The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Between-game notes: “He always seemed to find a way to come back”06.22.11

Interleague came at exactly the wrong time for Jorge Posada. He’d built a nine-game hitting streak during last week’s home stand, and it seemed he was finally — finally! — finding his swing. Then the team went to Chicago and Cincinnati and Posada was limited to sporadic at-bats, a pinch hit appearance at best.

“Just make the most of it,” Posada said.

Today’s doubleheader changed Posada’s role for the day. Joe Girardi texted Posada last night to tell him he would be playing first base this afternoon, and in Posada’s third plate appearance, he hit his first home run since April 23. It was the game-winner, a game-changing two-run shot immediately after the Yankees had thrown away a two-run lead.

“Home runs happen,” Posada said. “I don’t know when the last time was I hit one, but I wasn’t trying to hit one. They happen for me. I don’t care when they do happen, I’m happy (when they happen), but I’m not trying to go out there and hit a home run.”

Posada’s batting average is up to .227, which isn’t good, but it’s a lot better than his .125 average at the end of April or his .169 at the end of May. He also drew a walk today.

“If you’ve played long enough, you’ve struggled, and you’ve struggled pretty mightily, probably, during the course of your career,” Girardi said. “All players go through it. Jorge’s a tough kid — he’s not a kid any more, I joke with him — but he’s been through tough spells in his career. He’s been through adversity. He’s been through injuries. He always seemed to find a way to come back.”

Here’s Posada.

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• We’re almost three months into the season and Freddy Garcia has a 3.30 ERA. I couldn’t see it from the press box, but apparently Brandon Phillips started laughing when he struck out swinging a split-finger in the third inning. “I didn’t want to look at him, because it would make me laugh,” Garcia said. “… I throw a good split, try to hit the spot. When I don’t do that, that’s when I get hit. When I hit my spots, I’m successful.”

• Garcia said he was pitching around Joey Votto in the first inning. He preferred facing Jay Bruce, and he got Bruce to strikeout, a pivotal early at-bat.

• Speaking of Votto at-bats, the biggest Reds at-bat of the night might have been Votto’s strikeout against Dave Robertson in the eighth inning. Phillips had just singled, which meant the NL MVP came to the plate as the potential tying run. Robertson got him on three pitches. “Just be aggressive, but don’t really give him something he can hit out of the ballpark,” Robertson said. “I ended up, 0-2, throwing him a pitch he could hit out of the ballpark and I got away with it, and I feel lucky, but that’s pretty much it. I’ve got to throw strikes and I’ve got to get him out because right behind him is Bruce, and you don’t want to face him either. Just find a way to get him out.”

• Garcia had thrown only 89 pitches, so he could have gone back out for the eighth, but Girardi said he wanted Robertson to face the lefty, Fred Lewis, who would be the second hitter that inning. At most, Garcia was going to face one batter, and Girardi decided he’d rather give Robertson a clean inning.

• Even without sending Garcia for the eighth, the Yankees starter gave them plenty of distance, which was key in the first game of a doubleheader, especially with largely unknown starter going in the second game. “I always think about trying to save the bullpen,” Garcia said. “With two games, you don’t know what’s going to happen. I tried to go deep in the game.”

• Girardi said Robertson is almost certainly unavailable for the second game. He’ll check with Mariano Rivera, but Rivera is probably out as well.

• Ramiro Pena said he couldn’t remember ever having three errors in a game. He’s a legitimately outstanding defensive player, but today was a bad one. “Never in my life, never in my life,” Pena said. “Not even in Little League, minor leagues, nothing. Most was like two, maybe. It was weird, man, but it happened. Good thing we won.”

• Pena’s first error was a throw to first that tailed on him and got away. The second was the throw home, and Pena said he was concentrating on keeping the throw low so that Francisco Cervelli could apply the tag, and he wound up throwing it into the dirt. “Nino’s a great defender and it wasn’t his day,” Girardi said. “I’ll put him out there any time, I have no fear putting him out there. He’s a great defender. Today, just a tough day.”

• By the way, Girardi said he didn’t think the Yankees could have turned two on that ground ball to third when Pena made the bad throw home. If the ball’s on target — as you’d expect — the Yankees have the out at the plate and the double play still in order.

• Other than the Pena plays, the Yankees actually played very good defense today (and even Pena made some nice plays on balls hit to him later in the game).

• Jeff Marquez walked into the clubhouse with his right shoulder wrapped after today’s game. He’s seeing Dr. Ahmad when the Yankees get back to New York. Buddy Carlyle is immediately available in the bullpen.

• Here’s the Reds night game lineup:

Chris Heisey CF
Brandon Phillips 2B
Joey Votto 1B
Jay Bruce RF
Jonny Gomes LF
Ramon Hernandez C
Miguel Cairo 3B
Paul Janish SS
Johnny Cueto RHP

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 153 Comments →

Minor league notes: Whelan setting himself apart in Scranton06.06.11

Kevin Whelan opened this season as a rather forgettable part of a potentially memorable Triple-A pitching staff. Legitimate prospects filled the rotation, and the bullpen was dotted with returned Rule 5 picks and veterans with big league experience.

Then there was Whelan, the last remaining piece of the 2006 Gary Sheffield trade. He was a fallen prospect, a guy who always walked too many batters and finally reached a new low with a 6.02 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last season.

