Brendan Ryan now has eight at-bats, two back injuries and 11 days before the season opener. At this point, Opening Day is in jeopardy, and he knows it.
“I’m not trying to think that way because I really do believe it’s going to calm down in a couple of days and maybe I sneak out and get some at-bats on the minor league side or whatever,” Ryan said. “I need to see pitches. I need to see breaking balls and that stuff. I’m not too worried about being in the field. It’s the at-bats that I need.”
Ryan was supposed to play for the first time since March 4, having missed basically two weeks with a sore lower back/oblique. He’s gone through full drills the past few days, but during pregame today he decided to let loose with a hard throw across the diamond. Said he wanted to test himself with a throw like that, and that’s when he felt his upper back pinch.
“It’s been a little bit uncomfortable, but not anything that I wanted to raise flags over,” Ryan said. “It was OK before. I don’t know what happened.”
Ryan said he’s been through something like this before, and he expects it to last only a day or two before everything loosens and he’s ready to play again, but Joe Girardi said he doesn’t expect Ryan to play this weekend, and that doesn’t leave much time.
“He hasn’t played much, that’s the problem,” Girardi said. “He would have to play some next week and it might have to be in some minor-league games just to get him some at-bats. … I think you have to be (worried about Opening Day), just because of where we are right now.”
· Strong start by David Phelps, who went six innings and allowed two runs. He was through 5.2 scoreless before Dustin Pedroia’s two-out, two-run double in the sixth. “They put a lot of their regulars out there,” Phelps said. “I like that because I can see how my stuff’s playing against them. Those guys that have seen me before, I can see how my stuff is. It’s also a little easier because we have a scouting report on these guys. But that’s as close to a real game as I’ve had this spring.”
· Minor mechanical change for Phelps, and he said that helped him have his best fastball command of the spring. “There were times I was just a little inconsistent,” he explained. “It was not a big change. Something small. Maybe as far as having my hands over my knee versus having them over my belt. It was something really small that Larry saw during my last start and he said, you know, let’s try something. And it really seemed to work. The ball was coming out really well in my bullpen doing it, so I’m really happy with where we’re at.”
· Phelps was asked about the fifth-starter competition and whether his bullpen experience actually puts him at a disadvantage against Michael Pineda. “I’m not going to try to handicap it,” Phelps said. “I’m happy with the way I’m throwing. Hopefully they are too, and we’ll see what happens. … He’s throwing the ball really well right now, and as a staff, we’re all throwing the ball really well right now. I just want to be a part of it. I think we’ve got a really special group here, and I think we’re capable of doing some special things this year.”
· About that Pedroia double: “It was so close,” Phelps said. “It’s the pitch I want to make. It’s just not the spot I want to throw it. He put a good swing on it. I’ve got to tip my cap to him. … I’m not going to let one at bat dictate my outing there. The way that I threw the ball today, I was really happy with it, and I’m just going to take that momentum and carry it over into whatever my next outing is.”
· No surprise here, but Girardi said he’s leaning a certain direction when it comes to his fifth starter and the open spots in the bullpen, but he’s not ready to make any decisions until he’s had a long conversation with the coaching staff. He also knows when Masahiro Tanaka will make his regular season debut, but that won’t be announced yet either. “We know, we’re just not ready to share it yet because I want to make sure that everything goes according to plan and everyone feels good before we do it,” Girardi said.
· No surprise, but Girardi indicated that if Ryan’s not ready to open the season, the Yankees will likely take two from the group of Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna, Yangervis Solarte and Scott Sizemore. Of that group, all but Sizemore can play shortstop. Nunez and Anna might have the advantage because they’re both on the 40-man. Especially if Ryan’s only going to miss a few days with a back-dated DL stint, probably doesn’t make much sense to add a guy to the 40-man for a short stint.
· Any regret about taking Ryan on the bus ride? (To be fair, Ryan seemed to think the bus had nothing to do with it): “It’s kind of what we’re forced to do,” Girardi said. “I don’t make the schedule. What was bothering him before wasn’t what bothered him tonight. My first thought was that’s what it was, but then he came in and said it’s upper. It’s back spasms and you have to deal with it. It’s uncomfortable, I know that.”
· After today’s negative MRI, Girardi said it’s possible Jacoby Ellsbury could play this weekend. “That’s my hope,” Girardi said. “But if it’s not, we’ll shoot for Tuesday then.” (Monday is a scheduled off day) Girardi said there’s no desire to simply shut Ellsbury down as an extreme precaution. “No, no, no, no, no,” Girardi said. “Because we want to get him out there, because we got to get him ready for the season. For us, as soon as we can get him out there, we’ll get him out there.”
· Box score notes: Ichiro Suzuki had the big hit of the night, a two-run single that made the difference in a 3-2 Yankees win. The other Yankees run came from Francisco Cervelli’s fourth (fourth!) home run of the spring. … Zelous Wheeler seems like an extreme long shot for one of those infield openings, but he did have a double today and he’s hitting .321 this spring. Nunez and Anna also had hits today. Adonis Garcia had another hit and is batting .444, nearly as good as Solarte’s .455. … Chris Leroux and Matt Daley continue to pitch extremely well this spring. Leroux went 1.1 hitless and Daley pitched one hitless innings. Fred Lewis pitched two-thirds scoreless with a strikeout and a hit.
· Final word goes to Phelps, talking about the sixth-inning at-bat when he walked David Ortiz: “It can be the first game of the spring — if it’s Yankees-Red Sox, we want to win. That’s a really big situation right there. You’ve got, like you said, heart of their order up. I’m not just going to lay a fastball in there just because I can command it. That’s kinda — we did it last game with Kubel — I don’t want to walk guys, obviously, but I’m going to make them hit my pitch in that situation.”
Associated Press photos