The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

The three exceptions08.08.11

The Yankees have used 40 different players this season, a list that includes brief stints by Buddy Carlyle, Steve Garrison, Brian Gordon, Jeff Marquez, Amauri Sanit, Brandon Laird and Greg Golson. They’ve sent 17 different players to the disabled list, including two starting pitchers, two setup relievers and two starting infielders.

But after 113 games, the current roster looks remarkably similar to the Opening Day roster. Only three current Yankees were not on the team on March 31.

Francisco Cervelli
In place of Gustavo Molina
Really, this was Cervelli’s job all along. It was momentarily up for grabs when Cervelli was hurt in spring training, but his temporary replacement, Molina, got exactly three at-bats before Cervelli was activated. It might be a different story had Jesus Montero won the job out of camp, but he didn’t, and Cervelli’s taken his familiar spot on the bench. He’s more-or-less become Sabathia’s personal catcher in a behind-the-place rotation that lets Russell Martin get a regular day off every five days. So far the Yankees have stuck with Cervelli rather than call Montero up from Triple-A.

Cory Wade
In place of Joba Chamberlain
I guess this is the way it’s worked out: Rafael Soriano has replaced Chamberlain in the seventh inning, Dave Robertson has replaced Soriano in the eighth, and Wade has replaced Robertson as the middle-innings, get-out-of-trouble reliever. Signing Wade to a minor league deal on June 13 was one of the best and least noticed moves of the season. He has the lowest WHIP on the team, even lower than the closer. For a while it seemed that Luis Ayala was emerging as the the top reliever beyond the late-inning trio, but that distinction clearly belongs to Wade these days. He got a big out for the Yankees on Friday, and he’s been without question the organization’s best in-season addition.

Hector Noesi
In place of Alex Rodriguez
With Rodriguez on the disabled list, the Yankees are carrying an extra pitcher, and essentially that’s the spot Noesi is filling. He’s taken the role that belonged to Bartolo Colon on Opening Day — a multi-inning reliever capable of pitching key late innings if necessary — and now that Colon has joined the original five starters, Noesi is filling the open spot in the bullpen. Given the Yankees young rotation depth, it’s inevitable that some young starters are going to be moved into the bullpen, and Noesi has taken to the role. He’s had some rocky outings — he struggled on Saturday — but as a long man, he’s been generally reliable and occasionally outstanding.

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Postgame notes: “When I’m right, I can get anybody”08.06.11

It’s easy to see the trend developing between CC Sabathia and the Red Sox. The numbers paint a pretty convincing picture, and it’s not a good one for the Yankees ace: He’s 16-2 with a 2.11 ERA against the rest of baseball, but 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against Boston. He’d allowed a total of seven runs in his previous eight starts, but allowed seven runs in six innings today.

“I can see (being worried) if I hadn’t beat them in the last three years,” Sabathia said. “But I have. So that gives me confidence to know that I can go out and pitch well against this team.”

The Yankees are quick to point out that Sabathia allowed just one run in one of those Boston losses, and it was one bad inning that cost him in another. Instead of looking for broad story lines, they focused on the specifics of this start. Again, the evidence was convincing.

Sabathia: “Fastball command wasn’t there. Everybody knows I throw everything off my fastball. It was just cutting and up-and-out and just all over the place. It was a tough day today.”

Francisco Cervelli: “Early in the game we had no fastball control, so it was tough with the Red Sox lineup. It’s tough, man. If you get behind, if you make mistakes, you’re going to pay because they’re really good.”

Larry Rothschild: “I think you need all your pitches in a game like today. I think he got into a little bit of a pattern of throwing fastballs when he didn’t have to in some situations, and he didn’t command it as good as he has been. He was up a lot. Even the strikes were up and away. They weren’t located as well as he usually locates them. It was one of those days for him.”

Fastball command was the issue today. Sabathia said it was fastball command that got him into hitters’ counts, and it was fastball command that left hitable pitches over the plate. If there was an adjustment to be made, it didn’t happen quickly enough.

“When I’m right, I can get anybody,” Sabathia said. “It’s just one of those things.”

Here’s Sabathia. It’s kind of hard to hear parts of it, but he did his interview out in the concourse so bad audio is unavoidable.

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Three comments about pitch selection, and whether Sabathia should have adjusted without his fastball command:

Sabathia: “It’s just me not recognizing it early enough and going to other pitches. Maybe use my changeup a little more, maybe use my cutter a little more. In some of those hitters counts, I was just trying to make a pitch with a fastball and it just wasn’t working out for me.”

Rothschild: “They’re going to have prolonged at-bats and they’re going to make adjustments. You have to be able to make adjustments, and the only way to do that is to have command of more than one pitch.”

Cervelli: “Maybe if the fastball is in a good location and they get jammed, it’s another opinion. I’ve got my plans. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s wrong.”

• The pitching matchup seemed lopsided in the Yankees favor, but John Lackey was able to limit the damage. The Yankees were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, and they left nine men on base. The leadoff man reached base in the sixth, seventh and ninth without the Yankees scoring a run.