Whelan’s been a completely different pitcher this year. As Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s closer, he’s cut down on the walks significantly. He has a 1.73 ERA, 17 saves, and he’s allowed just 17 hits and six walks through 26 innings. He’s struck out 28, and his 0.88 WHIP is the lowest on the team.

“It is the command, which translates to confidence,” pitching coordinator Nardi Contreras said in an email.

Contraras was the second person I talked to who mentioned confidence when explaining Whelan’s sudden improvement. He’s always had a good fastball and a big splitfinger — and he’s had some real success from time to time — but it seems that things are just now coming together. If the Yankees find an opening for a one-inning guy, Whelan would surely be the front-runner for the job. It’s worth noting that he’s been especially good against left-handers, holding them to a .178 batting average with 19 strikeouts and only two walks.

It’s also worth noting that Whelan’s not on the 40-man, and the Yankees have found more openings for multi-inning relievers than short relievers this season. Jonathan Albaladejo had even better numbers as Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s closer last season — and he actually was on the 40-man — but Albaladejo barely got a look at the Major League level. So Whelan might not be looking for apartments in the city, but he’s surely put himself on the map. It’s impossible to ignore a guy who’s always had the potential and is just now finding the consistent results.

• Gary Sanchez is back on the Charleston active roster. He returned Saturday after being sent to extended spring training for what appears to be some combination of a bad back and a bad attitude, probably more of one than the other. He had a hit and drew a walk in his first game back.

• Greg Golson has been activated from the Triple-A disabled list, a move came one day after Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s most productive outfielder, Justin Maxwell, went on the disabled list with a jammed shoulder. Maxwell actually has a higher slugging percentage than Jorge Vazquez and homered in three games in a row just before the injury. For the season he’s hitting .260/.358/.588 and might have hit his way into a big league role had Andruw Jones not started hitting lately.

• Speaking of banged-up Triple-A players who might or might not be playing their way into a call-up: Carlos Silva was scratched from a start on Sunday because of tightness in his shoulder. Doesn’t seem too serious. Manager Dave Miley told Donnie Collins, “We’re just pushing him back.”

• If there’s no spot for Whelan as a short reliever in New York, the Yankees certainly have options for long relief out of Triple-A. George Kontos and Buddy Carlyle are still pitching well in long relief for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Kontos is holding right-handers to a .143 average with 24 strikeouts and four walks. Out of the rotation, tonight’s starter D.J. Mitchell has a 2.78 ERA and pitched seven scoreless in his most recent outing.

• After hitting .218/.292/.287 in April, Kevin Russo hit .316/.384/.408 in May. Brandon Laird made a similar turnaround, from .184/.213/.289 in April to .307/.343/.406 in May. Jesus Montero went the other way, from .365/.360/.473 to .269/.333/.413.

Strange stuff in Double-A Trenton where hitting coach Julius Matos was ejected last week, then got into some sort of argument with manager Tony Franklin and has since been removed from his role. Popular roving hitting instructor James Rowson has taken over the job for now. It’s unclear whether Matos will return in any capacity.

• Austin Romine is the only Trenton regular hitting better than .277, and he’s missed a few games with a stiff neck and back after a home plate collision. Romine has certainly been the high point of the Double-A lineup. Melky Mesa is back to being an all-or-nothing hitter, Bradley Suttle is hitting for good power but a .233 average and Corban Joseph has been good but not great.

• I talked about him a little bit in today’s chat: Trenton reliever Tim Norton is starting to get some attention. Injuries have always been the biggest knock on the guy. This year he’s healthy and putting up incredible numbers (44 strikeouts in 29 innings, for example). One scout told Bill Madden that Norton is, “better than (Joba) Chamberlain right now.”

• Manny Banuelos has a 2.12 ERA and Dellin Betances has a 1.99, so those two are doing just fine despite higher-than-you’d-like walk totals. Craig Heyer, a guy the Yankees sent to the Fall League this offseason, has been awfully good since stepping into the rotation to fill in for some injuries.

• Tampa third baseman Rob Lyerly made the Florida State League all-star team, but as expected, the High-A roster is lowest of the four affiliates in terms of prospect buzz. Starters Brett Marshall and Jairo Heredia, though, are starting to do some things. In Heredia’s past three starts he’s allowed one earned run through 21 innings. He’s walked two and struck out 22. He’s another of those “if-things-go-right” prospects.

• J.R. Murphy remains the best all-around hitter in Low-A Charleston, but first baseman Kyle Roller leads the team with a .563 slugging percentage and corner outfielder Ramon Flores leads with a .407 on-base percentage.

• Slade Heathcott in April: .370/.453/.630. — Slade Heathcott in May: .216/.283/.289.

• The amateur draft begins tonight. The Yankees don’t have a pick until the supplemental first round — No. 51 overall — but they’ll almost certainly be part of the story with pick No. 1. The Pirates are reportedly planning to take Gerrit Cole, the former Yankees first-round pick who ultimately signed with UCLA rather than join the Yankees minor league system.

Headshots of Whelan, Sanchez, Golson, Romine and Norton

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Pregame notes: “I’m just hoping it brings out the best in us”05.13.11

Kind of an unusual pregame here at Yankee Stadium. Hardly any players were in the clubhouse when it was open to media — they were in start-of-the-series pitchers and hitters meetings — and the truth is, there wasn’t much that could have changed between the end of the Royals series and the start of this one.

