The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Postgame notes: “He’s not afraid to be here”09.10.11

Jered Weaver was positively dominant tonight. The Yankees scattered two singles and a handful of walks and never got a runner past first base.

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.”

Here’s Montero.

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• 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

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Pregame notes: “Hopefully it’s just a day-to-day thing”09.09.11

Nick Swisher’s left elbow has bothered him from time to time, but not quite like it did on his first throw from the outfield yesterday.

“I threw it and said, ‘Wow, that didn’t’ feel right,’” Swisher said. “… I know what feels right, I know what doesn’t feel right. After yesterday’s game, I was like man, I’ve got to check this thing out. I don’t like going to the training room man, it’s not my thing. But there are some times. You can’t be a hard head all the time, man, and you actually have to go in there. We’ll just see what they say and figure it out from there.”

Swisher will see the Angels team doctor at some point, probably today. He’s expecting to play tomorrow, but it’s hard to know anything for certain at this point. Joe Girardi called Swisher day-to-day.

During these past three days — when the Yankees had that long rain delay, followed by the four-hour-plus game, followed by extra innings in Baltimore — Swisher actually played all three days, but that’s only after he’d been off on Monday. Girardi said he didn’t believe playing those three games had a real impact on the elbow.

“I think it’s just one throw, really, more than anything,” Swisher said. “I don’t know what it is, so I’m going to see the doctor and find out. So, we’ll see. I’m not nervous about it but I’d feel a lot better if the doctor said ‘hey man, this is what you’ve got. It’s going to be OK.’ Because I’ve never had something like this before. (This is) more sharp pains. Hopefully, it’s just a day-to-day thing.”

• Jesus Montero is getting a designated hitter start against a right-hander today, and Girardi hinted that he might do that more often. “I think you want to see more,” he said. “You don’t want him to sit too long between games, either. You want to get him back in there. He’s swung the bat very well, showed patience and showed the ability to make adjustments.”

• Aside from Swisher, all of the Yankees regulars are in the lineup, but the bullpen is thin beyond Mariano Rivera and Dave Robertson. It’s possible, in the next couple of days, that the Yankees will have to move a starter to the bullpen. “We might need someone,” Girardi said. “I’m not saying they won’t start again, but we might need someone in the bullpen. Soriano’s went a bunch of days in a row, Ayala’s went a bunch of days, Wade’s went a bunch of days, Logan’s went a bunch of days. I have Robby and Mo available tonight, but after that, I have to see.”

• If the Yankees don’t get distance out of Bartolo Colon, Girardi said he’s not sure Hector Noesi could be used for a truly extended outing (he threw back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday, including multiple innings Wednesday). So, if the Yankees need a true long man, Girardi said it would likely be either George Kontos, Andrew Brackman or Dellin Betances. “Could be one of the kids,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of the kids, Betances is here mostly to get his feet wet and get a look at life in the big leagues. He’s active, but unlike Montero, Betances isn’t expected to play a significant role down the stretch. “You never know,” Girardi said. “He might pitch in a game, he might pich great and you might use him more. I don’t have any specific plans for him, in a sense, but we’ll see what happens.”

• Today is Betances’ normal day to pitch, which is why the call-up waited until now. He went to Tampa to throw a regular bullpen after the Triple-A regular season, then spent one day at home in New Jersey before flying to California yesterday afternoon.

• Girardi expected Betances to be the last September call-up. He said there was talk about calling up Manny Banuelos, but the Yankees didn’t think this was the time to do it. “They talked about him and decided not to,” Girardi said. “They looked at his year and said they weren’t going to call him up yet.”

• The Yankees rotation is not set beyond Sunday. “We’ll wait to see how we get through this weekend,” Girardi said. “Larry and I are still talking about it.”

• I’m sure he doesn’t speak for everyone, but Brett Gardner said he actually feels no different today — after those long three days of rain and extra innings — than he would at the start of any other West Coast trip. “No, not really,” he said. “I feel pretty good, especially after that long flight last night. I feel better today than I expected to. It’s obviously not ideal and something everybody has to deal with.”

ANGELS
Erick Aybar SS
Howie Kendrick 2B
Bobby Abreu DH
Torii Hunter RF
Mark Trumbo 1B
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Vernon Wells LF
Peter Bourjos CF
Jeff Mathis C

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “Definitely something I can work with”09.02.11

The conversation came between starts, some time between A.J. Burnett’s nine-run debacle in Baltimore and his got-the-job-done start tonight in Boston.

“When we talked, it was basically me telling him what I’d seen through time,” Larry Rothschild said. “I don’t want to get into details of the conversation. I said, ‘Look, you might not like what I say, but here’s what’s out there. Here’s where I think we have to go.’ And he was great. Really good… I give him a lot of credit for what he did tonight.”

