It’s taken about four and a half months, but the Yankees’ everyday lineup is finally starting to bear some resemblance to what Joe Girardi might have envisioned during spring training.
“Obviously, you have more power throughout the lineup, and you hope that it translates into more blunt production for us,” he said. “But it is a different feel when we’re able to split some left-handers and right-handers up at times.”
Injuries have devastated the Yankees throughout the 2013 season, but for perhaps the first time all year, Girardi seems to have settled on a regular lineup that is filled with legitimate major league hitters. His options had been so limited for the majority of the season, and at times it was as if he was simply picking names out of a hat.
Offensive production has been scarce for the Yankees, but they homered three times in Sunday’s walk-off win — a trend that they’re hoping continues. Guys like Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson don’t even have 60 at-bats under their belts yet, but they’re being counted on to step in and be productive immediately. A-Rod said yesterday that the Yankees should expect to score a minimum of five runs per game.
“You hope that if you get behind early, you have the firepower to comeback,” Girardi said. “That’s the hope. As I’ve said, these guys have not had normal spring trainers and are not in midseason form, but we need them to be.”
• While the lineup is inching its way toward respectability, the pitching staff has been slipping a bit of late. Mariano Rivera blew a third consecutive save for the first time in his career yesterday, and he was reminded this afternoon that he told reporters after the All-Star game that he didn’t have much left in the tank. “There’s a lot left in the tank,” he said. “It’s just the delivery. I wasn’t repeating what I normally do.”
• When asked specifically about the issues with his delivery, Rivera spoke about making sure that it stays the same for every pitch. He’s said several times in the past few days that he’s felt like he’s left too many pitches up, and that his cutters have been too flat. Interestingly, he said that he leaves it up to his coaches to determine what is wrong and rarely looks at video himself. “That’s why I have a pitching coach and a bullpen coach. They look at the film and tell you what to do,” he said. “The release on the ball is not consistent. When you’re consistent, the ball has sharper breaks.”
• I’m stating the obvious here, but you have to give Rivera credit for how he handles these rare rough stretches. He spoke to reporters for at least 10 minutes, and did so with a smile on his face. He was asked about how he maintains such a positive attitude. “You have to enjoy it. The game is hard enough,” he said. “I’ve always been like that. Not only in the good times, but also in the bad. I can’t grab a bat and start chasing reporters.” That last line is classic.
• Girardi was asked if he has any concern about Rivera’s recent workload. He hasn’t pitched on back-to-back days since July 6-7, but he’s thrown at least 23 pitches in each of his last three appearances. “I look at yesterday, and it was sort of a high pitch count in the 20s,” he said. “The one the day before was in the 20s. I’m going to see how he feels today, basically. It’s been every other day, and your hope is that he can recover from that. I worry a little bit more about the two innings (on Wednesday in Chicago) than maybe the 23 pitches. But I’ll see how he feels today.”
• Check out this interesting read from my pal Larry Fleisher, who breaks down the elite matchup between Rivera and Miguel Cabrera and delves into just how rare it is for Mo to give up the long ball.
• Derek Jeter is doing tee and toss today, as he continues to increase his baseball activities. When the Yankees leave for Boston on Friday, The Captain will head down to Tampa to get more work in. Girardi said they do not have a return date in mind. “He’s making progress,” was pretty much the extent of it.
• After tonight’s game, A-Rod will have played in more games this season than Jeter. Girardi was asked if that surprises him. “Well, he hasn’t went on the DL since we got him back. That’s the big thing,” he said. “We weren’t sure who we were going to get back first when it came to those two. Initially, we thought that we’d get Derek out of spring training, but that didn’t work. He re-cracked his ankle in a different spot. I’m not really sure if I find it hard to believe that Alex has played more than Derek, or vice versa. It’s just been a strange year.”
• Girardi was also asked about Travis Hafner’s progress, and his answer wasn’t very promising. To be honest, it’s difficult to figure out where he fits on this current roster considering all of the DH-types that the Yankees have. “He feels better,” Girardi said. “He’s continuing his rehab. He’s not ready to do baseball activities yet, though.”
• Sunday’s hero was Brett Gardner, as he continues to prove his value in a variety of ways. He’s one of the few Yankees that has pretty much avoided injuries all year, and Girardi was asked if he’s looked at as more of a leader in the clubhouse this season. “I think so,” he said. “Gardy is fiery, and I think his personality comes out. It’s been great having him all year. As I said, we really missed him last year – what he’s capable of doing. His personality has definitely come out this year. It’s good.”
Associated Press photos