The Yankees have one stolen base since the All-Star break. Care to guess who stole it?
Here’s a hint: He’s hit five home runs since his daring race to second base.
It was Mark Teixeira. On July 24, in the eighth-inning of a lopsided loss, Teixiera stole second against the Twins. But that was it. No second-half stolen bases for Jacoby Ellsbury. None for Brett Gardner. Not even one of those occasional steals for Didi Gregorius or Chris Young, or a heads up stolen base for Chase Headley or Stephen Drew.
Since June 1, the Yankees have just 15 stolen base attempts.
“I think that whenever your guys can get the extra base, we want them to get the extra base,” Joe Girardi said. “However, not at the expense of being thrown out or taking a chance, so it has to be a pretty good calculated risk that you’re going to get to second base, or to third if you’re trying to steal third. So what our guys have done is, they’ve been wise, and if they feel that there’s a chance they’re going to get thrown out, in a sense, they’re probably not going to be as aggressive as maybe early in the season.”
The Yankees had the seventh-most steals in baseball for the month of April, and they were middle-of-the-pack with 14 stolen bases in May. But they’ve basically stopped running since then.
Ellsbury had 14 stolen bases before he went on the disabled list in the middle of May, but he’s attempted to steal only once since returning in early July. He was thrown out in that one attempt.
Gardner had 15 stolen bases through June 12 — and had been caught stealing only three times — but he hasn’t even attempted a stolen base since then.
“We still have the green light most of the time,” Gardner said. “To be honest, I feel like I haven’t really been doing a good job getting on base the last couple of weeks, but I think before that, when (Ellsbury) was out, I was a little more timid, trying to stay smart out there playing every day without him out of the lineup. It’s not a case of us not wanting to run. We still want to be aggressive, it’s still a part of our game. The thing is, with Alex and Tex swinging the bat so well behind us, you’re essentially in scoring position when you’re on first. So, that may have a little more to do with it; we haven’t been hard-pressed to manufacture runs in that way.”
Ellsbury has a .243 on-base percentage since coming off the disabled list. He had a .412 before getting hurt, so obviously his opportunities to run have dwindled significantly. Gardner, though, has a .383 on-base percentage since his last stolen base. He’s been to first base plenty of times and has simply elected not to run.
Granted, Gardner’s long had a reputation for being hesitant to break for second, but even by his standards, this seems extreme.
“People are paying a lot more attention to our base runners now,” Girardi said. “Overall, if you look around the league, I think pitchers are paying more attention to it. They’re quicker to home. We’re not just going to run into outs.”
Not sure pitchers have ever stopped paying attention to Ellsbury and Gardner. More emphasis on shutting down the running game could very well play a role in this — and Gardner pointed out that he’s gone for second a few times only to have the hitter swing and make contact — but the Yankees’ halted running game seems to be a clear shift in offensive philosophy.
“I think it’s an understanding that we all have about our offense as we got a better idea of what we have,” Girardi said. “Going into the season, a lot of times early in the year, the ball doesn’t carry as well, and we didn’t play at home as much, and those sort of things; I think it’s harder for a catcher to throw when it’s colder. So you take some more risks, but now knowing what we have in this offense, I think our guys have been pretty smart. … It’s not like we’ve had a hard time scoring runs, so I’m pleased with the offense and the way we’re doing it.”
• If need be, Brian McCann can catch tonight. For now, it seems the Yankees still have no intention to bring up a catcher and will just play John Ryan Murphy behind the plate. “(McCann) feels better today,” Girardi said. “So he’s really day-to-day. We don’t anticipate it will be too long. As of right now, the way he felt today, we were encouraged by (it). We’ll look at tomorrow or the next day (to get him back in the lineup).”
• Speaking of Murphy, his season slash line is up to .297/.336/.406 and he’s hit .355/.385/.452 since the beginning of June. He seems to be growing more comfortable in this part-time role. “I think there’s been a little more consistent playing time just because of all the lefties we’ve seen, too,” Girardi said. “He’s getting some more at-bats than some day games after night games. He’s learning how to do the role and understand the role that you don’t play every day and the more at-bats probably the better.”
• After his impressive debut last night, Luis Severino’s second big league start is scheduled for Tuesday. That’s the series opener in Cleveland.
• That Cleveland series is the start of another long stretch of consecutive games. Girardi said the Yankees could use a sixth starter at some point during that stretch. “We’ll look at how our starters are doing and then really make a decision,” he said. “Is there a chance we’ll insert a guy once in there, yes, absolutely.”
• Any concern that, given his numbers, Ellsbury isn’t healthy? “He’s physically fine,” Girardi said. “He got banged up when he ran into the wall a couple times. I thought he was starting to swing the bat better and then you run into a knuckleballer, and that’s always hard to figure out and I know we’re going to see one (more on Friday). I was encouraged with what I saw in Chicago, some of the things I saw in Chicago and Tuesday night here as well, so I think he’s on the right track.”
• Not nearly as hot today as it was last week in Texas. Girardi said he’s not worried about any sort of heat or dehydration issues resurfacing for CC Sabathia. “I’ve checked with him a couple times during the course of the weekend and yesterday and he feels he’s at full strength,” Girardi said. “He would know physically better than anyone. He threw his bullpen and felt fine so I feel pretty good about it.”
Associated Press photos
Thirteen years ago, the sun was shining in Chicago when Mark Prior made his Major League debut. He went six innings, struck out 10 and got his first Major League win less than a year after he was drafted. Prior’s catcher that day was Joe Girardi.
“As I look back, that’s probably the most anticipation of a young player that I was around,” Girardi said.
Today is Luis Severino’s turn.
“This is what I would tell him (as a catcher),” Girardi siad. “You know yourself better than I do, so you throw what you feel is the right pitch at the right time. If I really feel that it’s the wrong pitch, I’ll come out. Don’t doubt yourself. Throw everything with conviction, and we’ll go from there.”