Bartolo Colon isn’t going to address his shoulder surgery until after the game.

No overwhelmingly significant player moves were made this afternoon.

There’s no way of knowing whether the arrival of the Red Sox will snap the Yankees out of their funk.

“I just feel like sometimes when you get in these series, it brings out the best in you,” Joe Girardi said. “We haven’t played our best baseball. There are a lot of clubs, if you look over the first six weeks of the season, that haven’t played their baseball during a period of time. I’m just hoping it brings out the best in us – and not the best in the Red Sox.”

Girardi once again addressed the obvious: “We have not played very well in the last week and a half, two weeks,” he said. That sparked a question about whether that week and a half, two weeks was simply a matter of a veteran team slogging through a chunk of the season.

“I hope it’s not that,” he said. “Because I think all our guys know what it takes. You can’t just try to get through months. You have to take advantage of each month that is in front of you. This is not a young team that got off to a great start and thinks, ‘Wow, we’re always going to play like this.’ Our guys know how difficult this game is, so I don’t think it’s that.”

Here’s Girardi’s pregame audio.

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• Rafael Soriano is available tonight.

• Phil Hughes started his throwing program with 30 throws from 50 feet. “He’ll probably have something every day,” Girardi said. “It’ll continue to progress. He’ll have some off days in there, but I don’t have in front of me exactly what his schedule is going to be, but he did start his throwing program today. I can tell you that.”

• Today was Hector Noesi’s scheduled day to start, so he’s good for plenty of distance out of the bullpen. That’s why the Yankees felt comfortable making only one move today, keeping Amauri Sanit on the roster even though he almost certainly can’t be used for a few days. “Out thought was too we probably wouldn’t be able to use Buddy (Carlyle) for a couple of days either,” Girardi said. “Sanit is a little bit more stretched out than Buddy and we just felt that we have coverage with Hector here today. If we have to make another move, we have to make another move.”

• To be perfectly honest, I showed up at the park today absolutely expecting both Carlyle and Sanit to be gone, replaced by one pitcher and one position player. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see a position player move in the next day or two.

• Girardi said he hasn’t seen any signs that the shoulder surgery story — and whether or not HGH was involved — is affecting Colon’s mindset. “Normal as ever,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of Colon, he was knocked around in his previous start against Texas. “It comes down to basically mechanics,” Girardi said. “Everything being on time, locating the ball, making sure your hand is on top of the ball, not getting under balls, making sure that your front shoulder — pitchers walk such a fine line. When you’re a guy who throws a ton of fastballs, you even walk maybe a little finer line. If you miss on the thirds of the plate or in the middle, they’re going to hit you hard. It really comes down to location.”

• After answering day after day of questions about Derek Jeter, Girardi now seems to be handling a steady dose of Alex Rodriguez questions. “We just went from one superstar to the next about the at-bats every day,” he said. “I thought (his at-bats) were better (yesterday). I thought he had some of his better swings than what we’ve seen. One of the best swings I thought he had was the ball he popped straight up. The ball was a little too high for him to swing at, but I thought the swing was excellent. Maybe last night is going to get him going.”

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Kevin Youkilis 3B
David Ortiz DH
J.D. Drew RF
Jed Lowrie SS
Carl Crawford LF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 418 Comments →

Postgame notes: Rodriguez feeling a “disconnect” in his swing05.04.11

On April 16, Alex Rodriguez was hitting .385/.500/.821, the kind of red-hot start that recalled those MVP years of not so long ago. It was a 12-game sample size, but it was impressive, and for the Yankees, it was promising.

Then Rodriguez was shutdown because of an oblique strain, and he hasn’t been the same since.

“It’s definitely not an excuse,” Rodriguez said after tonight’s loss. “I got off to a great start and haven’t been swinging the bat really well the last couple of weeks. It’s time to get back in the saddle and help the team win.”

Since the injury, Rodriguez is hitting .149 with three extra-base hits, two of them coming in his second game back. He has one RBI in his past nine games. Rodriguez said he feels healthy, and Joe Girardi said the Yankees believe he’s healthy, but there’s a “disconnect” in his swing.

“Kind of a two-parted swing, upper-body and lower-body disconnect a little bit,” Rodriguez said. “But my swing is going to be fine.”

Rodriguez said he doesn’t feel like he’s in a slump. He actually feels fine at the plate, and that’s the “kind of frustrating thing.” Maybe the time off took him out of his rhythm. Maybe he’s going through a normal two-week slide.

“He’s not swinging like he was earlier,” Girardi said. “Alex will talk about how he’s kind of disconnected and everything’s just not right with his swing. It seems like he’s leaving his legs at times. He’s not staying in his legs, and he’s getting out in front a little bit.”

Here’s Rodriguez postgame.

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And here’s Yankees starter Freddy Garcia (more on him in a bit).

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• Here’s Derek Jeter describing the hip injury that forced him out of tonight’s game: “It’s really not a problem. It’s not hurt. Seriously, it’s not that big of an issue. I played with it… I know I say it all the time, but it’s really not a big deal.”

• Although Girardi called him day-to-day, Jeter responded with a no-doubt-about-it “Yes” when asked if he expected to play tomorrow.

