The good, the bad and the mixed reviews • 01.21.13
When I choose Pinch Hitter posts, I try to find both sides of an argument. I look for some guest posters with a pessimistic view, and I look for some who are firm optimists. When Daniel first emailed me to suggest today’s pinch hitter topic, his proposal was built around these two sentences:
I truly believe the only way the Yankees will compete this season and next with this austerity budget looming will be via trades for young impact players like Justin Upton. I have not seen Brian Cashman, in my opinion, make a feasible trade since 2008 and the Nick Swisher trade so my confidence is at an all time low.
I was expecting an indictment of Cashman’s trade history, not a conclusion of full confidence, and my guess is that Daniel wasn’t expecting that conclusion either.
It’s tricky business trying to make an absolute, black-and-white evaluation of any team’s trade, draft and free agent history. There are going to be highs and lows, and even those highs and lows — with a few exceptions — are going to come with mixed reviews. The Nick Swisher deal was an absolute win for the Yankees. The Pedro Feliciano signing was a clear loss. But those are in the minority.
The A.J. Burnett signing depends on how much weight you put into his 2009 World Series performance.
The Jesus Montero trade depends on how well Michael Pineda comes back from shoulder surgery.
The Javier Vazquez trade depends on the development of Dante Bichette Jr., and whether you believe the Yankees would have kept Melky Cabrera long enough to see him emerge (and whether you believe his emergence would have stained the clubhouse).
The Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy draft depends on how you feel about the Joba Rules and the Curtis Granderson trade, and the Curtis Granderson trade depends on how you feel about Granderson’s soon-to-be four years with the Yankees and whether the Yankees need a younger center fielder, and whether the Yankees need a younger center fielder might depend on the development of Slade Heathcott, who was only drafted as compensation because the Yankees were unable to sign Gerrit Cole in 2008, which was the same draft that yielded David Phelps, who might not have gotten a big league chance last season had Pineda not been injured and Burnett not been traded.
Point is, it’s hard to put any of this in a vacuum and make a definitive statement. On a case-by-case basis, we can argue and deliberate and form opinions, but the collective moves of a front office rarely fit under a universal heading. There are positives and negatives, fodder for the pessimists and the optimists alike, and that’s why we can spend an entire winter — each and every winter — having the same basic debate over and over again.
Associated Press photo
Spread across two different spring training sites, separated by a little more than two hours worth of highway, a little less than half of the Yankees projected big league pitching staff got on the mound this afternoon. Phil Hughes faced the Twins in Fort Myers. CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Boone Logan and Cory Wade faced the Phillies in Tampa.
Their combined line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K.
Most of the attention was naturally on Rivera, and that’s probably the way it’s going to be throughout the season. If the expectation is that he’ll retire at the end of the season, then every one of his outings carries a little extra significance. There’s a little added appreciation to every step along the way. Rivera, Logan and Wade each pitched a hitless inning today, but the bulk of the innings belongs to the starting pitchers.
Before the game, Sabathia told Russell Martin that he wanted to work on his two-seamer and his changeup, and those pitches were the focus of the afternoon. Sabathia wasn’t happy with his fastball command last time out, but he was much better this time, and he got better in the second and third innings.
Sabathia: “Felt good. The fastball command was pretty good, the secondary pitches were working. I still got a little ways to go, you know. I still want to work on my two-seamer. But I feel good today… Fastball command (improved). Getting it in on righties, and Russ did a good job making sure we got a lot of those. He called a lot of two-seamers which is something that we’ve been working on all spring. He did a good job of working in things we were trying to do.”
Martin: “He was great. What I liked about him was he had some good velocity. I don’t know how hard he was throwing, but it felt like the ball was jumping out of his hand. And he threw some good changeups. He threw his curveball for strikes. We talked before the game, he wanted to work on his two-seamer a lot and his changeup, I think we did a good job of that today. We threw some two-seamers in for lefties, made them uncomfortable. Locked a guy up with a slider for a puncy. Threw some good changeups down in the zone off his fastball. He was good today.”
