The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Pregame notes: Ivan Nova getting one more rehab start06.15.15

Ivan Nova

Even though the pitching line was impressive on Saturday, the Yankees have decided Ivan Nova needs one more rehab start.

He’s going to get one extra day of rest, so he’ll pitch on Friday. Joe Girardi said he wasn’t sure whether Nova would start in Double-A or Triple-A. Neither team is home, but Triple-A isn’t far away in Lehigh Valley. I guess that’s the smart bet.

“We just feel we want to make sure that he’s finished off,” Girardi said. “It’s not something that’s easy to make an adjustment if you say, we wish we would have had one more start, so we talked about it for a couple days and we just think it’s better that we know that he’s ready to go and ready to handle the rigors of throwing every fifth day and all that.

“They talked a little bit, they thought his fastball was good, his changeup was good. His curveball was not as sharp as they had seen it, and that could have just been the day. But for us, as I said, we waited a long time and to give him one more start and to make sure that he’s ready is probably the best thing to do.”

At some point the Yankees are going to use a sixth starter during this stretch of 20 days in a row, but it sounds like they’ll stay on rotation for this next turn.

“Right now we have not made a decision to insert a sixth starter so I would just assume everything is on rotation,” Girardi said.

One other bit of rotation depth news: Esmil Rogers accepted his outright assignment and will report to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Girardi had previously indicated the Yankees wanted Rogers to be stretched out as a starter in the minor leagues.

Alex Rodriguez• There is a ton of excitement about the Yankees being in town, and most of that is centered on the return of Alex Rodriguez, who grew up here. The scene on the field during batting practice was near chaos, and there was incredible media coverage for A-Rod when he spoke pregame. “It’s always great to be back home,” Rodriguez said. “Miami is where family is. I have a bus of people coming in today; family, friends, my daughters are here, high school coach, Little League coach, my seventh grade teacher. You name it. So obviously I’m very excited. Never thought I’d get the opportunity again to play in front of the home fans.”

• Any thought of playing Rodriguez these two days? “I think he’s played third maybe once or twice,” Girardi said. “And he’s fallen into being really comfortable in the DH role and sometimes two days off helps a player so, no, there was no thought.”

• Very minor hamstring issue for Carlos Beltran. He apparently felt something at the bottom of his hamstring near the muscle when he was doubled off first base during the Baltimore series. That’s why he’s not in the lineup today. Girardi said he expects Beltran in right field again tomorrow. “It’s minor,” Girardi said. “I could use him tonight.”

• Of course, Girardi also acknowledged that this is a big right field, Beltran doesn’t have much range, and Girardi thought Garrett Jones looked alright in the field yesterday. “Like I said, I though Garrett had a nice day yesterday and I’m giving (Beltran) another day,” Girardi said.

• Still no definitive next step for Jacoby Ellsbury. “I think it really depends on how these next two days go,” Girardi said. “He’s going to hit on the field today, so it’s the first time he’s done that, but I think it depends on how these next two days go.”

• Since we’re in a National League park, Yankees starters have to his these two days. Girardi said he feels a little better about it because he’s starting two of his more experienced hitters. “Tanaka hit in Japan, so he did know how to handle the bat there,” Girardi said. “And Eovaldi’s hit (in the National League), and he’s hit this season, so the two candidates we have in there are probably two of the better candidates.”

• Ichiro Suzuki is playing center field and batting second for the Marlins (he’s hitting .281 this season). That creates a pretty cool matchup with Ichiro against Tanaka. “You have two great players going at it,” Girardi said. “I’ve seen Ichiro matched up against other players from Japan, and I think the country gets very excited so I think it’s great for baseball.”

• However big you think Giancarlo Stanton is, I promise you he’s bigger. Didn’t realize his arms look like they do until I saw him in the clubhouse while talking to David Phelps. He’s just a giant of a man. And Phelps had a lot of kind words to say about Stanton. Apparently he really goes about things the right way.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: Girardi satisfied with Beltran’s effort in right field06.14.15

Carlos Beltran

Carlos Beltran is 38 years old. He’s been through a long list of injuries in his career, and just last season he took quite a hit when he flipped over a low wall trying to make a running catch at Tropicana Field. He used to be a Gold Glove center fielder, but now he’s a barely passable right fielder.

And Joe Girardi said he’s OK with that.