This was the first time since June 29 that Burnett allowed fewer than three runs in a start. He lasted just 5.1 innings, but he made only one critical mistake tonight, and that was the two-run homer to Dustin Pedroia. Other than the first two batters in the fourth, he didn’t let a runner past first base until the sixth.

“I felt pretty comfortable for the most part, new gig and all,” Burnett said. “I was just really relaxed out there tonight and went one pitch at a time. I didn’t miss over the plate a lot. I missed over the plate basically twice, both to Pedroia. My misses were down and even though I was behind on a lot of guys, they weren’t able to square a lot up because of that.”

Burnett’s new “gig” is a slight change to his mechanics. He’s changed where his hands start — both in the windup and out of the stretch — and there’s less of a turn in his delivery.

“Minor changes,” he said. “But major to a guy who’s been pitching the same way for 11 years. I looked at it with an open mind and it felt good… It’s definitely something I can work with. I felt real comfortable out there. I’ve only really been working on that for three days. I’ve been pitching the same way for 11 years, so it’s a big change, but as the game went on I felt more comfortable.”

No sense painting this as the start of a turnaround. It’s one start after two months of disappointment, but it was a glimpse of the reason Burnett got that five-year contract in the first place. He can be a good Major League starter, and the Yankees best-case scenario doesn’t involved finally dumping Burnett to the bullpen. It involves getting Burnett pitching well again.

“We need A.J.,” Russell Martin said. “And I think Larry had a big part in it, just simplifying a couple of the things in his mechanics just to get him consistent in his delivery. And then from there it was just him executing pitches, and we were on the same page for the most part of the game. It was good for him to fill that role against a really good lineup.”

Final word from Rothschild: “The one thing that he’s done is competed all along. Even in the toughest games, the toughest circumstances, he’s competing. That’s a pretty good place to start.”

Here’s Burnett.

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• The Major League debut of Jesus Montero was rather forgettable. The Yankees top hitting prospect went 0-for-4 with a hit by pitch. In his first three at-bats, he ended three innings with a total of six runners left stranded. But still, it was a debut, and four at-bats mean nothing in the course of a career.

“It means a lot for me, for my life,” Montero said. “Thank God I’m here for the first time and the first opportunity that I got to play in the big leagues. It was amazing for me today. After the first at-bat I feel more comfortable and I hit more well. I didn’t get the base hit, but I hope soon.”

• The big base hit, instead, came from the current Yankees catcher. Martin’s two-run double in the seventh turned everything around. Up to that moment, the Yankees had stranded 12 runners in the first six innings. “We just couldn’t seem to get the big hit off of Lester,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s a strikeout guy, so he’s going to sometimes have the bases loaded and get out of it. We got him out early, got him out after five and we were able to capitalize on some scoring chances after we got him out.”

• Terrific at-bat by Andruw Jones to start that seventh inning. His walk came after 14 pitches. Everyone in the clubhouse seemed to mention it at least once. Jones tied a career-high with three walks in the game, something he hadn’t done since 2006.

• Also plenty of talk about the Curtis Granderson catch in the sixth. That was a diving play that saved at least one run, maybe two. Might have been the difference in the game. “The Grandy man,” Burnett said. “He can do it all can’t he?”

• Mark Teixeira has a bruised right knee and he’s day-to-day. No x-rays were taken, and no tests are planned, but Girardi said he’s not sure Teixeira will be able to play tomorrow. Teixeira tried to stay in the game, but after playing defense for a half inning, his knee got stiff. “I couldn’t move,” he said.

• Robinson Cano had his team-leading 43rd multi-hit game.

• Derek Jeter played his 2,405th game, passing Mike Schmidt for the 15th-most games played all with same team. He went 2-for-4 tonight and is hitting .347 since coming off the disabled list.

• Boone Logan struck out the only batter he faced for the fifth time this season, the most such appearances in the American League.

• The Yankees lost eight of nine against the Red Sox in the first half, but since the all-star break, these teams are 3-3 against one another. “We didn’t play very well the first nine games against them,” Girardi said. “They beat us up pretty good, but we’ve pitched a lot better against them and our at-bats have been a lot better.”

• Last word on the Red Sox comes from Martin: “It feels good. I’ve been saying the whole time, I don’t think there’s a team better than the other. Every time we play them it’s one of those things where, the team that plays the best that day is going to win. And today we just played a little bit better than them. It’s going to be like that from here on out. If we see them in the playoffs, it’s going to be the same way.”

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “I’ve got a lot of energy”08.31.11

The top of the first inning wasn’t over, and already Joe Girardi was on the field arguing with home plate umpire Ed Rapuano. It was that kind of night here in Boston, a night fueled by plenty of emotion, and largely decided by those who were able to contain it.

Francisco Cervelli
The Yankees backup catcher is perhaps the most emotional player on the roster, and he was in the middle of everything tonight. He was behind the plate when CC Sabathia and Boone Logan got out of huge jams, he hit a towering home run off John Lackey, and he stood toe-to-toe with Jarrod Saltalamacchia after Lackey seemed to retaliate with a pitch to the back.

