The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Postgame notes: “Five days to be better, and I will be better”08.04.11

A.J. Burnett should have won tonight. Shoot, anyone should have won tonight. He had a 13-1 lead before he walked to the mound in the third inning, but he still couldn’t last long enough to get a decision. Was there anything positive to take from tonight?

“I get to go in five days,” Burnett said. “That’s about it. It was one of them days, man.”

Burnett will, in fact, make his next start. Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have been sweating their rotation spots, but Burnett is safe.

“He’s starting on Wednesday,” Joe Girardi said. “His numbers aren’t that bad. If you look at the numbers of Hughes, I mean, Hughesy made one good start. We look at the whole year, and A.J.’s been decent for us.”

That’s true. Burnett’s been decent. He’s had three truly terrible starts, but all the rest have been four earned runs or less. He hasn’t been great, but he’s been better than last season, and the Yankees will stick with him even with Hughes and Nova seemingly pitching better lately.

“I believe I’m a big part of this team and I’m going to be a big part,” Burnett said. “I’m going to get on a roll and it’s just a matter of time… I got five days to be better, and I will be better.”

Tonight’s problem, Burnett said, was a combination of a flat curveball and a high fastball. He didn’t have the hook, so he needed to spot the heater. He couldn’t, and the White Sox took advantage of hitters counts and hittable pitches.

Girardi talked before the game about wanting to see Burnett finally get a win. He pitched well enough to win a few games last month and never did it. Tonight was a prime opportunity to get it done, but Girardi said he felt he had to make a change in the fifth — “I see that he’s struggling and we’ve got to win,” Girardi said — and whatever frustration Burnett showed was fine with Girardi. Burnett insisted that the frustration walking off the mound and into the dugout was directed at himself, not as his manager.

“I was a little upset,” he said. “But then again, he’s got to look at how I’m pitching too. I wasn’t exactly doing anything out there. I had one good quick inning but then you got to stop the bleeding somehow… Joe’s got to do what’s best for the team, keep us ahead in that game. The way I was throwing the ball, it didn’t seem like I could do it.”

Here’s Burnett.

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And here’s Girardi.

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• In the big picture, it’s impossible to ignore Burnett. But here and now, this was a big night for the Yankees, who have won six straight and 10 of their past 13. They have 33 extra-base hits in the past eight games. “It’s not too often during the course of the season where it seems like everyone is swinging the bat well at the same time,” Derek Jeter said. “But it’s been the case for us the last few days.”

• Jeter had the fourth five-hit game of his career, and his second of the season (I’m sure you remember the other one). He passed Lou Brock for 23rd on baseball’s all-time hits list with 3,026.

• Don’t look now, but Jeter’s hitting .280, the same as Brett Gardner. “I’m having good at-bats, trying to swing at good pitches,” Jeter said. “I feel as though since I’ve been back, I’ve been swinging the bat a lot better. I just want it to continue.”

• Eric Chavez homered for the first time since May 11, 2010 with Oakland. He had four RBI for the first time since May 10, 2007 at Kansas City.

• Other offensive notes: Gardner scored a career-high four runs and recorded his 19th consecutive successful steal… Robinson Cano has a hit in 39 of his past 50 games and had four RBI for the fourth time this season… Curtis Granderson is hitting .538 with three doubles, a triple and six RBI this series. He was a home run short of the cycle tonight.

• The Yankees bullpen pitched 4.2 scoreless innings allowing just one hit. Cory Wade got the win in relief of Burnett. The bullpen has a 1.93 ERA in the past 18 games.

• Burnett usually speaks glowingly of Russell Martin and their ability to work together, but tonight Burnett said some of the pitch sequences were predictable. “You know, you try to attack but I just felt like we got in sequences here and there: heater, hook, heater, hook, heater, hook,” Burnett said. “Me and Russ will watch tomorrow and we’ll figure it out.”

• Martin on the pitch sequences: “It’s a possibility, but he’s a three-pitch guy. His best pitch, his strikeout pitch, is his curve. I’ve been trying to talk to him, get him to elevate a little bit and use his fastball when he’s got a couple strikes to change the eye level. At this point, I think it would be a good idea to make some adjustments and change a couple things.”

• Martin said he thought falling behind in counts was a key to the White Sox getting their offense going in that fourth inning. He seemed to take Burnett’s struggles personally. “I’m just disappointed in myself that I couldn’t get him through five innings with that lead,” Martin said. “He’s going to say that he’s the one throwing the ball, but that’s why I’m not smiling much right now. I felt if there was any game to get him a win and get him back on track, this was it. There’s a whole lot of season left. As long as we can get him going in the right direction from here on out, I want him to start taking steps forward and not backward.”

