The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


State of the organization: Shortstop10.10.14

Yankees Cardinals Baseball

It’s been two decades since the state of Yankees at shortstop looked quite like this. The position was in safe hands for almost all of a 20-year window that produced five championships and an iconic Hall of Fame infielder, but now the Yankees face short-term uncertainty in the big leagues while their top prospects are mostly teenagers who are still several years from their arrival in the Bronx (and that’s assuming everything goes exactly right, which is rarely the case). This is a state of transition, and the transition might last a while.

JeterDerek Jeter
Retired
Seems dumb to start this post with anyone else. I’ve tried to start these “state of the organization” posts by listing the projected starter at each position, but for shortstop, there’s really no projected starter in place. I suppose Brendan Ryan sits at the top of the depth chart, but there’s little sense pretending that he’s currently the favorite to be at the position on Opening Day. The reality is that one of Jeter’s great strengths was his durability and reliability. Through his 20-year career he really only had two significant injuries. The worst was the broken ankle that basically cost him all of 2013, but even at 40 years old last season, he still played 145 games. The Yankees have almost always had a shortstop in place, so it’s odd to be in this position of complete uncertainty. If there’s a bright spot to the Yankees overwhelming uncertainty it’s this: they’re not replacing the version of Jeter that’s going into the Hall of Fame. In his final season, Jeter was among the least productive everyday players in baseball, and he was especially bad in the second half. Finding an upgrade over a .617 OPS with questionable defense shouldn’t be especially hard. Replacing everything else that came with Jeter’s status and persona might be impossible.

RyanOn the verge
Brendan Ryan
If you create a current Yankees depth chart, Ryan would be the starting shortstop. Zelous Wheeler played some shortstop in Triple-A last season, and Jose Pirela played the position in the lower levels, but neither is a true shortstop at this point (I’ve had people ask about Pirela, but it’s worth remembering that he was moved off the position for a reason, and there aren’t any scouts raving about his defense as it is). So what the Yankees have in place is Ryan, who’s kind of an all-glove fallback plan. If everything else falls through, the Yankees at least have a guy who was once considered perhaps the best defensive infielder in baseball. He hasn’t hit a bit since those early years in St. Louis, but Ryan can handle the position. Having him play it regularly, though, does not seem to be the plan. The Yankees are clearly in the market for a shortstop, and the free agent market offers several options even with J.J. Hardy off the board. It’s all but certain that Jeter’s immediate replacement is not currently in the system.

AvelinoTop prospect
Jorge Mateo
The name you put here probably depends on your definition of “top” prospect. The Yankees really don’t have an upper-level shortstop who stands out. The hope was that Cito Culver would have that distinction by now, but he’s simply never hit enough to gain any traction. He is by all accounts a rock-solid fielder, but he hit .220/.298/.303 in High-A Tampa this season, and it wasn’t the first time he’d put up a line like that. Culver’s an easy guy to like, and by all accounts he puts in all the work, he just hasn’t hit. So to find a true “top” prospect, you have to dig all the way down to Low-A Charleston where Abe Avelino (that’s him on the right) and Tyler Wade are each legitimate prospects. From there, the list continues through a bunch of international free agents headlined by Mateo, a ridiculously toolsy 19-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. I’ve heard Mateo rated as an 80 runner — very top of the scale — and Baseball America named him the fourth-best prospect in the Gulf Coast League. But he’s a long, long way from the big leagues.

WadeDeeper in the system
Wilkerman Garcia
Everything about the Yankees organizational shortstop depth should be labeled “deeper in the system,” because the high-end talent is about as far from the big leagues as it can get. While Avelino and Wade (pictured on right) could open next season in High-A Tampa, both are still just 19 years old and there’s simply a lot of distance between them and New York. From there, the list is long and deep, dotted with a flurry of international signings. Mateo, Angel Aguilar and Thairo Estrada signed back in 2012, and this month Mateo and Aguilar landed on Baseball America’s Top 20 prospects list for the GCL. That’s the first wave. The next wave signed this year in an international class of Wilkerman Garcia, Diego Castillo, Dermis Garcia, and Hyo-Jun Park. All four are at least initially listed as shortstops — Garcia in particular seems likely to change positions — and there’s clearly an organizational attempt to stockpile options at the position. The Yankees know first-hand how difficult it is to develop a shortstop, so they’re buying as many lottery tickets as possible. It’s worth remembering these 2014 signees are incredibly young and raw. A lot of talent. A long way to go.

