Postgame notes: “We’re running out of time” • 08.16.14
One week ago, there was some actual optimism around this Yankees team. Maybe not enough evidence to think the team was out of the woods and on its way, but certainly reason to think they just might be ready to at least make it interesting. As of last Friday, the Yankees had won three of four against the Tigers, six of seven overall, and they’d just scored 10 runs against the Indians. They were seven games above .500 and had generally played pretty well since the All-Star break.
They haven’t won a game since. And the offense – even with its new additions filling the bottom of the order – has scored just seven runs in its past five games.
“Morale’s down a little bit,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “But it’s our job to try to keep it up and keep guys as positive as we can during a time like this. That’s one of our biggest challenges. We’ll stay at it, come ready to work tomorrow. We need something to turn. And we need it to turn in a hurry.”
As of tonight, the calendar is crossing into the second half of August. There’s a month and a half remaining, there are three teams between the Yankees and the second wild card, and it could be five teams if the Yankees are swept this weekend at Tropicana Field.
“We’re running out of time,” Brett Gardner said. “Every day that goes by and we don’t win, it makes us one step closer to being home at the end of September.”
Alex Cobb pitched well tonight. A few days ago, the Yankees were beaten by Cory Kluber, who’s been terrific. But at some point, tipping a cap is a pretty empty gesture. At some point, the Yankees are simply a team that other pitchers see as an opportunity to pad their own stats.
“You want to score four or five runs a game,” Long said. “That’s what you set out to do. Sometimes the pitching doesn’t allow you do that. Sometimes there’s days when I feel like we really should, and we don’t do it. Against a Corey Kluber, or this guy tonight, it’s understandable that the runs are going to be down. But you’re going to have some days where — not to throw Chris Tillman under the bus, but he didn’t have his best stuff the other night. That’s a guy where you want to capitalize and take advantage of it. Again, when you have a couple guys like tonight, and Kluber, and before that we faced the three Cy Young guys, there’s going to be tough days. But some of those other guys, we should be able to get to.”
Joe Girardi seems to have settled into a stance of absolute confidence. That’s his approach — really, it’s his personality — and it’s honestly hard to imagine this veteran roster responding to some sort of fiery speech from the skipper. Girardi is trying to show confidence that veteran hitters will eventually hit. Maybe he believes in them, they’ll believe in themselves. While Mark Teixeira said he thought morale was just fine, there’s a definite sense in the clubhouse of players who realize the margin for error has worn extremely thin. And everyone is well aware that the offense is the biggest culprit.
“It’s not really baffling,” Teixeira said. “We’re just not getting the job done. You win and lose as a team, and we definitely haven’t been winning as a team lately because up and down the lineup, we just can’t get it done. We all need to step it up.”
It has to happen soon, because just one week after things seemed to be coming together, it’s all falling apart again. And there’s not much time left to pick up the pieces.
• Quick injury update: Brian McCann said he doesn’t really expect to be activated tomorrow. He said he’s really shooting for Sunday. Today was the first time he’d done any on-field drills since the concussion.
• Leadoff man reached base five times for the Yankees, and at no point did that runner advance past first base. But the best run-scoring opportunity was the eighth, when both Jacoby Ellsbury and Teixeira struck out with the bases loaded. Those are the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, in case you’d forgotten. “And we weren’t able to do it,” Girardi said. “You’re where you want to be in the order, but we weren’t able to come through with a hit.”
• Here’s Teixeira on the idea of hitters trying to do too much in those situations: “That’s natural,” Teixeira said. “If you’re not scoring runs as a team and you get up there and there’s a man on first (you think), ‘If I hit a home run here, we’re back in the game.’ Or, bases loaded, ‘I have to get a hit here.’ Yeah, that’s natural. That’s baseball. That’s why you win and lose as a team because if you’re relying on one guy to get the job done, or you yourself think ‘I’m the only one that’s going to get the job done,’ you’re not going to score runs. Good teams feed off each other. Unfortunately, hitting’s contagious, but not hitting is contagious as well.”
• Of course, here’s the line everyone will love: “I felt like we had a chance (in the eighth) until that guy came out and just made quality pitches,” Teixeira said. “Ells and I were talking about, we didn’t feel that we got a pitch to hit. The guy throws 96 with a good changeup, and we just couldn’t get it done.”
