The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Sunday notes: Command improves for both Sabathia and Hughes03.11.12

Spread across two different spring training sites, separated by a little more than two hours worth of highway, a little less than half of the Yankees projected big league pitching staff got on the mound this afternoon. Phil Hughes faced the Twins in Fort Myers. CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Boone Logan and Cory Wade faced the Phillies in Tampa.

Their combined line: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K.

Most of the attention was naturally on Rivera, and that’s probably the way it’s going to be throughout the season. If the expectation is that he’ll retire at the end of the season, then every one of his outings carries a little extra significance. There’s a little added appreciation to every step along the way. Rivera, Logan and Wade each pitched a hitless inning today, but the bulk of the innings belongs to the starting pitchers.

CC SABATHIA
3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

Before the game, Sabathia told Russell Martin that he wanted to work on his two-seamer and his changeup, and those pitches were the focus of the afternoon. Sabathia wasn’t happy with his fastball command last time out, but he was much better this time, and he got better in the second and third innings.

Sabathia: “Felt good. The fastball command was pretty good, the secondary pitches were working. I still got a little ways to go, you know. I still want to work on my two-seamer. But I feel good today… Fastball command (improved). Getting it in on righties, and Russ did a good job making sure we got a lot of those. He called a lot of two-seamers which is something that we’ve been working on all spring. He did a good job of working in things we were trying to do.”

Martin: “He was great. What I liked about him was he had some good velocity. I don’t know how hard he was throwing, but it felt like the ball was jumping out of his hand. And he threw some good changeups. He threw his curveball for strikes. We talked before the game, he wanted to work on his two-seamer a lot and his changeup, I think we did a good job of that today. We threw some two-seamers in for lefties, made them uncomfortable. Locked a guy up with a slider for a puncy. Threw some good changeups down in the zone off his fastball. He was good today.”

PHIL HUGHES
3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K

Joe Girardi went on the road to see Hughes make his second spring appearance. Last time out, Hughes’ arm strength was much better than at this time last season, and his fastball remained in the low 90s this afternoon. I wasn’t there to see it, but it seems to be another solid step forward.

Hughes: “The cutter wasn’t as good as it was last time, but the curveball was much better. Fastball location was much better, as well. Command-wise, it was a lot better, especially in the second and third innings… It seemed like my fastball was good. It was jumping on hitters a little bit based on the swings I was getting. That was a positive thing. Being able to work out of some trouble with guys on, they put together some good at-bats in the first and I was able to get around those.”

Girardi: “I thought he had everything today. Fastball location was much better, he threw some good changeups, curveballs and cutters. I was very pleased. I thought it was a nice step in a positive direction for him. A lot of times at this point in the first couple starts, I’m focusing on the good things. Knowing that they are rusty, you don’t expect them to have their A stuff a lot of times. You want to see what they’ve got the first couple starts. I was pleased.”

• Girardi said today that Hughes and Sabathia will split their next start, four innings apeice, on Friday.

• Dave Robertson is supposed to get his walking boot off tomorrow, but that’s subject to change depending on how he feels. “If he comes in and he’s walking okay and it’s not too painful, he’ll come out of the boot,” Girardi said. “If it’s still pretty painful, we’ll put him back in the boot.” For whatever it’s worth, Robertson seemed to be walking much more easily today.

• Eduardo Nunez could be in a game as early as Tuesday. “We’ll have him take BP Tuesday, and if he has no problem, I’ll put him in the game,” Girardi said.

• Really nice game by Chris Dickerson here in Tampa. He made a nice running play in center field, had the two-run single that gave the Yankees the lead, and he stayed in a rundown long enough to let runners advance to second and third. I’m still surprised no team thought they could carry him as a fourth outfielder this year. He’s a nice player.

• Russell Martin stole another base today. That’s four steals in five games for the Yankees catcher. “I’m putting a little pressure on Gardy,” Martin said. “That’s all I’m doing.” Might be working because Gardner also had a stolen base today. It was Gardner’s second.

