“It’s starting to get out of control now,” Vernon Wells said. “At first I was like, ‘OK a few injuries. It’s normal.’ And each week, something new.
“It’s not what you want obviously. But we’re not going to make excuses. We’ve still got to go out and win games no matter who’s in the lineup or who’s on the mound.”
They are doing well to cope despite 10 guys on the DL, sitting at 18-12 after Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the A’s. There’s going to be an All-Star lineup rehabbing today at the minor-league complex in Tampa.
Eduardo Nunez at least had his MRI come back negative after he came out of the series finale with tightness in the front of his left rib cage. The shortstop said he felt something up with his stomach in the first inning. He thought it had to do with food. Then it was bothering him to swing and throw, so Joe Girardi pulled him after four. Nunez is day-to-day and may not be good to go yet Tuesday night in Colorado.
Nunez was feeling down after he got back to the Stadium from New York Presbyterian. This is his chance to play with Derek Jeter down for at least the first half of the season. Nunez had already missed a pair of games on two occasions after getting hit by pitches.
“I feel bad for myself,” Nunez said. “This is an opportunity for me. … There’s nothing I can do.”
Andy Pettitte felt rather helpless to fix his release point problems Sunday. Here’s the link to my story detailing his struggle for the second straight start (complete with video I shot of Girardi talking about his lack of concern about it at the moment) and the other happenings in Sunday’s game. And here’s a link to my story on Curtis Granderson possibly not heading back to center after all, plus an update on David Robertson.
Associated Press photo
Yankees leave ample April behind • 05.01.13
Welcome to May. The Yankees finished April at 16-10 after Tuesday night’s 7-4 win over Houston. They also finished with nine players on the disabled list.
In other words, they have no complaints with the record after the first month. No one should, considering all the injuries.
“I think our guys did a very good job, especially with the start we had, 1-4,” Joe Girardi said.
The pitching has been good. The offense has done just enough. The homer total has been running first in the AL. And the new guys have pitched in well.
“They brought in really good dudes, a lot of veteran guys, good character guys,” said one of the new guys, Travis Hafner. “The clubhouse has been great. Everyone gets along well.”
One of the old guys has begun to heat up. Ichiro Suzuki is batting .407 over his last seven games.
But the Yankees could use Eduardo Nunez to start hitting consistently, too.
“It would be great because he’s done a wonderful job defensively the first month for us, just great,” Girardi said.
The shortstop has his first three-hit game Tuesday night since April 4. He had three hits over his previous six games combined. Two of his three hits in the win over Houston were doubles, one more extra-base hit than he had the entire season. He raised his average from .169 to .203.
“We really believe that this kid is going to hit,” Girardi said. “To get him going, with the speed that he has, creates problems for the defense, for the pitchers, it would help us a lot.”
Here’s the link to my story on the April finale and the contributions by Hiroki Kuroda and Hafner so far. Also, here’s a link to my Yankees notebook with items on the mistake made by playing Kevin Youkilis Saturday and the lack of depth in the infield, plus on new rookie infielder Corban Joseph and some injury updates. And finally here’s a link to my feature story of the day. It’s on new lefty Vidal Nuno and his path from the independent Frontier League to the Bronx. Thanks for reading everyone. I’ll be back with you Sunday.
Hiroki Kuroda somehow managed to last seven innings and 108 pitches after throwing 67 in the first three. He has great survival skills.
The 38-year-old righty stranded seven Astros in the first three innings.
“Today, like my last outing, my balance was off mechanically,” Kuroda said. “My release point was off, too.”
But Larry Rothschild made a suggestion — work from the stretch all the time. Kuroda doesn’t like doing that, but he followed what he was told. And he retired 14 of his last 15 batters. He ended up allowing no runs, four hits and four walks, and he fanned eight. So after this 7-4 win, his April looked like this: six starts, 4-1, 2.25 ERA.
Travis Hafner’s April looked like this: .318, six homers, 17 RBI, 21 hits. The RBI and hit totals were his best in a calendar month since September 2007.
“I think swing-wise, it’s gotten a little more consistent as the season has gone on,” Hafner said. “It’s been great playing here. I’m really enjoying it.”
Joe Girardi is enjoying the view of his new 35-year-old DH: “You just see that his approach is good. He has been great in that four-hole for us. With all the people that we have out, he’s really done a good job in our lineup.”
Ichiro Suzuki is helping out in the lineup again. He went 3 for 5 and is batting .407 (11 for 27) in his last seven games. This run has boosted his average 68 points, from .200 to .268.
