The video above is from this morning’s live batting practice — felt more like a sim game — when Masahiro Tanaka threw 35 pitches to Brendan Ryan and Zelous Wheeler. He threw 20 pitches announcing what’s coming, then sat for a while, then threw another 15. He was mixing all of his pitches, including splitfingers that Wheeler said looked exactly like what he saw when facing Tanaka during spring training.
“I thought it was a good progression,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “As long as he’s healthy, his stuff’s in the right direction, being able to throw 35 pitches and do full warmups and everything. We’ll see how he comes in tomorrow, but he feels good afterwards so that’s a good sign.”
Seems telling that when Tanaka talked about the session, he made no real mention of his elbow. He talked all about his stuff — whether he was hitting his spots, how he felt about his breaking balls. It’s pretty clear that Tanaka feels healthy, and at this point he’s simply getting ready to pitch in a game again.
“I’m not saving anything when I throw each pitch,” he said.
Tanaka said he wasn’t hitting his spots quite like he’s used to, and his offspeed stuff was a bit rusty, but he feels healthy. He said he’ll pay attention to his elbow, and he’ll naturally think about it, but he’s letting his pitches go without holding back.
“I thought (his strength and stamina) was good for the time off he’s had,” Rothschild said. “Overall I thought it was pretty good. It wasn’t where it was before he got hurt, but I didn’t expect it to be. This is another step in the progression so we’ll just keep going with it.”
The Yankees have not announced a timetable for Tanaka’s return, and they’re even vague on what the next step would be.
“He’s going to have to make some rehab starts (eventually),” Joe Girardi said. “I’m not exactly sure how we’re going to be able to do it as we build him up because you’re going to run out of minor league season, but we’ll be creative enough to do whatever we have to do to get him ready.”
• Carlos Beltran is back in the lineup after missing three days because of a cortisone shot in his sore elbow. Beltran hit tee and toss yesterday, and Girardi said the results were so encouraging he considered pinch hitting Beltran last night. So the team feels pretty secure in thinking he’ll be able to play today.
• Three straight left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup? “Gardy is a guy who really works the count and Jake’s on and has a chance to do some things,” Girardi said. “They sent their left-handed reliever out, so I don’t have to worry about stacking lefties today.”
• Derek Jeter out of the lineup for a day game after a night game. “Just a day off,” Girardi said.
• What’s next for Tanaka? “We’ll talk about it, what we think the next step is,” Girardi said. “If it’s more of a BP session, another BP session or treat it more like a simulated game. Big thing is we’ll see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll make a decision.”
• Any chance of asking Tanaka to throw fewer splitfingers when he comes back in an effort to save the elbow? “He’s got to pitch the way he’s going to pitch,” Girardi said. “if you’re going to really try to change everything, you’re not going to get the same guy. Let’s just see what we have as we move forward.”
• The number 6 is painted into foul territory as the Yankees prepare to honor Joe Torre with a pregame ceremony. “Joe’s demeanor was always the same during the course of a game, during good times, bad times,” Girardi said. “That’s my personality normally, but I saw the importance of it from Joe, that your mood doesn’t change as long as the effort is good every day. I’ve often talked about Joe’s ability to make people believe that everything was going to be OK all the time, no matter what we were going through and we went through a lot in the years that he was here, on and off the field and those are the things I tried to take the most from Joe.”
Associated Press photo
Hard to know what to make of yesterday’s pregame meeting of Yankees position players, who gathered to discuss the state of the offense and to talk about the desire to live up their potential down the stretch. Team meetings are always interesting, and it’s particularly interesting in this case because the offense has been so very bad, but it might mean a little more of the team had actually — you know — scored a bunch of runs yesterday.
Instead, yesterday’s win was mostly defined by Brandon McCarthy’s pitching rather than the lineup’s hitting.
“I’ve said all along, these guys have worked hard and they’re trying to figure it out,” Joe Girardi said. “Whatever it takes, it takes. They’re going to do whatever it takes to try to get better and try to be more productive. I am all for that. It’s not something where they come to work and they say, ‘OK, this is what it is.’ They don’t do that. They look for every road to get better every day, and they’re doing the necessary things they have to do.”
Hard to say how many times a similar message has been delivered one way or another this season. As has been written and said many times, this is certainly a veteran team that’s well aware of the way things work. I can’t imagine any of the players needed to be told that the offense has struggled, and you would certainly hope that they didn’t need some sort of meeting to make them work toward getting it turned around.
“I think there’s different ways to go about things,” Girardi said. “There are going to be times where I call the meetings and I have a specific message that I want delivered and I’m going to talk about it. There are going to be times that players just talk amongst themselves. They might be talking about what they see. Can you help me, in a sense, or those sorts of things. Meetings are meant to stay in house. How we do them is going to be different from time to time. There are going to be meetings where I’ll ask players to speak up and there will be meetings where I don’t ask them to speak up. I don’t think you can characterize meetings as just one way because there’s different ways to be effective.”
