More from Yankees workout • 10.05.12
Brian Heyman here at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are done with their workout under the lights. As Chad relayed earlier, Joe Girardi wasn’t saying much about the postseason roster or rotation outside of confirming CC Sabathia gets the ball in Game 1 Sunday night. Shocking news, I know.
At least, some faith in Sabathia should be restored after he closed the regular season with three straight strong starts, all with two runs or less allowed, all eight innings.
“The last three starts, it was vintage CC,” Girardi said.
Girardi is also high on the fact that the Yankees have been in playoff mode for a while, trying to nail down the division.
“They’ve had that mentality of playoff baseball for the last month, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said.
Girardi found this whole situation weird, though, being the No. 1 seed and then having to travel Saturday.
“It’s just strange going on the road for the first two games and you’ve got the best record in the American League,” Girardi said. “But it is what it is this year, and you’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
Mark Teixeira took some simulated game at-bats against David Aardsma and Adam Warren. Teixeira went 1 for 12 in his three-game return after the calf strain. He admits he’s still not 100 percent, and he’s still trying to get his timing back.
“It’s one of the challenges that I face,” Teixeira said. “I’ve always been knocked for having slow Aprils. There was a reason. It does take a while to get your timing back as a switch-hitting power-hitter. There are not many of them out there. But once I do, it does feel pretty good. So I’m just hoping to get hot. You want to be hot going into the playoffs.”
His fight to find his swing again and poor postseason history will be the subject of my main Yankees story Saturday on LoHud.com and in The Journal News. I’ll link it here on our morning post and on Twitter @bheyman99.
Girardi said he hasn’t talked to A-Rod about no longer being the dominant force in the lineup “because I still think he can be that guy. That’s the belief I have in him, and I think he still has that belief. … I feel good when he’s up at the plate.”
The first-round roster has to be in by Sunday morning at 10. Girardi said he hadn’t talked to everyone yet, presumably the ones who aren’t making it. Girardi wasn’t guaranteeing any announcements Saturday, either. Andruw Jones, of course, has been one of those listed as questionable to make it after his dreadful second half.
“I don’t really want to get too much into our roster, but we’ve all seen Andruw change the complexion of a game in one at-bat,” Girardi said. “That’s the one thing we know he’s capable of doing. But we’re not going to announce our roster until we really have to.”
Ibanez and the lessons from the past • 03.19.12
It wasn’t meant to be a hard-hitting question, but it certainly put things in perspective. After another hitless game last night, Raul Ibanez was asked when he’d ever been surrounded by so many reporters after a spring training game.
“First time,” he said, smiling. “First time ever, so congratulations to me.”
In several corners of the Yankees fan base, Ibanez was not a very popular signing in the first place. He was essentially replacing Jesus Montero — who was supposed to replace Jorge Posada — and he was chosen ahead of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, popular former Yankees who also fit the left-handed DH mold. Ibanez’s overall numbers weren’t very good last year, and although his splits vs. right-handers were better than any of the alternatives, those numbers weren’t overwhelming either. He’s 39 years old, and although he’s cheap and proven with a tremendous clubhouse reputation, he’s just not the kind of addition that sparks a ton of excitement. And his slow start certainly isn’t helping.
Ibanez is clearly not happy with his numbers, but he’s not moping through the clubhouse either. He’s learned to focus on something other than spring training results. Truth be told, so have the Yankees.
Two years ago, the Yankees signed Thames to be a platoon designated hitter and occasional corner outfielder. He’d never hit higher than .256 in any big league season, but he also had a career .496 slugging percentage against lefties. The Yankees thought they could maximize his impact with specific at-bats.
Spring training: Thames was on a minor league deal, and made the team despite hitting just .135 in spring training. He struck out 21 times and didn’t homer until the final week.
Regular season: Wound up playing more than the Yankees expected and hitting better than they could have hoped. Thames even produced against right-handers finishing with a career-high .288 average and 12 home runs.
Far removed from his superstar days in Atlanta, Jones hit .204/.312/.411 in the three seasons before he signed with the Yankees to be a platoon DH and corner outfielder. The Yankees liked him because he’d slugged .558 against lefties in 2010.
Spring training: In his first stint with the Yankees, Jones hit just .182/.265/.318 in spring training. He had one home run and 10 RBI, and that opened the gate to a slow start once the season began.
