State of the organization: Left field • 10.15.14
Our final state of the organization stop among position players is left field, where the Yankees have committed long-term to a bit of an unconventional choice for the position (more speed and on-base than true power). It’s also a position that leaves open the option of making a trade and eventually opening the door for one of many possible alternatives down the road. The left fielder of the future doesn’t necessarily have to be a guy who’s playing left field right now.
Signed through 2019
When the Yankees locked Jacoby Ellsbury into a long-term contract last winter, it seemed like bad news for Gardner’s staying power. Having long been considered a kind of poor-man’s version of Ellsbury, Gardner was giving up his leadoff spot and his defensive position to a what seemed to be a superior player, and free agency was fast approaching. But the Yankees changed that in spring training with a four-year contract extension plus a team option. Gardner responded with a unusually typical season. His .749 OPS was just slightly higher than his career OPS, and his 111 OPS+ was right in line with the previous season. But Gardner got there by hitting for a surprising amount of power with a career-high 17 homers. Those home runs came with a career-low .327 on-base percentage. There were stretches when Gardner looked like the best hitter in the Yankees lineup, and he finished with the highest OPS among the regulars. When this year started, it seemed Gardner might be on his way out. Now his production and contract essentially lock him into an everyday job for the foreseeable future (unless the Yankees decide to do something drastic).
On the verge
You could make a case for several “on the verge” left field options — and in a lot of ways, Ramon Flores is the best fit for this distinction because he’s a true left fielder who had a solid year when he was healthy — but if there’s an in-house guy who’s well positioned to actually help out in left field out of spring training, it’s probably Pirela. He’s a right-handed hitter, which makes him a nice complement to Gardner. He’s also versatile, which makes him a nice fit on a Yankees roster with so much uncertainty at various positions. Pirela came up as an infielder, but he’s been getting regular reps in left field for a few years now. He will surely try to win an everyday job at second base during spring training, but it might be easier for him a win a job as a bench player who can play the outfielder corners while providing additional depth in the infield. Adonis Garcia and Zelous Wheeler (if he’s not DFA) could also be right-handed corner outfield options off the bench.
Hard to find a true left field prospect. Quite often a young player comes up at another position and plays his way into a left field job (or, in the case of Gardner, ends up shifting to left field because the other outfield positions are filled). Flores, though, has been primarily a left fielder throughout his career. He can play center, and he has experience as a right fielder and first baseman, but the vast majority of his time has come in left. And he has a set of tools that might actually profile pretty well for a fourth outfielder type who can run a little, get on base and handle all three spots in the outfield. He has a spot on the 40-man roster and he hit .247/.339/.443 in Triple-A this year (though his season was limited to 63 games because of an ankle injury). There are bigger names who could end up in left field depending on various circumstances, but Flores is a left fielder by trade, and he’s done enough to stay on the prospect radar into the upper levels of the system.
Deeper in the system
You can dig into the lower levels of the system and find a few names worth watching in left field. Former third-rounder Michael O’Neill still strikes out a lot, but he was better this year than last year. A pretty young kid named Frank Frias had a solid year in rookie ball. A 2012 draftee named Chris Breen hit .281/.376/.504 in Staten Island. In terms of organizational depth at the position, though, the Yankees abundance of left field options basically revolves around all the guys who can play center field. If Slade Heathcott gets healthy or Mason Williams gets back on track, either one could become a left field alternative as long as Ellsbury remains in New York. Same for emerging center field standout Jake Cave. Right fielders Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge would presumably become left field options if circumstances forced the change. One interesting name that stands out, though, is Dugas. An eighth-round pick out of the University of Alabama, Dugas can play center and right but he’s mostly been a left fielder in pro ball. He’s undersized — listed at 5-foot-9 — but he’s done a terrific job of getting on base. This year he hit .299/.399/.390 between Double-A and Triple-A, essentially forcing the Yankees to not only give him regular at-bats but also to promote him to the highest level of the minors. Easy to overlook a year ago, Dugas put up numbers that can’t be ignored.
Making a trade to open a door
Aside from the year he was hurt most of the season, Gardner’s been a pretty steady player since moving into the everyday lineup. He doesn’t run as much as his speed suggests he should, and he strikes out a lot for a top-of-the-order guy, but he’s been a good lineup regular. This season’s power surge was a welcome surprise, he remains a patient hitter, and his outfield defense is a plus. Right now, Gardner’s spring contract extension looks like a pretty good one for the Yankees. So it’s worth asking, should they trade him? Gardner’s contract should make him an attractive trade chip, and the upper levels of the Yankees system have a lot of outfielders — many of them left-handed hitters like Gardner — who could become alternatives in left field. If Jake Cave, for example, builds off last season, could he be an even cheaper version of Gardner? Very little guarantee that any of the outfield prospects will be able to match Gardner’s big league production, but Gardner himself is proof that a prospect labeled as an eventual fourth outfielder can eventually play his way into being a productive everyday guy. If the Yankees want someone to follow in Gardner’s footsteps, they might first have to open Gardner’s position.