• Carlos Beltran was planning to swing a bat today. If that goes well, it’s possible — but not certain — that he could be in the lineup tomorrow. “We hope it works and then we get him in a game,” Girardi said. “It wouldn’t happen today, but he’s going to take some swings today.”
• Ramon Flores has been activated from the Triple-A disabled list. The young outfielder was having a nice year before he went down with an ankle injury that’s cost him much of the season, but with a spot on the 40-man roster, Flores could be a September call-up candidate now that he’s healthy.
• Interesting column from Joel Sherman today. Joel wrote that Larry Rothschild is interested in exploring a six-man rotation, possibly down the stretch this season and potentially heading into next season. Doesn’t sound like the Yankees are particularly close to doing it, but it seems fairly significant that the team’s pitching coach is interested in giving it a shot.
• Earlier this season, Derek Jeter did a press conference specifically for Japanese media. Today he did one specifically for Latin media. Pretty clear sign of his international significance. “I think you’re pretty aware of the impact that he has in the game of baseball,” Girardi said. “We see that as we travel around and you’re going to visiting parks. Obviously Derek has meant a lot to fans all over the world, and it’s because of the way he has handled himself on and off the field, and the way he plays the game. He plays it hard, and he plays to win. Never shows anybody up and does things the right way. That’s why he’s had such a big impact.”
• Another start for Shane Greene, who’s been terrific since sliding into the rotation last month. “You know what we’ve seen, we’ve seen him overcome some things during some of his starts where he might have struggled a little bit early and found a way to get back on track,” Girardi said. “The growth that I’ve seen from the first time he threw in the big leagues, in his relief appearance, to now, has been pretty amazing.”
• Has absolutely nothing to do with baseball, but tomorrow is the 20-year anniversary of Jeff Buckley’s album Grace. I mention it only because it’s remarkable and everyone should hear it.
Associated Press photo
A few thoughts heading into the weekend • 08.22.14
The big picture is pretty obvious heading into this weekend. The Yankees are four games out of the second wild card and about to play three games against a pretty bad White Sox team (granted, with Chris Sale pitching one of those games). They’re not in a great spot, but they are remarkably not buried just yet. They have to hit better, they have to get on a roll, and they have to take advantage of situations like this weekend if they want to make any sort of playoff run. All of that goes without saying at this point. So here are a few random thoughts heading into the weekend.
• Easy to say this after yesterday’s strong start, but of all the guys the Yankees traded for his season, Brandon McCarthy stands out as the best option for a new contract. Martin Prado is going to stick around anyway, and while there’s an argument to be made for both Chase Headley (who I think might be more expensive than expected) and Stephen Drew (who doesn’t strike me as the best shortstop on the market this winter), McCarthy seems like a great fit. He gets groundballs in a stadium where fly balls are dangerous, he throws strikes, and he has a personality that fits this market and this clubhouse. Kind of walks that line between being goofy and still having a leadership quality. And this year has proven beyond a doubt that there really is no such thing as too much starting pitching.
• Speaking of McCarthy, there are some similarities between him and tonight’s Yankees starter, Shane Greene. And yesterday, McCarthy had some awfully nice things to say about Greene. “I like watching Shane pitch. I don’t care if I’m not here anymore (next year), he’s a really fun kid for me to watch pitch because he lies and calls it a cutter even though it’s s disgusting, unhittable slider. His fastball is just explosive. He’s a guy I’d never heard of before a came here, and 10 years ago that’s a kid that’s on the cover of Baseball America, and he’s the next big thing. It’s crazy where pitching has gone, but I think it shows how good he is that, nobody really knows who he is, probably, and I guarantee you when hitters go back to the dugout they’re (saying), ‘I don’t know what I just saw.’”
• On Wednesday night, Joe Girardi said that Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Derek Jeter — the top three hitters in the lineup — have been probably the team’s most consistent hitters. While I think most people are on board with Gardner and Ellsbury being two of the bright spots this season, I wanted to look up Jeter’s numbers. He hit .272 in April, .275 in May, .272 in June, and .289 in July. His on-base percentage — except for a down much of June — and slugging percentage have also been fairly steady from month to month (though all of his numbers are down in August). Jeter has not been a great hitter this season, but I really believe that if the offense were more productive around him, we’d all be talking about what a nice, steady, still-productive final seasons he’s having. Instead, with the offense struggling so much, Jeter occasionally becomes a go-to argument as if he’s the source of the problem.
• Carlos Beltran seems confident that playing catch and playing the outfield have nothing to do with his recent elbow setback. But that’s been a risky situation ever since the bone spur was discovered, and I can’t help wondering if throwing a baseball a little bit might have played some small role in expediting a setback that was probably inevitable anyway. He’ll have surgery regardless, but now he’s had three cortisone shots in a year. That just seems like a lot. If doctors cleared it, I’m sure it’s fine, but he’s really doing what he can to stay on the field.
