There’s a chance Masahiro Tanaka has just one more hurdle to clear before rejoining the Yankees rotation.
Tanaka pitched a three-inning, 45-pitch simulated game this afternoon and declared his arm stronger and healthier than it was two weeks ago in Detroit. He’ll next throw a typical between-starts bullpen before pitching either another simulated game with the Yankees or possibly an instructional league game in Tampa (presumably on Sunday).
After that, a big league start is a legitimate option.
“I think that’s possible to look at, yeah,” Joe Girardi said.
Last time Tanaka threw a simulated game – August 28 at Comerica Park – he complained the next day about soreness and fatigue. That’s when Tanaka’s throwing program was temporarily suspended, creating real doubt about whether he would return this season. Today there seems to be far more hope than doubt.
“Definitely I was throwing stronger, harder than in Detroit,” Tanaka said. “Not overly worried (that it will be sore tomorrow). A bit concerned just because of what happened in Detroit, but when I was throwing, it was completely sort of different. A different feel than what I was feeling in Detroit versus today, so I think I’ll be OK tomorrow.”
Throughout this process, Tanaka has always sounded like a guy who knew his stuff wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues. But today, his tone was different.
“I do (feel ready),” he said. “But I’d probably build up a little bit more pitches before actually going into a competitive game.”
Girardi said he thought Tanaka was better in every way compared to the Detroit sim game. He said the velocity was better, command was better, and the offspeed pitches were sharper. Tanaka faced Chris Young, Antoan Richardson, Zelous Wheeler and Austin Romine.
“Really good,” Young said. “I’m not really sure how the (velocity) is supposed to look or anything like that, but I know his split-finger was just as good as ever and his breaking ball was just as good as I’ve ever seen it. I had the opportunity to face him earlier this year (with the Mets) so I knew what I was getting myself into standing in the box. He looked amazing. He didn’t give up a hit, and we’re all out there trying, for sure. We’re not just standing in. We’re trying to have competitive at-bats and give him as much of a real game situation that you can. He was locked in and made some great pitches.”
• When Brett Gardner had an abdominal issue in Cleveland earlier this year, he missed just one game. This time, he’s missed three games already. “He has an abdominal strain,” Girardi said. “We’re not sure exactly when we’ll get him back. He does feel better. He’ll see the doctor again tonight and then we’ll try to make some decisions on when he’ll start doing some baseball activities. … I’m not sure when we’ll get him back. It is a concern of mine. We’ll continue to talk to the doctors, measure how he feels and how he’s improving and go from there.”
• Gardner’s been perhaps the Yankees most consistent hitter this season. Their hottest hitter of late has been Martin Prado, and Prado’s also out of the lineup. His hamstring is still bothering him. “There’s concern about him playing on that, where he could really make it worse in his hamstring to where it becomes a serious issue,” Girardi said. “It’s still bothering him. Even though I told him to guard it — and he did a good job — there’s concern.”
• Girardi said there was no real setback from Prado playing the previous two games, it just hasn’t gotten better. “It’s the same,” Girardi said. “But there’s concern.”
• David Phelps will throw a side on Wednesday and it seems entirely possible — if not likely — that he’ll be activated for Friday’s double header. “Everything feels great,” Phelps said. Although he could be activated Friday (that’s purely my own speculation based on the timing of his side), Phelps said he’s not expecting to start one of those games.
• I only saw him for a moment as he was walking through the clubhouse, but Francisco Cervelli is definitely back with the Yankees. I never saw him in the clubhouse during those games when he was shutdown with the recurring headaches. The fact he was around today would seem to be a good sign.
• Although he’s gotten into three games and taken one at-bat, this will be Young’s first start since coming to the Yankees. “Not too many people know I’m over here yet,” Young said. “A few people still think I’m with the Mets. I don’t think the word’s gotten around town yet. Tonight I could change that.”
Associated Press photos
Yankees pregame: Derek Jeter Day • 09.07.14
There are No. 2 flags waving in the breeze around the top of Yankee Stadium. There’s a No. 2 logo painted on the grass in front of each dugout. The Yankees were all greeted with a commemorative bottle of wine sitting upright on the chairs in front of their locker with the No. 2 over pinstripes on the label.
It’s Derek Jeter Day.
“I’m sure it’ll be extra special,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s probably a day in a sense that a player doesn’t want to have.”
That’s because it signifies the end is near.