Associated Press photo
State of the organization: Center field • 10.14.14
Up next in our position-by-position look at the Yankees organization is a position that has a long-term solution already in place at the major-league level. It’s also a position with quite a bit of depth — and a good amount of both disappointment and production — within the minor league system. The Yankees have a lot of young center fielders who might or might not work out, but right now there’s not really a place to put them even if they do emerge as immediate big league options.
Signed through 2020
The Yankees lineup didn’t have much in 2013, but one thing it did have was a speedy, left-handed, leadoff-hitting center fielder. And so, of course, when the Yankees got into the offseason and needed to find a high-end position player, they gave seven years and more than $150 million to a speedy, left-handed, leadoff-hitting center fielder. For the most part, Ellsbury lived up to expectation in his first season with the Yankees. He had a 113 OPS+ in 2013, then a 111 in 2014. He had 246 total bases in 2013, 241 in 2014. Home runs were up, stolen bases were slightly down, but ultimately this was a reasonable and productive year for Ellsbury. Whether the contract will still be reasonable and productive at the end of the decade remains to be seen, but for the time being, the Yankees seem to have gotten the player they expected. And having Ellsbury in center field has allowed the Yankees to move Brett Gardner back into left field, giving them a ton of outfield range and a double-dose of speed near the top of the order.
On the verge
I’m using Richardson’s name here mostly to make a point about the uncertainty of all the organization’s upper-level center fielders. The Yankees have a lot of center fielders who could push themselves onto the big league roster early next season — Can Slade Heathcott get healthy? Mason Williams has the defense, what about the bat? Will Jake Cave keep moving up? Is Taylor Dugas for real? Are Adonis Garcia and Ramon Flores good enough in center? — but this September, when the Yankees wanted a speedy center field type to bring up in September, they called on the veteran Richardson. Even with a lot of center field talent in Double-A and Triple-A, Richardson was the choice. Ideally, one of the true center field prospects will push for that sort of call-up next year. Williams is Rule 5 eligible this offseason. Heathcott and Flores are already on the 40-man. Cave and Dugas had great 2014 seasons. Both Garcia and Flores are intriguing hitters who primarily play in the corners but have center field experience. With both Ellsbury and Gardner on the big league roster, the Yankees have ready-made depth in center field, so the development of a center fielder isn’t overwhelmingly important. But the Yankees have a lot of upper-level talent at the position, and they’ll surely need some of that talent to play some sort of role going forward.
Two things are at play here. The first is all about Cave himself. The 21-year-old missed all of 2012 with a knee injury, but he made a strong showing with Low-A Charleston in 2013, and he did so well with High-A Tampa this season that he forced a mid-July promotion to Double-A Trenton. When he got there, Cave’s power numbers actually spiked. He finished the year with a .294/.351/.414 slash line between the two levels. He can run, but he hasn’t stolen a ton of bases. He has some power, but it mostly plays out in a lot of doubles. He’s noted for a strong arm in the outfield. Good as Cave has been these past two years, though, some of his move to the top of the organizational pecking order at center field is because of the decline of both Williams and Heathcott. Williams hit just .223/.290/.304, which was another a step backwards after a disappointing 2013. His speed, defense and upside might be enough for a 40-man spot this winter, but Williams’ prospect stock is falling fast. Heathcott, on the other hand, remains one of the highest-potential players in the organization, but he had yet another surgery this season. He simply missed too much time and remains too injury prone to still consider him the top center field prospect in the system.
Deeper in the system
The Yankees top five draft picks this year were all pitchers. The first position player they selected was Payton, a University of Texas center fielder who made a strong first impression by hitting .320/.418/.497 between Low-A and High-A. Just like almost all of the other center fielders in the system, Payton is a left-handed hitter, and most scouting reports suggest a fourth-outfielder upside. He seems to be one of those guys who does a lot of things pretty well but no one thing extremely well (could say that about a lot of the Yankees other center field prospects as well). Have to assume Payton will head back to Tampa next season, looking to basically follow Cave’s footsteps with a mid-season bump to Double-A. Also coming up from the lower levels, Dustin Fowler hit for some power in Charleston this year, but Leonardo Molina is the name to watch. He’s just 17 years old and put up bad numbers in rookie ball, but the Yankees see considerable potential. Needs time to develop.
Getting things right
It’s not unusual or surprising to see a lot of left-handed center fielders in the organization. Most high school teams tend to stick their best players at shortstop, but if that best player is left-handed, center field seems to be the best alternative. And it seems the Yankees organization is seeing the trickle-down impact. Ellsbury, Gardner, Cave, Dugas, Flores, Heathcott, Williams and Payton are all left-handed hitters. That’s not a bad thing, but it is a redundant thing. With Ellsbury and Gardner locked into multi-year contracts, the Yankees most immediate opening for a young center fielder is in fourth outfielder role, and it would be convenient to have that fourth outfielder bat right-handed (if only to balance the two guys already in place). At some point the Yankees might have to trade away some of this center field depth to find a player who’s not so repetitive within their own system. Problem is, Heathcott and Williams have lost considerable trade value, and guys like Flores and Dugas (and probably even Cave) aren’t likely to headline a particularly significant deal.
Associated Press photo
Brett Gardner is not going to win the Hank Aaron Award — given to each league’s top offensive performer — but the fact he’s the Yankees nominee is pretty amazing. Granted, his batting average dipped by the end of the year, but he still finished with the highest OPS on the team (among guys who got more than 200 at-bats). Nice year for Gardner. Bad year for the Yankees lineup. Here’s the press release from the league.
