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Pregame notes: Steinbrenner “pleasantly surprised, not shocked” with first-place Yanks (UPDATED w/audio)05.18.13

Hal Steinbrenner

UPDATE, 3:18 p.m.: Here’s audio of Hal Steinbrenner’s chat with reporters:

* * *

Now here’s my post from earlier:

In the building for Photo Day, Hal Steinbrenner lauded the first-place start by the Yankees. You could tell from his voice that the success of young call-ups from Scranton have invigorated ownership.

“I can say it’s a good thing. There’s no doubt it’s a good thing,” Steinbrenner said. “I’m excited about it. I’m excited last night with Adams and Romine getting those hits. It’s a great thing to see. A lot of these kids you wouldn’t have seen this year, chances are. They would’ve played in Scranton all year long if the marquee players were all healthy.”

With the cavalcade of stars sent to the DL so far, Steinbrenner admitted he was pleased with the club’s results. The Yankees are in first in the division, and opened today 10 games over .500.

“Pleasantly surprised. I’m not shocked. I didn’t buy into the doomsday scenario that many people did,” Steinbrenner said. “I knew we had some good kids at Triple-A. More importantly, I knew that the guys we got in the offseason were veterans. Whether people thought they were worth getting or not, I felt they were veterans and this is what you expect veterans to do.”

It’s no secret attendance at the Stadium and ratings on the YES Network are both down. Steinbrenner met with MLB officials today and said attendance had dipped across the sport.

He hopes the new faces will pique the interest of fans now that the weather has improved.

“The good stories that we’ve all known about on this club are going to be more well-known to the fan base,” he said. “I think people are going to be excited to come out and see the Adamses, the Romines, the Hafners and the players we got in the offseason.”

Steinbrenner also said the organization will not negotiate with Joe Girardi during the season, but he praised the work of the manager and Brian Cashman, framing it in the obvious.

“Both have done a great job,” he said. “There have been a lot of ups and downs to Triple-A and back, shuffling around players. They’ve done a great job, and Cash did a great job with the players we got in the offseason.”

Steinbrenner did not want to delve into the future for Robinson Cano, but said he has met a couple times with Cano’s new agent, Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA Sports, a partner of Roc Nation, the company founded by Jay-Z. Steinbrenner deemed those meetings “procedural.”

Although the Yankees have been burned by long-term deals in excess of $100 million in recent years, Steinbrenner said the market will dictate how long the club would be willing to go on a contract. He didn’t say it, but that’s clearly in consideration for Cano, who will turn 31 in October.

“Anybody would get a little nervous if you get into a seven or eight-year deal,” Steinbrenner said. “It depends on the age of the player, too, I guess. Give an eight-year contract to a 34-year old — you probably wouldn’t do that, right? Twenty-five, 26?”

Here are the rest of today’s notes:

• Brian Cashman on if the slow progress of Kevin Youkilis was something to fear: “I hope not. He took batting practice again today. Obviously, he’s moving along slowly, but he’s moving along.”

• For more on the acquisition of Reid Brignac, click here. It includes Cashman’s thoughts on Ben Francisco and why fans need to pipe down.

• Girardi does not expect Travis Hafner (shoulder) to have any limitations.

• Here’s Girardi on Chris Stewart: “He’s just doing treatment. He’s better. My hope is that we don’t need him today again and then we’ll talk about it tomorrow.”

• As I said earlier, this is the 1,046th start of Curtis Granderson’s career, but his first ever in right field. Girardi talked to Granderson about playing right and said Granderson was fine with it.

As you know, Granderson worked in right and left during his rehab stint. He played twice in left since returning on Tuesday.

“Curtis is just here to play and wants to win,” Girardi said. “He’s the type of guy who would do anything you ask him to do. It was an easy conversation. Sometimes you don’t know how those conversations are going to go, but it was very easy.”

• The club will benefit from not just Granderson’s flexibility, but that of Vernon Wells, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki. He does not want to rotate players just to rotate them, but a tight schedule over the next month will require all four to rest at times.

He said Ichiro’s rest today was not a reflection of his recent struggles at the plate.

• Vidal Nuno will be in the bullpen today. Girardi said he will probably pitch when Andy Pettitte’s spot pops up next week but that it will depend on if they need Nuno before then.

Posted by: Josh Thomson - Posted in Noteswith 117 Comments →

Winter Meetings Day 2 notes: “I’m prepared to drag this thing out”12.04.12

One day after announcing the Alex Rodriguez injury, Brian Cashman was approached by various trade and free agent options.