CulverWorth consideration
The value of the glove
Last winter, the Yankees gave Ryan a two-year deal — plus an option for a third year — strictly because of his defense. I think there’s a lot to be said for his personality in the clubhouse, but personality doesn’t lead to multi-year contracts. Ryan was signed because he can catch and throw at the game’s most difficult position. And that might be the biggest reason to hold out some hope for Culver, the former first-round pick who gets positive reviews for his defense but has hit just .233/.316/.321 through five seasons in the minors. I think there’s a solid comparison to Cardinals utility infielder Pete Kozma, who was also a first-round pick and hit just .238/.311/.348 in the minors. My Cardinals-fan friends back home were already calling him a bust years ago, but Kozma could always play defense, and he’s scratched out a big league career that way. He was even the Cardinals’ regular shortstop last season despite hitting just .217 (and that team was awfully good with Kozma at the position). Kozma’s back on their postseason roster this year. Offense is down across the board, which could open more chances for a defense-first shortstop like Culver.

Associated Press photo

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Off the board: Orioles sign J.J. Hardy to contract extension10.09.14

Orioles Yankees Baseball

Late in the season and early in the offseason, I try to save some Associated Press pictures to use on the blog throughout the winter. I put them in a folder on my desktop, label them with a player’s name, and I use them through these quiet months when there’s not a lot of Yankees content moving on the wire.

Just last week, I saved the picture that you see at the top of this post.

J.J. Hardy wasn’t with the Yankees — not yet, anyway — but I thought there was a good chance I’d end up writing a lot about him this winter. In fact, if you’d asked me roughly an hour ago, I would have said Hardy was my guess for the Yankees Opening Day shortstop in 2015.

But not anymore.

First reported by Jeremy Conn and confirmed by various reporters including Ken Rosenthal and Roch Kubatka, the Orioles have locked Hardy into a three-year, $40-million contract extension with an option for a fourth year. It takes one of the most attractive shortstops off the market and leaves the Yankees with one less option for replacing Derek Jeter.

Why did I think Hardy fit so well in the first place? There’s really not a perfect option out there — though there are a lot of alternatives — but Hardy’s a good defender and he’s shown a lot of power for a middle infielder (granted, this year was an exception). Hardy’s already 32 years old, and he’s coming off a down year, so there’s considerable risk in committing to him long term. But that’s true of any free agent these days.

Bottom line for the Yankees is this: They need a shortstop, and a pretty decent one just came off the board.

Associated Press photo

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Week in review: First week of a long offseason10.05.14

2f98cf1d51091926610f6a706700dc46

This was the first week of the offseason, and it was full of stuff pretty typical of the first week of the offseason. Most notably, both Hal Steinbrenner and Joe Girardi spoke publicly about their disappointment.

“I apologize,” Steinbrenner said. “We did not do the job this year. We know what you expect of us, and we expect the same thing of ourselves, and we certainly did what we thought we could do in the offseason to field a pretty good team come April 1, but it didn’t work out for reasons we’ve just discussed. And we’re going to get right back to work.”

Getting back to work begins with hiring a general manager. Brian Cashman’s contract expires at the end of this month, but all parties involved seem to expect a new deal to be worked out. Steinbrenner acknowledged that he and Cashman have already discussed a new deal.

“Overall, everything Cashman does — dealing with you guys (in the media), dealing with the coaches and the manager — he is a good GM,” Steinbrenner said. “So, yes, we have been talking about that, but there is no deal done.”

Steinbrenner was less supportive of the Yankees coaching staff, indicating it’s possible we’ll see some coaching changes this winter.

“If I do deem that somebody is liable,” Steinbrenner said. “Or if I do deem that somebody is responsible, that things could have been better, I will act.”

Alex Rodriguez• Both Girardi and Steinbrenner indicated — just as Brian Cashman did last week — that the Yankees plan to bring Alex Rodriguez back next season, and they’re hoping to have him play a lot of third base. Rodriguez is working out in California, but he’s missed all of one year and most of another. Hard to have any idea what to expect.

• As expected, Carlos Beltran underwent surgery to have his bone spur removed. Dr. Chris Ahmad also removed loose pieces from the elbow.

• Derek Jeter wrapped up his Farewell Tour — he might not like the name, but that’s clearly what it was at the end — but doing a pair of television interviews, first with a morning appearance on Today and then with an evening appearance on The Tonight Show. Nothing new revealed, just Jeter being a retired celebrity. He’s honestly pretty good in those situations.

• Bigger news from Jeter came in his announcement that he has started an online media platform called The Players’ Tribune, which is designed to give athletes a chance to present their thoughts without the filter of typical media. Interesting idea. We’ll see how it plays out.

• Eric Jagielo will have to skip the Arizona Fall League after being hit by a pitch to the face during instructs. He’s been replaced by Dante Bichette Jr.

• Speaking of the Fall League, baseball is going to try some new pace-of-game initiatives out there. I like the idea. Shaving game times by just 15 minutes or so would be a positive thing for the league.

• Brett Gardner was announced as the Yankees nominee for the Hank Aaron Award, which goes to the top offensive player in each league. Says a lot about the kind of season Gardner had, but also about the kind of season the rest of the Yankees hitters had.

