Ivan Nova never seemed especially worried, but after two sloppy starts this spring, the time was right for him to finally have a good one. Tonight he finally found the strike zone and delivered four scoreless innings. He struck out the final two big league hitters he faced, getting Jacoby Ellsbury on an inside fastball and getting Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a slider.
“I just want to have good stuff,” Nova said. “Not only the good stuff, but when you don’t have the best stuff, you’ve got to pitch. That’s something I did today compared to what I did in Toronto the other day. I had the good stuff but I didn’t pitch. I think in Toronto I had (better) stuff than I had today … but I pitched, and that’s the difference.”
Nova has shown good fastball velocity and pretty good offspeed pitches all spring, the problem has been fastball command. Today, he had the command as well. He threw 55 pitches, 35 for strikes, and he consistently worked ahead in the count.
“I was more aggressive, let the hitters hit the ball,” Nova said. “I’ve got eight people behind me. You’ve got to pitch to contact, you’ve got to throw strikes. … I’m a really confident guy. It doesn’t matter if I pitch good or not, you’ve got to keep your head up (and) you’ve got to keep working. I knew that I would pitch good one day. You’ve got to look forward to the next start, and today I’m going to enjoy it, and get it behind me and wait for the next start.”
• Mariano Rivera laughed when asked if he’s ready for the season to begin. “Tomorrow,” he said. Essentially Rivera got four outs today, pitching around an error for a scoreless fifth inning. “You have to work, you know?” he said. “It’s not just go in there and do whatever you want, you have to work on your pitches and work that strike zone.”
• Rivera’s next outing will likely come either Friday or Saturday. At this point, it seems like he might pitch a little more than his usually eight or nine spring innings. “That’s alright as long as we get eight, nine,” Rivera said. “It will be enough.”
• Dave Robertson ran on an eliptical machine today and could do some light jogging on a treadmill tomorrow. Joe Girardi said there’s a chance Robertson could be on a mound by the weekend.
• The plan is for Eduardo Nunez to take the next three days off. Girardi said Nunez should need only a week to 10 days to be ready for the regular season. He wouldn’t need nearly as much time as Dave Robertson. “You would think that you could get him enough playing time,” Girardi said. “The great thing about minor-league games is you can get him 10 at-bats in one day if you wanted to. You can’t have a pitcher throw 10 innings in one day if they’re a one-inning guy. It’s different.”
• George Kontos came through today’s batting practice just fine, in fact, he was happy with his stuff and doesn’t feel like he lost much during his time off. He’s scheduled to get in a game on Friday.
• Asked which bullpen candidates have made a strong impression, Girardi seemed to be thinking along an obvious theme. “Our lefties have thrown the ball pretty decent,” he said. “(Clay) Rapada has thrown the ball pretty well, Juan (Cedeno) has thrown the ball pretty well, Cesar (Cabral) has thrown the ball pretty well. We think we’ve got some options if we decide to take another lefty. Time will tell.”
• Speaking of which: Another hitless inning for Boone Logan who’s looked really sharp this spring. He pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning against Aviles, Pedroia and Ellsbury. The only lefty he faced was Ellsbury, who struck out.
• Another nice outing for David Phelps, who took the loss despite five strikeouts in 2.2 innings. The only run of the game came on a single to right field, where Zoilo Almonte misplayed the ball, after which David Adams made a bad relay throw turning the single into an unearned run. It was a 1-0 Red Sox win because of that play.
• Rapada came in to face one batter, a lefty, and got him to ground out.
• Four hits for the Yankees: Russell Martin, Alex Rodriguez, Corban Joseph and Andruw Jones. All of them were singles.
• Girardi wouldn’t give a specific timetable for Dan Burawa’s return from a torn oblique, but it’s going to be much more than a couple of days. “It could be a while,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure. He hurt his side. I haven’t gotten a timetable. A lot of times ribcage injuries can be tough.”
