It was the first four innings that Hiroki Kuroda held the Braves scoreless. It was in his last three innings that he gave up a couple of runs. In spring training, though, results are only part of the story, and Kuroda was much happier with the way he finished today’s next-to-last spring start.
“In the beginning I didn’t feel right, but I was able to make adjustments,” he said. “… Every game that I start I have to make some kind of adjustment, and I was able to do that the last few games that I pitched in spring training. I think I’m ready for that. I just hope I don’t get hurt.”
As long as he remains injury free, the Yankees seem happy with their offseason free agent signing. Pitching outside of the National League West for the first time, Kuroda has been exactly what the Yankees were expecting. He doesn’t overwhelm hitters, but he mixes pitches and throws strikes. Today he struck out six and walked none.
“I was pleased with what I saw, really pleased,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s the guy that I thought we were getting.”
The Yankees have planned all year to slot Kuroda into the No. 2 spot in the rotation, and that’s exactly where Kuroda will open the season, as the game-two starter against Tampa Bay. That leaves him lined up to start next month’s home opener.
“I try not to think that far ahead,” Kuroda said. “I’m just focused on this next start that I have to do.”
• More good news on Nick Swisher who managed to get 10 at-bats at the minor league complex today. He’ll go back to the complex tomorrow, and Girardi said he might play the outfield depending on how he feels. Girardi doesn’t expect him to take so many at-bats this time.
• In case you missed it, the Yankees announced today that they’ve claimed catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from the Diamondbacks. The signing seems to make sense given the Austin Romine setback, but a Yankees source also confirmed that Tatum is out of options, meaning he can’t be sent to the minor leagues. Hard to imagine him getting the backup catcher job ahead of Francisco Cervelli. Kind of a head scratcher.
• Speaking of minor moves, Sweeny Murti reported this afternoon that the Yankees have signed Jack Cust to a minor league deal. That would seem to be clear insurance just in case Raul Ibanez can’t shake off his rocky spring. Cust is also a left-handed hitting designated hitter.
• Speaking of Ibanez, he went 1-for-3 today and very nearly had his second spring home run. He was robbed by Jason Heyward’s leaping catch over the wall in right field.
• Speaking of struggles, Cory Wade gave up another run this afternoon. The big hit was a double by Eric Hinske, and Girardi said he felt that was the only truly bad pitch Wade threw (he left it up). Wade has a 7.27 ERA this spring and hasn’t looked sharp, but Girardi made it clear that he’s planning to have Wade in his Opening Day bullpen.
• One more Wade note: Just a few days ago he threw a three-inning simulated game. The Yankees want him to be a little bit stretched out so that he could give multiple innings if necessary. The loser of the rotation competition will likely be the regular long reliever. “You’d like to have two guys down there that could really give you some multiple innings,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees settle for a 5-5 tie after George Kontos gave up a two-run homer in the ninth inning. Kontos stayed in to pitch a scoreless 10th. … Eric Chavez went 3-for-4 including a double and an RBI single. He brought his average up to .235. … Eduardo Nunez’s strong spring continued with two more hits for a .393 average. … Justin Maxwell took an 0-for-2.
Associated Press photo
Adam Warren was supposed to pitch yesterday, and it wasn’t until after the game — after he’d waited and waited for his turn to come — that he found out his turn would wait a little longer for a primetime start against the Red Sox.
“That’s what I think spring training is about for us guys trying to make it is to just make an impression,” Warren said. “For me, I’m just trying to go out there and show I can handle the situation, just trying to go out there and attack the zone. I’m just going to go out there and take care of my own business, not really worry about where I stand.”
Warren took care of business, alright. Facing a lineup full of Boston regulars, the Yankees pitching prospect fired four scoreless innings with three strikeouts, no walks and two hits. One of those hits was a ball that glanced off Warren’s own glove for an infield single.
“Warren was excellent,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought he moved the ball in and out well. His slider was really good tonight. I thought he was excellent.”
Dellin Betances followed Warren with three hitless innings. David Phelps — who was supposed to start this game before his wife went into labor — has pitched 7.2 innings without an earned run this spring. D.J. Mitchell has a 0.89 WHIP and 1.00 ERA. The Yankees upper-level pitching prospects have each made strong impressions this spring, suggesting they’re more than capable of filling a hole should this overflowing rotation need a spot starter or two.
“I’m not going to worry about who’s ahead of me or how people are doing,” Warren said. “I just want to focus on myself and not get caught up in everything else. I feel like, I take care of my business and things will take care of themselves.”
• Tonight’s game ended in a tie because Girardi had run out of pitchers who he actually planned on pitching in this game. The Yankees had extra lower-level pitchers on the trip, but it seems Girardi didn’t want to use them. “I just said, that’s it,” Girardi said.
• Bobby Valentine wasn’t happy with Girardi for calling the game before it could go into the 10th inning. It is odd that Girardi had extra pitchers on the travel roster but chose not to use them. He said that he was worried about tomorrow’s doubleheader. “We’ve got a long day tomorrow too,” he said. “We need pitching.”