Eduardo Nunez started the night at .169, but he had three hits to move to .203. It marked his first multihit game since April 4. He had two doubles, one more than his extra-base hit total for the season coming in.
Mariano Rivera had his best April ever for saves, going 10 for 10 after getting the final out in this game. Does he really have to retire?
Yankees react to bad news on Jeter • 04.19.13
Derek Jeter is gone until at least after the All-Star break after breaking his left ankle again. (My article today about the situation). The Yankees are getting used to bad injury news. They’ve had a lot of practice reacting so far this year.
“He’s our captain, leader,” Phil Hughes said. “It’s never good news when guys are going to be out longer than you expect. But we’ve got to continue to battle along like we have been.”
The Yankees have won seven of their last nine to move to 8-6.
“It’s tough, but we haven’t had him yet,” Brett Gardner said. “When you don’t have guys, you can’t really count on them to come back. You’ve just got to make do with what you’ve got. I feel like we’ve been playing pretty good baseball so far. We’ll try to keep it going.”
Of course, Eduardo Nunez becomes even more of a key figure as the main man replacing Jeter. Nunez made his first error of the season, on a bad throw to first, in Thursday night’s 12-inning, 6-2 setback to the Diamondbacks. He also missed a grounder he probably should have had. But his defense has been better overall so far than last year. Now he needs to stay consistent. And hit more. He’s batting .233 over his 11 games.
Before the game, and before the update came on Jeter, Nunez said, “I hope he comes back this year. I hope he comes back healthy. But I’m prepared to play all year. … This is what I’ve been working for all my life.”
After the game and the update, Nunez expressed mixed feelings, saying, “It’s good for me to keep playing, but it’s not what I’m looking for.”
Also, Phil Hughes was much improved Thursday night (here’s that story), so at least he can try to build off that. And in my Yankees notebook for today, I write about Travis Hafner’s good health being a key, have Brian Cashman explaining why it’s hard right now to bring in shortstop reinforcements and look ahead to the Toronto series that starts tonight.
It’s been said that Joe Girardi has one of the easiest jobs in baseball: Just write down the names of a bunch of superstars, call it a lineup, and go win 95 games. Things are a bit different this season, and Girardi acknowledged that this Opening Day lineup took him a little longer than usual.
“It’s a little bit more,” he said. “You look at some of the positions that you’re going to do, and more about where you’re going to put guys in the lineup, in a sense, than maybe who’s playing. Trying to divide up your lefties a little bit against Lester, and having some new faces in Wells and Francisco, trying to figure out where to put them. So there was a little bit more thought.”
Girardi settled on moving Eduardo Nunez near the top of the lineup, strictly to split the lefties. Ichiro Suzuki is batting seventh today, but Girardi said Ichiro will move up to the No. 2 spot when the Yankees face right-hander Clay Buchholz on Wednesday.
“We’ve liked the way Nuney has swung the bat,” Girardi said. “I didn’t particularly want to put three lefties in a row against Lester to start the game. We’ve liked Gardy’s ability to get on base, so I put him in the leadoff spot. And without Jeet, I thought we should put a right-hander in there, and we’ve liked what Nuney has done.”
• Based on this spring’s catching matchups, I really assumed Chris Stewart would catch CC Sabathia today. Then again, I also thought Girardi would stick with Ichiro in the No. 2 spot even against a lefty, so what do I know? “I think the first month, it will be somewhat of a process of figuring out exactly how you’re going to (use the catchers),” Girardi said. “You can play spring training games, but playing in-season games is different. The things you have to handle are different. Your emotions are different. It was something that I thought about the last three or four days. Talked to my coaches about it, and right now it’s probably going to be a fairly even split.”
• It’s worth noting that Cervelli is actually a career .317/.414/.393 hitter against lefties.
• According to Brian Cashman, Derek Jeter is scheduled to play catch and undergo treatment today. “There is no exact schedule for Derek because it’s what his ankle allows him to do,” Girardi said. “And we’re really not going to know that until he goes out there.”
• Have not seen Alex Rodriguez, but apparently he’s here. It’s still unclear just how much of the pregame ceremonies he’ll be a part of. “Introductions are usually not the first thing on my mind when I come in here,” Girardi said. “I’m anxious to see him. I want to see how he’s moving around in a sense because I haven’t seen him since, probably the end of January when he was just starting to ride a bike. What he chooses to do today is his prerogative, and I’m fine with whatever he chooses to do.”
