The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Archive for July, 2013

Rodriguez might not be able to play during appeal07.29.13

Ken Rosenthal hinted at this last night when he wrote that Major League Baseball “might challenge that practice” of letting players play while appealing a suspension. Now The Associated Press is explaining that the league could suspend Alex Rodriguez under CBA rules instead of the drug policy. Here’s the AP…

Alex RodriguezNEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball may try to suspend Alex Rodriguez under its collective bargaining agreement instead of its drug rules, which would eliminate any chance of delaying a penalty until after the case goes to an arbitrator, The Associated Press has learned.

Rodriguez has never been disciplined for a drug offense, and a first offender under baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement is entitled to an automatic stay if the players’ association files a grievance — meaning the penalty is put on hold until after an arbitrator rules.

While use of banned performance-enhancing substances falls under the drug agreement, MLB may argue other alleged violations are punishable under the labor contract, a person familiar with management’s deliberations told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

Taking that action would prevent the New York Yankees third baseman from returning to the field, even if he recovers from a quadriceps injury cited by the team as the reason for keeping him on the disabled list.

And merely threatening to use that provision might give MLB leverage to force a deal.

The Yankees expect Rodriguez to be accused of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, of attempting to obstruct MLB’s investigation, and of not being truthful with MLB in the past when he discussed his relationship with Dr. Anthony Galea, who pleaded guilty two years ago to a federal charge of bringing unapproved drugs into the United States from Canada.

Four years ago, Rodriguez admitted using PEDs while with Texas from 2001-03. He has repeatedly denied using them since.

Baseball has been investigating Rodriguez and other players since a January report in the Miami New Times alleging they received PEDs from Biogenesis of America, a closed anti-aging clinic on Florida.

“We’re still involved in the process of preparing for an eventual appeal in this matter,” Rodriguez’s lawyer, David Cornwell, said Monday on ESPN New York Radio. “My understanding is that the next step that is going to be taken is that the players’ association and baseball will meet to discuss the investigation and baseball’s focus on particular players. So we’ll see how that process plays out. But at this point my understanding or my expectation is that we’re going to be working through the process towards an appeal.”

Cornwell did not return an email seeking comment.

Aside from the drug agreement, there is no automatic stay for suspensions under baseball’s labor contract. Rodriguez could be punished under Article XII B of the Basic Agreement, which states: “Players may be disciplined for just cause for conduct that is materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests of baseball including, but not limited to, engaging in conduct in violation of federal, state or local law.”

If suspended under that section, Rodriguez would serve the penalty while a grievance is litigated before arbitrator Fredric Horowitz — unless the union asks for a stay and the arbitrator grants one, which would be unusual under the grievance procedure. And baseball could always try to punish A-Rod on drug violations later.

Cornwell would not respond to a report in the New York Daily News on Monday that said baseball Commissioner Bud Selig would not pursue a lifetime ban if Rodriguez accepted a suspension through 2014.

“There’s been all sorts of reports, all sorts of sources and all sorts of breaking news and breathless coverage, and I don’t feel any need to respond to any of it,” Cornwell told ESPN.

In announcing Ryan Braun’s 65-game suspension last week, MLB cited violations of both the labor contract and drug agreement.

A person familiar with that deal, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized, said 50 games of the penalty for the 2011 NL MVP were connected to Biogenesis. The additional 15 games stemmed from the Milwaukee outfielder’s actions during the grievance that overturned his October 2011 positive test for testosterone.

Associated Press photo

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Two days before the deadline, relievers on the move07.29.13

Brian CashmanA quick reminder of what Brian Cashman said on Friday (which is basically the same thing he said about two weeks ago).

“This market is really thin on offense, so if someone comes to the marketplace with a bat, they’re going to have a lot of people to talk to. Pitching seems to be out there a lot, but the bats aren’t.”

Today’s activity seemed to backup those claims.

With the trade deadline now less than 48 hours away, there were three significant trades today, and all three involved relievers. Of the day’s most prominent rumors, the biggest names involved were a pair of starting pitchers.

The deals that were done…

The Tigers traded for Astros closer Jose Veras, who’s significantly improved since his days with the Yankees. He had a 1.00 WHIP with Houston and will slide into more of a setup role in Detroit.

The Braves traded for lefty Scott Downs, who had a 1.84 ERA with the Angles and has held lefties to a sub-.200 batting average. He’ll join another former Angels reliever, Jordan Walden, in Atlanta.

