On the day he was drafted, Yankees reliever Jacob Lindgren was home in Mississippi. His girlfriend got into town that morning, and so he showed her around. A family friend invited some people over, and so there was barbecuing and swimming.
“It was nice and hot out,” Lindgren said.
It was June 5 of last year, and Lindgren knew he might be a high-round pick. When his name was called, he was the top selection of a Yankees team that hadn’t had much success with top picks. He was a college reliever built to move quickly, joining an organization notorious for advancing even its top prospects slowly.
Less than a year later, Lindgren was in the big leagues, tangible evidence that this might be a new era for the Yankees on draft day.
“A lot of guys that got drafted behind you, they’re like, oh, why did this guy get drafted ahead of me? Stuff like that,” Lindgren said. “There’s always that. Obviously you’ve just got to play good and show them why they drafted you high.”
The Yankees, too, have something to prove.
After two decades of far more failure than success, the Yankees enter tonight’s first round of the draft with the 16th overall selection, their highest pick since 1993. They have three of the top 57 selections, and they have something of a hot streak going. Focused heavily on college players like Lindgren, Aaron Judge and Eric Jagielo, the Yankees early picks the past two years have advanced quickly and shown significant promise.
Lindgren is already in the major league bullpen, Judge is considered the top hitting prospect in the system, and Jagielo has nine home runs in Double-A. Both Judge and Jagielo could be in Triple-A by the end of the summer, just two years after being drafted.
“I always heard (the Yankees) were slow moving their guys,” Lindgren said. “But I was going to do everything in my ability to make things happen.”
Lindgren pitched at four levels with 17.5 strikeouts per nine innings the year he was drafted. He pitched well in big league camp this spring, opened the season in Triple-A, and was called up on May 24, the first Yankees prospect since Deion Sanders in 1989 to reach the majors less than a year after being drafted.
It was a significant step for the Yankees, not only because they were willing to make the move, but because they had a top pick playing well enough to deserve the promotion.
With a few exceptions — Phil Hughes in 2004, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in 2006 — the Yankees’ top picks have mostly fallen flat since the overwhelming success of Derek Jeter taken sixth overall in 1992.
The Yankees took a high schooler named C.J. Henry during the otherwise talent-rich first round of 2005. They took a shot on injured basketball player Andrew Brackman with their top pick of 2007. They took a signability risk with Gerrit Cole in 2008. They gambled on high school shortstop Cito Culver in 2010 and have watched him hit well below .200 this season. In the decade before that, they picked forgotten names like Shea Morenz, David Walling and David Parrish.
What draft success the Yankees have had in recent years has been largely confined to the middle rounds: Brett Gardner in the third round of 2005; Adam Warren in the fourth round of 2009; Dellin Betances in the eighth round of 2006, the same year they got former closer David Robertson as a 17th-round steal.
Draft classes, though, tend to be defined by their top picks, and so Lindgren stands out as a success story, both for the player and the organization.
He had been a 12th-round pick of the Cubs out of high school, but Lindgren said Chicago didn’t offer him the signing bonus he wanted until the day before classes started at Mississippi State. Lindgren was already moved in, living on campus and ready to start college. He decided to stay and take his chances that pro ball would be waiting for him.
“Early on, especially when you’re not getting the playing time you wanted, you’re like, man, what am I doing here?” Lindgren said. “But it worked out. It kind of taught me how you have to compete for any job you want. … There was a lot of hype and stuff (as a first-round pick), but I knew I had to come in and prove myself. I always tried to prove that I didn’t belong at each level and just tried to move up as fast as possible.”
It’s hard to move much faster than Lindgren has. He made his big league debut in the same year as the Yankees 2009 first-round pick, Slade Heathcott, whose development had been slowed by a series of injuries (he’s back on the disabled list now). The Yankees, though, seem to believe the arrival of Lindgren and Heathcott – plus the development of Judge, Jagielo, and former fifth rounders Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird – are a sign that the team’s draft futility is turning around. They’ve especially struggled to find impact hitters, and suddenly the upper levels are crawling with both high-probability and high-ceiling bats.
“We do have an evolving system with some high-end position players,” general manager Brian Cashman said.
Tonight, the Yankees look to add to that stable of talent, trying to build off the recent success of their past two drafts, and trying to find someone capable of following Lindgren’s path to the big leagues.
“They probably just draft whoever’s the best available,” Lindgren said. “They’re just trying to bring good talent into the organization.”
Associated Press photos
Game 56: Yankees vs. Angels • 06.06.15
RHP Adam Warren (3-4, 3.75)
Warren vs. Angels
Erick Aybar SS
Mike Trout CF
Albert Pujols 1B
Kole Calhoun RF
David Freese 3B
Matt Joyce LF
C.J. Cron DH
Carlos Perez C
Johnny Giavotella 2B
RHP Garrett Richards (5-3, 3.26)
Richards vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:15 p.m., FOX
WEATHER: Temperatures in the 70s but apparently they could dip into the 50s tonight. Feels chilly for early June.
