Thursday notes: “I don’t expect miracles” • 03.15.12
Both Joe Girardi and Freddy Garcia said pretty much the same thing today: It’s just too early to know anything for certain. Garcia had his right hand heavily wrapped this morning, but he’s still not sure how much time he’ll have to miss after being hit by a comebacker on Wednesday.
“Right now I don’t think about it,” Garcia said, “because I went to the hospital yesterday, they took x-rays and everything is fine. So, I just have to wait. I move my fingers good, so I don’t think I have to have any problems.”
Girardi said he’s expecting at least one more day of treatment. The injury seems to be close to the same spot where Eduardo Nunez has experienced soreness for a week and a half now.
“I don’t expect miracles,” Girardi said. “When you’ve got swelling in your hand, it’s going to take time to get rid of it. I’m not going to scratch him, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he didn’t make his next start on his day. Maybe a couple of days later or something.”
• Two more notes about Michael Pineda’s fastball: 1) Girardi said he hasn’t seen any signs of Pineda trying to overthrow just to reach 95, and 2) Pineda said he’s much more focused on hitting his spots than hitting the mid-90s.
• Russell Martin on Pineda’s fastball: “I think he was like 88-90 in Clearwater, so it’s coming along. I’m not worried about it. I just want to see the guy pitch. He’s a pitcher like anybody else out there. I just wanted to see him execute pitches. His velocity, he has it in him, it’s just a matter of time. As soon as you put on your uniform, you’re in New York and you get the juices flowing, the velocity is going to pick up no matter what.”
• And if you’re looking for more fastball specifics: “(Pineda) was a little inconsistent trying to throw his fastball away to right-handers. It looked like he was pulling off a little bit.” Martin said it’s an easy thing to correct and could be fixed in a single bullpen.
• Ramiro Pena was trying to steal second base, and just as he went into his slide, his spike stuck in the dirt. That’s when he sprained his right ankle, not when he actually made contact with the bag. He estimated that he’ll miss only two or three days, but Girardi said that might be optimistic. “We’ll see about that,” Girardi said. “I imagine it’s going to be pretty sore tomorrow. Sometimes adrenaline helps you out in a situation like that.”
Other injury updates:
• Dave Robertson was scheduled to play catch today and on track to throw a bullpen this weekend.
• Russell Branyan still hasn’t played this spring and is getting an epidural for his sore back.
• George Kontos threw another batting practice.
• Manny Delcarmen is throwing off a half mound.
• The Nationals announced a strained hamstring for Chien-Ming Wang, who stumbled trying to cover first base. It’s obviously a tough break for a guy who finally seemed to be healthy and effective again.
• Martin was knocked down on the play that left Wang injured. “It happened in slow motion,” Martin said. “It was weird. I tucked pretty good. If I had fell differently, it could have been worse. I kind of just rolled with it. It’s the ninja coming out right there.”
• Apparently the Yankees saved all of their excitement for after the media was down in the clubhouse. They won the game 8-5, having rallied with four runs in the seventh and two runs in the eighth. Jose Gil is hitting .750 this spring and had a two-run single. Melky Mesa and Bill Hall both doubled in the game. Hall and Justin Maxwell each had two hits, continuing a nice spring for Maxwell (he’s hitting .375 with two stolen bases). Maxwell, Jayson Nix and Andruw Jones each stole a bag today.
• Clay Rapada pitched into and out of some trouble, but finished with 1.1 scoreless innings. Mike O’Connor and Adam Warren combined for a scoreless ninth. In between, Brett Marshall allowed two runs in 2.1 innings and Juan Cedeno was charged with a run in his two-thirds of an inning.
Associated Press photos
Wednesday notes: Mitchell steals the show • 03.14.12
Manny Banuelos is considered one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and there have been days — both this spring and last spring — when he’s shown every bit of that potential. Today was not one of those days, and it was instead often-overshadowed D.J. Mitchell who stole the show.
“(Banuelos) couldn’t throw his secondary pitches for strikes and he was behind,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s just a tough combination. Look at what D.J. Mitchell did. He was able to throw his curveball and his changeup when he was behind in the count to get back in the count and throw some fastballs for strikes. Manny just really struggled with his command.”