• One seemingly available pitcher was D.J. Mitchell, but the Yankees had him throw a side when it seemed there wouldn’t be enough innings for him to pitch. “We have a responsibility to build him up too,” Girardi said.
• Turns out CC Sabathia was hit in the shin by a comebacker this afternoon, but that was in the first inning and Sabathia stayed in to pitch five more innings. Sounds like he’s fine. Girardi’s not concerned.
• Raul Ibanez had another 0-for-3 and his average dropped to .054 this spring. “I’m just worried about us staying healthy down here right now,” Brian Cashman said. “Veterans like him, I’m certainly not going to make any judgments on.”
• Cashman said there are no real concerns about any of the nagging injuries (Jeter, Swisher, etc) in Yankees camp. Girardi said Derek Jeter came through today’s workout just fine and plans to play tomorrow.
• He’s pretty far down the depth chart, but Doug Bernier is really having a nice spring. He had two more hits today, including a two-run single. He also made a nice play up the middle in the fourth inning. He’s hitting .364.
• Rough day for Cory Wade who let the Red Sox back in the game with four hits and three earned runs in the eighth inning. Wade got only two outs in the inning before Juan Cedeno finished it.
• RBI triple for Curtis Granderson, who continues to have a terrific spring. … Brett Gardner, Andruw Jones and Eric Chavez each had a hit in this game, but none of those three is hitting better than .194 this spring. … Jose Gil is batting .571 after his 1-for-3 night, and Gustavo Molina is batting .545 after his 1-for-1. Neither has a lot of at-bats.
• Jorge Vazquez was hit by a pitch in the hand and had it heavily wrapped after the game, but there’s no word on how serious the injury might be. He had to be taken out of the game, letting Jose Toussen get some unexpected playing time.
• I wrote this morning about how good Clay Rapada has looked in camp, but Rule 5 Cesar Cabral has also looked pretty sharp with 11 strikeouts and only one walk. The Yankees seem to have room for only one of those two. “(Cabral)’s pitched so well,” Cashman said. “If he was looking terrible, 29 other clubs would pass on him, (but) he ain’t looking terrible. To me, he’s either making this club, getting waiver-claimed or getting traded.”
• Rapada, by the way, has an out in his contract at the end of spring training. Cashman confirmed that this afternoon.
• For those of you who closely follow the minor league system, reports that Rafael DePaula has obtained a visa are true, but in an email, Mark Newman said DePaula still has to pass a physical “before anything progresses.” DePaula signed with the Yankees in 2010 but has been stuck in limbo ever since. He has a chance to be a legitimate talent.
• Phelps’ wife, by the way, had the baby late last night.
Associated Press photos
Wednesday notes: Mitchell steals the show • 03.14.12
Manny Banuelos is considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and there have been days — both this spring and last spring — when he’s shown every bit of that potential. Today was not one of those days, and it was instead often-overshadowed D.J. Mitchell who stole the show.
“(Banuelos) couldn’t throw his secondary pitches for strikes and he was behind,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s just a tough combination. Look at what D.J. Mitchell did. He was able to throw his curveball and his changeup when he was behind in the count to get back in the count and throw some fastballs for strikes. Manny just really struggled with his command.”
Banuelos labored through a four-run fifth inning when he allowed three hits, walked two batters and coughed up Edwin Encarnacion’s second home run of the day. If previous starts have been a reminder of what he can become, today was a reminder that he’s still very young with inconsistent command. It’s nothing that can’t be sorted out, but there’s still some development to be done.
“He’s a young guy and he’s got four pitches to be in the big leagues,” Francisco Cervelli said. “But with the experience, he’s going to learn how you can make adjustments during the game and have more patience. It’s just a bad day. Next time he’s going to come back and of what he always does because it’s great. I think he’s top three over here, best rookie guys.”
As for the top rookie in camp? Mitchell is making his case. He closed today’s game with three hitless innings, striking out four and walking none. Often labeled as a sinkerballer, Mitchell was drawing praise just last week from a Yankees official who said he doesn’t get enough credit for his secondary pitches. Mitchell does generate a lot of ground balls, but they don’t have to come from his two-seamer. He can get them with his changeup, curveball and slider. He did hit two batter today, but through seven innings in big league camp, Mitchell has allowed just three hits.
He was awfully good this afternoon, and Girardi noticed.
• Obvoiusly the Yankees got good news on Freddy Garcia’s injured right hand, but there will be considerably curiosity tomorrow to find out whether the injury will cause him to miss significant time. “That’s why we try to have depth every year in case you do run into something freaky like this injury,” Girardi said before hearing the x-ray results. “I hope it’s not going to keep him down, but we’ll find out.”
