The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Pregame notes: “Being a great baseball player was all that mattered”07.27.15

Alex Rodriguez

In almost any other setting, the question might have been too cliché to generate much of an answer. But on his 40th birthday, in the year after his season-long suspension, in the middle of a remarkable career resurgence, Alex Rodriguez seemed genuinely taken aback by the very notion.

What advice would 40-year-old A-Rod give to himself at 20 years old? At 30 years old? Rodriguez paused, then smiled.

“I’m in no position to give anyone advice, including myself,” he said, with a laugh. “But I think there was a point in time for me when hitting home runs, being a great baseball player, was all that mattered. I figured that if I hit more home runs, it would justify for whatever behavior I had off the field.

Alex Rodriguez“I realize today that it’s not that way at all. Hitting home runs doesn’t make you a good father, it doesn’t make you a good friend, and it certainly doesn’t make you a good teammate. To me they’re both important.”

Rodriguez turned 40 today, and there he is, back in the No. 3 spot in the Yankees lineup. He’ healthy, playing his usual designated hitter role, and he’s leading the team in OPS. Only four players in the entire American League have a higher OPS. Only six have more home runs.

“Forty is forty,” manager Joe Giradri said. “But it’s still just a number. You can still be extremely productive at that age and he’s showing it. … It’s rare, but guys can still do it.”

For Rodriguez, though, the birthday is a different sort of milestone. It’s notable not only because of how good he was a 20 years old, or for all he’d accomplished at 30, but because of where he was on the day he turned 39 while serving a season-long suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

“I think someone asked me about 40 and evaluating where I am, and I think I did a lot of that last year,” Rodriguez said. “I had a lot of time to think and evaluate. It was a dark time, that’s for sure. To be able to come back this year and look back, hopefully I’m going to be a player, but more importantly, a better person, for the next 40 years.”

Rodriguez noted that not many baseball players talk about turning 40 because so few last beyond their mid-30s. Did it feel more significant turning 40 or turning 30?

“Forty feels bigger just because of all the things that have transpired and where I am today,” Rodriguez said.

Where he is today is among the most productive and consistent hitters in baseball. He’s stayed healthy so far, and Girardi has tried to keep it that way by rarely playing him in the field. Perhaps most surprisingly, he’s been cheered at home and seemingly accepted by opponents and some fans on the road.

“I’m going to continue to work hard,” he said. “I thought April would be my most challenging month and as I started getting more repetition, hopefully I would get better. I think that’s happened, and I hope that continues. I’m going to continue to work out and go through my regimen, but it’s also a nice reminder that if you play clean and you play hard, that good things can happen.”

Adam Warren• Still no announced starter for tomorrow. Girardi said it depends on who the Yankees have to use tonight. They prefer to have either Chris Capuano or Adam Warren start tomorrow’s game — with the other basically piggybacking — but that plan will only work if those two aren’t needed tonight. “We’ll try to get three or four innings out of (one of them), use another guy and go from there,” Girardi said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”

• The original plan was to use Bryan Mitchell to start tomorrow’s game, but Mitchell’s schedule was thrown off last week when he was doing band work. The band was attached to a door (pretty common), and the door opened. Mitchell fell, hit his head, and had to sit out a few days. That threw him off turn for tomorrow’s game. “He’s off track now,” Girardi said. “We’ll keep building him up. He’s a guy we’ll definitely look at the next time.”

• Worth noting that Diego Moreno is tomorrow’s scheduled Triple-A starter, so if the Yankees need someone who can give several innings, they could recall Moreno as either a fresh long man or as an emergency starter.

• Jacoby Ellsbury banged his shoulder into the wall making a catcher yesterday, so Girardi decided to keep Ellsbury out of the lineup tonight. The plan was to sit either Ellsbury or Carlos Beltran tonight, and Girardi decided to give Ellsbury the rest. “I think that’s pretty much the plan for everybody to get one (day off) at some point on this road series,” Ellsbury said. “So they decided to give it to me today.”

• Ellsbury said he feels like he could play tonight, and he’ll be ready to run or play defense late in the game. He fully expects to be in the lineup tomorrow. He got some ice on the shoulder last night, but he said he didn’t do anything particularly out of the ordinary today. He can play if the Yankees need him.

• Girardi on Ellsbury: “If I have to use him, I would use him. He ran into the wall pretty hard. I was going to give him or Carlos one of the next two days off. I decided to do Jake today. We’ll go look at tomorrow. You’d like to be able to win the game without using him but if we need him, we’ll use him.”

• It’s really, really hot down here. “Stevie (Donohue) talks (to the players) about the importance of hydration,” Girardi said. “And we continue to do that. It’s hot, but it’s hot for both teams and you’ve got to deal with it.”

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: Rodriguez getting healthy day off after three-homer game07.26.15

A few quick notes heading into this afternoon’s series finale in Minnesota:

Alex Rodriguez• Biggest news of the early afternoon has been Ken Rosenthal’s report that the Royals are trading for Johnny Cueto. News of the swap began to leak apparently before the Reds had even told Cueto that a deal was in place. The Yankees trading for Cueto never seemed particularly likely given their reluctance to trade one of their high-end, on-the-verge prospects.

