Archive for August, 2012
Mid-day notes: Rodriguez, Aardsma, Trenton • 08.30.12
Just a few relatively minor notes in the middle of this offday.
• Brian Cashman says Alex Rodriguez is going to begin a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa tomorrow. He’s only been taking full batting practice for a couple of days, but obviously the Yankees want to get him back quickly.
• David Aardsma will be joining Rodriguez on the Tampa roster. He’s also scheduled to rehab with the High-A team. That suggests he has a chance of pitching for the Yankees very, very late in the season.
• The Yankees announced just a few minutes ago that they’ve extended their radio agreement with WCBS 880 through the 2013 season. John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman are expected to return to the booth.
• The Yankees extended their player development contract in Trenton, which gave Mike Ashmore a chance to ask Brian Cashman a few things about the big league club. Among other things, Cashman said Brett Gardner is not a pinch-running candidate for September and Rodriguez’s rehab will be reevaluated after the weekend.
• Also, Mark Newman says the Dellin Betances injury is not considered serious. It’s possible he’ll got the Arizona Fall League, but the Yankees haven’t settled on which pitchers they’ll send.
• Finally, the Orioles won this afternoon, meaning the Yankees division lead is down to three-games heading into this weekend’s series.
Crush and do damage. That’s become a go-to phrase for Alex Rodriguez, and in the month of July, he was actually doing those two things. In the 11 games before he broke his hand in Seattle, Rodriguez was hitting .349/.391/.581 with two home runs and four doubles. He’d been one of the very few Yankees to actually hit during that four-game sweep in Oakland.
“I think for the first time all year I had a pretty good run for 10 days,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been working hard on the same things that I had going on (back then), and hopefully I can just pick up where I left off.”
Obviously the Yankees need to get Mark Teixeira healthy again, and they need Curtis Granderson to rediscover the consistency that’s been missing in the second half, but the lineup really isn’t complete without Rodriguez.
“You just have to think big picture, and when I come back I want to come back full strength and make sure I’m a force in the middle of this lineup and help this team win,” he said. “Hopefully give us a shot in the arm. You’ve seen what happened with a lot of the guys in the American League.”
David Ortiz tried to come back too early. So did Jose Bautista. The Yankees have given Rodriguez time to make sure his broken left hand is 100 percent. He’s started taking batting practice again, and there are two reasons he expects to be better this September than last September:
1. This year’s DL stint wasn’t because of a leg injury. He’s been able to keep his legs in shape the past month. A lot of hitting is in the legs.
2. That fluke thumb injury really cost him last season. “My plan is, I don’t want him to hurt his thumb this year,” Joe Girardi said.
It’s not enough to get Rodriguez off the disabled list. The Yankees need him to come off the disabled list and be productive. Especially against left-handers, a productive Rodriguez and a powerful Teixeira will change this lineup significantly. Crush and do damage. That’s the key.
“I think my legs are coming,” Rodriguez said. “I see light at the end of the tunnel. My expectation is to come back and come back at full strength to help this team win.”
Associated Press photo
Even Andy Pettitte isn’t sure what to expect. He’s supposed to get on a mound this weekend, and his arm feels good, but he hasn’t pitched in a game since June 27. A broken ankle is no longer the problem. Pettitte needs to get his legs under him.
“I’m hoping that whenever I’m able to get on the mound, whenever that process is, that I’ll be able to build up that stamina,” he said. “I have no idea. Like I’ve told y’all all along, I have no idea how my stamina is going to be. Not only in my arm, my legs. I feel like the arm’s going to be good, (but) I’ve had eight weeks of really not doing a whole lot other than riding a bike and swimming in the swimming pool as far as trying to condition. That’s a long ways away from driving off the mound downhill.”
For the Yankees rotation, there is no greater uncertainty than Pettitte’s return. They need Ivan Nova to be productive again, and they need Phil Hughes to keep pitching well, and they’d love Hiroki Kuroda to remain a back-of-the-ballot Cy Young candidate.
But Pettitte is the prize.
“I still know I’m a long ways away,” he said. “I haven’t gotten on a mound yet. Obviously it’s frustrating. I’ve kind of gotten over that whole point, and now I’m just trying to get to the point where I can get on the mound and just start working to be able to get back.”
