Chase Whitley kept clenching his fist. He wasn’t finishing off his pitches. He’d focus on Brian McCann’s glove set on the inner half of the plate, then fire a fastball outside for a ball.
“I had no idea where it was going,” Whitley admitted.
It was finally McCann who motioned to the dugout and called for the trainer. He knows what Whitley’s supposed to look like on the mound, and this wasn’t it. Manager Joe Girardi got to the rubber, and for the first time, Whitley admitted that his elbow was bothering him. That’s when Girardi patted Whitley on the chest. When Whitley slammed the ball into McCann’s glove, it wasn’t because he wanted to stay in the game, it was because he knew he couldn’t.
“I knew something was up,” McCann said. “He’s a tough guy. He’s not going to say anything, so he wanted to keep pitching. It was one of those things where you could see it. … He wanted to fight through it.”
The Yankees haven’t said Whitley needs Tommy John surgery, but that’s clearly the concern. Girardi said only that the pain is “in that area you don’t want to talk about,” and Whitley seemed to have accepted whatever tomorrow’s MRI is going to show. The team has already announced that Chris Capuano will take Whitley’s spot in the rotation.
“It’s extremely disappointing because this kid’s done everything that we’ve asked,” Girardi said. “He’s been trying to deal with it. It’s a kid that’s never been hurt and he just felt like, he said, ‘You know, once I got going, I was always fine.’ … I feel for him, because like I said, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. A reliever turned starter that gave us big innings last year. He’s done a good job for us this year. Pitched extremely well in spring training. We asked him to go down and be a starter for us in case something happens, and now he’s got to deal with this.”
In his previous starts, Whitley said, adrenaline seemed to take over. Whatever pain he’d felt in bullpens more or less disappeared in his games. He had a terrific spring, pitched well in Scranton, gave the Yankees two strong starts after his call-up, then struggled the past two times out. This time, the pain was there from the beginning. McCann said Whitley was spiking his changeup (usually his best pitch) and fastball command was erratic (that’s usually a strength).
“Tonight it just carried over to the game,” Whitley said. “I’ve been able to get through it in the game, and tonight obviously you could pretty much tell.”
Tomorrow’s MRI should give the Yankees their final diagnosis, but optimism seemed low in the clubhouse.
“The first thought is Tommy John because it’s so prevalent,” Adam Warren said. “Just makes it more real when it’s somebody real close to you. It’s just one of those injuries, it’s hard to prevent. It’s a unnatural arm motion for your arm. I hate to assume the worst right away, but that’s the first thing you think about. That’s my concern, and I’m sure he’s worried about it too.”
• While Girardi committed to Chris Capuano joining the rotation, he wasn’t sure when it would happen. Wouldn’t be surprising to see a reliever come up for at least the start of the Royals series. Earliest Capuano could pitch would be Sunday, anyway.
• When Whitley left the game, Esmil Rogers’ first pitch was a pretty decent slider that No. 9 hitter Rene Rivera hit for a three-run homer. “It was a good pitch, good location,” McCann said. “All you can do is tip your hat on that one.”
• Although Rogers had to be rushed into duty, he had plenty of time to get ready. He said he felt fully loose and didn’t think the circumstances coming into the game contributed to the home run. “It was a good pitch,” Rogers said. “I think maybe they were looking for that. The location was down and away, and he got it.”
• Whitley actually threw more balls than strikes tonight. He’s the first Yankees starter to do that since A.J. Burnett on June 26, 2010 against the Dodgers.
• Reliever Branden Pinder, who could easily have been the guy sent down for Capuano, seems like to stick around now. Tonight he pitched another scoreless inning. He’s only pitched four innings so far this season, but he’s allowed just two hits. Three of his four appearances have come at Tropicana Field. He’s pitched here three times and still hasn’t pitched at Yankee Stadium.
• Alex Rodriguez’s ninth-inning home run let the Yankees avoid their first shutout loss since September 15, 2014 (a game that also happened at Tropicana Field). They have played 49 games since their last shutout. They are one of three teams that have not been shutout this season (Detroit and Toronto are the others).
• Rodriguez’s home run also let the Yankees avoid going without an extra-base hit for the third-straight game. Would have been the first time that had happened to the Yankees since 2000. Before the home run, the Yankees went 98 at-bats without an extra-base hit between Mark Teixeira’s ninth-inning home run on Monday and Rodriguez’s ninth-inning home run tonight.
• The Yankees have scored in three of their past 27 innings.
• Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Rodriguez — the one, two, three hitters — combined to go 5-for-11 tonight. The rest of the lineup went 0-for-19.
• Rodriguez’s home run was his 1,000th RBI as a Yankee. He’s two career RBI away from Babe Ruth’s total of 1,992 (fourth all-time since RBI became an official stat in 1920). Of Rodriguez’s nine home runs this season, four have come against the Rays, and three of those have come against rookies.