Banuelos labored through a four-run fifth inning when he allowed three hits, walked two batters and coughed up Edwin Encarnacion’s second home run of the day. If previous starts have been a reminder of what he can become, today was a reminder that he’s still very young with inconsistent command. It’s nothing that can’t be sorted out, but there’s still some development to be done.
“He’s a young guy and he’s got four pitches to be in the big leagues,” Francisco Cervelli said. “But with the experience, he’s going to learn how you can make adjustments during the game and have more patience. It’s just a bad day. Next time he’s going to come back and of what he always does because it’s great. I think he’s top three over here, best rookie guys.”
As for the top rookie in camp? Mitchell is making his case. He closed today’s game with three hitless innings, striking out four and walking none. Often labeled as a sinkerballer, Mitchell was drawing praise just last week from a Yankees official who said he doesn’t get enough credit for his secondary pitches. Mitchell does generate a lot of ground balls, but they don’t have to come from his two-seamer. He can get them with his changeup, curveball and slider. He did hit two batter today, but through seven innings in big league camp, Mitchell has allowed just three hits.
He was awfully good this afternoon, and Girardi noticed.
• Obvoiusly the Yankees got good news on Freddy Garcia’s injured right hand, but there will be considerably curiosity tomorrow to find out whether the injury will cause him to miss significant time. “That’s why we try to have depth every year in case you do run into something freaky like this injury,” Girardi said before hearing the x-ray results. “I hope it’s not going to keep him down, but we’ll find out.”
• Garcia was pitching well at the time of the injury. He’d allowed one run through three innings and had just stranded two runners in the bottom of third. Edwin Encarnacion’s comebacker came in the first at-bat of the fourth. “Freddy’s Freddy,” Girardi said. “He commands all his offspeed. He commands his fastball. He changes speeds. And that’s exactly what he did today. His split was effective. Just got his hand in the way. That’s the only thing I didn’t like.”
• Cervelli on how Garcia was pitching for the injury: “It was great. It was really, really good. The split was good A lot of fastballs today. I think he was throwing 90, a lot of movement in the fastball. Really good. His plan was really good today.”
• It’s a positive sign that Dave Robertson was able to jog without pain, but Girardi said he’ll need to throw a few times on the side before he starts getting into games again. “He’s been out long enough that I think he’s got to do some bullpens,” Girardi said.
• Girardi seems to be used to getting velocity questions. This was the first thing he said about Robertson’s half hour on a treadmill: “I don’t have the speed, but there was no pain.”
• In between Garcia’s three innings and Mitchell’s three innings, both Banuelos and Cory Wade pitched an inning. Wade gave up a two-run homer to J.P. Arencibia, letting Garcia’s final base runner come around to score. Wade also had two strikeouts in his inning.
• In spring training, the media is usually in the clubhouse by the fifth or sixth inning, so I didn’t see any of the Yankees seventh-inning rally. They scored four runs in the seventh, all of them generated by non-starters. Doug Bernier had a bases-loaded, two-run double and Dewayne Wise followed with his own two-run double. Wise also had a stolen base in the inning.
• The one Yankees run I did see came on Curtis Granderson’s RBI double in the third inning. It was one of two doubles for Granderson who’s hitting .316 this spring. Granderson and Wise each had two hits.
• Other Yankees with hits: Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Mark Teixeira, Cole Garner, Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix and Cervelli. Cervelli and Garner each doubled. The Yankees lost 7-5.
Associated Press photos
This was more like it. After a somewhat erratic spring debut, Manny Banuelos looked more like an elite pitching prospect on the verge of the big leagues this afternoon. His fastball was in the mid-90s and he mixed offspeed pitches without walking anyone. He struck out three in two scoreless innings.
“I think he battled some nerves his first time out,” catcher Russell Martin said. “He looked like he was a little erratic. This time out, he was just pitching. Powering his fastball, downward plane, and he looked like he just had more control of all his pitches. So I think as we progress here, he’s just going to sharpen up.”
