For two years, CC Sabathia knew disappointment and became familiar with limitations. He struggled, and he got hurt, and Sabathia did little to hide his frustration. He was capable of pitching better, and he knew it.
This year, Sabathia is pitching better, and he knows that, too. But still, there’s frustration.
“I’ve been getting better every time out,” Sabathia said after tonight’s letdown. “Obviously that’s not equating to wins or helping us.”
Three starts into the season, Sabathia’s allowed just two extra-base hits and four walks, but he’s 0-3 with a 4.35 ERA. Tonight he faced the minimum through six innings, finished off a complete game by pitching through the eighth, but took the loss because of back-to-back two-out singles in the seventh. The first hit off Didi Gregorius’s glove at shortstop. The second fell into center field, where Jacoby Ellsbury decided he didn’t have a shot at throwing Victor Martinez out at the plate.
“I think (Sabathia) knows he’s throwing the ball well,” Joe Girardi said. “And I think he’s pleased with the way he’s throwing the ball. But there’s frustration there, I’m sure. … I thought the first two starts were good too. He didn’t give up as few runs as he did tonight, but I thought he threw the ball really well. Those first two starts he was not hit hard. He wasn’t. He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing, and the results will come.”
That’s the idea, but as Girardi said after Masahiro Tanaka finally pitched a gem on Saturday: everyone wants to have success, and right now, Sabathia’s not having success. He’s experiencing little victories along the way — better arm strength, fewer home runs, good control, lots of ground balls — but Sabathia’s a bottom-line kind of guy. Getting Miguel Cabrera to hit into two double plays and nearly into a third one? That’s great, but it didn’t matter in the end.
“Any time you can get him out, it’s a bonus,” Sabathia said. “But it didn’t equate to a win, so it is what it is.”
Ultimately, the Yankees had a late lead against the team with the best record in baseball, and Sabathia was on the mound when it slipped away. Sabathia knows frustration, and he was feeling it again tonight, even if his manager and his teammates were seeing signs of encouragement.
“He’s right where he needs to be,” catcher Brian McCann said. “Third start in, he looks great. Very encouraged. … Arm strength. It’s there. He’s getting in on the righties. He’s sinking it. Everything comes out of the same slot, and his arm speed is the same on all his pitches. It’s good to see.”
The Yankees played pretty incredible defense through much of the game — more on that in a bit — but there were two plays in the seventh worth questioning. I’m not sure mistakes were made on either one, but they were pivotal moments in the game.
The game-tying single was a sharp ball that hit off Gregorius’s glove. He tried to make a diving catch to his right but just missed it. Really tough play, but Gregorius almost made it, which makes you wonder if he should have made it.
“I made a diving play and tried to stop it,” Gregorius said. “Get at least one out. But it hit my glove, went into the outfield, and they got a chance to tie the game right there. … As a player you want to make every play. For me, I want to make every play when I go out there. That’s how I look at it.”
The go-ahead single dropped into center field where Ellsbury decided to throw to third for the final out rather than throwing home to try to keep the run from scoring. Victor Martinez was running, and he’s not a good runner even when he’s not slightly hobbled.
“I didn’t think we had a shot,” Ellsbury said. “With two outs, you have a huge secondary (lead). By the time I’m touching the ball, I don’t know exactly where he’s at. If there’s one out, definitely, we’ve got a play. But with two outs, getting a big secondary, going on contact, that’s the reason he was able to score is because we had two outs.”
For whatever it’s worth, Girardi said he also thought Ellsbury had no shot at the out at home.
• Of course it’s easy to look back at those two hits in the seventh as making all the difference, but the Yankees scored just one run tonight, and it’s tough to win when that happens. “I thought (Alfredo Simon’s) split was exceptional,” Girardi said. “I thought his sinker was good, and I thought his split was exceptional tonight, and he used it really effectively. He threw some for strikes, expanded when he was ahead, and did a good job.”
• The big at-bat for the Yankees was Ellsbury hitting into a double play with runners at the corners in the eighth. Adds a little insult to injury that Joba Chamberlain was on the mound. “I think that’s about the only way you can double me up right there,” Ellsbury said. “With the play drawing him to second like that, flip to Iglesias — that’s about the only way you can double me up. If it’s hit to his left a little bit, they don’t double me up. Even if I don’t quite hit it as hard, they don’t double me up. That’s about the only way they could have. … I think I’ll take 600 more of those swings the rest of the season, but just unfortunately hit it at the wrong person.”
• Ellsbury did have the play of the game with his diving catch to start the bottom of the fifth. “I didn’t (think I’d get there),” Ellsbury said. “But, you know, I always go for everything like I can catch it. I was pleased to cover some ground and make a play on it.”
• Very next batter after the Ellsbury catch, Brett Gardner made a nice sliding catch in left field. That was his second-best catch of the night. Gardner also made a great running catch at the wall to start the second inning. The first Gardner catch and the Ellsbury catch were each against Victor Martinez.
• Speaking of Victor Martinez, Girardi chose to intentionally walk him in the seventh, even though it put the go-ahead run on base. “Looking at the at-bats, and the at-bats he’s had off him for a number of years,” Girardi said. “He’s hit the ball hard. We made two great plays, and I just went with what I thought was a better matchup. … Usually you don’t (put the go-ahead run on, but with two outs it’s kind of a different story there.”
• As it turned out, the Yankees had a prime opportunity to tie the game on the Gregorius single in the eighth. The ball was hit to center and Chase Headley was held up at third base, but Rajai Davis wound up bobbling the ball, which probably would have allowed enough time to score. “He had the ball in plenty of time and then he dropped it,” Girardi said. “And that’s not something you can predict.”
• The Yankees turned three double plays tonight, and Stephen Drew looked pretty good at second making those turns. “I think he’s getting more comfortable there, obviously, the more he has played,” Girardi said. “He makes a really good one, picks it, and then gets the double play, so yeah, I think he’s really kinda settling in there.”
