Five-time All-Star. Five Silver Slugger awards. Member of five world championship teams.
The newest plaque in Monument Park lists the quantifiable achievements of the Yankees’ latest bronzed icon, but it’s these seven words that truly note Jorge Posada’s place in Yankees’ history.
Taking his place alongside Yogi Berra, Thurman Munson, Bill Dickey and Elston Howard – the great pinstriped catchers of the past – Posada had his No. 20 retired during yet another lavish pregame ceremony on Saturday. Posada was emotional when he spoke, particularly when he spoke of his connection to Munson and his respect for the backstops who came before him.
“I never saw myself as part of that group,” he said. “Being there with them now is such a great honor, and I’m never going to forget this day. Really, I’m still a little nervous about the whole day, but I’m so happy.”
Posada’s powerful bat that made him an All-Star, but it was his fiery personality and leadership behind the plate that made him iconic. Raised in a Puerto Rican baseball family and drafted as a community college middle infielder, Posada was told at the end of his first professional season that the Yankees wanted to move him full-time behind the plate.
Posada’s father, a former scout, had told his son he might eventually end up behind the plate, but Posada never wanted to hear it.
Posada said the eventual head of the Yankees’ minor league system, Mark Newman, spent more than a half hour explaining the benefits of a position change. Catcher would showcase Posada’s powerful arm. His strong legs were well suited to the job. Coming to the position so late meant his knees were spared some of the long-term abuse.
Posada still wasn’t happy.
Then Newman told him catching would be the fastest path to the Major Leagues.
After 38 passed balls in A-ball in 1993 – Posada still remembers that number off the top of his head — an offseason conversation with Ivan Rodriguez sparked a tangible change. Rodriguez’s glove was a Wilson 1791, a model was smaller than the one Posada had been using. Rodriguez, arguably the greatest defensive catcher of his generation, suggested Posada switch.
“It made me concentrate a lot more on pitches, following it all the way,” Posada said.
Within two years, Posada made his Major League debut. Three years after that, he caught David Wells’ perfect game. By that point, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte were already established stars, but it was the Wells perfect game that seemed to solidify Posada’s spot as an everyday presence.
“The reason why is because David Wells said after the game, he said, ‘You know what, I did not shake Jorge off at all,’” Posada said. “Knowing that, I think the organization said, ‘This kid can call a good game, then.’ I had a perfect game, then eventually I’m catching David Wells (regularly). I’m catching Andy. I’m catching most of the guys. … It was just about the respect that I had after that, especially with the organization and the pitchers in the clubhouse.”
Of all places it was on the wall of the Fenway Park weight room that Posada found a picture of Munson with an inspirational quote about the importance of catching and leadership above all else. Posada asked for a copy and hung that picture in his locker at both the old Yankee Stadium and the new Yankee Stadium.
It came to define him.
“He was obviously a very skilled player,” current Yankees manager and former teammate Joe Girardi said. “But he brought an attitude.”
While many of his Core Four teammates played and acted by the book, proper and clean-cut, Posada stood out for the raw emotion he rarely tried to hide. He wasn’t slick like a middle infielder. He was down in the dirt, grinding through every pitch, a catcher all the way. And that’s the way his retired No. 20 will be remembered.
Posada said he chose the number because Mike Stanley, the Yankees’ all-star catcher when Posada arrived, wore No. 20.
“All the numbers that were available,” Posada said. “That one kind of like looked good behind the plate.”
It still does, even when it’s enshrined beyond the center field wall.
Associated Press photos
Jorge Posada doesn’t think Alex Rodriguez belongs in the Hall of Fame, and he seems unhappy that A-Rod beat him for the MVP award a dozen years ago.
“You know, the only thing that I can think is 2003,” Posada said during a interview with CBS This Morning. “You know, I was close to the MVP. Didn’t happen. Alex won the MVP and, you know, I think second was either Carlos Delgado or David Ortiz, I don’t remember. But, I was almost there. You know what could’ve happened if, you know, it’s tough. It’s really tough.”
All of this, of course, is because of Rodriguez’s use of performance enhancing drugs. Posada made his comments while promoting his new book.
“I think the guys that need to be in the Hall of Fame need to be a player that played with no controversy,” Posada said.
