This was a pretty intense week in baseball, and that’s because the Winter Meetings did not disappoint this year. At least not in the bigger picture. This was a week full of player movement. There were blockbuster trades and massive free agent signings, and each night in San Diego seemed to include some sort of plot twist.
The Yankees, though, stayed quiet throughout.
“I honestly can tell you that we’re patient,” Brian Cashman said. “We’re not going to do something that we don’t feel comfortable with. … We got the Cervelli thing done with Justin Wilson, and there was a long period of quiet. We got Chris Young a month after we put an offer out on him, and eventually he came back after he went through the circuit and felt comfortable with where we were at. We made a little adjustment to get it done. And then the Didi thing took a while. Some things may take longer than others in terms of solving every need that we desire, but we’ll see.”
Clearly there’s still work to be done. The Yankees have only three starting pitchers in place (plus a handful of back-end rotation possibilities). The don’t have a clear closer (though they have a few options they could choose from). Their infield is still uncertain with second base and third base possibilities still on the market (while Rob Refsnyder remains in place as an internal option).
The Yankees took some small steps forward early this offseason. They added a left-handed reliever and a right-handed fourth outfielder. They added a little bit of pitching depth with one free agent signing and a few players added to the 40-man roster. They made their first major additions by finding replacements for Derek Jeter and Dave Robertson.
This hasn’t been a silent winter for the Yankees, but this past week was full of noise, and the Yankees didn’t make any of it.
“We’ve got meetings with a lot of people,” Cashman said. “We’re still obviously trying to affect some trades or potential free agent signings. We’ll just stay at it.”
• The Winter Meetings move that most directly impacted the Yankees was the White Sox four-year deal with Dave Robertson. Cashman had created the impression that the Yankees might sign Robertson to former a super-bullpen with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, but that was all about creating a false impression. The Yankees never made an offer, and Robertson’s fate was sealed as soon as Miller was signed.
• Speaking of Miller, he made it clear during a conference call that he doesn’t care about his role in the Yankees bullpen. He didn’t ask the Yankees to name him closer, and he’ll be happy if the Yankees sign a closer this offseason. Last season, Miller and Betances proved the value of a dominant multi-inning middle reliever, and there’s a chance those two will be used the same way next season if the Yankees sign another reliever to handle the ninth. Cashman has said that’s still a possibility.
• Another former Yankees pitcher who landed elsewhere: Brandon McCarthy agreed to a four-year deal with the Dodgers. The Yankees left no doubt that they wanted to bring McCarthy back to add some rotation depth, but four years is a massive and risky investment for a guy who’s had such trouble staying healthy (this season was the first time McCarthy ever reached 200 innings, or even got particularly close). The Yankees weren’t willing to go four years, and so McCarthy landed in Los Angeles during a flood of rotation signings.
• Cashman said the Yankees have put their coaching staff openings on the back burner while focusing on player movement. Still no new hitting coach, and no new first-base coach, and Cashman shot down a report that Marcus Thames had been hired as an assistant hitting coach. Cashman said he hasn’t interviewed Thames and hasn’t decided whether the Yankees will have an assistant hitting coach next season.
• Also still unknown: the status of Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees have not been told whether he wants to pitch next season.
• Strength coach Matt Krause went to Miami to check on Alex Rodriguez. Cashman said Rodriguez is making progress this winter — he’s moving closer to the weight he’s expected to reach before spring training — but it’s still far to early to have any idea how well Rodriguez will handle full baseball drills.
• The build up to the Rule 5 draft always seems more significant than the draft itself, and that was certainly the case this year. The Yankees picked four eligible players to protect, and that seems to have done the trick. The Yankees didn’t lose anyone in the Rule 5 draft — in either the major league or the minor league portion — and they didn’t add anyone either. Cashman said he preferred keeping the three open roster spots open.
Associated Press photos
Still late morning here in San Diego, and another key free agent just came off the market. Here are a few quick notes:
• Setting a baseline for predicting a Brandon McCarthy contract, Francisco Liriano has signed a three-year, $39-million deal with the Pirates. McCarthy and Liriano are each 31 years old, they’ve each had some injury issues in the past, and they’re both coming off a strong second half in 2014. I wouldn’t say they’re a perfect match, but they’re fairly close. MLB Trade Rumors ranked McCarthy 14th and Liriano 15th in its ranking of top free agents.
