As the Yankees head on the road to finish off this stretch of 20 games in a row — there are still seven games left, four in Houston and three in Los Angeles — their roster is in state of constant upheaval. Trying to make up for injuries, disappointing performances and one newborn baby, the team has cycled through a series of relief pitchers and a handful of bench players. The roster has seemed to change daily, and there’s most certainly going to be another change at some point today.
After yesterday’s game, the Yankees sent relievers Branden Pinder and Diego Moreno back to Triple-A. We already know one of those open roster spots will go to Stephen Drew, who’s coming back from the paternity list, but the other could be used for either a pitcher or a position player.
Here’s. look at some of the roster issues heading into this surprisingly important series against the much-better-than-expected Astros:
For the time being, the Yankees have just three bench players
Because of the unexpected Brendan Ryan injury, coupled with the Drew paternity leave, the Yankees actually played yesterday’s game with only two bench players. Safe to assume that will be remedied to some extent with Drew’s return this afternoon. Drew could have stayed on the paternity list until Friday, but he was back in the clubhouse yesterday and is expected to be in Houston tonight. With Drew, the Yankees will basically have a bench of Jose Pirela (the backup infielder), John Ryan Murphy (the backup catcher), and Garrett Jones (the backup outfielder/first baseman and possible left-field platoon with Chris Young). But there’s still an open roster spot, and it’s unclear whether the Yankees prefer to fill it with a position player or a pitcher. Normally, it would be a position player without a doubt, but the Yankees are in a bit of an unusual position following the return of Ivan Nova.
The Yankees are currently carrying six starters
Because they want to give all of their starters an extra day off, the Yankees are technically carrying a six-man rotation. Nova came off the disabled list yesterday, and the other five starters will pitch on five days of rest their next turn through the rotation. Extra rest makes obvious sense for a group of starters loaded with health and workload concerns, but it requires a sacrifice somewhere. To make a six-man rotation work, the Yankees will have to carry either a short bench or a short bullpen. Given the way they’ve handled the bullpen up to this point, it’s hard to imagine they’ll go with just six relievers. Then again, Girardi earlier in the week shot down the idea that he was definitely planning to carry a short bench, so maybe they feel covered in the bullpen with Chris Capuano and Bryan Mitchell able to go long. Whichever way they go — short bullpen or short bench — it should last only a few days until they’re ready to move someone — probably Adam Warren — out of the rotation and into the bullpen.
Even if they wanted a full bench, who would they call up?
Because the Yankees didn’t take advantage of the Ryan injury to let them immediately recall Ramon Flores, there’s really not an obvious option to fill a fourth bench spot right now. Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams are still hurt, and there’s really little point in carrying both Gregorio Petit and Pirela. The only other available position players currently on the full 40-man roster are Gary Sanchez (a Double-A catcher) and Tyler Austin (a right-handed outfielder who wouldn’t really have much of a role). Since it seems unlikely the Yankees are ready to give Rob Refsnyder the everyday job at second, it could be that they’ll simply wait for Jacoby Ellsbury to come off the disabled list before carrying the usual number of position players. That said, there’s not exactly an obvious pitching call-up on the horizon either.
Distance and durability concerns continue to impact bullpen decisions
Because the Yankees have not gotten consistent distance from their starting pitchers, there’s been a trickle-down effect on the bullpen, which has basically caused all of the up-and-down player movement we’ve seen lately. In the past 12 days, the Yankees have called up and/or activated nine different pitchers (Sergio Santos, Jose Ramirez, Jose De Paula, Mitchell, Pinder, Danny Burawa, Moreno, Nick Rumbelow and Nova). Mitchell was actually called up, optioned and called up again in that span. The long list of moves, though, hasn’t solved the key issues of getting more distance out of the starters and finding bullpen stability for the middle innings. Maybe Nova in the rotation, Warren (or someone else) in the bullpen and Andrew Miller (eventually) off the disabled list will finally fix those problems. For now, they linger, and they’re shaping an ever-changing roster.
It’s hard to tell who’s “next” on the list of impact call-ups
Because Refsnyder hasn’t hit enough to force the Yankees’ hand, and because Drew keeps hitting for good power in those rare moments when he gets a hit at all, it doesn’t seem that the Yankees are considering a change at second base. Their next impact additions to the outfield (Ellsbury) and bullpen (Miller) are more likely to come from the disabled list than the minor league system. So who will be the next young player to make his big league debut? The Yankees have had 10 players debut this season — most in the majors — but No. 11 might have to wait a while unless the Yankees have a trick up their sleeves today. Top prospects Luis Severino and Aaron Judge have each moved up to Triple-A and could be on the radar at some point, but an immediate call-up seems unlikely. Who else could be on the radar? Ben Gamel? Tyler Webb? Jaron Long? There’s not a no-doubt, next-in-line choice.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees are prepared to carry a six-man rotation for at least a few days.