Regular season: By the end of the season, Jones had been everything the Yankees hoped. He got most of his at-bats against lefties and hit .286/.384/.540 against them. Turns out he was playing on a sore knee, and after getting that repaired this offseason, the Yankees re-signed Jones to play the same role this season.
With Jesus Montero traded and Jones signed to hit against lefties, the Yankees went looking for a one-year player who could hit right-handers. They settled on Ibanez ahead of familiar left-handed hitters Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, making their choice based on Ibanez’s .440 slugging percentage against righties last season, as well as his ability to play the corners occasionally.
Spring training: It’s been an ugly first impression for Ibanez who’s working with slightly adjusted mechanics and hasn’t been able to consistently hit the ball with any kind of authority. A deep fly ball to left field was one of a handful of hard-hit balls for Ibanez this spring.
Regular season: To be determined…
None of this is definitive. Just because Thames and Jones bounced back from rough spring trainings doesn’t mean Ibanez is going to do the same, but Thames and Jones were in similar situations. They were easy to write off in the spring only to produce in the regular season. At this point, I don’t think anyone can say whether Ibanez will actually hit come April and May, but I’m not sure an ugly spring training is proof that he won’t.
I’m sure patience is hard to have this time of year, but Ibanez isn’t going anywhere. He’s going to be given a chance to hit in the regular season. The Yankees just have to hope his timing issues sort themselves out, and he shows the kind of power the team is expecting against righties.
“I think his attitude has been really good, and he’s went about his work the right way,” Joe Girardi said. “I don’t care who you are, it’s not easy to struggle. We don’t wake up saying, I hope I struggle today. We don’t do it. I’ll probably have some conversation with him if it continues just to tell him to relax and do your thing, just be who you are.”
Associated Press photo
Pregame notes: “It’s just too early” • 03.03.12
Joe Girardi said this week that Ivan Nova is not guaranteed a rotation spot. So can he start earning his spot today in Clearwater?
“It’s just too early,” Girardi said. “I want to see Nova go out and throw strikes.”
Girardi said he told the pitchers early this spring that their first few outings are strictly preparation. He told them to get ready, stay healthy and prove themselves in the last few weeks of the spring schedule. Nova has two innings today, and it’s more about getting his work in than making an impression.
• Raul Ibanez has his second straight start at DH, and oddly enough, each start has come against a left-handed starter (the Phillies are starting Cole Hamels today). Girardi said he doesn’t get “caught up” in lefty-righty matchups this early in spring training. Even though Ibanez was signed to hit against right-handers, Girardi just wants him to get some at-bats right now.
• Andruw Jones, who isn’t making today’s trip and didn’t get an at-bat yesterday, will start in the outfield tomorrow. Of course, that’s going to be against a right-handed starter.
• Phil Hughes just finished throwing live batting practice — or a sim game, whatever you want to call it — and now Adam Miller is doing the same. Colin Curtis and Francisco Cervelli are the hitters. Larry Rothschild and Triple-A pitching coach Scott Aldred are watching.
• CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda are throwing sides today in Tampa.
• The position players not making the trip will stay behind to go through regular drills. There’s a specific note that Jones and Curtis will get some work in left field. The hitting groups in Tampa:
Group 1: Robinson Cano, Francisco Cervelli, Derek Jeter, Andruw Jones
Group 2: Colin Curtis, Gustavo Molina, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira
• Tomorrow, Adam Warren, Graham Stoneburner and Brett Marshall are each throwing bullpens. Hiroki Kuroda will throw a sim game to Brandon Laird and Zoilo Almonte.
• Today’s available pitchers: Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Michael O’Connor, Chase Whitley, D.J. Mitchell, Juan Cedeno and Clay Rapada. Only the first six are actually expected to pitch.
• Today’s second string: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Jorge Vazquez, 2B Corban Joseph, SS Ramiro Pena, 3B Brandon Laird, LF Chris Dickerson, CF Dewayne Wise, RF Cole Garner, DH Justin Maxwell
UPDATE, 10:52 a.m.: The Phillies are going with Jimmy Rollins plus some outfield regulars.
Jimmy Rollins SS
Shane Victorino CF
Hunter Pence RF
Jim Thome DH
Ty Wigginton 3B
John Mayberry Jr. 1B
Domonic Brown LF
Erik Kratz C
Michael Martinez 2B
Eight men out • 11.03.11
Last winter, when Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter became free agents, there never any real doubt they’d end up back with the Yankees. This winter, there’s no guarantee that any of the Yankees free agents will be back. Several would be logical fits, but none is a slam dunk for the Yankees to re-sign.
