While the mood in the clubhouse and in Joe Girardi’s pregame press conference was much more at ease after last night’s big win, the biggest news to come out of the morning was Girardi all but confirming that Alex Rodriguez will rejoin the team tomorrow for the start of their series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I think it’s a good chance,” Girardi said when asked if A-Rod would be in uniform on Monday.
A-Rod played third base for the first time yesterday for Single-A Tampa, fielding the only ball that was hit to him cleanly in the third inning. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, and is now 0 for 7 with a walk in two rehab games.
But with his left hand is healed and the Yankees’ lineup needing a boost, it sounds like they’re going to throw him back out and let him work on the kinks at the big league level.
“I think it’s important to get him back because it does a lot of different things to our lineup,” Girardi said. “He’s a presence in our lineup. We’ve had to stack lefties a lot. We’re going to see Tampa, and they’ve got some lefties in their bullpen that you have to deal with. I think it does a lot for your lineup.”
• The names that Girardi has inserted into the cleanup spot in the last week without A-Rod or Mark Teixeira have not been your typical Bronx Bombers. I doubt anyone could have predicted Steve Pearce, Andruw Jones or Eric Chavez serving as Robinson Cano’s protection this late in the season. That’s probably a big reason why the Yankees seem willing to bring A-Rod back despite having so few at-bats under his belt. “It’s not something that in my tenure here that we’ve had to deal with a whole lot,” Girardi said. “In 2008, we had injuries to our pitching staff, but positionally, we were pretty good. This year, we’ve had a little bit of both – our pitching staff and our position players – and we’ve had to put some guys in there who usually don’t hit fourth. But it’s what we have to do. These guys have tried to grind out their at-bats, and hopefully you get some guys back.”
• There was a lot of injury news in today’s press conference, which has become a bit of a theme recently. Andy Pettitte briefly spoke with the media this morning after another successful throwing session. He threw 35 pitches, and while he said he couldn’t put a percentage on how hard he pushed off, he said, “I definitely think I pushed a lot harder today than I did the other day.” This is yet another positive sign for Pettitte, who sounds like he may be back soon. “It felt really good,” he said. “My command was good, and Larry (Rothschild) and (Mike) Harkey said I looked great.” Pettitte said the next step will probably be throwing live BP so that he can get a good feel for having some hitters in the box.
• Girardi seemed encouraged by what he’s seen from Pettitte: “I think he’s making a lot of progress now. The fact that he’s off the mound, and he’s comfortable, and he’s recovering fine tells me that he’s on the path to getting back. The next step, we’ll have to wait to see exactly what it is, but I imagine he’ll do some type of throwing in three days.”
• Ivan Nova also threw a bullpen today. “I guess he felt good, too, so we’ll have to see what the next step is,” Girardi said. “We’ll have to see how he recovers tomorrow. That’s always your biggest concern when a guy has some tendinitis. It’s one thing to throw, but it’s another to see how they recover the next day.”
• As expected, Curtis Granderson is getting the day off, with Chris Dickerson taking his place in center field. This will be Dickerson’s first action since being called up yesterday. He was hitting .316 with Triple-A Scranton. It sounds like Girardi may give Granderson one more day off tomorrow, but he reiterated that the right hamstring injury is nothing serious. “We’re going to have to give him a day or two,” he said. “I’m not so sure that he’ll play tomorrow. We’ll just have to check. The good thing is that he didn’t pull anything.”
• Phil Hughes will get the start today as the Yankees try to take two of three from the Orioles and head to Tampa with a four-game lead in the division. The right-hander has been on a roll in his last three starts, going seven innings while allowing no more than two runs or five hits in each of those outings. If he keeps this up, he’ll probably lock down a spot in the Yankees’ postseason rotation. “I just think that he’s gotten back to the form that he had in 2010 when he was successful,” Girardi said. “The confidence is back and he’s healthy, and I think those are probably the big things for him. Last year, he fought the health issues all year and never really got going.”
• While the Yankees’ three-run rally in the seventh inning yesterday received most of the attention, Girardi called the performance he got from his bullpen, “the reason we won the game.” He leaned on the Yankees’ three best relievers this season — Boone Logan, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano — to get through the final four innings. Logan likely won’t be available today after throwing two innings. “I think we have a pretty confident group down there,” Girardi said. “They’ve done a good job for us all year long. Guys have had to step up and get bigger outs than maybe what you envisioned the bullpen to be this year, but they’ve done a good job.”
• While the Yankees came away with the win on Saturday, it was pointed out during Girardi’s press conference that the O’s have an outstanding 24-7 record in one-run games this season. “There’s a couple of things that it takes,” Girardi said. “It takes obviously a bullpen that can hold other clubs down, I think is really important. And it takes some clutch hits at the right time, is usually what helps you in those games. A lot of times you can win some one-run games that you were up six, and then they scored two in the eighth and three in the ninth, and it looks like you won a one-run game. When you get in those close games, your bullpen better be good and you’d better get that clutch hit.”
Associated Press photos