Dave Robertson had not allowed a home run his past 27 games. He hadn’t allowed a hit since August 2. He still has baseball’s longest active streak of consecutive saves converted.
But even the best relievers have bad nights, and right now the Yankees aren’t able to make up for those inevitable stumbles.
“Those bullpen guys have been operating on a pretty thin line,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Tonight, we weren’t able to get it done. But David’s been about as good as you could be.”
Tonight was not one of those nights. Robertson walked the first two batters he faced and at one point threw seven straight balls, four to walk Jose Altuve and three to fall behind 3-0 against Chris Carter. He found the strike zone with his next pitch. The distance on Carter’s home run was a pretty good indication of just how badly Robertson missed his spot.
“Trying to make a good pitch down and away,” Robertson said. “Instead I threw it right into his bat path and he put it 30 rows deep. It stinks when (the count is) 3-0 that happens, but if a make a good quality pitch, maybe I get a groundball double play. … When you’re not making quality pitches and you’re not throwing the ball where you want to, you’re not going to get outs. I struggled out there tonight, and I blew it for our team.”
He did, and in a vacuum this game might be all about a good reliever having a bad night. But the Yankees offense came down to two big hits tonight: Brian McCann’s two-run homer and Martin Prado’s two-run double. Ultimately, it was more of the same. Another night when the Yankees had a chance to take control of the game, but when their pitching staff slipped up, there was no offense to pick up the slack. The Yankees were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
“I thought we hit some balls pretty decent, but we didn’t get too many hits,” Girardi said. “Prado got the lone hit, I think, with runners in scoring position. I think to win you have to do a better job in those situations.”
• A lot of really close pitches for Robertson in that ninth inning. The crowd here at Yankee Stadium seemed to groan with every ball believing so many of them could have been strikes. “That’s the game,” Robertson said. “Sometimes you get those (calls), sometimes you don’t. It changes from day to day with different umpires. I went and looked them. They’re close. I’m not going to say they’re dead giveaway strikes, though.”
• No surprise to anyone that Carter was swinging away on a 3-0 pitch. “You know that he’s swinging there,” Girardi said. “You can’t just groove one. I’m sure that if he had it back – he wasn’t trying to throw it there – (but) it’s just kind of the way the night went for him.”
• With one out and Jacoby Ellsbury at third base in the eighth, the Yankees had Ellsbury running on contact. When Carlos Beltran hit a ball sharply right to the shortstop, Ellsbury was out easily at the plate. “You’re looking at the speed you have at third, the lead he can get, and it’s got to be hit hard at one of the infielders (for him to be out),” Girardi said. “The chances are that (small). A step to his right, a step to his left, he scores. That’s the chance we’re going to take with one out.”
• Actually thought Chris Capuano was perfectly good again. Found up getting away from him in the sixth, but this was the first time since joining the Yankees that he failed to pitch through the sixth, and he gave the team a chance to win. He’s been a perfectly fine fifth starter. Tonight he matched a season-high with eight strikeouts. He has 28 strikeouts and only three walks over his last four starts.
• Capuano on his start: “My command wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked it to have been in those last two innings. I started leaving some balls over the middle. Still in the sixth inning there with one out and nobody out, 2-2 game. I had a good chance to get through that inning, and Dominguez pulled his hands in and did a good job on a 2-2 pitch. I wasn’t able to get the lefty behind him, so it really came down to those last two batters in the sixth for me.”
• It’s getting to the point of having no new questions to ask these hitters. They all recognize what’s going on, and if they had answers, things would be different. “We’ve got to score more runs,” Mark Teixeira said. “We’ve had two-run leads, but to get a two-run lead in the (fourth) inning doesn’t mean much. You’ve got to keep adding on.”
• And here’s further recognition of an obvious problem: “We came together in spring training and expected to have a little more thunder,” Teixeira said. “We’re a little bit different team than we were to start the season, and we just haven’t really had that power.”
• I mentioned on Twitter before the game that there were a ton of guys on the field for early batting practice today — I’d say there’s usually two or three, today there were at least eight that I counted. “Our guys come to work every day,” Girardi said. “They work at their trade and they work really hard and they grind it out and they try to get better every day. That’s all you can really ask from them. Sometimes it works really well and sometimes it doesn’t and it’s been inconsistent this year. I think we had seven or eight guys hit early today.”
• Brian McCann has homered in three of his last four home games. He has hit 12 of his 14 home runs at Yankee Stadium this year.
• This was the second time this season that Robertson allowed more than two earned runs. Also only the third time this season that he allowed two or more walks. The only other time he did both was that June 1 letdown against Minnesota.
• If you’re scoring at home, the Yankees have now lost six of their past eight games. Could say they’ve won two out of three, but losing six of eight seems to paint a more accurate picture of what’s going on right now.