Today is the first day free agents are allowed to negotiate with every team — not just their previous team — meaning it’s suddenly open season for these eight Yankees.
Signed as a minor league free agent late last winter, Ayala landed the last spot on the big league roster out of spring training, then stuck with the team all season. He was surprisingly effective, and for a short time — when Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain were hurt — he settled in as a key late-inning reliever. He may have pitched well enough to earn a big league deal, but should the Yankees be the team to give it to him? Most of their bullpen spots are accounted for as it is.
From superstar in Oakland to role player in New York, Chavez is still deciding whether he wants to keep playing. Injuries have taken their toll, and if he’s going to play again, it’s almost certainly going to be in a situation similar to this season. The Yankees have a place for a player like Chavez. Whether that player is Chavez himself may depend on whether Chavez decides to play again.
Maybe the biggest surprise of the season, Colon clearly faded in the second half, and that may be cause for enough concern that the Yankees won’t want to bring him back. It would be impossible to count on Colon to be effective through an entire season, but keeping him in a relief role might keep him fresh and effective. Certainly Colon opened some eyes, but what kind of deal would it take to bring him back, and has all of the lightning escaped the bottle?
The Yankees No. 5 starter out of spring training was their No. 3 starter in the playoffs. Garcia is what he is — he doesn’t throw hard and gets by on guts and savvy — but he’s proven he can be effective in this form. The Yankees have a large batch of young starters climbing through the system, and Garcia might be a perfect short-term commitment for back-of-the-rotation depth. He’s not the only fit, but he could be a good fit.
After a slow first half, Jones was exactly what the Yankees hoped for in the second half, and they’re once again going to have a spot for a right-handed outfielder who can be a platoon starter in the corners. Jones is in the same boat as Garcia and Chavez: He’s the type of player the Yankees will want for next season, but he’s not the only one who could fill that role.
At this point, I’m not sure anyone knows what Marte could provide. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since July of 2010, and he’s coming back from shoulder surgery that limited him to just a few minor league innings this year. The Yankees could use another left-handed reliever, and there’s a chance Marte would accept a minor league deal to prove himself in spring training. If not, it’s hard to see him coming back to the Yankees.
The Yankees didn’t have room for Mitre last spring, and they shipped him to Milwaukee for Chris Dickerson. When he came back to the Yankees mid-season — this year’s version of Chad Gaudin — Mitre lasted all of four outings before he was on the disabled list and lost for the season. Obviously the Yankees like Mitre, but his time might have come and gone with plenty of in-house options to fill a long-relief/spot-starter role.
Nothing new to be said. Even before his career-worst season, it was unclear whether the Yankees would have a place for Posada next season. They clearly no longer view Posada as a catcher, and they have need to give DH at-bats to Alex Rodriguez — not to mention Jesus Montero — and if Posada’s no longer a catcher, he’s limited to DH and a few backup appearances in the field. It’s not a comfortable situation for either side, but Posada’s time with the Yankees might have ended.
I’m leaving for the airport in four hours, so I’m going to try to make this quick.
After 14 innings that left the Yankees oh-so-close to a doubleheader sweep, the biggest postgame news involved a player who had nothing to do with either of today’s games.
Joe Girardi announced that Phil Hughes will be moved immediately to the bullpen, and the plan is to leave him there into the postseason.
That’s what we’re going to load at during the playoffs,” Girardi said. “That’s how we’re going to look at him.”
Hughes was informed of the decision in between today’s games. He admitted being disappointed, but also recognized that, because he hasn’t pitched since September 12, the Yankees couldn’t be completely confident that he could be counted on as a starter.
“I did it to myself,” he said. “I had the back issue coming off a good start in Seattle, so therefore I didn’t have an opportunity to pitch. They had to make a decision… I’ve done it before. Just go down there and look to help out any way I can.”
Here’s Hughes talking very briefly about the move to the pen.
• One of the looming questions throughout tonight’s game was why veterans Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Andruw Jones were never given a chance to pinch hit in key situations. “To me it’s not the right thing to do,” Girardi said. “Their bodies were shutdown since 4 o’clock.” Girardi said he was worried someone might pull something trying to get ready in a hurry, and it wasn’t worth the risk.
