RHP David Phelps
The Yankees need bullpen help after last night, and it seems Kelly Johnson’s MRI didn’t come back clean.
· Placed INF Kelly Johnson on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left groin.
· Selected RHP Chris Leroux from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
· Designated RHP Bruce Billings for assignment.
An unwritten rule for reporters in a baseball clubhouse: You don’t talk to a starting pitcher on the day he’s scheduled to pitch. Some starters get so intense on game day that I won’t even say hello. Some guys aren’t so over-the-top — CC Sabathia is always pretty laid back on his days — but as a general rule, reporters try to steer clear of that day’s starting pitcher.
When I walked in the clubhouse yesterday, Chase Whitley called me over to his locker and asked me about my boots. Then he joked a little bit about there being a new guy named Chase on the roster. Then we talked about his pregame routine for a while. It was typical clubhouse small talk, but it was coming from the guy who was about to take the mound in the first inning.
And when he got out there, Whitley delivered six scoreless.
“I changed my walk-up song, right?,” Whitley said, as a way of explaining last night’s strong outing. “It was like a Christian song or whatever. I was telling Chad (Bohling), the mental (conditioning) guy, ‘It’s kind of like I was in that zone the whole game.’ I never got that here-I-am, tough-guy kind of mentality. It was more just kind of (being a) competitor, just kind of lay low the whole game. Even when there’s a runner at third with no outs, or a runner at second.
“… Even before the game, I was in here kind of joking around a little bit more instead of just super-amped-up serious. Maybe I found something today, I don’t know. It would be pretty cool to move forward with that.”
When Whitley first came up to the big leagues, he talked about sometimes making too much of each start. He’d go to the mound thinking about the need to get through five innings instead of focusing on each pitch and each at-bat. He got better at staying focused, and got on a roll. Last night seemed like kind of the next step in that development. He was calm and collected even while letting the leadoff hitter reach base in the first four innings, then allowing a one-out double in the fifth.
“He was great,” Joe Girardi said. “He had an outstanding performance for us. He got into the seventh inning for us, and I thought his stuff was sharp. I thought his changeup was really good, his slider was sharp, his fastball. I think the rest helped him.”
Is that true? For a guy who’s quickly approaching a career-high in innings pitched, did a few days off help?
“I think so,” Whitley said. “Physically, yes. Mentally, yes. Both of them. Just being the first start of the second half, I was able to kind of regroup and start fresh. Clean slate. New beginning. It was important.”
Associated Press photo
Might as well start this day with a few random thoughts in the wake of yesterday’s Chase Headley trade and last night’s Chase Headley walk-off.
• For quite a while now I’ve written and said that I didn’t think Headley would be a particularly strong fit for the Yankees. He fit, of course — he’s a perfectly fine third baseman and the Yankees needed infield help — but he seemed over-hyped based on that one standout season in San Diego. I just didn’t think he should be considered a high-impact acquisition, and he was sometimes treated that way when his name came up in trade speculation. That said, to get him for the package the Yankees gave up (a guy signed as a minor league free agent and a 23-year-old A-ball pitcher) was a no-brainer. That’s a shot worth taking, especially with Headley hitting a little bit ever since getting an epidural in his back.
• Speaking of Headley’s back: “It’s been great,” he said after last night’s walk-off. “I really had some struggles with it before the epidural, but since then — knock on wood — it’s been so much better. It really doesn’t affect me when I’m playing at all. We’ll keep an eye on it, maintain it, work on all the things you can do with core stabilization to stay on top of it. But I don’t anticipate having any more trouble with it.”
• As for Headley’s production, he was asked last night why he hasn’t been able to repeat his 2012 results. Some of it is surely because of injury — and Headley acknowledged sometimes playing when he shouldn’t have — but it wasn’t only an assortment of injuries that took him from a .498 slugging percentage to a .355. “Obviously that year a lot of things came together and you get rolling like that, you get confidence and things like that can happen,” Headley said. “I think another factor in that was everybody on the team was hitting. When you have a lot of guys around you doing good things, it makes your job easier. Hopefully I can get back to being the type of player that I know I am. That may not be 31 and 115, but I know I’m a good player and I know that I’m better than I’ve played this year. I look forward to being that player.”
