Asked yesterday why Rob Refsnyder hasn’t gotten more playing time this month, Joe Girardi leaned on the familiarity and experience of Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan.
“I’m going with the guys that have gotten us here,” Girardi said.
Asked about Refsnyder again today, Girardi cited a specific aspect of his inexperience.
“He spent the whole year in Triple-A,” Girardi said. “He doesn’t know the pitching staffs up here.”
Ultimately, it seems that Refsnyder’s disappointing second half in Triple-A and Jose Pirela’s underwhelming first half in the big leagues didn’t show enough offensively to convince the Yankees that they’re worth risking a defensive downgrade at second base.
After his four-game big league audition in July, Refsnyder returned to Triple-A and hit just .229/.296/.379 in the second half of the season. After having the exact same number of strikeouts as walks in the first half, his strikeout-to-walk ratio jumped to 29-to-12 after the All-Star break. None of that’s to say Refsnyder won’t hit, but he hasn’t forced the issue.
Pirela, on the other hand, had this right-handed utility job early in the year and hit just .212/.232/.303. He went down to Triple-A and raked as an everyday guy, but right now, Pirela and Ryan have played in the exact same number of big league games this season, and Ryan has the higher batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage to say nothing of his more trusted glove.
In the past two and a half weeks, Ryan has hit .286/.333/.429. It’s only 15 plate appearances, so the sample size is tiny, but he hasn’t been such a zero with the bat that the Yankees absolutely have to replace him. For the year he’s hit .286/.333/.500 against lefties. That’s his job, and in the bigger picture, he’s actually done it pretty well.
Ryan hasn’t hit his way out of this role, and neither Pirela nor Refsnyder has necessarily hit his way in.
• Lately, center field has generated as many lineup questions as second base. Jacoby Ellsbury has hit just .208/.250/.325 since the All-Star break. He’s been especially bad in the month of September, hitting just .114/.152/.114, yet the Yankees are sticking with him in the leadoff spot. “He’s got too much of a history of being one of the better leadoff hitters in the game,” Girardi said. “He had a tremendous start, he went through the injury, he’s had his ups and downs, and to me he’s due to turn and have an up. These guys need to get it done.”
• Against a pitcher who struggles against right-handers, it’s worth noting that the Yankees’ only right-handed outfield alternatives are Chris Young (who’s hit just .185/.241/.346 against righties), Pirela (who’s been mostly an infielder in the majors) and Rico Noel (who’s here strictly to run).
• The Rays have scored the fewest runs in the American League, but that doesn’t necessarily this a great matchup for Yankees’ starter CC Sabathia. The Rays have actually hit lefties pretty well. They have a league-worst .694 OPS against righties, but they’re fifth in the A.L. with a .760 OPS against lefties (better than the Astros, Royals or Rangers).
• Top four hitters in tonight’s Rays lineup with their slash lines against lefties: Brandon Guyer (.267/.374/.422), Mikie Mahtook (.268/.375/.585), Evan Longoria (.352/.414/.568) and Logan Forsythe (.299/.373/.625).
• Girardi said yesterday that he would use Adam Warren as a reliever tonight if necessary, but the hope is to stay away from him and keep him lined up to start on Monday. Warren said it’s unusual but not really a problem to not know for certain whether he’s starting tomorrow. Said he’s familiar with each routine and able to bounce back and forth.
• Mark Teixeira is the Yankees’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, which recognizes the player who “best represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.” Each team nominates one player and a single winner will be announced during the World Series. Teixeira has been heavily involved with the Harlem RBI program as well as various scholarship programs. Former Yankees Curtis Granderson and David Robertson were also nominated.
Associated Press photos
During batting practice this morning, Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela gathered at the second base position with infield coach Joe Espada. Taking turns, one ground ball at a time, the two young infielders went through standard defensive drills preparing for opportunities at second base.
Of course, the Yankees have now faced two left-handed starters since rosters expanded, and so far neither one has been in the lineup.
“I think we’ll use (the September call-ups) more as we get into this stretch of 30 out of 31 days,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We just had a day off. We had six days and then a day off, but as we get into this, you’ll probably see more guys start playing.”
On Wednesday, against a young left-handed starter with reverse splits, the Yankees stuck with Stephen Drew at second base. Today, against Rays lefty Matt Moore, the Yankees are going with Brendan Ryan.
Refsnyder and Pirela seem to have greater offensive potential. Ryan is the more accomplished defensive option.
“I debated long and hard about what to do today,” Girardi said. “But we decided to go with Brendan. Brendan has been here and our extra infielder, in a sense, all year even though he’s been hurt. Those other two will probably get in the mix, but I decided to go with Brendan today.”