• Obviously we’re not watching the YES feed here in the Detroit press box, but apparently the camera’s showed some sort of argument/disagreement between Garcia and Francisco Cervelli after the Magglio Ordonez homer. Both Garcia and Cervelli said there was no argument whatsoever. “He never was upset,” Cervelli said. “I think it was maybe his body language, but he never was upset. He didn’t tell me anything bad. Maybe (he felt it) inside, but he never showed me like he was mad, or he never told me anything bad.”

• The pitch in question was an inside sinker that Ordonez hit for a two-out, two-run home run in the third. Garcia said he executed the pitch, but it was the wrong pitch to throw, and he knew it. He should have gone away in that situation. “That’s me,” Garcia said. “No reason to be mad at (Cervelli). I’m the one throwing the ball. If I don’t want to throw the pitch, I don’t throw that pitch. But we agreed to throw it and a bad thing happened.” By the way, moments after Garcia said that pitch was his fault, Cervelli also took responsibility, saying it was his fault for calling the pitch in the first place.

• By the way, it looked like Ordonez was looking fastball in that situation and cheating to catch up to it. “They’re always cheating,” Garcia said. “If you’re not cheating, you don’t try.”

• Asked what it was like to pitch to Cervelli, Garcia made everyone in the room laugh. “He’s a hyper guy,” Garcia said. “You have to talk to him and try to calm him down, try to stay on the same page.”

• Asked about the throw to second base that almost hit Garcia, Cervelli also had the room laughing. “I almost killed him, yeah,” Cervelli said. “Let me tell you that.”

• Max Scherzer was good tonight. His fastball had life and he was able to get outs with his changeup (and able to locate his offspeed stuff when he fell behind). Scherzer was good, but Rodriguez placed more blame than credit. “We need to be better offensively,” he said.

• Garcia took his second loss, but he actually pitched pretty well. He pitched into the eighth and didn’t allow a run after that home run in the third. “I’ve said all along that you need to pitch on a consistent basis because bats are going to come and go,” Girardi said. The bats have been gone for two nights now.

• This was the third time the Yankees were shutout this season, and they’ve now lost back-to-back games for the second time.

• I know he’s mostly pitched mopup duty, but Buddy Carlyle has pitched well since coming up from Triple-A. Luis Ayala has started a rehab assignment with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Carlyle might be pitching well enough to stick around when Ayala is ready to be activated.

Trenton officially put lefty Steve Garrison on the disabled list. He’s the fourth Double-A starter to go on the DL this year. Brian Anderson also went on the Trenton disabled list while Josh Schmidt was sent down from Triple-A to help fill the void.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: Concern for Hughes04.25.11

Before Phil Hughes went into the bullpen this afternoon, the Yankees were already discussing a date for the rehab start that would follow. They were confident today’s bullpen was nothing but a final step toward getting him back in a game.

After only a handful of pitches, Hughes knew the rehab start would have to wait.

“It was probably after about 10 or 12 pitches,” Hughes said. “The first few felt all right and then it’s just like, nothing there. It’s sort of the feeling you get after 110 or 115 pitches that I normally should feel that way, but it’s just way too soon.”

Hughes will see Dr. Christopher Ahmad, but he said he’s still convinced he’s healthy, just suffering an extended dead-arm period. Dr. Ahmad is supposed to be at the stadium later today, and he’ll check on the situation. Up to this point, Hughes has had no tests.

“He had a history of starting off kind of slow (with his) velocity,” Joe Girardi said. “You kind of go by guy’s history, and we saw him get to 92 the other day. As a starter last year he was 90 to 94 mostly, 90 to 93. You felt like, ok, it’s coming back, it’s coming back. It’s just not repeating itself. He’s not to where he needs to be, but when something like this happens where there’s a setback, there is concern.”

As Girardi pointed out, the Blue Jays have experienced almost the exact same thing with Brett Cecil, and last week Cecil was optioned to Triple-A to try to build arm strength and rediscover both his fastball and his command.

“Guys have taken steps backward after being extended, more innings that they’re accustomed to doing,” Girardi said. “As I said, there is a level of concern here because everything seemed to be going in the right direction and it kind of halted a little bit today.”

Here’s Hughes. It’s easy to hear his disappointment.

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• Pedro Feliciano was here today, far more encouraged than the last time we saw him. Dr. James Andrews told Feliciano that he believes this is an old issue that, for whatever reason, just started to bother him. “We’re just going to follow the word Dr. Andrews says from experience,” Feliciano said. “Before he got pitchers that got the same injury – capsule injuries – and he just put them in rehab and it works. Why not do that and avoid the surgery and try to pitch again (this year)?”

• Speaking of pitching again, Rafael Soriano played catch today and Girardi said he would have to check with him before knowing whether he was available.

• Girardi also did not rule out using Mariano Rivera. “You’d like to be able to (avoid using him),” Girardi said. “But he might come in and say he feels great. He’s thrown 30 pitches before and thrown the next day. He had done that. It is early. I think the good thing is he had the four days off before this. You try to be smart about it, but you have to listen to the player too.”

• Who would close if neither Rivera nor Soriano were available? “I could go by matchups,” Girardi said. “I could put Joba there. I could put Robertson there. I could do either one.”

