The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Postgame notes: “He’s getting closer to what he was”07.17.11

The mechanical difference in Phil Hughes’ curveball is very small. He used to spike his index finger, which forced him to “choke” the ball in order to grip it. By choking the ball, Hughes was able to generate movement but not velocity. Without velocity, Hughes had to release the pitch noticeably higher than his fastball in order to get it over the plate.

Essentially, all he’s done is remove the spike. That lets him hold the ball more loosely, which lets him throw it harder, which makes his breaking ball delivery more similar to his other pitches.

“I thought I made some improvements with it and gave guys less time to react, and that’s what you’re aiming for,” Hughes said. “You want to fool them, but at the same time you don’t want them to be able to readjust for a slower breaking ball. It wasn’t as big, but I felt like I fooled a couple more guys than I normally would with my other one, so that was a good thing as well.”

Take today’s second Blue Jays at-bat for example. Eric Thames went down looking at an 0-2 curveball. Hughes speculated that, in the past, Thames might have recognized the curveball in time to foul it off, letting the at-bat continue and forcing Hughes to find another way to get him out.

“My old one could be anywhere from 72 (mph) to 75-76 if I really threw it hard,” Hughes said. “This one I saw some 78s and mainly 75-76, which is mainly where I want it to be. I look more at the swings and not necessarily velocity, and just make sure there wasn’t a hump in it… I felt like I could throw it for a strike, too. Maybe a little bit easier just because I don’t have to really factor in as much break because it’s shorter and harder. I felt like I could probably throw it for a strike a little easier. When in doubt, I went to it, and it was pretty good for the most part.”

One knock on Hughes last season was his inability to put hitters away. He’d get ahead in the count, but an at-bat would continue. Best-case scenario was an increased pitch count. Worst-case was a hitter staying in the fight long enough to scratch out a hit. Hughes didn’t have the same problem today, and although his first five outs came on the curveball, his last three strikeouts came on the fastball.

Hughes said that, even with slightly diminished velocity later in the game, his fastball became better because of location, and because the Blue Jays had to respect the offspeed stuff.

“It just shows you he’s getting closer to what he was,” Joe Girardi said. “I don’t think you can quantify it, but I thought he took a big step today. That’s what we wanted to see from him. Next time, he’ll be on normal rest and his normal routine, so I hope that helps him as well.”

Here’s Hughes.

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• Hughes tried to plead his case to pitch the seventh, but the Yankees thought the heat at Rogers Centre had been too taxing and didn’t want Hughes back out there. It felt boiling in this building, with no breeze and the sun baking the turf. Hughes said he would have sworn it was over 100 degrees.

• Hughes didn’t thrown any changeups, but he had a reason for staying away from the pitch today. “The couple of lefties that are in their lineup, our reports are that they stay on changeups pretty well, Snider and Lind,” he said. “Obviously if my changeup were my second pitch I’d go to it, but as a fourth option, I just felt like there was a couple of other pitches that I could go to for that.”

• Sweeny Murti brought up an interesting point. Would it make sense for Hughes to keep his old curveball as a slower alternative? “Not necessarily,” Hughes said, “because I can always slow the other one down if I need to, kind of roll it in for a strike. As long as I stay feeling comfortable with this one, I don’t really see the need for both because they both kind of do the same thing.” Oh well. I thought it was an interesting idea.

• This was really the first time Russell Martin caught Hughes when he was pitching well. “There’s some life behind the ball,” Martin said. “I don’t know what the radar gun was saying, but it was jumping out of his hand today. From what I’ve seen in the past, that’s what he’s used to doing. Elevating the ball when he has two strikes, doing different things. Just knowing he can throw it by guys has to feel good for him.”

• Speaking of Martin, he said the Yankees have a “system in place” to deal with potentially stolen signs, and he now considers it a non-issue. “We’re not going to worry about it anymore,” he said. Apparently fans were giving him a hard time all night about stolen signs.

