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?
The Yankees were a bit relieved to get out of town without getting swept by the Red Sox in this opening series.
“I thought it was pretty important or I probably wouldn’t have said it in the pregame,” Joe Girardi said after the 4-2 win. “You don’t hear me say that very often. We’re going to Detroit and Cleveland. We have a seven-day road trip, seven games. Detroit is a good team and Cleveland is much improved. You don’t want to leave your home park going 0-3. That’s for sure.”
This was like old times, Andy Pettitte starting and Mariano Rivera saving it for him. It was the 69th time in the regular season, extending the record for the tandem, but the first time since July 8, 2010, thanks to Pettitte’s one-season retirement in 2011 and Rivera’s knee injury in 2012. It was win No. 246 for Pettitte and save No. 609 for Rivera.
“These two have been doing it a long time together,” Girardi said. “As a fan, I appreciate what these two have done together, the amount of saves that Mo has for Andy’s wins, the amount of wins that Andy has, his postseason wins.”
Rivera was a bit shaky in his first real game in almost a year. He started his final season by allowing a leadoff walk, a one-out double and a run-scoring groundout, but he ultimately protected the lead.
“That’s a lot of emotions there, but at the same time, you have to control that,” Rivera said of his return. “I have to be able to do that because we still have to finish the game. But … it was wonderful.”
Rivera broke a tie with Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra for most seasons playing with the Yankees. This is season No. 19 for Rivera. The closer also tied John Franco’s major-league record for most consecutive seasons with at least one save. This is season No. 18 for that.
“There were times where because of the therapy and the pain and all that stuff, I was thinking if it would be worth it come back,” Rivera said. “But at the same time, the love and the drive you have for the game motivated me to keep going.”
Mariano Rivera faced hitters for the second time since last year’s torn ACL. The video above is of Rivera throwing to outfielder Adonis Garcia (the video might have been better, but I wasn’t allowed any closer).
“The swings didn’t tell me much,” Rivera said. “I was telling them what I was throwing, but I felt good.”
As he’s said all along, Rivera insisted that live batting practice and bullpens aren’t a significant test. He’s been able to throw for a while now, and he’s just looking forward to getting into games to practice fielding bunts and covering first base.
“I don’t feel nothing (in the knee),” Rivera said. “The big thing is going to be game situations. That’s it. I don’t think about it at all. I don’t know if you guys have seen me run, I’m not even thinking about it. I’m running normal, like nothing ever happened.”
• Before Curtis Granderson’s injury, it was easy to dismiss guys like Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte as all but certain to open in Triple-A. Now they’re in the mix for a big league spot, and Girardi said he’ll be paying close attention as he tries to decide whether a young guy might be a better short-term option than either Matt Diaz or Juan Rivera. “I want someone who can do everything,” Girardi said. “Is that too much to ask? I don’t know.”
• Girardi made it clear that top prospects Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin are not really candidates for the big league opening. Neither has significant playing time above High-A. Didn’t specifically ask, but I’m assuming Ramon Flores is in the same boat.
• CC Sabathia faced hitters this morning. He’ll take two days off then face hitters again. He’s throwing sliders these days and said his elbow has been fine. “No problem,” Sabathia said. “Felt normal.”
• Phil Hughes said he walked and did some side-to-side work in the pool yesterday. He also did some shoulder exercises. Everything went well, and he’s been told that he’ll probably see the doctor on Wednesday to assess his progress. “Obviously I want to get back as soon as I can,” Hughes said. “But I’m not going ot rush it.”
• Girardi announced more upcoming starters.
Tuesday: Jose Ramirez
Wednesday: Nik Turley
Thursday: David Phelps (home), Brett Marshall (road)
• Worth watching tomorrow in Tampa: Andy Pettitte will throw live batting practice to Slade Heathcott and Tyler Austin. Also tomorrow, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Hiroki Kuroda and Boone Logan will throw bullpens.
