Freddy Garcia could have made things easy for the Yankees this afternoon. Instead, he might have made things harder. Showing absolutely no rust in his first start back from a swollen right hand, Garcia pitched 4.1 scoreless innings with four strikeouts and two walks. The only hit he allowed was a comebacker — of course — that glanced off his leg.
“Freddy was great today,” Joe Girardi said, not even waiting for a reporter to ask him a question. “I mean, everything; slow curveball he used to get ahead in the count sometimes, located his fastball, his split was good, his backdoor slider was good. He had it all. We got him to 64 pitches, so I was very pleased.”
Garcia doesn’t have the longterm upside of Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova — which means the Yankees might choose to cut him out of the rotation regardless of results — but he’s been very sharp this spring. Garcia ERA is down to 2.92, and he’s looked very much like the guy who pitched so well for the Yankees last season.
“Last year, I signed a minor-league deal and came to spring training to earn a spot,” Garcia said. “Everything was harder for me because I had to come here and pitch really good and show them I can pitch in this league. (This winter) I signed early, but they signed guys and (Girardi) said he liked competition, and we’re in competition. I like that. It’s making my thinking straight. I concentrate better on what you’re doing.”
After last week’s hand injury — on a comebacker in Dunedin — Garcia might have fallen to the back of the pack, but he looked today as if he hadn’t missed a step. Whether you believe him or not, Girardi has said the Yankees will take their five best starting pitchers, and right now Garcia has been more consistent than anyone but Phil Hughes.
“I have to worry about myself and go out there and pitch,” Garcia said. “The way I pitched today, you know, I needed it.”
• Raul Ibanez’s two-run home run in the seventh inning not only gave the Yankees the lead, it also snapped him out of a hitless streak dating back to March 10. “It felt good to be able to make a left turn instead of a right turn,” Ibanez said.
• Ibanez credited extra work with Kevin Long. The two spent an extended session in the cage yesterday, and Ibanez said it paid off. “I felt like I was in a better position to hit,” he said. “And in a better position to take a good swing.”
• Because the Yankees are facing a left-handed starter tomorrow, Ibanez will go to the minor league complex to get at-bats. It’s not uncommon for big league hitters to leadoff every inning in minor league spring training games. They can often get more at-bats by hitting in multiple games. “I told him, as many (at-bats) as he wants,” Girardi said.
• Garcia was fine after being hit by a Jhonny Peralta comebacker in the third inning. He quickly dismissed the training staff and stayed in the game, but it was kind of freaky to see a pitcher hit in his first game back from a comebacker. “It happened to me twice,” Garcia sad. “But it’s nothing to worry about.”
• Dewayne Wise continued his strong spring training with a game-winning, two-run double in the 10th inning. The Yankees went into extras after the Tigers tied the game with two-runs in the ninth. Both runs came off D.J. Mitchell, who was pitching his third inning of work and seemed to lose the strike zone a little bit.
• Another strong showing for Cesar Cabral who had one strikeout in a hitless bottom of the 10th. The Rule 5 pick has 12 strikeouts and only one walk this spring.
• Justin Maxwell picked up his fourth stolen base of the spring as part of a double steal in the 10th inning. Maxwell stole third. … Jose Gil’s batting average is down to .563 after a 1-for-2 day. … Mark Teixeira and Colin Curtis also had hits today. … Boone Logan retired the two batters he faced, and Kevin Whelan retired the three batters he faced.
• Although Joba Chamberlain is being released from the hospital tomorrow, Girardi said he’s not sure when Chamberlain will stop by Yankees camp. Girardi expects Chamberlain to be in camp again at some point, but it might not happen right away. “He’s not capable of driving, so we might see him next week some time,” Girardi said. “It just depends what he wants to do.”
Associated Press photos
This was more like it. After a somewhat erratic spring debut, Manny Banuelos looked more like an elite pitching prospect on the verge of the big leagues this afternoon. His fastball was in the mid-90s and he mixed offspeed pitches without walking anyone. He struck out three in two scoreless innings.
“I think he battled some nerves his first time out,” catcher Russell Martin said. “He looked like he was a little erratic. This time out, he was just pitching. Powering his fastball, downward plane, and he looked like he just had more control of all his pitches. So I think as we progress here, he’s just going to sharpen up.”
The Yankees have seen improvement in each of their top pitching prospects. Banuelos showed it today. Dellin Betances showed it yesterday. David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell and Adam Warren have been pretty sharp all spring, drawing consistent praise from Joe Girardi.
