The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Archive for April, 2013

Video: Romine’s production will determine his playing time04.29.13

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For Austin Romine, opportunity has presented itself. He got a taste of the big leagues in 2011 — four starts — but Francisco Cervelli’s broken hand opens significant playing time for next six weeks or so. How much of that playing time goes to Romine depends on how well he plays.

“Anytime you get any type of time, you have to show them what you can do,” Romine said. “I’m going to take whatever time I do have here, and I’m going to show them that I can do it. I can handle it back there, I can handle pitching staff and I can swing it at the plate.”

The video above is manager Joe Girardi talking about the way he’ll handle Romine’s playing time. Spoiler alert: It’s all about his production. As you can imagine, there’s some curiosity. Romine has been on the radar for a few years now, but this will be the team’s first extended look at its most advanced catching prospect.

The Yankees have always liked Romine’s glove, but it struck me this winter that they seemed extremely excited about his defensive work in the Arizona Fall League. The organization believes Romine can catch, but it’s telling that, when he showed up on Saturday, Romine was sent immediately to the bullpen to catch Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda’s sides.

“I don’t want to throw too much at him too quickly,” Girardi said. “I want him to get familiar with the guys that are here. He has a sense of who they are. He’s had a chance to catch all of them at some point in spring training, whether it was a side or a game in the minor leagues, but you want him to be familiar with the guys.”

Romine doesn’t have a ton of experience catching any of these guys. But they aren’t total strangers either.

“In spring training, you’ve got to take that seriously because of situations like this,” Romine said. “What pitcher throws what, where they miss, what they like to throw, where they do well. So, if a guy’s coming out of the pen in the sixth or seventh, it’s not a new experience. It just makes the relationship flow better. … I’m looking forward to getting with the pitchers, getting that relationship going again, and catching some of the guys I haven’t caught before.”

When Romine and Jesus Montero were both in the Yankees minor league system, Montero was the guy who could hit and Romine was the guy who could catch. The question was whether either one could do a little of both. Actually, that’s still the question.

“I thought (Romine) could catch in the big leagues in 2011,” Girardi said, “which would tell me that, just because he had almost a year off, I don’t think he’s going to lose that skill. But offensively, we have to see where he’s at.”

He was in a pretty good place down in Triple-A. Romine was hitting .333/.391/.405. A home run was his only extra-base hit, but obviously Romine was getting on base at a pretty good clip.

“I’ve been working with (hitting coach) Butch Wynegar in Triple-A,” Romine said. “We got rid of the leg kick — getting the foot down early, seeing the ball — and that’s really what I’ve been working on lately. Seeing the ball, and now it’s a matter of doing it. … It was just the leg kick was way too inconsistent, and now with just the toe tap, I’m able to see the ball and allowing my hands to move a little more freely. I’m barreling up a lot more balls than I’m used to.”

For Romine, a lot of this begins with his health. He has to play in order to play well, but back injuries are tricky. When Romine was sidelined last spring, it seemed like a short-term thing. Then it cost him the rest of spring training. Then he wasn’t ready to open the season. Then was on the DL most of the year.

“It’s unfortunate that he went through what he went through last year,” Girardi said. “But hopefully that’s something that he can manage and he doesn’t have to deal with that on a daily basis.”

Romine says he’s found a way to manage the back and stay healthy. This spring, he was healthy the whole time, and he’s stayed that way through the first few weeks of the season. He seems to think the back injury is behind him.

“It’s fixed now,” Romine said. “It’s completely healthy, and that’s because of a routine I developed with physical therapists and the Yankees medical staff. It’s really working for me and keeping me strong. It takes me about 35, 40 minutes to do every day, and it’s just become part of my routine. I really don’t even notice it anymore.”

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Postgame notes: “It’s been a whirlwind”04.28.13

There was a brief amount of time when Lyle Overbay entertained the idea that his playing days might be numbered. The veteran first baseman was released by the Boston Red Sox just days before the start of the season, but the Yankees didn’t allow that feeling of doubt to last very long.

