The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Eight men out11.03.11

Last winter, when Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter became free agents, there never any real doubt they’d end up back with the Yankees. This winter, there’s no guarantee that any of the Yankees free agents will be back. Several would be logical fits, but none is a slam dunk for the Yankees to re-sign.

Today is the first day free agents are allowed to negotiate with every team — not just their previous team — meaning it’s suddenly open season for these eight Yankees.

Luis Ayala
Signed as a minor league free agent late last winter, Ayala landed the last spot on the big league roster out of spring training, then stuck with the team all season. He was surprisingly effective, and for a short time — when Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain were hurt — he settled in as a key late-inning reliever. He may have pitched well enough to earn a big league deal, but should the Yankees be the team to give it to him? Most of their bullpen spots are accounted for as it is.

Eric Chavez
From superstar in Oakland to role player in New York, Chavez is still deciding whether he wants to keep playing. Injuries have taken their toll, and if he’s going to play again, it’s almost certainly going to be in a situation similar to this season. The Yankees have a place for a player like Chavez. Whether that player is Chavez himself may depend on whether Chavez decides to play again.

Bartolo Colon
Maybe the biggest surprise of the season, Colon clearly faded in the second half, and that may be cause for enough concern that the Yankees won’t want to bring him back. It would be impossible to count on Colon to be effective through an entire season, but keeping him in a relief role might keep him fresh and effective. Certainly Colon opened some eyes, but what kind of deal would it take to bring him back, and has all of the lightning escaped the bottle?

Freddy Garcia
The Yankees No. 5 starter out of spring training was their No. 3 starter in the playoffs. Garcia is what he is — he doesn’t throw hard and gets by on guts and savvy — but he’s proven he can be effective in this form. The Yankees have a large batch of young starters climbing through the system, and Garcia might be a perfect short-term commitment for back-of-the-rotation depth. He’s not the only fit, but he could be a good fit.

Andruw Jones
After a slow first half, Jones was exactly what the Yankees hoped for in the second half, and they’re once again going to have a spot for a right-handed outfielder who can be a platoon starter in the corners. Jones is in the same boat as Garcia and Chavez: He’s the type of player the Yankees will want for next season, but he’s not the only one who could fill that role.

Damaso Marte
At this point, I’m not sure anyone knows what Marte could provide. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since July of 2010, and he’s coming back from shoulder surgery that limited him to just a few minor league innings this year. The Yankees could use another left-handed reliever, and there’s a chance Marte would accept a minor league deal to prove himself in spring training. If not, it’s hard to see him coming back to the Yankees.

Sergio Mitre
The Yankees didn’t have room for Mitre last spring, and they shipped him to Milwaukee for Chris Dickerson.  When he came back to the Yankees mid-season — this year’s version of Chad Gaudin — Mitre lasted all of four outings before he was on the disabled list and lost for the season. Obviously the Yankees like Mitre, but his time might have come and gone with plenty of in-house options to fill a long-relief/spot-starter role.

Jorge Posada
Nothing new to be said. Even before his career-worst season, it was unclear whether the Yankees would have a place for Posada next season. They clearly no longer view Posada as a catcher, and they have need to give DH at-bats to Alex Rodriguez — not to mention Jesus Montero — and if Posada’s no longer a catcher, he’s limited to DH and a few backup appearances in the field. It’s not a comfortable situation for either side, but Posada’s time with the Yankees might have ended.

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Pregame notes: Short-handed heading to Boston08.29.11

Alex Rodriguez jammed his thumb making a play at third base in Minneapolis. He aggravated the injury swinging a bat here in Baltimore. Although an MRI came back clean, the Yankees aren’t certain they’ll have their third baseman at all this week in Boston.

“I think it’s really questionable,” Joe Girardi said. “But let’s just see.”

Rodriguez saw hand specialist Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser, and Girardi said the Yankees just have to make sure the thumb is ready to go. It bothers him more swinging than fielding, and Girardi doesn’t believe it’s the kind of injury that will linger. Once it’s healed, it’s healed.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are heading to Boston for a key three-game series, and their third baseman isn’t the only concern. Derek Jeter seems better, but obviously he’s a little banged up, and he’s spent a ton of time in the trainer’s room this afternoon. The Yankees bullpen is also short-handed with Hector Noesi optioned to Triple-A to make room for Freddy Garcia.