• Garcia was pitching well at the time of the injury. He’d allowed one run through three innings and had just stranded two runners in the bottom of third. Edwin Encarnacion’s comebacker came in the first at-bat of the fourth. “Freddy’s Freddy,” Girardi said. “He commands all his offspeed. He commands his fastball. He changes speeds. And that’s exactly what he did today. His split was effective. Just got his hand in the way. That’s the only thing I didn’t like.”
• Cervelli on how Garcia was pitching for the injury: “It was great. It was really, really good. The split was good A lot of fastballs today. I think he was throwing 90, a lot of movement in the fastball. Really good. His plan was really good today.”
• It’s a positive sign that Dave Robertson was able to jog without pain, but Girardi said he’ll need to throw a few times on the side before he starts getting into games again. “He’s been out long enough that I think he’s got to do some bullpens,” Girardi said.
• Girardi seems to be used to getting velocity questions. This was the first thing he said about Robertson’s half hour on a treadmill: “I don’t have the speed, but there was no pain.”
• In between Garcia’s three innings and Mitchell’s three innings, both Banuelos and Cory Wade pitched an inning. Wade gave up a two-run homer to J.P. Arencibia, letting Garcia’s final base runner come around to score. Wade also had two strikeouts in his inning.
• In spring training, the media is usually in the clubhouse by the fifth or sixth inning, so I didn’t see any of the Yankees seventh-inning rally. They scored four runs in the seventh, all of them generated by non-starters. Doug Bernier had a bases-loaded, two-run double and Dewayne Wise followed with his own two-run double. Wise also had a stolen base in the inning.
• The one Yankees run I did see came on Curtis Granderson’s RBI double in the third inning. It was one of two doubles for Granderson who’s hitting .316 this spring. Granderson and Wise each had two hits.
• Other Yankees with hits: Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Mark Teixeira, Cole Garner, Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix and Cervelli. Cervelli and Garner each doubled. The Yankees lost 7-5.
Associated Press photos
B.J. Upton was at the plate in the 12th inning when the television showed the last step of the Boston collapse. The crowd here at Tropicana Field went berserk, and the volume only increased when the final score was posted on the scoreboard in left field.
Evan Longoria was literally the very next hitter.
It happened that quickly, from Jonathan Papelbon’s meltdown in Baltimore to Longoria’s game winner in St. Pete, eight minutes passed. A night that had already seen the Rangers lockup the No. 2 seed in the American League and the Cardinals clinch the wild card in the National League, ended with an unlikely celebration at the Trop.
“That was one of the best days in baseball’s history probably,” Mark Teixeira said. “Every game tonight all across baseball seemed like it mattered, and there were some great finishes… Give (the Rays) a lot of credit. Down seven runs going into the eighth inning with your season on the line, obviously we don’t want to be on the short end of that stick, but you give them a lot of credit for the way they fought back.”
Funny thing is, none of it really mattered to the Yankees. They didn’t need a win today. They just needed to get through this game with their players healthy, and they more or less did that (more on that in a bit). For the Yankees, the game that really mattered was the Rangers win against the Angels. That’s the game that setup a division series matchup between the Yankees and the Tigers.
“It’s a strange game,” Joe Girardi said. “You never know what’s going to happen from night to night. It’s weird, but Friday’s what we play for, and it’s here.”
• Girardi officially named a three-man rotation for the division series: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia. “We just like the way that Freddy’s pitched,” Girardi said. “Freddy’s pitched well. We talked about it and debated about it a long time, and we just decided to go with Freddy. We like the way that Freddy has competed all year, and we’re going to send him out there.”
• Sabathia will pitch Games 1 and 4. Nova will pitch Games 2 and 5.
• A.J. Burnett will move to the bullpen for the division series. That’s why he faced a batter in relief tonight, just so he could do it one time before the postseason. “He’s a guy that can get a strikeout for us if we need it, and he’s a guy that can give us some distance if we need that,” Girardi said. “He can do multiple things.”
• Alex Rodriguez is fine. Girardi said his knee was “achy,” but Girardi said he has “no doubt whatsoever” that Rodriguez will be able to play Friday. “I don’t really have a concern about him,” Girardi said. “The turf can do that to you sometimes, and he’ll be ready to go Friday.”
• Jesus Montero was sent for X-rays after a tipped ball hit his throwing hand. The results were negative, and Girardi expects Montero to be sore but available. “My guess is that he’ll be OK,” Girardi said. “We’ll check tomorrow, but the x-ray came out negative”
• Girardi said he used his bullpen according to plan. At one point Hector Noesi seemed to be stretching, but I don’t think he ever threw a pitch. “I had talked about that I wasn’t going to use Robby, Soriano or Mo,” Girardi said. “That was the bottom line, and we tried to close it out. We had a seven-run lead with two (innings to play) and I went to guys with experience, and we didn’t get it done.”
• What does Girardi make of Luis Ayala and Boone Logan — two guys who have actually been in his bullpen all year — giving up six runs in an inning? “I don’t make too much of it,” Girardi said. “You just don’t.”
