The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Friday notes: Banuelos takes another step forward03.09.12

This was more like it. After a somewhat erratic spring debut, Manny Banuelos looked more like an elite pitching prospect on the verge of the big leagues this afternoon. His fastball was in the mid-90s and he mixed offspeed pitches without walking anyone. He struck out three in two scoreless innings.

“I think he battled some nerves his first time out,” catcher Russell Martin said. “He looked like he was a little erratic. This time out, he was just pitching. Powering his fastball, downward plane, and he looked like he just had more control of all his pitches. So I think as we progress here, he’s just going to sharpen up.”

The Yankees have seen improvement in each of their top pitching prospects. Banuelos showed it today. Dellin Betances showed it yesterday. David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell and Adam Warren have been pretty sharp all spring, drawing consistent praise from Joe Girardi.

“I thought (Banuelos) attacked the zone better and was able to get his secondary pitches over,” Girardi said. “I thought Betances made a big jump too, yesterday. Betances was aggressive yesterday, threw some strikes and was throwing 95. You’re trying to get them more comfortable to attack the zone with their good stuff. I think we saw it from both of them.”

Expectation is that both Banuelos and Betances have next to zero chance of making the big league roster. They’re ticketed for Triple-A, and might not even be the first pitchers called up if the Yankees need a spot starter. But the Yankees have seen progress, and all eyes are on each of their outings.

Today it was Banuelos’ turn to shine.

“He’s got great stuff, no question,” Martin said. “But he still has to work on his changeup, and he still has to work on his breaking ball command for him to be who he wants to be. But it’s still early in the spring, and from this outing compared to the last, it’s already a nice leap forward. He definitely has the stuff. He’s got a lot of life on his fastball. It’s easy. He struck a couple guys out just elevating his fastball. But the main thing for him, he’s the type of guy who will get himself in trouble. He’s not going to get banged around because his stuff’s so good. But you don’t want the guy to walk guys and create his own troubles. And that’s what we’re trying to keep him from doing. Just make sure that he’s throwing the ball over the plate and using all his pitches.”

• Not much to say about Freddy Garcia’s outing. He went three scoreless innings with two strikeouts and one hit, keeping his pitch count low and working quickly. “Vintage Freddy,” is what Girardi called it. Before the game, Garcia told Martin that he wanted to work on his changeup a little bit, and Garcia said his changeup was arguably his best pitch of the day.

• Martin on Garcia: “His pitch count was relatively low because he got contact. He was throwing strikes. That’s what you want from him, just to be able to throw all his pitches over the plate, and induce contact. That’s what he did.”

• It was just yesterday that Joba Chamberlain told me he would begin throwing breaking balls on Sunday. Turns out, he’s ahead of even his own schedule. Chamberlain wound up throwing breaking balls this morning, throwing five sliders for the first time since Tommy John surgery. “Once I threw the first two, the last three were a lot better,” he said. Chamberlain went through his usual routine of 10 pitches off flat ground, 20 off a mound, a short rest, then 10 more off the mound. When that was finished, he threw all five sliders with his catcher standing up so that he wouldn’t feel the need to overthrow and keep the ball down.

• Most of the pitching attention today was on Garcia and Banuelos, but I thought Mitchell look pretty sharp. He’s known for that sinker, but he really has to use his changeup and breaking ball to stay effective, and today he got a swinging strike three with a good changeup that had good movement. He pitched two scoreless, allowing one hit and one walk.

• Juan Cedeno is probably the longest of long shots to make this team as a left-handed releiver, but today he came in to face one batter — big league lefty Freddie Freeman — and Cedeno got a strikeout. Kevin Whelan closed out the win with the final two outs.

• The 3-0 win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Yankees.

• Great play by Martin to get Michael Bourne out on a bunt in the third inning. It was a pretty good bunt up the third-base line, and Martin made a kind of twirling throw to get one of the fastest players in baseball. “That’s as good as it gets from a catcher,” Girardi said. “There aren’t too many people who can make that play, just because of his athleticism.”

• Even though the CT scan came back negative, the Yankees are taking things slow with Eduardo Nunez’s sore right hand. “We said, ‘Don’t take (batting practice) today and let’s see where you are tomorrow,’” Girardi said. As of right now, Nunez is not scheduled to make tomorrow’s trip to play the Braves.

• No one had more than one hit today, but four Yankees — Martin, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez and Doug Bernier — did have doubles in the win. It was Swisher’s second double of the spring. Robinson Cano picked up his second RBI. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Melky Mesa and Gustavo Molina also had hits.

• For Sunday’s split-squad games, the plan is for the big league outfielders to travel to Fort Myers with Phil Hughes. The big league infielders will stay in Tampa to play behind CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. Girardi is going to the road game. I’m still making up my mind.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 158 Comments →

Pregame notes: Robertson optimistic while awaiting results03.09.12

Joe Girardi said yesterday that there was a “cause for concern” in yesterday’s MRI on Dave Robertson’s injured foot. This morning, Robertson himself painted a much more optimistic picture.

“The first MRI, they said there wasn’t really anything really wrong,” Robertson said. “Just had some questionable things and they just wanted to make sure. They said it looked fine, but let’s just go ahead and check it out again and make sure nothing’s wrong.”

