The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Postgame notes: “He demands the ball”08.02.11

Last time we saw CC Sabathia, he left his teammates with no doubt that rain had washed away a night of perfection. Sabathia was overwhelming last week, certainly as good as he’s been all year and maybe as good as he’s been at any point in his career.

Today was different, and maybe that’s what makes him so good.

“He’s a true ace, that’s what he is,” Joe Girardi said. “He knows how to pitch when he has his great stuff, and he knows how to pitch when he doesn’t have his great stuff. That’s what he did tonight.”

Sabathia matched a season-high with 10 hits tonight, and he had some luck on his side on a couple of pivotal double plays, but the bottom line was this: In a one run game, Sabathia allowed only one hit with runners in scoring position, and that was an infield single that didn’t score a run. He walked no one, struck out six and made his only costly mistake on a home run by Alexi Ramirez.

This wasn’t a dance with perfection, but when the Yankees bats went quiet, they absolutely needed their starter to be as dominant as ever. And Sabathia was. When it counted, he was terrific.

“That’s the reason he’s the No. 1 guy,” Curtis Granderson said. “He’s probably the definition of it. He wants the ball, he demands the ball and then goes out there and knows what to do with it.”

Said Sabathia: “I always say it’s just getting older, being a veteran and knowing that every time out you’re not going to have your best stuff. Being able to go out and battle and keep the team in the game.”

Here’s Sabathia.

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• Girardi said his plan is to play Derek Jeter tomorrow. Jeter didn’t do anything today — no batting practice or anything like that — just make sure he didn’t have even the slightest setback.

• Sabathia said his slider was the difference between this start and some of his other starts this season. Sabathia felt like he had a good fastball, but his slider was “kind of floating up there.” He said that’s why he gave up the two hits to A.J. Pierzynski and at least one 0-2 hit.

• Francisco Cervelli had a slightly different take: “At the beginning, the ball was running to the glove side,” Cervelli said. “But later he was able to throw the cutter and the change-up pretty well.”

• Adam Dunn struck out three times, twice with the tying run on base. Those last two strikeouts came on the slider that Sabathia said wasn’t sharp tonight. Dunn has three hits — three! — against lefties this season. All three have been singles. Sabathia admitted that it was in his mind tonight that he didn’t necessarily have to give in against Carlos Quentin because Dunn was on deck. “You’ve just got to make sure you’re going to make pitches,” Sabathia said. “Especially if you’re going to, not pitch around a guy, but just not give in to him. You’ve got to make sure you make pitches to the guy you want to get out.”

• By the way, can you imagine Dunn in New York this season? After signing that contract and having this kind of year. The White Sox fans were booing him all night. I have one friend — and old Scranton buddy name Tony — who’s a diehard White Sox fan. I texted him after the game and said, “Guess how many hits Dunn has against lefties this year.” He texted back: “Oh, I’m well aware he has 3.” Ouch.

• Sabathia got some help tonight, no question. Brent Moral came to the plate three times, always with a runner in scoring position. Essentially, he was responsible for five outs: Two line drive double plays and a fly out to right field. “I thought we kept hitting some balls hard, and they did, too,” Girardi said. “We got some big double plays and they did, too. It was one of those nights when the fielders were in the right spots.”

• Girardi had Dave Robertson warming in the eighth, but he stuck with the big man. “I wanted to see how CC was doing,” Girardi said. “(Alexi) Ramirez had some pretty good at-bats off him and has had some success off him, but I decided to stay with him.”

• Mariano Rivera got his 28th save of the season. He has a career ERA of 1.20 against the White Sox. That’s 11 earned runs in 82.2 innings. In his career, Rivera has pitched an entire season against the White Sox, and they’re not even in the division!

• Brett Gardner has a nine-game road hitting streak during which he’s hit .485 with three doubles and seven runs scored.

• Curtis Granderson has doubled twice in a game 12 times in his career. Four of those games have been this season.

The Yankees have reportedly agreed to release Randy Flores tomorrow. The Yankees had him as lefty insurance and just never made the move.

• Speaking of the minors: MLBTradeRumors notes that former Yankees minor leaguer Matt Carson has been acquired by the Rays, so the Yankees could see him during the upcoming home stand. Carson’s a nice role player, and he’s in that Dan Giese/Andy Phillips/Eric Duncan Hall of Fame of all-time nice guys.

• I went to the hotel to get these notes finished. My hope is that the internet situation is a little more useable tomorrow. Sorry for the lack of updates during the game.

