outing, possibly throwing a side session in between. What impressed Girardi most about the rook? “That he’d be able to relax in the situation and make his pitches,” he said. “When we talked about the three guys – (Adam) Warren, Phelps and (D.J.) Mitchell – we talked about them being really close, and we went with Phelpsie. But the real test is going to be when they get into a game, are they going to be able to make the pitches that they’re capable of making? It’s not easy being a rookie in the American League East. You’re going to come in for some tough situations, and he so far has passed with flying colors.”
• Here is the Angels lineup: 1. Aybar (SS); 2. Kendrick (2B); 3. Pujols (1B); 4. Hunter (RF); 5. Wells (CF); 6. Abreu (LF); 7. Trumbo (DH); 8. Izturis (3B); 9. Iannetta (C).
Associated Press photos