• Girardi said David Phelps saw Dr. Ahmad during the game, and Girardi wasn’t sure about the plan for Phelps going forward. Indications are, so far, that Phelps feels fine and expects to keep throwing. Might have a more definitive plan tomorrow.
• Final word to Teixeira: “Two days ago we were talking about a two game win streak and going on a run. We’re not going to let one game get us down too much. Pretty sure we’re still in the race, we just need to score more runs and win more games.”
Associated Press photos
The schedule won’t let the Yankees give Hiroki Kuroda six days off before every start down the stretch, but they were able to give him that many this time, and it seemed to make a difference. Coming off a rough outing against Cleveland, Kuroda looked like a dependable piece of the rotation again this afternoon.
At times, he looked like more than that.
“When he’s got his stuff darting like that to both sides of the plate, he’s tough to beat,” Brian McCann said. “… He was splitting both sides of the plate, kept them off balance all day. They came out really aggressive, he slowed them down a little bit with some offspeed early in the count. He pitched awesome.”
Last time out, Kuroda couldn’t make it through the fifth inning, and the Yankees would like to believe that was simply a bump in the road, not a sign that he’s about to begin the down-the-stretch collapse that became familiar the past two seasons. Before that disappointment last Sunday night, Kuroda had pitched to 3.49 ERA in his previous nine starts.
“The two extra days, I was able to physically get refreshed, as well as mentally,” Kuroda said.
Kuroda is the only part of the Opening Day rotation that’s lasted the whole season. He had a pretty rough month of April, but he’s been pretty consistent ever since. There have been some short, ineffective starts mixed in there, but he hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs since the beginning of May.
“He had everything in his arsenal today,” Joe Girardi said. “I think it was important because people would start asking questions, ‘Is he tired?’ Maybe the extra days helped him. … We will do it when we can. Unfortunately, we lose one off-day going to Kansas City where he could have been afforded it, but I think he’ll only go one start this time through with five days. It should help, yeah.”
• Mark Teixeira’s home run was No. 361 in his career, passing Gary Gaetti and tying Joe DiMaggio for 80th place on baseball’s all-time list. He was the first Yankees hitter to reach 20 home runs this season, the latest they’ve gone into a season without a 20-homer guy since 1995 when Paul O’Neill reached that number on September 12.
• Brett Gardner’s two-run signle in the fifth inning gave him 52 RBI for the season, matching his single-season career high. For a little while, Gardner was tied with Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury for the team lead in RBI, but both Teixeira and Ellsbury drove in runs later in the game.
• That two-run single up the middle was a huge hit for the Yankees, who had been hitless in the game until the batter before, Martin Prado, came through with a double. For a team desperate for offense, that Gardner at-bat felt like a must-have opportunity. “I’m thinking about trying to get a run across, you know?” Gardner said. “I’m just thinking about trying to find a way to get a pitch to handle. I’m definitely not thinking negative thoughts.”
• Including Gardner and Prado, five straight Yankees reached base with two outs in that fifth inning. “You get an excellent at-bat from Stephen Drew, a long at-bat (for a walk),” Girardi said. “A long at-bat from Prado, then Gardy gets the big hit there. Then Ells; a big hit as well as Jeter. To be able to put those together when it looks like you have nothing going and he’s rolling along with a no-hitter, it’s big.”
• It was Ellsbury’s first hit of the road trip. He was 0-for-17 on the trip before that two-out RBI single.
• Derek Jeter has a hit in 12 of 14 games this month. He went 4-for-13 this weekend. Of his 11 hits against the Rays this season, seven have come with two strikes. How’s that for relatively obscure stats coming from the Rays media relations department?
• After allowing those back-to-back singles in the first inning, Kuroda retired his next 17 in a row. “I think my slider, especially against righties, was a pretty decent staple,” Kuroda said. “For me, the thing was I wanted to pound the zone today and be aggressive; a lesson from the last time.”
• Kuroda threw 72 pitches in the first six innings, but he threw 25 pitches in the seventh before being removed with two outs. Shawn Kelley got a huge strikeout to get Kuroda out of the jam. Really, that might have been the at-bat of the night. Runners were left stranded at the corners, and it was only a one-run game at the time. “That’s a huge out, obviously,” Girardi said. “If he doesn’t, they’re going to tie the score and have a chance to take the lead. It’s a really big out.”
• Dave Robertson has now converted 21 straight save opportunities. Oddly, though, he hasn’t had a strikeout in three straight appearances. He’s stuck at 499 career strikeouts. This is only the fifth time in his career that he’s gone three consecutive outings without a strikeout. He also did it back in April.
• McCann on returning to the lineup after more than a week off: “Good after the first couple innings. I felt it get in game speed. The first couple innings were a little fast on me, but then (things) settled down and it was just like another game.” McCann said the speed of the game struck him more behind the plate than at the plate.
