The Yankees expected to have Mark Teixeira back in the lineup on Friday. Now it’s three days later, and Teixeira is still not ready to play.
Instead of holding out more hope, the Yankees have sent Teixeira back to New York for more tests on his sore right leg. Teixeira hurt himself fouling a ball off his leg two weeks ago and has started only one game since. Joe Girardi said this afternoon that Teixeira will not play during this Boston series. Rosters will expand tomorrow, but for tonight, the Yankees will be short-handed.
“We’re not happy with where it’s at,” Girardi told reporters.
Teixeira is the Yankees’ leader in OPS (.906) and home runs (31). He ranks top three on the team in on-base percentage, walks and RBI. Greg Bird has been an encouraging young replacement, but his .255/.339/.412 slash line doesn’t have nearly the explosive power of Teixeira’s .255/.357/.548.
There’s also a matchup issue in play. Although Bird has handled both lefties and righties in his minor league career, the Yankees are a left-leaning lineup as it is, and Teixeira brought some switch-hitting balance. He has been much better against right-handers this season, but generally has been better against lefties in his career.
Without Teixeira, the Yankees don’t have a strong right-handed option at first base. Bird is a lefty (so was Garrett Jones), and now the Yankees are considering Alex Rodriguez as a first-base option for Wednesday when they face another left-handed starter.
Even when rosters expand, there’s not an experienced first baseman who hits right-handed in line for a call-up. Tyler Austin has played some first, but he’s stuck in Double-A and seems unlikely to join the team. Dustin Ackley has played some first, but he hits left-handed. Jose Pirela has a little first base experience, but he’s been there only once this season.
UPDATE, 5:33 p.m.: Brian Cashman said pregame that he would prefer to have Chase Headley at first base ahead of Rodriguez. I suppose that opens the possibility of Headley at first, Refsnyder at second and Ryan at third (or Pirela at second or third) against lefties.
Hard to make up for losing a player like Teixeira in any circumstance. Pressure might fall to the other middle-of-the-order hitters — not necessarily the replacement at first base — to pick up the offensive slack.
• From Meredith Maarakovits: CC Sabathia threw a regular bullpen today. It was his first time since going on the disabled list, and he’s expected to throw one more bullpen before facing hitters.
• Brian Cashman said pregame that the Yankees see Sabathia as a starter, not a reliever, when he comes off the disabled list.
• Girardi mentioned this weekend that he was considering the idea of Rodriguez at first base against a lefty. He’s not doing it today, but could use him at first base on Wednesday. Just my own opinion, but it might make more sense to wait until Wednesday to make that move when rosters have expanded and it’s easier to pull Rodriguez out of the game after the Red Sox go to their bullpen.
• As he’s said since Spring Training, Rodriguez told David Lennon that he’s willing to play wherever Girardi wants him to play, though Lennon notes that Rodriguez sounded “less than enthusiastic” about playing first again. Rodriguez really does seem to have grown to like the regular DH role. It’s kept him healthy so far, and he’s clearly found some success with that routine.
• Jon Heyman reported today that the Yankees put in a claim on closer Dave Robertson. That sort of thing isn’t unusual, and it’s little surprise that the White Sox pulled Robertson back without making a trade.
• Carlos Beltran is one double away from 500 for his career. His 30 doubles this season lead the Yankees and rank eighth in the American League. The only American League outfielder with more doubles is Michael Brantley, who has more than anyone at any position in the Majors this season.
Associated Press photos
The second opinion on CC Sabathia’s sore right knee was basically the same as the first. Another trip to another doctor revealed nothing Sabathia and the Yankees didn’t already know.
“It’s just arthritic,” Sabathia said. “It’s just a bad knee, like we knew. I think getting this rest will help.”
There’s no surgery planned, and Sabathia hopes that rest and rehab will get him back on the active roster as soon as he’s eligible to return from the disabled list in roughly two weeks. Of course, the specifics of Sabathia’s return are thoroughly up in the air and subject to change.
Will he be a starter? Is he better off in the bullpen at this point? Can he be reliable enough to have a spot in the postseason?
“I think we just have to see what his body can physically handle at this point what that knee can handle,” Joe Girardi said. “And then you try to make some decisions. … The thing is you hope it calms down, you rehab it, you strengthen it and you hope that he can be a player for us sometime in September. And you’re really not gonna know until you go through everything but it was better than what the alternative news could have been.”
Simply getting Sabathia off the disabled list won’t answer the bigger questions about his long-term health, durability and effectiveness. Even Sabathia himself acknowledged that for now his protocol is only designed to get him through another month (another two months all goes extremely well). At some point, though, he’ll have to tackle bigger issues.