Fans can vote exclusively online at MLB.com and the 30 Club sites. For the fifth straight year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Hank Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by Major League Baseball and has recognized the most outstanding offensive performer in each League since it was established in 1999.
In 148 games, Gardner hit .256 (142-for-555) with 87 runs, 25 doubles, eight triples, 17 home runs and 58 RBI, surpassing his previous career bests in both homers (eight in 2013) and runs batted in (52 in 2013). Each of his 17 home runs was hit out of the leadoff spot, tied for the highest such total in the American League. Gardner was 21-for-26 in stolen base attempts, marking his fifth season with at least 20 steals. He was named the AL “Player of the Week” on August 4, batting .478 (11-for-23) with eight runs, three doubles, five home runs and seven RBI in six games from July 28-August 3.
The Hall of Fame panel led by Aaron includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time – Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers – who combined for 16,956 hits, 8,844 RBI and 2,109 home runs – have all been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise to select the best offensive performer in each League.
Through October 5, fans will have the opportunity to select one American League and one National League winner from a list comprising of one finalist per Club. The winners of the 2014 Hank Aaron Award will be announced during the 2014 World Series.
Associated Press photo
As he sat in front of his locker postgame, I really doubt Brett Gardner expected to stand up and give essentially an end-of-the-season address, but that’s exactly what happened. A crowd of reporters gathered around, asked just a handful of questions, and Gardner put words to all that’s left the Yankees six games out of the second wild card with 13 to play.
“I feel like things have been slipping away for a few weeks,” Gardner said. “To be honest, I haven’t looked at the standings the last couple of days because at this point they don’t really matter. We’ve got to win every day. Until we’re five, six, seven games out with five, six, seven games to go and eliminated, I’m still going to hold out hope, and I still believe in the group of guys we have here. I still come to work every day and play hard, but like I said, we’re not in a good spot right now, and it’s a shame because our pitchers have really stepped up the last couple of months and done a good job. As an offense, we haven’t.”
It’s true. Even speaking to Shawn Kelley, who had a rough ninth inning and allowed the walk-off single, it was basically impossible to hang this loss on his shoulders. The bullpen’s had a bit of a rough time lately, but who could blame them? They’ve been trying to preserve tiny leads for nearly six months now.
“As well as we’ve pitched, we didn’t need to be great (offensively),” Gardner said. “We just needed to be good. And we haven’t been.”
The Yankees were shutout for the 10th time this season. But it’s more telling that they were shutout for the fourth time in the past 11 games and for the fifth time in the past 16 games.
“You feel like you’re due at some point,” Gardner said. “I don’t feel like it’s been a couple of games. I feel like it’s been pretty much all season. We’ve had flashes of being pretty good, but for the most part, we’ve just struggled to get guys across the plate. It’s frustrating because, with all the injuries we had to our rotation, the guys that have come up and come in from other places have really stepped up and done a great job, pitched really well and kept us in the ballgame. Just like tonight, all we needed to get was just one or two runs and we couldn’t even get that. It’s just really frustrating. Guys are working really hard. Guys are trying. Guys are putting in the effort. For one reason or another, we’re just not getting it done.”
Last year, the team’s offensive problems were easy to dismiss as a product of overwhelming injury problems. Not this year. There have been injuries, sure, but the truly devastating blows haven’t hurt the lineup.
“The bulk of our injuries have been to our rotation,” Gardner said. “And down the stretch here, our pitching and our rotation has been our strength. As a position player, as a hitter, it makes it a lot tougher to feel like you … you feel like you’re not picking them up. You’re not getting the job done.”
• Most explosive thing any Yankees hitter did today was Chase Headley getting ejected one pitch into his seventh-inning at-bat. Headley had a problem with a low strike called by home-place umpire Marty Foster, and his disagreement turned into a rather lengthy back-and-forth between player and umpire. At one point Foster took off his mask to snap back at Headley, and as Headley was getting back in the box to continue his at-bat, Foster threw him out of the game. “There was a conversation before it happened which I thought was fairly mild tempered,” Headley said. “I thought that he was an aggressor towards me. I told him to calm down and he kept yelling at me. I said I didn’t appreciate that.”
• More Headley: “I didn’t think what I said to him warranted the response that I got, and it just kept going. I think more than the balls and strikes was just the reaction that I got from him was not in any way comparable to how I was speaking to him. So that’s basically what happened. I’m not going to get into too much more specific about that. Yeah there was disagreements about the pitches but that’s not where it ended up.”
• It seems Headley’s problems with Foster started from his very first at-bat. “The borderline ones you can live with,” Headley said. “But the first pitch of the game, I come in, got hit with 97 in the mouth (last week), and the first pitch I see is 95 at my ribs. Then he calls a changeup a foot off the plate and it’s like, c’mon. It kind of started me off on the wrong foot. The borderline ones you live with but when there’s a pitch that should not be missed, ever, I think that’s when as a player you get a little bit more upset.”