“I thought (Banuelos) attacked the zone better and was able to get his secondary pitches over,” Girardi said. “I thought Betances made a big jump too, yesterday. Betances was aggressive yesterday, threw some strikes and was throwing 95. You’re trying to get them more comfortable to attack the zone with their good stuff. I think we saw it from both of them.”
Expectation is that both Banuelos and Betances have next to zero chance of making the big league roster. They’re ticketed for Triple-A, and might not even be the first pitchers called up if the Yankees need a spot starter. But the Yankees have seen progress, and all eyes are on each of their outings.
Today it was Banuelos’ turn to shine.
“He’s got great stuff, no question,” Martin said. “But he still has to work on his changeup, and he still has to work on his breaking ball command for him to be who he wants to be. But it’s still early in the spring, and from this outing compared to the last, it’s already a nice leap forward. He definitely has the stuff. He’s got a lot of life on his fastball. It’s easy. He struck a couple guys out just elevating his fastball. But the main thing for him, he’s the type of guy who will get himself in trouble. He’s not going to get banged around because his stuff’s so good. But you don’t want the guy to walk guys and create his own troubles. And that’s what we’re trying to keep him from doing. Just make sure that he’s throwing the ball over the plate and using all his pitches.”
• Not much to say about Freddy Garcia’s outing. He went three scoreless innings with two strikeouts and one hit, keeping his pitch count low and working quickly. “Vintage Freddy,” is what Girardi called it. Before the game, Garcia told Martin that he wanted to work on his changeup a little bit, and Garcia said his changeup was arguably his best pitch of the day.
• Martin on Garcia: “His pitch count was relatively low because he got contact. He was throwing strikes. That’s what you want from him, just to be able to throw all his pitches over the plate, and induce contact. That’s what he did.”
• It was just yesterday that Joba Chamberlain told me he would begin throwing breaking balls on Sunday. Turns out, he’s ahead of even his own schedule. Chamberlain wound up throwing breaking balls this morning, throwing five sliders for the first time since Tommy John surgery. “Once I threw the first two, the last three were a lot better,” he said. Chamberlain went through his usual routine of 10 pitches off flat ground, 20 off a mound, a short rest, then 10 more off the mound. When that was finished, he threw all five sliders with his catcher standing up so that he wouldn’t feel the need to overthrow and keep the ball down.
• Most of the pitching attention today was on Garcia and Banuelos, but I thought Mitchell look pretty sharp. He’s known for that sinker, but he really has to use his changeup and breaking ball to stay effective, and today he got a swinging strike three with a good changeup that had good movement. He pitched two scoreless, allowing one hit and one walk.
• Juan Cedeno is probably the longest of long shots to make this team as a left-handed releiver, but today he came in to face one batter — big league lefty Freddie Freeman — and Cedeno got a strikeout. Kevin Whelan closed out the win with the final two outs.
• The 3-0 win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Yankees.
• Great play by Martin to get Michael Bourne out on a bunt in the third inning. It was a pretty good bunt up the third-base line, and Martin made a kind of twirling throw to get one of the fastest players in baseball. “That’s as good as it gets from a catcher,” Girardi said. “There aren’t too many people who can make that play, just because of his athleticism.”
• Even though the CT scan came back negative, the Yankees are taking things slow with Eduardo Nunez’s sore right hand. “We said, ‘Don’t take (batting practice) today and let’s see where you are tomorrow,’” Girardi said. As of right now, Nunez is not scheduled to make tomorrow’s trip to play the Braves.
• No one had more than one hit today, but four Yankees — Martin, Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez and Doug Bernier — did have doubles in the win. It was Swisher’s second double of the spring. Robinson Cano picked up his second RBI. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Melky Mesa and Gustavo Molina also had hits.
• For Sunday’s split-squad games, the plan is for the big league outfielders to travel to Fort Myers with Phil Hughes. The big league infielders will stay in Tampa to play behind CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. Girardi is going to the road game. I’m still making up my mind.
Associated Press photos
Dave Robertson was moving boxes at his Tampa-area home last night when he stumbled down some stairs. Joe Girardi said it was more like he missed one step, not necessarily went tumbling down an entire flight. His right foot felt fine initially but it eventually became sore and Robertson went for x-rays, which were negative. He’s getting an MRI this morning and is currently wearing a walking boot as a precaution and for comfort.
“They were empty boxes,” Girardi said. “They weren’t even heavy boxes. I told to just kick them down the steps next time.”
