At this time yesterday, Masahiro Tanaka has still not told the Yankees about his sore wrist. He hadn’t gone for the MRI that revealed a strained forearm, and he hadn’t received the diagnosis that spark renewed questions about his elbow and ability to avoid Tommy John surgery.
“When he came up and said his wrist hurt, I was like, wow,” Joe Girardi said. “Cause the starts were good, the bullpen session was good, and I wasn’t prepared for that. So that’s why I used the word a little shocked when I heard because everything had went great.”
Michael Pineda was actually supposed to throw a bullpen yesterday and Girardi stopped him in the early afternoon, explaining he might have to pitch today instead. And, of course, that’s exactly what happened.
After those first four starts this season, things were actually encouraging with Tanaka. He’d pitched especially well in the past two starts, and he’d complained of no soreness in his elbow or anywhere else. Now that we know the newest injuries, though, it’s hard to think of Tanaka in any other context. Sure, he was pitching well, but the Yankees have known for a long time that Tanaka’s capable of pitching well. But that’s only when he’s healthy enough to actually be on the mound.
“Is there concern? Of course there is,” Girardi said. “Anytime you have to shut a pitcher down, there’s concern. With what happened last year, I can’t tell you if they’re related or not, but you’re going to think about it. You’re going to think about a lot of different scenarios. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope it’s not much, but we’ll deal with it either way.”
Initially, when Tanaka was only complaining about a little wrist soreness, Girardi was thinking it might be a two-week issue.
“My recommendation was kind of a DL there and he would come back as soon as those 15 days were up because you could back-date it,” Girardi said. “And we were already 5 or 6 days. So with the little bit of a strain (as well), it’s definitely DL.”
That’s the only thing that’s certain for now. Tanaka is definitely on the disabled list. How long he’ll stay there and how soon he’ll be back on it remains anyone’s guess.
• Would Girardi like to see Alex Rodriguez get No. 660 out of the way before this weekend’s series at Fenway? “It just might crowd our clubhouse a little bit more if he doesn’t,” Girardi said. “But it doesn’t matter either way. I’d prefer that he does it with two or three guys on today and gets it over with.”
• Even with another starter added to the disabled list, Girardi said he’d still consider using a spot starter during this next long stretch of games. Wonder if Bryan Mitchell might come up for a start in the next week or so.
• The Yankees have gotten eight scoreless innings out of their bullpen the past two days, but Girardi said the pen is still rested enough to handle today’s game. They’d like to get distance out of Michael Pineda, but it’s not a dire situation. “I think that’s important,” Girardi said. “But our bullpen’s OK. It helps that we have a day off tomorrow, I think that’s important. The only guy that I’d probably stay away from is Esmil.”
• Will the late change of plans impact Pineda today? “It shouldn’t be a factor,” Girardi said. “It probably won’t hurt him at all.”
• Around 10:30 this morning, Gregorio Petit walked into the Yankees’ clubhouse carrying the same bag he took out of the clubhouse yesterday. Teammates were laughing and offering hugs. A bizarre welcome back moment for a guy who barely left.
• Just a day off for Brett Gardner and Brian McCann against a left-handed starter.
• Because these seem a little more relevant now, here’s a quick update on Ivan Nova and Chris Capuano: Each one last pitched on Monday. Nova threw a simulated game, and Capuano pitched in extended spring training. Neither is ready to come off the disabled list just yet, obviously. “They did well,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure if the next step, because it was a shorter outing, if it’s Friday or Saturday.”
Associated Press photos
Before batting practice this afternoon, Didi Gregorius was on the field going through some drills at shortstop. His instructor: Alex Rodriguez.
“It’s just a veteran player looking to lend a helping hand in situations,” Girardi said. “Didi is still a young player. We know that there are going to be some things that he goes through that sometimes might be the first or second time. He’s not a seasoned veteran out there. Alex’s experience playing short and his experience playing here in New York can help Didi.”
We hear often that Rodriguez is a great teacher of the game. Players speak highly of the way Rodriguez talks hitting around the cage, and clubhouse interviews that get in-depth about the game can be legitimately insightful rather than cliche.
“He’s making a lot of transitions,” Rodriguez said. “New York is one. The Yankees, things are different here for sure. The one thing about playing shortstop that I tried to convey to him was positioning, cadence and also that internal clock that a shortstop needs. You only get that with preparation and experience.”
Rodriguez said the Yankees’ coaching staff asked him to spend some pregame time with Gregorius on the field, and so today’s session was set up a few days ago.
“It was just more game situation (drills),” infield coach Joe Espada said. “I think kind of working on his game clock, knowing runners, outs, when to charge a ball and when to stay back on a ball. The situations that we have been working on throughout Spring Training and throughout the season. I wanted Alex to be out here to kind of give him some of that insight that, as a coach, I probably can’t give that view.”