• As for the Yankees, they have Alex Rodriguez on the bench for a day game after a night game. Of course, that night game happened to be a three-homer event for A-Rod. Rodriguez said he feels fine, just getting a day to rest. Days off for a DH seem to bother plenty of folks in the fan base — as does the unwillingness to use Rodriguez in the field from time to time — but at the end of July, Rodriguez has been consistently productive and incredibly healthy. If that’s because of the way Joe Girardi has used him, then it’s hard to argue with the approach.

• Right fielder Aaron Judge has returned to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lineup after missing basically a week with what seems to have been a minor injury. Could be nothing more than the Yankees being their usual, overly cautious selves. Even without providing details, Brian Cashman insisted several times that there was no serious issue.

• Speaking of Triple-A, Andrew Marchand reports that Bryan Mitchell was supposed to be lined up to start Tuesday’s game in Texas, but a mild injury altered his turn in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation. Mitchell was sent down rather suddenly to start last Saturday, which would have put him perfectly on turn to be on schedule and eligible to return on Tuesday, but he wound up not making his next start until yesterday (when he pitched pretty well). Now it seems either Adam Warren or Chris Capuano will probably make that spot start on Tuesday.

• Scranton/Wilkes-Barre activated Austin Romine from the disabled list today. Going to be interesting to see how they use Romine now that Gary Sanchez is on the roster. It’s not like they have a ton of DH at-bats to give away. Those have been going mostly to Kyle Roller now that Greg Bird is on the roster, and the outfield is also suddenly overcrowded with Judge, Ben Gamel, Ramon Flores and Tyler Austin. There don’t seem to be enough at-bats for everyone who needs regular playing time to actually get regular playing time.

Associated Press photo

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A-Rod goes deep three times before Murphy delivers game-winner07.26.15

Alex Rodriguez

From Adam Czech of The Associated Press:

MINNEAPOLIS — Alex Rodriguez gave himself an early 40th birthday present.

Three of them, actually.

Rodriguez hit three home runs in a game for the fifth time in his career and keyed a ninth-inning rally against All-Star closer Glen Perkins, sending the New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins 8-5 Saturday night.

John Ryan Murphy, Jacoby Ellsbury“Some people say that life starts at 40. I’ll sign up for that right now,” said A-Rod, who hits the mark Monday.

The Yankees trailed 5-0 early. Rodriguez connected on Perkins’ first pitch for a tying homer, and John Ryan Murphy later launched a three-run shot.

“Got to be one of my best feelings since I’ve been in the major leagues,” Murphy said. “There’s no greater feeling than knowing you just won the game for your team.”

Rodriguez bear-hugged Murphy in the dugout and picked him up. By then, the slugger had already showed his strength.

Rodriguez hit 452-foot solo homer in the fourth and a 422-foot drive that made it 5-3 in the seventh. His 424-foot homer in the ninth cleared the center field wall.

He clapped as he trotted around first base after each homer while fans at sold-out Target Field booed. The last time Rodriguez hit three home runs in a game was Aug. 14, 2010, at Kansas City. He didn’t play last season while sitting out a drug suspension.

“I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’m appreciating everything the game has to offer,” he said.

Rodriguez has 23 homers this season and 677 in his career. He is now 6 for 10 lifetime against Perkins with two home runs.

CC SabathiaWith one out and runners on first and third, Murphy hit a 2-2 pitch from Perkins into the flower bed over the right-center field wall.

Perkins (0-2) didn’t blow a save chance before the All-Star break, but is 1 for 3 since. He had allowed just six runs all season before the Yankees tagged him for four.

“I saved however many to start the season and I said I’m going to blow games. I’m not going to be able to go out there and hit every spot like I have,” Perkins said. “It’s magnified. But I miss spots, everybody misses spots and I’ll learn from that.”

Adam Warren (6-5) pitched 2 1-3 innings in relief of CC Sabathia. Andrew Miller worked the ninth for his 23rd save.

“Maybe our best win of the year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Girardi’s decision to move Rodriguez to DH has helped rejuvenate the star.

“He’s been a guy that’s been productive all year,” Girardi said. “He’s been impressive.”

Torii Hunter hit his 208th career home run with the Twins, passing his mentor Kirby Puckett for sixth in team history and giving Minnesota a 5-0 lead in the third.

Aaron Hicks also homered to give the Twins a 2-0 lead off Sabathia in the first.

Chase Headley’s sacrifice fly cut Minnesota’s lead to 5-4 in a three-run seventh.

Sabathia was pulled after walking Brian Dozier to load the bases in the sixth.

Warren struck out Hicks on a check swing to end the threat, prompting Twins manager Paul Molitor to protest from the dugout and get ejected by plate umpire Jeff Nelson.

“He thought he saw enough to call the swing and I just voiced my opinion that I thought it was too close for him to make that call,” Molitor said. “That’s why they have the appeal process and it kind of spiraled down from there.”