3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
Joe Girardi went on the road to see Hughes make his second spring appearance. Last time out, Hughes’ arm strength was much better than at this time last season, and his fastball remained in the low 90s this afternoon. I wasn’t there to see it, but it seems to be another solid step forward.
Hughes: “The cutter wasn’t as good as it was last time, but the curveball was much better. Fastball location was much better, as well. Command-wise, it was a lot better, especially in the second and third innings… It seemed like my fastball was good. It was jumping on hitters a little bit based on the swings I was getting. That was a positive thing. Being able to work out of some trouble with guys on, they put together some good at-bats in the first and I was able to get around those.”
Girardi: “I thought he had everything today. Fastball location was much better, he threw some good changeups, curveballs and cutters. I was very pleased. I thought it was a nice step in a positive direction for him. A lot of times at this point in the first couple starts, I’m focusing on the good things. Knowing that they are rusty, you don’t expect them to have their A stuff a lot of times. You want to see what they’ve got the first couple starts. I was pleased.”
• Dave Robertson is supposed to get his walking boot off tomorrow, but that’s subject to change depending on how he feels. “If he comes in and he’s walking okay and it’s not too painful, he’ll come out of the boot,” Girardi said. “If it’s still pretty painful, we’ll put him back in the boot.” For whatever it’s worth, Robertson seemed to be walking much more easily today.
• Eduardo Nunez could be in a game as early as Tuesday. “We’ll have him take BP Tuesday, and if he has no problem, I’ll put him in the game,” Girardi said.
• Really nice game by Chris Dickerson here in Tampa. He made a nice running play in center field, had the two-run single that gave the Yankees the lead, and he stayed in a rundown long enough to let runners advance to second and third. I’m still surprised no team thought they could carry him as a fourth outfielder this year. He’s a nice player.
• Russell Martin stole another base today. That’s four steals in five games for the Yankees catcher. “I’m putting a little pressure on Gardy,” Martin said. “That’s all I’m doing.” Might be working because Gardner also had a stolen base today. It was Gardner’s second.
• Derek Jeter went 2-for-3 — and had another hit taken away by a nice catch in center field — in the Yankees 3-1 win against the Phillies. Dickerson, Robinson Cano, Gustavo Molina, Bill Hall, Justin Maxwell and call-up-for-the-day Austin Krum also had hits in the win. … Francisco Cervelli went 3-for-3 in the 5-1 loss to the Twins. Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Gary Sanchez, Jayson Nix and Corban Joseph also had hits in that game, as did call-up-for-the-day Walter Ibarra.
• Clay Rapada, Chase Whitley and Kevin Whelan were able to keep the shutout intact in Tampa. … In Fort Myers, Adam Warren allowed one run through three innigns, but the game unraveled when Graham Stoneburner allowed a solo homer in the seventh inning and Adam Miller gave up a three-run homer in the eighth. All five Twins runs came on home runs.
• Add Dan Burawa to the injured list. Girardi said today that Burawa hurt his ribcage yesterday. “He’s probably down for a little bit,” Girardi said. Burawa seemed to be making a pretty good impression this spring but was still just here to get his feet wet. He’s not realistically in the big league picture this season.
• Once again Girardi said Austin Romine is making steady progress from his sore back, but the Yankees are staying extra cautious. There’s no rush to get Romine into regular duty in spring training. “If he’s a backup here, he’s not going to play every day,” Girardi said. “And if he’s in the minor leagues, he’s going to play every day, so you can work him up to three and four days in a row down there. That’s not a problem. I want to see him playing healthy before we leave; that’s the most important thing.”
• A lot of guys up from minor league camp today, but center field standout Mason Williams wasn’t among them. Girardi said today that he expects Williams to come up for a big league game at some point this spring. Girardi’s never seen him play, but “I’m interested,” he said.
• After fracturing the bone around his eye earlier this spring, A.J. Burnett has returned to Pirates camp. He’s still expected to miss two to three months.
• During a surprise Facetime conversation, Alex Rodriguez, Dave Robertson and Tino Martinez spoke with Stephanie Decker, the mother that lost both legs while protecting her two children from a tornado in Indiana last week.