The Yankees have seen improvement in each of their top pitching prospects. Banuelos showed it today. Dellin Betances showed it yesterday. David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell and Adam Warren have been pretty sharp all spring, drawing consistent praise from Joe Girardi.
“I thought (Banuelos) attacked the zone better and was able to get his secondary pitches over,” Girardi said. “I thought Betances made a big jump too, yesterday. Betances was aggressive yesterday, threw some strikes and was throwing 95. You’re trying to get them more comfortable to attack the zone with their good stuff. I think we saw it from both of them.”
Expectation is that both Banuelos and Betances have next to zero chance of making the big league roster. They’re ticketed for Triple-A, and might not even be the first pitchers called up if the Yankees need a spot starter. But the Yankees have seen progress, and all eyes are on each of their outings.
Today it was Banuelos’ turn to shine.
“He’s got great stuff, no question,” Martin said. “But he still has to work on his changeup, and he still has to work on his breaking ball command for him to be who he wants to be. But it’s still early in the spring, and from this outing compared to the last, it’s already a nice leap forward. He definitely has the stuff. He’s got a lot of life on his fastball. It’s easy. He struck a couple guys out just elevating his fastball. But the main thing for him, he’s the type of guy who will get himself in trouble. He’s not going to get banged around because his stuff’s so good. But you don’t want the guy to walk guys and create his own troubles. And that’s what we’re trying to keep him from doing. Just make sure that he’s throwing the ball over the plate and using all his pitches.”
• Not much to say about Freddy Garcia’s outing. He went three scoreless innings with two strikeouts and one hit, keeping his pitch count low and working quickly. “Vintage Freddy,” is what Girardi called it. Before the game, Garcia told Martin that he wanted to work on his changeup a little bit, and Garcia said his changeup was arguably his best pitch of the day.
• Martin on Garcia: “His pitch count was relatively low because he got contact. He was throwing strikes. That’s what you want from him, just to be able to throw all his pitches over the plate, and induce contact. That’s what he did.”
• It was just yesterday that Joba Chamberlain told me he would begin throwing breaking balls on Sunday. Turns out, he’s ahead of even his own schedule. Chamberlain wound up throwing breaking balls this morning, throwing five sliders for the first time since Tommy John surgery. “Once I threw the first two, the last three were a lot better,” he said. Chamberlain went through his usual routine of 10 pitches off flat ground, 20 off a mound, a short rest, then 10 more off the mound. When that was finished, he threw all five sliders with his catcher standing up so that he wouldn’t feel the need to overthrow and keep the ball down.
• Most of the pitching attention today was on Garcia and Banuelos, but I thought Mitchell look pretty sharp. He’s known for that sinker, but he really has to use his changeup and breaking ball to stay effective, and today he got a swinging strike three with a good changeup that had good movement. He pitched two scoreless, allowing one hit and one walk.
• Juan Cedeno is probably the longest of long shots to make this team as a left-handed releiver, but today he came in to face one batter — big league lefty Freddie Freeman — and Cedeno got a strikeout. Kevin Whelan closed out the win with the final two outs.
• The 3-0 win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Yankees.
• Great play by Martin to get Michael Bourne out on a bunt in the third inning. It was a pretty good bunt up the third-base line, and Martin made a kind of twirling throw to get one of the fastest players in baseball. “That’s as good as it gets from a catcher,” Girardi said. “There aren’t too many people who can make that play, just because of his athleticism.”
• Even though the CT scan came back negative, the Yankees are taking things slow with Eduardo Nunez’s sore right hand. “We said, ‘Don’t take (batting practice) today and let’s see where you are tomorrow,’” Girardi said. As of right now, Nunez is not scheduled to make tomorrow’s trip to play the Braves.
• No one had more than one hit today, but four Yankees — Martin, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez and Doug Bernier — did have doubles in the win. It was Swisher’s second double of the spring. Robinson Cano picked up his second RBI. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Melky Mesa and Gustavo Molina also had hits.