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “I expect him to hold up well the second half and be productive”07.17.15

Rodriguez and Teixeira

Even as he plays almost every day and provides one of the most consistent bats in baseball, Alex Rodriguez talks a lot these days about the value of taking some time off. A four-day All-Star break? There’s value in that. A few games off in National League parks? Keeps him fresh. Even a year long suspension, Rodriguez says, might have had its benefits.

“I don’t know if I needed (the All-Star break),” Rodriguez said after tonight’s game-winning homer. “I felt good coming off Boston, was swinging pretty well, but the rest has been good for me. It was very beneficial when I was serving my suspension. Maybe the four days (helped). So far so good.”

RodriguezPlaying for the first time since Sunday’s win at Fenway, the Yankees were sharp tonight. Masahiro Tanaka made a couple of mistakes to Kyle Seager, but otherwise delivered a strong start. Chris Young delivered two more extra-base hits against a lefty. The infield defense was good and steady.

Then there was Rodriguez, who went hitless in his first two at-bats before singling and scoring the tying run in the fifth inning, then hitting his 19th home run of the season in the seventh. Rodriguez has had a go-ahead RBI in each of the Yankees’ past four games.

“I think Joe (Girardi) deserves a lot of credit,” Rodriguez said. “He’s put me in a situation where I can help the team win. I think the DH job for me has been good because I’m able to prepare differently, and I feel comfortable. … It’s been huge for me, I’m really enjoying it, working hard at it. Every day, I’m just trying to continue with my routine.”

The decision to keep Rodriguez confined to designated hitter — especially in interleague games on the road — has been the source of much discussion, but Girardi seems sold on the idea that keeping Rodriguez out of the field is keeping his body fresh, and Rodriguez hasn’t argued. In fact, he’s gone out of his way multiple times this season to talk about the positive impact of the DH job and the way extra rest has helped him.

“I’ll have to pick some sporadic days off (for Rodriguez), especially as we get into some of the longer stretches,” Girardi said. “And I’ll do that. He held up great the first half, and I expect him to hold up well the second half and be productive.”

Rodriguez didn’t look rusty tonight. He looked rested and ready to push the Yankees division lead to 4.5 games.

“A guy like Al,” Chris Young said, “who’s been around the block a few times, been in every situation, been in the World Series, had a lot of success in a lot of different situations, where you’re able to slow the game down, (is able to) keep things in perspective and come through in big situations.”

Tanaka• Carlos Beltran went 0-for-2 with a walk in tonight’s rehab game. Even if he catches a flight back to New York tomorrow morning, it’s unlikely he’ll be activated for Saturday’s game. Looks like he’ll return Sunday at the earliest. “I heard that he came out OK,” Girardi said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk about what we’re going to do. It would be pretty hard to put him in the lineup tomorrow.”

• For anyone thinking a trade is in the works because Ramon Flores and Austin Romine were pulled from tonight’s Triple-A game, Brian Cashman said Romine came out because of a thumb issue that was bothering him even before the All-Star break, and Flores was pulled because he was hit by a pitch, but Cashman wasn’t sure how serious it was.

• By the way, Aaron Judge played center field again in that Triple-A game.

• Speaking of minor league guys, I was told tonight that Slade Heathcott is close to playing in rehab games. Mason Williams said he spent all of the All-Star break in New York getting treatment on his shoulder. He’s still a long way from playing in games.

• Tanaka retired seven of his last eight batters after the second Seager home run. “The at-bats against Seager, they were just bad pitches that I threw and he got the most out of it,” Tanaka said. “But other than that, I felt pretty good out there. Pitches were coming out of my hand pretty good, and I was able to pitch the way I wanted to. … I think a lot of the offspeed (pitches) were going from strike to ball, and they were swinging at them, so I think they were pretty good. I want to try to replicate that in my next outing as well.”

• Because he’s a solid evaluator, here’s Rodriguez on Tanaka: “I think he’s just been more consistent lately. His fastball command’s better. I thought his splitfinger got better as the night went on. I think he’s doing a better job of damage control. And for us, especially at home, it’s such a weapon having Betances and Miller at the back of the bullpen, because we know in a tight game like today, one run may be the difference, and it was today.”

Young2• Why pull Rob Refsnyder against a right-handed reliever late in the game? In a tight game, Girardi was trying for a Yankee Stadium home run. He also was pretty sure the Mariners were unprepared for a pinch hitter, but Seattle stalled long enough to get Vidal Nuno ready for a left-on-left at-bat against Garrett Jones. “I was trying to pick up a quick run with Garrett,” Girardi said. “I knew that Nuno wasn’t ready, but by the time they threw over twice and went to the mound and stood there, they got him ready.”

• Even though Refsnyder went hitless, Girardi seemed impressed again. He left Refsnyder in to play defense in a one-run game in the eighth. “He looked pretty relaxed to me,” Girardi said. “Some tough plays. Some really tough plays tonight, and he made them all. Between hops. Slow rollers. Go to your left. Turn a double play, try to turn a double play. There really wasn’t an easy play for him tonight.”