• Today’s second string: C Austin Romine, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Jose Pirela, SS Walter Ibarra, 3B Corban Joseph, LF Ramon Flores, CF Slade Heathcott, RF Tyler Austin, DH Zoilo Almonte
• Today’s listed pitchers: Vidal Nuno, Bryan Mitchell, Corey Black, Shane Greene, Ryan Pope, Kelvin Perez, Josh Spence, Chase Whitley
• David Phelps, Brett Marshall, Nik Turley, Mike O’Brien and Matt Tracy each threw bullpens today.
• Live batting practice
Facing Francisco Arcia, Rob Segedin, Thomas Neal and Adonis Garcia
Ivan Nova (throwing to Bobby Wilson)
CC Sabathia (Wilson)
Mariano Rivera (Chris Stewart)
David Aardsma (Stewart)
Clay Rapada (J.R. Murphy)
Shawn Kelley (Murphy)
Tom Kahnle (Arcia)
• Players staying behind for a workout in Tampa have been divided into these batting practice groups:
Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez, Ichiro Suzuki
Travis Hafner, Luke Murton, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis
J.R. Murphy, Chris Stewart, Bobby Wilson
• Tomorrow’s travel roster
Pitchers: Juan Cedeno, Joba Chamberlain, Preston Claiborne, Matt Daley, Jim Miller, Zach Nuding, Mike O’Brien, Kelvin Perez, Branden Pinder, Jose Ramirez, Dave Robertson, Francisco Rondon
Catchers: Francisco Arcia, J.R. Murphy, Gary Sanchez, Bobby Wilson
Infielders: Greg Bird, Robinson Cano, Cito Culver, Travis Hafner, Addison Maruszak, Luke Murton, Eduardo Nunez, Jose Pirela, Rob Segedin, Mark Teixeira, Gil Velazquez, Kevin Youkilis
Outfielders: Matt Diaz, Ramon Flores, Adonis Garcia, Melky Mesa, Ronnier Mustelier, Thomas Neal, Ichiro Suzuki
Associated Press photo
Andy Pettitte loved the idea of pitching in the World Baseball Classic. The Yankees did not.
“They weren’t crazy about it, and I understand it,” Pettitte said. “I mean, it’s understandable. I spoke with Cash and I spoke with Joe. (They said), ‘If you decide to do this, we’re going to support you,’ but obviously they were hoping it was something that I wouldn’t do, and like I said, I understand it. And at the time that I was considering it, I was just hoping they would understand, which I knew they probably couldn’t. I’ve done a lot of things in this game, but I’ve never had a chance to play for my country. I don’t know if that sounds corny, but it was a big deal for me.”
Doesn’t sound corny to me, but it also doesn’t sound unreasonable for the Yankees to have some hesitation about a 40-year-old playing in an unnecessary exhibition.
“This needed to be the focus,” Pettitte said. “I guess it just came down to not really wanting to take quite that chance of having something go wrong and then kicking yourself all year long.”
• The spring’s first workout went smoothly, but it’s always a little more boring when it’s just the pitchers and catchers. The position players really bring the place to life. Two interesting pitch counts: Phil Hughes threw 40 pitches and Clay Rapada threw 35. Rapada joked that he’s going to be a long man. Hughes explained that he’d already thrown six bullpens before today.
• Hughes isn’t alone. Quite a few of the pitchers seem more advanced than usual (including Mariano Rivera, who actually threw a bullpen today rather than waiting another week). Some of the younger guys in camp — including guys like David Phelps, Adam Warren and Chase Whitley who could be in the big league mix — have already faced hitters. Phelps, Warren and Whitley threw batting practice at the minor league complex on Monday. Whitley said he expects to face hitters when he throws his first spring bullpen tomorrow.
• Because he’s coming back from an injury, Derek Jeter is allowed to report to spring training immediately (you may remember that David Adams and Justin Maxwell came to camp with the pitchers and catchers last year), but Girardi said he doesn’t expect Jeter to report early. “I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I think he’s doing most of his stuff down at the minor league facility, doing his drills and all his work.”
• Girardi said all of the pitchers and catchers reported to camp on time. No one was late this year. “Not that I know of,” Girardi said.
• Pettitte said he’s well aware that the Yankees might try to protect him, but he wants — even expects — to make 30 starts this season. “I know Joe is going to protect me as best he can as far as keeping my innings limited,” Pettitte said. “But I want to throw 200 innings, make all my starts. Heck, I want to win 20 games, that’s what I want to do.”
