The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Pregame notes: “You don’t want to let him beat you”09.30.11

Is it possible for one of the best hitters in baseball to sneak under the radar?

Miguel Cabrera leads the Majors in batting average and on-base percentage. He ranks fourth in slugging, and his OPS is second only to Jose Bautista. But he’s a secondary focus on this Tigers team, where Justin Verlander gets so much attention that Cabrera seems like a piece of the supporting cast.

“If he plays another eight to 10 years, he could go down as one of the greatest hitters of all time,” Joe Girardi said. “If you get in situations, you don’t want to let him beat you.”

Girardi would know. He managed Cabrera in Florida.

“It was a young man who, at a very young age, really knew how to hit and really knew how to play the game,” Girardi said. “I was impressed with his knowledge of the game and understanding how to play the game, and we had a very good relationship.”

At this point, you know all about the Yankees. You know Robinson Cano has been moved up to third in the lineup, you know Alex Rodriguez is coming off an injury and you know Curtis Granderson spent the year emerging as one of the game’s most dangerous hitters. You also know all about Verlander and CC Sabathia, a pitching matchup custom-made for Game 1. You know this is the division series, and the Yankees have the home-field advantage.

What’s we’ll find tonight is how the Yankees plan to approach the most dangerous hitter in the Tigers lineup, a guy who’s not getting the most buzz in Detroit, but who could make the biggest difference in this series if the Yankee choose to face him.

“That’s why we went out and got Victor Martinez,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “… We feel very comfortable with Victor behind Miguel right now. There’s no question about that. He’s a very professional hitter. He’s knocked in over 100 runs. There’s never a perfect lineup but we think we have the guy to hit behind him.”

Here’s Girardi’s pregame press conference.

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• Leyland announced that Rick Porcello will be his Game 4 starter. That means they’re planning to use Verlander in Game 5. Girardi said he’s sticking with his decision to use Sabathia in Game 4 and Nova in Game 5.

• Girardi said all of his roster decisions were “pretty much as anticipated.” They wanted to keep their regular bullpen, and they felt comfortable with Jesus Montero as the backup catcher. A.J. Burnett is basically the long man, which seems to have lessened the need for Hector Noesi.

• Will Burnett be the fourth starter if the Yankees advance to the ALCS? “There’s a good possibility, yes,” Girardi said.

• Girardi expects to pinch hit Montero for Jorge Posada if the Tigers bring in a left-hander late in the game. In using Montero, the Yankees will eliminate their backup catcher, but Girardi will take that chance and lose his DH if something happens to Martin at that point.

• Austin Romine will stay with the big league club. So will Bartolo Colon. Ramiro Pena has already gone to Tampa to stay sharp, and lefty Raul Valdes will head down there on Sunday.

• Girardi didn’t rule out the idea of using Colon later in the postseason, but it doesn’t seem especially likely. “It’s possible. We’re going to have him continue to throw. He’s probably going ot stay with us though, but we’ll have him continue to throw and maybe the extra rest will help him.”

• Chris Dickerson became an important piece because the Yankees want to use him for late-inning defense in Detroit. “You look at the outfield in Detroit, how big it is, it’s nice to have Dickerson,” Girardi said.

• The seventh, eighth and ninth innings are obviously spoken for, but Girardi said he considers Phil Hughes to be a candidate for key spots in the sixth. “I’ll look at matchups,” Girardi said. “We’ve used Wade and Ayala and Boone in those situations. Not afraid to use Hughsey in those situations either.”

• The Yankees plan to stick with this lineup throughout the series.

• Girardi’s reaction to news that Terry Francona is out as manager in Boston: “These jobs are precious, there’s no doubt about it. There’s expectations. A lot of times they’re extremely high expectations when you’re in certain towns. We understand that when we take the job. High expectations are better than no expectations. You do enjoy it and you enjoy your time when you’re there. Tito has done a great job there. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I know he’s done a great job.”

Austin Jackson CF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Delmon Young LF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Alex Avila C
Ryan Raburn 2B
Jhonny Peralta SS
Brandon Inge 3B

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 219 Comments →

Postgame notes: “Friday’s what we play for, and it’s here”09.29.11

B.J. Upton was at the plate in the 12th inning when the television showed the last step of the Boston collapse. The crowd here at Tropicana Field went berserk, and the volume only increased when the final score was posted on the scoreboard in left field.

Evan Longoria was literally the very next hitter.

It happened that quickly, from Jonathan Papelbon’s meltdown in Baltimore to Longoria’s game winner in St. Pete, eight minutes passed. A night that had already seen the Rangers lockup the No. 2 seed in the American League and the Cardinals clinch the wild card in the National League, ended with an unlikely celebration at the Trop.