There is some concern, obviously. Girardi said Robertson wasn’t walking very well this morning, and the official diagnosis so far is a mid-foot sprain. Girardi said there was no swelling, which he’s taking to be a good sign. Because he’s a reliever, Robertson could miss several days and not be at serious risk of missing the start of the season.
Until the MRI comes back, it’s really too early to know how much time Robertson will miss and whether Opening Day is at risk.
• Joba Chamberlain will throw another bullpen tomorrow, and he’ll throw breaking balls for the first time on Sunday. Those breaking balls won’t come off a mound. He’ll throw them off flat ground. He said things are still going well with his rehab from Tommy John.
• Raul Ibanez has seen most of his time in left field, but he played a lot of right field when he was younger and the Yankees want him to be able to play both outfield corners. That’s why he’s in right field today, to get a few reps out there before the season. “I’m pretty confident that he’s going to play it fine,” Girardi said.
• Eduardo Nunez will take batting practice today, but Girardi still not sure he’ll be ready to play tomorrow. There doesn’t seem to be any significant concern about him, just taking things slowly and making sure he’s ready.
• George Kontos will throw a bullpen tomorrow. If that goes well, hell fall back into a regular spring routine and could face hitters within a few days.
• Cole Garner, who’s been shutdown with a sore hamstring, is making today’s trip to Dunedin but he’s not scheduled to play.
• Today’s sides: Graham Stoneburner, Brett Marshall, Phil Hughes and CC Sabathia.
• Tomorrow’s sides: Brad Meyers, Adam Warren, Joba Chamberlain, Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada and Hiroki Kuroda.
• Today’s available pitchers: Ivan Nova, Michael O’Connor, Dellin Betances, David Phelps, Cesar Cabral, Dan Burawa, Adam Miller, Ryan Pope, Chase Whitley and Juan Cedeno.
• Today’s second string: C J.R. Murphy, 1B Brandon Laird, 2B David Adams, SS Doug Bernier, 3B Jorge Vazquez, LF Zoilo Almonte, CF Melky Mesa, RF Chris Dickerson, DH Colin Curtis
Associated Press photo
Tuesday notes: Granderson defers to Cano • 02.28.12
Curtis Granderson was a legitimate MVP candidate last year. He hit 41 homers and led the league in both RBIs and runs, yet he’s far from the biggest name in the Yankees clubhouse. How does it feel to have a year like that, and still be overshadowed?
“The good thing about this team, I don’t think there’s one guy that has to be the guy,” Granderson said. “If there is, if I’m pointing to him, I’m looking at Cano as that guy. It seems like he’s always the guy coming up with the big hit or big play for the last two seasons that I’ve been here.”
Robinson Cano seems all but locked into the No. 3 spot in the order, and despite his power last season, Granderson said he still doesn’t consider himself a true middle-of-the-order hitter.
“I remember being in Little League,” he said. “We had our first game one year, and I remember looking at the lineup. I think I batted first or second. One kid — he was a little bit bigger and just all-around, at the time, better — he batted third. I remember asking someone, how come he’s batting third? Why am I batting first? They said, the best hitter has to bat third. From that day — I was probably 8, 9, 10 years old – I remembered that. It’s not necessarily the guy with the most home runs. It’s your best all-around hitter.”
• Speaking of Thursday, the Yankees will have a team outing that afternoon. They’ll have a short workout in the morning, then the team will go to an undisclosed event at an undisclosed location. “We’ve done a real good job of keeping this one hush-hush,” Girardi said.
• Ivan Nova will likely throw one more bullpen before starting Saturday’s Grapefruit League opener. Today he threw batting practice for the second time this spring. “It looks like he has a plan,” Girardi said. “He knows exactly what he wants to do. Sometimes when you’re fighting like he was last year to try to prove himself, that he could pitch at this level — was he going to go with us, was he not going to go with us — I think with the experience that he got last year, I think he understands what it takes. And what he needs to work on. And what his approach is.”
• Joba Chamberlain said he’s scheduled to throw another 15-20 fastballs off a full mound on Friday. He’s not sure when he’ll be throwing breaking balls, but he’s hopeful it’s not too far in the future.
• Chamberlain knows that the Yankees don’t expect him back until June, but he’s still hoping to beat that expectation and get back sooner. He has a best-case scenario in mind. “I’m just going to do a Mo,” he said. “I know the answer, but I’m not going to tell you guys. Yeah, I have it in mind. I know the work that I put in. Like I said, three to four months can be realistic. But also on the other hand, it can be realistic on the front side of things. For all the work that I put in, I know there’s more coming up still.”