The Rays traded for White Sox all-star Jesse Crain, who’s been on the disabled list all of July but has been a dominant setup man when healthy this season. Tampa Bay will send a player to be named or cash to Chicago.

As for names floating through rumors…

White Sox starter Jake Peavy is clearly on the radar, but the White Sox are reportedly looking for a significant prospect haul as well as a considerable salary dump. The Red Sox are also said to have discussed Cliff Lee, and the Diamondbacks are reportedly shopping Ian Kennedy.

Michael Young’s name is still floating out there a little bit, but there really hasn’t been an obvious market for offensive players.

And Ken Rosenthal’s afternoon tweet surely came as little surprise: “As of yesterday, the #Yankees had not received a single trade offer for RHP Phil Hughes.” It’s just hard to imagine much of a trade market for either Hughes or Joba Chamberlain at this point.

Associated Press photo

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Rodriguez’s lawyer gearing up for appeal07.29.13

Alex RodriguezWith Biogenesis suspensions expected any day now, Alex Rodriguez’s lawyer says his client has no intention of bargaining with Major League Baseball for a lesser sentence.

If he goes down, it seems, he’ll going down fighting.

“We’re still involved in the process of preparing for an eventual appeal in this matter,” David Cornwell told ESPN radio this afternoon. “My understanding is that the next step that is going to be taken is that the Players’ Association and (Major League) Baseball will meet to discuss the investigation and Baseball’s focus on particular players. So we’ll see how that process plays out, but at this point, my understanding or my expectation is that we’re going to be working through the process toward an appeal.”

Cornwell’s interview came exactly one week after Ryan Braun — who’s actually won a suspension appeal in the past, with Cornwell as his lawyer — elected not to fight the league over its Biogenesis investigation. Rodriguez’s defiance comes even amid reports that the league could seek a lifetime suspension based on the current evidence and past transgressions.

“Obviously they believe that (Biogenesis chief Anthony Bosch) is credible,” Cornwell said. “I have my concerns. But what’s most important is whether or not arbitrator (Fredric) Horowitz will believe that he’s credible or not. That’s something we will present in the hearing room. … We believe that we have good, valid and strong defenses for Alex, and we intend to present them when the time comes.”

Although Cornwell did not get into specifics, he seemed to reveal at least some of his defense strategy when he questioned the “authenticity” and “reliability” of Biogenesis documents that were leaked to a Miami newspaper in January.

“What’s been made public are various documents that a disgruntled ex-employee of Biogenesis allegedly stole,” Cornwell said.

What would Cornwell consider a “win” in this appeal process?

“No discipline, obviously,” he said. “That’s easy.”

Associated Press photo

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Trade deadline only 48 hours away07.29.13

Joe Girardi

Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline is 48 hours away. It hits on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, and the Yankees really have five options:

1. Go for it. Sure, they’re 7.5 games out of first place, but they’re only 2.5 away from a wild card berth. They’ve already made one move to upgrade the offense, and they could make one or two more to fill needs at catcher or the infield corners. The farm system might not be loaded, but there seem to be enough promising pieces for a fairly significant addition if the Yankees are willing to give up a ton.

2. Bits and pieces. More moves like the Alfonso Soriano trade. The Yankees could look for short-term upgrades, but nothing that’s going to gut the system or cost massive parts of the future. Gary Sanchez isn’t on the table. Neither is Rafael De Paula. Probably not Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, J.R. Murphy or Tyler Austin, either. Improvements, but not necessarily standout additions.

3. Hold tight. With the Alex Rodriguez situation, and the Curtis Granderson rehab, and the recent losing trend for a team still technically in the hunt, there’s simply too much unknown for the Yankees to make a significant move one way or the other. Maybe something after the non-waiver deadline, depending on how the next few weeks shake out.

4. The hopeful seller. The Yankees don’t have to give up on the season to begin unloading some big leaguers. If there’s legitimate value in Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain, the Yankees could move them and find replacements from within. Of course, that requires finding a contending team that wants what the Yankees don’t need.

5. Plan for the future: The overall record doesn’t fully reflect the state of this roster. Even with players getting healthy, the Yankees have to be realistic about their chances and make an all-out push to stock for the future. Injuries meant this simply wasn’t the Yankees year, and any Major League player is on the table.

Which route would you suggest? And which are you expecting?

