Two days before baseball’s trade deadline, a previously unattainable asset is suddenly on the table for the Yankees to consider.
Tigers’ general manager Dave Dombrowski told multiple reporters today that Detroit is ready to reboot. That means outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is on the market. It means closer Joakim Soria is on the market. And perhaps most tempting for the Yankees, it means David Price is on the market.
“I think he’s going to make a difference wherever he goes,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has previously vowed to keep his top prospects. He’s made it clear the Yankees are open for business and looking for upgrades, but just last week he said that a big splash — and Price would certainly qualify as a big splash — seemed unlikely, mostly because Cashman doesn’t want to surrender his top prospects, most of whom are playing in Triple-A, one step from the big leagues.
“That may very well take us out on some of the high-end stuff,” Cashman said.
Is Price enough for a change of heart?
Through most of his career, Price pitched in Tampa Bay, the small-market team that became a thorn in the Yankees’ side while Price was at the top of its rotation. He had a 3.13 ERA through six-plus seasons with the Rays, and when he was put on the trade market last season, the Yankees never had much of a chance. Trades within a division are rare, especially marquee trades involving high-end prospects and big-name veterans. The Rays instead shipped Price to Detroit with a year and a half left on his contract.
This season, Price has pitched to a 2.53 ERA and yet another All-Star Game selection. He’ll be a free agent after this season. He’s the kind of rental that could shift a playoff race. Question is, at what cost?
“Obviously when you’re a pitcher of that caliber, there’s a lot expected of you,” Girardi said. “We’ve seen it in the past. Sometimes they’ve been called hired guns, things like that. But he’s an outstanding pitcher, and an outstanding human being. It’s interesting to follow, and as we near Friday, we’re going to know in the next 48 hours if he remains a Tiger.”
• Even though he won’t be available for at least three days, Diego Moreno remains on the Yankees’ roster. When pitchers come up and provide long relief like that, we often see them shipped right back to Triple-A the next day. It seems Moreno was simply too good to send away. “It stuck out, the way he pitched,” Girardi said.
• Just a personal observation: If Moreno gets four days off, he’ll be available as a just-in-case option the next time Ivan Nova starts. It doesn’t seem the Yankees are overly concerned about Nova’s arm fatigue last time out, but Moreno could give them an alternative should Nova have any problems.
• Of course, the Yankees had to add a fresh arm somehow, and so they designated Chris Capuano for assignment. “Cappy has been a starter his whole career,” Girardi said. “And it seemed that he wasn’t getting consistent work and he was having a hard time with it. He’s such a routine guy and he’s such a professional. It was a difficult decision. Hopefully he sticks around and stays with us. We’ll have to wait and see. We just decided that we were going to go in a different direction. He’s been a starter most of his career. It just seemed hard for him.”
• It’s easy to say the Yankees should have cut ties with Capuano a long time ago, but really, he fit his role pretty well. Basically, his value was that he had no value, so the Yankees could jerk him around into different jobs and go a full month while giving him only 4.1 innings of work. They could use him or not use him, and when he was no longer useful, they could cut him with no second thoughts. Is that worth $5 million? Maybe not. But it’s not my money.
• Mark Teixeira is healthy, just not playing. “This was a planned day off,” Girardi said.
• Seems pretty clear that Brendan Ryan and Stephen Drew are now in a platoon at second base. Girardi said that’s not entirely true, but it’s basically the case. Ryan might play shortstop occasionally against lefties, but for the most part, he’s going to get his time at second. Won’t Chase Headley need a day off eventually? “Right now, Head feels good,” Girardi said. “I check with our guys to see how they’re doing and if they feel they’re dragging or I feel they’re dragging, then we pay attention, but there’s been no signs by the way he’s swinging the bat or moving around the field that he needs a day, so, I haven’t given him one yet.”
• By the way, that previous Mat Latos trade seems to have stalled. Reports don’t suggest it’s been dissolved, only that it’s taking a while to finalize and might involve a third team.
Associated Press photos
After dealing with some arm fatigue last night, Ivan Nova said he plans to throw his normal bullpen and make his next scheduled start. He’s dismissing yesterday’s issues as little more than a part of the process after Tommy John surgery.
“I’m not hurt or anything like that,” Nova said. “So there isn’t any reason to think that I’m not going to pitch. I already asked some guys that went through Tommy John and they said it’s normal, that at some point you’re going to feel something like it. I’m not worried about it.”
