Much of the early concern about the productivity of the Yankees lineup has been alleviated in the past week, with Joe Girardi seemingly deciding on how he felt that guys would fit best until some of the big names come back from injury. One of the main components of the lineup has been a red-hot Robinson Cano in the two-hole, but he’s back to his usual spot at No. 3 for tonight’s series finale against the Baltimore Orioles.
“It’s just that we’re facing a lefty, so I decided to move (Vernon) Wellsie up,” Girardi said. “It’s basically the only difference, and we’ll go back to a right-hander on Tuesday and I’ll have Robby back hitting second.”
With Wei-Yin Chen getting the ball for the O’s, Girardi moved the righty-swinging Wells up into the No. 2 spot. He also is DHing Ben Francisco in place of Travis Hafner, but said that he had to leave lefty-swinging Lyle Overbay at first base because of the injury to Eduardo Nunez. If Nunez was available to play short, Girardi said he likely would have sat Overbay and had Youkilis play first, with Jayson Nix playing third.
“It’s also a little different because I don’t have Nunez,” he said. “We had to decide what we were going to do, and that’s how I decided to do it.”
• A lot of injury news from the clubhouse this afternoon. Nunez said his wrist is feeling better after being hit by a pitch on Friday, but he still hasn’t tried to swing a bat. The plan is for him to do some throwing today and then take some cuts tomorrow. If all goes well, he should be back in the lineup on Tuesday. He was asked what he thought of Francisco Cervelli playing second base for an inning in yesterday’s game. “It’s fun,” Nunez said. “But not for me.”
• Nunez said that he thinks he will be available to pinch-run and play the field tonight if needed, and Girardi said he would consider it in an “emergency” situation.
• Girardi also made the announcement that they’ve decided to push Andy Pettitte’s next start back to Friday. He was originally scheduled to pitch on either Tuesday or Wednesday, but Girardi said they felt that it was an unnecessary risk. It seems like the smart move, because with tomorrow being an off day, they will have enough fresh arms to get them to Friday. Ivan Nova will start on Tuesday, CC Sabathia on Wednesday and Phil Hughes on Thursday. “We decided that we’re going to throw him on Friday instead of trying to – and he’s better – but instead of saying, ‘Let’s throw a bullpen today and see how he feels,’ and then if he has a setback, then Friday becomes jeopardized,” Girardi said. “We thought, let’s give him until Tuesday so we know that everything will be cleared up and then we’ll have him on Friday.”
• Pettitte spoke briefly and said that the back spasms have subsided, but he understands why the decision was made to play it conservatively. “I was still tight Friday,” he said. “I’m just getting better and better every day. I feel really good today and plan on continuing to feel really good. I’m going to feel really good I imagine on Friday. So I’ll throw my bullpens and hopefully I can throw Tuesday and not flare up and I’ll throw my one on Wednesday and be ready to start on Friday.”
• Curtis Granderson also made an appearance in the clubhouse today and shagged some fly balls in center field during BP. He said he’s had two days of throwing, but has yet to be cleared to swing a bat. “Everything felt good with that,” he said of throwing. “They want to make sure that’s really good, which I’m assuming means stretching out the length of everything before we start swinging. Other than that, everything else is the same. Lower body workouts, I can shag with the team – both down in Florida and here today – but I have to wear my brace when I’m doing that, just in case I run into somebody or fall or something like that.”
• Granderson was pushed for a return date, but he didn’t take the bait. He noted that he only saw five pitches in spring training before getting hit by a pitch and hurting his wrist, so he’s going to need to get some at-bats in down in Florida before he can think about playing at the big league level. It sounds to me like May 1st is a bit optimistic. Mid-to-late May is a more reasonable timetable. “In terms of at-bats, I talked to Kevin Long before they broke camp, and he said I need roughly 50-70 at-bats,” he said. “That’s what I would have got in spring training. The great thing about being down in extended spring, I can get anywhere from 5-10 at-bats a day. The number of at-bats can accelerate quite quickly.”
• Granderson has been working at the same facility as Derek Jeter, but said he hasn’t seen too much of the captain. He sounded impressed with the little bit that he has seen. “He’s looking good,” Granderson said. “Our schedules don’t always mix, but the one day which was a physically difficult day for me, he was taking batting practice. The ball was going all over the place. He was driving it well to left field, to right field, to center field, and I got a lot of work that day after shagging when him and his group were hitting, so that’s a good sign.”
• Granderson is well-known for his charitable work, and he said he has plans to spend Jackie Robinson Day tomorrow with students at a local high school. “My foundation has an event going in Brooklyn tomorrow,” he said. “Abraham Lincoln high school in Brooklyn, which lost its sports fields in Hurricane Sandy. With it being Jackie Robinson Day, we’re going to take the kids from the school to see the movie ’42.’ “.
• Getting back to the lineup, Francisco is hitting fifth tonight, but only has four at-bats under his belt this season. He’s one of the guys who may be at risk of losing his roster spot when some of the injured players return, but Girardi said he expects him to get more playing time in the next week. “He just hasn’t had a lot of at-bats,” Girardi said. “It’s very rare that we don’t see left-handers in our division. It’s just kind of happened, so I expect him to play an important role for us and to do some damage on left-handers. The good thing is he’s going to see a lefty today, and then we’re going to see two against Arizona. And chances are you’re going to see at least one against Toronto and one against Tampa, so his playing time is going to be more regular.”
• It’s odd to see the lefty-swinging Brennan Boesch in against Chen, but with Francisco DHing, Girardi’s only other option in right field was Ichiro, who also hits left-handed. Boesch has never faced Chen, while Ichiro is 0 for 5 against him in his career. It will be interesting to see what the Yankees do when Granderson returns. With Grandy hitting from the left-side, Boesch seems like the obvious choice to be removed from the 25-man roster, but he’s probably shown the Yankees more than Francisco has at this point. It makes more sense to keep Francisco because he gives them a right-handed option as a backup outfielder, but will they favor Boesch if he is outperforming him? The next month will be a trial period for both.
• I’ve mentioned this before on Twitter, but when you look at the way that the newcomers such as Youkilis, Wells and Hafner have been contributing, this Yankees lineup could really be a force when they get Granderson, Jeter and Mark Teixeira back. In my head, I see a potential lineup that looks something like this: 1. Gardner (LF); 2. Jeter (SS); 3. Cano (2B); 4. Teixeira (1B); 5. Granderson (CF); 6. Youkilis (3B); 7. Hafner/Wells (DH); 8. Ichiro (RF); 9. Cervelli (C).
• Lastly, Girardi spoke about the performance that David Phelps gave the team in relief yesterday. He allowed just one hit while striking out six over four innings, as he continues to show that he’s capable of being a starter at this level. Girardi said he’s going to stick with his current five-man rotation for the time being, which is understandable with the season still so young, but you have to think that if Nova struggles in his next few outings that his spot will be in jeopardy. If Phelps continues to pitch at a high level, it would seem unfair not to give him a chance. “I think it was probably more difficult last year than it is this year, because he had been a starter his whole career,” Girardi said of pitching him in relief. “But it was basically the way that we used him last year, so I think he has an understanding of how to prepare. What he needs to do, what he needs to get going, and he did a tremendous job yesterday. You can’t ask a guy to do a better job.”
• Here’s the Orioles lineup: 1. McLouth (LF); 2. Machado (3B); 3. Markakis (RF); 4. Jones (CF); 5. Davis (1B); 6. Wieters (C); 7. Hardy (SS); 8. Flaherty (2B); 9. Reimold (DH).
Associated Press photos