As a manager, what will Girardi say?
“Go have fun; just do what you do, basically,” Girardi said. “When a young guy comes up for the first time, you just want to see him compete. Just compete. Give us the best you’ve got, and it’s difficult because there’s a lot of emotions that go into it. There’s a lot of anxiety that goes into it. Get through the first inning, then we’ll see if we can get you on a roll.”
Severino walked into the Yankees’ clubhouse around 3:30 this afternoon. It was a quiet entrance and a few teammates came by to say hello. There were no trumpets. No confetti fell from the ceiling. His locker looked the same as any other minor league call-up this season.
But this one’s different. We all know that.
Severino’s cleared for roughly 100 pitches, and it’s time to find out what the kid can do. After that, it’ll be time to find out what he can do again.
“In games like this, you think about trying to get them out on a good note if you can,” Girardi said. “Those sort of situations so they can build off it. A guy who’s been through it, if he goes through a tough situation, you don’t really worry, cause there’s a lot of success on the other side, and he knows how to rebound from those, but you try to get (Severino) out on a good note.”
• Garrett Jones is back. He said he never talked to other teams. When the Yankees contacted him — presumably after the Dustin Ackley injury — to say they were going to try to bring him back, he was onboard immediately. Never wanted to leave in the first place and had no hard feelings about the DFA.
• What did the Yankees say when he was designated? “There was a guy they had an eye on, and Ack is a great player,” Jones said. “He was somebody that I think they had their eye on for a long time to where they wanted to bring him into the organization. It was my turn, my time. I guess I was that guy. Everybody was healthy at the positions I played. It just turned out it was my card to be pulled.”
• Obviously Jones is right back in his limited role. He’s returned for a game against a right-handed pitcher, but he’s not playing tonight.
• Not surprised the Yankees chose to option Caleb Cotham and Nick Rumbelow to make room for Jones and Severino. Rumbelow has pitched well when given a chance, but Branden Pinder’s fastball sat at 97 mph and topped out at 98 last night. No first-timer has gotten into more Yankees games than Pinder this season. He’s pitched 13 times with a 1.02 WHIP, nine strikeouts and two walks. A lot of low-leverage situations, but Pinder’s done the job several times now, so he gets to stick around in that rotating bullpen spot.
• Without McCann, it’s John Ryan Murphy catching Severino’s debut. “I don’t know if there’s a ton of challenges here because I think Murph does a really good job and has an understanding of the league and what he needs to do and follows the game plans well,” Girardi said. “He and Mac work very closely together, and they talk about situations and really pull for one another. In a sense, it might be easier for a young pitcher to shake off a young catcher and feel like, this is what I want to throw. I’m a little bit nervous shaking off a guy that has five Silver Sluggers, five All-Star Games and been an established catcher. I don’t really think there’s any downside to it.”
• McCann on missing the chance to catch Severino’s debut: “I was definitely looking forward to catching him,” McCann said. “But at the same time, Murphy’s one of the best that I’ve been around, to catch. He’s caught him before, and we’re all excited for his debut.”
Associated Press photos
In the summer of 1985, Esmil Rogers and David Carpenter were born one month apart. They’ll each turn 30 this year. Carpenter has appeared in 210 major league games. Rogers has appeared in 209. The Yankees were the fourth major league team for each of them.
Although Carpenter pitched well for Atlanta the past two seasons, he pitched to a 4.82 ERA with a 1.45 WHIP in the first two months of this season, and the Yankees decided to cut him loose.
Rogers was so bad the past two seasons in Toronto that the Blue Jays waived him last July, and he’s now pitched to a 6.39 ERA with a 1.61 WHIP through two-plus months this season, but the Yankees are sticking with him.
“I believe the stuff is there,” Joe Girardi said. “We’ve seen it. He gets swings and misses, and he can get quick outs, and he has a good fastball, and a good curveball. But his stuff has been inconsistent, and part of that could be not working on a normal basis sometimes as a long man, but you’ve got to figure out a way to do that and be ready to pitch when you’re called upon.”
Why keep Rogers and jettison Carpenter? I honestly don’t know.
Rogers has an ability to pitch multiple innings, which Carpenter doesn’t really do, but that long man quality doesn’t matter as much now that Chris Capuano is in the bullpen. Even without Rogers, the Yankees could use Capuano or Chasen Shreve for multiple innings.
It can’t be a money thing, because Rogers is guaranteed less money than Carpenter. Even if Rogers were to max out his contract, his $1.48 million wouldn’t be significantly more than Carpenter’s $1.3 million (and Carpenter comes with more years of team control, which would seem to be a plus on Carpenter’s side).
Instead, it simply seems that the Yankees like Rogers more than they like Carpenter, despite plenty of on-the-field evidence to the contrary. Rogers was awfully good in April, so perhaps the Yankees keep looking back on that one good month believing they’ve seen what Rogers could become if he were to finally live up to his potential.
“He’s struggled in the month of May and to start June,” Girardi said. “I know his work has not been consistent, and sometimes it’s more difficult as a pitcher, but when you’re the long man, that happens. The big thing is we have to get him going.”
Do they really have to get Rogers going, though? Girardi has said that he considers Justin Wilson to be his seventh-inning guy, and Wilson’s been pretty solid in that role. Shreve has earned more high-leverage opportunities, Capuano is available for long relief, and Jacob Lindgren is getting an opportunity to emerge. So why exactly do the Yankees need Rogers when guys like Branden Pinder, Jose Ramirez, Chris Martin (and others) are waiting in the Triple-A bullpen to serve as right-handed alternatives? Wanting Rogers to pitch well is one thing, but truly needing him is something else.
“When you look at our bullpen, the Wilsons, the Shreves, have been doing a really good job on right-handers as well,” Girardi said. “Lindgren in the short amount of history that we have (has pitched well). Even though we are left-handed dominant, I don’t worry about it so much because our lefties have been good against right-handers.”