• For Sunday’s split-squad games, the plan is for the big league outfielders to travel to Fort Myers with Phil Hughes. The big league infielders will stay in Tampa to play behind CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. Girardi is going to the road game. I’m still making up my mind.
Associated Press photos
Happy Thanksgiving for Freddy Garcia • 11.24.11
Happy Thanksgiving, Yankees fans. It appears to have been a happy one for Freddy Garcia. Multiple reports have him agreeing to a new one-year deal. Here’s one of them: http://es.pn/sN1qNM
Garcia started 25 games last season and did surprising well for the most part, at 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA.
So do you like CC, Nova, Hughes, Burnett, Garcia? There will be all those young, promising starters waiting on-deck at Triple-A as well. Or would you like to bring in another decent veteran for the rotation? Just asking.
Hope you all had a great holiday.
Last winter, Brian Cashman’s best offseason signing was a minor league deal with Freddy Garcia. That contract was a steal long before Garcia started Game 2 of the division series, and in theory, a similar deal would make sense for the Yankees again in 2012.
“The conversation I have to have with him (this winter) is different than what I had last winter,” Cashman said.
Cashman said he doesn’t expect a non-roster invitation to be enough to land Garcia this winter, not after he went 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA and provided some rotation stability from start to finish. Garcia seems like a good fit for the Yankees — still relatively cheap, provides rotation depth without a long-term commitment — but his value has gone up.
“I liked what he did for us this last year,” Cashman said. “Obviously he was good enough to run the whole distance.”
A few other very quick notes:
• Cashman said he’s going through the usual “dances” of checking in with agents and getting a feel for the market. “I haven’t made any offers to anybody but expressed an interest in talking further,” Cashman said. “That’s it.” Cashman said he hasn’t received any offers either. It’s just a lot of talking right now.
• Cashman laughed a little bit about the sudden flurry of calls he’s gotten from reporters about Cuban center fielder Yeonis Cespedes. Cashman wouldn’t say whether he’s interested in the player, only said that the Yankees have scouted him.
• Without getting into specifics, Cashman said he’s spoken to other Yankees free agents — not only Garcia — but again, no offers are on the table one way or the other.
• Does the thin free agent market create a problem of potentially overspending on a player? “I guess it would be bad if I felt like I had to spent the money regardless,” Cashman said. “But that’s not what I feel.”
Associated Press photo
Eight men out • 11.03.11
Last winter, when Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter became free agents, there never any real doubt they’d end up back with the Yankees. This winter, there’s no guarantee that any of the Yankees free agents will be back. Several would be logical fits, but none is a slam dunk for the Yankees to re-sign.
Today is the first day free agents are allowed to negotiate with every team — not just their previous team — meaning it’s suddenly open season for these eight Yankees.
Signed as a minor league free agent late last winter, Ayala landed the last spot on the big league roster out of spring training, then stuck with the team all season. He was surprisingly effective, and for a short time — when Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain were hurt — he settled in as a key late-inning reliever. He may have pitched well enough to earn a big league deal, but should the Yankees be the team to give it to him? Most of their bullpen spots are accounted for as it is.
From superstar in Oakland to role player in New York, Chavez is still deciding whether he wants to keep playing. Injuries have taken their toll, and if he’s going to play again, it’s almost certainly going to be in a situation similar to this season. The Yankees have a place for a player like Chavez. Whether that player is Chavez himself may depend on whether Chavez decides to play again.
Maybe the biggest surprise of the season, Colon clearly faded in the second half, and that may be cause for enough concern that the Yankees won’t want to bring him back. It would be impossible to count on Colon to be effective through an entire season, but keeping him in a relief role might keep him fresh and effective. Certainly Colon opened some eyes, but what kind of deal would it take to bring him back, and has all of the lightning escaped the bottle?
The Yankees No. 5 starter out of spring training was their No. 3 starter in the playoffs. Garcia is what he is — he doesn’t throw hard and gets by on guts and savvy — but he’s proven he can be effective in this form. The Yankees have a large batch of young starters climbing through the system, and Garcia might be a perfect short-term commitment for back-of-the-rotation depth. He’s not the only fit, but he could be a good fit.