• Refsnyder on his first roll call: “It was pretty cool. You hear about it and stuff like that. Obviously it was the furthest thing from my mind today, but it was nice. It was nice to hear my last name pronounced correctly. It’s rare.”

• Young just keeps crushing lefties, bringing exactly the kind of right-handed balance the Yankees had in mind when they re-signed him. “I’m happy I’m just able to get the opportunity, that’s the main thing,” Young said. “To be able to get consistent at bats, have the opportunity to get out there, try to find a streak to get going,, and if you slow down, still get the opportunity to go out there and find my way out of it. Consistent at-bats has always been the biggest want for me, as a player, and Joe’s given me a lot of opportunities, so I’m grateful for that.”

• Dellin Betances has struck out multiple batters in each of his past eight appearances, matching his eight-game streak from earlier this season. … Andrew Miller is a perfect 19-for-19 in save opportunities, extending his franchise record for consecutive saves converted to start a Yankees tenure. … The Yankees have homered in 33 of 42 home games this season.

• Let’s give the final word to Tanaka, talking about his first seasons playing alongside A-Rod: “I think he knows really how to hit the ball. It seems like once the ball comes off his bat, it just kind of flies. Being in the outfield shagging before games, you can see how well he gets to that ball and lets that ball fly out, so it’s pretty impressive.”

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “We want to see him play”07.10.15

Robert Refsnyder

The Yankees have either lost patience with Stephen Drew, or simply stopped wasting time with Rob Refsnyder.

After finishing off tonight’s win in Boston, Joe Girardi confirmed that Refsnyder will be called up and in the lineup tomorrow. He’ll play second base these last two games before the break.

“We want to see him play,” Girardi said.

Reports on Refsnyder’s defense?

“That he’s improved,” Girardi said. “We’ve heard that he’s improved and that he’s making strides and we’re going to find out.”

Just a two-day trial because the Red Sox are pitching a couple of lefties?

“That’s not our thinking,” Girardi said. “We knew we were facing a couple of lefties and figured we would do it now.”

Girardi did not fully commit to Refsnyder remaining with the Yankees beyond the All-Star break, but it certainly seems that’s the intention. Asked if Refsnyder would stick around these two games, Girardi initially said “yeah” before backing off and saying he’s not thinking beyond this weekend. Whether he said it or not, it’s clear the Yankees believe Refsnyder can be a significant piece of the roster, and it’s hard to imagine they’d bring up such a touted prospect for just two days or to play a limited role.

“He played well in spring training,” Girardi said. “It’s a young man that’s been on our radar, and we’ll see how he does.”

Refsnyder’s been red-hot lately — hitting .412 with two home runs in his past 10 games — and Drew remains a .182 hitter with the lowest batting average of any lineup regular in the majors. He has hit 12 home runs, the Yankees like his defense, and he has the fourth-most walks on the team. He’s been productive occasionally, but he’s also made a lot of outs along the way.

After tonight’s game, Girardi let Drew know about the Refsnyder call-up so that he wouldn’t be blindsided by questions.

“Hopefully, we’re here to win,” Drew said. “Whatever’s going to help us win, that’s what we’re going to do. So hopefully, he’ll come up, and I know how it is when you first get called up. It’s going to be fun for him, and hopefully in his first at-bat or whatnot, he can get a hit and add that first one. I remember mine. It took me nine at-bats. So hopefully he’ll adjust soon. I think he’s good. I saw him in spring training, he’s a great player and a good hitter, so looking forward to him being here with us.”

Michael Pineda• Refsnyder will be the story of the day on Saturday. Tonight it was Michael Pineda, who delivered 6.2 strong innings for his ninth win of the season. “I’m very happy tonight,” Pineda said. “The last three years, I don’t take a (All-Star) break because I have injury. Tonight, I’m very happy with my last start in the first half. I’ll take my break. I’m very happy.”

• In his past three starts, Pineda has a 1.25 ERA with 24 strikeouts and one walk. “Just his consistency (stands out),” Girardi said. “How deep he’s going into games for us. The effectiveness of his slider. He continues to pound the zone. He’s pitching.”

• The Yankees have won 11 of Pineda’s 17 starts this season.

• Why take Pineda out after a manageable 89 pitches? “Betts had hit a home run,” Girardi said. “The time he’d seen him before, he’d hit him hard before too. So I just thought his slider was getting a little flat, and I just said, I’m going to make a change.”

• As for using Andrew Miller in a non-save situation, Girardi said he wanted to use Miller twice this series, but also didn’t want to use him back-to-back games before the All-Star break. That meant ideally using him tonight and Sunday. “We’re trying to get (the rust) off,” Girardi said. “Our plan is to use him two days here. I don’t know if I’ll use him tomorrow, but coming in we had thought that we probably wouldn’t use him back-to-back until we got back from the break. And if one guy gets on, you’re probably not going to mess around anyway.”

