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:
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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
On the day he was removed from the 40-man roster this offseason, Slade Heathcott had bigger problems to worry about. He was rehabbing from a second knee surgery, and the early indications were not promising. Finding his way onto the roster was a challenge for another day. In that moment, Heathcott simply needed to find way to get on the field.
“End of November this past offseason, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play again, let alone be here,” Heathcott said, while standing directly in front of his first big league locker. “… My rehab still wasn’t coming around. November 26, I didn’t think I was ever going to play again. Got with a guy that I worked out with in Orlando, and three weeks later, I said, ‘I can’t believe it, but I can play in a game right now.’ And it just went forward from there. Now, I haven’t felt my knee since before spring training started. It’s been kind of crazy.”
Released and re-signed to a minor league deal, Heathcott entered spring training with a Double-A roster spot waiting for him. But he performed so well that the Yankees challenged him with a move up to Triple-A. In Triple-A, he played so well that last night he became the first true position player call-up of the season.
The Yankees could have gone with Ramon Flores — whose Triple-A numbers were just as good if not better — but they preferred Heathcott, suggesting they preferred someone who could excel in center field.
“They’re both playing well,” one team executive said this afternoon. “Heathcott’s skill set more closely matches (the) role/usage.”
While Heathcott’s not in the lineup tonight, manager Joe Girardi said he expects Heathcott to get some starts. He wouldn’t commit to a true center field platoon, but that seems likely given Chris Young’s struggles against right-handed pitching. Girardi said he wants to keep Brett Gardner in left field.
“I’ll use (Heathcott) for late innings for defense, and I could use him as a pinch runner,” Girardi said. “But he’s going to get some starts. I’m going to put him in the lineup and see how he does.”
After getting the call late last night — Heathcott was feeding his baby boy when the phone rang — Heathcott admitted he didn’t sleep a wink before catching a morning flight to Washington D.C. He said he tried to sleep on the plane, but he couldn’t. His wife and baby boy will be in the stadium tonight. Heathcott’s path from first-round draft pick to big league call-up has been a rocky one, filled with injuries and off-the-field issues, but at 24 years old and in his seventh season of pro ball, Heathcott says he’s matured in every way. He’s a smarter player on the field, and a better man off the field. He’s also healthy for the first time in a long time.
“Hopefully this can be the start of a lot of things,” he said. “It’s been a long road, but it definitely hasn’t been a boring one.”
• Girardi didn’t give any fresh insight into how long Jacoby Ellsbury will be on the disabled list. He said the Yankees will wait until Friday before setting any sort of timetable. “I think until you go through a few days of treatment and see how he responds to that, and he sees Dr. Ahmad,” Girardi said. “We’re just not ready to give you a timetable. It’s not something that requires surgery, so we’re not holding anything that’s doom and gloom. It’s just, you have to see how he responds over the next few days and what Ahmad thinks.”
• If Ellsbury weren’t a runner, Girardi said, a timetable would be a little easier to figure out. As it is, the Yankees have to make sure he’s ready to really run the bases and play center field.
• The injury is specifically located in the ligament on the outside of the right knee. Girardi said it’s an unusual injury given the circumstances. “I’ve never seen it done,” Girardi said. “But we’ve seen Manny Machado tear his ACL taking a swing. It just looked like Jake’s heel got caught in the ground. Sometimes a guy’s spike gets caught. But I’ve never seen it happen like that, with the outside.”
• For now, it seems Carlos Beltran might be the regular No. 2 hitter. “Right now that’s how I’m doing it,” Girardi said.
• Ivan Nova is scheduled to make another extended spring training start on Saturday. He threw 47 pitches last time out. Girardi indicated Nova could begin a true rehab assignment after this upcoming start.
• Brendan Ryan was supposed to play an extended spring training game today, but Girardi wasn’t sure whether that actually happened. … Gregorio Petit is still not swinging a bat. His hand still hurts. … Chris Martin is scheduled to throw a bullpen this weekend. He’s been playing catch.
Associated Press photos
Jacoby Ellsbury said he’s still not sure how long he’ll be on the disabled list, and he likely won’t know until he meets with Dr. Christopher Ahmad on Friday. For now, he only knows he has some sort of sprain — he hasn’t been told the severity — in the outer part of his right knee.
“They literally haven’t told me anything,” Ellsbury said. “They put me in a brace and I’ve just been doing treatment all day. I’ll be on the plane tonight, off day tomorrow, go in and do treatment again, and Friday see the team doctor.”
Ellsbury said the injury happened when his spike caught on a swing last night. It was obvious he’d done something awkward on the swing, but the severity wasn’t clear until he was taken out of the game a half-inning later.
“Basically my cleat caught, and that’s basically what happened,” Ellsbury said. “My knee twisted and I kind of grimaced, kind of asked for time a little bit. I went to first base with a walk, and I knew it wasn’t right. I was just kind of hoping it would go away. Got to second. After I ran from first to second, they could tell something wasn’t right. The trainers ran out there. I tried to brush them off, but they still came out there. I told them what happened. Basically, let me run the bases and hopefully it goes away. It really didn’t, so at that point they took me out.”
By the time Ellsbury got to the dugout, he said, he knew he wasn’t in a condition to stay in the game.
“Running the bases, that was just me trying to block it out,” he said. “Just block it out and try to get through it, and hopefully by the time I got to the dugout, everything would have gone away.”