Robertson went back to the hospital for a second round of tests, and he’s still awaiting those results. Today he shuffled into the clubhouse wearing a walking boot and using crutches. The crutches seemed more for stability than anything. He wasn’t putting all of his weight on them, just sort of using them to carry a little bit of his weight as he walked fairly close to normal (as close as he could in a protective boot).

Optimism aside, Girardi sounded legitimately concerned yesterday. At this point, it’s hard to know what to expect while the Yankees wait for a foot specialist to give his diagnosis.

“After hearing that they didn’t see anything in the first round, I’m feeling better today,” Robertsons aid. “I’m hoping it’s something that’s going to pass in a week or so and I’ll be right back out there.”

• Robertson on having to address the injury: “It’s embarrassing. I don’t even want to have to come and talk to you guys about it. I’d rather be like, I tripped over a chair in the clubhouse or something than tell you I fell down the stairs at my house. And not like a full flight of stairs, just one stair.”

• Truth be told, Robertson’s injury wasn’t nearly the most unusual in baseball yesterday. David Price hurt himself while toweling off between innings, and Robertson was happy to hear he wasn’t the only one talking about an awkward injury. “Yes,” Robertson said, giving a little fist pump. “That’s good news right there. That’s the best news I’ve heard.”*

• For whatever reason, Eduardo Nunez isn’t listed for batting practice today. I didn’t see Nunez in the clubhouse and didn’t have a chance to ask Joe Girardi about it before the clubhouse closed for a team meeting. Could be that he’s just going to take BP inside rather than out on the field with everyone else, but it seemed unusual considering he was making progress from that hand injury.  

• Brad Meyers, George Kontos, Adam Warren, Joba Chamberlain, Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Hiroki Kuroda all have sides today. Dellin Betances, David Phelps and Ivan Nova are throwing sides tomorrow.

• J.R. Murphy is planning to get the vast majority of his time at catcher this season, but today he’s working out at third base during fielding drills. The Yankees like his bat and have given him a look at the four corners, adding some versatility to the young catcher. For whatever it’s worth, Brett Gardner will take fly balls in center field today. He said he hadn’t taken any balls in center field this spring before starting there yesterday, but center field always feels more natural for him anyway.

• Today’s available pitchers: Freddy Garcia, Rafael Soriano, Manny Banuelos, D.J. Mitchell, Juan Cedeno, Chase Whitley, Ryan Pope, Kevin Whelan, Dan Burawa, Adam Miller, Michael O’Connor and Cesar Cabral

• Today’s second string: C Gustavo Molina, 1B Jose Gil, 2B Corban Joseph, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Ramiro Pena, LF Cole Garner, CF Dewayne Wise, RF Colin Curtis, DH Zoilo Almonte

• Making the trip to Orlando tomorrow…

Pitchers: Dan Burawa, Cesar Cabral, Juan Cedeno, Brett Marshall, Michael O’Connor, Michael Pineda, Ryan Pope, Graham Stoneburner, Kevin Whelan, Chase Whitley
Catchers: Francisco Cervelli, Jose Gil, Kyle Higashioka, J.R. Murphy, Gary Sanchez
Infielders: David Adams, Doug Bernier, Bill Hall, Corban Joseph, Brandon Laird, Jayson Nix, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Vazquez
Outfielders: Zoilo Almonte, Colin Curtis, Brett Gardner, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Justin Maxwell, Melky Mesa, Dewayne Wise

* Before any Rays fans get offended, Robertson was clearly kidding and talking strictly about being hurt in an embarrasing way. He quickly said something about not really wanting anyone else to be hurt, he just liked the idea that he wasn’t the only one talking about an unusual injury.

UPDATE, 10:07 a.m.: The Braves have both RHP Buddy Carlye and OF Jordan Parraz on this trip. Those two played in the Yankees system last year, with Carlyle getting a little bit of big league team.

BRAVES
Michael Bourn CF
Tyler Pastornicky SS
Matt Diaz RF
Freddie Freeman 1B
David Ross C
Christian Bethancourt DH
Drew Sutton 2B
Brandon Hicks 3B
Jose Costanza LF

RHP Julio Teheran

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 460 Comments →

Wednesday notes: No change for a change03.07.12

Finally, a pitcher who’s not working on a changeup.

Hiroki Kuroda throws fastballs and cutters, curveballs and sliders, but he doesn’t throw a change. And the Yankees don’t want him to. Kuroda’s out pitch is a splitfinger, which some pitchers use much the same way as a changeup.

“He doesn’t necessarily need to throw one because of that,” Joe Girardi said. “… His split is different from what some of our other guys have. I know he’ll throw his share of cutters as well. He starts with the location of his fastball, but I really like the split. I think if you look at the couple of strikeouts today, they were both very good splits. That’s a different look.”

Freddy Garcia has been effective with a splitfinger, but it’s not an especially common pitch these days. It’s been effective for Kuroda, and Russell Martin — who caught Kuroda in Los Angeles — has been talking about the effectiveness of that pitch since camp opened. Kuroda said he was happy with it today, and happy that he was able to mix all of his pitches in his first spring outing.