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ICYMI: Martinez out at Marlins hitting coach07.29.13

Just in case this one didn’t get your attention yesterday, former Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez resigned as the Marlins hitting coach yesterday. The resignation came after players complained about Martinez’s methods, which were seen as harsh and — in at least one instance — physically intimidating. Here’s the AP:

97a753aa3e56e419380f6a706700080cMIAMI (AP) — Tino Martinez resigned as the Miami Marlins’ hitting coach hours after complaints by players that he verbally abused them became public.

In one instance, Martinez acknowledged he angrily grabbed a player.

Martinez was in his first year as a professional coach this year. He sat in the dugout during Sunday’s 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, then met with Marlins officials and resigned.

“I want to apologize to the Marlins organization for my behavior,” Martinez said. “I have made some comments to certain players at certain times that I thought was more constructive criticism. Obviously, they didn’t feel that way, and it kind of backfired on me.”

Martinez said he once touched a player in anger, grabbing rookie Derek Dietrich by the jersey in the batting cage early this season. Dietrich, demoted last Monday to Double-A Jacksonville, was among the players to complain.

Martinez said he offered to resign earlier, but team owner Jeffrey Loria wanted him to stay on the job. When the complaints by players became public in a story Sunday by the Miami Herald, Martinez became certain he should resign.

“It has been building for a few days,” he said. “I didn’t know this was going to come out publicly. When this came out, I thought it was the right thing to do.”

Marlins minor league field coordinator John Pierson will become interim hitting coach. First-year manager Mike Redmond said everyone in the organization was disappointed with the outcome of Martinez’ brief tenure.

“Coaching’s tough,” Redmond said. “Going from a player to a coach is hard, and part of the grind is learning how to deal with different situations with different players and different personalities. All that stuff is a challenge. Some people can do it, and some people can’t.”

The young Marlins rank last in the majors in runs, home runs, batting and slugging, and the 45-year-old Martinez said he became frustrated as players struggled.

“I just thought with some young players you needed to be a little firmer and try to get them on the right track,” he said. “I probably used some four-letter words. I thought I was doing the right thing. Obviously, I wasn’t.”

Martinez batted .271 with 339 home runs, and he was a four-time World Series champion with the New York Yankees. He had a three-year contract with the Marlins but said because he resigned, he’ll receive no buyout.

He declined to speculate on whether he’ll coach again.

“I don’t know long term how it’s going to affect me,” he said. “Right now I’m disappointed in myself. I’m embarrassed. Right now I’m not worried about the future. I just want to make sure my family is OK.”

Associated Press photo

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Deadline looms, but Suspension Watch takes center stage07.29.13

Alex Rodriguez

You’d think this week’s main event would be the trade deadline, but instead, it seems to be Suspension Watch. Yesterday brought the news that MLB is expected to announce the rest of its Biogenesis suspensions this week, which means we could know any day now — any hour now? — exactly how stiff the penalty will be against Alex Rodriguez, and whether he’s going to stick to his story and fight the suspension, or do what Ryan Braun did and accept the punishment.

The latest speculation, based on various reports, is that Rodriguez could face the threat of a lifetime ban, or accept a suspension for the rest of 2013 and all of 2014. At Rodriguez’s age, missing back-to-back seasons could essentially end his career, but it might also still allow him to cash in on the final years of his current contract.

For those with questions about the Biogenesis situation, ESPN’s investigative reporter T.J. Quinn — a University of Missouri grad who’s been in front of this story — spent some time on Twitter last night basically providing answers. A few that matter to the Yankees…

• Quinn says the strongest case for a lifetime ban would be evidence that Rodriguez interfered with the investigation. He also said that, if he does appeal, Rodriguez will be able to play this season. Ken Rosenthal, on the other hand, hears that baseball might “challenge” the idea that first-time offenders are allowed to play during an appeal. Presumably, that challenge would be based on Rodriguez’s previous admission and evidence of previous lies to investigators.

• With all the attention on Rodriguez, it’s kind of easy to forget that Francisco Cervelli is wrapped up in this as well. Cervelli has said he got nothing illegal from Biogenesis, but Quinn said he’s “heard nothing suggesting (Cervelli)’s safe” from a suspension. That’s interesting because Quinn has heard that the league no longer suspects Gio Gonzalez of wrongdoing.