Associated Press photos

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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

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Yankees at the break: Catcher07.12.11

When the Yankees decided to move Jorge Posada to designated hitter, they had three choices: Give the job to one of their prospects, take a chance on Francisco Cervelli full time or sign a free agent. They decided to go after Russell Martin, and the results have been mixed.

First half
Through the first month, the Martin signing seemed inspired. Jesus Montero and Austin Romine had flopped in spring training, and Martin came roaring out of the gate with a .293 average and six home runs in April. He’s hit just .185 since then, but the pitching staff seems to love everything about him – his personality, his game calling, his ability to block A.J. Burnett’s curveballs – and it says a lot about the state of catching in the American League that Martin was voted to the all-star team on the players’ ballot. Good everyday catchers are hard to find, and Martin’s been better than most.

Second half
Even if he doesn’t hit, Martin has value for his ability to work with pitchers and play reliable defense behind the plate. Martin’s been banged up through much of the year, and the Yankees seem to think that might have contributed to his slumping offensive numbers. The Yankees also have Jesus Montero waiting in Triple-A. His power numbers aren’t nearly as good as everyone expected this season, but there still seems to be little doubt that he will be a middle-of-the-order hitter in the big leagues. If the Yankees decide Martin’s defense isn’t enough to make up for his offense, they could call up Montero.

The minors
Montero is the big name, and even without his usual power, he’s still be a pretty good hitter in Triple-A. A step below Montero, Austin Romine has pretty similar numbers in Double-A (he’s also hit for average, but not much power). All the way down in Charleston, the Yankees top lower-level prospect, Gary Sanchez, has gone through an inconsistent first full season in the minors. The organization’s breakout star behind the plate might be J.R. Murphy, who hit his way out of Charleston and is still waiting for his first Tampa home run.

One question
Are there enough at-bats for Montero off the bench?
The Yankees don’t have to pick one or the other. They could carry both Martin and Montero, but it only makes sense if they believe Montero would get enough at-bats while splitting time behind the plate. He’s certainly a better hitter than Cervelli, but the Yankees would have to be sold on Montero’s defense and they would have to make sure he got enough playing time – either at catcher or DH – to continue his development.

Beyond 2011
There are plenty of options here. Martin is still arbitration eligible, so the Yankees could easily bring him back next year. They could decide to give the position to Montero next year, or they could decide to dangle Montero as a potent trade chip. The Yankees are making decisions behind the plate for the first time in a long time, and it’s hard to know which direction they’ll go.

Associated Press photo

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Second-half question: What to do with Montero?07.11.11

No second-half question affects the Yankees long-term future quite like this one: Is Jesus Montero’s greatest value as a trade chip or as the future of the Yankees lineup?

In other words, should the Yankees think of Montero as a potential impact hitter in the second half, or should they think of him as the bait that brings an impact hitter — or pitcher — in the second half?

Similar questions could be asked about Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, who have clearly set themselves apart as the top two pitching prospects in the system. Andrew Brackman was right there with them for a while, but his season has been a significant disappointment. Montero’s season has been only partially disappointing. He’s gone through stretches of as-expected production, but his .419 slugging percentage is uninspiring. Right now he’s on the disabled list with a sore back.

Russell Martin is an all-star, and the Yankees love him behind the plate, but he hasn’t hit much since the end of April. Francisco Cervelli is hitting just .214 as Martin’s backup. There’s certainly the opportunity for an offensive upgrade behind the plate, and the designated hitter spot could be fairly open next season if not immediately.

It’s certainly possible to envision a big league role for Montero sooner rather than later. It’s also possible to envision a significant trade target with Montero as the asking price.

If the Yankees still believe in Montero but don’t think he’s quite ready, then it’s worth keeping him in Triple-A and postponing the question and its inevitable answer. But if the Yankees have made up their mind one way or the other, Montero could be an immediate help. The only question is how to use him.

Associated Press photo

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Pregame notes: One more day off for Rivera07.05.11

The Yankees are giving Mariano Rivera another day of rest.

Rivera played catch this afternoon and said he still felt some soreness around his right elbow. He’ll be in the bullpen and available on an emergency basis, but the Yankees are planning to stay away from him.

“I feel better today but I think we’ll do another day off,” Rivera said. “I felt it a little bit. I could pitch, yes. Can they use me? Yes. But if I can by for another day, it would be much better, wiser.”

