Game 137: Yankees vs. Red Sox • 09.03.14
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (9-8, 3.88)
Kuroda vs. Red Sox
RED SOX (61-77)
Brock Holt 3B
Mookie Betts CF
David Ortiz DH
Yoenis Cespedes LF
Daniel Nava RF
Allen Craig 1B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Christian Vazquez C
Jemile Weeks 2B
RHP Anthony Ranaudo (3-0, 4.50)
Ranaudo vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network and ESPN
WEATHER: Cooler than last night, which is a welcome change. Very little bit of wind blowing out to center.
UMPIRES: HP Tim Welke, 1B Todd Tichenor, 2B Clint Fagan, 3B Tim Timmons
YEAR IN REVIEW: Of the 25 calls Joe Girardi has challenged this season, 20 have been overturned in the Yankees’ favor. That’s the best success rate in baseball. The Yankees have had calls successfully overturned in each of their last seven challenges and in 11 of their last 12 (since June 6).
ROLL CALL: After getting Chaz Roe and Chris Young into last night’s game, the Yankees have now used 55 players this season, the second-highest total in franchise history. They’re one away from tying last year’s total, which means they could get there by getting Antoan Richardson in a game. There’s no one else on the roster who hasn’t already played in a Yankees game this season.
FINALLY, A BIG HIT: After tonight’s postgame show, the YES Network will premiere Aaron Boone Yankeeography: Moments of Glory which focuses on Boone’s 11th-inning, 2003 ALCS Game 7 game-winning home run which sent the Yankees to the World Series. The special features interviews with Boone, Willie Randolph, Joe Torre, Mike Mussina, Tim Wakefield, Kevin Millar, David Wells and Jorge Posada.
UPDATE, 7:26 p.m.: Quite a bunt by Gardner. Two on and one out for Beltran.
UPDATE, 7:28 p.m.: My gosh. That was a complete mess. Worse base running than last night? Has to be, right?
UPDATE, 7:45 p.m.: Maybe it’s not going to be one of those nights after all. Brian McCann just sent a no-doubt, two-run homer into the second deck and it’s a 2-0 Yankees.
UPDATE, 7:58 p.m.: Kuroda through three scoreless. Five strikeouts already.
UPDATE, 8:48 p.m.: Bases loaded in the fifth, the Yankees didn’t run themselves out of a scoring opportunity this time. Jacoby Ellsbury lifted a deep sacrifice fly, and now Jeter is up with two outs and two on trying to extend the lead even further.
UPDATE, 8:49 p.m.: Hit the ball fairly hard, but it’s right to the right fielder for an inning-ending fly out. Yankees will head into the sixth inning with a 3-0 lead.
UPDATE, 8:58 p.m.: RBI double by Holt has the Red Sox on the board, Yankees still up 3-1. Pretty hard-hit ball over Gardner’s head. First time Kuroda’s really had much trouble tonight.
When a team is winning, a $20 horsehead mask bought on Amazon feels like good luck.
When a team has lost two of three in a tight wild card race, a one-run loss feels like rock bottom.
“That’s about as bad as I’ve felt walking off a mound in my career,” Shawn Kelley said.
Surely a misplaced slider on August 28 isn’t the low point of Kelley’s career, but I have no doubt it’s going to feel that way on the flight to Toronto. Three days ago, the Yankees had won five straight and Kelley’s goofy horsehead had become an unlikely team mascot. Now the team has lost two of three and fallen to three games behind both the Tigers and Mariners for the second wild card.
“We need to win every single game,” Derek Jeter said. “I don’t know how else to say it. That’s the approach we need to have. We’re in this position because of how we’ve played up to this point. So we are where we are, and now we need to win.”
As you might expect, there was a definite sense of lost opportunity in the Yankees clubhouse postgame. There were line drive outs. Brian McCann’s near home run was blown just foul. Kelley was one out away from escaping the ninth-inning jam.