It hasn’t gone away, and while Ellsbury said he can put weight on the knee, he’s been told it would be a significant issue on side-to-side movements. He can’t remember ever having this injury in the past.
“It is disappointing, without a doubt,” he said. “Hopefully it’s something quick. Get back to playing and help the team win. There will still be hopefully a lot of time before the season is over. Until they give me a timeline, I really don’t know. I’m trying to stay optimistic, stay positive. Do everything we can as far as the training room to get this thing back to 100 percent healthy.”
Associated Press photo
The Yankees just lost for the sixth time in seven days, but the night’s most significant loss just might be Jacoby Ellsbury.
Although Joe Girardi said after the game that an MRI would determine the extent of the injury, the team went ahead and announced that Ellsbury will go on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee sprain. They’ll call up prospect Slade Heathcott to take his place on the roster.
“Is it real serious? I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “But we really won’t know until the MRI.”
It’s serious enough to cost the Yankees two weeks of their leadoff hitter and center fielder, and Ellsbury has been one of the elite leadoff hitters in the game this season. He’s currently 10th in the majors in on-base percentage, and he’s tied for the American League lead in steals.
FanGraphs lists him with the highest WAR on the team.
If Ellsbury hasn’t been the Yankees’ best player, he’s certainly been one of them.
“Jacoby is our leadoff guy, gets on base and kind of gets things started,” Brian McCann said. “We’re hoping for the best. I’m not sure what the news is, but we’re hoping for the best.”
Ellsbury had opened the fourth inning with a walk and took second on a ground ball. It was only after he got second that assistant trainer Mark Littlefield came onto the field to check on him. Ellsbury stayed in and scored a run, but he did not return to play defense in the bottom of the inning. The injury itself actually occurred during the at-bat when Ellsbury took an awkward swing at a changeup.
“I saw it when he was hitting so I kind of waited to see what was going to happen there,” Girardi said. “I think he walked and then when he ran to second, he ran kind of gingerly. Then we decided to go out. I went out and talked to him and I said, are you in a lot of pain? He said, no, not really. I said, can you run? He said, let me see, let me get through this inning and let me see. When he got in the dugout, we just said, that’s it.”
So now the Yankees have to get themselves back on track, and they have to do it without a leadoff hitter who’s been one of their most reliable sources of offense. Heathcott can be an electric player, and Chris Young has been plenty productive as a fourth outfielder, but Ellsbury is difficult to replace.
“It’s not what you want,” Girardi said, leaning on one of his most often-used phrases. “If we are going to lose him for some time, somebody’s got to step up. That’s the bottom line. It’s part of the game.”
• Heathcott is not on the 40-man roster. I assume Chase Whitley will move to the 60-day disabled list to open a roster spot. The Yankees face a right-handed pitcher tomorrow, so Heathcott could be in the lineup.
• Andrew Miller had not allowed a run this year before he gave up that walk-off home run to Ryan Zimmerman. Two outs in the 10th, Miller said he simply made a bad pitch. “I can’t do that there,” Miller said. “He laid off what I wanted to throw him. I have to execute a better pitch in that situation. … Not a fastball up and away. That’s kind of what he hits and I knew that going into it. I just made a really poor pitch. It stinks. I let everybody down.”
• Zimmerman laid off some pitches that Miller thought he might swing at. “Honestly, when he laid off those pitches, I need to look at the lineup and maybe give way to the next guy with Ramos on deck,” Miller said. It was a 3-1 pitch that Zimmerman hit.
• Of course, the home run off Miller was the first blemish in an exceptional season. The reliever who had a worse night, really, was David Carpenter. He also allowed a home run, a game-tying shot by Wilson Ramos. Otherwise, Carpenter’s first inning was fine, but in his second inning of work he put two guys on and the Yankees had to lean on Chasen Shreve for a huge strikeout against Bryce Harper.
• Really, the Yankees did an excellent job against Harper tonight. He had the home run and a walk against Nathan Eovaldi, but each of the Yankees left-handed relievers faced him and got him out. Justin Wilson got him to hit into an inning-ending double play in the fifth, Shreve struck him out to leave two on in the seventh, and Miller struck him out in the 10th.
• For Shreve, the Harper at-bat was a big one. He and Harper were teammates in high school and remain close friends. “A lot more serious than I thought it would be facing him for the first time,” Shreve said. “I just tried to focus on the glove, not focus on who I’m facing. Just focus on making pitches.”
• Really rough start for Nathan Eovaldi. It really wasn’t that bad until the fifth inning, but that fifth was a mess, beginning with a walk, then an RBI double by a pinch hitter, then three straight singles before Wilson bailed him out of trouble. “In the fifth inning I just fell apart,” Eovaldi said. “Walking the leadoff batter after we put up four runs in the fourth, and two more in the fifth, it’s just frustrating, I’ve got to be able to bear down, make better pitches than that and get back to the dugout.”
• Eovaldi allowed two homers in the first inning, but the home run by Harper came on a breaking ball at his feet. “It’s a good pitch down,” Eovaldi said. “But he goes down there and gets that pitch. I’ve got to do a better job of making a better pitch than that one to Desmond. I fell behind, and it’s easy to get on that fastball for a good hitter.”
• McCann on Eovaldi: “It’s about dictating the count. It’s about getting ahead. That one inning he fell behind and that was the difference.”