The problem is in the muscle on the back side of Rivera’s elbow, more or less at the base of the triceps. Rivera wasn’t cleared to throw a baseball at all yesterday, so the fact he played catch seems to be a good sign.

“Basically you know your body and those things are going to happen,” Rivera said. “You always have some aching feelings and soreness. I’m not concerned because I haven’t done nothing wrong. I suspect that it’s something that’s going to come and go away the same way that it came… I don’t think I ever felt 100 percent, I think, from the first day I started playing baseball. But if I feel 95 percent, I’ll be playing. Like I said, I can pitch now, but I don’t want to take a chance.”

Without Rivera, the Yankees will once again have Dave Robertson as their closer. Luis Ayala is available tonight, but Girardi is planning to stay away from Cory Wade — who’s thrown three of the past four days — so the bullpen is a little short in the late innings again.

“If we had to I was going to put (Robertson) in that spot (last night),” Giradri said. “I was comfortable doing that, but what it does is it shortens your bullpen, and that can become an issue.”

• Kind of funny: Rivera said if he felt good and thought he should play, he would plead his case to trainer Gene Monahan first because that’s the hardest person to convince. Rivera could start with Girardi, but… “I listen to Geno,” Girardi said.

• In other injury news, Eric Chavez felt some sort of lower abdominal discomfort this morning and is on his way to New York for tests. His lower back problem turned out to be nothing, and he was working out again. He went through a normal workout yesterday, felt good, then work up this morning with the problem. “They said his workout was great yesterday, too,” Girardi said.

• Rafael Soriano is scheduled to throw a bullpen tomorrow. “He’s only thrown fastballs,” Girardi said. “He’s got to throw to some hitters, some BP, and he’s probably got to go on the rehab. I think getting him back after the all-star break, like the first day, I don’t think that’s very feasible. I would hope not too far after that.”

• During this final stretch before the all-star game, Girardi wants to give all his regulars a little bit of rest and today was Mark Teixeira’s turn. “Some of the other guys got some days, and this would be his day,” Girardi said.

• Russell Martin had caught four days in a row, that’s why he’s out of the lineup. Girardi said Martin will probably get one more day off before the all-star break.

• Posada at first? “I feel pretty good,” Girardi said. “It think he’s done a pretty good job over there for us. He seems to know where to be at all times. He’s made some good plays on some ground balls, so I’m pretty comfortable.”

• Girardi said he’ll have to wait and see whether Derek Jeter will be cleared to play tomorrow.

• Pretty good chance Rivera won’t be going to the all-star game. “We’re just going to have to see,” Girardi said. “Depends how he feels. It might be a thing where the three days might help.”

• Any chance the all-star snub adds some motivation for CC Sabathia? “I think CC has enough motivation all the time when he goes out there,” Girardi said. “But it could. He might want to show people, I’m the league leader in wins and I belong on the all-star team, but I don’t think CC ever gets caught up in that.”

Michael Brantley LF
Asdrubal Cabrera SS
Travis Hafner DH
Carlos Santana 1B
Orlando Cabrera 3B
Grady Sizemore CF
Austin Kearns RF
Cord Phelps 2B
Lou Marson C

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “He’s the King here”06.30.11

CC Sabathia tried to pass the credit to his catcher. After 7.2 shutout innings. After a career-high 13 strikeouts. After his eighth win in his past nine starts, Sabathia tried to give the credit to Francisco Cervelli’s game calling.

Not even Cervelli was buying it.

“He’s the King here,” Cervelli said. “I give the target.”

Sabathia certainly received the royal treatment when he walked off the mound in the eighth inning. He’s tied for the Major League lead in wins. He’s the first pitcher since Tom Seaver to win 11 games in each of his first 11 seasons. Today’s 13 strikeouts were the most by a Yankees starter since Roger Clemens in 2002, and the most by a Yankees lefty since David Wells in 1998. The crowd roared their appreciation through a Yankee Stadium ovation that lasted until Sabathia disappeared into the dugout.

“I always think that’s nice for a player to hear that,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s not the reason I pull a guy in the middle of an inning — his pitch count just got so high — but it’s nice to hear. He’s really appreciated here, not only by us but by the fans. It’s good for him to hear.”

Girardi called today’s start “brilliant.” Cervelli said Sabathia’s breaking ball was “unbelievable.” Mark Teixeira said it was the best he’d ever seen Sabathia.

Maybe it was over-the-top analysis of a friend and a teammate, but Sabathia seems to inspire that sort of reaction. After today’s start, he was an unannounced guest at Dave Robertson’s High Socks for Hope fundraiser at the Hard Rock Cafe. He managed to dominate his former Brewers teammates, then speak highly of them in postgame interviews. He was careful to pass credit to Cervelli.