“Probably about an hour and half, two hours,” Overbay said of the amount of time that passed between getting released and hearing from the Yankees. “My agent was on the line from the get-go. He obviously thought that this might be a fit, and Milwaukee. He wanted to touch base with those real quick, and even other teams that were interested in the offseason to see if anything had changed. Realistically, I think this and Milwaukee were the only chances that I had in that short amount of time.”

Overbay is one of several new veterans that have exceeded expectations for the Yankees through their first 24 games, and he provided the decisive blow on Sunday. His two-out, two-run homer in the seventh put the Yankees up for good on their way to a 3-2 win and a four-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays.

“It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been fun,” Overbay said. “I’ve enjoyed it. This is awesome. It’s a dream come true to play for the New York Yankees, and the opportunity that I’m getting, I can’t think of anything better.”

• It seems like each of the new additions — many of whom weren’t expected to play such crucial roles for the Yankees — have had their moments this season. It’s really been incredible to witness guys like Overbay, Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis become such integral parts of this team after each had struggled in recent years. “It’s a group that has something to prove, in a sense,” Joe Girardi said. “Some guys that are older that have had some down years or some injury-plagued years, some younger guys that are trying to establish themselves and they found how to make it work. Putting them all together, we had guys coming into our clubhouse as late as Wednesday the week before we started the season, and they have integrated very well. I give them a lot of credit, because it seems to be a close-knit group that feels if we keep it close, we have an opportunity to win.”

• As a guy who has been a starting first baseman in this league for quite some time, Overbay talked about how different his situation has been this year. “It’s weird because I’ve never been in that situation before where you don’t know your future,” he said. “Usually, you go into spring training and know that you’re on a team and you’re just getting ready. It was a different scenario, I guess, but it worked out.”

• Here’s Girardi on what Overbay has brought to the table: “He’s been important to us. Offensively, he’s really contributed, but defensively, he solidifies first base. He knows how to play the position. He moves all over the place, and he’s done a really nice job for us. We got a little bit lucky when he became available at the end of spring training.”

• I wrote before the game that Overbay had the worst numbers off of Toronto starter R.A. Dickey of any Yankee with at least 10 career at-bats, but that didn’t matter in the seventh. Overbay had been 1 for 14 in his career against Dickey, but all it took was one swing to turn things around. He had an interesting (and in fact, very honest) story about how he’s changed his approach against knuckleballers. “I struggled cause I’ve faced (Tim) Wakefield a lot and I’ve struggled against him,” he said. “A couple of years ago – it might have been my last year in Toronto – Matt Stairs’ approach was just to try and pull homers. Ever since I did that, I started hitting them a lot better. You start taking an aggressive swing at it, I think is the biggest thing. If you start trying to feel for it, it ends up beating you. It’s just a matter of taking a big, strong, aggressive hack.”

• With so many new faces making big contributions, Overbay said it’s made it easier to fit in and just go about his business. “It kind of takes the pressure off of you a little bit,” he said. “You know that those guys, if they get a chance, are going to come through, so it’s like, ‘I’ll just sit back here, and if I get a chance, I’m going to enjoy it and get a good pitch,’ and that kind of thing. It’s relaxing that they’ve been able to do that… We’ve been doing it all year, so why not again?”

• Brennan Boesch got the start in right field with Brett Gardner getting the day off (Ichiro slid over to center), and he hit a solo homer in the second. It was one of only four hits allowed by Dickey, as Girardi continues to push the right buttons. “We didn’t have a lot,” Girardi said, referring to the hit total. “We had four hits, and two of them were homers. That’s what helped. It’s tough cause you’re used to guys throwing in the 90s, and all of a sudden you’re trying to hit a butterfly. It becomes very difficult. He knows how to change speeds with it, he knows how to manipulate it to make it move different ways – it’s tough to center a ball on him.”

• While Dickey threw well for the Blue Jays, Phil Hughes brought the best pure stuff that we’ve seen from him so far this season. He didn’t go as deep into the game as you would have liked considering how sharp he looked early — he was done after six innings with his pitch count at 111 — but he was aggressive and generated some ugly swing-and-misses, resulting in nine strikeouts. “Coming out of the spring where I really didn’t get much time, I felt like it was going to take a little while,” Hughes said. “I was hoping it wasn’t. I was hoping I would be able to go out there in my first start and be good to go, but that’s kind of the way it was. I’m happy with the last three starts, being able to show some improvements and give our guys a chance to win.”