• Girardi on Carpenter: “He got behind in the count and made a bad pitch. He left it out over the plate, a 3-0 count. He makes some good pitches, then he got behind and he threw one that looked about belt-high down the middle and the kid hit it out.”
• Might have missed it, but Larry Rothschild was ejected in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes while Dellin Betances was on the mound. “I turned around at that point,” Girardi said. “I thought I had calmed things down. The next thing I know, he’s gone. … We thought there were some close pitches. It’s part of the game. We yell on a constant basis.”
• Stephen Drew snapped a career-worst 17 game streak without an RBI. He had a two-run single that put the Yankees ahead in the fourth. He hadn’t driven in a run since April 27. … Mark Teixeira’s 12th home run of the year was the 375th of his career, tying Carlos Beltran for fourth-most all-time for a switch hitter.
• Final word goes to McCann: “We’re fine. This is why you play 162 games. You’re going to have ups and downs. It’s a matter of getting out of it. We haven’t played our best baseball here of late, but it’s going to change.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees have two of the top base-stealers in baseball, and in so many ways, they’re basically interchangeable versions of the same player. Both are left-handed hitters. Both are fully capable of playing center field. Both on focused on on-base skills with occasional power and the ability to create havoc with their speed.
But when they do break for second base, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have different ways of finishing off a stolen base: Ellsbury prefers the safer feet-first slide; Gardner chooses the faster head-first approach.
“I could do it a little bit quicker if I went head first,” Ellsbury said. “But you’re just a little more susceptible to fingers getting stepped on, shoulders (getting hurt), all that stuff, so I just go feet first even though it is slower.”
Said Gardner: “I understand the risk. But at the same time, I’m more comfortable doing it that way, and I feel like it’s better, so I feel like it’s a no-brainer.”
For today’s newspaper, I talked to Ellsbury, Gardner and few other Yankees about the risk vs. reward aspect of sliding into second base. The Red Sox essentially forced Ellsbury to abandon the head-first slide, something the Yankees and Mariners tried to do — but were never able to do — with Gardner and Alex Rodriguez.
“Oh yeah, all my coaches and managers begged me not to do it,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously the risk-for-reward: you steal a base versus missing six weeks with a shoulder or wrist (injury) or something. I definitely scared my coaches and managers a lot.”
Ellsbury and Gardner have been steady and productive players at the top of the Yankees’ order. Speed is their greatest attribute, and they put it to use in different ways when sliding into the bag. Get the full story over at Lohud.com.
Associated Press photo
This might not have been the worst game of Alex Rodriguez’s career, but it had to be close. He came to the plate in the 13th inning with a chance to change that completely and instead hit into a game-ending double play, meaning he accounted for seven outs in six at-bats today.
“You just have to press delete,” Rodriguez said. “Today was definitely a tough day for our offense and specifically for me, but just (have a) short memory. Another game on Friday.”
It was the fifth four-strikeout game of Rodriguez’s 21-year career, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the first time he’d ever had six at-bats without a hit. After a blistering start to the season — hitting .344 with four home runs in his first 10 games — Rodriguez has hit .135 with one home run in his past 10 games.
“If I had to answer every time a guy had a bad day at the plate, we’d be here a long time,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’d be talking about every hitter that we had. A lot of times it’s just pitch selection.”
Pitch selection had been a strength for Rodriguez throughout spring training and through those productive early games this season, but he acknowledged chasing some pitches lately. He’s still drawn plenty of walks — 10 in the past 10 games — but he hasn’t made the same contact lately. He admitted that he didn’t pick up the ball out of Rays’ starter Drew Smyly’s hand very well today.
“I definitely chased today,” Rodriguez said. “And I will often talk about, going back to spring training, one of the keys for our offense — and me specifically — is swing at strikes and take your A swing. And today I didn’t do that.”
Of course, Rodriguez wasn’t alone. Hard to pin an entire loss on him, especially when the Yankees had just seven hits in 13 innings, three of them from Jacoby Ellsbury. The Yankees botched walk-off opportunities in each of the game’s extra innings, and not all of those wasted opportunities hinged on Rodriguez ground balls.
That last at-bat, though, wasn’t a one-of-a-kind moment. Rodriguez just hasn’t been as good lately. His batting average is down to .232, and while his on-base percentage and slugging percentage are still good, any extended slump for a player like this leads to natural questions about whether the first 10 games or the last 10 games is a more accurate picture of who he’ll be going forward.
“It’s just kind of what you go through as a hitter,” Girardi said. “There’s going to be times where you’re extremely hot, and there’s going to be times where you’re not swinging it as well, and you hope when you’re not swinging it as well the other guys can pick you up.”
The other guys couldn’t pick him up this afternoon, and Rodriguez couldn’t turn his afternoon around in that final at-bat.
• Sure, Chasen Shreve lost it in the 13th inning, but this was another really, really good game for the Yankees’ bullpen. Until that two-out, go-ahead single, the bullpen had delivered seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. Since April 22, the bullpen has a 0.88 ERA. “The amount of innings they’ve had to pitch is incredible,” Girardi said. “You give up the one run today and it beats you. It’s unfortunate. We got a lot of innings out of them today, and they did a great job.”
• The Yankees bullpen retired the first 14 batters it faced with five different relievers contributing to that stretch.
