The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Eight men out11.03.11

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.

Luis Ayala
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.

Eric Chavez
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.

Bartolo Colon
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?

Freddy Garcia
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.

Andruw Jones
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.

Damaso Marte
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.

Sergio Mitre
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.

Jorge Posada
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.

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Pregame notes: “I’m sure there will be some adrenaline”10.03.11

After he took heat last night for using Luis Ayala in the ninth inning of a three-run game, Joe Girardi was asked today whether he thought about skipping CC Sabathia tonight and pushing his ace to Tuesday’s Game 4. In theory, the strategy would have conceded that tonight’s game is a tough one to win, and Sabathia would help the Yankees chances in a potential must-win Game 4.

Girardi’s response had more to do with Game 5.

“We felt he was ready to pitch, and if he’s ready to pitch, we’re going to use him,” Girardi said. “The other thing is, you figure you can use him in the bullpen maybe if you need him (in Game 5) if he feels OK on Thursday. And it lines up for next series. I just felt that he was ready, and I was going with him.”

So we have the much-anticipated matchup that was supposed to shape this series in the opener, and will instead determine which team faces elimination tomorrow.

“I probably feel the same way the Yankees felt when they had CC on the mound for the opening game in front of that crowd in New York,” Jim Leyland said. “It’s a great match-up. It’s one that everybody was anxiously awaiting in Game 1. It didn’t turn out. You always worry about the hype and all the stuff that goes on and postseason is pretty draining really, to be honest with you… I’m sure there will be some adrenaline flowing.”

Girardi admitted that, had he known it was going to rain in the second inning, he never would have sent Sabathia to the mound in Game 1. He would have saved his ace for Game 2, or for multiple innings after a rain delay.

“Probably not, no,” Girardi said. “They told us there might be some light rain, and that’s what they expected. Obviously that changed dramatically.”

This series has changed, and tonight’s the biggest game yet.

Here’s Girardi.

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• Girardi once again committed to Alex Rodriguez in the cleanup spot, despite the fact he’s hitless in the first two games and hasn’t done much since returning from knee and thumb injuries. “I don’t make too much of yesterday,” Girardi said. “I know everything gets magnified when you have a zero in front of your name, people are going to talk about it, but I thought he had good at-bats the first game. The second game, their starter shut us down.”

• Was Girardi surprised to hear the Yankee Stadium boos for Rodriguez yesterday? “I’m not surprised because I think our fans want us to win so badly,” Girardi said. “I think they always expect big things from Alex. With his name and the things that he’s accomplished, there’s high expectations.”

• Russell Martin his fine after last night’s hit by pitch. “No complaints from him,” Girardi said.

• No matter what happens tonight, the Yankees are 100 percent committed to A.J. Burnett starting tomorrow’s game. That’s going to happen whether it’s a potential clincher or a potential elimination. “Who would I go to, Mo?” Girardi said.

• Brett Gardner didn’t finish the season especially strong, but Girardi said that had no impact on his decision to pinch hit Eric Chavez last night. “I was just taking a chance with Chavez,” Girardi said. “What he’s done with runners in scoring position for us this year has been really, really good, and you’ve got a short right field fence that he’s more than capable of hitting is over. I took a shot.”

• Girardi was also once again defending the decision to pitch Luis Ayala last night. “If I used Soriano or Robertson, they would say why did you use him?” Girardi said. “That’s the nature of this. You calculate what’s going to happen. You’re not always going to be right, you don’t have a crystal ball, but being down there runs, I can go with these guys earlier and for longer today and tomorrow.”

• As for the decision to have Freddy Garcia pitch to Miguel Cabrera in the sixth: “He had struck him out the time before and he had struck out Martinez twice and gotten Avila once or twice,” Girardi said. “There is no great matchup for Miguel Cabrera; it’s not like you bring in anyone and it’s a guarantee. That’s how good this guy is. I took a shot with him.”

• Leyland on his decision to go with a different lineup than he had for Game 1. “To be honest with you, neither Jhonny or Raburn have hit CC at all,” he said.

• No one seemed especially wrapped up in Jose Valverde’s comments after last night’s game that the division series would be won by the Tigers before it came back to New York. “It might excite a few (players),” Girardi said. “But the one thing I said is you can’t let your emotions take you out of your game.”

• Leyland compared Valverde’s comments to the pregame videos shown at Yankee Stadium. “He admitted it was tongue in cheek when he said it,” Leyland said. “Second of all, I didn’t take offense to the video at Yankee Stadium when they were talking about the World Series, like we were the junior varsity and they were getting ready for the World Series. I didn’t take offense to that at all. In fact, I thought it was great. That’s what they should be talking about. I don’t really think that.”

Associated Press photo

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Postgame notes: “We always thought Game 3 was the biggest”10.02.11

Literally and figuratively, the storm clouds were gathering at Yankee Stadium this afternoon.