“Usually it takes the full spring training before everything is to the level I need it to be in the regular season,” he said. “… The most important thing that I wanted to accomplish was a feeling for the real game, and I think I was able to do that, so I’m happy.”

• On a day the team was visited by a pregame motivational speaker, the Yankees were held to four hits in a 4-0 loss. Nick Swisher and Jose Gil doubled in the loss. Russell Martin and Dewayne Wise singled.

• Before today’s game, Rafael Soriano told the coaching staff that he felt ready to pitch in a game. In the past, Soriano has been opposed to pitching against division opponents in spring training. “For whatever reason he wanted to pitch today, so I didn’t ask any questions,” Girardi said. “I think it’s good for him to get out there, and I was pleased with what I saw.”

• Soriano struck out two batters in a scoreless inning. Boone Logan also had two strikeouts in an inning, and Cory Wade threw a scoreless frame with one hit and no strikeouts.

• Martin is the Yankees early spring leader in stolen bases. He’s swiped two bags. Chris Dickerson is the only other Yankees player with one.

• Derek Jeter bobbled a ground ball for his first spring training error. Jayson Nix threw a ball away for his second. … Colin Curtis had an outfield assist, throwing to Nick Swisher who relayed to third base for an out that ended the sixth inning. … Clay Rapada pitched a scoreless eighth inning and stayed in to face a lefty to open the ninth. He struck out the lefty before giving way to Kevin Whelan for the final two outs. Rapada is trying to make the team as a left-handed specialist.

• Eduardo Nunez hit with a tee and soft toss today, and he’ll take light batting practice tomorrow, but he’s still not ready to get in a game and won’t play tomorrow. Nunez said his bruised right hand is still “a little bit” sore, but he’s been able to do full fielding drills with no problem. Today he was working out at third base, making the throw across the diamond from foul territory.

• Mark Teixeira had a regularly scheduled day off. His thumb — which he jammed making a tag yesterday — is fine.

• According to Baseball America, the Yankees have signed a Cuban lefty Rigoberto Arrebato to a minor league deal and released minor league first baseman Jamie Mallard. Mallard was signed in the middle of last season and never actually played in an official game.

• Girardi on Yogi Berra’s arrival in camp: “I felt like camp started today. Yogi’s here. It’s great to see… Just kind of puts a smile on everybody’s face. Things pick up around here a little bit. Really good to see.”

• It was announced today that the Yankees Triple-A affiliate officially will be called the Empire State Yankees this season. There’s even a slightly modified logo. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre stadium is being rebuilt, forcing the team to play all of it’s games on the road, including multiple “home” games in Rochester, Syracuse, Buffalo and Batavia. The team is expected to return to its home stadium — and it’s original name — next year.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 187 Comments →

Postgame notes: “There’s some concern there”09.18.11

Ten starts in a row, Freddy Garcia didn’t allow a single home run. When he finally coughed one up on August 29, it was the only run he allowed all game. Since then, Garcia has allowed multiple home runs in three straight starts, including two tonight to Adam Lind.

“I try to make good pitches, and sometimes I’m not able to do it,” Garcia said. “That’s why I’ve been giving home runs… Last three starts, I don’t be doing my job. I’m really frustrated about it, but that’s part of the game. Sometimes you pitch good. Sometimes you pitch bad. You just have to go continue to try to do the best that you can do, and hopefully everything goes well for you.”

This weekend did little to clarify the Yankees rotation situation. Bartolo Colon couldn’t pitch beyond the fourth inning on Saturday, and Garcia couldn’t get out of the fifth today. At times, one of those two has been the Yankees second-best starter, but they’ve struggled recently.

“Bart had a good start on this road trip and had one that wasn’t so good,” Joe Girardi said. “Freddy’s kept us in the games. We talked at the beginning of the season how we worried about innings for both these guys. There’s some concern there, but they’ve just got to find a way to get it done.”

Garcia said tonight’s home run was a good pitch, a splitter that Lind put a good swing on. The second was a slider that “didn’t do much.”

As good as Garcia has been this season, there is some risk with him. He’s never been an overwhelming or overpowering pitcher. His value is in his experience and savvy, and sometimes that leaves little margin for error.

“He’s just missing some spots, that’s all,” Girardi said. “That’s going to happen. Freddy’s not going to be a huge strikeout guy and they’re going to put the ball in play. If you miss some spots, that’s the chance you’re going to take.”

Here’s Garcia.

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• The Yankees won only four of 10 on this road trip, but they still managed to gain two games in the standings. After today’s game, the team just seemed relieved to be finally going home. “From now on every game is important,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Every game is meaningful. We’re looking forward to playing at home, playing well, start cleaning up some of the small mistakes that we’ve been making. We understand we’ve got to get better.”

• After Monday’s makeup game against the Twins, the Yankees play their final 10 games against the Red Sox and Rays. With seven games at home against those two teams, the Yankees home stand could either put the division away or make it a race to the finish. “It will be a great opportunity to do that there,” Mariano Rivera said. “We still have to perform good and take care of business at home, get this thing over.”

• The Yankees magic number to clinch a playoff spot is five, to clinch the division is seven.

