For good reason, there’s already been plenty of talk in Yankees camp about the defensive shift. Not about the ways the Yankees might use the shift this season, but about the ways the might try to beat it.
“We’ve talked about it as an organization,” Joe Girardi said. “We will discuss things with players. This is the adjustment defenses have made, and we need to make (offensive) adjustments too. I’m not asking you to be something you’re not. I’m not going to ask you to do something that you’re not comfortable doing, but it’s something that we need to have discussions about and see how we attack it.”
Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira in particular have lost plenty of hits because of shifted infielders. Their thoughts:
McCann: “I want to hit the ball where it’s pitched. It’s not necessarily that I’m going to try to go up there and hit the ball to left field. If it’s away from me, it needs to go to left field. If they come in on me, I need to be able to pull it, but pull correctly. If you pull correctly, you create back spin which is going to help you hit home runs. … If I hit two or three singles in a row to left field, they’re going to continue to play the shift because that’s where my power is. That’s just the way it is and whether that takes a couple of points off my batting average, if I take the approach I have day in and day out for 500 at-bats, at the end of the year things will be there.”
Teixeira: “Thoughts on (beating) the shift? Hit more home runs, hit more doubles, and walk more. We’ve talked about it ad nauseam. Every time I try to slap the ball the other way, it doesn’t go well for anybody. That’s what the other team wants. They want to take a middle-of-the-order power hitter and turn him into a slap hitter. So if I can hit more home runs, more doubles, walk more, that takes care of the shift. I don’t want to ground out to second base. That’s not what I’m trying to do up there.”
It goes without saying that it’s good to use the whole field, good to take what the defense is giving, and it’s bad to hit ground balls to an area crowded with defenders. The Yankees obviously agree with those principles, but they also seem focused on sticking with a player’s strengths.
“The biggest thing for me is don’t let it get in your head and don’t force things,” new hitting coach Jeff Pentland said today. “Obviously the ability to use the whole field is important. I’m not going to stand here and tell you we’re going to try to force things through the infield or through the shift. We’ve still got to go up there and hit the ball, but there are things we’ll spend time on.”
• Girardi met face-to-face with Alex Rodriguez today. Girardi said he told A-Rod that he would get all the spring at-bats “that he could physically handle.” Girardi also told Rodriguez that he would play some third base this spring, and formally asked him to get some reps at first base. “He’s willing to do anything,” Girardi said.
• Mark Teixeira on working with Rodriguez: “I’m looking forward to working with him over there. Alex and I have been friends for a long time now. I’ll enjoy working with him over there. It’s funny; I was a rookie when Alex was the best player in the world. He got to teach me some things, and now I’m going to be able to teach him some things at first.”
• According to Girardi, the plan is for Rodriguez to play in either the first or second game this spring. The Yankees will not hold him out of games when the exhibition schedule starts. They want him to start getting at-bats right away.
• Pentland on Rodriguez: “I’ve always been a big fan of Alex, are you kidding? … I don’t think he’s going to have that many issues. He was born to hit. That’s the way I feel about him.”
• As usual, Girardi said the Yankees have reached out to National League teams for permission to use a designated hitter in road games against N.L. teams in spring training. Typically, teams are perfectly happy to do that in the first half of the spring schedule. Girardi said some teams aren’t willing to do it as the schedule gets closer to Opening Day. I would expect, though, that there will be a DH when the Yankees open the exhibition schedule against the Phillies on Tuesday.
• Mariano Rivera is expected to be in Yankees camp for nine or 10 days. “He has free rein to help out as much as he can,” Girardi said. “I think the advice that he’ll give young players should be something they should listen to.”
• In full uniform, Rivera watched bullpens and then shagged some fly balls today. I wouldn’t hold out hope for an Andy Pettitte-like return, but it’s hard not to think of it. “I joked with him,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘The last time a guy like you came to spring training, he made two days of coaches meetings and then he went home for three days and decided he wanted to pitch again. So I’m just curious to see how long you’re going to make it in our meetings.’”
• I watched Gary Tuck leading catching drills for a while this afternoon. That group gets pretty intense, and both Joe Girardi and Tony Pena seem to love watching it. Worth noting that each day the Yankees update a contest for which catchers have the fewest drops in camp so far. Right now, three catchers still have zero, and it’s the three big league guys: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine.