• According to Elias, that run Shreve allowed in the 13th was the first earned run allowed by a Yankees reliever in 17.2 innings in Michael Pineda’s starts this season.
• Of course, it might not have come to that if the Yankees hadn’t blown scoring opportunities in every extra inning today. They had runners on base in the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th and had nothing to show for it. “As an offense, you want to be able to come through in those situations and show the bullpen some love,” Chris Young said.
• Dellin Betances has struck out at least two batters without allowing a hit in each of his past six appearances. It’s the longest such streak by any Yankees reliever since at least 1914. That’s according to Elias.
• Andrew Miller pitched two perfect innings with three strikeouts. He has multiple strikeouts in six of his 10 outings and has 20 strikeouts in 11.1 innings today. He’s allowed just three hits.
• Pretty good start for Michael Pineda. The Rays worked some long at-bats against him, and Kevin Kiermaier got the big two-run triple, but otherwise Pineda was pretty good through 5.2 innings. He said he was dropping his hand a little bit in his delivery which led to his occasional struggles. He still didn’t walk anyone.
• Pineda was just about to throw a bullpen yesterday when he found out he was making today’s start. Did that affect him at all? “No. Today is my first day (fully rested) for pitching, you know?,” Pineda said. “Joe tell me that, and I say okay, because today is my first day for pitching.”
• Girardi said he felt OK about going into his bullpen in the sixth inning because he knew there was an off day tomorrow. He felt he had enough innings available to get through the game.
• That game-winning single was actually stopped by Stephen Drew in shallow right field. He made a sliding stop but decided he had no chance to get an out at first base (Mark Teixeira had to rush over to cover the bag, but Drew said there wouldn’t have been time anyway). “I didn’t think I really had a shot, to be honest, to even get to the ball,” Drew said. “When I got up to go throw, there was no shot to get him, and really no momentum, especially when you’re going to your left there.”
• The Yankees struck out 16 times today. That’s their highest total since they also struck out 16 times in a 14-inning game on September 29, 2013.
• Chase Headley hit his first home run since April 12, and the Yankees have now homered in 17 of 22 games this season. Headley has hit nine home runs since coming to the Yankees, and eight of them have come at Yankee Stadium.
• Jacoby Ellsbury had three singles — the rest of the Yankees had just four hits — and he now has nine multi-hit games this season. He’s hitting .444 with five stolen bases in his past seven games.
• Final word goes to Rodriguez: “Our goal is to win games. We won another series here against Tampa. The team is playing very well. It would have been nice to get today, for sure, for the sweep. But our goal continues to be the same: Go to Boston; win a series.”
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: “I was planning on going” • 04.23.15
From his spot at third base, Jacoby Ellsbury wasn’t sure what just happened. He knew something looked wrong about Anibal Sanchez’s throw to the plate, but he couldn’t analyze the particulars. He was concentrating on something else.
“I was planning on going if he had continued to roll through his motion,” Ellsbury said. “I haven’t looked at the replay, but I think they said maybe because he stepped off in the middle of his motion. Something just didn’t look quite right, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure.”
It was a balk, an awkward one at that as Sanchez started his delivery and then seemed to notice Ellsbury farther off third base than usual.
“When you’re in those shifts, sometimes it’s not what a pitcher’s used to seeing, a guy so far down the line,” Joe Girardi said. “You have to prepare for it.”
“You can’t really say, ‘I’m going to go,’ because if you don’t get a big-enough lead (it won’t work),” Ellsbury said. “In the past, I didn’t know until I went that I was going to go. It’s not predetermined. There are a lot of variables. … I was getting ready to go. I initially took off, then he stepped off and I stopped. I was like, ‘Whoa!’”
There was no call initially, but third-base coach Rob Thomson and hitter Chase Headley immediately signaled for some sort of call – “I was like, ‘You can’t do that!’” Headley said — and Girardi said the Yankees were screaming from the bench.
“(Sanchez) started his delivery and then stepped off the rubber to throw home,” umpire Gerry Davis explained. “I took a couple seconds to process what I saw. I wanted to be sure he had started his delivery before I made the call.”
It was a balk that brought in the Yankees’ tying run, a run they needed to finish off a wildly successful week in Tampa Bay and Detroit. And while the balk itself scored that run, it was Ellsbury who set up the situation with his speed and ability to get one base. The Yankees had only three hits today, but Ellsbury was on base three times and turned two of those opportunities into runs. He got into scoring position once with a stolen base and once with a hustle double.
“That’s what he can do,” Girardi said. “He creates and puts a lot of pressure on the defense. He’s going to take advantage of the extra base when he can. He did it today, and it paid off a lot.”
• Five days after his seven shutout innings against Tampa Bay, Masahiro Tanaka was terrific again this afternoon. And this time he did it against one of the best lineups in the American League. “I’m really satisfied with the way I was pitching today,” Tanaka said. “To put it in perspective, I’m as satisfied as I was pitching against Tampa.”
• What made Tanaka good today? “Location,” Brian McCann said. “That’s it. I feel like when he’s hitting the mitt, he’s really hard to hit. He had everything going. He had the cutter going, the sinker in, he had the split obviously – I feel like it’s always there. He got a lot of early count outs, which I think is a big deal for him to pitch deep into ballgames.”