Said Rodriguez: “The abilities are off the charts. I said that in spring training. We saw that in Spring Training. He’s got the things you can’t teach; incredible range, great arm strength. People forget, he’s only been playing shortstop for eight years. The more he comes out, the more he gets experience, the better he’s going to be.”
Obviously Gregorius and Rodriguez are off to basically opposite starts. Rodriguez has been a surprise in the best ways; Gregorius has been a disappointment in almost every facet. But Rodriguez was quick to remind everyone that it’s been only three weeks.
“It’s a process,” Rodriguez said. “Didi is going to be a fine shortstop here for a long time. I told him, sometime around June 15 or June 1st, he’s going to look at all of us and say, ‘I feel much more comfortable.’ It just takes a little bit.”
• Originally, Girardi said he expected to play Rodriguez all six games this home stand. Girardi said that plan changed last night when he decided to have Rodriguez play third base to give Chase Headley a day off. After a day in the field — and with a night game tomorrow — Girardi decided to give Rodriguez tonight off. No injury. He’s available if the Yankees need him.
• Does the decision to option Gregorio Petit indicate Jose Pirela is close to being ready to join the big league team? “It could,” Girardi said. That’s about as close to confirmation as we’re going to get. Seems pretty clear the Yankees are planning to activate Pirela to take Chase Whitley’s roster spot and replace Petit tomorrow.
• For the time being, the Yankees are taking a calculated risk by playing a game without a backup middle infielder. “I feel like I can put (Headley) at second base if I needed to,” Girardi said. “Realistically, I could put Al there, I’m sure. I think he would say, ‘Yeah, I’ll go out there and try it.’ We’ve been there before the last couple years, so there’s not a situation that I’m too worried about. If it happens, we’ll handle it.”
• Whitley pitched very well this spring and seemed to have a bullpen job locked up, but the Yankees preferred to have him stretched out for a spot start just like this one. “I’m sure he’s very excited,” Girardi said. “It was difficult to send him down because he meant a lot to us last year and pitched well in spring training. He understood why we did what we did. That doesn’t necessarily mean that as a player you want it to happen or you like it, but he went down there with the right attitude.”
• Worth noting that the Yankees preferred to have Whitley make a spot start today rather than last week against Detroit. Not sure this was a factor in the decision, but Whitley gets a much easier lineup this way. “He’s faced a number of teams in the big leagues now and understands how he got those hitters out,” Girardi said.
• The current situation in Baltimore hits home for Mark Teixeira who’s from roughly 30 minutes outside of downtown. His uncle is a priest at a downtown church that’s being protected by the National Guard. “People start attacking churches, it’s a good thing the National Guard’s there, because that’s the bottom of the bottom,” Teixeira said. “… Any time there’s a crisis, people step up. Good people always trump bad.”
• Because of the unrest in Baltimore, tomorrow’s game between the Orioles and White Sox has been moved up to 2:05 p.m. and will be played without fans allowed in the stadium. This weekend’s Orioles series against the Rays has been moved to Tampa Bay. Asked what it would be like to play a baseball game in a totally empty stadium, Teixeira deadpanned: “Did you ever go to a Rangers-Rays game between 2003 and 2005?”
• A quick bit of minor league news: Infield prospect Angel Aguilar has been added to the Charleston roster. I believe he opened the season in extended spring. Not a massive prospect, but good enough that it’s significant to get him into real games at the full-season level.
Associated Press photos
One by one, we’ve counted the Alex Rodriguez home runs. His first homer back from suspension. The one he hit in Baltimore. Two in one game against the Rays. And last night, the one that put him one away from Willie Mays. Every A-Rod home run is big news, and that certainly the next time he goes deep.
All of which has let Mark Teixeira hit his home runs in relative silence, quietly leading the Yankees, one away from the Major League lead.
“There’s been some games that he’s single-handley won for us,” Joe Girardi said. “His average is starting to climb now as it’s started to get a little bit warmer. His run production is so important to us, and I’ve been able to pencil him in there basically every day in the same spot and not move him around.”
Even with the .242 batting average — which was below .200 just a few days ago — Teixeira still ranks fifth in the American League with a 1.044 OPS. He’s drawn enough walks to keep his on-base percentage high (more walks than strikeouts), and he’s hit with such power that his doubles and home runs have made it easy to overlook the fact he has just three singles (and two of those singles came in one game).
While Rodriguez was the Yankees’ obvious wild card coming into spring training, Teixeira was also a bit of an unknown. His numbers have declined ever since that standout Yankees debut back in 2009. His 2013 season was lost to wrist surgery, and last year started fairly strong before falling apart through a series of nagging injuries and what Teixeira has described as a lack of strength and endurance. Having rehabbed the winter before, Teixeira simply wasn’t powerful enough to be an offensive force all last season.