UMPIRES: HP Alfonso Marquez, 1B Dan Bellino, 2B Tom Hallion, 3B Bruce Dreckman
SENDING A MESSAGE: Mark Teixeira hit his 17th home run of the season on Friday. He has the second-most homers in the American League, and he’s tied for fourth in the Majors (Cruz-18, Harper-18, Stanton-18, Pederson-17). Teixeira ranks sixth among active players with 380 career home runs. He currently leads the A.L. with 43 RBI.
SECOND FROM SECOND: After going deep twice last night, Stephen Drew is the 10th different Yankees second baseman with a multi-homer game since 1914. It marked the first multi-HR game from the Yankees’ No. 8 hitter since Ichiro Suzuki hit two homers on August 19, 2012 against Boston.
GOOD AGAIN: Last night Alex Rodriguez his first four-hit game since May 22, 2011. It was the 42nd game of his career with at least four hits, second-most among active players (Ichiro Suzuki has 50). Rodriguez is batting .377 (20-for-53) with 10 runs, two doubles, a home runs, six RBI and six walks in his past 14 games, raising hit batting average from .246 to .284, the highest it’s been since April 20.
UPDATE, 7:20 p.m.: This Angels lineup is extremely top-heavy, and Warren just got through the toughest part of it with a 1-2-3 first inning. Struck out Trout, got a nice play from Gregorius to retire Pujols.
UPDATE, 7:40 p.m.: Eight batters into the game, the Yankees’ only out is a sacrifice fly by Mark Teixeira. Brian McCann’s hit a three-run homer and the bases are loaded for Ramon Flores. Yankees caught a break with Albert Pujols trying to get an out at second base on a routine ground ball to first.
UPDATE, 7:47 p.m.: Add Garrett Richards to the list of very good starting pitchers who the Yankees have destroyed this season. They pummeled David Price, scored a bunch of runs off Felix Hernandez, and just chased Richards after just a third of an inning. It’s already 6-0 with two runners on for Headley.
UPDATE, 7:57 p.m.: Sorry, Richards went two-thirds of an inning. Totally forgot about the Flores at-bat. Either way, Warren responds with a shutdown inning in the top of the second.
UPDATE, 8:16 p.m.: Yankees got another run on a Beltran single in the second. The Yankees haven’t scored a ton of runs for Warren this year, but that’s not a problem tonight.
UPDATE, 9:02 p.m.: Nice running catch by Flores helped Warren hold the Angels to just one run in the top of the fifth, then the bottom of the fifth started with the Angels failing to catch a shallow fly ball in center field for a leadoff Gregorius double.
UPDATE, 9:18 p.m.: Solo home run by Mike Trout, but Warren is through a solid six innings having allowed two runs on four hits. He’s had some control issues, but he’s done the job.
Had spring training gone as planned, Adam Warren might never have stepped into the Yankees’ rotation in the first place. Two months into the season, though, Warren’s proven too valuable to play any other role.
When Masahiro Tanaka comes off the disabled list on Wednesday, it will be veteran Chris Capuano who’s taken out of the rotation and moved into the bullpen. Warren, who thrived as a reliever last season, will continue working as a starting pitcher.
“I’ve really gotten back into the starter mode,” Warren said. “I’ve enjoyed pitching as a starter, and I wanted to stay that way. I’m excited about it, and that’s what I want to do right now.”
Having been developed as a starter all through college and the minor leagues, Warren spent the past two years in the Yankees’ bullpen, first as a long man and then as trusted setup man. He came into spring training as a kind of just-in-case rotation option, and broke camp as a starter largely because Capuano opened the season on the disabled list. Warren got off to a so-so start, but he’s thrived his past four times out. Since May 13, Warren has a 2.70 ERA while pitching into the seventh inning each time.
“Obviously I think he could be really effective in the bullpen,” manager Joe Girardi said. “But his starts are important too. We decided to keep him there.”
Putting Warren in the bullpen would have been tempting because the Yankees have lacked a dependable right-handed reliever beyond Dellin Betances. With a return to last year’s performance, Warren could have solidified the seventh inning, which has been a weak spot for the Yankees. Instead, the Yankees will put Capuano into the bullpen, where the team already has two long relievers (Esmil Rogers and Chasen Shreve) and four lefties (Shreve, Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson and Jacob Lindgren). Girardi said Capuano will be available for many roles, either for multiple innings or for short relief or for left-on-left matchups.
“With Masa coming off the DL on Wednesday, and (Ivan) Nova not far behind, I figured it was a numbers game,” Capuano said. “Going to try to be ready to do my job in the bullpen.”
Indeed, the Yankees might face a similar decision in a few weeks. Nova has been working his way back from Tommy John surgery and is scheduled for one last extended spring training start before beginning an official rehab assignment.
Assuming Nova’s ready by the end of the month, Warren might have to continue proving himself as a starter between now and then.
“I’m only worried about my next start,” Warren said.
• Benched the past two days, Stephen Drew is back in the lineup at second base. “It’s tough, but we signed him to be our second baseman,” Girardi said. “He’s worked really hard the last couple days to see if he could work on a couple little things here or there. I want to get him back out there.”
• So Drew’s been working on mechanics? “It’s always a little bit (mechanical) when you’re struggling,” Girardi said. “It’s working on your path to the baseball and he’s worked really hard the last two days. I want to see it.”