• Speaking of Rivera, here’s David Aardsma when asked whether he’s hoping to take Rivera’s job next season: “Nah, I’m focused on being healthy, and that’s all I’m worried about. Whatever those circumstances are, when we get there we get there. He’s the greatest closer of all time, man. He can ride out on whatever horse he wants to whenever he wants to.”
• Girardi was asked about catching prospect Gary Sanchez, the youngest player in camp: “He’s made some minor adjustments (defensively), and I’ve been pleased with his work ethic. He’s got some thunder in his bat, you can see. He swings the bat with authority. He’s got an outstanding arm. For Gary, he needs to play. This kid needs to play a lot of games so he understands the trade back there.”
• Kyle Higashioka hurt his shoulder during a workout today. “He could be out for a few days,” Girardi said.
• Bill Hall got quite a bit of time at shortstop during drills today. Really, it’s hard to imagine the Yankees are too concerned with his ability to play there, but I guess it’s possible it could come into play if Eduardo Nunez is hurt.
• Random observation of the day: When lefty Clay Rapada throws batting practice, the protective L screen is flipped as if a right-hander is throwing. The L screen is made with an opening for a pitcher to throw the ball, but the opening is too high for Rapada’s sidearm delivery. Instead, he just throws around the screen, keeping his left arm straight out to the side.
• As expected, Andy Pettitte did throw batting practice today, but he wasn’t on the main field. Pettitte threw BP in one of the indoor cages. The only hitters I saw him throw to were Jorge Vazquez and Zoilo Almonte.
Associated Press photos
CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda are each listed at 6-foot-7. They’re intimidating figures at the best of times. Imagine seeing them on a mound, early in the morning, when you’re facing live pitching for the first time of the spring.
“It was good,” Colin Curtis said. “Because the sun was up there, and they were kind of blocking it.”
Sabathia and Pineda threw live batting practice to Curtis and Melky Mesa. At this point, we all know what to expect from Sabathia, but Pineda is still in the process of making a first impression. It was the slider that most impressed Curtis, but it’s still a little early to get a great read on a pitcher. Curtis said he didn’t see any changeups, but he saw a few thrown to Mesa.
Last time Curtis faced live pitching? It was few weeks before spring training, and he badly wanted to get on a field, so he put together a scrimmage with some high school kids in his home town. Not exactly the kind of thing that prepares a guy for Sabathia and Pineda.
“Facing sophomores is a little different than facing these two guys,” Curtis said.
• David Aardsma’s locker is still empty, but he’s now on the schedule for pitchers conditioning. He’s in a group with Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano. Aardsma was originally scheduled to arrive today, so he could show up at some point.
• Joba Chamberlain said this morning that he’s scheduled to finally throw off a full mound tomorrow. He’ll do standard long toss and flat ground, then he’ll throw 20 pitches off a mound. He said the mound has felt huge during PFP, so he’s looking forward to making it feel familiar again.
• Tomorrow’s early batting practice pitchers are Dave Robertson and Boone Logan. They’ll be pitching to David Adams and Corban Joseph.
• Today’s batting practice pitchers:
Phil Hughes (to Russell Martin)
Hiroki Kuroda (to Russell Martin)
Manny Banuelos (to Jose Gil)
Dellin Betances (to Kyle Higashioka)
Freddy Garcia (to Gustavo Molina)
Cory Wade (to Gustavo Molina)
D.J. Mitchell (to J.R. Murphy)
Cesar Cabral (to Gary Sanchez)
• Today’s batting practice groups are the same as yesterday. They’ll probably stay the same for a while now.
Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Brandon Laird, Eduardo Nunez
Eric Chavez, Ramiro Pena, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Doug Bernier
Russell Branyan, Bill Hall, Jayson Niz, Jorge Vazquez, David Adams
Francisco Cervelli, Jose Gil, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez
Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Nick Swisher
Chris Dickerson, Justin Maxwell, Cole Garner, Dewayne Wise
Zoilo Almonte, Colin Curtis, Melky Mesa, Corban Joseph
Kyle Higashioka, Russell Martin, J.R. Murphy, Gustavo Molina
• Same fielding groups too:
C: Kyle Higashioka, Russell Martin, Gustavo Molina, J.R. Murphy
INF: Russell Branyan, Robinson Cano, Eric Chavez, Bill Hall, Derek Jeter, Brandon Laird, Eduardo Nunez
OF: Zoilo Almonte, Colin Curtis, Curtis Granderson, Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones, Justin Maxwell
C: Francisco Cervelli, Jose Gil, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez
INF: David Adams, Doug Bernier, Corban Joseph, Jayson Nix, Ramiro Pena, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Vazquez
OF: Chris Dickerson, Brett Gardner, Cole Garner, Melky Mesa, Nick Swisher, Dewayne Wise
• It seems that everyone made it through photo day with no problems. I’m sure that’s always a big concern.
