Since getting home from Boston, the Yankees have won four of five at Yankee Stadium, and each of those wins was started by a pitcher who wasn’t on the roster at the beginning of July. First it was Brandon McCarthy, then Chris Capuano, then Shane Greene, and now Esmil Rogers — a mix of youth and experience, familiar names and off-the-radar acquisitions.
This is not remotely the rotation the Yankees planned, but it’s working.
“It was the reason we went and got these guys because we felt that they could help us,” Joe Girardi said. “They’ve pitched extremely well. I’m not sure any of us knew exactly what to expect, but if you look at since the All-Star break, we’ve had a chance to win every game and that’s because of them.”
Rogers is arguably the least likely of the bunch. Cast out of the Blue Jays bullpen early this season, he’d been toiling in Triple-A for months when the Yankees grabbed him off waivers at the trade deadline. He was supposed to be a long man, but when David Phelps became the fifth Yankees starter to land on the disabled list — they have yet to get one back — Rogers was asked to make his first big league start since September of 2013.
He went five innings with one run, and even that was nearly avoided before a two-out single in the first inning.
“I didn’t have all my confidence (in Toronto) like I have it right now in all my pitches,” Rogers said. “My slider and my curveball, changeup and splitter too, and the sinker is unbelievable right now. So i think the key is pounding the zone right now.”
With Michael Pineda making a minor league rehab start tonight in Triple-A, and seeming available to come off the disabled list in five days if necessary, the Yankees now face a decision of whether to have Rogers start again or activate Pineda next turn through the rotation.
At the very least Rogers must have given the Yankees some confidence if they would rather stick with the original plan and let Pineda make one more minor league start.
“I think there’s a lot of things that are tied together here that we’re going to have to try to unwrap to see what we do next,” Girardi said.
• Brian McCann left tonight’s game with a mild concussion, but Girardi said he’s still not sure whether McCann will land on the seven-day disabled list. It will depend on tests tomorrow morning. “I think they evaluate him the next day to see what the doctors determine,” Girardi said.
• For whatever it’s worth, McCann didn’t want to leave tonight’s game. He stayed in after taking a foul tip in the third inning — “He (initially) felt like his jaw got jammed,” Girardi said — but after the top of the sixth, McCann told Girardi that he didn’t feel quite right. “I asked him, ‘Are you dizzy?’” Girardi said. “He said, no. I said, ‘Are you sick to your stomach?’ He said, no. He said, ‘I just don’t feel quite right.’ I said, ‘Do you feel a little foggy?’ (He said), yes. … He didn’t want to come out, but I said, you’re out.”
• Pineda’s final line in tonight’s Triple-A rehab start: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K. He threw 72 pitches. He told Donnie Collins that he feels ready to return to the big leagues.
• More from Donnie Collins: “Pineda really only gave up two hard-hit balls. (Double) by Walters in the first, and (single) by Aguilar in third. Change, fastball up, respectively.” Donnie says that Pineda’s fastball was 92-94 mph.
• Rogers has pitched for the Yankees three times and he has two wins. He threw 88 pitches tonight, and Girardi said he might have gone longer had he not pitched in Tuesday’s game. Certainly suggests he would be at least cleared for 100 pitches if the Yankees choose to send him out in five days. “I just wasn’t sure how much he would be able to give us, and I think we were pretty conscious of watching his stuff continue to be sharp as his pitch count mounted,” Girardi said. “He did a great job.”
• Carlos Beltran hit the 11th grand slam of his career in the sixth inning. It was his first grand slam since 2012. “You want to at least get the job done and get one in,” Beltran said. “I faced John Axford many times in the National League so I guess I have maybe like one hit against him. He felt that it was the right matchup for me. I was able to put a good at-bat and come through for the team.”
• This was the Yankees second grand slam of the year. Brett Gardner also hit one. Beltran had two hits and has been excellent since the All-Star break.
• Another milestone for Derek Jeter. Tonight’s first-inning single was the 3,430th of his career, tying Honus Wagner for sixth place on baseball’s all-time hits list. Honus Wagner! That’s insane. “Big names,” Girardi said. “I mean really big names, and it’s been fun to watch him go through it this season.”
• Ichiro Suzuki collected his 2,810th big league hit, tying George Sisler for 48th on baseball’s all-time hits list. Ichiro also had his first multi-steal game since June 15 of last year.