“I’ve had a few of maybe the names I wouldn’t have thought of – lesser names that I wouldn’t have an interest in – volunteer their services for that position,” Cashmans said. “I’ve had some people suggest, ‘Hey, my guy who plays second base, he can swing over to play third.’ That type if stuff. I don’t have an interest in stuff like that. … I did have one irresponsible ask (in a trade suggestion), which I assume has everything to do with yesterday’s announcement. I’m no longer talking to that club.”

Although Cashman expects the market to continue its rapid development — “It seems like this is a market flush with money, the way it’s acting,” he said — but he plans to remain patient. Cashman said he believes it’s possible he could complete a move before these meetings end on Thursday morning, but he feels no need to force the issue.

“The preference is always to get your problems solved and get them fixed,” he said. “But the realistic side of that is that it’s going to take time and you have to solve it over time. If you don’t feel comfortable with the solution, you shouldn’t solve it until you feel comfortable. I’m prepared to drag this thing out.

“Hopefully everybody else is, too.”

• Cashman admitted to speaking with the agents for five different players: Kevin Youkilis, Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Ichiro Suzuki and A.J. Pierzynski. Those were the only names specifically mentioned, and Cashman confirmed that he’s had discussions about each one.

• Despite talking to Pierzynski’s camp, Cashman was as firm as ever in his belief that the Yankees will have an in-house starting catcher next season. “I think our catching will come from within, personally, as we are right now,” Cashman said. “I’d be surprised if it didn’t.”

• Cashman on whether he needs to stick with one-year deals: “Optimally that’s the best way you’d like to go, but it might not be the way I have to go. It just depends on the player and the dollar amount.”

• Earlier today, Joe Girardi said the Yankees need a third base solution that’s capable of playing the position all year because of Alex Rodriguez’s uncertainty. Cashman disagreed. Sort of. “I was just looking to someone who can get there for three months at the very least,” Cashman said. “If it’s somebody that’s good enough to go the whole way, fine, but there’s not a lot of choices out there. I’m not going to limit it by looking at it that way. I understand what he’s talking about – you need to have the protection – but it’s a very limited sandbox to play in.”

• With Ichiro and Ibanez in the mix, Cashman indicated that he’s willing to use an all-left-handed regular outfield. “Beggars can’t be choosers, so to speak,” Cashman said. “If I’m in a situation where we have equal righty or lefty bats, you can gravitate one way or the other, but it doesn’t match up that way. … If we did (sign another left-handed outfielder), we’d need two outfield bats, one from the right side, one from the left side. If we wanted to put another left handed bat in, and it’s all three left handed outfielders, I would say focus on me adding another right-handed bat too, in the Andruw Jones category.”

• To be clear, in no way did I think Cashman was talking about bringing back Andruw Jones, he was just referring to a right-handed outfielder who strictly plays against lefties.

• Will Brett Gardner be in center field next year? “I see Gardner and Granderson both as center fielders,” Cashman said. “Currently Gardner is our left fielder and Granderson is our center fielder, and if we so choose to make a change, we’ll have no problem doing so. But that’s not something we’re talking about right now.”

• By the way, forgot to mention earlier that Girardi said Granderson had his vision checked and it’s fine. There was some speculation that maybe his vision caused last year’s second-half struggles. Apparently that’s not the case.

• Cashman on Chavez: “We know him very well and he had a hell of a year. He’s put himself in a very strong position, I think, in a marketplace that is thin at that position. That will run interference with our interest level, I would think, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make something happen there. We’ll see. We’re engaged.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 73 Comments →

Wednesday night links and notes: From bus riders to RailRiders11.14.12

The Yankees Triple-A affiliate has a new name to go with its new stadium.

Introducing, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

The name and logo were announced at an unveiling ceremony earlier this evening. A name-the-team contest selected RailRiders ahead of other the finalists: Blast, Black Diamond Bears, Porcupines, Trolley Frogs and Fireflies. According to the team, Porcupines was another popular choice, and so the team mascot will be a porcupine.

That new mascot and logo will be with the team next season when it opens a new stadium, meaning the Triple-A guys won’t play an all-on-the-road schedule next year.

I’m sure very few of you were paying any attention to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team back when it was called the Red Barons and belonged to the Phillies organization, but for those of us who were paying attention back then, the new RailRiders uniforms are instantly recognizable as throwbacks to the Red Barons days. And that should be a pretty popular touch in Northeastern Pennsylvania where many local fans had a strong attachment to the old team.

“The RailRiders brand signifies our reenergized commitment to the community, not only with a new team name and logos, but our unwavering focus to provide the best in affordable, family fun entertainment,” team president Rob Crain said in a statement. “Our new identity also honors NEPA’s rich baseball history with the interlocking SWB mark. Plus, it highlights our strong partnership with the New York Yankees with navy caps and home pinstripes.”

I honestly did not care one bit which team name was chosen, but I do think the logo looks pretty cool.