“That was one of the best days in baseball’s history probably,” Mark Teixeira said. “Every game tonight all across baseball seemed like it mattered, and there were some great finishes… Give (the Rays) a lot of credit. Down seven runs going into the eighth inning with your season on the line, obviously we don’t want to be on the short end of that stick, but you give them a lot of credit for the way they fought back.”

Funny thing is, none of it really mattered to the Yankees. They didn’t need a win today. They just needed to get through this game with their players healthy, and they more or less did that (more on that in a bit). For the Yankees, the game that really mattered was the Rangers win against the Angels. That’s the game that setup a division series matchup between the Yankees and the Tigers.

“It’s a strange game,” Joe Girardi said. “You never know what’s going to happen from night to night. It’s weird, but Friday’s what we play for, and it’s here.”

Here’s Girardi.

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• Girardi officially named a three-man rotation for the division series: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia. “We just like the way that Freddy’s pitched,” Girardi said. “Freddy’s pitched well. We talked about it and debated about it a long time, and we just decided to go with Freddy. We like the way that Freddy has competed all year, and we’re going to send him out there.”

• Sabathia will pitch Games 1 and 4. Nova will pitch Games 2 and 5.

• A.J. Burnett will move to the bullpen for the division series. That’s why he faced a batter in relief tonight, just so he could do it one time before the postseason. “He’s a guy that can get a strikeout for us if we need it, and he’s a guy that can give us some distance if we need that,” Girardi said. “He can do multiple things.”

• Alex Rodriguez is fine. Girardi said his knee was “achy,” but Girardi said he has “no doubt whatsoever” that Rodriguez will be able to play Friday. “I don’t really have a concern about him,” Girardi said. “The turf can do that to you sometimes, and he’ll be ready to go Friday.”

• Jesus Montero was sent for X-rays after a tipped ball hit his throwing hand. The results were negative, and Girardi expects Montero to be sore but available. “My guess is that he’ll be OK,” Girardi said. “We’ll check tomorrow, but the x-ray came out negative”

• Girardi said he used his bullpen according to plan. At one point Hector Noesi seemed to be stretching, but I don’t think he ever threw a pitch. “I had talked about that I wasn’t going to use Robby, Soriano or Mo,” Girardi said. “That was the bottom line, and we tried to close it out. We had a seven-run lead with two (innings to play) and I went to guys with experience, and we didn’t get it done.”

• What does Girardi make of Luis Ayala and Boone Logan — two guys who have actually been in his bullpen all year — giving up six runs in an inning? “I don’t make too much of it,” Girardi said. “You just don’t.”

• Before Logan and Ayala, a total of seven Yankees pitchers — five of them September call-ups — pitched a total of seven scoreless innings.

• Dellin Betances walked two in the first inning, but he got back-to-back strikeouts to strand the runners, and his first big league start spanned two scoreless innings. Not a bad way to bounce back after an rocky debut at home.

• The two teams combined to use 18 pitchers — 11 of them were Yankees — which set a new record at Tropicana Field. The previous high was 15 in a game between the Rays and Red Sox.

• Mark Teixeira hit two home runs and will finish with 39 for the season, one shy of the second 40-homer season of his career. His grand slam in the second inning was the fourth allowed by a Rays pitcher this season (the first was hit by Jorge Posada). It was the Yankees 10th grand slam of the season and the seventh of Teixeira’s career.

• It was Teixeira’s first grand slam on the road since hitting one off Edwar Ramirez in 2008. Did you think you’d read Edwar Ramirez’s name tonight?

• The game-tying home run that Cory Wade allowed in the ninth inning was the first run he had allowed against the Rays in six appearances this season. Wade opened the season on the Rays Triple-A team and came to the Yankees because the Rays wouldn’t give him a shot in the big leagues.

• On the Rays comeback: They were 9 games out of the wild card on September 4, the most games ever overcome in September to get into the postseason in Major League history. The Rays went 16-8 since September 4 while Boston went 6-18. Tonight, the Rays were down by seven runs in the eighth inning, making this the second-largest comeback in franchise history and the largest at Tropicana Field.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 394 Comments →

Between-game notes: “Why not give him a good headache?”09.25.11

Does one good start in an ultimately meaningless game mean anything?

Since joining the Yankees three years ago, A.J. Burnett had never beaten the Red Sox. He had a 7.36 ERA in two previous starts against them this season, and let there be no doubt, they were certainly playing for something this afternoon. It might have been a meaningless game for the Yankees, but it meant something for the Red Sox.

Did it mean anything for Burnett?