• It was really cold today, and last night we saw what cold can do to a pitcher, but Tanaka was sharp. “Actually, I spent my high school years in a really cold area,” Tanaka said. “So as I was pitching I was remembering about those days.
• The Yankees had three hits today. Ellsbury obviously had one of them. Petit, believe it or not, had one of them. And Chris Young, of course, had one of them. Young is hitting .357. He struck out twice, so this clearly wasn’t one of his better games, but he still did what most guys couldn’t.
• Good defensive game by Headley at third, and a nice play by Gregorio Petit to get a force out on a low throw from Headley to second. “When you get late in the game, you know every run’s a premium,” Headley said. “Obviously I was able to stop it and Gregorio made an unbelievable pick. I threw it straight into the ground. I thought we were going to have a chance to turn the double play, and Cespedes really got down the line, so I hurried the throw and he picked us up over there.”
•Why did Dellin Betances go with nothing but breaking balls in that key at-bat in the seventh? “In that situation, first and third with two outs, I’m trying to go with the best pitch I can throw right there,” Betances said. “I rely on my breaking ball to get big outs. I’m going off McCann, whatever he calls.”
• Girardi said there was no thought of leaving Betances in to face the middle of the Tigers’ lineup in the ninth. “I just think we were able to do it last year, but we had to give him two days off, three days off,” Girardi said. “I’d like to have him available as much as possible, and with all the other strong arms we have down there, I feel we can do that.”
• Another strong save by Andrew Miller, who sent down the heart of the order, starting with a strikeout against Miguel Cabrera. And Cabrera didn’t look good in that at-bat either. “I hate to say overmatched,” Headley said. “But you don’t see him take a lot of bad swings and swing at bad pitches. He’s the best for a reason. That just shows what Andrew’s capable of.”
• Is this the best bullpen Girardi’s ever had? “We have as much power as I’ve ever had in this bullpen,” Girardi said. “And it has a chance to be really special. I’m trying to think of the bullpens that I’ve been a part of. As a player I was with some pretty good ones here, and as a manager, but we have as much power as we’ve ever had.”
• Final word goes to Girardi answering the question, were the Yankees as bad as they looked the first week? “I didn’t think so,” Girardi said. “Did we play bad? Yeah. I mean, we played very poorly, and I said that I think this team is much better than what we played. And (the team) came out on this road trip and showed that we can play baseball, and we can win different types of games. We won one-run games. We had a couple of big offensive explosions on certain days. So we won a lot of different types of games. But we weren’t too good the first week.”
Associated Press photos
David Price actually very good career numbers at Comerica Park, and through most of his career he’s pitched well against the Yankees. The past two times he faced the Yankees in this ballpark, though, his starts have been a mess. Last August, in only his second home start with the Tigers, the Yankees pounced on Price for eight runs and nine straight hits in the third inning. Tonight, it was six runs on five hits, two walks and a hit batter in the first inning, then two more runs in the second inning.
Price’s start got so out of hand that at one point he intentionally walked Gregorio Petit with two outs and a runner at third.
“Being able to do what we did, it gives us a lot of confidence,” Carlos Beltran said. “When the offense is good and everything is working well, we’re capable of doing that.”
“I guess it’s just one of those things,” he said. “For whatever reason we’ve put together good at-bats, strung together consistent at-bats throughout the lineup to get multiple hits. … Each time you’ve got to prepare for him, knowing he watched the game film, knowing he’ll probably attack hitters differently. Then try to put quality at-bats together, grind out at-bats, and do as much as you can to put quality at-bats together. That’s all you can really do against someone like that.”
This was a brutal night, especially in that first inning with the snow falling and hands far colder than anyone would like when they’re throwing a baseball. This wasn’t the best version of Price, but the Yankees took advantage of it. And while Adam Warren got his night turned around, the Yankees kept attacking Price with a two-out rally in the second inning, then a couple of hits in the third.
The Yankees aren’t simply getting better results in the past week, they’re legitimately playing better.
“I said all along, I think this group’s talented,” Girardi said. “Sometimes guys get off to slow starts and you don’t make too much of it. You’ve just got to ride things out. We played really bad the first week at home. Really bad. We’ve turned it around on this road trip and are playing better. Our defense is getting better. Base running’s better. Continuing to swing the bats. It’s a group that really wants to win, and they’ve got a lot of fight in them.”
Tonight that fight was directed at Price, and the Yankees once again knocked him out in the third round.
• Adam Warren said he did enough stretching and throwing during that 31-minute top of the first inning that he felt loose and ready to pitch, but when he got to the mound, he walked four of the first five batters he faced. After that, he was terrific, but that first inning was brutal. “I think you just kind of have to learn how to pitch out there and find a way to get some feeling in your hands and on the ball,” Warren said. “… You want to go out there and just attack hitters, especially in those kind of conditions. So that was tough for me just because I hate walking people in general. It was tough to deal with, but I tried to bounce back and get back to my strengths: pounding the zone.”
• When Larry Rothschild went to the mound, the message was largely about regrouping. Warren said Rothschild reminded him to stay back as long as possible and try to keep the ball down, but he was also telling him to get some more feeling in his fingers. Girardi said going to the mound was as much about giving Warren a break as anything. “Sometimes you just need to step back for a second and regroup,” Girardi said. “I didn’t ask (Rothschild) what he said, but whatever he said worked.”