• Girardi and several Yankees players said they felt the team hit the ball harder than the numbers suggest tonight. That really did seem to the case, at least for this game. Maybe not the past two games, but tonight there were some hard-hit balls. “I’d say we hit six or seven balls really hard that they caught tonight,” Girardi said. “You put that with the four or five hits, if they fall, I mean the one inning we had three guys line out. You could add a couple of runs in possibly, with a runner on second and nobody out. But it didn’t happen. They played good defense and we just didn’t get the hits.”
• Final word goes to Gardner: “I think if we went out there and struck out 15 or 20 times and things were real ugly, I think it would be a little different, but some guys swung the bats well. Chase Headley swung the bat really, really well tonight and nothing to show for it. We’ve got to keep our heads up and realize we’re still in first place. The last couple of days have been tough, but we’ll be fine.”
Associated Press photos
Jorge Posada doesn’t think Alex Rodriguez belongs in the Hall of Fame, and he seems unhappy that A-Rod beat him for the MVP award a dozen years ago.
“You know, the only thing that I can think is 2003,” Posada said during a interview with CBS This Morning. “You know, I was close to the MVP. Didn’t happen. Alex won the MVP and, you know, I think second was either Carlos Delgado or David Ortiz, I don’t remember. But, I was almost there. You know what could’ve happened if, you know, it’s tough. It’s really tough.”
All of this, of course, is because of Rodriguez’s use of performance enhancing drugs. Posada made his comments while promoting his new book.
“I think the guys that need to be in the Hall of Fame need to be a player that played with no controversy,” Posada said.
During the interview, Posada acknowledged he had never discussed any of this with Rodriguez, and in the Yankees’ clubhouse this afternoon, Rodriguez took the high road in responding to Posada’s criticism.
“I consider Jorgie a friend,” Rodriguez said. “… I have nothing bad to say about Jorgie. I have nothing but good things to say about Jorgie. He was a great player and a good teammate and we won a championship in ’09 together.”
For the most part, Rodriguez seems to have been embraced by many players throughout the league, and his current teammates seem to have accepted him with no problems.
“I’ve been so humbled by the response I’ve gotten, not only from my current teammates but from former teammates,” Rodriguez said. “The support that I’ve had is overwhelming and I just feel extremely grateful.”
Posada will be at Yankee Stadium later this season to have his number retired. Rodriguez said he will not find that inevitable encounter to be awkward.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Jorge is a friend. We’ll keep it simple. Keep it light.”
The video above is from this morning’s interview.
• Stephen Drew said that, in his entire life, he has never played third base in a game. He took some ground balls at the position yesterday, and now he’s starting there in a big league game. “I kind of know my role,” Drew said. “Yeah, it’s something new, but at the same time just trust my hands and my feet and go from there. That’s all you can really do. I’m not going to go over there and start stressing that I haven’t played. It’s just more reaction and hopefully I can do my job there.”
• Joe Girardi said he no longer considers Rodriguez to be a true backup at either third base or first base. He might play the field occasionally, but the Yankees want him to be a full-time designated hitter. “I’m thinking we’ll play him a lot more if we can DH him,” Girardi said.
• Rodriguez said he’s on board with being a full-time DH going forward. “I’m totally on board with whatever Joe wants,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve said that from Day 1. Whatever Joe wants. I played third base in the ninth inning the other day and was pretty nervous about that. That was pretty alarming. Whatever Joe wants, I can do.”
• Jose Pirela actually has some third base experience, but the Yankees clearly don’t like him at the position. Asked why he’s using Drew at third ahead of Pirela, Girardi said only: “We just felt that Stephen will make the adjustment easier than Jose.”
• Rodriguez said his sore left hamstring feels better today. Obviously he’s been able to play through the issue. Doesn’t seem to be a huge issue, but Girardi said he was especially hesitant to use Rodriguez at third while the hamstring is even a mild issue.
• Chase Headley doesn’t have a specific injury, Girardi said, but he’s taken a beating lately with diving plays and such. “He’s just beat up,” Girardi said. “All the diving that he does. He just kind of physically could use a day, so we decided to do it today.”
• Masahiro Tanaka will throw another bullpen on Friday.
• The Yankees are still deciding whether to have Chris Capuano make another rehab start or activate him in a few days to rejoin the rotation. Two off days next week really takes some of the urgency away. The rotation is about to get extra rest regardless. “We just kind of touched on (discussing Capuano’s play) today,” Girardi said. “I talked to Cash. I talked to Larry some. Obviously we want to see how he feels physically and have a chance to talk to him. We’ve got to make a decision. It’s not urgent that we make it today or tomorrow, but we’ll probably have him throw a side tomorrow and have him be on line depending on what we do.”
Associated Press photo
Weird to see a player show up without being added to the active roster, but that’s exactly what’s happened with Jose Pirela. He’s still technically on the disabled list — so he can be with the team — but his rehab assignment has ended, and the Yankees plan to activate him tomorrow.