Pettitte’s ankle seems to have healed, but he’s racing against the clock. The minor league regular season ends next week, and the minor league postseason won’t last beyond the middle of September. That doesn’t give him much time to rehab, and even if he can get some rehab work done, how many big league games can he possible pitch down the stretch? Would one or two starts be enough to trust him in the postseason? What if those starts were bad?
Pettitte has said he’d like to get “a couple” of starts to get himself ready, but he’s already suffered one setback in his recovery, and he can’t afford to rush himself to make sure those couple of tuneups become a reality.
“I think we’ve got to be careful with how much I’m doing, just because doc’s just telling me I’ve got to watch the load,” Pettitte said. “I’m trying to push it to that limit, get to the point where I’m fatigued in there and get a little bit of discomfort in there, and then come back in there today and I feel good where I had a good work day yesterday. When I get on a mound, that will be real important to not beat it up so bad where I come in the next day and I’m taking a few days to recover. I wish I could tell you all more. It’s kind of like day-to-day right now figuring out what I could or couldn’t do.”
Associated Press photo
Up next: Uncertainty • 08.30.12
The lead is three and a half games. We know that much. We know that Baltimore and Tampa Bay are very much in the race, that the Yankees play all but six of their remaining games against the American League East, and that the first-place team in the division hasn’t changed since June 12. We know that 130 games have passed, and no team should be a mystery that deep into a season.
But also know this: The Yankees are dealing with a lot of uncertainty as they head down the stretch.
“Obviously if we could script it any different, we wouldn’t have any of our guys banged up,” Nick Swisher said. “But that’s kind of the way the season goes. It’s a long season. There are a lot of injuries. I feel like we’ve dealt with that extremely well this year. No excuses, we’ve just got to go out there and get it done.”
Trying to hold off two teams and finish off a division title, the Yankees are using lineups they’ve never tried before, leaning on rotation that’s missing three pieces, and falling back on a bullpen that could do no wrong two months ago but now seems overworked and occasionally overexposed.
It’s hard to know what comes next.
“I know what I’ve got every day,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s not like I walk in there and there are three different people I’ve never seen before every day. I know what I have.”
That’s true, but Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez were never supposed to play in the field this much, and Steve Pearce was never supposed to be a middle-of-the-order hitter, and there are nights the lineup seems three deep, with nothing reliable beyond Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano. The rotation’s overwhelming spring training depth has been stretched to its limit, so much so that the last man to make the team out of camp is now a key starter who the Yankees can only wish they could slide back into the bullpen to alleviate some of that middle-inning uncertainty.
But as bad as things seem after losing two of three against the Blue Jays, the Yankees are still a first-place team with a chance to get big-time reinforcements in the next few weeks. Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez are making legitimate progress from their broken bones, Mark Teixeira seems to think he’ll miss only a week or so with his strained calf, and Ivan Nova is supposed to throw a baseball again in the next day or two. That’s to say nothing of the bench and bullpen depth coming when rosters expand this weekend.
Yes, there’s reason for concern. And, yes, there’s reason for optimism.
But there’s no reason to think anyone knows exactly what to expect as the Yankees come down the stretch.
Associated Press photo
Very cool to see the Little League World Series team from Uganda in the clubhouse and on the field today.
“I just tried to show them around a little bit, spent some time with them,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s a wonderful story. It takes everyone back to your Little League days. To watch what these kids have accomplished, talking to their coaches, none of them had ever seen an airplane before or ever traveled before, and for them to accomplish what they have is truly amazing. It’s a bunch of kids that really just started to play the game, and to be able to make it to the World Series and to be able to compete at a very high level is truly remarkable.
“It was a thrill for me to meet them because I think, from a human-interest story, we were all excited to watch them play and to see their athleticism. I was talking about the first baseman, the relay throw that he made in one of the games. It was amazing. He basically went out and took the ball from the right fielder and winged it home and made a pretty good throw. So they were fun to watch.”
A few pictures from the Yankees media relations department…
Postgame notes: “We just didn’t play” • 08.29.12
CC Sabathia tried to take all the blame for today’s debacle. As reporters gathered around his locker, the Yankees ace was blunt.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” he said. “I feel like this game is all my fault, obviously.”