• Has to become a confidence issue at some point, right? “No. I think he’s done a pretty good job of keeping upbeat and having confidence in what he can do,” Girardi said. “He knows he can hit. He’s probably been as unlucky as any hitter that we have. Hopefully that changes.”
• The Mariners will apparently bring up Mike Montgomery to make his major league debut as tomorrow’s starter. That means, Jose Pirela will return to the lineup tomorrow. “I think we’re facing a lefty tomorrow, so I’ll sit one of my left handers and Pirela will be back out there,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees will almost certainly shuffle their rotation because of all the off days coming up. Girardi indicated that they will likely not simply stay on rotation.
• Girardi on the Mariners’ lineup: “Nelson Cruz has had as good a season as anyone up until this point. He’s hit the ball out of the ballpark, and not in the most friendly ballpark in the world for home run hitters. We know how dangerous he is. We saw how important he was to the Baltimore lineup last year. The big thing with Nellie is you have to keep people off base. Robbie Cano is a guy that can hit any pitch, and he can hit it hard and drive the baseball. That’s a tough order, keeping him off in front of Nellie, but I think it’s important.”
• Girardi on today’s pitching matchup: “You look at Felix, he’s as good as it gets when it comes to being an ace of a staff, understanding what his job is and getting deep into games. It’s something that I’m sure Michael has paid close attention to and is trying to learn. He developed a changeup, probably because he saw what Felix did with his changeup and how effective it was. It wasn’t your typical changeup that had a 10-12 mile per hour difference, but it was fairly close it had sink and was an effective pitch.”
Associated Press photos
For the better part of two months, Joe Girardi has stuck with Stephen Drew even as his batting average kept getting worse and worse. But today is the second day in a row with Drew on the bench, and while Girardi won’t name Jose Pirela the new second baseman, he did acknowledge that Drew’s might benefit from some time out of the lineup.
“I told Stephen, continue to work,” Girardi said. “He’s trying to work on some things offensively. I’ve always said, whenever you play it’s an opportunity to open someone’s eyes. Pedey, I thought swung the bat pretty good last night. I’m going to run him back out there. Stephen has played a lot and been a little banged up at times. I’ll give him another day and we’ll go from there.”
I’m reminded of 2010 when the Yankees shut down Curtis Granderson for a few days to tweak his mechanics and try to get himself sorted out. Granderson came back from the down time like a new hitter, but he wasn’t hitting .157 like Drew is.
“I’ve said all along, it just seems like when he hits the ball hard, he doesn’t get rewarded for it,” Girardi said. “I think every hitter could go look and say, during the course of 150 at-bats, if six of those swings would have kind of went my way and I wouldn’t have lined out, then you’re not talking about it. But when that doesn’t happen, then you have to talk about it. He’s working hard in the cage, and I still think this guy’s too good of a player not to hit. We’ve seen him hit a grand slam. We’ve seen him hit three-run homers. We’ve seen him hit the ball out of the ballpark. We’ve seen him impact the baseball.”
I don’t think of Drew as a guy who’s hitting the ball hard and simply running into bad luck, but there does seem to be at least some bad luck involved. His batting average on balls in play is .164, which is absurdly low. Against righties — the guys he’s definitely supposed to hit — Drew’s BABIP is an almost comical .105. FanGraphs says Drew’s line drive percentage is definitely lower than in his best years (roughly 15 percent this year, more like 20 percent when Drew was in Arizona), and it seems those missing line drives have become fly ball outs and popups. Balls classified as “soft contact” are slightly up and “hard contact” is significantly down.
The numbers suggest some luck has played a part in Drew’s struggles, but can luck really account for the worst batting average in the big leagues? Can it really explain a full year of hitting like this?
“I bet you could go find in his stats where he has 10 hard outs,” Girardi said. “People will talk about batted balls in play, what happens. He has not really had a whole lot of luck. … To me, eventually it’s got to even out.”
• Chris Martin has been activated, but he’s also been optioned to Triple-A. Why not put him on the big league roster? “We want to get him back on a roll, then we’ll go from there,” Girardi said. “At the end (before the injury) it was a little bit of a struggle for him. We’ll see if we can get him back on a roll, and then if we need him, we’ll call him.”
• Four of Martin’s first five appearances this season were pretty overwhelming, but he hadn’t been nearly as good leading into his disabled list stint. Opponents were hitting .294 in his past 10 outings.
• Also of note regarding Martin: “We’re going to a place where there’s a lot of left-handers we’re going to see,” Girardi said. “So we’re going to keep the left-handers.”
• Brendan Ryan has started a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa. “Obviously he’s got to get some at-bats because he really hasn’t had a spring training,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure what day he’s eligible to come off, but he’s going to need some at-bats, be able to play a couple days in row, lengthy games, because you never know when you’ll be pressed into action, for three or four days.”
• Girardi wasn’t asked about it, but it seems safe to assume red-hot Brian McCann has a day off because it’s a day game after a night game, and this is what usually happens with catchers. Murphy also caught Warren’s gem against the Royals last week (McCann had caught his two strong starts before that).
