In praise of Yankees pitching • 05.20.13
Coincidence? We think not. And tonight’s starter thinks not.
“We’ve been pitching great,” CC Sabathia said. “It’s fun to watch. We knew that coming into the year, for us to have a good year, it was going to depend on our pitching. And so far we’ve been pretty good. Hopefully we can keep that up.
“Our bullpen is the strongest point of our team, so we need to keep these guys fresh. The starters need to pitch better and go deeper into games and try to keep the guys fresh.”
Sabathia will take the mound at 4-3 with a 3.19 ERA through nine starts.
Here’s a link to my feature story today on the latest newcomer to this team, Reid Brignac, who was going to start at short yesterday before the game against the Blue Jays got rained out. And here’s a link to my notebook article with an item on the rainout’s impact on the rotation, plus updates on Mark Teixeira, Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli. Chad will be back with you later in the day.
Photo by The Associated Press.
It’s still raining … • 05.19.13
“I’m not very intense before I pitch,” Sabathia said. “Either way, I wasn’t really worried about it. I was sitting on the couch, and they told me it was canceled. So I played catch. I’ll be fine.”
So the Yankees will fly on to Baltimore this afternoon.
“They’ve got a team that can go to the playoffs again,” Robinson Cano said.
Sabathia will start Monday night against the Orioles, followed by Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda. Vidal Nuno was originally going to start Monday night or Tuesday night, but he will be skipped and work out of the bullpen for a few days. After Thursday’s off day, David Phelps is set to start Friday night at Tampa Bay.
As far as today’s ticket situation, fans with paid tickets can use them when the game is made up or exchange them for any regular-season game, subject to availability (and there seems to be availability this season). Complimentary tickets are only good for the makeup date, which hasn’t been announced.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Yankees bullpen throws zeroes • 05.15.13
After Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Mariners (my story on their 11th comeback win and surviving a King Felix start), the relievers hadn’t given up a run over their last nine games, covering 23 2/3 innings. Their combined ERA for May is 0.77 (three earned runs in 35 innings). The group has 36 strikeouts and seven walks to show for this stretch.
“It’s unbelievable,” CC Sabathia said. “We knew coming into the season that would be one of the strong points on the team. They haven’t disappointed.”
Shawn Kelley came in for Sabathia Tuesday night with runners at the corners and one gone in the seventh. Strikeout. Line out. Inning over. The righty has fanned seven of the last nine batters he has faced. He owns 25 Ks in 15 1/3 innings this season.
Mariano Rivera came on for the ninth. Fly ball. Fly ball. K. Game over. The 43-year-old greatest-of-all-time closer is off to a 16-for-16 start on saves after 39 games. It’s the fewest number of team games he has needed to reach 16 saves. The latest save made him 35 for his last 35 at home and 17 for 17 at home against Seattle in his career.
Overall, the Yankees are now 8-2 in one-run games.
“I think winning those games are extremely important,” Joe Girardi said. “Those games can have a real effect when you start losing them.
“Our bullpen has done a great job for us this year. We’ve had a lot of close games. Mo has 16 saves already. That’s quite a pace that he’s on. We haven’t had to use him in games where we’re not winning because he’s got so many opportunities. The ones that you’re ahead, you need to win. If you want to play in the month of October, you have to win those games.”
Photo by The Associated Press.
But it helped that Felix Hernandez left after six and they could get to work against the Mariners’ bullpen. It turned out that King Felix tweaked his back in the sixth when he fielded a comebacker and turned and got a force at second. He also took a knee in the calf when he obstructed Lyle Overbay’s path to first in the fourth. The back apparently isn’t a new thing.
“He’s had on and off issues with it, some stiffness back there from time to time,” manager Eric Wedge said. “But he’s managed it well. … I’m hoping that he’s fine, and I think he will be fine.”
That sounds like the outlook for Travis Hafner as well. He underwent an MRI on his sore right shoulder, which he said stems from being hit by a pitch on the last homestand. Joe Girardi said it’s just tendinitis. Hafner called it “probably the best-case scenario.”
“It’s good,” Hafner said. “It just kind of showed some inflammation in the shoulder. I got an injection in it, and hopefully that clears it up and it should be good to go in a couple of days.”