• Yet again, excellent infield defense for the Yankees. Chase Headley made a diving play at third, and Martin Prado made at least three really nice plays at second. “It was really good,” Girardi said. “They made some excellent plays. Prado made some excellent plays today and some tough plays. You can look at the play in the eighth inning where he doesn’t try to do too much; he understands to just get an out. It was outstanding.”
• Final word goes to Gardner: “Well, we’ve won our last two games. Obviously we’ve got another off-day tomorrow and hopefully we’ll go home and have a good week at home. We didn’t do what we wanted to do in Baltimore and obviously losing Friday night here, but the last two days have gone pretty good. We continued to pitch great and hopefully this week our offense can pick up the slack and give our pitchers a little breathing room.”
Associated Press photos
Derek Jeter actually has the second-highest batting average among Yankees regulars. When the team needs only a single with a left-handed pitcher on the mound, Jeter’s about as likely as anyone to come through with the big hit.
But neither he nor Joe Girardi had any thought of swinging away when Jeter walked to the plate in the ninth inning. Jeter said he didn’t even need to look for a sign, he knew he was bunting. His job, he said, was to get the runner to third base with less than two outs; make the RBI opportunity that much easier for the next guy.
“(Jacoby) Ellsbury has had a lot of success off (Jake) McGee as well,” Girardi said. “You’ve got speed, so there are a lot of different things (that can score the run. A chopper, Gardy is going to score. There are just so many ways Gardy can score (from third).”
But things don’t always go according to plan, and when Jeter fell into a two-strike count, he was swinging away. Hit a ground ball just past the second baseman for a game-winning single. It wasn’t much, but for a team starved for offense, it was just enough.
“I always like to be in those situations,” Jeter said. “It doesn’t mean I’m going to succeed — I’ve failed quite a bit as well — but I like those situations. I’m lucky it found a hole there.”
It felt lucky. The Yankees got that two-run home run from Martin Prado in the second inning, and then their offense went as silent as ever until catching a break on that throwing error in the ninth. They nearly wasted a great start from Shane Greene, and we might have been talking a lot about Brendan Ryan failing to cover second base in the seventh inning. Instead, this game came down to Jeter swinging away at a 2-2 pitch and getting the tiny little hit the Yankees needed to snap a losing streak.
“Every at-bat, every pitch, you have to try to find a way to do your job,” Jeter said. “No one is thinking about how many games we’ve lost in a row when we’re taking the field; at least, I’m not. It’s just basically let’s try to win this game. That’s the approach you have to have. This game is a game of up and downs. It’s a game of failure. It’s not easy. When you’re scuffling a little bit, that’s when you find out a lot about teams. You find out a lot about players. You’ve just got to try to stay optimistic.”
• Shane Greene might very well be pitching his way into a rotation job next season. In games like this, he looks like something far more than a fifth starter who can simply give the Yankees a chance. He throws hard, he throws strikes, and he gets a bunch of ground balls and strikeouts. “He had everything today,” Girardi said. “His sinker was really good, his cutter was good, his slider was good and his changeup was good. He used them really effectively, he and Cervy did an outstanding job in reading swings and doing what they had to do to get hitters out.”
• Greene rarely says much, but he seemed early on to know he had especially good stuff tonight. He gave a fist pump when he got out of the first inning, and he really pitched like a guy who fully expected to plow through hitters. “I felt really good when I was long tossing, and then in the bullpen, and in the game as well,” Greene said. “I think it led me to overthrow a little bit some pitches, but I felt really good.”
• Ten strikeouts was a career-high for Greene, and he got all of those strikeouts in his first 20 hitters. That’s his most at any level since he had 12 strikeouts with High-A Tampa on May 8 of last season.
• Greene became the 11th pitcher in Yankees history to have a double-digit strikeout game within his first eight career games. Masahiro Tanaka did it three times to start this season. Prior to Tanaka, the last Yankees pitcher to do it was Mariano Rivera when he had 11 strikeouts in his fifth career appearance.
• When Desmond Jennings led off the first inning with a double, it was only the second time this season that Greene allowed an extra-base hit to a right-handed hitter.
• Martin Prado had one hit in his previous 19 at-bats before hitting that two-run homer in the second inning. He seemed especially excited after crossing home plate. “You get excited in every game,” Prado said. “Sometimes it doesn’t go the way you actually want it to. But when you contribute for the team, you’re always excited, you know, and even better when we win the game, because we know that it’s a team effort.”
• Here’s Prado breaking down that home run at-bat, in which he fell behind 0-2 before going deep: “He threw a fastball middle-in, and I took it for a strike. Then I saw Chase taking off (stealing second). He threw me a pretty good breaking ball. I laid off. I didn’t know it was a strike. I was down in the count, so I was just hoping that he could make a mistake. He actually threw a fastball and he left it up. I put the best swing I could probably put.”
• Prado’s two home runs with the Yankees have come off Drew Smyly and David Price, two guys who were traded for one another at the deadline. So that’s something.
