The Yankees haven’t been fazed by this long run of bad injury luck this season. This 4-0 win over Chicago stopped their two-game mini-slide and marked their 16th victory in the last 21 games.
I asked Joe Girardi after the game about what their mindset has been in the face of all these injuries.
“Just to keep going,” Girardi said. “Just go a day at a time. I think people realize that there’s still a lot of talent in that room, that no one’s going to feel sorry for us, can’t feel sorry for yourself. People have got to step up. Every team is usually going to go through injuries. The teams a lot of times that overcome those injuries are the teams that play in the playoffs.”
During the first inning, I also asked a guy who knows a thing or two about leading a team past injuries and about winning Super Bowls for his view on the Yankees’ situation. Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who was here to throw out the first pitch, says he keeps an eye on what’s happening here.
“Adversity does make you stronger,” Coughlin said. “They’ve had a couple of setbacks. But I think they’re prepared for this kind of thing, and I think they’ll come through this very strong.”
They were strong overall in June, going 20-7, the first time the Yankees have been at least 20-game winners in a calendar month since August 2009 and only the second time since 2004. The warm month has coincided with Robinson Cano heating up.
“I think he’s a really big part of it,” Girardi said. “He’s had some really big hits for us this month. He’s been a real force in the middle of our lineup. … He’s really started to swing the bat and it changes us for sure.”
He finished June with 11 homers in the month, although Cano insists he has been nothing different.
“That’s quite a pace,” Girardi said. “If he can do that every month, he can end up with a lot of homers.”
Cano hit his 19th overall, a solo shot that gave him at least one RBI against the White Sox in 10 straight games. No Yankee had done that since Babe Ruth in 1931.
Curtis Granderson sees room for improvement elsewhere.
“Hopefully if we all get on the same page, we can have an even better month in July than we did in June,” Granderson said. “It was definitely a good month.”
It doesn’t seem like Hiroki Kuroda can get much better. He was just outstanding again, matching his career high with 11 Ks and allowing three singles over seven, two of them coming in the first.
“I think the whole game, he was in control,” Chicago manager Robin Ventura said. “Moving it in and out … working the slider. He just never really gave anybody a good pitch to hit in a hitter’s count.”
Kuroda said through his interpreter that all the strikeouts kind of surprised him since he isn’t a power pitcher. He’s 5-1 with a 1.65 ERA over his last seven starts. Girardi thinks his arm strength has improved.
“I think I’ve been really aggressive lately,” Kuroda said.
Dewayne Wise has been getting a chance to play lately and he keeps showing up in the picture, be it flying into the stands for the catch that wasn’t really a catch, or pitching Friday night and retiring both batters he faced, or delivering a career-high-tying three hits as the starting left fielder in this game, including a solo drive to the second deck in right and an RBI double.
“It’s been crazy,” Wise said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”
Wise is 7 for 11 with five RBI on the homestand. He had four hits and no RBI in his 30 at-bats before this stretch.
“Just some opportunity and he’s taken advantage of it is what he’s doing,” Girardi said. “He’s swinging the bat real well.”
Sunday is Old-Timers’ Day. The ceremonies are scheduled to start at 11:15, and the Old-Timers’ game will follow. The series finale is scheduled for 2:05 with Phil Hughes and Gavin Floyd the pitching matchup. YES will televise the whole slate.
Freddy Garcia could have made things easy for the Yankees this afternoon. Instead, he might have made things harder. Showing absolutely no rust in his first start back from a swollen right hand, Garcia pitched 4.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts and two walks. The only hit he allowed was a comebacker — of course — that glanced off his leg.
“Freddy was great today,” Joe Girardi said, not even waiting for a reporter to ask him a question. “I mean, everything; slow curveball he used to get ahead in the count sometimes, located his fastball, his split was good, his backdoor slider was good. He had it all. We got him to 64 pitches, so I was very pleased.”
Garcia doesn’t have the longterm upside of Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova — which means the Yankees might choose to cut him out of the rotation regardless of results — but he’s been very sharp this spring. Garcia ERA is down to 2.92, and he’s looked very much like the guy who pitched so well for the Yankees last season.
“Last year, I signed a minor-league deal and came to spring training to earn a spot,” Garcia said. “Everything was harder for me because I had to come here and pitch really good and show them I can pitch in this league. (This winter) I signed early, but they signed guys and (Girardi) said he liked competition, and we’re in competition. I like that. It’s making my thinking straight. I concentrate better on what you’re doing.”
After last week’s hand injury — on a comebacker in Dunedin — Garcia might have fallen to the back of the pack, but he looked today as if he hadn’t missed a step. Whether you believe him or not, Girardi has said the Yankees will take their five best starting pitchers, and right now Garcia has been more consistent than anyone but Phil Hughes.
“I have to worry about myself and go out there and pitch,” Garcia said. “The way I pitched today, you know, I needed it.”
• Raul Ibanez’s two-run home run in the seventh inning not only gave the Yankees the lead, it also snapped him out of a hitless streak dating back to March 10. “It felt good to be able to make a left turn instead of a right turn,” Ibanez said.
• Ibanez credited extra work with Kevin Long. The two spent an extended session in the cage yesterday, and Ibanez said it paid off. “I felt like I was in a better position to hit,” he said. “And in a better position to take a good swing.”
• Because the Yankees are facing a left-handed starter tomorrow, Ibanez will go to the minor league complex to get at-bats. It’s not uncommon for big league hitters to leadoff every inning in minor league spring training games. They can often get more at-bats by hitting in multiple games. “I told him, as many (at-bats) as he wants,” Girardi said.