• Suzyn Waldman was profiled on the Baseball Hall of Fame website. The HOF is celebrating Women’s History Month.
• I’m sure I’ll do a full post on this tomorrow, but the Yankees announced today that individual game tickets will first be made available to the public through a MasterCard pre-on-sale online at yankees.com and yankeesbeisbol.com, and via Ticketmaster phone from March 22 at 10:00 a.m. until March 25 at 10:00 p.m. For those using other accepted methods of payment, the general public on-sale will begin on Tuesday, March 27 at 10:00 a.m. at yankees.com and yankeesbeisbol.com, and via Ticketmaster.
Associated Press photos
Literally and figuratively, the storm clouds were gathering at Yankee Stadium this afternoon.
The Tigers had a four-run lead before the Yankees had a hit, then the rain started falling, Alex Avila slipped in foul territory, the tying run reached base and Robinson Cano came to the plate. This one had the potential for a wild walk-off that would give the Yankees a flood of momentum heading into Detroit. Instead, Cano hit a ground ball to second, and the Tigers claimed home field advantage heading into tomorrow’s delayed showdown between CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander.
“Tomorrow is big,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Going back to when I first got here, we always thought that Game 3 was the biggest. It’s almost like hitting; the 0-0 pitch is the most important, then the 1-1 pitch becomes the most important. Same goes for a series. There’s no need to get caught up in emotions. Whoever plays better, whoever executes fundamentals, is going to win the series. “
The Yankees seemed to have a favorable matchup against Max Scherzer, but aside from walks and a hit batter, Scherzer didn’t allow many scoring opportunities. The Yankees didn’t have a hit until the sixth, and they didn’t score until Curtis Granderson’s home run in the eighth.
Good things started happening for the Yankees in the ninth — Nick Swisher’s home run, Jorge Posada’s first postseason triple, Avila slipping and missing a potential game-ending popup — but this was never a game that felt good for the Yankees. They weren’t hitting, and the Tigers were perpetually doing just enough.
“You think that something is going to happen good for us (in the ninth),” Derek Jeter said. “But with Valverde, it’s hard enough to score a run off him, let alone four. But I thought we had some good at-bats. We battled there at the end, but we just fell short. For a moment there, you think we might catch a break.”
The Yankees did not catch a break. They didn’t create a break for themselves in the first eight innings, and they couldn’t do quite enough in that wet and rainy ninth. Sabathia vs. Verlander was the marquee matchup when this series began, and it’s the marquee matchup now that the series is tied at a game apiece.
“It’s huge,” Mark Teixeira said. “Tomorrow’s a really big game. You don’t want to go down 2-1 with them having a chance to close it out in their home park. It’s a big game for us.”
Two curious decisions by Joe Girardi tonight, each of which will surely lead to plenty of second guessing. As always, Girardi had reason behind his choices, but they didn’t workout. The question will be whether you agree with the logic.
With two on and one out in the seventh, Girardi sent left-handed Eric Chavez to pinch hit for left-handed Brett Gardner. He was hoping for a three-run home run. It’s worth noting that Gardner had lined out sharply in his previous at-bat, and that Chavez hit just two home runs tonight. It’s also worth noting that Scherzer has a tendency to give up a lot of home run.
“Gardner is fine,” Girardi said. “Just hoping (Chavez) might pop one… When you’re losing the game 4-0, you’re looking for a three-run homer is what you’re looking for, so no, it’s not a hard move.”
With the Yankees down by three runs in the ninth, Girardi elected to use Luis Ayala — essentially the last man in the bullpen — instead of going to either Dave Robertson or Rafael Soriano.
“We still have two more games in a row,” Girardi said. “And we’re down three. If we got it down to two, we were going to maek a change. Being down there runs and you know what Valverde has done all year long, we decided to go to Ayala.”
Chavez struck out in the seventh. Ayala allowed a run in the ninth.