• Not sure there was ever a reason to think Robinson Cano was involved in this, but Quinn made it clear that he’s not seen Cano’s name in any of the documents or heard his name from any of his sources. In fact, he says all of the big names are already out there.

Associated Press photo

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Matsui: “This moment will be a moment that I will never forget”07.29.13

Hideki Matsui, Derek Jeter

By Vincent Z. Mercogliano

NEW YORK — In Derek Jeter’s eyes, it’s easy to see why Hideki Matsui became popular with Yankee fans so quickly after coming to the U.S. from Japan in 2003.

“He was a professional,” Jeter said. “He played every day. The biggest thing is he never made excuses. He never talked about injuries; he never used injuries as an excuse. He went out there and played. As players, you appreciate that.”

Jeter called Matsui “one of my favorite teammates,” which is high praise coming from a player who has won five titles and played with so many greats.

“Coming from somebody like that, first and foremost, I have the upmost respect for him as a teammate,” Matsui said of Jeter’s comments. “Coming from somebody like him, it’s quite an honor. As a human being and as a player, to be respected that way is a great feeling.”

Hideki MatsuiOn Sunday, one of the most humble and beloved players to don a Yankee uniform in the last decade was shown just how much he was appreciated as he announced his retirement from baseball.

“This moment will be a moment that I will never forget,” Matsui said. “To be able to retire as a member of the team that I aspired to and looked up to, I think there is nothing more fulfilling.”

Matsui – who played 10 seasons in Japan before playing 10 more seasons in the Major Leagues – signed a minor league deal with the Yankees on Sunday so that he could officially retire as a member of the team. He was presented with a framed jersey by Jeter and threw out the ceremonial first-pitch before the Yankees’ game with the Tampa Bay Rays.

“Not only was he a middle of the order hitter that had great production, he was a staple in the clubhouse,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He was adored by his teammates, a leader – you think about what he went through to play every day with his knees. He was tough, and you go back to Game 6 (of the 2009 World Series) and how important that game was to us. You’re going to have a hard time finding a player that was more liked in our clubhouse than Hideki Matsui over the years.”

Matsui played seven seasons with the Yankees, leading them to a World Series title in 2009 with six RBI in the clinching game against the Philadelphia Phillies to earn MVP honors.

“I’m wearing a ring, a 2009 ring, thanks to Hideki Matsui’s efforts,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “That was one of the reasons, obviously, why we gravitated to him. We felt that he could take us to that next level. Not surprisingly, he did that in Japan, and he did it for us, as well.”

The World Series MVP will be Matsui’s lasting memory on the field, but it was his unassuming nature and hard working attitude that endeared him to Yankee fans.

“I honestly don’t know how Yankee fans really feel about me, but if they really feel that way, then I’m just honored,” he said. “I didn’t try to do anything in particular. All I really focused on was doing everything necessary to win the World Series here. As a result of what I portrayed from that, if they picked up something from me, there’s nothing greater than that.”

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “It feels like old times”07.28.13

Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano

At this point, nothing that Derek Jeter does should surprise anyone. But despite the fact that we’ve seen it all before from The Captain, that didn’t stop plenty of jaws from dropping when he deposited the first pitch that he saw since coming off of the disabled list into the right field seats in Sunday’s much-needed 6-5 walk-off win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

“He’s a movie, is what he is,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You think about his 3,000th hit and how he did that. What he did today; we hadn’t hit a home run since the All-Star break, and we hadn’t hit a right-handed home run in months. For him to come out and do that in his first at-bat, he’s a movie.”

Jeter’s career has been like one big fairy tale, and he added another chapter today. The lack of the long ball has plagued the Yankees all season, and the desperation was reaching a boiling point as they were trying to avoid a sweep against the first-place team in the AL East.

You’ve probably seen the numbers at this point, but they’re worth repeating. It had been nine games since the Yankees last homer, 28 since their last homer from a right-handed batter and they had just two home runs from the shortstop position all season. They came into today’s game ranked 14th out of 15 teams in the American League in total homers, but their whole outlook changed with one swing of the bat.

Jeter homered in the first, Alfonso Soriano homered in the third, and then Soriano provided the final blow with a walk-off single in the ninth.

“When I see Mariano pitch and Jeter hit and me, it feels like old times,” Soriano said. “It’s special to play with those guys because they’re future Hall of Famers.”

It sure was a good day for two guys who the Yankees are hoping will provide this lineup with a huge lift over the next two months, and now we’ll see if this momentum carries over.

