General manager Brian Cashman said he’s not particularly close to finding a new hitting coach, and that process might have to wait a few days to get rolling again.
“I’ve got that on the back burner,” Cashman said. “There’s too much going on right now with the trade and free agent market to get distracted.”
Cashman also denied a report that Marcus Thames will be the team’s assistant hitting coach next season.
“That’s false,” Cashman said. “I have not talked to Marcus Thames at all, actually. … I’m looking for a head guy first, and then I can consider if I want to play with an assistant or not. I saw there was a report out there that we hired an assistant or were planning on hiring an assistant. We’ve got to go with the head guy first and then talk about if we even want to have an assistant to the head guy. But we don’t have a head guy.”
Joe Girardi said the same thing about the coaching search being put on the back burner for now, then he was asked about the possibility of bringing in Hideki Matsui as a coach.
“We love having him around, wherever it’s at,” Girardi said. “Whether it’s in the course of the season, whether he’s walking in our clubhouse and being around the guys, whether it’s in Spring Training. He’s a real pro. And he has a lot of information that he can pass on to younger players, to older players, about how to play the game and how to approach an at bat, how you hit through a long season. Matsui was one of the favorites in the clubhouse, as well. And we love just having him around. He brings a smile to everyone’s face.”
Not exactly an endorsement. Not exactly a dismissal.
A few other notes from this second day of the Winter Meetings:
• Although there’s no clear closer now, Girardi said he will not plan to have a closer by committee next season. “I think it’s important they have an idea how they’re going to be used,” Girardi said. “But sometimes it takes time to develop that. When we started out this season Betances was pitching the fifth and sixth inning. In the end he was pitching sometimes the sixth, seventh inning. So that takes time to get ironed out.”
• Girardi has not talked to Didi Gregorius, but he has a message planned. “I think the most important thing for Didi, and I’ll stress it, and I’ll have all the coaches stress it and the people around him, you just need to be yourself,” Girardi said. “You don’t need to try to be Derek. I think Robertson did a really good job of filling in for a superstar, a legend, a Yankee legend and was just himself. And we need to pay attention to that and make sure that Didi (knows): hey, go out and play, just do what you do.”
• Biggest remaining need? “When I look at our club, I think you have to think about the depth of the rotation,” Girardi said. “And as I said, we’re going to get Nova back, which is going to help. But in the back of your mind there’s some question marks. Michael Pineda has not thrown 200 innings in a while. CC is coming off his injury. Yeah, we feel good about it, but until you get into the rigors of the season you’re not really sure exactly what’s going to happen. And Tanaka is coming off an injury, and we feel good about that. But like I said about CC, you have to go through it. You need depth in your rotation. You have to. I don’t know how many starters we used last year, but I know we lost four. So we used a lot and that’s something that’s a concern.”
• Girardi said he’s spoken to Chase Headley this winter, but he has not spoken to Brandon McCarthy.
• Cashman said he has not heard from Hiroki Kuroda or Kuroda’s agent, so the Yankees still don’t know whether Kuroda plans to pitch or retire next season.
• Girardi has seen videos of Alex Rodriguez’s offseason workouts, but Cashman said he hasn’t had any recent communication with A-Rod. “We’re never going to know until we get him out there playing in games and stuff, what we’ve got,” Cashman said. “Even in fairness to him, as he’s knocking the rust off, like whether you’re playing every year or not it’s hard to judge people in Spring Training regardless. It probably is something you have to get in-season to in the early portion.”
• The Yankees checked in on the possibility of trading for Jeff Samardzija. “There wasn’t a match from their perspective,” Cashman said.
Associated Press photo
In trying to break down the state of the Yankees organization, it’s hard to look at pitchers the same way we look at position players. The development is different. The roles are different. The number of jobs available is different. It’s just … different. In trying to look at the state of the Yankees rotation, it seems best to start by looking directly at the current 40-man roster (before free agency) where no less than 12 rotation possibilities are already in place. Given the Yankees injury concerns, they’re going to need some rotation depth heading into next season. They just might be able to find that depth while staying in house.
THE OBVIOUS INJURY CONCERNS
Masahiro Tanaka – His elbow might be a ticking time bomb, but he’s also an ace-caliber pitcher. The Yankees know Tanaka might need Tommy John surgery at any moment, but they’ve done what they can to postpone that procedure, and a couple of healthy starts at the end of the year were enough to build some cautious optimism. Tanaka should be the Yankees No. 1 starter. But that depends largely on a tiny ligament in his elbow.
Michael Pineda – The Yankees finally got to see the guy they acquired years ago, and they liked what they saw. Sure, the pine tar situation was embarrassing, and there was yet another shoulder setback, but when Pineda was on the mound, he was terrific. He’s far removed from surgery, but that doesn’t mean health concerns don’t linger. Would be a strong No. 2, but again, that’s only if he stays healthy.