“I hope he does take it in,” Girardi said of the ceremony.
He hopes the rest of the Yankees will take it in as well.
“I think it’s important they understand what he’s meant to the organization, what he’s meant to our fan base, the importance of playing the game right,” Girardi said.
Next year will be very different without Jeter. This is really the end of an era.
“The thing you get used to in this game is people come and go,” Girardi said. “… He’s going to be missed. There’s no doubt about it. But the game will go on. No individual is bigger than the game.”
Girardi didn’t have a lineup yet when he met with us. The hurting Brett Gardner was the issue. Girardi didn’t think he would be available to start. Gardner said it might be a lower abdominal strain, but he wasn’t sure. Gardner, who also had this problem earlier in the season and missed a game, sat out Saturday.
Asked about if it could possibly get worse if he played, Gardner said, “Just the way it feels like, it could.”
David Phelps threw a 31-pitch simulated game and said he felt good. He will return from his upper elbow inflammation as a reliever. But there was no word yet on when he will be activated.
“I feel like I made some good pitches,” Phelps said. “I was just nice to be out there with some adrenaline flowing. … It feels good enough to get guys out right now.”
Photo by The Associated Press.
Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw a bullpen on Saturday. It will be his first time on a mound since last Thursday’s simulated game, which ultimately ended with a sore arm and a temporary shutdown of his throwing program.
“Lets just take that and see how it goes,” Joe Girardi said. “When he gets through that, I guess I’ll decide what’s next.”
It would seem possible that another sim game would be next, but Girardi either wouldn’t say or couldn’t say. This much is clear, though, the Yankees plan to keep rehabbing Tanaka until they’re either certain he can pitch or certain he needs surgery. They’re not going to simply stop and have him rest with the idea of giving the elbow ligament more time to heal.
If the injection-and-rehab protocol has worked, the ligament should be healed already. The Yankees feel Tanaka needs to pitch to make sure that’s the case.
Even if Tanaka’s not ready to pitch in a game until after the Yankees season, the team will create some sort of scenario so that he sees some kind of game action.
“He will pitch somewhere,” Girardi said. “He has to throw. You can’t wait until next spring (to find out whether he’s healthy enough to pitch).”
• Martin Prado did some running today, but it was only a light jog at roughly 50-percent effort. The plan is to have him hit inside as well. “Hopefully we get him back tomorrow or the next day,” Girardi said.
• Prado said that he felt no pain in his hamstring while he was running, but he also cautioned that this was nothing close to game speed. “No, I didn’t feel anything,” he said. “But the game speed is different. You’re not going to go 50 percent. I don’t like to go 50 percent. If I’m not 100 (percent), I’m not going to go.”
• Although neither Girardi nor Prado ruled out the idea of having him in the lineup tomorrow, it really sounds like Prado is more inclined to be cautious above all else. If that means giving it an extra day, it seems that’s what he’d rather do. “I’m doing everything I can, and they’re doing everything they can, to make me feel as close to 100 percent (as possible),” Prado said. “I just say I don’t want to be the hero and go there and get hurt and not play until the end of the season. I’d rather lose a couple of days and make sure my leg is OK to play the 20 or 25 games we have left.”
• One day after Tanaka throws his Saturday bullpen, David Phelps is expected to throw a Sunday simulated game. It seems at least possible that could be his final step toward returning from that upper-elbow/lower-triceps injury. “I think you have to see how he throws and how sharp he is,” Girardi said. “See if he needs another one, or if he’s capable of being activated.”
• Before the sim game, Phelps is supposed to throw another bullpen tomorrow. Phelps said this afternoon that it’s a credit to the current starters that the Yankees feel no need to get him stretched out for a return to the rotation. Because the current starters have been so steady, Phelps can get back a little quicker and slide into the bullpen.
• Speaking of those starters: Tonight is another start by Chris Capuano, who’s been awfully good in the fifth-starter role. “He’s in a role that he’s used too,” Girardi said. “I think for him he’s been a starter for a good portion of his career and he just seems to be throwing the baseball where he wants, with the stuff that he wants to use. He obviously has a real good idea of who he is and understands what he needs to do and has been making pitches.”
• Capuano has a 4.01 ERA in seven starts with the Yankees, and he has lasted at least six innings in six of those seven starts. This will be his third career start against the Red Sox, and he’s taken the loss the past two times he faced them. Capuano opened this season in the Red Sox bullpen.