• Sabathia’s changeup was really good tonight. He’s been talking about that pitch since spring training, and he basically had it all night tonight. That’s the pitch he used on both Cabrera double plays. “Arm speed is a big deal,” McCann said. “When your arm speed’s there and it looks exactly like your fastball and it’s a six, seven mile-per-hour difference, you’re going to get a lot of ground balls and you’re going to keep it off the barrel.”
• Mark Teixeira’s solo homer was the 367th of his career, moving him ahead of Lance Berkman for fifth place on baseball’s all-time home runs list for switch hitters.
• Chase Headley had two singles. It was his third multi-hit game of the year and gave him a three-game hitting streak.
• No real final word here, just a link to make sure you don’t miss the epic postgame meltdown by Reds manager Bryan Price tonight. For some reason, Price believes beat writers have to think about the good of the team before they report. I’ll say this for Girardi and Brian Cashman: I’ve never felt that they were mad or felt like punishing a reporter for writing something negative that’s perfectly fair and accurate. If the Yankees tried to hide the fact a player wasn’t at a game, and that fact got out, there’s no chance the Yankees would blame the reporter.
Associated Press photos
Alex Rodriguez hit the first home run so far, and he hit the second one so hard, that this was already his best night of the year even before the at-bat that actually won the game. To cap the night, Rodriguez put together a seven-pitch at-bat against Kevin Jepsen, a pitcher against whom he was 0-for-8 in his career. He gave Brett Gardner time to steal, fouled off a 3-2 pitch, then lifted a low curveball into center field.
His teammates were 2-for-26. Rodriguez was 3-for-4 with four RBI.
“Without Alex, we’re going to lose that ballgame,” Joe Girardi said.
Maybe that much went without saying, but it was worth saying anyway because 10 games into the season, the Yankees are being kept afloat by a guy who came into spring training with absolutely no one certain he could still play this game at a respectable level. Even Rodriguez is surprised it’s gone this well.
When Rodriguez homered in Baltimore earlier this week, he said it was the best he’d hit a ball in well over a year. Imagine, then, how good it felt to hit a ball 471 feet in the second inning (or 477 feet if you’re going by ESPN’s estimates). Whatever the number, the ball was crushed. And he followed that home run with a game-tying two-run shot that left the yard in in a hurry in the sixth. Another hard-hit ball, this one a line drive to left.
“It’s pretty impressive, you know, to take all the time off that he’s taken off,” Brett Gardner said. “He’s no spring chicken anymore, either. But the bat speed, his bat’s really, really quick through the zone. He’s taking good swings. It’s a lot of fun to see. … He’s not somebody I’d ever count out. I see how hard he works and how much he loves playing the game, and how good of a job he’s always done in preparing himself for the game. Being able to focus on hitting and not playing defense that often, he can go out there and use all the energy he’s got for those four or five at-bats. So far, he’s looked great and hopefully he can keep it up.”
I guess the takeaway from tonight’s game is … well, it’s everything about Rodriguez at the plate. The raw power. The ability to work an at-bat. The eye for balls and strikes. The steady production.
Tonight, the bullpen was really good, and Stephen Drew hit a home run, and Carlos Beltran got a much-needed hit, and Gardner stole his way into scoring position. But without Rodriguez, the Yankees would have lost this game, and there’s absolutely no doubt about that.
“More than anything, I’m just feeling very grateful to be back playing baseball,” Rodriguez said. “I’m very grateful to Hank and Hal for giving me the opportunity to put the uniform on again. It’s something I don’t take for granted, and it’s much appreciated. It just feels good to be playing baseball. I’m having fun out there.”
• Another save opportunity, and another great outing by Andrew Miller. The Yankees have done four games, and Miller’s saved three of them. He got the final out of the eighth inning, then allowed a soft hit to open the ninth before striking out the final three batters of the game. “Andrew’s done the job, that’s for sure,” Girardi said.
• Miller on his obvious but still undefined role: “This is what I signed up for. That’s what I told them all along. They asked me if I needed to be told I had a certain role or anything like that, and I told them no, and that was the truth. I’ve been telling you guys that all along and that’s really what it is. I think for me, I’m fortunate. I’ve got a nice contract that’s going to take care of me for a while. However they see fit to use me, they can go for it. I’ll do whatever they ask and give them everything I’ve got.”
• In a setup role, Dellin Betances also looked pretty good tonight. Certainly better than he’s looked most nights. he allowed one hit but also got a strikeout and walked no one. “I think he’s making progress each time he goes out,” Girardi said.
• Not such a good night for Adam Warren, who was actually doing pretty well before a crushing sequence of three hitters. After an infield single, Warren allowed a walk, a three-run homer and a solo homer. “I think the Jennings walk was big there,” Warren said. “Because you fall behind 2-0 to the next guy, feel like you have to throw a strike, (he) puts it over the wall, and things just kind of got away from me there. As a starter, you want to limit the big inning. I threw a lot of pitches, and that kind of hurt us. We had to go to the bullpen early, which you don’t want to do.”
• The biggest mistakes were with fastballs. Girardi said he thought Warren pitched alright without his good curveball or slider earlier in the game, but things unraveled quickly. The Yankees wound up using Esmil Rogers for 2.1 innings of hitless long relief. Rogers has been good in that role. “The bullpen was outstanding,” Girardi said. “After having a tough night the other night, they come back and give us five scoreless innings and do a really good job. As I said, they’re not going to be perfect, but they’re pretty good.”
• Third home run in less than a week for Stephen Drew. That’s the same number of home runs he hit in two months with the Yankees last season. Tonight’s homer was No. 100 in his career. “He’s swung the bat I think a little bit better than his numbers indicate,” Girardi said. “We saw it come around the last couple of weeks of spring training, and we need that to continue because he’s a guy that can hit the ball out of the ballpark and hit some doubles and drive in some runs, and it was good to see.”