• Want further proof that Mariano Rivera pretty much sets his own schedule in spring training? Here’s Girardi’s I-have-no-idea answer to a question about what’s next for Rivera after today’s debut appearance: “He’ll probably have some days where he has a couple days off. He might throw an inning, do a bullpen the next time, then throw an inning again. He usually gets his seven or eight appearances in, so he’s got plenty of time to do that. There’s no rush.”
Associated Press photos
Cashman cautious about moving Burnett • 11.02.11
When Brian Cashman was asked about A.J. Burnett yesterday, he used an interesting phrase.
“If he’s with us, he’s in the rotation,” Cashman said.
If he’s with us? Cashman certainly seemed to be opening the door to trading the Yankees embattled, supposed-to-be No. 2 starter. No sooner had the opened the door, though, Cashman seemed to shut it.
“I think it’d be hard to replace his innings,” Cashman said. “Let me just tell you this. I am open minded. If anyone wants to approach me on anyone on this roster, that doesn’t have a full no-trade clause, the worst I can tell them is ‘no.’ … Some guys are more easily movable than others. I like our club. It’s my interest in just improving it. In most cases, subtracting from what we have is going to complicate the improving it side of it, for various reasons. If I’m losing 190 innings, for instance, if losing that makes us better, I think I’d be hard pressed because I don’t know how I’m going to replace it too easily.”
Ultimately, Cashman seems willing to take his chances with Burnett. There’s no denying the struggles. There’s no denying the talent. There’s no sense ignoring the fact there are two more years on the contract, which would make Burnett hard to move anyway.
“He’s almost given us 200 innings the last two years,” Cashman said. “There’s value in that, at the very least. He’s got a great deal of ability. He stays healthy. He’s accountable. He works his tail off. He’s obviously had to deal with adversity because of the inconsistent performance. But he hasn’t shied away from it, and he continues to take that ball every five days and does everything he can to continue to secure a win and be the best he can be.
“With all the pressure that builds up, that this environment can create, he was still able to step up and do what he did in October and secure one of our two wins in that Tigers series. It shows you a lot. It shows you a man who’s determined to continue to fight.”
Associated Press photo
Moving forward: The rotation • 10.10.11
Brian Cashman calls it the “key the kingdom,” and the game treats it as such. Starting pitching is the highest commodity in baseball these days, and the Yankees have made it a priority ever since the winter of 2008 when they signed CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, essentially setting the stage for the 2009 World Series.
It was a priority again last season, and it will be a priority again this winter.
That priority starts with Sabathia. If he opts out, as he’s expected to do, the Yankees will lose their ace. The top starter on the free agent market is C.J. Wilson, who’s been awfully good these past two years in Texas, but that’s the extent of his rotation experience. Sabathia is a proven commodity, even with his so-so last two months of the regular season.
Beyond Sabathia, the Yankees have Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes returning. They also have Hector Noesi and a series of young, minor league starters who could compete for spots.
Otherwise, the Yankees have to choose their targets and decide who rounds out the group.
Freddy Garcia opened some eyes this season, and he could be worth a return trip the Bronx. Bartolo Colon’s second half should raise some red flags, but he certainly gave the Yankees more than they could have expected. It’s probably safe to say Brian Gordon’s time has come and gone.
Is Wilson just the guy to bring some left-handed balance, and a reliable No. 2 behind Sabathia? Is someone like Edwin Jackson worth a middle-rotation spot? Is someone like Rich Harden worth the health risk? Is there a pitcher on the trade market who’s worth dangling Jesus Montero?
Moving forward means answering those questions, but first things first, it means resolving the Sabathia issue and giving the team a legitimate No. 1.
Associated Press photo
Pregame notes: “You’ve got to win this one” • 10.06.11
Jim Leyland had a story to tell, and so he sat at the podium before today’s decisive Game 5 and began speaking before anyone asked a question.
“I have an announcement to make,” he said. “This will explain why you think I’m so old and grumpy and messed up. I got a telegram today from a professor from a prominent university. These are my instructions for tonight… I am supposed to pitch Valverde the first five innings tonight, then I’m supposed to pitch Verlander the last three, quote, ‘the seventh and eighth.’ So that’s where we’re at.”
Everyone, you see, has an approach to Game 5.