“I think this is stuff that’s going to get me through the season,” Sabathia said. “I think what’s going to keep me pitching for years is just proper rehab and making sure that I go out and keep working and making sure everything is strong and going out and making sure my body’s good, I guess.”
It really does feel like guesswork. The Yankees know the problem, the question is what to do about it. Sabathia said that, short of simply not pitching, there’s really nothing he can do to fix the issue. The trick is figuring out how to deal with it. For now, he has no plans to continue babying the knee. When he comes back, Sabathia said, he’s going to be pitching at full force despite the obvious risk. He won’t be holding back like he was earlier in the season.
“It’s not that time for that,” Sabathia said. “That’s why I wanted to make sure I’m healthy and hopefully this rest will allow me to do that.”
For now, Sabathia said he simply wants to get back and find a way to be helpful in the short term. The long term will be an issue worth addressing in the winter. Even if he’s in the bullpen, Sabathia said, he simply wants to pitch again this season.
“Helping this team in any way I can is what I’m here to do,” he said. “If that means pitching out of the bullpen, then it is what it is. I’m not here to make that decision. That’s not (a decision) for me to make. If I’m healthy enough, I know I can start on any team. Let them make the decision.”
• After last night’s game, Mark Teixeira told Girardi to plan on having him in the lineup. It’s a good time to get him back because Dallas Keuchel is holding left-handed hitters to a .137/.167/.198 slash line this season. “We talked last night and he said, ‘Pencil me in,’” Girardi said. “And I said, ‘I’ll pencil you in.’ Saw him today, said ‘I’ll pencil you in, you go through everything and if something comes up and you feel like you need another day, take it.’ But the plans are for him to play.”
• How will the Yankees use Greg Bird now that Teixeira is back? “In Atlanta, obviously there’s pinch hit possibilities there,” Girardi said. “If you decide to give Alex a day off, maybe you DH Tex. If you give Tex a day, (Bird will play). We have a long stretch coming up. After this six, I think it’s 30 out of 31, so you’re going to have to spell the guys once in a while.”
• Dustin Ackley plans to begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton on Thursday. I can’t imagine him being activated before rosters expand on September 1. Ackley said he expects his return to depend entirely on how he’s playing and feeling.
• Chase Headley’s surprisingly bad defensive season continued with his 20th error last night. “I think the last six weeks he’s played a lot better at third,” Girardi said. “I think the errors have not come at a rapid pace for him. He made a tough play yesterday and threw the ball away but I feel good about Head there. It’s just for whatever reasons he’s made a few more errors this year but he continues to work at it.”
• The Yankees have four left-handed hitters on the bench, obviously in reaction to Keuchel’s incredible success against left-handed hitters this season. Righties have a .606 OPS against the Astros’ ace, which isn’t great, but it’s a lot better than the lefties who have a .365 OPS against him. One bright spot: Keuchel hasn’t been overwhelming on the road. He has a 1.35 ERA at home this year, but a 3.65 ERA on the road.
Associated Press photos
CC Sabathia’s season might be over.
The Yankees today put Sabathia on the 15-day disabled list, and manager Joe Girardi acknowledged he’s not sure Sabathia will pitch again this year. An MRI revealed no new damage in his surgically repaired right knee, but the existing damage has obviously become a bigger problem this late in the season.
“It’s been maintenance all year long for us,” Girardi said. “We knew that going in, and we knew it could rear its ugly head. There were times where he had some shots before and was able to pitch and it didn’t seem to be an issue. But we knew it would take a lot to get him through the season, and yesterday was the first day that we had to pull him out.
“I didn’t necessarily think that we’d get to 24 starts before we had to pull him out of a game. I wasn’t sure of that going into spring training. I felt like we were pretty lucky up until yesterday.”
Sabathia said yesterday that he only recently started pitching with full force on the mound. He knew he was risking a setback, but the results when holding back simply had not be good enough. He let it go for a few starts and wound up on the disabled list.
Girardi said he was aware Sabathia had been trying to balance a need to protect his knee with a need to pitch well.
“I think it was extremely gutsy what he tried to do every fifth or sixth day,” Girardi said. “He knew if he gave everything he had, there was a better chance the knee would rear its ugly head. And if he gave a governor, he knew his stuff wasn’t quite as good as if he gave everything he had physically. So it was a balance for him that I think was difficult.”
For now, the plan is to give Sabathia rest and treatment. He won’t make the upcoming road trip to Atlanta and Boston.
“When we get back, we’ll see where he’s at,” Girardi said. “Is it possible that he doesn’t pitch the rest of the year? It’s a possibility.”
