For anyone who thought that we might see the Yankees retaliate against Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli after he was caught on camera referring to Masahiro Tanaka as an, “idiot,” following his go-ahead homer with two outs in the ninth of Boston’s 2-1 win on Saturday, Joe Girardi’s message is don’t count on it.
Napoli clearly made some unsavory remarks about Tanaka, but it was in reference to the pitch selection — it certainly was a questionable decision to throw a 1-2 fastball in that spot with the array of pitches at Tanaka’s disposal — and it was directed at his teammates. For those reasons, Girardi downplayed it as a non-issue.
“I kind of heard second-hand,” Girardi said. “I don’t make much of it. It’s yesterday, it’s heat of the moment, and it doesn’t really change the complexion of the game. And it doesn’t change today’s game.”
In his defense, Napoli didn’t flip his bat or Cadillac it around the bases, and he didn’t make an attempt to purposely show up Tanaka.
Many want to make it into a big deal to juice up a rivalry that may have lost a bit of its luster in the past few seasons, but the Yankees don’t seem to be concerned.
“I haven’t seen anything from Mike Napoli where he’s a guy that shows people up, or he’s a guy who degrades people,” Girardi said. “Unfortunately, everything is seen now in the world that we live in, but I’ve never had the sense that he’s a bad guy. I’ve always thought of him as a guy who plays hard and loves to play the game.”
• The bigger concern for the Yanks is how Tanaka will respond to after losing his second straight start in such heartbreaking fashion, but Girardi repeatedly pointed out that Tanaka had pitched a brilliant game up to that point. Let’s face it: He’s been the biggest bright spot on the team and is probably the least of the Yankees’ concerns. “I really don’t,” Girardi said when asked he has any worries about his rookie ace. “I think that he’ll be fine. The bottom line is – and I think it gets lost – is that he pitched a great game. I don’t want him to lose sight of that, that he pitched well, and I won’t lose sight of it. If we score three runs, it’s not even talked about, so I think he’ll be fine.”
• With that being said, it’s hard to figure out why Tanaka went with the fastball in that spot. With a 1-2 count, it was the perfect time to try and get Napoli to chase an off-speed pitch, and Napoli even said that he was expecting a splitter in the dirt. Tanaka did him a favor by giving him an unexpected pitch that he could handle, and Girardi said that it will be a learning experience. “I think all of us learn from situations that we’re in, and I think he’ll put that in his cap and it’ll be in his thought process the next time that he’s in a situation like that, and we’ll move on,” he said. “Believe me, we talk about things in length. I have not talked to him yet, but I’m sure it’s going to come up at some point.”
• Red Sox manager John Farrell also downplayed what Napoli said. “We have the upmost respect for Tanaka. I know Mike does,” he said. “His comment was based on an emotion in that moment, but it wasn’t meant to be degrading towards Tanaka.”
• Girardi had an interesting take on the leeway that is given when it comes to in-game emotions. “I always talk about as a catcher, if you get in a fight with a pitcher and you start going back-and-forth, if they say things that are derogatory or degrading the next day, then I have a problem with my pitcher,” he said. “But if it’s in the heat of the battle, I really don’t. Some of the things that (David Cone) would say to me, I would laugh. I’d turn around and laugh when I walk back, but it’s the heat of the moment and players get excited.”
• Of course, Girardi was asked about what Cone used to say to him. “He kicked me out of the bullpen one day when he was warming up,” he said. “He told me to shut up, go back and catch – those sort of things. That’s who he was. He was passionate about what he did, and it was the heat of the moment. And I would laugh. It kind of broke the ice a lot of the time, in a sense. It was funny. We used to say that he had that temperament, where, at times, he could snap a little bit. And you know what? I have that temperament, too. We’ve seen it.”
• In non-Tanaka news, Girardi said that CC Sabathia reported that he felt good today and will likely make his next rehab start somewhere closer to New York. Sabathia threw 2 2/3 innings in his first rehab start on Saturday for Class A-Tampa, allowing two runs on three hits. “(Head trainer) Stevie (Donahue) talked to him and he said he felt good,” he said. “He’ll be here to throw a bullpen and we’ll take a look at it and decide where his next start is. They talked about it being maybe closer to here.”
• Tonight’s starter is Chase Whitley, who is coming off of his worst start of the season in which he allowed eight runs over 3 1/3 innings. He was a revelation when he first came up, but he’ll have to adjust as opposing teams become more familiar with him. “I think it’s command and I think it’s his off-speed,” Girardi said. “He struggled with his off-speed the last time, and I think especially his slider, so you kind of take a look at that. Even though that’s not his No. 1 pitch, it’s developed into a very good pitch. For a starter to get through the lineup a couple of times, you need three pitches, so that’s important for him today.”
• With the midway point of the season approaching, Girardi was asked how he would assess Brian McCann’s first half. “If you were to look solely at how our staff has done, his RBI totals and his home runs, you’d probably say, ‘You know what? He’s having a pretty good year.’ But when you look at that average, that’s kind of glaring. I think people say, ‘You know what? He’s not having the year that he’s capable of.’ I know he expects more from himself, but some of the important numbers, he’s doing a pretty good job at,” he said. “He’s done a really good job with our staff. He’s with his eighth or ninth starter at this point. He had to learn a whole new league. He had to learn five starters who didn’t last very long. Three of them got hurt pretty quickly, and he had to really familiarize himself with three more.”
• Back in 1996, Girardi also got off to a slow start in his first season in pinstripes and he spoke about the trend of players struggling when they first come here. “My first month and a half was pretty rough, if you remember,” he said. “There were some people that I had some really important talks with along the way – one being my wife, and one being Mr. Zimmer – about just being who you are. Don’t try to be someone else, and I think that’s the trap that some players fall into when they come here. And I wasn’t expected to make a huge impact like Brian was, so I didn’t have to deal with that. I had to deal with replacing Mike Stanley, who was a fan favorite at the time, but I think over time, you’re going to see that Brian is going to be a very, very good Yankee for a long time, and his numbers will be where they’re supposed to be.”
• Chad was here last night, so I didn’t hear the comments first-hand, but apparently Carlos Beltran mistakenly told the media that his troublesome right elbow has been bothering him. According to Girardi, he was referring to a minor forearm issue that he’s had since attempting to throw a few weeks ago. He said that Beltran has told him repeatedly that he’s fine, and he’ll probably try to throw again sometime next week. “I just went and talked to him, and he made reference to (the elbow) last night. But he was making reference to the forearm, which got stiff a little bit,” Girardi said. “His elbow has not been a problem. His forearm got stiff from throwing, and that’s why we shut him down. I said to Carlos, ‘We talk about this every day. Are you OK?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’m OK. (The media) was talking about my elbow, but in my mind, I was thinking about my forearm.’ ”
Associated Press photos