During the interview, Posada acknowledged he had never discussed any of this with Rodriguez, and in the Yankees’ clubhouse this afternoon, Rodriguez took the high road in responding to Posada’s criticism.
“I consider Jorgie a friend,” Rodriguez said. “… I have nothing bad to say about Jorgie. I have nothing but good things to say about Jorgie. He was a great player and a good teammate and we won a championship in ’09 together.”
For the most part, Rodriguez seems to have been embraced by many players throughout the league, and his current teammates seem to have accepted him with no problems.
“I’ve been so humbled by the response I’ve gotten, not only from my current teammates but from former teammates,” Rodriguez said. “The support that I’ve had is overwhelming and I just feel extremely grateful.”
Posada will be at Yankee Stadium later this season to have his number retired. Rodriguez said he will not find that inevitable encounter to be awkward.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Jorge is a friend. We’ll keep it simple. Keep it light.”
The video above is from this morning’s interview.
• Stephen Drew said that, in his entire life, he has never played third base in a game. He took some ground balls at the position yesterday, and now he’s starting there in a big league game. “I kind of know my role,” Drew said. “Yeah, it’s something new, but at the same time just trust my hands and my feet and go from there. That’s all you can really do. I’m not going to go over there and start stressing that I haven’t played. It’s just more reaction and hopefully I can do my job there.”
• Joe Girardi said he no longer considers Rodriguez to be a true backup at either third base or first base. He might play the field occasionally, but the Yankees want him to be a full-time designated hitter. “I’m thinking we’ll play him a lot more if we can DH him,” Girardi said.
• Rodriguez said he’s on board with being a full-time DH going forward. “I’m totally on board with whatever Joe wants,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve said that from Day 1. Whatever Joe wants. I played third base in the ninth inning the other day and was pretty nervous about that. That was pretty alarming. Whatever Joe wants, I can do.”
• Jose Pirela actually has some third base experience, but the Yankees clearly don’t like him at the position. Asked why he’s using Drew at third ahead of Pirela, Girardi said only: “We just felt that Stephen will make the adjustment easier than Jose.”
• Rodriguez said his sore left hamstring feels better today. Obviously he’s been able to play through the issue. Doesn’t seem to be a huge issue, but Girardi said he was especially hesitant to use Rodriguez at third while the hamstring is even a mild issue.
• Chase Headley doesn’t have a specific injury, Girardi said, but he’s taken a beating lately with diving plays and such. “He’s just beat up,” Girardi said. “All the diving that he does. He just kind of physically could use a day, so we decided to do it today.”
• Masahiro Tanaka will throw another bullpen on Friday.
• The Yankees are still deciding whether to have Chris Capuano make another rehab start or activate him in a few days to rejoin the rotation. Two off days next week really takes some of the urgency away. The rotation is about to get extra rest regardless. “We just kind of touched on (discussing Capuano’s play) today,” Girardi said. “I talked to Cash. I talked to Larry some. Obviously we want to see how he feels physically and have a chance to talk to him. We’ve got to make a decision. It’s not urgent that we make it today or tomorrow, but we’ll probably have him throw a side tomorrow and have him be on line depending on what we do.”
Associated Press photo
Here’s the official announcement from the Yankees:
The New York Yankees today announced that Bernie Williams (No. 51), Jorge Posada (No. 20) and Andy Pettitte (No. 46) will each have their uniform numbers retired and will be honored with plaques in Monument Park.
Willie Randolph will be recognized with a Monument Park plaque.
The ceremonies are part of a recognition series that saw the honoring of Joe Torre, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill in 2014.
Williams will be celebrated on Sunday, May 24, before the Yankees’ 8:05 p.m. game vs. Texas. Randolph will be honored during Old-Timers’ Day festivities on Saturday, June 20 prior to the Yankees’ 7:15 p.m. game vs. Detroit. Posada will take his place in Monument Park on August 22, and Pettitte will be recognized on August 23.
Williams played his entire 16-year Major League career with the Yankees (1991-2006), batting .297 (2,336-for-7,869) in 2,076 games with the club. In franchise history, the former centerfielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits, sixth in games played and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257). The five-time American League All-Star (1997-2001), four-time Gold Glove winner (1997-2000) and Silver Slugger Award recipient (2002) won the American League batting title in 1998, leading the league with a .339 batting average.