• Jim Leyland said a lot about the production of the Yankees third and fourth hitters tonight when he admitted that the Tigers seriously considered pitching around Cano in the ninth inning to load the bases for Alex Rodriguez. “I thought about it,” Leyland said. “But that other guy has been known for the dramatics, and I figured it’s wet, it’s slippery, one gets away, one run is in. Something like that would happen, a groundball, a ball slips. I just couldn’t do it. He hit a ball in the infield, you get him over there, and somebody throws it away, the game is tied. It did cross my mind.”
• Rodriguez has struggled since returning to the lineup, but Girardi said he has no plans of taking Rodriguez out of the cleanup spot. “I thought he swung the bat pretty good yesterday,” Girardi said. “Today they made some tough pitches on him. I don’t have any plans in changing my lineup. It’s only two games. I’m not going to make too much of two games.”
• Most of the damage against Freddy Garcia was done by Miguel Cabrera, but Garcia was happy with his approach and his pitches to the Tigers’ best hitter. “First inning, I think that was a good pitch down and away,” Garcia said. “He made good contact. After that, I shut it down waiting for us to start hitting. It never happened, but that’s part of the game.”
• Although he allowed three hits in the sixth, Garcia said he wasn’t tired. “I’ve got like 70 pitches,” he said. “I was really good. I finished strong. Base hit here, base hit there. It’s part of the game.”
• Russell Martin is fine. The pitch that hit him got part of the bat and a little bit of the bottom of his left hand. “A little bit of acting there, but it did get me,” Martin said.
• Boone Logan’s balk didn’t matter — he struck out the next two batters — but he was embarrassed by it. Mid-delivery, Logan heard someone shout behind him and thought timeout had been called. The result was a sudden halt in his motion. “It was probably the worst balk in the history of baseball,” Logan said.
• Jeter on his costly error in the sixth: “I had no problem catching it, I just threw it low. With Austin (Jackson) running, you really don’t have much time.”
• Chavez on his approach pinch hitting for Gardner: “That’s not really my thought process to hit a home run there. I’m just trying to put the barrel on the ball and have the same approach every at-bat. I don’t think I go up there trying to do one thing or the other other than put a good swing on the ball.”
• Jeter said he thought, once Posada got between first and second in the ninth inning, that there was no way Posada was stopping until he got to third. “I don’t know about that,” Posada said. “I can’t get thrown out there. My run doesn’t mean anything.”
• It was the first postseason triple of Posada’s career.
• You don’t see Jeter arguing with a home plate umpire too often, but Jeter had a lengthy conversation after striking out looking in the seventh. He said he thought the ball was outside. “I was just asking him if he knew the weather forecast for the rest of the game,” Jeter joked.
• Everyone in the Yankees clubhouse seemed to mention Scherzer’s changeup, which doesn’t seem to a pitch you hear about very often with him. “He was really good, best I’ve ever seen him,” Teixeira said. “Great fastball, his changeup was really, really good. The numbers don’t lie, he dominated us.”
•• Posada gave an honest evaluation of Pettitte’s first pitch, calling it low and away. “I think it was a ball,” Posada said, laughing.
Associated Press photos
B.J. Upton was at the plate in the 12th inning when the television showed the last step of the Boston collapse. The crowd here at Tropicana Field went berserk, and the volume only increased when the final score was posted on the scoreboard in left field.
Evan Longoria was literally the very next hitter.
It happened that quickly, from Jonathan Papelbon’s meltdown in Baltimore to Longoria’s game winner in St. Pete, eight minutes passed. A night that had already seen the Rangers lockup the No. 2 seed in the American League and the Cardinals clinch the wild card in the National League, ended with an unlikely celebration at the Trop.
“That was one of the best days in baseball’s history probably,” Mark Teixeira said. “Every game tonight all across baseball seemed like it mattered, and there were some great finishes… Give (the Rays) a lot of credit. Down seven runs going into the eighth inning with your season on the line, obviously we don’t want to be on the short end of that stick, but you give them a lot of credit for the way they fought back.”
