In so many ways, this game feels like the calm before the storm. Tomorrow is the much anticipated matchup of Hiroki Kuroda vs. Yu Darvish. Today is simply CC Sabathia and the Yankees against the best team in the American League.
“This is a club, you can’t take anything for granted,” Joe Girardi said. “If there’s a ball in the dirt, they’re going to second base, they’re trying to move up. So you have to be on your toes at all times when you play this team. They’re very athletic and they use that to their advantage. Sometimes when you see teams are athletic you don’t necessarily see a ton of power, but there’s a ton of power too as well. So it is somewhat of a (test to) see how good you are.”
As for the early buzz for tomorrow’s Japanese matchup, there were quite a few reporters asking questions — first a wave of Japanese reporters surrounded Kuroda’s locker, then a wave of American writers — but Kuroda seemed perfectly unfazed. There have been six previous matchups of two Japanese-born Major League starters, and Kuroda was a part of the most recent one when he faced Hisanori Takahashi in 2010.
“I’m aware that our team is going to be facing one of the greatest pitchers that Japan has produced,” Kuroda said. “But my concern is to contribute as much as possible for our team to win.”
• Girardi said he wanted to have Chris Stewart start either tonight with CC Sabathia or Wednesday with Phil Hughes. He decided to use Stewart tonight so that Russell Martin could get two full days off after four pretty long games at home and in Boston. “I figured I would give him a couple of days here and then he can catch the rest of the two games in Texas and start against Detroit,” Girardi said.
• Derek Jeter just took a DH day on Saturday, and Girardi plans to give Alex Rodriguez a DH day so that Eric Chavez can play third either tomorrow or Wednesday. With neither of those guys needing a day, he decided to just DH Eduardo Nunez.
• Could Nunez start in the outfield at some point? “If I feel one guy really needs a day off, I would do it,” Girardi said. “You want to get him as familiar as you can as quick as you can, but as long as I have the outfielders that we have right now and the rotation (in left field), I don’t necessarily feel that we need him out there.”
• Girardi said he’s still not sure whether he’ll skip Freddy Garcia’s next start on Saturday, but he said Garcia will “absolutely” remain in the rotation.
• Girardi said it’s not likely David Phelps will be available until Wednesday.
• Against this potent Texas offense, the Yankees would like their fourth turn through the rotation to go a little better than the first three turns. That starts with CC Sabathia tonight. “I saw his velocity climb (in his last start),” Girardi said. “I saw him get on a roll the last four innings or so. You want him to be able to carry over and do that.”
• Ivan Rodriguez announced his retirement today. The Rangers will have a pregame cermony for him tonight. “Tremendous player,” Girardi said. “One of the greatest players of all time. It was enjoyable to have a chance to play against him and a short time ot manage him. It’s remarkable what he did on the offense side seeing that he played here and the heat that he had to deal with on a consistent basis. (To have) 2,800-plus hits for a catcher is amazing.”
• Girardi’s response when asked which catcher he saw who had Rodriguez’s arm: “Not anyone that I saw. I think one of the closest guys that I saw to him, before he got hurt, was Jorge. Jorge could throw and had a ton of arm strength before he hurt his shoulder. Pudge was the elite class, no doubt about it. You just didn’t run on his teams and when you did you were caught 50 percent of the time. He changed the way you played against him. There aren’t too many guys that can do that from back there. He was amazing.”
Associated Press photos