• This was the fourth time the Yankees scored at least 10 runs this season. This was the first time since 2012 that they scored five runs in more than one inning.
• In those two five-run innings, the Yankees had a total of just six hits. Took advantage of a bunch of walks tonight.
• The Yankees had a losing home record in the first half of the season, but they’ve won 11 of 15 at home since the All-Star break. “I did expect it to even out because we feel our lineup is built for this field, our ballpark,” Girardi said. “So you did expect it to even out. When I talked about coming into the second half (I said) we need to play better at home, and we have.”
• Final word to Beltran: “I think the team has been doing the job, trying to add players that can make the ballclub better offensively and defensively. We had a lot of downs with our starting rotation and things like that, but at the end of the day we need to find a way to do it with what we’ve got.”
Associated Press photos
Game 115: Yankees vs. Indians • 08.08.14
RHP Esmil Rogers (1-0, 5.84)
Rogers vs. Indians
Jason Kipnis 2B
Mike Aviles 3B
Michael Brantley DH
Carlos Santana 1B
David Murphy LF
Nick Swisher RF
Chris Dickerson CF
Jose Ramirez SS
Roberto Perez C
RHP Trevor Bauer (4-6, 4.20)
Bauer vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: Temperatures in the low 80s and high 70s with no real chance of rain. Very slight breeze right now. Pretty still, comfortable night.
UMPIRES: HP Dan Bellino, 1B Jeff Kellogg, 2B Brian O’Nora, 3B D.J. Reyburn
ONE AWAY: Derek Jeter has 3,429 career hits and needs just one to tie Hall of Famer Honus Wagner for sixth place on MLB’s all-time list.
ONE AWAY (TAKE TWO): Ichiro Suzuki has 2,809 career hits and needs just one to tie George Sisler for 48th on baseball’s all-time list. Ichiro has 262 hit in 2004 with Seattle, surpassing Sisler’s longstanding single-season mark of 257 hits in 1920 with the Browns.
ONE AWAY (TAKE THREE): Dave Robertson has 499 career strikeouts in 373.2 innings pitched. With his next strikeout, Robertson will surpass David Cone — who had 500 strikeouts in his first 486.1 innings as a Yankee — as the fastest pitcher to reach 500 K with the Yankees, according to Elias.
UPDATE, 7:10 p.m.: Leadoff double for Kipnis, and we’re under way here at the Stadium.
UPDATE, 7:19 p.m.: Rogers was almost out of the inning, but a two-out single by Santana has pushed across a run for a 1-0 Indians lead in the first.
UPDATE, 7:24 p.m.: Jeter just tied Wagner with an infield single (which maybe could have been ruled an E-3).
UPDATE, 7:30 p.m.: There’s an RBI single by Beltran. Game tied, still two on with one out for McCann. Three straight Yankees have reached base.
UPDATE, 7:46 p.m.: Well this has been a fiasco of a first inning for the Indians. The Yankees have already batted around. Bauer already has three walks. The Yankees already have four hits. It’s a 5-1 game and Bauer’s pitch count is sky high.
UPDATE, 8:19 p.m.: Rogers put a couple of guys on in the third, but he hasn’t allowed a run since that two-out single in the first. Yankees up 5-1 heading into the bottom of the third.
UPDATE, 8:01 p.m.: Scoreless second inning for each team. Still 5-1.
UPDATE, 8:29 p.m.: Pineda is finished after 72 pitches with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His line: 4.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
UPDATE, 8:42 p.m.: Double and a walk here in the fourth inning. Heart of the Yankees order coming up as the Indians go to their bullpen. Rough night for Bauer.
UPDATE, 9:37 p.m.: Huff had some trouble in the top of the sixth — Rogers went five pretty good innings — and that led to another Indians run, but the Yankees have a chance to do something here in the sixth with runners at second and third with one out for Ellsbury. Jeter bunted the runners over rather than try to drive in a run himself. I don’t like the bunt there, but what do I know?
UPDATE, 9:42 p.m.: As the Indians were intentionally walking Ellsbury, I turned to Roger Rubin sitting next to me and said, “Beltran’s going to hit a grand slam here.” Which obviously he did. That’s the 11th grand slam of Beltran’s career, and his first since 2012.