• Jeter’s game-winner was his 12th career go-ahead hit in the ninth inning or later, and his first since October 2, 2010 at Boston against Jonathan Papelbon. Jeter has 20 career game-winning RBI against the Rays, second-most all-time behind David Ortiz, who has 26.
• Dave Robertson has converted his past 20 save opportunities, the longest active streak in the majors. Robertson hadn’t pitched since August 7. “I felt really comfortable throwing my fastball,” Robertson said. “My breaking ball felt a little short. That’s something I’ll have to work on, that way I can get a little more distance on it and get it to Cervelli so he’s not having to block every 50-foot curveball I throw.”
• That last fly ball out seemed crushed off the bat. “I sure did (think it was trouble),” Robertson said. “It was really loud off the bat. I know he hit it hard, but he just barreled it straight up and thank goodness it didn’t go in the seats. That’s a pitch I wanted back, but it turned out to be an out.”
• What happened on that chopper in the seventh when no one covered second base? “I think at first, for a second, (Brendan Ryan) reacted to the ball the way it was hit,” Girardi said. “His responsibility is at second base. He has to get back to second base. Chase thought he had a play at second, but once he didn’t see Ryan there, Kiermaier is too fast and he was safe.” Actually looked to me as if Ryan went to second initially, then thought Prado was going to cover and so changed direction to cover third for some reason. Just a bad play that helped setup the tying run.
• Why not go straight to Dellin Betances with one out and runners at second and third in the seventh? “I was going to stick with Shawn (Kelley),” Girardi said. “He’s a strikeout guy, too.” Kelley ultimately allowed only weak contact, but it was enough to drive in that tying run.
• Brian McCann said he felt much better going through drills today. He’s hoping to be in the lineup tomorrow.
• Final word goes to Jeter: “We need all of them. I mean, we’re getting down to crunch time. What do we have, 40-something games left? So every game we play is important. This was a big one for us, but we have to come back tomorrow and play well tomorrow.”
Associated Press photos
A first-inning decision to intentionally load the bases had backfired, but the Yankees offense had rallied. CC Sabathia’s fastball command had been erratic, but he’d settled down. Dave Robertson had put the tying run at third base, but he’d struck out three in a row.
The Yankees had been in trouble all night, but it was only when they seemed to be in safe hands — arguably the safest hands in the history of the game — that Opening Day unraveled into a stunning one-run loss.
“(Mariano Rivera) is not going to be perfect the whole year,” Joe Girardi said. “But I believe he’s going to be really, really, really good. … We’re pretty used to seeing him do it. We’ve seen it over 600 times, so when it doesn’t happen, you’re a little shocked.”
The pitch Rivera wanted back was a 1-2 cutter to Desmond Jennings. It was a leadoff single, the least damaging hit of the inning, but it was a legitimate mistake. Rivera wanted the pitch down, he left it up, and everything soon spiraled. Both Rivera and Russell Martin seemed to think the Zobrist triple was a good pitch, Zobrist just did a good job with it. Loading the bases was an obvious decision, and the Sean Rodriguez might have been pivotal if not for Carlos Pena’s three-hit, five-RBI day.
“After we got that strikeout, I thought we had a chance,” Martin said. “It’s a tough spot. You try to get out of those situations, but it’s easier said than done.”
Even for the greatest of all time.
“It’s my fault,” Rivera said. “I felt good. I’m not going to make excuses for what happened. I just left the ball over the plate. It’s bad. You don’t want to start a season that way, but thank God it’s only one game.”
• What a strange night of managerial decisions. The Yankees twice intentionally loaded the bases, the Rays put on a suicide squeeze with two strikes, and at the end the Yankees had five infielders playing on the edge of the grass while two outfielders played extremely shallow.
• Girardi said intentionally loading the bases in the first inning was because of the matchup and because of the opposing starter. CC Sabathia had great numbers against Carlos Pena, and Girardi expected a low-scoring game against James Shields. “Sean Rodriguez has hit (Sabathia) hard,” Girardi explained. “And it’s not something I’ll do a lot in the first inning with CC, but as I said, Shields has been pretty tough on us. … I felt good about CC getting him out, but it didn’t work.”
• Sabathia on the decision to load the bases: “I knew I had some success off him, but like I said, it’s a lefty so I knew if I make the right pitches then we get out of it. … It was a lefty, so I felt like it was the right move.”
• Pena on his reaction to walking Rodriguez in the first inning: “I was like, ‘Woah, they are walking Sean to get to me.’ After you get past the first, initial shock, it’s time to get to business.”
• Although the grand slam came on a 3-2 pitch, Sabathia was behind 2-0 and 3-1 in the Pena at-bat. Fastball command was an early problem for the Yankees ace. The third-inning Longoria home run came on a 1-0 pitch. “Early in the game, he wasn’t really where he wanted to be,” Russell Martin said. “But as the game went along, it looked like he started to get that comfort level back.” Sabathia pitched his final 3.2 innings scoreless.