• Girardi on the Headley ejection: “It’s one thing if you’re arguing, you’re going back and forth and showing him up, but these games mean something. It’s a shame. He questioned some strikes. Hitters should be allowed to do that. We should be allowed to do that. At some point, it would be nice if umpires said, ‘If you say another thing, you’re gone.’ You can do that. If he barks and you bark back; it wasn’t like a whole lot of people knew what was going on. It’s frustrating to me.”
• The Yankees have lost four of their past five games. Of those four losses, one was credited to Dave Robertson, one to Adam Warren, and tonight’s to Shawn Kelley. That’s a rough stretch for a bullpen that’s been terrific nearly all year. “Every time we pitch the game’s on the line,” Kelley said. “But I’ve got to go out there and put up a zero whether it’s nothing-nothing or it’s 10-nothing. … You pitch a lot of games out of the bullpen, and that’s just part of the game. We’re all in great shape, we’ve all prepared for this, and I don’t think it’s fatigue. ”
• Girardi is usually pretty strict with his rules about managing reliever workload, but playing so many low-scoring games this season has essentially forced him to use his go-to guys a lot. “There’s not a lot of wiggle room,” Girardi said. “You look at the games we’ve lost 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 or whatever, there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room. They’re not going to be perfect. They’ve been really, really good, but they’re not going to be perfect.”
• I honestly felt bad, but not a single reporter interviewed Chris Capuano postgame. He just wasn’t the story. Really nice bounce-back start for him — coming off that one-out performance last week, he went six scoreless tonight — but a strong pitching performance just isn’t anything new and doesn’t carry much weight at this point. The Yankees are all about their failing offense. Great start for Capuano, just didn’t feel the need to hear what he had to say about it.
• Last Yankees starter to throw at least six scoreless innings on two hits or less and not earn a win was Freddy Garcia back in 2011. Capuano has only five decisions in his past 18 career starts dating back to last season.
• Didn’t mean much in the end, but Gardner said he and Jacoby Ellsbury called for that dropped fly ball at the exact same time. “We just kind of ran into one another a little bit, and I wasn’t able to hold onto it,” Gardner said. “But Cap made a couple of good pitches after that and was able to pick me up. Didn’t end up hurting us today, we just, same story. Been pitching really well, but it’s just been hard for us to score runs.”
• This was the fifth time a Yankees player was ejected this season. Gardner, Kelley, Michael Pineda and Cesar Cabral were previously thrown out of games.
• Final word to Girardi: “We’re just not hitting. For whatever reason, we’re not hitting. I think we’ve scored six runs on this road trip, lost three games in the last inning, in the bottom of the inning. It’s frustrating. Eventually I think it’s got to turn, but it better turn pretty quickly here.”
Associated Press photos
Twenty innings. One run. Let’s add today to the long list of potential low points for the Yankees offense this season. Riding a wave of momentum after back-to-back emotional wins at home, the Yankees lineup flat-lined again today. They nearly squeezed a win out of this mess, which is fairly remarkable, but they ultimately earned their doubleheader sweep. They earned it the same way they’ve earned so many losses this season: by simply not hitting.
“It’s hard to win when you only score one run in (20) innings,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought we had a pretty decent shot to win the first game when we scored the one run, but tonight we didn’t do anything off Norris. He’s got good stuff, and he’s been tough on us before, but you’ve got to score runs.”
The end of that quote is the new state of the Yankees. On nights they can’t score, teams never want to dismiss the performance of the opposing pitcher, but it seems the Yankees are sick of tipping their caps. There are plenty of good pitchers out there, but night after night, the one constant is this group of Yankees hitters. And they just keep having nights like this one.
“We have to go on a run,” Jacoby Ellsbury said. “That’s the only way to put it. We want to make it interesting. We still have a chance. All we can do is go out there and give everything we have, play good baseball. Obviously we have to get hot and we have to play very good baseball, but there’s still a chance. That’s what we have to hold out for.”
Hold out all you want, but the Yankees are now five games out with 16 to play. There are four teams ahead of them in that race for the second wild card. It might not be a death sentence, but it’s awfully close. Mathematically, they’re still in it. Realistically? After what they showed these past 20 innings? That seems to be a different story.
“I don’t care when you lose two games in a row, it’s frustrating,” Girardi said. “Especially after the last two wins that we had. Yeah, we’re beat up, but that’s no excuse. You’ve got to find a way.”
• Chase Headley was in the Yankees clubhouse postgame. He has two stitches and actually looks alright considering what happened last night. Tests have come back clean so far, but he’s going to do some more tests tomorrow just to be certain. He said he doesn’t expect to play tomorrow, but it seems like the Yankees could get him back sooner than later.
• Carlos Beltran said he took about 20 light swings in the cage, just some soft toss. His elbow feels a little bit better, he said, but this wasn’t much of a workout. His situation is still uncertain to say the least.
• Francisco Cervelli is with the team in Baltimore. He said his headaches have gone away. He feels good and feels like he could play at this point.
• Martin Prado didn’t start the second game, but it seems likely he’ll play tomorrow. “You can see he’s not 100 percent, and you hate to try to have a guy wind it back up again (after playing in the afternoon game),” Girardi said. “There’s concern about him hurting it worse and it being a long-term problem and having some real issues with it. He’s a gamer, and I put him out there to pinch hit, and he hit the ball well. He did it as well last night. So my plan is to play him again tomorrow.”