• Pitchers going to the minor league complex to face hitters tomorrow: Andrew Miller, Adam Warren, Jose Ramirez, Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody, Diego Moreno, James Pazos and Danny Burawa. Austin Romine is heading over there with them, presumably to catch some guys.
• Final word goes to Teixeira: “We have the talent in here. There’s a lot of teams that would love to have our roster right now. It takes talent, it takes health, it takes execution. We have the talent, so it’s the health and execution are the ones we’re going to work on this year. I think we all believe in each other here.”
Associated Press photos
Had a pretty good spot for Luis Severino’s bullpen this afternoon. Here’s some video from directly behind the catcher. Also, a few very quick notes from today’s final workout of only pitchers and catchers. We’ll have more in-depth notes later this afternoon. For now, five things from today:
1. Everyone has reported on time, and everyone has passed the physical. Seems like there’s usually at least one player with a travel issue or something else keeping him from being in camp when it opens. This time, Joe Girardi said, everyone has arrived with no issues.
2. Mariano Rivera is expected to be in camp for nine or 10 days serving as a guest instructor. Much like his late playing day, Rivera basically has the green light to do or say whatever he wants. Girardi said he jokingly asked Rivera if he wanted to make some road trips now that he’s a coach. Don’t bank on that happening.
3. New hitting coach Jeff Pentland introduced himself to the beat writers after today’s workout. He talked for a little while about being excited to work with Alex Rodriguez and about his views on the defensive shift. One comment that stood out: “I’m only a good hitting coach if we have good players.” That’s really true.
4. A few pitchers will skip morning meetings tomorrow — stuff they’ve already heard — and will instead go to the minor league complex to face hitters. Just trying to maximize the time, Girardi said. Andrew Miller and Adam Warren will be among those heading over to the complex.
5. Girardi said he expects to have some intrasquad games before the exhibition schedule begins next week. He expects Rodriguez to play in either the first or second Grapefruit League game.
Pinch hitting: Shailen Shah • 02.14.15
Today’s Pinch Hitter is Shailen Shah, a sophomore undergraduate student at American University in Washington, D.C. Originally from New Jersey, he’s been a Yankee fan “from birth.” He’s visited 20 Major League stadiums and hopes to work in baseball after school.
The key to his post is this fact: Shailen’s never lived a day in his life when a member of the Core Four was not a part of the Yankees organization.
Four young stars were independently called up from Triple-A Columbus to get a taste of the big leagues. A tall southpaw from Texas was first. A skinny starting pitcher from Panama was second. A few short days later, a young kid from Michigan go the call. A fiery catcher for Puerto Rico was the last.
Separately, each one had an incredible career. Together, they were the backbone of a dynasty and organizational staples for most of two decades. Affectionately, Yankees fans know these men as the Core Four.
This will be the first year since ’95 that the Yankees will not have at least one of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte on their roster. The dynamic of the team will be different, yet the marks those four left on the franchise and the game of baseball will remain eternal. What separates these individuals from the other great players of their generation is their desire to win above all else, and their respect for the game.
January is always an exciting month for baseball fans because there is so much discussion about the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yankee fans in particular are eager for the near future years when members of the Core Four become eligible for Cooperstown. In 2019 and 2020, Yankees fans know exactly what to expect when Rivera and Jeter undoubtedly become first-ballot electees. The more interesting cases lie with their other two long-time teammates.
What can Yankee fans expect?
A teary-eyed Posada walked out of the Yankees’ clubhouse for a final time in 2011. A season that saw the former all-star catcher move to the designated hitter spot, ended with a tremendous individual postseason against the Detroit Tigers. Posada was a leader in the Yankees’ clubhouse for 17 seasons. His fiery personality was a contrast to the quiet leadership of Yankees captain Jeter. Posada didn’t walk into 2011 knowing it would be his final season. He actually didn’t make a formal retirement announcement until 2012. Yankee fans never got the opportunity to say goodbye to their beloved catcher. However, fans can expect that Posada will soon have his day at the Stadium with his number likely being retired.
Posada is a borderline Hall of Famer. His strongest cases will be made on the premise that many of his statistics (doubles, OPS, OBP, home runs, walks) rank in the top 10 among catchers. His five all-star selections and five Silver Slugger awards don’t hurt his case either. Unquestionably, he was also a leader in the clubhouse and an integral part of five championship teams.
