This is a big day for the Yankees rotation.
At least, it might be a big day for the Yankees rotation.
Not only is Michael Pineda making his first big league start in more than three months, but even before tonight’s first pitch, Masahiro Tanaka went into the outfield and threw 10 flat-ground fastballs. That’s a pretty small step, but it’s the most significant step yet in his return from a partially torn elbow ligament.
“Pain’s gone,” is the phrase Wally Matthews heard.
At this stage, it’s basically impossible for Tanaka to do anything that proves he’s in the clear and will definitely return to the Yankees rotation without needing Tommy John surgery. For now, the best the Yankees can hope for is that he doesn’t suffer a setback. And so far he hasn’t. We’re squarely into no news is good news territory, and right now it seems that Tanaka has no real news to report.
He’s a Major League pitcher who’s playing catch and throwing a few pitches off flat ground. As long as it goes well, none of this is a particularly big deal. It’s all just a series of steps in the right direction. It becomes a big deal when he either progresses to game action or suffers some sort of setback that shuts down the whole process.
• Although the Yankees originally announced a rotation that had Chris Capuano starting on Sunday, Hiroki Kuroda told reporters in Baltimore that he’s actually taking the ball that day. The Yankees seem to be clearly — and understandably — trying to give Kuroda a little bit of a rest in hopes of avoiding a late-season crash like they’ve seen in recent years.
• Joe Girardi told reporters that he expects Brian McCann to come off the disabled list on Saturday. McCann has been on the seven-day concussion DL.
• Pineda returns to the rotation tonight. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since April 23, the day he was ejected for using pine tar. Most pitches he threw during his minor league rehab assignment was 72 on Friday, so there’s basically no chance he’ll be cleared for anything particularly close to 100 pitches tonight.
• To open a roster spot for Pineda, Chris Leroux has been designated for assignment. What is this, three big league call-ups for Leroux this season? He’s been one of several guys shuttling back and forth to give the Yankees a long man when they need it. And the Yankees have needed it quite a bit because they’ve struggled to get much distance out of their starting pitchers.
• The Orioles have put third baseman Manny Machado on the disabled list with a knee injury. He hurt himself during Monday’s game against the Yankees. Chris Davis is back at third base for Baltimore.
• Speaking of Baltimore, from our friend Marly Rivera, here’s Orioles manager Buck Showalter on whether Pineda will be using pine tar tonight: “I’m hoping he’s got a little (pine tar) in the right place, YOU try gripping the ball in some of this weather.” It’s been said over and over again, but the problem with Pineda in Boston wasn’t so much that he was using pine tar, it was the fact he was being so blatant about it after the Red Sox had already looked the other way once.
• Clubhouse good guy Shawn Kelley did the Ice Bucket Challenge today and challenged Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez to do the same. Dan Barbarisi pointed out yesterday that Kelley lost his grandfather to ALS, so it’s pretty cool that he’s jumping into the recent trend.
• At the owner’s meeting to discuss the next commissioner, Hal Steinbrenner told Michael O’Keeffe that he expects to have Alex Rodriguez back in the Yankees lineup next season. That’s settled. I’m sure we won’t hear another word about it.
Associated Press photo
Well, this series didn’t go too well for the Yankees. The last-place Rays have been playing better, but still …
The Yankees sure weren’t expecting to get swept by them. The 6-3 win gave Tampa Bay a season-high five-game winning streak and the Yankees a season-high five-game losing streak.
They are now a losing team for the first time since they were 5-6 on April 11. After nine losses in 11 games, they are 41-42 and 4 1/2 back of the Blue Jays.
“The talent is in that room,” Joe Girardi said. “We just need to play better. It’s a lot of different phases. You can look at almost every phase and say we need to play better. We’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
The run production is the most glaring phase right now. The Yankees had 10 hits. They left nine on base. The RISP count was an RIP count — 1 for 9.
“Obviously offense has been an issue,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “It’s been an issue all season. We’ve got to turn it around somehow. … It’s not for a lack of effort.”
Long indicated that Carlos Beltran (two singles) and Brian McCann (single, solo homer) appear to be making progress. McCann (seen in the photo above executing his home-run swing) eliminated a toe tap from his mechanics in this game, according to Long. Apparently it helped. McCann was happy to produce.
But as he put it, “When you lose, it’s irrevelent.”
The Yankees also finished a 15-game stretch against the AL East.
“It started off good and ended bad,” Girardi said.
It ended at 6-9.
“I thought you were going to say 2-13,” said Brett Gardner, who tied his career high with his eighth homer and is batting .288 overall after this three-hit game. “We just haven’t played good.”