• I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d ever actually seen a true five-man infield. I’ve seen some shifts where an outfielder plays extremely shallow, almost in the infield, but in the ninth inning the Yankees had five true infielders, all playing on the edge of the infield grass. Eduardo Nunez was playing up the middle. “Man, it has been a while,” Teixeira said. “They never ask me to go to the middle. But that was the right call there.”
• Raul Ibanez had never hit an Opening Day home run until today. It was his 14th time on an Opening Day roster and his 11th start. In the final two weeks of spring training he hit .304 with three homers, and had a fourth home run opportunity robbed by an over-the-wall catch. “Spring training’s over now and everything that happened before today is really irrelevant,” Ibanez said.
• Shields had gone at least seven innings in 11 straight starts. Tonight he lasted five innings and gave up all six Yankees runs. “I don’t ever remember scoring that many runs off him,” Teixeira said. “He’s been really tough off us. We did get a lot of guys on base, but it’d be nice to get a couple more.” The Yankees were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
• The Rays have now won five straight against the Yankees for the first time in franchise history.
• Pena was 0-for-11 with three strikeouts in his career against Rivera. He was 4-for-35 against Sabathia, including an 0-for-14 slump with 11 strikeouts.
• Alex Rodriguez has hit safely in all eight Opening Day games he has played with the Yankees, the longest streak for the franchise since Lou Gehrig hit safely in 12 straight Opening Day games from 1926 to 1937.
• I don’t think anyone expects Rivera to blow a save or for Sabathia and Shields to be knocked around on the same night, but there was something very familiar about the Yankees opener. “It was a good four-hour game,” Girardi said. “We’re back. Nothing’s changed.”
Associated Press photos
Sunday notes: “Work on what you need” • 03.25.12
Whether you’re happy with Michael Pineda’s spring training probably depends on whether you believe his fastball velocity will truly spike with added arm strength and regular-season adrenalin.
“Nobody throws hard in spring training, because it’s spring training,” Pineda said. “You think a little more, and work on what you need. Now I’m focused a little more on making good pitches. I learned from last year. That’s what I need.”
Pineda’s fastball generally sat at 90-92 mph today. He reached 93-94, but for the most part, the velocity wasn’t significantly different than we’ve seen in his previous starts. That said, there were times when his changeup seemed to be a legitimate go-to pitch, and Pineda talked about the fact he likes to add and subtract from his slider. It’s not just a power breaking ball, it’s a more nuanced pitch than that, and Pineda hasn’t been strictly a power pitcher, he’s been a little more nuanced as well.
“It’s a little surprising that he does have an idea what he wants to do,” Joe Girardi said. “He can make his slider bigger when he wants to and he can make it different for right-handers and left-handers if he wants to. It is surprising for a kid his age.”
From the moment they traded for him, the Yankees have talked about Pineda’s need to improve his changeup and add consistency. This spring he’s clearly made the changeup a focus, and it’s been a good pitch. He’s not lighting up the radar gun, but he does have a 3.31 ERA through five spring starts.
“Everybody knows last year I threw harder,” Pineda said. “So (they ask), ‘Hey, what happened to Pineda right now?’ But nothing (happened). I feel good. I can pitch. Everybody sees me. I pitch every five days. … I know last year I threw hard, so I have more power. But this is spring training, so the power is coming back.”
• Girardi on Pineda’s changeup: “I think it’s come a long ways. If you look at his tapes last year, he didn’t throw a lot of them for strikes, but you see a lot more of them for strikes and some swings and misses. That’s a good thing.”
• Forgot to mention earlier that Alex Rodriguez was actually checked out by a doctor after he was hit by a pitch today and it was determined that no tests are necessary. Sounds like he’s perfectly fine.
• Derek Jeter didn’t seem to make too much of his 2-for-3 afternoon. His second game back from a calf injury included a home run that let the Yankees get away with a 1-1 tie. “I’m just coming back,” he said. This last week and a half of spring training will be key to getting his timing ready for the season, Jeter said. So far, it looks pretty good. He’s hitting .348 this spring and really seemed to drive the ball this afternoon.
• Dave Robertson wasn’t happy with his command the last time he threw batting practice, but he said it was much better today. He went to the bullpen to throw a few more pitches after his one inning and made a “minor adjustment” to improve his curveball command. His curve was a little short during the game.
• Girardi revealed that he might have been a little more worried about Robertson than he was letting on. “He looked fine to me,” Girardi said. “That’s kind of a sigh of relief. In the back of me there’s still that little bit of concern, but he hasn’t had any issues for a week or so, so I hope we’re through it.”
• Another scoreless inning for Mariano Rivera. That’s 27 straight spring innings without an earned run. The guy’s good in the regular season, the postseason and the preseason.
