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.
Nearly three weeks ago, David Phelps pitched into the seventh inning against the Reds, and his strong pitching line left little reason to question whether his health. He made his next start, pitched well again, he seemed to be on a real roll with absolutely no cause for concern.
Turns out, his elbow had been bothering him.
Tonight’s injury is nothing new. Phelps first felt discomfort in the back of his elbow, near the triceps, on July 18. He was sent for an MRI after that start, and the test came back clean. No ligament damage, just a little tightness that had a tendency to loosen up as Phelps pitched.
Phelps said he came off the mound after the second inning fully prepared to tell Joe Girardi that his elbow was bothering him. Before he could say anything, Girardi told Phelps he was out of the game. He was removed due to ineffectiveness, not because of the injury. When Phelps mentioned that his elbow was bothering him, the team decided to send him for further tests tomorrow.
“It’s not like it’s in here (by the ligament),” Girardi said. “It’s back up by the triceps a little bit. We’ll see how he is tomorrow. … I believe he’s going to pitch again (this year). I don’t know if it’ll be his next turn, but I believe he’s going to pitch again. Like I said, he had the MRI before and it came back clean. He might need a little time out.”
Pitchers obviously worry about any arm issue, so Phelps is of course concerned, but he doesn’t seem overwhelmed. It doesn’t hurt him on breaking balls. Phelps said it’s mostly when he gets fully extended that he feels it.
“I’ve never had elbow issues, so I don’t know what is bad feeling,” he said. “Any time it’s your arm, there is concern, but it loosens up, that’s one (positive) thing. We already had one MRI, and it was clean. … After we got the first MRI, we sat down with Doc and he said, ‘Listen, as long as it’s not getting worse, we’re good.’ The ligament was clean, everything was good. Today was what really set me off is today was the day it was worse. Had to say something. We’ll find out what it is tomorrow and go from there.”
Even a short-term injury to Phelps is quite a blow for the Yankees. One inning got away from him last time out, but for the most part Phelps has pitched extremely well lately. He’s been one of the biggest reasons this rotation has held up despite long-term injuries to four starters. The Yankees will miss Phelps, even if he misses only one start.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I felt like coming into this start I was throwing the ball the best I had in my career consistently. Any time we’re talking about a DL stint, it’s frustrating. I was really enjoying helping the team win ballgames. It’s frustrating. We’re playing better baseball and I feel like we’re about to go on a run.”
• If Phelps has to miss a start, Girardi said new reliever Esmil Rogers would be a candidate to spot start. Rogers was working as a starter in Triple-A with the Blue Jays, and he pitched three hitless innings tonight. “He’s obviously built up,” Girardi said. “Obviously we’ve got some time to think about it. We wouldn’t pitch him tomorrow anyway, but we’ve got some time to think about it. We’ll have a decision for you.”
• What was working for Rogers? For one thing, he was consistently throwing his fastball at 95 mph. “I think my fastball command was really important for me,” he said. “That was the key for tonight. You see how many fastballs I can throw today. I don’t throw too many sliders.”
• Just getting innings from Rogers was big because Girardi said he didn’t want to use either Adam Warren or Shawn Kelley, so someone had to bridge the gap to Dellin Betances and Dave Robertson, and Rogers did that by himself.
• Obviously it seems the elbow was a real problem tonight, but how exactly did the elbow issue impact Phelps? “I feel like my command was there for the most part,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was struggling with my stuff. It was just up in the zone.”
• Rogers became the 29th different Yankees pitcher this season. That’s a new franchise record for pitchers used in a single season. Historic!
• Another good night for the Yankees offense, and another huge night for Brett Gardner who reached base four times and had the game-winning home run in the sixth. It was his fifth homer in the past six games. He has the most home runs out of the leadoff spot of anyone in baseball. His 44 RBI out of the leadoff spot are the second-most in baseball. “I’m just happy I’ve been able to go out there and repeat my swing, swing at good pitches to hit and not chase too many balls out of the zone,” Gardner said. “Be a patient hitter but also be aggressive in the strike zone.”
• Also hitting pretty well lately is Carlos Beltran, who had another two-hit game to tie a career-high with six straight multi-hit games. He’s had at least one hit in 10 straight games. “He’s been big,” Girardi said. “He’s swinging the bat extremely well. The big thing is to keep him away from batting screens and whatever else we have to keep him away from.”
• Also with a two-hit game, new second baseman Stephen Drew. He matched his second-high with four RBI and once again played a sharp and often impressive game at second base. Tiny sample size, but Drew’s been pretty good in his first three days with the Yankees. “Our reports on Stephen Drew were that he was swinging the bat a lot better,” Girardi said. “This is a good player. He didn’t have a lot of at-bats to get ready for the season; he was rushed and I think it probably took him some time to get going.”