• Although Girardi wouldn’t commit to putting him in the lineup tomorrow, Girardi did say Gardner probably would have stayed in the game to hit had the game gone into extra innings. He came through three rounds of batting practice alright before today’s game. “I was prepared if my spot came up in the ninth to get a normal at-bat and get up there and swing the bat,” Gardner said.
• No surprise, but Girardi said he went Gardner in to pinch run with hopes of getting a stolen base in that spot. It finally happened on the 12th pitch after Gardner entered the game. “I wish I could have got there a little earlier, but Alex did his job,” Gardner said.
• One underrated play: Jacoby Ellsbury’s catch to end the eighth inning. “At first, my instinct was that that ball is in the gap and I’m going to have to pitch with a runner on base,” Miller said. “I got really excited. It didn’t look like he had too good of a jump on it, but Ells is a great defender. It’s no surprise. You welcome a guy like that behind me.”
• Girardi said he plans to have Rodriguez back at DH tomorrow. He would prefer not to play him in the field when the Yankees are on turf.
• Final word goes to Miller: “Everyone is going to remember those (Rodriguez) homers, and they were both incredibly well-struck, but that at-bat to give us the go-ahead run was incredible. He fought pitches off and stayed on a breaking ball. We shouldn’t be surprised that Alex knows how to hit. He’s a professional hitter, and he’s really good at that. We’re just glad he’s healthy and he’s on our side because right now he’s been a big part of our offense.”
Associated Press photos
Wearing a new padded wrist guard, Brett Gardner hit inside when he got to Tropicana Field earlier today. That went well enough that he was given permission to take full batting practice with the team during the usual pregame workout.
Doesn’t sound likely that he could hit his way into the lineup, but Gardner said he’s basically ready to play.
“If I don’t get a chance to play today, hopefully tomorrow,” he said. “I hit in the cage and it felt pretty good.”
Even after yesterday’s MRI showed nothing more serious than a bone bruise, the Yankees still decided to give Gardner one more day off. That’s pretty standard around here, where the Yankees seem to favor a cautionary approach to all injuries.
“My inclination is to give him one more day,” Girardi said. “But I want to see BP first. He did take some swings off the tee and said he felt pretty good, but let’s just see what happens after BP.”
The wrist guard Gardner’s wearing is pretty small and it’s designed in a way that doesn’t restrict movement. He said he’ll be wearing it when he finally does get back in the lineup.
• Ivan Nova threw his second live batting practice of the week this morning at the minor league complex. “I’m getting closer,” Nova told The Associated Press. “Feels awesome.” Girardi said Nova’s schedule calls for him to begin pitching in actual minor league rehab games around May 1. Pretty much the schedule that’s been expected for several months now.
• Chris Capuano’s second live batting practice is scheduled for Sunday. He actually has a locker setup in the clubhouse for this series at Tropicana Field.
• When Capuano threw live batting practice earlier this week, Jose Pirela was one of the hitters he faced. Pirela is basically going through every drill and is scheduled to play an extended spring training game on Monday. He’s been working his way back from a concussion since late spring training. When he’s ready, will he go to Triple-A or join the big league bench? “I don’t know,” Girardi said. “Let’s just get him healthy first. Make sure he’s only seeing one of everything.”
• Girardi said Brendan Ryan “might” come down to Tampa next week to start going through some workouts on his way back from that spring calf injury. When Giradri said “might,” I took it to mean Ryan’s definitely coming down barring any sort of setback.
• Given the way Alex Rodriguez has hit — and given the way guys like Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann have hit — why isn’t Alex Rodriguez hitting higher than sixth? “I don’t think you can make too much of nine games,” Girardi said. “If you started moving your hitters according to every nine-game period you play, you’d be doing it all the time. We’re trying to have as much of a set lineup as you can. We don’t have Gardy in there, so I’ve used the same lineup two days in a row. I liked the way the guys swung the bats the other night, so we’ll just keep it the same.”
• The Yankees still don’t have a defined closer, but Girardi’s been using Andrew Miller in those situations, and it certainly sounds like that might be the case again here in Tampa. “We haven’t named it,” Girardi said. “Have I used him as the closer the last couple times? Yeah. We’ll let it play out a little but and see how this works out. Obviously in this situation, you would think about against Tampa — because they have so many right-handed hitters in the lineup — that you’d use Dellin more for four- or five-outs more than you would Miller.”
• Girardi said the Yankees are still actively discussing the idea of a spot starter at some point during this heavy stretch of games without many off days. He specifically mentioned Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell as candidates to come up and start at some point to give everyone an extra day off. He said that if/when they do it could depend on weather. If they get rained out in Detroit next week, then the sixth-starter call-up could be pushed back. “It’s something that’s on the back of our minds,” Girardi said. “And we’ve kind of prepared ourselves for it.”
Associated Press photos
Brett Gardner is out of the lineup for the second day in a row, but his right wrist was unwrapped when he sat at his locker this afternoon.
“Much better today,” he said. “Definitely happy that it feels the way it does.”
Hit by a pitch on Monday, Gardner went for X-rays that came back negative and said he’s expecting to be back in the lineup on Friday (the Yankees are off tomorrow). The Yankees are prepared to send him for an MRI when they get to Tampa tomorrow, but for now, it seems that might not be necessary.
“If it didn’t progress in the two days like we thought it should, we would MRI it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “But I’m hoping we won’t have to. He’s feeling a lot better today than he did yesterday, so it would be more precautionary than anything. We kind of wanted to give us that option if he didn’t feel any better.”
Just like last night, Gardner is available to pinch run and play defense. He said he might take some swings inside and didn’t sound like he’d be completely unable to hit, just prefers to rest if he can.