The case against Posada is that he was never the best catcher of his time. His statistics, particularly his batting average, don’t pass the eye-test for Cooperstown. When the time comes, the decision will ultimately be left to the members of the BBWAA whether to permit Posada into the halls of Cooperstown.
Pettitte, the winningest pitcher in postseason history with 19 wins, stepped off the mound for the final time in 2013 along with his longtime friend and teammate Rivera. Pettitte, unlike the other three members of the Core Four, didn’t play his entire career with the Yankees. Pettitte spent some time in Houston, came back to New York and left the game following the 2010 season only to return in 2012 after feeling an “itch” to pitch again. He ultimately announced he was going to retire with just over a week left in the 2013 season. While the Yankees got a brief chance to thank Pettitte during the final week of the 2013 season, one week is certainly insufficient. For this, we can expect that Pettitte too will have his own special day at Yankee Stadium. He will likely have his number retired, too.
Much like his longtime battery-mate Posada, Pettitte is a borderline Hall of Famer. His postseason success and his 256 regular season victories provide Pettitte’s strongest case. Pettitte never pitched a season with a losing record and was also a three-time all-star. That said, Pettitte was never the best pitcher of his time and his appearance on the Mitchell Report could certainly hurt his cause, particularly given the negative reception other players linked to PEDs have received in the Cooperstown discussion.
On a sunny Sunday at Fenway Park this past September, this era in Yankees history ended. A quartet of friends, teammates and Yankee greats have sealed their fates in the hearts of Yankees fans and likely on the walls of Monument Park. Fans have started wondering what the new core of the team will be. Perhaps a combination of Rob Refsnyder, Luis Severino, John Ryan Murphy and Aaron Judge? Out of respect for what the Core Four accomplished, Yankees fans must realize and accept that there likely won’t be another “core four” in the near future — and that’s OK!
That doesn’t mean there won’t be other leaders on the team. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be another crop of solid homegrown players. It just means that four homegrown players playing together for so long and winning so many games is not likely in today’s game.
We can however, be grateful for what the Core Four meant to the Yankees franchise. Maybe one day, the Core Four will once again be reunited in the halls of Cooperstown.
Associated Press photos
Didn’t really expect to run a Mariano Rivera post as part of this year’s Pinch Hitters series, but I actually thought Mark’s post this morning carried some weight this winter.
Mark wrote about Rivera’s longevity, and as the Yankees look ahead to the 2015 season, longevity just might be their biggest issue. Their major investments this offseason were four-year deals with Andrew Miller and Chase Headley, but their most significant investments remain the multi-year contracts signed during past offseasons.
The longevity of Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia — their ability to remain productive, or become productive again, late in their careers — will be key to the Yankees season.
Andy Pettitte found a way to do it. Derek Jeter did it until the very end. Rivera, as Mark noted, did it consistently from start to finish.
A post about Mariano Rivera might not have seemed like a strong fit for this offseason, but a post about longevity and late-career consistency absolutely fits with the Yankees current roster.
As for the major Yankees events of the past week…
• The big news of the week was the signing of Max Scherzer to a seven-year, $210-million deal with the Nationals. The agreement officially ends any speculation that the Yankees might get into the Scherzer sweepstakes. It’s also a massive contract that will actually be paid out over the course of 14 years instead of seven. Scherzer’s signing leaves James Shields as the only real standout left on the free agent market.
• Bringing back the kind of eye-rolling attention he’s mostly avoided during the past year, it was reported this week that Alex Rodriguez has worked out with Barry Bonds this offseason. Rodriguez has also reportedly worked with Edgar Martinez as he tries to regain his form after a year-long suspension. Rodriguez is hardly the first big league hitter to get tips from Bonds, but obviously it generates some attention when two of the game’s most notorious PED users are working together.
• The Yankees have held a private workout for Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada, who could get the largest signing bonus ever given to an international amateur. The 19-year-old infielder will likely become on of baseball’s top 25 prospects upon signing, but he still has to be cleared by the government to become truly available. The Yankees are believed to be one of the favorites to get him.