• Dellin Betances walked two in the first inning, but he got back-to-back strikeouts to strand the runners, and his first big league start spanned two scoreless innings. Not a bad way to bounce back after an rocky debut at home.
• The two teams combined to use 18 pitchers — 11 of them were Yankees — which set a new record at Tropicana Field. The previous high was 15 in a game between the Rays and Red Sox.
• Mark Teixeira hit two home runs and will finish with 39 for the season, one shy of the second 40-homer season of his career. His grand slam in the second inning was the fourth allowed by a Rays pitcher this season (the first was hit by Jorge Posada). It was the Yankees 10th grand slam of the season and the seventh of Teixeira’s career.
• It was Teixeira’s first grand slam on the road since hitting one off Edwar Ramirez in 2008. Did you think you’d read Edwar Ramirez’s name tonight?
• The game-tying home run that Cory Wade allowed in the ninth inning was the first run he had allowed against the Rays in six appearances this season. Wade opened the season on the Rays Triple-A team and came to the Yankees because the Rays wouldn’t give him a shot in the big leagues.
• On the Rays comeback: They were 9 games out of the wild card on September 4, the most games ever overcome in September to get into the postseason in Major League history. The Rays went 16-8 since September 4 while Boston went 6-18. Tonight, the Rays were down by seven runs in the eighth inning, making this the second-largest comeback in franchise history and the largest at Tropicana Field.
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: “Command is the big issue” • 09.17.11
CC Sabathia matched season-highs tonight by allowing 10 hits and four walks. He also matched a season-low by pitching only 5.2 innings.
Since the Yankees went to a six-man rotation at the end of July, Sabathia has made nine starts, seven of them on extra rest. He’s allowed 10 hits in five of those extra-rest starts, something he’d done only once in 23 starts before the six-man rotation became a somewhat permanent situation.
“I don’t think (extra rest has been the problem),” Sabathia said. “I’ve felt great. My arm feels good. My body feels good. It’s just been not executing pitches when I need to. The Lind at-bat, not being able to make the pitch and get out of the inning… Command is the big issue, but my stuff has been there. That’s what’s so frustrating.”
The Lind at-bat was in the fifth, when the Yankees had given Sabathia a 3-1 lead. Sabathia allowed a pair of two-out walks, then he faced Adam Lind with the bases loaded. Lind doubled in all three runs, and when Sabathia loaded the bases again in the sixth, Luis Ayala had to bail him out.
“I still felt good about him getting Lind out,” Girardi said. “Lind hurt us tonight with a couple doubles and a single. I still felt good about it. I thought his stuff was okay, and I thought he’d get him out. He didn’t… I still really believe in (Sabathia). I think he’s going to be great for us and he’ll continue to be great for us. Tonight, he struggled a little bit, but he gave us a chance to win that game. We weren’t able to score after we tied it up 4-4. I still think CC’s going to run off some good starts, I really do.”
Could extra rest be an issue? Sabathia notoriously thrives with less rest rather than more.
“It could,” Girardi said. “He’s going to be on regular rest his next turn, so we’ll get a good chance to see that. That’s just been the way it’s been for us, but we’ll get him on regular rest.”
Actually, to line up Sabathia for Game 1 of the division series, the Yankees might have to pitch him on short rest Sunday against Boston.
“The past couple of starts it’s just been tough, throwing a lot of pitches in a short amount of time. Just frustrating,”
• After batting practice, Alex Rodriguez explained that he spent the day learning to hit with a ring of tape separating his uninjured top hand and his sore left thumb. He believes he’s allowed to use the taped bat during the game. “We’ve never tried it, but Kevin had me split my hands, and after that it felt really good because I didn’t put any pressure on the thumb,” Rodriguez said. “If it goes well — you know how us baseball players are, we just won’t change — it will definitely alleviate any pain on my thumb, because the only pressure I have is when I press down on the point of contact.”
• Rodriguez took a ton of swings today. He did tee and toss with Kevin Long before batting practice, then he took eight rounds of regular BP, hitting with two different groups.
• Girardi said after the game that he still plans to play Rodriguez tomorrow. Everything he saw in BP makes him think Rodriguez will be ready. “I’d like to pencil his name in there,” Girardi said. “I’d actually like to use a pen.”
• Sabathia’s short-and-sweet explanation of what went wrong on the pitch to Lind: “Just got a ball out over the plate. He put a good swing on it. He had been putting good swings all night and got a pitch he could handle.”
• The Yankees have lost six of their past nine games, five of their past six loses have come in one-run games.
• Three days ago, Cory Wade had not lost a game since joining the Yankees. He’s now allowed two straight walkoffs, giving up a walkoff homer on Wednesday and Jose Molina’s walkoff single tonight.
• Boone Logan took the loss after allowing a sharp leadoff double in that decisive ninth.
• Until the ninth, the bullpen had been a bright spot for the Yankees. Ayala got Sabathia out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, Rafael Soriano struck out the side in the seventh and Dave Robertson left the bases loaded in the eighth.