“A winter is somewhat of a rehab of your whole body,” Girardi said. “When you spend it on one area, sometimes you can’t do as much in another area that you want to, and that sometimes hurts players.”
Teixeira is a notoriously slow starter, but he’s been a driving force this April, and he was just named the American League Player of the Week after hitting five home runs in his past seven games. He has eight total, and while they haven’t gotten nearly the attention of the guy hitting ahead of him, it seems little coincidence Teixeira’s power surge has come during a good week for the Yankees as a whole.
“What I’ve noticed is he’s healthy,” Girardi said. “That’s been the biggest change for me, not having to come in to see where he’s at physically every day. I haven’t had to do that, and it’s showed up on the field, the way he’s responded. He’s been the Mark we’ve been used to seeing before he started having nagging injuries and obviously the serious one a couple of years ago.”
• Just a day off for Chase Headley, who Girardi felt could use a day. That leaves third base for Rodriguez. “The last time he played third, he played well,” Girardi said. “In spring training, he played third well. He’s going to catch it and he’s going to throw it. He’s going to make the right decision with the baseball. I know his range is not what it was at 25, but no one’s range is what it was 15 years ago, so that’s the reality of it.”
• Obviously still a lot of talk about Rodriguez and the upcoming 660th home run. While the Yankees front office might not want to declare it a marketable milestone, there’s little arguing it’s a milestone. And Rodriguez’s teammates seem genuinely happy about that. “I think our players are happy for him,” Girardi said. “They’re having fun. Those guys are having fun in there. And Alex is a big part of that.”
• Speaking of those guys, Carlos Beltran is back in the lineup, but he’s hitting sixth and getting a turn at designated hitter. Chris Young has been taking some of his at-bats recently, but Girardi remains committed to giving Beltran time to get going offensively. Right now, he has the lowest OPS on the team at .494. “I think you don’t lose perspective that so many players — personaly, I went through it and I was never close to the hitter Carlos was — there are months that are tough,” Girardi said. “The important thing is that you continue to send him out there and understand that he’s going to turn it around and be a big part of our offense.”
• What does Girardi see from an older player that makes him think he won’t turn it around? “I think you don’t see them hit balls hard,” Girardi said. “We’ve seen Carlos hit some balls hard, so obviously you know it’s still in there.”
• At this point, even Girardi laughs at the fact he hasn’t named a closer. It’s clearly Andrew Miller, but Girardi said he feels no need to make that official. Any real reason to not assign the title? “No, not really,” Girardi said. “Just gives me more flexibility.”
• Speaking of the bullpen, Girardi said he feels the pen is still in pretty good shape even after pitching a lot of inning yesterday.
• Girardi said he’s “95 percent sure” Chase Whitley will start tomorrow. The Yankees deliberately kept Whitley and Bryan Mitchell separated in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre rotation so that one of them would be available basically any time the team needed a spot starter. “We wanted to set it up that way,” Girardi said. “And we made him aware of that (out of spring training).”
Associated Press photos
This afternoon, Masahiro Tanaka will start on normal rest for the first time this season. But in terms of evaluation, that’s not the only factor in play.
“I think you’re going to look at command today,” Joe Girardi said. “I don’t know if you’re going to know if it’s because of the cold or if it’s because it’s on the fifth day. I think that’s going to be hard to predict. We saw command issues yesterday in two guys that really have good command. That’s what I’ll look for.”
Girardi said he’s heard a projected game-time temperature of 43 degrees. I doubt it will be snowing like it was in last night’s first inning, when both David Price and Adam Warren had a hard time. Girardi said there’s no heightened concern about Tanaka’s health in these conditions. The concern is more about simply holding and releasing the baseball.
“I don’t worry so much about his elbow as I worry about his grip on the baseball when it’s this cold,” Girardi said. “I think it can be very slippery on days like today, and I think around game time it’s going to be 43 (degrees), so we’ll just have to see how it goes. … You just try to keep your hands warm and rub up the baseball as much as you can to try to get some heat in the ball. That’s the best idea I have.”
It’s not just the breaking pitches. Girardi said a fastball can also be harder to control in these conditions. It’s just not a great day for baseball, but it’s late April, so there’s a game to be played.
“I have been in games that have been colded out, but it’s been below 30 degrees,” Girardi said. “You’re going to have to go through a few a year. It’s tough conditions, and sometimes you can avoid them some years, and sometimes you can’t. You have to play the games. The only way to avoid it would be not to start the season until May, and we know that’s not going to happen.”
• Little bit strange to see a catcher handle a day game after a night game, but Girardi said he planned coming into this series to have Brian McCann behind the plate this afternoon. “He’s playing extremely well,” Girardi said. “We talked about it, how we were going to do this week, and he feels good so I’m going to run him back out there.”