Actually, it wasn’t obvious at all. Sabathia gave up a lead twice, so he deserved some of the blame, but the Yankees were 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position. They made three errors, and that’s not counting the two diving catches that fell out of Andruw Jones’ glove. They lost two out of three against the worst team in the division, and next they have to face the second-place Orioles.
“You show me a manager or player who’s happy to lose a ballgame, and I’ll show you a loser,” Joe Girardi said. “We didn’t play well today. We had plenty of opportunities to win that game and we didn’t get it done. You have to get it done. … We had chances offensively and didn’t get it done. We had chances defensively and didn’t get it done. We didn’t make pitches when we had to. We just didn’t play.”
True, true and true. This was a game the Yankees should have won for all sorts of different reasons, mostly because the Blue Jays are a bad team and the Yankees are supposed to a World Series contender. There are plenty of excuses – Sabathia’s defense let him down, the Yankees made some good plays to make up for some of their mistakes, the lineup is missing key pieces – but Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira aren’t coming back any time soon, and the Yankees have to beat teams like the Blue Jays.
Today was a bad game. It was a bad game for Sabathia, it was a bad game for the lineup and it was a bad game for the Yankees.
“Ain’t nobody that likes losing before off days,” Nick Swisher said. “Tough series for us, man. We’ve got to put it behind us. That off day for us couldn’t come at a better time. We’re a little banged up right now. We’ve just got to keep going out there. We’ve got to find a way to win games. That’s it.”
• The Yankees actually did have some good luck on their side. They scored two runs when Rajai Davis misplayed Curtis Granderson’s fly ball, and they scored another when Russell Martin’s bouncing ball hit the third-base bag and skipped into the outfield. “There’s a lot of times you say, ‘Hit the bag,’ and it never does,” Girardi said. “Today was one of those days it hit the bag, (but) it seemed like a few times we had runners on second with nobody out and weren’t able to get them home. That’s probably what cost us the game.”
• Andruw Jones nearly made two good catches, but with each diving attempt, the ball rolled out of his glove when he hit the ground. “The first one, I had it,” he said. “I just kind of rolled over my wrist a little bit and wasn’t actually (hurt) that bad. But the second one, I got my fingers caught up into the ground and rolled over a little bit. Those are tough plays, but if you get your glove to them, you’ve got to make them.”
• Jones clearly hurt his glove hand on the second diving play, but he said he was fine. “It’s alright,” he said. “It’s just my fingers went back a little bit. But it’s alright I guess.”
• Ichiro Suzuki is known for an ability to handle the bat, but he failed to get a bunt down today and it seemed to cost the Yankees. “Obviously in baseball you just have a lot of momentums,” he said. “And I wasn’t able to get that bunt down to create that momentum. Obviously in this important stretch, the run down the stretch, obviously we need to get things done and I need to do better.”
• The Yankees were held homerless in back-to-back games for the third time this season. It’s the first time they were back-to-back games without a homer at home this season.
• The Yankees reached base in six of nine innings and matched their season-high for at-bats with runners in scoring position in a nine-inning game. Of their eight hits, six were doubles, their most doubles in a game since July 30, 2011.
• Derek Jeter’s first-inning error was his first since July 8, snapping a 38-game errorless streak. According to Elias, it’s his longest error-free streak since a career-high 52 games in 2010.
• Sabathia’s day started to go bad when he gave up three runs with two outs in the third. Jayson Nix made a nice play to turn two and put Sabathia on the verge of ending the inning, but things started to unravel with a hit by Edwin Encarnacion. “I just think obviously it was 3-0 just trying to make a pitch,” Sabathia said. “He put a good swing on the pitch. I just think the two-strike pitches killed me today.”
• Sabathia on the homer to Escobar, which came on a hanging slider: “I was just trying to make a pitch and not walk him. I should probably be smarter than that.”
• Some of the Blue Jays damage came on broken bat hits, but Sabathia couldn’t care less. “It really doesn’t matter,” he said. “They’re line drives to score runs. It’s up to me to make pitches and get out of the inning, and I didn’t do that tonight.”
• Make no mistake, Sabathia said he was fully healthy and had good stuff. “Just frustrated at actually having my stuff and not making the pitches,” he said. “Obviously you have to give them credit for putting together good at-bats, but I need to make better pitches and I didn’t do that today.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “At times we haven’t hit during this little streak. We haven’t scored as many runs as we have in the past. Up until today our pitching wasn’t too bad. Today it was a combination of a lot of different things. You have to put it behind you. That’s all you can do. This day is over with, so put it behind you and move on.”