• Brett Gardner had his third three-hit game of the series. He also stole two bases, and the Yankees only scored in innings when Gardner got on base. “After taking three or four days off, you worry about your timing and things like that,” Gardner said. “For me, the first game back after the break, I saw the ball well and managed to square up a couple balls. Things are going well so far for me.”

• Gardner’s big series has come with him hitting all over the lineup, including leading off today. “It’s all the same to me,” he said. “My job is to get on base no matter where I hit in the lineup. The last couple days, I’ve been able to do that and make a few things happen.”

• Two very nice plays by Ramiro Pena to help get out of the fifth. “The bunt play was good,” Hughes said. “And then I joked with him he was just trying to protect his face with the other one. That happens. I’m not very good on those balls back to the mound, so I have a lot of respect for guys when they can make those plays.”

• The Yankees run in the first inning snapped a stretch of 11 straight games without a first-inning run. That was their longest stretch since 13 straight games in 2006 (that’s according to Elias, of course).

• Nice work by the Yankees bullpen. Cory Wade, Dave Robertson and Boone Logan combined for three hitless innings. They walked none and struck out five. Logan struck out the side in the ninth.

• Jorge Posada played in his 1,790th game as a Yankee, passing Bill Dickey for sole possession of eight place on the franchise’s all-time games played list.

Associated Press photos

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Yankees at the break: The bullpen07.12.11

This was supposed to be the Yankees obvious strength, instead they’ve spent the season plugging holes and moving Dave Robertson into later and later innings. At this rate, he’ll be their designated 10th-inning reliever by mid-August. The Yankees bullpen has held it together despite a series of injuries and a few disappointments.

First half
The problems started when Pedro Feliciano couldn’t break camp. Pretty soon Phil Hughes was hurt, which forced Bartolo Colon out of the bullpen and into the rotation. Then Rafael Soriano went on the disabled list. Then Joba Chamberlain needed Tommy John. If not for Robertson’s all-star performance, the Yankees bullpen would be a mess. Given the situation, though, it’s been pretty good. CoryWade’s been a nice pickup, Luis Ayala has given the Yankees more than they could have expected, Hector Noesi has filled in from minor league system and Boone Logan has finally had some success after a brutal beginning. All things considered, the situation could be much worse.

Second half
At this point, Damaso Marte actually seems closer to a return than Feliciano, but the guy the Yankees really need to get back is Soriano. He would give the bullpen some of the late-inning depth that made it so imposing when pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. Logan’s shown some recent signs of getting himself straightened out, and that could also be huge in the second half (he was certainly crucial in the second half last season). Every year, relievers are among the most discussed trade possibilities, but it’s worth remembering that last year’s bullpen addition – Kerry Wood – had ugly numbers and was coming back from an injury when the Yankees acquired him. You just never know who might make the difference in a bullpen.

The minors
The Yankees have already seen a long line of long relievers up from Triple-A. At this point, George Kontos might have moved to the top of the pecking order. Temporarily lost in the Rule 5 draft this offseason, Kontos has been outstanding with a 2.26 ERA and 59 strikeouts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Back from Tommy John surgery, he seems to have regained a lot of his prospect status. The Yankees also have right-hander Kevin Whelan and veteran lefty Randy Flores putting up good Triple-A numbers. And don’t forget the name Tim Norton. He was terrific before a shoulder injury, and Donnie Collins has reported that he could be back soon.

Beyond the relievers on the verge of the big leagues, the Yankees have had great success with some of the college relievers that they drafted last year. Chase Whitley has already pitched his way to Double-A, Preston Claiborne has a 1.17 ERA and 24 strikeouts in his past 10 outings at High-A, and Tommy Kahnle has a 68 strikeouts and a .194 opponents batting average in Low-A. Ryan Flannery, a 47th-rounder in 2008, has 13 saves and has allowed a total of two walks out of the Tampa bullpen (and this is the second year in a row he’s shown outstanding control). Everyone’s favorite switch pitcher, Pat Venditte, has pitched pretty well in Trenton after a miserable first month.