• Also no sign of Mark Teixeira, who’s supposed to visit the doctor this morning. I know he was expecting to be out of the checkup in time to be here for the ceremonies.
• A few observations from the clubhouse: Dave Robertson’s has been given a new locker, the one right next to Mariano Rivera. Eduardo Nunez also has a new locker in between Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez. Francisco Cervelli’s old locker now belongs to Chris Stewart, so he’s in Nick Swisher’s old locker. Joba Chamberlain moved to Robertson’s old locker, David Phelps move to Chamberlain’s old locker, Cody Eppley moved to Phelps’ old locker, and Adam Warren has Eppley’s old locker.
• Not great news for Brennan Boesch and Lyle Overbay: They have the lockers generally given to players who bounce back and forth from Triple-A.
• In case it didn’t go without saying, Girardi said the Yankees will stick with just one left-handed reliever for the time being. “You look at our eighth inning and our ninth inning, and that’s nailed down,” Girardi said. “My hope is Joba will nail down the seventh inning. If there’s a lefty we want Boone to face in the seventh inning, we might do that, and then have Joba go after the righties. But I figure, if you can nail down the seventh, eighth and ninth, you can use Boonie earlier.”
• Someone from a Japanese television station said during Girardi’s pregame press conference that Hideki Matsui has been given Japan’s highest civilian honor. “Congratulations to Hideki,” Girardi said. “I think everybody is aware of what this organization thinks of Hideki Matsui. He’s a wonderful man, he was a wonderful player. Did a lot for the New York Yankees in his time here, and represented us very, very well. I think from the Yankees standpoint, we’d like to congratulate him because he’s a man who deserves a great honor.”
• The Yankees will honor the Sandy Hook victims and first responders before today’s game. “I think it’s important to say thank you,” Girardi said. “The town of Newtown has went through so much during the last four or five months, six months, and you think about being a responder. Sometimes we don’t think about what they go through, and how important they are during a situation like that. I think it’s nice that we’re getting an opportunity to say thank you for all that you do, because they’re obviously going to do more as the future goes on.”
• The video above is Girardi’s opening comments from this morning’s pregame press conference.
Associated Press photo
Video: Yankees go through pop up drills • 02.20.13
Tony Pena was running the machine for today’s pop up and fly ball drill on the main field. At one point, I noticed he seemed to be aiming the machine right at me. You’ll notice in the video below, after Dan Johnson makes a play in foul territory, I’m pretty slow turning the camera back to the field. I’d actually turned my head to Pena to try to determine whether I need to get out of the way.
Tuesday notes: Another opportunity for Nunez • 02.19.13
It’s going to be a while before Derek Jeter is ready to play in games, and that means playing time for someone else. Most notably, it means playing time for Eduardo Nunez.
“I can’t kill him,” Joe Girardi said. “I can’t play him nine innings every day, but he’s going to play a substantial amount.”
Nunez and Jeter went through shortstop drills together again today, and the Yankees plan to keep Nunez at short this spring, and there’s little doubt that the Yankees idea of letting Jeter DH against lefties in the regular season leaves a legitimate opportunity for Nunez to get big league playing time again.
“I want Jeter to be healthy again and play how he plays,” Nunez said. “But for now, it’s my opportunity to show I can play every day and show I can play defense. I can do different things than people think I can do. … I feel great right now. My confidence is (high). I know what I can do. I know what kind of player I can be, and that I can be right now.”
Girardi said the Yankees will look for consistency out of Nunez, and that should come as little surprise. Nunez has shown flashes of being a valuable big leaguer — most recently, he played well during his short time playing in Jeter’s place during the ALCS — but his defensive lapses are well documented.
“He has to earn it,” Girardi said. “We’ve got to toy with some different options, but we liked what he did at the end of last year. We know he provides a lot of excitement. Our plans are probably to keep him at short for the most part — we did talk about that — but he does have to earn it.”
Girardi said there’s a chance the Yankees could carry both Nunez and Jayson Nix, but it would leave the Yankees without a left-handed pinch hitter, which they’d like to have. Ultimately, Girardi repeated his familiar promise to carry the best players to make up the best team. Nunez will have a chance to put himself in that group.
“Jeter’s a Gold Glove,” Nunez said. “Cano’s a Gold Glove. (So are) Teixeira and A-Rod. You don’t see too many errors from these guys. When they come to me, I make an error, it’s a big thing. … It was a little bit in my mind, frustration for that, but I thank Jeter, thank A-Rod (and) thank Cano. They talked to me a lot and teach me how to fix that.”
