Nova off to shaky start • 04.08.14
He allowed seven earned runs and 10 hits over 3 2/3 innings in losing to the Orioles after walking five in 5 2/3 in his first start in Houston. Nova only gave up two runs in that game and was the winner, but in this game, he couldn’t minimize the damage and the Yankees ended up losing 14-5.
“I don’t feel good when you pitch that way with the good spring training that I had,” Nova said. “It’s only the second time. I have plenty of time to fix it and get back to where I want to be.”
He had a problem with his curve, and his sinker was up. Nova said he needs to get his pitches down.
“I wouldn’t make too much out of two starts,” Joe Girardi said. “I know it’s glaring in the beginning. I know he’s more than capable of turning this around and being a big-time pitcher for us.”
There was a chance for Nova to get out of the first with no runs scored instead of three. But Derek Jeter couldn’t reach Delmon Young’s bouncing single for a double-play try.
“I know he tried the best to get the double play,” Nova said. “That’s the game.”
Despite struggling, Nova didn’t walk anyone. So Yankees starting pitchers haven’t walked a batter now in five straight games.
Francisco Cervelli got his first shot at first base. He admitted he missed one foul ball that he probably should have caught. But Girardi said he was OK with his work over there.
“He passed for me,” Girardi said.
So Cervelli could be another option vs. lefties with Mark Teixeira out.
Yangervis Solarte doubled twice, making the rookie third baseman the first player since 1900 with at least six doubles in the first seven games of his career.
Jacoby Ellsbury went 3 for 4 and is 12 for his last 22 after starting 0 for 7.
Alfonso Soriano hit homer No. 1 on the season and No. 407 for his career, tying Duke Snider for 50th on the all-time list.
I’ll have more on Masahiro Tanaka’s Wednesday night Bronx debut in the morning.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Yankees pregame: Who’s on first? The catcher • 04.08.14
Greetings, Brian Heyman back with you. It’s been a while. I’m here at Yankee Stadium today, tomorrow and Friday. Chad’s Ironman streak is over. I lost count of his consecutive-day record. Even Ripken eventually took a day off.
Here’s a guy who is on duty today as well: Meet your new Yankees first baseman, Francisco Cervelli. At least for the start of this game with lefty Wei-Yin Chen going for the Orioles.
So when was the last time the backup catcher played first? He said he was 15. But he has worked out at first occasionally.
“If I’ve got to pitch, I’ll go, too,” Cervelli said. “It’s not like I feel like I’m Mark Teixeira, but I think I’m going to be comfortable with more games. I think it’s like every other position. If I feel I’m not going to catch the ball, I’m going to block it.”
Sounds like a catcher playing first base. Joe Girardi called this move “low risk.”
“I really believe he can do it,” Girardi said. “I do. We’re going to find out.”
Girardi said the reward, if it works out, is “more flexibility during the course of the season. We don’t anticipate Tex being out very long, but you never know.”
Why no Brian McCann at first?
“I’ve seen Cervelli take ground balls and I like what I’ve seen,” Girardi said. “I’ve never seen Brian McCann take a ground ball.”
Girardi said Shawn Kelley will probably get much of the closing opportunities with David Robertson now officially on the DL with his groin strain. But Girardi also said Kelley will probably not be available today. If that’s the case, who would close if need be?
“That a good question?” Girardi said. “Let’s see where they are in the lineup.”
Robertson has been replaced on the roster by Cesar Cabral, up from Triple-A. The lefty had a strong spring training.
“We’re seeing some pretty tough left-handed hitters this week, and we feel he can help us,” Girardi said.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Yankees postgame: Hughes deserved better • 06.27.13
“He pitched way too good to get a loss,” Lyle Overbay said.
Hughes had seven days between starts and he put them to good use, working on mechanical issues and taking a step back to collect himself.
“I just felt like the last week or so really helped me,” Hughes said, “just to kind of gather my thoughts for a few days and work on some things on the side. I felt like I had better plan and better mechanics and threw the ball pretty good. … Whenever you’re trying to get through some rough stretches, it helps just to take a deep breath.”
There had been chatter about Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda waiting in the wings with Hughes struggling. But this isn’t his first bout with inconsistency.
“I don’t let the talk creep into my head,” Hughes said.
The Yankees are just 12-18 over the last 30 games, and the sporadic offense has obviously contributed. The Yankees were shut out for the seventh time, including three times this month. They were blanked only six times all of last season.
This time, Derek Holland shut them out on two hits. Do you know when the previous time was that a Rangers pitcher shut the Yankees out on two or less hits? That would be never. It hadn’t happened since the franchise moved from Washington to Texas in 1972. Joe Coleman last did it for the Senators on July 19, 1969.