One question
Is there a new version of Hughes or Chamberlain waiting in the system?
In the past, the Yankees had great success moving Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain out of the Triple-A rotation and into a big league setup role. Could they try a similar trick this season? The Triple-A rotation has been impressive, and guys like Adam Warren and David Phelps have fastballs that might translate to late-inning success. Ivan Nova, too.

The future
The Yankees have Mariano Rivera under contract for one more year, so they don’t have to find his replacement just yet. Soriano can opt out after this season, but surely that’s not going to happen after an injury. Robertson is just now eligible for arbitration, so he’ll still be incredibly cheap. Those are three pretty important pieces coming back next year, and the Yankees should get Chamberlain back at some point next season. There are pieces already in place for next year and beyond. What’s left is for the Yankees to sort through their upper-level pitching depth to decide who can help their rotation, and who’s better suited for a bullpen role in the near future.

Associated Press photos of Rivera and Robertson, headshots of Kontos, Claiborne and Chamberlain

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Second-half question: Was Soriano worth it?07.11.11

The Yankees don’t build teams to win in the first half. It’s nice that the Pirates are still in the playoff hunt, but being in the hunt doesn’t mean much around here. The Yankees build teams to win in the postseason, and in that sense, Rafael Soriano might still be worth the money.

Dave Robertson has emerged as a dominant setup man, and guys like Cory Wade and Luis Ayala have been a real boost, but to make the Yankees bullpen nearly as good as it seemed to be in spring training, they’ll need someone like Soriano. He’s been out since May 17, but he’s closer to a return than any other injured Yankee.

“If I had to guess who would be first it would be Soriano,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s getting to a point where we could see him in a game fairly quickly.”

Sure, the Yankees could target a reliever at the trade deadline — bullpen arms are always available — but they’ve learned the hard way that relievers are an unreliable lot. They knew that before they signed Soriano, and they certainly know that now that they have him under contract. Soriano’s a sunk cost, and he’s at least as good as anyone the Yankees could acquire.

There’s risk involved with every reliever. The Yankees have already taken a risk on Soriano. The second half is the time to actually get something out of him, or consider him this season’s worst investment.

Associated Press photo

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Pregame notes: One more day off for Rivera07.05.11

The Yankees are giving Mariano Rivera another day of rest.

Rivera played catch this afternoon and said he still felt some soreness around his right elbow. He’ll be in the bullpen and available on an emergency basis, but the Yankees are planning to stay away from him.

“I feel better today but I think we’ll do another day off,” Rivera said. “I felt it a little bit. I could pitch, yes. Can they use me? Yes. But if I can by for another day, it would be much better, wiser.”

The problem is in the muscle on the back side of Rivera’s elbow, more or less at the base of the triceps. Rivera wasn’t cleared to throw a baseball at all yesterday, so the fact he played catch seems to be a good sign.

“Basically you know your body and those things are going to happen,” Rivera said. “You always have some aching feelings and soreness. I’m not concerned because I haven’t done nothing wrong. I suspect that it’s something that’s going to come and go away the same way that it came… I don’t think I ever felt 100 percent, I think, from the first day I started playing baseball. But if I feel 95 percent, I’ll be playing. Like I said, I can pitch now, but I don’t want to take a chance.”

Without Rivera, the Yankees will once again have Dave Robertson as their closer. Luis Ayala is available tonight, but Girardi is planning to stay away from Cory Wade — who’s thrown three of the past four days — so the bullpen is a little short in the late innings again.

“If we had to I was going to put (Robertson) in that spot (last night),” Giradri said. “I was comfortable doing that, but what it does is it shortens your bullpen, and that can become an issue.”

• Kind of funny: Rivera said if he felt good and thought he should play, he would plead his case to trainer Gene Monahan first because that’s the hardest person to convince. Rivera could start with Girardi, but… “I listen to Geno,” Girardi said.