• Yangervis Solarte was a great story for a few months, but I find it hard to believe that all of baseball completely misjudged him and he’s actually going to stick as a big league regular. He might not be as bad as he was the past month and a half — he was pretty awful from June 1 onward — but he’s surely not as good as he was through the end of May. He’s cheap and versatile, so there’s value there for the Padres, but he’s easily expendable for the Yankees, even with their general lack of upper-level infield depth.
• Can’t completely dismiss Rafael De Paula as a significant part of the trade. He has good stuff and plenty of minor league strikeouts, but I still think he’s the kind of guy that’s easy to surrender in a deal like this. De Paula has upside, there’s no doubt, but he’s also been inconsistent, even in A-ball, and he’s one of several guys who built some of his prospect hype while facing really young competition in the Dominican Republic. Kind of makes me think of guys like Jose Ramirez and Arodys Vizcaino. De Paula could get to the big leagues and still fall far short of that early best-case-scenario that put him on the radar in the first place. Last year’s first half was impressive, but moving up has been enough of a challenge to make it worth trading him.
• Franciso Cervelli is the backup catcher and Brendan Ryan is the backup shortstop, but Zelous Wheeler and Kelly Johnson are what exactly? They used to be the platoon third basemen, now they’re just kind of bench players with no clear roles. Wheeler might get some playing time against lefties — could see him at second, third or the outfield corners — but Johnson’s is especially unclear going forward. I don’t think it would be the worst idea to keep using him in right field if only for the power upgrade over Ichiro Suzuki, but I doubt that’s what Girardi is thinking.
• All of that said, Johnson’s situation could resolve itself depending on the results of last night’s MRI. If he’s heading to the disabled list, could the Yankees finally give Zoilo Almonte some at-bats? Bringing up Rob Refsnyder might not make sense unless he’s going to be an everyday guy, and Jose Pirela seems redundant with Wheeler on the roster. Maybe John Ryan Murphy for a few days while Mark Teixeira is still sidelined, leaving Brian McCann to step in at first base?
• Along those same lines, if you’re trying to think of better ways to use one of those roster spots assuming Johnson’s MRI comes back clean, remember that until yesterday, the Yankees were still carrying Solarte on the big league roster, and he really had no defined role at that point. I’m not sure Refsnyder, Pirela or Adonis Garcia would be a better right-handed bench player than Wheeler, and at this point; and I really doubt Almonte would get more left-handed at-bats than Johnson.
• Expectation for Headley in the second half? Outside of that one big season, there’s little about his history to suggest he’s going to have the same impact Alfonso Soriano had last season. But I’m not sure this Yankees lineup needs that kind of one-man difference maker. Headley is here to help out the lineup, not to single-handedly save it. Still need big things from McCann and Carlos Beltran. Still need Teixeira to stay healthy. Still need Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury to stay consistent. If Headley can hit a half dozen home runs, knock a few doubles and play a good third base, I think he’ll help. But it’s important that he not be considered an absolute difference maker. He has to be a piece of the puzzle, not the entire missing link.
Associated Press photos
By the time Chase Headley stepped to the plate in the 14th inning, he’d already been through enough on this day. He woke up in Chicago, got a late-morning phone call, found out he’d been traded, said his goodbyes to his old Padres teammates, shaved his beard, caught a 3:30 p.m. flight to LaGuardia, took a car to Yankee Stadium, and he walked into the Yankees dugout sometime around the second inning.
This was Headley’s first time ever wearing the uniform of a professional team other than the Padres. It was a lot to take in, and so when he stepped to the plate in the 14th, he took his time.