• On the flip side of the Beltran-in-the-field argument: I was never sure it was a good idea, and I’m still not sure it was a good idea, but I became significantly more on board when Girardi made it clear he was willing to give Derek Jeter significant time at designated hitter so that either Drew or Brendan Ryan could spend more time at shortstop. Freeing up the DH spot not only let the Yankees rest veterans more easily, but it helped their infield defense on those days Girardi was willing to play his best defensive shortstops. That seemed like a real plus. It might have been an obvious move, but I wasn’t sure Girardi would be willing to do it.
• I assume yesterday’s Zelous Wheeler call-up makes him a shoo-in for a September call-up (meaning he’ll stick around once rosters expand). Nothing against Wheeler, who’s done a nice job establishing himself as a kind of utility option in the big leagues, but I really wondered if his roster spot might be up for grabs next month. There’s little sense keeping both he and Jose Pirela on the roster — they’re fairly similar — and I thought the Yankees might prefer to check out the younger guy. I guess it still might happen. With Wheeler and Yangervis Solarte, the Yankees did a nice job over the winter of finding some useful pieces among the six-year minor league free agents. Need to do that kind of thing when the upper levels of the minor league system are fairly thin.
• Take away any requirement for number of at-bats, and the only Yankees who have hit better than .300 with runners in scoring position this year are Scott Sizemore (2-for-4), Zoilo Almonte (1-for-3) and John Ryan Murphy (4-for-13). The other Yankees hitting better than .250 with runners in scoring position are Brett Gardner (.295), Stephen Drew (.294), Jacoby Ellsbury (.292), Yangervis Solarte (.284), Kelly Johnson (.280) and Derek Jeter (.275).
• Not the usual sort of item for a post like this, but it sounds interesting: Yesterday, MLB announced that Robinson Cano, Adam Jones, Yasiel Puig and Albert Pujols will be among a group of Major Leaguers who will travel to Japan this November to play a five-game series against “Samurai Japan” (Japan’s National Team) in “All-Star Series 2014.” Ron Washington will manage the team. No word on a full roster just yet. I think it would be cool to see Brett Gardner, Dave Robertson or Dellin Betances make the trip. Maybe even a guy like Shane Greene or David Phelps if MLB is going to flesh out the roster with younger guys like that. Certainly not the biggest names on the Yankees roster, but absolutely among the most deserving of something like this.
• One reason the Yankees are still in the race is because of the general parity in baseball. I really wonder if we’ll see another run where a team makes the playoffs as consistently as the Yankees did the previous two decades. “I think that with the way that baseball has (gone) with the revenue sharing and the TV contracts and everything that’s going on, I think you’re seeing more parity in the game,” Girardi said. “It doesn’t appear that there’s going to be a team that wins 100 games this year. I don’t know how many teams are going to win 90 games this year. You’re seeing, I think, a group of 30 teams that from top to bottom, I think there’s more competition and it becomes really difficult. We can look at Boston last year, they won the World Series. They made a few changes, but they didn’t make a ton of changes, and this year for whatever reason it hasn’t worked out for them. And I don’t think they expected that. It’s not easy to win a championship.”
Associated Press photos
Just an observation: Joe Girardi no longer seems upset or disappointed when he hears questions about whether the Yankees offense is ever going to get any better this season. Girardi still strongly backs his team, shows nothing but confidence in them, but it’s as if every answer comes with an unspoken line: “But I can understand why you’re asking.”
Most of today’s pregame press conference was all about whether the Yankees really are good enough to make a playoff run in these final five weeks or so.
Does Girardi ever think that his team just might not be good enough?
“No, I don’t, because I know how hard it is to play this game,” he said. “Obviously we’re judged on the results. I look at the effort. And I know the results are very important because, if the effort is not there, there is no chance of having results. The effort is there everyday. I talked about it yesterday. We (had) seven or eight guys hitting early trying to figure this out and get going, so I will be optimistic as long as they continue to prepare correctly and they work hard.”
To which Michael Kay made this point: If they’re prepared, and they’re focused, and they’re approaching everything the right way, is there a chance they just aren’t good enough?
“I don’t believe that,” Girardi said.
So what do you do?
“You keep running guys out there and believe it’s going to change,” Girardi said. “Eventually it’s going to be right and it’s going to be consistent over a long period.”
At this point, the Yankees are far enough behind teams that they’re going to need some help along the way. They can’t simply sweep three games against Detroit next week and climb into the wild card lead. It’s not a comfortable position, but the Yankees — Girardi included — seem well aware that they put themselves in this spot.
“It becomes a concern when you get down to the last three, four weeks of the season,” Girardi said. “But it’s a concern now. But my bigger concern is us, not the other teams. Because if we don’t win, it doesn’t matter what the other teams do in front of us. My focus is still our club, and if we play really good baseball down the stretch, we have a shot.”