A four-time World Series champion in pinstripes (1996, ’98, ’99, 2000), Williams is the Yankees’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and is third in games played (121). He was named the 1996 ALCS MVP after batting .474 (9-for-19) with 6R, 2HR and 6RBI in the Yankees’ five-game series win vs. the Orioles. In Game 1 of the 1999 ALCS vs. Boston, he hit a 10th-inning, “walk-off” home run to win the game for the Yankees.
Posada spent each of his 17 Major League seasons with the Yankees from 1995-2011, hitting .273 (1,664-for-6,092) with 900R, 379 doubles, 275HR and 1,065RBI in 1,829 games. As a player on five World Series championship teams (1996, ‘98, ‘99, 2000, ‘09), Posada finished his career among Baseball’s all-time postseason leaders in games played (second, 125), doubles (third, 23) and hits (fourth, 103), while his 119 postseason contests at catcher are the most all time. In 2011, the Puerto Rico native became the first Major Leaguer to catch at least one game with the same team in 17 straight seasons (1995-2011) since Cincinnati’s Johnny Bench did so in 17 consecutive seasons from 1967-83 (credit: Elias).
A five-time American League All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner (each in 2000-03, ’07), Posada twice finished in the top 10 in American League Most Valuable Player balloting, ranking third in 2003 and sixth in 2007. He is one of just eight players to appear in at least one game with the Yankees in each of 17 different seasons, joining Derek Jeter (20), Mariano Rivera (19), Yogi Berra (18), Mickey Mantle (18), Frank Crosetti (17), Bill Dickey (17) and Lou Gehrig (17). Along with Jeter and Rivera, Posada is part of the first trio of teammates in MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL history to appear in a game together in each of 17 straight seasons, a feat they accomplished from 1995-2011 (credit: Elias).
Pettitte was selected by the Yankees in the 22nd round of the 1990 First-Year Player Draft and pitched in 15 seasons with the club (1995-2003, ’07-10 and ’12-13), going 219-127 with a 3.94 ERA (2,796.1IP, 1,223ER) and 2,020K in 447 games (438 starts). The left-hander is the franchise leader in strikeouts (2,020), is tied with Whitey Ford for most games started and trails only Ford (236 wins, 3,171.0IP) and Red Ruffing (231 wins, 3,168.0IP) in wins and innings pitched as a Yankee. He made at least one start in each of his 15 seasons with the Yankees, tying Ruffing for second-most all-time in franchise history behind Ford (16 seasons). The three-time American League All-Star (1996, 2001 and ’10) is the only pitcher drafted by the Yankees to win 200 games in the Majors and, according to Elias, his 14 seasons with at least 10 wins while with the Yankees are the most in franchise history.
As a Yankees pitcher, Pettitte went 18-10 with a 3.76 ERA (251.1IP, 105ER) in 40 career postseason starts and is the organization’s all-time playoff leader in wins, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts (167). He appeared in eight career World Series (seven with the Yankees and one with Houston), earning the Series-clinching victory in Game 4 at San Diego in 1998 and Game 6 vs. Philadelphia in 2009, while also winning championships with the Yankees in 1996, ’99 and 2000. In 2001, he was named ALCS MVP after going 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA (14.1IP, 4ER) in two starts vs. Seattle.
Randolph spent 13 seasons playing for the Yankees from 1976-88, batting .275 (1,731-for-6,303) with 1,027R, 259 doubles, 58 triples, 48HR, 549RBI and 251SB in 1,694 games. He appeared in 1,688 games at second base with the team, more than any other player at the position in Yankees history, and ranks third on the organization’s all-time list in stolen bases. The five-time American League All-Star (1976-77, ’80-81 and ’87) was also named a 1980 AL Silver Slugger in the award’s inaugural season. He played in 37 postseason games with the Yankees from 1977-81, hitting a game-tying home run in Game 1 of the 1977 World Series vs. the Dodgers. On March 4, 1986, he and Ron Guidry were named Yankees Co-Captains.
In addition to his 13 playing seasons with the Yankees, Randolph spent 11 seasons coaching for the organization, serving as the club’s third base coach from 1994-2003 and bench coach in 2004.