When things are going well — when masks are good luck charms, and the team is winning, and 90s hip-hop is blasting in the clubhouse — there’s a real sense that games like this will eventually turn in the Yankees favor. But today, there was no laughing and no music blasting. And that horse mask was nowhere to be found.
“I didn’t watch (the game-winning hit),” Kelley said. “I just put my head down and walked off the field. It would’ve been a nice surprise if he would’ve (caught it), but I assumed it was a homer.”
• To be clear, off the bat I felt certain Alex Avila’s game-winner was a home run. I never thought Ichiro Suzuki had a shot at it until he closed the gap and came fairly close to a full-sprint catch at the wall. Ichiro was close, but I have a hard time suggesting he misplayed it. I’m mostly stunned he got that close. “It’s a do-or-die play,” Ichiro said. “I just went to where I thought the ball was going to be.”
• Girardi on whether Ichiro had a shot to make the catch: “It’s really hard for me to see once it gets out there. I heard him hit the wall, and I think I heard the ball hit the wall. I can’t tell you what exactly happened, but the bottom line is that it ended up being a base hit.”
• Kelley struck out both Nick Castellanos and Torii Hunter on fastballs, and he gave up both the Victor Martinez and Avila base hits on sliders. Surprised he went slider in that two-out situation against Avila? “No, that’s his bread-and-butter pitch,” Girardi said. “He also made some pretty good pitches with some sliders during some of the at-bats too.”
• Kelley on the first-pitch slider to Avila: “I got the outs I wanted to get, and then just overthrew a slider and left it up. Avila can hit that pitch. Most guys can.”
• Everyone involved seem to think McCann had a two-out, three-run home run in the top of the ninth. It seemed fair initially, but it eventually wound its way just foul. “I did (think it would stay fair),” McCann said. “It just kept going. I don’t know if the wind took it or what. It would have been nice if it stayed fair, but it didn’t.”
• Girardi said it “wasn’t a consideration” to use Dellin Betances for two innings tonight, and he indicated that it had nothing to do with using Betances last night. “You feel good about (Kelley) on the mound, especially the way he’s been throwing the baseball,” Girardi said. Kelley’s past five games leading into this one: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.
• Another pretty good start by Hiroki Kuroda, who has a 3.28 ERA in his past nine games. “I think I was pretty consistent with my splits,” Kuroda said. “I was able to be effective against the right-handers with my split.”
• We’re not into September yet, but Kuroda seems fairly confident that he can finish this season stronger than he did last year. “Yes, I had a bad second half last year and I am conscious of that,” he said. “I try to be different this year.” Kuroda has done things like limit the pitches he throws between starts in an effort to stay strong down the stretch.
• What made rookie Kyle Lobstein so effective? Girardi actually said the Yankees hit the ball better today than they did against David Price. “From the game that I saw, we swung the bats better than we did yesterday,” he said. “We just hit balls at people. That’s unfortunate. One inning we lined out three times. That’s part of the game, and we’re able to put a number of hits together and that’s why we didn’t score, but I actually thought we swung the bats well.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury had one hit, an RBI single. he’s hitting .462 in his past 10 games. Carlos Beltran is also fairly hot lately. He had two hits including a double and is batting .375 on the current road trip. This was his 27th multi-hit game of the season.
• This was the 42nd time the Yankees were limited to two runs or less this season. Little surprise they’re 7-35 in those games.
• Final word to Brett Gardner: “If we make up one game per week we’ll be in good shape at the end. I feel like we’re playing better baseball. Our pitching has been pretty consistent and they give us a chance to win ballgames. We’re headed in the right direction. It’s disappointing today, but we have another game tomorrow so we can’t get too down. We’ll keep grinding away.”
Associated Press photos
Game 132: Yankees at Tigers • 08.28.14
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (9-8, 3.97) vs.
Kuroda vs. Tigers
Rajai Davis CF
Ian Kinsler 2B
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
J.D. Martinez RF
Nick Castellanos 3B
Don Kelly LF
Alex Avila C
Andrew Romine SS
LHP Kyle Lobstein (0-0, 4.76)
Lobstein has never faced the Yankees
TIME/TV: 1:08 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
WEATHER: Temperatures in the 70s without much chance of rain.