• Obviously Brandon Morrow completely shutdown the Yankees offense today. “He had us baffled all day with his slide,” Rodriguez said. “He probably threw 70 to 75 percent sliders, which is a very high percentage for him. He’s usually the opposite, 70 to 77 percent fastball guy.”

• Of the Yankees five hits, three were by Eduardo Nunez, and Nunez was the only Yankee to advance beyond first base.

• Of course, Nunez also made the second Yankees base-running mistake of the weekend. “He’s just making an aggressive turn,” Girardi said. “In that situation, you’ve got to know the score. You’re not going to get to second unless it really bounces off himn, so you’ve got to be cautious there. He was just overaggressive.”

• Why not pinch hit for Ramiro Pena in the eighth? “Pena’s had some success off him,” Girardi said. “Grandy is 1 for his last 15 with 10 strikeouts. If we had a couple guys on, I might have pinch-hit Grandy and taken a chance.”

• Impressive Yankees debut by Raul Valdes, who retired four of the five batters he faced, including all three left-handers. The Yankees have been giving Aaron Laffey a lot of chances to emerge as a legitimate second lefty candidate, but that Valdes appearance might earn a few more looks. I still don’t think the Yankees will actually carry a second left-hander in the postseason, but I’m sure they’d like to have a backup option in mind.

• Random fact about tonight’s game: The phone from the dugout to the bullpen stopped working for a while. “The phones haven’t worked real good here the last couple days,” Girardi said. “Danny (Iassogna) handled it and we used the policeman’s walkie-talkie for a few minutes, then they got the phones working again.”

• Girardi’s assessment of going 4-6 on the road and still gaining two games in the standings: “I think we are fortunate,” he said. “We’ve got to go home and play better, there’s no doubt about it. At times, we didn’t swing the bats on this trip. Is it good pitching? Is it fatigue? I don’t know, but I know our guys are pretty worn down. Now they’ll get to sleep in their own beds and hopefully catch up a little bit.”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 271 Comments →

Pregame notes: “Might as well let them get healthy”09.10.11

Just a few days ago, the mounting injuries in the Yankees clubhouse seemed to be a minor issue. A handful of guys were banged up, but none of the issues seemed serious. If anything, most guys seemed to be getting better.

Today, the feeling was different. Alex Rodriguez’s thumb injury just won’t go away. Nick Swisher isn’t sure how long he’ll be out. Francisco Cervelli was a late scratch (again). Boone Logan is still not available.

“I’m trying to win, just like I was last year,” Joe Girardi said. “If they can play, and be productive, I’m going to play them. If we feel like they’ll play and not be productive, we might as well let them get healthy so they can be productive. That’s what I have to measure.”

One-by-one, these are the issues the Yankees are dealing with.

Alex Rodriguez
This is the same thumb injury that’s bothered him ever since he made the awkward backhanded play in Minneapolis three weeks ago. The Yankees have tried to manage it with occasional days off, but it hasn’t quite gone away, and Rodriguez told Girardi after last night’s game that it was still bothering him.

“I feel like there’s a big difference between being hurt and playing through bumps and bruises,” Rodriguez said. “I can certainly play through bumps and bruises. Even with bumps and bruises, I can do serious damage. But the way I am right now, I don’t think it’s possible.”

Since coming off the disabled list — he injured the thumb the first day back — Rodriguez has hit just .194/.370/.389 with three extra-base hits in 10 games. He went for an additional MRI in New York last week, but Rodriguez thinks it’s actually been getting better, it’s just not fully healed yet.

“We’re trying to get him going, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “If you keep taking these breaks, it’s hard to get going, and that’s the frustrating part.”

Nick Swisher
The test results could have been much worse. Swisher’s MRI revealed no structural damage, but it did show what Swisher described as “a lot of inflammation.” Girardi called it tendonitis, but the bottom line is this: Swisher is day-to-day, but he doesn’t seem to have a long-term issue.

“It’s a bummer because, right now, you want to be in there every day,” Swisher said. “Everyone is tired, everyone is going through their aches and pains, but you definitely want to try and be out there. Right now, we have relax a little bit. We just need to chill for a couple days.”

Swisher doesn’t seem to have a timetable. He’s going to do treatment today, and what he does tomorrow will depend on how he feels. Girardi expects this to be a smaller issue that Rodriguez’s thumb.

“I think Alex’s thumb might be more of a continual problem,” Girardi said. “Swish is probably just a few days rest of some medicine, some treatment. He should be ok. Tendonitis usually clears up. But Alex, we’ll just have to wait.”

Francisco Cervelli
After being run over by Nick Markakis on Thursday, Cervelli has been in the Yankees lineup two days in a row, only to be scratched each time. Girardi said Cervelli has some concussion symptoms, and he was sent for an ImPACT test tonight.

Andruw Jones
There’s no injury here, but the Yankees are cautious because Jones’ has a history of knee problems, and they don’t want to push him too hard when he’s not used to playing every day. Jones has missed only one day so far this month, so Girardi wanted to give him a day off. That’s why he’s not in right field tonight.