• Derek Jeter went 2-for-3 — and had another hit taken away by a nice catch in center field — in the Yankees 3-1 win against the Phillies. Dickerson, Robinson Cano, Gustavo Molina, Bill Hall, Justin Maxwell and call-up-for-the-day Austin Krum also had hits in the win. … Francisco Cervelli went 3-for-3 in the 5-1 loss to the Twins. Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Gary Sanchez, Jayson Nix and Corban Joseph also had hits in that game, as did call-up-for-the-day Walter Ibarra.

• Clay Rapada, Chase Whitley and Kevin Whelan were able to keep the shutout intact in Tampa. … In Fort Myers, Adam Warren allowed one run through three innigns, but the game unraveled when Graham Stoneburner allowed a solo homer in the seventh inning and Adam Miller gave up a three-run homer in the eighth. All five Twins runs came on home runs.

• Add Dan Burawa to the injured list. Girardi said today that Burawa hurt his ribcage yesterday. “He’s probably down for a little bit,” Girardi said. Burawa seemed to be making a pretty good impression this spring but was still just here to get his feet wet. He’s not realistically in the big league picture this season.

• Once again Girardi said Austin Romine is making steady progress from his sore back, but the Yankees are staying extra cautious. There’s no rush to get Romine into regular duty in spring training. “If he’s a backup here, he’s not going to play every day,” Girardi said. “And if he’s in the minor leagues, he’s going to play every day, so you can work him up to three and four days in a row down there. That’s not a problem. I want to see him playing healthy before we leave; that’s the most important thing.”

• A lot of guys up from minor league camp today, but center field standout Mason Williams wasn’t among them. Girardi said today that he expects Williams to come up for a big league game at some point this spring. Girardi’s never seen him play, but “I’m interested,” he said.

• After fracturing the bone around his eye earlier this spring, A.J. Burnett has returned to Pirates camp. He’s still expected to miss two to three months.

• During a surprise Facetime conversation, Alex Rodriguez, Dave Robertson and Tino Martinez spoke with Stephanie Decker, the mother that lost both legs while protecting her two children from a tornado in Indiana last week.

• Want further proof that Mariano Rivera pretty much sets his own schedule in spring training? Here’s Girardi’s I-have-no-idea answer to a question about what’s next for Rivera after today’s debut appearance: “He’ll probably have some days where he has a couple days off. He might throw an inning, do a bullpen the next time, then throw an inning again. He usually gets his seven or eight appearances in, so he’s got plenty of time to do that. There’s no rush.”

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: “You don’t want to let him beat you”09.30.11

Is it possible for one of the best hitters in baseball to sneak under the radar?

Miguel Cabrera leads the Majors in batting average and on-base percentage. He ranks fourth in slugging, and his OPS is second only to Jose Bautista. But he’s a secondary focus on this Tigers team, where Justin Verlander gets so much attention that Cabrera seems like a piece of the supporting cast.

“If he plays another eight to 10 years, he could go down as one of the greatest hitters of all time,” Joe Girardi said. “If you get in situations, you don’t want to let him beat you.”

Girardi would know. He managed Cabrera in Florida.

“It was a young man who, at a very young age, really knew how to hit and really knew how to play the game,” Girardi said. “I was impressed with his knowledge of the game and understanding how to play the game, and we had a very good relationship.”

At this point, you know all about the Yankees. You know Robinson Cano has been moved up to third in the lineup, you know Alex Rodriguez is coming off an injury and you know Curtis Granderson spent the year emerging as one of the game’s most dangerous hitters. You also know all about Verlander and CC Sabathia, a pitching matchup custom-made for Game 1. You know this is the division series, and the Yankees have the home-field advantage.

What’s we’ll find tonight is how the Yankees plan to approach the most dangerous hitter in the Tigers lineup, a guy who’s not getting the most buzz in Detroit, but who could make the biggest difference in this series if the Yankee choose to face him.

“That’s why we went out and got Victor Martinez,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “… We feel very comfortable with Victor behind Miguel right now. There’s no question about that. He’s a very professional hitter. He’s knocked in over 100 runs. There’s never a perfect lineup but we think we have the guy to hit behind him.”

Here’s Girardi’s pregame press conference.

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• Leyland announced that Rick Porcello will be his Game 4 starter. That means they’re planning to use Verlander in Game 5. Girardi said he’s sticking with his decision to use Sabathia in Game 4 and Nova in Game 5.

