We have one of the most exciting pitching matchups that you’ll see all season on tap for tonight, but once again, Joe Girardi’s pregame press conference was overshadowed by more injury talk.
Hiroki Kuroda will take the ball for tonight’s series opener with the Texas Rangers and will be opposed by the flame-throwing Yu Darvish in just the 11th matchup between Japanese-born pitchers in MLB history, but with Brian Cashman stating yesterday that Mark Teixeira’s injured right wrist is “still experiencing soreness,” that topic received most of the focus.
“He’s seeing the doctors today, and we’ll go from there,” Girardi said. “I’m concerned. I’ve said before that it’s tricky, what he had was a tricky injury, and I’m concerned about it.”
Teixeira is starring down the possibility of season-ending surgery if his wrist doesn’t make a turn for the better soon, which means that Girardi is looking at the possibility losing yet another key bat for an extended period of time.
“I’ve always said that as long as I know who I have in the room, it’s not a whole lot different than what it is if you have other certain guys in the room,” he said. “It’s when you get surprises. When a guy like Grandy gets hit in the hand again and goes back down. Then you’ve got to start thinking how are you going to use your outfielders now that Grandy is gone? It’s when you get the surprises, but on an everyday basis, it doesn’t change a whole lot. You know what you have and you just go to work with it.”
• Teixeira received a cortisone shot in the wrist over a week ago now and it sounds like he still has not felt much relief. Usually, a cortisone shot will take effect within a week, which has the Yankees fearing for the worst. It’s been acknowledged that Tex may end up needing surgery, but Girardi was asked if there may be any alternative options. “If there is, I’m not sure,” he said. “I have not been told that. I think we’ll probably find out more today, at some point.”
• With Teixeira’s return in doubt, Girardi did express some optimism that they will be getting some injured players back in the near future. The need for a right-handed bat has become even more glaring (I heard on the radio today that the Yankees have hit one right-handed home run since May 22), and while Yankees fans may not want to hear it, the best internal option is a healthy Alex Rodriguez. “He’s in sim games until they decide that he’s ready to go out on a rehab,” Girardi said. “It’s not yet, and I’m sure as soon as it is, we’ll let you know. He’s not ready to do that, but he is making progress, which is good.”
• One guy who looked like he could provide a lift as a right-handed bat is David Adams, but as Brian Heyman wrote today, his production has tailed off dramatically. Girardi was asked if he’s concerned about his rookie third baseman. “I think you do,” he said. “Anytime that it’s a young kid, you get a little bit concerned. Our job is to show that we have confidence in him and he is capable of doing this. As a young kid, you have to make adjustments, because it’s amazing how quick they find ways to make adjustments to you. And he’s trying to do that.”
• More injury updates from Girardi: “Nunie had some sim at-bats again today, Jeet had another good day of work, Cervi is doing tee and toss, so the list is going on and on. We’re getting to where these guys are doing more every day.”
• Will all of the injury problems change how the Yankees approach the trading deadline? “I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “Not for me. Maybe it does upstairs a little bit, but my focus is always on the guys that you have in the room. There’s so many rumors that go around during a trade deadline anyway that I’ve always just concentrated on what’s in the room.”
• While Jeter, Nunez, Cervelli, Granderson and A-Rod are all expected to return at some point this season, Girardi said that he isn’t expecting to see any of them with the big league club before the all-star break. That means the lineup that you see today — a lineup that features five straight lefties at the top — is pretty much what you’ll be seeing everyday until late July. Girardi’s preference is usually to separate his lefties with right-handed bats, but he seems to have ditched that philosophy for the sake of getting his most productive hitters more at-bats. “For me, you get used to it; just worrying about today,” Girardi said. “When you manage a game, you can’t really worry a whole lot about tomorrow or the next day or the next day. You have to learn to just manage that game, and a lot of times that really comes into play with your bullpen, in a sense. I think you’re trained to just worry about today, because worrying about tomorrow doesn’t do me any good. A whole new set of circumstances could come up and change.”
• Getting back to the pitching matchup for tonight: Not only is it big because it’s two Japanese pitchers, but they are also two of the best in the American League. Both Kuroda and Darvish are sporting sub-3.00 ERAs and both should be members of the AL all-star team. Darvish has shown why he was so highly-touted before he came to the states with a complete arsenal of plus pitches. He’s simply dominating at times. Kuroda, on the other hand, has gotten better with age, and pitches with discipline and precision to earn his keep. He certainly doesn’t have the stuff that Darvish has at this point in his career, but Kuroda has been equally as effective this season. “It’s become more global and attracted more fans for American baseball is what you’ve seen,” Girardi said of the increasing number of Japanese pitchers in MLB. “I think about Hiroki’s last start in the matchup against (Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin) Ryu. It’s very interesting, and I think it makes our game better, because we’re getting the best players from all over the world.”
• Another pitcher who Girardi discussed today was Ivan Nova. He’s here and will throw a bullpen today, but Girardi said that there is “no exact plan” after that. It sounds like he will be used out of the bullpen and as an occasional spot starter. “He’s going to obviously throw a bullpen today, and we’re just going to kind of go day-by-day here to see,” Girardi said. “It’s possible that he could get another start here at some point. I’m not taking anyone out of the rotation, but we’re in a long stretch here of 20 games, so it’s possible we might put him in there just to give the guys an extra day that way. He threw the ball very well, and we were very pleased with what he did.”
• The last question of the day was about the increasingly competitive AL East. Since the Toronto Blue Jays have won 11 of their last 12 games, all five teams in the division are now above .500. The Yankees are sitting two and a half games out of first place behind the Boston Red Sox. “It is pretty amazing that you have five teams in one division this late all over .500,” Girardi said. “It just shows you how competitive this division is. We’ve said the last couple of years that it’s probably not going to be easy, and it’s going to be a very tough division. And that’s exactly what it is.”
Associated Press photos