The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Chavez wants to play next season11.16.11

Brian Cashman got a voicemail from Eric Chavez’s agent this afternoon, and the message was simple: Chavez wants to play.

After considering retirement, it seems Chavez would like to give baseball another shot, and his agent is obviously checking in with the Yankees to gauge interest.

“Depends on our payroll situation (and) what he’s looking for,” Cashman said.

In the next breath Cashman added: “I loved everything about him.”

Injuries are an obvious concern with Chavez, and he’s no longer a dynamic, middle-of-the-order bat, but he’s an experienced veteran at a position where the Yankees could use some depth behind Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees have Eduardo Nunez who could backup at third base, but Cashman said he prefers to let Brandon Laird play everyday in third base rather than come off the bench in the big leagues.

Chavez could fit, if the price is right.

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Eight men out11.03.11

Last winter, when Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter became free agents, there never any real doubt they’d end up back with the Yankees. This winter, there’s no guarantee that any of the Yankees free agents will be back. Several would be logical fits, but none is a slam dunk for the Yankees to re-sign.

Today is the first day free agents are allowed to negotiate with every team — not just their previous team — meaning it’s suddenly open season for these eight Yankees.

Luis Ayala
Signed as a minor league free agent late last winter, Ayala landed the last spot on the big league roster out of spring training, then stuck with the team all season. He was surprisingly effective, and for a short time — when Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain were hurt — he settled in as a key late-inning reliever. He may have pitched well enough to earn a big league deal, but should the Yankees be the team to give it to him? Most of their bullpen spots are accounted for as it is.

Eric Chavez
From superstar in Oakland to role player in New York, Chavez is still deciding whether he wants to keep playing. Injuries have taken their toll, and if he’s going to play again, it’s almost certainly going to be in a situation similar to this season. The Yankees have a place for a player like Chavez. Whether that player is Chavez himself may depend on whether Chavez decides to play again.

Bartolo Colon
Maybe the biggest surprise of the season, Colon clearly faded in the second half, and that may be cause for enough concern that the Yankees won’t want to bring him back. It would be impossible to count on Colon to be effective through an entire season, but keeping him in a relief role might keep him fresh and effective. Certainly Colon opened some eyes, but what kind of deal would it take to bring him back, and has all of the lightning escaped the bottle?

Freddy Garcia
The Yankees No. 5 starter out of spring training was their No. 3 starter in the playoffs. Garcia is what he is — he doesn’t throw hard and gets by on guts and savvy — but he’s proven he can be effective in this form. The Yankees have a large batch of young starters climbing through the system, and Garcia might be a perfect short-term commitment for back-of-the-rotation depth. He’s not the only fit, but he could be a good fit.

Andruw Jones
After a slow first half, Jones was exactly what the Yankees hoped for in the second half, and they’re once again going to have a spot for a right-handed outfielder who can be a platoon starter in the corners. Jones is in the same boat as Garcia and Chavez: He’s the type of player the Yankees will want for next season, but he’s not the only one who could fill that role.

Damaso Marte
At this point, I’m not sure anyone knows what Marte could provide. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since July of 2010, and he’s coming back from shoulder surgery that limited him to just a few minor league innings this year. The Yankees could use another left-handed reliever, and there’s a chance Marte would accept a minor league deal to prove himself in spring training. If not, it’s hard to see him coming back to the Yankees.

Sergio Mitre
The Yankees didn’t have room for Mitre last spring, and they shipped him to Milwaukee for Chris Dickerson.  When he came back to the Yankees mid-season — this year’s version of Chad Gaudin — Mitre lasted all of four outings before he was on the disabled list and lost for the season. Obviously the Yankees like Mitre, but his time might have come and gone with plenty of in-house options to fill a long-relief/spot-starter role.

Jorge Posada
Nothing new to be said. Even before his career-worst season, it was unclear whether the Yankees would have a place for Posada next season. They clearly no longer view Posada as a catcher, and they have need to give DH at-bats to Alex Rodriguez — not to mention Jesus Montero — and if Posada’s no longer a catcher, he’s limited to DH and a few backup appearances in the field. It’s not a comfortable situation for either side, but Posada’s time with the Yankees might have ended.