• Zelous Wheeler is up and Chase Whitley has been optioned to Triple-A. Without Carlos Beltran for a few days, the Yankees were going to be down to a two-man bench, so they added Whitley who can play some infield and outfield. The Yankees also face a left-handed pitcher today, and lefties on Friday and Sunday. So a right-handed bat is a solid fit. “With Carlos being an uncertainty for a day or two, we felt that we could use the extra bat,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees had been carrying eight relievers since the trade deadline, so this basically puts their roster back to the typical alignment. Whitley will likely go down until September, and then return when rosters expand. I don’t think he’ll even burn an option. Pretty sure a player has to stay down for 20 days to burn one.
• Beltran said yesterday that he hopes to play on Friday. Girardi made that sound like a real long shot. “I think you’ll start to have a pretty good idea by Saturday where we’re headed with this, if we can get him back fairly quickly,” Girardi said.
• Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to face hitters on Saturday. Should be a live batting practice session (or perhaps a sim game, which is more or less the same thing). “Our plan is that it will probably be here, but we’ve got figure out who to face,” Girardi said.
• The plan for David Phelps? “Until he starts throwing bullpens, I’m not ready to put a timetable out,” Girardi said. “Obviously we felt we could get him back much quicker (making him a reliever). You don’t need to build him up nearly as much. Right now I believe he’s going to play catch again today. I’ve got to talk to Stevie to see when the first time he has him off a mound and then you’ll have a better idea.”
Associated Press photos
Here’s the way Joe Girardi explained the Carlos Beltran situation:
Apparently Beltran’s elbow bothers him from time to time when he swings. Nothing extreme, just enough to feel that there’s something not quite right — which everyone knows to be the case — and then it goes away. He’s felt it before and stayed in games without much concern. Last night it happened again, but this time Beltran was still feeling something the morning after.
“He said it grabbed a little bit last night on one of the swings,” Girardi said. “He went through the rest of the game, but today he woke up and he felt it. Obviously that’s a little worse than it’s been at any other point during when he’s been playing and playing pretty well. I’m not really sure what it means. Hopefully it’s just a day or two.”
Beltran was originally at designated hitter, Derek Jeter at shortstop, Stephen Drew at second base and Martin Prado in right field. When Beltran was scratched, the lineup shuffled to the one you’ve already seen.
Is there concern that Beltran playing the field is what caused this lingering discomfort?
“No, because he’s felt it on swings, not in the outfield,” Girardi said. “He didn’t really have a lot of action in the outfield, so he didn’t really have to make any throws or anything like that. It seems to be more from a swing than from throwing.”
Girardi said it’s too early to know what this means for the future of using Beltran in the outfield. It seems too early to say even what it means for the immediate future of using him in the lineup. Dr. Chris Ahmad will check the elbow tonight.
“He’ll see the doctor and we’ll find out what’s going on,” Girardi said. “I’m sure it’s much of the same of what he had going on before, but for whatever reason it was a little worse today in a sense that he still felt it whereas other times he didn’t.”
• Masahiro Tanaka threw a 35-pitch bullpen today, and it included breaking balls. Using one-word English answers in the beginning of a group interview at his locker, Tanaka said that the bullpen was “good” and “better” than last time.
• This was the first time since the injury that Tanaka threw something other than fastballs off a mound. He threw his breaking balls, including five splitters. “I felt (the offspeed stuff) was a little bit rusty,” Tanaka said. “I’ll have to brush that up a little bit.”
• No official word on what’s next for Tanaka. The next step would be live batting practice, but Tanaka might throw another bullpen before he faces hitters. “I don’t really have a realistic timeframe because I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves,” Girardi said. “But the next step would be throwing BP, then a simulated game, then obviously a rehab game. The fact that he felt good today was encouraging. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow; obviously that’s really important. But he was able to throw his curveball, his slider and his split; I watched it and he looked pretty good.”
• Tanaka said he was not worried about the elbow during the bullpen, and he feels pretty confident that the health problems are behind him. “Absolutely,” he said. “I feel that I’ve gotten the health; the elbow is fine now. I’m more looking towards playing in a game now. But that said, even that said, I think I do have to be cautious about the elbow.”
• Seems weird, but apparently there’s no plan to have Tanaka have another MRI. As long as he feels good, he will apparently keep pitching. “With this type of injury, it’s either going to work or it’s not going to work,” Girardi said. “It’s not something like you’re waiting for the inflammation to go away or something like that. It’s either going to work or it’s not going to work.”
• Still no exact plan for David Phelps. “No, we have not (made a decision),” Girardi said. “Cash, Stevie and myself are going to sit down with the doctor and figure out what is the best plan for him to get him back, or what needs to be done next.” Yankees are apparently still deciding whether it’s best to bring Phelps back as a starter (which will take more time) or as a reliever (which could happen quite a bit sooner).
• Any concern about Stephen Drew’s offensive numbers since the trade deadline? “He’s got, what, eight or nine RBIs since he’s been here in the games that he’s played?” Girardi said. “His average maybe is not (good), but he’s had some production for us.” Someone get this quote to Brian Kenny!