CC Sabathia – This could be the year his run of Opening Day starts come to an end. That said, if he gets to spring training healthy and reasonably effective, he might still get the nod in the opener if only because he’s still very clearly the leader of the staff (and this is a clubhouse that could be searching to leadership next season). Whether Sabathia will be anything more than a symbolic choice, though, remains to be seen. If he can at least be a reliable back-of-the-rotation arm, that would be helpful. There’s clearly a new ace in town.
Ivan Nova – Almost certainly will not be ready to break camp with the Yankees, but initial word about Nova’s recovery from Tommy John surgery has been nothing but positive. Still a long way to go, but Nova made it through the initial rehab steps with no problem. Tommy John has become a relatively routine procedure these days, but some pitchers say it takes close to two years to truly feel 100 percent. Timing suggests Nova could be back in the New York around early May. But how effective will he be?
THE REPLACEMENT STARTERS
David Phelps – When the Yankees rotation went through a series of injuries last season, Vidal Nuno was technically the first replacement starter, but Phelps wasn’t far behind. He was solid, then he got knocked around one game, then he looked really good for about a month and a half before his upper elbow became a problem. Phelps should be arbitration eligible this season, and he might once again come to camp as a rotation candidate who could easily slip into a bullpen role.
Shane Greene – Phelps’ chances of winning a spot in the rotation surely took a hit when Greene showed up. Having made a strong impression in spring training, and having struggled in his brief big league debut, Greene wound up pitching like a rotation mainstay through the second half of the season. He had a 3.24 ERA before a six-run mess in his final start. Given the Nova injury, Greene could legitimately come to camp as a rotation favorite.
Chase Whitley – A career minor league reliever until the very end of 2013, Whitley moved to the Triple-A rotation, improved his breaking ball and got his first big league call-up as a replacement starter. He was a bit streaky — very good at first, pretty good at the end, plenty of rough outings in the middle — but Whitley joins the mix as a swing man who could start or work in long relief. Could also go to Triple-A as rotation insurance.
THE MINOR LEAGUERS
Manny Banuelos – Once considered to be among the top left-handed pitching prospects in baseball, Banuelos needed Tommy John surgery, which slowed his ascent considerably. He missed all of 2013 and put up inconsistent results this year in Double-A and Triple-A. Banuelos has an awfully good arm, though, and being further removed from surgery surely helps his cause heading into his age-24 season.
Bryan Mitchell – For the longest time, Mitchell’s reputation was far better than his results. The Yankees regularly touted his potential, and that was enough to put him on the 40-man roster last winter despite a 5.12 ERA in High-A the year before. More so-so results followed in Double-A this season, but the Yankees challenged Mitchell with a Triple-A promotion and things seemed to take off. He got 11 innings in the big leagues and looked solid. Probably no more than rotation depth to open the season, but he’s among the most advanced young starters in the system.
Matt Tracy/Nik Turley – These guys aren’t on the current 40-man roster, but they stand out as Rule 5 eligible lefties had at least 60 Triple-A innings with mid-4.00 ERAs this season. Neither one was great next season, and there’s a chance both will be left exposed to the Rule 5 this winter — guys like Zach Nuding, Jairo Heredia and Caleb Cotham are in vaguely similar situations — but they’re potential rotation depth options who could be on the 40-man eventually (or could be added next year if necessary). Turley’s been on the 40-man before, and he in particular was putting up better numbers at the end of the year.
THE SOON-TO-BE FREE AGENTS
Hiroki Kuroda – Of all the Yankees soon-to-be free agents, none has a future quite as uncertain as Kuroda. He turns 40 in February, and despite yet again providing some much-needed stability for the Yankees rotation, there seems to be a solid chance Kuroda will retire this winter. He could also come back, pitch elsewhere, or decide to pitch one last season in Japan. Kuroda left all options open at the end of the year.
Brandon McCarthy — Aside from Dave Robertson, there might not be an outgoing free agent who’s more interesting for the Yankees. McCarthy throws strikes and gets ground balls, he thrived during his three-month stint with the Yankees, and he seems like a strong fit in this unusual market. At the right price, McCarthy could be a strong choice for additional rotation depth (though he comes with injury concerns of his own).
Chris Capuano – Would be easy to dismiss Capuano as a non-factor going forward, and maybe that’s exactly what he’ll be. Two things to consider, though: 1. Capuano really was a pretty good No. 5 starter during his time with the Yankees, and he has experience as a bullpen lefty, which the Yankees don’t really have at the moment. Probably least like to return of anyone on this list, but he did his job during his time with the team.
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi said he’s put this weekend entirely in Derek Jeter’s hands.
He’s told Jeter he can play any position, bat anywhere in the order. He’s offered to let Jeter manage this game or any other. It’s entirely up to the Captain to play when and where he wants to this weekend.
And today, he simply doesn’t want to play.
“I think he’s going to take a day off,” Girardi said. “I talked to him today and said, what do you want to do? He said, he’d like to have a day. It’s always difficult at this point because everyone wants to see him, and I understand that, but he’s been through a lot. The team’s been through a lot. We’ve played 18 games in the past 17 days. We got in here late last night, and I think he’s going to take a day.”