“I believe we’re capable of scoring runs,” Joe Girardi said.
With this group?
“I think we can, but time will tell,” Girardi said.
On the rehab front, Derek Jeter actually drove Alex Rodriguez after their workout from Steinbrenner Field to the nearby minor-league complex, according to The Associated Press. Jeter ran outside for the first time since the second ankle fracture was discovered in April and reported no problems. The AP report stated that A-Rod took simulated at-bats. ESPNNewYork.com reported that Rodriguez basically told the Yankees Wednesday that he wasn’t sure when or if he will be back this season. But Jeter gave a positive review in the AP report.
“He looked good,” Jeter said. “Alex works extremely hard. He’s working hard now to come back.”
Jeter wouldn’t label A-Rod a distraction.
“Why would he be a distraction?” Jeter asked.
Francisco Cervelli, according to the AP, has been doing his hitting indoors. Curtis Granderson is doing range-of-motion exercises. No swinging yet. A minor-leaguer took a swing, though, launching a homer in batting practice that deflected off the clubhouse roof and hit Granderson’s car.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Romine catching on • 05.19.13
There was that forgettable first start April 29 against the Astros at Yankee Stadium. Andy Pettitte lost his cutter in the first inning and Romine struggled to get on the same page with him. The Yankees ended up losing 9-1.
But the 24-year-0ld rookie catcher has taken some steps forward back there since then. Good thing, too. Because Cervelli’s primary replacement, Chris Stewart, hurt his groin Thursday night and has been only available in a pinch. It sounded like Stewart won’t be starting the first two games in Baltimore. So Romine, who has guided the pitchers to a 2.25 ERA during his 60 innings, will get more time.
“I think he’s gotten in a better rhythm with our pitchers,” Girardi said. “He has a better understanding. He’s been able to watch them a couple of times. He’s gotten back there with I think almost everybody at this point. So I think he’s just getting more comfortable.
“It’s always tough when you come in the middle of the season as a catcher, and especially when you’re a young catcher, to feel like you know exactly what they want to do. That can be difficult. It could be a day when the guy doesn’t have everything, and that even makes it harder. But I think he’s adjusted really, really well.”
Romine is also 3 for 6 at the plate over the last two games after starting out 1 for 16.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Kevin Youkilis played Saturday after six games off, woke up Sunday not feeling so hot and sat out, and indicated Monday his lower back was feeling the same as before he returned, which meant stiff. So he’s sitting out again. The Yankees missed out on a chance to backdate him to April 21 if the DL is in his future. Youkilis said he was waiting on the results of his MRI today.
Joe Girardi wasn’t second-guessing himself over playing Youkilis Saturday.
“The player told us he was ready to go and we put him in,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you how he reinjured it.” …
Francisco Cervelli stood in front of his locker, bandage on his surgically repaired broken right hand, arm in a sling. Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser operated Saturday after Cervelli took a foul tip off the back of the hand Friday night.
“I don’t know if they put another finger there,” Cervelli joked. “But the doctor said it was really good. I think a little plate there is going to help to heal quicker. But I trust Dr. Rosenwasser because he did my surgery in 2008. I got two screws there. Now I got another plate there. It’s a good hand. I’m a robot now.”
Cervelli is hoping to be back in less than six weeks.
“Today is five weeks and five days,” Cervelli said. “I’m counting. Tomorrow is four days. I’ve got to stay positive. … The last two days, there was a lot of pain. But today I feel a little better.”
Jason Collins made history today, becoming the first active athlete in the four major North American professional sports to come out as gay.
“It’s good for him,” CC Sabathia said. “He can be honest and not have to live a lie, I guess.”
That’s the NBA. Is MLB ready if one of its players wants to do the same?
“Sure,” Sabathia said. “Why not? … I don’t know what it would be like. It would be tough, but you’d have to deal with it, I guess.”
Joe Girardi said: “No matter what it is in our world, any time it happens for the first time, it’s a little bit of a shock. But I believe baseball would handle it well.”
If it happened in the Yankees’ clubhouse, that player would find a comforting presence in Girardi.
“As far as myself personally, and everyone is not going to believe with my religious beliefs, I believe as men and women, we’re called to love others, depending on their race, their religion, their thought process, whatever they do,” Girardi said. “We’re not called to judge people. I think part of judging people is probably what gets us into a lot of trouble in the world.
“So as far as me personally, he’s a player; he’s a man. My job is to be his friend and love him. And if I was his manager, it’s to get the most out of him. I always felt as a player, it was to be the best teammate that I could be. And that’s the bottom line.”