• We’ll end this night on a positive note, with Girardi talking about the recent surge from the Yankees offense: “It’s just good at-bats is what it is, and guys getting their pitches and not missing them. Sometimes we’ve been missing them, and sometimes pitchers are going to make pitches on you, but their at-bats have been tremendous. It seems like we’ve jumped on teams early, and that’s important too.”

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: “We know what he’s capable of doing”07.27.11

Phil Hughes has made three starts since coming off the disabled list. There was a so-so outing against the Indians, a good start against the Blue Jays and last week’s ugly performance against the A’s.

“I think it’s important for him to bounce back after the last start,” Joe Girardi said. “His pitches just weren’t crisp the last time like they were in Toronto. I think it’s important for him… The trade deadline does not enter my mind when we talk about Phil Hughes, does he solidify (his spot)? That doesn’t enter my mind. The bottom line is we’ve got to get this guy back to where he was last year, and how do we do that, and what’s the best approach? That’s what’s mostly in the back of my mind because we know what he’s capable of doing, and it’s getting him there.”

Hughes seemed to take a significant step forward with his improved curveball and improved fastball command in Cleveland, but those things weren’t evident in his 4.1 innings against Oakland on Friday.

Girardi has talked a lot about Hughes keeping a good downward plane on his fastball, and Girardi brought that up again this morning. Someone asked if swing-and-miss stuff would be a key this afternoon, but Girardi said that’s not exactly the case.

“That was part of what he did last year,” Girardi said. “I look at swings more than swings and misses. Are they squaring the ball up is the bottom line. You can have deception, have guys out front and they hit weak ground balls or weak pop ups. That’s a good sign. To me, it’s the quality of the swing more than the swings and misses.”

• The Yankees decided not to activate Rafael Soriano for today’s game and will likely activate him on Friday. “With him throwing two days in a row, we feel it’s probably best in this situation – because he’s just coming off an injury – to give him two days,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of players on the disabled list, Girardi finally vocalized a truth that’s been pretty obvious for a while now: It’s time to give up on Pedro Feliciano pitching this year. “I would think so, yeah,” Girardi said. As it stands, Feliciano is still in Tampa, and Girardi said he’s “trying” to play catch. “He’s not doing much,” Girardi said.

• Damaso Marte is still throwing bullpens in Tampa, so he actually has some chance of playing some sort of role down the stretch.

• Girardi wasn’t sure when exactly, but Alex Rodriguez will do his early rehab work — taking batting practice and such — with the Yankees rather than at the minor league complex in Tampa. They Yankees have a date in mind that Rodriguez will join the Yankees to begin baseball activities, but Girardi couldn’t remember the exact day.

• The decision not to play Eric Chavez today: “It’s a day game after a night game and Chavy’s played seven out of eight days,” Girardi said. “We want o be smart about this. This is not a guy that we want to lose again.”

• The Yankees still haven’t announced starting pitchers for Saturday’s double header. Bartolo Colon will start one of them, but Girardi said the other game is still TBA. Ivan Nova is available to make the start — Girardi said health is not a concern for Nova — but the Yankees aren’t certain he’ll come up to pitch one of those games. “Just some things we’re talking about that we could do with our rotation,” Girardi said.

Assocaited Press photo

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Postgame notes: “There was no doubt in my mind”07.27.11

Through most of CC Sabathia’s career with the Indians — including his Cy Young season — the Cleveland manager was Eric Wedge, who tonight sat in the Mariners dugout and watched his former ace dismantle his current lineup.

“That was about as good of stuff as I’ve seen him have,” Wedge said. “He had a better fastball than we’ve seen him have a times. He’s always had a good fastball, but at times, but he was really consistent with it tonight. His secondary stuff was as good as we’ve seen it too.”

It was a performance for the ages until the rain came. Clouds had been gathering since the early innings, and it was quickly very obvious that the weather was a greater threat than the Mariners. Sabathia had struck out seven in a row — one shy of an American League record — before a steady shower turned into a temporary downpour, forcing a 30-minute rain delay. Sabathia retired the first three batters after the break, but Joe Girardi said Sabathia’s stuff wasn’t quite the same. He’d thrown for a while underneath the stands, but the offspeed stuff was different.