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi made a change at the top of the order today, just not the change so many have been suggesting. Jacoby Ellsbury is back in the leadoff spot, Brett Gardner is batting third for the first time, and Derek Jeter is still right in between them as the No. 2 hitter.
“For the first four months of the year, he was probably one of our most consistent hitters,” Girardi said. “One of the three most consistent hitters in our club. I consider us kind of to be in playoff mode right now, for us, because we obviously need to win games. Throughout his career, he’s been clutch in the playoffs, and we’re leaving him there. He’s a hot topic always just because of who he is, but there’s other issues that we have in our club that we have to get better at as well.”
Is there pressure to keep Jeter in that spot for his final month?
“No, not necessarily,” Girardi said. “… If I had eight other guys hitting .300, it probably wouldn’t be difficult (to move him down). When you look up and down at our numbers, we’ve had a number of guys that have had tough years. Years that we wouldn’t have projected. So (if) I move him, who am I going to put there? That’s my question. Who you going to move there that’s been more consistent during the course of the season. We haven’t hit collectively as a team, and to single him out is not fair. … (Rank) 13 out of 15 in runs scored. That’s not all Derek’s fault. That’s collectively we haven’t hit.”
Of course, it’s hard to know how much of Girardi’s persistence with Jeter is because of external pressure — because of who Jeter is and what his final season means — and how much is because of the disappointing hitters around him. The Yankees really haven’t had many consistent alternatives. Martin Prado is hot right now, but his first few weeks with the team were underwhelming. Gardner is coming off a bad month. Mark Teixeira is coming off a terrible month.
“(Jeter) could hit .600 and if the other guys don’t produce around him and through the lineup, then it’s not going to matter what he hits,” Girardi said. “So, as I said, it’s going to have to be a collection of all these guys that can swing the bat extremely well. And if one guy’s not, the other guy picks him up. That’s the bottom line.”
• Masahiro Tanaka has been examined by Dr. Chris Ahmad, who diagnosed him with nothing more than arm fatigue. “Every manual test that they did came out really well,” Girardi said. “They just said he had some arm fatigue. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen sometime this week and hopefully he’s ready to do it.” Tanaka played catch today and apparently had no issues.
• For those confused by the move: Putting Tanaka on the 60-day doesn’t really mean much. Those moves are always retroactive, and he’s missed close to 60 days already. He could still come back this season.
• David Phelps threw a 25-pitch bullpen this afternoon (fastballs and changeups), and he’s scheduled for a 35-pitch bullpen on Friday (all of his pitches). Phelps said he expects to throw a simulated game on Sunday, and that might be the final step toward getting him off the disabled list and into the bullpen. “I know that we’ve been going kind of conservative with it just to make sure everything comes back,” Phelps said. “All of the steps have been good along the way, so it shouldn’t be too long.”
• Of the Yankees eight September call-ups, five are relievers. Two of those — Whitley and Mitchell — are basically long men. “Obviously pitching is always important this time of year,” Girardi said. “It gives you more options, with a doubleheader coming up eventually here.”
• Why John Ryan Murphy but not Austin Romine? “The organization made the decision to go with (Murphy),” Girardi said. “Obviously I don’t get to see either one of them play a lot. So they went with Murphy.”
• Not much of a surprise that Chris Young got a call-up. I have to imagine that was a condition of any contract he was looking to sign after being released. “(He’s) been pretty productive in his career off left-handers,” Girardi said.
• If there’s a surprise among the call-ups, it’s certainly Antoan Richardson. “Speed off the bench,” Girardi said. Richardson played with Atlanta a little bit in 2011. He was 26-for-27 stealing bases with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he also had a .380 on-base percentage. Kind of a custom-made September call-up, just wasn’t sure the Yankees would actually make the move to get him on the 40-man.
• Zoilo Almonte was designated for assignment after leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in home runs and RBI this season. After Almonte struggled in New York last season, Girardi just never seemed to have much faith in his ability to hit big league right-handers the way he did in Triple-A. His splits are so extreme that, despite being a switch hitter, he’s likely a platoon player at best. Last year might have been his opportunity to show something, but he hit .236/.274/.302 (vRHP .250/.296/.342).
• Why Gardner batting third? “He’s probably been as good against right-handers as anyone in our lineup,” Girardi said. “I left Jake in the one hole. My concern in switching the guys when they both were going well was that they’re both going well, why move them. So I put Jake in the one hole when Gardy got hurt and he did extremely well. I’ll leave him there and just put Gardy third.”