• The Yankees rotation against Tampa Bay:
Monday: Hector Noesi
Tuesday: Bartolo Colon
• Girardi when asked who he’s considering to start Wednesday: “It might be a bullpen day.”
• Girardi was ejected for arguing with first-base umpire Tim McClelland in the 13th inning. McClelland had clearly blown a call at first base, and Nick Swisher — playing first at the time — had gotten into a short argument. “I thought he went at Swish, and I didn’t think that was right,” Girardi said.
• Francisco Cervelli had another concussion test today and was cleared to travel with the team to Tampa. Girardi said he might catch a bullpen this week.
• Austin Romine was hit in the head by a back swing, but he said he’s fine. “I got smacked around a couple of time,” he said. “My head’s fine. I’ve been hit before.”
• Romine on his tag at the plate when Pedroia tried to fly over him: “I’ve never seen anybody try to jump over me before.”
• Girardi on Ivan Nova: “I was pleased with the way he threw the ball tonight.” He really didn’t get into much more detail than that. Neither did Nova, to tell the truth.
• The Yankees fell to 4-11 in extra-inning games this season.
• Forgot to mention after the first game that Brandon Laird was getting a lot of credit for his work at first base in Game 1. “He saved me a couple runs, for sure,” A.J. Burnett said.
• First time through the order against John Lackey, the Yankees went 4-for-7 with two doubles a walk and a strikeout. The went 1-for-13 with two walks and three strikeouts against Lackey the rest of the game. They had just two hits over their final 45 batters.
• At five hours and 11 minutes, this was the Yankees longest game since September 10, 2010 against Texas.
Associated Press photos
Just a few days ago, the mounting injuries in the Yankees clubhouse seemed to be a minor issue. A handful of guys were banged up, but none of the issues seemed serious. If anything, most guys seemed to be getting better.
Today, the feeling was different. Alex Rodriguez’s thumb injury just won’t go away. Nick Swisher isn’t sure how long he’ll be out. Francisco Cervelli was a late scratch (again). Boone Logan is still not available.
“I’m trying to win, just like I was last year,” Joe Girardi said. “If they can play, and be productive, I’m going to play them. If we feel like they’ll play and not be productive, we might as well let them get healthy so they can be productive. That’s what I have to measure.”
One-by-one, these are the issues the Yankees are dealing with.
This is the same thumb injury that’s bothered him ever since he made the awkward backhanded play in Minneapolis three weeks ago. The Yankees have tried to manage it with occasional days off, but it hasn’t quite gone away, and Rodriguez told Girardi after last night’s game that it was still bothering him.
“I feel like there’s a big difference between being hurt and playing through bumps and bruises,” Rodriguez said. “I can certainly play through bumps and bruises. Even with bumps and bruises, I can do serious damage. But the way I am right now, I don’t think it’s possible.”
Since coming off the disabled list — he injured the thumb the first day back — Rodriguez has hit just .194/.370/.389 with three extra-base hits in 10 games. He went for an additional MRI in New York last week, but Rodriguez thinks it’s actually been getting better, it’s just not fully healed yet.
“We’re trying to get him going, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “If you keep taking these breaks, it’s hard to get going, and that’s the frustrating part.”
The test results could have been much worse. Swisher’s MRI revealed no structural damage, but it did show what Swisher described as “a lot of inflammation.” Girardi called it tendonitis, but the bottom line is this: Swisher is day-to-day, but he doesn’t seem to have a long-term issue.
“It’s a bummer because, right now, you want to be in there every day,” Swisher said. “Everyone is tired, everyone is going through their aches and pains, but you definitely want to try and be out there. Right now, we have relax a little bit. We just need to chill for a couple days.”
Swisher doesn’t seem to have a timetable. He’s going to do treatment today, and what he does tomorrow will depend on how he feels. Girardi expects this to be a smaller issue that Rodriguez’s thumb.
“I think Alex’s thumb might be more of a continual problem,” Girardi said. “Swish is probably just a few days rest of some medicine, some treatment. He should be ok. Tendonitis usually clears up. But Alex, we’ll just have to wait.”
After being run over by Nick Markakis on Thursday, Cervelli has been in the Yankees lineup two days in a row, only to be scratched each time. Girardi said Cervelli has some concussion symptoms, and he was sent for an ImPACT test tonight.