Yankees postgame: More injuries • 04.27.13
The Yankees certainly aren’t having any luck in the injury department. They keep dropping. Add Ivan Nova and Francisco Cervelli to the list.
Nova left with pain around the right elbow area. Joe Girardi was still waiting for the MRI results after the game. He was under the impression the problem was in the triceps connecting to the elbow. Nova complained of a little stiffness after the second inning, but he wanted to try to go in the third. After he hit the first batter and gave up a single to the second, he was done.
“We went out there and asked him; he said he wasn’t OK,” Girardi said.
Cervelli only lasted five pitches. Leadoff batter Rajai Davis fouled a ball off the back of Cervelli’s right hand. Surgery is set for Saturday. The catcher will be out at least six weeks.
“It’s disappointing, and I know it’s real disappointing to him because of all he’s been through to get to this point,” Girardi said.
Girardi said he’ll play the catching situation by ear with Chris Stewart and Austin Romine, coming up now from Triple-A. Romine was batting .333 with a homer and four RBI in 14 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Stewart said the 24-year-old righty hitter has “got a lot of talent. It’s just a matter of getting experience up here.”
Phelps would seem to be the logical choice to replace Nova, but Girardi said he wanted to wait a few days before announcing anything. Phelps had a 6.23 ERA in five outings before the game. He said he had struggled with the mentality of coming out of the bullpen, that he has been a starter basically his whole career. He said he has been better in these longer outings.
And he was good in this one, four innings, one run, two hits, nine Ks. The strikeout total was not only a career high. It was the most by a Yankees reliever since Jay Howell fanned nine over 4 2/3 in 1983. Phelps is the first Yankees pitcher to strike out at least nine in four innings or less in the Live Ball Era.
Despite all the injuries, the Yankees keep winning. They’re 13-9 overall, and 12-5 since April 7.
At the postgame press conference, Girardi expressed his happiness over what this team has achieved to date.
“Injuries are part of the game,” Girardi said. “It’s part of life. I’m sure everyone in here can attest that life doesn’t go exactly the way we want it to sometimes. But when you’re able to accomplish things and go out and continue to win games, it’s very satisfying. I’m proud of what these guys have done so far. We’ll keep fighting and we’ll keep finding ways.”
Toronto, meanwhile, has found ways to go 9-15, probably the biggest disappointment in baseball so far after all its acquisitions.
“I’d say that we’re just not playing good enough to win right now,” manager John Gibbons said.
Hiroki Kuroda didn’t look good the first two innings of this 5-3 win, three runs, six hits allowed.
“All I thought was just hang in there pitch by pitch and hopefully I would be able to overcome this adversity,” he said.
Who could have predicted Kuroda wouldn’t allow another run or hit to the Blue Jays over the next four innings of his six-inning outing?
“It says a lot because he didn’t really have a whole lot tonight,” Joe Girardi said. “… He didn’t have his sinker. He didn’t have his good off speed for the most part. He seemed to find his slider at the end of the third and found a way to gut it through six innings without giving up any more runs after the second. … This might be his best performance of the year.”
Vernon Wells continues to perform against his old team as well as against Mark Buehrle. Wells launched the comeback with a solo shot over the center-field fence in the second. He’s now batting .480 (24 for 50) with three homers lifetime vs. Buehrle and .421 (8 for 19) with three homers vs. the Blue Jays this season. He’s at .293 with six homers and 10 RBI in 19 games with the Yankees.
“Vernon’s a good player,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “Always has been. He’s got new life going over there. He’s a very intelligent guy and you know he’s motivated. Something about playing in Yankee Stadium for the Yankees. This place brings out the best in people or you hear about it if you don’t.”
Robinson Cano hit the go-ahead three-run homer. He’s streaking, now batting .391 (25 for 64) with six doubles, seven homers, 17 RBI and 13 runs scored over his last 15 games.
“This is probably as good as he’s started that I can really remember,” Girardi said.
Something strange happened in the seventh. Ben Francisco was called out on a throw to first, but the umpires met and reversed the call. Gibbons got ejected after arguing the decision.
“… They said he bobbled it,” Gibbons said, talking about first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. “My big concern was that there was no appeal by the other side.”
Jeff Kellogg, the second base umpire and crew chief, said: “My sense (was) the ball was resting on the ground and his glove was around the top of the ball. … Our thought process is we’re going to try to get the plays right.”
The reversal/hit raised Francisco’s average to .103 (3 for 29).
Jayson Nix went 2 for 3, his third multihit game in the last five and fourth overall. He also turned in golden glove work at third.