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Pregame notes: “I’m sure there will be some adrenaline”10.03.11

After he took heat last night for using Luis Ayala in the ninth inning of a three-run game, Joe Girardi was asked today whether he thought about skipping CC Sabathia tonight and pushing his ace to Tuesday’s Game 4. In theory, the strategy would have conceded that tonight’s game is a tough one to win, and Sabathia would help the Yankees chances in a potential must-win Game 4.

Girardi’s response had more to do with Game 5.

“We felt he was ready to pitch, and if he’s ready to pitch, we’re going to use him,” Girardi said. “The other thing is, you figure you can use him in the bullpen maybe if you need him (in Game 5) if he feels OK on Thursday. And it lines up for next series. I just felt that he was ready, and I was going with him.”

So we have the much-anticipated matchup that was supposed to shape this series in the opener, and will instead determine which team faces elimination tomorrow.

“I probably feel the same way the Yankees felt when they had CC on the mound for the opening game in front of that crowd in New York,” Jim Leyland said. “It’s a great match-up. It’s one that everybody was anxiously awaiting in Game 1. It didn’t turn out. You always worry about the hype and all the stuff that goes on and postseason is pretty draining really, to be honest with you… I’m sure there will be some adrenaline flowing.”

Girardi admitted that, had he known it was going to rain in the second inning, he never would have sent Sabathia to the mound in Game 1. He would have saved his ace for Game 2, or for multiple innings after a rain delay.

“Probably not, no,” Girardi said. “They told us there might be some light rain, and that’s what they expected. Obviously that changed dramatically.”

This series has changed, and tonight’s the biggest game yet.

Here’s Girardi.

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• Girardi once again committed to Alex Rodriguez in the cleanup spot, despite the fact he’s hitless in the first two games and hasn’t done much since returning from knee and thumb injuries. “I don’t make too much of yesterday,” Girardi said. “I know everything gets magnified when you have a zero in front of your name, people are going to talk about it, but I thought he had good at-bats the first game. The second game, their starter shut us down.”

• Was Girardi surprised to hear the Yankee Stadium boos for Rodriguez yesterday? “I’m not surprised because I think our fans want us to win so badly,” Girardi said. “I think they always expect big things from Alex. With his name and the things that he’s accomplished, there’s high expectations.”

• Russell Martin his fine after last night’s hit by pitch. “No complaints from him,” Girardi said.

• No matter what happens tonight, the Yankees are 100 percent committed to A.J. Burnett starting tomorrow’s game. That’s going to happen whether it’s a potential clincher or a potential elimination. “Who would I go to, Mo?” Girardi said.

• Brett Gardner didn’t finish the season especially strong, but Girardi said that had no impact on his decision to pinch hit Eric Chavez last night. “I was just taking a chance with Chavez,” Girardi said. “What he’s done with runners in scoring position for us this year has been really, really good, and you’ve got a short right field fence that he’s more than capable of hitting is over. I took a shot.”

• Girardi was also once again defending the decision to pitch Luis Ayala last night. “If I used Soriano or Robertson, they would say why did you use him?” Girardi said. “That’s the nature of this. You calculate what’s going to happen. You’re not always going to be right, you don’t have a crystal ball, but being down there runs, I can go with these guys earlier and for longer today and tomorrow.”

• As for the decision to have Freddy Garcia pitch to Miguel Cabrera in the sixth: “He had struck him out the time before and he had struck out Martinez twice and gotten Avila once or twice,” Girardi said. “There is no great matchup for Miguel Cabrera; it’s not like you bring in anyone and it’s a guarantee. That’s how good this guy is. I took a shot with him.”

• Leyland on his decision to go with a different lineup than he had for Game 1. “To be honest with you, neither Jhonny or Raburn have hit CC at all,” he said.

• No one seemed especially wrapped up in Jose Valverde’s comments after last night’s game that the division series would be won by the Tigers before it came back to New York. “It might excite a few (players),” Girardi said. “But the one thing I said is you can’t let your emotions take you out of your game.”