“He was so sharp before the rain delay, and I thought his slider got a little bit bigger after the rain delay,” Girardi said. “I didn’t think he was quite as sharp, and we’ll never know, but golly, for that (six) and a third he was brilliant… It’s one of those nights, he’s rolling along so well, it’s just like, please don’t stop this game. But you can’t stop mother nature.”

Sabathia said he still felt good after the first delay, but the second was obviously a different story. Ultimately, Sabathia settled for a career-high 14 strikeouts on a night that was more memorable for what might have happened than for what actually happened.

Francisco Cervelli: “The whole game, I had in my mind, no-hitter… The first inning, the way he was throwing the ball in my glove, sliders in the dirt, I thought we had a chance to do it. They’re professional hitters, but CC was really good today.”

Mark Teixeira: “He was so dominant. You always figure someone’s going to bloop one in or you’re going to make a mistake, someone’s going to get a hit. But the fourth or fifth inning, he was dominant, and we figured, alright, if he can keep this up, I think he’s going to get it… You never know. No rain, he might have had a perfect game.”

Eric Chavez: “There was no doubt in my mind he was going to throw a no-hitter.”

CC Sabathia: “You know you haven’t pitched out of the stretch the whole game. Some guys say they don’t know, but I know from the first pitch until I get out of the stretch that I’m in the situation I’m in.”

Here’s Sabathia.

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• Girardi said the first delay could have gone quite a while without Sabathia needing to come out of the game. His pitch count was low enough, that the Yankees could have let Sabathia throw simulated innings every 15 minutes or so and just counted that against his game pitches. Sabathia said it didn’t matter. There was no chance Girardi was taking him out. “I was going back out,” he said.

• During the rain delay, Sabathia said he sat in the clubhouse and talked to his teammates. There was no superstitious silent treatment during the game or the delay. “I’m really not that type of person,” Sabathia said. “It was just normal.”

• Sabathia guessed that he’s shaken off Cervelli two or three times since Cervelli became his regular catcher. As soon as he started his postgame press conference, Sabathia gave a ton of credit to his catcher. Cervelli, of course, deflected the praise right back to his pitcher. “He’s a liar,” Cervelli said. “He’s got the ball, so he throws what he wants. I just try to be on the same page.”

• The single by Brendan Ryan was a 2-0 fastball. It extended Ryan’s hitting streak to 10 games.

• The Yankees had a total of 18 strikeouts tonight, their highest nine-inning total since Ron Guidry’s 18-strikeout game in 1978… This was the first time the Yankees held their opponent to one hit since September of last year when Sabathia beat the Athletics… This was the first time the Yankees held the Mariners to one hit since 2002 when Freddy Garcia was opposing starter for Seattle.

• Curtis Granderson momentarily took sole possession of the team lead in home runs tonight, but just a few innings after he hit his 28th, Teixeira responded with his own 28th homer in the eighth inning. “It’s a lot of fun,” Teixeira said. “We don’t like sitting on whatever number we’re at, so we enjoy going back and forth.”

• Teixeira has now hit 100 home runs since coming to the Yankees.

• Nothing more to say about Dave Robertson. That was still a three-run game when he came out of the bullpen with the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth. He allowed one run on a routine grounder to third, but got two quick outs to limit the damage. “He does it every time, doesn’t he?” Teixeira said.

• By the way, Girardi said he’s still not sure whether Rafael Soriano will be activated tomorrow or Friday. He also refused to say whether Soriano will take back the eighth inning. “The first thing is, let me get him back, and then we’ll make decisions as the game goes on,” Girardi said. “We need to get him pitching well, that’s the bottom line, and get him comfortable. He had four outings, which is not a ton of outings. It’s somewhat of a short spring training, but we feel that we need him and then I’ll make those decisions.”

• Chavez said everything felt fine in his return from the disabled list. He was tested a little bit — and made some nice plays at third — but he came out of the game with no pain, having gone 1-for-3 with an RBI single.

• Let’s end with this Robertson stat: When he struck out the first batter he faced in the eighth, it was his 10th consecutive strikeout with the bases loaded. No pitcher since at least 1965 had a bases-loaded strikeout streak that long in a single season. Robertson has faced 12 batters with the bases loaded this season: 10 strikeouts, one ground ball out and one double.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 61 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 lists the transaction as Chavez being activated and Laird being option. As expected.

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 409 Comments →

Postgame notes: “Go out there and do my job”07.26.11

The trade deadline is less than a week away. There’s plenty of speculation and conversation about whether the Yankees need to, have to, or even want to add a starting pitcher. A lot of that trade talk centers on whether Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon will remain reliable through the postseason.