Francisco Cervelli hit his third homer, one short of his career high from two years ago.
The Yankees are now 11-5 after the 1-4 start.
Yankees postgame: Hughes back in form • 04.19.13
Yankee Stadium is filled with fog right now at 12:45 in the morning. The only positive that came out of this 12-inning, 6-2 loss to Arizona was that Phil Hughes came out of the fog, pitching well after two bad starts to start the season.
“You don’t want to let the bad starts snowball,” Hughes said. “I just kind of tried to stop the bleeding. It would’ve been nice to get the win tonight, but I feel like I threw the ball much better. Certainly it was a step in the right direction.”
Hughes gave up two runs and six hits over seven, fanning six and walking none along the way.
“I felt more like myself,” Hughes said. “I was being aggressive, attacking hitters.”
Of course, both runs here had to come on homers. Hughes has allowed at least one homer in 32 of his last 43 starts at Yankee Stadium since 2010 and he has allowed 27 homers in 18 home starts covering 2012 and this young year.
“I’m not going to lose my aggressiveness,” Hughes said. “… What comes along with that, I’m going to give up home runs.”
Francisco Cervelli wasn’t dwelling about his tying homer in the ninth.
“The home run right now doesn’t mean anything because we lost the game,” Cervelli said.
He was dwelling more on the two catcher’s inference calls against him, including one in the four-run 12th.
“They were a little late on the swing and I was too close twice,” Cervelli said.
So the Yankees finished the homestand at 4-2 and headed to Toronto at 8-6.
“You’d sign up for four of six any day of the week,” Brett Gardner said. “We would have liked to have won tonight and got out of town on a better note. But I think we’ve been playing pretty well for the most part.”
It’s been said that Joe Girardi has one of the easiest jobs in baseball: Just write down the names of a bunch of superstars, call it a lineup, and go win 95 games. Things are a bit different this season, and Girardi acknowledged that this Opening Day lineup took him a little longer than usual.
“It’s a little bit more,” he said. “You look at some of the positions that you’re going to do, and more about where you’re going to put guys in the lineup, in a sense, than maybe who’s playing. Trying to divide up your lefties a little bit against Lester, and having some new faces in Wells and Francisco, trying to figure out where to put them. So there was a little bit more thought.”
Girardi settled on moving Eduardo Nunez near the top of the lineup, strictly to split the lefties. Ichiro Suzuki is batting seventh today, but Girardi said Ichiro will move up to the No. 2 spot when the Yankees face right-hander Clay Buchholz on Wednesday.
“We’ve liked the way Nuney has swung the bat,” Girardi said. “I didn’t particularly want to put three lefties in a row against Lester to start the game. We’ve liked Gardy’s ability to get on base, so I put him in the leadoff spot. And without Jeet, I thought we should put a right-hander in there, and we’ve liked what Nuney has done.”
• Based on this spring’s catching matchups, I really assumed Chris Stewart would catch CC Sabathia today. Then again, I also thought Girardi would stick with Ichiro in the No. 2 spot even against a lefty, so what do I know? “I think the first month, it will be somewhat of a process of figuring out exactly how you’re going to (use the catchers),” Girardi said. “You can play spring training games, but playing in-season games is different. The things you have to handle are different. Your emotions are different. It was something that I thought about the last three or four days. Talked to my coaches about it, and right now it’s probably going to be a fairly even split.”
• It’s worth noting that Cervelli is actually a career .317/.414/.393 hitter against lefties.
• According to Brian Cashman, Derek Jeter is scheduled to play catch and undergo treatment today. “There is no exact schedule for Derek because it’s what his ankle allows him to do,” Girardi said. “And we’re really not going to know that until he goes out there.”
• Have not seen Alex Rodriguez, but apparently he’s here. It’s still unclear just how much of the pregame ceremonies he’ll be a part of. “Introductions are usually not the first thing on my mind when I come in here,” Girardi said. “I’m anxious to see him. I want to see how he’s moving around in a sense because I haven’t seen him since, probably the end of January when he was just starting to ride a bike. What he chooses to do today is his prerogative, and I’m fine with whatever he chooses to do.”
• Also no sign of Mark Teixeira, who’s supposed to visit the doctor this morning. I know he was expecting to be out of the checkup in time to be here for the ceremonies.
• A few observations from the clubhouse: Dave Robertson’s has been given a new locker, the one right next to Mariano Rivera. Eduardo Nunez also has a new locker in between Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez. Francisco Cervelli’s old locker now belongs to Chris Stewart, so he’s in Nick Swisher’s old locker. Joba Chamberlain moved to Robertson’s old locker, David Phelps move to Chamberlain’s old locker, Cody Eppley moved to Phelps’ old locker, and Adam Warren has Eppley’s old locker.