What interesting is that Leyland and Joe Girardi are approaching this Game 5 very differently. Leyland has shuffled his lineup again, going with the hot hand in Don Kelly at the top. Girardi has stuck with his regulars, whether they’re struggling or not. Leyland has talked about wanting to get through this game with a select group of rested relievers. Girardi has entertained the notion of every key reliever pitching more than an inning.
Mostly, Leyland and Girardi have differed in the way they plan to use their aces.
Leyland says Justin Verlander won’t pitch at all. In fact, Verlander already threw a bullpen this afternoon so that he’s prepared for a possible ALCS Game 1.
“I’m not going to use Verlander,” Leyland said. “I am not under any circumstances… You can argue till the cows come home, I’m not going to do it. I don’t think it’s a wise decision.”
Girardi has told CC Sabathia to be ready. Girardi’s thinks he could throw a “couple” of innings, and he brought up the idea of going to Mariano Rivera in the eighth inning, saving Sabathia to get the final few outs if Rivera runs out of gas before the end of the ninth.
“You can’t tell when you’re going to go to that move,” Girardi said. “There’s not an exact scenario.”
But would he be hesitant to use Sabathia, wanting to save his ace for Game 1 of the next round?
“You’ve got to win this one,” Girardi said. “(Otherwise) there is no Game 1.”
Here’s Girardi’s pregame press conference.
• What’s the limit or Rivera tonight? “It’s more pitches than anything,” Girardi said. “You start to get around 35, 40 pitches you start to get into a gray area and you start to worry… That might be a situation where you have CC behind him. It could be something like that.”
• Girardi said it’s “very possible” that he’ll use Dave Robertson and Rivera to pitch the final three innings.
• A.J. Burnett is available if this game gets extremely crazy, but right now the plan is to have him in the rotation should the Yankees advance. “I imagine I would start him,” Girardi said. “I haven’t thought that far along, but yeah.”
• Girardi did not give any sort of pregame speech, and he didn’t ask a player or a member of the coaching staff to do so either. “I kind of watch what our guys are doing, and if they need something, they need something,” Girardi said. “I told you, I thought they were very loose the other day going into Game 4. I’ve seen some of the guys now, and they seem loose to me. I didn’t say anything magical to them in Game 4.”
• Today would have been a bullpen day for Sabathia, but he hasn’t thrown one yet. If this game becomes a blowout, and Sabathia starts to get loose, Girardi said that could be nothing more than a bullpen to prepare for the ALCS.
• Leyland explaining his Verlander decision: “One thing you have to remember, he went a little longer than CC the other night. He also was throwing 100 miles an hour in the eighth inning. He’s also thrown a lot of pitches under stressful circumstances. And I also remind you that Scherzer did a pretty good — he has more rest and he did a pretty good job against the Yankees. So Scherzer would be my first guy tonight if I needed a long guy.”
• Despite Leyland’s vow not to use Verlander, Girardi is approaching this game as if Verlander is available. “I know what Jim said,” Girardi said, laughing. “Sometimes circumstances change. You get into a crazy game and he might be the last guy. I’m not saying he’s going to put him in there, but I’m just saying, you get into an 18-inning game, you’re not putting Wilson Betemit out there, you know what I’m saying?”
Associated Press photos
Derek Jeter said this last night, but I’m not sure whether it’s true:
“I think the thing you have to realize it doesn’t make a difference what you’ve done in the past,” Jeter said. “Every opportunity, especially in the postseason, every opportunity you play, you have an opportunity to do something good. (A.J. Burnett) was able to do that.
“No one is thinking about what’s happened prior to tonight’s game. We wanted him to go out there and pitch well. Trust me, I’m pretty sure all New York fans will remember this game as opposed to some of the other games.”
Is that true? Burnett wasn’t good this season, but for the Yankees, the regular season is only important in that it gets the team to the playoffs. These are the games that matter, and when it mattered, Burnett gave the Yankees what the needed.
“A.J. expects a lot out of himself,” Jeter said. “He’s hard on himself, which I think is good at times. But today, like I say, you couldn’t ask for him to do anything more.”