“It is a little bit (of a concern), knowing how some of the games can get up north,” Girardi said. “With Freddy tonight, it is a little bit of a concern. We’re going to have to deal with it.”

• Noesi has been optioned, and so he won’t be available for a call-up on September 1. Demoted players have to stay in the minors for 10 days. In the case of September, a player has to stay in the minors either 10 days or until the end of that particular minor league season. So Noesi won’t be back — barring injury — until September 6.

• Without Noesi, the Yankees are carrying a six-man bullpen, none of whom is a true long man. Girardi said the bullpen is plenty deep enough for tonight, and he’ll adjust if necessary the next few days. Just a guess, but I’d say this basically assures either Lance Pendleton or George Kontos or one of the Triple-A starters getting an immediate September call-up to fill that long-man void.

• Girardi on Derek Jeter: “He was walking around fine today. Walking a lot better than I would have anticipated wnen I saw him walk out last night. He healed up pretty good, so I can use him in case of an emergency.”

• Both Pedro Feliciano and Damaso Marte have suffered setbacks. They pitched on Thursday, but they felt soreness and have been shutdown. Girardi said it’s still very unlikely that either will pitch in the big leagues this season. If Feliciano ends up having surgery, Girardi acknowledged that it could be career-ending.

• Tonight, Freddy Garcia’s pitch count could be a “a little short” but nothing significant. He’s still pretty stretched out after that one rehab game. “I’m not sure what to expect,” Girardi said. “I feel better that he threw better Monday in Scranton, was able to use all of his pitches and that his finger is healed. But when a guy hasn’t pitched off a mound in a while, you worry a little about control and stamina.”

• Girardi was asked a little bit about September call-ups today, but he wouldn’t give any indication about who they’re planning to promote. He didn’t commit to any specific pitchers or hitters, and didn’t say whether they planned to add a third catcher.

J.J. Hardy SS
Nick Markakis RF
Adam Jones CF
Vladimir Guerrero DH
Matt Wieters C
Mark Reynolds 1B
Ryan Adams 2B
Nolan Reimold LF
Robert Andino 3B

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: Rodriguez on track to return next week08.09.11

The tarp just came off the field and it looks like there’s at least a chance of starting tonight’s game on time. I thought there was no chance just a few hours ago, but Joe Girardi said he’s been hearing that the game will probably be played.

On to big picture news.

Alex Rodriguez ran the bases today. He did his usual batting practice and fielding drills, but it’s the running that’s most significant. Girardi said Rodriguez is still on track to begin a rehab assignment this weekend — either Friday or Saturday, Girardi said — and it’s a good bet that he’ll be with the Yankees next week on the road.

“I don’t know if Monday is realistic,” Girardi said. “Part of it probably depends on where he starts and how he feels in those next couple of games. But I think next week is realistic.”

Girardi said he’s not sure how many rehab games Rodriguez will need.

“I guess theoretically it could be one, but you can’t really say,” Girardi said. “You don’t know how he’s going to feel and you don’t know if he’s going to have his timing. You don’t know if he’s going to feel stable on his knee running the bases. You can’t just throw a random number out there. When he’s ready, we’ll have him back, I can tell you that.”

• Phil Hughes starts Saturday. Freddy Garcia starts Sunday. For now, the Yankees are sticking with a six-man rotation. “I don’t know how much longer we’ll stick with that,” Girardi said. “Obviously we’ve got the split doubleheader in Baltimore and we have to be prepared for that too.”

• Could either Hughes or Garcia be available out of the bullpen? “We’d probably stay away from them,” Girardi said. “If we had to, yes, but our bullpen is in pretty good shape.”

• Sergio Mitre is going for a second opinion after being diagnoses with a pinch nerve in his shoulder. An MRI showed no structural damage, but a nerve problem is causing Mitre to lose considerable arm strength (fastball velocity suddenly dropped by about 6 mph, he said). The second opinion is determine whether surgery is necessary, but Mitre is going into it believing he has  “90 percent” chance of surgery. How long he’s out depends entirely on how quickly the nerve recovers.