• Against a lefty, one day after he was pulled because he was throwing up, it’s little surprise Jacoby Ellsbury is not in the lineup. “He feels better today than he did,” Girardi said. “But with him throwing up last night and dehydration, I figured I’d give him today. He’ll be available to me unless he takes a turn and gets sick again. Right now he’s better.”
• Yet again the Yankees are sticking with Greg Bird at first base even against a lefty. Bird has hit left-handers since coming up to the big leagues. Clearly he’s the everyday guy while Mark Teixeira is still hurt. Might sit occasionally against lefties, but he’s not strictly a platoon option. He’s the starter.
• One day after his simulated game, the plan remains to have CC Sabathia start on Wednesday. Girardi said there’s no thought of easing him back in with a bullpen appearance. “If he feels good, our plan is for him to start on Wednesday,” Girardi said. “Coming out of the bullpen right now would not be something that he would be used to, and the amount of time it takes to warm up (would be new), so right now our plan is to go on Wednesday with him depending on how he feels the next couple of days.”
• What if Sabathia can’t make that start on Wednesday? “We would probably stay on rotation, then,” Girardi said.
• Nathan Eovaldi gets the start tonight. He’s been outstanding ever since that ugly start in Miami. Clearly the emergence of his splitfinger has been key, but Girardi said it’s more than that. “I just think his confidence has grown during this stretch where he’s pitched really, really well,” Girardi said. “I think his curveball has become more consistent. I think the location of his fastball has become more consistent. The key pitch for him is his split. In his last start, his split was up and he got hit a little bit. We’ve got to get it back down again today.”
Associated Press photos
Even after Brian Cashman said he was against it, Joe Girardi said yesterday that he was still considering the possibility of Alex Rodriguez getting a little bit of time at first base against left-handed starters.
Today, Girardi changed his tune.
“I just don’t think Alex is ready to do it,” Girardi told reporters in Boston.
Against a left-handed starter this afternoon, the Yankees are sticking with left-handed rookie Greg Bird at first base. Red Sox starter Henry Owens has reverse splits this season, so that might have factored into the decision (though Girardi tabbed Dustin Ackley, another left-handed hitter as the backup first baseman).
Aside from a month of reverse splits at the end of 2014, Bird generally put up better numbers against right-handed pitchers in the minors. His numbers against lefties weren’t awful, but he was significantly better against right-handers in both Double-A and Triple-A this season, so there’s reason for the Yankees to want at least some sort of right-handed first base option. Girardi has previously mentioned Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan and Austin Romine as possibilities, but today he’s sticking with Bird.
If the team is unwilling to let Rodriguez play first base for even a game against a lefty, it’s hard to imagine they’ll want him to play first or third during the three-game series at Citi Field later this month.
• CC Sabathia threw another bullpen this afternoon. Seems he could face hitters relatively soon. Brian Cashman has said the Yankees still see Sabathia as a starter, not a reliever, when he’s healthy enough to come off the disabled list.
• Jacoby Ellsbury is out of the lineup against a left-handed starter. It’s not unusual for one of the Yankees regular outfielders to sit against a lefty, but Ellsbury has been dealing with a hip issue, and Girardi acknowledged that there’s still some swelling. Girardi called this a healthy day off for Ellsbury, but there could be some desire to give him back-to-back days off with the scheduled off day tomorrow.
• Stephen Drew has six hits and six RBI in his past eight at-bats. With Owens having reverse splits anyway, the Yankees are sticking with Drew at second base for today’s game.
• Speaking of second base, Girardi said he’s not sure when Rob Refsnyder will play. Refsnyder was called up yesterday, but the Yankees have been using Brendan Ryan as their platoon second baseman, they’re clearly committed to Drew against right-handers, and they also have Jose Pirela as an additional right-handed second base option (plus Ackley as yet another second base option). A lot of possibilities at that position going forward.
• The Mariners announced today that they’d optioned Jesus Montero back to Triple-A. Even with expanded rosters. Ouch.
• Two days after the Yankees left Atlanta, the Braves’ box score from yesterday included some familiar names. Manny Banuelos started the game (six hits in 2.2 innings for the loss) and Danny Burawa finished it with two hitless innings and four strikeouts. Banuelos was traded to the Braves this offseason and Burawa was claimed by the Braves off waivers mid-season. Speaking of familiar names in new places: Nick Noonan, who opened this season as the everyday shortstop in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was one of the Giants’ September call-ups. He signed with San Francisco after being released by the Yankees this summer.
• The Yankees have won five consecutive series at Fenway Park since the start of 2014, going 12-5 in that span. They?last won six or more consecutive series at Fenway from September 21, 1956 to June 1, 1958. With a win today, the Yankees will have six straight series wins in Boston.