Pinch hitting: Shailen Shah • 02.14.15
Today’s Pinch Hitter is Shailen Shah, a sophomore undergraduate student at American University in Washington, D.C. Originally from New Jersey, he’s been a Yankee fan “from birth.” He’s visited 20 Major League stadiums and hopes to work in baseball after school.
The key to his post is this fact: Shailen’s never lived a day in his life when a member of the Core Four was not a part of the Yankees organization.
Four young stars were independently called up from Triple-A Columbus to get a taste of the big leagues. A tall southpaw from Texas was first. A skinny starting pitcher from Panama was second. A few short days later, a young kid from Michigan go the call. A fiery catcher for Puerto Rico was the last.
Separately, each one had an incredible career. Together, they were the backbone of a dynasty and organizational staples for most of two decades. Affectionately, Yankees fans know these men as the Core Four.
This will be the first year since ’95 that the Yankees will not have at least one of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte on their roster. The dynamic of the team will be different, yet the marks those four left on the franchise and the game of baseball will remain eternal. What separates these individuals from the other great players of their generation is their desire to win above all else, and their respect for the game.
January is always an exciting month for baseball fans because there is so much discussion about the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yankee fans in particular are eager for the near future years when members of the Core Four become eligible for Cooperstown. In 2019 and 2020, Yankees fans know exactly what to expect when Rivera and Jeter undoubtedly become first-ballot electees. The more interesting cases lie with their other two long-time teammates.
What can Yankee fans expect?
A teary-eyed Posada walked out of the Yankees’ clubhouse for a final time in 2011. A season that saw the former all-star catcher move to the designated hitter spot, ended with a tremendous individual postseason against the Detroit Tigers. Posada was a leader in the Yankees’ clubhouse for 17 seasons. His fiery personality was a contrast to the quiet leadership of Yankees captain Jeter. Posada didn’t walk into 2011 knowing it would be his final season. He actually didn’t make a formal retirement announcement until 2012. Yankee fans never got the opportunity to say goodbye to their beloved catcher. However, fans can expect that Posada will soon have his day at the Stadium with his number likely being retired.
Posada is a borderline Hall of Famer. His strongest cases will be made on the premise that many of his statistics (doubles, OPS, OBP, home runs, walks) rank in the top 10 among catchers. His five all-star selections and five Silver Slugger awards don’t hurt his case either. Unquestionably, he was also a leader in the clubhouse and an integral part of five championship teams.
The case against Posada is that he was never the best catcher of his time. His statistics, particularly his batting average, don’t pass the eye-test for Cooperstown. When the time comes, the decision will ultimately be left to the members of the BBWAA whether to permit Posada into the halls of Cooperstown.
Pettitte, the winningest pitcher in postseason history with 19 wins, stepped off the mound for the final time in 2013 along with his longtime friend and teammate Rivera. Pettitte, unlike the other three members of the Core Four, didn’t play his entire career with the Yankees. Pettitte spent some time in Houston, came back to New York and left the game following the 2010 season only to return in 2012 after feeling an “itch” to pitch again. He ultimately announced he was going to retire with just over a week left in the 2013 season. While the Yankees got a brief chance to thank Pettitte during the final week of the 2013 season, one week is certainly insufficient. For this, we can expect that Pettitte too will have his own special day at Yankee Stadium. He will likely have his number retired, too.
Much like his longtime battery-mate Posada, Pettitte is a borderline Hall of Famer. His postseason success and his 256 regular season victories provide Pettitte’s strongest case. Pettitte never pitched a season with a losing record and was also a three-time all-star. That said, Pettitte was never the best pitcher of his time and his appearance on the Mitchell Report could certainly hurt his cause, particularly given the negative reception other players linked to PEDs have received in the Cooperstown discussion.
On a sunny Sunday at Fenway Park this past September, this era in Yankees history ended. A quartet of friends, teammates and Yankee greats have sealed their fates in the hearts of Yankees fans and likely on the walls of Monument Park. Fans have started wondering what the new core of the team will be. Perhaps a combination of Rob Refsnyder, Luis Severino, John Ryan Murphy and Aaron Judge? Out of respect for what the Core Four accomplished, Yankees fans must realize and accept that there likely won’t be another “core four” in the near future — and that’s OK!
That doesn’t mean there won’t be other leaders on the team. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be another crop of solid homegrown players. It just means that four homegrown players playing together for so long and winning so many games is not likely in today’s game.