• Reliever Gonzalez Germen was designated for assignment after the Yankees acquired Chris Martin. This week, the Yankees sold his rights to Texas, which promptly designated him for assignment after acquiring a new catcher. Quite a winter for Gonzalez, who entered this offseason as a member of the Mets.
• YES Network officially announced that it’s reached an agreement to switch over-the-air broadcasts from MY9 to WPIX, which is Channel 11. PIX11 will televise approximately 20 games this season, and its broadcast schedule will be announced at a later date.
• Speaking of broadcasts, Yankees radio play-by-play man John Sterling’s apartment building was hit by a massive fire on Wednesday night. Sterling was not hurt and was just returning home as the fire began to engulf the building.
Associated Press photos
Pinch hitting: Mark Braff • 01.24.15
Today’s Pinch Hitter is Mark Braff, who describes himself as “a loyal Yankees fan since 1965.” Mark wrote that, as he watched Steve Whitaker, Horace Clarke, Roger Repoz and Co. in those early days, he could hardly imagine the pennants and championships to come in the next few decades. True story, in a follow-up email sent just yesterday, Mark wrote the following: “One thing that can be added to my bio (if it’s not too late) is that my favorite Yankee of all-time is Mel Stottlemyre. I sponsor his page on Baseball Reference. I’m always looking to give Stott a shout-out since his very noteworthy pitching accomplishments have been largely lost in the haze of the ‘down years’ from ’65-75.” So there ya go, Mark’s a big Stott fan.
Truth be told, Mark’s post was supposed to run next week, but I liked it as a follow-up to yesterday’s post about the Yankees year-by-year WAR leaders. For his post, Mark wrote about one of the players featured prominently on yesterday’s graphic, and he attempted to answer this question: What made Mariano Rivera so exceptional?
There are few baseball fans and insiders who would argue against the statement that Mariano Rivera was the greatest relief pitcher of all-time. And yet in 2012 and again in 2014, we saw that Rivera was more or less replaceable as Rafael Soriano and then David Robertson admirably filled the closer’s role for the Yankees.
So how could someone who is the consensus choice as “best ever” be so seamlessly replaced?
The answer lies in Rivera’s longevity and postseason greatness; his ability to remain at the top of his craft for such a prolonged period of time and to take his game to an other-worldly level in the playoffs.
In any given regular season during Rivera’s remarkable run as the Yankees’ closer from 1997 through 2013, there were other closers around baseball who were just as good, and in some cases even better. But with one exception (more on that in a moment) Rivera was unique in standing among the very best closers in the game for the full 16-year period.
To illustrate the point I thought it would be interesting to look at the top five saves leaders for each of those 16 years (actually 15 since Rivera was injured for almost all of 2012). Saves are not the be-all-and-end-all yardstick to determine a relief pitcher’s value, but for this exercise it serves as a useful metric to get a snapshot of baseball’s premier closers at any given time.
So let’s take a look:
1997 - Randy Myers (45), Rivera (44), Jeff Shaw (42), Trevor Hoffman (37), Rod Beck (37).
1998 - Hoffman (53), Beck (51), Shaw (48), Tom Gordon (46), Troy Percival (42), John Wetteland (42). Rivera had 36.
1999 - Rivera (45), Wetteland (43), Roberto Hernandez (43), Ugueth Urbina (4), Hoffman (40).
2000 - Antonio Alfonseca (45), Hoffman (43), Todd Jones (42), Derek Lowe (42), Robb Nen (41), Armando Benitez (41). Rivera had 36.
2001 - Rivera (50), Kazuhiro Sasaki (45), Nen (45), Benitez (43), Hoffman (43), Shaw (43).
2002 - John Smoltz (55), Eric Gagne (52), Mike Williams (46), Jose Mesa (45), Eddie Guardado (45). Rivera had 28.
2003 - Gagne (55), Smoltz (45), Billy Wagner (44), Keith Foulke (43), Guardado (41). Rivera had 40.
2004 - Rivera (53), Francisco Cordero (49), Jason Isringhausen (47), Benitez (47), Gagne (45).
2005 - Cordero (47), Francisco Rodriguez (45), Bob Wickman (45), Rivera (43), Hoffman (43), Joe Nathan (43).
2006 - Rodriguez (47), Hoffman (46), Bobby Jenks (41), Wagner (40), B.J. Ryan (38). Rivera had 34.