• Leyland compared Valverde’s comments to the pregame videos shown at Yankee Stadium. “He admitted it was tongue in cheek when he said it,” Leyland said. “Second of all, I didn’t take offense to the video at Yankee Stadium when they were talking about the World Series, like we were the junior varsity and they were getting ready for the World Series. I didn’t take offense to that at all. In fact, I thought it was great. That’s what they should be talking about. I don’t really think that.”

Associated Press photo

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Postgame notes: “We always thought Game 3 was the biggest”10.02.11

Literally and figuratively, the storm clouds were gathering at Yankee Stadium this afternoon.

The Tigers had a four-run lead before the Yankees had a hit, then the rain started falling, Alex Avila slipped in foul territory, the tying run reached base and Robinson Cano came to the plate. This one had the potential for a wild walk-off that would give the Yankees a flood of momentum heading into Detroit. Instead, Cano hit a ground ball to second, and the Tigers claimed home field advantage heading into tomorrow’s delayed showdown between CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander.

“Tomorrow is big,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Going back to when I first got here, we always thought that Game 3 was the biggest. It’s almost like hitting; the 0-0 pitch is the most important, then the 1-1 pitch becomes the most important. Same goes for a series. There’s no need to get caught up in emotions. Whoever plays better, whoever executes fundamentals, is going to win the series. “

The Yankees seemed to have a favorable matchup against Max Scherzer, but aside from walks and a hit batter, Scherzer didn’t allow many scoring opportunities. The Yankees didn’t have a hit until the sixth, and they didn’t score until Curtis Granderson’s home run in the eighth.

Good things started happening for the Yankees in the ninth — Nick Swisher’s home run, Jorge Posada’s first postseason triple, Avila slipping and missing a potential game-ending popup — but this was never a game that felt good for the Yankees. They weren’t hitting, and the Tigers were perpetually doing just enough.

“You think that something is going to happen good for us (in the ninth),” Derek Jeter said. “But with Valverde, it’s hard enough to score a run off him, let alone four. But I thought we had some good at-bats. We battled there at the end, but we just fell short. For a moment there, you think we might catch a break.”

The Yankees did not catch a break. They didn’t create a break for themselves in the first eight innings, and they couldn’t do quite enough in that wet and rainy ninth. Sabathia vs. Verlander was the marquee matchup when this series began, and it’s the marquee matchup now that the series is tied at a game apiece.

“It’s huge,” Mark Teixeira said. “Tomorrow’s a really big game. You don’t want to go down 2-1 with them having a chance to close it out in their home park. It’s a big game for us.”

Here’s Jeter.

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Two curious decisions by Joe Girardi tonight, each of which will surely lead to plenty of second guessing. As always, Girardi had reason behind his choices, but they didn’t workout. The question will be whether you agree with the logic.

With two on and one out in the seventh, Girardi sent left-handed Eric Chavez to pinch hit for left-handed Brett Gardner. He was hoping for a three-run home run. It’s worth noting that Gardner had lined out sharply in his previous at-bat, and that Chavez hit just two home runs tonight. It’s also worth noting that Scherzer has a tendency to give up a lot of home run.

“Gardner is fine,” Girardi said. “Just hoping (Chavez) might pop one… When you’re losing the game 4-0, you’re looking for a three-run homer is what you’re looking for, so no, it’s not a hard move.”

With the Yankees down by three runs in the ninth, Girardi elected to use Luis Ayala — essentially the last man in the bullpen — instead of going to either Dave Robertson or Rafael Soriano.

“We still have two more games in a row,” Girardi said. “And we’re down three. If we got it down to two, we were going to maek a change. Being down there runs and you know what Valverde has done all year long, we decided to go to Ayala.”

Chavez struck out in the seventh. Ayala allowed a run in the ninth.

Here’s Girardi.

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• Jim Leyland said a lot about the production of the Yankees third and fourth hitters tonight when he admitted that the Tigers seriously considered pitching around Cano in the ninth inning to load the bases for Alex Rodriguez. “I thought about it,” Leyland said. “But that other guy has been known for the dramatics, and I figured it’s wet, it’s slippery, one gets away, one run is in. Something like that would happen, a groundball, a ball slips. I just couldn’t do it. He hit a ball in the infield, you get him over there, and somebody throws it away, the game is tied. It did cross my mind.”