After a slow first half, Jones was exactly what the Yankees hoped for in the second half, and they’re once again going to have a spot for a right-handed outfielder who can be a platoon starter in the corners. Jones is in the same boat as Garcia and Chavez: He’s the type of player the Yankees will want for next season, but he’s not the only one who could fill that role.
At this point, I’m not sure anyone knows what Marte could provide. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since July of 2010, and he’s coming back from shoulder surgery that limited him to just a few minor league innings this year. The Yankees could use another left-handed reliever, and there’s a chance Marte would accept a minor league deal to prove himself in spring training. If not, it’s hard to see him coming back to the Yankees.
The Yankees didn’t have room for Mitre last spring, and they shipped him to Milwaukee for Chris Dickerson. When he came back to the Yankees mid-season — this year’s version of Chad Gaudin — Mitre lasted all of four outings before he was on the disabled list and lost for the season. Obviously the Yankees like Mitre, but his time might have come and gone with plenty of in-house options to fill a long-relief/spot-starter role.
Nothing new to be said. Even before his career-worst season, it was unclear whether the Yankees would have a place for Posada next season. They clearly no longer view Posada as a catcher, and they have need to give DH at-bats to Alex Rodriguez — not to mention Jesus Montero — and if Posada’s no longer a catcher, he’s limited to DH and a few backup appearances in the field. It’s not a comfortable situation for either side, but Posada’s time with the Yankees might have ended.
Moving forward: The rotation • 10.10.11
Brian Cashman calls it the “key the kingdom,” and the game treats it as such. Starting pitching is the highest commodity in baseball these days, and the Yankees have made it a priority ever since the winter of 2008 when they signed CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, essentially setting the stage for the 2009 World Series.
It was a priority again last season, and it will be a priority again this winter.
That priority starts with Sabathia. If he opts out, as he’s expected to do, the Yankees will lose their ace. The top starter on the free agent market is C.J. Wilson, who’s been awfully good these past two years in Texas, but that’s the extent of his rotation experience. Sabathia is a proven commodity, even with his so-so last two months of the regular season.
Beyond Sabathia, the Yankees have Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes returning. They also have Hector Noesi and a series of young, minor league starters who could compete for spots.
Otherwise, the Yankees have to choose their targets and decide who rounds out the group.
Freddy Garcia opened some eyes this season, and he could be worth a return trip the Bronx. Bartolo Colon’s second half should raise some red flags, but he certainly gave the Yankees more than they could have expected. It’s probably safe to say Brian Gordon’s time has come and gone.
Is Wilson just the guy to bring some left-handed balance, and a reliable No. 2 behind Sabathia? Is someone like Edwin Jackson worth a middle-rotation spot? Is someone like Rich Harden worth the health risk? Is there a pitcher on the trade market who’s worth dangling Jesus Montero?
Moving forward means answering those questions, but first things first, it means resolving the Sabathia issue and giving the team a legitimate No. 1.
Associated Press photo
Joe Girardi said he woke up this morning feeling no different than any other day. He didn’t hear from anyone in the Yankees front office, didn’t change his daily routine. It was just another day, except this one came with the possibility of elimination looming large in tonight’s game.
“You understand that,” Girardi said. “And you think about how hard you worked. With the players, how hard they worked all year long. You don’t want it to end today. You don’t ever want it to end until it’s the last out of the World Series that you get. And that’s hard if it does.”
On the mound, the Yankees have A.J. Burnett, the team’s embattled starter who had a bit of a resurgence in September but ultimately finished with another disappointing season. The Yankees didn’t plan to have him start a game today, but Friday’s rain forced them to use a four-man rotation.
“I’m not underestimating him a bit,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s got great stuff. A.J. Burnett is capable of going out and throwing a two-hitter tonight. I know that. He has great stuff. You know the scenario is — this is a good situation for A.J., I think, on this stage tonight. People are hot and cold about A.J. and everything. Not us. We know what a great talent he is. If he gets it going, he can wipe you out. We’re very concerned about it.”