“CC could spend a week on a team and you’d fall in love with his personality,” Girardi said. “That’s the type of guy he is… He hangs out with everyone, he’s not a guy who hangs with a couple guys. He’s a guy that seems to attract people. People want to be around him, which is important, because during the course of the season, everyone goes through tough times. This is a guy you know you can count on that’s going to be the same every day and will be there for you. That’s extremely important.”

There are a lot of easy-to-like players in this game, and there are a handful of truly great players in this game. Sabathia’s managed to be both, and it showed this afternoon.

Here’s the King himself.

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• Mark Teixeira laughed off the idea of career home run No. 300 being a major milestone. “Seeing what Alex did last year and then saying, ‘Oh man, I got 300. Great.’” Teixeira said. “He hit 600 last year, so it puts it in perspective. It makes you realize you’ve got a long way to go.”

• Of course, Teixeira now leads baseball with 25 home runs this season, and according to Elias he’s only the third player in baseball history to hit 25 in each of his first nine seasons, joining Eddie Matthews and Albert Pujols.

• Teixeira’s never had this many home runs before the all-star break.

• All 13 of Sabathia’s strikeouts were swinging. Why? “We just tried to follow the hitters, what they think,” Cervelli said. “Every time we think they’re looking for fastballs, we throw breaking balls, and we change a lot.”

• Sabathia’s take on the strikeouts: “Just making pitches with two strikes. Earlier this season, I was giving up a lot of 0-2 hits and 1-2 hits. Today, we made a lot of good pitches.”

• Is Sabathia anxious about whether he’ll make the all-star team? “I want to go to the Bahamas,” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I pitch Tuesday, then Sunday, so the way I’m scheduled, I probably wouldn’t pitch in the game anyway.”

• Sabathia wouldn’t say whether he’d attend the all-star game if he were selected but unavailable (by the way, he also wouldn’t comment on what he thought about a six-man rotation).

• Bad job by Cervelli to let the one strikeout pitch get past him. Nice job to convert it into an out anyway with a great throw to first. “I’m lucky,” Cervelli said. “That guy runs a lot, and I just grabbed the ball and throw.”

• Sergio Mitre got loose in the bullpen, mostly as a side session to get some work after not throwing in about a week. “Good to go tomorrow,” he said.

• Mitre said he hasn’t been told a specific role he’ll play. “Starters have a role, and other than Robby and Mo, everyone is just mix and match,” he said. “That’s what it looks like.”

• This was the Yankees third shutout and sixth series sweep of the season. The five-game winning streak is a season-high. The Yankees had a total of six series sweeps all last season.

• The Yankees stole four bases in a game for the sixth time this season, doubling last year’s total for four-steal games. They’ve stolen 12 straight bases without being caught.

• In his career, Cervelli is hitting .383 with two outs and runners in scoring position. “It makes me feel happy,” Cervelli said. “I’ve been working a lot with K-Long. I was struggling two weeks ago, and sometimes it’s hard, but you have to make adjustments an try to make everything simple.”

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: Opportunities on the way06.10.11

Joe Girardi said he wasn’t holding out much hope. The Yankees doctors had seen Joba Chamberlain’s MRI results, and the Yankees manager was sure that their diagnosis was correct.

“I was pretty convinced that he was going to have surgery,” Girardi said.

Dr. James Andrews confirmed the diagnosis today, and Chamberlain will have surgery on Thursday. He’s likely lost for a year or so, certainly through the rest of this season and probably well into next season.

A Yankees bullpen that was seen as an overwhelming strength at the start of the spring training schedule now includes only three relievers who were projected to make the team when camp opened — Mariano Rivera, Dave Robertson and Boone Logan — and two of those three have been thrust into more significant roles than expected. Now it’s Luis Ayala who seems poised to take a larger-than-expected role. The Yankees will try some young guys, but Ayala’s experience essentially makes him the new Robertson, while Robertson becomes the new Chamberlain (who was already the new Rafael Soriano).

“(Ayala)’s become real important,” Girardi said. “He’d kind of taken Robby’s spot in the sixth, and now he’s going to be moved up to Robby’s spot in the seventh, so he’s become real important for us. He is a guy that has experience. He’s pitched in the back end of games, which I think is important. What we’ve seen from him is he has his good sinker, he comes in and throws strikes and he has a slider. He’s not afraid. He’s been through this before.”