• On Ellsbury’s health: “I saw him run on Sunday, which, I was really encouraged,” Girardi said. “He said he felt better yesterday and felt better today and that’s why I have him in center. In saying that, I told him, look, if you feel that it’s an issue out there you’ve got to let me know. If you feel you need to DH a day, you have to let me know.”
Associated Press photos
Hard to know what to make of yesterday’s pregame meeting of Yankees position players, who gathered to discuss the state of the offense and to talk about the desire to live up their potential down the stretch. Team meetings are always interesting, and it’s particularly interesting in this case because the offense has been so very bad, but it might mean a little more of the team had actually — you know — scored a bunch of runs yesterday.
Instead, yesterday’s win was mostly defined by Brandon McCarthy’s pitching rather than the lineup’s hitting.
“I’ve said all along, these guys have worked hard and they’re trying to figure it out,” Joe Girardi said. “Whatever it takes, it takes. They’re going to do whatever it takes to try to get better and try to be more productive. I am all for that. It’s not something where they come to work and they say, ‘OK, this is what it is.’ They don’t do that. They look for every road to get better every day, and they’re doing the necessary things they have to do.”
Hard to say how many times a similar message has been delivered one way or another this season. As has been written and said many times, this is certainly a veteran team that’s well aware of the way things work. I can’t imagine any of the players needed to be told that the offense has struggled, and you would certainly hope that they didn’t need some sort of meeting to make them work toward getting it turned around.
“I think there’s different ways to go about things,” Girardi said. “There are going to be times where I call the meetings and I have a specific message that I want delivered and I’m going to talk about it. There are going to be times that players just talk amongst themselves. They might be talking about what they see. Can you help me, in a sense, or those sorts of things. Meetings are meant to stay in house. How we do them is going to be different from time to time. There are going to be meetings where I’ll ask players to speak up and there will be meetings where I don’t ask them to speak up. I don’t think you can characterize meetings as just one way because there’s different ways to be effective.”
• Carlos Beltran was planning to swing a bat today. If that goes well, it’s possible — but not certain — that he could be in the lineup tomorrow. “We hope it works and then we get him in a game,” Girardi said. “It wouldn’t happen today, but he’s going to take some swings today.”
• Ramon Flores has been activated from the Triple-A disabled list. The young outfielder was having a nice year before he went down with an ankle injury that’s cost him much of the season, but with a spot on the 40-man roster, Flores could be a September call-up candidate now that he’s healthy.
• Interesting column from Joel Sherman today. Joel wrote that Larry Rothschild is interested in exploring a six-man rotation, possibly down the stretch this season and potentially heading into next season. Doesn’t sound like the Yankees are particularly close to doing it, but it seems fairly significant that the team’s pitching coach is interested in giving it a shot.
• Earlier this season, Derek Jeter did a press conference specifically for Japanese media. Today he did one specifically for Latin media. Pretty clear sign of his international significance. “I think you’re pretty aware of the impact that he has in the game of baseball,” Girardi said. “We see that as we travel around and you’re going to visiting parks. Obviously Derek has meant a lot to fans all over the world, and it’s because of the way he has handled himself on and off the field, and the way he plays the game. He plays it hard, and he plays to win. Never shows anybody up and does things the right way. That’s why he’s had such a big impact.”
• Another start for Shane Greene, who’s been terrific since sliding into the rotation last month. “You know what we’ve seen, we’ve seen him overcome some things during some of his starts where he might have struggled a little bit early and found a way to get back on track,” Girardi said. “The growth that I’ve seen from the first time he threw in the big leagues, in his relief appearance, to now, has been pretty amazing.”
• Has absolutely nothing to do with baseball, but tomorrow is the 20-year anniversary of Jeff Buckley’s album Grace. I mention it only because it’s remarkable and everyone should hear it.
Associated Press photo
Just an observation: Joe Girardi no longer seems upset or disappointed when he hears questions about whether the Yankees offense is ever going to get any better this season. Girardi still strongly backs his team, shows nothing but confidence in them, but it’s as if every answer comes with an unspoken line: “But I can understand why you’re asking.”
Most of today’s pregame press conference was all about whether the Yankees really are good enough to make a playoff run in these final five weeks or so.
Does Girardi ever think that his team just might not be good enough?