“I don’t remember (what was said),” Cervelli said. “A lot of Spanish. At that moment, I forgot my English. But it’s part of the game, I’ve got a lot of energy.”

Girardi seemed certain Lackey’s pitch was intentional, Cervelli thought the same thing, and so did Sabathia, who was among the agitated Yankees who seemed ready to fight after the plunking.

What would have happened if Sabathia had stayed in the game to pitch the next half inning?

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know.”

CC Sabathia
Speaking of Sabathia, while Cervelli was a bundle of energy behind the plate, Sabathia was a picture of calm on the mound. He gave up 10 hits tonight, and he seemed to be in trouble constantly, but he made huge pitches. Adrian Gonzalez was 0-for-4 against him with three strikeouts and a ground ball that ended the sixth inning.

“I was just trying to make pitches,” Sabathia said. “They put some tough at-bats together and tonight I was able to make pitches. They had a lot of runners on base, lot of opportunities but we could make pitches when we needed to. I felt like I had good stuff, felt good, felt strong all the way through. I tried to make sure I controlled my emotions and make pitches.”

Sabathia seemed indifferent to the fact this was his first win against Boston this season. The Yankees needed to win this game, and whatever happened in the past didn’t seem to matter.

“It was a big win against a team we’re chasing,” Sabathia said. “And I look forward to pitching 5 days from now.”

Boone Logan
Can’t forget this guy. He wasn’t in the middle of a near fight like Cervelli, and he didn’t find his way through six innings like Sabathia, but his back-to-back bases-loaded strikeouts in the seventh were huge.

“I haven’t been more relaxed all year,” Logan said. “I know it’s easy to say that after what happened, but that’s the honest truth. I was composed, and the louder the fans got, the more locked in I got.”

Against this lineup, Logan knows this might not be the last time the Yankees need him this series.

“Coming in, I have good confidence right now,” he said. “I’ve been pitching well lately, which is what you need coming in facing the second-best lineup in the league. With all the lefties, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to be getting in a couple of games.”

On an emotional night, the key might have been the one guy who kept his cool. Here’s Sabathia.

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• There were a handful of good lines in the clubhouse tonight, but the best might have come from soft-spoken Larry Rothschild. He was asked whether he said a bad word to get himself ejected after Cervelli was plunked. “More than one,” he said.

• Girardi was ejected with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. He argued that Saltalamacchia swung, but the umpires ruled it was a hit by pitch. “The explanation to me is, he said, ‘He got hit, which caused him to swing,’” Girardi said. “That was the explanation I got. He clearly swung to me, and that’s an important out. It’s not like me to blow my top very often, but this is an important game.”

• Girardi said, without question, Curtis Granderson was hit by a pitch in the first inning. The umpire ruled that it hit the bat.

• After Cervelli’s long home run, he clapped his hands when he got to home plate. That might have upset Lackey and led to the hit-by-pitch. “Every time I get a base hit or a double, I clap,” Cervelli said. “That’s me, that’s my game, and I don’t try to do anything bad to another player. That’s me, and if they feel a different thing, I say I’m sorry. But I’m not trying to.”

• Asked about his emotional response to Logan getting out of the seventh, Cervelli said, “That’s Cervelli.” Seriously. It was a Rickey moment. Hilarious.

• Girardi said there was no hesitation leaving Sabathia in to finish the sixth inning with his highest pitch count of the season. The Yankees had Cory Wade getting lose in the fifth, and Girardi told Rothschild to sit Wade down after Sabathia got through that inning. It was basically a given, to Girardi, that Sabathia was going back out there. “There’s situations that he’s ready for,” Rothschild said. “And he’s had some extra rest the last four or five starts.”

• Sabathia threw 128 pitches, matching the second-highest total of his career.

• Girardi said it’s possible the Yankees could line up the rotation so that Sabathia gets an extra day before his next start, but it’s not certain they’ll do that. No one seems especially concerned about the pitch count, especially not Sabathia.

• Turns out, Russell Martin is a little banged up after being hit in the toe and the thumb in Baltimore. “We’ll see how he feels (tomorrow),” Girardi said. Martin said it’s a none issue. “I’m alright,” he said.

• Huge play by Robinson Cano to get the second out in the fifth inning. “He’s done that for me a couple times this year,” Sabathia said.

• Girardi’s ejection was hit second of the season, 16th of his career and 11th as Yankees manager. He was also ejected once as a player. The two ejections tonight were only the Yankees second and third ejections of the season.

• Brett Gardner broke an 0-for-14 skid with his seventh-inning single.

• Mariano Rivera got his 35th save of the season, making this his 11th season in which he’s saved at least 35 games. That’s one shy of Trevor Hoffman’s record for 35-save seasons.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: The wait for A-Rod continues08.19.11

Alex Rodriguez was encouraged by a more aggressive workout this afternoon, but his return to the Yankees lineup will likely wait another full day. Joe Girardi said today that he doesn’t expect to activate his third baseman until Sunday at the earliest.

