The clubhouse was filled with excitement this morning, as players greeted the six Yankees who will join the club now that the rosters have expanded for the month of September. The place was filled with embraces and hand pounds, prompting third base coach Robby Thomson to remark, “Hug it out boys. It’s a hug-fest in here.”
“It’s like the first time I got called up,” catcher Francisco Cervelli said. “I’m really excited.”
Cervelli, SS Eduardo Nunez, OF Chris Dickerson, RHP Adam Warren, RHP Cory Wade and LHP Justin Thomas were each added to the roster, and while players smiled at the sight of old friends and teammates, there were two who couldn’t help but reflect on what has been a trying season.
“The whole month of April was different,” Cervelli said when asked how tough it was to get sent down. “No home, the weather was really bad. … In the beginning, I tried to do everything in one day.”
Both Cervelli and Nunez were dealt tough blows this season. Each had spent significant time in the majors and felt relatively established, only to be abruptly sent down early this year. The two really seemed to take their demotions to heart, with Nunez recalling, “I felt terrible the next day.”
“I’m sure it was extremely difficult,” Joe Girardi said. “I went through it when I was up and then I got sent down for awhile. The first two weeks were tough on me, too. One of the messages that I give to players when they do get sent down — and it’s a tough send down — is don’t make the mistake that I made. Don’t take two weeks before your head is clear. Get your head clear as soon as you can so that you can go out and play and get yourself back here. But it’s hard. It’s definitely a hard thing to go through. Being sent down from big league camp when you’ve never been in the big leagues is different from when you’ve been in the big leagues, because you don’t really know what the big leagues is like. Obviously, when you get here, you don’t ever want to go back down.”
Cervelli said it took a pep talk from his family to get him back on track, but both he and Nunez seemed to appreciate the big picture now that they’re back in the Bronx. Cervelli even showed a bit of the personality that has drawn him to Yankees fans.
“I’m going to miss the bus because it was my home,” he quipped. “If you ask me for a hotel in any city, I know. Here we have airplanes, so it’s a little more comfortable.”
• While Nunez was clearly disappointed when he was sent down, he seemed to feel that it was beneficial for him to focus on playing one position. “To play five or six positions, it’s tough,” he said. Nunez seemed overwhelmed at times as the utility man during his time in the majors, but he had the opportunity to stick with playing shortstop in the minors. “I feel like I had to learn a little bit more,” he said. “I think I’m better for the future.”
• Here’s Girardi on Nunez: “They said he’s been playing well down there. I like the speed element that he brings to our club. There’s some things that he can do offensively – swinging the bat was not the issue when he went down. We just thought we wanted to put him at one position and let him play, and he played a very good shortstop down there.”
• While Cervelli admitted to pressing when he was first sent down, he said he learned to appreciate the situation. “You look at the positive side,” he said. “You get to catch everyday and challenge yourself to be better.”
• With three catchers now on the roster, Girardi said he still plans to stick with Chris Stewart as Russell Martin’s primary backup. “I anticipate that, but that’s something that we can mull over the next few days what we’re going to do,” he said. “But I anticipate we’re going to stick with the guys who have gotten us here.”
• Along with Nunez and Cervelli, Dickerson also gives the Yankees another bat off of the bench. It’s tough to say where he fits with him playing pretty much the same role as Raul Ibanez (a left-handed bat who plays the corner outfield positions), but he was hitting .316 with Scranton. He’s certainly a better defensive option than Ibanez. Ramiro Pena was designated for assignment to make room for Dickerson on the 40-man roster.
• Of the three pitchers who have been brought up, Wade will be the most interesting to watch. He struggled mightily this season, which resulted in him being sent down, but he was a critical part of the Yankees’ pen in 2011. Warren didn’t show much in his brief stint with the Yanks earlier in the season, while Thomas is unlikely to be used ahead of fellow lefties Boone Logan and Clay Rapada. But what all of these call-ups give Girardi is flexibility. “We have more options,” he said. “Obviously, we have more speed. There’s some base running that you can do late in the game knowing that you have extra bodies to put into the game if you need to do that. And there’s extra pitching.”
• David Phelps will get the start today in perhaps the biggest game of the season for the Yankees up to this point. Girardi made a conscious decision to go with Phelps over Freddy Garcia, who was originally scheduled to start but has been pushed back to Tuesday. Phelps has already proven himself, and now this is his chance to show he can get it done in the big spot. A loss will cut the Yankees’ lead in the AL East to just one game. The Orioles are collectively hitting .222 (4 for 18) off of Phelps.
• Girardi was asked about Alex Rodriguez, who went 0 for 3 with a walk and a run scored in his first rehab appearance with Single-A Tampa last night. Don’t be surprised to see A-Rod as soon as Monday for the Yankees’ series with the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s already down there, and Girardi acknowledged the possibility. A-Rod will play third for the first time today after DHing on Friday. “He came out alright,” Girardi said. “He had the four at-bats, he walked once, he saw a lot of pitches, so he came out good. I haven’t talked to him this morning to see how he felt, but I got good reports.”
• Here’s the Orioles lineup: 1. Markakis (RF); 2. Hardy (SS); 3. McLouth (LF); 4. Jones (CF); 5. Wieters (C); 6. Davis (DH); 7. Reynolds (1B); 8. Quintanilla (2B); 9. Machado (3B). LHP Chen.
• Girardi was asked about the surprising success of the Orioles, who cut the Yankees lead in the division to two games with their 6-1 win last night. “I think every year you look at some teams that probably have surprised some people,” he said. “I’m sure they’re not surprised in that room with how well they’ve played, because players believe in themselves, and organizations believe in their players. Sometimes when you’re not around a club every day, some people might not recognize what a club has. You’re going to have those clubs that maybe people don’t anticipate that are going to be hunting for playoff spots every year.”
Associated Press photos