• It’s not just the fact that Hughes struck so many guys out that made this such an encouraging start, but how he got those strikeouts. When he first came up, he was almost exclusively a fastball-curveball guy, but we’ve seen him really work to improve his slider and changeup. Girardi talked about him mixing his pitches better, but I really thought the key today was the slider. It’s an improving pitch for Hughes, and it was his go-to today to finish guys off. If you ask him, though, it all starts with fastball command. “I think I was just being aggressive with my fastball and making good pitches early on. I was really attacking guys and locating when I needed to,” he said. “I’m kind of a guy that attacks with four-seam fastballs, and the result of that is when I’m really good there will be swings and misses or sometimes foul balls.”

• Hughes was cruising through his first few innings, but his pitch count got driven up a bit in the fourth. Edwin Encarnacion, Melky Cabrera and Adam Lind came up with three consecutive singles to tie the game at 1-1, but none of them were hit particularly well. It was certainly the softest run that I’ve seen scored so far this season. “I could have made better pitches,” Hughes said. “None of them were really hit that well, but I think I have to do a better job of letting those frustrations go and not taking them over into the next at-bat.”

• The Yankees pen was effective once again, with Boone Logan, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera each pitching a scoreless inning. They combined to allow just one hit, no walks and struck out four. “That’s been the M.O. for the last few years,” Hughes said. “We have a lights out end of our bullpen, so we know if we can give us six, seven solid innings that we have a good chance to win.”

• Rivera is now 9 for 9 in save attempts after missing most of last season with the ACL injury. “Having nine save opportunities in a month is pretty good, too, No. 1,” Girardi said. “I felt that Mo threw the ball well in spring training. He didn’t really throw a lot of back-to-backs, and you wondered how he’d respond throwing three out of four days. He’s a little bit like Jeet and Andy – there’s not much that they can do that will surprise you, because you’re so used to seeing it.”

• Random thought: The obvious choice to be released when Curtis Granderson comes off of the DL is the slumping Ben Francisco, but what will the Yankees do when Mark Teixeira is ready to return? It wouldn’t make much sense to keep Overbay with Youkilis’ ability to back up Teixeira at first, but it would be tough to let him go if he continues to play well. That might be the Yankees only option if everyone else stays healthy, but you’d have to think that some other team would snatch Overbay up quickly.

• Speaking of Youk, there was no update from Girardi on his cranky back after the game. I would expect him to miss at least another game or two.

• I’ll give the final word to Hughes, who spoke about how well the new Yankees have performed: “We know what these guys can do, whether it’s been Hafner, Overbay or Wells. They’re guys that have experience in this league, and they’re good hitters. That’s the bottom line. We felt like if we pitched well, we’re going to get contributions from somebody, and that’s been the case early on… I think guys around here have kind of learned to deal with the negative stuff that swirls around. It hasn’t really impacted us in the past, and I don’t think it’s going to impact us going forward. It’s just part of the game, and we’ve dealt with that before… First meeting of spring training we talked about that and how it’s not going to affect us.”

Associated Press photos

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Overbay’s two-out homer lifts Yanks to a series sweep04.28.13

Lyle Overbay’s two-run, two-out seventh inning homer led the Yankees to a 3-2 win to complete a four-game sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday after R.A. Dickey had held the bats at bay for most of the game. Dickey had allowed just two hits entering the seventh, but after a Travis Hafner single, Overbay parked a knuckleball in the Yankees bullpen. Phil Hughes had his swing-and-miss stuff, striking out nine in six innings. He looked sharp enough to go deeper into the game – his improving slider was particularly nasty today – but a pitch count of 111 ended his outing a bit early. The Blue Jays scored their first run in the fourth on three consecutive weak singles with two outs, and then took the lead in the sixth on a two-out RBI double from Maicer Izturis. The Yankees scored their first run on a solo homer from Brennan Boesch in the second.