• No injury concerns with Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira, just giving them a day off in this long stretch. He wasn’t planning to play either one 13 days in a row. “I just felt this was probably the best day to do it,” Girardi said.
• By sitting Rodriguez today, Girardi said he thinks he can play all six games of the upcoming home stand before getting a rest on the next scheduled off day.
• Bench coach Rob Thomson will coach third base again today. Joe Espada’s wife had a baby girl yesterday, so he’s away from the team.
• Brutal news for a nice guy: Joe Nathan needs Tommy John surgery. “He’s been really good, on really good teams,” Girardi said. “The thing you can say about Joe Nathan is that he was really tested, because he was on a ton of playoff teams and had a ton of success. It’s unfortunate what he’s going through and I don’t think any player really wants to go out that way. I’m not sure what he’ll do, being 40 years old, I’m sure there’s a lot of thought that maybe it’s his last pitch. Maybe he’ll try to come back, and god bless him if he does. But Joe Nathan’s a winner, and he’s used to winning, and it’s got to be extremely frustrating.”
• If the Yankees win today, they’ll wrap up a tremendous week on the road against Tampa Bay and Detroit. If they hadn’t blown a game in Baltimore, it would be an awfully success trip regardless of today’s result. “It would be a tremendous road trip to go 7-3 in these three cities that we went to,” Girardi said. “Good baseball teams, so obviously it would be a tremendous road trip.”
Associated Press photos
Just a few days ago, Joe Girardi was talking about not making too much of a few at-bats. He was determined to give his veteran hitters time to right the ship. There would be no significant changes based on strong starts or slow starts.
In the past two days, though, we’ve seen some lineup tweaks involving Carlos Beltran. Last night, Beltran returned from illness to find himself dropped to fifth in the order so that Alex Rodriguez could remain in the No. 3 spot. Today, Beltran is on the bench so that red-hot Chris Young can get another start against a lefty (and so that two left-handed hitting outfielders can stay in the lineup).
Girardi made it clear that Beltran will play again tomorrow, but today he basically had a choice of playing Young ahead of Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner, and he chose to sit the switch-hitter Beltran.
“Just the way Chris has been playing and Gardy and Ells, too,” Girardi said. “Carlos will be back in there tomorrow. Just the way I went with it today.”
Two things at play here: Rodriguez and Young have basically been must-play guys, especially against left-handed pitchers, and Beltran has struggled to a .171/.222/.268 start to the season. Girardi has expressed confidence that Beltran will turn it around — and sitting him today is certainly not an indication that Beltran’s going to be a regular bench player going forward — but at this point, Ellsbury, Gardner and Young have been the Yankees three best outfielders.
Young, in particular, has been a potent source of power, kind of building on his strong September of a year ago.
“It’s been great,” Young said. “I love it here. This team received me well. The clubhouse is amazing. The coaching staff is amazing. I’ve gotten an opportunity here, so I’m really grateful for that.”
Girardi made a point of saying this isn’t a right-field platoon in which Beltran will always sit against lefties, but at this point, Young’s made it awfully hard to keep him out of the lineup.
“I think that’s what he’s done,” Girardi said. “He’s pushed himself into that position, and that’s why I chose to go the way I did today.”
A few quick updates from extended spring training:
• Jose Pirela went 1-for-3 while playing third base in an extended spring game yesterday. He was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat but stayed in the game. He will play seven innings at second base tomorrow.
• Ivan Nova threw two innings, 35 pitches, of live batting practice.
• Chris Capuano will throw two innings in an extended spring game tomorrow.
• Brendan Ryan took ground balls and went through batting practice.
• The Yankees defense was awful when the season started, but lately it’s been a definite strength. “I just think they were too good not to turn around,” Girardi said. “I just think what we saw is not something we ever expected and just kind of got off to a slow start defensively. It was hard to put your finger on it.”
• Meanwhile, the Yankees offense has been extremely home run heavy. They’ve hit a lot of homers, but they don’t have a single player batting .300 and only three everyday guys have an on-base percentage higher than .317. “It is kind of strange,” Girardi said. “We’ve produced a lot of our runs by the home run, and we knew we had power in our lineup. I don’t think it will always be like that. We scored five in Tampa the other day without hitting a home run. I’m not so sure we’ve done that too often this year. That’s the kind of club we are. We have some speed at the top obviously, but you look at 3 through 7, 3 through 8, they have the ability to hit a lot of home runs.”
• The Yankees face another lefty tomorrow (not just any lefty, David Price). Girardi said he expects Didi Gregorius to play that game (presumably with Stephen Drew on the bench), and he expects Beltran back in the lineup with either Gardner or Ellsbury on the bench.
• Chasen Shreve is back, but he’s back against a lineup that has a bunch of right-handed hitters. Essentially, it sounds like he’ll be the long man these next three days, leaving Esmil Rogers available for shorter outings in right-on-right situations. “The one thing about Chasen is he gives you multiple innings more than a Branden (Pinder) does,” Girardi said. “Against a lineup that has a lot of right-handers, it allows you to use Esmil a little bit differently.”
