Three things that I believe to be true as I board a train out of Boston and the Yankees prepare for a three-game series against the Rays…
Any sense of optimism will hinge on CC Sabathia’s start
The Yankees ace starts tonight’s series opener, he’s facing David Price — again — and the Yankees badly need a win. Regardless of win or lose, though, there will be a lot of individual focus on Sabathia himself. Can he hold a lead? Can he get his fastball into the mid-90s? Can he pitch like the ace he’s supposed to be?
“To me, the thing that he’s lacked the most consistency in is the sinker and his outstanding changeup,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s still pitching at a pretty high level, but just not what we’re used to seeing from him. If those things are consistent, he doesn’t have to throw 97-98, and he’ll still get a ton of people out. That’s what he pitches at most of the time, anyway, 92 to 94.”
If Sabathia’s dominant tonight, he’ll ease some concerns about these past few starts. If he’s horrible, there could be full panic. If he’s just OK, it will be more of the same. Phil Hughes was terrific last night, and David Phelps was very good the night before. Now it’s Sabathia’s turn.
This Derek Jeter injury has to stay under control
Kind of like last year when Jeter had the calf injury, I think it would be fascinating to see Eduardo Nunez play shortstop everyday for a few weeks, if only to see whether he can gain some consistency and put his bat to use with such regular playing time. It would be an interesting experiment, but that’s not remotely in the Yankees best interest at this point.
Nunez and Jayson Nix can play the position, but the Yankees have no real replacement for Jeter. Their lineup has a lot of power hitters, but Girardi admitted yesterday that he had no idea who would hit leadoff if Jeter couldn’t play. The Yankees don’t have the luxury of giving Jeter a few days — not that he’d take them, anyway — and that means Girardi has to find a balance: keeping Jeter healthy, keeping Jeter productive, and keeping Jeter in the lineup.
Right now this injury seems relatively minor, but the Yankees haven’t had a much luck with injuries this season.
“There’s still concern there,” Girardi said. “You can see that it hurts, but we’ll see what we’ve got tomorrow.”
Andruw Jones is going to keep playing
The Yankees are facing two left-handed starters during this weekend’s series, and it looks like they’ll face two more lefties against the Blue Jays. The Athletics are coming to town after that, and they also have two left-handers in their rotation.
Andruw Jones has been pretty bad this year, especially lately, but the Yankees alternatives aren’t exactly slam dunks. Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez and Ichiro Suzuki had terrible numbers against lefties this year, Steve Pearce and Casey McGehee haven’t done much since joining the team, and Chris Dickerson hit lefties in Triple-A this season but has no history of hitting them in the big leagues. Could one of them do better that Jones? Sure. But it’s a role of the dice no matter who starts in that spot. So far, Girardi has rolled the dice with Jones.
“People are going to run lefties against us, that’s what we’re seeing right now,” Girardi said. “He needs to be productive. We need to see what he’s done in the past for us.”
Associated Press photos