“It’s up to (Joe Girardi),” Burnett said. “I just wanted to come out and give him headaches. I’ve been giving him headaches all year, why not give him a good headache, you know? I got runs early the past month or so and haven’t been able to put it all together, so to go deeper in the game and keep the lead — I still made a couple mistakes to Ellsbury — but for the most part I was able to make pitches when I needed to.”

Burnett pitched 7.2 innings. He allowed two runs on five hits — only Jacoby Ellsbury’s home runs hurt him — and he struck out six. He’s 2-0 with a 4.34 ERA in September, but the last time he pitched this many innings with two runs or less was way back on June 13. He walked off the field to a standing ovation.

“There were lots of (goose bumps), lots of them,” Burnett said. “It means a lot, you know. They’ve been rough, but I’ve given them reason to be rough. That makes up for everything, walking off that mound to that ovation is incredible.”

What does it mean for his spot in the postsaeason?

“We’re going to continue to look at it and talk about it,” Girardi said. “And our opponent has something to do with who we’re going to pitch.”

Burnett hasn’t faced Texas this season, but he made two solid starts against the Tigers, and has pretty good career numbers against the current Detroit roster. Interestingly, Freddy Garcia has much worse career numbers against the current Tigers, and he gave up 10 hits — a season-high — against them earlier this season (Garcia has terrific career numbers against the Rangers and pitched six shutout innings against them this year). Is it possible the Yankees would lean toward Burnett over Garcia if they face Detroit in the first round? Girardi wouldn’t go into specifics.

“I’m just hoping I gave him something to think about, you know,” Burnett said. “He’s been nothing but positive toward me the whole season. He came out and shook my hand on the mound, and it was very professional of him. As many times I’ve gone away mad, he knows I’m not mad at him. He can call Cito (Gaston) and ask him how many times I got mad at Cito. He deals with it well, he deals with me well and when he put his hand out there, it meant a lot.”

Here’s Burnett.

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• Cool pregame ceremony to honor Mariano Rivera’s record-breaking 602nd career save. The Yankees kept it a surprise and announced it to the media pregame with strict orders not to announce it on blogs or Twitter. Rivera was given a fireman’s helmet and a huge picture commemorating the milestone.

• Jorge Posada was out there for the Rivera ceremony, and he got his own moment with a third-inning curtain call after his home run. “The fans have been amazing all through my career, but especially this year,” Posada said. “They’ve been very supportive and for them standing after Andruw gets strike one. I didn’t want to interrupt his at-bat. It’s special to hit a home run and even in the last regular season game.”

• This was the first time that Posada hit cleanup since September 28, 2009. he hit his first cleanup home run since April 10, 2008. Of his 14 home runs this season, 11 have come at Yankee Stadium.

• On the home run, Posada scored his 900th career run. His first-inning walk was No. 934 of his career, moving him past Roy White for sole possession of seventh place on the Yankees all-time franchise list.

• The Yankees scored their first two runs without getting the ball out of the infield thanks to bunt singles by Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter. “It had nothing to do with our game plan,” Jeter said. “I’ve faced Wakefield a bunch and I don’t know if I’ve ever bunted off him before. The opportunity presented itself, and I tried it.”

• Jeter’s batting average is up to .300. “I’m not playing for a batting average,” he said. “I’m playing for trying to stay sharp for the playoffs. (Hitting) .300 obviously is better than .200, but I’ve hit .300 before.”

• This is the first time Jeter’s batting average has been .300 or better at the end of a game since he was hitting .333 after the second game of the season.

• The Yankees are an even 16-16 in Burnett’s starts this season.

• Dave Robertson has allowed one run and 11 hits in his past 26 appearances dating back to July 26. He has a 0.35 ERA in that stretch. According to Elias, Robertson has held opponents hitless in his past 21 at-bats with men on base.

• Robertson leads all American League relievers with 99 strikeouts this season. That’s good news for High Socks for Hope.

• Francisco Cervelli went for further tests today but the Yankees haven’t heard back from the doctors.

• Girardi said he’ll probably announce a Tampa rotation after the second game.

• There’s still no plan in place — or, announced anyway — for Phil Hughes. “We’re going to talk about how we’re going to use him in the next couple of days,” Girardi said.

• The Yankees will finish the season 44-12 in day game, the highest all-time day winning percentage by any team since 1900 according to Elias.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 424 Comments →

Game 158: Yankees vs. Red Sox09.25.11

YANKEES (96-61)
Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Jorge Posada DH
Andruw Jones LF
Russell Martin C
Chris Dickerson RF
Brandon Laird 1B
Ramiro Pena 2B

RHP A.J. Burnett (10-11, 5.28)
Burnett vs. Red Sox

RED SOX (88-69)
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carl Crawford LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Conor Jackson RF
Marco Scutaro SS
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Mike Aviles 3B

RHP Tim Wakefield (7-7, 5.08)
Wakefield vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:05., YES Network / TBS

WEATHER: Sunny and warm here in the Bronx. Little bit of wind blowing from left to right.