• Here’s Girardi explaining the Phil Hughes injury: “It’s upper back, up here by his shoulder blades, so we’ll see how he is in a couple of days. The good thing is he was ahead of where he probably would normally be at this time, which helps. … You’re usually more concerned about the lower lingering. But until it’s gone, it’s going to linger. That’s like a Yogi-ism.”
• Despite being ahead of most of the other big league pitchers, Hughes was not in consideration to start Saturday’s spring opener even before the injury.
• Austin Romine said he’s more or less stopped thinking about his back. He doesn’t really notice it any more. Bascially a week into spring training and Romine’s had no problems so far. He’s very optimistic that he’s gotten past the problem.
• Haven’t heard much about Michael Pineda lately. He said today that his shoulder still feels good, but he’s not scheduled for another bullpen until Friday.
• David Phelps gets the opening start on Saturday, and although Girardi didn’t talk about it today, he’s always made it clear in the past that early spring outings don’t carry a lot of weight. I can’t imagine Phelps is going to feel that way. This is what he said earlier in camp: “I pushed myself a little more in the offseason so my arm is ready a little quicker during spring training because I’m trying to make an impression.”
• Speaking of making an impression, I didn’t see it, but there was some buzz today about Ichiro Suzuki’s behind-the-back catch during outfield drills. I asked Brett Gardner to describe it and Gardner started laughing. “That’s my fault,” he said. “I told him to do it.” Gardner said that Ichiro has a variety of behind-the-back catches that he’ll do every once in while when the team is shagging fly balls. Gardner wanted to see a few today, and Ichiro was up to the task. Girardi said he didn’t see Ichiro do it today, but “I’ve seen him do it before,” Girardi said.
• Mark Teixeira’s last day in Yankees camp is March 2. Robinson Cano’s last day is March 3. After that, those two will join their World Baseball Classic teams to prepare for the tournament.
• Random conversation of the day was with new outfielder Thomas Neal. If a handshake is any indication of a man’s strength, Neal just might be a 40-homer guy. I’m not sure how he uses a cell phone without crushing it. Seriously, Neal said he got some interest from the Yankees pretty soon after being designated for assignment, but he took some time making his decision on where to sign. He decided the Yankees were the best fit, with the potential for a real opportunity.
• Matt Diaz tried to convince me to write a story about his son’s tee-ball team. Seriously. He thinks that group has a real shot this year.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees were enjoying rookie hazing day after this 5-4 loss to the A’s. The rookies were given Star Wars clothes to wear. So there was David Phelps as Princess Leia and Melky Mesa as Darth Vader (Where was that black helmet and robe Saturday when Mesa could’ve used to hide his identity after that baserunning blunder in his debut?). Even the new assistant trainer, Mark Littlefield, had to wear a costume. He got stuck with the hairy Chewbacca.
“Every time you guys see Princess Leia, this is what you’ll think of,” Phelps said, posing for pictures.
Eduardo Nunez was the one who could have used the mask and full body costume on this day. But like Mesa the day before, he stood in front of his locker and faced the crowd. Nunez made two more errors at short, including a throwing error in the sixth that led to the decisive run.
“It happens,” said Nunez, who also had a ball pop out of his hand and back in, causing a late throw in the seventh, his seventh error in 33 games. “Everybody has a bad day. You’ve got to keep pushing, keep playing hard.
“I know I have to keep practicing my defense. Everybody knows that.”
My thought is you can’t risk the potential for these type of mistakes with 10 games to go and just a one-game lead in the division, although Jeter did make an error at short Wednesday in the second game of the doubleheader sweep vs. Toronto. Girardi hasn’t been playing Jeter every day at short due to the bruised ankle, using him as the DH when he isn’t in the field. Girardi still sounded concerned about a potential misstep, causing a setback. Jeter didn’t sound worried.
Jayson Nix is another option at short.
“Those are decisions we’ll have to make,” Girardi said.
Girardi, at least publicly, wouldn’t say he’s down on Nunez’s defense, the reason he got sent to the minors in May.
“For the most part, he’s done a real good job,” Girardi said, adding that he just needs more experience.
Girardi likes what the fast-moving Nunez brings overall.
“He give us excitement out there,” Girardi said.
Hiroki Kuroda was charged with five runs, four earned, seven hits, three walks and two wild pitches in 5 2/3. His September numbers? Now 2-1 with a 5.63 ERA in four starts.
So the Yankees’ seven-game winning streak is over. They finished the homestand 7-2. And they finished the season series against the A’s 5-5.
The Yankees go on the road for seven now, starting tonight in Minnesota.
