On his best days, Freddy Garcia’s fastball sits in upper 80s. Velocity is not what made him effective last season, and it’s not something he’s counting on this season, but when Garcia’s velocity dips in the low-to-mid 80s like it did in his last start, it’s a sign of problems across the board.
“When it’s that drastically low, you’re going to lose some of the break on your offspeed pitches and some of the deception on your split,” Joe Girardi said. “Things are going to roll a little bit when it comes to your offspeed.”
That’s why Girardi said he’ll first and foremost look for improved velocity in Garcia’s start this afternoon. He doesn’t need a big fastball, but he needs to show enough arm strength to suggest his secondary pitches will remain effective.
“Then it just really comes down to location for Freddy, and mixing in all of his pitches, and having his split and having his four pitches that he can go to,” Girardi said. “Freddy lives on the edges, and that’s what he has to do.”
The Yankees need Garcia to figure it out, because a 9.75 ERA isn’t cutting it. After Ivan Nova struggled last night, the Yankees don’t have a single starting pitcher with an ERA below 4.38.
“We definitely have to do better, there’s no doubt about it,” Girardi said. “To compete in this division, and to compete in this league, you have to do better. Our bullpen will get worn out if we continue at this pace, but I believe they will turn it around.”
• Speaking of doing better in the rotation… Because of weather concerns in Maine, Andy Pettitte’s next minor league start might be shifted from Double-A to High-A. Girardi said a decision will likely be made today whether to have Pettitte go ahead with Monday’s scheduled start in Portland or to move that start down to Tampa. “Basically, he feels good though,” Girardi said. “That’s the good thing. He’s bouncing back really well.”
• Girardi said the timing of the Roger Clemens trial will not affect when the Yankees bring Pettitte up to New York. The team is not worried about the distraction of Pettitte needing to testify. “That has not really been brought into determining when we would call him back, no,” Girardi said. “I don’t know how much time or if any time he’s going to have to spend there, but that has not been in our conversations.”
• Brett Gardner has been cleared to hit in the cage. He came through bunting drills just fine yesterday, saw the doctor again this morning and will attempt to hit after batting practice. He expects to be ready after his 15 days are up. “Today’s just step one, but hopefully it feels good,” he said.
• The two everyday Yankees with the lowest batting averages are Alex Rodriguez (.250) and Russell Martin (.188). Martin was as low as .133 a week and a half ago, but he’s hit a little bit lately. “I think he’s getting closer to where we expect him to be,” Girardi said. “He’s driving the ball the other way, he’s starting to drive the ball. The one thing that he has done through this whole thing is he has taken his walks. He has been patient. He has had long at-bats. Usually when you’re able to do things, things will turn around.”
• As for Rodriguez, he had three hits including his fourth homer yesterday. “He drove the ball the other way,” Girardi said. “He was patient. He got his pitch. One of the balls he hit the hardest was the ball he hit to center field. On a normal day when it’s not cold and the wind’s blowing, he’s got another home run. I just thought he swung at good pitches and he was patient.”
Associated Press photos