Girardi said it’s hard to say how long or short his leash will be. CC Sabathia got into trouble in last night’s third inning, and Girardi it’s “very possible you pull him” if Burnett has a similar third inning tonight.
Phil Hughes is available for roughly 50 pitches. Freddy Garcia has been told to be ready. Ivan Nova is available if things get “crazy” and the Yankees absolutely need innings.
“I don’t think there’s no exact science,” Girardi said. “You look at how (Burnett)’s pitching, getting outs. You can walk a guy, get a double play and then roll. You’ve just got to manage the game, and if you think there’s a time you need to pull him or you think there’s a time you leave him in, you go with your gut.”
• As he so often does, Girardi said he trusts his players who have track records. That’s why the lineup remains unchanged despite struggles by Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. “Everyone wants to throw stuff out, but it’s a couple of games,” Girardi said. “Adrian Beltre was 0-for-9 before today. Ron Washington didn’t move him, and he hit three homers. I don’t think you can make too much of a few games. You (can’t) start shaking up your lineup. These guys have done it all year long, and you expect them to do it.”
• Girardi on Mark Teixeira: “I think he’s just missed some balls in this series, I do. I think he’s had some pretty good swings and I think his at-bats have been pretty good. I thought he missed a ball the other day at home, I thought he hit a ball hard yesterday. I think sometimes you can get caught up in the numbers and not necessarily look at the at-bats. I think his at-bats have been OK.”
• Basically, the Girardi quote is the exact same for Swisher.
• Asked about Derek Jeter’s late-inning outs the past two games, Girardi pointed to the guy on the mound. “That’s why they get paid the big bucks, the closers, to get those big outs,” Girardi said.
• Girardi called the mood in the clubhouse “loose and relaxed” and said he felt no need to address the team before tonight’s game. “It’s not like I have a bunch of kids,” he said. “I have guys that understand what this is about.”
• The only pitcher no available tonight is CC Sabathia. “If he could throw right-handed he’d be available,” Girardi said. “If he was Mr. Venditte, he’d be available.”
• Nova threw a bullpen yesterday to prepare for a Game 4 start. “If you get in a crazy game you might have to (use him tonight),” Girardi said. “Then I’ll figure it out Thursday.”
• Obviously Hughes is the go-to long man tonight, but Girardi said he won’t necessarily got to Hughes first if Burnett struggles. “You might choose to bring someone in who’s used to coming into the middle of the inning a little more,” Girardi said. “That’s a decision I’ll have to make. I’ll look at some things and who they’re facing.”
• In case you missed it, Texas wrapped up the other division series this afternoon. If the Yankees come back in this series, they’ll head for an ALCS rematch against the Rangers.
Associated Press photos
Literally and figuratively, the storm clouds were gathering at Yankee Stadium this afternoon.
The Tigers had a four-run lead before the Yankees had a hit, then the rain started falling, Alex Avila slipped in foul territory, the tying run reached base and Robinson Cano came to the plate. This one had the potential for a wild walk-off that would give the Yankees a flood of momentum heading into Detroit. Instead, Cano hit a ground ball to second, and the Tigers claimed home field advantage heading into tomorrow’s delayed showdown between CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander.
“Tomorrow is big,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Going back to when I first got here, we always thought that Game 3 was the biggest. It’s almost like hitting; the 0-0 pitch is the most important, then the 1-1 pitch becomes the most important. Same goes for a series. There’s no need to get caught up in emotions. Whoever plays better, whoever executes fundamentals, is going to win the series. “
The Yankees seemed to have a favorable matchup against Max Scherzer, but aside from walks and a hit batter, Scherzer didn’t allow many scoring opportunities. The Yankees didn’t have a hit until the sixth, and they didn’t score until Curtis Granderson’s home run in the eighth.
Good things started happening for the Yankees in the ninth — Nick Swisher’s home run, Jorge Posada’s first postseason triple, Avila slipping and missing a potential game-ending popup — but this was never a game that felt good for the Yankees. They weren’t hitting, and the Tigers were perpetually doing just enough.