• Although his command was obviously bad, David Phelps said he felt physically fine in his first appearance in more than a month. “It doesn’t have anything to do with being rusty,” he said. “Regardless of how long you take off, throwing strikes shouldn’t be a problem. … Was pulling sliders off the plate all night, finally throw one and the guy hits it hard. It’s just frustrating.”
• Better night on the mound for rookie Bryan Mitchell who gave up two runs through five innings in his first big league start. “My main goal tonight was to put us in a chance to win,” Mitchell said. “Obviously the two runs hurt, but it’s just one of those days I would have liked to have been better. … Yeah, it obviously is (good enough to have a chance to win), but without those two runs obviously we have a better chance.”
• Girardi on Mitchell: “He did OK. He hasn’t started a game in a while. He threw a bunch of pitches the other day on Sunday, and he got in some tough counts, but held the damage to a minimum. Obviously he gave us a chance to win. … It was good to see him pitch in a start. I’ve only seen him pitch really out of relief. He has the ability to have people swing and miss, and he has the ability to get out of innings. He did some little things. He held runners. He’s a work in progress, but it was good for him to get a start.”
• The Yankees intentionally paired Mitchell with Austin Romine, who’d caught him in Triple-A. “That definitely helped,” Mitchell said. “Made me a lot more comfortable because we have a similar plan to what we’ve been doing during the season (in Triple-A), so I liked that going into it.”
• After missing the past six games with a lower abdominal strain, Brett Gardner returned to the lineup, reached base twice and stole a bag. He’s hitting .348 with five extra-base hits in his past six games.
• Chris Young had another hit in the nightcap. He’s hitting .429 with five runs, three doubles, three home runs and eight RBI since joining the Yankees on September 2.
• The Orioles swept a doubleheader against the Yankes for the first time since September 24, 1984 in Baltimore.
• Final word to Girardi: “It’s no fun, but other teams are having problems in front of us that we’re trying to catch. We’re probably three or four hits from winning eight out of our last 10. If you get those hits and three or four pitches as well, it’s different. It makes a big difference. We need to win a lot, and I’ve said that a lot. We’re capable of doing it.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi’s pregame media session was basically just a medical report. It’s September, rosters are expanded, and the Yankees will actually have a pretty limited bench today because of the recent string of injuries.
“We called up eight people, and I’m not so sure we have enough guys to run out there,” Girardi said. “It’s unfortunate we’ve kind of been hit with some injuries, multiple guys, bang, bang, bang. But, as I said, you still put players out there, you still play the game, and you see things that happen like they did last night. Guys have to step up.”
Here are the basic updates:
Pitch to the face
After last night’s hit by pitch, Headley stayed behind in New York so that he can be tested for a concussion.
“The tests came out good last night,” Girardi said. “No fractures. He had to get a couple of stitches. He’ll see the neurologist today and then determine what’s next. Hopefully he can join us fairly quickly.”
Girardi said it’s possible Headley will join the team this weekend in Baltimore, but he might not necessarily play this weekend.
“He’s sore,” Girardi said. “He was pretty sore last night, so I’m not sure what we’ll have.”
Although he hasn’t done much in the past week, Gardner said he’s going to try to run and hit today. If that goes well, Girardi said he’s hoping to have Gardner in the lineup for Game 2.
“I’ll go through some of the things they want me to go through and see how it feels,” Gardner said.
Most of the discomfort comes when Gardner runs, he said. He’s not too worried about swinging, but obviously a lot of his game is based on running.
Elbow bone spur
Still no clarity on whether Beltran will be able to play again this season.
“I think he was going to try to do something today if he can and it felt OK,” Girardi said. “(He’s going to) try to take some swings.”
After last night’s pinch hit home run, Prado is in the starting lineup for the first time since Sunday. But Girardi cautioned that Prado’s not out of the woods yet. Last night wasn’t taken as proof that he’s over it.
“I think we have to watch him,” Girardi said. “There’s some concern still with that hamstring. We’re going to have to watch him.”
Activated off the disabled list this morning, Phelps will be available out of the bullpen for the doubleheader.
“I think 25-30 pitches is safe to say,” Girardi said. “You’d have to see if he threw an inning how he did before you sent him back out there. Give him a chance to build up a little bit. My inkling would be you use him an inning, maybe try to build him up that way, but sometimes you’re not afforded that luxury.”
• Brian Mitchell will start Game 2. The Yankees had him throw a 50-pitch sim game a few days ago to stay sharp for this start. “He’s used to starting, so I don’t think 80 to 90 pitches is out of the realm for him,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he would prefer not to use any pitchers in both games, but he left open the possibility of using a lefty and possibly Dave Robertson in both ends of the doubleheader. “I’ll have to see,” he said.
• Orioles 1B/3B Chris Davis has been suspended 25 games after testing positive for an amphetamine. Davis released a statement in which he admitted using Adderall, something he apparently had permission to use in the past but not this year. The suspension will keep him out of the lineup through eight playoff games, assuming the Orioles go that far. “It’s disappointing any time a guy is suspended,” Girardi said. “I don’t know the details of it. You hate to see it in our game.”