“We knew when we got him he wasn’t the center fielder he was back in the day,” Girardi said. “We knew that. Our ballpark being a shorter distance between home and right, it doesn’t play in as much. But you get to some of these other parks and it plays in a little bit.”

Here in Baltimore — and in a few others parks this season — Beltran’s let balls fall where other right fielders might have made a catch. He at times looks hesitant. Just two days ago, it seemed Brett Gardner expected Beltran to be in position to make a catch on a ball that fell for an embarrassing and avoidable base hit. Gardner took responsibility, but off the bat it looked like the right fielder’s ball.

“(The effort) is always there,” Girardi said. “I know Carlos is not a guy that plays like his hair’s on fire, but he’s playing hard. You have those certain guys that, I mean, Carlos was a Gold Glove center fielder and probably at times he looked like he was gliding to the ball. That’s just the way he runs. And I think sometimes people can mistake that for effort. The effort is there. … How many of you move as well as you did 20 years ago? I know I don’t.”

Today the Yankees have Garrett Jones in right field, and they have Chris Young available for late-inning defense, but Girardi said he plans to have Beltran back in right field these next two days in Miami. That’s another big ballpark, but the Yankees are banking on Beltran hitting enough to make up for the balls he can’t catch.

“That’s a lot of the reason why we replace him late in games,” Girardi said. “That’s why we do it. He’s in there for his bat.”

Ivan Nova• Still listed as TBA as recently as yesterday, the Orioles are starting right-hander Mike Wright today. He’s 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA. Apparently they’re getting lefty reliever Brian Matusz back today as well.

• Ivan Nova finished with an impressive pitching line in last night’s Triple-A rehab start, but Girardi didn’t sound completely sold on the outing. “He threw OK,” Girardi said. “The reports on him (said) he threw OK. … They said (his command) was OK too. His velocity was decent. His curveball maybe wasn’t quite as sharp as we’ve seen it. But he got stretched out a little bit and has been going every fifth day, so like I said, I’ll sit down with Brian and talk about what we think is best.”

• Obviously Girardi gave no definitive plan for Nova, but after listening to Girardi this morning, I’ll be a little surprised if Nova doesn’t get at least one more minor league start. I heard from a friend at last night’s Triple-A game who said Nova’s command was pretty bad. Not a lot of walks, but apparently he was a bit erratic.

• Still no plans to have Alex Rodriguez in the starting lineup at any point these next two days in Miami. “But everything is always subject to change,” Girardi said. Getting to 3,000 hits might have to wait until the upcoming home stand.

• What’s made Adam Warren so good lately? “I think it’s the consistency in his stuff,” Girardi said. “The location. Being able to use all four pitches. Able to keep hitters off balance doing that and showing them different looks. He’s been real consistent.”

• Triple-A outfielder Tyler Austin has been added to the minor league disabled list. He apparently hurt his hip diving for a ball. Not great timing. Austin was finally starting to hit this season. Had a .360/.429/.520 slash line in his last seven games.

• Tuesday’s pitching matchup: Former Marlins starter Nathan Eovaldi against former Yankees starter David Phelps.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: “Roles will kind of get dictated with some innings”06.13.15

Sergio Santos

In the past two days, the Yankees have overhauled more than 40 percent of their bullpen. They’ve sent one reliever to the disabled list, optioned another to Triple-A, and outrighted another off the 40-man roster and into limbo. They’ve called up two fresh arms, added one veteran, and moved basically everyone in to relatively new roles.

There was a time early this season when it seemed the bullpen might be a strength for the Yankees. Now they’re clearly trying to put the pieces back together.

“Our starters have pitched pretty well,” Joe Girardi said. “But collectively it’s not a group that gets into the eighth inning very often, so we have to use our relievers a lot.”

RamirezThe Yankees finally saw enough of Esmil Rogers and outrighted him last night. Today, they decided to sent Jacob Lindgren back to Triple-A in hopes of him gaining some consistency. To replace them, Jose Ramirez is up from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre — he’s fresher than Lindgren, Girardi said, and could give three innings if necessary — and they’ve added Sergio Santos, who signed a minor league deal earlier this month.

“I’ve been healthy now for quite a while,” Santos said. “And I feel good. Just super excited about this opportunity. … I think the roles will kind of get dictated with some innings, and once I get out there, and see how I do.”

