The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Postgame notes: A long, late night in Baltimore05.19.11

First, let’s take a moment to realize what happened tonight.

• A guy who came to spring training as an assumed-to-be-washed-up minor league free agent pitched eight shutout innings (and needed just 87 pitches to do it).
• The greatest closer of all time blew a save (then watched a series of largely unknown relievers dance out of every sort of danger).
• A kid made his major-league debut in the 12th inning of a 1-1 game and managed to pitch four scoreless (after striking out his first two batters, then promptly loading the bases, and knowing every batter was the potential game-winner).
• In quick succession a player was hit in the head by a fastball, tried to stay in the game, was replaced by a starting-pitcher-turned-pinch-runner, all while another starting pitcher came out of the other team’s bullpen to pitch in relief (oh, and a half inning later a base runner was hit by a ground ball for what was actually a key out).
• And the last out of the game was made by a backup infielder who was playing right field on a day when he started at shortstop ahead of a sure Hall of Famer (yet everything about that situation made perfect sense given the context and the events of the day).

“Honestly, yeah, (I’m glad it’s over),” Robinson Cano said. “I’m not going to lie. Especially going from Tampa, a long day in New York, Sunday night baseball. We get to Tampa 3 in the morning, get here at 2. But when you’re winning, you always have fun, even if you’re tired. We need to start winning series and put this together.”

Here’s Joe Girardi talking about a little of everything tonight.

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That pitch hitting Chris Dickerson was one of the scariest thing I’ve ever seen on a baseball field.

It wasn’t so much the pitch itself, it was the reaction. Girardi said Dickerson never lost consciousness, but the way he was blinking his eyes, it looked like he was just waking up while he was lying there in the dirt. Then Girardi tossed away the broken helmet, which wasn’t a good sign, and Dickerson stood up to reveal a big knot near his eye, which was a far worse sign.

“He said he was all right,” Girardi said. “But I was listening to Geno. Geno said he had to come out. Geno made the right call and took him to the hospital. Hopefully everything is okay.”

Dickerson went for a CT Scan and the Yankees should know more tomorrow. Girardi said Dickerson was lucid on the field, knew where he was and who he was, all that good stuff. I’m telling you, this place was silent.

“You have to assume that he’s probably got a concussion,” Girardi said. “We’ll see.”

My guess is that there’s a great desire to absolutely crush Girardi for bringing in Mariano Rivera when Bartolo Colon was pitching so well. I wrote in the game post — before Girardi made his move — that I would have stuck with Colon.

It’s an easy move to second-guess.

But let’s not pretend that’s an obvious or easy choice. The choices were a starting pitcher who was positively dealing, or Mariano Rivera himself. Either decision would have been perfectly justifiable, and either decision would have looked bad had the pitcher given up a run.

“Of course there’s a thought to leave him in there,” Girardi said. “But I have Mariano Rivera. That’s why I made the move.”

Luis Ayala and Boone Logan did their jobs after Rivera gave up the tying run, but my gosh, how good was Hector Noesi? In this game? Coming into that inning? When ever base runner was the winning run? That’s an incredible way to make a Major League debut, and an amazing way to make a first impression.

“I can’t imagine that, but I thank God,” Rivera said. “Thank God the job that he did. Well deserved. He did tremendous. He made good pitches at the end and he won the game… The whole game was a tremendous game. Only my participation wasn’t good.”

• After Dickerson was hit, Girardi said the only decision was which pitcher to use as a pinch runner. It was never going to be Jorge Posada because it’s a base-running situation and there was no sense burning the last position player in that spot. Girardi chose Burnett because he figured he had the most base-running experience, then he gave Burnett one instruction: Don’t get picked off.

• Mike Gonzalez was ejected for hitting Dickerson, but he stayed on the field and watched with some obvious fear on his face. Did Girardi think it was intentional? “I don’t get into that,” he said. “It’s just a scary part of the game when a guy gets hit there.” For whatever it’s worth, I find it hard to believe Gonzalez meant to do that.

• Noesi was good for 90 pitches. “He was going to have to get it done for us,” Girardi said.

• Can’t overlook the Mark Teixeira play that saved the game in the 11th. Alex Rodriguez made a nice stop, but his throw was way off line and it was all Teixeira could do to keep it from going into the outfield. Boone Logan took it from there. Two huge outs. To be honest, my “Yankees lose” game story was 100 percent ready to go at that point (and in the bottom of every inning after it, except the 15th).