“We’ve got to do the best thing possible,” Rodriguez said. “But I think after today, this is definitely a step in the right direction. We have another big day tomorrow and we’ll take it from there. But I’m definitely not counting this weekend out.”

Girardi said Rodriguez was definitely not ready yesterday, which is why the team wanted to see him go through drills today. They want to see him go through more drills tomorrow before making a decision. Girardi didn’t rule out activating Rodriguez tomorrow, but said he would “lean against doing it.”

“I think everything was better,” Rodriguez said. “I think Mick called me defensively game ready as far as speed. I trust his eyes. He’s my defensive coach. Kevin and I thought our offensive session was really good. But the most drastic thing for me was going from first to third. Skip made me do five first to thirds, pretty much close to 100 percent, and more than anything else the recovery time was much better so Dana was happy about that.”

Rodriguez has been wearing a soft, blue brace on his knee. He said he’ll keep wearing it for a few weeks after he returns, but he expects to get rid of it eventually.

Here’s Alex.

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• Aaron Laffey broke into the big leagues as a starting pitcher, and Girardi said he plans to use him as more than a left-handed specialist. “He’s a guy that can give you multiple innings,” Girardi said. “But he’s another left-hander for us. That’s why we went and got him.”

• Laffey is expected to be here tomorrow. Lefties are hitting .250 against him this season. He had a 1.87 ERA before the all-star break, but a 12.00 since. He was once a fairly highly touted prospect, and he’s still just 26 years old.

• Girardi said Boone Logan’s role won’t change because of Laffey. Logan will still be the top lefty in the bullpen, but it helps that he won’t be the only lefty. “The only time it really limits you is when he throws two or three days in a row,” Girardi said. Now, on days Logan’s not available, the Yankees will have Laffey.

• Freddy Garcia reported no problems throwing his splitfinger today, and it’s pretty clear that he preferred to start in Minnesota on Sunday rather than go to Scranton on Monday. “We just thought it was the safer route,” Girardi said. “When you’re a starter, you’re used to working every fifth or sixth day, and he hasn’t pitched in two weeks. We just thought it would make sense to see how he comes out after today’s bullpen. Have him throw on Monday somewhere and test the finger to make sure it’s OK, and just to get sharp again.”

• The plan is for Garcia to start one of those doubleheader games next Saturday.

• Girardi didn’t have a pitch count for Garcia on Monday. “I’ll see how many pitches Larry wants him to make,” Girardi said. “It will be more than an inning.”

• A possible added bonus of Garcia’s situation: The cut has helped to limit his workload and give him a little rest. “It definitely could help him,” Girardi said. “He was throwing the ball well, and when a guy is throwing the ball well, you hate for him to have all this time. With the rehab start on Monday, that should help. In the long run, this could really help him.”

• Mustaches are 0-for-2 in the Yankees clubhouse. Following Russell Martin’s lead, Eric Chavez has shaved his.

TWINS
Ben Revere CF
Trevor Plouffe RF
Joe Mauer C
Justin Morneau 1B
Jason Kubel DH
Danny Valencia 3B
Rene Tosoni LF
Luke Hughes 2B
Tyuyoshi Nishioka SS

Associated Press photo

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Pregame notes: Rodriguez might not be activated immediately08.17.11

Alex Rodriguez admitted last night that he still feels hesitant on that surgically repaired knee. Taking that into account, the Yankees still plan to bring their third baseman to Minnesota, but they might wait a few more days before activating him.

“Our plans right now are still to bring him to Minnesota tomorrow if everything goes OK,” Joe Girardi said. “We may not activate him. We may have him just go through some things for a couple of days and wait a couple of days to activate him. But our plans are for him to come tomorrow, and we could activate him. We’ll see.”

Girardi said Rodriguez will stick with the plan of playing third base tonight, but it’s entirely possible that he’ll initially DH when he’s activated for the big league roster.

“He said he felt good, but he was just tentative,” Girardi said. “And I don’t really think that’s so abnormal because as I said, he ran probably two or three weeks tentative, and you get used to running a certain way. He’s been this way for probably the last eight weeks now, and he has to get that out of his mind.”

Girardi said he’ll wait until Rodriguez goes through some drills with Kevin Long and visits the Yankees training staff before deciding whether to activate Rodriguez tomorrow.

“A couple of days, if you rush, could cost you a couple of weeks,” Girardi said. “You could end up hurting something else. That’s why we want to take a look at him with our own eyes tomorrow and see how far he is away, and see if he’s ready for tomorrow.”

• Freddy Garcia did not throw his splitfinger today, but the Yankees believe there’s a chance he’ll throw it tomorrow. Girardi didn’t rule out using Garcia for Saturday’s start, but it sounds more likely that A.J. Burnett will start that game and Garcia will be bumped back to Sunday.