There’s no injury here, but the Yankees are cautious because Jones’ has a history of knee problems, and they don’t want to push him too hard when he’s not used to playing every day. Jones has missed only one day so far this month, so Girardi wanted to give him a day off. That’s why he’s not in right field tonight.
Girardi plans to stay away from Logan again tonight. He’ll also stay away from Luis Ayala, and he has to check with Cory Wade, but Rafael Soriano is available again. Logan hasn’t had more than one day off since August 27, and in that span he’s thrown three days in a row once, and three out of four twice. His velocity has dipped lately, and the Yankees think fatigue and dead arm might be the cause.
Eduardo Nunez was pretty funny when he saw the lineup posted this afternoon. His reaction was a single word that can’t be printed in this space, and he was laughing about it when reporters asked about his first career start in right field.
“I knew if they needed me, I could play outfield, but I didn’t know I was starting today,” he said. “They didn’t tell me… It’s fun. It’s a new experience. I’ll do the best I can.”
Nunez has played right field only once in his life. It was earlier this season in Baltimore, and he caught the only ball hit to him. He played some left field in spring training, and he’s played both corners during batting practice.
“The way he’s swung the bat (was a factor),” Girardi said. “And I liked his at-bats against Haren the last time we played. And it might be something we have to do… Sometimes you have to look at it, and if we’re fortunate enough to get a lead, we can always make a switch.”
Here’s Nunez. At the end of the group interview someone wished him luck. “I need luck,” Nunez said.
• Terrific pitching matchup tonight with CC Sabathia and Dan Haren. “Two guys who really know how to use the strike zone,” Girardi said. “They know how to mix their pitches, they know how to throw offspeed behind in the count. When you look at Danny Haren, he’s going to throw a split, a lot of cutters, he’s going to throw curveballs, he’s going to mix his pitches.
• The Yankees have lost three in a row, all by one run. “It could be fatigue,” Girardi said. “That’s the only thing that I could think of. We have not swung the bats very well lately, and maybe we could turn that around tonight.”
• Girardi is hopeful that he’ll have Rodriguez and Swisher back by the end of the road trip. “We’ve got a long way to go this road trip, so I would sure hope so,” he said. “I would hope to have both of them back before that.”
• Swisher on Nunez taking his spot in right: “He’s an athlete. He can do it.”
Maicer Izturis 3B
Peter Bourjos CF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Torii Hunter DH
Mark Trumbo 1B
Vernon Wells LF
Mike Trout RF
Erick Aybar SS
Jeff Mathis C
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: “This is ridiculous” • 08.21.11
A.J. Burnett had just walked Joe Mauer in the second inning. When Joe Girardi pulled Burnett from the game, Burnett began walking off the mound, turned suddenly and cursed toward Girardi and the gathered Yankees. Girardi seemed to react, but it was hard to tell whether he said anything back to Burnett. When Burnett got to the dugout, went straight to the stairs leading to the Yankees clubhouse. When Girardi got to the dugout, he also went directly to the stairs leading to the clubhouse.
Here’s what was said after the game.
“You can write what you want,” Girardi said. “You can say what you want, but he was pissed because he thought he struck out Joe Mauer. I asked if they thought it was a strike and the guys said they thought it was a strike.”
Girardi grew truly agitated when asked about following Burnett into the clubhouse.
“This is silly,” he said. “This is really, really silly. You know what? We had a fistfight, is what we had. I came in and looked at the pitch. Our video room is right down there. Everyone always seems to want to blow it up about A.J., A.J., A.J. Nothing happened between me and A.J. I went and looked at the pitch. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of people looking for something between me and A.J. Me and A.J. have mutual respect for each other. I cheer for this guy, he cheers for me and we cheer for this team. I want the guy to do well. Everyone’s always trying to say there’s something between me and A.J. What do you want, the pitcher to want to come out of the game? I mean, this is ridiculous.”
It might have seemed ridiculous to Girardi, but watching the scene unfold, it seemed ridiculous for another reason. Burnett seemed to be showing up his manager on the field, and Girardi seemed to be chasing his pitcher to have a chat about those actions. That’s certainly what it looked like.