• Rodriguez on why he threw the ball in the first place: “Make a play. At that point you’ve got to go crazy, you’ve got to make plays. That’s the way we play baseball, we attack.”

• Teixeira on the play: “Really, when I dove I said, ‘Just go in my glove. Just knock it down somehow.’ Luckily, I came up with it clean and we got out of the jam.”

• Colon was one inning away from his first complete game shutout since 2006. “That’s my best game so far (this year),” he said. “I thank God for the way I’m pitching right now. I wish I continue pitching that way.”

• What was wrong with Rivera? “A lot of things happened,” he said. “I didn’t make my pitches. Balls were finding holes. Bad day at the office.”

• Dave Robertson wasn’t supposed to be available tonight, but when those two runners were on base in the bottom of the 15th, Robertson was loose in the bullpen. He said he was ready to go and he assumed he was coming into the game had that ball not hit the base runner and given Noesi a gift second out. Girardi said Robertson might not be available tomorrow because of the pitches he threw in the bullpen tonight.

• Completely forgot to mention pregame that Thursday will be two weeks since the Eric Chavez injury. He’s due to be reexamined. “I think they talked about doing some functional stuff (as part of early rehab work),” Girardi said.

• The Orioles have lost to the Yankees five times this season, three of them in extra innings.

• I’m beyond tired. Get some sleep everyone. If you stayed up for all of this one, you really did see a pretty incredible baseball game.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Notes, Podcastwith 345 Comments →

Off day notes and links: Cashman speaks, doesn’t say much05.09.11

While I was flying all across the country today, Brian Cashman was in New Jersey for a Pinstripe Bowl charity golf tournament. He told reporters that Derek Jeter’s offensive saga, “has given other aspects of the offense some cover.”

As Joe Girardi said roughly 700 times last week, Jeter actually has one of the highest batting averages in the Yankees lineup.

A few other small notes to take from Cashman today:

On Luis Ayala: The GM said the Yankees are “ready to do something” with Ayala after a strong two-inning relief appearance for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last night. Cashman indicated the Yankees have to decide whether to activate Ayala in New York or option him to Triple-A.

On Boone Logan: Obviously the Yankees lone left-handed reliever is struggling, but Cashman has said many times that he doesn’t expect to be able to acquire anything significant before the June draft. “There’s no aspect of the club I’m worried about making changes on,” he said. “We’re still trying to decipher what is real, what isn’t real.”

On the lineup: Cashman indicated the Yankees are at least considering changes to the batting order. “I think we’re currently trying to determine and decipher where one through nine we need to be offensively,” he said.

Some other notes and links from today.

• While I was writing my previous post about the minor leagues, Jorge Vazquez ended his home run drought by hitting one in Buffalo. And just a few minutes after the post was finished, Vazquez hit another one.

• Good story from a good man: Pete Caldera wrote this weekend about Yankees traveling secretary Ben Tuliebitz and all that his job requires: Everything from player ticket requests to making sure a truck is ready to haul equipment.

• George Steinbrenner’s FBI file reveals that he cooperated with two investigations and blamed his illegal campaign contribution on bad legal advice. The Associated Press has the story.

• Heading to a Tampa Yankees game this season, or planning a trip to major league spring training next year? Check out this review of George M. Steinbrenner Field.

• Houston’s closer of the present is none other than the Yankees former closer of the future. Mark Melancon stepped into the closer role after Brandon Lyon went on the disabled list, and he’s converted his first big league save.

• I don’t have an account with the Sports Business Journal, but it’s reporting that Alex Rodriguez has signed with agent Dan Lozano, according to MLBTradeRumers.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 342 Comments →

Pregame notes: Granderson back up top vs. left-hander05.07.11

There was no last-minute adjustment this time. When Joe Girardi posted his lineup, he had Curtis Granderson in the No. 2 spot despite the fact Nick Swisher is healthy and the Rangers are using a left-handed starter. Granderson has been a different sort of hitter against lefties this season. His batting average and slugging percentage are actually higher against lefties than righties.

“To see a guy make an adjustment at his age, I don’t think it’s totally uncommon,” Girardi said. “I’ve seen guys that seemed to blossom a little bit later in their career, but you don’t see it every day. I think a lot of times by the time a guy is 27 or 28 you have pretty good idea of what you have, but Grandy made that little adjustment to simplify things and it really helped him.”