• In other injury news, Eric Chavez felt some sort of lower abdominal discomfort this morning and is on his way to New York for tests. His lower back problem turned out to be nothing, and he was working out again. He went through a normal workout yesterday, felt good, then work up this morning with the problem. “They said his workout was great yesterday, too,” Girardi said.

• Rafael Soriano is scheduled to throw a bullpen tomorrow. “He’s only thrown fastballs,” Girardi said. “He’s got to throw to some hitters, some BP, and he’s probably got to go on the rehab. I think getting him back after the all-star break, like the first day, I don’t think that’s very feasible. I would hope not too far after that.”

• During this final stretch before the all-star game, Girardi wants to give all his regulars a little bit of rest and today was Mark Teixeira’s turn. “Some of the other guys got some days, and this would be his day,” Girardi said.

• Russell Martin had caught four days in a row, that’s why he’s out of the lineup. Girardi said Martin will probably get one more day off before the all-star break.

• Posada at first? “I feel pretty good,” Girardi said. “It think he’s done a pretty good job over there for us. He seems to know where to be at all times. He’s made some good plays on some ground balls, so I’m pretty comfortable.”

• Girardi said he’ll have to wait and see whether Derek Jeter will be cleared to play tomorrow.

• Pretty good chance Rivera won’t be going to the all-star game. “We’re just going to have to see,” Girardi said. “Depends how he feels. It might be a thing where the three days might help.”

• Any chance the all-star snub adds some motivation for CC Sabathia? “I think CC has enough motivation all the time when he goes out there,” Girardi said. “But it could. He might want to show people, I’m the league leader in wins and I belong on the all-star team, but I don’t think CC ever gets caught up in that.”

Michael Brantley LF
Asdrubal Cabrera SS
Travis Hafner DH
Carlos Santana 1B
Orlando Cabrera 3B
Grady Sizemore CF
Austin Kearns RF
Cord Phelps 2B
Lou Marson C

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 12 Comments →

Postgame notes: “It’s hard to think about anything else”07.02.11

From his spot in center field, Curtis Granderson has a perfect view of Bartolo Colon’s two-seamer. He’s not trying to hit it, and he’s not trying to catch it. He’s just watching it move.

“Even Gardner in left can see it,” Granderson said. “We’ll make hand gestures to each other about how much the ball is moving. It’s definitely moving a lot.”

Colon has a breaking ball and a changeup, but it’s that fastball that makes him so good. It’s the reason he gets so many strikeouts looking. He’s now thrown 13 consecutive scoreless innings, a stretch of dominance that extended to both sides of a DL stint.

“That happened to me before when I went to the DL,” he said. “Every time I come back, I pitch the same way.”

There have been plenty of chances to doubt Colon. There was reason to scoff at Brian Cashman for signing him this winter, and there was reason question whether he was fit enough for spring training, and there was reason to wonder whether he could take three weeks off and return to form without a single rehab start. But Colon just keeps doing the same thing, defying all expectation and pitching like a man in his prime.

“The way he’s been pitching for us all year long,” Nick Swisher said. “It’s hard to think about anything else.”

Here’s Joe Girardi’s postgame press conference.

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• Derek Jeter is finished in Trenton. He went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run. He started one double play and had to make at least one impressive, spinning play. I have to assume he came through the game just fine. Haven’t heard any different.

• As always, check with my old friend Mike Ashmore for a ton of Jeter notes from down in Trenton.

• Speaking of shortstops, you know all about Eduardo Nunez’s 7-for-8 the past two days. It turns out, his only out was caught by an old friend of his. Nunez has known Mets second baseman Justin Turner for a few years now, and in the sixth inning, Turner made a terrific play to rob Nunez on a line drive headed for the gap. “He told me, you can’t be 7-for-7,” Nunez said. “He’s my friend.”

• Biggest out of today’s game had to be Dillon Gee’s fifth-inning ground ball to third base. The Mets had loaded the bases, but Colon got the Mets starting pitcher to ground to Alex Rodriguez for an inning-ending double play. It was a scoreless game at the time. “That was very big for me and for the team,” Colon said. “Because the next inning, that’s when we started scoring runs.”