The Yankees only need Rogers as long as he’s in the bullpen, and they could take him out of the pen any time they want. It’s exactly what they did with Carpenter. So far, they’ve elected not to do it with Rogers.
• After missing two games — and having an off day for additional rest — Carlos Beltran is back in the lineup. He’s been out with a sore foot, an injury suffered on a foul ball back in Seattle. “He’s better, yes,” Girardi said.
• Brian McCann is the lineup for a second straight game after getting new orthotics to help him deal with his own foot soreness. Girardi said he expects McCann to have the day off tomorrow when the Yankees play a day game against left-handed starter C.J. Wilson. John Ryan Murphy will likely start that game behind the plate.
• After a four-hit game yesterday, Alex Rodriguez is only nine away from 3,000 career hits. Clearly his history is clouded by his steroid use, but the number itself is still awfully big. “It means consistency and longevity to me,” Girardi said. “It’s the only way you’re going to get 3,000 hits. You could be a fabulous player for 12, 13 years, but you’re not getting 3,000 hits. You have to do it over a long, long period of time. So that’s what it means to me.”
• With Ivan Nova about to begin an official rehab assignment, Girardi made it clear that he has no plans of using a true six-man rotation this season. The Yankees might still insert a sixth starter occasionally, but they won’t carry six starters after Nova’s ready. Girardi said he doesn’t think it’s realistic with the current 25-man roster limit.
• Girardi on last night’s mess: “It’s probably forgotten today. I think you probably think about how it happened and what happened and how you try to make some corrections, but it was, what, 8-6 and they had the bases loaded with nobody out. It got down to some tough times, but we were able to pull it out.”
Associated Press photos
Yesterday afternoon, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman stepped onto the field to watch a little bit of batting practice. While he was there, he talked to the media for a while. Nothing particularly new came out of it, but the GM did hit on a number of topics that really matter to this team right now, so here are a few highlights:
On the recovery of Jacoby Ellsbury
“We had a timetable. I don’t think we talked about it too much publicly. He was going to be in one of those lineman-looking braces for three weeks. He’s been doing running and stuff in the brace, I think, with some low-level resistance. Obviously doing a lot of strength work. He’s been working his tail off to make sure his quads and his hammys and everything else are not falling behind. … My update through yesterday is he’s busting his tail and doing a lot of functional stuff, but he’s got to have that brace on for three weeks total and he’s just past week two.”
On the decision to have Michael Pineda skip a start
“We’ve just been talking through it. Tanaka obviously got a time out because of the injury he had, so with the off days that we’ve had, it was: all right, let’s try to make a decision here at least on this front end. There’s other avenues to do it if you got a full complement (and) everybody’s healthy. You can always play with a six-man rotation if Nova’s back and everybody’s in line. We’re just trying to find ways to manage it properly so everybody keeps that full tank of gas and doesn’t have fatigue set in too easily, because once fatigue sets in, injuries can happen.”
On the idea of six starter when Ivan Nova is healthy
“It just depends on time of year, how things are functioning, who’s experiencing what. There’s no strict plan as much as (trying to) find ways at times to give people blows is basically what we’re going to try to do. But how we’re going to do it, we’re not sure just yet. … (Nova)’s going to have one (rehab start) in the Florida State League. If that goes fine, he’ll go to Scranton, weather permitting, and at that point we’ll evaluate. I guess it’s possible (he could be back this month). We did build him up to 75 pitches in extended spring so we can keep him on the clock if we feel it’s necessary, or we can pull him if we need him.”
On the dependability of Alex Rodriguez as an everyday player
“It was unpredictable what we were going to get. I could throw out there about the DH spot, it’s not as demanding and we all know that, but I didn’t have any expectations, let alone playing every day as a DH or being productive. He’s been very, very impressive and obviously helpful.”
On lingering foot concerns with Brian McCann
“I’m just thankful every test was negative. (The wrong orthotic) is more likely than not what was causing the issues. We’ll just swap it out and we’ll be able to go on from there and forget that it happened.”
On lingering elbow concerns with Masahiro Tanaka
“I can only speak for myself; I don’t think about it any more. I just think about if he is going to perform. In his last start, given how it was in his two rehab starts, I just wanted him to be productive. I knew he was around an 85-pitch count, so I didn’t know if we were going to be deep in the pen or not. My God, he was tremendous. I wasn’t worried about health. If something is going to happen, it’s going to happen.”
Associated Press photos
When Brian McCann talked about his sore right foot on Wednesday, the concern was obvious in the tone of his voice. His answers were short. His delivery cautious. He’d been unable to stay in a crouch that afternoon, and it takes a lot for McCann to admit he can’t play.
So when he slipped into that MRI machine yesterday, he was worried. Today, he’s relieved.
No plantar fasciitis. No Lisfranc injury. The arch of McCann’s foot is like a set of bad eyes, and it’s prescription has changed. McCann was given a new set of orthotics. He caught a bullpen session today just to test them out and declared himself ready to play.
“I had the same old (orthotics) for the last three years,” he said. “And the arch on my foot has changed. I needed to get new ones. Once it got inflamed, it was harder to calm down. … I think this will take care of it.”
Losing McCann would have been a significant blow to both the lineup and the pitching staff, but the Yankees are hopeful they’ve made it through this scare while only losing McCann for eight innings.
Joe Girardi posted a late lineup today because he wanted to make sure McCann could catch with no problem. After catching a pen, McCann said he was good to go.
“It only flared up when I caught,” McCann said. “Walking around it didn’t flare up, but once I got in my squat and moved around (it hurt). That’s what we’ve been waiting for today. Went out there and didn’t flare up.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury has started going light baseball activities. He did a set of 10 40-yard sprints at about 50-percent effort. He also took dry swings in the cage and played catch. “He is obviously getting better,” Girardi said. “I don’t have a date when he’ll be a player for me, but it’s better than when we left because he wasn’t doing anything like that.”