By the time he was halfway up the first-base line, Headley had his right hand up in the air. He got to first base, high-fived his new infield coach and was instantly mobbed by teammates he’d met just a few hours earlier. On his first day with the Yankees — technically second day, it was just past midnight — Headley was doused in Gatorade by Brett Gardner while being interviewed by Meredith Marakovits.
“What a way to do it,” Headley said. “Yeah, it’s strange. Anytime there’s a trade that happens during the season, it’s awkward. I’ve been on a team where we brought guys in, and you try to include the guy wherever you can because you know he’s experiencing a lot. But like I said, great bunch of guys so far, and I’m excited to get to know my teammates more.”
Headley said he arrived ready to play. He got loose a few times during those late innings, and Joe Girardi gave him the heads up that he would likely pinch hit for Zelous Wheeler at some point. Not sure Headley expected to get four at-bats in a game he didn’t start — for a team he wasn’t with when the day started — but that’s the way things went today.
“You’ve got to want to be up in that spot,” Headley said. “Had a chance earlier, wasn’t able to get it done. But was fortunate to come back around, for us to scrap out a big run in the 12th, 13th, whatever it was, to stay in the game. Was fortunate I had that opportunity. … Couldn’t be happier to be a Yankee. It’s unbelievable. Can’t even believe I’m saying that. But yeah, long day, but great way to finish.”
• Kelly Johnson left tonight’s game with soreness in his groin. He thought it was a cramp, but was ultimately sent for an MRI. The Yankees didn’t have results postgame. Should know more tomorrow. “I think (he did it) running to first in that last at-bat,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees used their entire bullpen tonight — so the did the Rangers — and Girardi said he would talk to Brian Cashman about bringing up a pitcher tomorrow.
• Tonight’s winning pitcher was Jeff Francis, who made his Yankees debut 11 days after being acquired. Last time he pitched in a game was July 2 in Detroit with Oakland. “Jeff Francis hasn’t thrown in I don’t know how long; 14, 15 days maybe,” Girardi said. “Maybe even more than that. He comes in to throw strikes, gets a big three outs for us, and we win the game.”
• Before the J.P. Arencibia home run in the 13th, the Yankees relievers — six different guys — had held the Rangers to no hits and one walk with eight strikeouts through six innings.
• This was the Yankees third walk-off win of the season and second of the home stand. Last time they had a walk-off against the Rangers was June 25 of last year when Ichiro hit a game-winning home run in the ninth.
• Last player to have a walk-off hit as his first Yankees hit was Alfonso Soriano, who had an 11th-inning game-winner on September 24, 1999. Last player to have a walk-off hit in his Yankees debut was Roy Weatherly, who had a walk-off double in the ninth inning on April 22, 1943. That’s from Elias.
• Headley now has four career walk-off hits. This was his first since a 10th-inning home run on August 21, 2012.
• This game was scoreless through 12 innings. According to Elias, it was the first Yankees game in which both teams were scoreless through at least 12 innings since August 7, 2009 against Boston when the Yankees and Red Sox were scoreless through 14. The Yankees eventually won that game 2-0 in the 15th.
• Derek Jeter hit his 535th career double, passing Lou Gehrig for the most doubles in Yankees franchise history. According to Elias, it also snapped a 68-at-bat stretch without an extra-base hit, the second-longest of Jeter’s career.
• Chase Whitley — remember him, he actually started this game — delivered the longest scoreless outing of his career. He and Masahiro Tanaka are the only Yankees to pitch at least six scoreless innings without a walk this season. Whitley is the first Yankee to pull that off at home since Hiroki Kuroda’s complete game shutout on April 14 of last year.
• Worth noting that the Yankees very nearly had this game won in the 12th inning when Francisco Cervelli positively scorched a line drive that Adrian Beltre caught at third base. “You can’t a ball any harder,” Girardi said. “If it’s one foot to the left — his left, our right — he doesn’t catch it. You just think ‘What are the chances?’ But that’s baseball. The guys kept going at it, and we won.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “It’s a huge hit for us. A huge rally off of Soria, too. We didn’t do much the first, I don’t know, 10, 11 innings. We didn’t have many chances. I lost track (of how many innings). And we used our whole bullpen, and they used their whole bullpen and ended up with a starter at the end. And we get a good at-bat out of Brian Roberts, Cervy, and then Chase. And it’s over.”