Associated Press photos
Here’s what Derek Jeter said last night about being a designated hitter:
“I don’t DH much. You go in the cage between at-bats. That’s about it. It’s not something that I do a lot of. To be honest with you, I’m not sure how people do it. I just run out of things to do. Fortunately, I think (Saturday) might be my second time this year. I don’t do it that often.”
Well, now Jeter’s the DH for a second day in a row, and with Carlos Beltran cleared to play the outfield — and with two awfully good defensive shortstops on the roster — there’s a chance Jeter will see even more DH days down the stretch.
“I don’t know,” Joe Girardi said. “I’ve talked about, now that we’ve got Carlos in the outfield, we could rotate the DH a little bit more. I’ll still DH Carlos plenty, but felt it was a chance to give Jeet a week where he could catch up.”
When the Yankees kick off next week’s home stand, Jeter’s past six days will have included three days off plus two days at designated hitter. That’s a pretty good amount of rest for a 40-year-old shortstop, and while Girardi wouldn’t commit to just how often Jeter will DH in the future — he said he’ll rotate the DH days, and that Beltran will stick get quite a few of them — the roster does seem pretty well designed for Jeter to get at least occasional days — if not regular days — out of the infield.
“Not thinking too much of it,” Girardi said. “Figure it’s a chance to do it (these two days). Turf can be rough on people. We’re going to get into another long stretch, so I chose to do it that way.”
• One day after his 25-pitch bullpen, Masahiro Tanaka played catch today and seems perfectly fine. “He felt good,” Girardi said. “He played catch today, so he’s scheduled for another bullpen next week. I’m not sure what day. Next bullpen he’ll start to spin some stuff.”
• By the way, saying Tanaka is going to “spin some stuff” doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll start throwing splitters next week. “I’m not sure if he’ll throw a split,” Girardi said. “They talked about him spinning some curveballs. I’m not sure exactly if he’s going to throw a slider or what else he’s going to throw. We want him to spin some on some flat ground before he does it off a mound.”
• As expected, Brian McCann is off the disabled list and back at catcher. He missed slightly more than a week because of a concussion. Seems fine now. “It makes (the lineup) deeper, and obviously it’s a guy that has power,” Girardi said. “It’s really good to be able to put him back there because, any time someone goes through something like he went through, we’re always concerned. But he feels good and he’s back in there.”
• Austin Romine has been optioned back to Triple-A.
• Did having Beltran limited to DH keep Girardi from resting key players the past few months? “It worked out,” Girardi said. “Thinking of guys I might have DHed a little bit — I might have given Gardy one DH day in there, and Ellsbury one DH day in there, but not a whole lot.”
• Girardi said he would “absolutely” play Martin Prado in right field again.
• Hiroki Kuroda didn’t get through the fifth inning his last time out. “He didn’t really have a very good split that day, I didn’t think,” Girardi said. “That’s an important pitch for him.”
Associated Press photos
Pregame notes: “I just feel like it’s time” • 08.16.14
Carlos Beltran last played right field on May 11. It was one day later, on May 12, that Beltran felt sudden pain in his right elbow, which led to the discovery of a bone spur, which led to the Yankees decision to keep him out of the field for several months.
But he’s been playing catch for a while now, and the tightness that had developed in his forearm has subsided, and so the Yankees feel ready to get him back into right field. Beltran prefers playing out there, he feels confident that he’s healthy, and getting Beltran in the field opens the DH spot for other regulars to get a bit of a rest from time to time.
“I just feel like it’s time,” Beltran said. “Right now I’ve been throwing and I don’t feel nothing. It’s good.”
There’s some risk here — Beltran has been a productive hitter since the All-Star break, and a setback would be a real blow to an offense that can’t afford to lose much — but Beltran said he’s convinced his elbow is up to making throws, and Joe Girardi said he doesn’t feel much need to pay extra attention to Beltran on defense.
“I feel that he’s healthy, and that it shouldn’t be an issue,” Girardi said. “They can test him (on the bases). His arm’s fine. He’s thrown. This an aggressive club anyway, so I don’t think they’re going to play any different.”
The Yankees have several long stretches late in the season, and the DH spot will surely be used to give players a half day off from time to time. Girardi wouldn’t commit to whether he considers Beltran to be the everyday right fielder or still a regular DH going forward. Surely he’ll get at least some DH days.
“Just wait to see how it goes,” Girardi said. “Let’s go day by day. I don’t want to make a decision too quickly here. Let’s just go day by day.”
Beltran is hitting .299 with five home runs and 17 RBI since the All-Star break. It seems little coincidence that his improved production has come as he’s grown more confident that the elbow and forearm are healthy.
“I guess in the back of my mind sometimes I get caught up a little bit protecting it,” Beltran said. “Especially, I don’t know, (when) it’s kind of sore a little bit, my forearm. But at the end of the day, I just have to come and prepare myself and try to do the best I can. Once the game starts, I try not to think about it, but during batting practice and cage work and things like that I try to be smart and try not to do much.”