• Carlos Beltran’s foot is still sore after that foul ball on Tuesday. The expectation is that he’ll be available to pinch hit, but he’s out of the lineup for a second game in a row. “The concern that you have there, besides it being really sore, is that he favors that and hurts something else,” Girardi asid. “We’ll shoot for tomorrow.”
• Brendan Ryan’s rehab assignment has been shifted to Double-A Trenton.
• Ivan Nova will begin a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa on Monday. He will be scheduled for 80-85 pitches. He could be a big league option soon after that. “Right now we have him scheduled for at least two more (including Monday),” Girardi said. “Then we’ll go from there to see where he’s at.”
• No plans to immediate add a right-handed reliever, but the Yankees will almost certainly do that at some point (I guess it could happen when Nova comes back). “As of right now, it is what it is,” Girardi aid. “If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t predict that we would have that many left-handers in there the rest of the season. But right now, it is what it is.”
• Forgot to mention this in the previous post about limiting Michael Pineda’s innings: Girardi said the Yankees don’t have a specific number of innings they’d like Pineda to pitch, they just know that well over 200 is too many. “I have not been given a number,” Giradri aid. “We have not talked a number as an organization. But we know that 220 is out of the question, in our mind, for the regular season.”
• While he’s out of the rotation, there’s some chance Pineda could be available in an extra-inning situation either Sunday, Tuesday or Wednesday. The Yankees won’t plan to use him that day, but if they got into a crazy game, Girardi wouldn’t rule it out. “I think you’d have to say that that’s a possibility if he hadn’t thrown a side that day,” Girardi aid. “He’ll still continue to do his sides, but as we know there’s much less intensity there and you want to keep him as sharp as you can.”
Associated Press photos
We’ll get to the game in just a bit. First, here’s what’s going on with Slade Heathcott:
The quad tightness that knocked him out of tonight’s lineup was not new or unfamiliar. Heathcott said he’d been dealing with it off and on since the offseason. It’s never been a serious issue, and he doesn’t think it’s a serious issue now, but he might miss a few days because of it.
“It’s been very easily manageable,” Heathcott said. “Came in today just a little more tender, and we just decided that giving it a day or two here would be better than four weeks.”
Heathcott said the quad was mostly an offseason issue that hadn’t really popped up since the beginning of spring training, but Joe Girardi said it had been at least a mild issue during spring training, during the Triple-A season and for a few days since Heathcott got to the big leagues. Girardi even speculated that Heathcott’s first double in his first big league start might have sparked the latest flare up.
“He’s been battling this for five or six days, I think it is,” Girardi said. “I don’t know if he did it on his first double. It’s possible he did it then. I think he’s battled it in Triple-A a little bit, and battled it in spring training a little bit. Part of it could have to do with the surgeries he’s had on his knee. All the different things that you go through. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
The Yankees face nothing but right-handed starters the next three days, but Heathcott might have to miss a few of those games.
“It’s not where I want to be, but I can’t start doubting the plan now,” he said. “I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason, this has got to be the way it is, and just go from here. … Maybe just one of those things where I realize what I need to do, maintain it a little better.”
• Might have been a much different game had the Yankees been playing with a full bullpen, but Girardi said he did not have Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances or Justin Wilson available. If those guys were in the pen, it’s not a sure thing CC Sabathia would have gone out for the seventh inning, and it’s doubtful David Carpenter would have been called in with two on and none out. “It’s hard to say,” Girardi said. “(Sabathia) pitched pretty well up to that point. It could have been different.”
• Speaking of Sabathia, he was pitching a good game until that two-out, two-run homer in the sixth. Even in that inning he’d done a nice job to get two quick outs after a leadoff double. He had a chance to get out of the inning but threw a bad changeup that Brett Lawrie hit for a game-tying home run. “Just up and down the middle,” Sabathia said. “He put a good swing on it. I’d thrown him a couple of them. He saw them pretty good and put a good swing.”
• Girardi on Sabathia: “He had a changeup that cut. He gives up the leadoff double. Does a tremendous job of getting to where he wants to get with two outs and the guy still on third base. And the changeup cut. That’s the ball Lawrie hit out. Next guy gets a hit in the hole the following inning, then he walks the next guy, and I had to make a change. But he was, he was pitching really well, and it just kind of got away from him.”
• Before that sixth inning, Sabathia seemed to be heading toward his third strong start in his past four outings. “I felt like we did a good job of moving the ball in and out,” he said. “… Threw the ball well, like I said, now just got to tighten up on a couple of pitches and get the ball to the back of our bullpen which is the strength of our team.”
• Carpenter’s having a bad year, and he certainly knows it. “At this point right now, I know it’s not mechanical,” he said. “It’s (possibly) pitch selection. Could be that. Just hard to tell. I try to go in there and be aggressive with what I’ve got that day and try to get people out. It’s not so much whether it’s this pitch, that pitch, whatever. … I’m frustrated. I’m not happy about how I’m performing right now. I don’t like letting guys down. That’s the thing that upsets me the most, not so much about numbers or anything like that, just letting guys down. They went out there and busted their butt.”
• Nifty play by Alex Rodriguez to score a run in the fourth inning. His diving, tumbling move to avoid a tag at the plate resulted in a run that might have been key had the Yankees not let the game fall apart. “That was not pretty,” Rodriguez said. “That looked like Shaquille O’Neal coming out of a pick. … I was confident (I had touched the plate). When Joe asked me, I said, ‘I think so, but I’m not 100 percent.’ I thought I felt it with my fingers.”
• Brian McCann called Rodriguez “nimble” and Girardi said he was only hoping Rodriguez would “be safe and get back up.”
• Another milestone for Rodiguez as he tied Barry Bonds for second place on baseball’s all-time RBI list (of course, that list doesn’t count a whole bunch of Babe Ruth’s RBIs). “You say the same thing about Gehrig and Ruth, and Barry’s the same thing; he’s one of the greats,” Rodriguez said. “This is kind of special because he’s also a friend and I know him very well.”