Is that enough to wipe out a season of disappointment? Is it enough to build some trust, and some confidence, for a potential start in the ALCS?
Associated Press photo
Postgame notes: “That’s just how A.J. is” • 10.05.11
It took A.J. Burnett exactly six pitches to walk his first batter tonight. Larry Rothschild went to the mound after five hitters, Cory Wade was throwing in the bullpen before the third out, and the only thing that let Burnett escape the first inning was a leaping, falling catch by Curtis Granderson.
That was the beginning of Burnett’s biggest start of the year, a game that saved the Yankees season and salvaged some of Burnett’s.
“That’s A.J.,” Russell Martin said. “He wasn’t that erratic. That’s just how A.J. is, really. I didn’t have to say anything to him. I gave him a little neck message, and he went back to work … Gave him a little rubdown, sort of like a boxer in his corner.”
It was occasionally a high-wire act, but like Martin said, that’s A.J. He walked four and gave up four hits, but he also gave the Yankees 5.2 innings on a night they gladly would have accepted four. After Wade got loose in the first inning, the Yankees didn’t have to use a reliever until the sixth.
“A lot of times, for starters, that first inning is the toughest inning to get through, and you kind of get your feet wet,” Joe Girardi said. ” He hadn’t started a game in a while, in about eight or nine days. But he got through it, and then he pitched really well.
“… I was proud of what he did. In a must-win situation for us, he pitched one of his best games of the year. I’ve said all along, the Tigers swing the bat. To be able to shut them down, he gave up the one solo homer and gave up a double and proceeded to get out of that inning. We were all excited for him and very proud of what he did.”
For Burnett it was redemption. No one rips A.J. Burnett quite like A.J. Burnett, and even tonight he was a little bit hard on himself — said he should have pitched deeper, gave the defense a ton of credit — but he also stuck with his mantra of staying positive.
“Maybe it took me 25 to 30 (pitches) to get loose,” he said. “Maybe. I don’t know. I was just letting it go, and if it didn’t go for a strike, it didn’t go. I wasn’t worried about it. I got the ball and was able to do it again. I was able to find somewhat of a rhythm after that. It was a little nerve-racking in the first. I hadn’t been out there in a while.”
The Yankees didn’t plan to have him out there this time, but Friday’s rain forced their hand, and Burnett forced a winner-take-all Game 5. It started out nearly as bad as the Yankees could have imagined, but on night of redemption and second chances, Burnett got it going and kept the Yankees alive.
“I knew I was overthrowing, but I wasn’t going to think about it,” he said. “When you think about it, that’s when it goes more south… I wasn’t going to let little things bother me. I didn’t care if I walked eight, whatever. How many hits, how many homers you give up, I was just going to get the ball back and let it fly. I took that approach tonight, and it worked.”
• Burnett said it more than once, and it was true every time: “We don’t win tonight without defense.” A double play, Derek Jeter snagging a line drive, a few nice plays by Alex Rodriguez and — of course — Curtis Granderson’s pair of run-saving catches in center field.
• Granderson said it was his second catch, the Superman dive into left-center, that was the more difficult of the two. “Because of the distance I had to go,” he said. “The first one, I didn’t have to move too far, but I did have to freeze on it. It does make that play very difficult. Once you end up on your heals, now it’s hard to go ahead and generate some speed. For the second on, to have to go as far as I did and then to have to leave my feet like that, the good thing I thought if I do miss that one, Gardner is there. For the first one, if I miss that one, there’s nothing there but the wall back there and some ivy.”
• No surprise, but Girardi committed to Ivan Nova absolutely getting the start on Thursday.
• Girardi also said CC Sabathia will be in the bullpen on Thursday. “I plan on him being available to us,” Girardi said.
• With Cory Wade up in the first inning, Girardi said he was fully prepared to make a move that early. “I can’t tell you that I was going to take him out, I can’t tell you I was going to leave him in,” Girardi said. “But I had the guy up in case that first inning got away from us a little bit.”
• Girardi wasn’t sure what he would have done if there were another base runner after Jhonny Peralta’s double in the fourth inning. “Very possible I make a change there, yes,” Girardi said. Burnett struck out the next two batters and stayed in the game.