Associated Press photos
Two problems for the Yankees this afternoon: CC Sabathia wasn’t especially sharp, and the pieced-together lineup wasn’t particularly productive. Too many scoring opportunities were squandered in an 8-5 loss to the Blue Jays. Toronto took two of three this series, and the Yankees lineup looks weak. The Yankees were 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position — 17 at-bats with a runner at second or third! — and those missed opportunities cost them. It wasn’t only guys like Steve Pearce and Andruw Jones who missed RBI chances, so did Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Robinson Cano. At one point or another, every spot in the Yankees batting order came up with a runner in scoring position. Only Jones, Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin drove in runs. Those missed opportunities came with Sabathia blowing two leads, allowing five runs — two earned — through seven innings. The bullpen let Toronto pull away, and the Yankees were left with a bad loss heading into tomorrow’s off day.
Associated Press photo
Game 130: Yankees vs. Blue Jays • 08.29.12
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Andruw Jones RF
Curtis Granderson CF
Steve Pearce DH
Jayson Nix 3B
Ichiro Suzuki LF
Chris Stewart C
LHP CC Sabathia (13-3, 3.44)
Sabathia vs. Blue Jays
BLUE JAYS (57-71)
Rajai Davis LF
Mike McCory CF
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Adam Lind 1B
Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Moises Sierra RF
Jeff Mathis C
Adeiny Hechavarria 3B
LHP J.A. Happ (2-1, 4.15)
Happ vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: It’s cooled down a little bit, which is actually nice. Wind is blowing left to right. Very comfortable and sunny outside.
UMPIRES: HP Chris Conroy, 1B Mark Carlson, 2B Angel Hernandez, 3B Ed Hickox
AND IN THE END: The Yankees are 26-15 in series finales and?have won six of their last nine finales at home. They are 10-5 in the rubber game of a three-game series this season.
SPECIAL OCCASION: Prior to today’s game, the Yankees host “Special Olympics Day at Yankee Stadium.”?Approximately 20 Special Olympics athletes, all from the Bronx, will take part in a “Field of Dreams,” joining Yankees players at their respective positions on the field for the National Anthem.
40 STRONG: Derek Jeter leads the Majors with 41 hits in August. That matches his most hits in a month since the start of 2010 (also August of 2011). This is the 15th time in his career that Jeter has recorded at least 40 hits in a month. According to Elias, that marks the most such months by a Yankee since Joe DiMaggio, who compiled 17 months with at least 40 hits.
UPDATE, 1:26 p.m.: What do ya know, Jones just singled up the middle for an RBI and a 1-0 Yankees lead. Here’s Granderson at the plate with one out and runners at the corners.
UPDATE, 1:30 p.m.: Blue Jays can’t turn two and the Yankees get another run. That’s a 2-0 lead with Sabathia on the mound.
UPDATE, 1:32 p.m.: Back swing got Stewart. He seems fine. Must suck to play a position where you can get hit in the head by a bat, and it’s just part of the job.
UPDATE, 1:52 p.m.: Nix makes up for his error by starting a 5-2 double play. Second night in a row that the Yankees have gotten an unusual double play to get them out of trouble.
UPDATE, 1:57 p.m.: Back-to-back two-out RBI singles have tied the game at 2. Sabathia was one pitch away from ending this inning with a two-run lead.
UPDATE, 2:02 p.m.: RBI double has the Blue Jays in the lead 3-2. Three straight two-out hits given up by Sabathia.
UPDATE, 2:14 p.m.: Rajai Davis makes a poor read on Curtis Granderon’s fly ball. It’s over Davis’ head for a two-run double and a one-run Yankees lead.
UPDATE, 2:40 p.m.: Yankees hottest hitters — Swisher and Cano — come the plate with the bases loaded, and neither one drives in a run. Missed opportunity and the Yankees lead is still 4-3.
UPDATE, 2:56 p.m.: That was a full-count pitch to Escobar, and he hammered it to left for a no-doubt, two-run homer. The Blue Jays are back in front 5-4.