UMPIRES: HP John Tumpane, 1B Bill Welke, 2B James Hoye, 3B Bob Davidson
GOOD WHILE IT’S LASTED: Hiroki Kuroda is 36-32 with a 3.49 ERA in 91 starts with the Yankees, marking the lowest ERA as a starter among pitchers who have made at least 50 starts with the club since 1990. No pitcher has produced a lower career ERA as a starter with the Yankees since Ron Guidry compiled a 3.32 mark in 323 starts with the club from 1975-88 (minimum 50 starts).
COMPLETE SET: Kuroda has never gotten a win against the Tigers. He has at least one career win against every other team. He os attempting to become the 14th pitcher all time to defeat each of the current 30 MLB teams (Kevin Brown, A.J. Burnett, Dan Haren, Randy Johnson, Al Leiter, Derek Lowe, Jamie Moyer, Terry Mulholland, Vicente Padilla, Curt Schilling, Javier Vazquez, Woody Williams, Barry Zito).
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Derek Jeter recorded his 539th career double last night, tying Al Simmons for 34th place on baseball’s all-time list. He needs one double to tie boyhood idol Dave Winfield and Joe Medwick for 32nd place.
UPDATE, 1:32 p.m.: Two inning in, the Yankees are clearly waiting for that nine-hit third to finally get going offensively.
UPDATE, 1:41 p.m.: Sac fly. Tigers have the early lead.
UPDATE, 1:51 p.m.: Zelous Wheeler with an infield single, gets to second on a throwing error, then scores on a two-out RBI single by red-hot Jacoby Ellsbury. That’s enough to tie the game here in the third inning.
UPDATE, 2:15 p.m.: Get a couple of hits, one goes for extra bases, then an RBI ground out. It’s just that simple, folks. Yankees up 2-1 in the fourth.
UPDATE, 2:37 p.m.: Two-out single by Davis to tie the game at 2. Naturally, we’re back to a question of whether the Yankees will be able to score.
UPDATE, 2:44 p.m.: Pretty hard-hit ball for Teixeira. Looked like it might be a double off the bat, but Davis tracked it down in left center and it’s still a 2-2 game as we head into the bottom of the sixth.
UPDATE, 2:52 p.m.: Kuroda is through six with the game still tied at 2. He’s been fine. Just waiting for one team to actually do something to take control of this game.
UPDATE, 3:21 p.m.: The Yankees got seven innings of two-run ball out of Kuroda. Now here’s Betances to pitch the eighth. It’s still a 2-2 game and hasn’t been a very lively one.
UPDATE, 3:44 p.m.: Brian McCann missed a three-run homer by a couple of feet and ultimately struck out to leave the go-ahead run stranded at third base. Here’s Shawn Kelley to try to keep this from being a walk-off loss.
Pitching matchups in Detroit • 08.26.14
RHP Brandon McCarthy (5-2, 1.90)
RHP Rick Porcello (14-8, 3.10)
7:08 p.m., MY9
RHP Shane Greene (3-1, 3.17)
LHP David Price (12-9, 3.00)
7:08 p.m., YES Network and ESPN
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (9-8, 3.97)
RHP Justin Verlander (11-11, 4.82)
1:08 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
Associated Press photo
Game 127: Yankees vs. White Sox • 08.23.14
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (8-8, 3.97)
Kuroda vs. White Sox
WHITE SOX (59-69)
Alejandro De Aza LF
Carlos Sanchez 2B
Jose Abreu 1B
Adam Dunn DH
Avisail Garcia RF
Conor Gillaspie 3B
Alexei Ramirez SS
Jordan Danks CF
Adrian Nieto C
RHP Scott Carroll (5-7, 4.99)
Carroll vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m, YES Network (gonna be a bit late because Joe Torre is quite the talker)
WEATHER: Cloudy and windy.