• With Sabathia on the disabled list, the Yankees will scrap their plan to have a six-man rotation going forward. Essentially, Michael Pineda will take Sabathia’s spot and the Yankees will have a five-man rotation — plus occasional spot starts — in the month of September. “If you have to be creative to give the guys an extra day, you can because you’ll have more guys in the bullpen,” Girardi said.
• Specifically, Bryan Mitchell will move into the bullpen once he’s healthy and cleared to come off the concussion disabled list. “Basically in long relief,” Girardi said. “We’ll still use him as a guy that could pitch out of the bullpen and give us a little distance.”
• Mark Teixeira took batting practice and fielded some ground balls this afternoon. He said swinging the bat felt much better today than it felt yesterday, and the ground balls were fine, but running is still a probably. Girardi said he would check with Teixeira to determine whether pinch hitting would be a possibility. Teixeira said he feels for the first time like he could pinch hit, but he obviously wouldn’t be able to do much running the bases.
• Sounds like today’s drills were encouraging for Teixeira — “Hitting was a lot better; fielding ground balls was a lot better,” he said — but that’s not the concern at this point. It’s running that continues to be a problem. “Once I can run close to normal, then I should be able to play,” he said. “… If I’m running at 50 percent, I’m no good at first base and no good at the plate, running around the bases.”
• Teixeira said doctors originally told him he’d likely need a week, and he’s now missed a week. Girardi said he fully expects Teixeira to be available by Friday when the Yankees will want a full bench for a National League series. If he’s not able to play by Friday, the Yankees will have to really consider putting him on the disabled list. “If I’m not (ready by Friday, I’m very disappointed,” Teixeira said. “I want to play tonight. I want to play every night, but it’s just not quite there yet running.”
• Chris Capuano was scheduled to start for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight. Instead, he was brought back to New York to yet again serve as basically an emergency long man. What a weird year that guy’s had.
Associated Press photos
First, a quick explanation. A few weeks ago one of my closest friends got married, and I was in the wedding, so I missed a few Yankees games to be a part of the ceremony. Yesterday, it was my one of my girlfriend’s closest friends getting married, and so I was back in New Jersey, vaguely following the Yankees on my phone. That’s why you didn’t see much on the blog beyond the late morning.
By now, though, you all know the news of the day.
CC Sabathia came out of yesterday’s game in the third inning. His right knee is giving him problems again, and he’ll almost certainly go on the disabled list. A look at what this means for the Yankees:
Sabathia couldn’t pitch last season. He got through eight starts and kept hoping to come back at some point, but he ultimately needed surgery to deal with degenerative damage in his right knee. That’s his landing knee, which has taken the pounding of a large frame through 15 big league seasons.
I’m obviously not a doctor, but I have to assume Sabathia’s weight would be a factor in his knee problems. Seems to be a lot of pounding, pitch after pitch, but maybe I’m wrong. Either way, I can’t imagine Sabathia feels any regret about his size. He’s been a big guy throughout his career. He won a Cy Young award at that weight. He also went to six All-Star games, won a World Series and developed a reputation as one of the most durable starters in baseball. Too big? I don’t know. He was awfully good for a long time, but like a lot of pitchers, he wound up hurt.
This season, Sabathia came back from surgery and stayed relatively healthy, but he had a knee drained a couple of times and was apparently feeling more discomfort than the let on. When August started, Sabathia’s velocity spiked and his numbers improved significantly. He had a 3.38 ERA in his past three starts before yesterday.
Turns out, he’d been letting it fly while knowingly hammering away at that bad knee.
“What else is there to do?” he told reporters including Brendan Kuty postgame. “Pitch how I’ve been pitching or go out there and try to compete? So I decided to give it everything I had.”
Sabathia doesn’t come out of games easily. He’s pitched through a lot in his career, and had been apparently pitching through some knee issues most of this season believing he could figure it out along the way. For him to come out of yesterday’s game suggests this isn’t a minor, one-time issue.
“I’m guessing it’s a DL off the bat because he left the field without throwing another pitch,” general manager Brian Cashman told The Associated Press. “It seems to imply that it’s something serious.”
So the Yankees are down a starter, but they’re also about to gain a starter. With or without the Sabathia injury, the Yankees were planning to have Michael Pineda rejoin the rotation on Wednesday. That means they have a five-man rotation already. Should they choose to stick with their plan for a six-man rotation in September, they could do that by making Bryan Mitchell a full-time starter when he returns from the seven-day concussion disabled list.
At the very least, it seems they’ll likely want/need Mitchell — or someone — to make a few spot starts during long stretches of games next month.