• A possible offseason target, Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, became an eligible free agent. Would be an chance to add power potential for right field. Obvious risk, though.

• The playoffs got started. Some awesome nights for the Kansas City Royals. Not such good nights for Joba Chamberlain.

Associated Press photos

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Yankees have to pick their battle in replacing Jeter at short10.01.14

Orioles Yankees Baseball

Now that Derek Jeter has decided to become a sports blogger, the Yankees need to find someone else to play shortstop. We’ve known for a long time that this transition was coming, and now that it’s here, there’s no perfect solution. There is no shortage of options, just nothing that stands out as an obvious, can’t-miss way to go.

Essentially, the Yankees are going to have to make a choice. Take an injury risk? Go for a big bat? Settle for a great glove? Spend big money? Go with a cheap platoon?

There might be preferences, but I don’t think there’s a slam dunk out there.

Hanley RamirezThe guys who might not be shortstops

For one of two reasons, several of the market’s best shortstops might not actually be able to play the position this season. They’re either significant injury risks, or they’re mostly likely second basemen or third basemen masquerading as shortstops.

At the top of this list is Hanley Ramirez, who’s either the best free agent position player on the market or the market’s biggest gamble (or maybe he’s both). The Yankees need offense, and Ramirez can hit. He had an .817 OPS this season, and that was a down year. He also played just 128 games, and that’s one year after playing just 93 games. Health has to be a huge concern, and there are questions about his ability to stick at shortstop, but Ramirez is surely going to cash in with a massive contract. Is he worth that risk?

If not Ramirez, what about Asdrubal Cabrera, who moved to second base with the Nationals, and whose offensive numbers are trending the wrong way? What about Jed Lowrie, who slugged just .355 this season and not so long ago looked more like a high-end utility man than a true everyday shortstop? How about Korean standout Jung-Ho Kang, who’s hit for power but brings the usual uncertainty that comes with any international free agent?

Yankees Rangers BaseballThe guys who might not hit

If next season started tomorrow with the Yankees current roster, they would at least have a true defensive shortstop in place. Brendan Ryan hardly played this season, so it’s hard to make much of his numbers, but he’s historically been an elite defender. Hasn’t hit much (at all) but he can handle the position. That’s worth something.

Which brings us to an unusual free agent alternative: Stephen Drew. Also a proven defensive option at shortstop, Drew’s coming off a season surely wrecked his earning power. After turning down a qualifying offer last winter, Drew hit just .162/.237/.299 this season, and the Yankees spent two months seeing that kind of production up close. It wasn’t pretty.

But if there’s not a reliable offensive shortstop available, would the Yankees consider some sort of defense-first platoon of Drew and Ryan? Might be worth spending money elsewhere — Yasmani Tomas? Jon Lester? — while prioritizing a relatively cheap glove at shortstop (with the upside that Drew might reestablish himself and become a real bargain).

Starlin Castro, Derek JeterThe trade possibilities

Realistic or not, at some point Troy Tulowitzki has to be a part of the conversation, if only because he’s the best shortstop in the game. He brings his own obvious injury risks, and if the Rockies actually make him available, there might be other teams better positioned to get him, but he’s still worth mentioning. Trades are about hoping for the best, and Tulowitzki’s best-case scenario is about as good as it gets.

But trades are tough, because it’s not only about the Yankees needing to have “enough” to trade for a guy like Tulowitzki, it’s about them having and giving more than anyone else. Would the Cubs trade Starlin Castro at a price that make sense? Is Alexei Ramirez worth the prospect price at 33 years old? How willing to deal are the teams that have young depth at shortstop — Diamondbacks, Mariners, Cubs — and would the Yankees really plug a kid into that spot?

Trade speculation is a favorite winter activity, and the Yankees will surely be a big part of the rumor mill, even if it’s far more smoke than fire.

Orioles Blue Jays BaseballThe J.J. Hardy logic

A separate category largely because I’ve long thought Hardy might be the best combination of offense and defense at a reasonable price. Here’s the problem: Hardy has warts of his own.

He turns 33 in August, he’s surely going to require a multi-year deal, and his home run power seriously declined this season. Hardy might still have 25-homer potential — he’s averaged 21 homers per 162 games during his career — but he’s not exactly a guy who wipes out the Yankees current run-production problems. Metrics still like his defense, but he’s also moving past his prime years.

I still think Hardy might make the most sense, but just like all the other options, he comes with plenty of causes for concern.

Associated Press photos

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Jeter announces formation of The Players’ Tribune10.01.14

Derek Jeter

One of the early and obvious questions from Derek Jeter’s postgame press conference on Sunday: What’s the first thing you’re going to do now that you’re free to do whatever you want?

“I don’t know,” Jeter said. “That’s a good thing. I’ll take some time off, I’ll rest and relax just like I’ve done every season when the season is over with. I don’t know if I’ll necessarily realize it or anything will be different until about three or four weeks from now when I would normally start working out. At this point, I’m on vacation. Get away from it for a while.”