• Big game for McCann who had three hits including his first road home run of the season. He’s reached base three times in three straight games, and he has three home runs and 10 RBI in his past six games. “Balls have been falling,” McCann said. “I feel like I’ve been swinging the bat well all year. Numbers – especially numbers today, I don’t think you can really judge a player off his average anymore, especially if you’re left-handed and don’t run well.”
• Carlos Beltran’s 15-game hitting streak ended.
• Final word goes to Rodriguez: “On any given day, you have to come ready to play every day because any team can beat anybody. We proved that last week; we beat one of the best teams in baseball in Kansas City and lost nine out of 10. It’s just important to come out every day mentally tough and play to win.”
Associated Press photos
Only two active pitchers have more career wins than CC Sabathia. He’s won playoff games and season openers. He’s won shutouts and blowouts. He’s won near no-hitters, and he’s won sloppy starts when the offense bailed him out. Sabathia’s won more than 200 times, and until this season, he never had to wait long for his next one.
“He’s one of the best pitchers of our era,” Brian McCann said. “I don’t know if he even thinks about it. He goes out there and competes hard. I’m glad to get him a win tonight, for sure.”
Career win No. 209 doesn’t change Sabathia’s resume very much. It does move him from 101st into a tie for 97th all-time — into the top 100 is pretty good — but this win isn’t a nice round number to be celebrated. It was a long time coming, though, and Sabathia might have gotten there weeks ago had the Yankees scored more than four runs in any of his previous starts. The lineup scored 11 runs tonight, after scoring 13 runs combined in the previous six games Sabathia pitched.
“Our boys did what they needed to do with CC,” manager Joe Girardi said. “They got him a lead, and allowed him just to go to work.”
Yes, he allowed those two home runs in the seventh inning. And, yes, the first inning got off to a brutal start with the back-to-back walks and the hard-hit double. But from the end of the first inning through the start of the seventh, Sabathia was as good as he’s been all season. After those first two batters, he didn’t walk anyone else. He struck out nine, and said the key was locating his fastball, especially inside to righties. The Rays were laying off his changeup, so he had to find other ways to get outs, and he did that.
“The walks were just me being erratic early,” Sabathia said. “I came out with my fastball. I felt pretty good, my body felt good, so I had to ease into the game and tell myself to let the ball go.”
“It was bothering me more that we hadn’t won games I’d started, or tried to keep us in games, or keep us close to win games,” Sabathia said. “That’s my biggest concern is always just trying to help the team. I think wins will come, and it was good to get this one.”
When it was all over, Sabathia’s line wasn’t overwhelming — three earned runs, an ERA still above 5.00, even Sabathia said he came out of the game kicking himself for those late runs more than celebrating the first win — but the end result was positive, and there was a long stretch in there when Sabathia looked awfully sharp and tough to hit.
The lineup did the heavy lifting, but Sabathia did his part to earn the win and end the drought.
“It was bothering me more that we hadn’t won games I’d started, or tried to keep us in games, or keep us close to win games,” he said. “That’s my biggest concern is always just trying to help the team. I think wins will come, and it was good to get this one.”
• Might have noticed Alex Rodriguez favoring his left leg a little bit after stealing second base in the ninth inning. He said his left hamstring was a little tight, but both Rodriguez and Girardi said they expect him to be back in the lineup tomorrow. It’s basically the same tightness he was dealing with a few days ago. “Just a little sore on that last run,” Rodriguez said.
• By the way, I called that a steal, but the official scorer actually changed it to defensive indifference.
• Five home runs was the most for the Yankees in a single game since May 17, 2014. It also matches the most homers hit by any team in a single game this season. This was the third time the Yankees scored at least 11 runs this season, and the fifth time they had at least 14 hits.
• Carlos Beltran has homered in back-to-back games — his first two home runs of the season — making this the eighth time this season a Yankees player has gone deep in consecutive games. No other team has done that more than seven time this season.
• With Beltran hitting second, the Yankees top four hitters each had a home run today and combined to go 9-for-19 with seven RBI. “I just think our guys were looking for a ball in their zone,” Girardi said. “They got it, and they hit it.”
• Specifically, Girardi seemed really impressed by Mark Teixeira’s ninth-inning home run. It kept the Yankees from getting Andrew Miller warmed up, and it went to the opposite field, which Giradri took as a good sign. “That’s big,” Girardi said. “That just tells me he’s really healthy when he’s able to do that, and he’s hit a couple of home runs like that this year. Those are important runs. You don’t have to get Miller up again tonight, and that’s nice.”
• Another moment Girardi pointed out — and one that clearly stood out as an early turning point — was Didi Gregorius making the strong relay throw in the first inning to get Steven Souza out at the plate. Without that relay throw (and without Gardner doing a good job getting to the ball quickly to start the play) the Rays would have already scored two runs, had just one out and had solid hitters coming to the plate with a runner in scoring position. Gregorius said he thought all along he had a shot at getting the out. “I saw that he went all the way back to second because he thought Gardy caught it,” Gregorius said. “So, yeah. I was peeking.”
• Weirder play by Gregorius to end the game after a hard-hit fly ball hit one of the catwalks and fell into play. It was a live ball that it seemed Gardner was going to catch in the corner. Instead, Gregorius caught it in shallow left field. “I was running to the left field corner to catch it and the ball disappeared,” Gardner said. “Before it hit (the catwalk), I thought there was a good chance that it was going to hit it. I was going to catch it, it was just a matter of if it hit the catwalk or not. I completely lost it for two or three seconds, and then I saw it falling down. I don’t know why, but Didi was standing right there underneath it, looking for it, like he knew it was going to happen. Great heads up play on his part.”