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Every time there’s a game as long as last night’s, a roster seems to have at least one tough-luck casualty. Often it’s a long reliever who pitched too many innings to be useful for a few days. This time, for the Yankees, it was a little-used bench player who simply didn’t have a role important enough to keep around.
For the second time in two weeks, Garrett Jones has been designated for assignment. He had been previously DFA on July 31 and almost immediately re-signed, but he had not played a single inning or gotten a single at-bat since returning to the team.
“If we’re not in a game like yesterday, it probably doesn’t happen,” Joe Girardi said. “If we’re not in a game like yesterday, or we’re in a 16-inning game and you have plenty of pitching today, maybe he even plays today. But we felt that we needed to get some more pitching here and make sure that we’re covered for the next few days, and it was really difficult.”
Essentially, the Yankees have decided Bryan Mitchell is too valuable to yo-yo back and forth from Triple-A. Girardi acknowledged that Mitchell could make a spot start in a few days, so the Yankees didn’t want to lose him for the next week and a half (and optioning Mitchell would have required that the Yankees still make an additional 40-man move to add Chris Capuano).
So, it was Jones who as ultimately cut. Out of spring training, it seemed he could play a fairly vital role as a backup to Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, but those three have been mostly healthy and generally productive. They each rank top four among lineup regulars in OPS.
Jones became a marginalized player, which ultimately made him expendable (again).
“I wasn’t able to get the at-bats I thought I was going to be able to get,” Jones said. “I was very happy to be a part of this team and organization, but career-wise and baseball-wise, from my standpoint, the at-bats weren’t there and playing time wasn’t there. But it’s understandable, of course.”
Last time he was designated for assignment, Jones jumped at the chance to rejoin the Yankees a few days later. This time, he sounded less convinced that the Yankees are still his best fit. He’s wildly popular in the clubhouse and clearly likes playing here, but it’s also clear that the Yankees don’t have many at-bats to give him.
“Two times in a row, it’s a little different feeling than last time,” Jones said. “I just have to weigh the options and see. There could still be an opportunity here to help the team win. I enjoy being here, I like the guys and I enjoy the clubhouse and the coaching staff and everybody. That aspect of it is tough to leave, but in the scheme of things, I have to think of my career and the chance to play and what’s best for that.”
• Really thought Girardi would frame the decision to bench Jacoby Ellsbury tonight as a reaction to him playing center field for 16 innings yesterday, but Girardi made it clear that this is a reaction to Ellsbury’s offensive struggles. “He’s OK,” Girardi said. “He’s just been struggling and I thought I would just give him a day and let him do some work to see if we can get him back on track. He’s had a rough go of us lately, and we really need to get him going, so I thought maybe just give him a day, let him do some work and see if they can iron things out.”
• Convinced Ellsbury is healthy? “Oh, he’s healthy,” Girardi said. “Are guys a bit banged up this time of year? Yeah. But physically, he’s OK. He tells us he’s OK, and there’s not a lot of treatment.”
• Larry Rothschild went through the clubhouse today and told Justin Wilson, Adam Warren and Mitchell that they’re down for tonight’s game. Girardi said he think he could get an inning out of Chasen Shreve. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are each available.
• Girardi said he doesn’t expect to have Mitchell available again until Saturday.
• Here’s Girardi on the importance of Mitchell: “We’ve talked about that he could possibly be the guy if we have to inject (a sixth starter), but Mitchell is a guy that gives you some distance out of the bullpen. … And I think Mitchell is important because he can do what he did last night, and if he hadn’t pitched a few days earlier and given three innings, he could have went more. I just feel with what our starters give, we really need some guys to give multiple innings (out of the bullpen), and he’s one of those guys.”
• Dustin Ackley is apparently feeling better, but he’s not a candidate to immediately fill the role vacated by Jones. “He’s just back at home rehabbing,” Girardi said. “I don’t think he’s doing any baseball activity yet. … It’s hard to predict (when he’ll be back) until he really starts doing baseball activity to see how he feels.”
• Michael Pineda remains on schedule to throw a full bullpen tomorrow.
• Girardi said that, right now, he considers Brendan Ryan to be his backup first baseman. Brian McCann has also played some first base late in games. At some point, Girardi said, the team is going to give someone else a start at first base. “I can’t play Tex 16 days in a row, I can tell you that,” Girardi said. “So, at some point, we’re going to have to figure that out.”
• CC Sabathia had perhaps his best start of the year last time out, now he’s pitching in Cleveland where he had some of the best years of his career. “I thought all his pitches were sharp (last time),” Girardi said. “I thought he mixed his pitches extremely well. I thought his fastball had more life to it. I thought his changeup was better. I thought his location was better. Obviously that was the key to his success.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees have one stolen base since the All-Star break. Care to guess who stole it?