Vacation lasted, what, two days?

This morning, Jeter announced that he’s going into the newspaper business. Sort of. Jeter is starting an online publication called The Players’ Tribune, which seems to be basically an attempt to let players tell their own stories and offer their own perspectives without the filter of a reporter. I’m not entirely sure how it will work — how many players are going to write their own stories mid-season? — but it’s an interesting concept from a guy who’s clearly thought a lot about the impact of media.

“I realize I’ve been guarded,” Jeter said in a letter announcing the new publication. “I learned early on in New York, the toughest media environment in sports, that just because a reporter asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer. I attribute much of my success in New York to my ability to understand and avoid unnecessary distractions.

“I do think fans deserve more than ‘no comments’ or ‘I don’t knows.’ Those simple answers have always stemmed from a genuine concern that any statement, any opinion or detail, might be distorted. I have a unique perspective. Many of you saw me after that final home game, when the enormity of the moment hit me. I’m not a robot. Neither are the other athletes who at times might seem unapproachable. We all have emotions. We just need to be sure our thoughts will come across the way we intend.”

I don’t believe Jeter will leave himself set up to fail in one of his first post-retirement ventures. He carries enough weight to get nearly any athlete on board in some capacity. It’s going to be interesting to see this thing develop and to see where it goes and how it impacts my industry.

Here’s the full press release announcing the formation of The Players Tribune:

Derek Jeter(New York, NY, October 1, 2014) Derek Jeter today announced the creation of The Players’ Tribune, an innovative multimedia digital company where world-class athletes will share their unfiltered, honest and unique perspectives, bringing fans closer to the games they love. Jeter is the company’s Founding Publisher.

The Players’ Tribune will provide fans with unprecedented access to top athletes across every sport. The platform gives athletes the tools to develop and create quality content ranging from first-person written features to videos, podcasts, photo galleries, polls and more, and will cover topics from sports commentary to lifestyle and popular culture. The Players’ Tribune will provide an authentic and holistic perspective from the athletes themselves. In the coming days and weeks, The Players’ Tribune will announce All-Star professional athlete contributors and will enlist more athletes to become part of this new platform.

“I do think fans deserve more than ‘no comments’ or ‘I don’t knows,’” said Jeter, in an original letter shared on The Players’ Tribune website this morning. “We want to have a way to connect directly with our fans, with no filter.”

Legendary Entertainment, a prominent producer of film, television and digital content joins Jeter and The Players’ Tribune as a partner providing creative support as well as capital. Legendary was founded and is run by Chairman and CEO Thomas Tull, an avid sports fan, who translated his love of baseball into the widely popular film 42, chronicling the heroic efforts of Jackie Robinson as he worked to break through baseball’s color barrier. Tull is also a Board Member of The Baseball Hall of Fame and part of the ownership group of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Legendary Entertainment is known for producing such blockbuster franchises as GODZILLA, PACIFIC RIM, INCEPTION, 300 and CLASH OF THE TITANS along with THE DARK KNIGHT and HANGOVER series of films. Legendary also operates the online destination Nerdist.com, a site designed to showcase all things for the fandom demographic, from news to original content. Legendary also produces content via its Legendary Digital banner.

“I have had the privilege of knowing Derek for a number of years,” said Tull. “His idea of providing athletes with a platform to communicate directly with their fans and the world at large is a forum that we are excited about.”

Gary Hoenig, former Editorial Director of ESPN Publishing and a founding editor of ESPN The Magazine, serves as Editorial Director of The Players’ Tribune and is shaping the team of editors who will help the athletes share their voice on a regular basis. Maureen Cavanagh, former Photography Director for Sports Illustrated, is the Creative Director and Sarah Turcotte, former Senior Writer/General Editor at ESPN The Magazine, is the Executive Editor. Alex Rose, a seasoned sports content strategist, is the company’s General Manager and Mark Grande is the Vice President, Content and Strategy.

“We have the chance to close the gulf between players and athletes and bring us all closer together,” said Hoenig. “It’s a great opportunity to change the playing field in a positive way.”

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “I’m ready for this to be the end”09.28.14

Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira

Derek Jeter was not choking back tears this time. He laughed his way through batting practice and smiled when he got a hit in his final at-bat. Even taking his jersey off for the final time, Jeter said, did not leave him feeling overwhelmed.

“I felt like the time was right,” he said. “My emotions were so all over the place on Thursday in New York. When I got here, I was ready. I was ready for my career to be over with. I’m happy I had an opportunity to come and play here in a couple games, but I’m ready for this to be the end.”

The plan all along was for Jeter to get just two at-bats today. That’s what he told Joe Girardi pregame, and that’s what he had in mind when he went to the plate with a runner at third base in the third inning. There was no thought of changing the plan. This was his final moment as a professional baseball player, and he chopped an RBI single.

Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki“I never really planned on not getting a hit,” Jeter said. “In my head, I always think I’m going to get one, no matter how bad I look at the time. So I told Joe a couple of days ago, I was going to have a couple of at-bats each game. That’s what I planned on doing. I was lucky, but that was the plan.”

And with that hit, Jeter knew he was finished. Joe Girardi checked with him to make sure, but the plan was two at-bats, and that’s exactly what happened.

“It’s been a blessing,” Joe Girardi said, breaking down while discussing Jeter’s final game. “To play along such a great player. To manage a guy that is what you want in every player. What you want every player to care about. What you want every player to fight for. What you want every player to do. And it was a real blessing.”

And when it was over, Jeter was…

“I’m happy, man,” he said. “Because it’s hard. It’s a lot of stress, too. Like I said the other day, you try to play it cool, but out in the field with the bases loaded, one out, you’ve got Manny Ramirez at the plate, it’s not a comfortable feeling at times. When you’re facing Pedro (Martinez), trying to get a hit, it’s not a comfortable feeling.

“I remember running into Shawon Dunston a few years ago in San Francisco, and I had never met Shawon Dunston. I saw him on the street; me and Jorge were going to lunch and ran into him. I said, ‘How are you doing?’ He said, ‘I’m stress-free. I don’t have to worry about hitting any sliders anymore.’ So I’m looking forward to it. I gave it everything I had physically, and I gave it everything I had mentally during my time. Now it’s time to step back and, like I said, let someone else play.”

Derek JeterThere’s going to plenty of time in the coming days and weeks to get into everything else that’s going on with the Yankees right now. For tonight, let’s just end with a few more comments from Jeter’s postgame press conference. Michael Pineda was excellent today, and Ichiro Suzuki had a triple in what was almost certainly his final game with the Yankees, and the team finished with 84 wins.

But this was a Jeter day, so here’s Jeter:

On the perfect way to finish his career
“You can’t top what happened Thursday. I don’t care if I came to Boston and I hit a home run every single at-bat. If I hit four home runs while I was here, for me personally, it just couldn’t have topped what happened. New York has been a special place for me. The way that game ended at home, you couldn’t have written the script. When I got here, I was just ready. I’m ready for my career to be over with, so I tried to have as much fun as I could. ”

On playing these two games in Boston
“I said I was going to play, so that’s why I played. There are a lot of fans that told me that they came a long way to see these last games, so I felt it was right to play here. But don’t think I didn’t think about that, I thought about it. People say, maybe New York was your last game because you want to remember that as the way your career ended. But you can’t take that memory away. I don’t care if I played for another three weeks, that memory is going to be there and it’s never going to go anywhere. I played out of respect for this rivalry and the fans here.”

On hearing such cheers at Fenway Park
“I’ve been a part of some chants here at Fenway Park but I don’t know if any of them were good. I’ve said before that over the course of this entire season, Yankee fans have always been great to me. Playing the entire season, I’ve been here parts of 20 years and if you’re a Yankee fan or you’re not a Yankee fan, you want us to win or you want us to lose, you have good memories or bad memories, there’s a pretty good chance that I was a part of it. And what I mean by that is that I take a lot of pride in playing every game. I missed some games but I take a lot of pride in doing my job and going out there every day so, I think if you do that, then people may respect you. They may not necessarily like you or root for your team but I think they have respect for you. They’ve shown me a lot of respect throughout the course of the year.”

On the pregame ceremony by the Red Sox who brought various Boston sports captains onto the field
“It was unbelievable. I didn’t know anything about it, what was going to happen or who was going to be here. All the things they’ve done, it was hard to envision what would happen because this is a place where we’ve been an enemy for a long, long time. For them to flip the script this last time I come here, it made me feel extremely proud and happy that I was a part of it.”

On speaking to Clay Buchholz on his way off the field
“When I ran past him, I said, I know this is kind of odd but I just wanted to say I enjoyed competing against you over the years and good luck to him. I had the opportunity to speak to everyone on the Boston team (during the ceremony) but obviously not him because he was warming up. I thought it would be good to talk to him.”

On what he might do his first day of retirement

“I don’t know. That’s a good thing. I’ll take some time off, I’ll rest and relax just like I’ve done every season when the season is over with. I don’t know if I’ll necessarily realize it or anything will be different until about three or four weeks from now when I would normally start working out. At this point, I’m on vacation. Get away from it for a while.”

On whether he’ll start watching baseball games now
“I’ve got to go back and watch the games I played first. That’s going to take a while, because I never did watch the games that I played. I’ll do that first. Teammates, everybody back with the team playing, I’ll pull for them and check up on them and see how they’re doing. I don’t know if I’ll sit down and watch games in their entirety, but I’ll definitely check on them.”