• Girardi said all of his roster decisions were “pretty much as anticipated.” They wanted to keep their regular bullpen, and they felt comfortable with Jesus Montero as the backup catcher. A.J. Burnett is basically the long man, which seems to have lessened the need for Hector Noesi.

• Will Burnett be the fourth starter if the Yankees advance to the ALCS? “There’s a good possibility, yes,” Girardi said.

• Girardi expects to pinch hit Montero for Jorge Posada if the Tigers bring in a left-hander late in the game. In using Montero, the Yankees will eliminate their backup catcher, but Girardi will take that chance and lose his DH if something happens to Martin at that point.

• Austin Romine will stay with the big league club. So will Bartolo Colon. Ramiro Pena has already gone to Tampa to stay sharp, and lefty Raul Valdes will head down there on Sunday.

• Girardi didn’t rule out the idea of using Colon later in the postseason, but it doesn’t seem especially likely. “It’s possible. We’re going to have him continue to throw. He’s probably going ot stay with us though, but we’ll have him continue to throw and maybe the extra rest will help him.”

• Chris Dickerson became an important piece because the Yankees want to use him for late-inning defense in Detroit. “You look at the outfield in Detroit, how big it is, it’s nice to have Dickerson,” Girardi said.

• The seventh, eighth and ninth innings are obviously spoken for, but Girardi said he considers Phil Hughes to be a candidate for key spots in the sixth. “I’ll look at matchups,” Girardi said. “We’ve used Wade and Ayala and Boone in those situations. Not afraid to use Hughsey in those situations either.”

• The Yankees plan to stick with this lineup throughout the series.

• Girardi’s reaction to news that Terry Francona is out as manager in Boston: “These jobs are precious, there’s no doubt about it. There’s expectations. A lot of times they’re extremely high expectations when you’re in certain towns. We understand that when we take the job. High expectations are better than no expectations. You do enjoy it and you enjoy your time when you’re there. Tito has done a great job there. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I know he’s done a great job.”

TIGERS
Austin Jackson CF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Delmon Young LF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Alex Avila C
Ryan Raburn 2B
Jhonny Peralta SS
Brandon Inge 3B

Associated Press photo

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Pregame notes: You were expecting decisions?09.28.11

Joe Girardi made three announcements about his division series roster.

1. CC Sabathia will start Game 1.
2. Mariano Rivera will be on the roster.
3. Ivan Nova will start Game 2.

“We haven’t completely made our roster, and some of it’s going to depend on who we’re going to play, and we still don’t know that,” Girardi said. “We’re fairly close, but there are some decisions that have to be made depending on who we play.”

I guess locking Nova into Game 2 is a mild bit of news, but that was pretty much the assumption. Girardi said his Game 3 starter doesn’t really depend on the opponent, but he’s still not ready to announce it. He said there are “two or three” decisions that still have to be made.

And there’s a good chance nothing will be official until tomorrow’s workout at the stadium.

“I should know who we’re playing,” Girardi said. “Hopefully they don’t pay until 4 tomorrow afternoon. We’ll talk about it when we come in tomorrow and I’ll probably have most of the decisions made.”

• Girardi said he chose Dellin Betances to start today’s game largely because he expected to use Betances anyway, and he’s used to being a starter. “We probably won’t go long with him, I mean, we’re not asking him to give us five or six innings,” Girardi said. “We just figured it was the best time to pitch him.”

• Girardi said he’s expecting two or three innings out of Betances. Ultimately, he’s expecting to use a lot of young relievers. Boone Logan, Luis Ayala and Phil Hughes are the big league guys expected to pitch.

• Hughes didn’t start because Girardi wants him to once again get loose and get in the game. It’s one more chance to readjust to life in the bullpen.

• Girardi said he’s planning to stick with this heart-of-the-order against lefties. He likes having Rodriguez hitting behind Cano for protection.

• Why Montero behind the plate? “With some of the younger kids throwing, Montero has a better idea of what they’re doing,” Girardi said. “He caught most of these guys at Triple-A this year.”

• Montero would DH more often against Texas, making Romine more necessary if that’s the opponent? “That’s a pretty good assumption,” Girardi said.