Santos had a shoulder issue a few years ago that helped derail what had been a promising start to his big league career. The Yankees clearly think he has something left, but Girardi said he’ll be a bit cautious about thrusting Santos into big situations.

“We’ll try to get him in slowly,” Girardi said. “We’re seeing right-handers, so we’re going to need him. He’s a guy that has closed and had some success and we have to get him back on track. He’s got a swing and miss slider, but you have to get in counts to be able to use it.”

Santos said he’s felt good all year. Clearly there are reasons he was available — this is not a sure thing, and Santos seems to realize that — but the Yankees have looking for someone to be what David Carpenter was supposed to be. Sounds like Santos will get a chance to prove himself one way or the other.

“I think if I can come and establish what I know I can do, and hopefully what the Yankees believe I can do, it’ll be a good fit,” Santos said.

Jacob Lindgren• Lindgren was in the clubhouse this afternoon, but left about an hour before batting practice. He got into seven games and had some good moments, but he also made some costly mistakes and didn’t seem to reliably execute the way the Yankees would like. “He did OK,” Girardi said. “For a guy that was drafted last June, he did OK. Obviously there were some pitches he’d probably like to have back, but you can see the talent is there. It’s just a little more consistency from him.”

• Why Ramirez over Lindgren? “Jose’s fresher, number one,” Girardi said. “We’ve used Lindy the last couple of days, recently. I don’t know if I have (Chris Capuano) today, you lose Esmil, your other long guy, so we felt we better get some guys that can give us a little distance.”

• Sounds like Jacoby Ellsbury will report to Tampa next week only if the Yankees think he’s basically ready to start playing in games. “I said our hope is that he’ll stay in Florida,” Girardi said. “That’s our hope. If he’s not ready, he won’t. If we feel that he’s ready after Miami, we’ll leave him there. If he’s not, we’ll have to change our plan.”

• The plan is to stay on rotation this next turn through, without using a sixth starter. That means Michael Pineda is scheduled to make his next start on Wednesday when the Yankees return home.

• Ivan Nova is scheduled for 85-90 pitches in tonight’s Triple-A rehab start.

• Scranton/Wilkes-Barre added a third catcher to the roster today, which seems to be a reaction to Austin Romine being hit by a pitch to the head yesterday. Romine is relatively fine — no concussion, tests came back clean — but it was still pretty scary. And it certainly looked intentional after back-to-back first-inning home runs by Rob Refsnyder and Kyle Roller. “I actually texted him today,” Girardi said. “He says he’s OK. He says he feels a little sore where he got hit, doesn’t have concussion symptoms; I guess the tests came back well. I was nervous when I saw the video of it, but he says he’s doing OK.”

• Does Girardi plan to always pinch hit for Mason Williams against left-handed pitchers? “Some of it depends on the score,” he said. “(Last night) I knew that if he got on, we’d bring the tying run to the plate. It depends how early it is. We knew their closer was left-handed. There were a lot of things that went into (pinch hitting Chris Young last night).”

Associated Press photos

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Unexpected rehab discovery: Nova finding more confidence with his changeup06.12.15

Ivan Nova

It was almost in passing on Wednesday that Ivan Nova mentioned one thing that didn’t show up in the box score from his previous rehab start in Tampa.

“I was throwing changeups like I’m a changeup person,” Nova said. “I threw like 15, and I don’t remember the last time I threw 15 changeups in 72 pitches or something like that.”

That’s basically 20 percent changeups from a pitcher who’s typically thrown more like 3 or 4 percent changeups in his career.

Ivan Nova“I feel like I need to get that pitch back,” Nova said. “I once had it. I was throwing my changeup (in the past), and if I feel the good grip and I feel it’s a good at-bats (to use it) and I have that confidence, why not start throwing it now? It’s not something crazy. I feel like I’m going to see some spots where I can throw it, (but) not because I want to pitch different or anything like that.”

When Nova arrived in 2010, he threw a little more than 10 percent changeups in those first 10 big league games. In his last four seasons, though, he’s never thrown more than 4.4 percent changeups in a season. He’s thrown fewer than 4 percent changeups the past three years. His use of the pitch has occasionally jumped from start to start, but it’s never been a real go-to weaspon.

And Nova said he’s not expecting it to be necessarily a go-to pitch this year, simply a more reliable alternative when he doesn’t want to throw his fastball or his curveball. He noticed in his early bullpens this spring that the changeup was better than it had been in recent years, and he’s carried that through his rehab.