“It’s kind of strange,” Joe Girardi said. “But we felt that we’ll fly him in today, have him hit, get him on the turf and feel what it’s like.”
Makes perfect sense that the Yankees want Pirela active for tomorrow’s game against a lefty, but it does seem a bit odd that he’s not playing tonight considering the Yankees are having Gregorio Petit start at third base. Pirela’s played that position, and in theory could have played there tonight. Maybe the Yankees want to keep Pirela at second base? Maybe someone other than Petit is coming off the roster tomorrow? Maybe the team wants to make sure certain players get through today healthy before making a decision.
“Let us get through today and then we’ll go from there,” Girardi said. “I know you guys are trying to figure out what the move is, but we’ll make it tomorrow. Something could change it today. That’s why you don’t do it.”
Pirela’s been terrific in his past few games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but Girardi indicated that he still expects Stephen Drew to get regular playing time despite his .149 batting average.
“I still think he’s hit the ball better than the numbers indicate,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t had a lot of luck, and he’s had some really big hits for us. I know he’s a better hitter than what the average shows. I know that.”
So is there a chance for Pirela to become more than just a right-handed platoon player?
“I’ll go day-by-day,” Girardi said. “Until he’s reinstated, until we start seeing what we have, I don’t think it does us a lot of good to speculate.”
• Last night’s lineup and late-inning defense make a little more sense now. Turns out, Mark Teixeira has been dealing with a lat issue that made him available only in an extreme situation last night. “We talked about possibly giving him Sunday off (as well),” Girardi said. “I said, ‘If you need more than one day you’ve got to let me know.’ He came in today and said he was fine.”
• Girardi said he was going to let Teixeira pinch hit last night if it were a one-run game, or presumably if Teixeira could have come to the plate as the tying run, but the team didn’t put anyone on base in the ninth. “He’s been able to manage it,” Girardi said. “You try to get him a day off to see if you can get it to calm down and get it healed. He’s been getting treatment for the last few days, and hopefully it’s gone, it’s behind us, but we’ll see.”
• Healthy day off for Chase Headley, Girardi said. “He’s almost played every game,” Girardi said. “We felt he needed a day today.”
• Why not let Alex Rodriguez play third? “I really didn’t want to do it just because of the turf and I’d like to keep him at DH as much as possible,” Girardi said.
• Dellin Betances is not available today. He’s pitched three of the past four, and Girardi doesn’t want guys to pitch four of five. He didn’t completely rule it out, but it’s pretty clear using Betances would be a kind of last resort at best.
• Girardi said he’s pretty sure Chris Capuano is making a rehab appearance with Double-A Trenton on Thursday. Capuano will pitch somewhere that day. Girardi thinks it will be Trenton.
• Jared Burton is off the disabled list. He was assigned to High-A Tampa today. Seems likely to end up with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre eventually.
• Chris Young will play tomorrow against the lefty, Girardi said. The Yankees have been encouraged by Carlos Beltran’s at-bats lately.
Associated Press photos
Four hits for Jose Pirela this afternoon with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He had three hits on Saturday, and three more hits on Friday. If you’re scoring at home, that’s 10 hits in the past three days. And they weren’t all soft hits either. Three doubles today. A home run yesterday.
“I would say he’s probably ready to go,” manager Joe Girardi acknowledged. “We wanted to get him a few more at-bats when we had that luxury of calling Petit back, and now we’ve got to make a decision of what we want to do.”
Gregorio Petit has actually played pretty well lately as the Yankees’ right-handed middle infielder, but it’s hard to ignore the potential offensive impact of Pirela who almost certainly would have made the team out of spring training had he not been out with a concussion as the team broke camp.
Now, Girardi said, the team is considering the possibility of ending Pirela’s rehab assignment, and a move to the big league roster isn’t out of the question.
“We’ve talked about it,” Girardi said. “We’ll continue to evaluate and see what we’re going to do.”
As of Wednesday, Pirela didn’t have many at-bats and wasn’t hitting much when the Yankees put Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list and recalled Petit just one day after optioning him to Triple-A. Now it’s a different story. Pirela got red-hot this weekend, he hit well in spring training, and he showed last year that he belongs on the big league radar as an offensive utility guy who just might be able to spark something at the plate.
Would be interesting to see if Pirela could come up and do, basically, what Chris Young has done. While Young doesn’t play every day, he’s gotten more playing time than expected because he’s hit so well. He’s out of the lineup today, but there have been plenty of times he’s played ahead of struggling Carlos Beltran. Could Pirela do the same to either Stephen Drew or Didi Gregorios?
• One other note on that right-handed infield job: Brendan Ryan felt some sort of pull in his hamstring while running yesterday so his rehab has been shut down. He’ll be reevaluated in a week. He seemed to be getting closer to replacing Petit, and I wonder if his setback might make the Yankees more likely to make a move with Pirela.