The Yankees are expected to make a move before tonight’s game. We already know Kevin Whelan is on his way from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Once he arrives, he’ll be the first of what could be several internal options the Yankees look at in the late innings, trying to see who else might fit.

“You could see some guys that are going to get an opportunity, and we’re going to see what they can do,” Girardi said. “Obviously, when you start talking about pitching in the back end of games, a lot of times you prefer power arms or a lot of deception, and there’s some young kids down there — and some young kids in Double-A, and you probably even go down further — that have that, and they don’t have the experience. Some of them might get it.”

• Russell Martin texted Girardi this morning to say his back was feeling better, but the Yankees coaching staff told Girardi that Martin’s still not ready to play. Girardi said it’s just tightness. “We are going in the right direction,” Girardi said. “Maybe tomorrow is feasible. Maybe on Sunday. I’m hoping by this weekend we can play him.”

• Without Martin, the Yankees have leaned on Francisco Cervelli, who’s been throwing the ball into center field more often than the throws it to second base. Girardi and Tony Pena have been working with him to fix a mechanical flaw. “It’s similar to with a pitcher,” Girardi said. “If that front shoulder flies a little bit early, that ball’s taking off. And that’s what’s happening with him.”

• Girardi said Martin’s injury do not have him thinking about making a move to call up a catcher. “I think we’re OK for a while just because we do have Jorge in case of emergency,” Girardi said. “It would be different if we didn’t have Jorge.”

• Speaking of Posada, his son is feeling better two days after surgery. “He’s doing good,” Posada said. “He’s doing better.”

• Talked to Damaso Marte for a little while this afternoon. He’s playing catch, but only from about 20 feet. Much beyond that, his shoulder still feels sore. Playing light catch, though, the ball comes out “nice and easy” and Marte is still hopeful that he’ll be able to get himself back at some point after the all-star break.

• On Wednesday, the Indians optioned Shelley Duncan to Triple-A. It goes without saying that I was hoping to see him this weekend. He’s an easy guy to like, and an easy guy to root for.

• The Indians are one of the biggest surprises in baseball, a first-place team expected to finish at the bottom of the AL Central. “They’ve played well,” Girardi said. “They’ve pitched. Offensively, a lot of left-handed hitters. A lot of those guys are switch-hitters as well. They’re a young team that’s played well and they’ve gotten Grady Sizemore back. They’ve gotten huge contributions from Asdrubal Cabrera and there’s some experience there in bringing in Orlando Cabrera which I’m sure has helped out a lot and has helped out these young kids. Hafner, even though he’s been hurt, has had a pretty good year. I mean, this is a pretty good club, and they have some guys that have struggled but they’re still winning.”

• Tony Gwynn is one of the few players who would know, and he says the last 10 hits are the hardest to get on the way to 3,000. Derek Jeter is 10 away right now. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to get 3,000 hits,” Girardi said. “But I would imagine if I was at 2,990 it would be on my mind. But sometimes things just have a way of working out where it looks like it’s on your mind but it’s really not, or it’s on your mind and it looks like it’s not. I don’t think he’s ever going to let us know, but I’m sure it’s possible.”

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: Bad day, bad night, bad loss06.09.11

A.J. Burnett had tremendous success against the Red Sox when he was with Toronto, and he has yet to beat the Red Sox since coming to the Yankees. But Burnett didn’t want to talk about that tonight.

“I’m not in Toronto any more,” he said. “I’m tired of hearing that. That’s just retarded. If anything’s different, I made pitches in Toronto. I didn’t make pitches tonight. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

It was that kind of day for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira woke up feeling good, but everything after that was a debacle, capped by a clearly frustrated starting pitcher using the word “retarded” in a postgame interview. That usually doesn’t go over too well.

His choice of words aside, Burnett wasn’t necessarily wrong. It always comes down to making pitches, and Burnett didn’t make them tonight. But that was only part of the Yankees problem. Francisco Cervelli made two costly throwing errors, Brett Gardner got a bad read and failed to score on a wild pitch, and Eduardo Nunez somehow, someway managed to foul a ball off his own head.

For the Yankees, this day was a mess from the moment Joba Chamberlain put his right elbow into that MRI tube. It’s amazing to think it was only three days ago that the team seemed to be flying high after a terrific road trip. Now the Yankees are winless in their first five home games against the Red Sox for the first time since 1913.