• McCann on Sabathia: “His two-seamer and four-seamer were really working tonight. He had the hitters off-balance and he mixed in some great changeups and threw some great back-door sliders. Once he settled down after the first, he had some really good movement in the zone.”
• Sabathia tied Vida Blue for the 25th-most wins all-time by a left-handed pitcher. This was his 92nd win as a Yankee, moving him into a tie with Tommy John for 20th on the franchise’s all-time list.
• Headley had four RBI for the first time since September 9, 2012. He hit his 10th Yankees home run, but only his second Yankees home run on the road. … This was Gardner’s second home run with at least two runners on base this season. He had just one of those last year, which was a grand slam. … Teixeira tied his career-high with four hits, something he hadn’t done since 2012.
• After the game, Rodriguez was outside the Yankees clubhouse meeting and signing items for the couple who caught his home run ball tonight. “They wanted to give me the ball back,” he said. “They wanted a little trade and they wanted to meet me, so it was my pleasure to meet them.”
• Final word goes to Headley: “It was great. (Sabathia)’s pitched a lot better than his record shows, and anytime you have some run support it makes a pitcher’s job a lot easier, so we were happy to finally put some runs on the board for him. Now hopefully we got that first win out of the way, he can get rolling. … He’s awesome. He’s as big a leader as we have on this team. He loves to have a good time. He’s a competitor. We love him in here, so it was great to finally see him get that first win.”
Associated Press photos
First, the basics of what’s going on with Masahiro Tanaka:
He’s going on the disabled list tomorrow, and the Yankees will keep Chase Whitley in the rotation. Michael Pineda will start tomorrow’s game on regular rest, and it sounds likely Gregorio Petit will be activated just one day after being optioned (the Yankees can do that since it’s a reaction to a player going on the disabled list). Now, onto the bigger questions.
What exactly happened to Tanaka’s forearm?
The short answer is, it seems no one is entirely sure. Tanaka said he felt fine after Thursday’s start in Detroit, and Brian Cashman said there were actually rave reviews about Tanaka’s bullpen on Sunday. Cashman said there was some early speculation — before the MRI results came in — that maybe some of the torque from that bullpen caused Tanaka to aggravate something in his wrist, but the tests actually came back negative in the wrist. The forearm issue that was discovered is incredibly mild and Tanaka never complained about it.
“He has the wrist complaint, but that led us to run into something else,” Cashman said. “So when you package it all together, we’re taking the safe conservative route. He has no complaint of his elbow, none, and he physically tests out fine with the elbow. I think he was surprised about the very small (strain) — and I stress small, I can’t even call it a Grade 1 — the very small signal in the forearm muscles. The combination of the tendinitis in the wrist — he throws that split finger — with the signal on the forearm muscle, Dr. Ahmad recommended the disabled list.”
Tanaka dismissed the idea that pitching on normal rest caused the issue, and Cashman repeatedly stressed that there’s been no physical change in the elbow, though it’s impossible for anyone to rule out the idea that this issue might be somehow related to the lingering elbow issue in one way or another.
What does this mean for Tanaka’s elbow?
In the short term, nothing. I guess it means the elbow is going to get some unexpected rest, but ultimately the Yankees don’t seem to be approaching this as an elbow issue, and certainly not as an issue that changes their approach to Tanaka. They’re shutting him down to make sure this issue doesn’t spread to the elbow ligament.
“We want to make sure that we protect, obviously, the elbow because obviously the forearm protects the elbow,” Cashman said. “We want to make sure that this doesn’t lead to the more horrific problems that we’re trying to avoid.”
Tanaka said he doesn’t consider this to be an elbow issue. His wrist hurt, and he found out his forearm was slightly injured. That’s the immediate medical reality. The bigger medical reality is that the elbow is an issue that will linger over everything. The Yankees have treated Tanaka differently because of the elbow, and now they’re taking a typically cautious approach in an effort to further protect the elbow. This is nothing new, and Cashman said he still has no regrets about the way the Yankees have handled Tanaka’s health.
“Absolutely no regret because we’re following the medical directives,” Cashman said. “I can’t remember any time we’ve ever gone against doctors’ orders. Why would we? They’re the experts. We follow what they prescribe.”
What will the Yankees change going forward?
It seems, not much. Cashman said the team would have reacted the same way should any pitcher get this diagnosis at this point in the season. They’re typically conservative, and they follow their doctors’ advice, and so Tanaka is being shut down for seven to 10 days before beginning the slow return.
“Nothing really big came out from the MRI or anything,” Tanaka said. “So I feel that I can come back strong.”
Joe Girardi has said since spring training, and he said again today, that the Yankees won’t ask Tanaka to stop throwing his split-finger because the split-finger is a big part of what makes Tanaka effective. It’s just a cost of doing business. He’d been throwing splits since early spring, and there was no issue until today, and even today’s issue seems relatively minor and so far seems to come with no additional damage to the elbow. Pitchers get hurt, and so far, this pitcher’s been hurt quite a bit in his year-plus with the Yankees. There’s surely some relief that this isn’t an elbow issue, but it’s still an issue.
“The fact that I’m talking to you right now, I don’t feel like is a good thing,” Cashman said. “It’s good that the elbow is fine as of right now, and there’s no change there. Listen, I wanted him to make his next start (before discovering the injury), but we’re going to do the right course of action to make sure when he’s on that mound he’s able to be the best he can possibly be. Could he pitch? He can take the ball. Should he pitch? We’ll have to wait until he’s 100 percent.”
• After Chase Whitley pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, I tweeted that there was basically no circumstance in which Whitley would not be optioned tomorrow morning. Even if he pitched a complete game, I joked, he would still be sent down. Then this happened. “Right now he’s in our rotation,” Girardi said. “He will be here tomorrow.”
• Whitley nearly made the Yankees out of spring training, and tonight he finally got here and allowed one run through five innings. He pitched out of jams, struck out five, walked one and seems to made the most of this opportunity. “It feels good to be able to go out tonight and do my job,” Whitley said. “I’m not trying to look ahead to anything else, just pitch when and where they tell me to pitch.”