To be honest, I left last night’s game feeling pretty confident Jeter wouldn’t play tonight. I still think he’ll play Saturday and Sunday, and Jeter was clearly drained after last night. I can’t imagine trying to get up for this game after what he went through last night.
Girardi told the story of Jeter not being able to find one of his batting gloves in the first inning last night. Jeter swore he’d brought it with him to the bench, but it was nowhere to be found. He’d clearly forgotten it. And Jeter’s an organized guy, not prone to forgetting a batting glove that he’s brought with him to the bench every day for 20 years.
“That was the first sign probably for me that something was going on yesterday,” Girardi said.
And so, for the first time that anyone can remember, Jeter has asked not to play a regular-season game.
“Maybe in spring training (he’s done that),” Girardi said. “Certain road trips in spring training. I don’t ever remember him saying that. I’m sure he’s emotionally drained today. He’s probably physically drained. He played 10 or 11 days in a row. Our schedule was not easy, day games after night games, but it is the first time I remember.”
• Turns out, Girardi tried to create an emotional farewell even before Jeter’s walk-off. To start the ninth inning, Girardi asked Hiroki Kuroda to walk to the edge of the first base line, then stop. Girardi was going to go get him from there — if he crossed the line, he’d have to face a batter — so that Kuroda could walk off the field to his own ovation after three strong seasons with the Yankees. Kuroda declined. “I was really grateful when he approached me to do that,” Kuroda said. “I felt like the fact that I spent the whole year in the rotation paid off with his gesture. But yesterday, it was meant for Jeter, so I didn’t want to take anything from him. And I felt like I was in that position.”
• Girardi on Kuroda: “I had so many thoughts about Hiro. I knew Ichiro, he’s going to play more. I really wanted to honor Hiro. I really did. … Hiro’s meant a lot to our organization as well and has been a really good Yankee and a really good role model as well. This guy takes the ball every day. You think about the injuries we went through to our rotation. The oldest guy is still standing. That’s because of his preparation and how hard he works. I really wanted to honor him, but he really didn’t want to do it.”
• Kuroda said he hasn’t really thought about whether he’s going to retire after this season. He said he won’t start really thinking about it until he begins to get offers — or not get offers — from other teams. At that point, he said, he’ll begin to really consider whether he wants to pitch another season, and whether he thinks he can hold up through another season at 40 years old.
• Masahiro Tanaka remains on track to pitch again tomorrow. He could go up to 80-85 pitches, but the Yankees might not ask him to throw quite that many. “Obviously I wouldn’t push him too far (with the pitch count),” Girardi said. “Doesn’t really make a lot of sense at this point. But just (want to see) that same stuff.”
• Assuming Tanaka gets through tomorrow with no problems, he’ll have a normal offseason.
• Mark Teixeira is out of the lineup tonight, but that doesn’t mean he’s finished for the weekend. “I’m not going to play him today, and I don’t know if I’ll play him tomorrow,” Girardi said. “But I’m thinking that if Derek plays on Sunday, I’m thinking a lot of these guys might want to play alongside him one last time.”
• Even Girardi had to look at a list to make sure he could announce the lineup correctly. He realizes this lineup is basically a spring training lineup, but he said at this point in the season, after all the days in a row, he wanted to give almost everyone a day off.
• Any part of Girardi that thinks moments like Mariano Rivera last year and Jeter this year make it OK to have missed the playoffs two years in a row? Those moments likely wouldn’t have happened with something on the line. “No,” Girardi said. “There isn’t. I can remember another great Yankee who made the playoffs, and they lost in the playoffs, and the sendoff was pretty special. That was Paul O’Neill. So, no, I would have much rather done it that way, and there’s nothing inside me that thinks it’s OK.”
• Has Girardi talked to Dave Robertson since last night? “No, I have not had a chance to talk to him,” Girardi said. “But he did a great job.”
Associated Press photos
Game 159: Yankees vs. Orioles • 09.25.14
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (11-9, 3.77)
Kuroda vs. Orioles
Nick Markakis RF
Alejandro De Aza LF
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz DH
Steve Pearce 1B
J.J. Hardy SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Jimmy Paredes 3B
Caleb Joseph C
RHP Kevin Gausman (7-7, 3.57)
Gausman vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: It’s been better.
UMPIRES: HP Adam Hamari, 1B Brian O’Nora, 2B D.J. Reyburn, 3B Jeff Kellogg
MEANINGFUL GAMES: You might have heard that tonight marks the final home game for Derek Jeter. Prior to tonight, of the 2,744 career regular season games he has played in, there has been just one in which the Yankees had already been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention (a 19-8 Yankees win on September 26, 2008 at Boston). This will be his first time playing a meaningless game at home.
THE LAST STAND: Since the start of his final regular season homestand on September 18, Jeter is batting .345 (10-for-29) with four runs, three doubles, one home run and six RBI in seven games.
ON THIS DATE: Seems kind of fitting, it was on September 25, 1917 that former Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto was born in New York City.
UPDATE, 7:09 p.m.: Jeter had to tip his cap during infield warmups because the Jeter chants were so loud.