Despite facing a right-handed starter today, the Yankees are playing righty Chris Young and not lefty Garrett Jones in Gardner’s place. Young’s off to a strong start in a parttime role, hitting .333/.400/.778 for the highest OPS on the team.
• Ivan Nova came through yesterday’s live batting practice with no problems and continues to make good progress as he nears one year since Tommy John surgery. Girardi said he’s pretty sure Chris Capuano is throwing live batting practice tomorrow and could be about a month away from becoming a big league option again. Girardi said Capuano should be ready slightly ahead of Nova.
• Signed to a minor league contract this winter, reliever Wilking Rodriguez has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for Furosemide. Rodriguez was in big league camp with the Yankees this spring, and he pitched two games for the Royals last season. Seemed like a solid bit of additional — but probably unnecessary — bullpen depth. “He threw the ball pretty well for us in spring training, and it’s not what you want to see,” Girardi said. “It’s still what we’re still dealing with.”
• Speaking of bullpen depth, now that the major league season is 10-days old, the Yankees are allowed to call up someone from their 40-man roster. Branden Pinder is here to provide a fairly typical bullpen arm, and Joel De La Rosa has been optioned back to Double-A since the Yankees have Esmil Rogers rested and don’t need another long man at the moment. “Our bullpen is pretty much at full strength now,” Girardi said.
• Pinder had five strikeouts, no walks and three hits allowed in three innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He last pitched on Monday, when he went two innings.
• Kyle Davies has cleared waivers and been outrighted back to Triple-A. He should basically fall back into the role he played at the beginning of the season, pitching out of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bullpen and providing just-in-case depth if the Yankees need someone who can provide a bunch of innings. Pitched well in his one big league outing this year.
• Girardi said there has been some early talk about Brendan Ryan possibly going to Tampa with the team this weekend so that he can start doing some work at the minor league complex. Not sure it’s going to happen, though.
• In four starts against the Yankees last season, tonight’s Baltimore starter Bud Norris went 4-0 with a 2.74 ERA. He was knocked around in his first start this season — gave up eight runs against Toronto — but the Yankees are well aware that Norris can be tough. Some of the Yankees with N.L. experience (Headley, Drew, Jones, Beltran) have good career numbers against Norris. “I think he’s got outstanding stuff,” Girardi said. “I think he pitches inside effectively. He’s had one start against a real good-hitting team. I’m not making too much of it. But he knows how to pitch. He knows how to compete.”
Associated Press photos
Four runs on seven hits, but after tonight’s disappointment, CC Sabathia kept coming back to one particular pitch. It was the four-seam fastball he threw to Caleb Joseph in the seventh inning. It was a 3-1 game at the time, and Sabathia wanted the ball down and away. The pitch was middle, and it was hit to center for a triple.
Never mind that Jacoby Ellsbury very nearly caught it, Sabathia knew he made a mistake with that pitch and it was hit hard. He might have run into some rough luck in other moments, but in that situation, the blame fell on his shoulders. That triple led to a late insurance run, and that run made all the difference.
The other Baltimore runs came on a home run (first extra-base hit Sabathia allowed this season), after a leadoff walk (Sabathia’s only walk of the season), and after an infield single (one of many soft hits Sabathia has allowed). Aside from the home run and the triple, this was another case of relatively soft contact leading to a bunch of runs. They didn’t all come in one inning like last time out, but Sabathia still wound up with a lot of runs on his pitching line.
“I think his luck’s going to change,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m going to take my chances if he’s throwing the ball the way he’s throwing that the results are going to be better.”
Of course Girardi has a reputation of backing his players no matter what, but it’s also pretty easy to see what the Yankees and Sabathia are talking about. He really is throwing a lot of strikes and getting quite a few swings and misses. He’s walked one guy, pitched more innings than either Michael Pineda or Masahiro Tanaka, and allowed one home run.
Through two starts in 2013, Sabathia had already walked seven guys. Through two starts last year, he’d already allowed three homers and three doubles.
“I’m just seeing better movement on his fastball,” Girardi said. “I’m seeing consistency in his changeup; it’s not cutting. His slider is better. I just think he’s locating a lot better. I think it’s because he’s healthy. It’s hard when you’re dealing with nagging injuries to go out there and perform at a high level.”
• Didn’t help the Yankees that tonight they went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, continuing that early trend of not taking advantage of opportunities on offense. Some of that was clearly because Miguel Gonzalez was awfully sharp, but still, it’s hard to place all the blame on Sabathia when the offense didn’t do much of anything until the eighth inning. “(Gonzalez) deserves a lot of credit,” Mark Teixeira said. “He pitched really well. When he needed to make big pitches, he did. It’s not like he needed to get out of too many jams, but he did when he needed to.”
• This was the first time in his career that Gonzalez struck out 10 batters in a game. He retired 10 in a row from the second inning through the fifth.
• Sabathia not covering first base on a potential double play and failing to get an out on a slow roller up the first-base side didn’t ultimately cost him any runs, but his ability to move around defensively is clearly an issue. It’s just an issue the Yankees are willing to accept. Sabathia said the knee feels fine, but… “It’s the product of a big man, too,” Girardi said. “It’s not Gonzalez trying to get over there. He’s falling the opposite way. He’s falling toward third base. It’s just, it’s a big man.”
• Sabathia on trying to make a play on the slow roller, when he was ultimately charged with an error for flipping the ball into the runner: “It’s wet out there. I made the best play I could. I didn’t want to go down and slide, and I just threw it into the runner. … I mean, it’s just being 34 years old. Four years ago, I probably could have made that play.”
• Sabathia completely dismissed questions about whether his knee is bothering him either pitching or fielding. “I’m fine,” he said.