So it’s on to 11 straight on the road before the All-Star break. It starts Thursday night in Minnesota.
“We’ve got to pick each other up,” Gardner said. “We’ve got to pitch better and we’ve got to hit better and find a way to give our pitchers the lead a lot more often.”
CC Sabathia made his second rehab start Wednesday night, this one at Trenton. The lefty threw 33 of his 55 pitches for strikes in 3 2/3 against Portland. He gave up five runs, three of them earned, five hits and one walk. He hit one batter and struck out two.
Alex Rodriguez is back in the news. Sports Illustrated has an excerpt from a new book claiming MLB gave A-Rod permission to use a PED – testosterone – through a therapeutic use exemption in his MVP season of 2007.
MLB countered with a statement:
“All decisions regarding whether a player shall receive a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) under the Joint Drug Program are made by the Independent Program Administrator (IPA) in consultation with outside medical experts, with no input by either the Office of the Commissioner or the Players Association. The process is confidentially administered by the IPA, and MLB and the MLBPA are not even made aware of which players applied for TUEs.
“The TUE process under the Joint Drug Program is comparable to the process under the World Anti-Doping Code. The standard for receiving a TUE for a medication listed as a performance-enhancing substance is stringent, with only a few such TUEs being issued each year by the IPA. MLB and the MLBPA annually review the TUE process to make sure it meets the most up-to-date standards for the issuance of TUEs.
“As recommended by the Mitchell Report, since 2008 MLB and the MLBPA have publicly issued the IPA’s annual report, which documents how many TUEs were granted for each category of medication. We believe this high level of transparency helps to ensure the proper operation of the TUE process.”
Photo by The Associated Press
The Yankees seemed more encouraged than unhappy after this 8-4 loss ended their four-game winning streak and prevented them from sweeping four from the Angels. The Yankees should have done more with 15 hits and three walks, but the lineup is at least more formidable now with Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and especially Alfonso Soriano.
Those three weren’t around when the Yankees dropped two of three at Fenway last month. They will start another three-game series there Friday night.
“I think it’s a different club,” Joe Girardi said. “The way we’re swinging the bats, it’s a much different club.”
The Yankees were nine back of the Red Sox heading into Thursday night’s play.
“We’re the team that’s chasing them now,” Granderson said. “So it’s going to be a very big three-game series, not the fact that’s it’s a Boston and Yankees series, but the fact that we can gain a lot of ground. It’s very important for us. We have to also be cautious that they can also create a lot of ground, too.”
They have another power-hitting bat on the way, according to Jon Heyman at CBSSports.com and some others Thursday night. The word from them is the Yankees have agreed to terms with Mark Reynolds. The righty batter, of course, is known for homering and striking out. But he can back up at third and platoon with Lyle Overbay at first. When the Indians designated Reynolds last week, he was at .215 with 15 homers, 48 RBI and 123 strikeouts. He has been cold in the homer department, none since June 28. He batted .098 in July. Your thoughts?
The Yankees delivered 46 hits in these last three games. They batted .366 and scored 31 runs in the four games.
Soriano had four singles and an RBI in this game and went 10 for 14 and drove in 14 in the last three. That was a major-league high for RBI in one series this season. The last Yankee with at least 14 RBI in a series of any length was named Joe DiMaggio, who knocked in 14 in a six-game series vs. the Indians in 1938.
“The last three games, I’ve been hitting the ball good and seeing the ball good,” Soriano said.
Phil Hughes finally showed some improvement after failing to get through five in his previous three starts. He allowed three runs and six hits over six, but he fell to 4-12.
“It was obviously better,” Hughes said. “It would’ve been hard to pitch much worse than I had been.”
Girardi said that until he hears more about it from MLB, he didn’t want to comment on the new manager’s challenge rules for replay that will go into effect next season if the owners, players association and umpires approve.
Associated Press photo.
A-Rod and life for those on the marquee • 08.10.13
“I often wonder how guys like Michael Jordan and some of the greatest football players and some of the greatest hockey players — their life has to be so much different, because what I might consider being able to go out and do every day and just trying to be normal, I don’t necessarily think it’s that way for them.
“I lived close to Michael Jordan when we were in Chicago. His yard was fenced. He had his own movie theater in his house because it was easier for him to watch it there. The time he handed out candy on Halloween through the fence, the line was a mile long. It’s never happened to me. I don’t get that many people in five years.
“I think their lives are different because of who they are and what they’ve done in their careers. So for me to try to imagine what a superstar would go through, I can’t.”
A-Rod is still a marquee name, but he’s no longer a superstar. He didn’t look good in the Yankees’ 10-inning, 4-3 win over the Tigers last night at Yankee Stadium, going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, leaving him at 3 for 15 in four games.