Here’s a hint: He’s hit five home runs since his daring race to second base.
It was Mark Teixeira. On July 24, in the eighth-inning of a lopsided loss, Teixiera stole second against the Twins. But that was it. No second-half stolen bases for Jacoby Ellsbury. None for Brett Gardner. Not even one of those occasional steals for Didi Gregorius or Chris Young, or a heads up stolen base for Chase Headley or Stephen Drew.
Since June 1, the Yankees have just 15 stolen base attempts.
“I think that whenever your guys can get the extra base, we want them to get the extra base,” Joe Girardi said. “However, not at the expense of being thrown out or taking a chance, so it has to be a pretty good calculated risk that you’re going to get to second base, or to third if you’re trying to steal third. So what our guys have done is, they’ve been wise, and if they feel that there’s a chance they’re going to get thrown out, in a sense, they’re probably not going to be as aggressive as maybe early in the season.”
The Yankees had the seventh-most steals in baseball for the month of April, and they were middle-of-the-pack with 14 stolen bases in May. But they’ve basically stopped running since then.
Ellsbury had 14 stolen bases before he went on the disabled list in the middle of May, but he’s attempted to steal only once since returning in early July. He was thrown out in that one attempt.
Gardner had 15 stolen bases through June 12 — and had been caught stealing only three times — but he hasn’t even attempted a stolen base since then.
“We still have the green light most of the time,” Gardner said. “To be honest, I feel like I haven’t really been doing a good job getting on base the last couple of weeks, but I think before that, when (Ellsbury) was out, I was a little more timid, trying to stay smart out there playing every day without him out of the lineup. It’s not a case of us not wanting to run. We still want to be aggressive, it’s still a part of our game. The thing is, with Alex and Tex swinging the bat so well behind us, you’re essentially in scoring position when you’re on first. So, that may have a little more to do with it; we haven’t been hard-pressed to manufacture runs in that way.”
Ellsbury has a .243 on-base percentage since coming off the disabled list. He had a .412 before getting hurt, so obviously his opportunities to run have dwindled significantly. Gardner, though, has a .383 on-base percentage since his last stolen base. He’s been to first base plenty of times and has simply elected not to run.
Granted, Gardner’s long had a reputation for being hesitant to break for second, but even by his standards, this seems extreme.
“People are paying a lot more attention to our base runners now,” Girardi said. “Overall, if you look around the league, I think pitchers are paying more attention to it. They’re quicker to home. We’re not just going to run into outs.”
Not sure pitchers have ever stopped paying attention to Ellsbury and Gardner. More emphasis on shutting down the running game could very well play a role in this — and Gardner pointed out that he’s gone for second a few times only to have the hitter swing and make contact — but the Yankees’ halted running game seems to be a clear shift in offensive philosophy.
“I think it’s an understanding that we all have about our offense as we got a better idea of what we have,” Girardi said. “Going into the season, a lot of times early in the year, the ball doesn’t carry as well, and we didn’t play at home as much, and those sort of things; I think it’s harder for a catcher to throw when it’s colder. So you take some more risks, but now knowing what we have in this offense, I think our guys have been pretty smart. … It’s not like we’ve had a hard time scoring runs, so I’m pleased with the offense and the way we’re doing it.”
• If need be, Brian McCann can catch tonight. For now, it seems the Yankees still have no intention to bring up a catcher and will just play John Ryan Murphy behind the plate. “(McCann) feels better today,” Girardi said. “So he’s really day-to-day. We don’t anticipate it will be too long. As of right now, the way he felt today, we were encouraged by (it). We’ll look at tomorrow or the next day (to get him back in the lineup).”
• Speaking of Murphy, his season slash line is up to .297/.336/.406 and he’s hit .355/.385/.452 since the beginning of June. He seems to be growing more comfortable in this part-time role. “I think there’s been a little more consistent playing time just because of all the lefties we’ve seen, too,” Girardi said. “He’s getting some more at-bats than some day games after night games. He’s learning how to do the role and understand the role that you don’t play every day and the more at-bats probably the better.”
• After his impressive debut last night, Luis Severino’s second big league start is scheduled for Tuesday. That’s the series opener in Cleveland.
• That Cleveland series is the start of another long stretch of consecutive games. Girardi said the Yankees could use a sixth starter at some point during that stretch. “We’ll look at how our starters are doing and then really make a decision,” he said. “Is there a chance we’ll insert a guy once in there, yes, absolutely.”