We can however, be grateful for what the Core Four meant to the Yankees franchise. Maybe one day, the Core Four will once again be reunited in the halls of Cooperstown.
Associated Press photos
From The Associated Press down in Tampa…
“They haven’t asked me yet, but they said they are going to,” Posada said on Friday. “I’ll be around.”
The former All-Star catcher is a coach this weekend at the Yankees’ fantasy camp for women. It marked his first time in a New York uniform since retiring after the 2011 season.
The 41-year-old Posada got a big smile when asked about being in a coaching role around longtime teammates Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.
“I’ll be bossing them around … telling them to run, and all that stuff,” Posada said with a laugh. “I miss certain things about the game. You’re always going to miss certain things. I, obviously, miss my teammates the most.”
Posada doesn’t have any current plans to become a full-time pro coach.
“Not right now,” Posada said. “Maybe later. I like coaching, I like helping out, but I don’t see myself doing it right now.”
Posada hit .273 with 275 homers and 1,065 RBIs over a 17-year career — all with the Yankees — that included being on the postseason roster for four World Series titles.
“No comeback for me,” said Posada, who looked fit wearing Yankees pinstripe uniform pants and a pullover jacket. “I’m good with what I’m doing, and I was happy with the decision I made last year around this time. I’m enjoying the family.”
Posada announced his retirement with tears in his eyes at a news conference last January.
“I love the game of baseball,” Posada said. “I just couldn’t play at that level anymore.”
Posada stayed busy during his first year away from the game.
“We went to London, went to see the Olympics. We were there for 16 days,” Posada said. “Did a lot of things I wasn’t able to do, like ski and stuff like that with the family. Really enjoyed the time this (past) summer with the family.”
Posada worked with Mickey Rivers to coach a team Friday that included Posada’s wife Laura and Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, the daughter of former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. He also spent time talking with New York managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.
Associated Press photo
Yankees pregame • 04.13.12
Greetings, Brian Heyman here at Yankee Stadium for the home opener against the Angels. Opening Day for me coverage-wise. I’m 0-0.
The Yankees are 3-3, and they have made a change in the batting order. Instead of Curtis Granderson batting second, Robby Cano third and A-Rod fourth vs. the right-hander Ervin Santana, it’s Granderson, then A-Rod, then Cano 2-3-4. Joe Girardi said this will be his regular order now vs. righties. He rethought lefties Granderson and Cano batting back to back. A red flag went up during the Tampa Bay series, according to Girardi.
“We just feel that some of these clubs who have two left-handers and even the one left-hander, it makes it a little more difficult to navigate through,” Girardi said. “So we’re going to go with this and just try to make it more difficult on clubs when to bring the left-hander in.”
Jorge Posada is being brought in to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
“I don’t really consider George an old-timer,” Girardi said. “You think sometimes of people throwing out the balls being retired for a while. I don’t really look at George that way. It was strange not seeing him in spring training this year.”
The fans will treat Posada rather warmly for this appearance.
“I think it’s a moment that he’s looking forward to,” Derek Jeter said. “It’s one he’s going to remember just coming off retirement a few months ago. I’m sure it probably feels a little odd to him coming from playing and then a couple of months later throwing out the first pitch.”
Like Jeter and Girardi, Albert Pujols met the media this morning. The $240 million man is off to a slow start at .217 with no homers and two RBI for the 2-4 Angels. He admits he has been pressing.
“I’m trying to do too much,” Pujols said. “We’re human. I’m a human. Sometimes that’s going to happen. No matter how good you prepare yourself, sometimes you want to press a little bit and try to do too much.”
It figures that Pujols’ Hall of Fame swing will be OK in the end. The Yankees pitchers will have to worry about him now with this switch to the AL.
“Our pitching staff is doing backflips in the clubhouse, real excited about him coming over,” Jeter cracked.
Pujols didn’t sound overly excited about playing at Yankee Stadium.
“I’ll tell you the truth, it’s no disrespecting the history of this organization, the Yankees, but I take it like every other park, getting here early, watching the video, getting prepared for the game,” Pujols said. “You’re out there and it’s just a game. Nothing changes. Obviously maybe the fans are louder. But everything else is the same. The game doesn’t change because you’re playing at Yankee Stadium. The rules are the same.”