UPDATE, 7:10 p.m.: Just as the Bleacher Creatures started chanting Jeter’s name for Roll Call, Nick Markakis went deep. Now De Aza has made it two homers in a row. Already the Orioles are up 2-0. Still no outs.
UPDATE, 7:24 p.m.: That’s just unbelievable. Jeter’s first at-bat, he missed a home run by a matter of feet. He’ll take the RBI double.
UPDATE, 7:29 p.m.: Apparently every Yankees player is going to use a song that Jeter has previously used as a walkup song. That’s pretty cool.
UPDATE, 7:58 p.m.: Jeter grounds to short in his second at-bat. This will not be another 5-for-5 day.
UPDATE, 8:18 p.m.: Replay was on Jeter’s side to end the top of the third, but the Yankees couldn’t score in the bottom of the third and so we’re still tied at 2. Also, this story from Steve Politi is cool.
UPDATE, 8:50 p.m.: Jeter goes down swinging in his third at-bat. Yankees haven’t had a hit since that Chris Young infield single in the first.
UPDATE, 9:29 p.m.: Game tied. Bases loaded. One out in the seventh. Here’s Jeter with a great chance to give the Yankees the lead.
UPDATE, 9:31 p.m.: Slow roller to short. Hardy made a bad throw and it will go down as a fielder’s choice with an E-6, but that’s still an RBI. Could easily be the game-winning RBI.
UPDATE, 10:13 p.m.: Oh my. Dave Robertson allows two homers in the ninth, including a two-out, game-tying shot by Steve Pearce. Jeter no longer credited with the game-winning RBI, but due up third here in the bottom of the inning.
Pregame notes: “Let me play the game first” • 09.25.14
Derek Jeter showed up as his locker briefly. He disappeared through the back door of the clubhouse and returned a few minutes later. It wasn’t particularly unusual — pretty typical pregame back-and-forth, really — except this is his last game at Yankee Stadium, and so there was a playoff-sized packed of media gathered around his locker waiting for Jeter to say … anything, really.
“Afterwards,” Jeter said. “It’s tough for me to start getting emotional and sentimental before I’ve got to play. So let me play the game first. I’ll let you know how I felt about it afterwards.”
Jeter said he’s made no decisions about playing this weekend in Boston. Said he wasn’t sure how many tickets he’d left for friends and family. He said he was thinking mostly about the weather and hoping things would clear up long enough to get the game in.
“I think it’s going to be extremely special,” Joe Girardi said. “Something that obviously he’ll be able to carry with him the rest of his life. I think it’s going to be something that all of us will remember, that we were here tonight; similar to Mo’s last night. That we were at the Stadium the night he played his last game.”
As for a plan, Girardi said he was simply hoping something would occur to him in the moment. If he has a plot in mind — a mid-inning substitution or anything like that — he hasn’t revealed it just yet. But the game means nothing for the Yankees, so Girardi can basically handle Jeter’s final moments however he’d like.
“I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had to play too many games like this in my career,” Jeter said. “But it is what it is. Our team was not good enough, so we’re out of playoff contention. It’s always difficult. You set your goals and you try to reach something and that goal was unattainable.”
That much Jeter knew when he got to the ballpark today. At some point tonight, the plan is for him find out what it’s like to play one last game at Yankee Stadium.
“My feelings are, I hope the rain stops,” Jeter said. “That’s basically it.”
• There’s a solid chance Jeter’s not the only one playing his final game at Yankee Stadium tonight. Hiroki Kuroda has the start, and it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll also retire at the end of this season. “No he has not (announced his plans),” Girardi said. “Obviously that’s something he’ll sit down after the season and make the decision. He’s not 29 either, so I’m not sure.”
• Might not be his last game at Yankee Stadium — seems he’ll probably play again next year — but this is almost certainly Ichiro Suzuki’s final game at Yankee Stadium as a member of the Yankees. I actually think it would be cool if Girardi pulled him from the game for a standing ovation at some point. Maybe take out Ichiro with two outs in the eighth and Jeter with two outs in the ninth?
• Thought the Yankees might use these meaningless games to give Bryan Mitchell one more start, but Larry Rothschild said it’s been so long since his last start, that it wouldn’t really be fair to ask Mitchell to try to start again tomorrow or Sunday. The plan is to stick with Capuano, Tanaka and Pineda for the three games in Boston.
• Girardi on the plans for Jeter this weekend: “I don’t have them yet. I’m waiting to meet with him. He’ll be in, I’m sure, fairly shortly. I talked to him (yesterday). Let’s meet today and decide. Tell me what you want to do. Then, when he does, I’ll let him share it. I probably won’t.”
• Here’s Jeter on what he was feeling during Mariano Rivera’s final game at Yankee Stadium: “I was proud of him. I was happy that I was here. It’s a little different because you don’t know the situation. Mo was getting a massage until 9:30, 9:45, then he goes out there. You have a pretty good idea of when he’s going to come in. I just wanted to be here for him. That’s pretty much it. I was happy for him, I was proud of him that his career was coming to an end. I was just happy to be here for him.”