• Little surprise that Beltran is back int he lineup against a right-handed pitcher tonight. The Yankees have said several times they’re going to keep giving Beltran regular chances to get his bat going. “Let’s go back to the other day,” Girardi said. “He had two hits and he hit the ball hard. His two hits, he swung at good pitches. When he made the out, it was probably a ball just a little bit off the plate. So a lot of it has to do with pitch selection, which is the case a lot of times with hitters when they’re struggling. Sometimes it can be a little bit mechanical. I think it was probably part of that, early on, but I think that’s probably corrected. And now I think it will probably come down to pitch selection.”
• Chris Capuano went four innings without an earned run with High-A Tampa yesterday. Girardi said all went well with Ivan Nova and Jared Burton in an intrasquad game as well. “Everything was good,” he said. “I would imagine that their next step is five days away from yesterday and continue to build them up.”
• Speaking of which, the Yankees plan to stay on rotation this next week, but they might add a sixth starter for the next turn through. Girardi said he doesn’t expect Capuano to be available by then, so this could be — my own speculation — an opportunity for Bryan Mitchell. “I don’t think we’ll use it this time through,” Girardi said. “The next time, we have not discussed it, but there will be some discussion.”
• Girardi said he thinks the bullpen has performed about as well as a bullpen can possibly perform in the past two weeks or so. It is interesting, though, to see David Carpenter not getting many high-leverage situations so far this season. He’s been almost the next-to-last guy in the pen ahead of only Chasen Shreve. “His time is going to come,” Girardi said. “We know that. The other guys have pitched so well, we’ve kind of went with it. That can go in phases. His time is going o come.”
• More than three outs from Andrew Miller tonight? “I’ll see,” Girardi said. “I’ll talk to him. It’s not something you want to do a lot, but if I felt the situation called for it, and he felt OK, I might consider it.”
Associated Press photos
Mid-summer 1994, Alex Rodriguez was right here at Fenway Park for his Major League debut. He was an 18-year-old kid, barely a year removed from being the top overall draft pick out of high school. He’d played a half season of minor league ball. He remembers his mother, brother and sister being in the crowd. He also remembers this:
“How nervous I was,” he said. “I was a month (removed) from my high school prom.”
Now Rodriguez is back. It would be absurd to try to capture in a few sentences all that’s happened between then and now, but Rodriguez’s go-to quote about his early season at-bats seems appropriate: “Some good. Some bad.”
Unlike 21 years ago, Rodriguez isn’t in the lineup tonight. Joe Girardi has loaded the Yankees lineup with left-handed hitters to take advantage of Red Sox starter Justin Masterson’s weakness against lefties, and so it seems Rodriguez’s hunt for milestone home run No. 660 will have to wait for either another day or a late-inning pinch hit opportunity.
“I wanted to do it Wednesday at home,” Rodriguez said. “It would have been nice to do it at home in front of our home fans. But now I’m on the road and the goal doesn’t change. It’s still to win games and to win series.”
Out of spring training, Rodriguez homered four times in his first 31 at-bats. That outburst put him two away from tying Willie Mays for fourth on baseball’s all-time list. Since he got that close, he’s hit one homer in his past 37 at-bats. Since he pulled within one of the milestone on Sunday, he’s gone 1-for-12, including that brutal four-strikeout game on Wednesday.
Rodriguez didn’t specifically say he was pressing on Wednesday, but he acknowledges a past difficulty with approaching milestones. It took him 28 at-bats to finally hit home run No. 500, and 46 at-bats to finally reach 600.
“Some of the pitches that he’s swung at and the ones that he’s missed a little bit, maybe (he’s been) trying to get it out of the way,” Girardi said. “As much as I want to tell him to relax, it’s something he’s going to have to do to get it out of the way. … I think it’s probably part of most players when they get to the level of accomplishments these guys have reached. We saw it weigh really hard on Derek (Jeter trying to reach 3,000 hits). That was one that I didn’t think that would be. I just think it’s difficult.”
Seems safe to assume Rodriguez will be back in the lineup tomorrow afternoon for his next shot at tying Mays, who Rodriguez has called a hero; his father’s favorite player. Does it bother him that many will see his 660th home run as something far less impressive than Mays’ 660th?
“The only thing I can control is what I do from here on out and how I conduct myself both on and off the field,” he said. “I can’t really decide for other people what to think. … You know I have regrets, and I’m trying to do the best to finish my career on a high note.”
• Chris Capuano will start a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa tomorrow. He’s scheduled for four innings or 60 pitches. Sounds like he could need as little as three minor league starts before becoming a big league option. “Everything that he’s doing is going in the right direction,” Girardi said. “You think about 60, 75, 90 and then you go from there.”
• Ivan Nova will pitch one inning in an intrasquad game tomorrow. Jared Burton will pitch in the same game.