• According to the latest AP update from Tampa, Pedro Feliciano threw 42 pitches in the bullpen today and is scheduled for live batting practice on Friday. Even so, Girardi said Feliciano is still a longshot to pitch for the Yankees this season.

• Other Tampa updates via the AP: Ramiro Pena started swinging a bat… Damaso Marte threw a 32-pitch bullpen… Mark Prior pitched in another rookie league game.

• Once again out of the Yankees lineup, Jorge Posada seemed just as frustrated today as he was after he and Girardi had their conversation on Sunday. Posada spoke only briefly. “You wouldn’t expect any player to be necessarily happy if he’s taken from a role,” Girardi said. “I was a full-time catcher and reduced to less catching. I didn’t like it. I just kept working at it and trying to get better. As a player, that’s really the only thing you can do – be prepared and when you get your chance, perform and do the best you can.”

• Russell Martin’s mustache is no longer the worst Yankees look of the year. A.J. Burnett has gone with totally blonde hair. It’s… a curious decision. Martin literally offered a no comment on the situation, but he did laugh a little when I brought it up.

Erick Aybar SS
Howie Kendrick 2B
Bobby Abreu DH
Torii Hunter RF
Mark Trumbo 1B
Vernon Wells LF
Maicer Izturis 3B
Peter Bourjos CF
Jeff Mathis C

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: One decision down, another to go08.03.11

The Yankees made one rotation decision today. The rest remains as unsettled as ever.

“Our plans right now are to keep Phil on rotation for Tuesday,” Joe Girardi said. “We want Nova to throw well, and if he continues to throw well, we’re going to have to answer some questions of exactly what we’re going to do, but Phil was real good last night.”

As he’s done the past few days, Girardi ruled out nothing for Ivan Nova. The Yankees could stick with some sort of six-man rotation for another turn. They could move Nova to the bullpen. They could option him back to Triple-A, with plans to have him start a doubleheader later this month. Girardi ruled out nothing today, but he did acknowledge that Monday’s off day would make it difficult to keep a six-man rotation going without significant changes. As it is, Hughes’ start on Tuesday is coming with six days rest.

It’s easy to point to tomorrow’s start by Nova as a significant turning point one way or the other, but Girardi said it’s more complicated than that. What happens this weekend could also play a role, as could the desire to keep the other guys on a fairly regular schedule.

“I always say, the big-leagues is the big-leagues,” Nova said. “Nobody wants to be in the minor leagues. If they need me in the bullpen, I’ll go to the bullpen. I’m not saying I want to go there, but any decision that they make, that’s what I gotta to do.”

• Alex Rodriguez remains on schedule to begin baseball activities tomorrow in Tampa, but there’s still no schedule in place for when he might begin a rehab assignment or return to the big leagues. “I’m not exactly sure what he’s going to do,” Girardi said. “I would think he would start with tee and toss. That would be my guess… I think you’ve got to see how he’s doing tomorrow and the next couple of days before you can say he’s this many days away.”

• As you might expect, Girardi had nothing to say about the Rodriguez gambling story.

• The most significant big leaguer still rehabbing in Tampa is probably Damaso Marte, but Girardi said he had no update on him. The assumption seems to be that he’s still just throwing bullpens.

• A.J. Burnett went winless in July. He made five starts, allowing either three or four runs each time, but he never got a win. That’s not a great month, but it’s not a terrible month either. “I think it’s important (that he get a win) because I think everyone wants to feel like they’re contributing,” Girardi said.

• Girardi on Mark Teixeira’s recent hot streak: “This guy has put up big numbers for a long time. That’s what he does. You look at his RBIs, his homers, they’ve very good. You hope he can carry it out, what do we have, eight weeks left? That would be awesome. The chances of a guy staying hot for eight weeks, sometimes you’re going to go through some little blips, but this guy’s a good hitter and he’s capable of doing it.”

• I guess because the game is on ESPN, first pitch is actually scheduled for 8:20 ET tonight.

