The 3-2 fastball was out of the zone, but Preston Claiborne’s walkless streak continued last night because he plunked Kelly Shoppach.
“I was just trying to get a ground ball,” Claiborne said, laughing. “I just threw a two-seamer and it sailed on me. I’m sticking to it.”
Even with the hit by pitch, Claiborne delivered 1.2 scoreless innings last night. He’s been one of the real surprises of the season, a guy who was largely overlooked in the system, but one who has emerged as the relief prospect who was deemed best prepared for the big leagues. So far, it’s been hard to argue.
When the Yankees invited Claiborne to big league spring training, he was just another upper-level guy who might vaguely get a look. Mark Montgomery was the future. Chase Whitley was the guy coming off an extended Triple-A stint. Claiborne was just another guy with good numbers and no much hype. The Yankees, though, kept him in big league camp until the very end. It’s now clear that he was not there to simply eat some innings.
“We were taking a look at him because we knew at some point we were going to have to use someone,” Joe Girardi said. “… We thought he would (come up) this year. We didn’t expect it to be maybe to be so soon, but you never expect injuries to come along. But we really like what we saw. We figured he would be the first guy to help us out as a bullpen guy.”
Claiborne has impressed the Yankees with his consistency and his aggressiveness in the strike zone. Whether anyone expected him, he’s arrived and quickly proven himself at this level.
“I think my coming along and pounding the strike zone as much as I have is just testament to my upbringing within the organization,” Claiborne said. “Because guys who throw strikes, they get results and they move up. I was always a guy, they pounded that into my head as they do all the guys in the organization and farm system. It’s true testament, because if you walk guys, you won’t have success.”
• Vidal Nuno hurt his groin last night and is almost certainly heading for the Triple-A disabled list. “He irritated his groin a little bit,” Girardi said. “Sometimes when you have a groin with a pitcher, they’ll DL him just to make sure. I’m not sure which one it is, but either one is kind of dangerous. … A lot of times with groins, it’s hard not to DL them.”
• Speaking of Triple-A, I just read this in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre game notes: Melky Mesa is currently on pace to strike out 220 times this season. That would shatter the SWB franchise record of 166 set by Jorge Vazquez in 2011.
• Speaking of struggling outfielders, Vernon Wells has been pretty bad lately, but Girardi said he has no plans of making Wells a platoon player at this point. “I still consider Vernon an everyday player,” Girardi said. “Might I spell him with a day off with Overbay? Yeah. But I still consider Vernon an everyday player.”
• Girardi on Wells’ struggles: “I think his timing’s a little off. It seems when he does hit a ball hard, they catch it. He’s struggling right now. We believe he’s going to come out of it. There’s no doubt he’s going to come out of it, but I just think he’s out in front of balls a little bit and it’s causing some issues.”
• Michael Pineda is making a rehab start today, but he will not make massive workload jumps from start to start. “You work him up with the pitch count slower than you would if he just had a hamstring because shoulders and elbows are precious,” Girardi said. “So are hamstrings, but you worry a little bit more about shoulders and elbows.”
• Girardi said he was happy with Andy Pettitte’s first start back from the DL, and he expects to get a few more pitches out of Pettitte this time. “He was off for two weeks and had the one simulated start, so I think his stamina will be better today,” Girardi said.
Associated Press photos