• Now that Jose Pirela’s rehab has been moved up to Triple-A, he’s clearly getting much closer to being a big league option — and the Yankees were ready to call him up on Wednesday before Tanaka got hurt — but Girardi said, at this point, the team still hasn’t decided whether Pirela will come to the big leagues or stay in Triple-A after his rehab is finished. “It’s something that we have discussed about what we might possibly do with him or not do with him,” Girardi said. “But obviously I think at-bats are important. He was out a month, maybe? Almost a month? You’ve got to get him some at-bats and some real game situations playing different positions.”
• Brendan Ryan got some DH at-bats today in extended spring training. He’s obviously inching closer to a rehab assignment of his own.
• Stacking the lineup with lefties means a rare start for Garrett Jones, who’s played in fewer games than Gregorio Petit at this point. “When we envisioned him, we envisioned him DHing some and maybe playing a little first and a little outfield,” Girardi said. “With Alex swinging the bat so well in April, Chris Young swinging the bat so well in April, it’s just been tough for Garrett.”
• Speaking of that lineup of all left-handed hitters (counting the switch hitters), Girardi said that was a decision 100-percent connected to Red Sox starter Justin Masterson. In his career, Masterson has held right-handed hitters to a .220 average and .606 OPS. Lefties have hit .287 with a .794 OPS.
• CC Sabathia is going for his first win of the year. He’s taken the loss in all four of his starts. “I think there’s frustration there because I think he’s pitched well enough three of the four games to win,” Girardi said. “He loses an extremely tough on in Detroit. We haven’t scored a lot of runs in his games. Hopefully we can do that tonight and give him some run support and get him a win.”
• By the way, the Yankees mustache thing is still going strong. John Ryan Murphy and Gregorio Petit are among the more impressive stache-growers of the bunch. Poor Dellin Betances and Adam Warren, not so much.
Associated Press photos
A few rehab and injury updates from Brian Cashman:
After finally pitching in back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday, Bailey was taken off the High-A Tampa roster and reassigned to extended spring training. The move was made because of a shoulder issue, and an MRI revealed a strain. Bailey has been shut down for now, and Cashman said he didn’t have a clear timetable for when Bailey will be back on the mound. Bailey has an opt-out in his contract, but obviously that won’t be an issue if he’s hurt. I suppose the good news is that bullpen help is the least of the Yankees’ worries right now.
After one game with High-A Tampa and three games with Double-A Trenton, Pirela’s rehab assignment will move to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre today. Pirela played both second and third with Trenton, and I can’t help thinking he might focus on third base with Scranton since Rob Refsnyder is at second and the Yankees don’t have a clear go-to option at third should Chase Headley get hurt. Cashman said it has yet to be determined what the Yankees will do with Pirela when his rehab ends, whether he goes to New York or gets optioned to Triple-A. So far he’s 1-for-14 in these early minor league games.
The Yankees have a rehab schedule set for Capuano, though Cashman wouldn’t give details of when it starts or when it’s expected to finish (wants to avoid questions if the schedule has to be slightly tweaked along the way). For now, the bigger point is that Capuano is very close to pitching in rehab games. He last pitched in an extended spring training game on Monday. He’s getting closer to becoming a big league option following that spring training quadriceps injury. I suppose Capuano could be an alternative should Chase Whitley struggle in his return to the rotation. No rehab assignment plan in place for Ivan Nova, Cashman said.
I’m guessing this could be a factor in the Pirela decision: Ryan has been playing in extended spring training games, so he also seems close to a rehab assignment, which could put him in line to replace Gregorio Petit as the right-handed middle infielder fairly soon.
Remember him? The veteran reliever who spent the past few years with the Twins got hurt in spring training, wound up released and then re-signed a minor league deal. He’s been pitching in extended spring training, and Cashman said Burton could be assigned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pretty soon. The Yankees liked the way Burton pitched early in spring training, but he wound up going down with a lat injury. He’s further depth for a bullpen that already looks awfully deep.
At this time yesterday, Masahiro Tanaka has still not told the Yankees about his sore wrist. He hadn’t gone for the MRI that revealed a strained forearm, and he hadn’t received the diagnosis that spark renewed questions about his elbow and ability to avoid Tommy John surgery.
“When he came up and said his wrist hurt, I was like, wow,” Joe Girardi said. “Cause the starts were good, the bullpen session was good, and I wasn’t prepared for that. So that’s why I used the word a little shocked when I heard because everything had went great.”
Michael Pineda was actually supposed to throw a bullpen yesterday and Girardi stopped him in the early afternoon, explaining he might have to pitch today instead. And, of course, that’s exactly what happened.
After those first four starts this season, things were actually encouraging with Tanaka. He’d pitched especially well in the past two starts, and he’d complained of no soreness in his elbow or anywhere else. Now that we know the newest injuries, though, it’s hard to think of Tanaka in any other context. Sure, he was pitching well, but the Yankees have known for a long time that Tanaka’s capable of pitching well. But that’s only when he’s healthy enough to actually be on the mound.