The Tigers had a four-run lead before the Yankees had a hit, then the rain started falling, Alex Avila slipped in foul territory, the tying run reached base and Robinson Cano came to the plate. This one had the potential for a wild walk-off that would give the Yankees a flood of momentum heading into Detroit. Instead, Cano hit a ground ball to second, and the Tigers claimed home field advantage heading into tomorrow’s delayed showdown between CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander.

“Tomorrow is big,” Alex Rodriguez said. “Going back to when I first got here, we always thought that Game 3 was the biggest. It’s almost like hitting; the 0-0 pitch is the most important, then the 1-1 pitch becomes the most important. Same goes for a series. There’s no need to get caught up in emotions. Whoever plays better, whoever executes fundamentals, is going to win the series. “

The Yankees seemed to have a favorable matchup against Max Scherzer, but aside from walks and a hit batter, Scherzer didn’t allow many scoring opportunities. The Yankees didn’t have a hit until the sixth, and they didn’t score until Curtis Granderson’s home run in the eighth.

Good things started happening for the Yankees in the ninth — Nick Swisher’s home run, Jorge Posada’s first postseason triple, Avila slipping and missing a potential game-ending popup — but this was never a game that felt good for the Yankees. They weren’t hitting, and the Tigers were perpetually doing just enough.

“You think that something is going to happen good for us (in the ninth),” Derek Jeter said. “But with Valverde, it’s hard enough to score a run off him, let alone four. But I thought we had some good at-bats. We battled there at the end, but we just fell short. For a moment there, you think we might catch a break.”

The Yankees did not catch a break. They didn’t create a break for themselves in the first eight innings, and they couldn’t do quite enough in that wet and rainy ninth. Sabathia vs. Verlander was the marquee matchup when this series began, and it’s the marquee matchup now that the series is tied at a game apiece.

“It’s huge,” Mark Teixeira said. “Tomorrow’s a really big game. You don’t want to go down 2-1 with them having a chance to close it out in their home park. It’s a big game for us.”

Here’s Jeter.

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Two curious decisions by Joe Girardi tonight, each of which will surely lead to plenty of second guessing. As always, Girardi had reason behind his choices, but they didn’t workout. The question will be whether you agree with the logic.

With two on and one out in the seventh, Girardi sent left-handed Eric Chavez to pinch hit for left-handed Brett Gardner. He was hoping for a three-run home run. It’s worth noting that Gardner had lined out sharply in his previous at-bat, and that Chavez hit just two home runs tonight. It’s also worth noting that Scherzer has a tendency to give up a lot of home run.

“Gardner is fine,” Girardi said. “Just hoping (Chavez) might pop one… When you’re losing the game 4-0, you’re looking for a three-run homer is what you’re looking for, so no, it’s not a hard move.”

With the Yankees down by three runs in the ninth, Girardi elected to use Luis Ayala — essentially the last man in the bullpen — instead of going to either Dave Robertson or Rafael Soriano.

“We still have two more games in a row,” Girardi said. “And we’re down three. If we got it down to two, we were going to maek a change. Being down there runs and you know what Valverde has done all year long, we decided to go to Ayala.”

Chavez struck out in the seventh. Ayala allowed a run in the ninth.

Here’s Girardi.

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• Jim Leyland said a lot about the production of the Yankees third and fourth hitters tonight when he admitted that the Tigers seriously considered pitching around Cano in the ninth inning to load the bases for Alex Rodriguez. “I thought about it,” Leyland said. “But that other guy has been known for the dramatics, and I figured it’s wet, it’s slippery, one gets away, one run is in. Something like that would happen, a groundball, a ball slips. I just couldn’t do it. He hit a ball in the infield, you get him over there, and somebody throws it away, the game is tied. It did cross my mind.”

• Rodriguez has struggled since returning to the lineup, but Girardi said he has no plans of taking Rodriguez out of the cleanup spot. “I thought he swung the bat pretty good yesterday,” Girardi said. “Today they made some tough pitches on him. I don’t have any plans in changing my lineup. It’s only two games. I’m not going to make too much of two games.”

• Most of the damage against Freddy Garcia was done by Miguel Cabrera, but Garcia was happy with his approach and his pitches to the Tigers’ best hitter. “First inning, I think that was a good pitch down and away,” Garcia said. “He made good contact. After that, I shut it down waiting for us to start hitting. It never happened, but that’s part of the game.”

• Garcia said the sixth-inning pitch that Cabrera looped into center field for an RBI single was a split. “I was trying to make a great pitch and I did,” Garcia said. “But great hitters do that.”

• Although he allowed three hits in the sixth, Garcia said he wasn’t tired. “I’ve got like 70 pitches,” he said. “I was really good. I finished strong. Base hit here, base hit there. It’s part of the game.”

• Russell Martin is fine. The pitch that hit him got part of the bat and a little bit of the bottom of his left hand. “A little bit of acting there, but it did get me,” Martin said.