On his own legacy
“You want to be known as someone that had respect for the game. Respect for your teammates, respect for the fans, respect for the media. Played the game hard. But for me, I’m happy being known as a Yankee. That’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be, was the shortstop of the New York Yankees, and I had an opportunity to do that for 20 years. Being remembered as a Yankee is good enough for me.”

Associated Press photos

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Game 2,747: Yankees at Red Sox09.28.14

Derek Jeter

YANKEES (83-78)
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Derek Jeter DH
Brett Gardner CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Stephen Drew SS
Francisco Cervelli C
Chris Young LF
Jose Pirela 2B

RHP Michael Pineda (4-5, 1.93)
Pineda vs. Red Sox

RED SOX (71-90)
Mookie Betts 2B
Daniel Nava RF
Yoenis Cespedes DH
Allen Craig 1B
Garin Cecchini 3B
Rusney Castillo CF
Bryce Brentz LF
David Ross C
Jemile Weeks SS

RHP Clay Buchholz (8-10, 5.31)
Buchholz vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:35 p.m., YES Network and TBS

WEATHER: Absolutely could not be a nicer day.

UMPIRES: HP Larry Vanover, 1B Angel Hernandez, 2B Paul Nauert, 3B Vic Carapazza

END OF AN ERA: This is Derek Jeter’s final game. He’s a five-time World Series champion and 14-time All-Star. He ranks sixth on baseball’s all-time list with 3,464 hits. According to Elias, with the Yankees going 1,627-1,117-2 in games in which he has appeared, Jeter owns the highest personal winning percentage (.593) among all active players with at least 1,000 games.

ALL HE DOES IS WIN, WIN, WIN: Of the 2,746 career regular-season games Jeter has played in, there have been just three in which the Yankees have been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention (Saturday, Thursday and September 26, 2008).

ONE AND DONE: Today marks the 46th anniversary of Mickey Mantle’s final career game in 1968, which also took place at Fenway Park. Mantle was the Yankees’ starting first baseman and popped out to shortstop in the top of the first inning, but was removed defensively (for Andy Kosco) before taking the field in the bottom of the first inning of the Yankees’ 4-3 win.

UPDATE, 1:44 p.m.: Line drive to the shortstop in Jeter’s first at-bat. Hit it hard. Hit it right to Weeks.

UPDATE, 2:27 p.m.: There’s your final moment of Derek Jeter’s career. High chop to the third baseman for an infield single, and he’s immediately lifted for a pinch runner (Brian McCann). Jeter hugged McCann, shook hands with Buchholz, then tipped his helmet as he walked off the field as an active player for the last time.

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Postgame notes: “I hope he has peace of mind”09.27.14

Masahiro Tanaka

On the day he came off the disabled list, Masahiro Tanaka pitched 5.1 innings against Toronto, and that was his shortest outing of the year. Its brevity was easy to dismiss because he was working with a limited pitch count and the results were still awfully impressive for a guy who hadn’t pitched in more than two months.

Today, Tanaka was cleared for more pitches, and there was a definite expectation that he would simply give the Yankees more of the same. One more encouraging start would boost confidence and send the Yankees into the offseason feeling relatively good about the status of Tanaka’s right elbow.

Instead, Tanaka got just five outs. He was charged with a season-high seven runs — five earned — and he was pulled from the game after just 50 pitches. It was bad. Except that Tanaka said afterward that he was simply having a bad day, not a injured day.

“Obviously I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be today,” he said. “But arm and body is fine.”

That is, I suppose, good news, but hearing Tanaka say he’s healthy certainly carries a little more weight when he’s coming off a strong and encouraging start. This start was neither of those things.

“There was no problem,” Joe Girardi said. “He had just thrown a lot of pitches in those first two innings, and I just thought it’s not smart to send him back out or leave him out there, so I just made a change. … He struggled with some command today a little bit and wasn’t real sharp with his fastball for whatever reason. We asked him, ‘Do you feel good?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I feel good.’ He got in some bad counts and they hurt him.”

Worry about it all winter?

“I would think that he would have some peace of mind knowing that he feels good and knowing that spring training, we’ll build him up as normal as we would any other time,” Girardi said. “I hope he has peace of mind. I’d hate for him to go through the winter and not have it. We asked him even when he came in after the game, ‘You sure you felt OK?’ He said, ‘I felt good. I just didn’t have it today.’”

So this will be the Yankees final image of Tanaka as they move through this offseason. Physically, it seems the injection-and-rehab protocol has helped the ligament, and the Yankees are as confident about his health as they could be given the circumstances.

So how does Tanaka evaluate his first year with the Yankees?

“My goal coming in this season was to stay healthy and keep a spot in the rotation,” he said. “So obviously I wasn’t able to do that. I was only able to do half a job, so with that said, I think I’m a little bit disappointed how the season was. … I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of talk, a lot of expectations, but for me, I just try to go out on the mound and try to do the best I can. Try to put up a W. As far as comparing the first half of the season with next season, I feel like I want to do better than I did the first half of the season.”