2007 - Jose Valverde (47), Joe Borowski (45), Cordero (44), Hoffman (42), Rodriguez (40), Jenks (40), J.J. Putz (40). Rivera had 30.
2008 - Rodriguez (62), Valverde (44), Joakim Soria (42), Jonathan Papelbon (41), Brian Wilson (41), Brad Lidge (41). Rivera had 39.
2009 - Brian Fuentes (48), Nathan (47), Rivera (44), Heath Bell (42), Cordero (39).
2010 - Wilson (48), Bell (47), Soriano (45), Soria (43), Matt Capps (42). Rivera had 33.
2011 - Valverde (49), Craig Kimbrel (46), John Axford (46), Putz (45), Rivera (44).
2012 - Rivera injured in May.
2013 - Kimbrel (50), Jim Johnson (50), Greg Holland (47), Rivera (44), Soriano (43), Nathan (43).
Some of these names read like a list of ghosts from closers past. Ugueth Urbina? Todd Jones? Keith Foulke? Even former Yankee great — note: I refer to all former Yankees as “former Yankee great” — Bob Wickman!
In fairness, the one exception mentioned earlier — Trevor Hoffman — had a long and distinguished career as San Diego’s closer from 1994-2009; a great run.
But here’s where I’ll throw in the tiebreaker which tilts in Rivera’s favor: Hoffman was very pedestrian in his four years appearing in the postseason, while Rivera pitched to an astounding 0.70 ERA in October across 96 games and 141 innings with 42 saves. Postseason opposing lineups, by definition, are generally among the best and deepest in the game, and of course the late innings of these games are pressure-cookers. And yet Rivera somehow elevated his performance.
And, so, while it’s true that Mariano Rivera has proven to be replaceable for any given regular season, I think it’s also safe to say that his longevity as a premiere closer, combined with his astonishing postseason performance, make him the greatest shut-down reliever we are ever likely to see.
Associated Press photos
As details of the Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval deals filtered through the internet yesterday, a friend sent this text message: “Remember when the Red Sox went (overboard) in the winter 2010? Traded for Adrian Gonzalez? Got (Carl) Crawford? Yankees responded with…”
The ellipsis was his own, essentially a stand-in for a question mark. His point was this: What exactly did the Yankees do the last time the Red Sox got incredibly aggressive during an offseason?
So lets flash back to the winter of 2010-11…
What the Red Sox did: Most notably, they traded young talent for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year deal. Those two additions were in place before the end of the Winter Meetings (kind of like the Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval deals this offseason). The Red Sox also signed Jason Varitek to one last contract, and they brought in Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler to add bullpen depth (in a relatively minor move at the time, they also signed Andrew Miller).
What others thought: At the time, the Red Sox seemed to have built a powerhouse. They seemed deep in the lineup, in the rotation and in the bullpen. Sports Illustrated picked them to win the World Series. Of course, we now know that the end result was a total mess, but at the time, it looked like the Red Sox were building a juggernaut and the Yankees would have to keep up.
What the Yankees did: It was actually a pretty busy winter for the Yankees. Trading Juan Miranda to the Diamondbacks was only the beginning! The biggest moves, though, weren’t necessarily additions and it’s hard to classify any of these moves as direct reactions to the Red Sox (except maybe one unexpected splash for a player who seemed completely off the radar until he was suddenly on the roster).
These were the Yankees major moves in the winter of 2010-11, the last time the Red Sox went on an offseason spending spree:
1. Re-sign Derek Jeter — This was essentially The Captain’s final contract. It was a three-year deal with an option for a fourth year (rather than exercise that option, Jeter technically signed a new deal for 2014, but it comes down to the same thing). Coming off a bad 2010, Jeter was given four more seasons. He gave the Yankees a solid 2011, a very good 2012, an injured 2013 and a disappointing but memorable 2014.
2. Re-sign Mariano Rivera — This was supposed to be Rivera’s final contract. He signed a two-year deal that would take him through his age-42 season (which seemed perfect for the game’s final No. 42), but after injuring his knee in 2012, Rivera decided to come back for a farewell season. Without the injury, the two-year deal signed in December of 2010 would have been a success. Rivera was as good as ever in 2011 and was off to a strong start in 2012.