Last night, Joe Girardi acknowledged some short-term concern about Nova’s arm, but he said that concern has diminished now that Nova’s arrived with no additional problems today.
“Probably less (concern today),” Girardi said. “He woke up today and said it was pretty much normal, how he felt was normal after his start. We still have him scheduled to pitch on Sunday. We’ll have him do his bullpen and go from there. I feel OK about it.”
Nova said he immediately reached out to Francisco Liriano, who’s become a close friend of Nova’s. He also talked to Dellin Betances and Nick Goody about the recovery process. He said the fatigue was centered around his triceps, and initially it caused some concern because he’d never experienced it.
“I was worried a little bit,” he said. “But the trainer checked on me, and I asked a couple guys and they said it was normal. There’s not any reason to be worried about it now.”
• Girardi didn’t go into detail, but he said there were conversations to make sure everything is good between Mark Teixeira and Joe Espado following last night’s vented frustration. “The one thing that we want from our players is intensity,” Girardi said. “I think Joe Espada has done a tremendous job, coaching third, coaching our infield. As a player, there are times that I made incorrect reads as a base runner. As a manager sometimes or as a player I’ve said things that I wish I’d maybe stated a little bit different. Everything’s OK. We talked about it, we move on and we learn from it. Things are good.”
• How often do things like this happen in the course of a six-month season (plus spring training, plus potential playoffs, etc.)? “They happen all the time,” Girardi said. “Sometimes people see it more than others, but things happen. You put 40 grown men in a room for 190 straight days, things happen. There’s intensity. There’s emotion. I know as a player there’s been times that I’ve said things and wish, man, I probably could have done that different. But to me it’s all about your heart, where your heart really is. Tex displays a lot of intensity every day he plays, and we understand that.”
• Diego Moreno was brought up because he can give up to 65 pitches if necessary. The Yankees figure they can get about 50 pitches apiece from Chris Capuano and Adam Warren, but if one of those guys falls flat or the game goes extras, they would be in a real bind without an extra long guy. “If we wouldn’t have used Shreve two innings and used Willie (last night), maybe you do it a little bit different,” Girardi said. “But you had to win the game yesterday.”
• Goody was optioned back to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He would have been available for only 30-35 pitches, Girardi said. Pretty sure Goody is the third Yankees player to be called up but not get a in game this season (I would still be on Goody getting in a game before the end of the season). Taylor Dugas and Joel De La Cruz were also called up without actually playing.
• Healthy days off for both Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.
• Because of the extreme heat, the Yankees did not take batting practice today (they hit inside, but didn’t take regular batting practice on the field). They might not take BP tomorrow either. “Save their energy,” Girardi said. “We’re what, 98 games in? I think sometimes it helps them being off their feet, especially these long stretches.”
• Girardi’s reaction to hearing news of the Troy Tulowitzki trade: “It’s not something I expected because they had Reyes. Obviously he’s another guy that’s extremely dangerous, hits the ball out of the ballpark, middle of the order hitter. But we’ll worry about ourselves. Our guys are playing well, let’s continue to play well.”
Associated Press photos
The video above is Mark Teixeira’s reaction in the dugout after being thrown out at the plate in the eighth inning last night. It was a bang-bang play, and that was the problem. Third-base coach Joe Espada told Teixeira to take it easy going home because there would be no play.
“There was no miscommunication,” Teixeira said. “Joe just told me, ‘Easy, easy,’ which means there’s going to be no play at the plate. It’s just a mistake. … I can get hurt. I’m not expecting a play at the plate. That’s a big run. There are a lot of reasons why that can’t happen.”
Espada took ownership of the decision and said he immediately took responsibility when Teixeira took his anger out by glaring down the third-base line then slamming equipment in the dugout.
“You know what, it was my call,” Espada said. “I told him to take it easy. I wasn’t expecting a throw. As a third-base coach, I just really try to make sure that some of those guys, they avoid slides and take it easy on their legs. I wasn’t expecting a throw. So it was my fault. I was responsible for that call.”
The play in question came with two outs in the eighth inning. Teixeira was at second when Chase Headley singled to center field. Rangers center fielder Leonys Martin has the most outfielder assists in the majors.
“Two outs. Two strikes. Great jump,” Espada said. “I thought he was going to score easy. … I just try to take care of those guys’ legs. They play every day, it’s hot, I’m trying to avoid a slide or something. I wasn’t expecting a throw, and he threw (him) out.”
After the out at the plate, Headley slammed his helmet to the ground.