• Girardi was asked whether he plans to keep anything from tonight’s game. “My lineup cards I keep all the time anyway,” he said. “That’s just what I do because I think it tells a story during the course of a season. Maybe I’ll keep one ball, but it’s the memories more than the mementos that I really want to hold onto. When I think about my time with Derek Jeter, the things he did as a young player, the things he did middle age and as an older player, just being around him. Remembering the 3,000th hit was really special. Those types of things. I remember celebrating in the clubhouse with him. Those are the things that I’m going to remember.”
Associated Press photos
Game 153: Yankees vs. Blue Jays • 09.19.14
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (10-9, 3.81)
Kuroda vs. Blue Jays
BLUE JAYS (77-75)
Jose Reyes SS
Jose Bautista RF
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Adam Lind 1B
Dioner Navarro C
Danny Valencia 3B
Munenori Kawasaki 2B
Dalton Pompey LF
Anthony Gose CF
LHP Mark Buehrle (12-9, 3.40)
Buehrle vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: Little bit chilly, but I like it. Feels like fall, and that’s a good thing.
UMPIRES: HP Laz Diaz, 1B Scott Barry, 2B Mark Carlson, 3B Jeff Nelson
DON’T LEAVE EARLY: The Yankees have eight walk-off wins in 2014, surpassing their 2013 total (7) and marking their most since 2009 (15). Seven of the walk-offs in 2014 have come after the All-Star break, matching Washington and San Diego for the most in the Majors according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Elias also notes this is the most post-All-Star walk-offs by the Yankees since 2009 (7) and the club last had more in 1988 (8).?Elias notes that all of the Yankees’ 2014 walk-off at-bats are from players in their first year with team (Headley-3, McCann-2, Beltran-1, Prado-1, Young-1).
STARTING BLOCKS: Yankees starters have recorded at least five innings and allowed two earned runs or less in each of their past eight games, producing a 1.46 ERA in that span. It is their longest such streak since a nine-game span from June 2-11, 2012 during which they recorded at least six innings and allowed two earned or fewer in each game.
HOME SWEET HOME: The Yankees have won 10 of their last 14 games at Yankee Stadium and have won 21 of their 33 games at home since the All-Star break, the third-most home wins in the Majors over the span.
UPDATE, 7:11 p.m.: Nice little play by Jeter to keep Reyes off the bag and get him into a run down. Could have been a runner at third with one out, instead it’s a runner at first with one out.
UPDATE, 7:13 p.m.: Or maybe it doesn’t matter at all. There’s a two-run home run by Encarnacion off the left-field foul pole.
UPDATE, 7:24 p.m.: Leadoff double for Ellsbury. Opposite-field single for Jeter. Runners at the corners for the heart of the Yankees lineup.
UPDATE, 7:59 p.m.: Ellsbury goes deep with a two-run, go-ahead homer. That’s number 16 for Ellsbury. It’s now a 3-2 Yankees lead, and here’s Jeter. The crowd seems to like him.
UPDATE, 8:21 p.m.: Ellsbury beats out a double play, and the Yankees get two runs out of it. Now Jeter has followed with his second hit of the night. It’s a 5-2 Yankees lead in the fourth.
UPDATE, 8:25 p.m.: Ellsbury seemed to hurt his hamstring beating out that play, and now he’s out of the game as the Yankees take the field in the top of the fifth. Gardner to center, Chris Young to left.
UPDATE, 9:15 p.m.: Esmil Rogers got the ground ball he needed to get out of the seventh inning with the bases left loaded and a 5-3 lead still intact.
UPDATE, 9:33 p.m.: Yankees announce that Ellsbury has a strained hamstring and will go for an MRI. With so little time left in the season, that could be the end of the year for him. Meanwhile, here’s Adam Warren to pitch with one on and one out in the eighth.
Game 148: Yankees at Orioles • 09.14.14
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (10-9, 3.91)
Kuroda vs. Orioles
Nick Markakis RF
Alejandro De Aza LF
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz RF
Steve Pearce 1B
J.J. Hardy SS
Kelly Johnson 3B
Nick Hundley C
Jonathan Schoop 2B
RHP Chris Tillman (12-5, 3.36)
Tillman vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 8:05 p.m., ESPN
WEATHER: Starting to get just a little bit, but ultimately a nice night for a game.
UMPIRES: HP Ed Hickox, 1B Todd Tichenor, 2B Clint Fagan, 3B Tim Welke
FEELS LIKE HOME: Brian McCann hit his third road home run of the season yesterday. It was his first road homer since May 23 in Chicago, snapping a 37-game road homerless stretch. It marked the second-longest such stretch of his career behind a 48-game span on the road that ended in 2011 with Atlanta.
TWO AWAY: Derek Jeter remains two runs away from tying Alex Rodriguez for the ninth-most runs in baseball history.
THEY SAY IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY: St. Louis native Josh Outman is celebrating his 30th birthday today. Someone get this guy a cup of Ted Drewes and a bottle of Perennial.