• Boone Logan’s balk didn’t matter — he struck out the next two batters — but he was embarrassed by it. Mid-delivery, Logan heard someone shout behind him and thought timeout had been called. The result was a sudden halt in his motion. “It was probably the worst balk in the history of baseball,” Logan said.

• Jeter on his costly error in the sixth: “I had no problem catching it, I just threw it low. With Austin (Jackson) running, you really don’t have much time.”

• Chavez on his approach pinch hitting for Gardner: “That’s not really my thought process to hit a home run there. I’m just trying to put the barrel on the ball and have the same approach every at-bat. I don’t think I go up there trying to do one thing or the other other than put a good swing on the ball.”

• Jeter said he thought, once Posada got between first and second in the ninth inning, that there was no way Posada was stopping until he got to third. “I don’t know about that,” Posada said. “I can’t get thrown out there. My run doesn’t mean anything.”

• It was the first postseason triple of Posada’s career.

• You don’t see Jeter arguing with a home plate umpire too often, but Jeter had a lengthy conversation after striking out looking in the seventh. He said he thought the ball was outside. “I was just asking him if he knew the weather forecast for the rest of the game,” Jeter joked.

• Everyone in the Yankees clubhouse seemed to mention Scherzer’s changeup, which doesn’t seem to a pitch you hear about very often with him. “He was really good, best I’ve ever seen him,” Teixeira said. “Great fastball, his changeup was really, really good. The numbers don’t lie, he dominated us.”

•• Posada gave an honest evaluation of Pettitte’s first pitch, calling it low and away. “I think it was a ball,” Posada said, laughing.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: Bullpen rested for three in a row10.02.11

Joe Girardi had no regrets this morning about using Mariano Rivera last night. The way he saw it, a grand slam would have pulled the Tigers within 2, and Girardi thought it was best to shut the door right then and there.

“He hadn’t pitched since Tuesday, and before that, he hadn’t pitched in a little bit,” Girardi said. “I don’t think it’s going to hurt him. Obviously it helps to keep him sharp. I think you could look at it either way with three more days in a row. But it shouldn’t hurt.”

Ivan Nova pitching into last night’s ninth inning meant the Yankees used only Luis Ayala and Rivera in Game 1. Girardi has said he’s willing to use any of his relievers three days in a row, which leaves him with a full bullpen these next three days. There’s a chance Rivera wouldn’t be available on Tuesday, but Girardi said there’s no doubt he’ll be available tonight and tomorrow.

A full bullpen could be key with Freddy Garcia, who’s built his season on keeping the Yankees in a game for six innings, then letting the relievers takeover. Garcia-to-Soriano-to-Robertson-to-Rivera could be a perfect recipe for the Yankees in Game 2.

“Our bullpen is in very good shape,” Girardi said. “So that sets up really well. Freddy is a completely different look than all of our other pitchers. You can look at all of our other pitchers and say they’re somewhat power guys. Freddy is the one finesse guys we’ve got that’s going to use a lot of offspeed, see some slow breaking balls. It’s a totally different look.”

Here’s Girardi’s pregame press conference. It wasn’t very long. We got a little more in the beat writers session.

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• The Yankees are now committed to CC Sabathia pitching tomorrow’s Game 3, and Girardi finally made it official that A.J. Burnett will start Game 4. The only thing that would have kept Burnett from lining up for Game 4 would have been using him in long relief last night. Phil Hughes is the long man today.

• Girardi said the umpires “absolutely” got the call right on Robinson Cano’s double off the top of the wall last night, though Girardi was a little surprised that fans didn’t reach out and pull that ball into the stands. “Usually you see that,” Girardi said. “I’m not sure how far they would have had to reach to get to it. I don’t know how wide that concrete is out there. I’m sure it would have been reviewed either way, so it would have ended up the same.”

• Despite the fact Sabathia just pitched two days ago, Girardi said his pitch count won’t be at all limited tomorrow night. “I don’t think so, just because he threw so few on Friday, and he’s not expected to make another start in the division series,” Girardi said.

• Girardi said he’s not second-guessing Ayala after back-to-back rough outings. “He’s pitched really well for us,” Girardi said. “And I think you have to look at his body of work. And he got a ground ball from Avila, then he got another ground ball. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do.”

• Hector Noesi and Raul Valdes have joined Ramiro Pena in Tampa. Those three are staying sharp at the minor league complex. Bartolo Colon and Austin Romine are staying with the big league team. Romine is catching in the bullpen to stay with the big league staff.

• Girardi never looked a replay of last night’s play at the plate. He said last night that he was positive it was an out when he saw it live, and he never felt a need to look at it again.

• As someone pointed out, Rivera technically threw the first and last pitch of Game 1. He threw the ceremonial first pitch on Friday, then closed the game on Saturday.

TIGERS
Austin Jackson CF
Magglio Ordonez RF
Delmon Young LF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Alex Avila C
Jhonny Peralta SS
Wilson Betemit 3B
Ramon Santiago 2B

Associated Press photo

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Postgame notes: “Friday’s what we play for, and it’s here”09.29.11

B.J. Upton was at the plate in the 12th inning when the television showed the last step of the Boston collapse. The crowd here at Tropicana Field went berserk, and the volume only increased when the final score was posted on the scoreboard in left field.