• Will the regulars play all game? “We’ll just kind of see how it goes,” Girardi said. “We’ll go along with the game and see how it goes. Will I play them all nine innings? Maybe not. My first priority is taking care of my guys, and I’ve got to do it.”

• If Derek Jeter gets his batting average above .300, would Girardi pull him? “That’s something I’ll talk to him about,” Girardi said.

Associated Press photos

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Three pictures worth a thousand words09.27.11

The Yankees passed along some professional photos of last night’s rookie hazing. It’s rare that every single outfit is hilarious, but these were pretty good selections. Whoever made the decision to make the two tall guys Milli Vanilli … bravo! At one point, Jesus Montero was trying to dance like MC Hammer, and pictures will never fully explain just how hilarious it was to watch Austin Romine try to figure out how to get his costume on.

Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances as Milli Vanilli
Brandon Laird as Slash
Hector Noesi as Prince
Austin Romine as Madonna
George Kontos as George Michael
Jesus Montero as MC Hammer

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Postgame notes: “I think he just didn’t like it”09.27.11

The Yankees lost tonight, but the mood in the clubhouse was beyond loose. Things were normal for a while — quiet, like after most losses — then the rookies started getting to their lockers and finding costumes.

Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances are towering versions of Milli Vanilli. George Kontos is George Michael. Jesus Montero is MC Hammer. Brandon Laird is Slash, complete with a guitar and black vest. Austin Romine is Madonna, but he had such trouble figuring out the dress that he improvised parts of it. At one point he was tying something that didn’t seem like it was supposed to be tied.

The Yankees are sending an official photo later tonight.

The story that had people laughing even before the costumes came from Russell Martin, who actually went into detail about his ejection in the fifth inning. He’d just gone to the mound to calm down Phil Hughes, who was upset about some borderline pitches, and when he got to the plate, Martin started talking to home plate umpire Paul Schrieber. Here’s Martin’s version of conversation.

Martin: “Did you stretch before the game?”
Schrieber: “What?” (said while walking in front of Martin)
Martin: “Did you stretch before the game?”
Schrieber: (gave Martin a puzzled look)
Martin: “I feel like you’re kinda tight right now.”

“I didn’t say it in a way that was condescending,” Martin said. “I was trying to loosen things up a little bit because I felt like he wasn’t really having a good time, and so he threw me out. I didn’t say he sucked. I didn’t say he was the worst umpire in the league. I didn’t say any of that stuff. I just made a joke and he then threw me out, no warning, nothing. Gone.”

Someone suggested that perhaps Schrieber didn’t get the joke.

“I think he got it,” Martin said. “I think he just didn’t like it.”

Here’s Martin telling the story. It’s honestly hilarious.

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• Obviously Girardi didn’t go to his top relievers tonight. He said that’s because he wants to use all of his top guys tomorrow night. Using them tomorrow gives them a chance to stay fresh, but it still gives them two days off before the division series opener.

• The plan is still to have Phil Hughes pitch again on Wednesday. “We need to get him back out there,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t pitched in two weeks, so I wasn’t sure what I’d get today. It’s important that he comes out feeling okay tomorrow and that his back is okay.”

• Girardi was talking to the media in his office when the crowd at the Trop went nuts. They’d just seen the Red Sox lose on the big video board in right field, meaning the wild card race is tied. “I actually saw one of their players look at the scoreboard when there was a loud cheer today,” Girardi said. “That probably wouldn’t happen on a normal day. They should be excited.”

• On tomorrow’s game: “We’re playing to win,” Girardi said. “I’ve got Bartolo and a loaded bullpen tomorrow, so we’re playing to win games. But I also have to pick the time to use my relievers, because if we get into some long games on Friday and Saturday, I’ve got to make sure they can go multiple innings. If you start throwing them a lot and you wear them down a little, shame on me. My responsibility is to this club.”

• Girardi wasn’t worried about Austin Romine getting back behind the plate after catching 14 innings last night. “He’s young,” Girardi said. “I don’t worry about that.”

• Girardi also said using Romine wasn’t necessarily an indication that he’s planning to carry Romine on the postseason roster. Girardi also wanted to save Montero for a pinch hitting opportunity, because he knows Montero might be asked to pinch hit in the playoffs.