• Speaking of the Yankees offense, Colon got a bunt down and also went down swinging in his two plate appearances. “I enjoyed the bunt,” Colon said. “When I struck I started laughing a lot, but that’s what I always do. I enjoy the game.”

• Girardi said he had some advance notice that Colon might be this good. “They said he was really sharp on Monday,” Girardi said. “His velocity was good and the movement was good. He’s kind of surprised us all year long in a sense. We weren’t sure what we were going ot get out of him in spring training, and he just continued to pitch well and he did today.”

• A.J. Burnett, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are still scheduled to start the Cleveland series. “They’re still the probables,” Girardi said.

• By the way, Girardi said he’s not positive he’ll have an announcement about Phil Hughes tomorrow. That seems a little crazy since he’s on turn to start Monday, but that’s what Girardi said.

• For the second day in a row, the Yankees and Mets drew the largest ever crowd at Citi Field. They had 42,042 today. They had 42,020 last night.

• The Yankees are now 24-4 in day games. That’s an .857 winning percentage. They’re also on track for exactly 100 wins with a 50-31 record midway through the season.

• Nick Swisher’s eight-game hitting streak ended.

• Two more scoreless innings from Cory Wade. The Yankees really seem to have found something there. Russell Martin caught Wade when he had a 0.925 WHIP out of the Dodgers bullpen in 2008. “He looks like he’s even sharper now,” Martin said.

• Sergio Mitre made his season debut with the Yankees and gave up two runs in the ninth.

• Dominant pitching performances for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tonight, as well. D.J. Mitchell pitched seven shutout innings in the first game of a double header, then George Kontos spot-started the second game and went four scoreless with no walks and five strikeouts. Keep an eye on both of them. Those would be legitimate long relief options if Mitre continues to struggle.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 371 Comments →

Postgame notes: “My moment is coming to play every day”07.02.11

Eduardo Nunez won’t be the Yankees starting shortstop much longer, and he knows that. Best-case scenario is that he’ll be in the lineup two more days. If he’s playing much longer than that, something’s gone wrong with Derek Jeter’s rehab.

“I’m Eduardo Nunez, I’m not Derek Jeter,” Nunez said. “He’s a Hall of Famer. I’m this young guy. I have to learn a lot and do my best… I know he’s coming back, but I play hard, and one time my moment is coming to play every day. These two weeks have been an opportunity for me to show my manager, my staff and everybody that I can play (every day) one day in my career.”

Nunez made this team because of his bat, and after tonight’s 4-for-4, he’s hitting .309 as Jeter’s replacement. The eighth-inning insurance run he drove in gave the Yankees some breathing room on a night they seemed to hold their breath a lot.

The obvious knock on Nunez is his defense. He has a strong arm and plenty of range, but he’s showing some of the inconsistency that you might expect, but not necessarily like, from a young player. Tonight, his biggest throw was a good one. After dropping a throw from Curtis Granderson, then losing track of how far away the ball had rolled, Nunez saw Jose Reyes break for third base and fired a strike to Alex Rodriguez.

The throw beat Reyes, and that’s why the Yankees got the call. Rodriguez thought he got Reyes’ jersey. Reyes thought Rodriguez missed him altogether. Jerry Layne made the call, and Nunez had squashed the Mets last chance to get back in the game.

“He belongs here,” Mark Teixeira said. “He’s a guy that’s going to play in this game a long time, and he’s showing with this stretch here, these past couple of weeks, that he can play at this level.”

Said Joe Girardi: “When you have guys go down, a lot of times it’s kids who have a chance to step up. And he’s stepped up big time.”

I messed up while recording Nunez, but here’s Girardi’s postgame interview. Nunez actually did his interview in the press conference room, and let out a sigh of relief when it was over. He did a nice job, though. Handled himself really well in there.