UMPIRES: HP Tom Woodring, 1B Mike Winters, 2B Andy Fletcher, 3B Mike Muchlinski
PREGAME CEREMONY: Today the Yankees honored Joe Torre with a pregame ceremony to retire his No. 6. Torre compiled a 1,173-767-2 (.605) regular season record and a 76-47 (.618) postseason mark as Yankees skipper, leading the club to the playoffs in each year as manager. He?went 21-11 in the World Series, 27-14 in the ALCS and 28-22 in the ALDS with the club. Torre’s regular season wins total is second in club history to only Joe McCarthy, who went 1,460-867 (.627) over 16 seasons from 1931-46.
THREE HIT DAY? Jacoby Ellsbury has 997 career hits, putting him three away from reaching 1,000 for his career.
COMEBACK KIDS: The Yankees have come from behind in 12 of their past 16 wins.
UPDATE, 1:49 p.m.: Just left Joe Torre’s pregame press conference to find the Yankees trailing 1-0 on back-to-back doubles in the second inning. Hiroki Kuroda’s already over 40 pitches and the second inning isn’t over yet.
UPDATE, 1:56 p.m.: So the White Sox get a lead, then promptly walk the leadoff hitter, botch a groundball and throw away a bunt? Yowza. Yankees being given a gift here in the bottom of the second. Bases loaded with no outs and no hard contact.
UPDATE, 2:03 p.m.: Couple of weak ground balls — one for a double play, one to end the inning — but because of the White Sox mistakes, the Yankees did enough to tie the game at 1.
UPDATE, 2:34 p.m.: Well that got a little screwy. Pretty late sign from Thomson. Bad base running by the Yankees. The only silver lining is that the White Sox let the trail runner get to second on the play.
UPDATE, 2:47 p.m.: Base running goofiness abounds in the fourth inning, but Martin Prado delivers a two-run double and the Yankees are in front 3-1.
UPDATE, 3:06 p.m.: White Sox got a run in the top of the fifth. The Yankees got a hard-hit line drive in the bottom of the inning, but Alexi Ramirez jumped 30 feet in the air — approximately — to rob Mark Teixeira.
UPDATE, 3:16 p.m.: Solo homer for Carlos Beltran. Elbow looks just fine on that swing. Yankees up 4-2.
UPDATE, 3:22 p.m.: Prado gets a hustle double, replay shows he made it, and then he forces the White Sox to make a play and scores on a relatively shallow sac fly. Prado’s third hit of the game, feels like his 20th hit of the week, and the Yankees have at last scored more than four runs in a game. They’re up 5-2.
Pitching matchups vs. White Sox • 08.22.14
RHP Shane Greene (3-1, 2.91)
LHP John Danks (9-8, 4.94)
7:05 p.m, My9
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (8-8, 3.97)
RHP Scott Carroll (5-7, 4.99)
1:05 p.m., YES Network
LHP Chris Capuano (1-3, 4.35)
LHP Chris Sale (10-3, 2.12)
1:05 p.m., YES Network
Associated Press photo
The schedule won’t let the Yankees give Hiroki Kuroda six days off before every start down the stretch, but they were able to give him that many this time, and it seemed to make a difference. Coming off a rough outing against Cleveland, Kuroda looked like a dependable piece of the rotation again this afternoon.
At times, he looked like more than that.
“When he’s got his stuff darting like that to both sides of the plate, he’s tough to beat,” Brian McCann said. “… He was splitting both sides of the plate, kept them off balance all day. They came out really aggressive, he slowed them down a little bit with some offspeed early in the count. He pitched awesome.”
Last time out, Kuroda couldn’t make it through the fifth inning, and the Yankees would like to believe that was simply a bump in the road, not a sign that he’s about to begin the down-the-stretch collapse that became familiar the past two seasons. Before that disappointment last Sunday night, Kuroda had pitched to 3.49 ERA in his previous nine starts.
“The two extra days, I was able to physically get refreshed, as well as mentally,” Kuroda said.