“It was frustration,” Headley said. “I got caught up in the moment. I was watching what happened; it’s kind of unexplainable when you’re watching from first. It was just a miscommunication. I wish I hadn’t reacted that way, but I was fired up. You’re never comfortable here. I always feel like they’re in the game; they have a great lineup, it’s a good place to hit. That’s a big add-on run. A little bit of frustration in the moment, but that’s it. It’s over. No big deal.”
Teixeira said there’s no lingering issue between himself and Espada, but it was pretty jarring to see such a reaction, especially such a reaction caught by television cameras and replayed all over the internet. Joe Girardi tried to dismiss the entire thing — “Everything is OK,”he said — but Teixeira didn’t try to talk around the issue. He made it clear that he was upset, and that he was specifically upset with Espada’s instruction to go home easy.
“Joe is great,” Teixeira said. “I love Joe Espada. He apologized and it’s over with. But it’s a big mistake.”
After bouncing back from a rocky second inning and settling in for his first win in more than a month, CC Sabathia revealed a new reason for having this start pushed back three days.
Turns out, he was having his surgically repaired right knee drained of excess fluid.
“We knew that I had to get it drained,” Sabathia said. “And I had the off days coming up, so why not get these young horses out there and kind of let the old man get a couple of days off?”
Sabathia was originally supposed to pitch on Sunday, but the Yankees initially said his start was pushed back so he could work on some things in the bullpen. Sabathia said he had the knee drained after getting home from Anaheim. He said he couldn’t have pitched Sunday after the procedure. He also said this was the second time since spring training that the knee was drained.
“It was just part of our plan of what we were trying to do to stay healthy,” Sabathia said. “I got it drained between the last start and came out today and felt great.”
Ultimately, Sabathia said the extra time off and the drainage helped. He said he felt fresh, and the early problems — when every ball seemed to be a rocket — were the result of poor command and a minor adjustment. He wound up pitching pretty effectively through the middle innings.
“I think just commanding both sides of the plate (made the difference),” he said. “The changeups I was throwing earlier in the game were a little flat. Me and Larry talked about it a lot in-between innings. I just made a little adjustment and the pitch started working for us. It opened up that inside part of the plate and to get some strikes in there, get some early pop-ups, I think definitely helped us tonight. … Put this in the memory bank and kind of work off that.”
Even with the better results after those first two innings — and even though Sabathia said he still felt strong at 88 pitches — Joe Girardi pulled Sabathia in the middle of the sixth inning. There were right-handed hitters coming up, and Girardi clearly didn’t trust Sabathia to keep the A’s to just two runs much longer. Sabathia was predictably frustrated by the quick hook, but he was equally understanding.
“I haven’t proved it,” he said. “Hopefully we get later in the season and I start pitching better late in games and he’ll leave me out there.”
He felt some soreness after last night’s game. He thought it was near the top of the calf, but an MRI revealed inflammation behind the right knee. Headley expects to sit out tomorrow and hopes to play this weekend.
“I don’t anticipate it being anything too serious,” Headley said. “But might be a day or two before we can really get a handle on what it is.”
Headley said he didn’t get any sort of injection, just ice, rest and a compression wrap.
“They said it could be a Grade 1 strain (or) it could be more of a tendinitis type wear and tear, just overuse type thing,” Headley said. “So, with the pain that I feel, that’s more what I expect it to be.”
• This game belonged to Mark Teixeira. A game-tying home run. A second home run to provide a vital cushion. A snagged line drive for a pivotal double play. A leaning catch over the dugout railing. A diving play at the bag to end the eighth inning. And finally a scoop to end the game. “I enjoyed the win the most,” Teixeira said. “If you have a night like that and you lose, it doesn’t mean much. Hitting two home runs is always nice. It’s not easy to hit home runs, so getting two against a tough team is fun.”
• This was Teixeira’s 39th career multi-homer game, his 18th with the Yankees and his second of the season. “All-Star. Comeback Player of the Year. All that,” Sabathia said. “He’s been great for us. Not just the home runs, but how many runs he saves, errors he saves with his glove. It’s good to see him back and healthy and doing his thing.”
• A lot of good plays by Teixeira in this game. He said he thought diving into the bag was the best way to get the out that ended the eighth inning, mostly because he wasn’t sure he could make a safe throw to Dellin Betances covering the bag. “Because of the angle, I would have to be throwing across the runner to throw to him there,” Teixeira said. “I didn’t want to take the chance of Dellin not being able to see the ball or something; I wanted to make sure I got the out on my own.”