• Not great news for Brennan Boesch and Lyle Overbay: They have the lockers generally given to players who bounce back and forth from Triple-A.
• In case it didn’t go without saying, Girardi said the Yankees will stick with just one left-handed reliever for the time being. “You look at our eighth inning and our ninth inning, and that’s nailed down,” Girardi said. “My hope is Joba will nail down the seventh inning. If there’s a lefty we want Boone to face in the seventh inning, we might do that, and then have Joba go after the righties. But I figure, if you can nail down the seventh, eighth and ninth, you can use Boonie earlier.”
• Someone from a Japanese television station said during Girardi’s pregame press conference that Hideki Matsui has been given Japan’s highest civilian honor. “Congratulations to Hideki,” Girardi said. “I think everybody is aware of what this organization thinks of Hideki Matsui. He’s a wonderful man, he was a wonderful player. Did a lot for the New York Yankees in his time here, and represented us very, very well. I think from the Yankees standpoint, we’d like to congratulate him because he’s a man who deserves a great honor.”
• The Yankees will honor the Sandy Hook victims and first responders before today’s game. “I think it’s important to say thank you,” Girardi said. “The town of Newtown has went through so much during the last four or five months, six months, and you think about being a responder. Sometimes we don’t think about what they go through, and how important they are during a situation like that. I think it’s nice that we’re getting an opportunity to say thank you for all that you do, because they’re obviously going to do more as the future goes on.”
• The video above is Girardi’s opening comments from this morning’s pregame press conference.
Associated Press photo
Best case, worst case: Catcher • 01.28.13
This should be fun…
Best case scenario
The path is finally clear
The situation really needs no introduction. Jesus Montero is gone (you already knew that), Russell Martin is also gone (you knew that too), and the most proven catchers in the Yankees organization are a trio of long-time backups looking for an opportunity to finally get regular playing time (that too has been discussed a few times). There’s very little about the Yankees immediate catching situation that inspires confidence, but it certainly creates opportunity, and the best-case scenario is that Austin Romine takes that opportunity and runs with it.
Sure, there’s something to be said for one of Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart or Bobby Wilson proving the doubters wrong — it’s certainly a good scenario to have one of those three have an impact with the glove and hit a little better than expected — but the absolute best-case scenario is Romine establishing himself. Because he was overshadowed for so long, it’s easy to forget that Romine was a second-round pick who, before last year’s back injury, was considered one of the better catching prospects in the game. Two years ago, MLB.com ranked him ahead of Travis d’Arnaud. A healthy Romine — with a steady bat and a glove that lives up to recent Yankees hype — could be a young, cheap solution for this year and the immediate future.
And if we’re talking best-case scenario’s, Romine will have to take advantage of this window, because the Yankees highest hopes don’t leave much time before Gary Sanchez is ready. Still very much a work in progress, Sanchez’s bat has plenty of believers, but if he can show some maturity in the clubhouse and improvement behind the plate, he just might push himself among the very best prospects in the game. A good year at Double-A will suggest that Sanchez is transitioning from potential to performance, and it could put him on track to have a big league impact as early as the second half of 2014. Add in some Double-A improvement from J.R. Murphy, and the Yankees days of a glove-only catcher could be limited to this offseason only.
Where have you gone Chad Moeller?
Stewart is a career .217/.281/.302 hitter in the big leagues. Cervelli hit .246/.341/.316 in Triple-A last season. Wilson has never started more than 58 games in a major league season. The worst-case scenario behind the plate is just as obvious as the opportunity that it provides: If no one steps up, the Yankees could have an offensive black hole at the position. Defensively, the in-house options provide at least some sense of stability – even in a worst-case scenario, the Yankees should be able to catch and throw behind the plate – but the low side of offensive possibilities is awfully low.
As for a prospect to fill the gap and provide a bat, the immediate option is Romine, with some outside chance of Murphy putting himself into the picture in the second half. But Romine’s back problems kept him sidelined almost all of last year, and back problems have a tendency to linger. If that injury lingers, and if Murphy fails to live up to his offensive potential – which is his prospect calling card – then the Yankees will have no catching prospects within two years of being big league ready.
Sanchez could push to be in New York within two years, but that’s a best-case scenario involving improvements behind the plate and continued development at the plate. In a worst-case scenario, Sanchez creates more doubt and less optimism about his ability to stick at catcher, which would be a significant blow to his prospect status and leave the organization in needing to commit resources – either on the free agent market or via trade – to find a catcher who can handle the job for the next several years.
Associated Press photos