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The Reyes play at third base will probably be the most talked about play of this game. Nunez said the throw from Granderson was “a good sinker” and he lost track of the ball a little bit after it bounced away.

Jose Reyes: “I thought I had a good chance to make it to third base, that’s why I went there. He called me out. That’s part of the game… (The umpire) was running to third base. I don’t know if he got a good view. I thought I got there safe but he called me out.”

Eduardo Nunez: “I think we have the play very close and have to throw perfect. I did my best.”

Alex Rodriguez: “I think I just touched a little bit of his sleeve. I saw the replay three or four times and I couldn’t even tell then… I wasn’t sure. I thought I got a little bit of the sleeve. Whether I did or not, you guys had a better view than I did.”

Umpire Jerry Layne: “You see what it is. It was a close play at third base, and I’m not going to comment about the ejection. I had him tagging him, you know, on the side by the belt/buttocks area for an out… I called what I saw.”

• Ivan Nova had runners on base all night, but got away with one run in five innings. His strikeout of Angel Pagan with the bases loaded in the fifth was arguably the most important at-bat of the night. “He was in trouble his share tonight,” Joe Girardi said. “But he did a good job making big pitches when he had to.”

• Girardi said Nova was going to pitch one more inning at the most, and when he had a chance to break the game open in the top of the sixth, he decided to go to the pinch hitter. He said he also liked the matchup of Luis Ayala against the bottom of the Mets order.

• Why go to right-hander Cory Wade to replace right-hander Ayala when Lucas Duda pinch hit in the sixth? “Ayala is more of a sinkerballer,” Girardi said. “You think about left-handed hitters, a lot of times they’re low-ball hitters. He has the curveball and changeup, where Ayala has the slider. They’re just two different guys, and htat’s why I like him in that situaton.”

• Ultimately, I have no idea why Girardi decided to let Boone Logan bunt for himself in the eighth inning, but it worked.

• Robinson Cano didn’t score on a Nunez single that dropped between players in the sixth inning. Girardi said Cano couldn’t tell whether it was caught, and since he wasn’t sure, he retreated. It was easy to see third base coach Rob Thomson waving him home. “It’s a tough read for Robbie,” Girardi said. “If you make the wrong read and he catches it, you’re out. If you make the wrong read and he doesn’t catch it, you’ve still got another shot.”

• Girardi said he was hoping to not use Mariano Rivera tonight, but with the top of the order coming up, he didn’t want to take any chances. “That situation with what’s coming up in the order with Beltran and Murphy, I wasn’t going to mess around,” Girardi said.

• Four scoreless innings from the bullpen, including key outs from Cory Wade and Boone Logan. “It makes it easier for us now that we have an idea exactly what we have,” Girardi said. “In the beginning when we were calling people up, you had to learn them as quick as possible and try to figure out which situations they’re most capable of being successful, but we’ve had them a little while and it definitely helps out to have that little background when you’re bringing them in.”

• Nick Swisher has a season-best eight-game hitting streak. He’s hitting .379 during the streak.

• Hard to imagine Rodriguez’s ninth-inning double staying in the park at any other stadium. “I wasn’t sure, but I thought it was (gone),” Rodriguez said.

• Brian Cashman said before the game that it’s unlikely Jeter will play the full nine innings tomorrow.

• Cashman also said Rafael Soriano threw a 32-fastball bullpen and could be back the first series after the all-star break — that’s best-case scenario — but Eric Chavez had a mild setback with a strain in his back. He’s eligible to be back next week, but Cashman said that probably won’t happen.

Associated Press photos, unfortunately there weren’t any good ones of Nunez tonight so we’re leading off with a shot of Granderson

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 114 Comments →

Four wins on a six-day trip: “I’ll take that any day”06.23.11

Jorge Posada shaking hands with Mariano Rivera after a Yankees win. It’s a picture that looks like something from another era, but it’s a positive picture, and regardless of what happened last night, this was a positive road trip for the Yankees.