UMPIRES: HP Brian Runge, 1B Ted Barrett, 2B Tim McClelland, 3B Marvin Hudson

SHOWING UP: The Yankees lead the American League in home attendance (3,555,067) and average home attendance (45,001). This is the ninth straight season the franchise has led the AL in attendance. Their 18 home sellouts are the most in the three-year history of the current Yankee Stadium.

WRAPPING UP: The Yankees are 34-16 in the second game of a series thus far in 2011. They are 33-19 in series finales, but have lost four of their past five in series of three-or-more games. The Yankees are 18-8 in finales at home this season.

THE FULL MONTY: Jesus Montero has recorded back-to-back 3H, multiple-RBI games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only other Yankees rookies to accomplish that feat since RBIs became an official statistic in 1920 were Bob Meusel in 1920 and Robinson Cano in 2005.

MAGIC NUMBER: The Yankees have clinched a playoff spot, a division title and home-field advantage. The magic number is, I guess, zero.

UPDATE, 1:37 p.m.: Kind of amazing to watch how poorly this Boston team is playing. Ellsbury picked off. Two mistakes by Saltalamacchia. It’s a 2-0 Yankees lead, and they haven’t hit the ball out of the infield.

UPDATE, 1:56 p.m.: Nice play by Pena to get the last out of the third. Burnett looks good so far. Still a 2-0 game heading into the bottom of the third.

UPDATE, 2:01 p.m.: Posada goes deep and the Yankees are up 4-0 in the third. Curtain call for Jorge.

UPDATE, 2:32 p.m.: Burnett is through five innings with a 4-1 Yankees lead. Ellsbury took him deep in the third, but otherwise he’s been pretty impressive against a Red Sox team that just keeps limping to the finish line.

UDPATE, 2:56 p.m.: Ellsbury’s second homer is his 30th of the year. Say what you will about the Red Sox, their leadoff man has had an incredible year.

UPDATE, 3:00 p.m.: Fans have booed him a couple of times today, but Burnett is through six innings having allowed just three hits (two of them solo homers by Ellsbury). He’s pitched pretty well today.

UPDATE, 3:11 p.m.: The captain doubles in a run and it’s 6-2 Yankees in the sixth. Jeter’s hitting .300 with four games to play.

UPDATE, 3:18 p.m.: That’s a nice play by Laird to start a 3-6-1 double play in the seventh. Burnett is still out there with Soriano getting loose in the bullpen.

UPDATE, 3:35 p.m.: Burnett’s final start of the year is going to be one of his best. He’s still out there in the eighth, the first time he’s pitched this far into a game since June 13.

UPDATE, 3:36 p.m.: Scratch that. Forgot about the eight innings on July 29. So this is the second time he’s gotten an out in the eighth inning since June 13.

UPDATE, 3:39 p.m.: Huge ovation for Burnett, who’s pulled after 7.2 innings and back-to-back strikeouts. Robertson is in to face Ellsbury — Girardi talked pregame about wanting to use relievers in situations that might come up in the postseason — and Burnett has his finest start since early June.

UPDATE, 3:43 p.m.: Was that a changeup from Robertson? Brought in to get a lefty, and he’s able to go to that pitch? This is part of the reason the Yankees don’t have to have a second lefty in the bullpen, because in the late innings, they can bring Robertson — or, I guess, Soriano — to get a tough lefty in a tough spot. If Logan can get a key lefty in the fifth or sixth, one of those two setup relievers can handle the key left-handed at-bats in the seventh and eighth. The ninth is spoken for, obviously.

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Pregame notes: Hughes feeling good after bullpen09.24.11

Pretty quiet day here at Yankee Stadium. The first person I saw in the clubhouse was Yogi Berra, dressed in a sharp suit for today’s Roger Maris ceremony. The last person I talked to in the Yankees clubhouse was Phil Hughes, having just sat down after a morning bullpen.

“I didn’t even feel it,” he said.

In this case, Hughes was referring to his lower back, which started causing him problems last weekend and cost him a start this week. Hughes threw 35 to 40 pitches and he remains on schedule — assuming no setbacks — to pitch next week in Tampa. There’s no date scheduled for that appearance.

“I think you really have to wait and see how he feels tomorrow and decide what we’re going to do,” Joe Girardi said.

Given the fact he hasn’t pitched since September 12, there’s a very real possibility that the Yankees will decide to simply move him into the bullpen for the division series.

“I think you have to think about that,” Girardi said. “I think that’s one of the things you have to think about just because he hasn’t thrown in a while and we’re not sure how it’s going to play out in the next couple of days after throwing this bullpen. Just a lot of decisions to be made by Friday.”

