Archive for the ‘Notes’
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
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
Friday night notes and links • 10.19.12
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
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.”
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…
“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
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
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
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
That last at-bat said a lot about the state of this Yankees lineup. Raul Ibanez hit .197 with two extra-base hits against left-handers this season, yet there was little question his matchup against Phil Coke was about as good as the Yankees were going to get in that situation.
“It’s definitely tough as a ballclub right now,” Ibanez said. “But everything can turn around with one swing of the bat and one inning. Things can turn around. I’ve seen it happen. We’ve all seen it happen. Tomorrow, we’re going to fight. … You have no choice but to fight. Fight all the way back.”
Give the Yankees offense credit for this much: They’ve fought. Eduardo Nunez’s home run off Justin Verlander set the stage for what might have been yet another ninth-inning rally for the Yankees. They had two hits all game before getting three hits in the ninth, putting the tying run in scoring position and getting their most dangerous hitter to the plate.
But the ninth inning hasn’t been their problem. Neither has pitching. And despite two bad plays in tonight’s fifth inning, neither has defense. Joe Girardi has now started every position player on the roster except Chris Stewart. He’s benched Alex Rodriguez, put Brett Gardner in the leadoff spot and dropped Curtis Granderson to eighth in the order. Yet the second-highest-scoring offense in baseball just can’t hit.
As a team, the Yankees are hitting .200/.265/.317 in the postseason.
“If we played five, 10, 15, 20 more games, there’s no way we could continue to struggle this way for an extended period of time,” Gardner said. “For whatever reason, we’re not getting the job done right now. You look at it from the other side and our pitching has been phenomenal. … It’s not like we’re losing 12-4 or anything like that. They’re giving us a real good chance to win and we’re just not getting the job done.”
Tomorrow, the Yankees have their ace on the mound, but tonight the Yankees pitching staff allowed just two runs through nine innings. How much better could Sabathia have done on short rest, and how much better can he do tomorrow? It’s the lineup that put the Yankees in this situation, and the lineup is going to have to get them out of it.
“You look at this and it could be a number of different things besides 0-3 for us,” Joe Girardi said. “We have gotten good pitching all the way throughout the playoffs, and we will need it again tomorrow if we want to live another day. … I am (surprised), but you have to put it all behind you. What has happened has happened, and you have to find a way to score runs tomorrow. And you have your ace on the mound, and you see what happens. Win a game tomorrow, and then let’s see what happens.”
• Perhaps most puzzling of all the Yankees offense struggles is Robinson Cano, who snapped an 0-for-29 streak with his two-out single in the ninth. “I wasn’t thinking about that,” Cano said. “You just have to do what you have to do to get on base, especially when you want to keep the inning alive. You need to get a hit or get a walk. Get on base however.”
• Obviously a big home run by Nunez. Given the way some of these games have gone, it really felt like that might be the kind of thing to wake up this offense. “I know he wants to get me out with some breaking ball pitch,” Nunez said. “I was looking for it down, and he missed up. … I thought we would come back. After the homer, just down one run, nobody out. I think it’s going to be exciting and win the game, but we lost.”
• Coke showed Ibanez a lot of fastballs in that final at-bat, then he got him with a curveball. It was the first offspeed pitch of the bat. “Is it surprising?” Ibanez said. “He’s a good pitcher. He had thrown a lot of fastballs and he made a good pitch. I didn’t hit it. I didn’t get it done.”
• Verlander only struck out three, a surprisingly low number considering his overall dominance. The Yankees actually seemed to have better at-bats than they’ve had in a long time, but until Nunez homered, they’d put just two men on base. “You’re fighting for your life out there,” Russell Martin said. “Whatever you can to try and get on base, make something happen.”
• Mark Teixera on the unusual version of Verlander the Yankees faced tonight: “I don’t want to say he let us hit it, but he wanted to live on the corners. Sometimes he tries to strike you out every at bat. Tonight we didn’t really strike out a lot but he was living on the corners. He pitched really well.”
• Phil Hughes said it was near the end of the third inning that his lower back began to feel stiff. He didn’t think it affected his pitches, but the fourth inning was going badly and the Yankees didn’t take any chances. “It was just the circumstances of the game, and what was going on,” Hughes said. “I think they just wanted to make the best move for the team, not necessarily for my health at the time.”