• Is this Pettitte’s last year? He said he honestly hasn’t made up his mind. “I can tell you right now, as I sit right here, I hope this is it,” he said. “But having gone through this and done this, I’m not going to shut it down again unless I know for a fact that I’m done with this.”
Associated Press photos
CC Sabathia always seemed to think he could pitch last season. He went on the disabled list twice, and he through some underwhelming stretches, but Sabathia has a bulldog reputation, and he did his best to live up to it. But after offseason elbow surgery to clean up a bone spur from his left elbow, Sabathia said he can easy feel the difference between health and not healthy.
“I definitely feel a relief,” he said. “Just having that range of motion back and not having that ache at the end of my extension. I felt that right away, so hopefully I can just continue to get better and continue to feel less. After last year, going through what I went through pretty much the whole second half, playing catch so far, it feels a lot better.”
Sabathia hasn’t been on a mound yet — “I never throw off the mound until I get down here anyway,” he said — and expects to throw his first fastball/changeup bullpen on Thursday. But he’s been playing catch, and that’s been enough for him to feel the surgical difference.
“He wasn’t 100 percent last year,” Girardi said. “Any time you need surgery at the end of the year, I think it’s fair to say that you weren’t 100 percent. But probably 95 percent of the players that go out there every day aren’t 100 percent. That’s part of the job. You’re going to play with bumps and bruises and injuries that you can still compete with. But I feel better that we were able to address the problem and he’s coming into spring training healthy. He wasn’t overworked last year, so I feel better about it.”
Even today, Sabathia called the elbow issue an “excuse,” while also acknowledging that it was “always there.” Elbow surguries are generally less concerning than shoulder operations, and Sabathia’s was relatively minor, so he’s expected to be fully healthy for this season. Even in a down year, Sabathia reached 200 innings with a 3.38 ERA last season.
“I just want to concentrate on staying healthy,” Sabathia said. “Any kind of numbers I feel will be there if I’m healthy, so that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”
• David Phelps made the big move from the middle lockers — where most of the minor leaguers are assigned — to a locker on the left wall where most of the big league staff is grouped together. Adam Warren also moved to that wall. Phelps has changed uniform numbers to No. 35. He has a locker right next to Andy Pettitte.
• In other locker-assignment news: The short wall just inside the main door has three lockers: Cesar Cabral, Manny Banuelos and Michael Pineda. That must be rehab central.
• Sabathia said he lost about 10 pounds over the winter and is down to 290. He said that’s what he was last spring, and that seems about right. He looks about the same as last spring. “This is the ideal weight,” he said. “I was probably about 300 by the end of last year, so I probably gained 10 pounds. Room service, different stuff. It’s part of the season. I’m fine with that.”
• Any concerns about Mariano Rivera? “I have extreme confidence in Mo, just knowing how hard he works, wanting to be ready and be prepared, be on top of his game,” Sabathia said. “He’s ageless. He can pitch forever. I have a lot of confidence in him coming back and being the same old Mo.”
• Speaking of Rivera, he’s helped raise another $50,000 toward renovations of his church in New Rochelle.
• A few guys threw in the outfield today, but the first full day of pitching workouts is tomorrow. There was no schedule of bullpens posted, but I’m guessing we’ll have those tomorrow morning when the clubhouse opens.
Associated Press photo
Pinch hitting: Gil Teitelbaum • 01.30.13
Up next in our Pinch Hitter series is Gil Teitelbaum, who’s originally from New York but now lives in Beit Shemesh, Israel with his wife and four kids. Gil wrote that he’s, “grateful for the internet and the ability to still follow and watch the Yankees from halfway around the world.”
For his post, Gil decided to not blindly accept the common narrative. He legitimately asks, is Mariano Rivera really the greatest reliever of all time?
Before Rivera came along, Goose Gossage was considered by many to be the greatest reliever ever — although fans of Sutter, Fingers or Eckersley might have disagreed. Around the time Gossage was elected to the hall, he talked about the greatness of Rivera, but also pointed out how relievers in Gossage’s day had to do much more than relievers today.