• Brian Costello says Francisco Cervelli will catch for Tampa today and catch for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tomorrow.

• Lance Pendleton has a name tag above his locker now. Still no name tag for Buddy Carlyle, though.

Juan Pierre LF
Alexei Ramirez SS
Carlos Quentin RF
Paul Konerko 1B
Adam Dunn DH
Alex Rios CF
A.J. Pierzynski C
Gordon Beckham 2B
Brent Morel 3B

Associated Press photo of Hughes

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 75 Comments →

Postgame notes: A long and busy day in Baltimore04.24.11

Hard to know where to begin after a game like this one. Everything that happened after the rain delay made the difference between a successful road trip and a disappointing one. Robinson Cano had his big at-bat, the Yankees kept expanding their lead and eventually two of the small names in a big-name bullpen locked down the win.

“This is a road trip, when you look at it, you’re saying to yourself you could have been 4-0 and you definitely don’t want to go back 2-2 after we had some leads,” Joe Girardi said. “It was a huge at-bat by Robby. Very heads up play (to take third base).”

The game began to turn with Cano. He had a full count when the tarp came on the field, and when he came back lead off the 11th – for the second time, it felt like – he couldn’t let strike four get past him. He fouled pitch after pitch before doubling, and when the Orioles tried to catch him too far off second, Cano broke for third.

“That was really quick,” he said. “I didn’t plan anything, it was just a reaction right there. I knew if I went back, I would have been out by a mile. The only chance I had was to go to third. Everything went my way, which is why I don’t look that bad.”

Cano said that, with Nick Swisher showing bunt, he wanted to get the biggest lead possible. Depending on your point of view, he took one either too big, or just big enough.

“In that situation a lot of times people freeze because they’re so far off,” Derek Jeter said. “But he was aggressive. That was outstanding. That was the difference in the game.”

Getting Cano to third base opened a pivotal three-run inning. Boone Logan, Buddy Carlyle, Brett Gardner and Russell Martin had their own key moments in this game, but Cano’s at-bat and his dash for third changed the complexion of the game and the road trip.

“You never want to have a trip back home – whether it be from Baltimore or L.A. or Seattle or no matter how long or how short – you never want to go home with a loss,” Gardner said. “Any time you can take two out of two against a team in your division, it’s a big plus.”

Gardner’s catch

If Cano’s hit and run were the game-winning plays, then Gardner’s running catch in the eighth was the game-saving play.

“I didn’t (think he would catch it),” Girardi said. “I really didn’t. It’s a game-saving play is what it is. He has a lot of speed and he’s played left field very well for us after making the adjustment last year.”

Gardner was playing in because Mariano Rivera was on the mound facing a left-handed hitter. He was playing where he was supposed to be playing. What the Yankees didn’t count on was Luke Scott actually driving the ball.

“It carried a little bit,” Gardner said. “Usually when Mariano pitches against a left-handed hitter we play in because most of the time he throws a cutter in and a guy gets jammed and bloops it over the third baseman or shortstop’s head. So I was a few steps in, right where I was supposed to be, right where they wanted me, but he got the barrel on it. Just fortunate enough to get back to it. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get to it or not.”

Close second on the game-saving play meter was Cano’s relay throw to the plate, getting Robert Andino trying to score the winning run in the ninth.

“Perfect relay is what it takes,” Girardi said.

As for Cano: “When Swish got the ball, he was stepping on third base,” Cano said. “I was just trying to get it to Martin as fast as I can.”

Rivera’s ninth inning

This Rivera’s second outing in a row with a blown save. He hadn’t pitched since giving up the lead in Toronto on Tuesday, and it was because of that rest – and because Rafael Soriano was out with a tight lower back – that Rivera was called on for four outs.

“I was prepared for that, not pitching in three days,” Rivera said. “I was prepared for that and it happened… There were a couple of close pitches. The umpire called a ball and he thought it was a ball (on the leadoff walk). It was a battle. In the end, Brian (Roberts) put a good ball inside the base. You can’t do nothing against that.”

Of course no one in the Yankees clubhouse is going to express any real concern about Rivera. He’s earned the benefit of the doubt and then some. If anything, Girardi said his cutter might have been moving a little too much in the ninth.

“No. I don’t need to work on anything,” Rivera said. “Just keep pitching and continue fighting. This is not easy, so you have to keep fighting… It’s behind me. You can’t do nothing against that. We won the game and tomorrow is a new day.”

• After a scoreless 10th and a 40-minute rain delay, the Yankees stuck with Logan to face Luke Scott in the 11th. Girardi had elected not to matchup Logan against Scott in the eighth because he didn’t want to burn Logan on just one batter (and he had Rivera). In the end, it was Logan and Buddy Carlyle who got the game saving outs extra innings that the bigger name relievers couldn’t get in regulation. “They’re capable to do that,” Rivera said. “That’s why they’re here. If they weren’t capable, they wouldn’t be in the big leagues. I’m not surprised that they did that.”

• Another six scoreless innings from Freddy Garcia. Bartolo Colon has said several times that he’s surprised himself this season. Has Garcia surprised himself? “Not really,” he said. “That’s my game right now, go out there and throw strikes. If I’m ahead in the count, I won’t get in trouble. I’ve been doing that the last couple games.”