Associated Press photo

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Game 24: Blue Jays at Yankees04.28.13

YANKEES (14-9)
Ichiro Suzuki CF
Robinson Cano 2B
Vernon Wells LF
Travis Hafner DH
Brennan Boesch RF
Jayson Nix 3B
Lyle Overbay 1B
Eduardo Nunez SS
Chris Stewart C

RHP Phil Hughes (0-2, 5.14)
Hughes vs. Blue Jays

BLUE JAYS (9-16)
Brett Lawrie 3B
Colby Rasmus CF
Jose Bautista RF
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Melky Cabrera LF
Adam Lind 1B
Maicer Izturis 2B
Henry Blanco C
Munenori Kawasaki SS

RHP R.A. Dickey (2-3, 4.66)
Dickey vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network & TBS

WEATHER: Another beautiful day for baseball.

UMPIRES: HP Chris Conroy, 1B Paul Schrieber, 2B Chad Fairchild, 3B Jeff Kellogg

RECENT RUN: The Yankees are 13-5 (.722) since April 7th after starting the year with a 1-4 record. That is the second-best winning percentage in MLB over that stretch.

ARMS RACE: Yankees pitchers have posted a 3.18 ERA (164 IP, 58 ER) in the last 18 games, the third-best mark in the AL (trailing only Texas and Kansas City).

FORMER JAY HURTING TORONTO: Vernon Wells is batting .440 (11 for 25) with eight runs, three homers and six RBI in six games against the Blue Jays this season.

(I’ll be updating what’s going on in the game here every so often, but I’ll be much more active on Twitter. Follow me @vzmercogliano to join in the conversation!)

UPDATE, 2:07 p.m.: Boesch got the Yankees on the board in the second with a solo homer to right (Girardi continues to push the right buttons with this lineup), but the Blue Jays tied it up with three straight two-out singles in the fourth. Each hit was pretty dinky, as Hughes has looked very good. He already has six strikeouts and has been getting a lot of them with his slider, which has been especially sharp.

UPDATE, 2:42 p.m.: Hughes gave up a second run on Izturis’ RBI double in the sixth, which gives Toronto a 2-1 lead. He’s struck out nine on 111 pitches, so my guess is that he’s probably done. As well as he’s pitched, he’s in position to lose this game if the Yankees’ bats don’t wake up soon.

UPDATE, 3:11 p.m.: Signs of life from the Yankees offense thanks to Lyle Overbay. He just blasted a two-out, two-run homer into the Yankee bullpen to give them a 3-2 lead in the seventh. It was just the fourth hit of the game allowed by Dickey.

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Pregame notes: “We have to get this right”04.28.13

Less than two hours before today’s first pitch, Joe Girardi still wasn’t sure what his lineup would look like. He said, “I’m trying to talk to a couple of guys before I put it up,” but it was clear that his biggest concern is Kevin Youkilis’ balky back.

Youkilis returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing six games due to the back injury, and now it appears that he’ll be back out of the lineup for today’s series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Yesterday he felt OK, today I’m not so sure, though,” Girardi said. “I think he’s a little stiff and I think I’m probably going put (Jayson Nix) back at third.”

Youkilis’ back issues are concerning on many levels, as he has become a very important cog in the Yankees’ lineup. As a right-handed bat in the middle of a lineup that features several lefties, he’s relied on to break things up and produce runs.

“He’s an important guy to our lineup because he kind of surrounds some of our left-handed hitters and he’s a production guy, he’s a home run guy, and he’s important,” Girardi said. “We have to get this right, and we can’t push it too fast. If there are days that he’s stiff, you have back off of it a little bit and try again the next day.”

• Girardi wasn’t sure if Youkilis will go for any further testing, but he did say that he’ll certainly see the team doctor to make that determination. What was clear is that Girardi is getting a bit worried. “It’s a little concerning for me,” he said. “I’ve said all along that backs can be tricky. I’m a guy that’s had to deal with it for a number of years, and sometimes you have no idea why it acts up. Sometimes it’s may be one play or something you do, but sometimes it can be as simple as bending over to pick up a ball or something, and all of a sudden you lock up. It’s concerning.”