That was the big-picture backdrop of tonight’s game, and Garcia delivered his longest outing of the season. As usual, he wasn’t perfect, but he walked just one batter and did his usual off-balance act of mixing speeds and pitches.

“(It tells me) that he knows how to concentrate,” Joe Girardi said. “He knows how not to get caught up in what’s going on around him. It also tells you he knows how to pitch. This guy has been real effective for us.”

Garcia was as understated as ever, both during the game and after. He joked about not wanting to be the pitcher who finally lost to the Mariners. He said the nearly-two-hour rain delay was a non-issue. He said a standing ovation always makes him feel good, “especially here.”

“(The trade deadline) is not in my hands,” Garcia said. “I’m a player. That’s all the front office. I have to worry about when I’m pitching. Whatever they have to do, they’re doing it. That’s not my business. I always try to go out there and do my job.”

He’s done that all season, with the same underwhelming stuff and the same been-there, done-that demeanor. This was the Yankees 100th game, so it’s clearly too late in the season to consider this a strange fluke. But is Garcia the kind of pitcher who can keep doing this beyond the regular season?

“Pitching is pitching, to me, whether it’s in the postseason or during the course of the season,” Girardi said. “There have been a lot of guys that have won a lot of games in the postseason that haven’t lit up the radar gun. The bottom line is if you make your pitches, you’re going to be successful.”

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It was kind of a late decision to get Steve Garrison into this game. Garrison didn’t start warming up until Boone Logan was almost ready to face the leadoff man in the ninth inning, but Garrison said there was so much adrenalin running through his body that he felt ready after one toss in the bullpen.

“It was definitely a cool feeling,” he said. “It’s something I’ll gladly do again if they want me to… After I got out there and threw my first pitch I felt much more comfortable. It’s where I want to be. I want to be on the mound. It’s where I feel most comfortable.”

Girardi said he felt comfortable bringing Garrison into the middle of an inning because he’d done it in spring training, and Girardi liked the idea because Garrison might have to pitch in those situation if he develops a role later in the season.

By the way, Garrison’s mother took the hour train ride up from Trenton for the past three games. Of course she decided to skip this game.

Here’s Garrison.

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• Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless inning tonight for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He said afterward that he felt good and was leaving immediately for New York. “I’m not sure where he would go if he’s not coming to see us,” Girardi said.

• Because he’s thrown on back-to-back days, the earliest the Yankees would activate Soriano would be Wednesday. Girardi said they’ll wait until then to make a decision on him. They might give him two full days off — three, actually, with the off day — after throwing back-to-back.

• Girardi said everything went well with Eric Chavez’s test this afternoon. Girardi wouldn’t say for certain that he’ll be activated tomorrow, but he certainly indicated that the Yankees are planning to activate Chavez tomorrow.

• This was Garcia’s longest start since September 20, 2009 with the White Sox against the Royals. He pitched eight innings that day… Garcia’s now gone 53.2 innings without allowing a home run, which is his career-long streak… He’s won four of his past five starts at Yankee Stadium.

• Derek Jeter homered for the first time since career hit No. 3,000. He also tripled later in the game, driving both extra-base hits to right field. He’s hitting .324 with nine extra-base hits since coming off the DL. “We have seen that (Jeter driving the ball that way),” Girardi said. “I thought it started in Texas, but since he’s come back, we’ve even seen it more… He’s hitting like the Derek we’re used to seeing.”

• For whatever it’s worth, Jeter said it’s not so much driving the ball to right field that tells him he’s hitting better lately, it’s more the pitches that he’s choosing to take and the pitches he’s choosing to attack. “I can tell if I’m staying back, taking pitches and swinging at good pitches,” he said. “I feel as though I’ve been doing that for the last few weeks so I’m happy with where I am right now.”

• This was the fifth time Jeter had ever homered and tripled in the same game. He last did it April 30 of last season against the White Sox.

• Mark Teixeira leads the Majors with 12 games with at least three RBI this season. He’s back in a tie for the team lead with 27 home runs.

Donnie Collins reports that Ivan Nova came through a simulated game with no problems today. He seems to be in line to start Saturday’s double header.

• For the first time this season, the Yankees have improved to 20 games over .500. “It kept escaping us, trying to get to 20,” Girardi said. “Go back to the Saturday after we played the Mets, we were 19 games over. It’s been a while since we could get to 20. We’ve had some tough losses in there and our guys have responded pretty well.”