• Talked to Shreve for a little bit this afternoon. He said that the morning after the 19-inning game — when Shreve pitched 3.1 scoreless innings — Andrew Miller actually said something to him about the Yankees definitely needing to call up a fresh reliever for the next game. Shreve said he completely agreed, but it never once occurred to him that he’d be the one sent down. After he was told, Shreve said, he instantly realized that he was the most logical option. Funny, it takes most players a little bit of time before they’re able to put those sort of pieces together. Shreve was smiling about it today. Totally gets why it happened, but he’s obviously happy to be back.
• Girardi on last night’s anti-media rant by Reds manager Bryan Price: “We live in a day that strategy is very important to us, and people (in the media) are so good at what they do now that it’s hard to keep something like (not having a player) under wraps. For me, I try to understand that. And I understand that the media business is very competitive, but we don’t like to give out our strategy. That’s part of it. I’m sure if he had a chance to do it over again, he might have did it a little different. Sometimes we get upset and we say things that we wish we had said a little bit differently.”
Associated Press photos
Two days ago, Joe Girardi said that if Carlos Beltran had been healthy enough to play, he would have been hitting third. Today, Beltran is healthy enough to play, and he’s hitting fifth. Alex Rodriguez, for the third game in a row, is the Yankees No. 3 hitter.
“I think it was hard to ignore what Alex was doing,” Girardi said. “… It’s just watching his at-bats, as you continue to watch his at-bats. He’s taking his walks, and he’s being patient. He’s doing just a lot of things right, and that’s why I moved him up.”
Until now, any time Beltran’s been in the lineup, the Yankees have stuck with him as their third hitter. But he’s hit .184/.238/.289 for the third-lowest OPS on the team behind Didi Gregorius and Gregorio Petit. Rodriguez, meanwhile, is hitting .316/.447/.711 and leading the Yankees in nearly every key offensive category.
“If he was 25 it’d be impressive what he’s done,” Girardi said. “When you look at the home runs, the RBI, the average. At any age, that’s impressive. But when you start looking at a guy who’s 39 and a half and had two hips surgeries, and who missed a couple years, basically — it’s not easy.”
Rodriguez has made it look easy. Beltran has not. At 37 years old, coming off an injury, a down season and an offseason surgery, Beltran struggled through spring training and got off to a bad start this season. He had a hit in three straight games — with two of those hits being doubles — but then he got sick in Tampa Bay and sat out the past two games.
“Just (a matter of) getting comfortable at the beginning of a season, I think,” Girardi said. “You see a lot of really good hitters start off slow. You just kind of ride through it. You know eventually it’s going to change and they’re going to get back to where they’re supposed to. It’s unfortunate he got sick. I thought he was swinging the bat better.”
• The Yankees will stay on rotation this week, meaning Masahiro Tanaka will make his next start in Thursday’s series finale against the Tigers. It will be the first time this year Tanaka’s made a start on four days rest. He got an extra day for each of his past three starts, but he threw just 85 pitches last time out. “He’s going to have to pitch on his normal rest eventually,” Girardi said. “So we just felt that because of the amount of pitches that he threw and how he looked, it’s probably a good thing to do.”
• Tanaka threw so few pitches on Saturday mostly because of a long half inning on the bench, during which he had to throw a little extra just to stay warm. Girardi said he didn’t intentionally pull Tanaka early to set up this next start, it just worked in in such a way that this made sense as a good time to give Tanaka his first every-fifth-day start.
• As you probably expect, Girardi said it’s still possible — and, I’d guess, likely — that the Yankees will use a sixth start the next turn through the rotation so that Tanaka’s fifth start is back on five-days rest.
• The Yankees won’t have to face Shane Greene this week, which is good news for them considering he’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball since the Yankees traded him away this offseason. “I felt like I got dumped,” Greene said. “I looked at myself in the mirror, put a chip on my shoulder and went from there.”
• Greene’s made just three starts, but he’s also 3-0 with a league-high 23 innings pitched and a 0.39 ERA. The Yankees let him go to acquire Didi Gregorius, who’s disappointed so far. “Any time you let a young starting pitcher go, I think it’s difficult,” Girardi said. “But to get an everyday shortstop, those don’t just fall out of trees. To get something, you have to give up something.”
• Despite underwhelming numbers, the Yankees have been happy with the way CC Sabathia has pitched this season. “The amount of ground balls that he’s getting, the amount of strikeouts that he’s getting,” Girardi said. “They have not centered him up a whole lot during the course of his first two starts. I think it’s really important against a lineup like this because they have the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
Associated Press photos
First Sunday day game of the year, and I’d kind of forgotten what the clubhouse is like on days like this. Quiet. Not many guys hanging around. Lineup posted late. Not a whole lot to talk about. It was only a few hours ago that we were last year, so not much has changed since last night.