“Is there concern? Of course there is,” Girardi said. “Anytime you have to shut a pitcher down, there’s concern. With what happened last year, I can’t tell you if they’re related or not, but you’re going to think about it. You’re going to think about a lot of different scenarios. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed and hope it’s not much, but we’ll deal with it either way.”
Initially, when Tanaka was only complaining about a little wrist soreness, Girardi was thinking it might be a two-week issue.
“My recommendation was kind of a DL there and he would come back as soon as those 15 days were up because you could back-date it,” Girardi said. “And we were already 5 or 6 days. So with the little bit of a strain (as well), it’s definitely DL.”
That’s the only thing that’s certain for now. Tanaka is definitely on the disabled list. How long he’ll stay there and how soon he’ll be back on it remains anyone’s guess.
• Would Girardi like to see Alex Rodriguez get No. 660 out of the way before this weekend’s series at Fenway? “It just might crowd our clubhouse a little bit more if he doesn’t,” Girardi said. “But it doesn’t matter either way. I’d prefer that he does it with two or three guys on today and gets it over with.”
• Even with another starter added to the disabled list, Girardi said he’d still consider using a spot starter during this next long stretch of games. Wonder if Bryan Mitchell might come up for a start in the next week or so.
• The Yankees have gotten eight scoreless innings out of their bullpen the past two days, but Girardi said the pen is still rested enough to handle today’s game. They’d like to get distance out of Michael Pineda, but it’s not a dire situation. “I think that’s important,” Girardi said. “But our bullpen’s OK. It helps that we have a day off tomorrow, I think that’s important. The only guy that I’d probably stay away from is Esmil.”
• Will the late change of plans impact Pineda today? “It shouldn’t be a factor,” Girardi said. “It probably won’t hurt him at all.”
• Around 10:30 this morning, Gregorio Petit walked into the Yankees’ clubhouse carrying the same bag he took out of the clubhouse yesterday. Teammates were laughing and offering hugs. A bizarre welcome back moment for a guy who barely left.
• Just a day off for Brett Gardner and Brian McCann against a left-handed starter.
• Because these seem a little more relevant now, here’s a quick update on Ivan Nova and Chris Capuano: Each one last pitched on Monday. Nova threw a simulated game, and Capuano pitched in extended spring training. Neither is ready to come off the disabled list just yet, obviously. “They did well,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure if the next step, because it was a shorter outing, if it’s Friday or Saturday.”
Associated Press photos
Just a few days ago, Joe Girardi was talking about not making too much of a few at-bats. He was determined to give his veteran hitters time to right the ship. There would be no significant changes based on strong starts or slow starts.
In the past two days, though, we’ve seen some lineup tweaks involving Carlos Beltran. Last night, Beltran returned from illness to find himself dropped to fifth in the order so that Alex Rodriguez could remain in the No. 3 spot. Today, Beltran is on the bench so that red-hot Chris Young can get another start against a lefty (and so that two left-handed hitting outfielders can stay in the lineup).
Girardi made it clear that Beltran will play again tomorrow, but today he basically had a choice of playing Young ahead of Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury or Brett Gardner, and he chose to sit the switch-hitter Beltran.
“Just the way Chris has been playing and Gardy and Ells, too,” Girardi said. “Carlos will be back in there tomorrow. Just the way I went with it today.”
Two things at play here: Rodriguez and Young have basically been must-play guys, especially against left-handed pitchers, and Beltran has struggled to a .171/.222/.268 start to the season. Girardi has expressed confidence that Beltran will turn it around — and sitting him today is certainly not an indication that Beltran’s going to be a regular bench player going forward — but at this point, Ellsbury, Gardner and Young have been the Yankees three best outfielders.
Young, in particular, has been a potent source of power, kind of building on his strong September of a year ago.
“It’s been great,” Young said. “I love it here. This team received me well. The clubhouse is amazing. The coaching staff is amazing. I’ve gotten an opportunity here, so I’m really grateful for that.”
Girardi made a point of saying this isn’t a right-field platoon in which Beltran will always sit against lefties, but at this point, Young’s made it awfully hard to keep him out of the lineup.
“I think that’s what he’s done,” Girardi said. “He’s pushed himself into that position, and that’s why I chose to go the way I did today.”
A few quick updates from extended spring training:
• Jose Pirela went 1-for-3 while playing third base in an extended spring game yesterday. He was hit by a pitch in his first at-bat but stayed in the game. He will play seven innings at second base tomorrow.
• Ivan Nova threw two innings, 35 pitches, of live batting practice.
• Chris Capuano will throw two innings in an extended spring game tomorrow.
• Brendan Ryan took ground balls and went through batting practice.