• Eric Chavez hit his second home run of the season… Nick Swisher twice tied the game with two-out hits… Derek Jeter’s 13-game hitting streak ended.
• Brett Gardner stole two bases tonight. He’s been successful in 40 of his past 47 attempts.
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: One that got away • 09.15.11
The Yankees are paying attention to what’s happening around them. They were well aware that tonight was a chance to increase their lead in the American League East, and they were well aware that they had their chances to win.
“You want to win this one,” Robinson Cano said. “Especially because the Red Sox lost today.”
The Yankees had just four hits tonight and got their only run on Nick Swisher’s home run. It wasn’t enough offense, even on a night when the pitching staff was tremendous except for two costly mistakes.
“It was a curveball that fell out of my hand a little bit, and I couldn’t get it down,” Nova said. “I didn’t give Russell Martin a chance to catch it. That happens. I don’t want that to happen to me, but it’s going to happen.”
Martin never really had a chance to stop it.
“It’s a curveball that backed up and that’s the one thing you can’t really predict as a catcher,” Joe Girardi said. “You can anticipate down, down, block the ball, block the ball, but that one backed up and it happens.”
The home run
Cory Wade pitched out of trouble in the 11th, but the first batter he faced in the 12th was Luis Rodriguez, who already had two doubles. The 2-1 pitch was a changeup, and Rodriguez hammered it to right.
“It’s rough,” Wade said. “Everybody’s going out and contributing and did what they needed to do, and it came down to me and I made a mistake.”
The changeup has been a good pitch for Wade, and he didn’t second guess the pitch selection. He just missed his spot.
“I threw the pitch essentially right down the middle of the plate,” Wade said. “He gets paid to hit, and he did exactly what he’s supposed to… Nova shut it down for, I think, seven innings, and everybody came out of the bullpen and threw the ball really well. It’s just unfortunate that I had to be the lone wolf to go out there and struggle a little bit.”
• Cano was hobbling quite a bit in the clubhouse, but x-rays were negative and he seems fairly certain that he’ll play on Friday. The pitch in the 12th inning hit him right in the side of the right foot. “I knew it was a lot of pain, but I didn’t think it was broke,” he said. “… We can do ice treatment tomorrow and be ready to go Friday.”
• Girardi said the plan is still for Alex Rodriguez to play on Friday. Rodriguez came through fielding drills with no problems.
• The Yankees hit several balls hard tonight, but they never got much going against Jason Vargas. Obviously they made a mistake trying to score Andruw Jones in the third, but Girardi seemed more focused on deep fly balls that didn’t quite get out of the yard. “Think about the ball Grandy hit, the ball Tex hit,” Girardi said. “We hit some balls good. I thought we were patient on Vargas, I thought the guys put good at-bats. I thought he just located well. They made him work, we just didn’t get hits.”
• Nova came out of the game after 87 pitches. Although he acknowledged it was the right call to bring in Dave Robertson, he also felt strong enough to keep going. “I threw 80 something pitches,” he said. “So I was feeling really good. I think if we got two more runs, at least a run or two more, I think I can finish the game. But unfortunately, we don’t hit today, and I’ve got to be out of the game.”
• Speaking of the decision to pull Nova, Robertson did it again, getting out of the eighth with a shallow fly ball and a strikeout to strand runners at the corners. “I’ve always said he has the ability to strike people out,” Girardi said. “You can bring him in tough situations and he did it again tonight.”
• The Yankees were held to one run or less for the 16th time this season, and the third time in their past six games. They are 4-10 in extra innings this season.
• Derek Jeter extended his season-high hitting streak to 13 games and is batting .368 in his past 29 games, since August 11. He’s hitting .346 in his past 46 games, and he’s hitting .332 since returning from the disabled list on July 4.
• This is Jeter’s 16th consecutive season with 150 hits, tying Pete Rose for the second-longest 150-hit streak in baseball history. Hank Aaron has the record with 17 straight.
• Swisher has eight home runs in his past 19 games dating back to August 23. He his just five homers in his first 60 games this season.
• Girardi didn’t know Pedro Feliciano had surgery until reporters told him about it after the game. “I would be surprised if he pitched next year,” Girardi said. “But I’d have to hear the details.”
Associated Press photos
Nick Swisher’s left elbow has bothered him from time to time, but not quite like it did on his first throw from the outfield yesterday.
“I threw it and said, ‘Wow, that didn’t’ feel right,’” Swisher said. “… I know what feels right, I know what doesn’t feel right. After yesterday’s game, I was like man, I’ve got to check this thing out. I don’t like going to the training room man, it’s not my thing. But there are some times. You can’t be a hard head all the time, man, and you actually have to go in there. We’ll just see what they say and figure it out from there.”
Swisher will see the Angels team doctor at some point, probably today. He’s expecting to play tomorrow, but it’s hard to know anything for certain at this point. Joe Girardi called Swisher day-to-day.