Eight men out • 11.03.11
Last winter, when Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter became free agents, there never any real doubt they’d end up back with the Yankees. This winter, there’s no guarantee that any of the Yankees free agents will be back. Several would be logical fits, but none is a slam dunk for the Yankees to re-sign.
Today is the first day free agents are allowed to negotiate with every team — not just their previous team — meaning it’s suddenly open season for these eight Yankees.
Signed as a minor league free agent late last winter, Ayala landed the last spot on the big league roster out of spring training, then stuck with the team all season. He was surprisingly effective, and for a short time — when Rafael Soriano and Joba Chamberlain were hurt — he settled in as a key late-inning reliever. He may have pitched well enough to earn a big league deal, but should the Yankees be the team to give it to him? Most of their bullpen spots are accounted for as it is.
From superstar in Oakland to role player in New York, Chavez is still deciding whether he wants to keep playing. Injuries have taken their toll, and if he’s going to play again, it’s almost certainly going to be in a situation similar to this season. The Yankees have a place for a player like Chavez. Whether that player is Chavez himself may depend on whether Chavez decides to play again.
Maybe the biggest surprise of the season, Colon clearly faded in the second half, and that may be cause for enough concern that the Yankees won’t want to bring him back. It would be impossible to count on Colon to be effective through an entire season, but keeping him in a relief role might keep him fresh and effective. Certainly Colon opened some eyes, but what kind of deal would it take to bring him back, and has all of the lightning escaped the bottle?
The Yankees No. 5 starter out of spring training was their No. 3 starter in the playoffs. Garcia is what he is — he doesn’t throw hard and gets by on guts and savvy — but he’s proven he can be effective in this form. The Yankees have a large batch of young starters climbing through the system, and Garcia might be a perfect short-term commitment for back-of-the-rotation depth. He’s not the only fit, but he could be a good fit.
After a slow first half, Jones was exactly what the Yankees hoped for in the second half, and they’re once again going to have a spot for a right-handed outfielder who can be a platoon starter in the corners. Jones is in the same boat as Garcia and Chavez: He’s the type of player the Yankees will want for next season, but he’s not the only one who could fill that role.
At this point, I’m not sure anyone knows what Marte could provide. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since July of 2010, and he’s coming back from shoulder surgery that limited him to just a few minor league innings this year. The Yankees could use another left-handed reliever, and there’s a chance Marte would accept a minor league deal to prove himself in spring training. If not, it’s hard to see him coming back to the Yankees.
The Yankees didn’t have room for Mitre last spring, and they shipped him to Milwaukee for Chris Dickerson. When he came back to the Yankees mid-season — this year’s version of Chad Gaudin — Mitre lasted all of four outings before he was on the disabled list and lost for the season. Obviously the Yankees like Mitre, but his time might have come and gone with plenty of in-house options to fill a long-relief/spot-starter role.
Nothing new to be said. Even before his career-worst season, it was unclear whether the Yankees would have a place for Posada next season. They clearly no longer view Posada as a catcher, and they have need to give DH at-bats to Alex Rodriguez — not to mention Jesus Montero — and if Posada’s no longer a catcher, he’s limited to DH and a few backup appearances in the field. It’s not a comfortable situation for either side, but Posada’s time with the Yankees might have ended.
Because of the Tigers right-handed rotation, the Yankees decided that rookie Jesus Montero would be limited to a bench role in this division, but they still wanted him available. They wanted his bat, and Tuesday night he delivered two hits in his first two postseason at-bats.
“That was a thought in our mind when he came up (in September),” Joe Girardi said. “We could use him off left-handers, and he could provide some big offense. But we had to watch him play. We had to see how he handled the situation. I thought he handled it pretty good.
“I go back to his first start in Boston against Jon Lester, his first AB, bases loaded. That’s a tough situation. I’m not sure what the standings were at that time. That’s a pretty tough situation. His first swing was kind of wild. He swung at a pitch over his head. Then he seemed to really bear down. That game told me something, even though I don’t think he got a base hit that day. But that game told me something about him, that he was able to relax in the moment.”
If the Yankees win tonight, Montero’s role could increase in an ALCS matchup against the Rangers. For now, it’s hard to complain about the guy that’s been getting the DH starts for the Yankees. Jorge Posada has been a productive and reliable hitter, once again showing his value in a season that’s been a struggle.