• Adam Jones is 11-for-17 with four home runs and nine RBI in his past five games. He homered in his first at-bat tonight, then had a sacrifice fly. “He’s one of the best hitters in the game,” Sabathia said. “He got a two-seamer and put a good swing on it (in the first inning). I felt like we pitched him a little better after that. But he’s hot, and there’s nothing you can really do.”
• Plan was for Brett Gardner to pinch run for Alex Rodriguez if Rodriguez got on base in the ninth inning. Gardner would have stayed in to play defense, but it’s still doubtful he’ll start tomorrow. Said he did only ice treatment today. “Maybe a little bit (better),” he said. “Pretty similar. Just pretty sore. Inflammation is limited. I haven’t tried to swing a bat. All I did today was ice. I didn’t try and heat it up or anything. Maybe I’ll be able to do that tomorrow.”
• Girardi chose to pinch hit Gregorio Petit to lead off the ninth because he wanted to save Rodriguez for the at-bat when Stephen Drew’s turn came up (there was a lefty on the mound). If Garrett Jones’ turn in the lineup had come up with runners on base in the eighth, Rodriguez would have pinch hit then. Basically, Girardi was trying to maximize the impact of the Rodriguez at-bat whenever it came. If there had been two on with no outs for the Drew at-bat, Drew might have stayed in to bunt them over, letting Rodriguez come up with the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at second with one out. “If the first two guys get on, or the first guy gets on, I want a guy with power behind him,” Girardi said. “The first two guys get on, you can think about doing something else.”
• Ellsbury on running after the triple in the seventh inning, when he made a diving attempt but couldn’t make the catch: “I knew it would be close,” Ellsbury said. “You always hope to catch the ball. It couldn’t have been much. I haven’t seen the replay, but within inches, I would imagine.”
• Another good outing by Chris Martin who struck out two — including Jones — during a 1-2-3 eighth.
• Final word goes to Girardi on Sabathia: “I thought he was good again. It’s unfortunate. He gave up a few hard-hit balls and you look at some of the hits he gave up, you know, I know that’s part of it but I like the way he’s throwing. … I thought he pitched well. It’s unfortunate that he gave up four runs. I thought he pitched better than that.”
Associated Press photos
When Brett Gardner arrived in the clubhouse this afternoon, his right wrist was wrapped, and Gardner said it had been that way all day and all last night. He’s out of the lineup today, and Joe Girardi said the hope is to have him back on Friday.
“He’s just sore,” Girardi said. “I gotta see what availability he is for me tonight whether it’s pinch running and playing defense. I don’t think he’ll be able to hit, but we’ll see.”
Even after being hit last night, Gardner was able to stay in until late in the game, so Girardi said he wouldn’t be surprised to have him available for speed on the bases or late-inning defense.
Actually, the more jarring name out of the lineup is Alex Rodriguez, who’s been one of the team’s best hitters and had previously started every game. He’s the oldest Yankees’ regular, and the last to get a day off.
“He’s played every game, started every game, and he played defense last night,” Girardi said. “So I thought it would be best to give him today. … I think you can’t forget about, it’s a long season. When he’s going good, you’re going to want to keep him in there every day. That’s how your guys get fatigued and that’s how they end up injuring something in their leg. I have to guard against that. That’s why I thought today was a great day to give him off.”
• Before he struggled through two hits and two walks while getting three outs, the plan was to use Dellin Betances for more than an inning last night and basically save Andrew Miller for the ninth. Instead, Miller got five outs, which might keep him out of tonight’s game. Girardi indicated that, despite the fact Betances has struggling this year, he could still get the nod in a save situation tonight.
• Betances said last night that he feels close to getting his mechanics sorted out, but so far he’s had a hard time controlling the strike zone. “I know it’s frustrating for him,” Girardi said. “The big thing is that he understands it’s just a little mechanical thin that he has to fix and he has to get back on track. He’s been able, for the most part, to get through without giving up a lot of damage which is a good thing. We’ve got to get him back on track and we’ll get him there.”
• Here’s Girardi on the current closer situation: “We haven’t really made a decision one way or another. I said I’d wait to see how it plays out here a little bit. We’ll re-evaluate, but it’s just kind of been where we’ve been in the lineup that I’ve made that decision. … I’m not sure that’s what we’re going to do all year. We’ll continue to re-evaluate, but at the beginning of the year we thought that was the best way to handle it.”
• Joel De La Cruz is still on the roster as the emergency long man. He almost certainly would have been sent down if he’d gotten into last night’s game. Instead, he’s still here for an emergency. The Yankees should have Esmil Rogers available tomorrow, so this might be De La Cruz’s last opportunity to get in a game before the Yankees go to someone else.
• Despite a slow start this year and a rough finish last year, the Yankees have stuck with Carlos Beltran in the No. 3 spot. “Just like we say every season, there’s a couple hitters you need to get going,” Girardi said. “And he’s one we need to get going.”
• After last night, the Yankees are now tied with the Orioles for the most home runs in the majors. “We missed it a lot (last year),” Girardi said. “We’ve had a lot of people in and out of the lineup. The big thing is keeping them in.”
• Second start of the year for CC Sabathia. He allowed a bunch of runs on a bunch of singles last time out, but he also got a ton of strikeouts, walked no one, and consistently kept the ball on the ground. “The ground balls and the strikeouts (stand out),” Girardi said. “It seemed like he stayed off the barrel of the bat; that’s really important against another good-hitting club that can hit the ball out of the ballpark.”
• According to The Associated Press in Tampa, Ivan Nova threw live batting practice today. He threw 20 pitches at the minor league complex, his first time facing hitters since Tommy John surgery.
Associated Press photos
Brett Gardner went to the plate twice after being hit by a pitch in the first inning, and each time he tried to bunt for a hit. He said Joe Girardi kept asking whether he was alright, and Gardner kept assuring him he could still play. Even so, Gardner could feel in the on-deck circle that he wasn’t quite 100 percent. He could swing, just couldn’t swing very well.