• The DL isn’t completely ruled out for Garcia: “At this point, if he can’t make his start Sunday, you could definitely do that because it’s two weeks.”

• When Rodriguez is activated, the Yankees plan to drop a pitcher, but they’ll stick with a six-man rotation through the doubleheader in Baltimore. When Rodriguez is activated, the Yankees will carry a six-man bullpen for a few days. “Going to have to,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of a six-man bullpen: Girardi said he could get two to three innings out of Cory Wade and Luis Ayala, and he believes Hector Noesi would be good for about 50 pitches (probably closer to four innings). Distance might be necessary if the bullpen is short-handed for a few days.

• Girardi said he’ll have to check with his late-inning relievers to determine whether they’re available today. Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano, Dave Robertson and Mariano Rivera have all pitched back-to-back games.

ROYALS
Alex Gordon LF
Melky Cabrera CF
Billy Butler DH
Eric Hosmer 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Johnny Giavotella 2B
Salvador Perez C
Mike Moustakas 3B
Alcides Escobar SS

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “No pie for that”08.16.11

A.J. Burnett knows when to celebrate. He knows when to move on quietly. Tonight he was moving on.

Burnett’s first win since June 29 was good enough. It was good enough to give the lineup a chance to rally. It was good enough to hand a lead to the Yankees lock-down relievers. It was good enough to put the Yankees back into a tie for first place. Burnett scattered singles, got a few key outs and walked just one batter.

“Maybe a cupcake,” Burnett said. “No pie for that. You’ve got to do a lot better than three runs in five and two-thirds to get a pie.”

Fair enough. Really, this outing wasn’t much different than the seven winless starts that came before it. Burnett had his one bad inning, and he was rarely overwhelming, but this time the Yankees scored enough runs. Burnett wasn’t happy to come out of the game in the middle of the sixth, but Joe Girardi wanted to matchup against a lefty, and Burnett seemed to realize he was in no position to argue.

“You can’t fight City Hall,” Burnett said. “Skip’s got a reason for everything. The way I look at it is we’ll build from this one, start pitching a little better and give Skip some confidence. The bottom line is, the better I pitch, the longer I’m going to stay out there.”

Derek Jeter said Burnett should be “real pleased” with this start, and Girardi said it was a chance for Burnett to feel like he’s contributing.

Burnett gave up 10 hits, but none went for extra-bases. He walked only one batter, but that was with the bases loaded. He got a win, but didn’t pitch through the sixth. It was enough to put the Yankees back in first place, but it probably wasn’t enough to quiet the frustration with the pitcher who’s supposed to be the Yankees go-to No. 2 starter.

“I think a lot of times when players are evaluated, I think the salary is one thing that’s always thrown into the mix,” Girardi said. “And that’s understandable. I understand that. With a high salary is always high expectations, but there’s been some games here that he could have won that we didn’t necessarily score runs. What’s fair in life and unfair, everyone’s going to have a different opinion, but I think he’s thrown the ball better than some of the outcomes he’s had.”

Here’s Burnett.

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• The Red Sox didn’t play tonight, so the two teams are once again tied at the top of the American League East.

• Hey look, it’s a scoreless inning by Mariano Rivera! After three straight rocky outings, the Yankees closer pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to seemingly put himself back on track. “That doesn’t matter,” Rivera said. “We won the game. That’s the most important thing. It feels good. You just want to be there, just go out there and pitch.”

• Another good night for the top of the Yankees lineup. Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter reached base six times and drove in five runs. Jeter had the biggest hit of the night with a two-run triple in the sixth. “We were leading the whole way, then they scored three, but we answered right back,” Jeter said. “I think that’s important. It probably relaxes A.J. a little bit. I don’t want to speak on his behalf, but I would assume so. You’re probably not feeling too good to give up the lead, but then we come right back.”

• Was Jeter thinking triple off the bat? “To be quite honest with you, I hit it and then I lost it in the scoreboard,” Jeter said. “The scoreboard is lit up pretty well. I saw Gardy going, so I just kept going. No one told me to stop.”

• This was Jeter’s 2,391st game, passing Lou Whitaker for the 17th-most games among players who spent their entire career with one team.

• Gardner is hitting .500 (7-for-14) against the Royals this season.

• Mike Moustakas was hitting 4-for-50 against left-handers this season. That’s why Girardi went to Boone Logan instead of letting Burnett finish the sixth. “The struggles that he’s had against left-handers, that’s the time to use my lefty because I know that I have the seventh, eighth and ninth guys if I want to go to them,” Girardi said.

• Another nice game for Jorge Posada, who drew a walk and had the single that started that pivotal three-run sixth.

• The Royals like to run, but the Yankees threw out two runners trying to steal and got another out on a pickoff. “Russell can really throw the baseball,” Girardi said. “And you take your chances when he’s behind home plate.”