Evan Longoria was literally the very next hitter.

It happened that quickly, from Jonathan Papelbon’s meltdown in Baltimore to Longoria’s game winner in St. Pete, eight minutes passed. A night that had already seen the Rangers lockup the No. 2 seed in the American League and the Cardinals clinch the wild card in the National League, ended with an unlikely celebration at the Trop.

“That was one of the best days in baseball’s history probably,” Mark Teixeira said. “Every game tonight all across baseball seemed like it mattered, and there were some great finishes… Give (the Rays) a lot of credit. Down seven runs going into the eighth inning with your season on the line, obviously we don’t want to be on the short end of that stick, but you give them a lot of credit for the way they fought back.”

Funny thing is, none of it really mattered to the Yankees. They didn’t need a win today. They just needed to get through this game with their players healthy, and they more or less did that (more on that in a bit). For the Yankees, the game that really mattered was the Rangers win against the Angels. That’s the game that setup a division series matchup between the Yankees and the Tigers.

“It’s a strange game,” Joe Girardi said. “You never know what’s going to happen from night to night. It’s weird, but Friday’s what we play for, and it’s here.”

Here’s Girardi.

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• Girardi officially named a three-man rotation for the division series: CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia. “We just like the way that Freddy’s pitched,” Girardi said. “Freddy’s pitched well. We talked about it and debated about it a long time, and we just decided to go with Freddy. We like the way that Freddy has competed all year, and we’re going to send him out there.”

• Sabathia will pitch Games 1 and 4. Nova will pitch Games 2 and 5.

• A.J. Burnett will move to the bullpen for the division series. That’s why he faced a batter in relief tonight, just so he could do it one time before the postseason. “He’s a guy that can get a strikeout for us if we need it, and he’s a guy that can give us some distance if we need that,” Girardi said. “He can do multiple things.”

• Alex Rodriguez is fine. Girardi said his knee was “achy,” but Girardi said he has “no doubt whatsoever” that Rodriguez will be able to play Friday. “I don’t really have a concern about him,” Girardi said. “The turf can do that to you sometimes, and he’ll be ready to go Friday.”

• Jesus Montero was sent for X-rays after a tipped ball hit his throwing hand. The results were negative, and Girardi expects Montero to be sore but available. “My guess is that he’ll be OK,” Girardi said. “We’ll check tomorrow, but the x-ray came out negative”

• Girardi said he used his bullpen according to plan. At one point Hector Noesi seemed to be stretching, but I don’t think he ever threw a pitch. “I had talked about that I wasn’t going to use Robby, Soriano or Mo,” Girardi said. “That was the bottom line, and we tried to close it out. We had a seven-run lead with two (innings to play) and I went to guys with experience, and we didn’t get it done.”

• What does Girardi make of Luis Ayala and Boone Logan — two guys who have actually been in his bullpen all year — giving up six runs in an inning? “I don’t make too much of it,” Girardi said. “You just don’t.”

• Before Logan and Ayala, a total of seven Yankees pitchers — five of them September call-ups — pitched a total of seven scoreless innings.

• Dellin Betances walked two in the first inning, but he got back-to-back strikeouts to strand the runners, and his first big league start spanned two scoreless innings. Not a bad way to bounce back after an rocky debut at home.

• The two teams combined to use 18 pitchers — 11 of them were Yankees — which set a new record at Tropicana Field. The previous high was 15 in a game between the Rays and Red Sox.

• Mark Teixeira hit two home runs and will finish with 39 for the season, one shy of the second 40-homer season of his career. His grand slam in the second inning was the fourth allowed by a Rays pitcher this season (the first was hit by Jorge Posada). It was the Yankees 10th grand slam of the season and the seventh of Teixeira’s career.

• It was Teixeira’s first grand slam on the road since hitting one off Edwar Ramirez in 2008. Did you think you’d read Edwar Ramirez’s name tonight?

• The game-tying home run that Cory Wade allowed in the ninth inning was the first run he had allowed against the Rays in six appearances this season. Wade opened the season on the Rays Triple-A team and came to the Yankees because the Rays wouldn’t give him a shot in the big leagues.

• On the Rays comeback: They were 9 games out of the wild card on September 4, the most games ever overcome in September to get into the postseason in Major League history. The Rays went 16-8 since September 4 while Boston went 6-18. Tonight, the Rays were down by seven runs in the eighth inning, making this the second-largest comeback in franchise history and the largest at Tropicana Field.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: You were expecting decisions?09.28.11

Joe Girardi made three announcements about his division series roster.

1. CC Sabathia will start Game 1.
2. Mariano Rivera will be on the roster.
3. Ivan Nova will start Game 2.

“We haven’t completely made our roster, and some of it’s going to depend on who we’re going to play, and we still don’t know that,” Girardi said. “We’re fairly close, but there are some decisions that have to be made depending on who we play.”