• None of the players sent out of big league camp this afternoon came as surprises, but there’s something to be said for Jose Gil’s spring. Largely unheralded in the Yankees system, he hit .529/.500/.706 this spring. Probably doesn’t mean much, but he was very good.
• If you knew two months ago that this spring would include injuries to both Jeter and Eduardo Nunez, would you expect that Doug Bernier would outlast Ramiro Pena in big league camp? Bernier’s also had a tremendous spring and seems to have caught Girardi’s attention. There’s little chance he’ll actually make the team, but Girardi seems to like him.
• Other than Jeter, only Nunez, Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones had hits for the Yankees today. Teixeira and Nunez doubled. … Brett Gardner, Jayson Nix and Dewayne Wise each had outfield assists this afternoon. … Robertson, Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Manny Delcarmen and Clay Rapada each pitched a scoreless inning out of the bullpen.
• Girardi said he won’t be at the minor league complex to watch Phil Hughes tomorrow. Girardi is going to use the off day to go to Illinois to visit his father, who’s been sick for quite some time.
• Former Yankees outfielder Greg Golson has been traded to the White Sox. He was in camp with the Royals.
Associated Press photos
Yankees injury report • 03.19.12
A quick rundown of the injuries suffered in Yankees camp this spring…
Hit by a pitch last night, Cano was pulled from the game, then he went for x-rays that came back negative. He’s going to be reevaluated on Tuesday, but the Yankees don’t seem overly concerned.
Sore left calf
Jeter felt some soreness in his calf during Wednesday’s game in Dunedin. He finished the game but hasn’t played since. Today he’s scheduled to get treatment at the stadium. He hasn’t done baseball activities since Thursday. He’s expected to play Tuesday.
Martin was scratched from yesterday’s road trip because of some stiffness that he says is between his groin and hamstring. He felt something similar a few years ago and decided to be cautious about it this year. He’s expected to play Tuesday.
An MRI came back negative, but Swisher hasn’t played since feeling something “tug” running out of the box on Wednesday. He’s been going through regular baseball drills and is expected to play on Tuesday. Like Martin, Swisher said he wouldn’t have come out of the lineup if this were the regular season.
Bruised right foot
The most infamous Yankees injury of the spring seems to have resolved itself. Robertson stumbled down a step while carrying a box at his house and he hasn’t played in two weeks, but he threw a bullpen yesterday and is scheduled to throw another one tomorrow. He could be in a game within a week or so and the expectation is that he’ll be ready for Opening Day.
Swollen right hand
Hit by a comebacker on Wednesday, Garcia has been shutdown for a few days. He’s skipping a scheduled minor league start this afternoon but could be back in a game as early as Friday. X-rays showed no broken bones, and Garcia’s simply been waiting for the swelling to go down.
Bruised right hand
Although he still had the hand wrapped after the game, Nunez played last night and said everything felt fine. He’s now played in back-to-back games after missing nearly two weeks because of soreness than lingered longer than expected. He suffered the injury when he was hit by a pitch in Clearwater.
Sprained right ankle
Pena is scheduled to take batting practice off Brad Meyers on Tuesday, which seems to indicate that he’s pretty close to returning from a sprained ankle suffered while sliding into second base on Thursday. He’s been walking around the clubhouse with no noticeable limp.
Romine missed time with a sore back last season as well, so the Yankees decided to be extra cautious when his back began feeling sore this spring. Romine has not played in a game and just started taking swings two days ago. He might be able to get in a game late in spring training, but he’s spent most of his time just trying to make sure the back doesn’t become a lingering issue.
Injured in his first bullpen of the spring, Kontos waited longer than expected before getting back on a mound, but he finally made his spring debut last night with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.
Something of a wild card for the Yankees platoon DH job, Branyan hasn’t had a chance to plead his case because he’s been shutdown with a sore back. He received epidurals last week, but it’s still not clear when he’ll be ready to play.
The former Red Sox reliever hasn’t pitched in a game this season, but he threw a bullpen yesterday. Based on the timing of other pitchers he seems to be on track to get in a game in about a week.
The biggest long-term injury of the camp could force Burawa to miss significant time. The young relief pitcher seemed to make a fast impression — both Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman mentioned him at different points — but he had to shut it down at
Hiroki Kuroda never looked particularly bad this spring, but he never looked overwhelmingly sharp either. Today he looked sharp. Kuroda allowed one run through four innings. Of his 59 pitches, 49 were strikes.
“Very happy with this outing compared to the last one,” Kuroda said. “My command was better. I was able to throw all my pitches where I wanted. … I’m not a power pitcher. I don’t strike out a lot of hitters. The less pitches the better.”
This was more the kind of outing the Yankees expected when they gave Kuroda $10 million this offseason.
“I thought he was really good,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought his fastball command was good. I thought his sinker was really good, (so was) his split. He threw some curveballs. Good outing for him. I thought he threw the ball well and it’s kind of what you’re going to see. He’s going to locate.”