• The Yankees flew to Baltimore after last night’s game. They got in late and had a late report time for today’s doubleheader. A lot of guys still hadn’t arrived when the clubhouse closed to media at 11:30. I don’t believe either team took batting practice today. Not all that unusual for a doubleheader, and certainly not in the Yankees situation.
Associated Press photo
Pregame notes: “It didn’t work out well” • 09.10.14
This weekend, it seemed Martin Prado was basically through the woods. He wasn’t moving especially well, but he returned to the lineup with three hits on Saturday, played a full game again on Sunday, and it seemed his left hamstring injury was at least healed enough to make him regular again.
But he’s since had three days off, which suggests he’s either more badly hurt than originally believed, or it’s simply no longer worth taking the risk of putting him in the lineup.
“As he went through the weekend, what we saw, there was concern,” Joe Girardi said. “There’s still concern. It’s just talking to the training staff and the doctors, their thoughts.”
Here are Prado’s thoughts:
“To be honest with you, the way I see it, I tried to play when the team needs me to play,” Prado said. “But at the same time, I don’t want to miss four or five weeks or six weeks, a month, after this season if we clinch or not. I don’t want to spend that time waiting for my legs to heal because I can use that time to get ready for next season. The way I see it, I tried to play like that, and it didn’t work out well. That being said, I have to worry about my health and not push back and make that worse.”
Prado said his hamstring “didn’t feel right” after playing in those two weekend games. He was tight and unable to move at 100 percent. Prado was planning to take batting practice today, but it’s not likely he’ll be available even as a pinch hitter.
“I don’t want him to do too much running, as I told him,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘Go through BP, take some BP, see how you feel and we’ll go from there.’ As I said yesterday, there’s a concern there. I don’t think he’s ready to go, but we’re going to let him take some BP.”
• Obviously there’s also some lingering concern about Brett Gardner’s abdominal issue. When he had something similar earlier this season, Gardner missed just one game. This time, he hasn’t played since Friday. “He’ll be out a few more days at least because that can become something that’s fairly serious,” Girardi said. “We’re giving him a few more days and we’ll go from there.”
• Masahiro Tanaka will throw a bullpen on Friday and he’ll pitch in some sort of game at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa on Monday. The Yankees will be in Tampa for a Rays series that day, so it makes sense to send him to the complex.
• David Phelps has a bullpen today and seems likely to be activated on Friday. “Our hope is to bring him back maybe when we go to Baltimore,” Girardi said. “He threw a simulated game, and our hope is to bring him back in Baltimore. He would be in the bullpen, a guy that I could use an inning, inning-plus, then I’d have to give him some days off after that.”
• Brandon McCarthy will start the first game of Friday’s doubleheader. The second game’s starter will depend on who’s available. Girardi mentioned Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley and Esmil Rogers as possibilities. “We could use a bullpen day if we have to,” Girardi said.
• Francisco Cervelli took batting practice on the field today. He’s been out with severe headaches.
• How does Girardi approach these final 20 games knowing most of baseball considers the Yankees to be realistically out of the playoff race? “It’s happened before,” he said. “It’s very difficult, but it’s happened before. You can only control the things you can control, so go control them. And then worry about where you fall later.”
Associated Press photos
There’s a chance Masahiro Tanaka has just one more hurdle to clear before rejoining the Yankees rotation.
Tanaka pitched a three-inning, 45-pitch simulated game this afternoon and declared his arm stronger and healthier than it was two weeks ago in Detroit. He’ll next throw a typical between-starts bullpen before pitching either another simulated game with the Yankees or possibly an instructional league game in Tampa (presumably on Sunday).
After that, a big league start is a legitimate option.
“I think that’s possible to look at, yeah,” Joe Girardi said.
Last time Tanaka threw a simulated game – August 28 at Comerica Park – he complained the next day about soreness and fatigue. That’s when Tanaka’s throwing program was temporarily suspended, creating real doubt about whether he would return this season. Today there seems to be far more hope than doubt.
“Definitely I was throwing stronger, harder than in Detroit,” Tanaka said. “Not overly worried (that it will be sore tomorrow). A bit concerned just because of what happened in Detroit, but when I was throwing, it was completely sort of different. A different feel than what I was feeling in Detroit versus today, so I think I’ll be OK tomorrow.”
Throughout this process, Tanaka has always sounded like a guy who knew his stuff wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues. But today, his tone was different.
“I do (feel ready),” he said. “But I’d probably build up a little bit more pitches before actually going into a competitive game.”
Girardi said he thought Tanaka was better in every way compared to the Detroit sim game. He said the velocity was better, command was better, and the offspeed pitches were sharper. Tanaka faced Chris Young, Antoan Richardson, Zelous Wheeler and Austin Romine.
“Really good,” Young said. “I’m not really sure how the (velocity) is supposed to look or anything like that, but I know his split-finger was just as good as ever and his breaking ball was just as good as I’ve ever seen it. I had the opportunity to face him earlier this year (with the Mets) so I knew what I was getting myself into standing in the box. He looked amazing. He didn’t give up a hit, and we’re all out there trying, for sure. We’re not just standing in. We’re trying to have competitive at-bats and give him as much of a real game situation that you can. He was locked in and made some great pitches.”