Alex Rodriguez• Alex Rodriguez gave the Yankees an early lead with his first-inning home run. It was his 17th of the year, and the 26th of his career at Fenway, the most of all active visiting players. He is a career .448 hitter against Clay Buchholz. “Sometimes numbers can be deceiving,” Girardi said. “I can’t say I felt all that well up there. The key with Clay is to get a good pitch to hit. He has a number of ways of getting you out. … I just got a good pitch to hit and hit it well.”

• Buchholz left in the fourth inning because of tightness in his elbow. It felt like a bit of luck for the Yankees, because Buchholz has been pitching well lately. “But you’re not really setup for that with all the lefties they’ve got down there (in the bullpen),” Girardi said. “With all the leftes we have in the lineup you’re thinking, boy, this might work out to their advantage in a sense. Not taking anything away from Buchholz, but you can’t make moves too early when you’ve only got three guys on your bench. We took advantage of a couple mistakes.”

• Brett Gardner has a seven-game road hitting streak and has a hit in 10 consecutive games against the Red Sox. … Jacoby Ellsbury has hit safely in all three games since coming off the disabled list. … Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have now combined to strike out 121 of 288 batters faced this season.

• A foul line drive by Didi Gregorius struck a fan — she looked to be a fairly young woman, maybe even a young girl — and it was a pretty scary moment, with fans using their shirts to stop the bleeding. She was hit in the head. “There’s nothing I could do about it,” Gregorius said. “So I finished my at-bat, handed them my bat and obviously they said thank you and everything. There’s nothing else I can do right there. It’s always a little worry; obviously those fans have got to pay attention because there’s no screen over there. Every ballpark has their own way.”

• Final word goes to Rodriguez: “This group has a good feel to it. It’s a hardworking group, and it competes hard every night. I think the key for us finishing the first half and continuing strong in the second half, is to stay hungry and humble.”

Associated Press photos

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A-Rod: “The fact that I’m in the conversation makes me happy”07.08.15

Alex Rodriguez

There was a familiar sight in the far corner of the Yankees’ clubhouse on Tuesday. It was Alex Rodriguez, standing at his locker, surrounded by media, discussing the latest bit of bad news.

At least, on the surface it was bad news. Rodriguez seemed to see it as something different.

Widely viewed as one of the most egregious all-star snubs this season, Rodriguez recognized the public outrage — the fact he was seen as a viable candidate, and the fact people were upset to see him left out — as a good thing, a sign that he was putting up good numbers and being accepted for it.

“The fact that I’m in the conversation makes me happy,” Rodriguez said.

Alex RodriguezFar removed from the public bickering of 2013, and the Biogenesis suspension of 2014, Rodriguez has returned as one of the game’s elite hitters again. Perhaps not as the obvious All-Star he was in his early 30s, but as a surprisingly viable candidate approaching his 40th birthday. Rodriguez has been healthy, he’s been productive, and he’s been — perhaps most surprising of all — somewhat popular. He’s found particularly passionate support within the Yankees’ fan base, a fan base that not so long ago booed him frequently at Yankee Stadium.

All of that’s more than he could have expected. An All-Star selection was nowhere near Rodriguez’s goals for the season.

“I wish I could tell you it was,” he said. “My goal early on was to make the team, and I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know how many at-bats I was going to get. … I’ve definitely been very fortunate that my body has been responding to the daily grind. We’ve had some major tests; the last 20 games in a row was a major test for us. Getting to DH has been good for me, too.”

Being a DH might be what cost Rodriguez his 15th career All-Star berth.

Nelson Cruz and Prince Fielder are two of the few American League hitters providing offense comparable to A-Rod, and those are the two designated hitters who made the team via fan and player vote. Manager Ned Yost was allowed to fill two bench spots at large, and he chose to carry a third catcher (Russell Martin) and a utility man (Brock Holt) who serves as the required representative of the Red Sox. Yost said Rodriguez was left off the final ballot – a five-candidate fan vote to fill the final roster spot – because Yost wanted someone who could play the field.

“I gave myself a long-shot hope,” Rodriguez said. “There are so many great players in the American League, and I’m only a DH. For a long time, I was at shortstop and third base and there were multiple ways of getting in. … I think the fans made a very wise choice (with Cruz) and I think Yost had a very difficult decision. You can’t go wrong with Prince. He’s had a phenomenal year and he’s also a big comeback story, so I’m happy for Prince.”

Hard to imagine a bigger comeback story than Rodriguez. It was enough to get him into the All-Star conversation, just not into the All-Star Game.

“I’m obviously disappointed,” Rodriguez said. “It would have been fun to go out and represent the American League, that’s for sure. But I know that while serving the suspension, the time off was very good for me. I hope the four days will be, too.”

Associated Press photos

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A blog post in which I vote for A-Rod to start in the All-Star Game07.02.15

Brett Gardner

You have until midnight tonight — well, technically 11:59 p.m. — to vote for the starters in this year’s All-Star Game. Unless you’re able to get about seven million friends to vote with you, I doubt you have much chance to seriously impact the Yankees’ status. Based on the latest voting update, the Yankees really have no chance of getting anyone into the starting lineup.