• According to Peter Gammons, there is optimism that Chase Headley will choose a team by the end of the day. The Giants and Yankees have clear interest in acquiring a third baseman, and they’re the team’s most often linked to Headley, but there’s some question of just how far either team is willing to go (and there’s some disagreement about whether a four-year, $65-million deal is actually on the table). At one point Headley seemed like a solid buy-low option, but his value has really climbed in this thin infield market.
• One potential source of infield depth is about to come off the market. Jim Bowden reports the Braves are close to a deal with Alberto Callaspo, who would presumably play second base in Atlanta. Not that Callaspo would have been a great fit for the Yankees, but I suppose he could have been a candidate to basically provide an experienced alternative to Jose Pirela off the bench.
• White Sox general manager Rick Hahn refused to comment on his team’s new deal with Dave Robertson because the signing isn’t official just year. Mark Feinsand reports that Robertson won’t take his physical until Wednesday at the earliest, so that deal won’t be finalized for at least another day.
Associated Press photo
Strange to cover a Winter Meetings on west coast time. Things are still pretty quiet here at the Grand Hyatt. The media workroom is mostly empty and the baseball officials I’ve seen roaming the lobby have been coming and going from the gym, not making a quick exit from a trade-filled hotel suite.
So, there’s not a ton happening.
What little movement we’ve seen this morning involves Jason Hammel, who reportedly has a two-year deal with the Cubs. News of that signing began to pick up steam last night and seems to have been confirmed this morning. It’s significant only because Hammel is a mid-level starting pitcher, and the rotation market has seen very little movement up to this point.
Brian Cashman told reporters yesterday — when he was climbing down a building in Connecticut — that he expects a guy like Brandon McCarthy to wait a while before settling on a team.
“He’s in the market,” Cashman said. “I think like every free agent, he wants to maximize his value, and probably tuck himself in behind the Scherzers and the Lesters and Shields. When those guys sign, I think then he’ll really determine what his real market value is.”
The Yankees are at least creating the impression that they’re not in the market for Scherzer, Lester or Shields, so if the sooner that secondary rotation market begins to move, the better.
Let’s talk about something other than Alex Rodriguez for at least a little bit. Here are a few notes and links that have nothing to do with the Yankees third baseman.
• Building on a previous report from the Daily News, Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees are focusing on Brandon McCarthy, Jason Hammel and other mid-rotation starters to add some pitching depth. Heyman echoes the belief that the Yankees have no plans of pursuing any of the market’s top three starting pitchers. Heyman also notes that Chris Capuano is a possibility for a return. I actually think that’s a decent idea. Not a bad option as a bullpen lefty with the potential to start if necessary. Pitched well in a fifth starter role this year.
• ESPN’s Dan Szymborski writes that Dave Robertson is one of several players who should seriously consider accepting a qualifying offer this winter. The reasoning follows a familiar sentiment: teams value closers, but they’re rarely willing to pay huge amounts of money to sign them. A contract comparable to $15.3 million, plus a lost draft pick? Might not be many teams willing to do that. Szymborski notes that Jonathan Papelbon went unclaimed this season and that Koji Uehara recently signed for $9 million per year. Szymborski picks out five others who should at least consider accepting the qualifying offer.
• In the wake of Alfonso Soriano’s retirement, David Schoenfield takes a look at the way Soriano’s career should be remembered. “It has been one of the more fascinating careers of the past 15 years as he has been a player with enormous strengths and obvious flaws,” Schoenfield writes, eventually concluding that: “The guy had a good career. He was that rare power-speed combo and, for a few years there, one of the most exciting players in the game. When’s the next time we’re going to see a 40/40 player?”
• Ken Rosenthal reports that the Rockies are willing to listen to trade offers for either Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez. Can’t dismiss that sort of information — two really good players, one of whom is perhaps the best shortstop in the game — but it’s also hard to make too much of it. The Rockies aren’t exactly in a have-to-trade-them situation, and the asking price would surely be astronomical despite the health concerns with each player.
• The Rays announced their eight managerial candidates, and Raul Ibanez is one of them. Ibanez is also seen a potential candidate to be the Yankees hitting coach. Says a lot about him that he just played this year and is already being considered for jobs like this.