UPDATE, 10:08 p.m.: It was a 10-2 lead in the seventh, but Kelley just walked in a run. Yuck. Here comes Warren to try to keep this inning from getting ugly. Bases still loaded with no outs and Santana at the plate. Feels a little like that Texas game.
UPDATE, 10;14 p.m.: Brian McCann was removed with a slight concussion.
Mark Teixeira tested his cut lefty pinky earlier today, and by “tested” I mean that he gripped a bat and took a few dry swings.
“Pretty painful,” Teixeira said. “But I’m going to go out, run around, stretch, hopefully some blood flow will help, get it warm. During the day, as the day goes on, hopefully it just keeps getting a little better.”
Despite the early pain just gripping a bat, Teixeira said he’s going to take some tee and toss in the indoor cage, but there are no plans for him to immediately take batting practice. There’s really no telling when he’ll be back in the lineup. Could be soon. Could be several days.
“I’d love to play as soon as possible,” he said. “But I have no idea. I’ve never done this before. I have no idea how long it’s going to take.”
The cut is to his left pinky, and Teixeira said he’s assuming he’ll have an easier time batting left-handed. He’s also assuming he’ll be alright in the field, but he hasn’t tried to put on a glove. Joe Girardi said he’s considering Teixeira day-to-day and will follow guidance from the trainers in deciding whether Teixeira will be available to pinch hit before he’s available to start.
“There’s a big cut and then there’s the bruising and then the joints probably sprained a little bit too,” Teixeira said. “It’s just sore. I’m not sure if it’ll get worse, but it definitely needs to get better.”
• Masahiro Tanaka played catch again this afternoon. He made 25 throws at 60 feet and 25 throws at 90 feet. He will throw at 90 feet again tomorrow, then take a day off. He needs to get up to 120 feet before the Yankees will let him throw a flat-ground bullpen. “He said he felt good,” Girardi said.
• Michael Pineda is make a rehab start tonight with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Girardi said he might get an update or two during the game, but he’s really planning to wait until it’s over before finding out how Pineda looked. “Chances are it will be flashed on our TV screen in the video room and someone will give me a report,” Girardi said. “But for the most part I’ll check in after.”
• Bryan Mitchell is back. This is his third call-up, but he has yet to get in a game. Girardi said he’s just up to give the Yankees some bullpen innings if necessary. The Yankees are happy with the way Mitchell was pitching in Triple-A, where he had a 2.88 ERA through five starts (four of which were very good).
• Although Esmil Rogers was stretched out as a starter in Triple-A and has been stretched out beyond 100 pitches this season, Girardi said he doesn’t expect to get that many pitches out of Rogers tonight. “Obviously he pitched Sunday and went 45 pitches,” Girardi said. “And then he pitched Tuesday which would be a normal side day. But he threw in the game, and I think you expend a little bit more than if you do your normal side. He’s been built up to 100 pitches, but I wouldn’t think we’d get that many. It’s basically going to be watch and see.”
• The Yankees are carrying two left-handed relievers, but neither is a typical left-on-left specialist (Rich Hill and David Huff have been primarily long men and spot starters). Eventually, it seems the Yankees would like to bring up a young reliever to try to be a left-on-left replacement for Matt Thornton, but that hasn’t happened yet and might not happen right away. “Obviously we hope one of them moves quickly here and could be an option for us,” Girardi said. “As of today, we don’t feel that, but we like what we see.”
Associated Press photos
Nearly three weeks ago, David Phelps pitched into the seventh inning against the Reds, and his strong pitching line left little reason to question whether his health. He made his next start, pitched well again, he seemed to be on a real roll with absolutely no cause for concern.
Turns out, his elbow had been bothering him.
Tonight’s injury is nothing new. Phelps first felt discomfort in the back of his elbow, near the triceps, on July 18. He was sent for an MRI after that start, and the test came back clean. No ligament damage, just a little tightness that had a tendency to loosen up as Phelps pitched.
Phelps said he came off the mound after the second inning fully prepared to tell Joe Girardi that his elbow was bothering him. Before he could say anything, Girardi told Phelps he was out of the game. He was removed due to ineffectiveness, not because of the injury. When Phelps mentioned that his elbow was bothering him, the team decided to send him for further tests tomorrow.
“It’s not like it’s in here (by the ligament),” Girardi said. “It’s back up by the triceps a little bit. We’ll see how he is tomorrow. … I believe he’s going to pitch again (this year). I don’t know if it’ll be his next turn, but I believe he’s going to pitch again. Like I said, he had the MRI before and it came back clean. He might need a little time out.”