UPDATE, 9:05 p.m.: Kuroda is through three scoreless. And with Prado leading off the fourth inning, the Yankees are surely about to get another run. They’re up 1-0 because of yet another Prado homer in the second inning.
UPDATE, 9:30 p.m.: Middle of the fifth with the Yankees still holding that 1-0 lead.
UPDATE, 9:41 p.m.: Kuroda is through five scoreless. Huge return to form after Tuesday’s rough start at home.
UPDATE, 9:59 p.m.: Line drive deflected by Prado becomes an RBI double for Jones, tying the game at 1 here in the sixth inning.
UPDATE, 10:03 p.m.: Drew might have saved a run there. Nice diving stop to keep the ball in the infield, which forced Jones to stop at third base.
UPDATE, 10:16 p.m.: Wow. Carlos Beltran just stepped on deck and the Orioles are going to Andrew Miller.
UPDATE, 10:20 p.m.: Took a shot, but Beltran is down swinging and the inning is over.
Plenty of confusion tonight about the fifth-inning play at the plate that essentially cost the Yankees their best chance to tie the game. But the reality is — and everyone seemed to agree — that baseball’s evolving rule about blocking the plate never should have come into play because Stephen Drew never should have been waved home in the first place.
“To begin with, just a bad send,” third-base coach Rob Thomson said. “Just an error on my judgment. I take full responsibility for it. We’re all accountable around here. It just wasn’t a good decision. Nobody out, the middle of the lineup coming to the plate, I’ve got to stop him right there. I thought the outfielder was going a little bit further to the line. He came up and squared up (to throw) pretty quick. I should’ve stopped him. … From my perspective, the ruling doesn’t really come into play. It’s just a matter of whether I think that guy is going to be able to score or not, and (the rule) shouldn’t come into play, especially with nobody out.”
Or, to put it another way:
“You can’t make the first out at home,” Joe Giradi said. “It’s a quick decision he has to make. It’s a bang-bang decision — and it’s not an easy job — but you have the bases loaded and nobody out (if he doesn’t send the runner).”
The confusion came because Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan clearly blocked the plate without the ball, but the league actually sent a memo earlier today saying that catchers can stand in front of the plate if they have the ball in plenty of time (basically making sure runners aren’t safe on a technicality, which is the best Drew could have hoped for). With or without the memo, it seems Drew would have been allowed to run over the catcher, but runners are basically conditioned to slide at this point.
“They still want them to slide,” Girardi said. “It really hasn’t changed a whole lot. They talk about they want the guys to slide. And the guys know that if the guy’s blocking the plate, they can run them over. They are so used to sliding now, in a sense, it’s going back and forth.”
That’s what Drew said. He basically had no lane and wasn’t sure what he was allowed to do, so he slid. But it all comes back to the decision to send the runner.
“If I had to do it again I’d probably do it the other way (and run him over) because of the outcome,” Drew said. “… At the time I thought it was be a little closer than it was when Tomper sent me there. At that point, it was already too late.”
• I’ll probably write more about this in the morning, but my impression of Girardi and everyone else was that this was the most resigned the Yankees have seemed all season. This really felt like the blow that knocked out what little hope remains for a playoff push. “It leaves us in a pretty big hole,” Girardi said. “Basically we have to win every day. That’s the bottom line: we have to win every day.”
• Girardi pointed out that immediately after Drew was thrown out at the plate, Derek Jeter still had a chance to drive in the tying run and he instead lined into double play. Sending Drew was a bad decision. Jeter’s ball was pretty bad luck.
• Girardi also called it bad luck that Ichiro Suzuki was doubled up at second base in the seventh inning. Ichiro had singled and stolen second base and he had a great jump trying to steal third, but Drew flied to right and Ichiro couldn’t get back in time.
• Chris Young drove in two of the Yankees three runs tonight. He got his first Yankees hit in his first Yankees start. It was his first hit and first start since August 5 with the Mets. It was his first RBI July 30 and first multi-RBI game since July 13.
• The other Yankees run came on Jacoby Ellsbury’s 15th home run. This is the second time in his career that he’s hit at least 15 homers in a season. Ellsbury is hitting .361 with 12 runs, three triples, five homers and 15 RBI in his past 19 games.
• Brutal game for Hiroki Kuroda, who’d been pitching extremely well before tonight’s debacle. “I had a great start in the first inning,” Kuroda said. “But I feel like they changed their approach in the second inning on, and I wasn’t able to re-adjust instantly. … I guess I should have changed my approach on my first pitches, which I didn’t do.”
• Kuroda struck out the game’s first three batters, but beginning with a leadoff homer in the second, he allowed four runs on nine hits without pitching through the fourth inning. It was the first time this season that he lasted fewer than four innings. “I just didn’t think he located his fastball very well and his split didn’t have quite the bite it had all of his other starts that we’ve been seeing when he’s been on a roll,” Girardi said.
• This was Kuroda’s shortest outing since May 22 of last year, and it was the most hits he’d ever allowed in a start of 3.1 innings or less. He was one hit shy of a season-high in hits allowed.