• Speaking at yesterday’s Lou Gehrig Sports Awards Benefit, Don Mattingly had some advice for whoever becomes the Yankees next starting shortstop: “I don’t think you can try to live up to (Derek Jeter),” Mattingly said. “I think you just have to be yourself. I think the fans will appreciate that. If you’re a guy that plays the game right and gets after it, I think the fans will accept him over time.” Mattingly was on the other side of the situation watching Tino Martinez taking over for Mattingly himself in 1996.
• Another Jeter connection: The latest offering from The Players’ Tribune is actually a really nice and quick read from Brendan Shanahan, who wrote a letter to his younger self providing draft day advice. It’s a good piece. Not a baseball piece, but a good piece. On a personal note, I will forever think of Shanahan as a member of the St. Louis Blues. That’s just the way that goes.
• And now one that has absolutely nothing to do with baseball, but I’ve become obsessed with this version of Ben Howard’s End of the Affair performed on Later… with Jools Holand. Just a brilliant combination of all the things Howard does so well. Opens as a creative bit of singer/songwriter and explodes into an anguished man screaming into his guitar. Need a palate cleanser after all of this A-Rod business? This will do the job.
Associated Press photo
In trying to break down the state of the Yankees organization, it’s hard to look at pitchers the same way we look at position players. The development is different. The roles are different. The number of jobs available is different. It’s just … different. In trying to look at the state of the Yankees rotation, it seems best to start by looking directly at the current 40-man roster (before free agency) where no less than 12 rotation possibilities are already in place. Given the Yankees injury concerns, they’re going to need some rotation depth heading into next season. They just might be able to find that depth while staying in house.
THE OBVIOUS INJURY CONCERNS
Masahiro Tanaka – His elbow might be a ticking time bomb, but he’s also an ace-caliber pitcher. The Yankees know Tanaka might need Tommy John surgery at any moment, but they’ve done what they can to postpone that procedure, and a couple of healthy starts at the end of the year were enough to build some cautious optimism. Tanaka should be the Yankees No. 1 starter. But that depends largely on a tiny ligament in his elbow.
Michael Pineda – The Yankees finally got to see the guy they acquired years ago, and they liked what they saw. Sure, the pine tar situation was embarrassing, and there was yet another shoulder setback, but when Pineda was on the mound, he was terrific. He’s far removed from surgery, but that doesn’t mean health concerns don’t linger. Would be a strong No. 2, but again, that’s only if he stays healthy.
CC Sabathia – This could be the year his run of Opening Day starts come to an end. That said, if he gets to spring training healthy and reasonably effective, he might still get the nod in the opener if only because he’s still very clearly the leader of the staff (and this is a clubhouse that could be searching to leadership next season). Whether Sabathia will be anything more than a symbolic choice, though, remains to be seen. If he can at least be a reliable back-of-the-rotation arm, that would be helpful. There’s clearly a new ace in town.
Ivan Nova – Almost certainly will not be ready to break camp with the Yankees, but initial word about Nova’s recovery from Tommy John surgery has been nothing but positive. Still a long way to go, but Nova made it through the initial rehab steps with no problem. Tommy John has become a relatively routine procedure these days, but some pitchers say it takes close to two years to truly feel 100 percent. Timing suggests Nova could be back in the New York around early May. But how effective will he be?
THE REPLACEMENT STARTERS
David Phelps – When the Yankees rotation went through a series of injuries last season, Vidal Nuno was technically the first replacement starter, but Phelps wasn’t far behind. He was solid, then he got knocked around one game, then he looked really good for about a month and a half before his upper elbow became a problem. Phelps should be arbitration eligible this season, and he might once again come to camp as a rotation candidate who could easily slip into a bullpen role.
Shane Greene – Phelps’ chances of winning a spot in the rotation surely took a hit when Greene showed up. Having made a strong impression in spring training, and having struggled in his brief big league debut, Greene wound up pitching like a rotation mainstay through the second half of the season. He had a 3.24 ERA before a six-run mess in his final start. Given the Nova injury, Greene could legitimately come to camp as a rotation favorite.
Chase Whitley – A career minor league reliever until the very end of 2013, Whitley moved to the Triple-A rotation, improved his breaking ball and got his first big league call-up as a replacement starter. He was a bit streaky — very good at first, pretty good at the end, plenty of rough outings in the middle — but Whitley joins the mix as a swing man who could start or work in long relief. Could also go to Triple-A as rotation insurance.
THE MINOR LEAGUERS
Manny Banuelos – Once considered to be among the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, Banuelos needed Tommy John surgery, which slowed his ascent considerably. He missed all of 2013 and put up inconsistent results this year in Double-A and Triple-A. Banuelos has an awfully good arm, though, and being further removed from surgery surely helps his cause heading into his age-24 season.