• After that first inning, Warren and the Yankees relievers — Justin Wilson, David Carpenter, Chasen Shreve — not only kept the Tigers scoreless, but they kept the Tigers from even getting into scoring position. “I’m proud of the way I bounced back and gave the team some depth,” Warren said. “Got into the sixth, so I’m pleased with that.”
• Esmil Rogers started tossing in the bullpen in the first inning, and Girardi said he was about one hitter away from getting him hot and ready to enter the game. Warren getting through that inning and then pitching into the sixth basically saved the bullpen from having to burn out anyone heading into tomorrow’s finale and another seven games in a row without an off day.
• Gregorio Petit came into this game with a .261 OPS. Not batting average. Not on-base percentage. On-base-plus-slugging of .261, yet he’s the one who delivered the big blow with a three-run double in the first inning. Then he was intentionally walked in the second. His OPS climbed by nearly .200 points in one night. “I know I can hit,” Petit said. “I trust myself a lot. Things haven’t gone the way I wanted, but that’s baseball. You’re going to have good days and bad days. You have to just keep working. That’s what I’ve been doing and today it came out at the right time.”
• Petit has five major league walks in his career. Tonight’s was certainly the first time he was walked intentionally in the big leagues. “I was smiling in my head, I can’t lie,” he said. “I was kind of surprised, but it’s part of the game.”
• Price walked Petit to face Didi Gregorius, who made an out that at-bat, but later doubled in two runs for his first extra-base hit of the year. Gregorius also had a walk in the game, but he also made another error and made two questionable decisions in the first inning. “I’ve said all along that this is a place where it takes some guys some time to get comfortable here,” Girardi said. “New York’s not the easiest place to come and play and be really good right from the beginning. We’ve seen a lot of really good players take time to adjust, and I think he’s adjusting as it goes on. I do.”
• Should Gregorius have thrown the ball normally instead of flipping underhand on that potential double play ball in the first? “I don’t think we’re getting it either way,” Girardi said. “I think he was making sure that he got one out.”
• Later in the first inning, Ellsbury actually got his first RBI of the year. Leadoff guy got his first RBI with a first-inning hit that wasn’t a home run. Funny. “I knew it was a matter of time,” Ellsbury said. “I had been putting together quality at-bats with runners in scoring position, and quality at-bats without runners in scoring position. I knew it was a matter of time before it happened.”
• Back-to-back triples by Beltran and Chase Headley. That means four Yankees have tripled in the past week, and those three are Beltran, Headley, Garrett Jones and Brian McCann. None of those four are speed guys by any stretch of the imagination. “I was once,” Beltran said, with a laugh.
• Might not happen often, so let’s give the final word to Petit: “Everybody thought we were going to have a tough game because of the weather. To get that hit against him, we got to him early and took the lead. It was awesome. It was a great feeling for me and for the team. I was super-happy.”
Associated Press photos
For two years, CC Sabathia knew disappointment and became familiar with limitations. He struggled, and he got hurt, and Sabathia did little to hide his frustration. He was capable of pitching better, and he knew it.
This year, Sabathia is pitching better, and he knows that, too. But still, there’s frustration.
“I’ve been getting better every time out,” Sabathia said after tonight’s letdown. “Obviously that’s not equating to wins or helping us.”
Three starts into the season, Sabathia’s allowed just two extra-base hits and four walks, but he’s 0-3 with a 4.35 ERA. Tonight he faced the minimum through six innings, finished off a complete game by pitching through the eighth, but took the loss because of back-to-back two-out singles in the seventh. The first hit off Didi Gregorius’s glove at shortstop. The second fell into center field, where Jacoby Ellsbury decided he didn’t have a shot at throwing Victor Martinez out at the plate.
“I think (Sabathia) knows he’s throwing the ball well,” Joe Girardi said. “And I think he’s pleased with the way he’s throwing the ball. But there’s frustration there, I’m sure. … I thought the first two starts were good too. He didn’t give up as few runs as he did tonight, but I thought he threw the ball really well. Those first two starts he was not hit hard. He wasn’t. He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing, and the results will come.”
That’s the idea, but as Girardi said after Masahiro Tanaka finally pitched a gem on Saturday: everyone wants to have success, and right now, Sabathia’s not having success. He’s experiencing little victories along the way — better arm strength, fewer home runs, good control, lots of ground balls — but Sabathia’s a bottom-line kind of guy. Getting Miguel Cabrera to hit into two double plays and nearly into a third one? That’s great, but it didn’t matter in the end.
“Any time you can get him out, it’s a bonus,” Sabathia said. “But it didn’t equate to a win, so it is what it is.”
Ultimately, the Yankees had a late lead against the team with the best record in baseball, and Sabathia was on the mound when it slipped away. Sabathia knows frustration, and he was feeling it again tonight, even if his manager and his teammates were seeing signs of encouragement.
“He’s right where he needs to be,” catcher Brian McCann said. “Third start in, he looks great. Very encouraged. … Arm strength. It’s there. He’s getting in on the righties. He’s sinking it. Everything comes out of the same slot, and his arm speed is the same on all his pitches. It’s good to see.”
The Yankees played pretty incredible defense through much of the game — more on that in a bit — but there were two plays in the seventh worth questioning. I’m not sure mistakes were made on either one, but they were pivotal moments in the game.
The game-tying single was a sharp ball that hit off Gregorius’s glove. He tried to make a diving catch to his right but just missed it. Really tough play, but Gregorius almost made it, which makes you wonder if he should have made it.
