Ivan Nova really hasn’t had too many good moments since the first half of last season, but the 26-year-old righty was one of the bright lights on an otherwise dark night for the home team at Yankee Stadium Wednesday.
He was working in the long-lost game against the Mets, entering for the fifth with the Yankees trailing 8-1. He allowed just one run and five hits with six strikeouts and only one walk across the final five innings of the 9-4 loss.
“I was throwing a lot of strikes and I was aggressive,” Nova said. “It’s a good one.”
In the eighth, he struck out the side, getting Ike Davis, Mike Baxter and Ruben Tejada swinging.
“The curveball was really good,” Nova said. “Once I get ahead, I go with my curveball. That’s my strikeout pitch.”
Nova knows he has to prove that he’s worthy of being put back in the rotation after posting a 6.48 ERA over four starts and then spending April 27 through May 23 on the DL with triceps inflammation and a back problem. He pitched into and out of a bases-loaded jam in the 10th inning and earned the win last Saturday at Tampa Bay in his first relief outing after returning. This second outing brought his ERA down from 6.11 to 5.16.
“I’m really excited about the way I’m pitching,” Nova said. “The way I pitched today, I’m pretty happy with myself.”
It would certainly be a boost for the Yankees if he can pitch like this consistently and regain the form when he went 16-4 as a rookie in 2011 or 10-3 in the first half last year.
Also, here’s the link to my story on last night’s game. The Yankees have scored just nine runs in the four-game losing streak. Here are updates on Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson. And I spoke with Lyle Overbay and he’s loving his time here and wants to stay no matter what the role after Teixeira’s return.
Photo by The Associated Press
Yankees pregame: injuries and the roster • 05.29.13
Of course, the Yankees’ pregame chatter had much to do about injuries. Both Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis played seven innings in the field and both went 0 for 2 with a walk in their first rehab game with Trenton today. Barring anything hurting after tomorrow’s rehab game, both are expected back for the start of the Red Sox series here Friday night.
Joe Girardi isn’t exactly sweating over messing up the chemistry. He called that talk “kind of strange.” Just bring back those bats, so he can balance out the lineup, especially vs. lefties.
“We’re so left-handed dominant,” Girardi said. “We’re running up six lefties in a row tonight, seven out of nine. (Their return) changes our lineup a little bit, makes it harder to navigate through. But it’s also experience and a lot of production that we’re bringing back.”
Curtis Granderson had a pin placed in his broken knuckle today.
“The surgery does not change (anything),” Girardi said. “It’s basically four weeks of inactivity and then you go from there. You can’t expect him to go four weeks of inactivity and be in a game the next day. So the healing process, the time doesn’t change. They just decided it was better to put a pin in there. Four weeks, he’ll start doing rehab.”
Girardi confirmed Andy Pettitte is expected back early next week if his trapezius is feeling OK, and he talked about cutting back from 13 to 12 pitchers. The Yankees will probably need two roster spots Friday and then one for Pettitte. So Vidal Nuno, who will start for Pettitte tomorrow night, figures to be one of the guys going to make room for Teixeira or Youkilis.
I spoke with Lyle Overbay when the clubhouse opened and he’s hoping to stay, even in a reserve role. And he should stay considering he’s second on the team in RBI with 29, nine of them driving in the go-ahead run. So it could come down to David Adams vs. Reid Brignac Friday. Your thoughts? And Nova for when Pettitte comes back? Hard to send down Preston Claiborne or Adam Warren with how they’ve pitched. We’ll see.
Also, Derek Jeter is on the field playing catch.
The newest new guy is here. Joe Girardi has Reid Brignac in his lineup (although it’s raining right now at 11:30). He’s down to play short and bat eighth. He arrived in town last night after being acquired Saturday from the Rockies, who had designated him for assignment after he batted .250 with a homer and six RBI in 29 games. Brignac said he was a little disappointed and upset when the Rockies dumped him and excited when the Yankees picked him up.
“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions,” Brignac said.
Brignac is 27 and he knows this division rather well, having been with the Rays for all or parts of the last five seasons, primarily parts. He gives the Yankees a lefty-hitting option at short. He can also play third, second and the outfield.
“Just to be a very good shortstop out there when he plays and to add offensively,” Girardi said of his expectations. “I’ve seen him have some big days. I’ve seen him have some good years. I think there’s some good talent there. So we’re going to see what he can do.
“I think he’s a really good defender. I think he’s got a little pop in his bat. This ballpark might play well for that.”