In the seventh inning, though, Gardner could see his at-bat requiring something more than a bunt single. He told Girardi that he was still fine to play defense, but if his spot in the order came up with runners on base, Gardner might not be the best guy to take a good swing and drive them in.
“Turns out,” Gardner said. “Stephen Drew was the guy for that job.”
Drew’s second home run in as many days was a big one, a go-ahead grand slam with two outs in the seventh. It was the third grand slam of his career, his second ever pinch hit homer, and the first pinch hit grand slam against the Orioles since Jorge Posada in 2001.
“Joe gave me a heads up before, pretty much the inning before, kind of to let me know, hey, get loose,” Drew said. “I was ready. … Laid off some tough pitches, some close ones. Got a 3-1 count in a good situation. Tried not to do too much. Put a good swing on it, and it worked out for the best.”
That’s two wins in a row for the Yankees, and two pretty good wins at that. It’s also two pretty gratifying homers for a guy who couldn’t hit a lick last season. The Yankees have been happy with Drew’s at-bats since late in spring training, and he’s starting to get some regular-season results the past two days.
“It’s one of those things where I feel a little more comfortable trying not to do too much,” he said. “Trying not to put too much pressure on myself. I know what kind of player I am, and I’ve done it for a long time, so in regards to that, it definitely helped with the at-bats in spring training and taking it into the season.”
Gardner was also hit by a pitch in the right wrist last week during the home stand. He said this one was only about a half inch away from the previous spot. It sounds doubtful that he’ll play tomorrow.
“Kind of wait and see,” Gardner said. “Just a day-to-day thing. I’m just glad that the x-rays look good. We’ve got a wrap on there for tonight, keep the swelling down and hopefully I feel good tomorrow.”
X-rays were negative, so there’s some good news on the wrist.
“The good thing is they’re negative,” Girardi said. “Will he play tomorrow? That’s a question. We just have to wait and see how he feels. He got hit in the right wrist and, yeah, I’m concerned about him. I’m glad it’s not broke. I don’t know what we’ll have the next few days.”
• Nine strikeouts and no walks for Michael Pineda, who really seemed to pitch much better than five earned runs would suggest. “I feel pretty good,” Pineda said. “It’s a really good game. But it’s one pitch, you know? Jones, made adjustments. My fastball’s high, and he got a homer. I try to continue to hold the game, and make a pitch.”
• That one pitch was the fastball that Adam Jones hit for a two-run, go-ahead home run in the sixth. Pineda had struck out Chris Davis to nearly get out of the jam, but he tried to elevate a fastball against Jones, and Jones got plenty of it. “He’s really good hitter, you know?” Pineda said. “For me, I try to change the eye (level), and try to throw my fastball high, and he makes adjustments and he got it.”
• Speaking of good pitching performances, Andrew Miller got a five-out save. It was the third save of his career and his second save of the season. He said that this time he and Dellin Betances didn’t really have defined hitters to focus on. He didn’t exactly know he’d be the closer today, but he was ready for it. “I don’t think what we’re doing is traditional at all, so that’s not really surprising,” Miller said. “It’s just the way it worked out today. Dellin and I hadn’t really pitched the last couple days. I think both of us knew coming in that if this type of game was played, we would have to throw more than our usual 15-20 pitches, and we found a way.”
• Shaky outing for Dellin Betances as the setup man for Miller, but Betances got the huge out he needed when he struck out Davis to end the seventh. “I threw some good (breaking balls) to Davis,” Betances said. “Those are the way I need to throw it to all of them. I thought those breaking balls I threw to him were really good.”
• Girardi didn’t go into detail, but he indicated that using Betances to get out of the seventh and then using Miller for five outs was not exactly the way he drew it up. “I was trying to map it out,” Girardi said. “But it never goes strictly according to plan. I had to rework it a little bit. It worked out, and Andrew did a tremendous job to get the final five outs. He threw the ball very well.”
• And since it’s pretty connected to the pitchers, this is a good time to mention John Ryan Murphy, who had a really great game behind the plate. the faced he went 1-for-3 and drew a walk to help set up the grand slam was just kind of icing on the cake. Just a really great game for him including two runners caught stealing. “Just a tremendous job,” Girardi said. “He threw the ball extremely well. Throwing out Adam Jones in that situation was a huge out. Blocked, I don’t know, 10, 15 balls tonight.”
• Girardi explaining the order and use of pinch hitters in the seventh: “I knew I was going to (use Drew in Gardner’s spot). The thing was, Drew had seen Matusz, so if he brought in Matusz for Ellsbury, I know Drew has seen him and I was more comfortable with that. And Garrett’s got more power, even though it didn’t turn out that way, I was looking for a three-run homer at that time (when Jones hit for Gregorio Petit earlier in the inning).”
• Was Gardner bunting in those middle plate appearances strictly because of his wrist? “Not necessarily,” he said. “It might have had a little something to do with it, but it wasn’t a case of, I wasn’t able to swing the bat.”
• Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-4, but he played a solid third base. He’s bounced around a lot the past few days, moving to different positions and different spots in the order. “Not strange,” Rodriguez said. “We have to whatever it takes to win. We have a good team. Joe needs me to move around a little bit, and that’s what I’m willing to do. Last week I took a lot of time early every day, bounced around between third base and first base. I’m excited to be playing every day.”
• With his solo home run tonight, Mark Teixeira tied Lance Berkman for the fifth-most home runs by a switch hitter. Teixeira has 366. Carlos Beltran is fourth on that list with 373. Mickey Mantle has the all-time record with 536.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “They’ve been resilient so far. We didn’t get off to the start that we wanted. We didn’t play very well the first five games of the season, and we’ve played much better the last two two. We’ve had big hits and capitalized on some mistakes the other clubs have made, and we’ve won two games in a row.”