Back then, when the starter tired, the fireman was expected to come in with men on base, extinguish the rally and finishing the game. It was actually a more exciting experience to watch — seeing a star closer come in with men on base in a close game. The way relievers were used made more sense. In a close game, with men on base, wouldn’t it make sense to have your best pitcher come in and try to limit the damage? By the ninth inning, the game could already be lost.
It’s interesting to look at how the role of relievers changed over the course of Gossage’s career. In 1975, his best season, Gossage pitched three or more innings 21 times and topped an astonishing seven innings in relief three times that year. By 1982 he pitched three or more innings three times, and by 1985 he didn’t pitch any three-inning outings.
When Rivera became a reliever, closers were mostly limited to pitching the ninth inning only. While Rivera also pitched mostly one-inning outings during the regular season, his postseason usage is very similar to relievers from Gossage’s era since Rivera has been called to do a large number of multi-inning outings.
Gossage’s ERA (2.09) as a reliever during his prime (1975 to 1985) was better than Rivera’s career ERA (2.21), while pitching in longer outings and coming in with men on base. Looking at numbers this way, it really looks like Gossage was Rivera’s equal.
While Rivera has not had to pitch nearly as many multi-inning appearances as Gossage, he has shown that he excels at it. Pitching in the postseason might be a more stressful situation than coming into a regular season game with men on base.
It’s not hard to find relievers who have had seasons that match up well with the best seasons Rivera has had. What separates Mariano is how he has consistently produced only excellent seasons over so many years. His prolonged regular season excellence alone puts him ahead of Gossage. His postseason dominance make this comparison not even close.
Associated Press photos
Cashman relieved; Jeter projection • 11.20.12
Brian Cashman had a conference call tonight with reporters in conjunction with the re-signing of Hiroki Kuroda.
“It’s a relief to know that Hiroki is back,” Cashman said. “… It’s a short-term deal that provides flexibility as we move forward and gives us an important, valuable arm to our rotation.”
Cashman didn’t have any update on Andy Pettitte’s thinking as far as a return.
He did say: “The pitching is our priority and has been our priority. So we’ll continue on those efforts.”
Cashman did talk up Ivan Nova as a starter despite his second-half struggles. He said Michael Pineda looked good recently throwing on flat ground, but that the Yankees aren’t ready to count on him yet for the rotation. He said the Yankees are still in talks with Mariano Rivera, and that he had no concerns over the closer’s reconstructed knee. Cashman also had praise for the Blue Jays’ big offseason. And here’s Cashman’s view on Derek Jeter’s return following his broken ankle.
“He’ll be our Opening Day starting shortstop,” Cashman said.
Yankees pregame: Granderson gets a rest • 07.18.12
Brian Heyman here for Chad today at Yankee Stadium for this homestand finale. This is game six of 13 straight coming out of the break. Curtis Granderson had started 89 of the first 90 games, 88 of them in center. But Joe Girardi picked today to sit him at the start with lefty Ricky Romero going for the Blue Jays.
“If I’m going to take a day off for him, I’m going to do (it against) a left-hander,” Joe Girardi said. “I think on the road trip we’re going to see six out of seven right-handers, so I just chose today.”
The Yankees have scored at least three runs in 41 straight games, becoming just the third team in the Live Ball Era to do that in a single season, joining the 1994 Cleveland Indians and the 1930 Philadelphia Athletics.
“It’s still amazing,” Girardi said. “You expect them to score runs with this club and the home runs we hit. But there are going to be days when pitchers throw the ball extremely well and runs are tough to come by. But our guys have done a good job of just finding a way in some of those tough games to scratch some runs across.”
Robinson Cano will try to extend his career-high hitting streak to 21 games. The 20-game run is the longest active streak in the majors. Derek Jeter is the last Yankee to have a longer streak in a single season at 25 games in 2006. It’s the longest by a Yankees regular second baseman since Joe Gordon’s 29-game streak in 1942. Cano is batting .405 with six homers and 20 RBI in this stretch. He has delivered at least two hits in 11 of the 20 games.