UPDATE, 3:31 p.m.: Big at-bat for Jones. There’s a lefty up in the Blue Jays pen — which is the reason Ibanez isn’t pinch hitting — so Jones has an RBI opportunity with a runner at second and one out against a right-hander.
UPDATE, 3:34 p.m.: Jones goes down swinging. Here comes the lefty to face Granderson with two outs.
UPDATE, 3:54 p.m.: Excellent bunt by Mathis brings in one insurance run for the Blue Jays. The Yankees have burned through three relievers this inning. Might have used only two — or only one — if Derek Lowe hadn’t gotten himself in trouble with a double and a bunt single.
UPDATE, 4:05 p.m.: Lucky bounce off the third-base bag gives Martin an RBI double to pull the Yankees within a run.
UPDATE, 4:07 p.m.: Soriano is up in the Yankees bullpen.
UPDATE, 4:08 p.m.: Looked like a sure bloop single for Ichiro, but Rasmus was playing fairly shallow and made a nice diving catch to take away the hit and leave Martin at second. Still just one out and a chance to tie with a base hit.
UPDATE, 4:19 p.m.: It’s not only guys like Jones and Pearce who are missing opporutnities to drive in runs today. Jeter, Cano and Swisher have as well. Jeter just flied out to leave a runner at second base in the eighth, and now the Yankees trail by one heading into the ninth. Eppley is staying in the game to pitch with Clay Rapada getting loose in the bullpen.
UPDATE, 4:24 p.m.: I don’t think Chavez saw that ball off the bat. Bad bounce and it’s an E-5.
Pregame notes: “Really reassuring for us” • 08.29.12
A sore elbow forced CC Sabathia to miss two starts this month, and when he did return, there was no guarantee the injury wouldn’t resurface. The Yankees thought he’d gotten over it once already, only to have it return the day after a start in Detroit.
“My concern was, A: When he went back out there, his command,” Joe Girardi said. “And that was really good. And then B: Two days after his start, how was he going to feel? The fact that he felt good and didn’t have any of the symptoms he had before was really reassuring for us.”
The Yankees seem to have their ace back, and they know how good he can be down the stretch. If Sabathia’s at his best, and Hiroki Kuroda continues to dominate, and Phil Hughes has more starts like last night’s, the top of the Yankees rotation will be a strength in this final month-plus.
“It would be huge because we have other pitches that have been throwing well as well, and (Sabathia)’s obviously our ace,” Girardi said. “This time of year, with the things that we’re going through and how tight the race is, it would be huge.”
For tonight, there’s another need: Distance. Dave Robertson is not available tonight, and Rafael Soriano might not be either. The Yankees would rather not have to lean heavily on their bullpen this afternoon.
“It’s really important that we get some distance out of him today,” Girardi said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
• Just yesterday, Girarid was talking about Andruw Jones’ recent struggles. Today, Jones is the Yankees cleanup hitter. “This is a guy that we expect to hit well off of left-handers, and we’re going to put him back there,” Girardi said. In Girardi’s defense, it’s not like this team has a standout cleanup option at this point. Based on this year’s numbers, I’d say Steve Pearce is the best bet, but I can’t say I blame Girardi for being a little unsure about him.
• Jones had that outstanding series in Boston right before the All-Star break. Since then he’s hit .139/.222/.264 with two home runs in 28 games.
• Nothing new on Andy Pettitte, though he did say he feels good after yesterday’s flat-ground session. The Yankees are still planning to have him throw off a bullpen this weekend. “The fact I haven’t seen Steve Donohue is a good sign to me,” Girardi said.
• Pettitte said he legitimately has no idea how much stamina he’ll be able to build before the end of the season, and Girardi acknowledged that Pettitte’s rehab schedule might have to be a little bit rushed because there’s really not much time left. “Whenever he does get on a mound, the process is probably going to have to be accelerated a little bit just because of the time frame,” Girardi said.
• Alex Rodriguez went through regular drills again today.
• In case you weren’t sure, Girardi made it clear today that David Phelps is going to make his next start. He’s not going to be skipped because of tomorrow’s off day.
• The Ugandan Little League team is here today. Pretty cool. The seemed quite and a little bit stunned when they walked into the Yankees clubhouse this morning. They’ve been on the field during batting practice, getting some pictures with Mariano Rivera.
Associated Press photos