For right now, it seems safe to assume someone will join the Yankees’ bullpen to take Sabathia’s spot on the roster. Could be that more than one reliever will come up considering both Branden Pinder and Nick Rumbelow pitched multiple innings yesterday. Ultimately, though, the bigger decisions is choosing how to handle the rotation going forward.
Sabathia’s contract runs through 2016 with a vesting option for 2017. That vesting option kicks in as long as he doesn’t have a shoulder issue, which he doesn’t seem to have. Realistically, the Yankees are on the hook for two more years at $25 million per year. The notion that Sabathia somehow owes it to the Yankees to retire early is ridiculous. If he’s physically able to play, he owes it to the Yankees to work hard and try to come back as an effective pitcher, but who walks away from a contract after being hurt on the job?
Question is: what can the Yankees get out of Sabathia going forward? Is he going to pitch again in some capacity this season? Could injury legitimately push him out of the game, or is he going to be back in Spring Training trying to figure out how he fits the roster?
With Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova under team control for next season — not to mention Mitchell, Adam Warren and Chase Whitley — the Yankees have rotation options for next year, so Sabathia wouldn’t have to come to camp as a starter. Even when he was struggling this season, he was still awfully good against lefties (they’ve hit .183/.215/.287 against him this season), so perhaps he could be effective in a relief role picking his battles (at least early on) so that he faces primarily left-handed hitters.
Long-term contracts with pitchers — or any player, really — always carry significant risk of becoming a problem in the future, and right now it certainly seems that Sabathia’s contract will become one of those problems. His first four years with the Yankees were spectacular, but as he crept into his mid-30s with a lot of miles on his arm and body, Sabathia’s future has become much less certain.
Associated Press photos
Last time we saw CC Sabathia, he was delivering perhaps his finest start of the year. His fastball velocity was up, he kept the ball in the ballpark, and he punctuating last week’s start with a huge strikeout of David Ortiz and an even bigger celebration on the mound. The big man was so fired up he literally shook. It was, in so many ways, vintage Sabathia.
Was it a sign of life in the former ace, for one last shining moment before he’s dumped to the bullpen?
Sabathia gets the ball again tonight in Cleveland, and his spot in the Yankees’ rotation has perhaps never been less certain. Up to this point, the Yankees have said several times that they have never considered taking Sabathia out of the rotation, but with Michael Pineda getting closer to coming off the disabled list, and Luis Severino pitching well in his first two appearances, Sabathia to the bullpen has to be at least a possibility.
We know Masahiro Tanaka’s not going anywhere, we know Pineda will be the No. 2 as soon as he’s healthy, and Nathan Eovaldi is 6-0 with a 2.87 ERA since that mid-June debacle in Miami. So if Pineda gets back soon, the Yankees will have four options:
1. Use a six-man rotation
There are two long stretches in September, and expanded rosters would make it easier to carry six starters. I wouldn’t think this possibility is out of the question. Obviously they don’t want Tanaka pitching on four days of rest very often anyway.
2. Put Luis Severino in the bullpen
So far, the kid’s been awfully good, and the Yankees keep saying there are no innings limitations that should stand in his way going forward. Severino was called up to be a difference maker, not to be lost in the bullpen shuffle like Adam Warren has been.
3. Put Ivan Nova in the bullpen
Since coming back from Tommy John, Nova has a 3.52 ERA and has generally pitched well outside of that grand slam over the weekend. His strikeouts are up in his past two starts and he has yet to allow more than four runs. When he was finishing his rehab, the Yankees basically dismissed the idea of using Nova as a reliever.
4. Put CC Sabathia in the bullpen
I’m not sure they would do it, but I have to think it would be a more reasonable conversation than at any other point this season. With Pineda back, there would be no injury to deal with or a workload concern to fall back on. If Sabathia falls apart again tonight and at home next week, then putting him in the bullpen would surely be a discussion worth having, right? If he pitches well again, then perhaps some version of a six-man rotation could work down the stretch.
Associated Press photo
Two things happened pretty soon after the Yankees second consecutive loss: They sent one starting pitcher to the hospital, and watched yet another be traded elsewhere.
Following tonight’s five runs in five-plus innings, CC Sabathia showed symptoms of dehydration and was sent to an area hospital on the recommendation of trainer Steve Donohue. Sabathia will not travel with the Yankees tonight. The symptoms, though, did not show up until after the game. They don’t necessarily explain yet another rough start with nine hits, three of which were home runs.
“You know, he struggled,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It looked like he was going to get out of the first, and he hung a slider to Hamilton. Then it looked like he left a breaking ball up to Choo as well. He gave us the five innings, gave us a chance, but again he had that one big hit that really hurt him.”