• The Yankees bullpen was exceptional. Seven relievers combined for 5.2 scoreless innings with just two hits, two walks and six strikeouts. The bullpen has pitched 20.2 scoreless inning in their past six games.
• Derek Jeter went 0-for-4 while playing in his 2,730th career game. He is now tied with Mel Ott for the eight-most games ever played among players who played their whole career with one team. According to Elias, Jeter also tied Ott for the most games ever played for a New York MLB team.
• We’ll give the final word to Mark Teixeira: “I mean, we want to win, obviously. That’s a tough game. We made a little run there, but you have to get to these guys before their eighth- and ninth-inning relievers. They’re two of the best in baseball. We had some chances in the middle innings but just couldn’t get over the hump. … We have to win a lot of games. We’ve said it before; we have very little margin for error. We have to try to win every night.”
Associated Press photos
Game 142: Yankees vs. Rays • 09.09.14
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.78)
Kuroda vs. Rays
Ben Zobrist 2B
David DeJesus DH
Evan Longoria 3B
James Loney 1B
Wil Myers RF
Matt Joyce LF
Yunel Escobar SS
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Ryan Hanigan C
RHP Chris Archer (8-8, 3.60)
Archer vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., MY9
WEATHER: Cloudy and cool, but only a very slight chance of rain.
UMPIRES: HP Vic Carapazza, 1B Larry Vanover, 2B Marcus Pattillo, 3B Angel Hernandez
ONE AWAY: Derek Jeter has played in 2,729 games with the Yankees, ninth most among players who have played all of their games with one team. Tonight he will tie the Giants’ Mel Ott for eighth-most all time.
TWO AWAY: Jeter has scored 1,917 runs in his career. He’s two away from tying Alex Rodriguez for the ninth-most in baseball history.
WHAT A RELIEF: Over their last five games, Yankees relievers have pitched 15 scoreless innings (5 hits, 1 walk, 19 strikeouts).?In their past 16 games since August 22, the Yankees bullpen has produced a 1.34 ERA and held opponents to a .171 batting average.
UPDATE, 7:22 p.m.: Well that was crushed. Kuroda struck out the side in the first inning, but the second inning has started with a long home run by James Loney. Rays take an early lead. Question is, can the Yankees score a run tonight?
UPDATE, 7:38 p.m.: Nothing happening for the Yankees offense through the first two innings. You probably assumed that to be true, though.
UPDATE, 7:58 p.m.: Bunch of third-inning singles have pushed the Rays lead to 3-0. Meanwhile, the Yankees are being no-hit heading into the fourth. So, you know, just another day at the office.
UPDATE, 8:17 p.m.: Well, Kuroda is finished after nine hits and four runs in 3.1 innings. No good at all for the Yankees, who rarely have much chance to win on nights they don’t get a strong pitching performance. Here’s David Huff.
UPDATE, 8:53 p.m.: I don’t like the blocking the plate rule, but if it’ s a rule, how is that not blocking the plate? I thought we’d have a tied game at 4, instead Drew is out at the plate and the Yankees two runs here in the fifth came on a two-run single by Chris Young. It’s 4-3 Rays.
UPDATE, 9:43 p.m.: Ichiro stole second, and then decided to steal third. He was running on the pitch, Drew flied to right, and Ichiro was doubled up at second. Base running hurts the Yankees yet again.
Before CC Sabathia hurt his knee, before Michael Pineda went down with a shoulder injury, and long before Masahiro Tanaka tore his elbow ligament, Hiroki Kuroda finished the month of April with a 5.28 ERA. He was 39 years old, he’d been brutal down the stretch last year, and it was worth wondering whether Kuroda had finally run out of steam. For a moment, he was actually one of the Yankees more significant rotation concerns.
Since his second May start, thought, Kuroda’s had a 3.43 ERA. At a time when the Yankees rotation has desperately needed some sort of stability, Kuroda’s been basically the exact same source of consistency that he was the past two years.
“Some of the other years he’s been here, his April has been a little bit inconsistent,” manager Joe Girardi said. “So I felt like maybe he’s going through the (typical) April. He didn’t have his arm strength, didn’t have a slider. There was a little bit of a concern about that, but you saw it come around in May which put that all to rest.”
This rotation has been a stunning source of strength for the Yankees, and much of the credit has gone to the replacement starters. The Yankees have been kept afloat by the arrival of Shane Greene, the trade for Brandon McCarthy, the return of Pineda, the scrap-heap addition of Chris Capuano, the short-term boost of Chase Whitley, and the injury-shortened improvement of David Phelps.
In all of that, Kuroda has been overshadowed, but he led the way in tonight’s win to snap this three-game losing streak. He’s won his last three decisions, and he’s gone at least six innings with no more than two runs in each of his past four starts. Kuroda faded down the stretch the past two seasons, but this year he seems to be at his best near the end.
Kuroda said he’s been throwing fewer pitches between starts all year, and he skipped a bullpen heading into this start. He’s just trying to stay strong and avoid that familiar slide.