Boone Logan
Girardi plans to stay away from Logan again tonight. He’ll also stay away from Luis Ayala, and he has to check with Cory Wade, but Rafael Soriano is available again. Logan hasn’t had more than one day off since August 27, and in that span he’s thrown three days in a row once, and three out of four twice. His velocity has dipped lately, and the Yankees think fatigue and dead arm might be the cause.

Eduardo Nunez was pretty funny when he saw the lineup posted this afternoon. His reaction was a single word that can’t be printed in this space, and he was laughing about it when reporters asked about his first career start in right field.

“I knew if they needed me, I could play outfield, but I didn’t know I was starting today,” he said. “They didn’t tell me… It’s fun. It’s a new experience. I’ll do the best I can.”

Nunez has played right field only once in his life. It was earlier this season in Baltimore, and he caught the only ball hit to him. He played some left field in spring training, and he’s played both corners during batting practice.

“The way he’s swung the bat (was a factor),” Girardi said. “And I liked his at-bats against Haren the last time we played. And it might be something we have to do… Sometimes you have to look at it, and if we’re fortunate enough to get a lead, we can always make a switch.”

Here’s Nunez. At the end of the group interview someone wished him luck. “I need luck,” Nunez said.

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• Terrific pitching matchup tonight with CC Sabathia and Dan Haren. “Two guys who really know how to use the strike zone,” Girardi said. “They know how to mix their pitches, they know how to throw offspeed behind in the count. When you look at Danny Haren, he’s going to throw a split, a lot of cutters, he’s going to throw curveballs, he’s going to mix his pitches.

• The Yankees have lost three in a row, all by one run. “It could be fatigue,” Girardi said. “That’s the only thing that I could think of. We have not swung the bats very well lately, and maybe we could turn that around tonight.”

• Girardi is hopeful that he’ll have Rodriguez and Swisher back by the end of the road trip. “We’ve got a long way to go this road trip, so I would sure hope so,” he said. “I would hope to have both of them back before that.”

• Swisher on Nunez taking his spot in right: “He’s an athlete. He can do it.”

ANGELS
Maicer Izturis 3B
Peter Bourjos CF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Torii Hunter DH
Mark Trumbo 1B
Vernon Wells LF
Mike Trout RF
Erick Aybar SS
Jeff Mathis C

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 32 Comments →

Postgame notes: “His mission was to be here”09.03.11

Ivan Nova spent almost a month in Triple-A this season. He missed three or four starts because the Yankees rotation was overcrowded, and since he’s been back, Nova’s won seven starts in a row. He hasn’t lost since June 3, and his 15 wins this season are the most by a Yankees rookie since 1968.

Two questions: If he’d never been sent to the minors, would Nova have a shot at 20 wins this season? Or, to look at it a different way, if he’d never been sent to the minors, would Nova be nearly this good right now?

“I think when he went to the minor leagues, when he came back his mission was to be here, be a part of the rotation, and he’s been doing an outstanding job,” Andruw Jones said. “A lot of guys on this team talk with him every time he gives a run or something like that. We try and tell him, that’s it. Don’t give no more and we will give you this game. He’s been doing that, so we’re really proud of him, the way he goes about his business.”

The Yankees love the improvement of Nova’s slider, and that’s something he focused on during his stint in Triple-A. They also love his confidence and his ability to make adjustments, something that also seems to have improved since that brief demotion.

“I’m not surprised,” Nova said. “Because I know what I can do. It doesn’t stop here. I have four more starts, so I have to stay hungry… I know I’ve got tremendous stuff, I just have to put everything right and work.”

Tonight, Nova allowed only one hit after the first inning, but that’s not to say he wasn’t hit hard. The Yankees defense was outstanding, and that made a huge difference, but Nova certainly settled in. The Yankees rotation is once again overcrowded, but these days, it’s hard to imagine Nova being the odd man out. After CC Sabathia and Freddy Garcia, the pitcher with the greatest claim to a rotation spot might be the tall rookie who just keeps winning.

“He learned a lot last year and he learned a lot in the first month this year,” Girardi said. “And I think he’s taken that and used it, and used it to learn how to relax in situations. He’s around the guys, and understands what he needs to do. He’s learned fairly quickly.”

The Yankees didn’t have Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez tonight, and they had only four hits, but it wasn’t only the pitching that stepped up to fill the void. The Yankees defense was outstanding, quite possibly the best it’s been all season.

“You can look back and we probably had seven outstanding defensive plays tonight,” Girardi said. “And to win games like that, you’re going to have to have that.”

Eduardo Nunez went deep into the outfield grass to get the last out of the eighth. Curtis Granderson might have saved two runs with his running catch on the warning track in the sixth. Andruw Jones might have robbed Jose Bautista of home run No. 40 with his leaping catch in the fourth. Russell Martin threw out a runner trying to steal in the third.

But the defensive focus was on Brett Gardner, the same guy who hit the pivotal two-run homer. He showed good range to catch a sacrifice fly in the first inning, then showed even better range to make a tumbling catch that became an inning-ending double play in the first.

“Gardy really saved the game in the first inning, because it very well could have been four runs and a runner on second and still one out,” Girardi said. “… Gardy had a huge night tonight. Gardy drove in two, scored one and probably saved two or three himself. You look at the game, and that’s probably the difference.”