• Quite often guys like Long or Girardi will say that at-bats are good even if results aren’t. Long wasn’t saying that tonight. “At-bats, the last five days, they haven’t been as good as they probably should be,” Long said. “That tells me guys are probably trying a little too hard. There’s not a lot of laughter, there’s not a lot of at-ease at bats, and that makes this game even more difficult.”
• Brandon McCarthy wasn’t hit hard tonight, but he got no run support and took his second loss. Not a lot of ease for the pitching staff, either, when the offense is struggling like this. “It puts pressure on all of us,” McCarthy said. “I know the hitters are feeling it. Anytime you go through this, it affects as a team. You feel it. It’s not a me situation of woe-is-me, they’re not scoring runs. We’re not scoring runs. That’s something I’m sure that weighs on everyone, and everyone is doing what they can to correct it. It’s not a time to have your own personal feelings hurt and worry about yourself.”
• Bad first inning for McCarthy, which he said was all about not feeling quite right in the bullpen during warm-ups, and carrying that feeling into the game. “First inning, I didn’t really have a feel for anything. Warming up, I felt really weird. Same in the first inning. I went out for the second and everything kind of felt normal again, and I was able to get back in a groove and throw strikes. First inning was just kind of weird.”
• Twice the Yankees had a chance to turn a double play in the first inning, and each time they couldn’t do it. Neither was a routine double play, but each seemed to have at least a chance. Girardi didn’t seem to have a problem with the Yankees not turning them, and neither did McCarthy. “I know one kind of ate Stephen up, and Chase has to reach for that other one,” McCarthy said. “Some days those might turn into double plays. Some days they’re tougher plays. I’ve got to do a better job of not getting into that jam where you’re relying on something happening behind you.”
• Headley snapped a streak of 62 straight games without an error at third base. His career-high errorless streak at third is 67 games.
• Derek Jeter actually reached another obscure milestone tonight. It was his 1,007th multi-hit game with the Yankees. According to Elias, that’s the third-most since 1900 for a player with one team, passing Hank Aaron who had 1,006 with the Braves. Stan Musial had 1,59 with the Cardinals and Ty Cobb had 1,211 with the Tigers.
• Final word to Teixeira: “It’s definitely getting late. I said it when we were in Baltimore, or before that series, every game is kind of must-win at this point. We really need to win some games. There’s definitely a sense of urgency in here. We just haven’t been scoring runs.”
Associated Press photos
Yankees pregame: Tanaka still in play • 08.04.14
Masahiro Tanaka tested his right elbow for the first time since his platelet-rich plasma injection three weeks ago. He threw 25 times at 60 feet in the outfield. And the elbow passed its first test.
So how does he feel?
“Good,” Tanaka said in English.
“I thought it went all well,” he added in Japanese.
Tanaka said he felt “relieved.” The hope is he can be a starter again for the Yankees for the final month.
But Joe Girardi wasn’t ecstatic because this was only the first step, just a light catch. Tanaka is scheduled to play catch again tomorrow.
“It’s a positive day, but there’s still a long way to go,” Girardi said.
Obviously mound throwing will be the real test of whether the ulnar collateral ligament will hold up.
Girardi needs a starter for Friday night against the Indians now that David Phelps has gone on the DL with elbow tendinitis. Michael Pineda threw 58 pitches for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Sunday, plus another five in the bullpen. Pineda said he was feeling good and in a normal routine now. Could Pineda be a possibility for Friday?
While Girardi didn’t rule it out, he made it sound unlikely. He would like Pineda built up to at least 90 pitches, which would take another two rehab starts. Girardi did say that he thought the start would likely be taken by someone on the staff now.
Brett Gardner was named the AL player of the week after batting .478 with five homers and seven RBI in six games.
“It’s been fun, and if he wants to do it this week, that’ll be great, too,” Girardi said.
Nearly three weeks ago, David Phelps pitched into the seventh inning against the Reds, and his strong pitching line left little reason to question whether his health. He made his next start, pitched well again, he seemed to be on a real roll with absolutely no cause for concern.
Turns out, his elbow had been bothering him.