• Rodriguez has struggled since returning to the lineup, but Girardi said he has no plans of taking Rodriguez out of the cleanup spot. “I thought he swung the bat pretty good yesterday,” Girardi said. “Today they made some tough pitches on him. I don’t have any plans in changing my lineup. It’s only two games. I’m not going to make too much of two games.”

• Most of the damage against Freddy Garcia was done by Miguel Cabrera, but Garcia was happy with his approach and his pitches to the Tigers’ best hitter. “First inning, I think that was a good pitch down and away,” Garcia said. “He made good contact. After that, I shut it down waiting for us to start hitting. It never happened, but that’s part of the game.”

• Garcia said the sixth-inning pitch that Cabrera looped into center field for an RBI single was a split. “I was trying to make a great pitch and I did,” Garcia said. “But great hitters do that.”

• Although he allowed three hits in the sixth, Garcia said he wasn’t tired. “I’ve got like 70 pitches,” he said. “I was really good. I finished strong. Base hit here, base hit there. It’s part of the game.”

• Russell Martin is fine. The pitch that hit him got part of the bat and a little bit of the bottom of his left hand. “A little bit of acting there, but it did get me,” Martin said.

• Boone Logan’s balk didn’t matter — he struck out the next two batters — but he was embarrassed by it. Mid-delivery, Logan heard someone shout behind him and thought timeout had been called. The result was a sudden halt in his motion. “It was probably the worst balk in the history of baseball,” Logan said.

• Jeter on his costly error in the sixth: “I had no problem catching it, I just threw it low. With Austin (Jackson) running, you really don’t have much time.”

• Chavez on his approach pinch hitting for Gardner: “That’s not really my thought process to hit a home run there. I’m just trying to put the barrel on the ball and have the same approach every at-bat. I don’t think I go up there trying to do one thing or the other other than put a good swing on the ball.”

• Jeter said he thought, once Posada got between first and second in the ninth inning, that there was no way Posada was stopping until he got to third. “I don’t know about that,” Posada said. “I can’t get thrown out there. My run doesn’t mean anything.”

• It was the first postseason triple of Posada’s career.

• You don’t see Jeter arguing with a home plate umpire too often, but Jeter had a lengthy conversation after striking out looking in the seventh. He said he thought the ball was outside. “I was just asking him if he knew the weather forecast for the rest of the game,” Jeter joked.

• Everyone in the Yankees clubhouse seemed to mention Scherzer’s changeup, which doesn’t seem to a pitch you hear about very often with him. “He was really good, best I’ve ever seen him,” Teixeira said. “Great fastball, his changeup was really, really good. The numbers don’t lie, he dominated us.”

•• Posada gave an honest evaluation of Pettitte’s first pitch, calling it low and away. “I think it was a ball,” Posada said, laughing.

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “Command is the big issue”09.17.11

CC Sabathia matched season-highs tonight by allowing 10 hits and four walks. He also matched a season-low by pitching only 5.2 innings.

Since the Yankees went to a six-man rotation at the end of July, Sabathia has made nine starts, seven of them on extra rest. He’s allowed 10 hits in five of those extra-rest starts, something he’d done only once in 23 starts before the six-man rotation became a somewhat permanent situation.

“I don’t think (extra rest has been the problem),” Sabathia said. “I’ve felt great. My arm feels good. My body feels good. It’s just been not executing pitches when I need to. The Lind at-bat, not being able to make the pitch and get out of the inning… Command is the big issue, but my stuff has been there. That’s what’s so frustrating.”

The Lind at-bat was in the fifth, when the Yankees had given Sabathia a 3-1 lead. Sabathia allowed a pair of two-out walks, then he faced Adam Lind with the bases loaded. Lind doubled in all three runs, and when Sabathia loaded the bases again in the sixth, Luis Ayala had to bail him out.

“I still felt good about him getting Lind out,” Girardi said. “Lind hurt us tonight with a couple doubles and a single. I still felt good about it. I thought his stuff was okay, and I thought he’d get him out. He didn’t… I still really believe in (Sabathia). I think he’s going to be great for us and he’ll continue to be great for us. Tonight, he struggled a little bit, but he gave us a chance to win that game. We weren’t able to score after we tied it up 4-4. I still think CC’s going to run off some good starts, I really do.”