“We’re one game back, I believe, so we’re not really in a hole,” Joe Girardi said. “Obviously we’re not happy with our record against the Red Sox, but you go out and win a game tomorrow, you’re tied, and they leave town, and you just keep plugging away.”

Here’s Girardi’s postgame.

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• Here’s Russell Martin describing his injury: “It just happened yesterday, after the game actually. It was during the workout. I went through my regular routine. I did my legs and then finished up with dead lifts. I did one rep, and as I was coming up, I felt something in my back and it just hasn’t felt right since.” Martin said he’s never felt anything like this.

• Here’s Gardner’s explanation of his bad read on the wild pitch in the sixth: “Initially I thought it hit him, and then I paused for a second. And then, when the ball came back off, it kind of bounced back to where Varitek was running back toward it, and it was too late at that point. I shouldn’t have froze.”

• Gardner said he saw Jeter motioning for him to run, but at that point, he through it was too late, and he didn’t want to take the chance with only one out.

• Hard to explain Cervelli. The guy came to the big leagues with a reputation as a very good defensive catcher, but he really hasn’t shown that lately. Tonight, two throws to second base sailed into the outfield, which didn’t help Burnett in the early innings. “I had to call him out to the mound,” Burnett said. “And (I) said, ‘Listen, we both need to clean it up. I’m not doing my job either.’ Just try to make it easy on him because he’s trying his hardest out there.”

• Burnett on the David Ortiz home run pitch: “If he doesn’t hit that ball out, he’s got a problem. It’s right down the middle, 3-2, and he basically did what he’s supposed to do with it.”

• Burnett said the two extra days of rest hurt him. “I was overly strong,” he said. “Pitches were going everywhere and I was a little out of it mechanically. That’s what happened.”

• Burnett said he didn’t see Ortiz’s home run reaction tonight — it wasn’t over-the-top — and he didn’t see it last night. Girardi shrugged off the idea that Ortiz is too comfortable at the plate in Yankee Stadium. “You’ve got to make your pitches, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “If you throw balls that are in the middle or a little off to the middle either way, guys are going to hit them. That’s it. You can get in situations where you make hitters uncomfortable, but if you don’t make your pitch, you’re not going to get them out.”

• Weird night for Boone Logan. He couldn’t have been worse against his first three hitters — single, walk, walk — then he retired the next four, including strikeouts against Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford. “It’s throwing strikes for him,” Girardi said. “The bottom line is getting ahead and being able to put people away, and he hasn’t been able to do that. He’s had a hard time getting ahead of hitters.”

• Talked to Jeff Marquez briefly. He came up in the Yankees system and seemed thrilled to be here. He had to rush to the airport in Chicago this afternoon to catch a flight that would get him to New York in time for the game. He said he told the cab driver to step on it, and he got to his gate 10 minutes before the plane pulled away.

• Jeter said he hadn’t talked to Jorge Posada since Posada’s son went in for surgery today. “I haven’t spoken to him, no,” Jeter said. “I’m sure I will today. Hopefully everything is good.”

Former Yankees spot starter Dustin Moseley hurt himself tonight.

• This loss matched the Yankees largest margin of defeat this season. It also matched their most runs allowed this season and their most runs allowed against the Red Sox in the new Yankee Stadium.

• Jeter’s strikeout in the third inning snapped a career-high stretch of 58 plate appearances without a K. According to Elias, that’s the longest such stretch by a Yankee since Hideki Matsui went 58 straight in 2008. Jeter also moved within 11 of career hit No. 3,000.

• Cervelli had his seventh career three-hit game, matching a career high. He reached base four times (also a walk). He had a bases-loaded single in the sixth and is now 9-for-16 (.563) in his career with the bases loaded. That’s all from the Yankees postgame notes.

• Alex Rodriguez’s solo homer in the fourth inning was the 624th of his career and gave him 1,865 career RBI, breaking a tie with Mel Ott for sole possession of ninth place on baseball’s all-time list.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 170 Comments →

Postgame notes: “He takes it upon himself”05.29.11

The biggest out was the one pictured above. It came on a bases-loaded cutter to Ichiro Suzuki, a guy with outstanding career numbers against the Yankees ace. CC Sabathia attacked him, and got a comebacker. He threw home, started a 1-2-3 double play, and walked of the mound with a fist pump. The yankees were already leading by seven, but it was only the fifth inning, and Sabathia seemed to know he’s just halted the biggest threat of the day.