• Garcia was fine after being hit by a Jhonny Peralta comebacker in the third inning. He quickly dismissed the training staff and stayed in the game, but it was kind of freaky to see a pitcher hit in his first game back from a comebacker. “It happened to me twice,” Garcia sad. “But it’s nothing to worry about.”
• Dewayne Wise continued his strong spring training with a game-winning, two-run double in the 10th inning. The Yankees went into extras after the Tigers tied the game with two-runs in the ninth. Both runs came off D.J. Mitchell, who was pitching his third inning of work and seemed to lose the strike zone a little bit.
• Another strong showing for Cesar Cabral who had one strikeout in a hitless bottom of the 10th. The Rule 5 pick has 12 strikeouts and only one walk this spring.
• Justin Maxwell picked up his fourth stolen base of the spring as part of a double steal in the 10th inning. Maxwell stole third. … Jose Gil’s batting average is down to .563 after a 1-for-2 day. … Mark Teixeira and Colin Curtis also had hits today. … Boone Logan retired the two batters he faced, and Kevin Whelan retired the three batters he faced.
• Although Joba Chamberlain is being released from the hospital tomorrow, Girardi said he’s not sure when Chamberlain will stop by Yankees camp. Girardi expects Chamberlain to be in camp again at some point, but it might not happen right away. “He’s not capable of driving, so we might see him next week some time,” Girardi said. “It just depends what he wants to do.”
Associated Press photos
Wednesday notes: Mitchell steals the show • 03.14.12
Manny Banuelos is considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and there have been days — both this spring and last spring — when he’s shown every bit of that potential. Today was not one of those days, and it was instead often-overshadowed D.J. Mitchell who stole the show.
“(Banuelos) couldn’t throw his secondary pitches for strikes and he was behind,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s just a tough combination. Look at what D.J. Mitchell did. He was able to throw his curveball and his changeup when he was behind in the count to get back in the count and throw some fastballs for strikes. Manny just really struggled with his command.”
Banuelos labored through a four-run fifth inning when he allowed three hits, walked two batters and coughed up Edwin Encarnacion’s second home run of the day. If previous starts have been a reminder of what he can become, today was a reminder that he’s still very young with inconsistent command. It’s nothing that can’t be sorted out, but there’s still some development to be done.
“He’s a young guy and he’s got four pitches to be in the big leagues,” Francisco Cervelli said. “But with the experience, he’s going to learn how you can make adjustments during the game and have more patience. It’s just a bad day. Next time he’s going to come back and of what he always does because it’s great. I think he’s top three over here, best rookie guys.”
As for the top rookie in camp? Mitchell is making his case. He closed today’s game with three hitless innings, striking out four and walking none. Often labeled as a sinkerballer, Mitchell was drawing praise just last week from a Yankees official who said he doesn’t get enough credit for his secondary pitches. Mitchell does generate a lot of ground balls, but they don’t have to come from his two-seamer. He can get them with his changeup, curveball and slider. He did hit two batter today, but through seven innings in big league camp, Mitchell has allowed just three hits.
He was awfully good this afternoon, and Girardi noticed.
• Obvoiusly the Yankees got good news on Freddy Garcia’s injured right hand, but there will be considerably curiosity tomorrow to find out whether the injury will cause him to miss significant time. “That’s why we try to have depth every year in case you do run into something freaky like this injury,” Girardi said before hearing the x-ray results. “I hope it’s not going to keep him down, but we’ll find out.”
• Garcia was pitching well at the time of the injury. He’d allowed one run through three innings and had just stranded two runners in the bottom of third. Edwin Encarnacion’s comebacker came in the first at-bat of the fourth. “Freddy’s Freddy,” Girardi said. “He commands all his offspeed. He commands his fastball. He changes speeds. And that’s exactly what he did today. His split was effective. Just got his hand in the way. That’s the only thing I didn’t like.”
• Cervelli on how Garcia was pitching for the injury: “It was great. It was really, really good. The split was good A lot of fastballs today. I think he was throwing 90, a lot of movement in the fastball. Really good. His plan was really good today.”
• It’s a positive sign that Dave Robertson was able to jog without pain, but Girardi said he’ll need to throw a few times on the side before he starts getting into games again. “He’s been out long enough that I think he’s got to do some bullpens,” Girardi said.
• Girardi seems to be used to getting velocity questions. This was the first thing he said about Robertson’s half hour on a treadmill: “I don’t have the speed, but there was no pain.”
• In between Garcia’s three innings and Mitchell’s three innings, both Banuelos and Cory Wade pitched an inning. Wade gave up a two-run homer to J.P. Arencibia, letting Garcia’s final base runner come around to score. Wade also had two strikeouts in his inning.
• In spring training, the media is usually in the clubhouse by the fifth or sixth inning, so I didn’t see any of the Yankees seventh-inning rally. They scored four runs in the seventh, all of them generated by non-starters. Doug Bernier had a bases-loaded, two-run double and Dewayne Wise followed with his own two-run double. Wise also had a stolen base in the inning.
• The one Yankees run I did see came on Curtis Granderson’s RBI double in the third inning. It was one of two doubles for Granderson who’s hitting .316 this spring. Granderson and Wise each had two hits.
• Other Yankees with hits: Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Mark Teixeira, Cole Garner, Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix and Cervelli. Cervelli and Garner each doubled. The Yankees lost 7-5.
Associated Press photos