Sabathia had pitched pretty well for two starts in a row, but now he’s delivered two fairly similar duds. He gave up five runs last time out as well. Strange thing about this one was that left-handed hitters burned him. He made an awful pitch that Josh Hamilton hit for a three-run home run in the first inning, then he gave up a solo homer to Shin-Soo Choo in the second.
“It’s not something we’ve seen a lot, but it was just some breaking balls he left up,” Girardi said. “… Just something you have to keep working on. That’s the only thing you could do.”
Well, not really the only thing the Yankees could do. They could look for alternatives, either internally — Bryan Mitchell, Adam Warren, Luis Severino, even Diego Moreno could be worth a look — or through the trade market. Having already missed out on several marquee names, though, the Yankees tonight lost out on Mike Leake. The Reds shipped Leake to San Francisco, news that broke just minutes after Bob Nightengale reported that the Giants and Yankees were the finalists.
The trade deadline hits at 4 p.m. tomorrow, and so far the Yankees biggest addition is a utility player with no obvious role to play. There’s time to change that, but it seems Brian Cashman hasn’t liked — or hasn’t matched up very well — with the asking prices. Ken Rosenthal noted tonight that the Yankees could instead go after a big-time reliever in an effort to shorten the game from the back end because the market is quickly running out of available top-three type starters.
• Andrew Miller hasn’t pitched much lately, and Girardi speculated that might be why he was hit so hard. Miller, though, said that wasn’t an issue. “I felt really good, I just didn’t fool anybody tonight,” he said. “It was just one of those days. Even the outs I got, both outs were two of the hardest-hit balls I’ve given up all year. You chalk it up and move on. It certainly wasn’t a physical thing. I felt good, I just fell behind on some counts. It wasn’t necessarily pitches I don’t normally throw, they just laid off some good ones. You’re not going to win them all. It stinks. I feel like I’m throwing the ball pretty well, but I didn’t get the result I wanted tonight.”
• Why have Nick Goody start the ninth inning when Girardi knew he was going to Miller? “I knew I was going to ask Miller to possibly give me multiple hitters, especially after they put all those lefties in,” Girardi said. “But I couldn’t ask him to give me eight hitters. I thought that would be too many, so I was just trying to get Goody through one or two more. Once DeShields walked, that’s when I brought in Miller to shut down the running game, for one. That was the reason. And the game’s on the line.”
• Goody looked pretty good with his strikeout to end the eighth, but Girardi said that wasn’t a factor in sticking with him for the ninth. It was all about trying to just get a few more hitters on a night the bullpen was thin and Girardi didn’t want to overdo it with Miller.
• This was the Yankees’ second walk-off loss of the year.
• Any problem with Ellbury not staying back and letting Ryan Rua’s ball fall in front of him instead of diving and playing it into an inside-the-park home run? “He made a great effort,” Girardi said. “That’s what we want our guys doing. It looks like he just missed it. It’s part of the game.”
• Here’s Ellsbury on the inside-the-park homer: “Got a good bead on it, and then it pretty much just dive bombed. At that point, you’re obviously trying to make the catch, but you’re really trying to block it or do whatever you can to keep it in front of you. … I don’t think I did (get a glove on it), no. Tried to bat it down with my other hand, though. You just do anything you can to keep it in front of you then.”
• Any problem with the way Carlos Beltran played that ball without really trying to backup the play? “Believe me, Jake’s going to get there before Carlos,” Girardi said.
• That was the first inside-the-park home run allowed by the Yankees since Wil Myers on May 4 of last season at Yankee Stadium.
• How odd was it for Sabathia to allow home runs to two different lefties tonight? He had allowed just one home run in 97 plate appearances against lefties all season.
• Mark Teixeira had his 40th career multi-homer game and now has 26 home runs this season. He has the fourth-most multi-homer games among active players. This is his 10th season with at least 25 home runs, tied for the second-most by any switch hitter (Eddie Murray has 12).
• Final word goes to Ellsbury: “You want to win them all, but we know we need to go into Chicago, get in late, and play three good games there. Obviously you want to win this one, but we know the importance of putting it behind us, going in tomorrow and playing well.”
Associated Press photos
Pitching matchups in Minnesota • 07.24.15
Weekend series in Minneapolis begins with a familiar face, then moves on to two guys with ERAs below 3.40.