Kuroda is the only part of the Opening Day rotation that’s lasted the whole season. He had a pretty rough month of April, but he’s been pretty consistent ever since. There have been some short, ineffective starts mixed in there, but he hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs since the beginning of May.
“He had everything in his arsenal today,” Joe Girardi said. “I think it was important because people would start asking questions, ‘Is he tired?’ Maybe the extra days helped him. … We will do it when we can. Unfortunately, we lose one off-day going to Kansas City where he could have been afforded it, but I think he’ll only go one start this time through with five days. It should help, yeah.”
• Mark Teixeira’s home run was No. 361 in his career, passing Gary Gaetti and tying Joe DiMaggio for 80th place on baseball’s all-time list. He was the first Yankees hitter to reach 20 home runs this season, the latest they’ve gone into a season without a 20-homer guy since 1995 when Paul O’Neill reached that number on September 12.
• Brett Gardner’s two-run signle in the fifth inning gave him 52 RBI for the season, matching his single-season career high. For a little while, Gardner was tied with Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury for the team lead in RBI, but both Teixeira and Ellsbury drove in runs later in the game.
• That two-run single up the middle was a huge hit for the Yankees, who had been hitless in the game until the batter before, Martin Prado, came through with a double. For a team desperate for offense, that Gardner at-bat felt like a must-have opportunity. “I’m thinking about trying to get a run across, you know?” Gardner said. “I’m just thinking about trying to find a way to get a pitch to handle. I’m definitely not thinking negative thoughts.”
• Including Gardner and Prado, five straight Yankees reached base with two outs in that fifth inning. “You get an excellent at-bat from Stephen Drew, a long at-bat (for a walk),” Girardi said. “A long at-bat from Prado, then Gardy gets the big hit there. Then Ells; a big hit as well as Jeter. To be able to put those together when it looks like you have nothing going and he’s rolling along with a no-hitter, it’s big.”
• It was Ellsbury’s first hit of the road trip. He was 0-for-17 on the trip before that two-out RBI single.
• Derek Jeter has a hit in 12 of 14 games this month. He went 4-for-13 this weekend. Of his 11 hits against the Rays this season, seven have come with two strikes. How’s that for relatively obscure stats coming from the Rays media relations department?
• After allowing those back-to-back singles in the first inning, Kuroda retired his next 17 in a row. “I think my slider, especially against righties, was a pretty decent staple,” Kuroda said. “For me, the thing was I wanted to pound the zone today and be aggressive; a lesson from the last time.”
• Kuroda threw 72 pitches in the first six innings, but he threw 25 pitches in the seventh before being removed with two outs. Shawn Kelley got a huge strikeout to get Kuroda out of the jam. Really, that might have been the at-bat of the night. Runners were left stranded at the corners, and it was only a one-run game at the time. “That’s a huge out, obviously,” Girardi said. “If he doesn’t, they’re going to tie the score and have a chance to take the lead. It’s a really big out.”
• Dave Robertson has now converted 21 straight save opportunities. Oddly, though, he hasn’t had a strikeout in three straight appearances. He’s stuck at 499 career strikeouts. This is only the fifth time in his career that he’s gone three consecutive outings without a strikeout. He also did it back in April.
• McCann on returning to the lineup after more than a week off: “Good after the first couple innings. I felt it get in game speed. The first couple innings were a little fast on me, but then (things) settled down and it was just like another game.” McCann said the speed of the game struck him more behind the plate than at the plate.
• Yet again, excellent infield defense for the Yankees. Chase Headley made a diving play at third, and Martin Prado made at least three really nice plays at second. “It was really good,” Girardi said. “They made some excellent plays. Prado made some excellent plays today and some tough plays. You can look at the play in the eighth inning where he doesn’t try to do too much; he understands to just get an out. It was outstanding.”
• Final word goes to Gardner: “Well, we’ve won our last two games. Obviously we’ve got another off-day tomorrow and hopefully we’ll go home and have a good week at home. We didn’t do what we wanted to do in Baltimore and obviously losing Friday night here, but the last two days have gone pretty good. We continued to pitch great and hopefully this week our offense can pick up the slack and give our pitchers a little breathing room.”