Here’s Gardner.

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• Girardi is at least hopeful that Alex Rodriguez will be able to play tomorrow. “I would love that,” Girardi said. “I really wanted him to go through today and turn it up and notch and take normal BP and see how the thumb feels tomorrow, see if it responds well or there’s a little setback. If he’s a little sore tomorrow we probably won’t play him, but if he feels good, I’ll probably put him in there.”

• Mark Teixeira didn’t seem especially optimistic that he would play tomorrow. He was still hobbling around quite a bit after the game.

• Dave Robertson was not available tonight, which is why Rafael Soriano handled the eighth. “(Robertson) was a little sore tonight, so we decided to give him a day off,” Girardi said. “We should have him tomorrow. My guess is we won’t have Soriano or Mo tomorrow.”

• Jones said he wasn’t sure whether his leaping catch at the wall robbed a home run or a double. It was hard to see on a replay whether that ball was going out or off the top of the wall. “I thought it was a homer,” Nova said. “Once I heard everybody, I knew it was an out, but I wasn’t thinking it was an out.”

• Gardner said his tumbling catch in the first inning — the one that started the double play — was at least partially because of positioning. “Right before the pitch, I moved over a little bit and got a good jump on it,” he said. “I was able to get over there and get it, get it in for the double play and end the inning.”

• Gardner set a career-high with his sixth home run of the season. He hit five last year.

• Nick Swisher made his second start at first base in the past two years. He made 10 starts at first in 2009.

• Mariano Rivera got his 37th save, which is four more than he had all of last year. He’s four away from No. 600 for his career. He has saved each of the Yankees past four wins and nine of the past 15.

• The Yankees moved back into first place tonight. “It’s probably going to be back and forth the next three or four weeks,” Gardner said. “The Red Sox have a good team, so it’s far from over. We haven’t made the playoffs or won the division. There’s a lot of baseball left to play, so we’ll just stay focused on tomorrow and worry about that at the end of the month.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 60 Comments →

Yankees winning with Rodriguez mending08.09.11

Let me preface this by saying the Yankees are clearly a better team with Alex Rodriguez. The intention here is not spark that sort of ridiculous argument. That said…

Rodriguez last played on July 7.

Through July 7: The Yankees went 51-35 (.593 winning percentage) and averaged 5.22 runs per game.

Since July 7: The Yankees have gone 18-9 (.667 winning percentage) and average 5.70 runs per game.

Again, the point here is not to suggest that the Yankees are better without their third baseman, only to point out that their hitters have done a remarkable job making up for his absence.

“It’s been a lot of fun, that’s for sure,” Eric Chavez said. “It’s been a lot of fun to watch. I’ve played on some pretty good offensive teams early with the A’s, and I’ve never seen anything like it. If you look at the three guys in the middle – Robbie, Granderson and Teixeira – they do so much damage, the rest of us just have to pitch in. What those three guys are doing, it’s pretty miraculous.”

The return of Chavez has helped. It’s also helped that Mark Teixeira has found a little consistency. And that Nick Swisher has been outstanding for two months now. And that Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter have been getting on base. And that Curtis Granderson’s production hasn’t fallen off. And that Eduardo Nunez is becoming productive again.

Of the Yankees 27 games without Rodriguez, only eight were played against teams below league average in team ERA (Toronto and Baltimore). Twelve were played against teams that top five in team ERA (Tampa Bay, Oakland and Seattle).

“It’s been really good, because guys have stepped up,” Joe Girardi said. “As I’ve said, one of the things I’m most proud about this team is how guys have slid in when we’ve had key people go down. Whether it was Derek, Alex, Soriano, Joba or Feliciano, guys have stepped in and done the job. It’s been extremely impressive.”

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 350 Comments →

Postgame notes: “I just couldn’t do it”08.08.11

The Yankees had Mariano Rivera on the mound with a one-run lead, three outs away from capping a wildly successful road trip that would put the Yankees back in first place in the American League East.

Had Rivera gotten those three outs, all we’d be talking about this morning would be a gritty series at Fenway and a Yankees team playing incredibly well for a week and a half. Without those three outs, we’re left with this.

“I don’t call it disappointment or frustration, it just happens,” Rivera said. “That’s baseball. We just have to continue playing the baseball we’ve been playing. We’ve been doing great. Yeah, we lost the series, but we’re going home and we’ll play our ball.”

There was something stunning in the finality of it all. Marco Scutaro doubled and scored. Then David Ortiz doubled, the Yankees setup the double play, and Josh Reddick lined a first-pitch curveball into the left-field corner. It was past midnight, and it was over. In the last few minutes of Sunday night, the Yankees were winning a great game. In the early minutes of Monday morning, they were losing a heartbreaker.

Phil Hughes said he had no problem getting loose. In fact, he was ready for it. He started throwing his bullpen — in preparation for Tuesday’s start — as soon as Rivera came into the game. When the Red Sox tied it, he stopped throwing and treated it as a warmup because he figured he would be the next guy in the game. Sure enough, Girardi went to his starter, and Hughes threw all of 13 pitches, four of them intentional balls to Carl Crawford.