Associated Press photo
That’s what Joe Girardi said after tonight’s game was postponed by rain. It was the Yankees ninth postponement of the season, the most in baseball. Adding games that have been delayed, the Yankees have been affected by weather 22 times this season. That includes a delay when they were playing in a dome and lightning knocked out some of the lights.
“It makes sense,” Girardi said. “It’s going to rain all night. Get out of here and we’re going to have a split on Sunday… I’m not sure that we have a window, so they just decided to bang it early.”
The Yankees are familiar with the process. They’ll get out of here a little later on Sunday night, and they’ll have to push back a couple of starters, but otherwise the impact of a doubleheader on Sunday is minimal.
With all the extra guys on the roster, Girardi said he doesn’t expect anyone to play both games on Sunday.
“When you don’t have the extra guys, it’s a little tougher, which we’ve been through already a few times this year,” Girardi said. “Very unlikely I’ll play guys two games.”
As you might expect, there wasn’t much “postgame” audio worth posting, so here’s Joba Chamblerlain talking pregame about his Tommy John recovery. A highlight is A.J. Burnett’s background reaction when Chamberlain explained that he’s only able to make 30 throws from 30 feet.
• Today, Oklahoma Christian University dedicated the Bobby Murcer Training Facility. “On behalf of the entire New York Yankees organization, we are thrilled that Bobby Murcer and his family have been bestowed this great honor,” Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. “This fitting tribute is a perfect example of Bobby’s everlasting spirit and zest for life, and serves as a testament to his deep sense of community. Bobby continues to make the New York Yankees proud.”
• Phil Hughes played catch today, and he’s scheduled to throw a bullpen tomorrow. The Yankees don’t have a game scheduled, but they still expect him to start one of those final three games in Tampa.
• CC Sabathia is still planning to throw a simulated game on Sunday. He’ll throw it before the first game of the doubleheader.
• Today’s pregame ceremony honoring Roger Maris has been pushed back to Saturday.
• YES Network will televise both games on Sunday. They’ll also have a post-game show after each game.
• What happens if the Yankees are rained out Saturday or Sunday? “You’d have to play Thursday (before the ALDS),” Girardi said. “That wouldn’t be what I would hope for, no.”
Associated Press photos
The rain has slowed a little bit, but it’s still coming down here at Yankee Stadium, and the tarp is still on the field. Nothing about the scene suggests a baseball game is remotely close to happening.
“All I know is when I look at the radar there’s a big, green blob out there coming this way,” Joe Girardi said. “We’re right in the middle of it… I don’t know what they’re going to do. The other night we waited until 11:15 to start a game and we played in the rain the whole time, and we played during what I thought was more than moderate rain at times. I have no idea what we’re going to do.”
Although Girardi said there’s no contingency plan he’s heard about. A doubleheader on Sunday seems to make sense, but there’s been no sort of announcement.
Girardi said he might change his lineup based on conditions, but as long as it stops raining, he thinks the field might drain fast enough that he would feel confident sending his regulars out there.
Speaking of sending regulars out there…
“My lineup is going to be very representative every day,” Girardi said. “I have plans. I have already kind of even staked it out where one guys or two guys get this day off, and two guys get this day off, and you’re going to see seven of our regulars in there. Some of that’s going to be Chavy and Nuney who have platooned for us and they’ve been regulars at points during the season.”
• Girardi’s still not ready to announce his postseason rotation — obviously — but he did more or less lock up two spots. Not that this is a big shock, but he agreed that CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova are both no-doubt ALDS starters. “We have to make some decisions, there’s no doubt about it,” Girardi said. “But I think you’re safe to say that.”
• Could A.J. Burnett start an ALDS game? “Anyone could get a start in the ALDS,” Girardi said. “That’s where we are right now. I’ll continue to evaluate, and a lot of it depends on who we play.”