• Whitley was spot starting, and both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were unavailable after pitching the past two nights, and the pitching staff still allowed just two runs with 12 strikeouts. “To do what they did tonight, they’re pitching in roles that they’re not accustomed to, and they’re all thriving,” Brian McCann said.
• Chris Martin got the first save of his big league career. He’s been a really nice find early in the season. “I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t (feel different in the ninth),” Martin said. “It was a little nerve racking, but I settled down there for the first hitter.”
• Interesting that Girardi went with Martin instead of David Carpenter in the ninth. Girardi said he was saving Carpenter for just in case the Rays came back to tie the game and force extra innings. With Miller, Betances and Justin Miller having each pitched back-to-back games, Carpenter would have been the last line of defense.
• Esmil Rogers went 2.2 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and one hit. He struck out half the batters he faced. He’s really been terrific in that long relief role. “A tremendous outing out of Esmil Rogers,” Giradi said. “Comes in with a runner on third and one out and gets two outs; strikes out the first guy, Beckham, then gets a ground out and gets us to the ninth inning. And then Martin does a really good job as well.”
• Three consecutive 10-strikeout games for the Yankees pitching staff. They have 11 games of 10 or more strikeouts this season, the most in the big leagues.
• Another big night at the plate for McCann who had two doubles and three RBI. Last night he had the big home run. “I feel good,” he said. “I’ve been feeling good all season long, to be honest with you. Hits are starting to fall and I’m finding the barrel.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury had his team-high eighth multi-hit game of the season. Since April 22 he’s hitting .429 with six runs and four stolen bases in six games.
• Ellsbury stole two bases tonight. Brett Gardner stole one. Those two are each hitting over .300 at the top of the order.
• Jose Pirela continued his Double-A rehab assignment and went 0-for-3 as Trenton’s starting second baseman. He was pulled for a defensive replacement in the bottom of the sixth, which I would assume is because the original plan was to have Pirela activated for tomorrow’s game in New York. Instead, Cashman said he’s expecting to bring back Petit.
• Final word goes to Girardi on Tanaka: “I was shocked because he said it was his wrist, and we had heard nothing in the five days that had led up to this. He threw his bullpen as scheduled he was ready to go tomorrow, so I was like, wow, it’s not what I expected. … We’re hoping that he gets the time off and he’s completely healthy. That’s what we’re hoping. It’s different than what he dealt with last year. He didn’t say nothing until today and he said that it was sore, he didn’t say it was bad. I was shocked when I heard it. It is what it is and you’ve got to deal with it.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi’s still not ready to name a closer, but it’s pretty obvious he has one. And he looks like a good one so far.
Andrew Miller is the first Yankees pitcher — of any title — to have eight saves in the team’s first 20 games.
“The only that’s maybe surprising is that Mariano didn’t have 19 saves in 20 games or something like that,” Miller said. “It just means we’re playing well as a team, and we’re getting good opportunities.”
Last night the bullpen went 4.2 hitless. Tonight it was 3.1 scoreless. Justin Wilson got his first win, Dellin Betances pitched a dominant eighth, and Miller handled the ninth. Somewhere in there, David Carpenter also got a key out.
It’s more or less the way Girardi’s been drawing it up for the past few weeks. Wilson against some middle-inning lefties (but willing to face righties), Carpenter for key seventh-inning outs, Betances in a setup role (often for more than three outs), and Miller in the closer role. Depending on situations, the Yankees have also gotten key strikeouts from Chris Martin, long relief from Esmil Rogers and whatever’s necessary from Chasen Shreve.
Do they have a closer?
“I still believe they both can do the job,” Girardi said. “It gives me a lot of options. It’s working the way we’re doing it. … (The plan is) just to stick with what we’re doing. I’m sure at some point one of them may be down and the other guy may have to do something else. Maybe they pitch a couple days in a row and I want to give one of them a day off. I still believe they’re really interchangeable.”
If Betances had pitched well this spring, or gotten off to a strong first week this season, would the roles be different? Would it have been a mix-and-match in the ninth, or maybe Miller in the eighth, or some other combination in various situations?
“It doesn’t really matter,” Girardi said.
That’s really the truth of the matter. Girardi doesn’t want to stick a label on Miller, because why should he? At this point, we all know the plan, we’ve seen it in action, and it’s worked.
“We all believe in each other, that’s the most important thing,” Betances said. “The staff believes in us, as well. Warren pitched a great game today, McCann put us on top and Miller closed the door. Everybody pitched excellent out of the bullpen, and I’m just trying to follow everybody’s lead, trying to match each other’s intensity.”
The Yankees are on a roll, and regardless of labels, the relievers are keeping it that way.
“I’ll put our guys up against anybody,” Brian McCann said. “The stuff that’s coming out of the bullpen is incredible.”
• The big offensive blow, obviously, was McCann’s go-ahead home run in the sixth. It was his second of the year, snapping a stretch of 40 at-bats without one. “I’ve been feeling good all year,” McCann said. “Obviously the numbers aren’t showing it, but I’ve been seeing the ball good from Opening Day.”
• McCann had a second hit tonight, but that one was a relatively soft single to the left side to beat the shift. The home run led to a run (obviously), but so did that single. “Brian is a good hitter, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “He’s going to be productive for us. Some of the guys take a little while to get going. He had two interesting hits tonight. One was a real big one and the other one was important, too. It gave us another run. I think he’s a middle-of-the-order hitter that’s going to be extremely productive.”
• Carlos Beltran also had a big hit with his hard double immediately after the McCann home run. Beltran has been, quite literally, the Yankees worst hitter this season, but Girardi has said he plans to stick with Belran as a regular in the lineup. Tonight it paid off. “I’m just working in the cage every day on my swing,” Beltran said. “It’ll have to come. I feel like the cage, I’ve been having good sessions. It’s about bringing it to the game.”