The important thing is whether the Yankees situation will change by the time they board tonight’s flight to Detroit.
After Friday’s comeback and Saturday’s blowout, the Yankees have a chance to sweep this series. They already have their first series win of the season, and with a win today they would improve to .500 for the first time since the third game of the season.
“Within our division, I think it’s really important, and to try to get on a roll here,” Joe Girardi said. “We have a lot of games in the next 30 days. That’s important as well. To get back to .500 would be good.”
The Yankees have Michael Pineda and his surprisingly high 5.11 ERA heading to the mound. If he could follow Masahiro Tanaka’s lead and finally deliver his first gem of the season, that would be helpful. It would also be helpful if the Yankees offense could continue some of the promising signs it’s shown these past few days.
“It’s been really good,” Girardi said. “Even the last week, I think we’ve swung the bats better. We put a tough inning on Odorizzi in the sixth inning and finally broke through there and exploded in the seventh (last night). It was nice to see.”
• The Yankees still have not decided when Masahiro Tanaka will make his next start. There’s a chance he’ll pitch Thursday on four days rest, and there’s a chance the Yankees will insert a sixth starter sometime next week to keep Tanaka — and everyone else — on an every-six-days schedule. The Yankees don’t want to make a decision right away because there’s a solid chance they’ll be rained out tomorrow.
• Carlos Beltran is still sick. “He feels weak,” Girardi said. “I’m really hoping I get him back tomorrow.”
• Girardi said that, if Beltran were playing, he could have considered leaving Alex Rodriguez on the bench for a day game after a night game, but as it is, the Yankees feel good about putting A-Rod back in the No. 3 hole. “His at-bats are good,” Girardi said. “So there’s nothing that tells me he’s physically tired. If I see something, I’ll make an adjustment.”
• There’s a chance Rodriguez will play the field one of these upcoming four games in Detroit, but Girardi said he doesn’t have a game picked out or anything. It might happen. Might not.
• This is Pineda’s third start of the season. He’s trying to get back to the form he showed in spring training when he was the Yankees’ best pitcher. “We all feel good when Michael is on the mound,” Girardi said. “He works quickly, he gets quick outs, he has pitched extremely well. He’s got outstanding stuff and hopefully he gets deep into the game today.”
• Anything else, Joe? “I have no earth-shattering news,” he said
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi made this much clear: If Carlos Beltran were in the lineup today, he would be hitting third, not Alex Rodriguez. It’s really not much different from the fourth game of the season when Beltran got his first day off and, after just three games, Rodriguez was the choice for the No. 3 spot.
“I’m not afraid to move Alex up,” Girardi said.
Of course, at this point such a move seems to carry more weight because Rodriguez has been by far the Yankees best and most productive hitter. He hit seventh on Opening Day, but he’s been that low in the order only once since then. He’s hit 2 through 5 as many times as he’s hit sixth or seventh.
More important than where he hits seems to be how often he’s played. Rodriguez has only been out of the lineup once this season, and even then he was used as a pinch hitter. He’s one of four Yankees who have played every game.
“I think I’ve been good at times, and sometimes I’ve been poor at recognizing pitches,” Rodriguez said. “Once I get past the 100 at-bat mark, I’m going to have a much better feel. But I’m just trying to grind and get better every day. … Let’s see if you can do this for six months. Anyone can do it for 10 games.”
Girardi said he never tries to ride a hot hand when setting his lineup. He looks for something more substantial than a hot streak. But with Rodriguez, there is something more substantial. Now that he’s been hitting like this for a 10 games, it’s easy to remember that he used to be one of the great hitters in baseball history.
“There’s a sense that he’s going to be productive all year, absolutely,” Girardi said.
How long it takes for that to lock him into a spot in the heart of the order remains anyone’s guess, but moving up to this spot in the lineup is nothing new. Girardi literally did it in the fourth game of the season. Now it’s a matter of finding out when he might stick in one of those spots.
“That’s always something that’s good to have is Joe’s trust,” Rodriguez said. “That’s something that I’m always working for. We have a lot of history here. Wherever he puts me, I’m ready to go.”
• Beltran is sick. He has a cold/congestion thing that’s been going around the Yankees clubhouse. Apparently it wasn’t great yesterday, and it’s even worse today. “I don’t know (if he’ll play tomorrow),” Girardi said. “I don’t know how he’ll respond. This cold these guys have had, I think Tony Pena has probably had it the worst. It’s lasted a few days, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
• Rays starter Jake Odorizzi is a right-handed pitcher, but he has reverse splits so the Yankees tried to load up on right-handed hitters. That’s why Chris Young and Gregorio Petit are in the lineup.