“I’m excited about it now,” Girardi said. “I mean, 20-game hit streak, it means that he’s being productive. As far as how far it goes, I really haven’t thought too much about that. I think all of us expect Robbie to put good at-bats every day. When he does that, he’s going to get his base hits. So him hitting in 20-straight games doesn’t really surprise me.”
Girardi doesn’t see the streak being a burden to Cano at this time.
“I think he’s pretty carefree,” Girardi said. “I don’t think he would focus on it yet. If it got to be way up there, I think every player, no matter how carefree you are, you’d focus on it a little bit because you’d be asked questions. But right now I don’t think he thinks much about it.”
Girardi said Joba Chamberlain’s next rehab outing should be Friday. Girardi had no update on Brett Gardner’s MRI results. And Mariano Rivera rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
Brian Heyman here today at Yankee Stadium for Chad. Haven’t been here for a while. I go away and the Yankees can’t hit in the clutch anymore and are in last place, or at least tied for last with Boston, at 21-21, 5 1/2 back. The world is upside down. But it’s only May, and we’ve seen them sputtering this month before and wind up fine, albeit with Mariano Rivera in the team’s big picture.
Asked if there’s a feeling around here that the Yankees shouldn’t ever be in last place, Joe Girardi said, “I think as players, fans and an organization, you always feel that way. You might be in last place because you’re 0-1. But we feel we’re a much better club than what we’ve played. We’re in last place, but every team in our division is .500 or better.”
There doesn’t seem to be a lot that Girardi can do. He moved Mark Teixeira down to seventh last night and has him there tonight. But overall the Yankees are locked into these guys. They have to hit. There aren’t many answers on the bench.
“These are the guys that have to get it done for us,” Girardi said. “These are our guys that we’re committed to, that we believe in, that we’ve seen do it year after year after year and we’re committed to them. They have to find a way to get it done. It’s no different than a year that they put up 35 and 115. They’ve had to find a way to get it done. In saying this, I”m not putting pressure on them. But I’ve seen them do it over and over.”
Girardi said he hasn’t heard anything out of the ordinary from ownership. And he said he has tried to stay on an even keel.
“You don’t get too high when things are going well,” Girardi said. “And you don’t get too low when things are going bad in a sense. I think it’s important you remain the same, pretty much the same. You might have a few more conversations with players when they’re struggling. I’m not a guy that’s going to turn over a table. I’m not a guy who’s going to jump on a table when we win, either, and do a dance. That’s not who I am. I’ve found that managers that have that pretty constant personality are the ones that get the most out of their players.”
Rivera was in the clubhouse walking without crutches, although he did have a bit of a limp. He said the pain is more tolerable with the torn ACL. He has been working on strengthening the knee and is still taking blood thinners for his clot. So there’s still no date yet for the surgery. Girardi said the rehab now may cut down on some of the time needed on the other side of the operation.
“It’s not frustrating,” Rivera said about his situation, “because you can’t do anything about it.”
Robertson a worthy heir • 05.01.12
David Robertson is looking like a worthy heir to Mariano Rivera’s closing throne. If Rivera retires after this season, wouldn’t you want to see Robertson in the ninth? He’s sure doing a wonderful job in the eighth again.
Robertson struck out the side in the eighth Monday night, setting up Rivera for his fifth save in the 2-1 win over the Orioles. Not only does Robertson own 18 strikeouts in 11 innings over 11 outings so far this season, he has yet to give up a run, earned or unearned.
In fact, he has now thrown 24 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings dating to Sept. 1, 2011, the longest current streak in the major leagues.
“He’s been lights out,” Russell Martin said with the view from behind the catcher’s mask. “He’s just got that sort of fastball that nobody seems to be able to put the barrel on. It gets on you quick and it has got some late cut action. His ball is moving. Guys just don’t seem to recognize it well. He’s got a good curveball to go with that. He’s got a changeup. We rarely have to use the changeup because there are so many guys who are just overmatched by his fastball.
“It’s just a luxury to have a guy like that in the eighth inning.”
Martin can see some of Rivera in Robertson.
“They have the same type of fastball,” Martin said. “It’s just heavy. It’s like a heavy ball and it bores in on left-handers. Righties, they start their swing and it’s just moving a couple of inches off the barrel. So it’s nice to have them.”