Just for the fun of it on an off day, here’s my ballot for each league. This isn’t an attempt to pick the most deserving or best player for each spot. This is voting the way I imagine a lot of people vote for something like this: some picks based entirely on merit, some based on personal favorites, some attempts to reward breakout performances, and some choices based strictly on players I’d like to see in this setting.

The actual All-Star starters will be announced on Sunday. Here’s my ballot, along with the leaders according to the most recent voting update:

Fielders AMERICAN LEAGUE

FIRST BASE
Current leader: Miguel Cabrera
My pick: Prince Fielder
The “right” choice here is Cabrera, but I love the story of Fielder’s return. Surely there’s a spot for him in the All-Star Game, and I’ll give him my vote. A lot of first basemen are worth a spot, which might crowd out Mark Teixeira despite his power and production.

SECOND BASE
Current leader: Omar Infante
My pick: Jason Kipnis
Clearly Infante is an absurd choice, and in the end he could be edged out by Jose Altuve (which would be fine, because Altuve’s fun to watch). But, man, Kipnis is having a great year. I’d love to vote for a guy like Brian Dozier, but Kipnis has been too good.

THIRD BASE
Current leader: Josh Donaldson
My pick: Josh Donaldson
I actually didn’t realize what a great year Manny Machado is having, but Donaldson is still the slightly better choice here. He’s now leading Mike Moustakas in the fan voting. Moustakas is having a nice season, but not on the level of Donaldson and Machado.

SHORTSTOP
Current leader: Alcides Escobar
My pick: Jose Iglesias
Combination of offensive production and defensive ability make Iglesias the right choice here. Kind of weird that Iglesias has so few RBI.

CATCHER
Current leader: Salvador Perez
My pick: Stephen Vogt
Granted, Vogt’s not nearly the defensive player that Perez or Russell Martin is — or Brian McCann for that matter — but Vogt’s been one of the best hitters in the league this season, and for that, I’ll give him a spot in my lineup. The best all-around choice is probably Martin. I wonder if Vogt being voted in by fans will crowd out McCann.

OUTFIELD
Current leaders: Mike Trout, Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon
My picks: Mike Trout, Lorenzo Cain, Brett Gardner
I’ve decided to support these crazy Kansas City fans by giving them one guy, and Cain’s been great. Trout is a no brainer. For my third outfield spot, I’m going with Gardner, who’s among the league leaders in WAR despite somehow getting negative points for his defense (according to the FanGraphs metric). What a great first half he’s had. Might even hit Gardner leadoff with Trout batting second.

DESIGNATED HITTER
Current leader: Nelson Cruz
My pick: Alex Rodriguez
If you want a “clean” ballot, DH isn’t the position for you. Maybe put Evan Gattis in there as a nod to the stunning Astros? As for me, I’m going with A-Rod just to see it happen. His return has been one of the great stories of the first half, so why not throw him in the lineup. The game doesn’t count anyway, right?

GoldschmidtNATIONAL LEAGUE

FIRST BASE
Current leader: Paul Goldschmidt
My pick: Paul Goldschmidt
Granted, I don’t know nearly as much about the National League as I know about the American League, but there’s no need to overthink this one, is there? Goldschmidt’s about as good as it gets at the plate.

SECOND BASE
Current leader: Dee Gordon
My pick: Dee Gordon
I like Gordon, and I like Joe Panik. Both are having really nice years, and I don’t think you could go wrong with either one (Kolton Wong deserves a mention here as well). Since it’s kind of a toss up in my mind, I’ll go with the hits leader who’s fun to watch play.

THIRD BASE
Current leader: Matt Carpenter
My pick: Todd Frazier
My St. Louis friends might disown me, but Frazier’s really becoming a superstar, and one who should be the face of an All-Star Game in Cincinnati. A lot of really good third basemen in the National League, but Frazier’s been the best of the bunch.

SHORTSTOP
Current leader: Jhonny Peralta
My pick: Brandon Crawford
Again, the St. Louis friends won’t like me, but I remember years ago being told by one of his former teammates that Crawford would eventually be one of the top players in baseball. He’s been one of those top players this year. That said, I nearly picked Troy Tulowitzki just because it’s Tulo and he’s awesome.

CATCHER
Current leader: Buster Posey
My pick: Yadier Molina
This is where I win back some of the Cardinals fans. Just a few weeks ago, I had a scout ask me who I’d want behind the plate for a Game 7. I said Yadi. The scout’s response was, “obviously,” as if no reasonable person would choose anyone else. Posey’s banging the ball all over the place, but Molina’s almost a legacy pick for me. I just think it’s hard to go wrong with him.

