This is the second year in a row that Ichiro Suzuki has been significantly better against lefties than against righties — .841 OPS vs LHP; .639 vs. RHP — yet against the lefty Jon Lester, Ichiro is on the bench and Alfonso Soriano is in the lineup. The video above is Joe Girardi explaining the decision.
Basically, Jacoby Ellsbury has been productive against Lester this season, Brett Gardner has been hot lately, and Soriano doubled and homered off Lester earlier this year.
“Part of it is you’d like to possibly give one of your lefties a day off today,” Girardi said. “But it’s only the second day (in a row) and I’m going to play the guys that we’ve been playing every day.”
I can’t help thinking the Soriano double and home run are significant factors in this situation. Ichiro has hit for a terrific average against lefties this season, but he has just one extra-base hit against them in 30 at-bats. It’s a small sample size, and the Yankees lineup has plenty of small-ball hitters without Ichiro. Without Soriano, the only hitters in this lineup who could be considered true power threats would be Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran (and Beltran isn’t exactly clobbering the ball lately).
This lineup needs some pop, and Soriano can — in theory — provide some.
“So far, we’re not doing our job,” Soriano said. “But we have a very good record, we’re like two games out from the first place. We’re not hitting like we’re supposed to hit, so that’s a good thing. Sooner or later, we will hit like we’re supposed to hit, and I think everything will be in better shape.”
In his limited at-bats, Soriano has actually hit a little bit lately. Of course, he’s been Ichiro-like because his offense has come with a high average but very little power (and a seriously small sample size). The Yankees already have pushed Soriano into a part-time platoon role. if he can’t be productive in a situation like this, it’s hard to see a spot for him.
“I’m feeling much better,” Soriano said “See the ball better, and try to do my job when I’ve got the time to play. That’s what I want to do. I just want to try to feel better every day and try to do my job and help the team to win.”
• Girardi said he actually had not heard or asked about Michael Pineda’s scheduled throwing session. Pineda was scheduled to play catch today. his first time throwing since his most recent setback. “Probably 25 throws at 60 feet, so probably not a lot to get excited about,” Girardi said.
• Assuming everything went fine, what’s next for Pineda? “You extend the catch, get him up to 120 feet (eventually),” Girardi said. “Do some flat ground, do some bullpens, do some live BP-slash-simulated games, then you try to get him in some games. But it takes a while.”
• More significant is tonight’s rehab start by CC Sabathia, who’s pitching for High-A Tampa beginning in just a few minutes. Tampa Yankees radio man Nick Flammia is on the scene. Jake Cave is hitting leadoff, Greg Bird is the No. 3 hitter and Aaron Judge is batting cleanup in that game. Also, Angelo Gumbs has come off the disabled list and is starting at second base down there. It’s his third game back.
• Another guy off the minor league DL is Chris Leroux, who was activated to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre roster this afternoon and will start tonight. With a few guys healthy now, that Triple-A rotation now includes Leroux, Bruce Billings, Alfredo Aceves and Shane Greene, all of whom have some big league time this year (and Greene pitched much better last time out). Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s fifth start is Nik Turley, who’s also fresh off the disabled list and has a chance to be a major-league option at some point. There seem to be a few more options there than there were just a few weeks ago.
• One other thing to notice with tonight’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre game, Jose Pirela is starting in right field (at least, according to the lineup on the RailRiders website). That’s significant only because all of his previous outfield time has come in left field. This is his first turn in right field this season. Preparing him to be a Soriano/Ichiro alternative?
• Finally, it’s Tanaka Day, with the Yankees ace making another start against the Red Sox. Last time out, Tanaka’s average fastball velocity was noticeably down, but Girardi essentially dismissed it. “He threw a lot more two-seamers and didn’t throw a lot of four-seamers,” Girardi said. “And his four-seamers are the ones that are going to have a little higher velocity. That can have something to do with it. It can vary from start to start. There’s no doubt about it. You can have a guy anywhere from half-a-mile to a mile off from start to start, it can be a little but different depending on the amount of rest or how tough the innings were, so yeah, it can vary, but a lot of it can have to do with how many four-seamers he throws too.”
Associated Press photo