Could extra rest be an issue? Sabathia notoriously thrives with less rest rather than more.

“It could,” Girardi said. “He’s going to be on regular rest his next turn, so we’ll get a good chance to see that. That’s just been the way it’s been for us, but we’ll get him on regular rest.”

Actually, to line up Sabathia for Game 1 of the division series, the Yankees might have to pitch him on short rest Sunday against Boston.

“The past couple of starts it’s just been tough, throwing a lot of pitches in a short amount of time. Just frustrating,”

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• After batting practice, Alex Rodriguez explained that he spent the day learning to hit with a ring of tape separating his uninjured top hand and his sore left thumb. He believes he’s allowed to use the taped bat during the game. “We’ve never tried it, but Kevin had me split my hands, and after that it felt really good because I didn’t put any pressure on the thumb,” Rodriguez said. “If it goes well — you know how us baseball players are, we just won’t change — it will definitely alleviate any pain on my thumb, because the only pressure I have is when I press down on the point of contact.”

• Rodriguez took a ton of swings today. He did tee and toss with Kevin Long before batting practice, then he took eight rounds of regular BP, hitting with two different groups.

• Girardi said after the game that he still plans to play Rodriguez tomorrow. Everything he saw in BP makes him think Rodriguez will be ready. “I’d like to pencil his name in there,” Girardi said. “I’d actually like to use a pen.”

• Sabathia’s short-and-sweet explanation of what went wrong on the pitch to Lind: “Just got a ball out over the plate. He put a good swing on it. He had been putting good swings all night and got a pitch he could handle.”

• Sabathia walked Jose Bautista three times. “I didn’t want Bautista to beat me,” Sabathia said. “He’s one of the better hitters in the league, and you never want that guy to beat you in the lineup.”

• The Yankees have lost six of their past nine games, five of their past six loses have come in one-run games.

• Three days ago, Cory Wade had not lost a game since joining the Yankees. He’s now allowed two straight walkoffs, giving up a walkoff homer on Wednesday and Jose Molina’s walkoff single tonight.

• Boone Logan took the loss after allowing a sharp leadoff double in that decisive ninth.

• Until the ninth, the bullpen had been a bright spot for the Yankees. Ayala got Sabathia out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, Rafael Soriano struck out the side in the seventh and Dave Robertson left the bases loaded in the eighth.

• Eric Chavez hit his second home run of the season… Nick Swisher twice tied the game with two-out hits… Derek Jeter’s 13-game hitting streak ended.

• Brett Gardner stole two bases tonight. He’s been successful in 40 of his past 47 attempts.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: The wait for A-Rod continues08.19.11

Alex Rodriguez was encouraged by a more aggressive workout this afternoon, but his return to the Yankees lineup will likely wait another full day. Joe Girardi said today that he doesn’t expect to activate his third baseman until Sunday at the earliest.

“We’ve got to do the best thing possible,” Rodriguez said. “But I think after today, this is definitely a step in the right direction. We have another big day tomorrow and we’ll take it from there. But I’m definitely not counting this weekend out.”

Girardi said Rodriguez was definitely not ready yesterday, which is why the team wanted to see him go through drills today. They want to see him go through more drills tomorrow before making a decision. Girardi didn’t rule out activating Rodriguez tomorrow, but said he would “lean against doing it.”

“I think everything was better,” Rodriguez said. “I think Mick called me defensively game ready as far as speed. I trust his eyes. He’s my defensive coach. Kevin and I thought our offensive session was really good. But the most drastic thing for me was going from first to third. Skip made me do five first to thirds, pretty much close to 100 percent, and more than anything else the recovery time was much better so Dana was happy about that.”

Rodriguez has been wearing a soft, blue brace on his knee. He said he’ll keep wearing it for a few weeks after he returns, but he expects to get rid of it eventually.

Here’s Alex.

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• Aaron Laffey broke into the big leagues as a starting pitcher, and Girardi said he plans to use him as more than a left-handed specialist. “He’s a guy that can give you multiple innings,” Girardi said. “But he’s another left-hander for us. That’s why we went and got him.”