“I made a diving play and tried to stop it,” Gregorius said. “Get at least one out. But it hit my glove, went into the outfield, and they got a chance to tie the game right there. … As a player you want to make every play. For me, I want to make every play when I go out there. That’s how I look at it.”
The go-ahead single dropped into center field where Ellsbury decided to throw to third for the final out rather than throwing home to try to keep the run from scoring. Victor Martinez was running, and he’s not a good runner even when he’s not slightly hobbled.
“I didn’t think we had a shot,” Ellsbury said. “With two outs, you have a huge secondary (lead). By the time I’m touching the ball, I don’t know exactly where he’s at. If there’s one out, definitely, we’ve got a play. But with two outs, getting a big secondary, going on contact, that’s the reason he was able to score is because we had two outs.”
For whatever it’s worth, Girardi said he also thought Ellsbury had no shot at the out at home.
• Of course it’s easy to look back at those two hits in the seventh as making all the difference, but the Yankees scored just one run tonight, and it’s tough to win when that happens. “I thought (Alfredo Simon’s) split was exceptional,” Girardi said. “I thought his sinker was good, and I thought his split was exceptional tonight, and he used it really effectively. He threw some for strikes, expanded when he was ahead, and did a good job.”
• The big at-bat for the Yankees was Ellsbury hitting into a double play with runners at the corners in the eighth. Adds a little insult to injury that Joba Chamberlain was on the mound. “I think that’s about the only way you can double me up right there,” Ellsbury said. “With the play drawing him to second like that, flip to Iglesias — that’s about the only way you can double me up. If it’s hit to his left a little bit, they don’t double me up. Even if I don’t quite hit it as hard, they don’t double me up. That’s about the only way they could have. … I think I’ll take 600 more of those swings the rest of the season, but just unfortunately hit it at the wrong person.”
• Ellsbury did have the play of the game with his diving catch to start the bottom of the fifth. “I didn’t (think I’d get there),” Ellsbury said. “But, you know, I always go for everything like I can catch it. I was pleased to cover some ground and make a play on it.”
• Very next batter after the Ellsbury catch, Brett Gardner made a nice sliding catch in left field. That was his second-best catch of the night. Gardner also made a great running catch at the wall to start the second inning. The first Gardner catch and the Ellsbury catch were each against Victor Martinez.
• Speaking of Victor Martinez, Girardi chose to intentionally walk him in the seventh, even though it put the go-ahead run on base. “Looking at the at-bats, and the at-bats he’s had off him for a number of years,” Girardi said. “He’s hit the ball hard. We made two great plays, and I just went with what I thought was a better matchup. … Usually you don’t (put the go-ahead run on, but with two outs it’s kind of a different story there.”
• As it turned out, the Yankees had a prime opportunity to tie the game on the Gregorius single in the eighth. The ball was hit to center and Chase Headley was held up at third base, but Rajai Davis wound up bobbling the ball, which probably would have allowed enough time to score. “He had the ball in plenty of time and then he dropped it,” Girardi said. “And that’s not something you can predict.”
• The Yankees turned three double plays tonight, and Stephen Drew looked pretty good at second making those turns. “I think he’s getting more comfortable there, obviously, the more he has played,” Girardi said. “He makes a really good one, picks it, and then gets the double play, so yeah, I think he’s really kinda settling in there.”
• Sabathia’s changeup was really good tonight. He’s been talking about that pitch since spring training, and he basically had it all night tonight. That’s the pitch he used on both Cabrera double plays. “Arm speed is a big deal,” McCann said. “When your arm speed’s there and it looks exactly like your fastball and it’s a six, seven mile-per-hour difference, you’re going to get a lot of ground balls and you’re going to keep it off the barrel.”
• Mark Teixeira’s solo homer was the 367th of his career, moving him ahead of Lance Berkman for fifth place on baseball’s all-time home runs list for switch hitters.
• Chase Headley had two singles. It was his third multi-hit game of the year and gave him a three-game hitting streak.
• No real final word here, just a link to make sure you don’t miss the epic postgame meltdown by Reds manager Bryan Price tonight. For some reason, Price believes beat writers have to think about the good of the team before they report. I’ll say this for Girardi and Brian Cashman: I’ve never felt that they were mad or felt like punishing a reporter for writing something negative that’s perfectly fair and accurate. If the Yankees tried to hide the fact a player wasn’t at a game, and that fact got out, there’s no chance the Yankees would blame the reporter.
Associated Press photos
Even the best bullpens have games like this one. One inning spirals out of control, and a night is ruined a group of guys whose only job is to keep a narrow lead intact.
Tonight, the problems started with David Carpenter, who went with a first-pitch fastball down and away for strike one, but when he tried to follow it with a slider in roughly the same spot, Jonathan Schoop hit a game-tying home run.
“Hindsight’s always 20-20,” Carpenter said. “Maybe I should have busted him in.”
It got worse with Justin Wilson, who let the go-ahead run score on a single by lefty-killer Delmon Young before allowing the big blow on a two-run double by left-handed hitter Chris Davis. It was a two-strike cutter that Davis jumped on.
“Not the tightest breaking cutter I’ve ever thrown,” Wilson said. “Tad bit up, and that guy’s a good hitter. You’re going to get beat sometimes. Get back to 2-2 and hope to put the guy away right there, but just didn’t make the exact pitch I wanted. Made a decent pitch, and he did a good job of hitting.”