• Francisco Cervelli ran for about 10 minutes today. He’s still not ready to begin baseball activities, but he’s making progress. “I still would be a little bit surprise if we got him back,” Girardi said. “But, you know, maybe it stays away and maybe he’s able to help us.”

• Without Cervelli, the Yankees have to consider a postseason roster without a traditional backup catcher. “It changes the way that maybe you think about your roster a little bit,” Girardi said. “You know, when you think about your roster, the expectation is that Russell is going to play every day. You really have to think about how you’re going to do things and the combination of guys. There’s a lot of thought that’s going to go into this. The one thing about making a roster is you try to guard against everything, that’s what you try to do, but you really can’t.”

• A.J. Burnett will start the first game tomorrow. Ivan Nova will start the second.

• Girardi was asked today about the impact of Mark Teixeira’s defense at first base: “He saves us errors,” Girardi said. “Saving errors to me is important. It saves runs, No. 1. No. 2, it saves pitches for our starter. An inning ends up being prolonged and a pitcher throws 12 extra pitches, and it takes an inning away from them, and it affects your bullpen. It’s just kind of a trickle effect. So, being able to save pitches by saving errors is extremely important to me, and he does a wonderful job.”

• I actually have not yet seen Manny Banuelos, but I know he’s here. I’ve seen Adam Warren and David Phelps hanging around the past two days. They’re here to observe for the weekend, just to get themselves used to the big league environment.

“This is something that our club has done in the past where we bring young kids up that we think could have an impact either next year or the year after,” Girardi said. “(They) kind of get a feel what it’s like to be in our clubhouse, see all the media, understand our clubhouse — our clubhouse is something you have to learn – so when they do get here, they’re more comfortable. We all know that those first couple days as a big league player, a lot of times, there’s a lot of butterflies, but you try to get rid of some of that. But these are kids that we believe are going to help us, and that’s why they’re here.”

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Carl Crawford LF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Mike Aviles 3B
Marco Scutaro SS
Josh Reddick RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 325 Comments →

Pregame notes: “I just thought today was the day”09.18.11

Alex Rodriguez feels fine after yesterday’s return to the lineup, and Phil Hughes said he feels considerably better since Friday’s back spasms. Compared to a week ago, the Yankees seem relatively healthy today, and Joe Girardi said he wants to keep it that way.

Hence today’s lineup.

“The guys have been going so hard,” Girardi said. “I figured we’ve got an important 10 days coming up, try to get them a little bit of a blow. Grandy and Jeet have really struggled against Morrow in their career, and I just thought today was the day.”

Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira — the usual 1 through 3 hitters — are all out of the lineup. Robinson Cano, the usual No. 4, is starting at designated hitter. Girardi said none of those four have complained about injuries, and that’s not what today’s about.

“None whatsoever,” Girardi said. “Just trying to give them a little blow. I think they’re fatigued, as well as some of our other guys, and that’s why we’re going to DH Robbie.”

Girardi plans to have his regulars — most of them anyway — back in the lineup tomorrow.

“The other guys have had a little bit more rest than these three,” Girardi said. “I might not play Al tomorrow. We’ll see about Al, how he physically feels, but I would imagine I’d have most of the guys in there tomorrow.”

• Although Girardi is willing to discuss the idea of having Jorge Posada catch a possible record-breaking save by Mariano Rivera, he seems to be leaning against it. “It’s not something that we’ve done a lot,” Girardi said. “We’ve caught him one time, and the games are important right now. It’s something that we can talk about, but I’m probably going to stick with our catchers. That’s what I’m going to do.”

• A.J. Burnett is flying out of Toronto this afternoon so that he can get to New York the day before his day game start tomorrow.

• The Yankees rotation for the Tampa Bay series:

Tuesday: Ivan Nova
Wednesday: CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes
Thursday: Bartolo Colon

• Girardi said Hughes “continues to improve” and Hughes said he’s certain he would be available for Tuesday if necessary, but the Yankees are going to have him pitch one of those doubleheader games instead.

• Girardi’s not sure whether Hughes or Sabathia will start the first game on Wednesday.

• Girardi’s still not willing to discuss his playoff rotation. “A lot of it will probably, if we’re fortunate enough to get in, be determined by the matchup,” he said. “Until we get there or see how guys are doing, we’ve always said things have sometimes a way of working their way out. So, we’ll see.”

• Some of Nick Swisher’s throws from right field have been at less than 100 percent, but Girardi said that’s by design. “I told him, be smart about it,” Girardi said. “Don’t air it out if you don’t have to air it out. Sometimes outfielder just like to throw, and I just said, ‘If you don’t have to let it go, don’t let it go. Be smart.’”