Associated Press photos
Injuries suggest the Yankees need pitching, but on Tuesday they traded for a hitter and immediately showed why. Against the worst pitching staff in the American League, the Yankees were held scoreless through 12 innings and very nearly lost in the 13th, but after all that futility, new third baseman Chase Headley delivered a walk-off single in the 14th for a 2-1 Yankees win against the Rangers. It was the Yankees third walk-off of the season. Headley, acquired in an afternoon trade with San Diego, didn’t arrive in time to be in the starting lineup, but he pinch hit in the eighth inning and went 0-for-3 with a great leaping catch in the field before delivering the game-winner. The Yankees had fallen behind on a solo home run in the top of the 13th, but Brett Gardner started the bottom of the 13th with a double and scored on a Jacoby Ellsbury single. The Yankees first run of the night had come just in time. Yankees pitchers Chase Whitley, Matt Thornton, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Shawn Kelley and David Huff combined for 12 scoreless innings before Huff – in his second inning — allowed a go-ahead home run to J.P. Arencibia in the 13th. Jeff Francis made his Yankees debut with a scoreless 14th to get the win.
Associated Press photo
RHP Chase Whitley (4-3, 5.10)
Whitley has never faced the Rangers
Shin-Soo Choo RF
Elvis Andrus SS
Jim Adduci LF
Adrian Beltre 3B
Leonys Martin CF
J.P. Arencibia 1B
Robinson Chirinos C
Rougned Odor 2B
Daniel Robertson DH
RHP Nick Martinez (1-6, 5.10)
Martinez has never faced the Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., MY9
WEATHER: Clear sky with a little bit of a breeze blowing from right to left.
UMPIRES: HP Quinn Wolcott, 1B Dale Scott, 2B Dan Iassogna, 3B CB Bucknor
HEART AND HUSTLE: Today the MLB Players Association named Brett Gardner as its “New York Yankees 2014 Hustle and Heart” Award winner. The award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for baseball and best embody the values, spirit and tradition of the game.?The MLB winner will be announced on November 18.
ANOTHER NEW GUY: The Yankees have used 44 players this season, with ?19 of those players making their debut with the team. Chase Headley could become the 20th first-time Yankees player (unless Jeff Francis beats him to the punch).
GONNA NEED A REALLY GOOD NIGHT: Derek Jeter has 3,412 career hits. At 3,419 he will catch Carl Yastrzemski for seventh on baseball’s all-time hits list.
UPDATE, 7:27 p.m.: Couple of ground balls — one for a double play, one for an out at second base — keep the Yankees from taking advantage of a pair of first-inning singles. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury reached base, Derek Jeter and Carlos Beltran couldn’t take advantage.
UPDATE, 7:28 p.m.: Wheeler tried to make a really nice play but instead threw the ball away. It’s ruled a bunt single and an E-5 letting the runner get to second.
UPDATE, 7:35 p.m.: Nice work by Whitley in the second inning to pitch around an error and a wild pitch. Got a couple of ground balls and a big strikeout. He’s through two scoreless.
UPDATE, 7:38 p.m.: Really nice catch by Martin to take a double from McCann.
UPDATE, 8:03 p.m.: More ground balls for Whitley, who’s through four innings without allowing a run. Of course, the Yankees haven’t scored either.
UPDATE, 8:20 p.m.: Just when you’re starting to think the Yankees are a really bad team, the Rangers try to run the bases and remind us all what bad baseball really looks like.
UPDATE, 8:55 p.m.: Whitley allowed leadoff singles in each of the first four innings, and a one-out double in the fifth, but he kept the Rangers off the board through six innings. A leadoff single here in the seventh has chased him from the game and here’s Thornton to face Martin with one on and no outs.