“I’ve got to do a better job in that situation,” Hughes said. “We pitched so well all game, and then I’ve got to give us as many innings as we need to score runs, and I just couldn’t do it.”

Here’s Hughes.

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• Joe Girardi said he wasn’t ready to announce a rotation for the upcoming series, but Hughes won’t be available to start Tuesday or Wednesday. Ivan Nova said he’s gone through his regular between-starts routine, so he might be the best bet for Tuesday.

• Hughes said he could start Tuesday if necessary because he threw so few pitches. The fact Girardi didn’t rule him out for Thursday makes me wonder — just a guess — whether that will ultimately be his day. “I felt like I made some good progress in my last start, so if I have to wait around, it won’t be something that’s fun to deal with,” Hughes said. “But I don’t really make these calls.”

• Hughes on his pitch to Reddick: “It was sort of an 0-0 get-me-over curveball, and I kind of saw him think take — everything kind of slows down — and then it seemed like at the last second he was like (swing). He stayed back real well on it and shot it into left. I wasn’t exactly sure where Gardy was playing, but when I saw it tailing away from him, I pretty much figured that was it.”

• Hughes on the Ortiz double: “I haven’t even looked at it on video yet. I made a decent pitch on a 2-1, it was a changeup. I figured we could go in again, that’s usually where we like to go on him. I’m not sure if it was in or not, or in enough, and he put a good swing on it.”

• Rivera was asked whether his inning was a matter of bad pitches or good hitting. I assume his response was about the Scutaro double, but he could also have been talking about the Pedroia sac fly. “It wasn’t the pitch that I wanted it to be,” he said. “It was a little bit down and it should have been a little bit up. I can’t blame nothing but myself. I didn’t get it done.”

• On the sac bunt, Rivera said he didn’t think the Yankees had time to make the play because it wasn’t a force. “It’s a hard play,” he said. “If there’s two guys on base and it’s a force, it’s a little different. You have to tag the guy, so you have to be in position to be there. Even though he bunted it right back at me, I didn’t think we had a chance to get all the way back there and get him out.”

• Carl Crawford is 2-for-15 in his career against Hughes, but Hughes said he was fine with the decision to walk him. “In that situation you want a double play,” Hughes said. “The manager made the call, and that’s what you’ve got to live with. I was fine with it.”

• The Yankees are now 63-3 when leading after eight innings this season.

• Freddy Garcia walked his usual tightrope and regularly got out of trouble. He wasn’t great, but he gave the Yankees enough to get the win. He still hasn’t allowed a home run in 64.2 innings, the longest streak of his career.

• Random historic stat of the night: Eduardo Nunez, at 24 years and 53 days old, became the youngest Yankees third baseman to homer at Fenway Park since Clete Boyer did it at 23 years and 191 days old back in 1960. But you probably already knew that.

• Nunez hadn’t homered in 22 games. He’d gone 75 at-bats since his home run against the Mets.

• This was Brett Gardner’s first career game that included a home run and multiple stolen bases. He was 3-for-5 and is now 30-for-34 on stolen base attempts since May 20. He’s swiped 21 in a row without being caught, the longest such streak by a Yankee sing Derek Jeter stole 22 in a row from July 20, 2001 to June 2, 2002.

• Dave Robertson hasn’t allowed a run in 23.2 road innings this season. That’s a span of 23 outings.

• Rivera has blown 14 saves against the Red Sox, his most against any team (Baltimore and Anaheim are second with eight). This was his fifth blown save of the season, matching last year’s total.

• The Yankees were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Those numbers pretty much speak for themselves.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 66 Comments →

Pregame notes: “Right now I’m sitting on the bench”08.07.11

Here’s the short version of Jorge Posada’s pregeame conversation with Joe Girardi.

“He said he was going to put the best lineup on the field, and he doesn’t know when I’m going to DH again,” Posada said. “So right now I’m sitting on the bench… I’m not happy about it, but right now I can’t do nothing about it. I put myself in this situation.”

That’s the current status of Posada’s steadily diminishing role with the Yankees. He lost the catching job this winter, became a bottom-of-the-order hitter by May, became a platoon player by mid-season, and now he’s on the bench with a .230/.309/.372 slash line. For four months, Girardi stuck with Posada in some regular capacity.

“Chavy came back,” Girardi said. “And Chavy started swinging the bat well. And Nuney’s been playing well. It’s just a chance to get them both in there was kind of the determining factor.”

Girardi kept saying that the Yankees are going to “try some different things,” but asked flat out if Posada is no longer in the mix to be a regular designed hitter, Girardi said, “correct.” At-bats could be even harder to find when Alex Rodriguez comes back, but Girardi said Posada’s roster spot is safe. He doesn’t anticipate losing Posada to open a spot for Rodriguez, and he believes the team can afford to carry a limited DH-type on an already thin bench.

“Jorge has a lot of pride and respect for what he’s done,” Girardi said. “You could see the disappointment and understand that, but at this time I felt we had to do what I did today.”

Here’s Girardi speaking a lot about the Posada situation.