• Also not a huge shock, but Girardi made it clear that he plans to have Russell Martin start every playoff game behind the plate. “I think he’s more than capable of playing every day, every playoff game behind home plate, so that’s not really a question in my mind,” Girardi said. “Can he do that? I have no problem doing that.”
• Ultimately, Girardi said he’s not close to finalizing any postseason roster decisions. He hasn’t even met with his staff to talk about it. “We’ve had some long days and we’ve been at the ballpark a lot,” he said. “I think you wait and see how things play out. We’ll have meetings next week and that’s when we’ll really begin to talk about it.”
• Francisco Cervelli said he hasn’t been dizzy this past week, and he’s still holding out hope that he’ll be healthy enough to play in the postseason. That said, he’s also planning to be very cautious because he doesn’t want to get too aggressive with a head injury.
• Joba Chamberlain also rejoined the Yankees this afternoon (on his birthday). He made 30 throws from 30 feet pregame — with Larry Rothschild — and he said he’ll be at that distance for a while. He said that he’s a month to six weeks ahead of schedule, and he thinks he’ll be able to throw off a mound by spring training.
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
David Ortiz Dh
Mike Aviles 3B
Carl Crawford LF
Marco Scutaro SS
Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Josh Reddick RF
Associated Press photos, the one at the top is from that rain game against the Orioles, but it paints a pretty accurate picture of the current scene
Alex Rodriguez is in the clubhouse and on the field, but he won’t be in the lineup until Saturday at the earliest.
“We’re shooting for this weekend, trying to be optimistic about that,” he said. “The one thing that I’m lacking the most is first-step quickness and defense, and opening up my gait and really trying to make good turns going home to second or first to third. Today we did a little bit of that, and tomorrow we’ll have another session.”
The knee feels fine, but it’s a matter of conditioning. That’s why Rodriguez is here instead of continuing a minor league rehab assignment.
“If I felt like hitting was the one thing I felt most behind, it would probably be most productive to be down either in Tampa or Scranton getting a bunch of at-bats,” Rodriguez said. “But this is a situation that’s a little bit rare where conditioning is the most important thing and fielding is the most important thing, and those are things I can do here with our staff.”
Those pregame drills at third base were fairly intense, and Rodriguez went through two different conditioning sessions with strength coach Dana Cavalea. He ran this afternoon — “Opened up my gait as much as I have post-op,” Rodriguez said — and he was planning to doing a spinning session on a weight room bike after his media session.
Joe Girardi didn’t go into detail, but it’s clear that he’s mapped out a loose plan for how to use Rodriguez through the first week or so. It will probably include semi-regular DH games, gradually giving him more and more time in the field.
When he gets back in the lineup, Rodriguez expects to show the kind of power that was missing in the two or three weeks before he went on the DL.
“I’m able to lean back on my swing,” he said. “Kevin (Long) and I worked today, and every swing hurt a lot before going on the DL, so therefore I had to get off my back side and really jump out to the front side and really become more of a handsy hitter. In order to hit for power, you always have to lean back, and that’s the feeling I feel like I’m getting back to.”
Girardi was obviously frustrated and disappointed to learn that he was right and the umpires were wrong last night. He should have protested the game, but he trusted that the umpires — both crew chief Dana DeMuth and home plate umpire Chad Fairchild — knew the Kansas City ground rules better than he did.
“When two separate umpires on two different accounts tell you that, ‘No, that’s what we said, it’s a home run,’ I believe them,” Girardi said. “Maybe I don’t need to be so trustworthy next time.”
Girardi said he told the umpires that Mick Kelleher had been told the opposite — that a ball like Butler’s shouldn’t be a home run — but both umpires told him that they had clarified the rule after talking to Kelleher. Girardi said he won’t be so hesitant to question a similar situation in the future.
“I’ll be protesting every night,” he said.
• Freddy Garcia’s attempt to finally throw a splitfinger was pushed back yet again. At this point, it seems that starting on Sunday is a serious question, and Girardi said it’s entirely possible that Garcia could land on the disabled list. With the move retroactive, Garcia could be activated early next week.
• Phil Hughes starts tomorrow and A.J. Burnett on Saturday. Ivan Nova will start Sunday if Garcia can’t make that start.
• Nick Swisher is just getting a half day off at designated hitter. He’s not hurt.
• Joba Chamberlain is with the Yankees during this series. He showed up because he started a weight lifting program today. “It feels really good,” he said. Everything is on schedule for Chamberlain, and he thinks he could begin throwing, “in a couple of weeks.”