OUTFIELD
Current leaders: Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Holliday
My picks: Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen
Joc Pederson’s going to make the team — and he’s going to make many more all-star teams after this — but I like the idea of the rookie coming off the bench his first time. That means giving the center field start to McCutchen, who happens to be one of my 5 to 10 favorite players in the game. I’ll vote for Pederson next year.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Postgame notes: “Didn’t really have much of a chance in his last at-bat”06.19.15

Alex Rodriguez

Hard to remember the last time Yankee Stadium got as loud as it did tonight. But there was no walk-off, no monumental home run. There was no milestone, and that was kind of the point. Those weren’t cheers that filled this stadium. They were chants and boos directed at a 27-year-old pitcher who seemed far more willing to hit Alex Rodriguez than give up a hit to him.

Alex Rodriguez“I was just trying to get him out,” Marlins reliever Sam Dyson said. “… If he was going to beat me, he was going to have to get the head out. I ended up throwing four balls kind of at his belt off the plate.”

Four straight pitches inside with Rodriguez one hit away from 3,000. The crowd was not happy about it. Never mind that the walk was part of a four-run inning that removed any doubt about who would win this game. The fans wanted to see history. They wanted to see A-Rod swing the bat. They were supporting Rodriguez as much as they were dismissing Dyson.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Rodriguez said. “It feels great. Every time moments like that happen, I can just reflect on a year ago today, (and) how great the fans have been to me. I think their support has actually helped me play a lot better.”

No one seemed to think Dyson was trying to hit Rodriguez (though at least a few of those pitches might have done it had Rodriguez not backed out of the box).

“He didn’t really have much of a chance in his last at-bat,” Joe Girardi said. “I think the crowd wanted to see it, I think that’s the bottom line, and I understand that. I’m sure the young man was trying to get him out, he just threw a bunch of sinkers that were too far inside, and Alex couldn’t even swing at them.”

So history will have to wait. Tomorrow the Yankees get Justin Verlander and the Tigers.

“I’ll think about it some,” Rodriguez said. “But I’m in a good place. Our team is playing well, we like playing at home, having the fans behind us was phenomenal today. My daughters are in town, Father’s Day is around the corner, I’m just really excited and having fun.”

C. C. Sabathia• Not a bad start by Sabathia, but not a great one either. It just kind of felt like a lot of Sabathia’s starts these days. Three runs across six innings is a 4.50 ERA, and if Sabathia could pitch like this every time out, I think the Yankees might take that. It was a winable start, and at times Sabathia looked great with seven strikeouts and no walks. “It’s difficult not, I guess, being the guy I used to be who went deep into games,” Sabathia said. “Just kind of is what it is. I go out there hard as I can until I’m done.”

• When did Sabathia come to grips with being that type of pitcher? “That’s something I came to grips with a couple of months ago; a couple of years ago,” he said. “It just kind of is what it is. Go out there and use my pitches and try to pitch deep into the game. … It really doesn’t change the way I pitch. It’s just frustrating for me that I can only give them six innings at a time.”

• After putting the side down in order the first three innings, Sabathia allowed one run apiece in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Just falling behind, he said. He got into bad counts, and the Marlins were able to chip away and take the lead for a while. “He did a good job,” Girardi said. “To limit them to three runs, a team that has really hit left-handers this season, I thought he did a really good job.”

• Chasen Shreve extended his scoreless streak to 11 innings over his past 10 games. He got his fourth win of the season. Each of his past 17 strikeouts have been swinging third strikes.

• Even though this had become a lopsided game, Girardi had Dellin Betances warming in the ninth. Girardi said he felt the Marlins were too close to being back in it to not have Betances at least getting ready just in case. “If I don’t bring him in and we lose the game, how’s that wear and tear? Girardi said. “Not too good. I’ll be crucified.”

Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran• Carlos Beltran’s game winner was the 30th home run of his career to tie a game or give his team a lead in the seventh inning or later. It was his second such home run with the Yankees. After a few good games in a row, Beltran is hitting .286/.348/.405 in the month of June. That’s after a good month of May. “The past couple of months I’ve been putting good at bats,” Beltran said. “It’s a long season, man. I know that it sounds cliché for me to say that, but I just have to approach each at-bat and every game as an individual.”

• After tonight’s game-tying shot, Brett Gardner’s hit 46 career homers, and 22 of those have tied a game or given the Yankees a lead. The Yankees have gone 34-11 in games when Gardner’s gone deep. “He’s been coming up huge for us the whole time,” Sabathia said.

• Mason Williams had two doubles tonight. Of his five big league hits, four have gone for extra bases. “I think he’s done a good job of making adjustments,” Girardi said. “It’s not easy being a young player, really hasn’t spent a lot of time in Triple-A. Not really knowing any of the pitchers that he’s facing. He’s made some nice little adjustments.”

• The Yankees are 9-1 in their past 10 home games. This was technically their sixth series sweep of the year, one away from their total from last year. … This was the fifth time Sabathia made a start without walking anyone this year. … Brian McCann has 20 RBI in his past 22 games. He had three hits tonight and I didn’t even notice until I saw the box score postgame.