• Girardi on Warren: “He’s pitched really well the last couple of weeks, and I think he’s learning how to get quicker outs. His stuff has been sharper, and I think he’s been stronger. When you’re in the bullpen, you don’t necessarily have to think about, I only want to throw 14 pitches this inning on an average so I can get deep in games. I’ve got three outs to get, and if I need 27, 28 pitches, it doesn’t matter; I’ve got three outs to get. I think he’s improved on that, and I think you’ll continue to see improvements.”
Associated Press photos
After each of Andrew Miller’s MLB-leading 13 saves — or, at least after most of them — Joe Girardi has been asked the same question about whether he’s willing to name Miller as his official closer.
Every time that the Yankee manager had been asked, he would dodge the question and give a reason as to why he didn’t think it was necessary. But after Friday’s 5-4 win over the Orioles — the Yankees’ 16th win in their last 21 games — Girardi finally caved.
“Is there a reason I have to?” he quipped. “He’s been closing games for us. He’s our closer. Is that better?”
Girardi then paused before asking with a laugh, “Is that going to be the headline tomorrow?”
Reporters quickly delivered the news to Miller, who downplayed the significance and then hit us with the line of the night.
“Not particularly,” Miller said when asked if it meant anything to hear that Girardi publicly called him the closer. “They’ve been very honest with us the whole time, and I think they’ve done a good job of putting us in situations to succeed. It’s worked pretty well. I was honest with them and I’ve been honest with you guys.
“For what they’re paying me, I’ll do anything.”
Ain’t that the truth.
• Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner continue to get it done at the top of the order, and they’re now hitting a combined .435 in their last 12 games with an on-base percentage around .500. That’s a pace that they clearly won’t be able to keep up, but once again, they were right in the middle of both Yankee rallies tonight. But the biggest hit of the night belonged to Carlos Beltran, who desperately needed one. He’s been slumping and is still hitting under .200, but his two-out, two-run double in the third was a laser to right-center field. With Ellsbury on third and Gardner on second, the O’s elected to walk McCann and load the bases in front of Beltran. That’s rarely happened to him in his career, and he made them pay. “It’s just the strategy of the game,” Beltran said. “Honestly, I don’t take those situations personally. I think the manager (knows) I’m not swinging the bat well lately. But at the same time, I’m seeing the ball good off of their pitchers, so that doesn’t worry me.”
• Girardi has kept running Beltran out there in spite of his struggles, and he offered some insight into his reasoning. It’s probably worth noting that Beltran is now third in the AL in doubles with nine. “We think he’s swinging the bat well,” Girardi said. “Sometimes it doesn’t always show up in the numbers, but we think he’s making more solid contact. I mentioned the other day, there are so many stats out there, and one of them is velocity off the bat. Well, his average velocity is second on our team. He doesn’t have a lot to show for it, but that means he’s centering balls and things will change.”
• I’m sure you’re wondering who is first on the team in the average velocity off of the bat category. That would be none other than Alex Rodriguez, who had a sac fly in the first inning tonight and hit his first triple since 2012 in the fifth.
• Beltran admitted that his slump has been getting to him, but he said he’s trying to stay consistent with his approach and work ethic. “I try not to think about that,” he said. “I try to focus on what I can bring to the game, but of course, I think when you go through tough stretches, confidence gets a little bit low and you have to work through that. In my case, I’ve been through situations like this before every year. This is my 17th year, so every year I go through situations like this. Sometimes, when you go through it early in the season, it’s noticeable. But when you start the season well and go through that in the middle of the season, it’s not that bad because you already have some numbers to back it up.”
• Adam Warren has yet to make it through six innings in six starts this season, and he didn’t even make it out of the fifth tonight. He said this might have been the worst stuff that he’s had so far this season and Baltimore got to him in the fifth. Starting the inning with back-to-back walks was probably the biggest killer. “I just kind of lost it there for a little bit. It’s frustrating because I didn’t have my best stuff, but I felt like I was battling,” Warren said. “I just kind of hit that fifth or sixth inning, and it’s hard to explain. Being down in the bullpen last year, you hate to be the guy that kills the bullpen.”
• Here’s Girardi’s take on Warren’s inability to give the Yankees length: “I thought tonight he was going to be able to do it, (but) in the last two innings that he was out there, he got in some long counts and some long innings and threw a lot of pitches,” he said. “That’s why I made the change. I was hoping to at least get six out of him tonight with us winning 5-0. It didn’t happen, but this is a guy that hasn’t started for awhile. He’s been in our bullpen a lot, and he’s got to learn how to get through those.”
• Getting back to the pen, Miller and Dellin Betances have still yet to allow an earned run through 33.1 innings this season. Eventually, something has to give, but it’s been a heck of a run. “It’s really hard to do, to be able to put a streak like that together with two guys,” Girardi said. “One of the big reasons why we’re winning games is because, when we’re ahead, they’re closing the door. Those are important wins. Those are tough losses when you lose those.”
• What gave Girardi the confidence to finally name Miller his closer? “He’s shown that he can do it,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to bother him, is the bottom line. He’s making his pitches. He’s aggressive, he’s attacking people, he’s getting strikeouts when he needs them, he’s holding runners – he’s doing everything he needs to do.”