I guess locking Nova into Game 2 is a mild bit of news, but that was pretty much the assumption. Girardi said his Game 3 starter doesn’t really depend on the opponent, but he’s still not ready to announce it. He said there are “two or three” decisions that still have to be made.

And there’s a good chance nothing will be official until tomorrow’s workout at the stadium.

“I should know who we’re playing,” Girardi said. “Hopefully they don’t pay until 4 tomorrow afternoon. We’ll talk about it when we come in tomorrow and I’ll probably have most of the decisions made.”

• Girardi said he chose Dellin Betances to start today’s game largely because he expected to use Betances anyway, and he’s used to being a starter. “We probably won’t go long with him, I mean, we’re not asking him to give us five or six innings,” Girardi said. “We just figured it was the best time to pitch him.”

• Girardi said he’s expecting two or three innings out of Betances. Ultimately, he’s expecting to use a lot of young relievers. Boone Logan, Luis Ayala and Phil Hughes are the big league guys expected to pitch.

• Hughes didn’t start because Girardi wants him to once again get loose and get in the game. It’s one more chance to readjust to life in the bullpen.

• Girardi said he’s planning to stick with this heart-of-the-order against lefties. He likes having Rodriguez hitting behind Cano for protection.

• Why Montero behind the plate? “With some of the younger kids throwing, Montero has a better idea of what they’re doing,” Girardi said. “He caught most of these guys at Triple-A this year.”

• Montero would DH more often against Texas, making Romine more necessary if that’s the opponent? “That’s a pretty good assumption,” Girardi said.

• Will the regulars play all game? “We’ll just kind of see how it goes,” Girardi said. “We’ll go along with the game and see how it goes. Will I play them all nine innings? Maybe not. My first priority is taking care of my guys, and I’ve got to do it.”

• If Derek Jeter gets his batting average above .300, would Girardi pull him? “That’s something I’ll talk to him about,” Girardi said.

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: Bartolo’s last stand?09.27.11

There’s a chance Bartolo Colon has thrown his last pitch in pinstripes.

In a spring training clubhouse that had quite a few unknowns, Colon was perhaps the greatest wild card. For a while, he was the Yankees most unexpected surprise.

“In spring training he was phenomenal,” catcher Russell Martin said. “In his bullpens — he’s always been known as a strike thrower — but his command was unbelievable. He doesn’t have the best offspeed in the world, but when his sinker’s working really well, it doesn’t really matter.

“… He did a great job for us, especially early in the season when he really had control of the sinker. He was pretty much untouchable for a while there. As we went along, he kind of wasn’t as consistent as the year went along, but he still kept us in a lot of games. I definitely take my cap off to that guy. He did a great job for us this year.”

Joe Girardi wouldn’t commit to any sort of role for Colon in the postseason. He said he’s still considering Colon for a spot in the rotation, and it’s possible the Yankees will carry him in the bullpen. Girardi also acknowledged that Colon’s velocity was once again lower than the Yankees saw in the first half, and he hasn’t won a game since July 30. He’ll finish the season with a 4.00 ERA.

“Bart was great for us this year,” Girardi said. “He picked us up at a time where we were struggling and weren’t sure what we were going to do with our starters. Bart was big for us.”

That’s hard to argue. In the first half, when Phil Hughes was on the disabled list and Ivan Nova had yet to emerge as a reliable big league starter, Colon was the Yankees second-best starter. He gave the Yankees more than they could have expected. Question is whether he will give them any more.

Here’s Girardi.

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• The first of two big blows against the Yankees came in the sixth inning, when Martin grounded into a triple play with the bases loaded. “I just hit it in the wrong spot,” Martin said. “It was the pitch I was looking for, I kind of had an idea he was going to start me with the changeup. It was really a good pitch to hit. It was changeup middle. I just got out in front and rolled over, and really just hit it in the wrong spot. He made a nice play, though.”

• The triple play was the third in Rays history. It was the first the Yankees hit into since 2000. They’ve hit into 25 in franchise history. “As soon as I hit it, I just put my head down,” Martin said. “I knew what was happening… I was trying to get down the line as fast as I could, and just not fast enough. It sucked.”

• The second big blow against the Yankees came in the seventh, when Rafael Soriano gave up the game-winning, three-run home run to Matt Joyce. “It was the walks that killed him tonight,” Girardi said. “If you’re going to have it happen, get it out of the way tonight. He’s been so good for us, I don’t make much of it. Robby comes in and throws well, Mo comes in and throws well, so we move on.”

• Girardi said he’ll try to get Boone Logan and Luis Ayala some work tomorrow night (which seemed to suggest Ayala has a spot on the postseason roster). “I feel good about our bullpen,” Girardi said.