“I remember Dellin Betances told me one time, my changeup is going to be better,” Nova said. “I asked him why, like, I’m not doing anything different. He said, ‘Don’t worry about it. You’re changeup will be back.’ It happened like that. The changeup came back, and (there’s confidence) any time I feel like I need to throw a changeup. It’s not like my catcher calls for a changeup, and I say no. It’s not like that I was checking, checking, checking to go back to the changeup. Just, if he puts a changeup down, I throw a changeup.”

One curious thing about Nova and his changeup: his best stretches in the big leagues have not necessarily coincided with heavy use of that pitch. He had a terrific second half in 2011, and his changeup use actually declined during those months. Terrific month of June in 2012, and he cut back on his changeup use that month as well. His best full season was 2013, and he threw a lower percentage of changeups that season than any other.

Why, then, is Nova excited about the improvement of his changeup at time when he’s surely more concerned about his fastball and his breaking ball?

“When I have those (good) stretches, my fastball was working fine, working down in the zone,” he said. “Good velocity. Sinker, good movement. Curveball was there. Sometimes in those moments, (though), I have to go two sinkers or two curveballs because I don’t have the confidence to throw the changeup even in the good moments. You can put it two different ways: What would happen if I have that chanegeup every game? Do you think it would be better moments, or you think it would be a bad moment?”

Nova’s betting on better moments. It’s not that he feels forced to use the changeup more often, just feels more confident using it when the time is right.

“I hear a lot of people say, I don’t follow (scouting) reports, I just go with what I have that day,” Nova said. “Well, I follow my reports all the time, and when I have good games, when I feel good, I follow what I feel, too. … You know that changeup’s going to be good against, say, a left-handed batter (who’s) not too good against a changeup. If you know that, and you’re feeling good, and you’re feeling that pitch, why not?”

Associated Press photos


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Nova begins rehab tonight, starting the clock on tough rotation decision06.08.15

Ivan Nova, Joe Girardi

Obviously the draft is tonight’s main event for the Yankees, but before they make their first pick, Ivan Nova will make his first rehab start. Nova and Gregorio Petit are each supposed to play for High-A Tampa tonight, which means the Yankees are getting a little closer to having another starting pitcher in the mix.

“If (tonight) goes fine he’ll go to Scranton, weather permitting, and at that point we’ll evaluate,” Brian Cashman said last week. “We did build him up to 75 pitches in extended spring so we can keep him on the clock if we feel it’s necessary, or we can pull him if we need him.”

Do the Yankees need him?

CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi have been the weak links in the rotation, but even those two have pitched alright lately. And frankly, there seems to be little chance either one would be pulled from the rotation to make room for Nova. Clearly Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka — health permitting — aren’t going anywhere.

WarrenThat leaves Adam Warren, who’s been outstanding. Warren could be the right-handed reliever the Yankees are looking for, but so far he’s been too good as a starter to switch back into the pen. Will Nova’s return change that? If Warren pitches well in his next start to two, would the Yankees consider putting Nova in the bullpen instead?

“I feel good about where I’m at right now,” Warren said. “And I hate to look too far in the future or what may happen, but for me, I completely consider myself a starter.”

Maybe a six-man rotation?

Not likely. While the Yankees could use Nova as a sixth starter for one turn to give everyone an extra day of rest, Joe Girardi’s made it clear he has no plans of carrying six starters full time. If Nova’s coming back to pitch in the rotation, it will mean someone else being pushed out of the mix.

“There’s two ways that I think a six-man rotation could work,” Girardi said. “You go to a 13-man pitching staff, so now you’re at 12 position players, which makes it physically a real grind on your position players, and if you’re a National League team, it makes it really difficult. Or all your guys in the bullpen are two and three-inning guys, and when you make a change, you have to live with it. It just becomes difficult if your bullpen is only six guys, and let’s say you have a seventh and eighth-inning and ninth-inning guy, well, if you’re not tied or ahead, you’ve only got three guys that you can use. I think that’s where the difficulty is. Now, if they add a person to the roster, I think it’s more than feasible. But I think you have to do that.”

Since it’s a bit doubtful Major League Baseball will give the Yankees an extra player, a six-man rotation seems out of the question, which adds some intrigue to Nova’s road to the majors.