• Miller’s take on the pressure of being a closer was interesting. He said that he thinks the more tense situations for a reliever often come when you’re brought in with men on to put out a fire, which is a role he was used in a lot last season with Boston and Baltimore. When you’re a closer, you usually enter the ninth with a lead and no one on base. “Ultimately, I feel like what was asked of me, specifically down the stretch of last season, is even greater than anything that’s been asked of me this season,” he said. “Honestly, I think you have a little bit more room sometimes in the ninth inning. In the ninth inning, it’s just about winning the game. In the eighth inning, no matter how big the lead is or the deficit is, you want to keep it at that. I think in the ninth inning, whether you want to or not, sometimes you do have a little bit of cushion. Honestly, I think that’s a challenge sometimes. You need to go out there focused and not worry about that kind of thing.”
• What has Miller thought of Betances? “He’s been really, really good all year, and he’s been absolutely incredible lately,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I got to see it probably 19 or 20 times last year playing in the division, but that’s a pretty impressive day today.”
• Don’t be surprised if Girardi rests both Miller and Betances tomorrow. “When I have to give them days off, I have to give them days off,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. I have to make sure that I don’t overuse them. I have to make sure that when they’re used a lot, they get a day off. Tomorrow might be the day.”
• Final word goes to Miller, who was asked if he feels more at ease now that Girardi publicly called him their closer: “You don’t want to get too comfortable,” he said. “This game will humble you pretty quick. I think we just try to get better every day and try to prepare ourselves the way that we have been. Ultimately, I think comfort is a bad thing in this game, because you’ll be uncomfortable pretty quick.”
Associated Press photos
Game 25: Yankees at Red Sox • 05.03.15
RHP Adam Warren (1-1, 4.35)
Warren vs. Red Sox
RED SOX (12-12)
Mookie Betts CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez LF
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Mike Napoli 1B
Daniel Nava RF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Blake Swihart C
RHP Joe Kelly (1-0, 4.94)
Kelly vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 8:05 p.m., ESPN
WEATHER: Been a really nice day here in Boston. Starting to feel like spring again.
UMPIRES: HP Jeff Nelson, 1B Laz Diaz, 2B Chris Guccione, 3B Cory Blaser
BEAN COUNTING: Including the current series, the Yankees have now won their past four series at Fenway Park dating to the start of 2014. It’s their longest such series win streak since taking four straight August 2011 to September 2012.?With a win tonight, the Yankees would have their first sweep in a series of three-or-more games at Fenway Park since taking five straight in 2006 (included one doubleheader).
HOME AWAY FROM HOME: The Yankees are 9-3 (.750) on the road this season, the Majors’ second-best road record (Houston has the best at 10-2, .833)
EARLY BIRD SPECIAL: The Yankees are 12-1 when scoring first this season. They’re 3-8 when the opponent scores first.
UPDATE, 8:21 p.m.: Two-out, two-run homer by Teixeira has given the Yankees an early lead heading into the bottom of the first.
UPDATE, 9:00 p.m.: Again with two outs, this time it’s McCann who delivers a two-run double to right-center. It was a good at-bat that ended with a great result. Joe Kelly’s pitch count is into the mid-60s still working through the third inning.
UPDATE, 9:01 p.m.: And now Beltran has an RBI double. It’s 5-0.
UPDATE, 9:38 p.m.: Big double play to get through the fourth with that 5-0 lead intact. Warren is at 62 pitches. We have a replay challenge, but he looked out to me.
UPDATE, 9:41 p.m.: Well, what do I know? Call overturned and it’s runners at the corners with two outs and Sandoval at the plate.
UPDATE, 9:44 p.m.: Ground ball to short and Warren is through the fourth inning. Again. Still 5-0.
UPDATE, 10:05 p.m.: Warren is through five scoreless. He has a 3.51 ERA right now. He’s been good this year. Had that one awful inning in Detroit, but otherwise, he’s been good.
UPDATE, 10:16 p.m.: Gardy. Yardy. Three-run shot for an 8-0 lead in the sixth. That was Gardner’s second of the year.
UPDATE, 10:31 p.m.: Two-out double off the Monster for Ortiz and the Red Sox are on the board. It’s now an 8-1 Yankees lead.
UPDATE, 10:33 p.m.: Hanley Ramirez apparently thinks Adam Warren is trying to hit him in an 8-1 game.
UPDATE, 10:35 p.m.: Four straight batters reached with two outs in the sixth, and so Warren’s night is finished after 5.2 innings. He’s pitched exactly 5.2 in each of his past three starts.
UPDATE, 10:38 p.m.: Well, now it’s a ballgame. Rogers came out of the bullpen and allowed Mike Napoli’s second home run of the season. Napoli’s been brutal this season, but he just pulled the Red Sox within 8-5 in the sixth.
UPDATE, 11:11 p.m.: Just dumb. Because Hanley thought he was being hit on purpose — for some reason — Ellsbury needs to be drilled? I get the retaliation thing, I even like it, but in this case it was stupid. And also, if your going to hit Jacoby, do it on the first pitch. Don’t try and fail twice and then do it on a 3-0 pitch to the butt.