Bryan Mitchell – For the longest time, Mitchell’s reputation was far better than his results. The Yankees regularly touted his potential, and that was enough to put him on the 40-man roster last winter despite a 5.12 ERA in High-A the year before. More so-so results followed in Double-A this season, but the Yankees challenged Mitchell with a Triple-A promotion and things seemed to take off. He got 11 innings in the big leagues and looked solid. Probably no more than rotation depth to open the season, but he’s among the most advanced young starters in the system.
Matt Tracy/Nik Turley – These guys aren’t on the current 40-man roster, but they stand out as Rule 5 eligible lefties had at least 60 Triple-A innings with mid-4.00 ERAs this season. Neither one was great next season, and there’s a chance both will be left exposed to the Rule 5 this winter — guys like Zach Nuding, Jairo Heredia and Caleb Cotham are in vaguely similar situations — but they’re potential rotation depth options who could be on the 40-man eventually (or could be added next year if necessary). Turley’s been on the 40-man before, and he in particular was putting up better numbers at the end of the year.
THE SOON-TO-BE FREE AGENTS
Hiroki Kuroda – Of all the Yankees soon-to-be free agents, none has a future quite as uncertain as Kuroda. He turns 40 in February, and despite yet again providing some much-needed stability for the Yankees rotation, there seems to be a solid chance Kuroda will retire this winter. He could also come back, pitch elsewhere, or decide to pitch one last season in Japan. Kuroda left all options open at the end of the year.
Brandon McCarthy — Aside from Dave Robertson, there might not be an outgoing free agent who’s more interesting for the Yankees. McCarthy throws strikes and gets ground balls, he thrived during his three-month stint with the Yankees, and he seems like a strong fit in this unusual market. At the right price, McCarthy could be a strong choice for additional rotation depth (though he comes with injury concerns of his own).
Chris Capuano – Would be easy to dismiss Capuano as a non-factor going forward, and maybe that’s exactly what he’ll be. Two things to consider, though: 1. Capuano really was a pretty good No. 5 starter during his time with the Yankees, and he has experience as a bullpen lefty, which the Yankees don’t really have at the moment. Probably least like to return of anyone on this list, but he did his job during his time with the team.
Associated Press photos
For your consideration: Brandon McCarthy • 10.06.14
I was planning to write something today about Brandon McCarthy’s free agency, but the guys at MLB Trade Rumors beat me to the punch with a strong breakdown of his upcoming free agency and the possible market for his services. MLBTR’s projected contract sounds about right at three years, $36 million.
Question, should the Yankees be the ones to pay it?
“I would prefer to be anywhere that I’m wanted,” McCarthy said after his final start this season. “But this would be a hard place to turn down. It’s been a great time here, and (the final start) not included, I feel like I’ve thrown well. I feel like I’ve gotten along with a lot of people. The way the organization goes about its business makes perfect sense to me. It would be hard to find a better fit than here.”
Free agents never go wrong by keeping the Yankees in the mix for their services, so McCarthy might simply have been saying the smart thing, but there was a real sense of honesty when McCarthy said he felt like a good fit with the Yankees. He’s an intelligent guy, and an interesting guy. He seems capable of enjoying the New York market without being swallowed by it.
At 31 years old, McCarthy has an interest in advanced metrics and experience in five different organizations. He has an unmistakable sense of veteran savvy. He’s seen a lot, and he seems to have a pretty good grasp on the game as a whole. The Yankees have a lot of young pitchers on the roster, and they have several others on the verge, and there are worse guys to learn from than McCarthy.
“I think more than anything we talk about (pregame) routine stuff,” fellow sinkerballer Shane Greene said. “Every once in a while, if we’re sitting next to one another on the bench and something comes up in an at-bat, I’ll be able to say, ‘Hey, what would you go (with) here?’ Something like that. We’ve discussed grips and what not. … He’s been around the game a while, so just picking his brain a little bit (is helpful). Him and (Chris Capuano) too. They’ve kind of taken me under their wing a little bit, and it’s helped a lot.”