• Any concern that, given his numbers, Ellsbury isn’t healthy? “He’s physically fine,” Girardi said. “He got banged up when he ran into the wall a couple times. I thought he was starting to swing the bat better and then you run into a knuckleballer, and that’s always hard to figure out and I know we’re going to see one (more on Friday). I was encouraged with what I saw in Chicago, some of the things I saw in Chicago and Tuesday night here as well, so I think he’s on the right track.”
• Not nearly as hot today as it was last week in Texas. Girardi said he’s not worried about any sort of heat or dehydration issues resurfacing for CC Sabathia. “I’ve checked with him a couple times during the course of the weekend and yesterday and he feels he’s at full strength,” Girardi said. “He would know physically better than anyone. He threw his bullpen and felt fine so I feel pretty good about it.”
Associated Press photos
Two things happened pretty soon after the Yankees second consecutive loss: They sent one starting pitcher to the hospital, and watched yet another be traded elsewhere.
Following tonight’s five runs in five-plus innings, CC Sabathia showed symptoms of dehydration and was sent to an area hospital on the recommendation of trainer Steve Donohue. Sabathia will not travel with the Yankees tonight. The symptoms, though, did not show up until after the game. They don’t necessarily explain yet another rough start with nine hits, three of which were home runs.
“You know, he struggled,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It looked like he was going to get out of the first, and he hung a slider to Hamilton. Then it looked like he left a breaking ball up to Choo as well. He gave us the five innings, gave us a chance, but again he had that one big hit that really hurt him.”
Sabathia had pitched pretty well for two starts in a row, but now he’s delivered two fairly similar duds. He gave up five runs last time out as well. Strange thing about this one was that left-handed hitters burned him. He made an awful pitch that Josh Hamilton hit for a three-run home run in the first inning, then he gave up a solo homer to Shin-Soo Choo in the second.
“It’s not something we’ve seen a lot, but it was just some breaking balls he left up,” Girardi said. “… Just something you have to keep working on. That’s the only thing you could do.”
Well, not really the only thing the Yankees could do. They could look for alternatives, either internally — Bryan Mitchell, Adam Warren, Luis Severino, even Diego Moreno could be worth a look — or through the trade market. Having already missed out on several marquee names, though, the Yankees tonight lost out on Mike Leake. The Reds shipped Leake to San Francisco, news that broke just minutes after Bob Nightengale reported that the Giants and Yankees were the finalists.
The trade deadline hits at 4 p.m. tomorrow, and so far the Yankees biggest addition is a utility player with no obvious role to play. There’s time to change that, but it seems Brian Cashman hasn’t liked — or hasn’t matched up very well — with the asking prices. Ken Rosenthal noted tonight that the Yankees could instead go after a big-time reliever in an effort to shorten the game from the back end because the market is quickly running out of available top-three type starters.
• Andrew Miller hasn’t pitched much lately, and Girardi speculated that might be why he was hit so hard. Miller, though, said that wasn’t an issue. “I felt really good, I just didn’t fool anybody tonight,” he said. “It was just one of those days. Even the outs I got, both outs were two of the hardest-hit balls I’ve given up all year. You chalk it up and move on. It certainly wasn’t a physical thing. I felt good, I just fell behind on some counts. It wasn’t necessarily pitches I don’t normally throw, they just laid off some good ones. You’re not going to win them all. It stinks. I feel like I’m throwing the ball pretty well, but I didn’t get the result I wanted tonight.”
• Why have Nick Goody start the ninth inning when Girardi knew he was going to Miller? “I knew I was going to ask Miller to possibly give me multiple hitters, especially after they put all those lefties in,” Girardi said. “But I couldn’t ask him to give me eight hitters. I thought that would be too many, so I was just trying to get Goody through one or two more. Once DeShields walked, that’s when I brought in Miller to shut down the running game, for one. That was the reason. And the game’s on the line.”
• Goody looked pretty good with his strikeout to end the eighth, but Girardi said that wasn’t a factor in sticking with him for the ninth. It was all about trying to just get a few more hitters on a night the bullpen was thin and Girardi didn’t want to overdo it with Miller.
• This was the Yankees’ second walk-off loss of the year.
• Any problem with Ellbury not staying back and letting Ryan Rua’s ball fall in front of him instead of diving and playing it into an inside-the-park home run? “He made a great effort,” Girardi said. “That’s what we want our guys doing. It looks like he just missed it. It’s part of the game.”
• Here’s Ellsbury on the inside-the-park homer: “Got a good bead on it, and then it pretty much just dive bombed. At that point, you’re obviously trying to make the catch, but you’re really trying to block it or do whatever you can to keep it in front of you. … I don’t think I did (get a glove on it), no. Tried to bat it down with my other hand, though. You just do anything you can to keep it in front of you then.”