Associated Press photo of Garcia and a Scranton Times-Tribune photo of Soriano. For whatever reason, the AP service I use still hasn’t moved any pictures of tonight’s game, so that’s a shot of Garcia in Tampa.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 522 Comments →

Pregame notes: “I’ve got a chance to contribute”07.25.11

Brett Gardner was sitting in his locker, looking at something on his phone when he noticed a group of reporters gathering around a locker just a few feet away. Nick Swisher wasn’t in the room. Neither was Russell Martin.

“Is Chavy here?” Gardner said.

Eric Chavez arrived about an hour ago. He’ll be evaluated today, and if that goes well, he could be activated tomorrow.

“Knowing that this team was obviously a real good team and hopefully going to make the playoffs, that’s why I’m here,” he said. “I’ve got a chance to contribute, and hopefully I can still do that.”

The foot is healed. The kidney stone issue has come and gone. The back feels good. Chavez said it might take a while to feel as comfortable at the plate as he was back in May, but he feels healthy enough to play.

“I’m still a guy with a bad back history and I still have to worry about it and stuff like that,” he said. “But I’ve been on the field. Yesterday I played nine and everything went smooth, so I’ll just hold my breath for the next two months.”

Joe Girardi said he doesn’t expect Chavez to be an everyday player — he’s not going to push the health issue and try to play Chavez seven days in a row — but it’s entirely possible Chavez could be in the lineup right away, if only to give Eduardo Nunez a day off.

As for Chavez, he just seems happy to be back. The broken foot, he said, was an extreme level of frustration because he was playing better than he’d played in years. When his back forced him to delay his rehab — when he was just days away — Chavez said the idea of retirement briefly crossed his mind. Now he’s as healthy as he’s going to be, and Chavez is expecting to be ready to play tomorrow.

“Everything’s fine,” he said. “That’s why I’m here.”

Here’s Chavez.

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• The tarp has been on the field since I got here, but players are outside playing catch, which doesn’t always happen if the teams are expecting to have the game rained out. It’s not a beautiful night, but it might be good enough. Have to wait and see, I guess.

• Rafael Soriano is still scheduled to pitch today in Triple-A, but there’s also rain in the forecast there. This would be Soriano’s second straight outing. The Yankees want Soriano to go back-to-back, and Girardi said they would have to discuss whether to activate him if today’s Triple-A game is rained out.

• Alex Rodriguez is progressing as expected after knee surgery. Girardi said he’s still doing pool work and other low-impact exercises. He’s “on schedule” but Girardi’s not sure when he’ll be ready to begin baseball activities in Tampa.

• Girardi on facing a team that’s lost 15 games in a row: “It’s a weird feeling because obviously you got to believe they will be playing extremely hard because the motivation to end this streak. It’s going to be a team that is excited to play here as well. They got some young kids on their club that I know will be excited so I would throw out that they lost 15 in a row.”

• The guys who went to the HOPE Week event this morning said it was a lot of fun, and apparently included quite a bit of Yankees singing (including a Backstreet Boys song at some point). Feel free to imagine Nick Swisher’s comments and enthusiasm. He was exactly as excited as you would expect.

• Girardi on HOPE Week: “I love that our players go through this because you could be going through a good time as a player or a bad time as a player and you realize that some of the obstacles that others have to overcome are so much greater than what we’re trying to overcome. Whether you’re in a 0-for-10 slump or you haven’t won a start in a couple of times or you gave up a few runs and we lost a game, you realize that there’s so much more to life than what we do.”

Ichiro Suzuki RF
Brendan Ryan SS
Dustin Ackley 2B
Miguel Olico C
Adam Kennedy 3B
Mike Carp DH
Justin Smoak 1B
Franklin Gutierrez CF
Greg Halman LF

Associated Press photo

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 55 Comments →

Postgame notes: Offense can’t make up for two mistakes07.21.11

“For sure.”

That’s what CC Sabathia said when someone asked whether he pitched better tonight than he had in some of those seven straight wins he had coming into this game.

“CC’s been pitching like that for a long, long time,” Derek Jeter said. “You’d like to see him get a win. He definitely pitched well enough to win, (but) we just couldn’t get anything going off Shields. He’s been doing that all year to most teams that he’s faced. He was better than us today.”

I thought Sabathia would say that he made three mistakes tonight, but he counted only two. In the first inning, he left a curveball up to Evan Longoria, and Longoria hit it for an early home run. The Yankees had gone eight games without allowing a home run, and Sabathia hadn’t given one up since Alfronso Soriano took him deep on June 19.