• Jorge Posada was involved in two double plays that ended with plays at the plate. “He made a good double play on the bullet, then the other double play on the stolen base attempt by Johnny,” Girardi said. “He did OK over there.”

• Hector Noesi has allowed five runs on nine hits and three walked in 4.2 innings as a starter. He has a 6.84 ERA in 16 road appearances this season. His ERA is 2.59 in 14 appearances at home.

• Robinson Cano now has 81 extra-base hits, tied with Roger Maris for the third-most by a Yankees left-handed hitter since 1950. Don Mattingly had 86 in both 1985 and 1986.

• Cano has 14 home runs in 8 career games at Tropicana Field. That’s his most at any visiting ballpark. In his past nine games at the Trop, Cano is hitting .417 with three homers and 10 RBI.

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: Hughes to the bullpen for the postseason09.26.11

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.

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• 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
Wednesday: TBA

• 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

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Pregame notes: “Don’t know what version we’re going to get”09.17.11

When Alex Rodriguez came back from knee surgery, he was immediately inserted back into the cleanup spot. This time, coming back from his sprained thumb, Rodriguez is sliding down a spot to fifth in the order.

“It’s more that he’s just missed time,” Joe Girardi said. “Really, he hasn’t played much in the last two months, so I figured we’ll just keep Robbie there for right now, and if Alex gets going, we can adjust our lineup as we see needed.”

Rodriguez plans to play with a ring of tape around the handle of his bat, and that ring will keep his top hand from driving into his sore thumb. He tried it yesterday and liked the results.

“Just to have the authority to get through the zone the way I’m used to is the most important thing,” Rodriguez said. “I think timing takes a little adjustment, but not as bad as the other thing.”

Whether he has that authority through the zone will determine which version of Rodriguez the Yankees have these last two weeks and into the postseason.

“We don’t know what version we’re going to get,” Girardi said. “We might get the version we had at the beginning of the season when he was healthy. If that version is in there, that’s really good.”

• Girardi said it’s “fair to say” he wants CC Sabathia to start Game 1 of the division series, but right now, Sabathia’s not lined up for that game. Getting him on regular rest for Game 1 seems to require that he start next Sunday on short rest, but Girardi said he hasn’t decided what to do with Sabathia leading into the postseason. “We’ve got to see after his next start how he feels,” Girardi said. “You’re asking a hypothetical question and I can’t answer it, because I don’t know where we’re going to be and I don’t know how he’s going to feel after his next start. Let’s just wait and see after he starts on Wednesday, then we’ll look at Friday and Saturday and decide what we’re going to do.”

• Kind of surprising, but Girardi revealed that Sabathia actually asked for an extra day of rest heading into his Sept. 10 start against Anaheim. “I think pitchers prefer to pitch every fifth day, but we’re in a situation where we’ve had some off-days and we’ve had to (give Sabathia extra rest),” Girardi said. “There was a time he asked for an extra day one time, so we gave it to him. We’re just doing the best with what we’ve got.”

• Part of the reason for starting Austin Romine is the fact he faced Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez earlier this season. “Romine saw this kid in Double-A and hit a couple balls hard off him,” Girardi said. “He’s familiar with him.”

• Speaking of Romine, he was studying scouting reports in the clubhouse long before a lot of players arrived at the ballpark. The kid seems to be doing whatever he can to be ready.

• Girardi said Romine’s not necessarily his regular No. 2 catcher. “I’ll look at that individually each day,” Girardi said. As for the possibility of carrying both Romine and Jesus Montero in the postseason, Girardi said, “We’ll worry about that when we get there.”

• Boone Logan was really sharp for a while, but he’s taken a step back recently. “He’s just not quite as sharp,” Girardi said. “He’s making a mistake and they’re hitting it. He threw some really good sliders to Adam Lind (last night), and the one that he hit, he left it up in the middle. Good hitters are going to put that in play and usually hit it hard.”

• With three straight day games, Girardi said he expects some regulars to get time off Sunday and Monday. “I’m going to rest a couple of the guys,” Girardi said. “It is what it is. We’re going to have to give the guys a little bit of rest. It’s not what we want, but our schedule has just been bad.”