Derek Jeter• Derek Jeter didn’t really address the media postgame except to say that he still plans to play tomorrow.

• Two at-bats in tonight’s game was the plan all along for Jeter. It’s what he told Girardi he wanted. How many at-bats will he get tomorrow? “Whatever he tells me,” Girardi said. “He told me two at-bats today, so that’s what I did.”

• Kind of looked like Jeter might have hurt himself a little bit while beating out that infield single in the third inning. “No, I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I think he had run extremely hard, he had to stretch. He probably felt it a little bit in his hamstring. He didn’t say that he was injured, but we’ll see.”

• This was Jeter’s 152nd career game at Fenway Park, matching Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig for the most games ever played here by a Yankees player. He should break that record tomorrow.

• This was the first time since August 11 that the Yankees allowed 10 runs or more. It was their 21st loss when scoring at least four runs.

• Ichiro Suzuki had another two-hit day and has hit safely in six of his past seven starts with a .360 average in that span. … Chase Headley also had two hits, his third multi-hit game in the past five. … Chris Young had two more hits including another double and another RBI. Turned out to be a nice addition for the final month of the season.

Eury PerezAs for the ESPN.com report about Girardi addressing the team on Thursday: “Let me clear this up,” Girardi said. “I’m going to clear it up right now. I addressed the team and told them what I expect for next year. Yeah, we’re all disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs. I addressed the team because it’s easier to do it at our ballpark. We need to be better. We need to execute better next year. That’s what baseball comes down to; execution. Everyone in that room is disappointed. I’m not the only one that’s disappointed. I just felt it was the place to do it. We have to go back to work.”

• According to the report, Girardi got on some players for being overweight and others for not being “hungry” enough. Girardi said he has no problem with the conditioning of his team, and as he’s said publicly all year, he said he’s been happy with the team’s work ethic and desire. “Our team never stopped playing, so I don’t know what you’re asking for,” Girardi said. “The bottom line is we didn’t execute well enough in certain situations, and we have to do better. Whether it’s getting a run in, getting a runner over, making a pitch when you need to make a pitch. We were in a lot of close games. If you could have won five or six more of them, you might be playing next week. Because we were in so many, there are probably some that you can think about. It’s disappointment.”

• Would the message have made a difference if it had been delivered several weeks ago? “I have had some individual meetings where I pull a guy aside and talk about things, but we were eliminated and I just told them,” Girardi said. “… These guys never gave up on us. They never gave up. They kept playing, kept playing, kept playing. We went through difficult things and they kept fighting and fighting. People wrote us off a bunch of times, but they didn’t. They kept fighting. For that, I’ve told you all along, I was proud of them. I just wanted to let them to know what we expect next year. None of us are happy that we’re not playing next week.”

• Final word we’ll give to Brian Cashman from pregame: “We didn’t hit for the most part all year when we needed to, especially in scoring position. We were deficient on the defensive side for a good portion of the season; that improved significantly with the additions and subtractions. But offensively, we never really could get it going. Pitching was tremendous and somehow we fixed that, which is harder typically to do, but the offense we could not fix.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Game 161: Yankees at Red Sox09.27.14

Masahiro TanakaYANKEES (83-77)
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Derek Jeter DH
Brian McCann C
Chase Headley 1B
Chris Young LF
Stephen Drew SS
Jose Pirela 2B
Brendan Ryan 3B
Eury Perez CF

RHP Masahiro Tanaka (13-4, 2.47)
Tanaka vs. Red Sox

RED SOX (70-90)
Mookie Betts 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Daniel Nava RF
Yoenis Cespedes DH
Allen Craig 1B
Garin Cecchini 3B
Rusney Castillo CF
Bryce Brentz LF
Christian Vazquez C

RHP Joe Kelly (3-2, 4.00)
Kelly vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., FOX

WEATHER: Absolutely beautiful day here in Boston. Couldn’t be much nicer.

UMPIRES: HP Vic Carapazza, 1B Larry Vanover, 2B Angel Hernandez, 3B Paul Nauert

UPDATE, 2:01 p.m.: Tanaka out of the game having not lasted through the second inning. He was knocked around quite a bit here today. The Yankees are primarily concerned with his health — results don’t matter much — but this wasn’t nearly as good as his previous outing. Preston Claiborne in from the bullpen with the Red Sox already leading 5-0 on seven hits. Tanaka got just five outs. He threw 50 pitches, 25 strikes. Could have gone up to 80, but he was clearly laboring.

UPDATE, 2:04 p.m.: And now an error on the new guy. Perez lets what should have been the final out bounce off his glove. It’s now 7-0.

UPDATE, 2:15 p.m.: Claiborne finally gets out of the second inning, but the damage is most certainly done. It’s a 9-0 Red Sox lead heading into the third.