“No, I don’t, because I know how hard it is to play this game,” he said. “Obviously we’re judged on the results. I look at the effort. And I know the results are very important because, if the effort is not there, there is no chance of having results. The effort is there everyday. I talked about it yesterday. We (had) seven or eight guys hitting early trying to figure this out and get going, so I will be optimistic as long as they continue to prepare correctly and they work hard.”
To which Michael Kay made this point: If they’re prepared, and they’re focused, and they’re approaching everything the right way, is there a chance they just aren’t good enough?
“I don’t believe that,” Girardi said.
So what do you do?
“You keep running guys out there and believe it’s going to change,” Girardi said. “Eventually it’s going to be right and it’s going to be consistent over a long period.”
At this point, the Yankees are far enough behind teams that they’re going to need some help along the way. They can’t simply sweep three games against Detroit next week and climb into the wild card lead. It’s not a comfortable position, but the Yankees — Girardi included — seem well aware that they put themselves in this spot.
“It becomes a concern when you get down to the last three, four weeks of the season,” Girardi said. “But it’s a concern now. But my bigger concern is us, not the other teams. Because if we don’t win, it doesn’t matter what the other teams do in front of us. My focus is still our club, and if we play really good baseball down the stretch, we have a shot.”
• Zelous Wheeler is up and Chase Whitley has been optioned to Triple-A. Without Carlos Beltran for a few days, the Yankees were going to be down to a two-man bench, so they added Whitley who can play some infield and outfield. The Yankees also face a left-handed pitcher today, and lefties on Friday and Sunday. So a right-handed bat is a solid fit. “With Carlos being an uncertainty for a day or two, we felt that we could use the extra bat,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees had been carrying eight relievers since the trade deadline, so this basically puts their roster back to the typical alignment. Whitley will likely go down until September, and then return when rosters expand. I don’t think he’ll even burn an option. Pretty sure a player has to stay down for 20 days to burn one.
• Beltran said yesterday that he hopes to play on Friday. Girardi made that sound like a real long shot. “I think you’ll start to have a pretty good idea by Saturday where we’re headed with this, if we can get him back fairly quickly,” Girardi said.
• Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to face hitters on Saturday. Should be a live batting practice session (or perhaps a sim game, which is more or less the same thing). “Our plan is that it will probably be here, but we’ve got figure out who to face,” Girardi said.
• The plan for David Phelps? “Until he starts throwing bullpens, I’m not ready to put a timetable out,” Girardi said. “Obviously we felt we could get him back much quicker (making him a reliever). You don’t need to build him up nearly as much. Right now I believe he’s going to play catch again today. I’ve got to talk to Stevie to see when the first time he has him off a mound and then you’ll have a better idea.”
Associated Press photos
Here’s the way Joe Girardi explained the Carlos Beltran situation:
Apparently Beltran’s elbow bothers him from time to time when he swings. Nothing extreme, just enough to feel that there’s something not quite right — which everyone knows to be the case — and then it goes away. He’s felt it before and stayed in games without much concern. Last night it happened again, but this time Beltran was still feeling something the morning after.
“He said it grabbed a little bit last night on one of the swings,” Girardi said. “He went through the rest of the game, but today he woke up and he felt it. Obviously that’s a little worse than it’s been at any other point during when he’s been playing and playing pretty well. I’m not really sure what it means. Hopefully it’s just a day or two.”
Beltran was originally at designated hitter, Derek Jeter at shortstop, Stephen Drew at second base and Martin Prado in right field. When Beltran was scratched, the lineup shuffled to the one you’ve already seen.
Is there concern that Beltran playing the field is what caused this lingering discomfort?
“No, because he’s felt it on swings, not in the outfield,” Girardi said. “He didn’t really have a lot of action in the outfield, so he didn’t really have to make any throws or anything like that. It seems to be more from a swing than from throwing.”
Girardi said it’s too early to know what this means for the future of using Beltran in the outfield. It seems too early to say even what it means for the immediate future of using him in the lineup. Dr. Chris Ahmad will check the elbow tonight.
“He’ll see the doctor and we’ll find out what’s going on,” Girardi said. “I’m sure it’s much of the same of what he had going on before, but for whatever reason it was a little worse today in a sense that he still felt it whereas other times he didn’t.”
• Masahiro Tanaka threw a 35-pitch bullpen today, and it included breaking balls. Using one-word English answers in the beginning of a group interview at his locker, Tanaka said that the bullpen was “good” and “better” than last time.