Associated Press photos
A little before 10 a.m, a smallish guy with an Astros bag walked into the Yankees clubhouse. He shook a few hands, saw some guys he clearly already knew, and settled into a corner locker. His name wasn’t on either split-squad lineup card, but he seemed to recognize the opportunity in front of him.
The Yankees need a right-handed utility infielder, and Petit happens to be just that.
“Last year it was my first time going to New York,” he said. “I had a chance to play there. It was an unbelievable feeling. I always wanted to go. Of course, you think of Jeter every time you come to New York. Being his last year last year, it was very special for me playing in that game where he was playing short and I was playing short at the same time. It was a great, great experience for me.”
Now he seems to have a real shot at breaking camp on the Yankees roster. He was hitting .310/.375/.414 in Astros camp this spring, but he got crowded out of their young infield. He was sent to minor league camp on Sunday and traded to the Yankees late Wednesday.
Petit said he was getting a haircut when he heard about the trade, so when the haircut was finished, he immediately shaved his beard.
“My dad (is a) huge fan of the Yankees,” Petit said. “He always said that it would be great for me to wear that uni, so when I tell him yesterday, he was in shock. I asked him, ‘Are you sitting? Are you OK? Do you feel OK and all that? I have some good news for you. I just got traded to the Yankees.’ (He said), ‘No way! I’m sitting now for sure.’”
Now that Petit has arrived in camp, we’ll see if the Yankees change their plans and get him in a game this afternoon. Rob Refsnyder and Nick Noonan still stand out as obvious alternatives.
“There’s a chance for every one of us, whoever’s waiting for a big chance to go,” Petit said. “And I’m ready. I accept the challenge and give my best for wins for the Yankees.”
• Brendan Ryan was walking with a crutch this morning, obviously very disappointed by the news of a Grade 2 calf strain. He knows this is going to be more than a 15-day stint on the disabled list. Brutal turn of events for a guy who just got back from a back injury and had played very well defensively this spring.
• Adam Warren is going to stay in Tampa to pitch in some sort of minor league game on Sunday. That’s to keep him in line to start the fifth game of the regular season. With Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova on their way back from injuries, Warren’s time in the rotation could be brief, or he could pitch well enough to stick. “YOu can’t worry about a month away of whatever it might be,” Warren said.
• Warren said he’s never stopped thinking of himself as a starting pitcher, but he was still surprised this winter when the Yankees called and said they wanted him to prepare for the rotation. He said, after last season, he assumed the Yankees would want to keep him in the bullpen. Seems happy to have this opportunity to start again.
• Brett Gardner’s not playing in either game today, but he’s fine. He played the past two days and his scheduled just happens to call for him to strictly go through drills and batting practice today. He said he feels fine, then he saw Ryan hobbling around and quickly knocked on one of the wooden lockers.
• Can’t say for certain, but it looked like the Yankees were having closed-door meetings with a few bullpen candidates this morning. Might be finalizing those pitching decisions. Would make sense considering Chase Whitley, Chris Martin, Chasen Shreve and Andrew Bailey have each pitched in the past two days.
• Speaking of which, Bailey is not scheduled to pitch today, which means he’s not going back-to-back before the Yankees leave Tampa. That would seem to eliminate him from contention for a roster spot. I suppose he could still go back-to-back on Friday and Saturday, but it really feels like he’s not heading north with the team.
• Warren and Justin Wilson are throwing sides today. Masahiro Tanaka is doing long toss and flat ground work.
• Minor league infielder Dan Fiorito is up for the day to be available off the bench. Signed out of a tryout a few years ago, he’s a non-drafted utility man who’s played well since getting into pro ball. Also just an incredibly nice guy who honestly seems to be one of the most popular teammates in the entire minor league system. He’s going to be a groomsman in Rob Refsnyder’s wedding. Really, really good guy.
• Today’s second string: C Austin Romine, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Tyler Wade, SS Cito Culver, 3B none, LF Ben Gamel, CF Jake Cave, RF Aaron Judge
• Today’s scheduled relievers: David Carpenter, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Jose Ramirez
• Today’s second string: C Eddy Rodriguez, 1B Jonathan Galvez, 2B Ali Castillo, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Dante Bichette, LF Dustin Fowler, CF Mason Williams, RF Mark Payton
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Kyle Davies, Danny Burawa, Jacob Lindgren, Diego Moreno, Tyler Webb
Associated Press photos
The most important things that happened in Yankees camp today: Michael Pineda looked awfully good again, Andrew Bailey looked better his second time out, and Andrew Miller had a two-strikeout inning. A little rally in the ninth inning gave the Yankees a 3-2 win, and it was ultimately a good Saturday.
But the most buzzworthy thing that happened in Yankees camp today? That had to be Brett Gardner climbing up and over the wall in center field to retrieve Chris Young’s glove after Young lost it trying to rob a home run in the first inning.
“Gardy thought he was in the movie Sandlot or something,” Joe Girardi said.
From the stands (or the press box), the whole thing was mostly hilarious; one of those random moments that would only happen in spring training. Young very nearly snagged a two-run homer but lost his glove in the process. He was kind of wandering aimlessly around center field when Gardner came running over from left.
“We’re working on pace of game in spring training,” Gardner explained. “And Chris Young was like, ‘You think I’m going to have to jump over there?’ I said, ‘If you’re not going to, I am.’ Otherwise, we’re going to be waiting 10 minutes for someone to go all the way around and get your glove. So I just said, all right, I’ll do it, whatever.”
Of course, the whole thing looked a little different from the Yankees bench, where Girardi has seen far too many injuries to fully enjoy the comedy of his starting left fielder scaling a wall for no logical reason. Girardi was prepared to send Tyler Austin’s glove onto the field as a replacement when he saw Gardner make the leap.