• With Youkilis being out, Nix becomes a very important player for the Yankees. Not only because he’ll take Youk’s place in the field at third, but also because he provides the Yankees with another right-handed bat. Nix has hung around on this team for a couple of seasons when it has looked at times like his job might be in jeopardy, but he continues to do the little things well. He’s been productive this season, and Girardi showed his faith in him by batting Nix second yesterday against lefty J.A. Happ. “Not for us,” Girardi said when asked if he’s been surprised by Nix’s play. “The one thing that we always say about Nixie is that he’s a baseball player. That’s what he is. You have guys that are talented that don’t always have the best instincts, and then you have guys who have great instincts that aren’t as talented as other guys. Nixie is just a baseball player. He knows what to do with the baseball when he gets it, he knows how to run the bases, he knows what he needs to do with his at-bats. He’s got good instincts.”

• Phil Hughes will get the start today for the Yankees, and has shown steady improvement in each outing so far this season. He’s been up-and-down in his career, but if he can maintain some level of consistency, it obviously bodes very well for the Yankees rotation behind their top three starters. “That’s the one thing that people always what is answers as to why things happen,” Girardi said when asked why he thinks Hughes has been pitching well of late. “It could just be the innings under his belt. I thought his last start he mixed his pitches probably better than he had in the previous starts, and maybe it’s just he’s getting more of a feel for his curveball, his slider and his changeup. I thought they did a really, really good job, whereas if you remember the start before, he didn’t really have a whole lot of things that start.”

• R.A. Dickey will get the start for Toronto, and Girardi spoke about his approach against knuckleballers. “They always talk about make sure it’s up,” he said. “Make sure it’s up in the zone when you swing at it. I’ve heard people say, ‘Down and low, let it go. If it’s high, let it fly.’ The other thing is I don’t think you can go up there with a plan that, ‘I’m going to look to pull the ball,’ or, ‘I’m going to look for one pitch to hit it in the seats.’ I think you kind of have to stay up the middle a little bit.”

• Girardi was also asked if a certain type of hitter tends to have more success against a guy who throws the knuckleball. Vernon Wells has the best numbers of any Yankee off of Dickey, hitting .538 against him in his career (7 for 13). Lyle Overbay has the worst numbers of any Yankee with at least 10 career at-bats against Dickey, hitting just .071 (1 for 14). “I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve always thought guys that kind of hit the ball the other way sometimes have a better chance, but I think a lot of times it depends more on the guy with the knuckleball, how good it is that day.”

• Girardi did confirm that Chris Stewart will start at catcher, so no season debut yet for Austin Romine.

• As expected, Joba Chamberlain won’t be available for today’s game after pitching in three consecutive games. Mariano Rivera and David Robertson both will be available.

• Just as I’m finishing up my notes, the Yankees just put out the lineup: 1. Ichiro (CF); 2. Cano (2B); 3. Wells (LF); 4. Hafner (DH); 5. Boesch (RF); 6. Nix (3B); 7. Overbay (1B); 8. Nunez (SS); 9. Stewart (C).

• Here’s the lineup for the Blue Jays: 1. Lawrie (3B); 2. Rasmus (CF); 3. Bautista (RF); 4. Encarnacion (DH); 5. Cabrera (LF); 6. Lind (1B); 7. Izturis (2B); 8. Blanco (C); 9. Kawasaki (SS).

Associated Press photos

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Girardi waiting on lineup; Youkilis likely out04.28.13

Vin Mercogliano here from Yankee Stadium, and although it’s already 11:15 a.m., Joe Girardi has still yet to post today’s lineup. In his pregame press conference moments ago, Girardi said he’s waiting because he wants to check on Kevin Youkilis, but all indications are that he is out. It sounds like the back is acting up again, which I’ll have more on in my pregame notes.

As soon as I see a lineup, I’ll tweet it out. Follow me on Twitter @vzmercogliano.

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Postgame notes: “He made it work”04.27.13

It was a little thing, and it was an obvious thing, but I thought this was the most interesting thing Joe Girardi said after today’s comeback win against the Blue Jays.

“I just thought today was a good day to do it, and he made it work.”

He was talking, of course, about the decision to start Travis Hafner against a lefty. The Yankees hadn’t done that all year, but Hafner delivered a game-tying home run and a game-winning triple, his first extra-base hits against lefties this season. CC Sabathia gave the Yankees the distance they needed, and Vernon Wells had another bit hit in the seventh, but there was no one quite so crucial to this win as Hafner. Which means there was no one quite so crucial as Girardi.