• Garcia hit 90 pitches through six innings, and both he and Girardi said he could have pitched more. Girardi shoes to give him an early break this early in the season. “I would have been fine,” Garcia said. “I hadn’t pitched for a week, which is different. It’s a long season. Six innings, 90 pitches, seven days; they made the decision and that was fine.”

• Soriano said he woke up yesterday with tightness in his lower back. He tried to pitch today, but after a few throws in the bullpen, he knew he was unavailable. He believes he’ll be fine tomorrow. “I played catch like normal,” he said. “When I went to the bullpen, I tried throwing. I called and said I needed one more day.”

• Soriano said he has not had a history of back problems. He’s not worried that this will be a lasting situation. There are no tests scheduled.

• Jeter had four hits and passed Frank Robinson on baseball’s all-time hits list. Fitting that he passed Robinson in Baltimore. “I didn’t know that, I really didn’t,” he said. “But anytime you mention someone like Frank Robinson who you have the utmost respect for what he did in his career. It’s hard to believe.”

• Jeter said there’s no doubt he was out on the play at the plate in the 10th. “I was out,” he said. “It looked like he was going to jump for it so I thought maybe I could get under it, but he blocked the plate.”

• Girardi saw the same thing on both plays at the plate, both Jeter and Andino. “I actually thought they both were out,” Girardi said. “I had a real good view of both of them and I actually thought they both were out.”

• I honestly almost forgot that Curtis Granderson hit another home run in this game. Seems like it happened two days ago. He now has four home runs in his past five games, and five home runs in his past seven games.

• That 11th-inning double extended Cano’s hitting streak to 13 games, and it extended his hitting streak vs. the Orioles to 16 games.

• This was Jeter’s first four-hit game of the year and the 34th four-hit game of his career. He last did it in August of last year.

• Thank goodness for internet on trains. There were a lot of missed flights in that press box today, but a rushed taxi ride to the train station means I’ll get to New York before midnight.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 135 Comments →

Postgame notes: “It took all the pain away”04.23.11

The Yankees hit five home runs tonight, and they’ve hit 35 this season, but none seemed to carry same kind of weight as Brett Gardner’s two-run shot in the ninth.

Gardner’s been struggling, and his first home run of the season was surely a sign that he might be turning a corner. More importantly, Russell Martin had just been hit in the upper back by a pitch that seemed intentional. Martin had homered in each of his previous two at-bats, and although Gardner’s response had no impact on the game — it was well out of reach at that point — it did send a kind of message.

“It took all the pain away,” Martin said. “… There’s no doubt about it (that the pitch was intentional). I want to stay in the lineup so I’m not going to do anything stupid, but I wouldn’t recommend him doing that again.”

Said Alex Rodriguez: “Situations like that, moments like that, they bring our team closer together.”

Said Joe Girardi: “It was beautiful. I’ll just say it was beautiful.”

Said Gardner: “Russ had a great game, and I’m glad he’s OK. Obviously he got hit kind of high. It was quite a coincidence, I guess.”

Rodriguez had six RBI tonight, CC Sabathia picked up his first win and Gardner had two extra-base hits. But it was Martin who stole the show and paid the price. He has six home runs this season, one more than he hit all of last year and only one less than he hit in 2009.

“Obivously it’s my best start of my career,” Martin said. “I think it’s my workouts from the offseason that are paying off right now. I’ve got a quicker bat and feel stronger. I’ve been choking up a little bit on the bat. I just feel quick, and I’ve been hitting mainly fastballs. I feel good, man.”

Gardner is off to the worst start of his career, but tonight he had a double and the emotional two-run home run. When Martin was hit, Gardner said his only thought was that he knew he’d get another at-bat. There were two outs at the time, and Gardner had been on deck wondering if he’d get another chance.

“Just take a good swing,” he said. “Be ready and don’t get cheated. So many times I take pitches on the outside corner and try and get a perfect pitch to hit. Just go up there and be aggressive and try and take my A swing.”

Here’s Martin’s postgame interview.

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And here’s Gardner.

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• Of course Sabathia played down his first win of the season, but it’s hard to downplay the fact that he was so effective just one day after being pretty sick with a sore throat, the chills and stomach pains. “I felt like crap yesterday,” he said. “Being able to sleep all day today, hang out and get some fluids, it definitely helped me.”

• Sabathia said he was happy with his changeup, and Martin said he had a good slider, but it was the fastball that made the difference for the Yankees ace. “They were swinging early in the count,” Sabathia said. “The two-seamer was working pretty good, and the first time through, we just went first-pitch fastball, two-seamers in and out and just got some ground balls.”

• Girardi said he never seriously considered sending Sabathia out for the ninth. “We’re in a stretch here where he’s going to go every fifth day,” Girardi said. “So we just said the inning was kind of long the inning before, you’re going to let him go 5-10 more pitches, then bring someone in with his runners on. Give whoever is coming in a clean inning.”

• Buddy Carlyle came in and pitched a scoreless ninth in his Yankees debut.

• Rodriguez hit the 22nd grand slam of his career, moving past Manny Ramirez for sole possession of second place on the all-time grand slam list. He’s one behind Lou Gehrig. He also moved into sole possession of 12th place on baseball’s all-time RBI list, passing Carl Yastrzemski. “I’ve grown and matured to the level now where I can appreciate it some, not just brush it off like I would have in the past, perhaps,” Rodriguez said. I initially wrote sixth on the RBI list. Not sure if I read it wrong or the postgame notes had it wrong. It was probably my fault, not theirs.