“I told him this isn’t, you know, Little League,” Girardi said, laughing but clearly preferring his outfielders keep their feet on the ground when possible.
Gardner said the whole thing was pretty easy. The wall was filthy, though, and he admitted it was easier getting over from the field than getting back over from behind. What if he couldn’t make it back?
“I would’ve probably walked around back to the player’s lot to my truck and left, maybe,” Gardner said. “If I stayed back there long enough, I guess they would have sent somebody else out to play left field. I would’ve had a quick exit. It worked out all right.”
Associated Press photo
Luis Severino and Aaron Judge surely spark some optimism for the future, but if you were looking for immediate impact in the present, the big names from today’s Yankees spring opener were Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner.
“I think we can do some damage as long as we both stay healthy and do our jobs,” Gardner said. “Get on base and take some attention from the hitter and (put it) on us from the pitcher and the catcher; get over into scoring position and give those guys in the middle of the lineup some RBI opportunities.”
That’s the idea, and the Yankees might actually be able to put it into action this season. When Ellsbury signed last winter, there was some immediate thought about the impact he and Gardner might have together as speed-oriented hitters and defenders. They played well side-by-side in the outfield, but they rarely hit together in the lineup. It seems inevitable that they’ll do that this year.
They didn’t do much today — a combined 0-for-6 — but last season, Gardner and Ellsbury ranked first and second in OPS among Yankees everyday players. They combined for 60 steals and each hit more home runs than any Yankee other than Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann. They are, perhaps, the most reliable pieces of this season’s projected lineup.
“If I play a full season this year and hit six (home runs), or if I hit 20, it really doesn’t matter to me,” Gardner said. “I still have to get on base. I don’t have to drive myself in. I just have to get on base and put myself into scoring position and those guys in the middle will drive me in if they’re healthy. … Get on base a little more (than last year), run a little more, and just use my speed to my advantage. Just taking things pitch by pitch, try and keep things simple. I kind of felt like I fell off a little bit towards the end of the season, the last month of last year. Right now I feel great. Just stay strong, try to stay healthy all season.”
For Ellsbury, hitting ahead of Gardner means he should have plenty of chances to run. Gardner’s a patient hitter, and Ellsbury can be an aggressive runner.
“I tend to go early in the count just to give a hitter a better opportunity before he’s down in the count or whatnot,” Ellsbury said. “But yeah, if I don’t go early, it just gives me opportunities to take a base. Brett does a good job with the bat and controlling the bat. Maybe he just advances me from second to third with no outs, something like that. … If I feel I can go, I’m going to take off unless they give me the red light and want the guy to hit if they’re so focused on the hitter seeing a pitch. I feel if I get my jump, I’m going to make it more often than not.”
• Pretty solid first outing for Adam Warren, who allowed just one hit — a weak single — through two scoreless innings. “I wanted to get ahead of hitters,” Warren said. “Didn’t really do that great today, but also wanted to establish fastball in to a lot of guys, which I did well today. Just have to keep working and improving. Getting ahead of guys for me is a the name of the game, so I want to do that a little bit better, but overall felt good.”
• Warren said he feels like he’s competing for a rotation spot and not simply serving as rotation insurance in case someone gets hurt. “Who knows where I’ll end up,” he said. “But right now my mind is being a starter and see where that leads.”
• Joe Girardi’s impression of Warren’s start: “A lot of quality strikes today. Good counts.”
• Every prospect reliever seemed to really thrive today except Jacob Lindgren. I was doing interviews in the Yankees clubhouse while Lindgren was pitching, so I actually missed most of his outing. He went two-thirds of an inning, gave up two hits and allowed two runs, which were unearned because of a Rob Refsnyder throwing error. Branden Pinder wound up finishing off that inning with a strikeout.
• Refsnyder wasn’t the only young second baseman with a throwing error. Jose Pirela also threw a ball away trying to make a tough turn on a double play.
• Aaron Judge on seeing his game-tying home run go over the fence. “I thought he robbed it, so I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to turn around or keep going. So I just kept going, and no one stopped me.”
• Luis Severino said he believes he could be pitching in New York at some point this season, but he quickly shot down the idea that he’s trying to make a big impression this spring to make that happen. “No,” he said, flatly. “The same I do last year, I’ve got do this year the same.”
• Some of the pace of play rules were used today. The field had two red clocks counting down two minutes and 25 seconds for a pitcher to get ready at the start of an inning. I honestly didn’t even notice it at first. “It was a little strange,” Warren said. “I didn’t think about it the first inning. I went out there for the second inning, I noticed it at like a minute, 50 (seconds) when I first got out there. I’m like, ‘Crap, that’s not long at all.’ Then all of a sudden I look back after my last pitch, it’s at 50 seconds still, so it only took me a minute. After you’ve already gone out there, and you’re already a little bit loose, it didn’t affect me. I think you just have to get used to knowing the time’s ticking down to kind of know how long it takes you.”
• Garrett Jones singled in his first at-bat with the Yankees. Chris Young also had a single today. Of the guys really fighting for a roster spot, Pirela was the only other one who had a hit. Both Austin Romine and John Ryan Murphy went 0-for-2. Jake Cave, Slade Heathcott, Greg Bird, Kyle Roller, Mason Williams, Jonathan Galvez, Nick Noonan, and of course Judge all had at least one hit today.
• Girardi said everyone came through today’s game healthy. No new injuries to report.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “You want to learn as much as you can about these (young) guys because we haven’t seen them a lot. See what their abilities are, what some of their strengths are. I think we’ve said all along, there’s some really good position players that are coming. They’re getting closer and closer, and at some point – you hope that you don’t have injuries, but at some point you know that it usually happens and these kids get a call-up and a chance to do something.”
Associated Press photos