• The Yankees still have not chosen a starter for tomorrow’s game. “I can’t start A.J., I can’t start Freddy, I can’t start Bart, I can’t start CC,” Girardi said. “We’re going to talk about it. That’s all we can do and well figure it out. I will have a starter by 7:10.”

• Alex Rodriguez was pulled from the game strictly to let him rest. He’s not hurt.

• Girardi said he’s still planning to have his regulars — including Rodriguez — in the lineup tomorrow. He’s not sure how long they’ll play.

• Girardi on the Rays decision to intentionally walk Robinson Cano to face Rodriguez with two on in the third inning: “Robbie’s swinging a great bat. We’re just trying to make it as difficult on teams as possible. When you’re swinging that great, they’re going to do that.”

• Johnny Damon passed Lou Gehrig for 57th place on baseball’s all-time hits list with 2,722. He’s two shy of tying Roberto Alomar for 56th.

• Colon is the first Yankees pitcher to go winless in 10 or more consecutive starts since Ian Kennedy from Sept. 7, 2007 to Aug. 8, 2008. So, obviously Colon will be in the Cy Young mix in the National League in three years.

• The last Yankees starter to go at least 10 starts without a win in a single season was Dvaid Cone in 2000. Cone with 15 straight.

• The Joyce home run was the first Soriano had allowed on the road this season.

• Martin has 18 homers in 417 at-bats this season. He had 12 homers in 836 at-bats from 2009 through 2010. Tonight he hit his first home run since going deep twice on August 25.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 211 Comments →

Postgame notes: “Command is the big issue”09.17.11

CC Sabathia matched season-highs tonight by allowing 10 hits and four walks. He also matched a season-low by pitching only 5.2 innings.

Since the Yankees went to a six-man rotation at the end of July, Sabathia has made nine starts, seven of them on extra rest. He’s allowed 10 hits in five of those extra-rest starts, something he’d done only once in 23 starts before the six-man rotation became a somewhat permanent situation.

“I don’t think (extra rest has been the problem),” Sabathia said. “I’ve felt great. My arm feels good. My body feels good. It’s just been not executing pitches when I need to. The Lind at-bat, not being able to make the pitch and get out of the inning… Command is the big issue, but my stuff has been there. That’s what’s so frustrating.”

The Lind at-bat was in the fifth, when the Yankees had given Sabathia a 3-1 lead. Sabathia allowed a pair of two-out walks, then he faced Adam Lind with the bases loaded. Lind doubled in all three runs, and when Sabathia loaded the bases again in the sixth, Luis Ayala had to bail him out.

“I still felt good about him getting Lind out,” Girardi said. “Lind hurt us tonight with a couple doubles and a single. I still felt good about it. I thought his stuff was okay, and I thought he’d get him out. He didn’t… I still really believe in (Sabathia). I think he’s going to be great for us and he’ll continue to be great for us. Tonight, he struggled a little bit, but he gave us a chance to win that game. We weren’t able to score after we tied it up 4-4. I still think CC’s going to run off some good starts, I really do.”

Could extra rest be an issue? Sabathia notoriously thrives with less rest rather than more.

“It could,” Girardi said. “He’s going to be on regular rest his next turn, so we’ll get a good chance to see that. That’s just been the way it’s been for us, but we’ll get him on regular rest.”

Actually, to line up Sabathia for Game 1 of the division series, the Yankees might have to pitch him on short rest Sunday against Boston.

“The past couple of starts it’s just been tough, throwing a lot of pitches in a short amount of time. Just frustrating,”

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• After batting practice, Alex Rodriguez explained that he spent the day learning to hit with a ring of tape separating his uninjured top hand and his sore left thumb. He believes he’s allowed to use the taped bat during the game. “We’ve never tried it, but Kevin had me split my hands, and after that it felt really good because I didn’t put any pressure on the thumb,” Rodriguez said. “If it goes well — you know how us baseball players are, we just won’t change — it will definitely alleviate any pain on my thumb, because the only pressure I have is when I press down on the point of contact.”

• Rodriguez took a ton of swings today. He did tee and toss with Kevin Long before batting practice, then he took eight rounds of regular BP, hitting with two different groups.

• Girardi said after the game that he still plans to play Rodriguez tomorrow. Everything he saw in BP makes him think Rodriguez will be ready. “I’d like to pencil his name in there,” Girardi said. “I’d actually like to use a pen.”

• Sabathia’s short-and-sweet explanation of what went wrong on the pitch to Lind: “Just got a ball out over the plate. He put a good swing on it. He had been putting good swings all night and got a pitch he could handle.”

• Sabathia walked Jose Bautista three times. “I didn’t want Bautista to beat me,” Sabathia said. “He’s one of the better hitters in the league, and you never want that guy to beat you in the lineup.”

• The Yankees have lost six of their past nine games, five of their past six loses have come in one-run games.

• Three days ago, Cory Wade had not lost a game since joining the Yankees. He’s now allowed two straight walkoffs, giving up a walkoff homer on Wednesday and Jose Molina’s walkoff single tonight.