More than a mentor, though, the Yankees would need McCarthy to be a pitcher, and at times in his career, that’s been tough. Because of various injuries, this was the first season McCarthy ever reached 200 innings. And while he pitched extremely well during his stint with the Yankees, it’s worth noting that his results were ugly in Arizona through the first half of the season (partially due to bad luck, but still worth taking into account). He’s twice had a season ERA below 4.00, and only one of those seasons came with more than 111 innings.
There’s risk in any multi-year deal. That seems especially true with pitchers. And that seems especially, especially true with pitchers who have a history of injury problems. Given all of the rotation concerns already in place — CC Sabathia’s knee, Michael Pineda’s shoulder, Masahiro Tanaka’s and Ivan Nova’s elbows, Greene’s relative lack of experience — it would be nice to add a relatively safe bet, but the Yankees might not have that luxury short of taking on an even longer-term risk with the likes of Jon Lester or Max Scherzer (and there’s really nothing saying they couldn’t take on both a top-of-the-rotation type as well as McCarthy, depending on this winter’s budget). Given this clubhouse, this market and this situation, a ground ball guy who throws strikes and has already thrived in New York might not be the worst option even with the past injury problems.
“There’s so many veterans here, there’s people that have accomplished unbelievable things in the game, but you just see that the reason they’ve gotten there is because they’re so routine-oriented,” McCarthy said. “You go a lot of places that try to force players out of their routine, and they want you to do it this way and this way. Here it’s just, everybody gets to do it on their own time, their own routine, and then just be responsible when game time comes. You show up and play hard for your teammates, and we see how it falls. I thought there would be a little bit more panic in here, it would be more tense, and it’s just a relaxed group that’s very professional in the way they go about their business.
“… It does (suit me). You’re left alone to do what you know works, and then (you’re expected) to go out on game day and execute what game plan you’ve put together with other people. I think it allows for you to come in and feel comfortable. You feel like there’s no pressure on you. There’s nobody hounding over you. It’s just simply, get out there on your day to work and get it done.”
Associated Press photos
The stage was set, and the crowd here at Yankee Stadium knew it. Tying run on base. Lefty on the mound. Derek Jeter at the plate. It was a chance for farewell heroics, but Zach Britton threw three straight sinkers and Jeter went down swinging to end the game that put the Yankees right on the verge of playoff elimination.
“You’re thinking that he’s going to hit a home run or he’s going to hit a ball in the gap and we’re going to tie the score,” Joe Girardi said. “You see what happens. It didn’t happen, unfortunately, but you have a pretty good feeling when he’s up there.”
Jeter’s gone through a resurgence this home stand, and he had another hit tonight — an infield single — but there was no magic at the end. And the official end could come as early as tomorrow afternoon. The Yankees have been using the phrase “must win” for a while now, but at this point, it’s literally true.
One more Yankees loss — or one more Royals win — will end the Yankees playoff hopes. Even if the Yankees win the rest of their games, it still probably won’t be enough.
“Every game is must win,” Jeter said. “It’s been must win. That’s the approach that we have for a while now. Nothing changes. We must win tomorrow. That’s the way it’s basically been for a while.”
Because of who he is, because of what this home stand represents, there seemed to be an extra level of excitement for that final at-bat. The reporter next to me actually said, as soon as Brett Gardner stepped to the plate with two outs: You just know Gardner’s getting on base so that Jeter has a chance. And it was perfectly true. It really did feel that way. One way or another, it was going to come down to Jeter.
“I’m trying to extend the inning,” Jeter said. “That’s basically it. So he was better than me tonight and I may face him again. … For me, I’m trying to take the approach that I’m trying to play a game. I’ve told you guys, everything that’s happened, the fans have been special this entire year, especially these last few games that we’ve had here in New York. But we’re still trying to win games, so my approach doesn’t change.”
• In what was likely his final start of the year, Brandon McCarthy had his worst outing as a Yankee. He matched his season-high with three home runs, matched his Yankees-high with five earned runs, and 5.1 innings made this his shortest start since the trade. “If that’s the finishing one, then that one kinda sucks,” McCarthy said. “But I’ve thrown well, there’s been a lot of positives. But I felt like, at least tonight, I was able to not let it spiral out of control, when I was still fighting everything. But it’s not one I would like to have this time of year.”
• Although he walked no one, everyone seemed to agree that McCarthy’s biggest issue was command. It stemmed from mechanics that were slightly off, leaving the movement on his pitches unpredictable at times. “It was just a day where I never really felt like I had a feel for what I was doing,” McCarthy said. “Command of the pitches was okay at times, and then other times it let me down a little bit. I couldn’t find any consistent movement, and my sinker flattened out. Larry (Rothschild) talked about this: some of them just stayed straight, some of them were sinking. It was hard to be consistent and do what I wanted to do, and go with a certain plan of attack if you’re not able to execute.”