Tonight’s injury is nothing new. Phelps first felt discomfort in the back of his elbow, near the triceps, on July 18. He was sent for an MRI after that start, and the test came back clean. No ligament damage, just a little tightness that had a tendency to loosen up as Phelps pitched.
Phelps said he came off the mound after the second inning fully prepared to tell Joe Girardi that his elbow was bothering him. Before he could say anything, Girardi told Phelps he was out of the game. He was removed due to ineffectiveness, not because of the injury. When Phelps mentioned that his elbow was bothering him, the team decided to send him for further tests tomorrow.
“It’s not like it’s in here (by the ligament),” Girardi said. “It’s back up by the triceps a little bit. We’ll see how he is tomorrow. … I believe he’s going to pitch again (this year). I don’t know if it’ll be his next turn, but I believe he’s going to pitch again. Like I said, he had the MRI before and it came back clean. He might need a little time out.”
Pitchers obviously worry about any arm issue, so Phelps is of course concerned, but he doesn’t seem overwhelmed. It doesn’t hurt him on breaking balls. Phelps said it’s mostly when he gets fully extended that he feels it.
“I’ve never had elbow issues, so I don’t know what is bad feeling,” he said. “Any time it’s your arm, there is concern, but it loosens up, that’s one (positive) thing. We already had one MRI, and it was clean. … After we got the first MRI, we sat down with Doc and he said, ‘Listen, as long as it’s not getting worse, we’re good.’ The ligament was clean, everything was good. Today was what really set me off is today was the day it was worse. Had to say something. We’ll find out what it is tomorrow and go from there.”
Even a short-term injury to Phelps is quite a blow for the Yankees. One inning got away from him last time out, but for the most part Phelps has pitched extremely well lately. He’s been one of the biggest reasons this rotation has held up despite long-term injuries to four starters. The Yankees will miss Phelps, even if he misses only one start.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I felt like coming into this start I was throwing the ball the best I had in my career consistently. Any time we’re talking about a DL stint, it’s frustrating. I was really enjoying helping the team win ballgames. It’s frustrating. We’re playing better baseball and I feel like we’re about to go on a run.”
• If Phelps has to miss a start, Girardi said new reliever Esmil Rogers would be a candidate to spot start. Rogers was working as a starter in Triple-A with the Blue Jays, and he pitched three hitless innings tonight. “He’s obviously built up,” Girardi said. “Obviously we’ve got some time to think about it. We wouldn’t pitch him tomorrow anyway, but we’ve got some time to think about it. We’ll have a decision for you.”
• What was working for Rogers? For one thing, he was consistently throwing his fastball at 95 mph. “I think my fastball command was really important for me,” he said. “That was the key for tonight. You see how many fastballs I can throw today. I don’t throw too many sliders.”
• Just getting innings from Rogers was big because Girardi said he didn’t want to use either Adam Warren or Shawn Kelley, so someone had to bridge the gap to Dellin Betances and Dave Robertson, and Rogers did that by himself.
• Obviously it seems the elbow was a real problem tonight, but how exactly did the elbow issue impact Phelps? “I feel like my command was there for the most part,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was struggling with my stuff. It was just up in the zone.”
• Rogers became the 29th different Yankees pitcher this season. That’s a new franchise record for pitchers used in a single season. Historic!
• Another good night for the Yankees offense, and another huge night for Brett Gardner who reached base four times and had the game-winning home run in the sixth. It was his fifth homer in the past six games. He has the most home runs out of the leadoff spot of anyone in baseball. His 44 RBI out of the leadoff spot are the second-most in baseball. “I’m just happy I’ve been able to go out there and repeat my swing, swing at good pitches to hit and not chase too many balls out of the zone,” Gardner said. “Be a patient hitter but also be aggressive in the strike zone.”
• Also hitting pretty well lately is Carlos Beltran, who had another two-hit game to tie a career-high with six straight multi-hit games. He’s had at least one hit in 10 straight games. “He’s been big,” Girardi said. “He’s swinging the bat extremely well. The big thing is to keep him away from batting screens and whatever else we have to keep him away from.”
• Also with a two-hit game, new second baseman Stephen Drew. He matched his second-high with four RBI and once again played a sharp and often impressive game at second base. Tiny sample size, but Drew’s been pretty good in his first three days with the Yankees. “Our reports on Stephen Drew were that he was swinging the bat a lot better,” Girardi said. “This is a good player. He didn’t have a lot of at-bats to get ready for the season; he was rushed and I think it probably took him some time to get going.”