Chris Stewart is available in an absolutely-need-you situation after tweaking his groin rounding third on Thursday night, but he still won’t be starting behind the plate for at least a few days.
“I have told him that tomorrow maybe we’ll start some tee and toss and see where he’s at in that situation, moving around,” Girardi said. “He’s still a guy who I would not hesitate to put in there if I had to, but I figured if you can get one more day in a sense, where it gives you almost 36 hours, let’s take it, take advantage of it. I don’t know if he would play Tuesday, but I want to know that he’s better so we could make a decision. He does feel better; he told me.”
Girardi said Kevin Youkilis is making progress in rehab from his back problem, hitting off a tee and against soft tosses and taking grounders. Girardi also said the news on Mark Teixeira’s comeback from his wrist problem is good.
“He’s been taking BP,” Girardi said. “He’s doing actually really well. We’re encouraged by what he’s doing. There has to be probably a next step here pretty quick where he starts to see some live BP or some simulated games.”
Brian Cashman came right out and said it. If the Yankees had it to do over, they would not have played Kevin Youkilis Saturday against the Blue Jays.
“Playing him Saturday was a mistake by everybody involved,” Cashman said.
The GM indicated that Youkilis tweaked his back when he slid into first defensively in that game after sitting out the previous six games. The Yankees lost a chance to backdate him on the DL to April 21. Now that they finally put him on the DL, they could only backdate him to Sunday. Not that they can be sure that he’ll be ready to go when he’s eligible.
Asked if this is only a 15-day thing, Cashman said, “I’m hoping for that. He was down for 23 days last April with the same issue.”
Youkilis was told not to bother coming to the Stadium today after receiving an epidural injection for his lumbar spine sprain.
The Yankees still have no regular backup on the left side of the infield. The starting shortstop, Eduardo Nunez, is the main backup for Jayson Nix at third and vice versa. Corban Joseph may get some time over at third in a pinch. Joe Girardi said he could back up at first, second and third, but Cashman spoke about how bad Joseph looked at third in spring training. Joseph primarily played second at Triple-A with a couple of games at first.
Cashman said Joseph was called up because he was on the 40-man roster. The Yankees couldn’t call up David Adams because they released him at the end of spring training, so he’s ineligible to play for them until May 15. Asked about the backup infield situation, Cashman said, “I’ve got no choice.”
Cashman also said Ivan Nova’s triceps inflammation is “mild.” Girardi said Curtis Granderson is getting closer to playing in rehab games, and he’s hoping to have both Granderson and Youkilis back for the stretch of division games May 17. But he didn’t think Mark Teixeira would be ready by then, saying that he’s still only taking dry swings.
Andy Pettitte turned in his worst start of the season, charged with seven runs and 10 hits in 4 1/3. It was 5-0 after four and the Yankees were on their way to a 9-1 loss to the AL’s worst team, the Astros.
“It’s frustrating,” Pettitte said. “We’ve been playing well. And to come out here and give up those five runs that early in the game and feel like we don’t have a chance to get back in it and not give us a chance to win, it makes me sick to my stomach.”
Pettitte and rookie catcher Austin Romine had trouble getting on the same page, especially since the 40-year-old lefty’s signature cutter had abandoned him.
“I’ve got to get into his head and figure out what he wants to do,” Romine said. (I’ll have more on Romine in my morning post.)
Joe Girardi couldn’t remember ever seeing Pettitte without that cutter working.
“He had a tough start,” Girardi said. “It happens.”
On the other hand, the Yankees had trouble with righty sinkerballer Lucas Harrell. They managed eight hits off in 6 1/3, but just the one run in the sixth. They grounded into four double plays overall, three against Harrell.
“He was able to continue to pound the sinker down in the zone,” Girardi said, “and we kept hitting it into the ground.”
The news that came out of his postgame press conference was that Kevin Youkilis’ MRI came back negative. He’s supposed to have an epidural injection Tuesday. The Yankees were supposed to make a decision late Monday night about whether to put him on the DL. So we’ll know Tuesday.
Kevin Youkilis played Saturday after six games off, woke up Sunday not feeling so hot and sat out, and indicated Monday his lower back was feeling the same as before he returned, which meant stiff. So he’s sitting out again. The Yankees missed out on a chance to backdate him to April 21 if the DL is in his future. Youkilis said he was waiting on the results of his MRI today.
Joe Girardi wasn’t second-guessing himself over playing Youkilis Saturday.