Juan Pierre LF
Omar Vizquez 2B
Carlos Quentin DH
Adam Dunn 1B
Alexi Ramirez SS
A.J. Pierzynski C
Alex Rios CF
Alejandro De Aza RF
Brent Morel 3B

Associated Press photo

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Pregame notes: “We know what he’s capable of doing”07.27.11

Phil Hughes has made three starts since coming off the disabled list. There was a so-so outing against the Indians, a good start against the Blue Jays and last week’s ugly performance against the A’s.

“I think it’s important for him to bounce back after the last start,” Joe Girardi said. “His pitches just weren’t crisp the last time like they were in Toronto. I think it’s important for him… The trade deadline does not enter my mind when we talk about Phil Hughes, does he solidify (his spot)? That doesn’t enter my mind. The bottom line is we’ve got to get this guy back to where he was last year, and how do we do that, and what’s the best approach? That’s what’s mostly in the back of my mind because we know what he’s capable of doing, and it’s getting him there.”

Hughes seemed to take a significant step forward with his improved curveball and improved fastball command in Cleveland, but those things weren’t evident in his 4.1 innings against Oakland on Friday.

Girardi has talked a lot about Hughes keeping a good downward plane on his fastball, and Girardi brought that up again this morning. Someone asked if swing-and-miss stuff would be a key this afternoon, but Girardi said that’s not exactly the case.

“That was part of what he did last year,” Girardi said. “I look at swings more than swings and misses. Are they squaring the ball up is the bottom line. You can have deception, have guys out front and they hit weak ground balls or weak pop ups. That’s a good sign. To me, it’s the quality of the swing more than the swings and misses.”

• The Yankees decided not to activate Rafael Soriano for today’s game and will likely activate him on Friday. “With him throwing two days in a row, we feel it’s probably best in this situation – because he’s just coming off an injury – to give him two days,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of players on the disabled list, Girardi finally vocalized a truth that’s been pretty obvious for a while now: It’s time to give up on Pedro Feliciano pitching this year. “I would think so, yeah,” Girardi said. As it stands, Feliciano is still in Tampa, and Girardi said he’s “trying” to play catch. “He’s not doing much,” Girardi said.

• Damaso Marte is still throwing bullpens in Tampa, so he actually has some chance of playing some sort of role down the stretch.

• Girardi wasn’t sure when exactly, but Alex Rodriguez will do his early rehab work — taking batting practice and such — with the Yankees rather than at the minor league complex in Tampa. They Yankees have a date in mind that Rodriguez will join the Yankees to begin baseball activities, but Girardi couldn’t remember the exact day.

• The decision not to play Eric Chavez today: “It’s a day game after a night game and Chavy’s played seven out of eight days,” Girardi said. “We want o be smart about this. This is not a guy that we want to lose again.”

• The Yankees still haven’t announced starting pitchers for Saturday’s double header. Bartolo Colon will start one of them, but Girardi said the other game is still TBA. Ivan Nova is available to make the start — Girardi said health is not a concern for Nova — but the Yankees aren’t certain he’ll come up to pitch one of those games. “Just some things we’re talking about that we could do with our rotation,” Girardi said.

Assocaited Press photo

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Pregame notes: Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?07.16.11

From the very moment that Russell Martin suggested the Blue Jays were stealing signs on Thursday, the Yankees have insisted that sign stealing is perfectly fair as long as it takes place between the lines. A player on base reading signs and relaying information is fair game.

This morning, though, Joe Girardi implied that the Blue Jays sign stealing goes behind head gestures from second base.

“I don’t really want to get into it,” Girardi said. “Signs are coveted. Anywhere that you play in the game, you have to protect your signs. Sometimes we have inclinations that things might be happening in certain ballparks that we’re aware of, and we try to protect our signs… I’ve told the guys, there’s things you have to do in certain ballparks.”

This was in response to a question about why the Yankees were using multiple signs last night, even without runners on base. Why would it be necessary to flash multiple signs when there’s no base runner to read them? Asked if there’s a chance the signs are being gathered off the field, Girardi gave a cryptic, “Could be.”

“I’m not accusing anyone,” Giardi said. “I just said we need to protect our signs. You have to take pride in it, and you have to be smarter than the other club when you do things and you have to change things up. You have to be willing to do those things.”

Of course, Blue Jays manager John Farrell denied any sort of off-the-field activity, and brought up the fact that his team is still trying to get above .500 at home. He seemed more confused that anything about the implication.