He’s going to have to tune out some of the sounds like he heard during this game, the loud boos from the home crowd that were competing with the cheers, the boos that came as a result of the PED allegations for which MLB suspended him 211 games, pending his appeal.
“Alex has had to deal with stuff before,” Girardi said. “He’s been booed before. He knows what he has to do, and I expect him to do it.”
This morning, ESPNNewYork.com reported that the Yankees informed Rodriguez in writing before the game that they intend to discipline him for getting a second opinion on his quad issue last month without their authorization. A-Rod stood up the media after the game. Here’s a link to my story about what went on last night. Also, Curtis Granderson has literally had a couple of unlucky breaks this season, but he did contribute to the winning rally. Here’s a link to my story on his year and the struggles in his latest comeback.
Associated Press photo
Yankees postgame: So Alex, your thoughts? • 08.10.13
We were all waiting around A-Rod’s locker for a comment about the reception he got here tonight during the 4-3 win in 10 over the Tigers. But we were finally told by media relations director Jason Zillo that Rodriguez had left.
Joe Girardi did speak about the boos and the cheers for his lightning rod at third.
“It was probably 50-50, maybe a little more cheers,” Girardi said. “It’s something he has to be able to put out of his mind and be a player for us.”
Rodriguez wasn’t a very effective player for them in this game. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He’s now 3 for 15 since his return.
Mariano Rivera hasn’t been effective the last two games, blowing back-to-back saves for the first time since April 2011. Miguel Cabrera got him for a two-run homer to tie it at 3-3 in the ninth.
“You’re talking about one of the great hitters,” Rivera said.
The Yankees won it on Brett Gardner’s two-out walk-off single. That stopped their four-game losing streak and the Tigers’ 12-game winning streak. It also saved the Yankees from falling to .500. They’re up to 58-56.
“We haven’t been playing good baseball for a couple of months,” Gardner said. “Sometime you have to keep winning or you’ll be out of it.”
Robinson Cano had two RBI on a double. He had driven in two runs in his previous 15 games combined.
The pitching matchup later today will be Phil Hughes and Anibal Sanchez.
Associated Press photo.
Yankees pregame: All about A-Rod • 08.09.13
Of course, our question of the day is: How will Yankees fans greet Alex Rodriguez tonight? He’s batting fifth and playing third in his 2013 home debut. I’ll guess there will be more boos than cheers with the 211-game suspension dangling over him.
“I don’t really have a way they should receive him,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s not my job. … I’m not so sure how it’s going to go out there. The only thing that you hope is when you walk into a ballpark, whether you’re at home or a visiting ballpark, it’s not personal. That’s the only thing you hope. But the fans are going to react the way they’re going to react. They buy the tickets and that’s part of it.”
Girardi was asked this: If he were just a regular guy coming to the game with his son, what would he say to him about reacting to this situation?
“I’ve talked about this with my son and how things have went in baseball,” Girardi said. “In this day and age, with cameraphones and everything that goes on, the chances of you ever getting away with anything aren’t very good. There are consequences to your actions and you’re usually going to have to pay for them. I talked to my son about the value of hard work and doing things the right way. As far as my son as a fan, I’d tell him not to get wrapped up in what goes on in the stands. Be respectful and go from there. Because I think a lot of times the kids are going to imitate what your mom and dad do in a sense, when they’re smaller.
“I talked about that in Chicago, that someone cheered when Alex was hit. Now it’s their perogative to do what they want, but if it was your son, would you cheer if a guy got plunked? Probably not. But as far as the other part of the reception, that’s up to the people.”
After three games, Rodriguez is 3 for 11, with all the hits being singles. He has walked twice and has been hit once.
“I think his swing has been a little bit more explosive than I thought it might be,” Girardi said. “You never how a guy is going to react off a second hip surgery. He’s just missed a few balls. He’s squared up a few balls. But I’m pleased with how his lower half is working, and I wasn’t sure how that was going to work when he came back from this second hip surgery and being older. But I’ve been pleased with it.”
A-Rod reportedly apologized to all his teammates the other day for creating a distraction, but Curtis Granderson has seen business as usual in that regard.
“There’s media here all the time,” Granderson said. “And between the first inning and the ninth inning, it’s us against them. Fans have booed us. Fans are going to cheer us. That’s part of it. We’re the New York Yankees and I don’t expect anything different.”
David Phelps was a little concerned heading into his MRI. After winning his last start in Minnesota July 4, he went up to trainer Steve Donohue to ask for anti-inflammatory medication because he had been feeling a little stiffness in his right forearm near the elbow. Donohue told him a doctor visit was in order.