“The player told us he was ready to go and we put him in,” Girardi said. “I can’t tell you how he reinjured it.” …
Francisco Cervelli stood in front of his locker, bandage on his surgically repaired broken right hand, arm in a sling. Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser operated Saturday after Cervelli took a foul tip off the back of the hand Friday night.
“I don’t know if they put another finger there,” Cervelli joked. “But the doctor said it was really good. I think a little plate there is going to help to heal quicker. But I trust Dr. Rosenwasser because he did my surgery in 2008. I got two screws there. Now I got another plate there. It’s a good hand. I’m a robot now.”
Cervelli is hoping to be back in less than six weeks.
“Today is five weeks and five days,” Cervelli said. “I’m counting. Tomorrow is four days. I’ve got to stay positive. … The last two days, there was a lot of pain. But today I feel a little better.”
Jason Collins made history today, becoming the first active athlete in the four major North American professional sports to come out as gay.
“It’s good for him,” CC Sabathia said. “He can be honest and not have to live a lie, I guess.”
That’s the NBA. Is MLB ready if one of its players wants to do the same?
“Sure,” Sabathia said. “Why not? … I don’t know what it would be like. It would be tough, but you’d have to deal with it, I guess.”
Joe Girardi said: “No matter what it is in our world, any time it happens for the first time, it’s a little bit of a shock. But I believe baseball would handle it well.”
If it happened in the Yankees’ clubhouse, that player would find a comforting presence in Girardi.
“As far as myself personally, and everyone is not going to believe with my religious beliefs, I believe as men and women, we’re called to love others, depending on their race, their religion, their thought process, whatever they do,” Girardi said. “We’re not called to judge people. I think part of judging people is probably what gets us into a lot of trouble in the world.
“So as far as me personally, he’s a player; he’s a man. My job is to be his friend and love him. And if I was his manager, it’s to get the most out of him. I always felt as a player, it was to be the best teammate that I could be. And that’s the bottom line.”
Ivan Nova has a power arm and he’s only 26, but at some point the Yankees’ patience is going to have to run out if he doesn’t start showing some consistency again and if a viable alternative emerges. By the way, Chien-Ming Wang is 1-1 with a 0.75 ERA after two starts at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
“I’m not looking to make a change,” Joe Girardi said. “Our organization isn’t looking to make a change. We want to get guys going.”
When Nova steps on the mound tonight against the Blue Jays, he will bring along a 6.14 ERA and a 1-1 record constructed over three starts. He was 2-5 with a 7.05 ERA over 11 post-All-Star-break starts last year after going 10-3 with a 3.92 ERA in 18 pre-break starts and 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011. Girardi isn’t questioning now if Nova will ever be the same.
“I believe in my heart that he has the ability to do that, to get back to that,” Girardi said. “So I’m not at that point. I don’t really have a date that I would be at that point, because I believe in our guys and I believe in him. I’ve seen him do it. I’ve seen him be dominant at times. We just have to find the formula to get him back there.”
Girardi emphasized that Wang was signed during spring training for depth. The 33-year-old righty has been through some major injuries since his great years for the Yankees. He gave up three runs, only one of them earned, and four hits over 6 2/3 in a loss to Columbus Thursday after allowing no runs and six hits over 5 1/3 in a win over Syracuse in his first start last Saturday.
“I’d probably take it seriously when I hear reports that are glowing reports that he’s throwing the ball really well,” Girardi said. “I don’t think you can make too much out of two starts. I think you have to see how a guy responds start after start after start, going every fifth day. But we’ve all seen him pitch at a very high level. If he can get back to close to that, he becomes a viable option for us.”
Kevin Youkilis is still not a viable option to be in the starting lineup. This will be his sixth straight game sitting at the start because of lower back tightness.
“He’s better,” Girardi said. “He’s still not quite there. We’ll shoot for tomorrow.”
It’s getting to the point where the Yankees could think about the DL if the progress stalls.
“It’s been a week now,” Girardi said. “So I think you look and see where he’s at tomorrow and then you make a decision what you’re going to do and when you think you’re going to get him back.
“They don’t think it’s an issue where he needs a test. Keep our fingers crossed for tomorrow.”
Yankees postgame: Seeing triple • 04.12.13
The postgame buzz mostly revolved around the 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple play that the Yankees turned in the eighth to help preserve their 5-2 victory over the Orioles.
“You’re not going to see things like that happen in a crucial moment,” Joe Girardi said.