• By the way, Chamberlain had two stomach surgeries this summer. He had his appendix out, and just a couple days later he was still hurting, and doctors discovering infection. Chamberlain was in the hospital for two weeks with a tube in his right side draining the infection. “I would rather have about 10 Tommy Johns than two stomach surgeries,” Chamberlain said. “That was no fun.”
• Chamberlain really does look a little bit thinner than when he left. He said he’s been able to work out some, and he’s been able to stay active outside. He said he feels terrific. “I’ve been tossing around a 5-year-old,” he said. “So I think that’s probably the best rehab you can do.”
Ben Revere CF
Trevor Plouffe 2B
Joe Mauer RF
Justin Morneau 1B
Jim Thome DH
Danny Valencia 3B
Rene Tosoni LF
Tsuyoshi Nishioka SS
Drew Butera C
Associated Press photos
Yankees at the break: The bullpen • 07.12.11
This was supposed to be the Yankees obvious strength, instead they’ve spent the season plugging holes and moving Dave Robertson into later and later innings. At this rate, he’ll be their designated 10th-inning reliever by mid-August. The Yankees bullpen has held it together despite a series of injuries and a few disappointments.
The problems started when Pedro Feliciano couldn’t break camp. Pretty soon Phil Hughes was hurt, which forced Bartolo Colon out of the bullpen and into the rotation. Then Rafael Soriano went on the disabled list. Then Joba Chamberlain needed Tommy John. If not for Robertson’s all-star performance, the Yankees bullpen would be a mess. Given the situation, though, it’s been pretty good. CoryWade’s been a nice pickup, Luis Ayala has given the Yankees more than they could have expected, Hector Noesi has filled in from minor league system and Boone Logan has finally had some success after a brutal beginning. All things considered, the situation could be much worse.
At this point, Damaso Marte actually seems closer to a return than Feliciano, but the guy the Yankees really need to get back is Soriano. He would give the bullpen some of the late-inning depth that made it so imposing when pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. Logan’s shown some recent signs of getting himself straightened out, and that could also be huge in the second half (he was certainly crucial in the second half last season). Every year, relievers are among the most discussed trade possibilities, but it’s worth remembering that last year’s bullpen addition – Kerry Wood – had ugly numbers and was coming back from an injury when the Yankees acquired him. You just never know who might make the difference in a bullpen.
The Yankees have already seen a long line of long relievers up from Triple-A. At this point, George Kontos might have moved to the top of the pecking order. Temporarily lost in the Rule 5 draft this offseason, Kontos has been outstanding with a 2.26 ERA and 59 strikeouts for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Back from Tommy John surgery, he seems to have regained a lot of his prospect status. The Yankees also have right-hander Kevin Whelan and veteran lefty Randy Flores putting up good Triple-A numbers. And don’t forget the name Tim Norton. He was terrific before a shoulder injury, and Donnie Collins has reported that he could be back soon.
Beyond the relievers on the verge of the big leagues, the Yankees have had great success with some of the college relievers that they drafted last year. Chase Whitley has already pitched his way to Double-A, Preston Claiborne has a 1.17 ERA and 24 strikeouts in his past 10 outings at High-A, and Tommy Kahnle has a 68 strikeouts and a .194 opponents batting average in Low-A. Ryan Flannery, a 47th-rounder in 2008, has 13 saves and has allowed a total of two walks out of the Tampa bullpen (and this is the second year in a row he’s shown outstanding control). Everyone’s favorite switch pitcher, Pat Venditte, has pitched pretty well in Trenton after a miserable first month.
Is there a new version of Hughes or Chamberlain waiting in the system?
In the past, the Yankees had great success moving Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain out of the Triple-A rotation and into a big league setup role. Could they try a similar trick this season? The Triple-A rotation has been impressive, and guys like Adam Warren and David Phelps have fastballs that might translate to late-inning success. Ivan Nova, too.
The Yankees have Mariano Rivera under contract for one more year, so they don’t have to find his replacement just yet. Soriano can opt out after this season, but surely that’s not going to happen after an injury. Robertson is just now eligible for arbitration, so he’ll still be incredibly cheap. Those are three pretty important pieces coming back next year, and the Yankees should get Chamberlain back at some point next season. There are pieces already in place for next year and beyond. What’s left is for the Yankees to sort through their upper-level pitching depth to decide who can help their rotation, and who’s better suited for a bullpen role in the near future.