• Girardi on McCarthy: “It’s the first night maybe he didn’t quite have his command. He’s been really good with his command. He was pulling some sinkers, he left some balls up and got hurt. He missed with a cutter to Kelly Johnson. Of all he starts that he’s had, this was probably the one that he didn’t have his location.”
• Oddly, despite all the home runs and all the hits, McCarthy was able to strikeout eight without a walk. It was the fourth time this season — all with the Yankees — that McCarthy had at least eight strikeouts without a walk. “When he did throw the ball where he wanted to, he got people out,” Girardi said.
• On the whole, McCarthy’s time with the Yankees was pretty impressive, and his personality seems to fit here extremely well. McCarthy’s a free agent, and would seem like a strong target for this team. “I would prefer to be anywhere that I’m wanted,” he said. “But this would be a hard place to turn down.”
• Brian McCann has 23 home runs this season, and eight of them have come in the month of September. “I’ve been feeling good for a while,” he said. “Just not missing my pitch. Getting it and finding the barrel.”
• Most home runs McCann has ever hit in a single month was nine during July of 2012. His 23 homers this season are the most by a Yankees player whose primary position is catcher since Jorge Posada hit 23 in 2006.
• Jeter now has a seven-game hitting streak, which is the longest active streak for the Yankees. Despite going just 1-for-5 today, he’s still hitting .400 this home stand. He has two Yankee Stadium games left.
• Ichiro Suzuki is hitting .319 in 47 games since August 1 including .350 in 27 home games in that span.
• The Yankees pitching staff had 11 strikeouts today (11 by McCarthy, two by Betances, one by Robertson) which gave them 1,319 strikeouts for the year. That’s a new single-season franchise record, breaking the mark set in 2012. This was the seventh time this season that the Yankees struck out 10 without walking a batter.
• Yankees relievers have a 1.13 ERA in their past 14 home games.
• McCarthy has reached 200 innings in a season for the first time in his career. He got to exactly 200 before coming out in the sixth. He called it a “tremendous source of pride” to finally reach that number. Not a bad year to get there with free agency coming up.
• Final word to Jeter: “You always have to have confidence. We have confidence up until the game is over with, regardless of the score. You have to have confidence that we’ll come back and play an entire game. Confidence has always been there.”
Associated Press photos
Game 157: Yankees vs. Orioles • 09.23.14
RHP Brandon McCarthy (7-4, 2.54)
McCarthy vs. Orioles
Nick Markakis RF
Alejandro De Aza LF
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz DH
Kelly Johnson 2B
J.J. Hardy SS
Jimmy Paredes 3B
Ryan Flaherty 1B
Nick Hundley C
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (5-9, 4.90)
Jimenez vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., MY9 and ESPN
WEATHER: Not as chilly as last night. But I’m probably pushing it a little bit with the short-sleeved shirt.
UMPIRES: HP D.J. Reyburn, 1B Jeff Kellogg, 2B Adam Hamari, 3B Brian O’Nora
ALMOST THERE: The Yankees have finished with a winning record in each of the past 21 seasons and need one more win in their last six games to accomplish the feat for a 22nd straight year. The current streak is the second-longest such stretch in MLB history, trailing only the Yankees streak of 39 consecutive winning records from 1926-64.
THE LAST STAND: Since the start of this home stand Derek Jeter is 9-for-20 (.450) with three runs, three doubles, one home run and six RBI in five games. Jeter has hit safely in his last six games, the club’s longest active streak.
STRIKING DISTANCE: Yankees pitchers have recorded 1,308 strikeouts this season and need only 10 more to tie the franchise’s single-season strikeout record of 1,318 set in 2012.
UPDATE, 7:36 p.m.: Well, the Yankees thought Kelly Johnson would be able to hit some homers in this ballpark. He just went deep to make it 1-0 Orioles in the second.
UPDATE, 8:39 p.m.: Third home run allowed by Brandon McCarthy tonight. This one is a solo shot by Nelson Cruz to start the fifth inning and push the Orioles lead to 5-1. McCarthy’s been excellent since coming to the Yankees, but it looks like his final start will be a dud.
