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Pregame notes: “Not the same team that we used to be”

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Robinson Cano [2]

There is not a single team in Major League Baseball with a lower slugging percentage against lefties than the Yankees. They’re hitting .233/.306/.337 against them, leaving little room to wonder why the Orioles switching things around so that Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland will make his first big league start tonight.

“We all know that we’re not the same team that we used to be in the past,” Robinson Cano said. “A lot of guys are hurt. We just have to go out there, stay positive and try to take advantage when we have men in scoring position. If you have to move them over, move them over. Just do the little things. We don’t have the big guys that you can count on — four or five guys that can hit a homer any time in the game. I’m not saying anybody in here can’t hit homers, but we’re not the same team we used to be in the past.”

That much is clear from the lineup, and from the fact there aren’t standout alternatives on the bench. Slumping Vernon Wells is once again batting cleanup, and the only reasonable alternatives are a couple of platoon left-handed hitters (Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay), a switch-hitting rookie who’s hot start has yet to include a hit against a left-hander, or a light-hitting lefty who’s more at home at the top of the order but is suddenly batting fifth because the alternatives are so few and far between.

The guy who’s supposed to be a ray of hope in this lineup is Cano, who’s hitting just .230/.302/.363 against lefties this season.

“I might see one pitch over the plate,” Cano said. “That’s what they’re doing; one pitch over the plate and then they’re pitching around me. It’s not like before where they would give me strikes. They’re going corner to corner, so I might see one pitch. I have to take advantage whenever I get that pitch.”

The Yankees are 15-10 against left-handed starters this season, and that’s the third-best such winning percentage in the Majors behind Texas (16-9) and Atlanta (14-9), however, the Yankees have lost their past three games against left-handed starters and four of their last five. They’re not sneaking away with the wins that they seemed to get away with in April.

“You just try to score runs,” Joe Girardi said. “We’ve won a lot of really low-scoring, close games against lefties. When you look at our average against lefties, it was less than against right handers, but we had won some close games. So we’ve got to keep it close.”

Derek Jeter [3]• Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez each took simulated at-bats at the minor league complex today. According to The Associated Press in Tampa, Jeter had an opposite-field single in six at-bats said afterward that it was his second day facing live pitching. Rodriguez, according to the AP, had two doubles and a single in five plate appearances. He also ran the bases after putting the ball in play. “I’m not sure who (of those two) you’ll see in a game first,” Girardi said. “Alex has obviously had more simulated at-bats than Derek, but we’ll see how that goes.”

• The AP also reported that Francisco Cervelli did baserunning drills with Rodriguez after the simulated at-bats.

• Girardi said, as far as he knows, Eduardo Nunez is scheduled to play in another minor league rehab game today. It’s obviously looking like Nunez is the closest player to coming off the disabled list. I’m fairly certain he’s eligible to come off next weekend.

• Larry Rothschild told the Yankees media relations staff the wrong rotation. He mixed up CC Sabathia and David Phelps, which is why every list of scheduled starters had Phelps today and Sabathia tomorrow. It’s actually Sabathia today and Phelps tomorrow.

• Speaking of starters, the Yankees say that Ivan Nova will likely start one of the games in Minnesota, but they’re not sure which one. Nova is available out of the bullpen, but Adam Warren is considered the go-to long man. “We’re in an extremely long stretch of 20 games,” Girardi said. “And you start tacking on three or four starts in a row where it’s on normal rest, we think that’s pretty taxing. If during this time you can insert Nova one time – or if you need to, twice – we’ll do it.”

• Sabathia is going for his 200th career win. “I’m sure that thought has crossed his mind,” Girardi said. “Hopefully that won’t be his focus tonight. I think it will be the Baltimore Orioles. It’s a pretty big milestone, and I’m sure he’d like to get it out of the way.”

• It was interesting to watch players fill out their all-star ballots in the pregame clubhouse. For the past few years there’s been a players ballot to choose some of the reserves, and most of the Yankees seemed to be really studying the stats before making their choices. I’m sure there are a few guys who just check off some friends and call it a day, but everyone I saw with a ballot was putting some real effort into it.

Associated Press photo