“Honestly, why that would even come about, I don’t know,” Farrell said. “We play this game to compete and prepare every day, and we don’t look to any other means than what takes place between the lines.”

Here’s Girardi

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• Rafael Soriano is throwing live batting practice today, but Girardi wasn’t sure when. If that goes well, Soriano could be cleared for a rehab assignment next week.

• Girardi said Eric Chavez is also taking steps forward. “He’s taking ground balls, and he’s taking BP, so he’s done okay,” Girardi said. “Hopefully we can get him in a game pretty soon too. I can’t tell you when, but it would be nice to get him in a game soon.”

• Damaso Marte is throwing bullpens now. Pedro Feliciano is playing catch again.

• Russell Martin is sitting because it’s a day game after a night game. Curtis Granderson is the DH to rest his legs on this turf. “This is the third of eight days, and you’ll see us do this a little bit,” Girardi said.

• Lefties have hit Ricky Romero better than righties, so Girardi didn’t want to take either Brett Gardner or Granderson out of the lineup. Could be because Romero has such a good changeup. That pitch is usually helpful in a left-hander neutralizing right-handed hitters (and vice versa).

• Girardi said he’d have to check with Hector Noesi before knowing whether he’s available, but he doesn’t expect Sergio Mitre to be available today. Mitre has struggled the past two nights. “He just doesn’t have the velocity and the sink that he had, and I can’t tell you exactly why,” Girardi said. “We’re looking at things and we’re trying to work on it.”

• Jose Bautista is once again out of the Blue Jays lineup.

• If you haven’t seen it, George King has reported that the Yankees have scouts watching Ubaldo Jimenez, as well as several other potentially available pitchers. As always with Brian Cashman, it’s hard to say whether this is legitimate interest or part of Cashman’s usual diligence in checking every possible option.

• Derek Jeter got a kick out of hearing about Paul McCartney’s “more hits than me” line from last night’s concert.

Rajai Davis CF
Eric Thames RF
Yunel Escobar SS
Adam Lind 1B
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Aaron Hill 2B
Travis Snider LF
J.P. Arencibia C
John McDonald 3B

Associated Press photo

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Prior and Soriano taking steps forward07.14.11

The Yankees will make one move today, officially putting Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list and adding someone to fill the roster spot. The list of candidates is long. It’s possible to make a case for Greg Golson, Chris Dickerson, Brandon Laird, Jorge Vazquez, Kevin Russo… but whoever gets the call-up, they’re likely to fall into secondary role while Eduardo Nunez gets the bulk of the starts at third base.

As for future moves, two injured relievers took positive steps forward yesterday. Here’s the latest from The Associated Press down in Tampa.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New York Yankees right-hander Mark Prior is back pitching after missing almost three months because of a strained groin.

The converted reliever said it was a step in the right direction Wednesday after allowing an unearned run and one hit over two innings for the Gulf Coast League Yankees against Atlanta minor leaguers.

In his first outing since pitching on April 18 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Prior threw 24 pitches with a fastball that reached 90 mph.

Prior has struggled with shoulder injuries and made his previous major league appearance in August 2006. The 30-year old went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA in 30 starts for the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs in 2003.

Also, Yankees reliever Rafael Soriano threw 25 pitches during his second batting practice session since going on the disabled list May 17 because of right elbow inflammation.

Soriano signed a three-year, $35 million deal with New York in the offseason to handle the eighth inning, but struggled while adapting to the new role. He was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in 16 appearances before the injury.

Left-hander Pedro Feliciano, hoping to avoid surgery for a left shoulder tear, has resumed a light throwing program. Reliever Damaso Marte, coming back from left shoulder surgery, is continuing to throw off a bullpen mound.

Also, the Yankees have finalized a contract with 24-year old Cuban right-hander Reinier Casanova and assigned him to the GCL Yankees.

Associated Press photo of Prior in spring training

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Pregame notes: “He can just be Derek Jeter again”07.06.11

Ever since it was decided that Derek Jeter would come off the disabled list on Monday, Joe Girardi has planned to give him today’s game off. It seemed like a good mid-point between his rehab games and the all-star break. As of last night, he was still planning to sit Jeter tonight.