“We looked at what he had done against right-handers during the course of the season,” Girardi said. “We looked at Jorge’s experience in these type of situations and how he’s been productive. I’m sure it means a lot to him. I know it means a lot to all of us. I’m sure it means a lot to him what he’s done these first four games. We all want it to continue.”
Associated Press photo
Offday notes: “Is it a break? I don’t know.” • 10.05.11
While Joe Girardi left no doubt that he expect CC Sabathia to be available out of the bullpen tomorrow, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said the exact opposite about his ace Justin Verlander. Leyland said Verlander will not be an available reliever for Game 5.
“That’s just the way it played out,” Leyland said. “I don’t think it’s disappointing. I’m thankful everybody got to see him. To be honest with you, our fans got to see that game that Verlander pitched. So it worked out pretty good. No problem.”
Of course, that’s easy for Leyland to say now. Hard not to wonder whether his opinion might change if he gets in a big spot tomorrow night. Regardless, it’s clear that Verlander’s impact on this series has been minimized.
“The one thing that you can’t predict is what would have happened in Game 1 if it was Verlander against CC,” Girardi said. “Who knows where we would have stood. So it is what it is. Is it a break? I don’t know, I really don’t, because we can’t go back in time and say what would have happened. ”
It’s interesting that the Yankees, at this point, are not changing plans. As mentioned earlier today, they’re sticking with the Game 5 starter that they planned to use all along. Yes, he’s a rookie, but Ivan Nova won 16 games this season and showed considerable postseason poise in Game 1.
“When I say he’s laid back, I don’t mean there’s not fire inside of him,” Girardi said. “His personality is just not loud. It’s not boisterous. It’s not real emotional. He’ll show a little emotion on the mound, but not a whole lot. I love this kid’s determination. His determination to get better. His determination to be a part of this staff. To never go down again. To win. That’s what I see. He’s a very hard worker, and it’s paid off.”
• Nova on whether he feels pressure for tomorrow’s game: “I don’t see the reason to feel pressure. It’s another game. Of course, it’s the most important game of the season now, but that’s the game that right now a lot of people are waiting for. Everybody, like my family, everybody wants to see that game. Everybody want to see me do a really good job. Like I always say, if you get nervous, you’re going to be in trouble, because you can’t control yourself. You can’t control what you got to do. I don’t see the reason why.”
• Girardi said everyone is available out of the bullpen tomorrow, even A.J. Burnett if things get really crazy. “A.J. would probably be the one guy you would have to be careful,” Girardi said. “But I would say in case of emergency he’s available, too.”
• Jorge Posada leads the Yankees in batting average, on-base percentage and walks through these first four games. “Jorge has been through this so many times in his career,” Girardi said. “And (he) understands the magnitude of each at-bat and how to approach each at-bat. That’s why we went with him.”
• Also making a big impact at the bottom of the Yankees order is Brett Gardner, who’s hitting .385 with some big hits in big spots. “I talked about that with my pitching coach this morning before we left,” Leyland said. “He’s done a great job. He’s been real pesky. I think sometimes you get through that big part of the order and all those big guys, and maybe you lose your concentration a little bit. He’s a bear-down guy. He’s a real hard-nosed player and everything. A real determined guy. We’re going to have to do a better job.”
• The middle of the Yankees order finally showed some signs of life last night when Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher all got hits during that big eighth inning. “When it’s the postseason, you’re supposed to get a hit every time,” Girardi said. “The superstars are supposed to do no wrong, and you’re supposed to be able to ride on their backs. But that’s not the way the game works… What happens is if you continue to have good at-bats, you’re going to get your hits.”
• Leyland said he has Max Scherzer available tomorrow night, but ultimately his bullpen will be a little thin. “I would like to get through this game tomorrow with Fister, Coke, if necessary, Benoit and Valverde,” Leyland said. “There’s no secret to that. That’s what we would like to get through the game with.”
• Leyland announced that Don Kelly will be the Tigers starter at third base tomorrow night. Kelly will be the Tigers third different starting third baseman this series. Leyland said he would like to to shift Kelly to right field for late-inning defense, with Brandon Inge taking over at third.