• How wild was that first inning? Girardi said he thought it was Wade he had getting loose, but he wasn’t sure. After all that happened tonight, he was perfectly willing to believe it was Phil Hughes.
• Speaking of Hughes, he finally got in a game with a scoreless eighth inning. Jesus Montero also saw his first division series action with two hits, including a pinch-hit RBI single in his first career postseason at-bat.
• Alex Rodriguez got his first two hits of the division series. They both came in that six-run eighth when struggling Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher also had hits. “I said our guys are having decent at-bats,” Girardi said. “They have a pretty good pitching staff here. There was a lot of talk about it. I talked about Adrian Beltre today. It doesn’t take much for a guy to be a huge impact. I thought Al had a huge RBI after getting down 0-2 in the count, I thought that was a big RBI.”
• Jeter on his two-run double that put the Yankees on the board: “I actually thought he caught it. After seeing the replay, the ball bounced right back up to him, and he bare-handed it. From my vantage point, all I saw was his back. That’s why I stopped at second. I thought he had caught it and that was double play. Austin has run down a few of my fly balls over the years. But fortunately for us, that one fell in.”
• Two more hits for Brett Gardner who’s having a nice series. His batting average is up to .385 in these first four games.
• We’ll give the Captain the final word tonight: “We enjoy playing at home,” Jeter said. “If you are going to win a championship, you have to play well at home, you have to play well on the road. We were fortunate to get a split here and bring it back to New York on Thursday. I’m pretty sure our fans will be vocal, excited and so will the Tigers. It’s going to be a challenge for us. Hopefully we can win one more game.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi said he woke up this morning feeling no different than any other day. He didn’t hear from anyone in the Yankees front office, didn’t change his daily routine. It was just another day, except this one came with the possibility of elimination looming large in tonight’s game.
“You understand that,” Girardi said. “And you think about how hard you worked. With the players, how hard they worked all year long. You don’t want it to end today. You don’t ever want it to end until it’s the last out of the World Series that you get. And that’s hard if it does.”
On the mound, the Yankees have A.J. Burnett, the team’s embattled starter who had a bit of a resurgence in September but ultimately finished with another disappointing season. The Yankees didn’t plan to have him start a game today, but Friday’s rain forced them to use a four-man rotation.
“I’m not underestimating him a bit,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s got great stuff. A.J. Burnett is capable of going out and throwing a two-hitter tonight. I know that. He has great stuff. You know the scenario is — this is a good situation for A.J., I think, on this stage tonight. People are hot and cold about A.J. and everything. Not us. We know what a great talent he is. If he gets it going, he can wipe you out. We’re very concerned about it.”
Girardi said it’s hard to say how long or short his leash will be. CC Sabathia got into trouble in last night’s third inning, and Girardi it’s “very possible you pull him” if Burnett has a similar third inning tonight.
Phil Hughes is available for roughly 50 pitches. Freddy Garcia has been told to be ready. Ivan Nova is available if things get “crazy” and the Yankees absolutely need innings.
“I don’t think there’s no exact science,” Girardi said. “You look at how (Burnett)’s pitching, getting outs. You can walk a guy, get a double play and then roll. You’ve just got to manage the game, and if you think there’s a time you need to pull him or you think there’s a time you leave him in, you go with your gut.”
• As he so often does, Girardi said he trusts his players who have track records. That’s why the lineup remains unchanged despite struggles by Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. “Everyone wants to throw stuff out, but it’s a couple of games,” Girardi said. “Adrian Beltre was 0-for-9 before today. Ron Washington didn’t move him, and he hit three homers. I don’t think you can make too much of a few games. You (can’t) start shaking up your lineup. These guys have done it all year long, and you expect them to do it.”
• Girardi on Mark Teixeira: “I think he’s just missed some balls in this series, I do. I think he’s had some pretty good swings and I think his at-bats have been pretty good. I thought he missed a ball the other day at home, I thought he hit a ball hard yesterday. I think sometimes you can get caught up in the numbers and not necessarily look at the at-bats. I think his at-bats have been OK.”
• Basically, the Girardi quote is the exact same for Swisher.