• Still really weird to watch Carter Capps pitch with that little hop off the rubber. He must deliver the ball an extra foot closer to home plate, plus he’s able to reach 100 mph (which he did tonight). “When I saw Capps warming up,” Rodriguez said. “I told a bunch of my teammates in the dugout, ‘three-thousand is going to have to wait for another day.’ The chances of me even putting the ball in play are very little. Once I saw him walk out of the game, I was pretty excited.”

• Final word goes to Rodriguez about chasing No. 3,000: “It’s a lot easier to deal with these at-bats because we’re in the middle of a game and we need to win badly. It’s all about wins for us. The game was 5-3 and we’re doing everything in our power to keep the big guy out of the game. The focus is always winning.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

A-Rod approaching 3,000 hits as quietly as possible (and that’s not a bad thing)06.18.15

Alex Rodriguez

At this point, we all know it’s going to happen.

Of course there’s the ever-present caveat about a freak injury or some other unforeseen roadblock – and with this guy, the potential unexpected events really do cover a wide range of possibilities – but by all reasonable logic, we all know Alex Rodriguez is going to reach 3,000 hits.

In fact, it seems a safe bet he’s going to reach the milestone at some point during this home stand. He needs three more, and the Yankees are home the next seven days. Rodriguez hasn’t had a seven-game stretch without at least three hits all season.

So, yeah, it’s going to happen. How we’re all supposed to feel about that, I really don’t know. Honestly, I don’t care, and maybe that says as much as anything about how far Rodriguez has come in terms of public opinion.

Alex Rodriguez“I can’t tell you how the people are going to feel,” A-Rod said this week in Miami. “All I can do is focus on my job this year in particular. I’m really enjoying playing baseball and really grateful for the support that I’ve gotten.”

We all know the circumstances surrounding Rodriguez’s career. We know how great he was as an amateur, and how great he became as a professional. We know about the raw talent, the poor decisions, and the impossible questions of what he might have been had he let his natural ability speak for itself.

The situation is what it is. That’s a cliché bit of analysis, but it’s an accurate one. There’s really no sense rehashing the whole thing.

And because the steroid storyline has been analyzed and re-analyzed until I think we’ve all grown sick of it, Rodriguez gets to chase history without a ton of unwanted attention. His return from a year-long suspension was – with good reason – the biggest story in Yankees’ camp this spring. His passing of Willie Mays on the all-time home run list was a perfect opportunity to dig deeper into the whole scandalous affair earlier this season.

But at this point, we’ve all been there, and we’ve all done that. Some will never forgive Rodriguez. Some are completely on his side. Some will boo him no matter what. Some see him as a mistreated scapegoat. If your opinion hasn’t been changed by now, it’s probably not going to change by the time A-Rod collects four more hits.

He is who he is. And no matter what you think of A-Rod, 3,000 hits is 3,000 hits.

“You think about 15 years of 200 hits,” Joe Girardi said. “You see maybe three hitters a year get 200 hits in each league. I think it shows, obviously you have to have longevity, but it shows real consistency in the game. For him, it’s just another huge number that he’s put up in his career, whether it’s home runs that people want to judge or RBIs that people want to judge. But 3,000 hits is a lot of hits, and you don’t see it every day.”

So when Rodriguez gets there – as long as it happens in the Bronx – my guess is it will be celebrated. Not the way Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit was celebrated, but that’s OK. We can’t pretend to be shocked that fans, media, teammates and opponents treat A-Rod and Jeter differently. They’re incredibly different players. Both incredibly talented, but still incredibly different.

Rodriguez is a unique case. He was a unique talent as a kid, and he’s become a one-of-a-kind icon as he nears the end. Cheer him. Boo him. Watch him with indifference. Whatever you think of A-Rod, within in a few days, there will be 29 players who have reached 3,000 Major League hits, and Rodriguez inevitably will be one of them.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

A-Rod grievance deadline put on hold06.17.15

From Ron Blum of The Associated Press:

2777fa61e03b801a790f6a70670042b2NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball and the players’ association have stopped the clock on the deadline for Alex Rodriguez to file a grievance against the New York Yankees for not making a $6 million payment when he hit his 660th home run.

Rodriguez tied Willie Mays for fourth place on the career home run list on May 1, and baseball’s labor contract sets a 45-day deadline to file a grievance.

MLB and the union said Tuesday the deadline is on hold for as long as the two sides agree.

At the time Rodriguez and the Yankees signed their $275 million, 10-year contract in December 2007, they signed a separate marketing agreement that called for $6 million each for up to five milestone accomplishments.

The accomplishments were contemplated to be Rodriguez hitting home runs 660, 714, 755, 762 and 763. In exchange for each designation, Rodriguez would give the Yankees marketing rights, such as using Rodriguez’s name and image in selling licensed goods.

Following Rodriguez’s return this year from a season-long drug suspension, the Yankees said the decision to designate any historic achievements was at the team’s discretion and they would not designate any.

New York has offered to pay an amount less than $6 million in Rodriguez’s name to charities mutually chosen by both sides, a person familiar with the situation said Tuesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the sides have not discussed the situation publicly.

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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