UPDATE, 11:28 p.m.: David Carpenter finally got into a fairly important situation and got a double play to end the eighth. It’s still 8-5.
Joe Girardi’s still not ready to name a closer, but it’s pretty obvious he has one. And he looks like a good one so far.
Andrew Miller is the first Yankees pitcher — of any title — to have eight saves in the team’s first 20 games.
“The only that’s maybe surprising is that Mariano didn’t have 19 saves in 20 games or something like that,” Miller said. “It just means we’re playing well as a team, and we’re getting good opportunities.”
Last night the bullpen went 4.2 hitless. Tonight it was 3.1 scoreless. Justin Wilson got his first win, Dellin Betances pitched a dominant eighth, and Miller handled the ninth. Somewhere in there, David Carpenter also got a key out.
It’s more or less the way Girardi’s been drawing it up for the past few weeks. Wilson against some middle-inning lefties (but willing to face righties), Carpenter for key seventh-inning outs, Betances in a setup role (often for more than three outs), and Miller in the closer role. Depending on situations, the Yankees have also gotten key strikeouts from Chris Martin, long relief from Esmil Rogers and whatever’s necessary from Chasen Shreve.
Do they have a closer?
“I still believe they both can do the job,” Girardi said. “It gives me a lot of options. It’s working the way we’re doing it. … (The plan is) just to stick with what we’re doing. I’m sure at some point one of them may be down and the other guy may have to do something else. Maybe they pitch a couple days in a row and I want to give one of them a day off. I still believe they’re really interchangeable.”
If Betances had pitched well this spring, or gotten off to a strong first week this season, would the roles be different? Would it have been a mix-and-match in the ninth, or maybe Miller in the eighth, or some other combination in various situations?
“It doesn’t really matter,” Girardi said.
That’s really the truth of the matter. Girardi doesn’t want to stick a label on Miller, because why should he? At this point, we all know the plan, we’ve seen it in action, and it’s worked.
“We all believe in each other, that’s the most important thing,” Betances said. “The staff believes in us, as well. Warren pitched a great game today, McCann put us on top and Miller closed the door. Everybody pitched excellent out of the bullpen, and I’m just trying to follow everybody’s lead, trying to match each other’s intensity.”
The Yankees are on a roll, and regardless of labels, the relievers are keeping it that way.
“I’ll put our guys up against anybody,” Brian McCann said. “The stuff that’s coming out of the bullpen is incredible.”
• The big offensive blow, obviously, was McCann’s go-ahead home run in the sixth. It was his second of the year, snapping a stretch of 40 at-bats without one. “I’ve been feeling good all year,” McCann said. “Obviously the numbers aren’t showing it, but I’ve been seeing the ball good from Opening Day.”
• McCann had a second hit tonight, but that one was a relatively soft single to the left side to beat the shift. The home run led to a run (obviously), but so did that single. “Brian is a good hitter, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “He’s going to be productive for us. Some of the guys take a little while to get going. He had two interesting hits tonight. One was a real big one and the other one was important, too. It gave us another run. I think he’s a middle-of-the-order hitter that’s going to be extremely productive.”
• Carlos Beltran also had a big hit with his hard double immediately after the McCann home run. Beltran has been, quite literally, the Yankees worst hitter this season, but Girardi has said he plans to stick with Belran as a regular in the lineup. Tonight it paid off. “I’m just working in the cage every day on my swing,” Beltran said. “It’ll have to come. I feel like the cage, I’ve been having good sessions. It’s about bringing it to the game.”
• The Yankees have now homered in 16 of their 20 games this season.
• Strong start for Adam Warren, who’s pitched very well ever since that brutal first inning in Detroit last week. He has pitched especially well in this stadium where he has a 1.71 ERA since the start of 2014. Of course, most of those outings came as a reliever. “I’m just trying to give the team a chance to win every time I go out there,” Warren said. “And I feel like I’ve done that. I think the big picture is: The team wins. For me, if I can give the team a chance to win after I go out there, that’s what I’m trying to prove.”
• Warren set a career high with six strikeouts, he almost matched the longest start of his career (which he also reached last time out in Detroit). “The first (start) I think I’ve had this year where I’ve had all four pitches working and I can locate them,” he said.
• Girardi on Warren: “I think he was ahead in the count a lot more tonight. I think that helped him, it kept his pitch count down. He was really aggressive. I thought he threw the ball extremely well; he used his curveball and slider well tonight, too. He got some early strikes with his curveball and did a nice job.”
• This was Wilson’s first win with the Yankees. He hadn’t picked up a win anywhere since July 12 of last season. He retired all three batters he faced. “When the phone rings and we’re told to get up, then that’s our time,” Wilson said. “Really, we just want to go out there and get outs.
• Betances has not allowed a hit in his past five appearances, a span of six innings in which he has one walk with 11 strikeouts.
• When did the season start to turn around for Betances? “The second time I pitched in Baltimore,” he said. “I felt my breaking ball was getting better and I was throwing it more for strikes. I felt a lot better after that.”
• Jose Pirela continued his rehab assignment today by playing second base for Double-A Trenton. I really wonder if the Yankees might option Gregorio Petit tomorrow to make room for Chase Whitley and then activate Pirela in time to play against a left-handed starter on Wednesday.