“Especially last year, I didn’t have a good month of September,” he said. “So I just wanted to change that, and I just wanted to contribute to my team. … I don’t know exactly what’s working, to be honest with you, but because I have to do my everyday workout to get my work in, and because I cannot skip a rotation turn or start, I just want to make sure I stay active.”
Kuroda has pitched into the sixth inning in 13 of his past 14 starts, and the last time he allowed more than four runs — earned or unearned — was way back on April 25.
“He just had another start that he’s had all year long,” Brian McCann said. “I feel like he’s been so consistent day in and day out, pitch after pitch. He just keeps making them.”
Standing at his locker postgame, Martin Prado sounded frustrated but at least a little bit optimistic. He considered the MRI largely precautionary, and he said a day of nothing but treatment seems to have done at least some good for his strained left hamstring.
“I think we made a little progress today,” he said. “We’ll see how I respond tomorrow. We did everything we could today to make some progress. … Tomorrow we’re going to, I heard, we’re going to do some activities. Hit and do everything normal to see how I react.”
Seems unlikely that Prado will play tomorrow, but he seems to think this should be — or at least could be — a fairly short-term issue.
“I know that I’ll probably miss just one or two days and not the rest of the season, so I was trying to be smart about it,” he said. “I don’t feel it walking. I feel, actually, normal. But when you’re playing, it’s not like I’m going to say I’m going to play 50 percent. I have to go 100 percent or I can’t play. We’ll see tomorrow. I’ll try to do everything I can to get back in the game.”
• We’ll get into all the good things the offense did in a bit, but first: the first-inning rundown debacle. “Gardy did not get a good jump and he has to stop,” Girardi said. “Jeet had third base easy. Gardy has to stop there, and running into two outs — I wasn’t real happy about it, but we made up for it and that mistake didn’t cost us dearly, fortunately.”
• If you missed the play, it was a double steal, and the Red Sox threw to second instead of third. Because of his bad jump, Gardner stop short of the bag, tried to get into a rundown to let Jeter score, but Jeter never broke for home, ventured too far off third base, and the Red Sox ultimately threw over to get him out. They then fired to second, and Gardner was out as well. Just brutal.
• Before the game, Kevin Long actually talked about the fact the Yankees have run themselves into too many outs this season. “How many times have you seen it happen this year where we’ve run ourselves out of an inning or we do something like that?” Long said. “It’s happened 8-to-10 times. That’s a lot.” When it happened again, Girardi addressed the Yankees base running issues. “Sometimes it’s overaggressiveness,” Girardi said. “You look at the one we did last night, it’s not picking up the runner in front of you. It’s not like these guys aren’t experienced, and they know what they need to do. Sometimes it’s just a matter of playing too hard and trying too hard (that causes the team) to make mistakes.”
• On the offensive bright side: Brian McCann. He has homered in a career-high three straight home games. He matched his career-high with four hits, something he’s now done 11 times (last time was July 6 of last year). “I was covering both sides of the plate, working counts and swinging at strikes,” he said.
• McCann’s now hit 17 home runs this season, and 15 of them have come at Yankee Stadium. Two other players in franchise history have hit 15 of their first 17 Yankees home runs in home games: Joe Sewell in 1931-32 and Oscar Gamble in 1976. That’s according to Elias. Oddly enough, I did not know that off the top of my head.
• Jacoby Ellsbury had a triple and a sacrifice fly and is now hitting .415 with two doubles, two triples and four home runs in his past 14 games.
• Dellin Betances struck out two batters in a scoreless eighth inning. He now has 122 strikeouts in 81 innings this season and has a good chance to be the Yankees season leader in strikeouts while pitching the entire season out of the bullpen. He’s tied Goose Gossage for the second-most reliever strikeouts in a season (Gossage did it in 134.1 innings in 1978). The record is 130 set by Mariano Rivera in 107.2 innings 1996.
• Also a bunch of strikeouts tonight for Kuroda, who tied a season-high with eight strikeouts. He also did that in May against the Angels. This was his fourth career start of at least seven innings with at least eight strikeouts and no walks. He did that once in 2008, once in 2009, and twice this year.
• Both Kuroda and Girardi had kind words for McCann’s ability to work with Kuroda through these strong outings. “He has a great idea what the pitchers stuff is and how it equates to getting each hitter out,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you can say, ‘Well, (the batter) is not a good changeup hitter.’ Well if you don’t have a changeup, that becomes an issue, so you have too find another way to get hitters out and I think Brian is very good at knowing what he needs to do with Hiro and the type of stuff he has and figuring out how to get outs.”
• Because Detroit lost, the Yankees gained a game and now trail by four games for the second wild card. “It’s impossible not to watch (the scoreboard),” Girardi said. “It’s human nature. You watch it all year long. We’re baseball people, that’s what we do. There’s always that curiosity, but obviously you know what’s going on.”
• Final word goes to McCann: “It’s big. At this point, our mindset here is to just win as many games as we can. We’ve got one month to turn it on and we plan on doing that.”
Associated Press photos