Funny thing is, none of it really mattered to the Yankees. They didn’t need a win today. They just needed to get through this game with their players healthy, and they more or less did that (more on that in a bit). For the Yankees, the game that really mattered was the Rangers win against the Angels. That’s the game that setup a division series matchup between the Yankees and the Tigers.
“It’s a strange game,” Joe Girardi said. “You never know what’s going to happen from night to night. It’s weird, but Friday’s what we play for, and it’s here.”
• Girardi officially named a three-man rotation for the division series: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia. “We just like the way that Freddy’s pitched,” Girardi said. “Freddy’s pitched well. We talked about it and debated about it a long time, and we just decided to go with Freddy. We like the way that Freddy has competed all year, and we’re going to send him out there.”
• Sabathia will pitch Games 1 and 4. Nova will pitch Games 2 and 5.
• A.J. Burnett will move to the bullpen for the division series. That’s why he faced a batter in relief tonight, just so he could do it one time before the postseason. “He’s a guy that can get a strikeout for us if we need it, and he’s a guy that can give us some distance if we need that,” Girardi said. “He can do multiple things.”
• Alex Rodriguez is fine. Girardi said his knee was “achy,” but Girardi said he has “no doubt whatsoever” that Rodriguez will be able to play Friday. “I don’t really have a concern about him,” Girardi said. “The turf can do that to you sometimes, and he’ll be ready to go Friday.”
• Jesus Montero was sent for X-rays after a tipped ball hit his throwing hand. The results were negative, and Girardi expects Montero to be sore but available. “My guess is that he’ll be OK,” Girardi said. “We’ll check tomorrow, but the x-ray came out negative”
• Girardi said he used his bullpen according to plan. At one point Hector Noesi seemed to be stretching, but I don’t think he ever threw a pitch. “I had talked about that I wasn’t going to use Robby, Soriano or Mo,” Girardi said. “That was the bottom line, and we tried to close it out. We had a seven-run lead with two (innings to play) and I went to guys with experience, and we didn’t get it done.”
• What does Girardi make of Luis Ayala and Boone Logan — two guys who have actually been in his bullpen all year — giving up six runs in an inning? “I don’t make too much of it,” Girardi said. “You just don’t.”
• Dellin Betances walked two in the first inning, but he got back-to-back strikeouts to strand the runners, and his first big league start spanned two scoreless innings. Not a bad way to bounce back after an rocky debut at home.
• The two teams combined to use 18 pitchers — 11 of them were Yankees — which set a new record at Tropicana Field. The previous high was 15 in a game between the Rays and Red Sox.
• Mark Teixeira hit two home runs and will finish with 39 for the season, one shy of the second 40-homer season of his career. His grand slam in the second inning was the fourth allowed by a Rays pitcher this season (the first was hit by Jorge Posada). It was the Yankees 10th grand slam of the season and the seventh of Teixeira’s career.
• It was Teixeira’s first grand slam on the road since hitting one off Edwar Ramirez in 2008. Did you think you’d read Edwar Ramirez’s name tonight?
• The game-tying home run that Cory Wade allowed in the ninth inning was the first run he had allowed against the Rays in six appearances this season. Wade opened the season on the Rays Triple-A team and came to the Yankees because the Rays wouldn’t give him a shot in the big leagues.
• On the Rays comeback: They were 9 games out of the wild card on September 4, the most games ever overcome in September to get into the postseason in Major League history. The Rays went 16-8 since September 4 while Boston went 6-18. Tonight, the Rays were down by seven runs in the eighth inning, making this the second-largest comeback in franchise history and the largest at Tropicana Field.
Associated Press photos
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
Postgame notes: Bartolo’s last stand? • 09.27.11
In a spring training clubhouse that had quite a few unknowns, Colon was perhaps the greatest wild card. For a while, he was the Yankees most unexpected surprise.