“There’s a lot less concern now after the MRI than there was,” Phelps said about the diagnosis of a slight straight. “Any time it’s your arm, there’s some concern. When (the doctor) came and said the ligament looked great, that was obviously reassuring. It’s just something minor. We can take care of that and go from there.”
The arm had been bothering him for a few days, but he said he didn’t feel it throwing.
“It was like weird times, like if I was laying in bed and I’d roll over,” Phelps said. “It would feel stiff.”
After ice and rest, he feels good to go again.
“My arm feels great now,” Phelps said. “It’s back to the way it felt before. I don’t expect it to bother me at all.”
Phelps spent some time with his family the last few days. He won’t be off during the All-Star break. He said he’s probably going to go to Tampa. He plans to throw on Monday. So barring any setbacks, he should be ready when he’s eligible to return from the DL next Saturday.
Alex Rodriguez had a single and an RBI in three at-bats today as a DH in Tampa’s 5-2 loss to Dunedin. So he’s 2 for 15 after six rehab games. There has been no lobbying campaign for a quick return like Derek Jeter has staged.
“I think Alex feels that he’s not to that level, that he’s not ready to go,” Joe Girardi said.
Jeter is scheduled to play tonight in Moosic for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Rochester. The Yankees have left open the possibility he will return for the weekend series here against the Twins. Girardi said he didn’t think it wasn’t an issue to bring back Jeter for that series if he’s ready even though there would be four off days afterward with the All-Star break.
Girardi also said he’d like to see Jeter go seven or eight innings at short in the minors first.
“We have to make sure he’s ready,” Girardi said.
The Yankees scored one run Tuesday night for the third straight game, but the lineup is the same. Any thought to doing some juggling?
“What would you suggest?” Girardi asked.
I’d suggest a trade for more help beyond just Jeter. Actually, there are reports circulating today that the Yankees are shopping free agents-to-be Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in their search for hitting help. Anyone in favor?
Photo by The Associated Press.
Yankees postgame: Nova deserves old job back • 07.05.13
There’s no room at the moment for Ivan Nova, and yet doesn’t it seem like it’s time to make room again in the rotation? He has been excellent since he has been back from the minors, especially in this 3-2 win over the Orioles, his first career complete game. And it came with just three hits and one walk allowed, plus 11 strikeouts.
Nova would seem to have more of an upside than David Phelps, especially if the 26-year-old righty has indeed found his old consistency that abandoned him a year ago.
The Yankees could give him a start again with just nine games to go until the All-Star break. Eventually, though, they may have to make a decision. Plus, they have such a short bench with 13 pitchers here.
Joe Girardi said: “I’m not sure exactly how we’ll do it, but he’ll probably start again.”
Nova said he had everything working, including that mid-90s fastball, some changeups and again that great curveball.
“His curveball was about as good as I’ve seen a curveball from anyone,” Vernon Wells said.
Nova was told along the way by a couple of teammates that the Yankees were going to win this game, and he believed it, too.
“I never thought we were going to lose,” Nova said. “I was positive the whole night.”
It took Baltimore’s shaky closer to help shake out a couple of runs in the ninth. Jim Johnson blew his sixth save in 35 chances and dropped to 2-7. His ERA rose to 4.02. One of the two runs in the ninth was unearned thanks to Johnson’s error on Brett Gardner’s bunt. But David Adams helped as well, opening the ninth with a single. And Wells helped with his ground single to left to touch off the celebration.
The Yankees not only won their season-high-tying fifth straight despite struggling offensively again, but they snapped their five-game losing streak against the Orioles, improving to 4-6 against them.
“That team over there has had our number,” Wells said. “They’ve played well against us even in the games that we’ve won. … We were just able to come through late (tonight). But we need to win games like that. We haven’t done it enough. We were doing it early in the season. Hopefully we can get back to doing that.”
Hiroki Kuroda felt good after his bullpen session and will be slotted back into the rotation if his hip flexor feels the same Saturday.
Eduardo Nunez went 3 for 3 with a walk and an RBI in his rehab game with Trenton against Reading. Besides Derek Jeter and Michael Pineda being scheduled for rehab work Saturday night with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against visiting Lehigh Valley, Alex Rodriguez is scheduled for a rehab game Saturday night with Single-A Tampa against the Brevard County Manatees at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Derek Jeter is scheduled to be back playing baseball tomorrow night at around 7:05. For now, he’s a RailRider. The Captain was cleared today to begin his 20-day rehab assignment clock. So he will play at least five innings at shortstop for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against visiting Lehigh Valley.