UPDATE, 9:00 p.m.: One-out single in the sixth has chased McCarthy from the game. This is only the second time in 14 starts with the Yankees that McCarthy allowed as many as five runs.
UPDATE, 9:11 p.m.: Esmil Rogers gets the popup that gets the Yankees out of the sixth inning with two runners stranded. The team is back to needing offense, though.
UPDATE, 9:27 p.m.: Bases loaded sacrifice fly from Drew has cut the lead to 5-2. Still a chance to do more damage here in the sixth.
UPDATE, 9:28 p.m.: Scratch that. Ichiro strikes out to end the inning.
UPDATE, 9:50 p.m.: Brian McCann has found his home run swing lately. Two-out, two-run homer in the seventh makes it 5-4. Yankees still trail. That’s McCann’s 23rd of the season.
UPDATE, 9:55 p.m.: Here’s Dellin Betances trying to keep the Yankees within a run here in the eighth inning.
Bud Selig is at Yankee Stadium today, and he’s going to address the media in just a few minutes so I need to head back down to the press conference room in just a few minutes. A few quick pregame notes before I head downstairs.
• Mark Teixeira had his latest cortisone injection on Sunday, and he’s back in the lineup tonight. “I’ve gone through all the basic tests, and it seems to have taken,” Teixeira said. “Unless something crazy happens during BP, I should be fine.”
• Teixeira said he usually takes a full month off when the offseason starts. This year, he’s planning to take maybe a week before beginning regular offseason workouts. “Get right back into strengthening,” he said. “My upper body strengthening really didn’t start full time until January (last offseason). Like I’ve told you guys a number of times, I definitely need to get stronger, my whole upper body, but definitely the wrist. … We’re past the rehab point. We need to get into the strengthening point. The strength will help the inflammation stay out of there. Hopefully the little things in my legs that happened this year, I just need to get stronger from top to bottom, but especially the wrist.”
• No baseball activities for either Carlos Beltran or Jacoby Ellsbury today, though Ellsbury will do some light exercises just to see how he responds. Girardi acknowledged that the way he treats those two going forward will likely depend on whether the Yankees stay in the mathematical playoff race. “That’s probably fair to say,” Girardi said. “My guess is, we wouldn’t push it (if the team were eliminated).”
• Is Derek Jeter going to play all three games in Boston this weekend? “My plan is to play him,” Girardi said. “Obviously if things happen and we are eliminated, then obviously I’ll talk to him on a daily basis. My plan is to play him, but I’m going to talk to him and see what he physically needs and what he mentally wants. … My guess is, he’s going to want to play every day.”
• New outfielder Eury Perez is here today. Not in the lineup, but he was in the clubhouse and on the lineup sheet. I assume he’s available off the bench.
• If Masahiro Tanaka is starting Saturday and Michael Pineda is starting Sunday, it seems this will likely be Brandon McCarthy’s final start unless the Yankees advance to a wild card game. He’s been a terrific second-half addition heading into free agency. “For the most part, he has brought out the same stuff almost every game and has gotten deep into games,” Girardi said. “And his sinker has been outstanding. He’s gotten a ton of ground balls. There’s a lot of times when you’ll see guys when they don’t have their A stuff and they have to battle through it, but his stuff has been consistent for the whole time that we’ve had him, for the most part.”
Associated Press photo
The Yankees actually won a game tonight, but in this season of disappointment, it was a hollow victory. The teams ahead of them also won, so the Yankees didn’t actually gain any ground in their vague pursuit of a playoff spot. They just won a game, and it probably didn’t mean much.
But in the eighth inning, Dellin Betances got Kevin Kiermaier to swing through a breaking ball. It was strike three, Brian McCann asked for the ball, and he flipped it into the Yankees dugout. Betances had just passed Mariano Rivera for the Yankees single-season strikeout record for a reliever. And Betances did it in fewer innings than it took the greatest closer ever.
“Just to be mentioned around his name, you’re talking about the best closer, the best reliever in the game,” Betances said. “Just to be around the same breath as him, I take thrill in that. As far as innings, like I said before, he did it with one pitch, so I think that’s more amazing.”
In this season of disappointment, the long-awaited arrival and complete dominance of Betances just might be the most positive thing that’s happened for the Yankees. Brandon McCarthy has been a terrific half-season rental, and Yangervis Solarte was a fun story for a while, and there’s been the ongoing Derek Jeter farewell. But Betances has emerged from a rocky minor leaguer career to become one of the very best relief pitchers in baseball.