• Boone Logan took the loss after allowing a sharp leadoff double in that decisive ninth.

• Until the ninth, the bullpen had been a bright spot for the Yankees. Ayala got Sabathia out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, Rafael Soriano struck out the side in the seventh and Dave Robertson left the bases loaded in the eighth.

• Eric Chavez hit his second home run of the season… Nick Swisher twice tied the game with two-out hits… Derek Jeter’s 13-game hitting streak ended.

• Brett Gardner stole two bases tonight. He’s been successful in 40 of his past 47 attempts.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 50 Comments →

Pregame notes: “Might as well let them get healthy”09.10.11

Just a few days ago, the mounting injuries in the Yankees clubhouse seemed to be a minor issue. A handful of guys were banged up, but none of the issues seemed serious. If anything, most guys seemed to be getting better.

Today, the feeling was different. Alex Rodriguez’s thumb injury just won’t go away. Nick Swisher isn’t sure how long he’ll be out. Francisco Cervelli was a late scratch (again). Boone Logan is still not available.

“I’m trying to win, just like I was last year,” Joe Girardi said. “If they can play, and be productive, I’m going to play them. If we feel like they’ll play and not be productive, we might as well let them get healthy so they can be productive. That’s what I have to measure.”

One-by-one, these are the issues the Yankees are dealing with.

Alex Rodriguez
This is the same thumb injury that’s bothered him ever since he made the awkward backhanded play in Minneapolis three weeks ago. The Yankees have tried to manage it with occasional days off, but it hasn’t quite gone away, and Rodriguez told Girardi after last night’s game that it was still bothering him.

“I feel like there’s a big difference between being hurt and playing through bumps and bruises,” Rodriguez said. “I can certainly play through bumps and bruises. Even with bumps and bruises, I can do serious damage. But the way I am right now, I don’t think it’s possible.”

Since coming off the disabled list — he injured the thumb the first day back — Rodriguez has hit just .194/.370/.389 with three extra-base hits in 10 games. He went for an additional MRI in New York last week, but Rodriguez thinks it’s actually been getting better, it’s just not fully healed yet.

“We’re trying to get him going, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “If you keep taking these breaks, it’s hard to get going, and that’s the frustrating part.”

Nick Swisher
The test results could have been much worse. Swisher’s MRI revealed no structural damage, but it did show what Swisher described as “a lot of inflammation.” Girardi called it tendonitis, but the bottom line is this: Swisher is day-to-day, but he doesn’t seem to have a long-term issue.

“It’s a bummer because, right now, you want to be in there every day,” Swisher said. “Everyone is tired, everyone is going through their aches and pains, but you definitely want to try and be out there. Right now, we have relax a little bit. We just need to chill for a couple days.”

Swisher doesn’t seem to have a timetable. He’s going to do treatment today, and what he does tomorrow will depend on how he feels. Girardi expects this to be a smaller issue that Rodriguez’s thumb.

“I think Alex’s thumb might be more of a continual problem,” Girardi said. “Swish is probably just a few days rest of some medicine, some treatment. He should be ok. Tendonitis usually clears up. But Alex, we’ll just have to wait.”

Francisco Cervelli
After being run over by Nick Markakis on Thursday, Cervelli has been in the Yankees lineup two days in a row, only to be scratched each time. Girardi said Cervelli has some concussion symptoms, and he was sent for an ImPACT test tonight.

Andruw Jones
There’s no injury here, but the Yankees are cautious because Jones’ has a history of knee problems, and they don’t want to push him too hard when he’s not used to playing every day. Jones has missed only one day so far this month, so Girardi wanted to give him a day off. That’s why he’s not in right field tonight.

Boone Logan
Girardi plans to stay away from Logan again tonight. He’ll also stay away from Luis Ayala, and he has to check with Cory Wade, but Rafael Soriano is available again. Logan hasn’t had more than one day off since August 27, and in that span he’s thrown three days in a row once, and three out of four twice. His velocity has dipped lately, and the Yankees think fatigue and dead arm might be the cause.

Eduardo Nunez was pretty funny when he saw the lineup posted this afternoon. His reaction was a single word that can’t be printed in this space, and he was laughing about it when reporters asked about his first career start in right field.

“I knew if they needed me, I could play outfield, but I didn’t know I was starting today,” he said. “They didn’t tell me… It’s fun. It’s a new experience. I’ll do the best I can.”

Nunez has played right field only once in his life. It was earlier this season in Baltimore, and he caught the only ball hit to him. He played some left field in spring training, and he’s played both corners during batting practice.

“The way he’s swung the bat (was a factor),” Girardi said. “And I liked his at-bats against Haren the last time we played. And it might be something we have to do… Sometimes you have to look at it, and if we’re fortunate enough to get a lead, we can always make a switch.”

Here’s Nunez. At the end of the group interview someone wished him luck. “I need luck,” Nunez said.