Associated Press photos of Rivera and Robertson, headshots of Kontos, Claiborne and Chamberlain
Pregame notes: Opportunities on the way • 06.10.11
“I was pretty convinced that he was going to have surgery,” Girardi said.
Dr. James Andrews confirmed the diagnosis today, and Chamberlain will have surgery on Thursday. He’s likely lost for a year or so, certainly through the rest of this season and probably well into next season.
A Yankees bullpen that was seen as an overwhelming strength at the start of the spring training schedule now includes only three relievers who were projected to make the team when camp opened — Mariano Rivera, Dave Robertson and Boone Logan — and two of those three have been thrust into more significant roles than expected. Now it’s Luis Ayala who seems poised to take a larger-than-expected role. The Yankees will try some young guys, but Ayala’s experience essentially makes him the new Robertson, while Robertson becomes the new Chamberlain (who was already the new Rafael Soriano).
“(Ayala)’s become real important,” Girardi said. “He’d kind of taken Robby’s spot in the sixth, and now he’s going to be moved up to Robby’s spot in the seventh, so he’s become real important for us. He is a guy that has experience. He’s pitched in the back end of games, which I think is important. What we’ve seen from him is he has his good sinker, he comes in and throws strikes and he has a slider. He’s not afraid. He’s been through this before.”
The Yankees are expected to make a move before tonight’s game. We already know Kevin Whelan is on his way from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Once he arrives, he’ll be the first of what could be several internal options the Yankees look at in the late innings, trying to see who else might fit.
“You could see some guys that are going to get an opportunity, and we’re going to see what they can do,” Girardi said. “Obviously, when you start talking about pitching in the back end of games, a lot of times you prefer power arms or a lot of deception, and there’s some young kids down there — and some young kids in Double-A, and you probably even go down further — that have that, and they don’t have the experience. Some of them might get it.”
• Russell Martin texted Girardi this morning to say his back was feeling better, but the Yankees coaching staff told Girardi that Martin’s still not ready to play. Girardi said it’s just tightness. “We are going in the right direction,” Girardi said. “Maybe tomorrow is feasible. Maybe on Sunday. I’m hoping by this weekend we can play him.”
• Without Martin, the Yankees have leaned on Francisco Cervelli, who’s been throwing the ball into center field more often than the throws it to second base. Girardi and Tony Pena have been working with him to fix a mechanical flaw. “It’s similar to with a pitcher,” Girardi said. “If that front shoulder flies a little bit early, that ball’s taking off. And that’s what’s happening with him.”
• Girardi said Martin’s injury do not have him thinking about making a move to call up a catcher. “I think we’re OK for a while just because we do have Jorge in case of emergency,” Girardi said. “It would be different if we didn’t have Jorge.”
• Speaking of Posada, his son is feeling better two days after surgery. “He’s doing good,” Posada said. “He’s doing better.”
• Talked to Damaso Marte for a little while this afternoon. He’s playing catch, but only from about 20 feet. Much beyond that, his shoulder still feels sore. Playing light catch, though, the ball comes out “nice and easy” and Marte is still hopeful that he’ll be able to get himself back at some point after the all-star break.
• On Wednesday, the Indians optioned Shelley Duncan to Triple-A. It goes without saying that I was hoping to see him this weekend. He’s an easy guy to like, and an easy guy to root for.
• The Indians are one of the biggest surprises in baseball, a first-place team expected to finish at the bottom of the AL Central. “They’ve played well,” Girardi said. “They’ve pitched. Offensively, a lot of left-handed hitters. A lot of those guys are switch-hitters as well. They’re a young team that’s played well and they’ve gotten Grady Sizemore back. They’ve gotten huge contributions from Asdrubal Cabrera and there’s some experience there in bringing in Orlando Cabrera which I’m sure has helped out a lot and has helped out these young kids. Hafner, even though he’s been hurt, has had a pretty good year. I mean, this is a pretty good club, and they have some guys that have struggled but they’re still winning.”
• Tony Gwynn is one of the few players who would know, and he says the last 10 hits are the hardest to get on the way to 3,000. Derek Jeter is 10 away right now. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to get 3,000 hits,” Girardi said. “But I would imagine if I was at 2,990 it would be on my mind. But sometimes things just have a way of working out where it looks like it’s on your mind but it’s really not, or it’s on your mind and it looks like it’s not. I don’t think he’s ever going to let us know, but I’m sure it’s possible.”
Associated Press photos