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• Girardi it’s “very feasible” that Rodriguez could begin a rehab assignment on Friday, and should line him up for a return to the team during the next road trip. “Today, he did his tee and toss, he took regular BP and he took ground balls where he moved a little bit,” Girardi said. “He’s starting to do things that would get you to the point where he’s getting closer to a game. The last thing to come would be the sprinting and running the bases, and he’s still going to have to do that before he gets into a game.”

• Girardi did not dismiss the idea of calling up Jesus Montero to get some DH at-bats, but it sounds like he would be hesitant to carry Montero as the team’s backup catcher. “Bringing up someone who’s 21 and trying to learn a new staff in the middle of a season is not easy to do,” Girardi said. “That’s more of a concern about bringing in a new catcher than necessarily, is he ready to catch at this level? And I don’t care if he’s a veteran. This is the time of year you want your pitchers familiar with your catchers, and vice versa.”

• The Yankees still don’t have a pitcher lined up for Thursday’s game. Girardi said they’re planning to give CC Sabathia an extra day, meaning he’ll likely start Friday against Tampa Bay. Thursday’s starter would be either Ivan Nova or Bartolo Colon.

• Phil Hughes is available as a reliever tonight, but Girardi said his bullpen is pretty well rested and Hughes would probably be used only in extra-innings or if Freddy Garcia had to be pulled after only an inning or two.

• It’s no longer raining in Boston, but the clouds are rolling in and the sky looks really threatening. The radar’s not great. Could be in for a long night.

RED SOX
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Kevin Youkilis 3B
David Ortiz DH
Carl Crawford LF
Josh Reddick RF
Jason Varitek C
Marco Scutaro SS

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 103 Comments →

Pregame notes: Chavez today, but Nunez will keep playing07.26.11

Eric Chavez wasn’t surprised to see his name in the lineup today. He still hasn’t been officially activated from the disabled list — the Yankees will wait until after batting practice to complete the transaction — but after six minor league games and an off day Monday, Chavez showed up ready to play.

“The last day actually I fielded about six balls,” he said. “When I had played third, I didn’t have a lot of action until the last day. Once that happened, in my mind I knew I was ready to go.”

Joe Girardi said this isn’t an indication that Chavez will takeover as the Yankees everyday third baseman until Alex Rodriguez returns. In fact, Girardi said he still plans to play Eduardo Nunez, but obviously Chavez is a proven alternative.

“Nuney’s been playing extremely well,” Girardi said. “Nuney has played every day here at third base for us, so I thought he could probably use a day — especially the way he plays, at such a fast pace. His legs could use a day. I’m not of the belief that we would play Chavy six or seven days in a row. We have to make sure we keep him healthy.”

Chavez was hitting .303 before the foot injury that landed him on the DL, but he’s actually hoping for better in his return. He said his minor league at-bats felt good last week, and he’d like to drive the ball a little more than he was back in April and May. He actually felt like he was starting to drive the ball when he broke his foot.

“I’m sure if I play well, then I’ll play,” he said. “If I don’t look too good, I probably won’t play… It was more of filling in for Tex and Al than being an everyday guy (out of spring training), but if this did happen, I was hoping to be physically in shape to do it. And hopefully I can do that.”

• There appears to be a fake Twitter account claiming to be Carlos Pena. Whoever has the account just tweeted that Pena has been traded to the Yankees. It’s not true. A Yankees source just confirmed that no such deal is in place.

• Rafael Soriano felt normal soreness today, and the Yankees expect to activate him in a few days. Could he be activated tomorrow? “Possible,” Girardi said. “But probably not.” That’s because Soriano just pitched back-to-back days and the Yankees prefer to give him two days off. It’s not because of any sort of injury concern.

• Girardi said Soriano will be reevaluated tomorrow before any decision is finalized. An off day Thursday would give Soriano an automatic extra day of rest either right before or right after being activated.

• The Yankees have to open both a 25-man and 40-man roster spot for Chavez because he was on the 60-day. The assumption seems to be that Brandon Laird will be optioned back to Triple-A, but the Yankees won’t announce anything until after BP, which is going on right now. (Actually, maybe they don’t have to open a 40-man spot. Don’t remember when they opened on, but it seems there is one open for Chavez).

• CC Sabathia is going for his 15th win of the season, which would be the Mariners 17th straight loss. “Our job is just to win games,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. You can’t worry about how your opponent has been playing or what’s going on with their club, because on any given night, a club can win a game. Clubs go through tough spells and then they get hot, so you obviously don’t want to be the start of someone getting hot. You go out, play the game, play the right way and hope you get CC another win.”

• A lot of young kids from today’s HOPE Week event around the Yankees today. There were a few roaming through the clubhouse, and a bunch went through stretch with the players. Pretty cool to see how much the Yankees are smiling and laughing with those kids around.

UPDATE, 5:45 p.m.: The Yankees still haven’t sent any sort of official announcement, but MLB.com lists the transaction as Chavez being activated and Laird being option. As expected.

MARINERS
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Brendan Ryan SS
Dustin Ackley 2B
Miguel Olivo C
Justin Smoak 1B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Mike Carp DH
Greg Halman LF
Chone Figgins 3B

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 375 Comments →

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