Thomas Neal said he found out about his call up yesterday around 2:15 p.m. ET. That means the Yankees had not yet started their 18-inning marathon, and Kevin Youkilis had not yet awoken with soreness running from his back to his foot. The decision to add Neal was a reaction to nothing more or less than the Yankees slumping offense.
“We’re going to see a lot of lefties in the next 10 days, so we thought we would get Thomas up here,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s been playing well in Triple-A and swinging the bat good, so we thought we’d get him up here.”
For now, the infield is thin, and Girardi said both David Adams and Reid Brignac will likely see increased playing time in the wake of this latest Youkilis setback. The more curious situation might be in the outfield, where Brett Gardner is clearly entrenched as the everyday center fielder, but Girardi now has Neal, Vernon Wells, Ichiro Suzuki and Lyle Overbay to sort through in the corners. For once, Girardi indicated that none of those four is necessarily an everyday player.
“I’m going to go day by day,” Girardi said. “Ich has hit lefties, that’s the bottom line. But he also played 18 innings yesterday, so I’m giving him a day off. Righties have had more success off of Wilson, so I decided to give Ich a day, but I’ll make a decision (about the outfield) every day.”
This is not Neal’s first big league call-up — he spent some time with the Indians last year — but it seems safe to say he was pretty far off the radar when spring training started. Hitting ..339/.426/.446 for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre certainly got him back to the majors, but hitting .289/.373/.444 in spring training surely put him on the map.
“I think they were a little surprised,” Neal said. “I can probably say they were a little surprised, but I knew what I was capable of doing. I took a huge step forward mentally over a mental hurdle from the past season, and just tried to carry that into spring training and I was able to do that and the results were there.”
• Youkilis said he’s had some numbness in his big toe for a while, but he woke up this morning and felt a kind of numbness throughout his foot and calf. He compared it to the feeling of falling asleep in an awkward position that leaves your arm or hand feeling strange for a few minutes. Only this morning’s discomfort didn’t go away. Youkilis called the Yankees, told them what was going on, and they decided to put him on the disabled list.
• What does a sore calf have to do with a back injury? “This is more something hitting a nerve,” Youkilis explained. “The lumbar is the area. It’s in the same area. They call it a lumbar sprain. There’s all kinds of different ways of saying it, but it’s in the same area, and there’s something there that’s probably causing this stuff down below.”
• Youkilis will see a back specialist in California on Monday. “I think you’re always worried when you have that feeling,” he said. “You can be worried and think about it all day, and the next thing they tell you an epidural will get this over with and you’ll be fine. Hopefully that’s it. Usually that’s the case.”
• It was pretty easy to do the math and realize that Adam Warren was probably going to be optioned to Triple-A today. Even Warren said he knew it was coming, but still, that’s a brutal pill to swallow. “You understand the logic behind it,” Warren said. Because Warren won’t be available for several days, the Yankees needed a fresh long man, and that’s where Chris Bootcheck comes into the picture. He had a 3.32 ERA for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
• Jose Ramirez went from Double-A to Triple-A to essentially fill Bootcheck’s spot in the rotation. Not sure whether that’s a one-turn thing or a long-term promotion. Ramirez had been pitching very well in Double-A.
• Warren, by the way, is allowed to take three days before reporting to Triple-A but said he’ll fly out tomorrow. He said there’s been talk of him starting on Wednesday, but that’s not set in stone.
• With Travis Hafner struggling, is there any chance Lyle Overbay begins to get some turns at DH against right-handers? “It’s not something that we’ve talked about,” Girardi said. “We really believe that Haf is going to hit. It’s not something we’ve really considered to this point. We’ve considered him to be our DH.”
• Preston Claiborne is absolutely not available tonight (pitched three days in a row), and Girardi said he’ll have to check with Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan before deciding whether he would use them. Everyone else is fine.
• Cesar Cabral has been outrighted to Double-A. Brian Cashman confirmed that means he’s fully under Yankees control, no longer under the restrictions of the Rule 5 draft.
• Girardi denied that the Yankees were ever planning to send David Adams to Triple-A today.
• Derek Jeter did more tee and toss and more ground balls. … More dry swings and grounders for Eduardo Nunez. … More playing catch for Curtis Granderson. … Alex Rodriguez continues to intensify his workouts. “He’s moving more,” Girardi said. “It seems that now, each day the discussion we hear is that he’s moving better and his lower half is freer.”
Associated Press photos