3. Sign Russell Martin — This was the initial one-year deal, with the Yankees having Martin under team control for a second year because of arbitration eligibility. Martin had an OK season. He was an all-star and hit for power, but his batting average was down. The Yankees brought him back for one more season, his average dipped even more, and Martin left for Pittsburgh.
4. Sign Pedro Feliciano — This was a total mess. Coming off three straight seasons in which he led the league in games pitched, Feliciano landed a two-year deal with the Yankees, who needed left-handed help in the bullpen. Feliciano was, of course, injured by the time the Yankees broke camp and he never pitched a single inning for the team. Boone Logan, instead, emerged as the go-to lefty.
5. Sign Rafael Soriano — I remember this one quite well because I’m the one who happened to be on the phone with Brian Cashman when he finally seemed to lose his patience with all of the questions about possibly signing Soriano. “I will not lose our No. 1 draft pick,” Cashman told me. “I would have for Cliff Lee. I won’t lose our No. 1 draft pick for anyone else.” Within a few days, Cashman was overruled, a draft pick was gone, and Soriano was in the Yankees bullpen.
6. Sign Bartolo Colon/Freddy Garcia — Two separate signings based on the same idea. The Yankees knew they needed additional rotation depth, and they went looking for it in unlikely places. Colon hadn’t pitched in the big leagues in more than a year, and Garcia had been extremely limited in three of the previous four seasons. Of course, both wound up pitching well that year, with Colon in particular launching a stunning career resurgence.
7. Sign Eric Chavez — Once a star player in Oakland, Chavez had been hurt so often that there were questions about whether he could even handle a part-time role at this point. The Yankees took a shot and got a decent but predictably injury shortened year off the bench. It was the next year that Chavez returned to the Yankees and delivered a truly impressive bounce-back season.
8. Sign Andruw Jones — His second year with the Yankees was kind of a mess, which makes it easy to forget that Jones was actually really good in his first year. The Yankees didn’t finalize their deal with Jones until spring training — he had a locker before he officially had a spot on the roster — and he delivered a .286/.384/.540 slash line against lefties.
Nine fairly significant signings — even if one of them never actually got on the field — but it’s hard to label any one of them a direct reaction to the Red Sox maneuvering. Certainly re-signing Jeter and Rivera had nothing to do with Boston, signing Martin had more to do with internal concerns about Jorge Posada, the Soriano signing didn’t happen until more than a month after the Red Sox big additions, and the other deals were basically attempts at bargain hunting. Seems likely we’ll see more of the same this offseason as the Yankees seem poised to stick with their original plan rather than spend recklessly based on the Red Sox signing two players the Yankees were never really after in the first place.
Associated Press and USA Today photos
Yankees postgame: So Alex, your thoughts? • 08.10.13
We were all waiting around A-Rod’s locker for a comment about the reception he got here tonight during the 4-3 win in 10 over the Tigers. But we were finally told by media relations director Jason Zillo that Rodriguez had left.
Joe Girardi did speak about the boos and the cheers for his lightning rod at third.
“It was probably 50-50, maybe a little more cheers,” Girardi said. “It’s something he has to be able to put out of his mind and be a player for us.”
Rodriguez wasn’t a very effective player for them in this game. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He’s now 3 for 15 since his return.
Mariano Rivera hasn’t been effective the last two games, blowing back-to-back saves for the first time since April 2011. Miguel Cabrera got him for a two-run homer to tie it at 3-3 in the ninth.
“You’re talking about one of the great hitters,” Rivera said.
The Yankees won it on Brett Gardner’s two-out walk-off single. That stopped their four-game losing streak and the Tigers’ 12-game winning streak. It also saved the Yankees from falling to .500. They’re up to 58-56.
“We haven’t been playing good baseball for a couple of months,” Gardner said. “Sometime you have to keep winning or you’ll be out of it.”
Robinson Cano had two RBI on a double. He had driven in two runs in his previous 15 games combined.
The pitching matchup later today will be Phil Hughes and Anibal Sanchez.
Associated Press photo.
Support for A-Rod • 06.06.13
“We haven’t had him the last two months,” Brett Gardner said. “It won’t change anything.”
You would think Rodriguez would appeal if there’s a penalty. But if a ban is announced, as Tuesday’s ESPN report indicated it would be for Rodriguez and about a total of 20 players over alleged ties to PEDs, the attitude in the clubhouse will be forgiving. That’s what CC Sabathia indicated.