• How has Drew felt at second? “As comfortable as I can be for three games when I haven’t played since high school,” he said. “I am enjoying it. I am going to embrace it and to be able to play with Jeter his last year — who I looked up to when I was growing up — it’s special. I am going to soak this in.”
• Final word goes to Gardner: “We’ve got a great group of guys and we continue to fight. Esmil Rogers came in and did a great job. He’s a guy we’ve faced the last couple of seasons with Toronto and he’s got real good stuff. He came in in the middle of the game and really put a stop to everything. Hopefully we can take this momentum home with us.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi said the Yankees will to make a decision tomorrow regarding Mark Teixiera. He’s either healthy enough to rejoin the lineup in a few days, or he’s hurt enough to go on the disabled list.
“It’s just seeing how he feels after three or four days (of rest),” Girardi said. “And then we’ll decide if we think it’s going to be in the near future that he would play, or if we’re going to need the 15 days. If it’s going to be 12, 13, 14 days, it probably make sense to get a player.”
This is Teixeira’s fourth day off after getting that injection for his strained lat. Without him, the Yankees really don’t have a first baseman. Kelly Johnson was the backup, but now he’s on the disabled list, and Brian McCann has become the first base regular, but at some point Francisco Cervelli’s going to need a day off behind the plate.
“I’ve got like 11 other guys I can run out there,” Girardi said, either joking or making a fair statement about the fact one inexperienced guy is just as good as another. “I talked to Chase (Headley) about it. Chase said he would feel comfortable going over there. I would not be afraid to put Brendan Ryan there. I would not be afraid to put (Zelous) Wheeler there.”
But if Teixeira is going to be out much longer, the Yankees might as well add someone who gives more flexibility at first base. That could be bringing up a first baseman — I assume either Kyle Roller or Jose Pirela — or bringing up a catcher so that McCann can play first base full time for the time being.
“We’ll get through today,” Girardi said. “And we’ll probably have something tomorrow and we’ll make a decision.”
• Michael Pineda’s scheduled simulated game was rained out, so he pitched inside and threw the equivalent of two innings. Not ideal, but the Yankees will move forward with his rehab schedule. In five days he’ll go three innings or 45-50 pitches. Girardi said he wasn’t sure whether that would be a sim game or an actual rehab assignment.
• Regular day off for Derek Jeter, and Girardi said it has nothing to do with ground ball pitcher Brandon McCarthy being on the mound. “It’s just kind of the way it goes,” Girardi said. “Day game (after a night game). If it was a night game, he probably would’ve played.”
• Would Girardi consider swapping roles by putting Cervelli at first base and using McCann behind the plate? “I could do that, (but) I’m not sure I would,” Girardi said. “Cervy’s next thing might be a day off. But right now he’s extremely energetic still and he has that in him.”
• Girardi wouldn’t go into detail about why he preferred Jacoby Ellsbury leading off and Brett Gardner batting second today, but he was also asked if he’s ever considered — given Ellsbury’s steals and Gardner’s surprising power — batting Ellsbury leadoff and Gardner third when the Yankees have a full lineup. “That I wouldn’t do,” Girardi said. “It’s just that Gardy’s really never hit in that spot. Jake is a guy that I feel I can move around because he has moved around, in a sense. I’ve toyed with different ideas. I won’t say the other day that I didn’t think about hitting Gardy (third). I thought that Jake might not be available to me that one day, maybe I do hit Gardy third, but I probably wouldn’t do it. But I said probably.”
• Just to be clear, the Yankees don’t expect Teixeira to play tomorrow, only that they’ll have a better idea about his health tomorrow. “I don’t think tomorrow’s the day,” Girardi said. “But obviously you want to feel that there’s progress and that he feels better and that he can start doing some stuff. We felt that we’d give him three days not doing much with treatment and we’d see where we’re at.”
• The Yankees are keeping their extra pitcher for today. Could lose a pitcher tomorrow to add a position player. Likely want to know what’s going on with Teixeira before making that decision.