The Yankees have been doing fine without their injured guys, although they got one back with Curtis Granderson’s return for this game. This first-place team is now 25-14.
“I still think we have a lot of really good players, maybe not the names we’re used to having here, but guys who have had big years,” Girardi said. “This group has worked really hard.”
Overbay had another nice game outside of an error that led to an unearned run. He contributed an RBI double in the sixth and the go-ahead sac fly to cap the three-run seventh. He has five go-ahead RBI, tied for second best on the team with Vernon Wells, one behind Hafner.
“He’s had so many big hits and RBI for us,” Girardi said. “… I feel good about when he’s at the plate.”
Back to the obstruction: Overbay would’ve been out at first even without it, but crew chief Jerry Layne said, “Any time the runner is obstructed before first, the ball is dead. He’s awarded first, and any runner that could be forced is awarded (his base).”
CC Sabathia gave up 10 hits but just the three runs, and he struck out 10 in 6 1/3.
“I wanted to minimize the damage and keep the game close enough and give us a chance to win,” Sabathia said.
Granderson went 0 for 3, but he also had a big walk in the decisive rally. And everything went well in left. It was his first regular-season start out there since Oct. 2, 2005, with the Tigers at Minnesota.
Robinson Cano had the tying two-run double. It was the 345th double of his career, which meant he passed Mickey Mantle for solo possession of eighth on the Yankees’ all-time list.
Photos by The Associated Press
Kevin Youkilis played Saturday after six games off, woke up Sunday not feeling so hot and sat out, and indicated Monday his lower back was feeling the same as before he returned, which meant stiff. So he’s sitting out again. The Yankees missed out on a chance to backdate him to April 21 if the DL is in his future. Youkilis said he was waiting on the results of his MRI today.
Joe Girardi wasn’t second-guessing himself over playing Youkilis Saturday.
“The player told us he was ready to go and we put him in,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you how he reinjured it.” …
Francisco Cervelli stood in front of his locker, bandage on his surgically repaired broken right hand, arm in a sling. Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser operated Saturday after Cervelli took a foul tip off the back of the hand Friday night.
“I don’t know if they put another finger there,” Cervelli joked. “But the doctor said it was really good. I think a little plate there is going to help to heal quicker. But I trust Dr. Rosenwasser because he did my surgery in 2008. I got two screws there. Now I got another plate there. It’s a good hand. I’m a robot now.”
Cervelli is hoping to be back in less than six weeks.
“Today is five weeks and five days,” Cervelli said. “I’m counting. Tomorrow is four days. I’ve got to stay positive. … The last two days, there was a lot of pain. But today I feel a little better.”
Jason Collins made history today, becoming the first active athlete in the four major North American professional sports to come out as gay.
“It’s good for him,” CC Sabathia said. “He can be honest and not have to live a lie, I guess.”
That’s the NBA. Is MLB ready if one of its players wants to do the same?
“Sure,” Sabathia said. “Why not? … I don’t know what it would be like. It would be tough, but you’d have to deal with it, I guess.”
Joe Girardi said: “No matter what it is in our world, any time it happens for the first time, it’s a little bit of a shock. But I believe baseball would handle it well.”
If it happened in the Yankees’ clubhouse, that player would find a comforting presence in Girardi.
“As far as myself personally, and everyone is not going to believe with my religious beliefs, I believe as men and women, we’re called to love others, depending on their race, their religion, their thought process, whatever they do,” Girardi said. “We’re not called to judge people. I think part of judging people is probably what gets us into a lot of trouble in the world.
“So as far as me personally, he’s a player; he’s a man. My job is to be his friend and love him. And if I was his manager, it’s to get the most out of him. I always felt as a player, it was to be the best teammate that I could be. And that’s the bottom line.”
CC Sabathia’s fastball wasn’t traveling faster than 90 mph in the Yankees’ 4-3 comeback win over Arizona Wednesday night (My article here).
The 32-year-old lefty didn’t have his good fastball command early and also gave up a two-run homer on a high changeup in the first. But after throwing 31 pitches to get the opening three outs, he managed to get through another seven, throwing only 77 more pitches. It added up to his third straight quality start — three runs, six hits, one walk, six strikeouts — and his third victory in four tries. His ERA is a tidy 2.57.