“No,” Burnett said. “Russ came out and he said, ‘That’s a strike.’ I said, yeah. I was not talking to Joe, absolutely not. No matter how mad I get, that guy’s taken my back every day I’ve been here, (including) last year. No matter how boiling I’m going to be, I’m not going to say a swear at him. Not him. No chance.”
Girardi was supportive as ever after the game. He said he still has confidence in Burnett and the Yankees will work to get him back on track. But this is a bad Twins lineup, and Burnett couldn’t pitch out of the second inning. Freddy Garcia comes off the disabled list in a week, and then the Yankees have to make a rotation decision.
“We’re still on a six-man rotation just because we need to,” Girardi said. “We need this guy to pitch. That’s the bottom line; we need him to pitch like he’s capable of pitching.”
• Burnett said he and Girardi had a conversation “two or three innings later” so that Burnett could explain saying what he said coming off the mound. “We talked about it, for sure,” Burnett said. “I made sure and told him, look man, not you. I told him, as ticked off as I am, not at him. No chance.”
• Burnett said Girardi didn’t tell him to come back to the dugout after he was pulled from the game. “You don’t have to tell me that,” Girardi said. “I’ve been around the game long enough. I came in, put my stuff down and went back to the dugout.”
• Both Girardi and Burnett seemed to think his curveball was alright at moments tonight, but he had no control of the fastball. “It’s a hiccup, man,” Burnett said. “I had a bad night. I’m going to be frustrated and upset about it, but I’m going to come ready to work and ready to get back on a roll. It’s not going to stop me.”
• Burnett thought his last pitch to Mauer was a strike, but he also seemed to know he had no room for argument. “You’re not going to give somebody a strike who’s all over the zone,” he said. “That’s the case there.”
• Martin on ball four to Mauer: “If it missed, it missed by a hair. He called that pitch later in the game. Nothing you can do to change that, but it was a good pitch. He just didn’t call it. Whether it was a strike or not; if it missed, it missed by an inch or two. Normally you get that pitch if you’re around the zone. He hit the spot.”
• Martin on Burnett: “It just seemed like they were hitting every fastball that he threw over the plate. He had a hard time locating his curveball for a strike, and when that happens, they kind of just spit on the curveball, spit on the breaking stuff and wait for their fastball. When they got their fastball, they didn’t miss it.”
• Burnett’s 1.2 innings were his fewest in a start since he threw one inning on June 20, 2004 against Atlanta as a member of the Marlins. His 61 pitches were the fewest he’s thrown in a game since September 27, 2010 in Toronto. This was his shortest start as a Yankee.
• Four of Burnett’s five hits went for extra bases. He entered tonight’s game tied for fifth in the American League with 59 extra-base hits allowed.
• Robinson Cano extended his hitting streak to 12 games and is hitting .373 in that span. Cano’s season-high hitting streak is 13 games.
• Martin played second base for the first time in his Major League career. He’s played third three times this season.
• Andruw Jones went deep for the second time in as many games. This one did not go into the third deck.
• On the day he got to the Yankees, Aaron Laffey made his debut and allowed two runs on five hits through three innings. He said before the game that he grew up a Yankees fan. “My dad was a big-time Mantle and DiMaggio fan,” he said. “I just kind of fell into the same role. Growing up watching some of these guys, it’s just an honor to be in the same locker room as them.”
Associated Press photos
Andruw Jones: Always listen to your mother • 08.19.11
In the first game after the all-star break, Andruw Jones got the start in Toronto and went 2-for-3 with two home runs and four RBI. It was a flash of brilliance from a guy who’s job seemed to be in jeopardy through much of the first half.
Since the all-star break, Jones has hit .349/.481/.674, establishing himself as exactly the player the Yankees were hoping for when they signed him this offseason.
“Right after the all-star break, I went home and looked at old tape,” Jones said. “My mom called me and told me, ‘Hey, look at your old tapes.’”
Jones mother told him she didn’t like the way he was setting his legs in his stance. Seriously, she got that specific. Jones looked at tape from last year, and decide to go back to a more open stance.
“I kind of opened up a little bit and made an adjustment, trying to be more quiet and more on time,” Jones said. “And everything has been working out good since the all-star break… We went with closed (in spring training), and not getting consistent at-bats, it wasn’t working. So, I kind of opened up and trying to put my leg down and be ready for whatever pitch they throw me.”
It actually sounds a little bit like what Curtis Granderson did last year, creating a quieter swing that’s ready to attack.