• McCarthy has pitched well since coming to the Yankees, and he’s given some credit to the fact the Yankees are having him throw his cutter again. “I think guys want to feel like they have all their weapons,” Girardi said. “That was a big pitch for him. I know that when we faced him that was a huge pitch for him, and for him to get that back and feel comfortable with it would be really important.”
Associated Press photos
Well, this series didn’t go too well for the Yankees. The last-place Rays have been playing better, but still …
The Yankees sure weren’t expecting to get swept by them. The 6-3 win gave Tampa Bay a season-high five-game winning streak and the Yankees a season-high five-game losing streak.
They are now a losing team for the first time since they were 5-6 on April 11. After nine losses in 11 games, they are 41-42 and 4 1/2 back of the Blue Jays.
“The talent is in that room,” Joe Girardi said. “We just need to play better. It’s a lot of different phases. You can look at almost every phase and say we need to play better. We’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
The run production is the most glaring phase right now. The Yankees had 10 hits. They left nine on base. The RISP count was an RIP count — 1 for 9.
“Obviously offense has been an issue,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “It’s been an issue all season. We’ve got to turn it around somehow. … It’s not for a lack of effort.”
Long indicated that Carlos Beltran (two singles) and Brian McCann (single, solo homer) appear to be making progress. McCann (seen in the photo above executing his home-run swing) eliminated a toe tap from his mechanics in this game, according to Long. Apparently it helped. McCann was happy to produce.
But as he put it, “When you lose, it’s irrevelent.”
The Yankees also finished a 15-game stretch against the AL East.
“It started off good and ended bad,” Girardi said.
It ended at 6-9.
“I thought you were going to say 2-13,” said Brett Gardner, who tied his career high with his eighth homer and is batting .288 overall after this three-hit game. “We just haven’t played good.”
So it’s on to 11 straight on the road before the All-Star break. It starts Thursday night in Minnesota.
“We’ve got to pick each other up,” Gardner said. “We’ve got to pitch better and we’ve got to hit better and find a way to give our pitchers the lead a lot more often.”
CC Sabathia made his second rehab start Wednesday night, this one at Trenton. The lefty threw 33 of his 55 pitches for strikes in 3 2/3 against Portland. He gave up five runs, three of them earned, five hits and one walk. He hit one batter and struck out two.
Alex Rodriguez is back in the news. Sports Illustrated has an excerpt from a new book claiming MLB gave A-Rod permission to use a PED – testosterone – through a therapeutic use exemption in his MVP season of 2007.
MLB countered with a statement:
“All decisions regarding whether a player shall receive a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) under the Joint Drug Program are made by the Independent Program Administrator (IPA) in consultation with outside medical experts, with no input by either the Office of the Commissioner or the Players Association. The process is confidentially administered by the IPA, and MLB and the MLBPA are not even made aware of which players applied for TUEs.
“The TUE process under the Joint Drug Program is comparable to the process under the World Anti-Doping Code. The standard for receiving a TUE for a medication listed as a performance-enhancing substance is stringent, with only a few such TUEs being issued each year by the IPA. MLB and the MLBPA annually review the TUE process to make sure it meets the most up-to-date standards for the issuance of TUEs.
“As recommended by the Mitchell Report, since 2008 MLB and the MLBPA have publicly issued the IPA’s annual report, which documents how many TUEs were granted for each category of medication. We believe this high level of transparency helps to ensure the proper operation of the TUE process.”
Photo by The Associated Press
The Yankees are short on runs and short on answers.
“If I knew, I would tell you, but I don’t know,” Joe Girardi said after the 2-1 loss to the Rays.
“It’s frustrating,” Brett Gardner said, admitting he’s a bit surprised.
There hasn’t been much in the way of consistency.
Of course, it doesn’t help having to try to break out against David Price.
“He’s one of the best lefties in the game,” Carlos Beltran said.
The Yankees managed four hits off him and none off the bullpen. They went 1 for 9 with eight left on base. Girardi pointed to situational hitting being a problem of late.
“These guys have proven track records,” Girardi said. “These are the guys we have and these are the guys who have to get it done on a nightly basis.”
They are not getting it done on a nightly basis. Maybe a guy will be brought in from another team to help. The Yankees are now a .500 team after 82 games. Their 41-41 record comes with a collective .251 average. They have tied their season highs with four straight losses and four straight losses at home. Overall they have dropped eight of the last 10, but they are still only 3 1/2 back of the Jays.