Six games on the road, in unfamiliar parks, without a designated hitter, the Yankees won four times. They’ve won 10 of 13 since that three-game sweep against the Red Sox, and although last night leaves a sour taste, this team’s playing pretty well right now.

“If you can win two series, that’s what you’re looking to do,” Joe Girardi said. “You’re looking to win every series, and we were able to do that. You don’t like to lose the last game, but I thought our guys played pretty well on this trip.”

There were more positives than negatives this trip: Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia were outstanding, Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher stayed hot, Posada’s trip wasn’t wasted and Cory Wade kept looking like a nice pickup. You could add plenty of kind words about Alex Rodriguez, Dave Robertson, A.J. Burnett and Robinson Cano, who’s starting to show some of the consistency he had last season.

One game doesn’t ruin a road trip, and last night certainly doesn’t ruin this one. An off day today, and another on Monday means the Yankees get a little bit of a built-in breather the next few days. That’s a good thing, as well.

“It didn’t end up the way we wanted it to,” Russell Martin said. “But I thought overall it was a good road trip. Played some good baseball day in and day our. Four and two, I’ll take it any day.”

Just a quick note: After a terrible incident yesterday morning, I’ve shuffled some plans, rented a car, and I’m now driving home to Missouri for a funeral. I have some blog stuff that I was working on yesterday to bridge the gap while I was supposed to be flying to New York, but ultimately things might be a little light today. Not sure how much I’ll be able to write when I get home. Just wanted to give you all a heads up.

Associated Press photo

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Pregame notes: Happy Father’s Day06.19.11

Happy Father’s Day everyone.

My dad is probably in a wheat field somewhere in Southeast Missouri, I’m here at a ball field in Northern Illinois and this afternoon Joe Girardi was down in Peoria visiting his own father. He said he drove down this morning, spent about two hours with his dad, then drove back to Chicago. Girardi’s dad has been sick, but today was encouraging.

“The morning was very good,” Girardi said. “Better than I expected after what I had heard. His eyes were open, he was moving and he ate well, so it was all good.”

Girardi said it was the first time since 2007 that he spent Father’s Day with his dad.

When Girardi got back to Chicago, his own kids gave him their Father’s Day gifts. His son gave him a new iPod, one daughter gave him a handmade toothbrush holder and the other gave him a big plate because — as she told him — the Yankees manager likes to eat.

“They know their daddy,” Girardi said.

• Girardi hadn’t checked with Russell Martin, but he was confident his catcher would be fine after yesterday’s collision. “It was just a check on the boards, right?” Girardi said, a rock-solid hockey reference for his Canadian catcher.

• The Yankees bullpen is largely built around the goal of getting the ball to Dave Robertson and Mariano Rivera. The rest of the bullpen has been pieced together, but the Yankees have seen encouraging signs from guys like Cory Wade and Hector Noesi who might be primed for larger roles. “I haven’t really looked at it about guys winning jobs, it’s just based on needs,” Girardi said. “Wade is a guy that I know I can use in the back end. I know that, just because he’s done it before. Noesi was the one that I talked to, I told him … I will use you for distance too, but your role’s going to change a little bit, so don’t be surprised.”

• Girardi said he still considers Luis Ayala his top option in the seventh inning. He wasn’t available yesterday because he’d thrown so much recently.

• With all of his new relievers, Girardi said he looks primarily at quality strikes. It was quality strikes that made him believe Noesi could be valuable in short stints.

• Still quite a bit of talk this afternoon about Eduardo Nunez’s defense. Nunez said he learned from Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano to move forward, not letting defense affect offense and vice versa. “It’s good to see him be able to turn the page,” Girardi said. “Players are going to make errors, that’s the bottom line. Yes, they’re frustrating and you don’t want them to happen, but I don’t see him taking it to his offense and I don’t see him taking his offense to his defense. I think he’s just playing the game, and that’s what we want.”

• Yesterday’s Nunez error came on a ball that never actually hit his glove. Nunez said the ball took a bad hop and actually hit him in his bare hand before shooting away. “It’s an error anyway,” Nunez said.