“I think it’ll be support,” Sabathia said. “Everybody makes mistakes. We’ll just have to wait and see. But I think there will be nothing but love and support in here.”
Gardner said Rodriguez is like a brother to the players. Mariano Rivera said he doesn’t think he will bring up the current situation with Rodriguez, but he’s open to listening if A-Rod wants to share his thoughts.
Asked if he has sympathy for Rodriguez, who always seems to be in the middle of some controversy, the closer said, “He’s my friend. Besides that, he’s my teammate also. Definitely it’s not easy. It’s not easy to be on the cameras or in the papers, always being chased. But at the same time, all I have to do is support.”
Here’s a link to my full story today on this matter, complete with Terry Francona’s thoughts on who’s to blame, plus an attached video at the top that I shot of Joe Girardi talking about the situation. Also, here’s a link to my story today about Sabathia feeling encouraged after his last two starts, including yesterday’s complete game. I also shot a video of Girardi talking about Sabathia with that one. Thanks for reading the last three days. Chad will be back later to take you through the West Coast trip.
Yankees bullpen throws zeroes • 05.15.13
After Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Mariners (my story on their 11th comeback win and surviving a King Felix start), the relievers hadn’t given up a run over their last nine games, covering 23 2/3 innings. Their combined ERA for May is 0.77 (three earned runs in 35 innings). The group has 36 strikeouts and seven walks to show for this stretch.
“It’s unbelievable,” CC Sabathia said. “We knew coming into the season that would be one of the strong points on the team. They haven’t disappointed.”
Shawn Kelley came in for Sabathia Tuesday night with runners at the corners and one gone in the seventh. Strikeout. Line out. Inning over. The righty has fanned seven of the last nine batters he has faced. He owns 25 Ks in 15 1/3 innings this season.
Mariano Rivera came on for the ninth. Fly ball. Fly ball. K. Game over. The 43-year-old greatest-of-all-time closer is off to a 16-for-16 start on saves after 39 games. It’s the fewest number of team games he has needed to reach 16 saves. The latest save made him 35 for his last 35 at home and 17 for 17 at home against Seattle in his career.
Overall, the Yankees are now 8-2 in one-run games.
“I think winning those games are extremely important,” Joe Girardi said. “Those games can have a real effect when you start losing them.
“Our bullpen has done a great job for us this year. We’ve had a lot of close games. Mo has 16 saves already. That’s quite a pace that he’s on. We haven’t had to use him in games where we’re not winning because he’s got so many opportunities. The ones that you’re ahead, you need to win. If you want to play in the month of October, you have to win those games.”
Photo by The Associated Press.
Hiroki Kuroda somehow managed to last seven innings and 108 pitches after throwing 67 in the first three. He has great survival skills.
The 38-year-old righty stranded seven Astros in the first three innings.
“Today, like my last outing, my balance was off mechanically,” Kuroda said. “My release point was off, too.”
But Larry Rothschild made a suggestion — work from the stretch all the time. Kuroda doesn’t like doing that, but he followed what he was told. And he retired 14 of his last 15 batters. He ended up allowing no runs, four hits and four walks, and he fanned eight. So after this 7-4 win, his April looked like this: six starts, 4-1, 2.25 ERA.
Travis Hafner’s April looked like this: .318, six homers, 17 RBI, 21 hits. The RBI and hit totals were his best in a calendar month since September 2007.
“I think swing-wise, it’s gotten a little more consistent as the season has gone on,” Hafner said. “It’s been great playing here. I’m really enjoying it.”
Joe Girardi is enjoying the view of his new 35-year-old DH: “You just see that his approach is good. He has been great in that four-hole for us. With all the people that we have out, he’s really done a good job in our lineup.”
Ichiro Suzuki is helping out in the lineup again. He went 3 for 5 and is batting .407 (11 for 27) in his last seven games. This run has boosted his average 68 points, from .200 to .268.
Eduardo Nunez started the night at .169, but he had three hits to move to .203. It marked his first multihit game since April 4. He had two doubles, one more than his extra-base hit total for the season coming in.
Mariano Rivera had his best April ever for saves, going 10 for 10 after getting the final out in this game. Does he really have to retire?