• As you might have guessed, Rafael Soriano is not available today.

• The Yankees would love for Rivera to break the saves record at home, but if there’s a save situation this afternoon, Girardi said he will absolutely use his closer. “You got it,” Girardi said.

Mike McCoy SS
Eric Thames LF
Jose Bautista RF
Adam Lind DH
Edwin Encarnacion 1B
Kelly Johnson 2B
Brett Lawrie 3B
Colby Rasmus CF
Jose Molina C

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 297 Comments →

Burnett: “It’s a big confidence boost”09.15.11

How much do you believe in three innings? Enough to believe that, just maybe, A.J. Burnett actually has found something this time?

Completely overshadowed by Mariano Rivera’s 600th save, Burnett showed something more than effectiveness on Tuesday night. He was legitimately dominant for three innings, striking out seven of the last 11 batters he faced and showing the kind of aggressiveness that he so often talks about.

“The first three innings he struggled,” Joe Girardi said. “The last three innings, he was as good as he’s been. And he made a little adjustment out there where, he just kind of went after it. He kept his hands in the same place that Larry had talked about, but he gave a little bit more more of a turn. It just really seemed to help him.”

A little more than two weeks ago, Larry Rothschild worked to simplify Burnett’s mechanics. The hands were held closer to the body, and Burnett’s turn was less extreme. The result was arguably Burnett’s best start of the second half, a two-run outing in Boston.

On Tuesday, after struggling to get lose and comfortable, Burnett created a kind of hybrid delivery. He went back to his old turn, and without meaning to, still managed to keep his hands close.

“We talked in between innings and it’s a happy medium between what we worked on and how I used to throw,” he said. “It just didn’t feel like it was coming out right. It didn’t feel normal. I eventually said, ‘That’s enough.’ The changes that we made allowed me to stay calm with the hands, the way I used to throw. Everything stayed the same as if I was there. I started different and had my turn, but my hands weren’t going everywhere. They were in a position where I could repeat my pitches.”

As the Yankees figure out what to do with their pitching staff in the postseason, it’s easy to consider Burnett to be the most obvious odd man out (one solid start in Boston and three terrific innings in Seattle don’t carry a ton of weight). But if he does this twice more in the next two weeks — against significantly better lineups — would that be enough to convince Girardi and the Yankees that Burnett’s become the hot hand, one they should ride into October?

“It’s a big confidence boost,” Burnett said. “It’s big. The bottom line is I was able to make that adjustment and keep my team in the game. I had some runners on and never brought down, never broke confidence, and I was making pitches when I needed to.”

Here’s Burnett speaking after Tuesday’s start.

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Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc, Podcastwith 142 Comments →

Game 147: Yankees at Mariners09.13.11

YANKEES (89-57)
Derek Jeter SS
Nick Swisher RF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Jesus Montero DH
Andruw Jones LF
Russell Martin C
Eduardo Nunez 3B
Brett Gardner CF

RHP A.J. Burnett (9-11, 5.27)
Burnett vs. Mariners

MARINERS (61-86)
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Kyle Seager 3B
Dustin Ackley 2B
Mike Carp LF
Justin Smoak 1B
Miguel Olivo C
Adam Kennedy DH
Casper Wells CF
Brendan Ryan SS

LHP Charlie Furbush (3-8 4.84)
Furbush vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 10:10 p.m., YES Network

WEATHER: Another day in Seattle. Lots of clouds, but still oddly nice outside.

UMPIRES: HP Tim Timmons, 1B Mike Muchlinski, 2B Jeff Kellogg, 3B Mark Carlson

STREAKING CAPTAIN: Derek Jeter has an 11-game hitting streak, his longest of the season. It’s the 43rd hitting streak of at least 10 games in his career, which is a franchise record. According to Elias, since the Yankees were established in 1903, only four Major Leaguers have more double-digit hitting streaks: Ty Cobb (66), Hank Aaron (48), Tris Speaker (47) and Al Simmons (44).

BETTER THAN THE KING: Mark Teixeira went deep off Felix Hernandez last night. It was Teixeira’s fifth career homer off the Seattle ace, and according to Elias that’s the most home runs any player has hit off Hernandez. Only one pitcher has surrendered more homers to Teixeira, and that’s Bruce Chen.

LIKE LAST YEAR: Robinson Cano has 109 RBI, matching his career-high which was established last year.

MAGIC NUMBER: The Yankees magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 10.

UPDATE, 10:26 p.m.: Burnett leaves runners are the corners and the game is still scoreless at the end of one inning.

UPDATE, 10:29 p.m.: Cano goes deep and it’s a 1-0 lead. Cano has now set a new career high for RBI.