Pitchers obviously worry about any arm issue, so Phelps is of course concerned, but he doesn’t seem overwhelmed. It doesn’t hurt him on breaking balls. Phelps said it’s mostly when he gets fully extended that he feels it.
“I’ve never had elbow issues, so I don’t know what is bad feeling,” he said. “Any time it’s your arm, there is concern, but it loosens up, that’s one (positive) thing. We already had one MRI, and it was clean. … After we got the first MRI, we sat down with Doc and he said, ‘Listen, as long as it’s not getting worse, we’re good.’ The ligament was clean, everything was good. Today was what really set me off is today was the day it was worse. Had to say something. We’ll find out what it is tomorrow and go from there.”
Even a short-term injury to Phelps is quite a blow for the Yankees. One inning got away from him last time out, but for the most part Phelps has pitched extremely well lately. He’s been one of the biggest reasons this rotation has held up despite long-term injuries to four starters. The Yankees will miss Phelps, even if he misses only one start.
“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I felt like coming into this start I was throwing the ball the best I had in my career consistently. Any time we’re talking about a DL stint, it’s frustrating. I was really enjoying helping the team win ballgames. It’s frustrating. We’re playing better baseball and I feel like we’re about to go on a run.”
• If Phelps has to miss a start, Girardi said new reliever Esmil Rogers would be a candidate to spot start. Rogers was working as a starter in Triple-A with the Blue Jays, and he pitched three hitless innings tonight. “He’s obviously built up,” Girardi said. “Obviously we’ve got some time to think about it. We wouldn’t pitch him tomorrow anyway, but we’ve got some time to think about it. We’ll have a decision for you.”
• What was working for Rogers? For one thing, he was consistently throwing his fastball at 95 mph. “I think my fastball command was really important for me,” he said. “That was the key for tonight. You see how many fastballs I can throw today. I don’t throw too many sliders.”
• Just getting innings from Rogers was big because Girardi said he didn’t want to use either Adam Warren or Shawn Kelley, so someone had to bridge the gap to Dellin Betances and Dave Robertson, and Rogers did that by himself.
• Obviously it seems the elbow was a real problem tonight, but how exactly did the elbow issue impact Phelps? “I feel like my command was there for the most part,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was struggling with my stuff. It was just up in the zone.”
• Rogers became the 29th different Yankees pitcher this season. That’s a new franchise record for pitchers used in a single season. Historic!
• Another good night for the Yankees offense, and another huge night for Brett Gardner who reached base four times and had the game-winning home run in the sixth. It was his fifth homer in the past six games. He has the most home runs out of the leadoff spot of anyone in baseball. His 44 RBI out of the leadoff spot are the second-most in baseball. “I’m just happy I’ve been able to go out there and repeat my swing, swing at good pitches to hit and not chase too many balls out of the zone,” Gardner said. “Be a patient hitter but also be aggressive in the strike zone.”
• Also hitting pretty well lately is Carlos Beltran, who had another two-hit game to tie a career-high with six straight multi-hit games. He’s had at least one hit in 10 straight games. “He’s been big,” Girardi said. “He’s swinging the bat extremely well. The big thing is to keep him away from batting screens and whatever else we have to keep him away from.”
• Also with a two-hit game, new second baseman Stephen Drew. He matched his second-high with four RBI and once again played a sharp and often impressive game at second base. Tiny sample size, but Drew’s been pretty good in his first three days with the Yankees. “Our reports on Stephen Drew were that he was swinging the bat a lot better,” Girardi said. “This is a good player. He didn’t have a lot of at-bats to get ready for the season; he was rushed and I think it probably took him some time to get going.”
• How has Drew felt at second? “As comfortable as I can be for three games when I haven’t played since high school,” he said. “I am enjoying it. I am going to embrace it and to be able to play with Jeter his last year — who I looked up to when I was growing up — it’s special. I am going to soak this in.”
• Final word goes to Gardner: “We’ve got a great group of guys and we continue to fight. Esmil Rogers came in and did a great job. He’s a guy we’ve faced the last couple of seasons with Toronto and he’s got real good stuff. He came in in the middle of the game and really put a stop to everything. Hopefully we can take this momentum home with us.”
Associated Press photos