• Brian McCann has not been activated. There’s no medical concern, the Yankees just want him to go through at least one more day of baseball drills. “I just felt that he was kind of lethargic (during drills yesterday),” Girardi said. “I think what happens is that when you are used to doing something every day for five, six months, and then you’re not able to do anything for five days, we’ve got to make sure because I don’t want to put him in there too soon and you get the foul tip and lose him for a long period of time.”
• It’s possible McCann will come off the disabled list tomorrow, but Girardi said that’s not a sure thing. Could wait until Tuesday.
• Worth noting that the Yankees wanted to play a bunch of right-handers against Drew Smyly anyway, and Francisco Cervelli has been catching Shane Greene regularly. Even so, Girardi said the determining factor on McCann had much more to do with wanting to get him more swings and work on the field. “It was more our feeling that he wasn’t quite ready to go,” Girardi said.
• Going right-handed is part of the reason today is Beltran’s return to right field. Putting him out there lets the Yankees sit both Stephen Drew and Ichiro Suzuki. “Try to get as many right-handed hitters in there against Smyly as possible,” Girardi said. “He’s been very tough against left-handers this year – and the last couple of years – and it’s one way of doing it.”
• After today’s bullpen, Masahiro Tanaka will stay with the Yankees when they leave Tampa. He’s not going to stay behind to do work at the complex. No word yet on when exactly he’ll throw his next bullpen, but he’s expected to throw some real breaking balls at that point. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow and then design the next few days,” Larry Rothschild said. “I don’t like to get ahead in the schedule with the rehabs. We have an idea of what he’ll do, but first we’ll see how he comes in.”
• What was Rothschild watching for in the bullpen today? “More facial expressions to see if he’s trying to hide something, which I don’t think he’s going to, but you never know,” Rothschild said. “You watch his delivery to make sure he’s not forcing anything. The most important part early in this is that he stays smooth and finishes his pitches so we don’t tweak anything. He’s had some time off, so it’s not only going to be the elbow. You have to watch everything.”
• Everyone involved indicates the Yankees are planning to bring Tanaka back this season regardless of where they are in the standings. Even if they’re out of it by the time Tanaka’s ready to pitch again, it’s still likely he’ll come off the disabled list to make a few starts. “I think it’s important that we know that he’s healthy,” Girardi said. “And I think the only way you’re going to find out is if you get him in games.”
• Tanaka on the possibility of coming back to a team that’s no longer in the race: “I think it’s important for the team to fight until the end of the season, so for me, if it would be possible, I’d like to contribute until the end of the season.”
• By the way, David Phelps is scheduled to be re-examined on Monday, which will be two weeks since his upper elbow/lower triceps issue. It’s entirely possible he’ll start playing catch that day as well.
• As Mark Newman said in this morning’s blog post, indications are that Andrew Bailey is not going to pitch at all for the Yankees this season. Girardi said Bailey’s had a few setbacks in his recovery from shoulder surgery, and he doesn’t expect to see him this season. Maybe next season.
• Girardi responding to last night’s Kevin Long comment about morale being low: “You’re always going to look down when you don’t score runs,” Girardi said. “That’s the nature of the game. Guys are frustrated. I’ve said that guys are frustrated because they know that they’re capable of doing more. We want to play in October, and when you lose, you should be frustrated. You shouldn’t just blow it off. Every day is a new day, and things can change very quickly in a clubhouse. You can get on a roll, and that’s what we need to do.”
Associated Press photos
Usually on a day like this I’d do a random thoughts blog post. Today, it’s not so much thoughts but questions that are on my mind. No answers just yet, but these questions are going to determine much of what happens to the Yankees down the stretch.
Can Michael Pineda’s shoulder hold up this time?
It’s not only the setbacks this season, it’s the fact he had such a significant shoulder injury in the first place. That’s why Pineda’s health remains a concern even after last night’s encouraging start in Baltimore. Pineda looked good in his return to the rotation — hard to ask for more under the circumstances — but one game really isn’t nearly enough to tell us whether he’s going to be a great, good, average or lousy pitcher in the final month and a half. Last night was basically enough to show that he could be an impact arm if he stays healthy. Staying healthy is, of course, the key. It has huge ramifications for this year and beyond.
What happens when Masahiro Tanaka gets on a mound?
He seemed to say all of the right things after throwing what I guess qualifies as an extremely light flat ground bullpen. He’s been able to play catch, do some long toss, and now he’s been able to throw a few fastballs in the outfield. All of the steps have been positive so far, and Tanaka says the elbow pain has vanished, but let’s see what happens when he gets on a mound and dials it up with fastballs, splitters and sliders. The Yankees are hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery for both the short term and the long term, and while the early returns are positive, Tanaka’s not through the woods just yet.
Will Carlos Beltran’s return to right field be a worthwhile idea?