It happens. We all know that. Problem is, for the Yankees, a blown lead by their supposed-to-be-a-strength bullpen meant another series lost to a division rival. And perhaps the bigger issue was going to the bullpen in the sixth inning to begin with. Nathan Eovaldi had pitched well, racked up plenty of strikeouts, and gotten out of trouble in both the fourth and fifth innings.
But he was at 101 innings after five, so the Yankees needed to bring in some fresh arms.
Given the abundance of health issues looming over their top three starters, the Yankees would like to think of Eovaldi as a guy who can give them some distance, but so far he’s gone five innings and 5.1 innings in his two starts.
“In the first inning and the fourth inning I threw a lot of pitches,” Eovaldi said. “I have to do a better job of getting deep into games. It’s early in the season, but still. When I get the quick outs, I need to bounce back from that and keep attacking the zone. I know a lot of times when I did get quick outs, I fell behind 2-0, then it’s 2-1 and they’re battling back and fouling off more pitches.”
Nine strikeouts was encouraging for Eovaldi — he had that many only once in 33 starts for the Marlins last season — but strikeouts sometimes cost pitches, and Eovaldi simply wasn’t able to work deep tonight. The Yankees needed four good innings from their bullpen. Instead, one bad inning made all the difference.
“We just couldn’t seem to get through that sixth inning, and it’s unfortunate,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought Nate battled pretty much all night. Threw a lot of pitches in the five innings. That’s why I took him out. But we struggled in the sixth.”
• Alex Rodriguez’s second home run of the season was a monster blast to left field. Easily the hardest ball he’s hit since 2013. “That one felt amazing off the bat,” Rodriguez said. He now leads the team in RBI and he’s third behind Chris Young and Mark Teixeira in slugging percentage.
• Beyond Rodriguez, it really wasn’t an awful day for the Yankees offense. They had five runs on eight hits including four doubles and the Rodriguez homer. Of course, they also went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and struck out 12 times with home plate umpire Sean Barber’s generous strike zone.
• Carlos Beltran drove in two runs with his go-ahead double in the third inning. Of his six hits this season, four have gone for two bases. He and Stephen Drew are each hitting below .200 but are still tied for second on the team in RBI. “He just missed a three-run homer too,” Girardi said. “I thought Carlos swung the bat better tonight has well. I thought he centered a lot of balls.”
• Beltran on whether he thought he had a home run on that second-inning double: “I hit it good,” he said. “It was a pitch middle away. I hit it OK. I didn’t hit it on the sweet spot. I hit it a little bit off the end. I thought it had a chance but it just hit the top of the wall. Double. I’ll take a double.” That double was Beltran’s 999th American League hit.
• With his home run, Rodriguez scored his 1,923rd career run, tying Derek Jeter for ninth place on baseball’s all-time runs scored list. Stan Musial is eighth on the list with 1,949.
• Eovaldi’s career-high in strikeouts is 10 set May 5, 2014 against the Mets. He came one shy of that tonight. That 10-strikeout game was the only time he struck out more than eight in a game last season. “I think just the slider, it had a lot more depth to it as opposed to my last outing,” Eovaldi said. “I was getting behind it. It was more of a cutter. Then I worked my fastball up in the zone a lot better today, too. I didn’t get the swing and misses I wanted, but it was a lot more effective.”
• Big outs for Eovaldi to strand the bases loaded in the fourth inning and to leave two on with a strikeout in the fifth. But in each of those innings, he had earlier opportunities to end the inning and couldn’t do it. “It was a lot better outing than my last (start),” he said. “But there’s still things I’ve got to do. I’ve got to relax a little more with two outs. I tend to try to do too much and get us back to the dugout quick, and I end up staying out there longer.”
• Encouraging appearance by Betances who allowed one hit but also got two strikeouts in the eighth. He said he was happy with his ability to throw his breaking ball for strikes because “that helps everything.” Girardi said he thought Betances looked sharper. “I thought he had better break on his curveball,” Girardi said. “I thought it had a better shape tonight than it’s had, so that was encouraging too.”
• Weird big league debut for Branden Pinder. He threw a total of four pitches in a scoreless seventh. He allowed a triple, but got out of the inning with a popped up bunt, which Pinder caught and tossed to third for a double play. He literally flipped the ball to Chase Headley as he walked off the field. Headley handed the ball back, and Pinder kept it.
• Jacoby Ellsbury’s hitting streak extended to seven games. He’s hitting .323 during the streak, and tonight’s double was his first extra-base hit of the year. Mark Teixeira also extended his hitting streak to seven games. He’s hitting .269 with a .731 slugging percentage during the streak.
• Girardi said he was well aware the Orioles would go to Delmon Young if he brought Wilson into the game in the sixth inning, but he chose to intentionally walk Adam Jones anyway. “Jones is swinging as well as anyone in the game is the bottom line,” Girardi said. “I felt good about bringing Willy in. He’s thrown the ball good for us, but tonight it didn’t work.”
• Final word goes to Beltran: “We need to get going. There’s no doubt about that. We’ve been close to winning some games and unfortunately the other team has been able to play better than us. It’s been only nine games so we just need to find a way to turn the page and concentrate in Tampa.”
Associated Press photos