• This was the first time since the injury that Tanaka threw something other than fastballs off a mound. He threw his breaking balls, including five splitters. “I felt (the offspeed stuff) was a little bit rusty,” Tanaka said. “I’ll have to brush that up a little bit.”
• No official word on what’s next for Tanaka. The next step would be live batting practice, but Tanaka might throw another bullpen before he faces hitters. “I don’t really have a realistic timeframe because I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves,” Girardi said. “But the next step would be throwing BP, then a simulated game, then obviously a rehab game. The fact that he felt good today was encouraging. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow; obviously that’s really important. But he was able to throw his curveball, his slider and his split; I watched it and he looked pretty good.”
• Tanaka said he was not worried about the elbow during the bullpen, and he feels pretty confident that the health problems are behind him. “Absolutely,” he said. “I feel that I’ve gotten the health; the elbow is fine now. I’m more looking towards playing in a game now. But that said, even that said, I think I do have to be cautious about the elbow.”
• Seems weird, but apparently there’s no plan to have Tanaka have another MRI. As long as he feels good, he will apparently keep pitching. “With this type of injury, it’s either going to work or it’s not going to work,” Girardi said. “It’s not something like you’re waiting for the inflammation to go away or something like that. It’s either going to work or it’s not going to work.”
• Still no exact plan for David Phelps. “No, we have not (made a decision),” Girardi said. “Cash, Stevie and myself are going to sit down with the doctor and figure out what is the best plan for him to get him back, or what needs to be done next.” Yankees are apparently still deciding whether it’s best to bring Phelps back as a starter (which will take more time) or as a reliever (which could happen quite a bit sooner).
• Any concern about Stephen Drew’s offensive numbers since the trade deadline? “He’s got, what, eight or nine RBIs since he’s been here in the games that he’s played?” Girardi said. “His average maybe is not (good), but he’s had some production for us.” Someone get this quote to Brian Kenny!
Associated Press photos
David Phelps played catch yesterday. He also got a precautionary MRI and will meet with team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad later tonight. Phelps said he’s been told he could be back in roughly three weeks, but that time table really depends on how the Yankees choose to use him down the stretch.
Is it worth waiting to get him back in the rotation, or is it better to move more quickly and put him in the bullpen?
“You hate to say anything because my fear is that it will change tomorrow,” Joe Girardi said. “Right now our starters are throwing well, and our relievers have really been pretty good too. I think what you look at is, let’s see what the doctors says today. And then if we feel that we need him as a starter, how long does that take in the doctor and Stevie (Donohue)’s eyes? And how long would it take to get him back as a reliever. Then you go from there.”
Phelps was pitching awfully well before that start in Boston that sent him to the disabled list. He had a 3.29 ERA in nine starts before the Boston game, and even that ERA would have been below 3.00 if not for one bad inning in Texas. A few bad games, and one rough stretch, have inflated Phelps’ season numbers, but he was emerging as one of the Yankees most reliable starters before he got hurt.
He’s missed just two weeks, which doesn’t seem like a huge problem — and the injury seems more focused at the bottom of his triceps, not necessarily in the usual elbow ligament — but the Yankees are a cautious bunch, and so it’s not likely Phelps will be rushed back under any circumstances.
“It’s been well over a week since I felt anything, which is good news,” Phelps said. “What we’re doing is working. We have to wait and see what (Dr. Ahmad) says, and then hopefully move forward. … They’ve talked three weeks potentially. It all depends. We want to make sure everything goes smooth just so we don’t have a setback at this point in the season. I think it might be a little bit more careful than trying to rush things. I don’t think it should take that long. It’s only been two weeks. Hopefully it will go faster than that.”
Seems like a guy who should be able to help in one role or another.
“How we use him probably depends on how long it takes him to get back,” Girardi said. “Obviously we feel it’s important he sees the doctor today and we go from there. He’s hasn’t been off that long to where if he’s a start obviously it will take longer. If he’s a bullpen guy it doesn’t take as long.”
• Random note on Derek Jeter: The scoring has been changed on the hit that originally moved him into a tie with Honus Wagner on the all-time hits list. That hit is now an error, which means Jeter did not tie Wagner on August 8, he actually tied him on August 9 and passed him on August 11. The Yankees actually kept each ball (apparently just in case that August 8 hit was changed to an error) so Jeter has the new milestone baseballs, just in case you were worried. “If it was the last hit I ever got, then it would be a story,” Jeter said. “This one? We got the ball, so (it’s not a big deal).”
• Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw another bullpen tomorrow.
• Speaking of Jeter, he’s back at shortstop and Stephen Drew is on the bench. Drew hasn’t hit much since coming to the Yankees, and the team seems happy with Martin Prado’s ability to play second base, so tonight Prado and Ichiro Suzuki are in the lineup. Girardi said the lineup could change quite a bit from night to night. “It’s something that I’ll look at, and with Carlos (Beltran) able to play the outfield, I think it helps us,” Girardi said. “It’s also important, too, that we give Carlos his DH days as well. Prado gives us a lot of flexibility. He played a very good second base the other day and we’ll play him there today.”
• By the way, Girardi didn’t rule out the idea of DHing either Francisco Cervelli or Brian McCann from time to time. Cervelli has been a pretty productive hitter this season. “We’ve talked about that,” Girardi said. “We have. You run the risk that, if sometimes one gets nicked up during the game, then you’ve got to move him. It’s something that – is there a possibility you’ll see us do that? Yes.”
• Adam Warren has not looked sharp in his most recent outings — he has a 9.82 ERA and .621 opponents slugging percentage his past nine times out — but the Yankees haven’t used him in a week. Girardi said it just kind of happened that way, but there certainly seemed to be times when Shawn Kelley was coming into situations that Warren might have pitched if he weren’t struggling. “The situation just didn’t dictate (bringing him in),” Girardi said. “I don’t think the days off hurt him. And I think he should feel pretty strong and rested now, which is a good thing for us.”
• Tiger Woods is here today. So that’s something.
• Six games at home against teams with losing records. This should be an opportunity to pad the Yankees record. “You have to win series,” Girardi said. “You have to win games. It gets to the point where there’s not a lot of room for error. These are very important games.”
Associated Press photos
Pregame notes: “I just feel like it’s time” • 08.16.14
Carlos Beltran last played right field on May 11. It was one day later, on May 12, that Beltran felt sudden pain in his right elbow, which led to the discovery of a bone spur, which led to the Yankees decision to keep him out of the field for several months.
But he’s been playing catch for a while now, and the tightness that had developed in his forearm has subsided, and so the Yankees feel ready to get him back into right field. Beltran prefers playing out there, he feels confident that he’s healthy, and getting Beltran in the field opens the DH spot for other regulars to get a bit of a rest from time to time.
“I just feel like it’s time,” Beltran said. “Right now I’ve been throwing and I don’t feel nothing. It’s good.”
There’s some risk here — Beltran has been a productive hitter since the All-Star break, and a setback would be a real blow to an offense that can’t afford to lose much — but Beltran said he’s convinced his elbow is up to making throws, and Joe Girardi said he doesn’t feel much need to pay extra attention to Beltran on defense.
“I feel that he’s healthy, and that it shouldn’t be an issue,” Girardi said. “They can test him (on the bases). His arm’s fine. He’s thrown. This an aggressive club anyway, so I don’t think they’re going to play any different.”
The Yankees have several long stretches late in the season, and the DH spot will surely be used to give players a half day off from time to time. Girardi wouldn’t commit to whether he considers Beltran to be the everyday right fielder or still a regular DH going forward. Surely he’ll get at least some DH days.
“Just wait to see how it goes,” Girardi said. “Let’s go day by day. I don’t want to make a decision too quickly here. Let’s just go day by day.”
Beltran is hitting .299 with five home runs and 17 RBI since the All-Star break. It seems little coincidence that his improved production has come as he’s grown more confident that the elbow and forearm are healthy.
“I guess in the back of my mind sometimes I get caught up a little bit protecting it,” Beltran said. “Especially, I don’t know, (when) it’s kind of sore a little bit, my forearm. But at the end of the day, I just have to come and prepare myself and try to do the best I can. Once the game starts, I try not to think about it, but during batting practice and cage work and things like that I try to be smart and try not to do much.”
• Brian McCann has not been activated. There’s no medical concern, the Yankees just want him to go through at least one more day of baseball drills. “I just felt that he was kind of lethargic (during drills yesterday),” Girardi said. “I think what happens is that when you are used to doing something every day for five, six months, and then you’re not able to do anything for five days, we’ve got to make sure because I don’t want to put him in there too soon and you get the foul tip and lose him for a long period of time.”