“Just a bad pitch,” Sabathia said.

The other mistake was a slider to Sam Fuld. It was supposed to be down and away, but Sabathia left it inside and Fuld was able to pull it for a two-out, RBI triple. I thought Sabathia would be disappointed in the two-out walk immediately before the triple — it came against .197 hitter Elliot Johnson — but Sabathia wasn’t sweating that at-bat.

“There was a lefty on deck,” he said. “I feel like I can make pitches and get those guys out most of the time.”

Here’s Sabathia.

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And here’s Derek Jeter.

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• Not much the hitters could say on a night like this. James Shields actually has a lower ERA than Sabathia this season, and he was terrific against the Yankees less than two weeks ago in New York. It’s not like they didn’t know what was coming. “(Shields) threw a lot of strikes, and we were chasing pitches,” Robinson Cano said. “We all know he can really pitch, so when he throws strikes, it’s hard to lay off pitches against him.”

• Shields beat the Yankees for only the fourth time in 18 career starts. Girardi said Shields command and curveball have gotten better. Jeter said it’s that notorious changeup that’s making the difference. “His fastball moves,” Jeter said. “It runs in, he throws his cutter, throws his curveball, but his changeup is his pitch. He lives and dies with his changeup. It’s really tough to pick it up.”

• The Yankees only sign of life came when Jeter and Cano both doubled in the eighth inning. Cano’s two-out RBI drove in the Yankees only run and chased Shields from the game. “It was a curveball,” he said. “That’s what he threw me the first time, so I thought he might throw another one here. That’s what he was throwing to lefties, guys he knows can hit home runs. That’s what I saw all game.”

• Obviously, the decision to pinch hit Curtis Granderson in the seventh was all about trying to get a two-run homer. “Just trying to tie it up with one swing of the bat,” Girardi said. “Grandy has the ability to do that. I talked to him after he did all of his treatment today, and he said he was OK to pinch hit.”

• Granderson put together a good at-bat in the ninth, but ultimately went down swinging to end the game. “He had some pretty good swings,” Girardi said. “He fouled a couple off, and as I said, our guys played hard on this trip and to lose this game you move on and you go try to win a series at home.”

• The Yankees stole 11 bases in the first three games of this series. They didn’t steal any tonight.

• Jeter’s eighth-inning double moved him into a tie with Wade Boggs for 25th on baseball’s all-time hits list. He has 3,010 and needs 10 more to tie Rafael Palmeiro for 24th all-time.

• Fuld’s triple was only the fourth extra-base hit and first triple that Sabathia has allowed to a left-handed hitter this season.

• Mark Teixeira did build a small five-game hitting streak during this road trip — that ended tonight — but he had only two RBI and 10 strikeouts during these eight games immediately after the all-star break.

• Eric Chavez went 1-for-3 with a double and played six innings at third base in tonight’s rehab game with Tampa. Rafael Soriano threw 16 pitches. He pitched one inning, allowing two hits and an earned run.

• Sabathia is now 0-2 in three career starts on his birthday.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 117 Comments →

Pregame notes: Girardi considering lineup changes07.20.11

Although it hasn’t happened yet, Joe Girardi said this afternoon that it’s entirely possible he’ll shuffle the Yankees lineup against right-handers so that Brett Gardner moves back into the leadoff spot.

“I might,” he said. “He’s going so well, it’s something I’ll definitely consider. Just wait and see what happens.”

Girardi said that since Alex Rodriguez went down with the knee injury, he’s spent some time thinking about new ways to configure the lineup. He’s thought about moving Gardner back to the top, and he’s considered moving Curtis Granderson into a run-producing spot in the middle of the order.

Before he makes a change, though, Girardi said he would discuss it with everyone involved. There will be no lineup surprises in the clubhouse.

“I think guys like knowing where they’re going to be,” Girardi said. “I think you can get caught up sometimes trying to catch lightning in the bottle. You move a guy up because he’s hot, then you disrupt your whole lineup just because a guy’s hot. I think you can get caught up in that too. There’s something to be said about the consistency of your lineup, and a lot of times it’s how it all works together.”

Would Girardi be afraid to have that conversation with Jeter?

“No,” he said. “I have to do what I feel is best for the team. When you look at a lineup, you look at how it works together, not independent of one guy. No, I’m not afraid to have that conversation.”