“In spring training he was phenomenal,” catcher Russell Martin said. “In his bullpens — he’s always been known as a strike thrower — but his command was unbelievable. He doesn’t have the best offspeed in the world, but when his sinker’s working really well, it doesn’t really matter.
“… He did a great job for us, especially early in the season when he really had control of the sinker. He was pretty much untouchable for a while there. As we went along, he kind of wasn’t as consistent as the year went along, but he still kept us in a lot of games. I definitely take my cap off to that guy. He did a great job for us this year.”
Joe Girardi wouldn’t commit to any sort of role for Colon in the postseason. He said he’s still considering Colon for a spot in the rotation, and it’s possible the Yankees will carry him in the bullpen. Girardi also acknowledged that Colon’s velocity was once again lower than the Yankees saw in the first half, and he hasn’t won a game since July 30. He’ll finish the season with a 4.00 ERA.
“Bart was great for us this year,” Girardi said. “He picked us up at a time where we were struggling and weren’t sure what we were going to do with our starters. Bart was big for us.”
That’s hard to argue. In the first half, when Phil Hughes was on the disabled list and Ivan Nova had yet to emerge as a reliable big league starter, Colon was the Yankees second-best starter. He gave the Yankees more than they could have expected. Question is whether he will give them any more.
• The first of two big blows against the Yankees came in the sixth inning, when Martin grounded into a triple play with the bases loaded. “I just hit it in the wrong spot,” Martin said. “It was the pitch I was looking for, I kind of had an idea he was going to start me with the changeup. It was really a good pitch to hit. It was changeup middle. I just got out in front and rolled over, and really just hit it in the wrong spot. He made a nice play, though.”
• The triple play was the third in Rays history. It was the first the Yankees hit into since 2000. They’ve hit into 25 in franchise history. “As soon as I hit it, I just put my head down,” Martin said. “I knew what was happening… I was trying to get down the line as fast as I could, and just not fast enough. It sucked.”
• The second big blow against the Yankees came in the seventh, when Rafael Soriano gave up the game-winning, three-run home run to Matt Joyce. “It was the walks that killed him tonight,” Girardi said. “If you’re going to have it happen, get it out of the way tonight. He’s been so good for us, I don’t make much of it. Robby comes in and throws well, Mo comes in and throws well, so we move on.”
• Girardi said he’ll try to get Boone Logan and Luis Ayala some work tomorrow night (which seemed to suggest Ayala has a spot on the postseason roster). “I feel good about our bullpen,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees still have not chosen a starter for tomorrow’s game. “I can’t start A.J., I can’t start Freddy, I can’t start Bart, I can’t start CC,” Girardi said. “We’re going to talk about it. That’s all we can do and well figure it out. I will have a starter by 7:10.”
• Girardi said he’s still planning to have his regulars — including Rodriguez — in the lineup tomorrow. He’s not sure how long they’ll play.
• Girardi on the Rays decision to intentionally walk Robinson Cano to face Rodriguez with two on in the third inning: “Robbie’s swinging a great bat. We’re just trying to make it as difficult on teams as possible. When you’re swinging that great, they’re going to do that.”
• Johnny Damon passed Lou Gehrig for 57th place on baseball’s all-time hits list with 2,722. He’s two shy of tying Roberto Alomar for 56th.
• Colon is the first Yankees pitcher to go winless in 10 or more consecutive starts since Ian Kennedy from Sept. 7, 2007 to Aug. 8, 2008. So, obviously Colon will be in the Cy Young mix in the National League in three years.
• The last Yankees starter to go at least 10 starts without a win in a single season was Dvaid Cone in 2000. Cone with 15 straight.
• The Joyce home run was the first Soriano had allowed on the road this season.
• Martin has 18 homers in 417 at-bats this season. He had 12 homers in 836 at-bats from 2009 through 2010. Tonight he hit his first home run since going deep twice on August 25.