UPDATE, 10:41 p.m.: The Yankees have handed Burnett a 2-0 lead — wild pitch scored Montero — heading into the bottom of the second. But the Mariners have opened this half inning with a sharp double by Olivo.

UPDATE, 10:47 p.m.: Two-out RBI single by Ryan pulls the Mariners within 2-1. Burnett struck out two in a row before Ryan got a ground ball through to right field.

UPDATE, 11:04 p.m.: The Yankees just went to check on Burnett on the mound — training staff included — and they have Noesi getting warm. Burnett promptly plunked Smoak to load the bases.

UPDATE, 11:18 p.m.: Montero gives and he takes away. Doubled to the wall, then was caught too far off second base for a 6-4 fielders choice.

UPDATE, 11:41 p.m.: Since the sac fly that tied the game at 2 in the third inning, Burnett has been absolutely dominant. He’s struck out five of the past seven Mariners, with the only exceptions being ground ball outs.

UPDATE, 11:50 p.m.: Swisher’s leadoff double leads to a run in the sixth, and the Yankees are up 3-2.

UPDATE, 12:06 a.m.: Burnett is up to 11 strikeouts through six innings.

UPDATE, 12:07 a.m.: Granderson pinch hits for Jones and singles, but Martin grounds into a double play — nice play by Ackley to start it — and the runner is wiped out in the seventh.

UPDATE, 12:10 a.m.: Here’s Soriano to pitch the seventh. As you might expect, Granderson has taken over in center and Gardner has shifted to left.

UPDATE, 12:26 a.m.: Golson in for Swisher in right field.

UPDATE, 12:39 a.m.: Robertson intentionally walks the bases loaded, obviously just so he can get comfortable.

UPDATE, 12:41 p.m.: Robinson never once had a chance. Not even for a second. Robertson gets the strikeout — of course he does — and gets out of the inning.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Gameday Threadwith 716 Comments →

Pregame notes: Swisher back in the outfield09.13.11

Three and half hours before first pitch, Joe Girardi still wasn’t sure who would be starting in right field. Nick Swisher was going to make some throws in the outfield, and his availability would depend on how he felt.

Obviously, he felt good enough to get in there.

“Tendinitis is going to go away,” Girardi said. “It could irritate him a little bit. It’s when it irritates him a lot that you worry about. There are a lot of guys that are probably playing with tendinitis in their arm right now, it’s just when it becomes too painful that you can’t do what you need to do.”

Just a few days ago, the Yankees seemed incredibly beat up, but the pieces are slowly falling back into place. Swisher is back in the outfield, Russell Martin is back behind the plate and Alex Rodriguez seems to be getting closer.

“It is good to see,” Girardi said. “It seemed like they all came at once, so we could have two back tonight and maybe a third – Alex – when we get to Toronto.”

• Curtis Granderson has a standard day off. Girardi figured it was a good day — as good as any, anyway — with a left-hander on the mound.

• Initially, the Yankees said Rodriguez would sit out three to four days. This is the fourth game he’s skipped, but Girardi is now planning to give him tomorrow, plus Thursday’s scheduled off day. “I think Friday is reasonable for Alex,” he said.

• Francisco Cervelli has been placed on the disabled list retroactive to Friday.

• Girardi said it’s still uncertain whether the Yankees will get Cervelli back this season. “I think it’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen,” he said. “Concussions today have become so unpredictable, you think you’re getting a guy back, he plays one game and then goes right back to the symptoms. I have no idea.”

• Phil Hughes pitched well last night. Now it’s A.J. Burnett’s turn. “I think he can get better and better,” Girardi said. “His changeup was the best I’ve ever seen it the other day. It still comes down to being able to locate your fastball, and I think his curveball has been better with the depth rather than going across.”

• Both Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman were getting loose during last night’s game, but neither actually got in. “I thought about using one of them,” Girardi said. “They were just throwing after that.”

• For those of you curious, four first-year pitchers have been carrying kids backpacks to and from the bullpen. George Kontos got Elmo, Hector Noesi got Dora the Explorer, Dellin Betances got Hannah Montana and Andrew Brackman got some sort of fairy character that I’ve never seen before.

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Kyle Seager 3B
Dustin Ackley 2B
Mike Carp LF
Justin Smoak 1B
Miguel Olivo C
Adam Kennedy DH
Casper Wells CF
Brendan Ryan SS

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 472 Comments →

Postgame notes: “Definitely something I can work with”09.02.11

The conversation came between starts, some time between A.J. Burnett’s nine-run debacle in Baltimore and his got-the-job-done start tonight in Boston.