At least Hiroki Kuroda looked pretty good for the third straight start. This time, he allowed the two runs and nine hits over eight innings. Girardi called it a “great performance.” Kuroda knew he had to be sharp with Price pitching.
“It was going to be a real tight game,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “I had to make sure I minimized the damage when I was on the mound.”
The Yankees are 1-4 on the homestand with Wednesday’s game to go. Then there are 11 games on the road — at Minnesota, Cleveland and Baltimore — before the All-Star break.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Yankees postgame: Hughes or Huff? • 09.02.13
Phil Hughes had bad luck in this game. The hour and 53 minute rain delay took him out of the game after just four outs and five batters. The Yankees erupted for a season-high eight runs in a single inning, the fourth. That could have been Hughes’ property. Instead the runs belonged to David Huff.
The lefty picked up the ball for Hughes and earned the 9-1 win over the White Sox. He worked 5 2/3, a career high in relief, and allowed one run, five hits and no walks.
Afterward, Joe Girardi was noncommittal about whether there will be a change from Hughes to Huff for Saturday’s game against the Red Sox.
“I haven’t made any decisions about changing the rotation,” Girardi said.
Huff, who has allowed one run in 15 innings over five outings since coming back from Triple-A, is ready for anything.
“When I first got here, Joe was saying, ‘We’re going to be using you.’ I said, ‘OK,’ ” Huff said. “A few innings, whatever he needs, I’ll make sure I’m ready for it.”
Hiroki Kuroda will get the ball Tuesday night. He has appeared to be wearing down, going 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA over his last five starts.
“We need him to pitch well because he has been a staple in our rotation,” Girardi said. “He’s been struggling a little bit. … He got an extra day off. Maybe that will help him get going again.”
Both Cesar Cabral and J.R. Murphy made their major-league debuts, giving the Yankees a franchise-record 52 players used this season. Cabral pitched a scoreless eighth. And Murphy got a pinch-hit infield single batting for Robinson Cano in the eighth.
“I didn’t know who I was hitting for until they announced it, so that was pretty cool,” Murphy said. “After that, I just wanted to have a good at-bat. I was nervous, so I made sure I took the first pitch instead of swinging at it.”
Brett Gardner doubled twice, so six of his last eight hits have been doubles.
Associated Press photo.
Yankees postgame: So Alex, your thoughts? • 08.10.13
We were all waiting around A-Rod’s locker for a comment about the reception he got here tonight during the 4-3 win in 10 over the Tigers. But we were finally told by media relations director Jason Zillo that Rodriguez had left.
Joe Girardi did speak about the boos and the cheers for his lightning rod at third.
“It was probably 50-50, maybe a little more cheers,” Girardi said. “It’s something he has to be able to put out of his mind and be a player for us.”
Rodriguez wasn’t a very effective player for them in this game. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He’s now 3 for 15 since his return.
Mariano Rivera hasn’t been effective the last two games, blowing back-to-back saves for the first time since April 2011. Miguel Cabrera got him for a two-run homer to tie it at 3-3 in the ninth.
“You’re talking about one of the great hitters,” Rivera said.
The Yankees won it on Brett Gardner’s two-out walk-off single. That stopped their four-game losing streak and the Tigers’ 12-game winning streak. It also saved the Yankees from falling to .500. They’re up to 58-56.
“We haven’t been playing good baseball for a couple of months,” Gardner said. “Sometime you have to keep winning or you’ll be out of it.”
Robinson Cano had two RBI on a double. He had driven in two runs in his previous 15 games combined.
The pitching matchup later today will be Phil Hughes and Anibal Sanchez.
Associated Press photo.
Alex Rodriguez, according to the New York Post, told the Yankees yesterday his hip isn’t ready for rehab games. The Daily News had him allegedly planning to start playing rehab games, then claim he physically can’t play and retire before a possible 100-game MLB suspension comes, so he could get his full 4 1/2 seasons of money owed to him.
“A couple of conflicting reports from sources,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s why I always say for me, when a player gets here, he gets here. When he’s ready, he’s ready. But everything that I understand, he’s been making progress and moved better day after day. So it sounds like things are pretty good.”