Granderson is hitting .276/.323/.759 against left-handers. His career slash line against them is .217/.276/.361. The change started right here in this very ballpark, where Granderson and Kevin Long began a series of mechanical adjustments that have shown lasting results. Granderson said that during batting practice yesterday, the guys around the cage were joking that he was right back where it all started.

“I thought, if things go well, we continue to work on what Kevin Long and myself did in this ballpark in August, there could be good things with it,” Granderson said. “Part of that could be the power, but just the hitting in general, taking advantage of opporunites (against) both lefties and righties, top of the lineup, bottom of the lineup, early in the game, late in the game. There really wasn’t one thing that what we tried to do last year with the changes that we were trying to focus on. Just more consistency.”

That consistency has given the Yankees a new alternative in their vs.-LHP lineup.

“Swish has had a ton of success off left-handers as well,” Girardi said. “I think it just makes our lineup deeper. If you want to pitch around Robbie, you’re getting a guy that’s going to hit left-handers and is a switch hitter. If you want to bring a left-hander in to face Robbie, he’s probably only going to face one guy. It makes our lineup, I think, a little deeper.”

• Girardi checked in with Swisher this morning to make sure he felt well enough to play. “I feel definitely better than I did yesterday,” Swisher said. “Absolutely.”

• Last night, Brett Gardner was trying a straight sacrifice with his first bunt, but he didn’t deaden it enough considering it was Jorge Posada running from second. Gardner’s second bunt of the night — the one he popped up — was Gardner bunting on his own looking for a hit.

• Luis Ayala is scheduled to pitch two innings tomorrow night as the next stage of his rehab assignment with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Girardi said the Yankees have to discuss whether that will be his last rehab outing, and whether they want to bring him back to the big league roster.

• Girardi said he’ll have no updates on Eric Chavez until he gets out of a protective boot in two weeks. The initial diagnosis, though, “was better than we anticipated,” Girardi said.

• Girardi said there was no consideration to calling up Jesus Montero after Chavez went on the disabled list. Bringing up Montero would essentially give the Yankees four players for two spots (catcher and DH) and leave them with just one backup infielder and one backup outfielder. “It’s good to see (Montero) get off to a good start because last year in Triple-A he got off to a slow start,” Girardi said. “It’s good to see him come out of the gates well, and we’ve always thought he was going to hit. That’s the one thing we always thought he was going to do, and he’s been doing that.”

• Probably doesn’t mean a lot for the Yankees because it was looking like he wouldn’t play in this series anyway, but the Rangers officially put Nelson Cruz on the disabled list.

• Another Bartolo Colon start, which means another steady series of fastballs in the strike zone. Colon mixes in occasionally changeups and sliders, but Girardi said he’s pitching more or less the same way he’s always pitched, leaning heavily on the fastball. “A located fastball with movement is still the best pitch in baseball,” Girardi said.

Ian Kinsler DH
Elvis Andrus SS
Michael Young 2B
Adrian Beltre 3B
David Murphy LF
Yorvit Torrealba C
Mitch Moreland RF
Chris Davis 1B
Julio Borbon CF

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 26 Comments →

Turning back the clock at Yankee Stadium04.18.11

I’ve written this more times than I care to count: The moment Cliff Lee signed with Philadelphia, the Yankees offseason went down the tubes. There was one player on the market who perfectly fit the Yankees greatest offseason need, and when he went somewhere else, there was no perfect replacement. The biggest names still on the board didn’t really fit this roster, and Brian Cashman didn’t find a trade he liked.

Cashman signed Russell Martin, Pedro Feliciano and Andruw Jones to fill immediate needs, and ownership dumped closer money on Rafael Soriano. The rest of the Yankees offseason was spent on minor league deals with players well past their prime. It was a strategy that was mocked — to put it nicely — but it’s worked out so far.

“One thing to remember is that all of these players were stars,” Billy Eppler told Joel Sherman. “If you are going to do a reclamation project then do it with these types of players because if there is still something there and it comes out, you are getting all or a big part of a star.”

Eric Chavez, Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have been immediate contributors. It remains to be seen whether they can stay healthy and productive, but they’ve shown enough to suggest there’s still something left in the tank. For low-risk signings, they’ve been better than expected.

Luis Ayala was a surprise addition to the Opening Day roster, and he pitched well as a mopup man. Gustavo Molina went from a zero-chance veteran catcher to a emergency option after injury and disappointment. Mark Prior didn’t make the big league roster, but he’s been promoted to Triple-A and looks shockingly like he might be a legitimate big league option at some point.