• The Yankees have now homered in 16 of their 20 games this season.
• Strong start for Adam Warren, who’s pitched very well ever since that brutal first inning in Detroit last week. He has pitched especially well in this stadium where he has a 1.71 ERA since the start of 2014. Of course, most of those outings came as a reliever. “I’m just trying to give the team a chance to win every time I go out there,” Warren said. “And I feel like I’ve done that. I think the big picture is: The team wins. For me, if I can give the team a chance to win after I go out there, that’s what I’m trying to prove.”
• Warren set a career high with six strikeouts, he almost matched the longest start of his career (which he also reached last time out in Detroit). “The first (start) I think I’ve had this year where I’ve had all four pitches working and I can locate them,” he said.
• Girardi on Warren: “I think he was ahead in the count a lot more tonight. I think that helped him, it kept his pitch count down. He was really aggressive. I thought he threw the ball extremely well; he used his curveball and slider well tonight, too. He got some early strikes with his curveball and did a nice job.”
• This was Wilson’s first win with the Yankees. He hadn’t picked up a win anywhere since July 12 of last season. He retired all three batters he faced. “When the phone rings and we’re told to get up, then that’s our time,” Wilson said. “Really, we just want to go out there and get outs.
• Betances has not allowed a hit in his past five appearances, a span of six innings in which he has one walk with 11 strikeouts.
• When did the season start to turn around for Betances? “The second time I pitched in Baltimore,” he said. “I felt my breaking ball was getting better and I was throwing it more for strikes. I felt a lot better after that.”
• Jose Pirela continued his rehab assignment today by playing second base for Double-A Trenton. I really wonder if the Yankees might option Gregorio Petit tomorrow to make room for Chase Whitley and then activate Pirela in time to play against a left-handed starter on Wednesday.
• Tough break for a really good guy: Brandon McCarthy is out for the year with a torn UCL. McCarthy was an obvious injury risk, but the Dodgers were willing to go four years with him. Looks like they’ll get maybe two and a half years out of that contract. Yankees showed some early interest but weren’t willing to a contract that big. Good call.
• Down in Trenton, Dan Pfeiffer reports the Yankees have released left-handed reliever Fred Lewis. Last spring, Lewis put himself on the map with a good big league camp, but he got off to a rough start last season and fell off the radar pretty quickly. Became thoroughly overshadowed in the organization’s upper-level bullpen depth.
• Final word goes to Girardi about moving into sole possession of first place: “It’s better than the alternative. Obviously we have a long way to go, but we’re playing a lot better baseball than we were the first time we were here. That’s a good thing. We just need to continue to do it.”
Associated Press photos
This afternoon, Masahiro Tanaka will start on normal rest for the first time this season. But in terms of evaluation, that’s not the only factor in play.
“I think you’re going to look at command today,” Joe Girardi said. “I don’t know if you’re going to know if it’s because of the cold or if it’s because it’s on the fifth day. I think that’s going to be hard to predict. We saw command issues yesterday in two guys that really have good command. That’s what I’ll look for.”
Girardi said he’s heard a projected game-time temperature of 43 degrees. I doubt it will be snowing like it was in last night’s first inning, when both David Price and Adam Warren had a hard time. Girardi said there’s no heightened concern about Tanaka’s health in these conditions. The concern is more about simply holding and releasing the baseball.
“I don’t worry so much about his elbow as I worry about his grip on the baseball when it’s this cold,” Girardi said. “I think it can be very slippery on days like today, and I think around game time it’s going to be 43 (degrees), so we’ll just have to see how it goes. … You just try to keep your hands warm and rub up the baseball as much as you can to try to get some heat in the ball. That’s the best idea I have.”
It’s not just the breaking pitches. Girardi said a fastball can also be harder to control in these conditions. It’s just not a great day for baseball, but it’s late April, so there’s a game to be played.
“I have been in games that have been colded out, but it’s been below 30 degrees,” Girardi said. “You’re going to have to go through a few a year. It’s tough conditions, and sometimes you can avoid them some years, and sometimes you can’t. You have to play the games. The only way to avoid it would be not to start the season until May, and we know that’s not going to happen.”
• Little bit strange to see a catcher handle a day game after a night game, but Girardi said he planned coming into this series to have Brian McCann behind the plate this afternoon. “He’s playing extremely well,” Girardi said. “We talked about it, how we were going to do this week, and he feels good so I’m going to run him back out there.”
• No injury concerns with Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira, just giving them a day off in this long stretch. He wasn’t planning to play either one 13 days in a row. “I just felt this was probably the best day to do it,” Girardi said.
• By sitting Rodriguez today, Girardi said he thinks he can play all six games of the upcoming home stand before getting a rest on the next scheduled off day.
• Bench coach Rob Thomson will coach third base again today. Joe Espada’s wife had a baby girl yesterday, so he’s away from the team.
• Brutal news for a nice guy: Joe Nathan needs Tommy John surgery. “He’s been really good, on really good teams,” Girardi said. “The thing you can say about Joe Nathan is that he was really tested, because he was on a ton of playoff teams and had a ton of success. It’s unfortunate what he’s going through and I don’t think any player really wants to go out that way. I’m not sure what he’ll do, being 40 years old, I’m sure there’s a lot of thought that maybe it’s his last pitch. Maybe he’ll try to come back, and god bless him if he does. But Joe Nathan’s a winner, and he’s used to winning, and it’s got to be extremely frustrating.”
• If the Yankees win today, they’ll wrap up a tremendous week on the road against Tampa Bay and Detroit. If they hadn’t blown a game in Baltimore, it would be an awfully success trip regardless of today’s result. “It would be a tremendous road trip to go 7-3 in these three cities that we went to,” Girardi said. “Good baseball teams, so obviously it would be a tremendous road trip.”
Associated Press photos