The Yankees have won six in a row, but with Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez on the comeback trail, much of Joe Girardi’s pregame press conference was focused on hypotheticals.
Jeter played in his first rehab game with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last night and went 0 for 2 with a walk. Rodriguez went 1 for 2 with a run scored and was hit by a pitch in his rehab game with the Yankees’ Class A Tampa affiliate. Both played five innings in the field.
“What’s my patented answer?” Girardi said when asked when we can expect to see Jeter back in pinstripes. “He’s ready when he’s ready. You have to see how he’s moving around, how he’s responding physically to playing everyday. I think he’s DHing today, and you have to build him. He has to be able to play more than five innings once every three days. We’ll go through this week, I’m sure, and we’ll make an evaluation.”
With both Jeter and A-Rod inching closer to a return, Girardi was asked if it’s difficult to maintain patience and avoid getting anxious.
“I don’t think you want to run a player out there who is not ready to play,” he said. “I don’t think that’s fair to him, and I don’t think that’s fair to us. You risk injury in doing that, and then you have a whole other DL stint and set of circumstances. I think you have to be patient.”
Girardi likened what Jeter and A-Rod are going through to spring training. Players typically have over a month to get into playing shape and regain their timing before playing in regular season games, and Girardi expects both of his aging stars to have a similar grace period.
“It’s just a slow build up. In spring training if he played in the field the first day, he’d probably have the next day off,” he said. “You try to watch his at-bats, and how hard he’s hitting the ball. The contact is probably the most important thing – not necessarily did he go 2 for 3, or 3 for 4, or whatever. You’d like to give him seven or eight days before you start to do that, kind of like you do in spring training. I don’t worry about our hitters in spring training for the first couple of weeks. You just don’t. As you start to get near the end, you want to see them swinging the bat well. That’s kind of the same thing in a rehab assignment.”
• Girardi also spoke about the Yankees that were selected to the American League all-star team. We knew that Mariano Rivera and Robinson Cano were pretty much locks, and they will be the Yankees’ two representatives, but one more could be added. David Robertson was one of the five players nominated for the final spot, which is voted on by the fans. “I’m pleased,” Girardi said. “Obviously, for Mo being his final season. This is not like a gift that he’s being given. He obviously deserves to go, and it’s in New York, so that’s special. For Robby, it’s special, as well. I’m really hoping that David Robertson gets a chance. He’s been so good for us, and I think he deserves a chance to go. You can vote for him on Yankees.com. Please go and vote as many times as you can.”
• Girardi has been vocal recently about his feeling that Brett Gardner is deserving of all-star consideration. “I’m a little disappointed for him,” he said. “I’ve been on that side and there are always people who feel they’re deserving players who are left off. The rest is not going to hurt him, either. That’s for sure.”
• Oh by the way, the Yankees are playing a game today. Hiroki Kuroda will get the start (you could certainly make a case for him as an all-star) after being skipped on Friday due to a hip flexor injury. He didn’t even miss a full turn in the rotation, so it’s safe to say that the Yankees don’t feel the injury was anything serious. “I look as him being 100 percent healthy,” Girardi said. “I wouldn’t run him out there if I didn’t think he was ready to go, and what the doctors told us and what we saw in his bullpen. The one thing you do worry about is the heat and guys getting into long innings. You worry about that, but as far as health, I’m pretty convinced that he’s healthy.”
• With Kuroda healthy, the Yankees five-man rotation remains set with him, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. David Phelps was placed on the DL yesterday, but is expected to be ready once his 15 days are up. Michael Pineda pitched last night at Triple-A, earning the win while allowing two runs on four hits and two walks over five innings. He struck out seven and topped out at 94 mph. Pretty soon, some decisions are going to have to be made, but Girardi had no interest in making them today. “That’s something that I’m sure Cash is going to talk to the people that have watched Pineda a lot over the last couple of weeks and see where he’s at,” he said. “Right now, we have Nova slotted in as one of our rotation guys, and he’s throwing the ball very well. I haven’t put a lot of thought into that.”
• The hero from yesterday’s game was Eduardo Nunez, but with Jeter likely to be back within the month, Girardi was asked if he can envision Nunez and Jeter playing in the same infield. “Probably not,” he said. “Maybe, but we’ve talked about leaving Nunie at short. It’s just something that I’ll manage when I get to that point.”
• The Yankees are hosting 4,000 residents from Newtown at today’s game to show their support for the victims and families from the Sandy Hook tragedy. The Yankees are always good about maintaining a strong relationship with local communities, and Girardi spoke about what it means to have them here. “I think it’s nice,” he said. “I think the families and the people in that town have been through so much, and I think it’s important that, as we get away from the time of the event, that there’s still a lot of struggles that this town is going through. We have to do whatever we can to give them hope and be there for them. This is something that has scarred their lives forever, and we can’t forget that. We need to reach out, and continue to reach out to the families.”
Associated Press photos