• Asked about Derek Jeter’s late-inning outs the past two games, Girardi pointed to the guy on the mound. “That’s why they get paid the big bucks, the closers, to get those big outs,” Girardi said.
• Girardi called the mood in the clubhouse “loose and relaxed” and said he felt no need to address the team before tonight’s game. “It’s not like I have a bunch of kids,” he said. “I have guys that understand what this is about.”
• The only pitcher no available tonight is CC Sabathia. “If he could throw right-handed he’d be available,” Girardi said. “If he was Mr. Venditte, he’d be available.”
• Nova threw a bullpen yesterday to prepare for a Game 4 start. “If you get in a crazy game you might have to (use him tonight),” Girardi said. “Then I’ll figure it out Thursday.”
• Obviously Hughes is the go-to long man tonight, but Girardi said he won’t necessarily got to Hughes first if Burnett struggles. “You might choose to bring someone in who’s used to coming into the middle of the inning a little more,” Girardi said. “That’s a decision I’ll have to make. I’ll look at some things and who they’re facing.”
• In case you missed it, Texas wrapped up the other division series this afternoon. If the Yankees come back in this series, they’ll head for an ALCS rematch against the Rangers.
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi had no regrets this morning about using Mariano Rivera last night. The way he saw it, a grand slam would have pulled the Tigers within 2, and Girardi thought it was best to shut the door right then and there.
“He hadn’t pitched since Tuesday, and before that, he hadn’t pitched in a little bit,” Girardi said. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt him. Obviously it helps to keep him sharp. I think you could look at it either way with three more days in a row. But it shouldn’t hurt.”
Ivan Nova pitching into last night’s ninth inning meant the Yankees used only Luis Ayala and Rivera in Game 1. Girardi has said he’s willing to use any of his relievers three days in a row, which leaves him with a full bullpen these next three days. There’s a chance Rivera wouldn’t be available on Tuesday, but Girardi said there’s no doubt he’ll be available tonight and tomorrow.
A full bullpen could be key with Freddy Garcia, who’s built his season on keeping the Yankees in a game for six innings, then letting the relievers takeover. Garcia-to-Soriano-to-Robertson-to-Rivera could be a perfect recipe for the Yankees in Game 2.
“Our bullpen is in very good shape,” Girardi said. “So that sets up really well. Freddy is a completely different look than all of our other pitchers. You can look at all of our other pitchers and say they’re somewhat power guys. Freddy is the one finesse guys we’ve got that’s going to use a lot of offspeed, see some slow breaking balls. It’s a totally different look.”
Here’s Girardi’s pregame press conference. It wasn’t very long. We got a little more in the beat writers session.
• The Yankees are now committed to CC Sabathia pitching tomorrow’s Game 3, and Girardi finally made it official that A.J. Burnett will start Game 4. The only thing that would have kept Burnett from lining up for Game 4 would have been using him in long relief last night. Phil Hughes is the long man today.
• Girardi said the umpires “absolutely” got the call right on Robinson Cano’s double off the top of the wall last night, though Girardi was a little surprised that fans didn’t reach out and pull that ball into the stands. “Usually you see that,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure how far they would have had to reach to get to it. I don’t know how wide that concrete is out there. I’m sure it would have been reviewed either way, so it would have ended up the same.”
• Despite the fact Sabathia just pitched two days ago, Girardi said his pitch count won’t be at all limited tomorrow night. “I don’t think so, just because he threw so few on Friday, and he’s not expected to make another start in the division series,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he’s not second-guessing Ayala after back-to-back rough outings. “He’s pitched really well for us,” Girardi said. “And I think you have to look at his body of work. And he got a ground ball from Avila, then he got another ground ball. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do.”
• Hector Noesi and Raul Valdes have joined Ramiro Pena in Tampa. Those three are staying sharp at the minor league complex. Bartolo Colon and Austin Romine are staying with the big league team. Romine is catching in the bullpen to stay with the big league staff.
• Girardi never looked a replay of last night’s play at the plate. He said last night that he was positive it was an out when he saw it live, and he never felt a need to look at it again.