During these past three days — when the Yankees had that long rain delay, followed by the four-hour-plus game, followed by extra innings in Baltimore — Swisher actually played all three days, but that’s only after he’d been off on Monday. Girardi said he didn’t believe playing those three games had a real impact on the elbow.
“I think it’s just one throw, really, more than anything,” Swisher said. “I don’t know what it is, so I’m going to see the doctor and find out. So, we’ll see. I’m not nervous about it but I’d feel a lot better if the doctor said ‘hey man, this is what you’ve got. It’s going to be OK.’ Because I’ve never had something like this before. (This is) more sharp pains. Hopefully, it’s just a day-to-day thing.”
• Jesus Montero is getting a designated hitter start against a right-hander today, and Girardi hinted that he might do that more often. “I think you want to see more,” he said. “You don’t want him to sit too long between games, either. You want to get him back in there. He’s swung the bat very well, showed patience and showed the ability to make adjustments.”
• Aside from Swisher, all of the Yankees regulars are in the lineup, but the bullpen is thin beyond Mariano Rivera and Dave Robertson. It’s possible, in the next couple of days, that the Yankees will have to move a starter to the bullpen. “We might need someone,” Girardi said. “I’m not saying they won’t start again, but we might need someone in the bullpen. Soriano’s went a bunch of days in a row, Ayala’s went a bunch of days, Wade’s went a bunch of days, Logan’s went a bunch of days. I have Robby and Mo available tonight, but after that, I have to see.”
• If the Yankees don’t get distance out of Bartolo Colon, Girardi said he’s not sure Hector Noesi could be used for a truly extended outing (he threw back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday, including multiple innings Wednesday). So, if the Yankees need a true long man, Girardi said it would likely be either George Kontos, Andrew Brackman or Dellin Betances. “Could be one of the kids,” Girardi said.
• Speaking of the kids, Betances is here mostly to get his feet wet and get a look at life in the big leagues. He’s active, but unlike Montero, Betances isn’t expected to play a significant role down the stretch. “You never know,” Girardi said. “He might pitch in a game, he might pich great and you might use him more. I don’t have any specific plans for him, in a sense, but we’ll see what happens.”
• Today is Betances’ normal day to pitch, which is why the call-up waited until now. He went to Tampa to throw a regular bullpen after the Triple-A regular season, then spent one day at home in New Jersey before flying to California yesterday afternoon.
• Girardi expected Betances to be the last September call-up. He said there was talk about calling up Manny Banuelos, but the Yankees didn’t think this was the time to do it. “They talked about him and decided not to,” Girardi said. “They looked at his year and said they weren’t going to call him up yet.”
• The Yankees rotation is not set beyond Sunday. “We’ll wait to see how we get through this weekend,” Girardi said. “Larry and I are still talking about it.”
• I’m sure he doesn’t speak for everyone, but Brett Gardner said he actually feels no different today — after those long three days of rain and extra innings — than he would at the start of any other West Coast trip. “No, not really,” he said. “I feel pretty good, especially after that long flight last night. I feel better today than I expected to. It’s obviously not ideal and something everybody has to deal with.”
Erick Aybar SS
Howie Kendrick 2B
Bobby Abreu DH
Torii Hunter RF
Mark Trumbo 1B
Alberto Callaspo 3B
Vernon Wells LF
Peter Bourjos CF
Jeff Mathis C
Associated Press photos
The three exceptions • 08.08.11
The Yankees have used 40 different players this season, a list that includes brief stints by Buddy Carlyle, Steve Garrison, Brian Gordon, Jeff Marquez, Amauri Sanit, Brandon Laird and Greg Golson. They’ve sent 17 different players to the disabled list, including two starting pitchers, two setup relievers and two starting infielders.
But after 113 games, the current roster looks remarkably similar to the Opening Day roster. Only three current Yankees were not on the team on March 31.
In place of Gustavo Molina
Really, this was Cervelli’s job all along. It was momentarily up for grabs when Cervelli was hurt in spring training, but his temporary replacement, Molina, got exactly three at-bats before Cervelli was activated. It might be a different story had Jesus Montero won the job out of camp, but he didn’t, and Cervelli’s taken his familiar spot on the bench. He’s more-or-less become Sabathia’s personal catcher in a behind-the-place rotation that lets Russell Martin get a regular day off every five days. So far the Yankees have stuck with Cervelli rather than call Montero up from Triple-A.
In place of Joba Chamberlain
I guess this is the way it’s worked out: Rafael Soriano has replaced Chamberlain in the seventh inning, Dave Robertson has replaced Soriano in the eighth, and Wade has replaced Robertson as the middle-innings, get-out-of-trouble reliever. Signing Wade to a minor league deal on June 13 was one of the best and least noticed moves of the season. He has the lowest WHIP on the team, even lower than the closer. For a while it seemed that Luis Ayala was emerging as the the top reliever beyond the late-inning trio, but that distinction clearly belongs to Wade these days. He got a big out for the Yankees on Friday, and he’s been without question the organization’s best in-season addition.