• Burnett got two big double plays, the first of which came on a changeup. The second came on a fastball inside to Eric Hosmer. That’s certainly one of the biggest pitches of the night. “Confidence in the fastball in,” Burnett said. “I got it inside him a little and Robbie was able to make that play that not a lot of second basemen make. I threw some good changeups to righties all game. Billy (Butler) had a good swing on a changeup, but what can you do? It was a good pitch and he took it over there; that’s baseball. I have to learn to live with those things and that’s why I was able to get out of that inning.”

• You may have noticed Jeter and Burnett talking on the mound after Burnett was pulled. It was a conversation about the way Burnett was holding his glove to hid the ball before pitches. “I asked him to keep an eye on my hand, because I feel at times the way I set, maybe a runner at second can see my grip,” Burnett said. “I made a conscious effort to turn my glove in a little bit. That’s what I had him keep an eye on, and he said he never saw a thing.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 69 Comments →

Pregame notes: Hughes’ next step still uncertain08.06.11

Day game after a night game, news was predictably light in the Yankees clubhouse this afternoon. A few players were watching one of those racing movies on television — I’m sure it had something to do with driving fast and driving furious — and batting practice was pretty much the same as always.

The only curious situation involves Phil Hughes, who’s next appearance is still a little bit up in the air. He’s definitely available out of the bullpen tomorrow — that would be his normal turn in the rotation — and Joe Girardi said he could probably use Hughes today because his pitch count was so low on Tuesday.

If the Yankees don’t need him tonight, they’ll have to decide whether to kep him available as a reliever tomorrow, or go ahead and have him throw a bullpen in preparation for Tuesday’s start.

“If he’s not going to get in a game today, we could have him throw a side tomorrow if we feel that our bullpen’s in good shape,” Girardi said. “Or we could do it during the game.”

Basically, the Yankees could be playing it by ear well into Sunday’s game. The fact Ivan Nova is on turn for Tuesday gives the Yankees plenty of short-term options with Hughes.

• According to The Associated Press, Alex Rodriguez took 43 swings during batting practice today in Tampa. It as his first BP session since knee surgery, and he also took about 30 swings off a tee and 66 more during soft toss. He also took grounders and increased his running during a 70-minute workout.

• Interesting note from Joel Sherman who says the Yankees were planning to option Ivan Nova after Thursday’s start, but he was so good they couldn’t make the move. Sherman writes that the Yankees could stick with a six-man rotation for a while longer because it lets them rest their veterans.

• Could Rafael Soriano be available in back-to-back games? “He has done it (during his rehab assignment),” Girardi said. “He did it down there. I will check with him today to see how he physically feels and then we’ll make a decision. Let him play catch and do all his things.”

• Girardi on why Francisco Cervelli has worked so well with CC Sabathia: “CC has thrown tremendous all year long. Cervy has a couple of years with him. You can go back to when Cervy caught him in ’09, caught him in ’10 and in ’11. I think that’s helpful where Freddy and Bart he didn’t necessarily see. He didn’t catch a ton of Hughsey. Knows Nova. But I think part of it is the experience he has with CC.”

• There was a lot of pregame talk about the job Boone Logan has done lately, including that huge out last night. “I go back to Cincinnati,” Girardi said. “That seems to be when he got on a roll. And I don’t remember when we were there. It think it was in the month of June. I don’t remember. He seemed to really get on a roll there for us, and he’s remained on it, and he’s gotten a lot of big outs for us.”

• Forgot to mention this last night: Austin Romine has been placed on the Double-A disabled list with a sore back.

RED SOX
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Kevin Youkilis 3B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Aviles RF
Carl Crawford LF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Marco Scutaro SS

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 116 Comments →

Postgame notes: “That what good pitchers and good players do”07.21.11

After last night’s game, the picture at the top of these postgame notes was of the Yankees bench in the seventh inning, heads hung low as the game was slipping away. Tonight, the picture is of the Yankees bench in the ninth, heads up high as the game is reaching its inevitable end.

“That’s what good pitchers and good players do,” Freddy Garcia said. “It can be rough the night before, then the next day you can be the hero. That’s the way baseball goes.”

This game seemed to be all about second chances for the Yankees, from their rotation to their bullpen to their very best player this season.

Freddy Garcia’s second chance

Last week, Garcia was pitching on 11 days rest, and it showed. He was rusty, much more sloppy than what he’d been in the first half. Tonight was the Garcia the Yankees were used to seeing. He was sharp, and although the Rays got their hits, they didn’t take a single walk and Garcia got big outs when he needed them. The Rays were 0-for-6 with four strikeouts with runners in scoring position. Three of those strikeouts were inning-enders by Garcia.

“You’re a professional, so you expect to do your job,” Garcia said. “I’m a pitcher. I try to do my job every time I go out there, win some games and help the team.”