Associated Press photos
Game 122: Yankees at Rays • 08.17.14
Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter DH
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian McCann C
Chase Headley 3B
Stephen Drew SS
Martin Prado 2B
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (7-8, 4.03)
Kuroda vs. Rays
Desmond Jennings CF
Ben Zobrist 2B
Matt Joyce LF
Evan Longoria 3B
James Loney 1B
Yunel Escobar SS
Vince Belnome DH
Jose Molina C
Kevin Kiermaier RF
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (1-1, 2.61)
Hellickson vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 1:40 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: One more day of not having to worry about a rain out.
UMPIRES: HP Mark Ripperger, 1B Lance Barksdale, 2B Gary Cederstrom, 3B Kerwin Danley
MILESTONE K: Dave Robertson got last night’s save without a strikeout, which means he still has 499 career strikeouts in 374.2 career innings. Unless he goes a really, really long time before his next K, Robertson eventually will surpass David Cone (who had 500 Ks in his first 486.1 innings as a Yankee) as the fastest pitcher to reach the plateau in franchise history according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Should Robertson get his next out via strikeout, he would become the fifth pitcher in MLB history to reach 500 within his first 375.0 career innings, joining Billy Wagner (341 IP), Brad Lidge (354.2 IP), Armando Benitez (355.2 IP) and Rob Dibble (368.1 IP).
RELIABLE IN THE NINTH: Robertson has now converted 20 consecutive save opportunities since June 5, making the longest active streak in the Majors. He has become the fifth pitcher in franchise history to convert 20-or-more save opportunities in a row, joining Mariano Rivera (eight times, most recently 23 from April 9, 2012 to May 25, 2013), John Wetteland (once, 27 in 1996), Dave Righetti (once, 24 in 1986) and Goose Gossage (once, 25 in 1980). Rivera holds the franchise record, converting 36 consecutive save opportunities in 2009.
CLOSE CALLS: Not exactly a Robertson note, but this certainly has a lot to do with him. At 39-27, the Yankees have the Majors’ best record in games decided by two-or-fewer runs. They are 20-16 in one-run games, the third-best such record in the American League. They have won four of their last five games decided by one run.
UPDATE, 2:04 p.m.: Pretty solid play by Martin Prado to help Kuroda out in the first inning, but two singles and an RBI ground out were enough to give the Rays an early 1-0 lead.
UPDATE, 2:14 p.m.: Leadoff walk goes nowhere. That should be the title of a book written about this Yankees season.
UPDATE, 2:47 p.m.: Four innings. The Yankees have no hits.
UPDATE, 2:53 p.m.: There’s your daily nice play by Chase Headley over at third base. Diving catch on a line drive to end the fourth inning.
UPDATE, 3:06 p.m.: Well, the Yankees have a hit now. So that’s something. Two-out double by Prado in the fifth inning breaks up the no hitter. Here’s Gardner with a chance to drive in a couple of runs.
UPDATE, 3:10 p.m.: Two-out, two-strike, two-run single up the middle for Gardner. Yankees in front 2-1 as three hitters in a row have reached with two outs. Two batters ago they didn’t have a hit. Now they have a lead.
UPDATE, 3:15 p.m.: Make that five straight Yankees reaching base. Jeter and Ellsbury have singled, Ellsbury drove in a run, and it’s now 3-1 Yankees. The inning is still going with Teixeira at the plate.
UPDATE, 3:43 p.m.: Kuroda settled in nicely and is through three innings still with just one run on two hits. Martin Prado has helped him out, having a fine game at second base.
UPDATE, 4:01 p.m.: Couple of hits here in the seventh have pulled the Rays within 3-2. Some action in the Yankees bullpen now.
UPDATE, 4:11 p.m.: Two outs, runners at the corners, Shawn Kelley coming in to face Brandon Guyer. Trying to keep a one-run lead intact. Huge at-bat. Obviously.