He didn’t start Hafner because the binder said so. He started Hafner because he had to try something new and decided to give this shot.

“Ben (Francisco)’s kind of struggled so I thought it was time to give Haf a shot at it today,” Girardi said. “I won’t do it every time because I think for him — who’s had some injury problems — off days don’t necessarily hurt him and I have to be careful. … Part of it is managing him, too. When you have some guys who have some age and some history of health problems, you have to manage them and pick your days. Today I picked to put him in against a left hander, and he was great.”

Girardi is a by-the-book manager, but this season — with its injuries and unexpected roster moves — has required some improvisation. And Girardi’s been able to do it. Joba Chamberlain pitched three straight games and closed today. Jayson Nix was the No. 2 hitter. Sabathia was left out there with a high pitch count in the eighth. Very little about this season has gone as planned, but the front office has have made some adjustments, Girardi has been willing to bend a little, and guys like Hafner and Wells have been terrific.

“(Hafner)’s a stable force, a big lefty who can do damage,” Wells said. “Having guys like that in the lineup, and obviously guys like Cano, it changes your whole lineup and how you get attacked. It’s huge having him. Hopefully we can keep him healthy with the rest of the guys we still have left. … We come here and (are) asked to be in the middle of this lineup. It’s fun. We enjoy putting this uniform on and having the chance to contribute. We’re having fun doing it.”

• This was one of those Sabathia starts when everyone in the ballpark was sure he’d be out after five and he wound up going eight. His stuff wasn’t great — he said as much — but he didn’t walk anyone, and the distance was huge. “I think, honestly, if you look at the first two innings (when the Jays went down in order), they just missed some balls,” Sabathia said. “I left some balls in the middle of the plate and just were popping them up or mis-hitting them. It seemed like I breezed through, but I probably could have made a little bit better pitches early in the game. … Later in the game, I felt better with my fastball command and the changeup started working a little better.”

• Girardi on Sabathia: “I’ve seen him do it so many times, that’s the thing. That’s one of the things that’s impressed me the most about him, and there’s a lot of things to talk about — the wins he’s had since he’s been here, some of his playoff performances, Game 5 against Baltimore, the innings he gives you — the way he competes when he doesn’t have his stuff is probably as impressive as anything. That’s how you become a 20-game winner.”

• Hafner said he was told yesterday that he would start today. “It’s nice to get some starts (against lefties) in there just because you face them late in games and it’s nice to have some at-bats off them,” he said. “I think I will get some starts, but I know they have my best interests at heart too. Whenever they want me to play, I’m ready.”

• Hafner on facing lefties: “I’ve had some really good years swinging the bat against them. I haven’t swung as well against the last couple of years, but I probably feel like my swing is better suited to handle them this year. … Just basically less movement, using my hands better. I think I can use the whole field a little bit better.”

• The Yankees have had go-ahead triples in their past two games, and they’ve been hit by Hafner and Lyle Overbay, who guys who have combined to hit 25 triples in their careers.

• Was Hafner thinking triple off the bat in the seventh? “I don’t think triple very often. It got away from him pretty good. Usually something like that has to happen for me to get to third. … I was just kind of hoping it got over his head. I know that Davis is fast, so I wasn’t sure. Just a matter of inches there. It tipped off his glove, so I was pumped about that.”

• Sabathia said, without hint of joking, that it was the first triple he could remember ever seeing Hafner hit (and, remember, they were together in Cleveland). “He’s been huge,” Sabathia said. “This is the Pronk of old. We knew coming in, if he could stay healthy and get with K-Long, he’d have a good chance of having a good year. And he’s gotten off to a good start.”

• The easy to overlook at-bat had to be Wells game-tying single of Esmil Rogers: “He’s got good stuff,” Wells said. “A guy like that, if you try to do too much you’re going to get yourself in trouble. he started me off with three sliders and then I got a fastball to hit and tried to put the barrel on it.”