He was awesome in early April, then his bat diminished, then he was hurt, then he came back as only a whisper of what he used to be. But lately, Beltran has been a true impact hitter, one of the best in the Yankees lineup. He’s been terrific since the All-Star break, and the Yankees can hardly afford to lose a guy who’s actually providing offensive production and consistency. Yet, they want to get Beltran back in right field. It makes sense as a way to open the DH spot to rest other lineup regulars — and perhaps open at bats for some sort of raw bat that might clear trade waivers this month — but that’s only a worthwhile move if Beltran is able to play right field without getting hurt again.
Is the bullpen running out of steam?
Aside from that hiccup in Texas and one pitch last night, Dellin Betances still looks great. And Dave Robertson has remained perfectly reliable in the ninth inning. But one of the strengths of this bullpen has been its depth, and Adam Warren’s numbers have not been especially good lately. Chase Whitley, who looked awesome when he first showed up, has thrown a ton of innings by his standards and could be worn down. There’s no longer a proven left-hander. Shawn Kelley has been inconsistent. Could be that Esmil Rogers can provide a boost if some of the go-to guys need it, but the bullpen is starting to feel a little shaky beyond the two big guys at the end.
How much difference can three guys make?
Before the trade deadline, the Yankees completely rebuilt the bottom third of their lineup. Brian Roberts was released, Kelly Johnson and Yangervis Solare were shipped away, and Ichiro Suzuki was relegated to the bench. They were replaced by Chase Headley, Stephen Drew and Martin Prado, three pretty good hitters having pretty bad years. Headley and Drew have significantly upgraded the infield defense, but the Yankees need those three to hit, and their offensive impact has been pretty minimal so far.
When will Mark Teixeira break down again?
I suppose it’s not quite a given that Teixeira is going to get hurt again, but it seems entirely possible if not likely that he’s going to have some sort of nagging problem pop up again. This guy has already spent time on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, gotten injections in his wrist and his back, had his knee drained, gotten stitches for his pinky, and been taken out of the lineup because of fatigue and light-headedness (two separate issues). The way the roster is structured right now, a Teixeira injury would mean additional at-bats for either Francisco Cervelli, Ichiro Suzuki or Brendan Ryan. Those are hardly offensive replacements for what Teixeira brings to the lineup.
Who is the true left-handed specialist?
The Yankees saw an opportunity to get out of an uninspiring contract, and so they let Matt Thornton slip away on waivers earlier this month. Thornton had been alright — not a single extra-base hit to a left-handed hitter — but he seems infinitely replaceable. Problem is, the Yankees haven’t really replaced him yet. They’ve tried Rich Hill and David Huff in key at-bats against lefties, but those two are hardly typical left-handed specialists. Eventually the Yankees are surely going to try one of their in-house young lefties in the role. Will it be Tyler Webb, Jacob Lindgren or maybe even Manny Banuelos? And more importantly, will they be up to the challenge?
Which teams are fading and which are charging?
The Red Sox and Rays have pretty much thrown in the towel, and the Angels and A’s seem to be locked into playoff spots — they’re simply fighting for which one wins the West and which is the top wild card — but that still leaves plenty of other playoff contenders for the Yankees to keep an eye on. The Orioles and Blue Jays are obviously ahead of the Yankees in the division, and the second wild-card race also includes Detroit, Kansas City, Seattle and Cleveland. That’s seven teams in the mix for one of the two playoff spots that could let the Yankees move on.
Associated Press photos
Yankees pregame: Teixeira watch • 08.10.14
Joe Girardi is really hopeful he can stick with the lineup he put together today for the series finale against the Indians, the one with Mark Teixeira batting cleanup and playing first after missing three games.
Teixeira is testing his left pinkie in batting practice.
“It’s important to us,” Girardi said. “It means we can move some other people around and do some things that would help us, and you get him in the middle of the order where he’s been productive. It would be nice.”
Girardi still had no decision to announce on Wednesday night’s starter in Baltimore, Michael Pineda or Esmil Rogers. It will be the finale of a three-game series. The Yankees are in second, trailing the Orioles by six games at the moment.
“They’re important games because we’re chasing them,” Girardi said. “They have a lead in our division and that’s where we want to be, on top of the division. I think we have 10 more games with them. But the important thing is that we continue to take series, like we have an opportunity to today. And you need to do that if you want to play in October.”
Hiroki Kuroda goes today. The 39-year-old hasn’t shown signs of wearing down like he did last year, at least not yet.
“I’ve been really pleased,” Girardi said. “We’ve been somewhat conscious of his workload. I know the one day in Texas we had to push him (to 115 pitches), but we knew he had an extra day. I think the last start he threw 90 pitches (actually 91). It was seven innings, though. We’ll continue to watch him.”
Girardi seems in no hurry to get Carlos Beltran back in right.
“He’s been throwing,” Girardi said. “He definitely feels better. But … with the flexibility we got with (Martin) Prado, we feel less of a rush, not a rush, but we’re OK. It’s subject to change, but we’ll see what happens.”
Photo by The Associated Press.