RHP Michael Pineda (9-6, 3.77)
RHP Phil Hughes (8-6, 4.15)
8:10 p.m., YES Network
LHP CC Sabathia (4-8, 5.25)
LHP Tommy Milone (5-2, 3.38)
7:10 p.m., WPIX
RHP Nathan Eovaldi (9-2, 4.43)
RHP Kyle Gibson (8-7, 3.19)
2:10 p.m., YES Network
Associated Press photo
Just before the All-Star break, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had a conversation with CC Sabathia, one that might not have been necessary. Girardi essentially asked Sabathia to look around and notice something Sabathia clearly realized as far back as spring training.
Andy Pettitte is not in the Yankees’ clubhouse any more. Neither is Mariano Rivera. Neither is A.J. Burnett, who sat with Sabathia at the same Yankees introductory press conference more than six years ago.
“I just told him, ‘You know, CC, you’re the one who understands this time of year,’” Girardi said. “‘And you need to lead our guys.’”
With the trade deadline a week and a half away, Sabathia looks from the outside to be the weakest link in an already uncertain Yankees rotation. He’s the one with the highest ERA and the most losses. He’s the one who — if not for a track record and a contract — might already be in the bullpen, and the one who might still have to find a new role should the Yankees trade for a rotation upgrade.
In the Yankees’ clubhouse, though, Sabathia is seen as something more than his 5.25 ERA and 4-8 record. He’s seen as the same guy who led the rotation for a half decade; the same guy who helped them win a World Series in 2009. He’s the guy who pitched six innings of one-run ball on Sunday.
“Everybody loves him,” third baseman Chase Headley said. “He’s such a great team guy, so you want to see a guy like him who’s struggling get out of it. If he goes out and throws the ball like that, he’s going to be a big part of this run going forward.”
While the Yankees’ lineup remains loaded with experienced veterans at ease in a leadership role, their pitching staff is young. Sabathia and little-used reliever Chris Capuano are the only pitchers older than 30. After Sabathia, the oldest starter is Ivan Nova, who’s 28 and still seems like a kid in many ways.
“(Sabathia)’s been through everything, you know?” 25-year-old starter Nathan Eovaldi said. “You can easily go up there and talk to him. He’s very approachable, and he’s in the dugout all the time, so anything you need you can always go to him.”
It’s been that way since spring training, when Sabathia’s corner locker was a regular gathering place for other pitchers — anyone from veterans trying to hang onto a career to prospects trying to make an impression.
Teammates and Girardi say that role hasn’t changed simply because Sabathia’s putting up some of the worst numbers of his career. He’s still a source of veteran stability and knowledge, he’s pitched the second-most innings on the staff, and he’s becoming a leader by example as he works through his struggles. He’s now trying to build on his past two starts, which have been strong.
“Obviously my first half was the worst of my career,” Sabathia said. “But I’m not going to come in here and tell you I suck and be negative like I was the last couple of years. I’m just trying to go out and help this team, and I still think I can.”
Sabathia’s been working to refine his cutter, which he believes can help neutralize the right-handed hitters who have pounded him this season. He’s also working on mixing pitches to each side of the plate, keeping hitters guessing and off balance.
“I thought stuff-wise, (Sunday was) the best we’ve seen all year,” Alex Rodriguez said. “I thought he had a really good fastball – and he’s throwing three versions of his fastball. He’s also introduced a cutter, and I think that cutter is going to be extremely important, especially against righties because it’s going to open up the outer half. That’s a huge pitch for him.”
Will these past two starts change the Yankees’ approach to the trade deadline? Will two solid but not dominant outings by Sabathia make it less likely the Yankees trade for a high-end starter, or possibly make a smaller move for some rotation depth? As always, it seems to depend on the quality of the pitcher and the asking price of the other teams.
And even if the Yankees’ approach to the deadline remains difficult to predict, their commitment to Sabathia seems unshaken. They’re expecting Sabathia to lead, even if he does it from the back of the rotation and not the top.
Associated Press photos
This was my plan: Write a blog post about the fact that questions loom over basically every piece of the Yankees’ pitching staff.
After including five pitchers in my previous MVP post, there was really no sense in writing a first-half Cy Young post, so I thought looking at the looming uncertainty would be a good way to address the pitching staff. I came up with four categories and then found a way for most of the key pitchers to fit in one group or another.
But Michael Pineda, who I just picked as the most valuable pitcher on the staff, seemed to fit in every category.
• Health concerns? Obviously. He looks good and strong this season, but anyone who’s gone through three seasons of shoulder issues is going to carry some lingering health questions for a while. Those don’t go away with a healthy half season.
• The potential to be even better? Absolutely. Pineda’s been very good this season, but his 3.64 ERA is basically a full run higher than his 2.63 FIP. If he can string together his occasionally elite starts, he could be a real difference maker in the second half.