BLUE JAYS
Mike McCoy SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Jose Bautista RF
Adam Lind 1B
David Cooper DH
Colby Rasmus CF
Brett Lawrie 3B
Adam Loewen LF
Jose Molina C

Associated Press photos

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Romine making an early impression09.13.11

Yesterday afternoon, at around 1 p.m., Austin Romine had no idea whether he was going to make his first big league start against the Mariners, and he wouldn’t find out for another three or four hours. But he got to Safeco Field just in case.

“I was the first guy on the bus,” he said. “Me and Hector Noesi. I wanted to make sure I was the first guy here… I didn’t know if I was starting or not, but I wanted to be prepared. I hadn’t hit in a week, hadn’t thrown a ball since — well, yesterday — but I hadn’t thrown since six days from then. I wanted to get here and get everything out of the way.

“I got in the cage with K-Long and hit a little bit, then I was in the video room for two or three hours. I just wanted to make sure, if I was starting, if I was going to get in, I didn’t want to make a mistake. I wanted to know how to pitch every single batter.”

He’s been in the big leagues less than 48 hours, but Romine seems to be making a quick impression on the coaches and players around him.

“Crash course for him,” Joe Girardi said. “For a 22-year-old, really impressive. There aren’t many 22-year-old catchers that are in the big leagues. He’s been real impressive… I think the hardest thing for young players is to slow the game down, and he’s been able to do that because he’s been able to follow the plan.”

Said Phil Hughes: “He’s really good back there. I’ve had him a couple of times in spring training, a couple of times in rehab starts. He’s very advanced behind the plate. Calls a good game, gives a real good target and it was nice to see him get his first Major League hit, too.”

He’s barely played above Double-A, so it’s hard to handicap Romine’s chances of sticking around and winning a bench job in October, but the Yankees seem to like him and trust him. He certainly doesn’t seem to be out of the mix.

“I felt like I was ready for it,” he said. “Nothing really caught me off guard. These guys really helped me out, what to expect, where to go, what to do… It really hasn’t processed. I kind of don’t want it to because it keeps me going.”

Here’s Romine.

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Pregame notes: “You have to find out what they can do”09.12.11

Joe Girardi chose today’s starting catcher based on two Double-A games in June. When Phil Hughes was in Trenton for rehab, his catcher was Austin Romine, and so Romine will catch Hughes again tonight in Seattle.

“I’m not saying I wouldn’t start (Jesus) Montero again,” Girardi said. “I just chose to do this because he caught him those times at Double-A… Romine’s been catching longer in his lifetime than Montero, but they’re both works in progress. We’re probably going to see things from them that you may not see in a couple years, just because they’re young catchers. Romine has been considered one of the top defensive catching prospects in baseball, so that’s why I brought him in.”

At this point, the Yankees are looking at Montero and Romine a little differently than expected. Girardi acknowledged today that one of them might have to be the Yankees backup catcher in the postseason.

Today’s MRI on Francisco Cervelli came back negative, but he’s still suffering from concussion symptoms, and the Yankees aren’t sure when they’ll have him back. Russell Martin is expected to be back tomorrow, but his backup is to-be-determined. In some ways, it’s similar to spring training, with Montero and Romine given an opportunity to prove themselves.

“They might be called into duty if we do get to the playoffs,” Girardi said. “You do have to find out what they can do.”

Even before the Cervelli injury, Montero seemed to be opening some eyes with his offense. He was trying to win a roster spot as a designated hitter anyway, now his ability to catch takes on some added importance. That said, the Yankees made it clear on Sunday — when Romine came in as a defensive replacement — that they prefer Romine’s glove behind the plate.

“You think about what we asked them to do yesterday, two really young catchers that had never had a big-league start and neither one had caught in the big-leagues,” Girardi said. “They did a pretty good job.”

• Alex Rodriguez has not swung a bat since being shutdown on Saturday. Girardi said today that Rodriguez might not play against until this weekend’s series in Toronto. “I’m kind of a cage rat over there with Kevin and I can’t even do that,” Rodriguez said. “You sit around patiently (until) it heals up.”

• Nick Swisher is back in the lineup. He said swinging from the left side — like he’ll do tonight against Felix Hernandez — was completely pain-free during a pregame BP session. Swinging from the right side was only slightly painful, more of a slight tug than the sharp pain he was feeling a few days ago. “I just have to stay within myself and not try swing too hard,” he said.