• When Brett Gardner had an abdominal issue in Cleveland earlier this year, he missed just one game. This time, he’s missed three games already. “He has an abdominal strain,” Girardi said. “We’re not sure exactly when we’ll get him back. He does feel better. He’ll see the doctor again tonight and then we’ll try to make some decisions on when he’ll start doing some baseball activities. … I’m not sure when we’ll get him back. It is a concern of mine. We’ll continue to talk to the doctors, measure how he feels and how he’s improving and go from there.”
• Gardner’s been perhaps the Yankees most consistent hitter this season. Their hottest hitter of late has been Martin Prado, and Prado’s also out of the lineup. His hamstring is still bothering him. “There’s concern about him playing on that, where he could really make it worse in his hamstring to where it becomes a serious issue,” Girardi said. “It’s still bothering him. Even though I told him to guard it — and he did a good job — there’s concern.”
• Girardi said there was no real setback from Prado playing the previous two games, it just hasn’t gotten better. “It’s the same,” Girardi said. “But there’s concern.”
• David Phelps will throw a side on Wednesday and it seems entirely possible — if not likely — that he’ll be activated for Friday’s double header. “Everything feels great,” Phelps said. Although he could be activated Friday (that’s purely my own speculation based on the timing of his side), Phelps said he’s not expecting to start one of those games.
• I only saw him for a moment as he was walking through the clubhouse, but Francisco Cervelli is definitely back with the Yankees. I never saw him in the clubhouse during those games when he was shutdown with the recurring headaches. The fact he was around today would seem to be a good sign.
• Although he’s gotten into three games and taken one at-bat, this will be Young’s first start since coming to the Yankees. “Not too many people know I’m over here yet,” Young said. “A few people still think I’m with the Mets. I don’t think the word’s gotten around town yet. Tonight I could change that.”
Associated Press photos
Yankees pregame: Derek Jeter Day • 09.07.14
There are No. 2 flags waving in the breeze around the top of Yankee Stadium. There’s a No. 2 logo painted on the grass in front of each dugout. The Yankees were all greeted with a commemorative bottle of wine sitting upright on the chairs in front of their locker with the No. 2 over pinstripes on the label.
It’s Derek Jeter Day.
“I’m sure it’ll be extra special,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s probably a day in a sense that a player doesn’t want to have.”
That’s because it signifies the end is near.
“I hope he does take it in,” Girardi said of the ceremony.
He hopes the rest of the Yankees will take it in as well.
“I think it’s important they understand what he’s meant to the organization, what he’s meant to our fan base, the importance of playing the game right,” Girardi said.
Next year will be very different without Jeter. This is really the end of an era.
“The thing you get used to in this game is people come and go,” Girardi said. “… He’s going to be missed. There’s no doubt about it. But the game will go on. No individual is bigger than the game.”
Girardi didn’t have a lineup yet when he met with us. The hurting Brett Gardner was the issue. Girardi didn’t think he would be available to start. Gardner said it might be a lower abdominal strain, but he wasn’t sure. Gardner, who also had this problem earlier in the season and missed a game, sat out Saturday.
Asked about if it could possibly get worse if he played, Gardner said, “Just the way it feels like, it could.”
David Phelps threw a 31-pitch simulated game and said he felt good. He will return from his upper elbow inflammation as a reliever. But there was no word yet on when he will be activated.
“I feel like I made some good pitches,” Phelps said. “I was just nice to be out there with some adrenaline flowing. … It feels good enough to get guys out right now.”
Photo by The Associated Press.
Postgame notes: “Go back to Jeter’s prime” • 09.06.14
As I type this, there are No. 2 flags already flying over Yankee Stadium, and there’s some sort of crew in center field no doubt beginning to setup whatever the Yankees have planned for Derek Jeter tomorrow. There’s no one in this stadium or in this game who doesn’t know the significance of Jeter’s name, which means Brandon McCarthy was well aware of just how hefty a comparison he was making after tonight’s win against the Royals.
Martin Prado had returned from a hamstring injury to deliver three hits, two of them doubles and each of them in an inning when the Yankees scored. He’s been blistering hot for about three weeks now, and if the Yankees actually make a run into the postseason, it will surely be in no small part because of Prado’s arrival.
“Hitters like that, the biggest compliment you can give is that they’re just a pain in the (butt),” McCarthy said. “Go back to Jeter’s prime, that’s exactly (what Prado’s doing). He’s not knocking balls 20 rows deep. He’s not just driving the ball all over. But they’re just always on pitches. They’re hard to get out. It’s just line drive after line drive after line drive, and the weeks that those start to fall, it’s easy for a lineup to just kind of carry on his momentum.”
Since August 16, Prado has hit .403 with four home runs, 14 runs and 11 RBI. After slugging just .370 in Arizona, Prado has slugged .527 since coming to the Yankees at the trade deadline. He’s hitting .469 with eight RBI in his past eight games at Yankee Stadium.
No one would suggest he’s having a Jeter-like career, but in this little stretch, McCarthy sees a little of the captain in a guy who was his teammate in Arizona and now again in New York.