Ivan Nova will be activated from the disabled list to start on Wednesday. Adam Warren will take his turn on Thursday, followed by the rest of the usual starters. Joe Girardi said, for now, the team prefers to carry the extra starter to give everyone an extra day of rest, but at some point — some point soon — they will cut back to a typical five-man rotation.
“The one thing that we have after this long streak is we have some off days (in early July),” Girardi said. “I wouldn’t anticipate us doing it after we get home from Anaheim.”
A six-man rotation will carry the Yankees through the end of June. On July 1, they’ll basically have to decide whether to have Warren start on an extra day or rest or to pitch Nathan Eovaldi on four days of rest. Scheduled off days mean the Yankees wouldn’t have to pitch anyone else on four days rest until the day before the All-Star break.
How the rotation adjusts in the next week or so is an issue for another day. For now, the Yankees have decided Nova is ready, so they’re taking him off the disabled list a little more than 13 month after Tommy John surgery. His last Triple-A rehab start wasn’t particularly overwhelming — 5 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K — but the Yankees believe that if Nova is healthy and pitching well, he can help them.
“To be honest, I wasn’t trying to show myself anything,” Nova said. “I was just getting ready. Trying to get my arm healthy and in good shape. I know exactly what I have to do when I go to the mound. Even knowing that you don’t get the results that you want, that stuff happens in the game. I was working hard, getting my arm back and in good shape.”
The Yankees have significant workload concerns throughout their rotation — Warren has basically matched his workload for the past two seasons — so adding Nova could be a boost, but there’s always a wild card element for a pitcher coming back from Tommy John. They’re physically able to pitch a year after surgery, but many say they don’t really feel 100 percent until two years after. Nova was prone to ups and downs even before the surgery, but the Yankees see him as a boost for their often worn-thin pitching staff.
“I don’t think you can ever make too much of what a Major League hitter or pitcher is doing in a minor league situation because it’s just different,” Girardi said. “We just feel that he’s ready to go. No matter how he does Wednesday, I don’t think you could say he wasn’t ready or he was ready. It’s just kind of a feel that we’re using, and we feel that it’s probably important that we inject this sixth starter in right now, in a sense, and that’s why we’re going to do it. … We know what he’s capable of doing, and he’s fairly rested in a sense, so it could mean a lot to our rotation.”
• Mark Teixeira had an MRI on his sore neck, but results weren’t available pregame. The Yankees are hoping this is only a short-term issue that will be reasonably corrected by another day off (he had one last week because of the same issue). “I don’t know if it’s ever really went away completely,” Girardi said. “It’s been going on for about 10 days now. We’ll continue to evaluate, I’m just going to give him a day today.”
• Against a right-handed pitcher, the Yankees have lefty Garrett Jones to easily step into first base. But they face a lefty — Cole Hamels — on Wednesday. “My thought is that Tex will be in there Wednesday,” Girardi said.
• Not that these things are related, but the Yankees minor league affiliates have officially announced that Aaron Judge has been promoted to Triple-A.
• Closer Andrew Miller expects to play catch on Wednesday. That’s just the start of a long-toss program, so he would still be several days away from throwing a bullpen, which would leave him even more days away from coming off the disabled list. As a reliever, though, his arm-strength-building process should be much quicker than it was with Masahiro Tanaka.
• Not much of an update on Jacoby Ellsbury: “He’s going to run the bases again, he’s going to take normal BP with us and go through normal BP,” Girardi said. No word on when he’ll take his next step.
• The Yankees have their go-to guys for the late innings — Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve — and they have Chris Capuano as their long man, then they have three relatively unproven right-handers in Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow and Diego Moreno. Rumbelow and Moreno were just called up today. “Pinder’s the most experienced of my (new) right-handers,” Girardi said. “And it’s just trying to get a feel for the other two as quick as I can. You’d like to put them in a situation where it’s not necessarily high-leverage right away, but sometimes you’re not afforded that.”
• With Danny Burawa and Jose De Paula each making their Major League debuts on Sunday, the Yankees have now used 20 pitchers in June, their most pitchers ever in a calendar month (excluding September). Could climb past that very soon with Rumbelow and Moreno. “Because of some of our concerns about the length that we get, we kind of rotate people in and out here a lot,” Girardi said. “And it doesn’t mean we don’t believe in them; we’re doing it to protect the arms of everyone.”
Associated Press photos
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.
• 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
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.”
• 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
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.”
The 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.
• 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
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.
“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
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.
That 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
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
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 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
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.”
Having 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.
• 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.
• 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