“You think that something is going to happen good for us (in the ninth),” Derek Jeter said. “But with Valverde, it’s hard enough to score a run off him, let alone four. But I thought we had some good at-bats. We battled there at the end, but we just fell short. For a moment there, you think we might catch a break.”
The Yankees did not catch a break. They didn’t create a break for themselves in the first eight innings, and they couldn’t do quite enough in that wet and rainy ninth. Sabathia vs. Verlander was the marquee matchup when this series began, and it’s the marquee matchup now that the series is tied at a game apiece.
“It’s huge,” Mark Teixeira said. “Tomorrow’s a really big game. You don’t want to go down 2-1 with them having a chance to close it out in their home park. It’s a big game for us.”
Two curious decisions by Joe Girardi tonight, each of which will surely lead to plenty of second guessing. As always, Girardi had reason behind his choices, but they didn’t workout. The question will be whether you agree with the logic.
With two on and one out in the seventh, Girardi sent left-handed Eric Chavez to pinch hit for left-handed Brett Gardner. He was hoping for a three-run home run. It’s worth noting that Gardner had lined out sharply in his previous at-bat, and that Chavez hit just two home runs tonight. It’s also worth noting that Scherzer has a tendency to give up a lot of home run.
“Gardner is fine,” Girardi said. “Just hoping (Chavez) might pop one… When you’re losing the game 4-0, you’re looking for a three-run homer is what you’re looking for, so no, it’s not a hard move.”
With the Yankees down by three runs in the ninth, Girardi elected to use Luis Ayala — essentially the last man in the bullpen — instead of going to either Dave Robertson or Rafael Soriano.
“We still have two more games in a row,” Girardi said. “And we’re down three. If we got it down to two, we were going to maek a change. Being down there runs and you know what Valverde has done all year long, we decided to go to Ayala.”
Chavez struck out in the seventh. Ayala allowed a run in the ninth.
• Jim Leyland said a lot about the production of the Yankees third and fourth hitters tonight when he admitted that the Tigers seriously considered pitching around Cano in the ninth inning to load the bases for Alex Rodriguez. “I thought about it,” Leyland said. “But that other guy has been known for the dramatics, and I figured it’s wet, it’s slippery, one gets away, one run is in. Something like that would happen, a groundball, a ball slips. I just couldn’t do it. He hit a ball in the infield, you get him over there, and somebody throws it away, the game is tied. It did cross my mind.”
• Rodriguez has struggled since returning to the lineup, but Girardi said he has no plans of taking Rodriguez out of the cleanup spot. “I thought he swung the bat pretty good yesterday,” Girardi said. “Today they made some tough pitches on him. I don’t have any plans in changing my lineup. It’s only two games. I’m not going to make too much of two games.”
• Most of the damage against Freddy Garcia was done by Miguel Cabrera, but Garcia was happy with his approach and his pitches to the Tigers’ best hitter. “First inning, I think that was a good pitch down and away,” Garcia said. “He made good contact. After that, I shut it down waiting for us to start hitting. It never happened, but that’s part of the game.”
• Although he allowed three hits in the sixth, Garcia said he wasn’t tired. “I’ve got like 70 pitches,” he said. “I was really good. I finished strong. Base hit here, base hit there. It’s part of the game.”
• Russell Martin is fine. The pitch that hit him got part of the bat and a little bit of the bottom of his left hand. “A little bit of acting there, but it did get me,” Martin said.
• Boone Logan’s balk didn’t matter — he struck out the next two batters — but he was embarrassed by it. Mid-delivery, Logan heard someone shout behind him and thought timeout had been called. The result was a sudden halt in his motion. “It was probably the worst balk in the history of baseball,” Logan said.
• Jeter on his costly error in the sixth: “I had no problem catching it, I just threw it low. With Austin (Jackson) running, you really don’t have much time.”
• Chavez on his approach pinch hitting for Gardner: “That’s not really my thought process to hit a home run there. I’m just trying to put the barrel on the ball and have the same approach every at-bat. I don’t think I go up there trying to do one thing or the other other than put a good swing on the ball.”