• The Yankees defense was awful when the season started, but lately it’s been a definite strength. “I just think they were too good not to turn around,” Girardi said. “I just think what we saw is not something we ever expected and just kind of got off to a slow start defensively. It was hard to put your finger on it.”
• Meanwhile, the Yankees offense has been extremely home run heavy. They’ve hit a lot of homers, but they don’t have a single player batting .300 and only three everyday guys have an on-base percentage higher than .317. “It is kind of strange,” Girardi said. “We’ve produced a lot of our runs by the home run, and we knew we had power in our lineup. I don’t think it will always be like that. We scored five in Tampa the other day without hitting a home run. I’m not so sure we’ve done that too often this year. That’s the kind of club we are. We have some speed at the top obviously, but you look at 3 through 7, 3 through 8, they have the ability to hit a lot of home runs.”
• The Yankees face another lefty tomorrow (not just any lefty, David Price). Girardi said he expects Didi Gregorius to play that game (presumably with Stephen Drew on the bench), and he expects Beltran back in the lineup with either Gardner or Ellsbury on the bench.
• Chasen Shreve is back, but he’s back against a lineup that has a bunch of right-handed hitters. Essentially, it sounds like he’ll be the long man these next three days, leaving Esmil Rogers available for shorter outings in right-on-right situations. “The one thing about Chasen is he gives you multiple innings more than a Branden (Pinder) does,” Girardi said. “Against a lineup that has a lot of right-handers, it allows you to use Esmil a little bit differently.”
• Talked to Shreve for a little bit this afternoon. He said that the morning after the 19-inning game — when Shreve pitched 3.1 scoreless innings — Andrew Miller actually said something to him about the Yankees definitely needing to call up a fresh reliever for the next game. Shreve said he completely agreed, but it never once occurred to him that he’d be the one sent down. After he was told, Shreve said, he instantly realized that he was the most logical option. Funny, it takes most players a little bit of time before they’re able to put those sort of pieces together. Shreve was smiling about it today. Totally gets why it happened, but he’s obviously happy to be back.
• Girardi on last night’s anti-media rant by Reds manager Bryan Price: “We live in a day that strategy is very important to us, and people (in the media) are so good at what they do now that it’s hard to keep something like (not having a player) under wraps. For me, I try to understand that. And I understand that the media business is very competitive, but we don’t like to give out our strategy. That’s part of it. I’m sure if he had a chance to do it over again, he might have did it a little different. Sometimes we get upset and we say things that we wish we had said a little bit differently.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi made this much clear: If Carlos Beltran were in the lineup today, he would be hitting third, not Alex Rodriguez. It’s really not much different from the fourth game of the season when Beltran got his first day off and, after just three games, Rodriguez was the choice for the No. 3 spot.
“I’m not afraid to move Alex up,” Girardi said.
Of course, at this point such a move seems to carry more weight because Rodriguez has been by far the Yankees best and most productive hitter. He hit seventh on Opening Day, but he’s been that low in the order only once since then. He’s hit 2 through 5 as many times as he’s hit sixth or seventh.
More important than where he hits seems to be how often he’s played. Rodriguez has only been out of the lineup once this season, and even then he was used as a pinch hitter. He’s one of four Yankees who have played every game.
“I think I’ve been good at times, and sometimes I’ve been poor at recognizing pitches,” Rodriguez said. “Once I get past the 100 at-bat mark, I’m going to have a much better feel. But I’m just trying to grind and get better every day. … Let’s see if you can do this for six months. Anyone can do it for 10 games.”
Girardi said he never tries to ride a hot hand when setting his lineup. He looks for something more substantial than a hot streak. But with Rodriguez, there is something more substantial. Now that he’s been hitting like this for a 10 games, it’s easy to remember that he used to be one of the great hitters in baseball history.
“There’s a sense that he’s going to be productive all year, absolutely,” Girardi said.
How long it takes for that to lock him into a spot in the heart of the order remains anyone’s guess, but moving up to this spot in the lineup is nothing new. Girardi literally did it in the fourth game of the season. Now it’s a matter of finding out when he might stick in one of those spots.
“That’s always something that’s good to have is Joe’s trust,” Rodriguez said. “That’s something that I’m always working for. We have a lot of history here. Wherever he puts me, I’m ready to go.”
• Beltran is sick. He has a cold/congestion thing that’s been going around the Yankees clubhouse. Apparently it wasn’t great yesterday, and it’s even worse today. “I don’t know (if he’ll play tomorrow),” Girardi said. “I don’t know how he’ll respond. This cold these guys have had, I think Tony Pena has probably had it the worst. It’s lasted a few days, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
• Rays starter Jake Odorizzi is a right-handed pitcher, but he has reverse splits so the Yankees tried to load up on right-handed hitters. That’s why Chris Young and Gregorio Petit are in the lineup.