• A quick reminder that I’ll be hosting a chat tomorrow at noon. Stop by if you can.

• Indications have been trending this way for a while, and today Torii Hunter agreed to a two-year deal with the Tigers. The contract is reportedly worth $13 million per year. It was reported last week that the Yankees were not willing to give Hunter a two-year contract, and it was reported today that the Yankees never made Hunter an actual offer at all.

• The Marlins are getting rid of bad contracts, and Erik Boland reports that the Yankees have some interest in not-very-good starting pitching Ricky Nolasco. Problems solved!

• Josh Norris noted today that, while talking on MLB Network radio, Nationals manager Davey Johnson said it’s possible a former Yankees prospect will be in Washington’s rotation next year: “I think Christian Garcia would look good in the starting rotation,” Johnson said. Garcia was highly touted with the Yankees, but he could never stay healthy and wound up finally getting to the big leagues as a Nationals reliever this season. Really, really nice guy. Even though he’s somewhere else, you should really root for that kid.

Brian Fuentes has decided to retire. Inevitably I’ll still get a “the Yankees should get Brian Fuentes!” email at some point this winter.

Associated Press photo of Hunter; I stole the RailRiders logo from my friends in Scranton

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 164 Comments →

Notes from GM Meetings Day 2: Soriano, Cano and Tino11.08.12

Surrounded by media standing four or five deep, Scott Boras just spoke in the hotel lobby and left little doubt that his client, Rafael Soriano, will decline the Yankees qualifying offer.

“Most qualifying offers are really for players of the highest value,” Boras said. “When teams make them, they’re acknowledging the value and other teams know that, as well. I don’t anticipate many players accepting single-year contracts that are in that arena.”

As for current value, Boras made the case that Soriano might have been the difference in some teams making or missing the playoffs this season, and he played up the idea that the Yankees shouldn’t easily let go of such late-inning comfort.

“If you look at the Angels, Dodgers, White Sox, Milwaukee; those teams would have been in the playoffs if they had a closer that had the efficiency rating of Soriano,” Boras said. “The Yankees took advantage of that. If that was a really good business decision for the Yankees two years ago, and it proved to be so valued today, it certainly would be a wiser decision when (Mariano) Rivera is older and coming off an injury.”

Brian Cashman said he hasn’t heard and hasn’t asked whether Soriano, Nick Swisher or Hiroki Kuroda will accept or decline their qualifying offers — “We’d be very happy (if they accept), let’s put it that way,” Cashman said — but it’s becoming clear that the Yankees are setting priorities this offseason. One-year deals are one thing, but with $189 million in mind for next year, the Yankees have to pick and choose where they allocate funds.

That alone might be enough to keep the Yankees out of the Soriano bidding should he hit the open market.

“It would be great if we had them both (Soriano and Rivera),” Cashman said. “The only bad side to having them both — and I don’t have Mo, and I don’t have Soriano (right now) — but obviously it would affect dollars to be spent elsewhere. But bullpens are big time, so do I have to replace him? I think it’s relative to how that would impact the other side of it.”

• Boras certainly sounded as if he’s not expecting to come to terms on a contract extension for Robinson Cano any time soon. “He’s there for another year,” Boras said. “I talked to Randy (Levine) a few times this week. I talked to Cash. These are things that, I’m sure as time goes forward, we’ll continue to talk about. But nothing current.”

• Just to be clear, Cashman said that if Soriano does happen to accept the qualifying offer, he has no problem with paying both Soriano and Rivera closer money next season. “That would happen,” Cashman said. “If he accepts, yeah, absolutely. We made that decision when we tendered the offer.”

• Because Tino Martinez was serving as a senior advisor in the Yankees organization, he had to receive permission to interview for the Marlins hitting coach job. “You combine the great player with that type of experience in seeing how things get done, and I think he’s got a tremendous amount to offer,” Cashman said.

• The Yankees never talked about making Martinez their hitting coach. “We didn’t have any vacancies,” Cashman said. “The Yankees, we’ve been blessed to have some tremendous hitting coaches, from Don Mattingly to Kevin Long, so it’s not an area that’s needed to be addressed at all.”

• Although he hasn’t asked whether Kuroda will accept a qualifying offer, Cashman said he has spoken to Kuroda’s agent. “Yes,” Cashman said. “I wouldn’t say, and I couldn’t say (what exactly the conversation was about).”

• Just something to keep in mind: Ken Davidoff brought up that the $189 million luxury tax threshold includes more than player salary. There’s a certain amount of money — something around $10-12 million, Cashman said — that’s automatically factored in for things like travel expenses. So in terms of player contracts, the Yankees have to get closer to $177 million to stay below the luxury tax.