By the way, if you’re following tonight’s Tampa Yankees game: Eight of their players were named Florida State League all-stars today: RHP Andury Acevedo, RHP Jonathan Holder, RHP Angel Rincon, C Kyle Higashioka, 3B Miguel Andujar, 1B Mike Ford, SS Tyler Wade and OF Danny Oh.

Associated Press photo

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Cashman talks Ellsbury, Pineda, A-Rod, Nova and Tanaka06.06.15

Brian Cashman

Yesterday afternoon, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman stepped onto the field to watch a little bit of batting practice. While he was there, he talked to the media for a while. Nothing particularly new came out of it, but the GM did hit on a number of topics that really matter to this team right now, so here are a few highlights:

On the recovery of Jacoby Ellsbury
“We had a timetable. I don’t think we talked about it too much publicly. He was going to be in one of those lineman-looking braces for three weeks. He’s been doing running and stuff in the brace, I think, with some low-level resistance. Obviously doing a lot of strength work. He’s been working his tail off to make sure his quads and his hammys and everything else are not falling behind. … My update through yesterday is he’s busting his tail and doing a lot of functional stuff, but he’s got to have that brace on for three weeks total and he’s just past week two.”

On the decision to have Michael Pineda skip a start
“We’ve just been talking through it. Tanaka obviously got a time out because of the injury he had, so with the off days that we’ve had, it was: all right, let’s try to make a decision here at least on this front end. There’s other avenues to do it if you got a full complement (and) everybody’s healthy. You can always play with a six-man rotation if Nova’s back and everybody’s in line. We’re just trying to find ways to manage it properly so everybody keeps that full tank of gas and doesn’t have fatigue set in too easily, because once fatigue sets in, injuries can happen.”

On the idea of six starter when Ivan Nova is healthy
“It just depends on time of year, how things are functioning, who’s experiencing what. There’s no strict plan as much as (trying to) find ways at times to give people blows is basically what we’re going to try to do. But how we’re going to do it, we’re not sure just yet. … (Nova)’s going to have one (rehab start) in the Florida State League. If that goes fine, he’ll go to Scranton, weather permitting, and at that point we’ll evaluate. I guess it’s possible (he could be back this month). We did build him up to 75 pitches in extended spring so we can keep him on the clock if we feel it’s necessary, or we can pull him if we need him.”

On the dependability of Alex Rodriguez as an everyday player
“It was unpredictable what we were going to get. I could throw out there about the DH spot, it’s not as demanding and we all know that, but I didn’t have any expectations, let alone playing every day as a DH or being productive. He’s been very, very impressive and obviously helpful.”

On lingering foot concerns with Brian McCann
“I’m just thankful every test was negative. (The wrong orthotic) is more likely than not what was causing the issues. We’ll just swap it out and we’ll be able to go on from there and forget that it happened.”

On lingering elbow concerns with Masahiro Tanaka
“I can only speak for myself; I don’t think about it any more. I just think about if he is going to perform. In his last start, given how it was in his two rehab starts, I just wanted him to be productive. I knew he was around an 85-pitch count, so I didn’t know if we were going to be deep in the pen or not. My God, he was tremendous. I wasn’t worried about health. If something is going to happen, it’s going to happen.”

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: McCann relieved by foot diagnosis06.05.15

Brian McCann, Steven Souza Jr.

When Brian McCann talked about his sore right foot on Wednesday, the concern was obvious in the tone of his voice. His answers were short. His delivery cautious. He’d been unable to stay in a crouch that afternoon, and it takes a lot for McCann to admit he can’t play.

So when he slipped into that MRI machine yesterday, he was worried. Today, he’s relieved.

No plantar fasciitis. No Lisfranc injury. The arch of McCann’s foot is like a set of bad eyes, and it’s prescription has changed. McCann was given a new set of orthotics. He caught a bullpen session today just to test them out and declared himself ready to play.

“I had the same old (orthotics) for the last three years,” he said. “And the arch on my foot has changed. I needed to get new ones. Once it got inflamed, it was harder to calm down. … I think this will take care of it.”

Losing McCann would have been a significant blow to both the lineup and the pitching staff, but the Yankees are hopeful they’ve made it through this scare while only losing McCann for eight innings.

Joe Girardi posted a late lineup today because he wanted to make sure McCann could catch with no problem. After catching a pen, McCann said he was good to go.