• Nick Swisher has been moved from right field to DH, and Andruw Jones has switched from DH to right field. Girardi said it’s strictly to give Swisher a day off his feet. There’s nothing physically wrong, he just changed his mind after the lineup was posted.

• Tests on Ivan Nova’s ankle came back negative. Girardi talked to Nova this afternoon, and Nova said he feels much better today than yesterday. Turns out, he didn’t exactly role the ankle, he just felt some pain in the spot where he was hit by a line drive in his first Triple-A start back on July 7. Donnie Collins texted me to say Nova’s been placed on the disabled list, but Girardi said this doesn’t necessarily rule out Nova starting one of those double header games on July 30.

• The Yankees were encouraged by Eric Chavez’s day in Tampa. “The positive thing there is that he was able to give you five at-bats where the foot didn’t get sore,” Girardi said. “That’s the positive thing for me. Obviously the hits are positive as well. He’s getting his timing back, but that he can continue running the bases and not get sore, that’s important to me.”

• Rafael Soriano is scheduled to pitch again either Thursday or Friday. Girardi said his reports had Soriano at 91-93 mph on Tuesday, and he considered that encouraging velocity for a guy making his first rehab appearance.

• Still no word on when Chavez might play the field. Girardi said he wasn’t sure.

• Girardi on Granderson’s left foot: “I told him to let me know if he could play today. I saw him, and he didn’t say anything.”

• Girardi wasn’t certain, but he thought Alex Rodriguez had started doing some pool work in his recovery from knee surgery.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 333 Comments →

Postgame notes: “We just gave it to them”07.20.11

Last night was decided on a bases-loaded walk. Tonight it was a fly ball lost in the roof and a bad play on the mound.

“We kind of stole one last night,” Joe Girardi said. “We gave it back tonight.”

To put it another way.

“I don’t feel like they won it,” Russell Martin said. “We just gave it to them.”

The fly ball to center

It was a routine out, hit sky high but infinitely catchable. Off the bat, it seemed to be no problem for Curtis Granderson, but as the ball came down, he put his hands out in the universal “I lost it” signal.

“Just missed it,” Granderson said. “It went up and I lost it right away. Picked it back up, and then right when it was on the way back down, couldn’t find it. And then right at the last minute, when I finally found it, I was too deep. So that was it. Just one of those things where, (I was) trying to find it, kept my eye on it the whole time, but it ended up disappearing up there in the top of the roof here in the dome.”

Granderson said he wasn’t sure whether he lost it in the white of the roof or in the sudden background of the catwalk.

“I knew I was in the vicinity,” he said. “And I thought I had got to the point where, once it does finally come out, I’ll be there. But I ended up being about 10 feet too deep.”

Here’s Granderson.

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The chopper to the mound

With the bases loaded after the lost fly ball, Boone Logan got exactly what he needed. A chopper to the mound was at least going to be an easy out at the plate, but both Logan and Martin thought it would have been a 1-2-3 double play.

“I was so geared up to get him out, I was more focused on making my pitch,” Logan said. “When he hit it, it caught me off-guard. The hardest ball to catch would be the hopper over a pitcher’s head like that. You can’t really judge it well, and you’re so focused on the pitch, it kind of throws you off a little bit.”

That’s why Logan hesitated. He said he’s had other balls like that, and they always give him trouble for whatever reason. Girardi said Logan pitched “outstanding” and Granderson said Logan “did everything we needed” on the mound, but that ball gave him trouble. He said it wasn’t a funny hop off the turf, just a bad reaction on the mound.

“There was nothing quirky about my error,” Logan said. “Take that away, we win the game.”

Here’s Logan.

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• Granderson had his left ankle iced and wrapped after the game. He said he felt it all night after being hit by a pitch in the first inning, but it was never swollen and the ice was more preventative than anything.

• Obviously the bright side of tonight’s game was Bartolo Colon, who struck out a season-high nine during his 6.1 innings. “It was back like the Bartolo from earlier in the year,” Martin said. “He mixed in his pitches a bit more today. I thought he had a better feel for the changeup and the slider as well.”

• Colon also made the point that he was throwing more four-seamers than usual, and he was able to use that pitch up in the zone for some outs. After back-to-back disappointing outings, this was a big dose of encouragement. “I was extremely happy with the way he threw,” Girardi said. “That’s what we want to see. That’s the good thing about it. We didn’t score a lot of runs, but he threw the ball really well.”