• What in the world was Wells thinking stealing third in the seventh? “Robbie (Thomson) and I were talking about it during the pitching change,” Wells said. “If you can get to third base in a situation like that, then a lot of different things come into play. They can no longer bounce breaking balls and things like that. Haf got one up and took advantage of it. Little things, we’ve got to take advantage of.”

• Jayson Nix has reached base in eight of his past 19 plate appearances. … The Yankees have homered in each of their past eight home games and 10 of 12 home games overall. … This was the 23rd time Sabathia had ever pitched eight innings without a walk. He’s pitched at least seven innings in each of his past four starts.

• Kevin Youkilis played for the first time in a week. “I thought he moved around well,” Girardi said. “He was probably a little rusty (because) he hasn’t played a whole lot lately. From a physical standpoint, he looked good.”

• Mariano Rivera and Dave Robertson had each thrown three of four days, so they weren’t available. Joba Chamberlain had pitched back-to-back days, but with limited pitch counts, which is the reason he was available. “That’s fun for me, seeing the energy of the crowd and my teammates,” Chamberlain said. “I can’t help but smile because that’s why you play the game. I’m excited to get that opportunity. Hopefully I don’t get too many because that means Mo’s closing them down, but every day that he needs a break, I’m out there for him.”

• A win tomorrow would give the Yankees their first four-game sweep of the Blue Jays since September 1995 at the old Yankee Stadium.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 605 Comments →

Hafner lifts Yankees to third straight win04.27.13

For the first time all season, Travis Hafner started against a left-handed pitcher. It’s the only reason the Yankees won this game. Hafner hit a game-tying three-run homer, then a game-winning RBI triple to carry the Yankees to a 5-4 win against the Blue Jays. They’ll try for a four-game series sweep tomorrow. Yankees starter CC Sabathia once again lasted eight innings and allowed nine hits, two of which were home runs. Sabathia let the Blue Jays take an early 3-0 lead, and after Hafner tied the game with a three-run homer in the fourth — it was Hafner’s first extra-base hit against a lefty this season — Sabathia gave it right back on a solo homer by Brett Lawrie. But Hafner struck again in the seventh. After Vernon Wells tied the game with an RBI single, Hafner hit a go-ahead triple off left-handed reliever Brett Cecil. Because of a depleted bullpen, Sabathia’s ability to give distance was crucial, and Joba Chamberlain handled the ninth for his first save since 2010.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 102 Comments →

Game 23: Yankees vs. Blue Jays04.27.13

YANKEES (13-9)
Brett Gardner CF
Jayson Nix 3B
Robinson Cano 2B
Vernon Wells LF
Kevin Youkilis 1B
Travis Hafner DH
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Eduardo Nunez SS
Chris Stewart C

LHP CC Sabathia (3-2, 3.34)
Sabathia vs. Blue Jays

BLUE JAYS (9-15)
Rajai Davis CF
Malky Cabrera LF
Jose Bautista RF
Edwin Encarnacion 1B
J.P. Arencibia C
Brett Lawrie 3B
Mark DeRosa DH
Maicer Izturis SS
Emilio Bonifacio 2B

LHP J.A. Happ (2-1, 3.68)
Happ vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 4:05 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Temperatures in the 60s and 50s. Bright blue sky overhead.

UMPIRES: HP Jeff Kellogg, 1B Chris Conroy, 2B Paul Schrieber, 3B Chad Fairchild

TODAY’S TRANSACTIONS: The Yankees placed C Francisco Cervelli on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured right hand and RHP Ivan Nova on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation of the right triceps. … Recalled C Austin Romine from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. … Signed LHP Vidal Nuno to a Major League contract and selected him to the Major League roster. … Transferred SS Derek Jeter to the 60-day disabled list.

CLOSING IT OUT: Mariano Rivera allowed three hits in a scoreless ninth inning on Friday. It was just the second time in his career he allowed at least three hits in one inning or less without allowing any runs (also May 10, 1997). Rivera has converted all eight save chances to start the season. His streak to start the season is the third-longest such streak of his career (saved first 28 opportunities in 2008 and first 12 in 2004).

KEEPING IT CLOSE: The Yankees are 7-1 in games decided by two or fewer runs, and they’re 2-0 in one-run games. Perhaps it’s little coincidence, then, that over the last five games the Yankees bullpen has allowed just nine hit, 3ER and 3BB in 15.0IP (1.80 ERA, 19K).