Then he talked to Jeter after last night’s game, slept on the decision, and woke up having changed his mind.

“Just from talking to him, I got the sense that he’s thinking about it,” Giradi said. “And he wants to get this done with so he can just go on and be Derek Jeter, not Derek Jeter pursuing 3,000 hits. That’s the sense I got from him. I’m not telling you that’s what he was saying to me, but that’s the sense that I got. I started thinkng about it, you know what, if I was in pursuit of 3,000 hits – which, I was never close to – I don’t know if I’d want a day off to think about it. I’d want to get back out there.”

Girardi said his first conversation was with the training staff, which assured him that Jeter’s calf was fine. Then he talked to Jeter at the stadium. Then Girardi texted with him when he got back to the hotel.

“His thing was how much I’m playing just coming back,” Jeter said. “I told him I was fine and that was pretty much the extent of it… He said he was going to sleep on it. He said that from the get go. He just told me what he was thinking, and I told him what I was thinking, and he came to a decision.”

Girardi’s new plan is this: Play Jeter until he gets 3,000 hits.

“If we can,” Girardi said. “So we can get this through with and he can just be Derek Jeter again.”

Here’s Girardi’s lengthy pregame session in the dugout.

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• If Jeter gets three hits in his first three at-bats and the Yankees have a big lead, Girardi said he might get him out of the game and give him a chance to get the milestone at home. “I’m going to manage to win the game,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. I would love for him to be 3-for-3 and we had a big lead, but I don’t know what I would do. I hope I get in that situation that he’s 3-for-3 and we have a big lead. That would be nice.”

• Mariano Rivera felt better today than he felt yesterday, but he’s still not sure whether he’ll actually pitch tonight. “If it’s necessary, yes,” he said. “Knowing Geno and knowing Girardi, they might give me another day. I might take another day.”

• Lance Pendleton was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Phil Hughes. Girardi said he’s hoping to get six or seven innings out of Hughes tonight. “The radar gun is one of the tools you see how much a guy’s stuff is falling off, if you think they’re getting tired,” Girardi said. “I won’t watch (the radar) any different tonight than I would any other night.”

• Triple-A reliever Kanekoa Texeira was released to make room for Hughes on the 40-man roster. “Don’t get that confused with Mark,” Girardi said.

• Get this: Damaso Marte threw a bullpen today. Seriously. That’s what Girardi told us.

• Of course, it’s one step forward and one step back for injured lefties. Pedro Feliciano was shutdown today because of soreness. He’ll be shut down for a week.

• Rafael Soriano threw a bullpen yesterday and will throw another tomorrow. He seems to be progressing.

• No update on Eric Chavez.

• Hughes is not scheduled to pitch again until after the all-star break. Girardi said it will probably stay that way. There are no plans to have him pitch any sort of minor league or simulated game over the break. “He’ll maybe throw a couple bullpens, we’ll see,” Girardi said. “Maybe throw one Friday, throw one Sunday, but we’ll see. No plans.”

• Eduardo Nunez is ready to go.

Associated Press photos

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Jeter gets on the field, Colon does long toss06.21.11

Here’s the latest Associated Press update on the injured Yankees down in Tampa.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter has resumed onfield work.

The Yankees’ captain threw for the first time Tuesday, including long toss, since going on the 15-day disabled list last week because of a strained right calf.

Jeter also worked out indoors and had treatment at New York’s spring training complex. He’s six hits away from 3,000 in his career.

Jeter limped off the field during a game on June 13 against Cleveland. It’s the first time since 2003 he’s been on the 15-day DL.

Also, right-handed starter Bartolo Colon, sidelined by a strained right hamstring, has started a throwing program that included long toss on Tuesday.

Injured relievers Rafael Soriano (right elbow inflammation) and Damaso Marte (left shoulder surgery) played catch.

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Pregame notes: Opportunities on the way06.10.11

Joe Girardi said he wasn’t holding out much hope. The Yankees doctors had seen Joba Chamberlain’s MRI results, and the Yankees manager was sure that their diagnosis was correct.

“I was pretty convinced that he was going to have surgery,” Girardi said.