• Still a good chance the Yankees will use a spot starter either this turn through the rotation or next turn through the rotation. Chase Whitley started in Triple-A yesterday, which would seem to leave him pretty well lined up for a spot start in Detroit that would keep all of the big league starter on an every-sixth-day routine. That said, it’s also supposed to rain in Detroit. Girardi said he’ll wait to see whether games are rained out before deciding for sure about when and where to use a spot starter.
• Chris Capuano is scheduled for a 45-pitch live batting practice session tomorrow. Girardi said the plan is to have Capuano stretched out as a starter during his rehab from that spring training quad injury.
• Stephen Drew said he had no idea he and his brother J.D. had become just the eighth set of siblings to each have 100 home runs in the big leagues. “That’s pretty neat,” Drew said. “I haven’t really looked into the stats much, like all the history stats unless it comes up like the big ones. Other than that, just it’s pretty special just to get that and have that is pretty unique. Playing this game, you never know if you’ll get even 50, so getting 100 is an accomplishment in itself.”
• Yankees announced today that LHP Matt Tracy was claimed off waivers by the Marlins. Also, RHP Joel De La Cruz was outrighted off the Major League roster and onto the roster of Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
• Rodriguez found it hilarious today that people on Twitter have been asking about the white stuff on his batting helmet. He through the writers were kidding him when it was brought up, then he couldn’t stop laughing at the idea that anyone would notice (it’s hard to miss, actually) or care about the state of his helmet. “It’s just rosin,” Rodriguez said, laughing. “Good stuff. The rosin bag. You actually get that on Twitter? I thought you were kidding. I can’t imagine.”
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Maybe the situation will be different in a week, but right now, Alex Rodriguez is the Yankees best player.
It’s not even close, really. Andrew Miller and Chris Young have been excellent in their roles, Jacoby Ellsbury has done a nice job getting on base, and Mark Teixeira’s hit for some power. But 10 games into the season, this is A-Rod’s team.
“Obviously you don’t want to rely on one guy,” Joe Girardi said. “You want to rely on 13 guys and everyone to help out. Sometimes it takes guys a while to get going, but he’s been really, really good.”
He’s been so good that, despite yesterday’s pregame insistence that Girardi won’t make too much of these small-sample-size results, and that he likes having Rodriguez lengthen the lineup by hitting in the bottom half of the order, it’s hard not to wonder if we might see Rodriguez moved into regular appearances in the middle of the lineup.
It’s nice to have a right-handed bat to break up some lefties, but it’s also nice to have the team’s leading hitter getting more at-bats and more RBI opportunities.
“I don’t hesitate to believe that he’s going to continue to do it,” Girardi said pregame. “But you try to strategically do it where you can separate left-handers and that sort of thing as much as you can. I’ve hit him second, I’ve hit him third; I just stuck with the lineup the way it was (Wednesday) and we’ll go from there.”
Actually, Rodriguez has hit in every spot except first, eighth and ninth. He’s been kept out of the starting lineup only once, and even then he got a pinch hit at-bat.
Ten games into the season, the difficult thing isn’t keeping Rodriguez in the lineup. It’s picking the right times to keep him out of it.
“I’ll try to pick my spots for him,” Girardi said. “I know I have to. He’s pretty good about communicating with me too, about when his legs are heavy, and he needs to continue to do that. … I didn’t know what exactly we were going to get or how much we could play him when we got him back. As I’ve said all along about Alex, one thing he does is he works and he’s very mechanically sound, and it’s paying off.”
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Alex Rodriguez hit the first home run so far, and he hit the second one so hard, that this was already his best night of the year even before the at-bat that actually won the game. To cap the night, Rodriguez put together a seven-pitch at-bat against Kevin Jepsen, a pitcher against whom he was 0-for-8 in his career. He gave Brett Gardner time to steal, fouled off a 3-2 pitch, then lifted a low curveball into center field.
His teammates were 2-for-26. Rodriguez was 3-for-4 with four RBI.
“Without Alex, we’re going to lose that ballgame,” Joe Girardi said.
Maybe that much went without saying, but it was worth saying anyway because 10 games into the season, the Yankees are being kept afloat by a guy who came into spring training with absolutely no one certain he could still play this game at a respectable level. Even Rodriguez is surprised it’s gone this well.
When Rodriguez homered in Baltimore earlier this week, he said it was the best he’d hit a ball in well over a year. Imagine, then, how good it felt to hit a ball 471 feet in the second inning (or 477 feet if you’re going by ESPN’s estimates). Whatever the number, the ball was crushed. And he followed that home run with a game-tying two-run shot that left the yard in in a hurry in the sixth. Another hard-hit ball, this one a line drive to left.