“It only flared up when I caught,” McCann said. “Walking around it didn’t flare up, but once I got in my squat and moved around (it hurt). That’s what we’ve been waiting for today. Went out there and didn’t flare up.”

Jacoby Ellsbury, Joe Girardi• Jacoby Ellsbury has started going light baseball activities. He did a set of 10 40-yard sprints at about 50-percent effort. He also took dry swings in the cage and played catch. “He is obviously getting better,” Girardi said. “I don’t have a date when he’ll be a player for me, but it’s better than when we left because he wasn’t doing anything like that.”

• Carlos Beltran’s foot is still sore after that foul ball on Tuesday. The expectation is that he’ll be available to pinch hit, but he’s out of the lineup for a second game in a row. “The concern that you have there, besides it being really sore, is that he favors that and hurts something else,” Girardi asid. “We’ll shoot for tomorrow.”

• Brendan Ryan’s rehab assignment has been shifted to Double-A Trenton.

• Ivan Nova will begin a rehab assignment with High-A Tampa on Monday. He will be scheduled for 80-85 pitches. He could be a big league option soon after that. “Right now we have him scheduled for at least two more (including Monday),” Girardi said. “Then we’ll go from there to see where he’s at.”

• No plans to immediate add a right-handed reliever, but the Yankees will almost certainly do that at some point (I guess it could happen when Nova comes back). “As of right now, it is what it is,” Girardi aid. “If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t predict that we would have that many left-handers in there the rest of the season. But right now, it is what it is.”

• Forgot to mention this in the previous post about limiting Michael Pineda’s innings: Girardi said the Yankees don’t have a specific number of innings they’d like Pineda to pitch, they just know that well over 200 is too many. “I have not been given a number,” Giradri aid. “We have not talked a number as an organization. But we know that 220 is out of the question, in our mind, for the regular season.”

• While he’s out of the rotation, there’s some chance Pineda could be available in an extra-inning situation either Sunday, Tuesday or Wednesday. The Yankees won’t plan to use him that day, but if they got into a crazy game, Girardi wouldn’t rule it out. “I think you’d have to say that that’s a possibility if he hadn’t thrown a side that day,” Girardi aid. “He’ll still continue to do his sides, but as we know there’s much less intensity there and you want to keep him as sharp as you can.”

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: “That’s what I want to do right now”06.01.15

Adam Warren

Had spring training gone as planned, Adam Warren might never have stepped into the Yankees’ rotation in the first place. Two months into the season, though, Warren’s proven too valuable to play any other role.

When Masahiro Tanaka comes off the disabled list on Wednesday, it will be veteran Chris Capuano who’s taken out of the rotation and moved into the bullpen. Warren, who thrived as a reliever last season, will continue working as a starting pitcher.

“I’ve really gotten back into the starter mode,” Warren said. “I’ve enjoyed pitching as a starter, and I wanted to stay that way. I’m excited about it, and that’s what I want to do right now.”

CapuanoWarrenHaving been developed as a starter all through college and the minor leagues, Warren spent the past two years in the Yankees’ bullpen, first as a long man and then as trusted setup man. He came into spring training as a kind of just-in-case rotation option, and broke camp as a starter largely because Capuano opened the season on the disabled list. Warren got off to a so-so start, but he’s thrived his past four times out. Since May 13, Warren has a 2.70 ERA while pitching into the seventh inning each time.

“Obviously I think he could be really effective in the bullpen,” manager Joe Girardi said. “But his starts are important too. We decided to keep him there.”

Putting Warren in the bullpen would have been tempting because the Yankees have lacked a dependable right-handed reliever beyond Dellin Betances. With a return to last year’s performance, Warren could have solidified the seventh inning, which has been a weak spot for the Yankees. Instead, the Yankees will put Capuano into the bullpen, where the team already has two long relievers (Esmil Rogers and Chasen Shreve) and four lefties (Shreve, Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson and Jacob Lindgren). Girardi said Capuano will be available for many roles, either for multiple innings or for short relief or for left-on-left matchups.

“With Masa coming off the DL on Wednesday, and (Ivan) Nova not far behind, I figured it was a numbers game,” Capuano said. “Going to try to be ready to do my job in the bullpen.”

Indeed, the Yankees might face a similar decision in a few weeks. Nova has been working his way back from Tommy John surgery and is scheduled for one last extended spring training start before beginning an official rehab assignment.
Assuming Nova’s ready by the end of the month, Warren might have to continue proving himself as a starter between now and then.