“It was fun. I’m tired. That wasn’t a quick game by any stretch of the imagination, but it was fun. I haven’t played short in quite some time here,” Jeter said. “I’ve worked hard to try and get back on the field, and I’m happy that today we were able to win a game and it was uneventful on the physical side.”

Derek Jeter• Trust me, Jeter did not want the postgame attention focused on him (he was quick to point out that “this is Matsui’s day”), and his answers were all typical Jeter. He was asked if at any point he’s able to appreciate his knack for the big moment, but of course, he wasn’t taking the bait. “Maybe when the season is over, but I really try not to think about it,” he said. “I try to do whatever I can to help our team win. Even if I didn’t hit a home run, if we won this game, I’d feel the same.”

• While Jeter wasn’t going to focus on his homer — which clearly meant a lot more to this team than just the one-run that it put on the board — others were in awe. “I talked about his presence. His presence just makes it different. It’s hard to put your finger on exactly why, but he’s a winner is the bottom line to me,” Girardi said. “It’s a player that has a real grasp of what is expected of him, and that one guy can’t do too much. You have to just do your part. When you’re in the business of trying to do too much, you usually don’t do much of anything. I think he understands that as well as anyone.”

• When Jeter returned for just one game on July 11, he swung on the first pitch and hit an infield single. He had said after the game that he planned on swinging at the first pitch, and was asked if he had the same approach today. “What was I thinking? Swing, like I always think,” he said. “I just wanted to get a pitch to hit, and fortunately, it was a fastball that was up.”

• Jeter’s homer coming off of lefty Matt Moore made it especially significant. The Yankees struggles against lefties have been well-documented this season, but Jeter and Soriano are two guys who are expected to change that. Soriano’s homer also came off of Moore. “We talked about trying to get some right-handed bats here because, against lefties, at times we’ve run out five and six left-handed (batters),” Girardi said. “You get two that have had a lot of success off of lefties, and it changes your lineup.”

Ichiro Suzuki• Soriano and Ichiro each finished with four hits apiece, as the Yankees’ three 37-plus year olds (including Jeter) combined to go 10 for 13 with four runs scored and five RBI. The Yanks are clearly dealing with a lot of aging players, and they’ll need them to maintain this kind of production in order to make a real playoff push. “It’s important because of who we’re playing,” Girardi said. “Second half, we’ve played a lot of tough teams and been in a lot of games, but we’ve come up short a little bit. We lose yesterday 1-0, and to be able to win one like that is important; especially going into a road trip like this.”

• A hot topic before the game was the fact that the Yankees are asking Jeter to take it easy on certain plays when running full speed isn’t necessary. That’s obviously against Jeter’s nature, but he spoke about how he’s dealing with it. “I don’t want to learn how to do it,” he said. “I understand I have to do it, especially maybe the first week or two. They’ve told me time and time again to run under control in those types of situations. I feel awkward doing it. I don’t like doing it. I hope nobody watches me do it and they try to do it, you know what I mean? Because I’ve run hard my entire career. I think you can still run hard and run under control. I’m still running hard, but in certain situations, you have to play under control. I haven’t been good at that in my career, but I guess I have no choice here for a few games.”

• Jeter denied that he felt better physically than he did when he first returned on July 11, but Girardi certainly seemed to think that was the case. “I would agree with you wholeheartedly,” he said. “I thought he was running better, and you know, I told him before the game again, ‘You have to take it easy.’ I thought he did a good job of managing that. Now he’ll get a day off, and we’ll get a couple of days out of him in L.A., and he’ll get a day off again. You can kind of build him up. But I thought he was running better this time than the first time.”

• The one negative from today’s game was Phil Hughes. He gave up five runs and didn’t make it out of the fifth inning, with rookie Wil Myers (he’s going to be a good one) homering off of him twice. Hughes is now winless in his last seven starts at Yankee Stadium. “He was up the one inning,” Girardi said. “The couple of home runs that he gave up, the pitches were up. His slider wasn’t as sharp today as it’s been, which led to some troubles for him.”

• Here’s Hughes’ assessment of his outing: “I felt pretty good that first inning. From there, it felt like I started leaving balls up in the zone… It’s disappointing that I wasn’t able to hold the lead twice.”