• Laffey is expected to be here tomorrow. Lefties are hitting .250 against him this season. He had a 1.87 ERA before the all-star break, but a 12.00 since. He was once a fairly highly touted prospect, and he’s still just 26 years old.

• Girardi said Boone Logan’s role won’t change because of Laffey. Logan will still be the top lefty in the bullpen, but it helps that he won’t be the only lefty. “The only time it really limits you is when he throws two or three days in a row,” Girardi said. Now, on days Logan’s not available, the Yankees will have Laffey.

• Freddy Garcia reported no problems throwing his splitfinger today, and it’s pretty clear that he preferred to start in Minnesota on Sunday rather than go to Scranton on Monday. “We just thought it was the safer route,” Girardi said. “When you’re a starter, you’re used to working every fifth or sixth day, and he hasn’t pitched in two weeks. We just thought it would make sense to see how he comes out after today’s bullpen. Have him throw on Monday somewhere and test the finger to make sure it’s OK, and just to get sharp again.”

• The plan is for Garcia to start one of those doubleheader games next Saturday.

• Girardi didn’t have a pitch count for Garcia on Monday. “I’ll see how many pitches Larry wants him to make,” Girardi said. “It will be more than an inning.”

• A possible added bonus of Garcia’s situation: The cut has helped to limit his workload and give him a little rest. “It definitely could help him,” Girardi said. “He was throwing the ball well, and when a guy is throwing the ball well, you hate for him to have all this time. With the rehab start on Monday, that should help. In the long run, this could really help him.”

• Mustaches are 0-for-2 in the Yankees clubhouse. Following Russell Martin’s lead, Eric Chavez has shaved his.

Ben Revere CF
Trevor Plouffe RF
Joe Mauer C
Justin Morneau 1B
Jason Kubel DH
Danny Valencia 3B
Rene Tosoni LF
Luke Hughes 2B
Tyuyoshi Nishioka SS

Associated Press photo

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Scioscia: Yankees lineup explosive even without A-Rod08.10.11

Before last night’s game Angels manager Mike Scioscia was asked about the Yankees lineup without Alex Rodriguez.

“You’ve got nine boxes of TNT,” Scioscia said. “If you’re taking one away, it’s still a deep lineup. They have speed all the way through their lineup. They have power all the way through their lineup. The fact that A-Rod isn’t in there definitely changes some dynamics, but I don’t think it’s anything that (the Yankees can’t overcome). If you look at what Granderson’s done or Teixeira, Cano, Swisher to a certain extent. They’ve got Chavez now really swinging the bat well. With the team speed, there’s nothing that they’re not going to be able to absorb for a short period of time.”

Way Scioscia sees it, the key here is pitching anyway. With or without Rodriguez, the Yankees have plenty of offense as long as the pitching holds up.

“Their lineup is so deep that they absorb most of that anyway,” Scioscia said. “There aren’t many guys, especially in this park, that aren’t going to be able to take the mistake and turn it into a three-run homer. So, the premium there is to pitch well. I think their lineup is deep enough where there aren’t any obvious matchups where you go, ‘There’s no way this guy’s going to beat us, but we really feel good about the next guy.’

“There could be some things you look at as the game goes on, but it’s tough to pitch around Granderson with Teixeira there, and Teixeira with Cano there. If you put Alex Rodriguez in the middle of that, I don’t think it changes too many of those dynamics. But what it does is take a lineup that’s already deep just incredibly deep. He’s obviously a premium player in the middle of the lineup.”

Associated Press photo

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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

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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.

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 106 Comments →

Pregame notes: “A good day today”08.04.11

Ivan Nova takes the mound in about an hour, the weekend series against Boston doesn’t start until tomorrow and there was no real breaking news coming out of the Yankees clubhouse this afternoon. Today’s most significant development happened in Tampa, where Alex Rodriguez began baseball drills, so I’ll start today’s pregame notes with the latest from the Associated Press down in Florida, then I’ll jump in with some nuggets from Chicago.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Alex Rodriguez refused to discuss a Major League Baseball investigation into his involvement in illegal poker games, ending an interview Thursday with a one-word answer.