So his high-mileage arm, which underwent arthroscopic surgery for the removal of a small bone spur in the elbow back on Oct. 25, can still be effective despite the diminished mph.
“To me, he’s really the same guy,” Joe Girardi said. “He just doesn’t have quite as much velocity. He’s going to use his changeup. It’s very effective. He’s going to use his slider. It’s very effective. He just may not hit the 96s, 97s and 98s that he used to hit. …
“He’s always been a location guy. So I think that helps him.”
Girardi does think Sabathia’s velocity will improve some as the season progresses.
“I think you’ll see 92s, 93s and maybe some 94s,” Girardi said. “I do believe we’re going to see it. It’s just going to take some time.”
Also, Mark Teixeira is getting back in the swing of things and Andy Pettitte’s back is good to go for tomorrow night.
And while Francisco Cervelli didn’t have a great game last night (0-4 with an error), he has gotten off to a good start overall. This is my feature story on him.
Yankees postgame: Train keeps rolling • 04.17.13
The Yankees have now won three straight and seven of eight after this come-from-behind 4-3 win over Arizona. They’re 8-5 after the 1-4 start and despite all those marquee-name injuries.
“It’s early, but we’ve got a pretty good team,” CC Sabathia said. “The guys filling in are doing a great job.”
Travis Hafner would be one of those guys. After sitting around for two-plus hours, he sent up that pinch solo shot in the eighth. He’s now hitting .342 with four homers and eight RBI in 12 games.
“I’ve been swinging the bat pretty well,” Hafner said. “I’m having a great time.”
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson did believe what he just saw from Hafner, hitting that first-pitch, 96 mph fastball from David Hernandez.
“He’s hit a lot out like that,” Gibson said. “Obviously, not a good spot to throw it.”
Gibson also wasn’t thrilled with lefty reliever Tony Sipp’s fastball away to Brett Gardner with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh. That resulted in the tying two-run single.
“The ball is up and out over the plate, and give the guy some credit; he hit where he should have,” Gibson said.
Gardner was happier, saying, “With two outs and the bases loaded, it’s kind of all on you. It feels good to be able to come through.”
Sabathia threw 31 pitches in the two-run first, then threw just 77 over the next seven.
“I think he just battled through it,” Joe Girardi said. “We’ve seen CC do that a number of times where maybe he doesn’t have his ‘A’ stuff and he finds a way to keep you in the game and doesn’t give up big innings. There’s a lot that can be learned for how he goes about his business.”
I’ll have more from Girardi on Sabathia’s diminished velocity in my morning post.
Yankees postgame: Seeing triple • 04.12.13
The postgame buzz mostly revolved around the 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple play that the Yankees turned in the eighth to help preserve their 5-2 victory over the Orioles.
“You’re not going to see things like that happen in a crucial moment,” Joe Girardi said.
Let’s recap: The Orioles started the inning against CC Sabathia with singles by Alexi Casilla and Nick Markakis, bringing up the potential tying run. Then Manny Machado grounded to Robinson Cano, who threw to Jayson Nix for the force on Markakis at second.
Next came the key moment. Instead of throwing on to first for the double ball, Nix fired to Kevin Youkilis at third.
“It’s better to have the lead runner out,” Nix said.
Casilla was tagged out by Youkilis in a rundown. Then Youkilis threw to Lyle Overbay at first with Machado straying.
“I knew right away we’ve got a triple play,” Youkilis said.
Overbay fired to Cano at second for the tag on Machado. That makes three. The Yankees couldn’t contain their glee, especially Youkilis.
“When stuff like that happens, you feel like you’re back playing Little League again,” Youkilis said.
It was the Yankees’ second triple play since 1969 and first in the Bronx since 1968. They had one three years ago in Oakland, also helping Sabathia out of a jam.
“Any time you get a triple play, you’re fired up,” Sabathia said.
There was another key moment, though. How often are you going to see Adam Jones drop a fly ball? Not too often.
“He’s one of the best center fielders in the game,” Sabathia said.
But he dropped Vernon Wells’ drive to the track with the bases packed and two outs in the seventh. The 2-2 game became a 5-2 game on the error.
“The chances of that happening are slim, slim, slim, but we caught a break,” Girardi said.