UPDATE, 8:57 p.m.: That’s a two-strike bunt by the Rangers No. 5 hitter. The fact it went foul is not what made it a bad idea.
UPDATE, 9:32 p.m.: Headley on deck. He’s going to hit for Wheeler here in the eighth inning.
UPDATE, 9:38 p.m.: And Headley goes down swinging. Still scoreless heading into the ninth, and here comes Robertson.
UPDATE, 9:58 p.m.: That was Jeter’s 535th career double, moving him ahead of Lou Gehrig for the most in Yankees history. Of course, it went nowhere. Robertson staying in the game to start the 10th inning.
UPDATE, 11:45 p.m.: Well, I’ve changed my running game story for the newspaper maybe a dozen times now. Arencibia go-ahead home run in the top of the 13th. Jacoby Ellsbury game-tying single in the bottom of the 13th. Two potential Yankees game-winning rallies have been squashed, and now Jeff Francis is finally making his Yankees debut in a 1-1 game in the 14th. This has not been an ideal night.
Brian Cashman said his offer had been on the table for several days: a young big league utility man with five years of team control, plus a hard-throwing young starter, for a free-agent-to-be third baseman having a bad season. The Yankees liked the potential for a strong second half out of Chase Headley, and eventually the Padres liked the package of Yangervis Solarte and Rafael De Paula.
Consider it another incremental upgrade — or at least the potential for one — for a Yankees team that’s trying to stay in the race for a playoff spot. They saw David Huff as an upgrade over Alfredo Aceves, Brandon McCarthy as an upgrade over Vidal Nuno, and now they see Headley as an upgrade over Solarte and the other cast of characters at third base.
“I’ve been trying to push through on this for three weeks it feels like,” Cashman said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations and a lot of players we’ve sifted through to find some common ground. The McCarthy deal I think felt like a month and a half to two months to pull down. I’m OK (with making moves). It depends on the circumstance. We’ve got high-end stuff, without a doubt, players that other teams like. And those players would be available, or will be available, in the right circumstances. These are the deals that I can present to you that we were able to conclude, but we’re talking much larger type deals, (and) clearly much smaller, incremental upgrades.”
In the video above, Cashman explains why the Yankees believe Headley could be much better than his .229/.296/.355 slash line. Basically, Headley received an epidural injection in late June to help deal with a back issue, and his production has significantly improved ever since. Joe Girardi made it clear that he thinks of Headley as his everyday third baseman going forward.
“Sometimes hitters go through months where they struggle,” Girardi said. “And we feel that he’s in a pretty good place coming over here. He plays in an extremely big ballpark, big ballparks during the course of the season playing in the West. I think this place will help him. … I think our guys have played (third base) better as of late, but we’ll have some consistency there, which I think will be good. And another consistent switch-hitter in our lineup which I think will be good as well.”
Headley is a free agent after this season, but these next two and a half months could be seen as a kind of tryout for the Yankees to decide whether they’d like to pursue him as an alternative to Alex Rodriguez. Cashman, though, said he’s thinking of this strictly as a rental. This was a opportunity — if Headley’s improvements continue — for the Yankees to add a pretty decent hitter in the short-term, without losing any of their highly valued pieces for the long term. It really does feel like the offensive version of the McCarthy trade.
“We’ve been trying to do a lot of things,” Cashman said. “But they’re just really hard to do. That’s the one thing that I can tell you probably on behalf of the 29 other clubs: it’s just not easy getting through and finding common ground. We’re going keep sifting through it and try to find ways to improve this club so we can get the team where it needs to be, which is qualifying for the playoffs and being one of those teams that has a shot at this thing in the next round, in the tournament, but I have more work to do.”
Headley’s defensive metrics are pretty good; Cashman calls him average
“We feel like we’re at least getting an average everyday major leaguer at that position and maybe more,” Cashman said. “We’ll see. You want to support your pitching staff, especially pitchers like Brandon McCarthy, with real quality defense. Your infield has to be strong the day that a guy like that pitches. You don’t worry about it as much when you have a fly ball guy out there, but a fly ball guy is not conducive to Yankee Stadium, either. I think he’s an average third baseman. I think there’s some confusion on the metrics about what he really is. Our scouts have him as an average third baseman.”