The New York Yankees had said the injured star would stop his post-workout media session at the team’s minor league training complex if any reporter posed an non-baseball question.

Rodriguez spoke for several minutes about his recovery from knee surgery. But when asked if he would not discuss the poker games, he said “yep” and walked to his car.

Rodriguez’s publicist, however, said the slugging third baseman was looking forward to cooperating with MLB in its poker probe.

Star Magazine reported last month that several people saw A-Rod playing in games hosted at Hollywood hotels and residences.

Richard Rubenstein, Rodriguez’s publicist, said in a statement Thursday morning that the Star’s story contains “numerous factual inaccuracies.”

Rodriguez said it will take a few days to get a timeframe for rejoining the Yankees.

“I think I’ll have a much better indication over the next 48 hours,” he said. “I’m curious to see how my body reacts, responds tomorrow. Tomorrow and the next day will be a good indication.”

The 36-year-old Rodriguez arrived at the Yankees’ minor league complex just before noon, pulling up in his Mercedes and waving to a group of 25 or so fans before entering the building.

This was his first on-field activity since having right knee surgery July 14. He worked out for a half-hour, doing light running, playing catch, taking grounders and hitting in the batting cage off a tee and against a soft toss. He wore a light brace on the knee and showed no signs of difficulty moving. Rodriguez then went inside to ice the knee and run in the pool.

“I feel good. A good day today. Encouraging first day out there on the field and felt pretty good,” said Rodriguez, who signed autographs before talking to the media outside the complex.

Rodriguez said the intensity of the workouts will be increased each day.

“Hopefully 5, 10 percent more every day and see over the next four, five days (how it goes),” Rodriguez said. “It will be a big key to see when I can actually get back on the field for real.”

Rodriguez is hitting .295 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs.

• Joe Girardi said the Yankees haven’t made a decision about what to do with Ivan Nova after tonight’s game, and he also indicated that tonight’s performance might not be a significant factor in what happens next. “There’s decisions that we’re going to have to make,” Girardi said. “But his work has been good and, as I said, I don’t make too much of one start whether it’s great or whether it’s bad. We’ll just have to discuss what we’re going to do.”

• Could the Yankees make a move to give themselves a full bench before getting to Boston? “That’s something we’ll talk about tonight and maybe after the game or tomorrow,” Girardi said. “We’ll just have to see.”

• Girardi said he’s not sure what Rodriguez’s schedule will beyond today. He said Rodriguez is supposed to increase the intensity tomorrow, but he’s not sure to what extent. He said it could be a full week of workouts before Rodriguez is ready to play in a game, but that’s a very vague estimate. Girardi’s really not sure how long it will be.

• Both Bartolo Colon and CC Sabathia flew ahead of the team, leaving for Boston before tonight’s game. That’s a whole lot of baseball player on one flight.

• Eric Chavez is back in the lineup after his four-RBI game last night. He’s been a nice addition, quickly helping to fill the Rodriguez void. “He’s been good, defensively or offensively,” Girardi said. “He played so well before he got hurt, we weren’t sure if we were going to get him back. The foot was like, we’re going to try this and hopefully we’re going to get through this and he’s not going to have surgery. I’m really pleased because there were a lot of days were I felt like we missed him. There were some opportunities for him to play and be a big part of our lineup but we didn’t have him.”

• Obviously there was a lot of pregame talk about the Yankees heading into Boston. Just as obvious, the Yankees didn’t like looking ahead. “All the games are big,” Derek Jeter said. “Our game tonight is big. I’ve always been a firm believer in, if we win our games we’ll be where we want to be. If we were going to Tampa tomorrow I’d tell you the same thing. If we were going to Kansas City tomorrow I’d tell you the same thing. We need to continue to play well and win games. If we do that, then at the end of the year we’ll be where we want to be.”

Juan Pierre LF
Alexi Ramirez SS
Paul Konerko DH
Adam Dunn 1B
Carlos Quentin RF
A.J. Pierzynski C
Gordon Beckham 2B
Alejandro De Aza CF
Brent Morel 3B

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 24 Comments →

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