• Robinson Cano now has a 12-game hitting streak, the Yankees longest of the season. He went 3-for-4 and has hit safely in 15 straight games against the Orioles.

• Speaking of success against Baltimore, Sabathia has a .882 winning percentage against the Orioles. That’s the highest of all time for a pitcher with at least 20 starts against Baltimore.

• The last time Baltimore allowed five home runs in a game was September 1, 2009 also against the Yankees.

• Jorge Posada has nine hits this season. Six have been home runs. He was 2-for-20 before his home run in the eighth. When he and Martin went back-to-back in the eighth, it was the first time the Yankees hit back-to-back homers this season, that’s according to the postgame notes from the Orioles.

• Girardi said he wasn’t sure whether Martin would play tomorrow. My guess would be no — strictly a guess — but Girardi said he was going to sleep on it.

• The Yankees scored 15 runs for the first time since August 21, 2009 when they beat Boston 20-11.

• I’ll give Mark Teixeira the last word on the pitch that hit Martin: “That’s a heck of a coincidence if it wasn’t intentional. I’ve never understood it. I’ve never understood why guys choose to hit someone when they hit two home runs. It’s happened to me plenty of times in my career and every time it happens, it doesn’t make any sense. All it takes is one stray pitch to hit you in the head, the wrist, the elbow, and ruin your season. That’s not baseball. There’s no place for it.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 15 Comments →

One for now, one for later04.22.11

Nine days ago, the Yankees had few options to fill an open spot in the bullpen.

They had six pitchers on the 40-man to choose from. Two of them were on the Triple-A disabled list, one was a Double-A starter on his way to the disabled list with blister and two had pitched the day before. It was unclear just how serious Pedro Feliciano’s injury might be, making it difficult to open a spot for a non-40-man pitcher.

Hector Noesi was the best option and the Yankees brought him up from Triple-A. Tonight he was sent back having never pitched in a big league game.

“If we had a starter go down, he’s one of the guys we would consider,” Joe Girardi said. “And he’s not getting that type of work here.”

The Yankees have played seven games since calling up Noesi. All of them were decided by four runs or less, and six were decided by three runs or less. They’ve had two off days in that span, and they’d had two days off before making the move. The situation just never lined up for Noesi to get much work, and so the Yankees will plan for the future and let Noesi get stretched out again.

Meanwhile, they’ve added a pitcher for the here and now. In an organization full of pitching talent, Buddy Carlyle is certainly not the most exciting name, but he had 11 strikeouts and three walks through 7.2 innings with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He was charged with three runs, all in one game. At 33 years old, he has 104 games of big league experience, including 27 starts.

“I had a little experience with Buddy in spring training with the Marlins and I saw him with Atlanta,” Girardi said. “Buddy’s a strike-thrower too, and Buddy’s pitched in the big leagues and he has experience and he’s done different things. He’s started in the big leagues. This is an experienced guy.”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 440 Comments →

Postrain notes: Hughes’ bullpen has to wait04.22.11

At this point, the Yankees know the drill. They’ve been rained out three times this season, and it seemed every single player who came into the clubhouse from the field this afternoon was asked about the weather. It was still raining. Then it was just barely raining. Then the rain was fairly significant. Then it was more of a mist. All of a sudden, the game was rained out.

“We don’t like it because we know that they’re going to probably be split doubleheaders and that makes it tough,” Joe Girardi said. “It makes it tough on your bullpen and it makes it tough on your guys, but what are you going to do?”

Phil Hughes didn’t like it. He was supposed to throw a bullpen today, a bullpen he was hoping would be his final step toward a rehab assignment. Hughes settled for throwing long toss, and his bullpen has been bumped to tomorrow. He’ll throw 45 pitches — three 15-pitch “innings” — and he’s hopeful that Larry Rothschild will give him the green like to begin a rehab assignment within a week.

“Larry will kind of be the judge of that based on how my bullpen looks and how I feel bouncing back after long toss and throwing,” Hughes said. “If I feel fine and sees enough out of me in the pen and feels like I’m ready to go, then I should be ready for a start.”

Hughes said he really can’t tell much at this point. The Yankees haven’t had a radar gun on him, and even if they did, Hughes suspects there would be a significant difference without his usual game-day adrenalin. Having a radar in the bullpen “would frustrate me even more,” Hughes said. He needs a game to truly know how far he’s come.

Here’s Hughes speaking this afternoon.

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• CC Sabathia will start tomorrow. The Yankees haven’t chosen a starter for Sunday because they want to map out the rotation first. “We want to look at how it affects the whole schedule,” Girardi said.

• No makeup date has been announced, but Girardi has been told it won’t happen this weekend. Tomorrow and Sunday should be one game apiece.

• Girardi indicated that it’s possible Francisco Cervelli will be activated during the upcoming home stand. He’ll DH tonight and catch again tomorrow. “We’ll see how he’s feeling,” Girardi said.”I’m not saying we’ll make a decision, but he’s doing pretty good.”