• Swisher’s not ready to play the outfield. He did some throwing pregame and felt fine with shorter throws, but his elbow began bothering him when he stretched it to 120-130 feet. “Just want to make sure we get it all right,” he said. “But first base I think it will be perfectly fine.”

• One last Swisher note: “If I have to get a shot, maybe, to get through this pain toward the end of the season, we’ll go ahead and do that. My biggest thing is I want to be on the field, I want to play, and I’m going to do anything I can to get there.”

• Girardi on Martin: “He’s better. He’s going to come out and throw today and see if he can be an emergency guy for me today, if possible. His thumb is better.”

• Everyone is available in the Yankees bullpen, including Boone Logan.

• Even without Rodriguez in the lineup, the Yankees are sticking with Derek Jeter as the leadoff man, abandoning the use of Brett Gardner in the top spot against right-handers. “Jeet’s been doing a great job, so we’ve just kind stuck with it,” Girardi said.

• Girardi liked the idea of giving Mark Teixeira a half day off. “Unfortunately he got two and a half days off when he got hit in the leg, and I think that kind of rejuvenated him a little bit,” Girardi said. “But this schedule hasn’t done anything for any of our players, so that’s why I chose to DH him today.”

• Girardi on Hughes: “We want some distance from him tonight. He’s going to have to shut them down because of who we’re facing tonight. There’s usually not a lot of runs scored off of Felix, so he’s going to have o be on top of his game.”

• Girardi was asked about calling Romine’s girlfriend on Saturday to finally get in touch with Romine about the call-up. He said the Yankees got the girlfriend’s number from Romine’s agent, and she was apparently very polite when caught off guard by the Yankees manager suddenly calling her cell phone. “She asked me how I was,” Girardi said.

MARINERS
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Kyle Seager 3B
Dustin Ackley 2B
Mike Carp DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Miguel Olivo C
Trayvon Robinson LF
Brendan Ryan SS
Michael Saunders CF

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 25 Comments →

Postgame notes: “I told him, ‘It’s like riding a bike’”09.11.11

The Yankees have lost four in a row and they’ve scored one run in their past 25 innings. But we’ll get to all of that later.

Tonight’s most intriguing subplot was behind the plate where each of the four catchers on the active roster — and one who’s not yet on the roster — became newsworthy in one way or another.

Jorge Posada
Of course it starts with Posada, who hadn’t caught in a game — any game — since last year’s American League Championship Series. Even though Russell Martin initially stayed in the game, Joe Girardi told Posada to start getting loose just in case.

“That’s incredible, what he did today,” Girardi said. “It showed a lot of guts on his part. I told him, ‘It’s like riding a bike. Go ahead and get back on the bike.’ He wasn’t so sure. I’m not sure he believed me when he went back there, but he did a nice job.”

Chances are Posada won’t be back behind the plate. This was probably his one appearance of the season, and it was clear Posada enjoyed it. CC Sabathia said it was a “welcome sight” and Derek Jeter said it was “just like old times.”

“Fun again,” Posada said. “It was fun. I’ll be sore tomorrow. I’ll sleep well tonight… I didn’t think in September it was going to happen. You’ve got another catcher up here, but baseball’s a funny game.”

Russell Martin
X-rays were negative and Martin was diagnosed with a bruised thumb. After the game, he had it heavily wrapped, but Martin refused to rule out the idea of catching tomorrow.

“It was to the point when I really could feel the baseball in my hand,” Martin said. “I tried to throw to second base and didn’t have any feeling. The ball took off on me. They took me out of the game. We’re going to see probably how it feels tomorrow, just come in and get some treatment on it, and you know, go from there. It’s just a bruised thumb. The X-rays were negative. So, I’m feeling pretty good that I should be able to get in there tomorrow. We’ll see tomorrow. But I’ve played with a bruised thumb before.”

Martin asked to stay in the game, to at least give his hand some time for the feeling to come back. He said the ball hit the tip of his thumb, and his thumbnail split open a little bit, leaving blood coming from the side of his finger.

“I watched Russell throw to CC when he was warming up (before the third), then I saw his throw to second and said, ‘He can’t do it,’” Girardi said.