• Jeter said he thought, once Posada got between first and second in the ninth inning, that there was no way Posada was stopping until he got to third. “I don’t know about that,” Posada said. “I can’t get thrown out there. My run doesn’t mean anything.”
• It was the first postseason triple of Posada’s career.
• You don’t see Jeter arguing with a home plate umpire too often, but Jeter had a lengthy conversation after striking out looking in the seventh. He said he thought the ball was outside. “I was just asking him if he knew the weather forecast for the rest of the game,” Jeter joked.
• Everyone in the Yankees clubhouse seemed to mention Scherzer’s changeup, which doesn’t seem to a pitch you hear about very often with him. “He was really good, best I’ve ever seen him,” Teixeira said. “Great fastball, his changeup was really, really good. The numbers don’t lie, he dominated us.”
•• Posada gave an honest evaluation of Pettitte’s first pitch, calling it low and away. “I think it was a ball,” Posada said, laughing.
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi had no regrets this morning about using Mariano Rivera last night. The way he saw it, a grand slam would have pulled the Tigers within 2, and Girardi thought it was best to shut the door right then and there.
“He hadn’t pitched since Tuesday, and before that, he hadn’t pitched in a little bit,” Girardi said. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt him. Obviously it helps to keep him sharp. I think you could look at it either way with three more days in a row. But it shouldn’t hurt.”
Ivan Nova pitching into last night’s ninth inning meant the Yankees used only Luis Ayala and Rivera in Game 1. Girardi has said he’s willing to use any of his relievers three days in a row, which leaves him with a full bullpen these next three days. There’s a chance Rivera wouldn’t be available on Tuesday, but Girardi said there’s no doubt he’ll be available tonight and tomorrow.
A full bullpen could be key with Freddy Garcia, who’s built his season on keeping the Yankees in a game for six innings, then letting the relievers takeover. Garcia-to-Soriano-to-Robertson-to-Rivera could be a perfect recipe for the Yankees in Game 2.
“Our bullpen is in very good shape,” Girardi said. “So that sets up really well. Freddy is a completely different look than all of our other pitchers. You can look at all of our other pitchers and say they’re somewhat power guys. Freddy is the one finesse guys we’ve got that’s going to use a lot of offspeed, see some slow breaking balls. It’s a totally different look.”
Here’s Girardi’s pregame press conference. It wasn’t very long. We got a little more in the beat writers session.
• The Yankees are now committed to CC Sabathia pitching tomorrow’s Game 3, and Girardi finally made it official that A.J. Burnett will start Game 4. The only thing that would have kept Burnett from lining up for Game 4 would have been using him in long relief last night. Phil Hughes is the long man today.
• Girardi said the umpires “absolutely” got the call right on Robinson Cano’s double off the top of the wall last night, though Girardi was a little surprised that fans didn’t reach out and pull that ball into the stands. “Usually you see that,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure how far they would have had to reach to get to it. I don’t know how wide that concrete is out there. I’m sure it would have been reviewed either way, so it would have ended up the same.”
• Despite the fact Sabathia just pitched two days ago, Girardi said his pitch count won’t be at all limited tomorrow night. “I don’t think so, just because he threw so few on Friday, and he’s not expected to make another start in the division series,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he’s not second-guessing Ayala after back-to-back rough outings. “He’s pitched really well for us,” Girardi said. “And I think you have to look at his body of work. And he got a ground ball from Avila, then he got another ground ball. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do.”
• Hector Noesi and Raul Valdes have joined Ramiro Pena in Tampa. Those three are staying sharp at the minor league complex. Bartolo Colon and Austin Romine are staying with the big league team. Romine is catching in the bullpen to stay with the big league staff.
• Girardi never looked a replay of last night’s play at the plate. He said last night that he was positive it was an out when he saw it live, and he never felt a need to look at it again.
• As someone pointed out, Rivera technically threw the first and last pitch of Game 1. He threw the ceremonial first pitch on Friday, then closed the game on Saturday.
Austin Jackson CF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Delmon Young LF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Alex Avila C
Jhonny Peralta SS
Wilson Betemit 3B
Ramon Santiago 2B
Associated Press photo