• Any problem with the way Carlos Beltran played that ball without really trying to backup the play? “Believe me, Jake’s going to get there before Carlos,” Girardi said.
• That was the first inside-the-park home run allowed by the Yankees since Wil Myers on May 4 of last season at Yankee Stadium.
• How odd was it for Sabathia to allow home runs to two different lefties tonight? He had allowed just one home run in 97 plate appearances against lefties all season.
• Mark Teixeira had his 40th career multi-homer game and now has 26 home runs this season. He has the fourth-most multi-homer games among active players. This is his 10th season with at least 25 home runs, tied for the second-most by any switch hitter (Eddie Murray has 12).
• Final word goes to Ellsbury: “You want to win them all, but we know we need to go into Chicago, get in late, and play three good games there. Obviously you want to win this one, but we know the importance of putting it behind us, going in tomorrow and playing well.”
Associated Press photos
In almost any other setting, the question might have been too cliché to generate much of an answer. But on his 40th birthday, in the year after his season-long suspension, in the middle of a remarkable career resurgence, Alex Rodriguez seemed genuinely taken aback by the very notion.
What advice would 40-year-old A-Rod give to himself at 20 years old? At 30 years old? Rodriguez paused, then smiled.
“I’m in no position to give anyone advice, including myself,” he said, with a laugh. “But I think there was a point in time for me when hitting home runs, being a great baseball player, was all that mattered. I figured that if I hit more home runs, it would justify for whatever behavior I had off the field.
“I realize today that it’s not that way at all. Hitting home runs doesn’t make you a good father, it doesn’t make you a good friend, and it certainly doesn’t make you a good teammate. To me they’re both important.”
Rodriguez turned 40 today, and there he is, back in the No. 3 spot in the Yankees lineup. He’ healthy, playing his usual designated hitter role, and he’s leading the team in OPS. Only four players in the entire American League have a higher OPS. Only six have more home runs.
“Forty is forty,” manager Joe Giradri said. “But it’s still just a number. You can still be extremely productive at that age and he’s showing it. … It’s rare, but guys can still do it.”
For Rodriguez, though, the birthday is a different sort of milestone. It’s notable not only because of how good he was a 20 years old, or for all he’d accomplished at 30, but because of where he was on the day he turned 39 while serving a season-long suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
“I think someone asked me about 40 and evaluating where I am, and I think I did a lot of that last year,” Rodriguez said. “I had a lot of time to think and evaluate. It was a dark time, that’s for sure. To be able to come back this year and look back, hopefully I’m going to be a player, but more importantly, a better person, for the next 40 years.”
Rodriguez noted that not many baseball players talk about turning 40 because so few last beyond their mid-30s. Did it feel more significant turning 40 or turning 30?
“Forty feels bigger just because of all the things that have transpired and where I am today,” Rodriguez said.
Where he is today is among the most productive and consistent hitters in baseball. He’s stayed healthy so far, and Girardi has tried to keep it that way by rarely playing him in the field. Perhaps most surprisingly, he’s been cheered at home and seemingly accepted by opponents and some fans on the road.
“I’m going to continue to work hard,” he said. “I thought April would be my most challenging month and as I started getting more repetition, hopefully I would get better. I think that’s happened, and I hope that continues. I’m going to continue to work out and go through my regimen, but it’s also a nice reminder that if you play clean and you play hard, that good things can happen.”
• Still no announced starter for tomorrow. Girardi said it depends on who the Yankees have to use tonight. They prefer to have either Chris Capuano or Adam Warren start tomorrow’s game — with the other basically piggybacking — but that plan will only work if those two aren’t needed tonight. “We’ll try to get three or four innings out of (one of them), use another guy and go from there,” Girardi said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
• The original plan was to use Bryan Mitchell to start tomorrow’s game, but Mitchell’s schedule was thrown off last week when he was doing band work. The band was attached to a door (pretty common), and the door opened. Mitchell fell, hit his head, and had to sit out a few days. That threw him off turn for tomorrow’s game. “He’s off track now,” Girardi said. “We’ll keep building him up. He’s a guy we’ll definitely look at the next time.”
• Worth noting that Diego Moreno is tomorrow’s scheduled Triple-A starter, so if the Yankees need someone who can give several innings, they could recall Moreno as either a fresh long man or as an emergency starter.
• Jacoby Ellsbury banged his shoulder into the wall making a catcher yesterday, so Girardi decided to keep Ellsbury out of the lineup tonight. The plan was to sit either Ellsbury or Carlos Beltran tonight, and Girardi decided to give Ellsbury the rest. “I think that’s pretty much the plan for everybody to get one (day off) at some point on this road series,” Ellsbury said. “So they decided to give it to me today.”