Neal Cotts was released after his physical sent up some red flags, Ronnie Belliard was released after it became clear he didn’t have a place with the team, and it remains to be seen whether Kevin Millwood or Carlos Silva can provide anything. At this point, though, Cashman’s low-risk moves have been worthwhile, not worth mocking.

Associated Press photo

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Rainout notes: Feliciano still “not there yet”04.12.11

Pedro Feliciano said he never felt pain during today’s throwing session, but he did feel a slight “pinch,” and that made him feel like something might not be quite right. Feliciano said his arm is usually very loose, and that pinch made him feel like “it wasn’t my arm.”

When he met with the doctor later — after he initially talked to the media — Feliciano spoke up about the pinch. The doctor then prodded near his shoulder, and Feliciano felt the same problem as before.

“I was so happy, jumping all over to play catch,” he said. “And then I came back, not sad, but I just came back with not the result that I want.”

This will be a more thorough MRI, and Feliciano is obviously disappointed. He’d never been on the disabled list before this season, and obviously you have to wonder if his workload with the Mets is finally catching up to him. But that’s an issue for another day. For now, the Yankees have to figure out how much longer they might be without him.

“It’s a concern because we were hoping after these two weeks that he would be able to take the next step, then the next step,” Joe Girardi said. “We’re just not there yet.”

Here’s Feliciano.

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• Luis Ayala has a strained lat. He felt it after Saturday’s game, and it was still tight on Sunday so he was tested today. He’ll go on the disabled list tomorrow. “Instead of saying that he might be back in 4-5 days, we’re just going to be smart and make sure we have enough pitching,” Girardi said.

• Is it possible the Yankees will use that roster spot to call-up a second lefty? “It’s a consideration,” Girardi said. “But we’ll probably take who we feel will help us the most right now.” Steve Garrison’s name obviously jumps to mind, but otherwise there’s not really an obvious candidate.

• Tomorrow’s game will not be a doubleheader. The Yankees have not announced a makeup date for tonight’s rainout. They will play single games Wednesday and Thursday.

• Speaking of which, A.J. Burnett will be bumped back to start tomorrow and Phil Hughes will pitch on Thursday. The Yankees haven’t set a rotation beyond Thursday. It’s possible Freddy Garcia could be skipped again on Friday to let Ivan Nova make that start, but it’s not certain.

• The Yankees have games the next five days, so Garcia should get a start during this home stand at some point.

• No problems with Alex Rodriguez, who had to skip Sunday’s game because he was sick. He was in the lineup, and he was still scheduled to play up until the moment the game was rained out. “He was good,” Girardi said. “He was smiling today; it was good to see him smiling, because he wasn’t smiling Sunday.”

• If you’re looking for good news on Feliciano, he said the two weeks off weren’t a complete waste. The doctor said his arm was legitimately stronger than when he left spring training. “It’s stronger from the bands and the weights and the treatment,” Feliciano said. “But he wants to see more deeper what’s in there with the MRI.”

• From the meaningless information department: Dave Robertson has moved lockers, moving just a few feet to the corner of the clubhouse. He was on Boone Logan’s right, now he’s on Boone Logan’s left. Said he just felt like taking that locker instead. Fair enough.

Associated Press photo of the rainy stadium

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Pregame notes: Not a perfect day, but good enough03.31.11

It’s cold and the tarp is still on the field, but right now, the consensus seems to be that the Yankees will be able to play this afternoon. The rain has stopped, and this window should stay open long enough to get started. Given tomorrow’s forecast, Joe Girardi said “you have to do everything you can do to play today.”

Not a perfect day for baseball, but it’s probably good enough.

Welcome to Opening Day. Curtis Granderson arrived last night, the Yankees have A-lineup taking the field and they have their ace on the mound.

“It’s just a new beginning,” Derek Jeter said. “It’s like that every season. All of us as players get butterflies and get a little nervous going into Opening Day. It’s something we all look forward to. Then again, it’s something we want to get behind us and get into the swing of the season. A lot of excitement. You think back to when you were a kid in Little League, you look forward to Opening Day. I’ve said it time and time again, Opening Day here seems like it’s a little more special.”

For the Yankees, there is comfort in handing the ball to CC Sabathia. He has yet to win on Opening Day in pinstripes, but there are few better to matchup against Justin Verlander.