• It’s possible McCann will come off the disabled list tomorrow, but Girardi said that’s not a sure thing. Could wait until Tuesday.
• Worth noting that the Yankees wanted to play a bunch of right-handers against Drew Smyly anyway, and Francisco Cervelli has been catching Shane Greene regularly. Even so, Girardi said the determining factor on McCann had much more to do with wanting to get him more swings and work on the field. “It was more our feeling that he wasn’t quite ready to go,” Girardi said.
• Going right-handed is part of the reason today is Beltran’s return to right field. Putting him out there lets the Yankees sit both Stephen Drew and Ichiro Suzuki. “Try to get as many right-handed hitters in there against Smyly as possible,” Girardi said. “He’s been very tough against left-handers this year – and the last couple of years – and it’s one way of doing it.”
• After today’s bullpen, Masahiro Tanaka will stay with the Yankees when they leave Tampa. He’s not going to stay behind to do work at the complex. No word yet on when exactly he’ll throw his next bullpen, but he’s expected to throw some real breaking balls at that point. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow and then design the next few days,” Larry Rothschild said. “I don’t like to get ahead in the schedule with the rehabs. We have an idea of what he’ll do, but first we’ll see how he comes in.”
• What was Rothschild watching for in the bullpen today? “More facial expressions to see if he’s trying to hide something, which I don’t think he’s going to, but you never know,” Rothschild said. “You watch his delivery to make sure he’s not forcing anything. The most important part early in this is that he stays smooth and finishes his pitches so we don’t tweak anything. He’s had some time off, so it’s not only going to be the elbow. You have to watch everything.”
• Everyone involved indicates the Yankees are planning to bring Tanaka back this season regardless of where they are in the standings. Even if they’re out of it by the time Tanaka’s ready to pitch again, it’s still likely he’ll come off the disabled list to make a few starts. “I think it’s important that we know that he’s healthy,” Girardi said. “And I think the only way you’re going to find out is if you get him in games.”
• Tanaka on the possibility of coming back to a team that’s no longer in the race: “I think it’s important for the team to fight until the end of the season, so for me, if it would be possible, I’d like to contribute until the end of the season.”
• By the way, David Phelps is scheduled to be re-examined on Monday, which will be two weeks since his upper elbow/lower triceps issue. It’s entirely possible he’ll start playing catch that day as well.
• As Mark Newman said in this morning’s blog post, indications are that Andrew Bailey is not going to pitch at all for the Yankees this season. Girardi said Bailey’s had a few setbacks in his recovery from shoulder surgery, and he doesn’t expect to see him this season. Maybe next season.
• Girardi responding to last night’s Kevin Long comment about morale being low: “You’re always going to look down when you don’t score runs,” Girardi said. “That’s the nature of the game. Guys are frustrated. I’ve said that guys are frustrated because they know that they’re capable of doing more. We want to play in October, and when you lose, you should be frustrated. You shouldn’t just blow it off. Every day is a new day, and things can change very quickly in a clubhouse. You can get on a roll, and that’s what we need to do.”
Associated Press photos
Yankees pregame: Tanaka still in play • 08.04.14
Masahiro Tanaka tested his right elbow for the first time since his platelet-rich plasma injection three weeks ago. He threw 25 times at 60 feet in the outfield. And the elbow passed its first test.
So how does he feel?
“Good,” Tanaka said in English.
“I thought it went all well,” he added in Japanese.
Tanaka said he felt “relieved.” The hope is he can be a starter again for the Yankees for the final month.
But Joe Girardi wasn’t ecstatic because this was only the first step, just a light catch. Tanaka is scheduled to play catch again tomorrow.
“It’s a positive day, but there’s still a long way to go,” Girardi said.
Obviously mound throwing will be the real test of whether the ulnar collateral ligament will hold up.
Girardi needs a starter for Friday night against the Indians now that David Phelps has gone on the DL with elbow tendinitis. Michael Pineda threw 58 pitches for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Sunday, plus another five in the bullpen. Pineda said he was feeling good and in a normal routine now. Could Pineda be a possibility for Friday?
While Girardi didn’t rule it out, he made it sound unlikely. He would like Pineda built up to at least 90 pitches, which would take another two rehab starts. Girardi did say that he thought the start would likely be taken by someone on the staff now.
Brett Gardner was named the AL player of the week after batting .478 with five homers and seven RBI in six games.
“It’s been fun, and if he wants to do it this week, that’ll be great, too,” Girardi said.