• Tough break for a really good guy: Brandon McCarthy is out for the year with a torn UCL. McCarthy was an obvious injury risk, but the Dodgers were willing to go four years with him. Looks like they’ll get maybe two and a half years out of that contract. Yankees showed some early interest but weren’t willing to a contract that big. Good call.
• Down in Trenton, Dan Pfeiffer reports the Yankees have released left-handed reliever Fred Lewis. Last spring, Lewis put himself on the map with a good big league camp, but he got off to a rough start last season and fell off the radar pretty quickly. Became thoroughly overshadowed in the organization’s upper-level bullpen depth.
• Final word goes to Girardi about moving into sole possession of first place: “It’s better than the alternative. Obviously we have a long way to go, but we’re playing a lot better baseball than we were the first time we were here. That’s a good thing. We just need to continue to do it.”
Associated Press photos
Game 20: Yankees vs. Rays • 04.27.15
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Carlos Beltran DH
Chris Young RF
Stephen Drew 2B
Didi Gregorius SS
RHP Adam Warren (1-1, 5.40)
Warren vs. Rays
David DeJesus DH
Steven Souza Jr. RF
Asdrubal Cabrera SS
Evan Longoria 3B
James Loney 1B
Brandon Guyer LF
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Tim Beckham 2B
Rene Rivera C
RHP Nate Karns (1-1, 5.32)
Karns vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: It’s a little cold, but not too bad. Can’t complain after last week in Detroit.
UMPIRES: Greg Gibson HP, Marvin Hudson 1B, Chad Fairchild 2B, Jim Joyce 3B
ALL THEY DO IS WIN, WIN, WIN: Tonight is the Yankees’ eighth straight game against a team with at least a share of first place in its respective division. The Yankees?are 5-2 over the stretch. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the longest such stretch for the Yankees since eight straight games in June of 2011 against Boston, Cleveland and Texas (the Yankees went 6-2 in those games).
WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR: Yankees pitchers have a Major League-best 3.4 WAR according to FanGraphs (next-highest is Pittsburgh at 3.1). The Yankees are second in the A.L. and third in the Majors with 173 strikeouts (behind the Dodgers and Indians). According to FanGraphs, Yankees pitchers rank first in the A.L. and fifth in the Majors with a 3.27 FIP.
SAVINGS PLAN: Andrew Miller has seven saves, tying four others for the second-highest total in the Majors. He has joined Mariano Rivera (seven saves in the first 19 games of 2011) as the only pitchers to reach seven saves in 19 team games in Yankees history.
UPDATE, 7:13 p.m.: Infield single and ground-rule double have the Rays in business here in the first. Longoria up with a chance to do some damage.
UPDATE, 7:17 p.m.: Longoria struck out swinging. Loney grounded to first. Those are two huge outs to get Warren through the first inning scoreless.
UPDATE, 7:26 p.m.: No milestone in the first inning. A-Rod pops out.
UPDATE, 8:25 p.m.: Warren is through five scoreless. He’s been pretty sharp since that first-inning jam. Of course, some run support would be nice.
UPDATE, 8:43 p.m.: Gardner walks in a run, giving Rodriguez a chance for a milestone grand slam, but A-Rod rolled over to third base and the Yankees will settle for a 1-0 lead in the fifth.
UPDATE, 8:50 p.m.: Not the best throw of Stephen Drew’s life. Warren got the ground ball he needed, but the Yankees couldn’t get the out at the plate and the Rays have tied the game at 1 here in the sixth.
UPDATE, 8:57 p.m.: Wilson strikes out Loney and we’re into the bottom of the sixth with the game tied at 1.
UPDATE, 9:01 p.m.: Brian McCann has his second home run of the season and it’s a 2-1 Yankees lead in the sixth.
UPDATE, 9:02 p.m.: And there’s a double for Beltran.
UPDATE, 9:13 p.m.: Add a double by Drew it’s now a 3-1 Yankees lead heading into the seventh. Beltran and McCann have been keys to the offense tonight. That’s something new.
UPDATE, 9:34 p.m.: After the hustle double by Gardner and an intentional walk to A-Rod, Headley is in to pinch run with one out in the seventh. There will be no milestone tonight.
Pitching matchups vs. Rays • 04.27.15
RHP Adam Warren (1-1, 5.40)
RHP Nate Karns (1-1, 5.32)
7:05 p.m., YES Network
RHP Chase Whitley (2-0, 2.12 in Triple-A)
RHP Jake Odorizzi (2-1, 1.65)
7:05 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 3.22)
LHP Drew Smyly (0-0, 3.86)
1:05 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
Associated Press photo
David Price actually very good career numbers at Comerica Park, and through most of his career he’s pitched well against the Yankees. The past two times he faced the Yankees in this ballpark, though, his starts have been a mess. Last August, in only his second home start with the Tigers, the Yankees pounced on Price for eight runs and nine straight hits in the third inning. Tonight, it was six runs on five hits, two walks and a hit batter in the first inning, then two more runs in the second inning.
Price’s start got so out of hand that at one point he intentionally walked Gregorio Petit with two outs and a runner at third.