“That’s really good news,” Joe Girardi said. “That obviously means his ankle feels a lot better. He’s been dying to get out there since spring training and he’s had some setbacks. But this is a really good sign.
“I think he has to feel comfortable playing. He really hasn’t had a whole lot of at-bats. He hasn’t played a whole lot of infield. So (we need to see him) being able to go back-to-back days, back-to-back-to-back days that sort of thing.”
Asked if he would rule out Jeter returning on this final homestand before the break, Girardi said, “I don’t really have any expectations because I haven’t seen him play. If I can see him play in some games … I’d feel a lot better about making that decision.”
Right now, Girardi thinks Eduardo Nunez has a better chance of returning before the break than Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
Robinson Cano has had five different double-play partners starting opposite him, the latest being Luis Cruz. Jeter would provide stability.
“Hopefully everything goes well with him and we will see him pretty soon,” Cano said.
Michael Pineda is supposed to make the final rehab start on his 30-day clock tomorrow with Double-A Trenton and then the Yankees will have to decide where he fits.
“We’ll see how he does tomorrow and make an evaluation,” Girardi said.
Girardi said Zoilo Almonte is just getting a rest today as this long stretch of games continues to the break. Vernon Wells is starting in left.
Hiroki Kuroda said his hip flexor feels OK now. He was cleared to throw a bullpen session today.
What should the Yankees do? • 06.28.13
So what should the Yankees do about their offense? I think they’re going to need more than their injured hitters back after the All-Star break in order to be serious about this season. They didn’t have enough offense last October.
They could use the outside help now. The team is just 12-18 over the last 30 games, going from 30-18 to 42-36. The production from the fill-ins was good enough earlier in the season, but it just hasn’t been steady enough the last month or so. The staff can’t afford to make too many mistakes. And the Yankees can’t always count on running into bad pitching.
“I think we’ve shown that with the guys that are in this lineup, especially early on in the year, we were able to do enough to win games,” Vernon Wells said after Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the Rangers capped a 4-5 homestand. “We just haven’t done that consistently lately.”
The Yankees have been shut out three times this month and seven times overall. They’ve been shut out four times at home already, the most in five years. Derek Holland two-hit them Thursday when they wasted a quality start by Phil Hughes. They had two baserunners to show for their last 20 plate appearances, both on walks. Holland had to throw just 92 pitches. The game was over in just 2:24. (Here’s a link to my story about it.)
Lyle Overbay said the Yankees haven’t been grinding out at-bats lately.
“I think we get into trying to do too much and then it kind of snowballs a little bit,” Overbay said. “We’re not going to be as consistent maybe, but if we get those timely hits, we can be effective. We’re not doing that right now.”
The previous lefty to shut the Yankees out on two hits or less in the Bronx was Matt Young of the Mariners. That was 30 years ago. The Yankees have dropped three in a row and four of the last five when a lefty has started. The bottom three in the order against Holland were rookie David Adams (now batting .179), journeyman Alberto Gonzalez (.188) and rookie Austin Romine (.150). They combined to go 1 for 8.
Robinson Cano was protected in the order by Wells, who played right and struck out all three times, leaving him 11 for his last 93. Cano is down to .276, although he sounded pleased that at least he has been taking more walks.
“We don’t have our main guys,” Cano said. “I’ve just got to go out there and try to take advantage if I get one pitch. … I’m not trying to chase pitches and not trying to do too much.”
Rookie Zoilo Almonte is 0 for 10 in his last three starts in place of Wells in left after going 6 for 10 in his first three starts. Adams is 1 for his last 24. Overbay is batting .258 against righties and .186 against lefties, so a righty bat to platoon with him wouldn’t hurt, especially now that Mark Teixeira isn’t coming back until next year.
The team average is down to .238. There are still 17 games left until the All-Star break, seven games against the Twins, six against the Orioles and four against the Royals. There’s still almost a month until the nonwaiver trade deadline.
When Derek Jeter returns, he will be coming off a twice-broken ankle. He just turned 39 Wednesday. Alex Rodriguez, who had been on the decline, will turn 38 next month. He, of course, is, coming off his second hip operation. There have been conflicting reports about his return. The latest had A-Rod questioning when he would come back this season or if he would come back this season. The MLB Biogenesis investigation and a possible suspension are also hanging over him.
There was a report from csnphilly.com earlier this week that the Yankees have thought about Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, now in the last year of his deal. So is Philadelphia’s Michael Young, who would be more expensive and more appealing. It would figure the Yankees would only want an expiring contract since their goal is to be below $189 million next season.
What should they do?
Photo by The Associated Press.