• Durability and sustainability concerns? Yep. Pineda could get better in the second half, or you could wither under the weight of his largest single-season workload. Pineda’s on pace to throw more innings than he’s ever thrown in a year, and he’s already thrown more innings than in any of his past three seasons.
• The potential to take on a larger role? Sure. Right now, it’s hard to say who truly leads this rotation. Is Pineda the ace or is Masahiro Tanaka the ace? Which one should get the ball in Game 1 of a playoff series? Pineda has a chance in the second half to take hold of that title and make himself the unquestioned No. 1 starter.
As for the rest of the staff, I’ll put the other key guys into these categories:
Obviously health is a concern for any pitcher, but that concern is especially magnified with Tanaka. We already know his elbow ligament was damaged last season, and he’s already missed a month this year because of a forearm strain and some soreness in his wrist. He’s pitched well, but his health is going to be a concern for a while. I’ll also put Miller in this category only because he’s already had one arm issue this season, and I think there’s always some concern that one arm issue could be a part of something more significant. There’s no real evidence that’s the case with Miller, I just think health is always a concern with someone who’s already coming back from an injury.
Two-fifths of the rotation fall into this category of needing to improve in the second half. Sabathia is the poster child for this issue. He’s been excellent against lefties, and has done a better job providing innings than most of his teammates, but Sabathia’s been awful against right-handed hitters — shockingly bad, actually — and his tendency to let outings get away has been well documented. As for Eovaldi, he gives up a ton of hits, but a lot of that has been relatively soft contact — opponents actually have a higher slugging percentage against Pineda — and he’s done a decent job of limiting damage. Needs to pitch deeper into games, though, and if he could put away a few more batters, that’d be nice, too.
Hard to have many complaints about what these four have done this season. Now the trick is to keep it going through the second half of the season. At this point, Betances is building a track record of this kind of success, but he’s still set the bar awfully high. Nova’s been good since returning from Tommy John, but coming back from surgery could leave him prone to inconsistency (and he was pretty inconsistent even before the injury). Warren has already pitched more innings than in either of the past two seasons, and Wilson’s trying to avoid a regression back to last year’s numbers. There’s little saying these guys can’t keep this pace, but the Yankees need them to actually do it.
Shreve might have already answered this question by stepping into the seventh inning role while Miller was hurt. He broke camp as basically the last guy in the bullpen, but now he’s pitched so well that the Yankees are clearly going to trust him with big outs from time to time. Mitchell really hasn’t had much opportunity to prove himself one way or another, but his arm is good enough to be curious about what he might do. For Capuano, the question is whether he can prove he’s good enough to keep around while Mitchell, Shreve and Warren are capable of multiple innings. I’ve also included two prospects who haven’t been called up yet, because their potential emergence — Severino especially — could make a difference down the stretch. To some extent, you could put guys like Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder and (if he gets healthy again) Jacob Lindgren into this group as well.
Associated Press photo
After bouncing back from a rocky second inning and settling in for his first win in more than a month, CC Sabathia revealed a new reason for having this start pushed back three days.
Turns out, he was having his surgically repaired right knee drained of excess fluid.
“We knew that I had to get it drained,” Sabathia said. “And I had the off days coming up, so why not get these young horses out there and kind of let the old man get a couple of days off?”
Sabathia was originally supposed to pitch on Sunday, but the Yankees initially said his start was pushed back so he could work on some things in the bullpen. Sabathia said he had the knee drained after getting home from Anaheim. He said he couldn’t have pitched Sunday after the procedure. He also said this was the second time since spring training that the knee was drained.
“It was just part of our plan of what we were trying to do to stay healthy,” Sabathia said. “I got it drained between the last start and came out today and felt great.”
Ultimately, Sabathia said the extra time off and the drainage helped. He said he felt fresh, and the early problems — when every ball seemed to be a rocket — were the result of poor command and a minor adjustment. He wound up pitching pretty effectively through the middle innings.
“I think just commanding both sides of the plate (made the difference),” he said. “The changeups I was throwing earlier in the game were a little flat. Me and Larry talked about it a lot in-between innings. I just made a little adjustment and the pitch started working for us. It opened up that inside part of the plate and to get some strikes in there, get some early pop-ups, I think definitely helped us tonight. … Put this in the memory bank and kind of work off that.”
Even with the better results after those first two innings — and even though Sabathia said he still felt strong at 88 pitches — Joe Girardi pulled Sabathia in the middle of the sixth inning. There were right-handed hitters coming up, and Girardi clearly didn’t trust Sabathia to keep the A’s to just two runs much longer. Sabathia was predictably frustrated by the quick hook, but he was equally understanding.