Andy Pettitte gets the start. He’s down for 85-90 pitches after throwing 75 pitches in his strong return start, but Girardi also said he might be willing to push that total against the Twins.
“I feel great,” Pettitte said. “I hope being my second start back, the body feels really good.”
Alex Rodriguez called the Yankees’ five-run third “one of the best offensive innings we’ve had all year.” There were three hits, three walks, one homer (the three-run shot by Russell Martin), one error, one wild pitch and two steals, plus a Nick Swisher sacrifice.
“We get small ball and Bronx ball going back and forth, it’s going to be a lot of fun for us,” Swisher said. “A little Swisher-ism.”
Eduardo Nunez may be an adventure in the field sometimes, but he does have his value, especially in the small-ball game.
“I think I can run a little bit,” Nunez said.
He led off the big rally by working out a full-count walk. The following inning, he led off again and reached on an error before stealing second and third and scoring on an A-Rod sac fly in the fourth. His speed gives the Yankees an ability to create runs that they had been lacking without Brett Gardner.
“He changes the game offensively for us,” Rodriguez said about Nunez. “He has a unique package where he has power, speed and he has enough recklessness where it’s really helpful for our lineup.”
Martin has finally perked up in this lineup. His average is up to all of .209 after a 10-game stretch in which he has batted .343 with three homers and 11 RBI.
“The laws of averages, they’re on my side right now,” Martin said. “I just feel like I’m seeing the ball well.”
Joe Girardi saw Derek Jeter, the DH for the fourth straight game, still limping a little on the bases thanks to the bone bruise in his left ankle.
“I think it’s still hurt,” Girardi said. “I don’t see him as the shortstop yet right now as we speak.”
Girardi said he will see how Jeter feels on Tuesday following the off day. Jeter is one hit away from his eighth 200-hit year and his first since 2009, impressive at age 37/38 this season.
Hiroki Kuroda got some run support, which hasn’t always been the story of his season. He gave up four runs and four hits over six, with three runs coming in the sixth, two on a bad-hop single by Evan Longoria. Kuroda is 14-10 with a 3.26 ERA.
“With that kind of run support, I wanted to go deep in the game … but I hit that bump in the sixth inning,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “That’s the only regret I have.”
The Yankees have won two in a row, four of five, five of seven and seven of 11.
“We talked about playing better baseball,” Girardi said. “We starting to do that.”
“I think September is going to be the biggest blessing in disguise for us,” Alex Rodriguez said. “This is the kind of baseball we’re going to have to play to win in October. And the other thing is, these are playoff-caliber games. We’re stepping up to the occasion a little bit.”
Yankees pregame: Nunez at short again • 09.16.12
Brian Heyman here for Chad again for this series finale against the Rays. Eduardo Nunez is starting at short in place of Derek Jeter for the fourth straight game. Jeter is the DH for the fourth straight game due to the bone bruise in his left ankle.
Nunez has played in 28 games over his two stints here this season, and he has made five errors. His defense got him sent to the minors in May. His error on Friday night, when he let an easy grounder scoot under his glove, allowed Tampa Bay to score an insurance run in the ninth. But Joe Girardi indicated he has been happy with Nunez’s defense at short while filling in for Jeter. Nunez has been back since Sept. 1.
“He played well down there (in Triple-A),” Girardi said. “He’s made some really good plays here, some balls that aren’t easy in the hole, and he shows his strong arm and his range. There are balls that he’s going to get to that maybe some other guys won’t.”
Girardi said he hasn’t considered lifting Nunez for defense late in games with a lead. That could dent his confidence.
“I think that plays some role,” Girardi said, “but I think it’s the way he’s playing that’s more important.”
Girardi thinks Nunez is more comfortable at short than earlier in the season when he was in more of a utility role.
“He was all over the place,” Girardi said. “We had him at second, short, third, left. I don’t know if we put him in right. (They did, although he didn’t start out there). We asked him to do a lot of different things. For a young kid that’s only really played one position for most of his career, I think it’s easier.”
Girardi also said Nunez may be considered for some DH work when Jeter is ready to return to the field. Nunez, who’s batting .308 in 65 at-bats, homered off James Shields in Saturday’s 5-3 win.
Hiroki Kuroda will start today. The Yankees are averaging just four runs a game in his 29 starts, the third-lowest run support average in the AL for pitchers with at least 29 starts. But it’s been worse over his last 10 outings. They have averaged only 3.07 runs for him. So Kuroda should be better than 13-10 with a 3.17 ERA.