“You think about the people that he passed these past few weeks: Goose Gossage and Mariano Rivera,” Joe Girardi said. “One Hall of Famer and one just has to wait his turn, basically. It’s pretty impressive what he’s done. What he went through, and some of the struggles that he went through. Those struggles helped. When you struggle and you’re able to get back up and fight through it, it helps you down the road because it’s not always going to be easy in this game. What a year he’s had.”
Amazing to think back to Betances simply trying to make the team in spring training.
“I knew that if I believe in myself and I had the confidence going into spring that I was going to get that job,” Betances said. “I can’t tell you that the numbers would be the way that they are because you’re facing great hitters on a daily basis. I just try to keep it the same routine and just try to get advice from some of these guys that have been here and have been doing it for a while. I think from McCann to Jeet to the rest of the bullpen guys, they’ve been a great help to me.”
• Speaking of Jeter, his sixth-inning single up the middle snapped an 0-for-28 stretch that was the second-longest of his career. “I’m 1-for-my-last-2, guys,” Jeter said. “I’m hot. It felt good, man. I’m well aware of what’s going on. At the same time, you try to forget about anything that’s happened up to that point. It feels good. Those stretches aren’t fun.”
• Jeter tried to bunt for a hit in his first at-bat. Desperation? Not exactly, Jeter said. “(Alex) Cobb’s tough,” Jeter said. “I don’t care how you’ve been swinging the bat, when you face him, it’s difficult. I thought I had an opportunity. Longoria was back, but unfortunately it was too close to (the mound). Even if I was hot, I probably would have done the same thing.”
• The Yankees understood what was happening with Jeter, so they were happy to see him finally get one. “Really nice,” Girardi said. “He hit the ball hard a couple of times tonight. Just missed one foul, and it was good to see.”
• It seems like Chase Headley keeps finding new ways to impress the Yankees. Lately it’s been with his toughness in the wake of last week’s pitch to the chin. “This guy is a gamer,” Girardi said. “You can probably see the blood in his neck, but (the bruising) goes down (through his chest). For him to be back the next day after all he went through, he showed his teammates a lot. Obviously he showed us a lot. Diving all over the place, a huge hit tonight. He’s something else.”
• Also something else is McCarthy who got to 10 wins in a season for the first time. McCarthy is into the newer stats, but pitchers always like getting wins. “I didn’t really that (was the 10th),” he said. “A lot of it is that I just haven’t been able to get deep enough into a season and stay healthy and consistent enough to get there. But yeah, to get there, it’s a little point of pride. It’s not something that I’m focused on, but it’s nice, especially the way the season started and I was on pace to be the league leader in losses, and nothing good, at least there’s a nice ending there.”
• One other feather for his cap, McCarthy struck out the side on nine pitches in the seventh. “At least it’s something else you can add to your resume when you’re done,” McCarthy said. “And a story you can tell someone that they won’t care about later on, but at least in the meantime it’s something cool.”
• Ivan Nova had a nine-pitch, three-strikeout inning last year. According to Katie Sharp of ESPN Stats and Info, the only other Yankees to ever have such an inning are A.J. Burnett (in 2009), Ron Guidry (in 1984) and Al Downing (in 1967).
• Think about leaving McCarthy in the game after such a dominant seventh? “No,” Girardi said. “He’d done his job, and Dellin was well rested and had a couple of days off. I turned it over to him.”
• Brendan Ryan had a go-ahead ground-rule double in the fifth inning. It was his first extra-base hit since August 5 and his first RBI since July 29. I suppose that’s partially because of his lack of offense, but mostly because he simply never plays (which is because of his lack of offense).
• Jeter played 126 games at Tropicana Field during his career. He’s the all-time leaders in hits (145) and runs (80) by a visiting player at this ballpark.
• We’ll give the final word to McCarthy on his approach following last night’s HBP fireworks: “I don’t like when those things keep carrying over day after day. Most of it, it’s the checks and balances of baseball. It’s, protect your teammates, and once that’s done, then everybody knows the score and you move on from there and it’s back to baseball. If you let this stir up, and I do something, then I’m the jerk, and we’re the bad guys. So at that point, it’s go out and play again, try to beat them on the field, and let it get back to normal.”
Associated Press photos (including an old one of Betances because I didn’t have one from tonight)