• Robinson Cano’s first spring homer was positively crushed to right field. “I hit that one pretty good,” Cano said. “I don’t think I could any one any harder than that.” Cano said he never saw where it landed, and someone joked that it still hadn’t. “That’s good,” Cano said. “I might see it when I go out then.”
• Mariano Rivera needed eight pitches — seven strikes — to get through his scoreless fifth inning. “I feel good, thank you very much,” he said. “I felt good out there. Got a little sweat. It was good.”
• Rivera has gone 24 consecutive spring training innings without allowing an earned run. That dates back to 2008.
• Girardi’s take on Rivera’s inning: “It was the inning that I was on TV so it was a good inning to bring Mo in.”
• Dellin Betances pitched just one scoreless inning today, and that was according to plan. Betances will pitch again mid-to-late next week, and the Yankees didn’t want him to go too many days between appearances. He’s still getting stretched out, just needed to face a few hitters today. “His last two outings have been really good,” Girardi said. “He has had command of his three pitches. I’ve been very pleased. His first one, it was like a guy who hadn’t thrown since October. Since then, I’ve been very pleased with what he has done.”
• Eduardo Nunez played only four innings today, but that’s strictly because he hasn’t played in almost two weeks. His bruised right hand actually felt good the whole time, and he got an infield single to show for it. “I’ll take it,” Nunez said.
• Russell Martin has been scratched from tomorrow’s trip strictly because Girardi decided to let Martin, Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher all rest until Tuesday. “During the season I probably could have played all three of them today,” Girardi said. “But we might as well be safe.”
• The plan is for Dave Robertson to throw a bullpen tomorrow. He played catch and did more running today.
• Another hitless day for Raul Ibanez. He went 0-for-2 with a walk and is hitting .071 this spring. “I’m not worried about it,” Girardi said. “I thought his at-bats were better today. This is a guy that hasn’t played every day this spring, it’s not like he’s in a groove. We’ll get him going.”
• Freddy Garcia said this morning that he expects to miss only one start because of his swollen right hand. Girardi agreed, saying Garcia was scheduled to pitch on Monday but that outing will be pushed back. Doesn’t sound like a long-term problem.
• The plan is for Andy Pettitte to be in Tampa in time for Tuesday’s workout. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen that day. Wonder what I’ll be writing about that day.
• Pettitte’s old locker has been assigned to Kuroda, and word is that the clubhouse guys are going to choose a new spot for Pettitte rather than move Kuroda. What woudl Kuroda do if Pettitte asked for his old spot? “Of course I’m going to move out somewhere (if he asks),” Kuroda said. Someone jokingly asked what would have if Pettitte, for some reason, wanted Kuroda’s number too. Kuroda laughed. “I would be honored to give him my number,” he said. I doubt that’s going to be an issue.
Associated Press photos
Jeter, Martin and Swisher scratched • 03.16.12
Derek Jeter was pulled from todays lineup because of a tender left calf. Joe Girardi said hes decided Jeter wont play again until Tuesday, but he labeled this as more precautionary than anything. He hasnt forgotten what happened to Jeters other calf last year.
Also, Russell Martin was scratched because of soreness in his left groin. Its unclear whether it happened on yesterdays play at first base.
Nick Swisher has told Girardi that his tight groin feels better, but Girardi decided not to play him today either.
UPDATE, 10:14 a.m.: Here’s the basic injury update…
Went through normal drills in Tampa yesterday, but while the Yankees were on the bus home from Viera, Girardi got a call saying Jeter’s left calf was “tender.” That’s not the same calf that Jeter hurt last year, but Girardi considered last season’s injury to be a cautionary tale.
“My alarm was he hurt his calf last year,” Girardi said. “I said, even though it’s the other calf, I said we’re going to be smart about this. I told him, ‘Don’t even go out today.’ I think he could hit today and take BP, but just let it calm down.”
Girardi planned to have Martin catch seven or eight innings today, but instead Martin showed up and said his left groin was “stiff.” Girardi’s not sure whether it’s connected to yesterday’s awkward play at first base. For whatever it’s worth, Martin said yesterday that he was fine on that play, banged his shoulder into the ground but nothing else.
“He will not catch today and I’m not sure when he’ll play again,” Girardi said. “… I don’t think Russell will be out but a couple of days, but you never know. You don’t know how guys respond.”
Pulled from Wednesday’s game because of a sore groin, Swisher went through drills yesterday and told Girardi that he’s feeling better, but Girardi is being extra cautious — hard to blame him given the current state of nagging injuries — and so he won’t play this afternoon. Girardi said it’s possible Swisher will play tomorrow.
Was scheduled to pitch on Monday’s off day, but Girardi said he doesn’t expect that to happen. However, there seems to be a chance that Monday will be the only start Garcia actually skips. Too early to know for sure, but Girardi didn’t seem to be ruling out any other start.