“I haven’t proved it,” he said. “Hopefully we get later in the season and I start pitching better late in games and he’ll leave me out there.”
He felt some soreness after last night’s game. He thought it was near the top of the calf, but an MRI revealed inflammation behind the right knee. Headley expects to sit out tomorrow and hopes to play this weekend.
“I don’t anticipate it being anything too serious,” Headley said. “But might be a day or two before we can really get a handle on what it is.”
Headley said he didn’t get any sort of injection, just ice, rest and a compression wrap.
“They said it could be a Grade 1 strain (or) it could be more of a tendinitis type wear and tear, just overuse type thing,” Headley said. “So, with the pain that I feel, that’s more what I expect it to be.”
• This game belonged to Mark Teixeira. A game-tying home run. A second home run to provide a vital cushion. A snagged line drive for a pivotal double play. A leaning catch over the dugout railing. A diving play at the bag to end the eighth inning. And finally a scoop to end the game. “I enjoyed the win the most,” Teixeira said. “If you have a night like that and you lose, it doesn’t mean much. Hitting two home runs is always nice. It’s not easy to hit home runs, so getting two against a tough team is fun.”
• This was Teixeira’s 39th career multi-homer game, his 18th with the Yankees and his second of the season. “All-Star. Comeback Player of the Year. All that,” Sabathia said. “He’s been great for us. Not just the home runs, but how many runs he saves, errors he saves with his glove. It’s good to see him back and healthy and doing his thing.”
• A lot of good plays by Teixeira in this game. He said he thought diving into the bag was the best way to get the out that ended the eighth inning, mostly because he wasn’t sure he could make a safe throw to Dellin Betances covering the bag. “Because of the angle, I would have to be throwing across the runner to throw to him there,” Teixeira said. “I didn’t want to take the chance of Dellin not being able to see the ball or something; I wanted to make sure I got the out on my own.”
• Pretty good play by Teixeira to end the game as well. Gregorio Petit had made a throwing error on the previous play to put the tying run into scoring position, but Petit made a pretty tough play — with help from Teixeira — to preserve the win. “Give Greg a lot of credit,” Teixeira said. “He makes the error, then comes back and makes a really tough play. I just had to stretch a little bit for it, but it was big for us.”
• Last time a Yankees player had multiple home runs in a game was, of course, Stephen Drew. And, of course, Drew’s home run tonight proved absolutely crucial. “It’s a good feeling,” Drew said. “I’ve had good at-bats and no luck. So it’s a really good feeling. You never know how many runs you’re going to need in a game, and tonight we needed it.”
• Drew is still hitting just .179, but he has 12 home runs, the fourth-most on the team. “I mean, you look at stats and you look at how many line drives get caught and it’s pretty crazy,” Drew said. “So for me, I have to keep my head up and keep going because I’m having good ABs, So it’s very strange to say the least. … For me, I’ve swung at good pitches and put good swings on it, just no luck.”
• Andrew Miller on his return from the disabled list: “I actually felt really crisp and really good. He hit a pitch I wanted to throw, though it was clearly the wrong pitch. I feel like I executed pitches, it was just one of those days. Thankfully we got some extra tack-on runs from Stephen Drew and Tex had a great game. At the end of the day, the one thing about having the ninth inning is if you finish with a lead and win the game, it doesn’t matter.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury on his return from the disabled list: I was happy with how it went today. Definitely was pleased. Definitely will sleep good tonight knowing I got through the game. … I’m sure I’ll be a little sore tomorrow. But that’s pretty much the whole season. I don’t know why I’m so beat up, but mentally, prepared to be there tomorrow.”
• The Yankees showed a mid-game video of various player wearing bald caps and urging fans to vote for Brett Gardner for the All-Star Game. Brendan Ryan actually pretended to be Gardner in the video and was hilarious. “He did great,” Gardner said. “I didn’t see the video until out on the field during the game, so I’m not sure I caught the whole thing, but he’s a pretty good actor. He likes the camera. Definitely appreciate all the work they put in, and their standing up for me.”
• By the way, Alex Gordon left tonight’s Royals game with an injury, so Gardner could be named to the All-Star team as an injury replacement. I assume it would come down to him or Yoenis Cespedes. If Gordon can’t play, his replacement will be decided by manager Ned Yost and the league office.
• Final word to Teixeira: “That’s what the big-leagues is all about. If you play every single night, especially as a hitter, you’re going to fail more than you succeed. You can’t let one night carry into the next. You saw it with Dellin tonight, he came in and did a great job 1-2-3. I bounced back after getting pitched really tough yesterday and having a tough night personally, so that’s what you have to do.”
Associated Press photos