Headley hit 31 homers in 2012; Cashman says he’s not a power hitter
“I think he can certainly deliver a long ball and this ballpark is certainly more conductive to that than where he’s coming from,” Cashman said. “But no, I think he’s a guy that can impact you on the offensive side by his plate discipline as well as his batting average. I think he’s a professional hitter and a switch-hitter that can spray it all over the place. And that’s what he’s been doing. I don’t think we’re getting a big thumper to answer your question. But I do think we’re getting an upgrade and a professional at-bat. He’s going to give you a good at-bat.”
Headley dealt with a back injury most of the year; Cashman said it’s not a big concern
“We’re well past three weeks and he’s really responded well and positively (to the epidural), both in performance and how he feels. So can’t deny there’s some risk. He’s a rental for the next two months, but our assessment of him from afar by scouting, by performance, and getting down deep in the medicals, is it’s a low risk. So we’re excited to have him here, but at the same time, the information we’ve shared with you has been in the public arena from the San Diego side. When he had the injection it was public at the time and so it’s not like I’m revealing anything.”
• Kelly Johnson has some outfield experience, and Girardi indicated that he’ll basically treat Johnson as the Yankees fourth outfielder going forward. He’s in right field tonight, but Girardi said that has more to do with wanting to give Ichiro Suzuki a day off. “(Johnson)’s played mostly left field,” Girardi said. “But I think he’s athletic enough that it shouldn’t be a problem (in right field). I might have to do it if we can’t get Carlos out there, cause I can’t run these guys out there every day.”
• Although he now has four options for second base — Roberts, Johnson, Wheeler, Ryan — Girardi said he still considers Brian Roberts to be the everyday guy at that position. “And I’ll use Brendan in there or I could use Wheels in there when he needs a day,” Girardi said. Still no indication that Johnson is being looked at as any more than the fourth option at second.
• Nothing new on Mark Teixeira. Cashman said the latest back injury is a very low-level concern. “I said it would be three or four days before we really know anything,” Girardi said.
• Carlos Beltran played catch today. The Yankees are still trying to get him throwing enough to play the outfield again.
• The Yankees signed Yangervis Solarte to the minor league deal this winter, got two great months out of him, and have now used him as a piece to acquire Headley. That makes Solarte a rock solid signing for a guy who spent just a few months in the organization. Here’s Cashman on the Solarte experience:
“We were lucky to have him. When we were competing for him as a six-year minor-league free agent, there was a lot of competition for him and I’m glad he picked us. He really saved our bacon early this year. When we had a lot of other issues going on this year, he stepped up. And for that we’re thankful. But he was a player that had to be in this situation to get Chase Headley back. I wish him the best and I guess I’ll see and we’ll all see over time where he kind of falls in — what he really is as he declares himself. Is he an everyday player? Is he a nice support player as we move forward? He’s a good under-control piece, switch-hitter and a lot of contact and he brings a lot of energy and a positive attitude, so I wish him well.”
Associated Press photos
Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carlos Beltran DH
Brian McCann 1B
Kelly Johnson RF
Brian Roberts 2B
Francisco Cervelli C
Zelous Wheeler 3B
RHP Chase Whitley
A source has confirmed that the Yankees have acquired Padres third baseman Chase Headley.
San Diego will play a little over $1 million of the roughly $4 million that remains on his contract. In return, the Yankees will send utility man Yangervis Solarte and High-A pitcher Rafael De Puala to the Padres.
Headley, 30, was a middle-of-the-ballot MVP candidate just two years ago, but his power dragged last season and he’s hitting just .229/.296/.355 this season. He’s been better lately, hitting .323/.323/.462 (not a single walk) in the month of July.
A team source said the Yankees “hope” to have Headley in town for tonight’s game.