Associated Press photos
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.”
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
Postgame notes: “Command is the big issue” • 09.17.11
CC Sabathia matched season-highs tonight by allowing 10 hits and four walks. He also matched a season-low by pitching only 5.2 innings.
Since the Yankees went to a six-man rotation at the end of July, Sabathia has made nine starts, seven of them on extra rest. He’s allowed 10 hits in five of those extra-rest starts, something he’d done only once in 23 starts before the six-man rotation became a somewhat permanent situation.
“I don’t think (extra rest has been the problem),” Sabathia said. “I’ve felt great. My arm feels good. My body feels good. It’s just been not executing pitches when I need to. The Lind at-bat, not being able to make the pitch and get out of the inning… Command is the big issue, but my stuff has been there. That’s what’s so frustrating.”
The Lind at-bat was in the fifth, when the Yankees had given Sabathia a 3-1 lead. Sabathia allowed a pair of two-out walks, then he faced Adam Lind with the bases loaded. Lind doubled in all three runs, and when Sabathia loaded the bases again in the sixth, Luis Ayala had to bail him out.
“I still felt good about him getting Lind out,” Girardi said. “Lind hurt us tonight with a couple doubles and a single. I still felt good about it. I thought his stuff was okay, and I thought he’d get him out. He didn’t… I still really believe in (Sabathia). I think he’s going to be great for us and he’ll continue to be great for us. Tonight, he struggled a little bit, but he gave us a chance to win that game. We weren’t able to score after we tied it up 4-4. I still think CC’s going to run off some good starts, I really do.”
Could extra rest be an issue? Sabathia notoriously thrives with less rest rather than more.
“It could,” Girardi said. “He’s going to be on regular rest his next turn, so we’ll get a good chance to see that. That’s just been the way it’s been for us, but we’ll get him on regular rest.”
Actually, to line up Sabathia for Game 1 of the division series, the Yankees might have to pitch him on short rest Sunday against Boston.
“The past couple of starts it’s just been tough, throwing a lot of pitches in a short amount of time. Just frustrating,”
• After batting practice, Alex Rodriguez explained that he spent the day learning to hit with a ring of tape separating his uninjured top hand and his sore left thumb. He believes he’s allowed to use the taped bat during the game. “We’ve never tried it, but Kevin had me split my hands, and after that it felt really good because I didn’t put any pressure on the thumb,” Rodriguez said. “If it goes well — you know how us baseball players are, we just won’t change — it will definitely alleviate any pain on my thumb, because the only pressure I have is when I press down on the point of contact.”
• Rodriguez took a ton of swings today. He did tee and toss with Kevin Long before batting practice, then he took eight rounds of regular BP, hitting with two different groups.
• Girardi said after the game that he still plans to play Rodriguez tomorrow. Everything he saw in BP makes him think Rodriguez will be ready. “I’d like to pencil his name in there,” Girardi said. “I’d actually like to use a pen.”
• Sabathia’s short-and-sweet explanation of what went wrong on the pitch to Lind: “Just got a ball out over the plate. He put a good swing on it. He had been putting good swings all night and got a pitch he could handle.”
• The Yankees have lost six of their past nine games, five of their past six loses have come in one-run games.
• Three days ago, Cory Wade had not lost a game since joining the Yankees. He’s now allowed two straight walkoffs, giving up a walkoff homer on Wednesday and Jose Molina’s walkoff single tonight.
• Boone Logan took the loss after allowing a sharp leadoff double in that decisive ninth.
• Until the ninth, the bullpen had been a bright spot for the Yankees. Ayala got Sabathia out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, Rafael Soriano struck out the side in the seventh and Dave Robertson left the bases loaded in the eighth.
• Eric Chavez hit his second home run of the season… Nick Swisher twice tied the game with two-out hits… Derek Jeter’s 13-game hitting streak ended.