UPDATE, 2:22 p.m.: Jeter chops a ball up the middle for an infield single. Big ovation here at Fenway.

UPDATE, 2:50 p.m.: Looks like Jeter is finished after two at-bats. Francisco Cervelli on deck to hit for the captain.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

Pregame notes: “I don’t ever remember him saying that”09.26.14

APTOPIX Orioles Yankees Baseball

Joe Girardi said he’s put this weekend entirely in Derek Jeter’s hands.

He’s told Jeter he can play any position, bat anywhere in the order. He’s offered to let Jeter manage this game or any other. It’s entirely up to the Captain to play when and where he wants to this weekend.

And today, he simply doesn’t want to play.

“I think he’s going to take a day off,” Girardi said. “I talked to him today and said, what do you want to do? He said, he’d like to have a day. It’s always difficult at this point because everyone wants to see him, and I understand that, but he’s been through a lot. The team’s been through a lot. We’ve played 18 games in the past 17 days. We got in here late last night, and I think he’s going to take a day.”

To be honest, I left last night’s game feeling pretty confident Jeter wouldn’t play tonight. I still think he’ll play Saturday and Sunday, and Jeter was clearly drained after last night. I can’t imagine trying to get up for this game after what he went through last night.

Girardi told the story of Jeter not being able to find one of his batting gloves in the first inning last night. Jeter swore he’d brought it with him to the bench, but it was nowhere to be found. He’d clearly forgotten it. And Jeter’s an organized guy, not prone to forgetting a batting glove that he’s brought with him to the bench every day for 20 years.

“That was the first sign probably for me that something was going on yesterday,” Girardi said.

And so, for the first time that anyone can remember, Jeter has asked not to play a regular-season game.

“Maybe in spring training (he’s done that),” Girardi said. “Certain road trips in spring training. I don’t ever remember him saying that. I’m sure he’s emotionally drained today. He’s probably physically drained. He played 10 or 11 days in a row. Our schedule was not easy, day games after night games, but it is the first time I remember.”

Orioles Yankees Baseball• Turns out, Girardi tried to create an emotional farewell even before Jeter’s walk-off. To start the ninth inning, Girardi asked Hiroki Kuroda to walk to the edge of the first base line, then stop. Girardi was going to go get him from there — if he crossed the line, he’d have to face a batter — so that Kuroda could walk off the field to his own ovation after three strong seasons with the Yankees. Kuroda declined. “I was really grateful when he approached me to do that,” Kuroda said. “I felt like the fact that I spent the whole year in the rotation paid off with his gesture. But yesterday, it was meant for Jeter, so I didn’t want to take anything from him. And I felt like I was in that position.”

• Girardi on Kuroda: “I had so many thoughts about Hiro. I knew Ichiro, he’s going to play more. I really wanted to honor Hiro. I really did. … Hiro’s meant a lot to our organization as well and has been a really good Yankee and a really good role model as well. This guy takes the ball every day. You think about the injuries we went through to our rotation. The oldest guy is still standing. That’s because of his preparation and how hard he works. I really wanted to honor him, but he really didn’t want to do it.”

• Kuroda said he hasn’t really thought about whether he’s going to retire after this season. He said he won’t start really thinking about it until he begins to get offers — or not get offers — from other teams. At that point, he said, he’ll begin to really consider whether he wants to pitch another season, and whether he thinks he can hold up through another season at 40 years old.

• Masahiro Tanaka remains on track to pitch again tomorrow. He could go up to 80-85 pitches, but the Yankees might not ask him to throw quite that many. “Obviously I wouldn’t push him too far (with the pitch count),” Girardi said. “Doesn’t really make a lot of sense at this point. But just (want to see) that same stuff.”

• Assuming Tanaka gets through tomorrow with no problems, he’ll have a normal offseason.

• Mark Teixeira is out of the lineup tonight, but that doesn’t mean he’s finished for the weekend. “I’m not going to play him today, and I don’t know if I’ll play him tomorrow,” Girardi said. “But I’m thinking that if Derek plays on Sunday, I’m thinking a lot of these guys might want to play alongside him one last time.”

• Even Girardi had to look at a list to make sure he could announce the lineup correctly. He realizes this lineup is basically a spring training lineup, but he said at this point in the season, after all the days in a row, he wanted to give almost everyone a day off.

• Any part of Girardi that thinks moments like Mariano Rivera last year and Jeter this year make it OK to have missed the playoffs two years in a row? Those moments likely wouldn’t have happened with something on the line. “No,” Girardi said. “There isn’t. I can remember another great Yankee who made the playoffs, and they lost in the playoffs, and the sendoff was pretty special. That was Paul O’Neill. So, no, I would have much rather done it that way, and there’s nothing inside me that thinks it’s OK.”

• Has Girardi talked to Dave Robertson since last night? “No, I have not had a chance to talk to him,” Girardi said. “But he did a great job.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith Comments Off

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