• Cashman dismissed the idea that the Yankees can’t get better while also working to control spending. “Didn’t we get better this year?” he said. “Ninety-five wins. Won the American League East. Went farther in the playoffs (than the year before). Got older, probably. … Improved flexibility. Kept financial costs in check. Lined ourselves up for the long term going that route in certain areas, and we’re better.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 22 Comments →

Notes and links heading into World Series Game 210.25.12

Last night the Giants did what seemed impossible for the Yankees: They scored a bunch of runs of Justin Verlander. Now the Giants have an early one-game lead as the World Series shifts to Game 2 tonight in San Francisco. First pitch at is 8:07 p.m. on FOX.

A few Yankees notes heading into the game.

• Mariano Rivera is still considering retirement. Brian Cashman said just a few minutes ago that he called Rivera on Tuesday and Rivera said he’s still not sure he’ll come back next season. “I wasn’t surprised,” Cashman said. When Rivera tore his ACL in May, he was initially very emphatic about coming back for another season, but now he’s not so sure. I believe Andrew Marchand was the first to report about this earlier today.

• Quick Arizona Fall League note: Dellin Betances hasn’t pitched in a little more than a week. Cashman said he’s dealing with a sore groin, but it’s not considered a significant issue. Betances’ shoulder, Cashman said, is fine.

• Mark Teixeira was named one of the 2012 Fielding Bible Award winners. It was Teixeira’s first Fielding Bible win at first base. The other winners: Yadier Molina, Darwin Barney, Brendan Ryan, Adrian Beltre, Alex Gordon, Mike Trout, Jason Heyward and Mark Buehrle.

• Joel Sherman spoke to someone close Ichiro Suzuki who says Ichiro wants to return to the Yankees next season and money isn’t likely to be a factor. I wonder if contract length will be.

• Mason Williams, who missed much of the second half of the season with a shoulder injury, has been cleared to start working out.

• Over at Baseball American, Ben Badler reports that Shohei Otani being drafted in Japan will not delay his ability to sign with a Major League club afterall.

Associated Press photo of Pablo Sandoval

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 302 Comments →

Friday night notes and links10.19.12

Just a few links from this first day of the offseason.

• Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees are almost certainly going to make Nick Swisher a qualifying offer this offseason — they have to do that to get compensation for him if he signs elsewhere — but Heyman says the Yankees have no plans of seriously pursuing a multi-year deal with their current right fielder. It’s certainly going to take a multi-year deal to sign Swisher.

• Also from Heyman, and also not a surprise, the Yankees are going to pick up Curtis Granderson’s option for next season. That’s a no-brainer. Heyman says a long-term extension isn’t likely. Also not surprising.

• Over at the Daily News, John Harper quotes an unnamed Yankee saying that the booing at home during the ALCS had a significant impact in the clubhouse. “I really think the booing spooked a lot of guys,” the player said. “A lot of guys hadn’t been booed before, and they couldn’t believe how nasty it got in the stands.”

• I was talking to Brian Cashman when Kevin Long did his postgame interview yesterday, so I missed him saying that Curtis Granderson’s postseason struggles might have been a confidence issue. “There might have been a little bit of self doubt that I saw,” Long said.

• Apparently the Red Sox are working toward making John Farrell their new manager. Joe McDonald and Gordon Edes report that Boston is trying to figure out the proper compensation for Toronto, which currently has Farrell as its manager. That’s significant for the Yankees because their bench coach, Tony Pena, has interviewed for the Red Sox job.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 527 Comments →

Postgame notes: “We just didn’t play well”10.18.12

There was a sense of stunned reality in the Yankees clubhouse. Everyone understood exactly what happened, but no one seemed to know why or how.

“We have a lot of things to be proud of this year, but the last four games weren’t among them,” Mark Teixeira said. “We just didn’t play well. We didn’t’ play Yankee baseball, and it showed.”

What is Yankee baseball exactly?

“Basically our team is built around power and plate discipline, and obviously what comes in between are the walks and the singles and the doubles,” Brian Cashman said. “We’ve had (postseason success that way). We’ve had the success. I’ve lived it. You know what, we got here for a reason too. Despite how our offense performed here, this team is here for a reason. We’re honored to be in the American League Championship Series. We’re disappointed that we’re not moving forward. We feel that we did not utilize to the best of our abilities our strengths and be able to put that step forward in this particular series. … Is that something that will all of a sudden define what they really are or what this offense really is? No, it’s not going to.”

Some of the nuts and bolts of this thing are indisputable.

The Yankees hit just .157 in the American League Championship Series. That’s the second-worst team batting average of all 172 teams to compete in an ALCS since 1969. The Yankees snapped their record streak of 36 consecutive postseason series without being swept (one other franchise, the Cardinals, has even played in the in that many postseason series). The Yankees played 39 innings this series and scored in three of them. Their two runs in the final three games were scored by Eduardo Nunez, a guy who wasn’t even on the active roster for Game 1.