“When we talked, it was basically me telling him what I’d seen through time,” Larry Rothschild said. “I don’t want to get into details of the conversation. I said, ‘Look, you might not like what I say, but here’s what’s out there. Here’s where I think we have to go.’ And he was great. Really good… I give him a lot of credit for what he did tonight.”

This was the first time since June 29 that Burnett allowed fewer than three runs in a start. He lasted just 5.1 innings, but he made only one critical mistake tonight, and that was the two-run homer to Dustin Pedroia. Other than the first two batters in the fourth, he didn’t let a runner past first base until the sixth.

“I felt pretty comfortable for the most part, new gig and all,” Burnett said. “I was just really relaxed out there tonight and went one pitch at a time. I didn’t miss over the plate a lot. I missed over the plate basically twice, both to Pedroia. My misses were down and even though I was behind on a lot of guys, they weren’t able to square a lot up because of that.”

Burnett’s new “gig” is a slight change to his mechanics. He’s changed where his hands start — both in the windup and out of the stretch — and there’s less of a turn in his delivery.

“Minor changes,” he said. “But major to a guy who’s been pitching the same way for 11 years. I looked at it with an open mind and it felt good… It’s definitely something I can work with. I felt real comfortable out there. I’ve only really been working on that for three days. I’ve been pitching the same way for 11 years, so it’s a big change, but as the game went on I felt more comfortable.”

No sense painting this as the start of a turnaround. It’s one start after two months of disappointment, but it was a glimpse of the reason Burnett got that five-year contract in the first place. He can be a good Major League starter, and the Yankees best-case scenario doesn’t involved finally dumping Burnett to the bullpen. It involves getting Burnett pitching well again.

“We need A.J.,” Russell Martin said. “And I think Larry had a big part in it, just simplifying a couple of the things in his mechanics just to get him consistent in his delivery. And then from there it was just him executing pitches, and we were on the same page for the most part of the game. It was good for him to fill that role against a really good lineup.”

Final word from Rothschild: “The one thing that he’s done is competed all along. Even in the toughest games, the toughest circumstances, he’s competing. That’s a pretty good place to start.”

Here’s Burnett.

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• The Major League debut of Jesus Montero was rather forgettable. The Yankees top hitting prospect went 0-for-4 with a hit by pitch. In his first three at-bats, he ended three innings with a total of six runners left stranded. But still, it was a debut, and four at-bats mean nothing in the course of a career.

“It means a lot for me, for my life,” Montero said. “Thank God I’m here for the first time and the first opportunity that I got to play in the big leagues. It was amazing for me today. After the first at-bat I feel more comfortable and I hit more well. I didn’t get the base hit, but I hope soon.”

• The big base hit, instead, came from the current Yankees catcher. Martin’s two-run double in the seventh turned everything around. Up to that moment, the Yankees had stranded 12 runners in the first six innings. “We just couldn’t seem to get the big hit off of Lester,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s a strikeout guy, so he’s going to sometimes have the bases loaded and get out of it. We got him out early, got him out after five and we were able to capitalize on some scoring chances after we got him out.”

• Terrific at-bat by Andruw Jones to start that seventh inning. His walk came after 14 pitches. Everyone in the clubhouse seemed to mention it at least once. Jones tied a career-high with three walks in the game, something he hadn’t done since 2006.

• Also plenty of talk about the Curtis Granderson catch in the sixth. That was a diving play that saved at least one run, maybe two. Might have been the difference in the game. “The Grandy man,” Burnett said. “He can do it all can’t he?”

• Mark Teixeira has a bruised right knee and he’s day-to-day. No x-rays were taken, and no tests are planned, but Girardi said he’s not sure Teixeira will be able to play tomorrow. Teixeira tried to stay in the game, but after playing defense for a half inning, his knee got stiff. “I couldn’t move,” he said.

• Robinson Cano had his team-leading 43rd multi-hit game.

• Derek Jeter played his 2,405th game, passing Mike Schmidt for the 15th-most games played all with same team. He went 2-for-4 tonight and is hitting .347 since coming off the disabled list.

• Boone Logan struck out the only batter he faced for the fifth time this season, the most such appearances in the American League.

• The Yankees lost eight of nine against the Red Sox in the first half, but since the all-star break, these teams are 3-3 against one another. “We didn’t play very well the first nine games against them,” Girardi said. “They beat us up pretty good, but we’ve pitched a lot better against them and our at-bats have been a lot better.”

• Last word on the Red Sox comes from Martin: “It feels good. I’ve been saying the whole time, I don’t think there’s a team better than the other. Every time we play them it’s one of those things where, the team that plays the best that day is going to win. And today we just played a little bit better than them. It’s going to be like that from here on out. If we see them in the playoffs, it’s going to be the same way.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 111 Comments →

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