• Martin said he thought Hughes’ stuff was good, and obviously Hughes made some key pitches before the Delmon Young home run. “In that fourth inning I was having a tough time finishing, especially breaking balls,” Hughes said. “That one that hung to Delmon Young was just a spinner that broke back over the plate. That, along with the walk, things just weren’t going well.”
• Girardi seemed to indicate that it’s at least possible Hughes will end up on the disabled list. It would obviously raise some rotation questions down the road, but down the road might not happen. “We’ll see what we have tomorrow which will determine what we do with him,” Girardi said.
• Martin jammed his thumb on his last at-bat. Chris Stewart almost caught the eighth because Martin’s thumb was numb, but the feeling came back and he fully expects to play tomorrow. “If I couldn’t throw the ball, obviously they would have taken me out of the game,” Martin said. “I should be fine.”
• Martin could have hit in the ninth, but the Yankees were going to replace him with Nick Swisher. “They were going to Swish and I got no problem with that,” Martin said.
• Speaking of pinch hitting, as you might expect, Girardi didn’t pinch hit for Ibanez in the ninth because he knew the Tigers would go to right-hander Benoit if Alex Rodriguez came into the game. “Raul has come up in a lot of big situations,” Girardi said. “You know, you go back to September 1 and he has come through for us, and I felt great about him up there.”
• The Yankees left side of the infield was Nunez and Eric Chavez, but it was Nunez who made a terrific play to save a run in the fifth and Chavez who made the error that led to a run. “I got caught in between,” Chavez said. “When he hit the ball, I thought it was a lot softer, and I thought I had time to step back, and it had too much topspin. If I would have known it was hit harder, I probably would have come up and played it on a short hop. … It wasn’t a tough ball where I couldn’t make a decision. I had to make a decision, and it was just the wrong one.”
• Speaking of bad plays in the fifth inning, Curtis Granderson took a bad route on Cabrera’s RBI double that stood as the difference in the game. “I felt like I had a read, but it just ended up going away from me and going towards the gap,” Granderson said. “Prior to it, I was talking to Gardner about the wind, how balls are getting knocked down, but a ball that ended up staying low, like that particular one, just ended up cutting through the wind.”
• As far as I know, Rodriguez didn’t speak postgame about being benched again. Swisher did and said he was taking at-bats in the indoor cage every half inning to stay ready. “You want to be in there,” Swisher said. “But Skip is the manager and I back his decision. Bring a little speed in the lineup with Gardy coming in there. I’m going to come back to the ballpark and be ready to go tomorrow.”
• Swisher said he hasn’t been told whether he’ll play tomorrow. Girardi said he won’t decide until tomorrow. “We’re just trying to find a lineup that works,” Swisher said. “I thought it was a great lineup. I wasn’t in it, but you’ve got to back your guys and support your teammates. The guys played well. We just came up a little short.”
• Gardner didn’t have any hits to show for it, but he didn’t look overmatched in his first big league start since April. He said all four balls that he put in play were changeups. “I felt great getting thrown right back in there and seeing live pitching,” he said. “I felt great in the box today. I thought I had a couple of good at-bats and I saw the ball really well. When he gets ahead in the count and has the stuff that he has, he can kind of have his way with you.”
• Speaking of Gardner, has Teixeira thought about bunting against the shift to try to spark something? “That’s not going to happen,” he said. “I tried to have some fun with you guys in spring training and said I was going lay some down. I’ve never bunted. I don’t think I’ve bunted since I was 11 years old. It’s the same thing if we needed a lefty to get someone out, I’m not gonna go in the bullpen and start throwing left-handed. That’s not what I do. I hit a couple of balls hard off Verlander, but me laying a bunt down is not gonna happen. That’d be desperate.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “The thing that you do is you keep encouraging the guys and you keep telling them, ‘Hey, find a way, find a way to get it done.’ And, you know, the one thing about this group that I’m very proud of is they have overcome a lot this year, and there is nothing that has come easy for us. You can start with the first three games of the year, we got swept. And it has been a battle the whole year, and they have found a way to get it done. And that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Associated Press photos
Throughout this postseason, Joe Girardi has talked about the bigger picture. Yes, key pieces of the lineup were struggling, but the Yankees best chance of winning rested on trusting those everyday players to get it turned around. Seven games wasn’t much of a sample size, and Girardi would stick with the players who got him here.
That changed today.