“I’ve got to tell you, the last two weeks were very difficult for everyone,” Alex Rodriguez said. “It wasn’t just one guy struggling. It was a collective group and it was a very unique situation. Since I’ve been here in my nine years I don’t think there was a period where everyone struggled at the same time.”

It happened this series, and really, it happened the entire postseason. Five Yankees regulars — Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin — hit below .200 this postseason. The two guys who replaced them — Brett Gardner and Eric Chavez — went hitless in 24 at-bats.

“There are a lot of good hitters in that room,” Joe Girardi said. “And to be able to shut a lot of them down is very surprising to me. And some of the guys that replaced other guys are good big league players that have had a lot of success in their career. Collectively we weren’t able to get it done.”

That much was clear. It’s going to take me a few hours to sort through everything that was said in that clubhouse, and it’s going to take all of us a few days to sort through what exactly happened this postseason, but the reality was unmistakable. The Yankees didn’t hit, and they paid the price for it.

“They’re better hitters than that,” Cashman said. “You know that. I know that. We’ve seen that. That’s a fact. There’s no dispute I don’t care who wants to argue what to me. What we saw in this series – and during the Baltimore series despite getting past them – on the offensive side isn’t a fair, accurate depiction of the capabilities of those players. It’s just not. … We didn’t want our winter to start just yet. Unfortunately, it’s coming sooner than we wanted.”

I’m sure we’ll dig deeper into these issues in the coming days, but just to quickly hit on some of the more pressing issues at the moment…

Will Alex Rodriguez be back?
Cashman said he expects Rodriguez back, and Rodriguez finished his postgame interview by saying he absolutely will be back.

“That’s correct,” he said. “I will be back, and I have a lot to prove, and I will come back on a mission.”

Rodriguez said he hold no hard feelings toward Girardi or Cashman for their collective decision to bench him this postseason.

“I know it was difficult for Joe, and I know that Joe didn’t want to sit me,” Rodriguez said. “It’s something that’s not easy for him. But again, if I do what I do, Joe doesn’t have a choice. Neither does Cashman. Neither does anybody. If I am who I know I can be, then they’ll worry about other guys. So my job is to work extremely hard, prepare and help be a force.”

Is Andy Pettitte going to retire?
Pettitte was supposed to pitch tomorrow. Instead, tomorrow will be the first day of another uncertain offseason. Pettitte said he wants to make his decision — retire or come back — more quickly than he did two years ago.

“I would love to think about it maybe for a month or so,” he said. “Think about what I want to do, definitely not jump to a conclusion. But as I was saying, it’s a huge commitment at this stage of my life, where I’m at. … I definitely miss parts of (being home), there’s no doubt about it. But I was sold out and committed to this, and absolutely committed to being here. And I want to make sure if I do this, I’m absolutely sold out and committed to it.”

Does this postseason mean Kevin Long’s job is on the line?
Cashman made it perfectly clear that he didn’t blame the Yankees coaching staff for the team’s postseason performance, and he expects to have the full coaching staff back next season.

“Do I anticipate that? Yes,” Cashman said. “Have we had a chance to sit back, and have I had a chance to talk to my manager about it and everything? No, I haven’t done that. Do I anticipate changes right now? I don’t anticipate that. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be.”

After his fan comments, does Nick Swisher want to be back next year?
Back in the lineup for Game 4, Swisher had the RBI double that drove in the only Yankees run. He also said he wants to be back next season.

“Absolutely,” Swisher said. “… (The last four years were) awesome, absolutely awesome, bro. Best place in the world to play, absolutely.”

Do the Yankees have a clear free agent priority this winter?
“I have preferences and things of that nature,” Cashman said. “But I have not talked to Hal Steinbrenner, and so until I have conversations with Hal about everything, it makes no sense to start pushing who’s important or more important than others. There’s too much pain right now that exists here, and I don’t need to start on that process just yet.”

• CC Sabathia pitched a complete game to get the Yankees into the ALCS. Tonight, he couldn’t pitch out of the fourth inning. “It’s embarrassing to me to be able to come out and not give our team a chance to win,” Sabathia said. “I pride myself on trying to give us a chance and I didn’t do that tonight.”

• What was wrong with Sabathia? “I felt great,” he said. “I just couldn’t command the ball on the inside part of the plate to the righties. … I was terrible today. I didn’t make pitches. Changeup was a non factor. Fastball command wasn’t good. They put some good at-bats together. It kind of is what it is.”