• Without Hector Noesi, the Yankees don’t have a 100-pitch guy in their bullpen, but Lance Pendleton and Buddy Carlyle can both go three innings or so, and Pendleton could probably go a little longer if necessary. “He’s probably going to be called on to pitch more if you get into these 17 days in a row and 33 in 34,” Girardi said. “We’ve just been in a lot of tight ballgames and have had strategic days off that have allowed us to do what we’ve done. You can’t keep up that pace, because we’re not going to have those days off.”

• Curtis Granderson is obviously swinging the bat incredibly well the past few days, and that earned him a bump up to No. 2 in the lineup. “I thought he got off to a slow start because his spring training was a little bit interrupted at the end,” Girardi said. “He’s been swinging the bat with authority. He’s a pull hitter that fits very well in the No. 2 spot.”

• The Orioles are skipping Chris Tillman this weekend. They’ll start Brad Bergesen tomorrow and Jake Arrieta on Sunday.

• Andruw Jones turns 34 years old tomorrow.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 114 Comments →

Sunday notes: No lineup until Opening Day03.27.11

Joe Girardi said he plans to announce most of his final roster decisions tomorrow. The Yankees might have to wait a day or two to determine Curtis Granderson’s status, and they might not immediately name a replacement for Pedro Feliciano, but Girardi said he expects to announce his backup catcher, utility infielder and reserve corner infielder.

He will not announce an Opening Day lineup.

“I’m still thinking about it,” Girardi said. “I haven’t turned my brain off to it by saying, okay, this is what I’m doing. I’m still thinking about it. We’ll still have one long conversation about it.”

Based on recent lineups, my best guess is that the Yankees are going to use the two-lineup approach: They’ll have Brett Gardner leadoff against right-handers and Derek Jeter leadoff against lefties. It’s a pretty solid plan, actually. Girardi said he probably won’t announce an Opening Day lineup until Opening Day itself.

Otherwise: Eduardo Nunez seems to be the favorite for the utility job, Gustavo Molina seems to be the favorite for the backup catcher position and Eric Chavez is all but official as the reserve corner infielder.

“We just haven’t announced it yet,” Girardi said. “I’ll talk to Cash one more time, but we’ll announce it probably tomorrow. Like he said, we’ve got to make sure people are healthy.”

• Pedro Feliciano had an MRI this morning. It showed some sort of muscle problem — Girardi wasn’t sure of the exact diagnosis — but the bottom line is this: “It’s pretty hard to think that he would start with us,” Girardi said. “I’m hoping it’ll be shorter (term), but you can never predict.”

• As possible replacements for Feliciano, Girardi once again mentioned Luis Ayala and Mark Prior, but neither of those two is on the 40-man roster, and today’s conversation certainly made it seem like the Yankees are leaning toward Steve Garrison. “He’s done a good job for us against left-handers, and he’s a viable option for us,” Girardi said. “We’ll probably see him throw one more time before we leave and then we’ll make a decision.”

• Here’s Girardi’s cryptic comment about why Romulo Sanchez was scratched from this road trip: “That got cancelled for reasons I can’t give to you at this point.” Someone mentioned a trade and Girardi gave a weird look that suggested a trade is in the works (or certainly some kind of move).

• Girardi on how quickly he knew Chavez could make the team: “Right when he got to camp, we saw the bat speed in Chavez. We said, ‘Wow, if he’s healthy, he can help us.’ Because, you’re not going to really forget how to hit, it’s just if you’re physically capable, and he looked great.”

• Pat Venditte faced two hitters today. He pitched right-handed to one and left-handed to the other. Turns out, the decision to bring in Venditte had a lot to do with the new pitching coach. “Larry (Rothschild) wanted to see it,” Girardi said. “The kid has done well in the minor leagues wherever he’s been.”

• Speaking of Venditte, those paying attention in the crowd seemed to enjoy it: “You heard a little ‘Ohhh’ when he switched,” Girardi said.

• A nice early version of HOPE Week today with the little girl who saved the even littler girl’s life. The families were hanging around the Yankees dugout throughout batting practice. It was pretty neat to see.

• The Yankees lost 7-6 today, but they had 13 hits, including three by Austin Krum and two by Mark Teixeira. Krum is, by most accounts, a pretty good fielder but he had a rough time today with two errors and a missed attempt at a diving catch. Austin Romine and Robinson Cano homered today.

• Garrison faced two big-time lefties today. He got Justin Morneau to pop up, but Jim Thome took him deep.

• Buddy Carlyle was knocked around a little bit in his start, but for the most part, the other guys brought up from minor league camp pitched well today. Wilkin Arias had a rough third of an inning — hit a batter and walked a guy — but Francisco Gil, Josh Schmidt, Andy Sisco, Eric Wordekemper and Venditte combined for 4.2 scoreless.

• Today the Yankees faced Carl Pavano. Girardi said there was a time this winter when there really seemed to be a chance that Pavano would return to the Yankees. “It was a possibility that he was going to be with us,” Girardi said. “We talked about it. His name was thrown around. It never came to a fruition, but he’s resurrected his career. He’s pitched well for the Twins and he’s given them innings. When we’ve faced him in the playoffs, he’s pitched well. The guy knows how to pitch. The big thing is for Carl that he’s been healthy.”

Associated Press photos of Krum, Carlyle and Girardi with 12-year-old Julianne Ramirez

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 182 Comments →

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