“He understands what he was brought here to do,” Girardi said. “And he relishes in his role of being the ace, the No. 1 guy.”

• Granderson said he got six or seven at-bats yesterday. He also played the field for about six innings and ran the bases after he was done. “Everything’s feeling good,” he said. The outfield might be a little wet today, but Granderson said the only way he won’t play will be if the Yankees don’t play.

• A.J. Burnett is still a little sick, but the Yankees still expect him to start on Saturday. “He’s still sick, but we’ll let nature take its course,” Girardi said.

• The decision to carry Luis Ayala over Steve Garrison had to do with experience. Garrison is a lefty with a spot on the 40-man, but he’s rarely pitched out of the bullpen and he has five games of experience above Double-A. Ayala look good this spring, and he has 377 games of big league experience.

• Jorge Posada will begin trying to find his designated hitter routine — which will surely be much different now that he has all that a major league stadium can provide — but Girardi said Posada was “relaxed” this spring and seems ready for the new role.

• Speaking of Posada, once again, Girardi was asked about the possibility of using Posada as a third catcher: “I guess if it was an emergency situation you’d probably put him in there ahead of Nunez,” Girardi said. Basically, don’t hold your breath waiting for Posada to catch this season.

• Sabathia could go 110-115 pitches if necessary.

• How good is Verlander? “I’d rate his stuff as good as anyone’s,” Girardi said. “You have to make this guy work.”

• It’s legitimately cold at Yankee Stadium, and Jeter did his part to keep expectations low. “The pitchers have a huge advantage,” he said, before immediately laughing.

Austin Jackson CF
Will Rhymes 2B
Magglio Ordonez RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Ryan Raburn LF
Jhonny Peralta SS
Brandon Inge 3B
Alex Avila C

Associated Press photos of Jeter during yesterday’s workout and Sabathia from his appearance on Letterman

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Noteswith 451 Comments →

Girardi’s take on today’s decisions03.28.11

A few comments from Joe Girardi about today’s decisions.

Sending Jesus Montero and Austin Romine to the minors

“We thought it was more beneficial for them to play every day instead of maybe just getting a couple starts in the month of April. When you look at those two young guys, we consider them front-line catchers in the big leagues some day. These are two guys that worked extremely hard, and I believe they’ll go down with the correct attitude. There’s got to be disappointment, that’s the bottom line, because you want to be here so bad. They seem to understand and will go down with the right attitude.”

Different decision if they had played better this spring?

“I can’t tell you. I saw improvement out of both of them; a lot of improvement since last year. Montero got more at-bats than Romine. I think Montero is a much better player than what he showed, offensivey. I think he pressed. I told him, ‘When you do come up one day, try to learn from this experience.’ It’s easy to say and it’s hard to do, not to press. You can only do what you can do.

“It’s possible we would have taken one of them, but we want them to play every day. We want when they come up, not to have to go back. These are guys we believe are everyday players.”

Choosing Eric Chavez as the backup corner infielder

“That one’s pretty evident. With the spring that he had, we feel that he’s healthy and we feel that it’s a good bat on a day that we rest Alex or Tex. You’ve got a pretty big bat there. We’re really pleased with what he did.”

Picking Eduardo Nunez over Ramiro Pena as the utility infielder

“We thought (Nunez) had a better spring. He played pretty well in the month of September last year, he’s probably a little bit better of a base stealer, he’s hit more in his career in the minor leagues. He swung the bat pretty good here last year. As I told Nino, this is a decision we’re making now. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way June 1 or May 1.”

Leaving Mark Prior in Tampa

“We’re going to leave him in Tampa just because of the weather. It’s the first time he’s ever relieved. Eventually, you want him to get to where he can give you more than one inning and go back-to-back. The weather is much more predictable here. It’s warmer for a guy that has never had to be on somewhat of a time limit when he warms up, so we thought it was beneficial for him to be here. It took him a little bit by surprise, but he understood the reasoning. I don’t think he thought he was going to A-ball. We told him the reasons why and as soon as the weather gets better – at least reasonable – we’ll move him.”

Finding a replacement for Pedro Feliciano

“That decision may not be made until Wednesday night because you wait to see what shakes out. You have (Luis) Ayala, and (Steve) Garrison as well, so if it’s one of those two, they’ll probably fly up on Wednesday.”

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 84 Comments →

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