“He just knows how to pitch,” Joe Girardi said. “When he has to give us distance, he knows what he has to do. He takes it upon himself that, ‘I’m going to go out and do it for you.’ If CC gets in a little jam, there’s no panic to him.”

Maybe it’s no coincidence that the Yankees seem to play their best baseball behind their best pitcher. Sure, they’ve had some stinkers behind Sabathia, but in his past eight starts, the Yankees have averaged more than eight runs. Their four highest-scoring games of the season have been Sabathia starts.

“I’ve got no complaints,” Sabathia said. “I don’t think anybody’s realized it yet, but I know.”

This was a good win. It doesn’t make up for Friday and Saturday, but it eases some of the bitterness. The lineup had a game it could be proud of, and the bullpen got a rest after being overworked the past two nights. Sabathia was two outs away from matching the two-day innings total for A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova.

“We’ve got our big boy on the mound,” Nick Swisher said. “You get one or two runs, you feel like you’re going to win the ballgame.”

Here’s Sabathia.

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• There was certainly not a sense of satisfaction in the Yankees clubhouse tonight, but it was certainly more lively than it had been the previous 48 hours or so. “I think these past couple of games have been really hard on us,” Swisher said. “Definitely not the way we would have liked them, but I just think that just goes to show the tenacity of this team to be able to come back today, especially after a late game last night, come in here today, no batting practice, everyone’s in the cage early, getting their swings in. Just that mental focus we had today, and really just did a tremendous job out there.”

• The big hit of the night belonged to Andruw Jones, who had his second double of the season with a two-out, three-run base hit that broke the game open in the third inning. “I thought that was the real turning point in the game,” Girardi said. “For him to get that (double) with the bases loaded and two outs, 5-0 is sure a lot better than 2-0. We wanted to ride CC a long time today because of our bullpen, so I thought that was huge.”

• Sabathia leads the Major Leagues in wins since his debut in 2001. He’s now won 163 games since then, breaking a tie with Roy Halladay who’s won 164. In his past three starts, Sabathia has pitched 25 innings with a 1.80 ERA. He’s won all three of those starts.

• The Yankees hit a home run within the first two innings of every game this series (Teixeira on Friday, Cano on Saturday and Swisher tonight). Of course, this was the first time an early lead actually lasted to the end.

• Swisher hit his third home run of the season, all of which have come against left-handed pitchers. He hadn’t homered since May 7.

• Swisher talked a little bit about his home run, but he also talked about falling behind and eventually drawing a walk against right-handed reliever Jeff Gray. “It was just a nice step in the right direction,” he said.

• Mark Teixeira has a six-game hitting streak and a five-game RBI streak. In his past 10 games, Teixeira is hitting .262 with six home runs and 13 RBI.

• Another scoreless inning for Lance Pendleton, meaning every Yankees reliever got into this three-game series. Pendleton still hasn’t been charged with a run.

• Curtis Granderson went 3-for-5. He’s hitting .455 in his past five game.

• Eduardo Nunez had an RBI triple (which ended with a not-so-graceful slide into third). He also managed to play an entire game without making a bad throw. After not having an RBI in April, he has seven RBI in May.

• Every Yankees starter had a hit, but only Granderson had more than one.

• The Yankees have not been swept by the Mariners since May 3-5, 2002 in old Yankee Stadium. They haven’t been swept in Seattle since 1996.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 138 Comments →

Postgame notes: “I think we all needed a day like this”05.08.11

Walking into the Yankees clubhouse after this game, Kevin Long’s words were stuck in my head. Just a few days ago, before a game in Detroit, the Yankees hitting coach seemed to suggest something like this was coming.

“(Derek Jeter)’s not hot, he’s not cold,” Long said. “He just hasn’t went through a streak yet. He’s going to get hot and go through a hot streak.”

Jeter had a hit in every game this road trip. He raised his batting average from .242 to .276, and in the past two games he more than doubled his extra-base hits for the season. Last night he drove a ball off the wall in left field, and tonight he went deep to right-center in back-to-back at-bats, once to pull the Yankees within a run, then to put them in front.

“I think we all needed a day like this,” Long said tonight. “It feels good to have Jeet come out and swing the bat the way he did. The other day in Detroit he hit those three balls good. He’s had a couple of games since then that have been really good, and then today was the icing on the cake. We’ll take it from here.”

When Jeter’s first home run got just over the wall in the fifth inning, Joe Girardi turned to Long on the Yankees bench and said, “We’re going to have to talk about him again.” Last week, Jeter grew so tired of discussing his swing and his numbers that he began refusing to discuss those things before games. He would talk at length postgame, but not pregame. He’d already dismissed some of the mechanical changes he’d worked on this spring, and he was trying to get himself comfortable. He decided that discussing it pregame was contrary to that goal.