Let’s recap: The Orioles started the inning against CC Sabathia with singles by Alexi Casilla and Nick Markakis, bringing up the potential tying run. Then Manny Machado grounded to Robinson Cano, who threw to Jayson Nix for the force on Markakis at second.
Next came the key moment. Instead of throwing on to first for the double ball, Nix fired to Kevin Youkilis at third.
“It’s better to have the lead runner out,” Nix said.
Casilla was tagged out by Youkilis in a rundown. Then Youkilis threw to Lyle Overbay at first with Machado straying.
“I knew right away we’ve got a triple play,” Youkilis said.
Overbay fired to Cano at second for the tag on Machado. That makes three. The Yankees couldn’t contain their glee, especially Youkilis.
“When stuff like that happens, you feel like you’re back playing Little League again,” Youkilis said.
It was the Yankees’ second triple play since 1969 and first in the Bronx since 1968. They had one three years ago in Oakland, also helping Sabathia out of a jam.
“Any time you get a triple play, you’re fired up,” Sabathia said.
There was another key moment, though. How often are you going to see Adam Jones drop a fly ball? Not too often.
“He’s one of the best center fielders in the game,” Sabathia said.
But he dropped Vernon Wells’ drive to the track with the bases packed and two outs in the seventh. The 2-2 game became a 5-2 game on the error.
“The chances of that happening are slim, slim, slim, but we caught a break,” Girardi said.
“I don’t dwell at all on Adam’s play because he’s spoiled us with such a high level of play in center field,” Buck Showalter said. “That’s why it gets everybody’s attention. He’s special. I’m real glad he’s on our side.”
The Yankees were glad to have Sabathia on their side again — eight innings, two runs, eight hits, nine Ks, no walks.
“I thought he was brilliant,” Girardi said.
Sabathia, in his second straight strong start, threw 102 pitches, only 28 of them balls.
“I know his velocity isn’t what it used to be, 95, but I tell you, he’s really using his changeup and slider to get guys out,” Kevin Youkilis said.
Mark Teixeira had his wrist examined by Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser. It was expected that Teixeira would be cleared to start swinging a fungo bat. He was not.
“He wants me to get a little stronger before I swing,” Teixeira said. “All good news. I’m just not swinging yet.”
Teixeira doesn’t think this changes the timetable for his return too much. He still hopes to be back the first week of May.
Eduardo Nunez is day-to-day after suffering a bruised right wrist when he was drilled by Miguel Gonzalez in the second.
Yankees pregame: Pettitte hurting • 04.12.13
Andy Pettitte is having a problem with back spasms. The 40-year-old lefty first felt it in the mid-back area in the third inning of his start in Cleveland Tuesday and fought through it, allowing a run over seven innings in the 14-1 win. He was OK after laser treatment Wednesday and during his bullpen session Thursday. But the Yankees sent him home ahead of the team and he felt his lower back lock up at home Thursday night.
So they have pushed his Sunday start back. Now they’re hoping he can go Tuesday or Wednesday. Pettitte said he would have gone out and fought through it again, but the Yankees are taking the long view.
“I’m almost 100 percent we believe it’s a muscle spasm,” Pettitte said. “So hopefully it just calms down and I don’t have any more problems with it.”
So Phil Hughes, instead of pitching out of the bullpen after his start got rained out in Cleveland Thursday night, will take the ball Saturday and Hiroki Kuroda will be pushed back a day, starting now on Sunday.
Joe Girardi said he wasn’t expecting a full complement of starts out of Pettitte this season, not at this age. Pettitte hasn’t made it through a full season since 2009, when he made 32 starts, although he was retired for 2011.
“I think it’s pretty tough to get 32 starts out of a young guy in a sense, a guy who hasn’t logged as many innings as he has,” Girardi said. “Our hope is you get somewhere between 28 and 30 starts. … I don’t think we expect him to make 32 starts.”
Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco got eight games and a fine for intentionally hitting Kevin Youkilis in Tuesday’s game. Girardi said he wasn’t surprised.
Youkilis’ reaction? “I’m indifferent,” he said.
We should be able to get this game in, but it’s really cold and very windy.
Video: Yankees go through pop up drills • 02.20.13
Tony Pena was running the machine for today’s pop up and fly ball drill on the main field. At one point, I noticed he seemed to be aiming the machine right at me. You’ll notice in the video below, after Dan Johnson makes a play in foul territory, I’m pretty slow turning the camera back to the field. I’d actually turned my head to Pena to try to determine whether I need to get out of the way.