“Being able to do what we did, it gives us a lot of confidence,” Carlos Beltran said. “When the offense is good and everything is working well, we’re capable of doing that.”
“I guess it’s just one of those things,” he said. “For whatever reason we’ve put together good at-bats, strung together consistent at-bats throughout the lineup to get multiple hits. … Each time you’ve got to prepare for him, knowing he watched the game film, knowing he’ll probably attack hitters differently. Then try to put quality at-bats together, grind out at-bats, and do as much as you can to put quality at-bats together. That’s all you can really do against someone like that.”
This was a brutal night, especially in that first inning with the snow falling and hands far colder than anyone would like when they’re throwing a baseball. This wasn’t the best version of Price, but the Yankees took advantage of it. And while Adam Warren got his night turned around, the Yankees kept attacking Price with a two-out rally in the second inning, then a couple of hits in the third.
The Yankees aren’t simply getting better results in the past week, they’re legitimately playing better.
“I said all along, I think this group’s talented,” Girardi said. “Sometimes guys get off to slow starts and you don’t make too much of it. You’ve just got to ride things out. We played really bad the first week at home. Really bad. We’ve turned it around on this road trip and are playing better. Our defense is getting better. Base running’s better. Continuing to swing the bats. It’s a group that really wants to win, and they’ve got a lot of fight in them.”
Tonight that fight was directed at Price, and the Yankees once again knocked him out in the third round.
• Adam Warren said he did enough stretching and throwing during that 31-minute top of the first inning that he felt loose and ready to pitch, but when he got to the mound, he walked four of the first five batters he faced. After that, he was terrific, but that first inning was brutal. “I think you just kind of have to learn how to pitch out there and find a way to get some feeling in your hands and on the ball,” Warren said. “… You want to go out there and just attack hitters, especially in those kind of conditions. So that was tough for me just because I hate walking people in general. It was tough to deal with, but I tried to bounce back and get back to my strengths: pounding the zone.”
• When Larry Rothschild went to the mound, the message was largely about regrouping. Warren said Rothschild reminded him to stay back as long as possible and try to keep the ball down, but he was also telling him to get some more feeling in his fingers. Girardi said going to the mound was as much about giving Warren a break as anything. “Sometimes you just need to step back for a second and regroup,” Girardi said. “I didn’t ask (Rothschild) what he said, but whatever he said worked.”
• After that first inning, Warren and the Yankees relievers — Justin Wilson, David Carpenter, Chasen Shreve — not only kept the Tigers scoreless, but they kept the Tigers from even getting into scoring position. “I’m proud of the way I bounced back and gave the team some depth,” Warren said. “Got into the sixth, so I’m pleased with that.”
• Esmil Rogers started tossing in the bullpen in the first inning, and Girardi said he was about one hitter away from getting him hot and ready to enter the game. Warren getting through that inning and then pitching into the sixth basically saved the bullpen from having to burn out anyone heading into tomorrow’s finale and another seven games in a row without an off day.
• Gregorio Petit came into this game with a .261 OPS. Not batting average. Not on-base percentage. On-base-plus-slugging of .261, yet he’s the one who delivered the big blow with a three-run double in the first inning. Then he was intentionally walked in the second. His OPS climbed by nearly .200 points in one night. “I know I can hit,” Petit said. “I trust myself a lot. Things haven’t gone the way I wanted, but that’s baseball. You’re going to have good days and bad days. You have to just keep working. That’s what I’ve been doing and today it came out at the right time.”
• Petit has five major league walks in his career. Tonight’s was certainly the first time he was walked intentionally in the big leagues. “I was smiling in my head, I can’t lie,” he said. “I was kind of surprised, but it’s part of the game.”
• Price walked Petit to face Didi Gregorius, who made an out that at-bat, but later doubled in two runs for his first extra-base hit of the year. Gregorius also had a walk in the game, but he also made another error and made two questionable decisions in the first inning. “I’ve said all along that this is a place where it takes some guys some time to get comfortable here,” Girardi said. “New York’s not the easiest place to come and play and be really good right from the beginning. We’ve seen a lot of really good players take time to adjust, and I think he’s adjusting as it goes on. I do.”
• Should Gregorius have thrown the ball normally instead of flipping underhand on that potential double play ball in the first? “I don’t think we’re getting it either way,” Girardi said. “I think he was making sure that he got one out.”
• Later in the first inning, Ellsbury actually got his first RBI of the year. Leadoff guy got his first RBI with a first-inning hit that wasn’t a home run. Funny. “I knew it was a matter of time,” Ellsbury said. “I had been putting together quality at-bats with runners in scoring position, and quality at-bats without runners in scoring position. I knew it was a matter of time before it happened.”
• Back-to-back triples by Beltran and Chase Headley. That means four Yankees have tripled in the past week, and those three are Beltran, Headley, Garrett Jones and Brian McCann. None of those four are speed guys by any stretch of the imagination. “I was once,” Beltran said, with a laugh.
• Might not happen often, so let’s give the final word to Petit: “Everybody thought we were going to have a tough game because of the weather. To get that hit against him, we got to him early and took the lead. It was awesome. It was a great feeling for me and for the team. I was super-happy.”
Associated Press photos