• Martin will be off either Tuesday or Wednesday (when the Yankees have a night game, then a day game in Cincinnati).

• Girardi guessed that he had Logan up and throwing in the bullpen five times on Thursday and Friday, which made him hesitant to use him on Saturday. He’s not hurt or anything, just hasn’t actually pitched in a while.

• I was writing and didn’t see it, but apparently CC Sabathia hit three homers in a row during batting practice.

• Phil Hughes went 4.1 innings, allowing one run on three hits and one walk in his rehab start for Staten Island. He struck out seven and gave up a home run to a catcher named Nelfi Zapata.

Reed Johnson CF
Starlin Castro SS
Jeff Baker 1B
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Alfonso Soriano LF
Geovany Soto C
Lou Montanez RF
D.J. LeMahieu 2B
Randy Wells SP

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 160 Comments →

Yankees postgame: Gordon’s big day06.16.11

Brian Gordon drew a crowd for a good while around his locker. This was really his day, the day for which he waited so long.

Yes, the 15-year minor-leaguer had three relief outings with Texas as a September call-up in 2008. But this was a start for the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. The 32-year-old righty got a no-decision in the 3-2, 12-inning win over the Rangers, but he did well, allowing two runs and seven hits in 5 1-3. He used a cutter and a 68-71 mph curve among other pitches. He began going to that slow hook as an out pitch when he was on the mound as a kid. 

“There have been a lot of highs; there have been a lot of lows,” Gordon said. “This has got to be at the top of all the highs. It was a very special day for myself and my family. … Hopefully I can stick around for a little bit.”

He decided on a sort of career change before the 2007 season, feeling he had hit a plateau as an outfielder, although he was a .274 career hitter with 118 homers.

“After 10 years of trying it with no big-league time and bouncing around from organization to organization, it just didn’t seem too promising,” said Gordon, who was born in West Point. “I was starting a family. So I was like, I’m at peace with retirement. But I loved to pitch when I was kid. Let’s give it a shot.”

Now he has earned another start, this one an interleague start in Cincinnati Tuesday night. You know what means? No DH.

“You spend 10 years grinding it out and then you decide to pitch, and now you get your first big-league at-bat,” Gordon said. “I guess that’s the way I like to operate.”

*Jorge Posada extended his hitting streak to nine games by delivering an RBI double as a righty batter. Now he becomes a pinch hitter for the six-game NL trip, unless Mark Teixeira gets a rest from first in one game.  

But Posada is encouraged at the moment: “I feel a lot of things are coming. I’m working counts well and good things are happening.”

*Andruw Jones started in left as usual with a lefty going. But Brett Gardner came on in the ninth and had two singles in extra innings against lefty Michael Kirkman, including the walk-off hit in the 12th.

“I never worry about him against lefties,” Joe Girardi said. “I’m just trying to keep Andruw going.”

*New righty reliever Cory Wade has been great since coming up yesterday, throwing three perfect innings in the two games, including the final two in this one. Russell Martin used to catch him with the Dodgers.  

“He’s probably even better than the last time I saw him,” Martin said. “He reminds me of 2008. He had a great year in 2008. He looks like he’s got his stuff. He’s got command of his changeup, his fastball. He’s the type of guy who can throw any pitch, any count. That’s why he’s tough to hit.”

Hector Noesi, David Robertson, Mariano Rivera and Wade combined to go 6 2-3 scoreless innings, retiring 19 of 22. Yankees relievers haven’t been charged with a run in their last six outings, covering 18 innings.

*The Yankees bounced back well from the Boston sweep, ending the homestand with six wins in seven tries. They are 19-9 since May 17. They are also the first big-league team since 1958 to win 18 of their first 21 day games. The last team to do it? The Yankees, of course. Robinson Cano has been on base in all the day games.

Now it’s on to another day game, Friday in Chicago against the Cubs, the start of 15 straight against the NL.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 234 Comments →

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