“It’s pretty impressive, you know, to take all the time off that he’s taken off,” Brett Gardner said. “He’s no spring chicken anymore, either. But the bat speed, his bat’s really, really quick through the zone. He’s taking good swings. It’s a lot of fun to see. … He’s not somebody I’d ever count out. I see how hard he works and how much he loves playing the game, and how good of a job he’s always done in preparing himself for the game. Being able to focus on hitting and not playing defense that often, he can go out there and use all the energy he’s got for those four or five at-bats. So far, he’s looked great and hopefully he can keep it up.”
I guess the takeaway from tonight’s game is … well, it’s everything about Rodriguez at the plate. The raw power. The ability to work an at-bat. The eye for balls and strikes. The steady production.
Tonight, the bullpen was really good, and Stephen Drew hit a home run, and Carlos Beltran got a much-needed hit, and Gardner stole his way into scoring position. But without Rodriguez, the Yankees would have lost this game, and there’s absolutely no doubt about that.
“More than anything, I’m just feeling very grateful to be back playing baseball,” Rodriguez said. “I’m very grateful to Hank and Hal for giving me the opportunity to put the uniform on again. It’s something I don’t take for granted, and it’s much appreciated. It just feels good to be playing baseball. I’m having fun out there.”
• Another save opportunity, and another great outing by Andrew Miller. The Yankees have done four games, and Miller’s saved three of them. He got the final out of the eighth inning, then allowed a soft hit to open the ninth before striking out the final three batters of the game. “Andrew’s done the job, that’s for sure,” Girardi said.
• Miller on his obvious but still undefined role: “This is what I signed up for. That’s what I told them all along. They asked me if I needed to be told I had a certain role or anything like that, and I told them no, and that was the truth. I’ve been telling you guys that all along and that’s really what it is. I think for me, I’m fortunate. I’ve got a nice contract that’s going to take care of me for a while. However they see fit to use me, they can go for it. I’ll do whatever they ask and give them everything I’ve got.”
• In a setup role, Dellin Betances also looked pretty good tonight. Certainly better than he’s looked most nights. he allowed one hit but also got a strikeout and walked no one. “I think he’s making progress each time he goes out,” Girardi said.
• Not such a good night for Adam Warren, who was actually doing pretty well before a crushing sequence of three hitters. After an infield single, Warren allowed a walk, a three-run homer and a solo homer. “I think the Jennings walk was big there,” Warren said. “Because you fall behind 2-0 to the next guy, feel like you have to throw a strike, (he) puts it over the wall, and things just kind of got away from me there. As a starter, you want to limit the big inning. I threw a lot of pitches, and that kind of hurt us. We had to go to the bullpen early, which you don’t want to do.”
• The biggest mistakes were with fastballs. Girardi said he thought Warren pitched alright without his good curveball or slider earlier in the game, but things unraveled quickly. The Yankees wound up using Esmil Rogers for 2.1 innings of hitless long relief. Rogers has been good in that role. “The bullpen was outstanding,” Girardi said. “After having a tough night the other night, they come back and give us five scoreless innings and do a really good job. As I said, they’re not going to be perfect, but they’re pretty good.”
• Third home run in less than a week for Stephen Drew. That’s the same number of home runs he hit in two months with the Yankees last season. Tonight’s homer was No. 100 in his career. “He’s swung the bat I think a little bit better than his numbers indicate,” Girardi said. “We saw it come around the last couple of weeks of spring training, and we need that to continue because he’s a guy that can hit the ball out of the ballpark and hit some doubles and drive in some runs, and it was good to see.”
• Although Girardi wouldn’t commit to putting him in the lineup tomorrow, Girardi did say Gardner probably would have stayed in the game to hit had the game gone into extra innings. He came through three rounds of batting practice alright before today’s game. “I was prepared if my spot came up in the ninth to get a normal at-bat and get up there and swing the bat,” Gardner said.
• No surprise, but Girardi said he went Gardner in to pinch run with hopes of getting a stolen base in that spot. It finally happened on the 12th pitch after Gardner entered the game. “I wish I could have got there a little earlier, but Alex did his job,” Gardner said.
• One underrated play: Jacoby Ellsbury’s catch to end the eighth inning. “At first, my instinct was that that ball is in the gap and I’m going to have to pitch with a runner on base,” Miller said. “I got really excited. It didn’t look like he had too good of a jump on it, but Ells is a great defender. It’s no surprise. You welcome a guy like that behind me.”
• Girardi said he plans to have Rodriguez back at DH tomorrow. He would prefer not to play him in the field when the Yankees are on turf.
• Final word goes to Miller: “Everyone is going to remember those (Rodriguez) homers, and they were both incredibly well-struck, but that at-bat to give us the go-ahead run was incredible. He fought pitches off and stayed on a breaking ball. We shouldn’t be surprised that Alex knows how to hit. He’s a professional hitter, and he’s really good at that. We’re just glad he’s healthy and he’s on our side because right now he’s been a big part of our offense.”
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