• Girardi said he pulled Colon because he’d already reached a 105 pitches, which was a season high. “That’s the manager’s decision,” Colon said. “I don’t even think about it. Whatever he wants me to do, that’s what I do.”

• It was Ivan Nova’s right ankle that was hurt tonight. Apparently he believes it’s not too serious.

• Rafael Soriano went 1.1 innings in his first rehab outing. He pitched a perfect first inning, but allowed a home run, single and sacrifice bunt in the second. He struck out one and threw a total of 21 pitches.

• Eric Chavez went 0-for-3 with a walk in his first game as Tampa’s DH. He was forced out at second base after the walk.

• Martin made the final out on a fly ball to deep left field. Off the bat, I thought it was gone. Martin knew otherwise. “I didn’t hit it square so I knew that it probably wasn’t going to go out,” he said.

• Brett Gardner was 2-for-3 with two more stolen bases and his batting average is up to .290. He has 13 hits and three walks in his past 25 plate appearances for a .640 on-base percentage since the all-star break.

• Gardner’s been successful on his past 15 stolen bases attempts and has six steals in his past six games.

• Robinson Cano hit his first home run since his Home Run Derby show. I didn’t see it, but there were stories floating around about the show Cano put on in batting practice before tonight’s game. Apparently it was a sight to see. This is what I miss writing pregame notes!

• Colon was 8-0 in his first 12 career starts against the Rays, but he’s won only one of his past seven starts against them. His nine strikeouts were his most since April 26, 2007 against the Rays as a member of the Angels. His 105 pitches were his most since July 18, 2007, also against the Rays.

• How hard is it in the American League East? Tonight is only the third time since May 11 that the Rays have picked up a game in the standings on both the Yankees and the Red Sox in a single day.

• A final word from Girardi: “We kind of gave them the game. You’re going to have physical errors and you’re going to lose balls in the lights. That’s going to happen sometimes in a dome. That doesn’t mean that I’m happy about it. It happens. It’s baseball. These guys aren’t going to be perfect. They bust their butt every day and I’m proud of them for doing that. You don’t like these type of losses.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 78 Comments →

Pregame notes: “I’m anxious to see him get back out there”07.17.11

Hope you weren’t counting on massive breaking news coming out the pregame clubhouse this morning. Aside from the arrival of Chris Dickerson — he flew in from Toledo last night — things were pretty routine. At this point, the story of the day will almost certainly be Phil Hughes.

“I’m anxious to see him get back out there and try to get him back to the form that we had him last year,” Joe Girardi said. “As you said, he’s had some time off, and that’s always a little bit of a concern about how strong he’ll be coming out of the gate, but he did do his share of bullpens.”

Trade talk is starting to heat up, but Girardi said a healthy and fully capable Hughes could be more significant than any sort of deadline addition. And Girardi thinks that Hughes knows just how important he can be in the second half.

“I think he does, and I think he relishes the responsibility,” Girardi said. “He’s excited to get back on track.”

• The Yankees swapped Dickerson for Greg Golson, who was optioned back to Triple-A. The Yankees wanted Golson for the past three games because they were facing two left-handed starters. With right-handers pitching four of the next five games against the Yankees, they preferred the lefty Dickerson.

• Derek Jeter was going to get one game off this road trip. Girardi decide today made the most sense.

• How did Girardi decide who started at short and who started at third? “We thought Nuney did a pretty good job at short while Jeet was gone, and we want him to continue some reps over there for when Alex does get back,” Girardi said. “If you play him a month at third and he never gets any reps at short, could that become an issue for a couple of days when you do put him over there?”

• Rafael Soriano is still on schedule to start Tuesday in Tampa. “Soriano’s going to have to have a few appearances,” Girardi said. “We’ll have to talk about, does he need to go back-to-back? To me the important thing is, let’s take it one day at a time and see how he feels after Tuesday.”

• Still not sure when Eric Chavez will begin a rehab assignment: “I’m not sure when Chavy is going to play. He’s obviously doing better. Hopefully it won’t be too long that we can get him going.” Marc Carig reports that Chavez could rehab as early as Tuesday.

• Alex Rodriguez has been riding a bike and doing upper-body workouts. He’ll stay in Miami for roughly two weeks total.

• Bartolo Colon is still on schedule to start Tuesday.

Rajai Davis CF
Eric Thames DH
Yunel Escobar SS
Adam Lind 1B
Edwin Encarnacion 3B
Travis Snider LF
Aaron Hill 2B
J.P. Arencibia C
Corey Patterson RF

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 61 Comments →

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