• Hughes was asked if the upcoming trade deadline is weighing on his mind. “I’ll be going home,” he said. “We have an off day (Monday), which is good. I am going to relax a little bit, but other than that, I don’t really worry about that stuff.”

• I’ll give the final word to Jeter, who was asked what it means to him when people talk about how much his presence means to this club: “I have no idea,” he said. “I’ve been here for a long time. I think people get used to seeing me. I think it’s been kind of odd or awkward for a lot of fans who I’ve talked to that I haven’t been here for this long. I’ve been hurt in my career, I’ve missed some games, but never this much. I don’t know if I’ve missed this many games by injury in my entire career combined. I don’t know exactly what they mean. It feels good to hear it, but it’s not something that I necessarily think about.”

Associated Press photos

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Old guys get it done, snap Yankees’ losing streak07.28.13

Derek Jeter, James Loney

One pitch is all it took.

The legend of Derek Jeter added yet another chapter on Sunday, as The Captain returned from the disabled list and homered on the very first pitch that he saw. The opposite field blast broke a streak of nine straight games without a homer for the Yankees and ended a 28-game homerless drought for their right-handed hitters.

It served as another reminder of how much Jeter’s presence means to this team, as the Yankees were able to avoid a sweep against the Tampa Bay Rays with a 6-5 win thanks to Alfonso Soriano’s walk-off single.

The Yankees jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first thanks to a sac fly from Vernon Wells and an RBI single from Ichiro Suzuki, but the Rays would not go quietly. After Kelly Johnson’s RBI double in the second, rookie Wil Myers hit a three-run homer off of Phil Hughes to put Tampa up 4-3.

Soriano – who had gone hitless in his first two games with the Yankees after coming over from the Chicago Cubs in a trade on Friday – finished with four hits, including a two-run homer to put the Yanks back on top in the third.

Myers hit his second homer of game in the fifth to chase Hughes, but Soriano singled up the middle with two men on in the ninth to give the Yankees a much-needed win.

Associated Press photo

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Game 105: Rays at Yankees07.28.13

YANKEES (54-50)
Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Alfonso Soriano LF
Vernon Wells DH
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Brent Lillibridge 3B
David Adams 1B
Chris Stewart C

RHP Phil Hughes (4-9, 4.33)
Hughes vs. Rays 

RAYS (62-42)
Desmond Jennings CF
Luke Scott DH
Evan Longoria 3B
James Loney 1B
Wil Myers RF
Matt Joyce LF
Kelly Johnson 2B
Jose Lobaton C
Yunel Escobar SS

LHP Matt Moore (14-3, 3.17)
Moore vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: There’s some clouds in the sky and a chance of rain in the forecast, but we’ll be fine to start the game.

UMPIRES: HP Jim Reynolds, 1B James Hoye, 2B Bob Davidson, 3B John Hirschbeck

MATSUI COMES HOME: The Yankees honored 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui prior to today’s game as he signed a minor league deal with the team and officially retired as a Yankee. He was presented with a framed jersey by Derek Jeter and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

THE CAPTAIN IS BACK (AGAIN): After playing in just one game with the Yankees this season before suffering a quad strain, Jeter is back in pinstripes for today’s series finale with the Rays. He is batting second and playing shortstop.

(I’ll be updating what’s going on in the game here every so often, but I’ll be much more active on Twitter. Follow me @vzmercogliano to join in the conversation!)

UPDATE, 1:30 p.m.: There’s no disputing it at this point: Derek Jeter’s life is one big fairy tale. He just took the first pitch that he saw and launched an opposite homer, breaking a streak of nine games without a homer for the Yankees in his first at-bat after coming off of the DL. He’s already ignited this lineup, which has taken a 3-0 lead after a sac fly from Wells and an RBI single from Ichiro. Simply amazing.

UPDATE, 2:45 p.m.: We’ve got a lot going on today, and we’ve had some back and forth action since a dramatic first inning. Hughes surrendered the Yankees’ early lead by giving up a mammoth three-run homer to Myers in the third (the Rays’ rook looks pretty darn good), but Soriano put the Yankees back ahead 5-4 with a two-run homer in the bottom half of the inning. So far, the two players that the Yankees hoped would help them against left-handed pitching have been the difference today.

UPDATE, 2:53 p.m.: Man, that Myers kid is no joke. He just took Hughes deep again to tie the game at 5-5, prompting a pitching change. Preston Claiborne is coming in with no outs in the fifth.

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