“I’m only worried about my next start,” Warren said.

Stephen Drew• Who are the Yankees sending down to make room for Tanaka? “We’ll make that decision Wednesday,” Girardi said. “There’s a lot that can happen between now and Wednesday.”

• Benched the past two days, Stephen Drew is back in the lineup at second base. “It’s tough, but we signed him to be our second baseman,” Girardi said. “He’s worked really hard the last couple days to see if he could work on a couple little things here or there. I want to get him back out there.”

• So Drew’s been working on mechanics? “It’s always a little bit (mechanical) when you’re struggling,” Girardi said. “It’s working on your path to the baseball and he’s worked really hard the last two days. I want to see it.”

• Has to become a confidence issue at some point, right? “No. I think he’s done a pretty good job of keeping upbeat and having confidence in what he can do,” Girardi said. “He knows he can hit. He’s probably been as unlucky as any hitter that we have. Hopefully that changes.”

• The Mariners will apparently bring up Mike Montgomery to make his major league debut as tomorrow’s starter. That means, Jose Pirela will return to the lineup tomorrow. “I think we’re facing a lefty tomorrow, so I’ll sit one of my left handers and Pirela will be back out there,” Girardi said.

• The Yankees will almost certainly shuffle their rotation because of all the off days coming up. Girardi indicated that they will likely not simply stay on rotation.

Nova• Nova’s final extended spring training start will be Wednesday, Girardi said.

• Girardi on the Mariners’ lineup: “Nelson Cruz has had as good a season as anyone up until this point. He’s hit the ball out of the ballpark, and not in the most friendly ballpark in the world for home run hitters. We know how dangerous he is. We saw how important he was to the Baltimore lineup last year. The big thing with Nellie is you have to keep people off base. Robbie Cano is a guy that can hit any pitch, and he can hit it hard and drive the baseball. That’s a tough order, keeping him off in front of Nellie, but I think it’s important.”

• Girardi on today’s pitching matchup: “You look at Felix, he’s as good as it gets when it comes to being an ace of a staff, understanding what his job is and getting deep into games. It’s something that I’m sure Michael has paid close attention to and is trying to learn. He developed a changeup, probably because he saw what Felix did with his changeup and how effective it was. It wasn’t your typical changeup that had a 10-12 mile per hour difference, but it was fairly close it had sink and was an effective pitch.”

Associated Press photos

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Injury updates: Nova, Tanaka, Petit, Ryan, Martin05.21.15

Ivan Nova

It could be a matter of days before Ivan Nova is ready to begin a legitimate rehab assignment.

After throwing 47 pitches in an extended spring training start on Monday, Nova will get stretched out a little bit more this weekend before the Yankees settle on what exactly he’ll do next.

“They were really pleased with how he did,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I think he’s got one more down there, on Saturday, and we’ll go from there.”

When Nova does official begin a rehab assignment, it won’t necessarily take a step back to a pitch count resembling the start of spring training. Girardi said these extended-spring starts were designed to get him stretched out so that he could throw more pitches once he got into real games.

“He won’t have to go back to like 15 or 20 (pitches),” Girardi said. “This just allows us, in a sense, to build him up with more starts. When you’re coming off what he is, you want to make sure the command is there, so he should be able to give you a couple starts with a substantial amount of pitches. Whereas if you just did the 30 days (of a rehab assignment), you’d get one at 90.”

A few more injury updates:

Yankees Blue Jays BaseballMasahiro Tanaka
He’s making a rehab start tonight with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Scheduled for three innings or 45 pitches, it seems Tanaka will need at least two more minor league starts before the Yankees would consider him stretched out enough to rejoin the big league rotation.

“It’s a decision that we’ll make after each start when we feel that he’s ready to go,” Girardi said. “I’m not going to put a number on it.”

Jacoby Ellsbury
So far, the Yankees have said only that Ellsbury has a sprained ligament on the outside of his right knee. They haven’t given a grade or any other clue about the severity. Even Ellsbury himself claims not to know for sure. Ellsbury will meet with Dr. Chris Ahmad on Friday, at which point the team will presumably provide at least a few more details.

“This is not doom and gloom,” Girardi said. “It’s just hard to predict. We want him to see our doctors. This is a guy who’s running all over the place. He’ll be ready when he’s ready and hopefully it won’t be too long.”