Here’s Jones after last night’s game.
Postgame notes: Back on track in Minneapolis • 08.19.11
Hoping for a nice, clean, review-free game tomorrow night? After the botched replay last night, and the overturned home run tonight, Joe Girardi brought up the idea that we should expect more of the same on Friday.
“Things go in threes, right?” he said.
It was strange enough to see it happen twice. As soon as Justin Morneau drove a ball to the right-field corner in the first inning, it was impossible not to think of last night’s home run call. This was another questionable homer, and Girardi was jogging onto the field, and it was going to be reviewed.
“It’s almost like, we need to get paid back,” Mark Teixeira said. “… Huge break. Two runs in the first inning against a good pitcher, that could have given them some momentum. I’m always a big believer that if you give CC a lead, he’s going to hold it. Because of that we were able to give him a lead in the next couple of innings, and he held it.”
Ultimately, the Yankees got two insurance runs in the ninth, and the two-run homer didn’t loom quite as large when the final score was 8-4, but through most of the game, it was a difference maker.
Sabathia got off to a slow start tonight, and the overturned homer felt like a kind of reprieve. Coming off back-to-back losses — his first back-to-back loses of the season — Sabathia allowed five base runners in the fist two innings, then he settled in and looked like the ace the Yankees are used to seeing. He said his slider got much better in the middle innings, and he found the arm angle on his fastball. He was “slinging” the baseball early — and a few times late — but Sabathia considered this fairly significant step forward from the previous three starts.
“I thought in the middle of the game I felt good,” he said. “I was making pitches. I was downhill. It just kind of got away from me at the end of that last inning, but when I needed to I thought I made some pretty pitches.”
• This is supposed to be a pitchers’ park, but the Yankees went deep three times. Of course, it was Andruw Jones’ third-deck shot that had the clubhouse buzzing afterward. “I couldn’t hit it up there with a 3-wood,” Nick Swisher said.
• Jones said he never saw where his homer landed. As soon as he knew he’d gone deep — and he knew quickly — he lowered his head and started jogging. “I never really look at where balls land,” he said.
• The other two home runs were a second-deck shot by Mark Teixeira, and a two-run shot just over the wall by Swisher. “We had all three decks covered,” Swisher said. “And I had the scraper.”
• Teixeira and Sabathia both said they had no idea whether Morneau’s home run was fair or foul, but Girardi said he was pretty sure it went foul. He asked for a replay without having seen or heard about one himself. Girardi said he didn’t suggest the umpires owed him one. “I didn’t say anything about yesterday,” he said. “Yesterday’s gone. There’s not anything we can do. You ask them to review it, and they’re good about it.”
• Sabathia said his changeup is still bothering him. He never really had it tonight, and he wants to work on it in his next bullpen. The slider, though, was much better tonight. “And I knew it was going to be huge for me tonight with all the lefties in their lineup,” Sabathia said.
• Sabathia has 14 regular-season wins against the Twins, tied with Tim Wakefield for second most among active players. Mark Buehrle has beaten the Twins 26 times.
• In the seventh inning, Girardi had Boone Logan ready in the bullpen, but he left Sabathia in to face lefties Mauer, Morneau and Thome. Yes, Sabathia’s a lefty, but he’d given up three straight hits that inning and it seemed like time to pull him. “If he gets into a long at-bat with someone, you have to see what happens to him,” Girardi said. “Once he got Mauer out, I was going with him all the way through Thome.”
• Underrated play of the night: Robinson Cano getting Jim Thome out to end that seventh inning. Cano had to go well to his left to make the play. “That’s a huge play,” Girardi said. “That’s CC’s last hitter, then it’s 6-5 (if he doesn’t make the play). That’s a big play.”
• Derek Jeter had two more hits tonight. The guy is hitting .291 now, and he has 17 hits in his past 32 at-bats. That’s a .531 batting average in seven games.
• The only player in tonight’s Yankees lineup with a higher batting average than Jeter was Robinson Cano. That’s unreal.
• Curtis Granderson’s triple gave the Yankees 30 triples for the season, the second-most in the American League. It also gave Granderson double digits in triples (10), doubles (18), homers (32) and stolen bases (22). Since 1913, when stolen bases became an official stat, only seven other Yankees have finished with double digits in those four stats (Ben Chapman, Lou Gehrig, Joe Gordon, Tony Lazzeri, Bob Meusel, Babe Ruth and Snuffy Stirnweiss). The last to do it was Stirnweiss … in 1945! That’s accoriding to Elias.
