At Yankee Stadium, there is one particular pitching machine that Vernon Wells hit against pretty often earlier in the season. He throws extremely hard, and so Wells went back there today.
“I got dominated by the machine for a little bit, then I came through,” Wells said. “That machine that I hit off of here, it throws as hard as any machine that there is, and it allows you to kind of get your swing back to being short. So that’s the goal going into the day is just get back to being as short as possible, and just worry about that and not what comes after.”
Wells said he doesn’t need to know the exact numbers to know exactly how bad he’s been. But just in case you’d like to see them, he has nine hits in his past 86 at-bats. One of those hits went for extra-bases, and he’s walked only once in that span.
The fact he’s still hitting in the middle of the order is a testament to just how incredibly thin this roster is against lefties. The alternatives are a series of left-handed hitters (Travis Hafner batting cleanup today; Lyle Overbay starting at first) or a number of young hitters who haven’t shown much (David Adams and Thomas Neal are both on the bench hitting .200 and .182 respectively).
So Wells is back in there.
“Kevin (Long) and I talked today,” Wells said. “He looked at a lot of video — and we’ve been looking at a lot of video — but he went back and looked at pretty much every swing over the course of the season and said the only difference is my hands are getting a little bit away from my body. A little bit in a swing can throw you off completely. That’s the beauty of this game. If you’re a hair off, you can be pretty bad. … We were talking today about my hand path going to the ball, and it could be getting away from my body a little bit. Get back to keeping my hands close to my body and keeping the bat in the zone. Sometimes the more you try to go to the opposite side, your hands tend to travel sometimes, and I’ve got to get back inside the ball and really emphasize that and stick with that.”
So Wells went into the cage against that hard-throwing machine and tried to keep his hands close and his path short. Just another day to try to turn around a season that has, remarkably, become the worst of his career.
“I think it was a little different the last couple of years because I didn’t have a chance with the swing I had the last couple of years,” he said. “I’ve actually had a chance, hit some balls hard, but all that matters are results. I need to get back to getting the results. If I do that, then we’ll get back to winning our share of games.”
• Kevin Youkilis had back surgery today. Here’s the statement from the office of Dr. Robert Watkins: “New York Yankees’ third baseman Kevin Youkilis underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy surgery performed by Dr. Robert Watkins at the Marina Del Rey Hospital in Los Angeles. The surgery went well. The timing of his return to baseball will depend on his progression through the rehabilitation program.”
• Travis Hafner starting against a lefty is clearly an attempt to find someone to hit in the middle of the order, but why is Reid Brignac playing ahead of David Adams? “I look at who’s pitching for us,” Joe Girardi said. “You have a guy that gets a lot of ground balls to that side, and I’m putting our best defense – what I feel out best defense is – over there. Moore is a guy that, you look at his splits, they’re pretty even so I’m having Brignac play short and Nixy play third.”
• Are Adams and Brignac still considered a platoon situation? “For the most part, yeah,” Girardi said.
• Asked whether it’s been harder to give young players regular at-bats because of the widespread offensive struggles this season, Girardi didn’t grant the premise: “I think I have played them pretty consistently,” he said. “These guys have played against all left-handers really until today, so I’m not really changing. You can look at the one change, you can look at Brignac that I put in there, and a lot of that is because of the guy on the hill for us is the reason I’m doing that. But for the most part I’ve been giving them at-bats.”
• What specifically has Girardi seen out of Wells lately? “It’s timing for the most part,” he said. “It seems like he’s pulling off balls sometimes. Chasing pitches at times. It’s a number of things.”
• Girardi said he had not heard any update on the players rehabbing down in Tampa.
• Congratulations to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre manager Dave Miley who was named International League manager for the Triple-A All-Star Game. It will be Miley’s third time managing, tying the Triple-A all-star record.
• If you’re curious, there was a Heat jersey in Robinson Cano’s locker today and a Spurs j•ersey in Shawn Kelley’s locker. I don’t dislike the Heat, but I’d really like to see Tim Duncan win another one. Loved watching him play at Wake.
Associated Press photos