This was the third time in his past four starts that Garcia didn’t allow a walk. He hasn’t allowed a home run in his past 46 innings, the longest streak of his career. Opponents are hitting .173 against him with runners in scoring position. That average dips to .163 when there are two outs and runners in scoring position.

“Because (Garcia and Bartolo Colon) are older, people seem to think, ‘Is this the end?’ every time they have a bad start,” Joe Girardi said. “Freddy didn’t start for about 15 days after being skipped by the rain (last time), so I wasn’t sure how sharp he was going to be. I’m not surprised he did what he did.”

Boone Logan’s second chance

Logan’s first two and a half months mean he’ll probably be a punching bag the rest of the season, but he’s been pretty good since the middle of June, and tonight he got a massive strikeout against baseball’s third-leading hitter. One night after Logan’s error cost the Yankees the ball game, he and Casey Kotchman battled through a seven-pitch at-bat that ended with Kotchman swinging through a 94-mph fastball.

“It felt good,” Logan said. “Felt just as good as I did yesterday, luckily he didn’t hit the ball back to me. They’re all big outs, and coming in after what I did yesterday and coming out to get that big strikeout, I got pretty pumped up.”

Curtis Granderson’s second chance

Until the ninth inning, Granderson two-run home run was responsible for the only scoring in the ball game, but that wasn’t his most memorable moment. With two on in the fifth, Evan Longoria drove a ball to deep center field. It was a much more difficult catch than the ball Granderson lost in the roof last night, and this time he made a sprinting grab just before slamming into the center field wall.

“I saw that one all the way,” he said. “I thought I was going to be able to stay and brace myself because I could see (the wall) coming up and I got my hand out. The good thing is, this wall doesn’t have much behind it so there’s a lot of give. It just kind of pushed me off and I fell back off it. It probably looked worse than it actually was… If that would have been in Yankee Stadium it wouldn’t have been pretty by no means.”

Let’s go with the Garcia audio tonight.

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• Granderson has taken a beating these past two days, and he said that hit-by-pitch in the eighth inning knocked the wind of him for a second. There’s no way around it, that one hurt. He’s also been hit in the left foot, fouled a ball off his right calf and slammed into a wall. Girardi said he’ll check with Granderson before playing him tomorrow, but Granderson feels confident that he’ll be good to go. “For the most part, I think I’ll be alright,” he said. “We’ll see how things go waking up in the morning, but it should be fine. Should be ready to go.”

• David Price apologized to Granderson on the field after drilling him between the shoulder blades with a 95-mph fastball. Obviously there’s no chance Price was trying to hit him, but he apparently felt a little bad about that one.

• After 6.2 scoreless from Garcia, Logan got a big out against a lefty, Dave Robertson and Mariano Rivera struck out four through hitless eight and ninth innings. “That’s a perfect scenario,” Logan said. “That’s what we want to do. When the bullpen comes in and shuts it down, you can’t ask for more from it, and it’s always a good feeling when we all go out there and do our job.”

• For Garcia, the biggest difference between this start and the last start was his command, especially with his split. Once again, both Garcia and Girardi praised Russell Martin’s ability to block that pitch when Garcia buries it. “He’s going to bounce it,” Martin said. “You want him to keep it down in the zone, so it’s going to make me work a little bit. I’ll work if it’s getting us outs.”

• Garcia’s been through his own health problems in the recent past, and tonight he was asked whether he’s feeling stronger as he gets further removed from surgery. “It doesn’t matter,” Garcia said. “That surgery happened three years ago. I don’t think about it. I have to go out there and pitch my game. It doesn’t matter how hard I throw, I find a way to get people out. That’s the most important thing. A lot of people throw hard and don’t get anybody out. You gotta make your pitch and try to survive.”

• Girardi on the decision to face Longoria instead of giving him the open base in the fifth inning: “We thought if Freddy made his pitches, he had a good chance of getting him out. He had to make his pitches. Matt Joyce is a dangerous hitter, too, an all-star in the first half. Freddy had gotten him out the time before, had gotten him to chase some splits and his split was good, so we decided to go after him.”

• Girardi on Granderson’s catch to end that at-bat: “Outstanding. To be able to go back on that ball, and Grandy plays fairly shallow, he showed tremendous range. It was a big out… He’s good at going back. There are center fielders who have different ideas about how to play; he plays shallow and it’s worked for him.”

• Brett Gardner reached base two more times tonight, and he’s hitting .346 since June 4, raising his batting average from .244 to .291. He’s now stolen 16 bases in a row, including at least one in five straight games.

• Gardner is the first Yankee with consecutive 30-steal seasons since Alfonso Soriano did it in three straight, from 2001 to 2003.

• Granderson now has 26 home runs for the season, 10 of them off left-handed pitchers. He has two homers in 24 career at-bats against Price. All other left-handed hitters have two homers in 399 at-bats against him.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 140 Comments →

Postgame notes: “We just gave it to them”07.20.11

Last night was decided on a bases-loaded walk. Tonight it was a fly ball lost in the roof and a bad play on the mound.