• The Yankees knew before the game that first pitch would be pushed back to 8:15 ET for the pregame ceremony for Thome (which was excellent, by the way). The game started a little later than that, and Girardi suggested that might have contributed to Sabathia’s rocky start, but Sabathia said it had no impact on him. “It went a little bit later, and that happens,” Girardi said. “The guy deserves the due that he got. I understand that. We’ve had it happen at our ballpark where it goes a little longer. Jim Thome deserves everything he got tonight. I don’t have a problem with it.”
• The Yankees confirmed that A.J. Burnett will start Saturday instead of Freddy Garcia. Sunday’s starter remains TBA. It will be either Garcia or Ivan Nova.
Associated Press photos
A.J. Burnett has made seven starts since his last win. In six of them he’s allowed either three or four runs. No more, no less. In other words, we’ve seen this start before.
On a night that ended with two fairly stunning moments — Rivera giving up the homer, Granderson being picked off at first — the only thing stunning about Burnett’s outing was its predictability. He’s consistently given the Yankees starts they could win with a pretty good night at the plate, but Burnett has yet to pick this team up and end the winless streak himself.
“Of course it’s frustrating,” he said. “But I’m leaving it all on the field.”
Burnett was having a good night until the sixth. He said he wouldn’t beat himself up too much about the Bobby Abreu homer. “It’s two rows up,” he said. On the walk to Peter Bourjos, Burnett thought he “barely” missed the strike zone. The go-ahead, two-run double was a “pretty good hook” to Jeff Mathis, who came to the plate hitting .180 with one extra-base hit since July 2.
“I wouldn’t change a lot that I did,” Burnett said. “I pretty much pitched with conviction all night.”
As he’s done all year, Joe Girardi left no doubt that Burnett’s spot in the rotation is secure, and Burnett finally seemed agitated when he was asked whether he would expect to be the Yankees No. 2 starter if the playoffs started tomorrow.
“I’m not answering that question,” he said. “I’ll answer that question when the playoffs start. We’ve got a long time.”
Mariano Rivera had not allowed a home run at Yankee Stadium since May 16 of last year. He’d allowed a home run to an ex-teammate only once in his career (Mike Stanley in 1998 according to ESPN Stats and Information). Just two days after his fifth blown save of the season, Rivera took his second loss.
“It can happen any time,” Rivera said. “You have to make sure that a pitch gets there, and this time I didn’t.”
As for Curtis Granderson, there were runners at the corners with two outs and Mark Teixeira at the plate as the winning run. The Angels had already shown the fake-to-third pickoff move twice, and Granderson thought he was playing the odds.
“You never really see too many teams do it that many times in an inning, so the odds are he’s probably not going to do it again,” Granderson said. “There’s two strikes there. I don’t have too many options to get to second base. I just wanted to make it one more step closer, to go ahead and make it into scoring position.”
• The Yankees have lost three in a row for the first time since that three-game sweep against Boston in early June. They haven’t won a season series against the Angels since 2003 and have a 47-56 record against them since 2000, their only losing record against an AL opponent in that span.
• Burnett leads the league with 15 wild pitches. “Russ blocks that 99 percent of the time,” he said.
• Burnett is winless in his last 14 starts in the month of August, going 0-9 with a 6.72 ERA. That stretch started on August 29, 2008, so obviously it includes all of his August starts with the Yankees.
• Granderson leads the league with 101 runs scored after hitting his 29th home run of the season. He’s one shy of his career high of 30 homers, which he reached with Detroit in 2009.
• Brett Gardner has now stolen 22 consecutive bases without being caught. That’s the longest Yankees streak since Derek Jeter stole 22 straight from July 20, 2001 to June 2, 2002. According to Elias, it’s the longest single-season streak by a Yankee since Rickey Henderson stole 28 straight in 1988.
• Jeter has 16 RBI in his past 16 games. Since returning from the disabled list he’s hitting .303 with eight doubles, one triple, two home runs and 21 RBI in 29 games.
• By the way, Jeter had 20 RBI in his 62 games this season.
• Andruw Jones was 0-for-7 with a walk as a pinch hitter this season before singling in the eighth.
Associated Press photos