Gregorio Petit
Hit by a pitch to the hand way back on May 5, Petit still hasn’t even started hitting. He was diagnosed with a bone bruise and no break, but there’s still pain more than two weeks later.

“Hand’s still sore,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you get hit on those bones, and they don’t break, but that bone bruise, they’re painful.”

Martin Chris Martin
Friday will be two weeks since Martin last pitched. He’s been on the disabled list with right elbow tendonitis, but he’s been playing catch and is close to doing something more substantial. He’d become a fairly trusted reliever before the injury, so he could help solidify those middle innings.

“I think he’s supposed to throw maybe a bullpen at the end of the week,” Girardi said. “Saturday or Sunday.”

Brendan Ryan
Having injured his calf in spring training, Ryan has now been through two setbacks, most recently for some level of heat exhaustion. The plan is for him to begin playing extended spring training games this week (he was actually supposed to start playing yesterday, but Girardi wasn’t sure whether that happened). At this point, it seems he’ll need a rather lengthy rehab. It’s been a long time since those spring training at-bats.

“He’s got to get some at-bats,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t had consistent at-bats, so he’s got to get some at-bats.”

Associated Press photo

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Ivan Nova getting closer, but Yankees in no rush05.13.15

Ivan Nova

Chris Capuano is rotation depth that could come off the disabled list within the next week or so. Masahiro Tanaka is a rotation ace who could be available around the end of the month. Somewhere between those two — more than just depth, but not really a No. 1 — is Ivan Nova, the sometimes dominant, often inconsistent Yankees starter who’s working his way back from Tommy John surgery and is expected to become a rotation option sometime next month.

“The one thing is, you can’t rush him and hurt him,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Or (activate him when) he’s not ready to be here and you’re asking him to compete at a high level, which is unfair to him, and it’s unfair to all the guys, in a sense. I think he’s on a pretty normal progression. It’s been just over 12 months, so I think he’s doing pretty good.”

Yesterday was the Yankees big league staff got its first good look at Nova since he was last seen throwing off a mound in spring training. He technically pitched three innings of an extended spring training game, but pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he got six outs in the first inning.

Nova“So I don’t know what that counts for,” Rothschild said.

Figuring out exact innings will come. For now, the important details are that the Nova threw 33 pitches, and the Yankees were impressed by his command. Rothschild said Nova showed a good curveball, and Girardi said the fastball velocity got into the mid 90s.

“I thought he threw the ball well,” Girardi said. “The first couple of guys hit the ball in the air, then he got a ton of ground balls after that, which is what we see from Ivan when he’s on. I thought he threw some good curveballs. Weren’t a whole lot of left-handers in the lineup, so he didn’t get to throw as many changeups, but I think he hit 95. It was good.”

The Yankees haven’t put an exact time table on Nova — at least not publicly — but he’s clearly a part of their plans for this season, and they know he could be a significant boost whenever he’s ready. But they’re planning to take their time with him, and right now they have that luxury.

Pitchers often say they don’t feel 100 percent until 18 months to two years after Tommy John, so reaching the one-year mark and getting back into game situations doesn’t necessarily mean Nova’s back to his old self. Even his old self was sometimes unpredictable with bursts of brilliance but also extended stretches of disappointment. The Yankees want to have Nova close to full-strength before they start reserving a spot for him in the rotation.

“It’s just building up the stamina now and making sure you get through all the paces,” Rothschild said. “We’re not going to rush it. It’s not going to be a next day thing. It’s going to be taking him through the progressions he needs and trying to get him ready where he’s not only as far as conditioning and stamina ready, he’s ready pitch-wise and can get through games. … We’ll see where he gets to in the next few and try to figure it out.”

So far, the pitching staff has made up for the absence of Nova, Capuano and Tanaka. Michael Pineda has emerged as an ace, the other starters have held their own, and the bullpen has picked up some of the rotation’s slack (especially in terms of innings). The Yankees have made it work, but Capuano could be ready soon, Tanaka is clearly getting closer, and Nova keeps inching his way toward the big league radar.

“I’m sure he’s ready to be done with rehabbing at this point,” Girardi said. “I’m sure, when you’ve been rehabbing for a year, it’s got to seem like forever. I’m sure he’s getting anxious.”

Associated Press photo


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