Dr. James Andrews confirmed the diagnosis today, and Chamberlain will have surgery on Thursday. He’s likely lost for a year or so, certainly through the rest of this season and probably well into next season.

A Yankees bullpen that was seen as an overwhelming strength at the start of the spring training schedule now includes only three relievers who were projected to make the team when camp opened — Mariano Rivera, Dave Robertson and Boone Logan — and two of those three have been thrust into more significant roles than expected. Now it’s Luis Ayala who seems poised to take a larger-than-expected role. The Yankees will try some young guys, but Ayala’s experience essentially makes him the new Robertson, while Robertson becomes the new Chamberlain (who was already the new Rafael Soriano).

“(Ayala)’s become real important,” Girardi said. “He’d kind of taken Robby’s spot in the sixth, and now he’s going to be moved up to Robby’s spot in the seventh, so he’s become real important for us. He is a guy that has experience. He’s pitched in the back end of games, which I think is important. What we’ve seen from him is he has his good sinker, he comes in and throws strikes and he has a slider. He’s not afraid. He’s been through this before.”

The Yankees are expected to make a move before tonight’s game. We already know Kevin Whelan is on his way from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Once he arrives, he’ll be the first of what could be several internal options the Yankees look at in the late innings, trying to see who else might fit.

“You could see some guys that are going to get an opportunity, and we’re going to see what they can do,” Girardi said. “Obviously, when you start talking about pitching in the back end of games, a lot of times you prefer power arms or a lot of deception, and there’s some young kids down there — and some young kids in Double-A, and you probably even go down further — that have that, and they don’t have the experience. Some of them might get it.”

• Russell Martin texted Girardi this morning to say his back was feeling better, but the Yankees coaching staff told Girardi that Martin’s still not ready to play. Girardi said it’s just tightness. “We are going in the right direction,” Girardi said. “Maybe tomorrow is feasible. Maybe on Sunday. I’m hoping by this weekend we can play him.”

• Without Martin, the Yankees have leaned on Francisco Cervelli, who’s been throwing the ball into center field more often than the throws it to second base. Girardi and Tony Pena have been working with him to fix a mechanical flaw. “It’s similar to with a pitcher,” Girardi said. “If that front shoulder flies a little bit early, that ball’s taking off. And that’s what’s happening with him.”

• Girardi said Martin’s injury do not have him thinking about making a move to call up a catcher. “I think we’re OK for a while just because we do have Jorge in case of emergency,” Girardi said. “It would be different if we didn’t have Jorge.”

• Speaking of Posada, his son is feeling better two days after surgery. “He’s doing good,” Posada said. “He’s doing better.”

• Talked to Damaso Marte for a little while this afternoon. He’s playing catch, but only from about 20 feet. Much beyond that, his shoulder still feels sore. Playing light catch, though, the ball comes out “nice and easy” and Marte is still hopeful that he’ll be able to get himself back at some point after the all-star break.

• On Wednesday, the Indians optioned Shelley Duncan to Triple-A. It goes without saying that I was hoping to see him this weekend. He’s an easy guy to like, and an easy guy to root for.

• The Indians are one of the biggest surprises in baseball, a first-place team expected to finish at the bottom of the AL Central. “They’ve played well,” Girardi said. “They’ve pitched. Offensively, a lot of left-handed hitters. A lot of those guys are switch-hitters as well. They’re a young team that’s played well and they’ve gotten Grady Sizemore back. They’ve gotten huge contributions from Asdrubal Cabrera and there’s some experience there in bringing in Orlando Cabrera which I’m sure has helped out a lot and has helped out these young kids. Hafner, even though he’s been hurt, has had a pretty good year. I mean, this is a pretty good club, and they have some guys that have struggled but they’re still winning.”

• Tony Gwynn is one of the few players who would know, and he says the last 10 hits are the hardest to get on the way to 3,000. Derek Jeter is 10 away right now. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to get 3,000 hits,” Girardi said. “But I would imagine if I was at 2,990 it would be on my mind. But sometimes things just have a way of working out where it looks like it’s on your mind but it’s really not, or it’s on your mind and it looks like it’s not. I don’t think he’s ever going to let us know, but I’m sure it’s possible.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 517 Comments →

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