Since getting home from Boston, the Yankees have won four of five at Yankee Stadium, and each of those wins was started by a pitcher who wasn’t on the roster at the beginning of July. First it was Brandon McCarthy, then Chris Capuano, then Shane Greene, and now Esmil Rogers — a mix of youth and experience, familiar names and off-the-radar acquisitions.
This is not remotely the rotation the Yankees planned, but it’s working.
“It was the reason we went and got these guys because we felt that they could help us,” Joe Girardi said. “They’ve pitched extremely well. I’m not sure any of us knew exactly what to expect, but if you look at since the All-Star break, we’ve had a chance to win every game and that’s because of them.”
Rogers is arguably the least likely of the bunch. Cast out of the Blue Jays bullpen early this season, he’d been toiling in Triple-A for months when the Yankees grabbed him off waivers at the trade deadline. He was supposed to be a long man, but when David Phelps became the fifth Yankees starter to land on the disabled list — they have yet to get one back — Rogers was asked to make his first big league start since September of 2013.
He went five innings with one run, and even that was nearly avoided before a two-out single in the first inning.
“I didn’t have all my confidence (in Toronto) like I have it right now in all my pitches,” Rogers said. “My slider and my curveball, changeup and splitter too, and the sinker is unbelievable right now. So i think the key is pounding the zone right now.”
With Michael Pineda making a minor league rehab start tonight in Triple-A, and seeming available to come off the disabled list in five days if necessary, the Yankees now face a decision of whether to have Rogers start again or activate Pineda next turn through the rotation.
At the very least Rogers must have given the Yankees some confidence if they would rather stick with the original plan and let Pineda make one more minor league start.
“I think there’s a lot of things that are tied together here that we’re going to have to try to unwrap to see what we do next,” Girardi said.
• Brian McCann left tonight’s game with a mild concussion, but Girardi said he’s still not sure whether McCann will land on the seven-day disabled list. It will depend on tests tomorrow morning. “I think they evaluate him the next day to see what the doctors determine,” Girardi said.
• For whatever it’s worth, McCann didn’t want to leave tonight’s game. He stayed in after taking a foul tip in the third inning — “He (initially) felt like his jaw got jammed,” Girardi said — but after the top of the sixth, McCann told Girardi that he didn’t feel quite right. “I asked him, ‘Are you dizzy?’” Girardi said. “He said, no. I said, ‘Are you sick to your stomach?’ He said, no. He said, ‘I just don’t feel quite right.’ I said, ‘Do you feel a little foggy?’ (He said), yes. … He didn’t want to come out, but I said, you’re out.”
• Pineda’s final line in tonight’s Triple-A rehab start: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K. He threw 72 pitches. He told Donnie Collins that he feels ready to return to the big leagues.
• More from Donnie Collins: “Pineda really only gave up two hard-hit balls. (Double) by Walters in the first, and (single) by Aguilar in third. Change, fastball up, respectively.” Donnie says that Pineda’s fastball was 92-94 mph.
• Rogers has pitched for the Yankees three times and he has two wins. He threw 88 pitches tonight, and Girardi said he might have gone longer had he not pitched in Tuesday’s game. Certainly suggests he would be at least cleared for 100 pitches if the Yankees choose to send him out in five days. “I just wasn’t sure how much he would be able to give us, and I think we were pretty conscious of watching his stuff continue to be sharp as his pitch count mounted,” Girardi said. “He did a great job.”
• Carlos Beltran hit the 11th grand slam of his career in the sixth inning. It was his first grand slam since 2012. “You want to at least get the job done and get one in,” Beltran said. “I faced John Axford many times in the National League so I guess I have maybe like one hit against him. He felt that it was the right matchup for me. I was able to put a good at-bat and come through for the team.”
• This was the Yankees second grand slam of the year. Brett Gardner also hit one. Beltran had two hits and has been excellent since the All-Star break.
• Another milestone for Derek Jeter. Tonight’s first-inning single was the 3,430th of his career, tying Honus Wagner for sixth place on baseball’s all-time hits list. Honus Wagner! That’s insane. “Big names,” Girardi said. “I mean really big names, and it’s been fun to watch him go through it this season.”
• Ichiro Suzuki collected his 2,810th big league hit, tying George Sisler for 48th on baseball’s all-time hits list. Ichiro also had his first multi-steal game since June 15 of last year.
• This was the fourth time the Yankees scored at least 10 runs this season. This was the first time since 2012 that they scored five runs in more than one inning.
• In those two five-run innings, the Yankees had a total of just six hits. Took advantage of a bunch of walks tonight.
• The Yankees had a losing home record in the first half of the season, but they’ve won 11 of 15 at home since the All-Star break. “I did expect it to even out because we feel our lineup is built for this field, our ballpark,” Girardi said. “So you did expect it to even out. When I talked about coming into the second half (I said) we need to play better at home, and we have.”
• Final word to Beltran: “I think the team has been doing the job, trying to add players that can make the ballclub better offensively and defensively. We had a lot of downs with our starting rotation and things like that, but at the end of the day we need to find a way to do it with what we’ve got.”
Associated Press photos