“His hand looks better,” Girardi said. “(But) he still has some swelling in there.”
As scheduled, Nunez will not hit again today. It will be his third day off in a row. He’s scheduled to try to hit again tomorrow. He still hasn’t played since being hit by a pitch in the right hand last Monday.
Out with a sprained right ankle suffered in yesterday’s game. Although Pena said yesterday that he thinks he’ll be out only a day or two, Girardi still thinks it might be longer. Girardi mentioned Tuesday as a possible return for Pena.
“I imagine he’s going to be a couple of days,” Girardi said. “The way I saw him walk off the field yesterday, I wasn’t extremely encouraged.”
Has yet to play in a spring training game and had multiple epidurals this morning to try to help his sore back.
Still not doing anything baseball related because of his sore back.
“He’s doing better,” Girardi said. “He’s probably pretty close to getting on the field to do some baseball activities. He feels much better, he feels much stronger, and that was the feeling we wanted him to have.”
Said this morning that he’s going to play catch today, but he’s still not sure when he’ll be on a mound. Robertson said he’s “doing well” but Girardi had too many other players on his mind today and forgot to check on his setup man.
“I forgot to ask about him,” Girardi said. “I had so many other guys to talk about.”
Thursday notes: “I don’t expect miracles” • 03.15.12
Both Joe Girardi and Freddy Garcia said pretty much the same thing today: It’s just too early to know anything for certain. Garcia had his right hand heavily wrapped this morning, but he’s still not sure how much time he’ll have to miss after being hit by a comebacker on Wednesday.
“Right now I don’t think about it,” Garcia said, “because I went to the hospital yesterday, they took x-rays and everything is fine. So, I just have to wait. I move my fingers good, so I don’t think I have to have any problems.”
Girardi said he’s expecting at least one more day of treatment. The injury seems to be close to the same spot where Eduardo Nunez has experienced soreness for a week and a half now.
“I don’t expect miracles,” Girardi said. “When you’ve got swelling in your hand, it’s going to take time to get rid of it. I’m not going to scratch him, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t make his next start on his day. Maybe a couple of days later or something.”
• Two more notes about Michael Pineda’s fastball: 1) Girardi said he hasn’t seen any signs of Pineda trying to overthrow just to reach 95, and 2) Pineda said he’s much more focused on hitting his spots than hitting the mid-90s.
• Russell Martin on Pineda’s fastball: “I think he was like 88-90 in Clearwater, so it’s coming along. I’m not worried about it. I just want to see the guy pitch. He’s a pitcher like anybody else out there. I just wanted to see him execute pitches. His velocity, he has it in him, it’s just a matter of time. As soon as you put on your uniform, you’re in New York and you get the juices flowing, the velocity is going to pick up no matter what.”
• And if you’re looking for more fastball specifics: “(Pineda) was a little inconsistent trying to throw his fastball away to right-handers. It looked like he was pulling off a little bit.” Martin said it’s an easy thing to correct and could be fixed in a single bullpen.
• Ramiro Pena was trying to steal second base, and just as he went into his slide, his spike stuck in the dirt. That’s when he sprained his right ankle, not when he actually made contact with the bag. He estimated that he’ll miss only two or three days, but Girardi said that might be optimistic. “We’ll see about that,” Girardi said. “I imagine it’s going to be pretty sore tomorrow. Sometimes adrenaline helps you out in a situation like that.”
Other injury updates:
• Dave Robertson was scheduled to play catch today and on track to throw a bullpen this weekend.
• Russell Branyan still hasn’t played this spring and is getting an epidural for his sore back.
• George Kontos threw another batting practice.
• Manny Delcarmen is throwing off a half mound.
• The Nationals announced a strained hamstring for Chien-Ming Wang, who stumbled trying to cover first base. It’s obviously a tough break for a guy who finally seemed to be healthy and effective again.
• Martin was knocked down on the play that left Wang injured. “It happened in slow motion,” Martin said. “It was weird. I tucked pretty good. If I had fell differently, it could have been worse. I kind of just rolled with it. It’s the ninja coming out right there.”
• Apparently the Yankees saved all of their excitement for after the media was down in the clubhouse. They won the game 8-5, having rallied with four runs in the seventh and two runs in the eighth. Jose Gil is hitting .750 this spring and had a two-run single. Melky Mesa and Bill Hall both doubled in the game. Hall and Justin Maxwell each had two hits, continuing a nice spring for Maxwell (he’s hitting .375 with two stolen bases). Maxwell, Jayson Nix and Andruw Jones each stole a bag today.
• Clay Rapada pitched into and out of some trouble, but finished with 1.1 scoreless innings. Mike O’Connor and Adam Warren combined for a scoreless ninth. In between, Brett Marshall allowed two runs in 2.1 innings and Juan Cedeno was charged with a run in his two-thirds of an inning.
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