“I laugh because if I stay the same people say, what are you doing?” Girardi said. “You’ve got to make some changes. People are going to have their opinions all along on what our lineup is, but we’ve moved our lineup around before. I’ve got Chavy playing today, and I did it in Game 5 (of the division series). We weren’t panicking then. We’re not panicking, but we’re trying to create some runs and scratch some runs across.”
Alex Rodriguez is sitting for the second time this postseason. He’s also been pulled for a pinch hitter three times, and Girardi could point to extended struggles as a reason for Rodriguez to sit against right-handers. Tonight he’s sitting Nick Swisher — red hot at the end of the regular season, hitting .154 in the postseason — in favor of Brett Gardner, who has three big league at-bats since April.
“I’d toyed with it a couple of times about playing him and I stuck with the guys that have played the whole year and had at-bats, a lot of at-bats,” Girardi said. “But I just felt like now I’m going to give him a shot.”
Why not sit Curtis Granderson, who’s postseason numbers are worse than Swisher’s? Girardi said it’s all about defense. This is a huge outfield, and Phil Hughes is a fly-ball pitcher, and by playing Granderson, Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki the Yankees have an elite defensive outfield.
“We’re going to put a little bit more speed in there,” Giradi said. “Hoping that Gardy can ignite us a little bit and put some tough at-bats early in the game on Verlander and try to get his pitch count up. We had him get four or five live at-bats (during a sim game) yesterday, that’s what we did, and he swung the bat well and we got him in there. You look at this field, and you look at the type of pitcher Hughesy is: Hughes is a fly-ball guy, so we’ve got a lot of speed in our outfield.”
• Why Eduardo Nunez over Jayson Nix? Girardi cited three things: Speed, Nunez’s 1-for-3 career against Verlander, and the fact that a fly-ball pitcher limits the concerns about infield defense. “Nuney’s had some pretty good at-bats off of Verlander,” Girardi said. “Even though it’s a few, he’s had some pretty good at-bats. … Verlander may not have thought some of the guys were going to be in there, but I don’t think it’s really going to make him change a whole lot. If they get on it might change him a little bit, though.”
• Speaking of shortstop, Derek Jeter saw the hand-and-ankle specialist in North Carolina today, but Girardi had no update on the plan for him. For whatever it’s worth, Jim Leyland said this pregame: “I find no pleasure at all, trust me when I tell you this, in the fact that Derek Jeter is not playing in this series. I mean, I wanted him to play in this series. The whole nation wanted him to play in this series, and it’s a sad thing. But it is what it is, and at the right time, I will find my moment to talk to him.”
• Girardi had no comment on Swisher’s comments about being disappointed by the fans at Yankee Stadium. “I was made aware of it today,” he said. “I think what you have in our room is you do have some frustration that we all have to learn how to deal with and try to deal with it and try to put it besides, but beyond that, I’m not really going to comment.”
• Girardi also would not respond to questions about the New York Post story that Rodriguez was trying to pick up women from the dugout during the late innings of Game 1. Girardi said neither the Swisher comments nor the Rodriguez story had any impact on his lineup decisions today.
• Girardi said he spoke to both Swisher and Rodriguez before posting the lineup. “These guys want to be in there, and I understand that,” Girardi said. “Like I said, these are hard decisions, but they’re decisions that I felt I needed to make.”
• The bullpen is rested and Girardi said he won’t hesitate to bring in a reliever tonight. “My guys are a little bit better rested,” he said. “Some of them had a couple of days off, which really helps. Our bullpen is fully loaded.”
• Girardi got into Detroit last night after attending his father’s funeral yesterday. “Tough day, but it was a good day,” he said.
• Win tonight, then the Yankees get to pitch CC Sabathia tomorrow. Win tonight and tomorrow, and the series is tied at two games apiece. “We’ve got to win today,” Girardi said. “I think it changes the feeling in the clubhouse. I think it’s important. I’ve been part of being down 2-0 before and coming back, and we talked about, just win one game. Win one game, then let’s see where we’re at.”
Associated Press photos
If you think about it, what was Jayson Nix doing with the Yankees in the first place?
Sure, he’s the team’s starting shortstop now, but think about when he signed. This winter, Nix chose a team with a loaded, nothing-up-for-grabs infield. He chose a team with a young utility infielder who spent all of last year in the big leagues and had the backup role locked up from the big league day camp opened. Honestly, do you remember a single thing Nix did in spring training? Was he even on the radar?