• Cashman said the Yankees will have Sabathia’s left elbow examined this offseason just to make sure there’s no lingering damage in there. They have no indication that there’s something wrong — Sabathia said he’s fine — but the Yankees want to make sure. Cashman said the team has a full list of potential injuries to double check this winter. That’s pretty standard for the team each postseason.

• Two Yankees hitters came out of this series looking especially good: Raul Ibanez and Eduardo Nunez. Ibanez’s clutch hits made a case for another year as a platoon DH/outfielder and Nunez’s past two games — home run, triple, stolen base — made the case for another chance on the big league roster. “I feel confident all the time,” Nunez said. “I hope to make the team (next year), but we’ll see.”

• Ichiro Suzuki also had a pretty good postseason, leading the team with 11 hits and tied for the team lead with five RBI. Would he consider coming back to the Yankees? ?It just ended today, and like I’ve said before, I just want to be that player that is needed and wanted,” Ichiro said. “And that’s all I can tell you today.”

• Perhaps no more puzzling player this postseason than Robinson Cano, who’s had postseason success in the past and ended the regular season as the hottest hitter in baseball. “That one is kind of baffling for me,” Girardi said. “Because we have seen the type of hitter that Robbie Cano is.”

• Sabathia clearly didn’t have it tonight. Why didn’t Girardi pull him after the Cabrera home run in the fourth? “He had Fielder, and he got Fielder out and looked pretty sharp on that,” Girardi said. “I had Eppley up. I wasn’t hesitant, but I have a lot of confidence in CC.”

• Girardi found a time to pinch hit Rodriguez against the lefty who had just entered the game in the sixth inning. Rodriguez wound up 0-for-2. “That’s why I sent him up there, (because) you are guaranteed a spot against him. against the left-handed pitcher,” Girardi said. “He swung the bat good off (lefties) all year long, and it didn’t happen.”

• Bad defensive inning for Mark Teixeira in the third. It wound up costing them a run, but it’s hard to say it cost them the game. “The first one’s a do-or-die,” Teixeira said. “If I back up on it, there’s no chance I get it. I went in to get it, and it got past me. The second one, it’s a ball that 9 out of 10, it hops up right to you and it’s not a big deal. But it just hopped up a little too much, and I missed it.”

• Final word goes to Cashman: “We’re going to keep fighting. The one thing I know that the Yankees stand for and we’ve tried to stand for is, we’re always going to get back. We’re going to promise we’re going to do our best. We’re going to try as hard as we can. Some years obviously we have more success than others, but you can count on us trying to stay in it to win it. That’s all I can say. That’s the Steinbrenner philosophy which is do anything you can to make sure that team is competitive and the fans of New York have a belief that this team has a chance to do something special. That belief existed again this year and we fell short of our goal and we’re sorry about that. We’re going to go fight again next year for it and try to be the last team standing. Unfortunately we weren’t able to finish that off this year.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 220 Comments →

Pregame notes: “It’s not like anything’s changed”10.18.12

As you might expect, there wasn’t a lot of news coming out of Joe Girardi’s pregame session with the Yankees beat writers. It’s the same old song, just a day later.

“It’s not like anything’s changed overnight,” Girardi said. “You look at what you look at on a daily basis and it’s not like it’s changed.”

Girardi is sticking with the same lineup he planned to use last night. He’s obviously sticking with the same pitcher. And obviously he’s hoping for different results.

“I hope (the day off) did something for (the lineup),” Girardi said. “Obviously we know there’s a lot in front of us, but you can’t think of that. You’ve just got to think about winning a game today. … I know we’re down 0-3 and there’s a lot of what-ifs, but I could be substantially different. We had some opportunities, so I feel good. And you have got to go out and win a game today.”

Win a game today, then see what happens. That seems to be the running theme at this point.

“Obviously our goal is to win the World Series,” Girardi said. “I mean, that will never change. But they are short-term goals at this point. Your goal is to win today. I mean, that’s it. Play a good ballgame and win today and do whatever it takes to win today, and then you worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.”

• Alex Rodriguez’s replacement at third base, Eric Chavez, hasn’t exactly been crushing the ball this postseason. Chavez is 0-for-14 in the playoffs. “His at-bats have been okay,” Girardi said. “I thought he got the barrel of the bat to Verlander three times the other day, and that’s not an easy guy to get the barrel of the bat up to. And Chavy has swung the bat pretty good for us this year. That’s why he’s in there.”

• One benefit of the rain out: The Yankees have a full bullpen tonight. Girardi wasn’t sure he’d be able to use Boone Logan last night, but he said Logan should be fine today.

• Phil Hughes’ lower back isn’t expected to be an issue going forward. “We think he’s going to be available for us,” Giradi said. “Not today, but after today maybe.”

• Russell Martin’s jammed thumb isn’t expected to be an issue. “I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I’m sure the day off helped.”