“It’s been awesome to see him back where he wants to be and where everyone wants to see him these last few weeks,” McCarthy said. “He’s really just starting to hit the ball well. Everything that I remember from Prado toward the end of last season and in Atlanta, today was just kind of an extension of that. Just come right in after missing a few days and just don’t skip a beat and just carry the team.”
The Yankees told Prado to take it easy today. He was healthy enough to play, but they didn’t want him to push it. That’s why he wasn’t moving very well around the bases. He was trying to do just enough to get the job done without taking the risk of further injury. For a player on this kind of roll — a player evoking at least one comparison to Jeter in his prime — even playing at 70 or 80 percent was enough to make a difference.
“It’s been killing me just to see everybody grind it out up there every single day and knowing that we got a pretty good chance to do something special here,” Prado said. “So I put myself in a spot where I’m just going up there (and play). I’m a guy to always go 100 percent, but in this case I got to just play a little bit smart. … I’m in a stage where I can not tell you if I’m 70 percent, 80 percent, but the way I’m playing right now, it feels normal.”
Although Joe Girardi was trying to load the lineup with right-handed hitters to face Danny Duffy, Gardner was actually sidelined and unavailable because of a recurrence of that lower abdominal pain that bothered him in Cleveland earlier this season. He missed only one game in Cleveland and he’s hoping for the same in this situation.
“Yesterday during the game I didn’t really feel right,” he said. “Same thing maybe a couple months ago in Cleveland something going on like lower abdominal area. I don’t really know exactly what’s going on, but (there is) tightness. Something I feel if I push it I’m going to make it worse. I don’t feel like I’m 100 percent, so hopefully I’ll come in feeling better tomorrow, but right now I don’t have any test scheduled. Just got some treatment today and that’s it.”
Gardner said there wasn’t one particular play when he felt it happen, it was just bothering him yesterday and he finally said something about it after the game.
• If the Yankees make the postseason, would they owe the Kevin Towers a playoff share? Not only is Prado on a roll, but McCarthy has been outstanding. The guy who had a 5.01 ERA in Arizona now has a 2.79 ERA since coming to the Yankees. The team has won seven of his 11 starts. “It’s nice just to contribute,” McCarthy said. “I spent the first half of the season being a hindrance on an organization, and that’s something that doesn’t sit well. To come somewhere where there’s a playoff race going on and you’re a positive influence and something that’s helping the team, that’s really all you can ask for when you’re playing.”
• McCarthy went 6.2 innings with six hits, one walk and four strikeouts. He got huge outs when he needed them but seemed mostly unimpressed with his stuff. “Battled,” he said. “Wasn’t really sharp, but I felt like Murphy did a good job getting me through it and making sure that I could kind of keep going deeper in the game and make those runs that they gave me early hold up.”
• Speaking of John Ryan Murphy, he’d never caught McCarthy outside of one bullpen. He based most of his decisions on what he’d learned from Francisco Cervelli, Brian McCann and Larry Rothschild. “As far as game planning, I got with Cervi and Mac, Larry and all them,” Murphy said. “As far as pitch-calling, I kind of just read that off the way his bullpen goes before the game.”
• Girardi on Murphy: “It’s not like he saw (McCarthy) in spring training or anything like that, so it is impressive. He had a great day for us, getting us started with a double in his first at-bat. Did a great job with McCarthy. Swung the bat extremely well. Kept the one inning going when they throw ball away and we get a run. He had a really impressive day.”
• With nine wins, McCarthy has actually matched a career high. Six of those have come with the Yankees, only three with Arizona. This was his first win since the complete-game shutout on August 21.
• Having stacked the lineup with right-handers, Girardi’s plan kind of backfired when Duffy only lasted one pitch. “You figure you stay with (the lineup) a little bit, and then at a point you’re going to make some changes,” Girardi said. “I went through it twice, in a sense, and then I decided to make the changes, because if you make the changes too early, then you can get stacked left handers, I’m worried about Prado a little bit, how he’s going to make it through the game, so I had to be somewhat careful. I knew I didn’t have Gardy. So get through it twice and see where we’re at.”
• Of course, it’s worth noting that Duffy has been extremely good this season. He entered with a 2.42 ERA, so the Yankees went from facing one of the game’s better left-handers this season to facing a bunch of relievers. “My initial reaction is, you set your lineup up against a lefty and now they’re bringing in a righty,” Girardi said. “I’m like, OK. I started thinking about when do you turning it over, making your moves. But we took advantage of it today. Duffy’s been throwing the ball as well as anyone since about the middle of June.”
• Mark Teixeira got his 1,500th career hit in the American League. He has another 174 in the National League.
• Derek Jeter recorded his 40th RBI with a sacrifice fly in the third inning. He has now recorded 40-plus RBI in 18 seasons, surpassing Mickey Mantle for the most 40-plus RBI seasons in franchise history.
• Final word to McCarthy, speaking about himself and Prado coming over from Arizona: “For us and Chase (Headley) and the guys that came over, you’re getting out of situations where teams were out of it early. You weren’t playing as well as you wanted to play, and that kind of weighs on you. To come somewhere where you’re thrust into a playoff race, and for all of us to kind of get back to where we’d like to be, playing well, I think it’s a weight off all of our shoulders.”
Associated Press photos