The erratic Phil Hughes gets the start today in the series finale against the Rangers.
“I’m not saying he’s pitching for a spot,” Girardi said.
But Hughes hasn’t pitched well in three of his last four starts and has gone 1-4 with a 5.86 ERA over his last seven starts. He’s 3-6 with a 5.09 ERA in 14 starts overall.
Girardi did say this start is “important. This is a guy who we need to be consistent for us and get on a roll like he’s capable of doing. It starts with his fastball command and using his other pitches.”
Ivan Nova pitched pretty well in his spot start Sunday and Michael Pineda has been pitching very well in his rehab starts, albeit against Single-A and Double-A hitters. Could that be in the back of Hughes’ mind? Could he be feeling any extra pressure for this start?
“I’m not sure,” Girardi said. “I think guys are aware of what’s going on around them. I’m not so sure when you get out on the mound, you start thinking about that. I think you think about making your pitches. Usually when you get on the field, you’re able to block everything out. It could be in someone’s thought process off the field.”
There’s no plan yet on what to do with Nova, according to Girardi. But by keeping him around, the Yankees are going with a shorter bench for the time being.
“It’s something that we’re going to have to look at and see if there’s someone who we think can help us that we can add,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. Is there someone who we think can help? We had Thomas Neal here. The minimum a guy has to be down is 10 days, and I’m not saying he’d be the guy that we would call up. Right now, a lot of players are on the DL and we’ll just have to see.”
Joba Chamberlain has given up at least one run in five of his last seven outings,, including two in two-thirds of an inning last night.
“I thought he threw pretty well before he got hurt,” Girardi said. “He just really hasn’t gotten on track for us. We’ve got to find a way to do it. Whatever it takes, we’ll try to do it.”
Brett Gardner isn’t starting today. He has a cold.
“But it’s more I’m just giving him a day because he’s played every day,” Girardi said.
So Vernon Wells is in the lineup, but he’s in right. Ichiro Suzuki is in center. Wells appears to have lost the regular left-field job after that 9-for-90 slump. Zoilo Almonte is starting in left for the sixth straight game. The rookie is 7 for 19 with three walks, two doubles, a homer and four RBI in seven games on the homestand.
“We’re running ‘Z’ out there,” Girardi said. “We’ll continue to do that, continue to watch how he’s doing. But he’s done pretty well.
“(Wells) has been ready to play every day. He’s ready to pinch hit. He’s worked very hard. I think he’s dealt with it very professionally.”
The 26-year-old righty got called up for the spot start and left with two on and two outs in the seventh in a 1-1 game. He ended up being charged with three runs and seven hits. He struck seven, six with curves, walked three and hit two — both after he got the first two outs in the seventh.
“He was consistently throwing strikes,” Chris Stewart said. “… Repeating his mechanics has been a problem in the past, but for the most part he was good today.”
Asked if he pitched well enough to stay, Nova said, “I’ve got to say yes. Here is where you want to be.”
Joe Girardi was happy with the effort, too. Nova made three starts after being sent down to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Girardi didn’t want him languishing as a long man here. Nova sees himself as a starter, too.
Asked about whether Nova stays or goes back down, Girardi said, “I have no idea what we’re going to do.”
Perhaps this will turn up the pressure on Phil Hughes to start being more consistent. Hughes’ next start has been pushed back to Thursday against the Rangers at the Stadium. Girardi said it’s “to try to keep everyone closer to a regular turn (and) a couple of extra bullpen sessions for him.”
“This is a game where you have to prove yourself over and over,” Girardi said.
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon raved about Nova.
“Their guy really settled in,” Maddon said. “I don’t understand why this guy struggles. I have never seen him bad. I don’t know — one of the best pitchers in the world as far as I’m concerned. He gets that hook over and he’s really tough on left-handers.”
Boone Logan gave up a two-run, bases-loaded single to James Loney that broke the 1-1 tie in the seventh, so 10 of Logan’s 28 inherited runners this season have scored.
Brett Gardner went 3 for 4, giving him at least one hit in 24 of his last 29 games and a .336 average over that stretch.
Zoilo Almonte started for Vernon Wells in left the last three games and went 6 for 10 with two doubles (both in this latest game), a homer and four RBI.
Photo by The Associated Press.