Francisco Cervelli
Dizzy for a third straight day, Cervelli is going to New York tomorrow for tests and treatment. Cervelli said this is his third concussion, though I was almost certain it was his fourth.

“I had a little dizziness (yesterday), but today is the same, so I had to say something because it’s not normal,” Cervelli said. “… I think I just need to rest a couple of days, but we’ll see what the doctors say.”

Doctors in Los Angeles have told Cervelli it’s safe to fly. Girardi’s not sure when Cervelli will rejoin the team. It might not be before the end of this road trip.

Jesus Montero
With Martin banged up, Cervelli heading for New York and Posada having just caught for the first time in nearly 11 months, Girardi really has only one option to start at catcher tomorrow.

“It would be pretty hard to ask Jorge to go back-to-back days when he hasn’t caught all year,” Girardi said. “We’ll see what we’re going to do tomorrow. Montero will probably catch.”

It would be Jesus Montero’s first time catching a big league game. He’s become a regular at designated hitter, even against right-handers, but he obviously wants to prove himself behind the plate. The first thing he did when he was called up was catch a bullpen with Freddy Garcia, who happens to be tomorrow’s starter.

“I haven’t heard any decisions,” Montero said. “I don’t know anything yet. I might catch. I might not… I would be happy, yeah, to catch my first game in the big leagues.”

Austin Romine
Girardi strongly hinted that the Yankees will add a catcher before tomorrow’s game. He wouldn’t say who — or even confirm that a move will be made — but he said, “Let’s see who gets here tomorrow.”

Asked specifically about Romine, Girardi smiled and said, “He’s a possibility.”

Here’s Posada.

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Here’s Martin.

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• CC Sabathia doesn’t have a start like this one very often. He allowed eight hits and four walks through six innings, but gave up only one run because he made huge pitches — and got some huge defensive plays — when he needed them. “I felt like I had to battle,” he said. “Fastball command was really off, and I couldn’t get ahead of anybody but we were able to make some pitches and try to keep the game close.”

• The Yankees still had a shot until Hector Noesi gave up four runs in the seventh, two of them on a home run by .183-hitter Jeff Mathis. George Kontos made his big league debut in relief of Noesi and gave up a solo shot to Torii Hunter. “That’s my fault,” Sabathia said. “I need to be able to go deep into games. I know the guys have been sucking it up in September. A lot of guys are tired. They’ve been used a lot. I blame that game on me.”

• Girardi on the bullpen: “Noesi has thrown the ball pretty good for us. He had a rough day today. We’re not scoring runs, and that changes the way you run a game, in a sense. We’re going to need those guys when we’re winning games or are tied. It’s frustrating, but this team has bounced back a lot this year. We’re in a tough streak right now, but we’ll bounce back.”

• The Yankees have scored just one run since the second inning of Thursday’s game in Baltimore. “We need to swing the bats better,” Derek Jeter said. “That’s the bottom line. They’ve pitched well; you run up against good pitching. It’s going to be tough at times. It’s one of those streaks where it doesn’t seem like too many people are hitting.”

• Girardi said the decision to go with Posada behind the plate was an easy one. He didn’t want to lose his DH so early in the game, and that would have happened had he gone to Montero.

• Posada said he expected the Angels to try to run on him, so he wasn’t surprised when the first base runner took off. “I knew they were going to attempt, so just be prepared, be ready,” Posada said. “It’s been a while, but I just got rid of it.”

• The throw was high, but Robinson Cano made a nifty leaping catch and tag to get the out.

• Jeter said he didn’t say much to Posada on the field. “’Good throw,’ that’s about it,” Jeter said. “I didn’t get too deep.”

• Martin was asked if he could have positioned himself differently to avoid being hit in the hand. “They talk a lot about having your hand behind your back,” he said. “When there’s guys on base, you have to have your hand in position to make the transfer. That was the situation where there was a guy on first base, or second base, I don’t remember where he was. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. My hand was right behind my glove.”

• Cervelli was asked if he was this dizzy before he left Baltimore. “After the collision, yeah,” he said. “I was catching. I don’t know how, but I stayed there. The next day, everything was sore: Nose, mouth, neck. I’m just dizzy right now. I just think I need a couple of days.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 20 Comments →

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