In place of Alex Rodriguez
With Rodriguez on the disabled list, the Yankees are carrying an extra pitcher, and essentially that’s the spot Noesi is filling. He’s taken the role that belonged to Bartolo Colon on Opening Day — a multi-inning reliever capable of pitching key late innings if necessary — and now that Colon has joined the original five starters, Noesi is filling the open spot in the bullpen. Given the Yankees young rotation depth, it’s inevitable that some young starters are going to be moved into the bullpen, and Noesi has taken to the role. He’s had some rocky outings — he struggled on Saturday — but as a long man, he’s been generally reliable and occasionally outstanding.
A.J. Burnett should have won tonight. Shoot, anyone should have won tonight. He had a 13-1 lead before he walked to the mound in the third inning, but he still couldn’t last long enough to get a decision. Was there anything positive to take from tonight?
“I get to go in five days,” Burnett said. “That’s about it. It was one of them days, man.”
Burnett will, in fact, make his next start. Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have been sweating their rotation spots, but Burnett is safe.
“He’s starting on Wednesday,” Joe Girardi said. “His numbers aren’t that bad. If you look at the numbers of Hughes, I mean, Hughesy made one good start. We look at the whole year, and A.J.’s been decent for us.”
That’s true. Burnett’s been decent. He’s had three truly terrible starts, but all the rest have been four earned runs or less. He hasn’t been great, but he’s been better than last season, and the Yankees will stick with him even with Hughes and Nova seemingly pitching better lately.
“I believe I’m a big part of this team and I’m going to be a big part,” Burnett said. “I’m going to get on a roll and it’s just a matter of time… I got five days to be better, and I will be better.”
Tonight’s problem, Burnett said, was a combination of a flat curveball and a high fastball. He didn’t have the hook, so he needed to spot the heater. He couldn’t, and the White Sox took advantage of hitters counts and hittable pitches.
Girardi talked before the game about wanting to see Burnett finally get a win. He pitched well enough to win a few games last month and never did it. Tonight was a prime opportunity to get it done, but Girardi said he felt he had to make a change in the fifth — “I see that he’s struggling and we’ve got to win,” Girardi said — and whatever frustration Burnett showed was fine with Girardi. Burnett insisted that the frustration walking off the mound and into the dugout was directed at himself, not as his manager.
“I was a little upset,” he said. “But then again, he’s got to look at how I’m pitching too. I wasn’t exactly doing anything out there. I had one good quick inning but then you got to stop the bleeding somehow… Joe’s got to do what’s best for the team, keep us ahead in that game. The way I was throwing the ball, it didn’t seem like I could do it.”
And here’s Girardi.
• In the big picture, it’s impossible to ignore Burnett. But here and now, this was a big night for the Yankees, who have won six straight and 10 of their past 13. They have 33 extra-base hits in the past eight games. “It’s not too often during the course of the season where it seems like everyone is swinging the bat well at the same time,” Derek Jeter said. “But it’s been the case for us the last few days.”
• Jeter had the fourth five-hit game of his career, and his second of the season (I’m sure you remember the other one). He passed Lou Brock for 23rd on baseball’s all-time hits list with 3,026.
• Don’t look now, but Jeter’s hitting .280, the same as Brett Gardner. “I’m having good at-bats, trying to swing at good pitches,” Jeter said. “I feel as though since I’ve been back, I’ve been swinging the bat a lot better. I just want it to continue.”
• Eric Chavez homered for the first time since May 11, 2010 with Oakland. He had four RBI for the first time since May 10, 2007 at Kansas City.
• Other offensive notes: Gardner scored a career-high four runs and recorded his 19th consecutive successful steal… Robinson Cano has a hit in 39 of his past 50 games and had four RBI for the fourth time this season… Curtis Granderson is hitting .538 with three doubles, a triple and six RBI this series. He was a home run short of the cycle tonight.
• The Yankees bullpen pitched 4.2 scoreless innings allowing just one hit. Cory Wade got the win in relief of Burnett. The bullpen has a 1.93 ERA in the past 18 games.
• Burnett usually speaks glowingly of Russell Martin and their ability to work together, but tonight Burnett said some of the pitch sequences were predictable. “You know, you try to attack but I just felt like we got in sequences here and there: heater, hook, heater, hook, heater, hook,” Burnett said. “Me and Russ will watch tomorrow and we’ll figure it out.”
• Martin on the pitch sequences: “It’s a possibility, but he’s a three-pitch guy. His best pitch, his strikeout pitch, is his curve. I’ve been trying to talk to him, get him to elevate a little bit and use his fastball when he’s got a couple strikes to change the eye level. At this point, I think it would be a good idea to make some adjustments and change a couple things.”