• Ellsbury said he feels like he could play tonight, and he’ll be ready to run or play defense late in the game. He fully expects to be in the lineup tomorrow. He got some ice on the shoulder last night, but he said he didn’t do anything particularly out of the ordinary today. He can play if the Yankees need him.
• Girardi on Ellsbury: “If I have to use him, I would use him. He ran into the wall pretty hard. I was going to give him or Carlos one of the next two days off. I decided to do Jake today. We’ll go look at tomorrow. You’d like to be able to win the game without using him but if we need him, we’ll use him.”
• It’s really, really hot down here. “Stevie (Donohue) talks (to the players) about the importance of hydration,” Girardi said. “And we continue to do that. It’s hot, but it’s hot for both teams and you’ve got to deal with it.”
Associated Press photos
After bouncing back from a rocky second inning and settling in for his first win in more than a month, CC Sabathia revealed a new reason for having this start pushed back three days.
Turns out, he was having his surgically repaired right knee drained of excess fluid.
“We knew that I had to get it drained,” Sabathia said. “And I had the off days coming up, so why not get these young horses out there and kind of let the old man get a couple of days off?”
Sabathia was originally supposed to pitch on Sunday, but the Yankees initially said his start was pushed back so he could work on some things in the bullpen. Sabathia said he had the knee drained after getting home from Anaheim. He said he couldn’t have pitched Sunday after the procedure. He also said this was the second time since spring training that the knee was drained.
“It was just part of our plan of what we were trying to do to stay healthy,” Sabathia said. “I got it drained between the last start and came out today and felt great.”
Ultimately, Sabathia said the extra time off and the drainage helped. He said he felt fresh, and the early problems — when every ball seemed to be a rocket — were the result of poor command and a minor adjustment. He wound up pitching pretty effectively through the middle innings.
“I think just commanding both sides of the plate (made the difference),” he said. “The changeups I was throwing earlier in the game were a little flat. Me and Larry talked about it a lot in-between innings. I just made a little adjustment and the pitch started working for us. It opened up that inside part of the plate and to get some strikes in there, get some early pop-ups, I think definitely helped us tonight. … Put this in the memory bank and kind of work off that.”
Even with the better results after those first two innings — and even though Sabathia said he still felt strong at 88 pitches — Joe Girardi pulled Sabathia in the middle of the sixth inning. There were right-handed hitters coming up, and Girardi clearly didn’t trust Sabathia to keep the A’s to just two runs much longer. Sabathia was predictably frustrated by the quick hook, but he was equally understanding.
“I haven’t proved it,” he said. “Hopefully we get later in the season and I start pitching better late in games and he’ll leave me out there.”
He felt some soreness after last night’s game. He thought it was near the top of the calf, but an MRI revealed inflammation behind the right knee. Headley expects to sit out tomorrow and hopes to play this weekend.
“I don’t anticipate it being anything too serious,” Headley said. “But might be a day or two before we can really get a handle on what it is.”
Headley said he didn’t get any sort of injection, just ice, rest and a compression wrap.
“They said it could be a Grade 1 strain (or) it could be more of a tendinitis type wear and tear, just overuse type thing,” Headley said. “So, with the pain that I feel, that’s more what I expect it to be.”
• This game belonged to Mark Teixeira. A game-tying home run. A second home run to provide a vital cushion. A snagged line drive for a pivotal double play. A leaning catch over the dugout railing. A diving play at the bag to end the eighth inning. And finally a scoop to end the game. “I enjoyed the win the most,” Teixeira said. “If you have a night like that and you lose, it doesn’t mean much. Hitting two home runs is always nice. It’s not easy to hit home runs, so getting two against a tough team is fun.”
• This was Teixeira’s 39th career multi-homer game, his 18th with the Yankees and his second of the season. “All-Star. Comeback Player of the Year. All that,” Sabathia said. “He’s been great for us. Not just the home runs, but how many runs he saves, errors he saves with his glove. It’s good to see him back and healthy and doing his thing.”
• A lot of good plays by Teixeira in this game. He said he thought diving into the bag was the best way to get the out that ended the eighth inning, mostly because he wasn’t sure he could make a safe throw to Dellin Betances covering the bag. “Because of the angle, I would have to be throwing across the runner to throw to him there,” Teixeira said. “I didn’t want to take the chance of Dellin not being able to see the ball or something; I wanted to make sure I got the out on my own.”
• Pretty good play by Teixeira to end the game as well. Gregorio Petit had made a throwing error on the previous play to put the tying run into scoring position, but Petit made a pretty tough play — with help from Teixeira — to preserve the win. “Give Greg a lot of credit,” Teixeira said. “He makes the error, then comes back and makes a really tough play. I just had to stretch a little bit for it, but it was big for us.”