“We kind of stole one last night,” Joe Girardi said. “We gave it back tonight.”

To put it another way.

“I don’t feel like they won it,” Russell Martin said. “We just gave it to them.”

The fly ball to center

It was a routine out, hit sky high but infinitely catchable. Off the bat, it seemed to be no problem for Curtis Granderson, but as the ball came down, he put his hands out in the universal “I lost it” signal.

“Just missed it,” Granderson said. “It went up and I lost it right away. Picked it back up, and then right when it was on the way back down, couldn’t find it. And then right at the last minute, when I finally found it, I was too deep. So that was it. Just one of those things where, (I was) trying to find it, kept my eye on it the whole time, but it ended up disappearing up there in the top of the roof here in the dome.”

Granderson said he wasn’t sure whether he lost it in the white of the roof or in the sudden background of the catwalk.

“I knew I was in the vicinity,” he said. “And I thought I had got to the point where, once it does finally come out, I’ll be there. But I ended up being about 10 feet too deep.”

Here’s Granderson.

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The chopper to the mound

With the bases loaded after the lost fly ball, Boone Logan got exactly what he needed. A chopper to the mound was at least going to be an easy out at the plate, but both Logan and Martin thought it would have been a 1-2-3 double play.

“I was so geared up to get him out, I was more focused on making my pitch,” Logan said. “When he hit it, it caught me off-guard. The hardest ball to catch would be the hopper over a pitcher’s head like that. You can’t really judge it well, and you’re so focused on the pitch, it kind of throws you off a little bit.”

That’s why Logan hesitated. He said he’s had other balls like that, and they always give him trouble for whatever reason. Girardi said Logan pitched “outstanding” and Granderson said Logan “did everything we needed” on the mound, but that ball gave him trouble. He said it wasn’t a funny hop off the turf, just a bad reaction on the mound.

“There was nothing quirky about my error,” Logan said. “Take that away, we win the game.”

Here’s Logan.

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• Granderson had his left ankle iced and wrapped after the game. He said he felt it all night after being hit by a pitch in the first inning, but it was never swollen and the ice was more preventative than anything.

• Obviously the bright side of tonight’s game was Bartolo Colon, who struck out a season-high nine during his 6.1 innings. “It was back like the Bartolo from earlier in the year,” Martin said. “He mixed in his pitches a bit more today. I thought he had a better feel for the changeup and the slider as well.”

• Colon also made the point that he was throwing more four-seamers than usual, and he was able to use that pitch up in the zone for some outs. After back-to-back disappointing outings, this was a big dose of encouragement. “I was extremely happy with the way he threw,” Girardi said. “That’s what we want to see. That’s the good thing about it. We didn’t score a lot of runs, but he threw the ball really well.”

• Girardi said he pulled Colon because he’d already reached a 105 pitches, which was a season high. “That’s the manager’s decision,” Colon said. “I don’t even think about it. Whatever he wants me to do, that’s what I do.”

• It was Ivan Nova’s right ankle that was hurt tonight. Apparently he believes it’s not too serious.

• Rafael Soriano went 1.1 innings in his first rehab outing. He pitched a perfect first inning, but allowed a home run, single and sacrifice bunt in the second. He struck out one and threw a total of 21 pitches.

• Eric Chavez went 0-for-3 with a walk in his first game as Tampa’s DH. He was forced out at second base after the walk.

• Martin made the final out on a fly ball to deep left field. Off the bat, I thought it was gone. Martin knew otherwise. “I didn’t hit it square so I knew that it probably wasn’t going to go out,” he said.

• Brett Gardner was 2-for-3 with two more stolen bases and his batting average is up to .290. He has 13 hits and three walks in his past 25 plate appearances for a .640 on-base percentage since the all-star break.

• Gardner’s been successful on his past 15 stolen bases attempts and has six steals in his past six games.

• Robinson Cano hit his first home run since his Home Run Derby show. I didn’t see it, but there were stories floating around about the show Cano put on in batting practice before tonight’s game. Apparently it was a sight to see. This is what I miss writing pregame notes!

• Colon was 8-0 in his first 12 career starts against the Rays, but he’s won only one of his past seven starts against them. His nine strikeouts were his most since April 26, 2007 against the Rays as a member of the Angels. His 105 pitches were his most since July 18, 2007, also against the Rays.

• How hard is it in the American League East? Tonight is only the third time since May 11 that the Rays have picked up a game in the standings on both the Yankees and the Red Sox in a single day.

• A final word from Girardi: “We kind of gave them the game. You’re going to have physical errors and you’re going to lose balls in the lights. That’s going to happen sometimes in a dome. That doesn’t mean that I’m happy about it. It happens. It’s baseball. These guys aren’t going to be perfect. They bust their butt every day and I’m proud of them for doing that. You don’t like these type of losses.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 78 Comments →

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