• Still a good chance the Yankees will use a spot starter either this turn through the rotation or next turn through the rotation. Chase Whitley started in Triple-A yesterday, which would seem to leave him pretty well lined up for a spot start in Detroit that would keep all of the big league starter on an every-sixth-day routine. That said, it’s also supposed to rain in Detroit. Girardi said he’ll wait to see whether games are rained out before deciding for sure about when and where to use a spot starter.
• Chris Capuano is scheduled for a 45-pitch live batting practice session tomorrow. Girardi said the plan is to have Capuano stretched out as a starter during his rehab from that spring training quad injury.
• Stephen Drew said he had no idea he and his brother J.D. had become just the eighth set of siblings to each have 100 home runs in the big leagues. “That’s pretty neat,” Drew said. “I haven’t really looked into the stats much, like all the history stats unless it comes up like the big ones. Other than that, just it’s pretty special just to get that and have that is pretty unique. Playing this game, you never know if you’ll get even 50, so getting 100 is an accomplishment in itself.”
• Yankees announced today that LHP Matt Tracy was claimed off waivers by the Marlins. Also, RHP Joel De La Cruz was outrighted off the Major League roster and onto the roster of Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
• Rodriguez found it hilarious today that people on Twitter have been asking about the white stuff on his batting helmet. He through the writers were kidding him when it was brought up, then he couldn’t stop laughing at the idea that anyone would notice (it’s hard to miss, actually) or care about the state of his helmet. “It’s just rosin,” Rodriguez said, laughing. “Good stuff. The rosin bag. You actually get that on Twitter? I thought you were kidding. I can’t imagine.”
Associated Press photos
Wearing a new padded wrist guard, Brett Gardner hit inside when he got to Tropicana Field earlier today. That went well enough that he was given permission to take full batting practice with the team during the usual pregame workout.
Doesn’t sound likely that he could hit his way into the lineup, but Gardner said he’s basically ready to play.
“If I don’t get a chance to play today, hopefully tomorrow,” he said. “I hit in the cage and it felt pretty good.”
Even after yesterday’s MRI showed nothing more serious than a bone bruise, the Yankees still decided to give Gardner one more day off. That’s pretty standard around here, where the Yankees seem to favor a cautionary approach to all injuries.
“My inclination is to give him one more day,” Girardi said. “But I want to see BP first. He did take some swings off the tee and said he felt pretty good, but let’s just see what happens after BP.”
The wrist guard Gardner’s wearing is pretty small and it’s designed in a way that doesn’t restrict movement. He said he’ll be wearing it when he finally does get back in the lineup.
• Ivan Nova threw his second live batting practice of the week this morning at the minor league complex. “I’m getting closer,” Nova told The Associated Press. “Feels awesome.” Girardi said Nova’s schedule calls for him to begin pitching in actual minor league rehab games around May 1. Pretty much the schedule that’s been expected for several months now.
• Chris Capuano’s second live batting practice is scheduled for Sunday. He actually has a locker setup in the clubhouse for this series at Tropicana Field.
• When Capuano threw live batting practice earlier this week, Jose Pirela was one of the hitters he faced. Pirela is basically going through every drill and is scheduled to play an extended spring training game on Monday. He’s been working his way back from a concussion since late spring training. When he’s ready, will he go to Triple-A or join the big league bench? “I don’t know,” Girardi said. “Let’s just get him healthy first. Make sure he’s only seeing one of everything.”
• Girardi said Brendan Ryan “might” come down to Tampa next week to start going through some workouts on his way back from that spring calf injury. When Giradri said “might,” I took it to mean Ryan’s definitely coming down barring any sort of setback.
• Given the way Alex Rodriguez has hit — and given the way guys like Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann have hit — why isn’t Alex Rodriguez hitting higher than sixth? “I don’t think you can make too much of nine games,” Girardi said. “If you started moving your hitters according to every nine-game period you play, you’d be doing it all the time. We’re trying to have as much of a set lineup as you can. We don’t have Gardy in there, so I’ve used the same lineup two days in a row. I liked the way the guys swung the bats the other night, so we’ll just keep it the same.”
• The Yankees still don’t have a defined closer, but Girardi’s been using Andrew Miller in those situations, and it certainly sounds like that might be the case again here in Tampa. “We haven’t named it,” Girardi said. “Have I used him as the closer the last couple times? Yeah. We’ll let it play out a little but and see how this works out. Obviously in this situation, you would think about against Tampa — because they have so many right-handed hitters in the lineup — that you’d use Dellin more for four- or five-outs more than you would Miller.”
• Girardi said the Yankees are still actively discussing the idea of a spot starter at some point during this heavy stretch of games without many off days. He specifically mentioned Chase Whitley and Bryan Mitchell as candidates to come up and start at some point to give everyone an extra day off. He said that if/when they do it could depend on weather. If they get rained out in Detroit next week, then the sixth-starter call-up could be pushed back. “It’s something that’s on the back of our minds,” Girardi said. “And we’ve kind of prepared ourselves for it.”
Associated Press photos