“One reason I chose to come to sign here obviously was the Yankees expressed a lot of interest in me,” Nix said on a conference call this afternoon. “A strong interest in me, and came after me pretty hard, so I saw that as a good thing. But also there could be an opportunity. I didn’t know for sure if there was, or if there would be with all of the big names, like you said, and established guys that are here. I didn’t know for sure if there would be, but I knew there was a possibility. And I knew they were going to give me a shot, so I wanted to take it. And I thought it might be a good fit.”
Despite Eduardo Nunez being on the roster, the Yankees have committed to the reliable Nix in the wake of Derek Jeter’s broken ankle. He doesn’t have Nunez’s raw tools, but he’s all the things Nunez hasn’t quite become. Reliable. Fundamental. Steady.
He’s played this role with five different big league teams now, and during the division series he went 2-for-3 in his first career postseason start.
“The way Joe has handled my role and communicated with me has been great,” Nix said. “I mean, it’s really made my job a lot easier, so I know what to expect from him and he knows what to expect from me. And it’s really been very smooth. And then at the same time, you know, (Alex Rodriguez) getting hurt and the opportunities I had to play, it has been fairly consistent for my role, so it’s been really great and it’s been easy. I don’t know if “easy” is the right word, but it has been smooth. The way that Joe handled it and the way that Joe handled my situation with me, and me and Chavy talk about it a lot. He made it easy on me. We know what to expect, what to prepare for and what ways we’re going to be used, and it really helps a lot.”
No one wants to get an opportunity this way, but it’s the reality of the game. A lot of doors open because of injuries, and Nix is stepping in.
“I am very disappointed for Derek,” he said. “I hate the fact that he has gone down, and especially with this opportunity to play in these playoffs. I know it’s hard on him. That part I hate it for him. But at the same time, I’m excited for my opportunity to be able to play. And ever since these playoffs started, I’ve really just been kind of itching to get in these games. And I knew most chances I wasn’t going to start many games, or I didn’t know how much I was going to play, but I really just wanted to be in the games. So to have a chance to start and play in these games is very exciting, and I’m really enjoying it.”
• Joe Girardi spent the off day in Illinois for his father’s funeral. The Girardi family released this statement this afternoon: “We deeply appreciate the overwhelming support that has been shown to us during this difficult time. Our father would have been touched by all the kindness shown to our family as we mourn his passing. As saddened as we are with his loss, we take solace in knowing that he lives on through the principles he passed down to us and in the many wonderful memories we have of him.”
• Girardi said over the weekend that a few players asked about attending the funeral and he told them all to stay home and rest.
• On the Michael Kay Show this afternoon, Brian Cashman said it’s still possible Brett Gardner will get an outfield start at some point. “The way our offense is, it is a possibility,” Cashman said. “He deserves consideration considering what is going on right now.”
• The Yankees had no official workout today. Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia each threw a simulated game with Francisco Cervelli catching. Nix, Brett Gardner and Chris Stewart were the hitters.
• Yankees bench coach Tony Pena interviewed for the Red Sox managerial opening today. “Tony is a good baseball guy,” Mark Teixeira said. “One of the guys that played in the game for almost 20 years. As soon as he got out of the game as a player, he went into it as a coach. He knows baseball from both sides, being a catcher, he is the ultimate field general. He has a lot of energy. He has thrown so much batting practice here, I think his arm has slowed down a little bit. I don’t know how much BP he will be throwing if he is the manager. But other than that, you couldn’t ask for a better baseball man.”
• On today’s conference call, Teixeira actually managed to find a positive spin to facing Justin Verlander tomorrow. “It doesn’t matter who you’re facing, as a hitter you want to face familiar pitchers,” Teixeira said. “Even if he happens to be the best pitcher on the planet now, and maybe the best pitcher in the last 10, 15 years. We have played Justin a lot. We won a few games, we lost a few games, and the biggest thing is familiarity. We know what he will do to us. He will throw it 100 miles an hour, fix in a good curveball and a good changeup. And it sounds like a tough job, but we have risen to the occasion.”
• Tomorrow’s starter, Phil Hughes, said it felt good that Girardi stuck with him rather than going to CC Sabathia on short rest. “It’s nice to know the manager and the organization is behind you,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity, and I feel like if we can win this Game 3, we’ll have a good chance with CC going (in Game 4), so it’s nice to have that and have that vote of confidence, but I am still going to have to go out and execute.”
Associated Press photos