UPDATE, 4:27 p.m.: Welcome back to the lineup Kevin Youkilis. His first at-bat in a week is a 5-4 ground ball that ends the first inning with a runner stranded at third base.

UPDATE, 4:54 p.m.: Couple of hits here in the third inning have put the Blue Jays on the board. Nunez tried to make a leaping catch but couldn’t hold on, and that one-out single eventually came around and scored for a 1-0 Toronto lead.

UPDATE, 5:06 p.m.: Line drive solo homer for Bautista. Never got very high, but it was hit plenty hard. It’s now 2-0.

UPDATE, 5:10 p.m.: Nice throw by Ichiro, but Stewart lost the ball on the tag and Encarnacion is safe for a 3-0 Blue Jays lead. Replay shows that Stewart had the ball in his glove, it just popped out late in the tag. Glove might have hit the ground as Encarnacion came down. Don’t see that very often, but it’s cost the Yankees.

UPDATE, 5:21 p.m.: Hey look, a DH who can hit! Youkilis goes deep off Happ, a three-run homer — his sixth of the year — to tie the game at 3.

UPDATE, 5:51 p.m.: Solo homer by Lawrie has the Blue Jays back in front. Sabathia has allowed nine hits today.

UPDATE, 6:30 p.m.: Little bit gutsy. Little bit dumb. Wells just stole third, then Hafner hit a go-ahead triple off a left-hander. Seriously, read that sentence again. It’s 5-4 Yankees in the seventh.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 403 Comments →

Pregame notes: “I’ve got a chance to show them what I can do”04.27.13

It became pretty clear pretty early that Austin Romine was not going to make the big league roster out of spring training.

“Once I figured out that wasn’t the route that was going to be taken, it was about just getting my at-bats at Triple-A, start getting into a good position to show them that I can come up here,” Romine said. “Then unfortunately things happen, and now I’ve got a chance to show them what I can do.”

Romine is back in New York after getting a taste in 2011 and basically losing a year in 2012. He was hitting in Triple-A, and now it seems playing time is legitimately up for grabs. If he plays well, Romine will play often.

“I always had a positive outlook,” he said. “I knew I was going to get back. Once I saw some doctors and they said we could fix (the back issue) without surgery, that really put my hopes up high. It really took a lot of hard work to get back to playing. I got a month in at the end of last year, but that was only because I spent five months doing a lot of core (workouts), and getting my back strong. At times it was mentally frustrating, but I knew what I had to do.

“… I’ve only been here a couple hours, but (Joe Girardi) said, ‘Be ready, you’re going to catch. You’re going to get some time, so be ready.’ And now my job is to get to know these pitchers and be ready for it.”

Obviously I knocked out most of the quick notes in the previous post. Here are a few more.

• Kevin Youkilis came through batting practice and will stay in the lineup. This is the first time he’s played since last Saturday when he was pulled mid-game in Toronto.

• Ivan Nova said he most felt the pain in his triceps when he threw a curveball yesterday. He said he didn’t really feel it on fastballs.

• The Yankees didn’t immediately tell Nova he was going on the disabled list, but he wasn’t surprised. “I don’t want to take a chance with my career,” he said. “I want to be pitching and trying to do my best, but if I’m like that, I can’t pitch and hurt my team. I knew when I saw Nuno over there, something’s going on. They don’t tell me but I knew, you know?”

• No cortisone shot for Nova. “That’s a needle,” he said. “I don’t like needles.”

• Deciding who catches game by game, Joe Girardi said he’s going to play it by ear for a while. Might not necessarily keep each catcher with specific pitchers. “I like to try to keep it consistent as much as I can,” he said. “But our schedule doesn’t always allow that. And sometimes a guy getting nicked up doesn’t always allow that. Kind of like what we’ve done this first part of the year, we’ll just kind of go with the flow a little bit. … I want (Romine) to get familiar with the guys that are here. He has a sense of who they are. He’s had a chance to catch all of them at some point in spring training, whether it was a side or a game in the minor leagues, but you want him to be familiar with the guys.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 546 Comments →

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