“I don’t dwell at all on Adam’s play because he’s spoiled us with such a high level of play in center field,” Buck Showalter said. “That’s why it gets everybody’s attention. He’s special. I’m real glad he’s on our side.”
The Yankees were glad to have Sabathia on their side again — eight innings, two runs, eight hits, nine Ks, no walks.
“I thought he was brilliant,” Girardi said.
Sabathia, in his second straight strong start, threw 102 pitches, only 28 of them balls.
“I know his velocity isn’t what it used to be, 95, but I tell you, he’s really using his changeup and slider to get guys out,” Kevin Youkilis said.
Mark Teixeira had his wrist examined by Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser. It was expected that Teixeira would be cleared to start swinging a fungo bat. He was not.
“He wants me to get a little stronger before I swing,” Teixeira said. “All good news. I’m just not swinging yet.”
Teixeira doesn’t think this changes the timetable for his return too much. He still hopes to be back the first week of May.
Eduardo Nunez is day-to-day after suffering a bruised right wrist when he was drilled by Miguel Gonzalez in the second.
How did CC Sabathia evaluate his first bullpen since October elbow surgery?
“Felt pretty good; no problems,” he said. “I probably didn’t throw a strike, but that’s normal for my first bullpen.”
Here’s some video — shot through a small gap in the fence — of Sabathia’s morning bullpen. When bullpen catcher Roman Rodriguez moves his head a little bit, you can see Andy Pettitte also throwing on the right side of the screen.
Thursday morning notes: Phelps faces hitters • 02.14.13
Around 9 a.m., David Phelps went to the mound on the main field here in Tampa. He wasn’t tucked away in the back, wasn’t shuffled to the minor league complex. He was in front of the empty seats, facing live hitters, throwing live batting practice on just the second day of workouts at Steinbrenner Field.
“I pushed myself a little more in the offseason so my arm is ready a little quicker during spring training because I’m trying to make an impression,” Phelps said. “It helped me out last year, my arm felt fresh throughout the entire year. I did the same routine I did last year coming into camp.”
Last year Phelps made an impression and got an unexpected opportunity. What he did with that opportunity has made him a favorite to win at least a spot in the Yankees bullpen, and it’s given him at least a chance of being out Ivan Nova for the last spot in the rotation.
This morning Phelps threw 30 pitches while facing Francisco Cervelli and Bobby Wilson.
“I’m willing to do whatever they want me to do,” Phelps said. “If being sent down to the minors and keeping starting is what’s in the best interest of the team and helping them win, that’s obviously what I’ll do. Obviously I want to be in the big leagues, whatever role that might be. I’m just going to go out and try to do my job on the field and let that take care of itself.”
• So far, no sign of new reliever Shawn Kelley. Not sure when he’s supposed to arrive.
• With so many pitchers already facing hitters — and so few position players currently in big league camp — the Yankees are actually sending a van over to the minor league complex later this morning. A dozen pitchers will go to the complex to throw live batting practice to the hitters across the street.
• Four pitchers threw live batting practice here at Steinbrenner Field this morning. Phelps, Adam Warren, Cody Eppley and Brett Marshall. Throwing programs assigned to minor leaguers started a little earlier than usual this winter, which helps explain why so many guys are ready to face hitters already.
• Phelps threw to J.R. Murphy and Marshall threw to Gary Sanchez. Those two faced Francisco Cervelli and Bobby Wilson. Eppley threw to Kyle Higashioka and Warren threw to Francisco Arcia. Those two faced Chris Stewart and Austin Romine.
• Early sides: Joba Chamberlain (to Stewart) and Ivan Nova (to Cervelli).
• Going to the complex to throw live batting practice: Corey Black, Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, Nick Goody, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell, Mark Montgomery, Mike O’Brien, Kelvin Perez, Branden Pinder, Nik Turley and Chase Whitley.
• Bullpens at Steinbrenner Field (with the catcher they’ll throw to):
Dellin Betances (Romine)
Jose Ramirez (Arcia)
Dave Robertson (Wilson)
Francisco Rondon (Higashioka)
Josh Spence (Sanchez)
Cell phone photo of Phelps throwing BP, Associated Press photo of Sabathia