UPDATE, 4:15 p.m.: High fastball and Guyer goes down swinging to strand the runners. Big out for Kelley. Betances now getting loose in the bullpen.
UPDATE, 4:21 p.m.: Teixeira’s 20th homer of the season and it’s a 4-2 lead. That little bit of breathing room feels pretty big right now.
Pitching matchups at Tampa Bay • 08.15.14
RHP Brandon McCarthy (4-1, 2.21)
RHP Alex Cobb (7-6, 3.41)
7:10 p.m., YES Network
RHP Shane Greene (3-1, 2.89)
LHP Drew Smyly (7-10, 3.73)
4:10 p.m., YES Network and FS1
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (7-8, 4.03)
RHP Jeremy Hellickson (1-1, 2.61)
1:40 p.m., YES Network
Associated Press photo
This is a big day for the Yankees rotation.
At least, it might be a big day for the Yankees rotation.
Not only is Michael Pineda making his first big league start in more than three months, but even before tonight’s first pitch, Masahiro Tanaka went into the outfield and threw 10 flat-ground fastballs. That’s a pretty small step, but it’s the most significant step yet in his return from a partially torn elbow ligament.
“Pain’s gone,” is the phrase Wally Matthews heard.
At this stage, it’s basically impossible for Tanaka to do anything that proves he’s in the clear and will definitely return to the Yankees rotation without needing Tommy John surgery. For now, the best the Yankees can hope for is that he doesn’t suffer a setback. And so far he hasn’t. We’re squarely into no news is good news territory, and right now it seems that Tanaka has no real news to report.
He’s a Major League pitcher who’s playing catch and throwing a few pitches off flat ground. As long as it goes well, none of this is a particularly big deal. It’s all just a series of steps in the right direction. It becomes a big deal when he either progresses to game action or suffers some sort of setback that shuts down the whole process.
• Although the Yankees originally announced a rotation that had Chris Capuano starting on Sunday, Hiroki Kuroda told reporters in Baltimore that he’s actually taking the ball that day. The Yankees seem to be clearly — and understandably — trying to give Kuroda a little bit of a rest in hopes of avoiding a late-season crash like they’ve seen in recent years.
• Joe Girardi told reporters that he expects Brian McCann to come off the disabled list on Saturday. McCann has been on the seven-day concussion DL.
• Pineda returns to the rotation tonight. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since April 23, the day he was ejected for using pine tar. Most pitches he threw during his minor league rehab assignment was 72 on Friday, so there’s basically no chance he’ll be cleared for anything particularly close to 100 pitches tonight.
• To open a roster spot for Pineda, Chris Leroux has been designated for assignment. What is this, three big league call-ups for Leroux this season? He’s been one of several guys shuttling back and forth to give the Yankees a long man when they need it. And the Yankees have needed it quite a bit because they’ve struggled to get much distance out of their starting pitchers.
• The Orioles have put third baseman Manny Machado on the disabled list with a knee injury. He hurt himself during Monday’s game against the Yankees. Chris Davis is back at third base for Baltimore.
• Speaking of Baltimore, from our friend Marly Rivera, here’s Orioles manager Buck Showalter on whether Pineda will be using pine tar tonight: “I’m hoping he’s got a little (pine tar) in the right place, YOU try gripping the ball in some of this weather.” It’s been said over and over again, but the problem with Pineda in Boston wasn’t so much that he was using pine tar, it was the fact he was being so blatant about it after the Red Sox had already looked the other way once.
• Clubhouse good guy Shawn Kelley did the Ice Bucket Challenge today and challenged Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez to do the same. Dan Barbarisi pointed out yesterday that Kelley lost his grandfather to ALS, so it’s pretty cool that he’s jumping into the recent trend.
• At the owner’s meeting to discuss the next commissioner, Hal Steinbrenner told Michael O’Keeffe that he expects to have Alex Rodriguez back in the Yankees lineup next season. That’s settled. I’m sure we won’t hear another word about it.
Associated Press photo