• Martin said he thought falling behind in counts was a key to the White Sox getting their offense going in that fourth inning. He seemed to take Burnett’s struggles personally. “I’m just disappointed in myself that I couldn’t get him through five innings with that lead,” Martin said. “He’s going to say that he’s the one throwing the ball, but that’s why I’m not smiling much right now. I felt if there was any game to get him a win and get him back on track, this was it. There’s a whole lot of season left. As long as we can get him going in the right direction from here on out, I want him to start taking steps forward and not backward.”
• We’ll end this night on a positive note, with Girardi talking about the recent surge from the Yankees offense: “It’s just good at-bats is what it is, and guys getting their pitches and not missing them. Sometimes we’ve been missing them, and sometimes pitchers are going to make pitches on you, but their at-bats have been tremendous. It seems like we’ve jumped on teams early, and that’s important too.”
Associated Press photos
Random thoughts on the way back home • 07.22.11
Last time the Yankees played at home, they were still feeling warm and fuzzy in the glow of Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit. Seems like that was three months ago. This eight-day road trip was a long one.
“Obviously you’d like to have done better,” Joe Girardi said. “But after how we started losing the first two, we finished up pretty good and it will be nice to get off the turf and get home for a while. I think we have 10 games in 10 days, and I think our guys are looking forward to that.”
Just a few thoughts before I get back to New York.
• Phil Hughes gets the ball tonight. It will be his first start at home since the start that convinced the Yankees he needed to go on the disabled list. It’ll be interesting to see if that curveball is as good as it was in Toronto.
• Be careful what you wish for at the top of the order. I can’t see Derek Jeter being dropped to the bottom, so moving Brett Gardner to the top only pushes Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher down a spot. As always, I’m of the belief that lineup construction doesn’t matter all that much.
• Also worth considering (as Sweeny Murti pointed out a couple of days ago): In the eight games since the all-star break, Gardner is hitting .517 with a .576 on-base percentage. In the eight games before the break, he was hitting .207 with a .281 on-base percentage. I think he’s the right choice at the top, but you have to accept that he’s a streaky hitter.
• Big spot in the seventh inning, who would you trust more: Luis Ayala, Hector Noesi or Cory Wade? Who do you think Girardi would most trust? I’m honestly not sure the right answer to either of those questions.
• Gardner, Jeter, Andruw Jones and Jorge Posada have each taken turns as the most anger-inducing Yankees hitter this season. Now it seems to be Mark Teixeira’s turn. He’s also a streaky hitter, and he always talks about waiting for that next hot streak that will turn his batting average around.
• Girardi when asked if he’ll have to eventually take Teixeira out of the No. 3 hole if the batting average doesn’t improve: “He has taken his fair share of walks and gotten on base. That’s the one thing Tex does. Sometimes people look at average a lot. We’re going ot look at on-base percentage too because he does take his fair share. You hit .250 and you’ve got a .370 on-base percentage or .360, you’re doing OK.” It’s a fair point — and Teixeira does have a higher OBP than Cano — but Girardi overestimated the numbers a little bit. Teixeira has a .240 average with a .341 on-base.
• If the Yankees are going to trade for a starter, they really only have a spot for a legitimately elite pitcher. They have plenty of No. 3 types. To find someone obviously better than what they have is going to cost a lot in terms of young players. Maybe it’s worth it, maybe it’s not, but it would be costly.
• I’ve always liked but never loved U2, but I absolutely loved this performance on Letterman. I’m surprised I haven’t broken the internet watching it over and over again the past few days. Say what you will about Bono, but the guy has a terrific voice and knows how to deliver a song.
• Kind of surprised that Eric Chavez was able to get in the field this quickly. Not much to lose there, I guess. The Yankees need to find out before July 31 whether he can help them in the second half.
• George Kontos has to get to New York eventually, right? The Yankees could actually use a long man now, and Kontos has 64 strikeouts and a .210 opponents batting average in Triple-A. Also worth mentioning that D.J. Mitchell and Lance Pendleton just put together terrific back-to-back starts.
• Speaking of Triple-A guys: Jorge Vazquez’s numbers have fallen off quite a bit, but Kevin Russo is really hitting again. And if you were waiting for Jordan Parraz to fall off, it doesn’t seem to be happening.
• If Russell Martin really is a Gold Glove caliber catcher, and he keeps hitting exactly like this — low batting average with occasional pop — is he worth bringing back next season? All things considered, isn’t he still one of the better everyday catchers in the league?
• Don’t let the fact that you gave up on Boone Logan in the first half — or that he misplayed a ball three nights ago — keep you from seeing the fact he’s pitching much better. I know I’m usually a glass-half-full kind of guy, but since May 28 opponents are hitting .196 with four walks and 17 strikeouts against Logan.
• There’s still something very fun about talking to a guy who just got his first big league call-up. It was fun when I was covering the minor leagues, and it’s just as fun now that I’m covering the big leagues.
• Martin made the right choice. He put in a good effort and did everything the right way, but the mustache had to go. It was time. It really was, “ugly as (crap).”
Associated Press photos