• The best chance to get back in the game came when the first three batters reached in the fifth. The Yankees got only one run out of it because Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira struck out, and Robinson Cano grounded to third. “Boston had already done what they needed to do,” Granderson said. “We had to play catch-up and we weren’t able to go ahead and get even.”

• On the other side, the decisive blow was certainly Jacoby Ellsbury’s two-out, three-run homer in the fourth. Ellsbury doubled his previous career-high with six RBI. “It’s another missed location,” Sabathia said of the home run pitch. “Two fastballs down and away, and then I give one up and out over the plate like he likes it. He just put a good swing on it.”

• Against Sabathia: David Ortiz was hitless, Adrian Gonzalez had one hit, Carl Crawford went 3-for-3 and Ellsbury was 1-for-2 with the home run and a sac fly. Lefties are hitting .200 against Sabathia this season, but Crawford and Ellsbury were especially damaging against him today.

• Seven runs was a season-high for Sabathia. The five-run fourth was his second-worst inning of the season.

• One positive note on Sabathia: He struck out six, giving him nine straight starts with at least that many strikeouts. That’s a career-long streak, and last Yankees pitchers to have that many consecutive six-strikeout games was Roger Clemens in 2001.

• Girardi said he believes Hector Noesi will be fine after being hit by a line drive in the ninth. The ball hit his chest and bounced up to hit his face. “I think he’s fine, but he’s probably a little sore,” Girardi said.

• Speaking of the bullpen, Girardi said he believes the bullpen will be fine for tomorrow, but he will have Phil Hughes just in case. “If I need him, depending on what kind of game it is,” Girardi said.

• Cervelli went 3-for-4, improving to 6-for-10 against the Red Sox this season and 18-for-42 in 13 career games against Boston. He’s a .478 hitter in seven career games at Fenway.

• Robinson Cano has gone hitless in back-to-back games at Fenway for the first time in his career.

• Mark Teixeira’s team-leading 32nd home run was his four career homer off Daniel Bard. No other major leaguer has more than one home run against Bard.

• Granderson stole his 100th career base in the fourth inning. He also scored his Major League-leading 100th run of the season.

• Girardi on Alex Rodriguez: “He took BP, took some ground balls and moved a little bit. Basically the same stuff he’s been doing, a little bit more, though.”

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: Hughes’ next step still uncertain08.06.11

Day game after a night game, news was predictably light in the Yankees clubhouse this afternoon. A few players were watching one of those racing movies on television — I’m sure it had something to do with driving fast and driving furious — and batting practice was pretty much the same as always.

The only curious situation involves Phil Hughes, who’s next appearance is still a little bit up in the air. He’s definitely available out of the bullpen tomorrow — that would be his normal turn in the rotation — and Joe Girardi said he could probably use Hughes today because his pitch count was so low on Tuesday.

If the Yankees don’t need him tonight, they’ll have to decide whether to kep him available as a reliever tomorrow, or go ahead and have him throw a bullpen in preparation for Tuesday’s start.

“If he’s not going to get in a game today, we could have him throw a side tomorrow if we feel that our bullpen’s in good shape,” Girardi said. “Or we could do it during the game.”

Basically, the Yankees could be playing it by ear well into Sunday’s game. The fact Ivan Nova is on turn for Tuesday gives the Yankees plenty of short-term options with Hughes.

• According to The Associated Press, Alex Rodriguez took 43 swings during batting practice today in Tampa. It as his first BP session since knee surgery, and he also took about 30 swings off a tee and 66 more during soft toss. He also took grounders and increased his running during a 70-minute workout.

• Interesting note from Joel Sherman who says the Yankees were planning to option Ivan Nova after Thursday’s start, but he was so good they couldn’t make the move. Sherman writes that the Yankees could stick with a six-man rotation for a while longer because it lets them rest their veterans.

• Could Rafael Soriano be available in back-to-back games? “He has done it (during his rehab assignment),” Girardi said. “He did it down there. I will check with him today to see how he physically feels and then we’ll make a decision. Let him play catch and do all his things.”

• Girardi on why Francisco Cervelli has worked so well with CC Sabathia: “CC has thrown tremendous all year long. Cervy has a couple of years with him. You can go back to when Cervy caught him in ’09, caught him in ’10 and in ’11. I think that’s helpful where Freddy and Bart he didn’t necessarily see. He didn’t catch a ton of Hughsey. Knows Nova. But I think part of it is the experience he has with CC.”

• There was a lot of pregame talk about the job Boone Logan has done lately, including that huge out last night. “I go back to Cincinnati,” Girardi said. “That seems to be when he got on a roll. And I don’t remember when we were there. It think it was in the month of June. I don’t remember. He seemed to really get on a roll there for us, and he’s remained on it, and he’s gotten a lot of big outs for us.”

• Forgot to mention this last night: Austin Romine has been placed on the Double-A disabled list with a sore back.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Kevin Youkilis 3B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Aviles RF
Carl Crawford LF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Marco Scutaro SS

Associated Press photos

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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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 12 Comments →

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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 275 Comments →

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

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 142 Comments →

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