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Pregame notes: “We’re all behind the people in Boston”

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The Yankees begin their first series of interleague play tonight against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but much of the pregame chatter was focused on the tragic events that occurred yesterday at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Kevin Youkilis, who has spent many Patriots Days in Boston as a member of the Red Sox, spoke about the attack on innocent bystanders.

“We found yesterday and just were pretty much sick to our stomachs,” he said. “It’s supposed to be a good off day for my family and I with the kids, and it turned into a lot of phone calls and worry. It was just a tragic day. You have thousands of people down there, just really enjoying some amazing feats. I’ve been down there on the finish line, and it’s an amazing thing to watch these people finish a marathon.”

For those who haven’t experienced it, Patriots Day is like one big party throughout the entire city of Boston. The Red Sox usually play and there are thousands of runners competing in the Marathon, all while thousands more cheer them on and enjoy the festivities. Youkilis said that he knew people who were there — his father-in-law actually has an office nearby — but after sending out a ton of texts, everyone was accounted for.

“It’s the most exciting day of the year in Boston,” Youkilis said. “People are off work and they celebrate it and they cheer on these runners. It’s such a positive atmosphere. Personally, I’ve never seen so many people just sitting there cheering for people that they don’t even know. They give them a boost of energy, and it’s a pretty remarkable thing. A lot of people do a lot of great things in running for charity and make a lot of money for charities. A lot of runners didn’t even get to finish, and people have been training for months to do that, so it was a tough day for all of them. Hopefully, next year it will be run again.”

• The Yankees have announced that they will honor the victims and the city of Boston tonight with a moment of silence and play the Fenway Park favorite “Sweet Caroline” at the end of the third inning. In the past, that song has made Yankee fans cringe, but tonight, it will provide a message of support. “I think it’s important that we recognize that we’re all behind the people in Boston and everyone that was involved,” Joe Girardi said. “You think about that being a song that’s a tradition there, that’s special to Fenway Park and the people of Boston, and we’re behind them. Put the baseball teams aside, and we want to be there for them.”

• Youkilis was also asked if as a professional athlete, a tragedy like this makes him think twice about how safe he and his teammates are on a game-to-game basis. “I think a lot of times its blind trust,” Youkilis said. “We come here and we probably just take it for granted. We think that the security is going to be fine and nothing is going to happen. A lot of times we probably don’t think about it; we just live our lives. Now, when things like this happen, you kind of get a little nervous. We’re very fortunate here in New York to have great security at all times, but you never know what can happen.”

[3]• Getting to tonight’s game, Ivan Nova will take the ball for the Yankees, and you can’t help but feel like he has a couple more starts to prove himself before his job will be in jeopardy. David Phelps has pitched extremely well out of the bullpen, so Nova will need to show some consistency to remain in the rotation. “For him to pitch well,” Girardi said when asked about what he wants to see from Nova. “It’s not necessarily seeing him do one thing or another; it’s getting outs. It’s missing some bats at times, it’s getting big outs when you have to and controlling the game, in a sense. Hiro the other day controlled the game. He had a good sinker and he went with it. He used it very effectively, and mixed in his other pitches. I don’t expect our guys to have everyone of their pitches when they go out there, but you have to figure out how to get through situations, and for him, distance, too. Distance is important. Give us some distance, because we all know he’s capable of pitching very, very well.”

• Girardi was also asked if he’s seen any changes in Brett Gardner this year after he missed most of the 2012 season with an elbow injury. Gardner had the big blow against the Orioles on Sunday night with his two-run homer in the fifth, and he adds a speed element to this offense that it lacked last year (although he’s 0 for 2 on stolen base attempts so far). “I haven’t really seen a change in him, necessarily, but it sure is nice to have him back out there,” he said. “I’m sure sometimes as a player – and he never talked to me about it – but when you go through an injury and you miss a substantial amount of time, you appreciate the game a lot more.”

• Andy Pettitte spoke briefly today after his bullpen and said that he “felt strong.” He said he threw about 35-40 pitches with “no problems,” and is still on track to start on Friday.

• Girardi was asked about the progress of Derek Jeter — as he is asked on a daily basis — and talked about reeling him in a bit. He didn’t do any baseball activities over the weekend, and it doesn’t sound like he’s getting into a game anytime too soon. Those who were hoping for a May 1st return shouldn’t hold their breath, but it makes sense to be cautious here. The last thing the Yankees need is for him to rush and then have a setback. “He worked out Saturday, but there’s just not a whole lot going on in the field there (in Tampa) on the weekends,” Girardi said. “I think he did a little bit Sunday, as well, but sometimes I think you can take too many groundballs. We talked about lessening that load a little bit, just because he was taking so many. Derek’s such a creature of habit, to get him to break a cycle sometimes is difficult. He’s going to want to do as much as he can, as soon as he can, so we’re just trying to make sure that we don’t go too fast.”

• The good news for the Yankees is that Eduardo Nunez is back in the lineup today at shortstop. He missed two games after being hit by a pitch on the wrist on Friday, but he said that he would be back in the lineup on Tuesday, and he is.

• Since the Yankees were off on Monday for Jackie Robinson Day, the team has decided to wear No. 42 tonight to honor the legend. “It’s a special night,” Girardi said. “I think anytime you get a chance to put on the No. 42 and to support what Jackie Robinson stood for and what he went through and all of the difficulties that he had to face, I think it’s special. It’s an honor to be able to wear this number. Obviously, Mo’s the only one that gets to do it on an everyday basis now, but I really appreciate getting the opportunity to do it.”

• Here is the lineup for the Diamondbacks. They come in playing well at 8-4, and have a familiar face at third. 1. Gerardo Parra (CF); 2. Martin Prado (2B); 3. Paul Goldschmidt (1B); 4. Miguel Montero (C); 5. Cody Ross (RF); 6. Eric Chavez (3B); 7. Eric Hinske (DH); 8. A.J. Pollock (LF); 9. Cliff Pennington (SS). RHP Brandon McCarthy.

Associated Press photos