• Brett Gardner stole two bases tonight. He’s been successful in 40 of his past 47 attempts.
Associated Press photos
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.
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
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: “He’s not afraid to be here” • 09.10.11
Except Jesus Montero.
On a night when the Yankees failed to pickup a game in the standings, it was still hard to ignore the impact of the Yankees young designated hitter. Against one of the best pitchers in the game, Montero went deep for his third home run in as many days. It was his first time starting a big league game against a right-handed starter, and in his first at-bat he lifted a ball over both bullpens.
“He’s not afraid to be here,” Mark Teixeira said. “He’s not afraid to let it fly and if he’s going to be as good as everyone thinks he is, he’s going to have to face a lot of these guys. And he’s showing right away that he’s not afraid of them.”
The pitch was a 1-2 fastball inside, and Montero was looking for it.
“At the beginning of the at-bat, I was looking fastball,” Montero said. “He threw me two good curveballs and then I was thinking in, because I’m a catcher, too. I was thinking fastball in at that moment, and I got the right pitch.”
Joe Girardi said before the game that he wants to see more and more of the Yankees top hitting prospect, and tonight did little to change that opinion. “You continue to look at him,” is the way Girardi phrased it after the game. Bottom line, Montero’s going to keep getting at-bats. He’s going to have a real chance to earn a spot in the postseason.
“I just put that away and try to do my job whenever they give me the opportunity,” Montero said. “Keep doing my routine every single day. When I’m playing, when I’m DHing, I’m in the cage with Kevin Long. That’s been helping me, keeping my routine every single day… It’s been good, thank God. Tomorrow, I might play again and strike out four times, but it’s been good.”
• Montero and Bartolo Colon were the bright spots, but ultimately the game was decided by this fact: The Yankees bullpen was terribly thin. Rafael Soriano, Cory Wade and Boone Logan were unavailable, Dave Robertson had been used in the eighth and Mariano Rivera was being saved for a save. That meant Aaron Laffey and Luis Ayala got the call in a tied ninth inning. “Playing all these days in a row and all these tight ballgames, you get into this,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he’s actually planning to give Logan another full day off tomorrow. Logan said he’s not hurt, just going through a “little case of dead arm” and a couple days of rest might help. “My body is great and everything is fine,” he said. “But a couple days off, flushing out the body and letting it rest, it will give me a chance to get my velocity back.”
• Nick Swisher went for an MRI. The results won’t be available until tomorrow.
• Turns out, Bartolo Colon gave the Yankees seven strong innings on an upset stomach. He said he wasn’t feeling well all day, but he still delivered a performance reminiscent of his first half. “What I did today is the location of my sinker was really, really good,” Colon said. “Every time I command that way, I will pitch the same way I was pitching the first half.”
• The only Angels run off Colon came after Derek Jeter’s throwing error in the fifth. “He wasn’t in trouble the entire day until I put him in trouble,” Jeter said. “… It’s a play that has to be made. It’s not a difficult play.”
• Girardi said the Angels simply guessed right on Eduardo Nunez’s stolen base attempt in the top of the ninth. Nunez was brought in to steal the bag, and the Angels pitched out at the right time. “That’s going to happen,” Girardi said. “He was pretty close to being safe, too.”
• Girardi on using Ramiro Pena instead of Nunez to play third base in the bottom of the ninth: “I was probably going to hit Chavy the next inning and put Chavy at third, so that’s what I decided to do. Nino’s played a little more third than Nuney over his career, so I just decided to do it that way.”
• To be clear, Alex Rodriguez is not hurt. He came out strictly to have Nunez run.
• Russell Martin seemed to have a runner picked off at first base in the ninth, but he didn’t throw. “I didn’t get a good grip on the ball,” he said. “If I get a better grip I’ll make an attempt, but a couple of times this year I’ve tried to throw with a mediocre grip and I’ve thrown the ball into right field. In that situation, you don’t want that to happen.”
Associated Press photos