Joe Girardi was a bit more candid than usual when discussing the struggles of today’s starter Phil Hughes so far this season. He acknowledged that this is a big start for Hughes — not because of the importance of the game itself — but because he’s in need of a confidence boost. He called it a, “personality start.”
“It’s no fun to struggle in this game,” Girardi said. “As hitters struggle, I remember that Zim (longtime Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer) used always to talk about a personality hit. We used to laugh about it, but it’s not funny in a sense because it does change your personality when you’re contributing the way that you want to. I don’t see a big fluctuation in Phil’s mood, but as in any walk of life, when you’re successful, you’re going to feel better about the job that you’re doing.”
Girardi has been vocal about his displeasure with Hughes’ tendency to get hit hard while trying to pitch up in the strike zone. The right-hander has been able to pick up some strikeouts, but he’s been getting into long innings because hitters have been fouling off his high pitches and waiting for him to miss with his location. That’s when he’s been getting hammered. Generally speaking, its better to miss low than miss high, and it sounds like Girardi has told Hughes to work the lower half of the zone more often.
“The key for me is that he does pitch up in the zone, but he has to be able to be down in the zone as well,” Girardi said. “He gets some of his strikeouts up in the zone, but he can’t make mistakes up there, which he’s done in the last couple of outings.”
• A few of us caught Brett Gardner lurking around the clubhouse, and we got his take on his elbow injury. “It kind of just felt like there was a little bit of inflammation in my elbow from bending it in a funny way when I made that catch (on Tuesday night),” Gardner said. “Yesterday, I made it a little worse taking BP, and when I went down to get loose, I couldn’t even swing. Sure enough, the MRI showed that I have a little bone bruise and a strained extensor muscle on the outside of my elbow. It’s a really small muscle, but it’s basically the muscle that comes into play when your arm straightens out towards the end of the my swing. They said the only thing I can do for it is rest.”
• Gardner said it was hurting badly enough after BP last night that he had to take himself out of the game. It’s not considered serious, and he’s hoping to be ready to come off of the DL as soon as his 15-day stint is over. He was wearing some type of sling on it. “I’m on the 15-day DL, so there’s no point in me trying to hit in two or three days,” he said. “I’d like to be hitting in 8-10 days in a perfect scenario. That would put me on track to come off the DL on time.”
• Raul Ibanez is getting the first crack at playing LF in Gardner’s absence tonight. While Girardi said that Eduardo Nunez could see some time there, he expects Ibanez and Jones to pretty much split the time. Ibanez should play vs. righties, and Jones against lefties. RHP Cody Eppley is here to take Gardner’s roster spot and will be available out of the bullpen tonight. “We just feel that we need the help down there,” Girardi said of the bullpen. “(Gardner’s injury) allows me to rotate the DH maybe a little bit more than I usually would because Ibanez is going to have to play the outfield more now.”
• While there was some talk about the bullpen being overworked, there is no one from the pen who has pitched in each of the last two games. I would think Girardi might hesitate to use Boone Logan tonight after he pitched two innings (30 pitches) last night. Mariano Rivera hasn’t pitched since April 11 at Baltimore, so you would think they’d like to get him some work.
• Robinson Cano will DH tonight’s game, with Nunez getting the start at 2B. “I’m giving him a DH day because we’re in this long stretch,” Girardi said. “As much as we want to think that Robby is still 23, 24 years old, he’s not anymore.”
• Girardi raved about Mark Teixeira, saying that he, “hit the ball on the screws five times last night.” He said he thinks the day off on Tuesday helped Tex after he had been feeling a bit under the weather. “I’m feeling really good at the plate,” Teixeira said. “I’ve really made a point of trying to hit the ball to all fields. … I don’t want to get caught trying to pull the ball all of the time.”
• Girardi was asked about if the team will change its approach against the red-hot Justin Morneau, who hit two homers off of Hiroki Kuroda last night. “We look to do that with all hitters,” Girardi said of pitching inside to make him less comfortable. “I think what it comes down to is you can’t make so many mistakes to him.”
• Of course, there were some questions asked about this weekend’s series in Boston against the Red Sox. Girardi didn’t take the bait when asked about new Sox manager Bobby Valentine, but he did acknowledge it will be weird without former manager Terry Francona. “It’ll be strange not seeing Terry,” Girardi said. “I’m sure it was strange for Terry not seeing Joe (Torre) when he saw me for the first time over there.”
• Russell Martin was asked about his opinion on Valentine and the Red Sox. If you remember, he stated last year that he “hated the Red Sox,” but seemed to lighten up this time around (although he did acknowledge that his statement made for some good headlines). “I never really hated them,” Martin said with a laugh. “I don’t know Valentine very much. I’ve never had a conversation with him.”
• Girardi said that he plans on DHing the red-hot Derek Jeter on Saturday in Boston, but said he hadn’t informed him yet. “Don’t go running in there telling him,” Girardi said. “He probably doesn’t read the tweets.”
• Here’s the Twins lineup: 1. Span (CF); 2. Carroll (SS); 3. Mauer (C); 4. Willingham (LF); 5. Morneau (DH); 6. Doumit (RF); 7. Valencia (3B); 8. Parmalee (1B); 9. Casilla (2B).
Associated Press photos