• How has Drew felt at second? “As comfortable as I can be for three games when I haven’t played since high school,” he said. “I am enjoying it. I am going to embrace it and to be able to play with Jeter his last year — who I looked up to when I was growing up — it’s special. I am going to soak this in.”
• Final word goes to Gardner: “We’ve got a great group of guys and we continue to fight. Esmil Rogers came in and did a great job. He’s a guy we’ve faced the last couple of seasons with Toronto and he’s got real good stuff. He came in in the middle of the game and really put a stop to everything. Hopefully we can take this momentum home with us.”
Associated Press photos
David Phelps was a little concerned heading into his MRI. After winning his last start in Minnesota July 4, he went up to trainer Steve Donohue to ask for anti-inflammatory medication because he had been feeling a little stiffness in his right forearm near the elbow. Donohue told him a doctor visit was in order.
“There’s a lot less concern now after the MRI than there was,” Phelps said about the diagnosis of a slight straight. “Any time it’s your arm, there’s some concern. When (the doctor) came and said the ligament looked great, that was obviously reassuring. It’s just something minor. We can take care of that and go from there.”
The arm had been bothering him for a few days, but he said he didn’t feel it throwing.
“It was like weird times, like if I was laying in bed and I’d roll over,” Phelps said. “It would feel stiff.”
After ice and rest, he feels good to go again.
“My arm feels great now,” Phelps said. “It’s back to the way it felt before. I don’t expect it to bother me at all.”
Phelps spent some time with his family the last few days. He won’t be off during the All-Star break. He said he’s probably going to go to Tampa. He plans to throw on Monday. So barring any setbacks, he should be ready when he’s eligible to return from the DL next Saturday.
Alex Rodriguez had a single and an RBI in three at-bats today as a DH in Tampa’s 5-2 loss to Dunedin. So he’s 2 for 15 after six rehab games. There has been no lobbying campaign for a quick return like Derek Jeter has staged.
“I think Alex feels that he’s not to that level, that he’s not ready to go,” Joe Girardi said.
Jeter is scheduled to play tonight in Moosic for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Rochester. The Yankees have left open the possibility he will return for the weekend series here against the Twins. Girardi said he didn’t think it wasn’t an issue to bring back Jeter for that series if he’s ready even though there would be four off days afterward with the All-Star break.
Girardi also said he’d like to see Jeter go seven or eight innings at short in the minors first.
“We have to make sure he’s ready,” Girardi said.
The Yankees scored one run Tuesday night for the third straight game, but the lineup is the same. Any thought to doing some juggling?
“What would you suggest?” Girardi asked.
I’d suggest a trade for more help beyond just Jeter. Actually, there are reports circulating today that the Yankees are shopping free agents-to-be Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain in their search for hitting help. Anyone in favor?
Photo by The Associated Press.
The ESPN news flash had spread that MLB plans to suspend about 20 players. One of them, Alex Rodriguez, could be facing a 100-game suspension in relation to allegedly purchasing PEDs from the now-closed anti-aging clinic in south Florida. Why he would do that after having to admit previously that he had used while with the Rangers is beyond me. He has denied this latest claim.
Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli are also among those on the list.
“I always worry about my players,” Joe Girardi said. “And I worry about the game. … If you care about the game, you care about how it’s affected. I think we all hoped we kind of got through it. But obviously we’re not through it yet.”
The steroid era lives on.
Vernon Wells didn’t think this subject would be a distraction to the Yankees. He’s hoping the steroid era will die one day.
“We’ve done so much as a group to rid ourselves of conversations like this, stepping outside of our agreement and making changes in the middle of it,” Vernon Wells said. “We’ll continue to make strides to clean the game up. … I know I’ll never be a part of this conversation.”
Joba Chamberlain said: “Major League Baseball is going to do its thing and we’re going to go out and play.”
As for David Phelps’ performance, it was sure better than the last start when he got one out and was charged with five runs against the Mets.
“I’ve been chomping at the bit since the last outing,” Phelps said.
His fastball command came and went in this start. But it was there when he needed it. Phelps threw 102 pitches and allowed just one infield hit to go with four walks and seven Ks in six innings.
“He kind of ran the game,” Terry Francona said. “He mixed everything up and we didn’t have anything to show for it. We made him work. We took our walks. We couldn’t push any runs across. It’s rare that you see getting one hit and look up and see a bunch of pitches like that. He did a very good job of not giving in, mixing things up, elevating and cutting.”
Photo by The Associated Press.