Forget about those plans to get Shawn Kelley off the disabled list by the end of this road trip.
After playing catch on Monday, Kelley woke up with a stiff back again on Tuesday. He was sent for additional tests which again revealed no structural problem — still no disc issue according to the latest MRI — but clearly there’s something going on.
“He’s just having some muscular issues back there, it seems to be,” Girardi said.
The plan was for Kelley to play catch on Monday and Tuesday, throw a bullpen on Thursday and get in a rehab game on Saturday. It seemed entirely possible if not likely that he would be activated during the upcoming series in St. Louis.
“So the catch is on hold, the side will be on hold for a little, and obviously the rehab game that we were planning is on hold,” Girardi said. “Just have to wait and see. He’s going to continue to rehab back home.”
Replacing Kelley isn’t the issue for the Yankees. Adam Warren and Dellin Betances have pitched extremely well and basically fill Kelley’s late-inning setup role. The problem is bullpen depth. Just last night the trio of Preston Claiborne, Matt Thornton and Matt Daley failed to keep the game from getting out of hand, and long man Alfredo Aceves has been uninspiring ever since that scoreless season debut.
Also, if the Yankees were to need yet another starting pitcher, Warren would seem to be the best candidate — despite the time it would take to get him stretched out — but taking him out of the bullpen would hurt a lot more if Kelley weren’t in place.
• The Yankees are obviously sticking with Jacoby Ellsbury as he goes through his recent slump. Ellsbury has one hit in his past seven games (six starts), and since May 4 he’s hitting just .102/.228/.143. He had been arguably the Yankees best hitter in the first month of the season, and now he’s in a pretty significant slump. “Sometimes he’s early, sometimes he’s late,” Girardi said. “It’s a timing issue for me. It’s something everyone goes through. Obviously he’s important for our offense and we need him to come out of it.”
• Any concern that Ellsbury’s wrist is still bothering him. “If it is, he’s not letting us know,” Girardi said. “All I can tell you is he said that he’s fine.”
• Michael Pineda threw a 30-pitch bullpen today, but Girardi said he’s not sure when Pineda will start a rehab assignment. “I don’t know exactly when the date is going to be,” Girardi said. “It seems like again we have a lot of guys that we’re trying to find out here.”
• Really seems like defense has been an unexpected problem for Mark Teixeira this season, but Girardi claims he hasn’t noticed. “He’s had an error just like anyone else has, but I haven’t really,” Girardi said. “I think he’s still very good over there. I’m very comfortable when he’s around the bag in what he does.”
• Playing Brian McCann in a day game after a night game might have had something to do with keeping him with Chase Whitley — McCann caught Whitley’s strong debut — but Girardi said it has more to do with the recent schedule and the upcoming starters. “The other thing is we’re going to see some lefties this weekend at some point,” Girardi said. “We were off Friday, we were off Monday.” Seems safe to assume John Ryan Murphy could get some playing time against those lefties.
• Before the game, Whitley sat in the middle of the clubhouse laughing with Adam Warren, David Phelps and Preston Claiborne. Seemed relaxed heading into his second big league start. “Just give us six good innings,” Girardi said. “I think that’s what you look for. Obviously if we don’t quite get that much, I’m OK with that too. We’ve talked about, this guy has been a reliever most of his career. He did a great job against the Mets, and just continue to do what you do.”
• Girardi said he doesn’t expect Whitley to throw 100 pitches, and Girardi will start really watching him closely around 75 or 80.
Associated Press photos