“When you come here, you’re going to try to not think about things and try to stay positive,” Jeter said. “It’s not the first time we’ve scuffled a little bit, but you still have to have confidence… Sometimes the results can be frustrating, but going in there every day you have to have confidence that you’re going to be able to produce. It doesn’t always work out, but it’s starting to.”

A seven-game hitting streak doesn’t mean Jeter’s out of the woods, and a two homer game doesn’t mean that he’s finishing hitting the ball on the ground, but Jeter’s finally gone through a little bit of a hot streak, and it’s surely taken some of the pressure and — maybe — a little bit of the attention off the Yankees captain.

“You want everything to happen in one day, but it doesn’t always happen in one day,” he said. “It takes a little while. I’m well aware that you have to have patience.”

Here’s Jeter’s postgame interview.

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• The Yankees kind of owed CC Sabathia this win. He’d missed out on so many wins earlier this season, he deserved to sneak a win this afternoon. Sabathia said his fastball command was actually better than last time, but walks and errors put the Yankees in an early 4-0 hole. “Just try to leave it right there, make it so that’s all they get,” Sabathia said. “These guys are going to battle, put together good at-bats. They did, and we ended up coming back.”

• More proof the Yankees offense is making up for those blown win opportunities earlier this season: The Yankees have scored 12 runs in a game three times, and Sabathia’s gotten the win each time.

• Both Sabathia and Francisco Cervelli said his changeup command was a significant problem early. “Just calm down because it was real tough the first inning,” Cervelli said. “And then the wind was too crazy. Changeup crazy. But he made adjustments. Everybody knows who CC is already.”

• Curtis Granderson hit his 11th home run of the season, most in the American League. He didn’t hit his 11th homer last year until August 14, in his 91st game of the season. Tonight’s was his fifth home run against a left-handed pitcher, which matches a career-high for home runs off lefties in a season.

• Jeter facts: His first home run ended a streak of 259 at-bats without a home run. It was the second longest homer-less streak of his career. He went 311 at-bats without one in 1997… This was the second longest he’d ever gone before hitting his first home run in a season. He went 119 at-bats without one this year and 128 without on in 2008… He got his first steal tonight in his 30th game. That’s his second longest wait before stealing a bag. His longest was 38 games, also in 2008… This was his second four-hit game of the season. He had only one four-hit game last year.

• Cervelli hit the first grand slam of his career and the first he could remember since High-A in 2007. “I’m close to Alex now,” he said. “Lou Gehrig and Manny. I’m going there now.”

• How crazy is it that Cervelli, of all people, can rattle off the all time grand slam leaders? You think he’s been eyeing that record and keeping track?

• Girardi said he addressed today’s defensive mistakes with the team. The Yankees played an ugly game early. “I told our club, ‘We have to stop making it so hard on ourselves,’” Girardi said. “We’re a good team, but we’re making it harder on ourselves. We’re capable of playing better.”

• Sabathia had two of the Yankees season-high four errors. On the first one, it seemed like the grass might have played a part in Sabathia being forced to make a tougher than expected play. Not the case. “I was just rushing,” he said. “I had way more time than I thought, I just didn’t pick the ball up.”

• The other two errors belonged to Brett Gardner, who failed to scoop the ball while fielding a single, and Alex Rodriguez, who made a nice play at third and then made a bad throw to first. “That play has to be made 10 out of 10 times,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just kind of an unusual play. I was almost getting ready to throw the ball to a kid in the stands.”

• Rodriguez and Long have been working on his leg kick, which has gotten too high. Both were encouraged by his at-bats today. “I was happy with all my swings today,” Rodriguez said. “I wish I’d get three or four hits, but the bottom line is we won a game. Overall, my balance was good, my strike zone control was good, and if I do that, there’s going to be a lot of damage.”

• Long, Girardi and Jeter all scoffed at the idea that the Yankees are too reliant on home runs. “Come on, this needs to stop,” Long said. ” You score runs however you’re going to score runs. We have guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, and because we’re strong and they hit a ball good, we talk about that’s the only way we can score runs. We need to do a better job, yes, with a man on third, less than two outs, of getting the guy in. I don’t care how we score runs. I don’t think anybody in this room cares how we score runs. We need to stay consistent.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 93 Comments →

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