• Give the final word to Girardi about tomorrow’s must-win situation: “This is what we fought so hard for during the course of the season. You have two very good teams playing tomorrow night. Unfortunately, one of us is going to go home. And that’s the hard part about this game, because your season is going to end so abruptly, in a sense. But we’ve worked hard to get to this point. We feel good about our starter. They probably feel good about their starter. And time is going to tell.”
Associated Press photos
Is it possible for one of the best hitters in baseball to sneak under the radar?
Miguel Cabrera leads the Majors in batting average and on-base percentage. He ranks fourth in slugging, and his OPS is second only to Jose Bautista. But he’s a secondary focus on this Tigers team, where Justin Verlander gets so much attention that Cabrera seems like a piece of the supporting cast.
“If he plays another eight to 10 years, he could go down as one of the greatest hitters of all time,” Joe Girardi said. “If you get in situations, you don’t want to let him beat you.”
“It was a young man who, at a very young age, really knew how to hit and really knew how to play the game,” Girardi said. “I was impressed with his knowledge of the game and understanding how to play the game, and we had a very good relationship.”
At this point, you know all about the Yankees. You know Robinson Cano has been moved up to third in the lineup, you know Alex Rodriguez is coming off an injury and you know Curtis Granderson spent the year emerging as one of the game’s most dangerous hitters. You also know all about Verlander and CC Sabathia, a pitching matchup custom-made for Game 1. You know this is the division series, and the Yankees have the home-field advantage.
What’s we’ll find tonight is how the Yankees plan to approach the most dangerous hitter in the Tigers lineup, a guy who’s not getting the most buzz in Detroit, but who could make the biggest difference in this series if the Yankee choose to face him.
“That’s why we went out and got Victor Martinez,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “… We feel very comfortable with Victor behind Miguel right now. There’s no question about that. He’s a very professional hitter. He’s knocked in over 100 runs. There’s never a perfect lineup but we think we have the guy to hit behind him.”
Here’s Girardi’s pregame press conference.
• Leyland announced that Rick Porcello will be his Game 4 starter. That means they’re planning to use Verlander in Game 5. Girardi said he’s sticking with his decision to use Sabathia in Game 4 and Nova in Game 5.
• Girardi said all of his roster decisions were “pretty much as anticipated.” They wanted to keep their regular bullpen, and they felt comfortable with Jesus Montero as the backup catcher. A.J. Burnett is basically the long man, which seems to have lessened the need for Hector Noesi.
• Will Burnett be the fourth starter if the Yankees advance to the ALCS? “There’s a good possibility, yes,” Girardi said.
• Girardi expects to pinch hit Montero for Jorge Posada if the Tigers bring in a left-hander late in the game. In using Montero, the Yankees will eliminate their backup catcher, but Girardi will take that chance and lose his DH if something happens to Martin at that point.
• Austin Romine will stay with the big league club. So will Bartolo Colon. Ramiro Pena has already gone to Tampa to stay sharp, and lefty Raul Valdes will head down there on Sunday.
• Girardi didn’t rule out the idea of using Colon later in the postseason, but it doesn’t seem especially likely. “It’s possible. We’re going to have him continue to throw. He’s probably going ot stay with us though, but we’ll have him continue to throw and maybe the extra rest will help him.”
• Chris Dickerson became an important piece because the Yankees want to use him for late-inning defense in Detroit. “You look at the outfield in Detroit, how big it is, it’s nice to have Dickerson,” Girardi said.
• The seventh, eighth and ninth innings are obviously spoken for, but Girardi said he considers Phil Hughes to be a candidate for key spots in the sixth. “I’ll look at matchups,” Girardi said. “We’ve used Wade and Ayala and Boone in those situations. Not afraid to use Hughsey in those situations either.”
• The Yankees plan to stick with this lineup throughout the series.
• Girardi’s reaction to news that Terry Francona is out as manager in Boston: “These jobs are precious, there’s no doubt about it. There’s expectations. A lot of times they’re extremely high expectations when you’re in certain towns. We understand that when we take the job. High expectations are better than no expectations. You do enjoy it and you enjoy your time when you’re there. Tito has done a great job there. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but I know he’s done a great job.”
Austin Jackson CF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Delmon Young LF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Alex Avila C
Ryan Raburn 2B
Jhonny Peralta SS
Brandon Inge 3B
Associated Press photo