• Last time a Yankees player had multiple home runs in a game was, of course, Stephen Drew. And, of course, Drew’s home run tonight proved absolutely crucial. “It’s a good feeling,” Drew said. “I’ve had good at-bats and no luck. So it’s a really good feeling. You never know how many runs you’re going to need in a game, and tonight we needed it.”
• Drew is still hitting just .179, but he has 12 home runs, the fourth-most on the team. “I mean, you look at stats and you look at how many line drives get caught and it’s pretty crazy,” Drew said. “So for me, I have to keep my head up and keep going because I’m having good ABs, So it’s very strange to say the least. … For me, I’ve swung at good pitches and put good swings on it, just no luck.”
• Andrew Miller on his return from the disabled list: “I actually felt really crisp and really good. He hit a pitch I wanted to throw, though it was clearly the wrong pitch. I feel like I executed pitches, it was just one of those days. Thankfully we got some extra tack-on runs from Stephen Drew and Tex had a great game. At the end of the day, the one thing about having the ninth inning is if you finish with a lead and win the game, it doesn’t matter.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury on his return from the disabled list: I was happy with how it went today. Definitely was pleased. Definitely will sleep good tonight knowing I got through the game. … I’m sure I’ll be a little sore tomorrow. But that’s pretty much the whole season. I don’t know why I’m so beat up, but mentally, prepared to be there tomorrow.”
• The Yankees showed a mid-game video of various player wearing bald caps and urging fans to vote for Brett Gardner for the All-Star Game. Brendan Ryan actually pretended to be Gardner in the video and was hilarious. “He did great,” Gardner said. “I didn’t see the video until out on the field during the game, so I’m not sure I caught the whole thing, but he’s a pretty good actor. He likes the camera. Definitely appreciate all the work they put in, and their standing up for me.”
• By the way, Alex Gordon left tonight’s Royals game with an injury, so Gardner could be named to the All-Star team as an injury replacement. I assume it would come down to him or Yoenis Cespedes. If Gordon can’t play, his replacement will be decided by manager Ned Yost and the league office.
• Final word to Teixeira: “That’s what the big-leagues is all about. If you play every single night, especially as a hitter, you’re going to fail more than you succeed. You can’t let one night carry into the next. You saw it with Dellin tonight, he came in and did a great job 1-2-3. I bounced back after getting pitched really tough yesterday and having a tough night personally, so that’s what you have to do.”
Associated Press photos
“That is (the) plan,” general manager Brian Cashman wrote in a text message.
When the Yankees activate closer Andrew Miller will depend on how things go in tonight’s rehab outing with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Cashman said. Even if the Yankees decide Miller needs only one rehab game, it’s hard to believe he’ll be activated any earlier than Wednesday. Activating him tomorrow would mean the Yankees are willing to immediately use him on back-to-back days, which seems unlikely (though perhaps not impossible).
Miller has been out since June 10 because of a strained forearm. Ellsbury has been out since May 20 with a sprained knee.
UPDATE: The Yankees just sent the following Ellsbury update:
Please note that OF Jacoby Ellsbury participated in simulated game activities today and will do so again tomorrow — and will not play in another minor league rehab game. He is scheduled to be activated from the disabled list prior to Wednesday’s game vs. Oakland.
The Yankees seem genuinely uncertain whether they’ll activate Jacoby Ellsbury from the disabled list on Friday. The plan is for Ellsbury to play one more rehab game tonight in Florida, after which his status will be reevaluated. Hard to imagine Ellsbury will say he’s not ready — players would always rather play big league games than rehab games — so it will be a team decision.
And there can be little doubt the team is better with its regular center fielder.
At the time of his knee injury, Ellsbury had a .412 on-base percentage, so he was clearly doing his job at the top of the order. He was also playing his usual defense, letting Brett Gardner provide his usual range in left field. Ellsbury’s presence also lets Chris Young get almost all of his at-bats against lefties, lets Chase Headley move to the bottom third of the order, lets Young become a late-inning replacement in right field, and basically adds both impact and depth in every obvious way.
In 40 games with Ellsbury on the roster (including the game when he was hurt), the Yankees went 22-18.
In 39 games since Ellsbury went on the disabled list, the Yankees are 20-19.
But here’s the weird part: the Yankees are actually scoring more runs without Ellsbury. In those first 40 games with Ellsbury, the Yankees averaged 4.43 runs per game. In those 39 games without him, they’ve averaged 4.90.
How does that make any sense? Well, mostly it’s because the other pieces of the lineup haven’t maintained the exact same level of production before and after the Ellsbury injury. Resurgent production from Brian McCann and Carlos Belran, for example, sure go a long way toward explaining the offensive improvement.
Associated Press photos