• As someone pointed out, Rivera technically threw the first and last pitch of Game 1. He threw the ceremonial first pitch on Friday, then closed the game on Saturday.
Austin Jackson CF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Delmon Young LF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Alex Avila C
Jhonny Peralta SS
Wilson Betemit 3B
Ramon Santiago 2B
Associated Press photo
Freddy Garcia will start tomorrow’s rescheduled Game 2, and it sounds like there was never much chance of CC Sabathia getting the ball. In fact, Joe Girardi hasn’t committed to Sabathia pitching on Monday. It’s still possible, he said, the he’ll wait until Tuesday to pitch his ace again.
“You’re asking a guy to pitch on Sunday and Thursday, and he threw on Friday,” Girardi said. “To me, it’s too much… You don’t want to send a guy out there if he’s not physically as good as he can be. I’m not saying that any starting pitcher is going to be 100 percent, but if you have a couple games that you can choose from and he can be 95 percent one day and 80 percent the other day, I’m going to take him at the 95 percent.”
Right now, Girardi expects Sabathia to be his Monday starter, but he won’t set that in stone until Sabathia checks in Sunday and confirms that he feels strong enough to pitch the next day.
As for Tuesday’s Game 4, it’s obvious that A.J. Burnett is the leading candidate to start for the Yankees, but Girardi said he hasn’t discussed it with Burnett. For now, Burnett is available as a long man, and if the Yankees get into a crazy situation tonight, Burnett will be available to pitch multiple innings.
“I think you worry about today’s game today,” Girardi said. “You worry about tomorrow’s game tomorrow. That’s what you do.”
How much has this series changed now that Sabathia and Justin Verlander are, essentially, pitching only once.
“It can potentially change a lot, but I don’t think we’re ever going to know,” Girardi said. “That’s for people to sit around and talk about. You’ve got two aces going, a 1-1 game, and now they’re conceivably only going to pitch once each. It changes the complexion of it, but none of us really know if it would have changed the outcome.”
Here’s Girardi’s press conference.
• Girardi quickly dismissed any notion that Alex Rodriguez might be bothered by playing four games in a row. He said the fact Rodriguez sat out the regular-season finale is a non-issue. “If it wasn’t New York and it wasn’t Alex this wouldn’t have been such a big deal that a guy was a little cranky,” Girardi said. “He played on turf a couple of days. I think you probably could have askd about 10 of our players in Tampa on Wednesday if any of their knees were a little cranky from playing on the turf and you probably would have gotten about seven yeses. Because it’s Alex, it’s a big deal.”
• Rodriguez actually did early work in the field yesterday and today. When I got to the park this afternoon he was taking grounders at third.
• Same thing for Russell Martin. Even with four days in a row and a day game after a night game, Martin is still expected to start every game behind the plate. “He’s ready to go,” Girardi said.
• The closest Girardi would come to confirming Burnett as his fourth starter was to say he’s a “great candidate” to start that game. “He’s pitched well against this team this year,” Girardi said.
• If not Burnett, Phil Hughes is the obvious alternative. “He’s an option,” Girardi said. “He’s not really stretched out over the last two weeks, but I can’t tell you exactly what’s going to happen in the next couple games with the rain in the forecast. ”
• Girardi said he never put a real plan together because he was quickly convinced last night’s game was not going to continue, but he probably would have used Burnett had the game resumed after the rain delay. “That’s probably what I would have done,” Girardi said. “I didn’t even think about that, because when I came in, I looked at the radar and it didn’t look too good. I heard TBS say there was a window and I was wondering where that window was.”
• Girardi said it’s not up to him, but his hope is that MLB will postpone the start of tonight’s game if there’s rain in the forecast for the first few innings. He’d rather not burn out a starting pitcher in another delay.
• The Tigers have not changed anything about their lineup. They’d have to lose a player to do so, so they’re going with their vLHP lineup against the right-handed Ivan Nova.
• Andy Pettitte is here, but there’s no ceremonial first pitch tonight, so the thinking seems to be that he could be throwing out the first pitch tomorrow. Could the Yankees have Mariano Rivera throw to Jorge Posada before Game 1, then have Pettitte throw to Derek Jeter before Game 2?
Associated Press photos