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• Terrific pitching matchup tonight with CC Sabathia and Dan Haren. “Two guys who really know how to use the strike zone,” Girardi said. “They know how to mix their pitches, they know how to throw offspeed behind in the count. When you look at Danny Haren, he’s going to throw a split, a lot of cutters, he’s going to throw curveballs, he’s going to mix his pitches.

• The Yankees have lost three in a row, all by one run. “It could be fatigue,” Girardi said. “That’s the only thing that I could think of. We have not swung the bats very well lately, and maybe we could turn that around tonight.”

• Girardi is hopeful that he’ll have Rodriguez and Swisher back by the end of the road trip. “We’ve got a long way to go this road trip, so I would sure hope so,” he said. “I would hope to have both of them back before that.”

• Swisher on Nunez taking his spot in right: “He’s an athlete. He can do it.”

ANGELS
Maicer Izturis 3B
Peter Bourjos CF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Torii Hunter DH
Mark Trumbo 1B
Vernon Wells LF
Mike Trout RF
Erick Aybar SS
Jeff Mathis C

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 32 Comments →

Postgame notes: “He’s not afraid to be here”09.10.11

Jered Weaver was positively dominant tonight. The Yankees scattered two singles and a handful of walks and never got a runner past first base.

Except Jesus Montero.

On a night when the Yankees failed to pickup a game in the standings, it was still hard to ignore the impact of the Yankees young designated hitter. Against one of the best pitchers in the game, Montero went deep for his third home run in as many days. It was his first time starting a big league game against a right-handed starter, and in his first at-bat he lifted a ball over both bullpens.

“He’s not afraid to be here,” Mark Teixeira said. “He’s not afraid to let it fly and if he’s going to be as good as everyone thinks he is, he’s going to have to face a lot of these guys. And he’s showing right away that he’s not afraid of them.”

The pitch was a 1-2 fastball inside, and Montero was looking for it.

“At the beginning of the at-bat, I was looking fastball,” Montero said. “He threw me two good curveballs and then I was thinking in, because I’m a catcher, too. I was thinking fastball in at that moment, and I got the right pitch.”

Joe Girardi said before the game that he wants to see more and more of the Yankees top hitting prospect, and tonight did little to change that opinion. “You continue to look at him,” is the way Girardi phrased it after the game. Bottom line, Montero’s going to keep getting at-bats. He’s going to have a real chance to earn a spot in the postseason.

“I just put that away and try to do my job whenever they give me the opportunity,” Montero said. “Keep doing my routine every single day. When I’m playing, when I’m DHing, I’m in the cage with Kevin Long. That’s been helping me, keeping my routine every single day… It’s been good, thank God. Tomorrow, I might play again and strike out four times, but it’s been good.”

Here’s Montero.

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• Montero and Bartolo Colon were the bright spots, but ultimately the game was decided by this fact: The Yankees bullpen was terribly thin. Rafael Soriano, Cory Wade and Boone Logan were unavailable, Dave Robertson had been used in the eighth and Mariano Rivera was being saved for a save. That meant Aaron Laffey and Luis Ayala got the call in a tied ninth inning. “Playing all these days in a row and all these tight ballgames, you get into this,” Girardi said.

• Girardi said he’s actually planning to give Logan another full day off tomorrow. Logan said he’s not hurt, just going through a “little case of dead arm” and a couple days of rest might help. “My body is great and everything is fine,” he said. “But a couple days off, flushing out the body and letting it rest, it will give me a chance to get my velocity back.”

• Nick Swisher went for an MRI. The results won’t be available until tomorrow.

• Turns out, Bartolo Colon gave the Yankees seven strong innings on an upset stomach. He said he wasn’t feeling well all day, but he still delivered a performance reminiscent of his first half. “What I did today is the location of my sinker was really, really good,” Colon said. “Every time I command that way, I will pitch the same way I was pitching the first half.”

• The only Angels run off Colon came after Derek Jeter’s throwing error in the fifth. “He wasn’t in trouble the entire day until I put him in trouble,” Jeter said. “… It’s a play that has to be made. It’s not a difficult play.”

• Girardi said the Angels simply guessed right on Eduardo Nunez’s stolen base attempt in the top of the ninth. Nunez was brought in to steal the bag, and the Angels pitched out at the right time. “That’s going to happen,” Girardi said. “He was pretty close to being safe, too.”

• Girardi on using Ramiro Pena instead of Nunez to play third base in the bottom of the ninth: “I was probably going to hit Chavy the next inning and put Chavy at third, so that’s what I decided to do. Nino’s played a little more third than Nuney over his career, so I just decided to do it that way.”

• To be clear, Alex Rodriguez is not hurt. He came out strictly to have Nunez run.

• Russell Martin seemed to have a runner picked off at first base in the ninth, but he didn’t throw. “I didn’t get a good grip on the ball,” he said. “If I get a better grip I’ll make an attempt, but a couple of times this year I’ve tried to throw with a mediocre grip and I’ve thrown the ball into right field. In that situation, you don’t want that to happen.”

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 101 Comments →

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