• That said, Girardi said that last night he had multiple lineups ready, including one with Chris Stewart just in case Martin couldn’t play.

• Girardi said he still believes postponing last night’s game was the right decision. “I don’t think there’s any way we would have finished because at 10 o’clock we were driving home and it was raining hard,” Girardi said. “I think that was the big fear.”

• Derek Jeter spoke to Girardi on Wednesday, and although Jeter never gave a speech to the team following his injury, Girardi said Jeter has been quietly making himself felt in the clubhouse. “He does it the way he always does it,” Girardi said. “You’re not going to notice that he’s doing it, but he’s doing it.” Does that mean Captain-by-text-message? “There’s some calls, too,” Girardi said.

• What’s Kevin Long’s responsibility right now? “I think his personality is important,” Girardi said. “And I think he just continues to work with them. There’s going to be a time during the course of a season where you see a hitter gets a little off track and you try to make a minor adjustment. That’s what he’s been doing. He’s not going to make any overhauls of swings right now – now is not the time to do that – but you try and make minor adjustments if you see something wrong.”

• For whatever it’s worth, Girardi said he doesn’t think Rodriguez’s struggles are because of bat speed. “I don’t necessarily think it’s bat speed, I don’t,” Girardi said. “I’ve seen him hit the ball in BP and I’ve seen him hit it a long ways, and you’ve got to have bat speed to do that. It’s just, he’s scuffling. … I think it’s more how you’re seeing the ball a lot of times and how you see certain pitchers.”

• Does Girardi consider the idea of Rodriguez not being back with the team next year? “I think any media that has to do with Alex is probably not surprising to me,” he said. “We’ve talked about how he seems to be someone that people like to talk about. That has not crossed my mind that he’s not going to be with us. That’s not something that’s crossed my mind or I’ve even thought about.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 214 Comments →

Rain out notes: “Doesn’t matter what they throw at us”10.17.12

When Major League Baseball started this game in a delay, it seemed to be benefit the Yankees. The last thing they needed was to have CC Sabathia’s first ALCS appearance cut short by a mid-game rain delay. By the time this game was rained out and postponed until tomorrow, the advantage shifted the other way.

Sabathia will start tomorrow, and with the Yankees needing to win four games in four days, Sabathia will not make another start in this series. Brian Cashman said he wouldn’t even consider it if Sabathia asked.

“No,” Cashman said. “I’m not thinking that far ahead, let’s just worry about tomorrow. If we take care of business tomorrow then we can worry about the next day. I want to be in a position to do that.”

Of course it’s premature to ask questions about a Game 7 when this Yankees team has yet to win a single game this series, but the only way for the Yankees to advance is to force a seventh game. The Yankees might have to focus on one game at a time, but nothing else matters unless this series keeps going until Sunday.

“It doesn’t matter what they throw at us, we have to find a way,” Cashman said. “It’s all about winning our next game, then we’ll worry about the day after and the day after. Whatever the schedule turns out to be, it doesn’t matter. We will find a way. We have no choice.”

Starting Sabathia only once in a seven-game series. Is that a bad break?

“I thought the first three games were bad breaks, the way they unfolded for us,” Cashman said. “It really doesn’t matter. Nothing matters other than getting our team in a position to play to the best of its abilities and get in that win column. That’s all that matters. What day it happens to come on and what the schedule turns out to be, none of that matters. What matters is us finding a way to get the job done starting tomorrow instead of today.”

• Cashman said he was heavily involved in the decision to delay and then postpone tonight’s game, and he agreed with the decision. “I think it was an obvious decision based on what the radar was,” Cashman said. “It was going to be an unplayable situation.”

• By the way, it just started raining a little bit ago and still hasn’t really started to come down as hard as the radar suggests. If a rain delay had occurred when the rain started, I have to guess that would have been around the sixth inning.

• As the Yankees players association representative, Curtis Granderson said he was kept up to speed on the league’s decision-making process, but the players had no say. “They were just letting us know and updating us as to what was going on,” Granderson said. “There was a meeting at one time, and then another meeting, and then the storm, and they finally ended up making the decision.”

• On being held out of the lineup: “That’s just baseball being baseball,” Granderson said. “You’ve got to go with whatever you can. You mix guys up, move guys up and down, guys in, guys out, and that’s part of it. This isn’t the first time this lineup has changed. I’m a speaking example of it. I’ve batted in pretty much every spot all season long. So it’s not the first time.”

• Nick Swisher on being back in the lineup tonight: “This is my favorite thing in the world to do,” Swisher said. “To get back in there, especially after last night, I was ready today.”

• What was the feeling like in the clubhouse during the delay? “We’re all kind of in here just relaxing, trying to get that vibe back,” Swisher said. “Tomorrow’s going to be a big game and we’re going to be ready for it.”

• The Yankees didn’t say whether they would stick with the same lineup, but the Tigers are sticking with Max Scherzer as their starter.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 238 Comments →

Pregame notes: “Trying to do what’s the best thing to win”10.17.12

Another day, another lineup, another game with Alex Rodriguez on the bench.

“This is not easy to do, and it’s not what I necessarily want to do,” Joe Girardi said. “You’d like to have a steadfast lineup, but we have a lot of guys that are struggling. Sometimes you’ve got to make changes. We’re trying to do what’s the best thing to win games.”

Tonight’s lineup has Brett Gardner playing again, Curtis Granderson benched for the first time, hitless Eric Chavez back at third base, and recently benched Nick Swisher back in right field and moved up in the order to No. 2.

Girardi said he’s reacting to Granderson’s ongoing strikeout problems, trusting Chavez’s long-term impact against right-handers, giving Swisher another chance after a couple of hits earlier in the series, and believing that Eduardo Nunez is an improved defensive player with a good bat.

“When I went into the postseason, this is not what I imagined having to do,” he said. “You thought we’d have a set lineup, and we might change it if there’s a left hander or a right hander, but the struggles have been tough. Right now, I think you have to worry about the present – but you do have to worry about the long term effects as time goes on.”

It seems like Rodriguez has been the scapegoat, but Brian Cashman pointed out that Rodriguez’s struggles are not the small sample size that we’ve seen from guys like Swisher and Robinson Cano. Rodriguez has struggled against right handers all year, got much worse in the past month and a half, and has been awful in the playoffs.

Both Girardi and Cashman said the decision to bench Rodriguez has nothing to do with reports of him hitting on a woman from the dugout in Game 1. Cashman said the lineup is “discussed organizationally” and is not strictly Girardi’s choice.

“Purely baseball related,” Cashman said. “This is all about winning.”

Has Girardi talked to Rodriguez to make sure their relationship is not broken beyond repair?

“That’s a great question, and I know that, but it’s not something that I feel is right to answer (about) the conversations that we have and what takes place between a player and a manager,” Girardi said. “Are the conversations long or are they short? How do you do it? When do you do it? That’s personal stuff that I like to keep in the clubhouse, but as a manager, when you’re in the playoffs, you really have to worry about the present. But as time goes on, you’re going to have to worry about the future as well.”

• Cashman said there was nothing new discovered in Derek Jeter’s broken ankle — no ligament damage or anything — and the new recovery timetable is simply the product of Dr. Robert Anderson being more conservative than the Yankees medical team. Cashman believes the four-to-five-month estimate means that Jeter will be playing in games within four to five months. He’ll begin baseball activities before that.

• Cashman and Girardi both indicated that they expect Jeter to be ready for Opening Day. Cashman said he has no plans of pursuing a free agent shortstop as a reaction to the Jeter injury. He cited Nunez and Jayson Nix as in-house alternatives if Jeter isn’t ready in time.

• All day, Cashman has denied — in a text to me and in conversations with basically every other beat reporter — a report that the Yankees are engaged in trade talks that would send Rodriguez to the Marlins. “False,” Cashman said. “One hundred percent false.”

• Rodriguez responding to the story that he tried to get a woman’s phone number from the dugout: “I said it was laughable,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been here a long time in New York, I think nine years, I’ve never addressed anything from Page 6, I’ve never addressed anything from blogs or gossip columns. We’re here to cover baseball. Some of the criticism out there is very fair and I can live with that, but some of the other stuff is not fair. And you just move on, you don’t worry about it too much. I’ve been in New York a long time.”

• Phil Hughes sore back does not seem serious, but Girardi said the Yankees are still not sure what they’re going to do with him or when they’ll be able to use him again. It seems possible he could be available out of the bullpen before the end of the series. “We don’t really need to do anything today, so let’s see how he feels and find out,” Girardi said.

• Girardi acknowledged that Chavez hasn’t been much better than Rodriguez this postseason. “His at-bats, I feel, have been pretty good,” Girardi said. “You look at his at-bats off of Verlander last night, he got the barrel of the bat to the ball three times. You do have to look at those things.” It’s also worth noting, again, that Rodriguez’s struggles against right-handers have gone on since well before the postseason.

• Why take a chance on Nunez at shortstop with CC Sabathia on the mound? “Nunie’s played well defensively for us (since coming back),” Girardi said. “He’s had some plays in this series, and I really like his at-bats.”

• Andy Pettitte was officially announced as the Yankees Game 5 starting pitcher.

• Are the Yankees prepared to fly home tonight if they lose this game? “My bags are wide open,” Girardi said. “I haven’t packed a thing.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 229 Comments →

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