• Pretty good play by Teixeira to end the game as well. Gregorio Petit had made a throwing error on the previous play to put the tying run into scoring position, but Petit made a pretty tough play — with help from Teixeira — to preserve the win. “Give Greg a lot of credit,” Teixeira said. “He makes the error, then comes back and makes a really tough play. I just had to stretch a little bit for it, but it was big for us.”
• Last time a Yankees player had multiple home runs in a game was, of course, Stephen Drew. And, of course, Drew’s home run tonight proved absolutely crucial. “It’s a good feeling,” Drew said. “I’ve had good at-bats and no luck. So it’s a really good feeling. You never know how many runs you’re going to need in a game, and tonight we needed it.”
• Drew is still hitting just .179, but he has 12 home runs, the fourth-most on the team. “I mean, you look at stats and you look at how many line drives get caught and it’s pretty crazy,” Drew said. “So for me, I have to keep my head up and keep going because I’m having good ABs, So it’s very strange to say the least. … For me, I’ve swung at good pitches and put good swings on it, just no luck.”
• Andrew Miller on his return from the disabled list: “I actually felt really crisp and really good. He hit a pitch I wanted to throw, though it was clearly the wrong pitch. I feel like I executed pitches, it was just one of those days. Thankfully we got some extra tack-on runs from Stephen Drew and Tex had a great game. At the end of the day, the one thing about having the ninth inning is if you finish with a lead and win the game, it doesn’t matter.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury on his return from the disabled list: I was happy with how it went today. Definitely was pleased. Definitely will sleep good tonight knowing I got through the game. … I’m sure I’ll be a little sore tomorrow. But that’s pretty much the whole season. I don’t know why I’m so beat up, but mentally, prepared to be there tomorrow.”
• The Yankees showed a mid-game video of various player wearing bald caps and urging fans to vote for Brett Gardner for the All-Star Game. Brendan Ryan actually pretended to be Gardner in the video and was hilarious. “He did great,” Gardner said. “I didn’t see the video until out on the field during the game, so I’m not sure I caught the whole thing, but he’s a pretty good actor. He likes the camera. Definitely appreciate all the work they put in, and their standing up for me.”
• By the way, Alex Gordon left tonight’s Royals game with an injury, so Gardner could be named to the All-Star team as an injury replacement. I assume it would come down to him or Yoenis Cespedes. If Gordon can’t play, his replacement will be decided by manager Ned Yost and the league office.
• Final word to Teixeira: “That’s what the big-leagues is all about. If you play every single night, especially as a hitter, you’re going to fail more than you succeed. You can’t let one night carry into the next. You saw it with Dellin tonight, he came in and did a great job 1-2-3. I bounced back after getting pitched really tough yesterday and having a tough night personally, so that’s what you have to do.”
Associated Press photos
With Miguel Cabrera on the disabled list, have Mark Teixeira’s chances of making the All-Star team significantly improved?
The American League’s first base replacement in the starting lineup will be whoever wins the players’ vote. I’m not sure which direction the players will go, but Albert Pujols wouldn’t surprise me. Here are a few to consider, ranked in order of slugging percentage:
Albert Pujols: .265/.337/.557, 25 HR, 53 RBI
Mark Teixeira: .243/.356/.532, 20 HR, 59 RBI
Prince Fielder: .347/.413/.530, 13 HR, 50 RBI
Jose Abreu: .293/.342/.502, 14 HR, 44 RBI
Chris Davis: .237/.325/.474, 18 HR, 51 RBI
Edwin Encarnacion: .233/.325/.459, 17 HR, 50 RBI
Eric Hosmer: .287/.354/.437, 8 HR, 41 RBI
Encarnacion has basically split his season between first base and designated hitter. Pujols, Abreu and Davis have quite a few DH at-bats — and Davis has some turns in right field — but they’ve played first base the vast majority of the time.
Fielder is the one true designated hitter of this bunch, but he was listed as a first baseman on the ballot, and he could make the team simply to give the Rangers a representative (starter Yovani Gallardo and perhaps closer Shawn Tolleson are other possibilities from Texas).
The FanGraphs WAR stat has these guys ranked (in order): Pujols, Fielder, Teixeira, Hosmer, Davis, Abreu, Encarnacion.
Teixeira’s really having an excellent season, but how many first basemen are actually going to make this team? If Pujols wins the player vote and Fielder is chosen as the Rangers representative, will there be room for Teixeira? Could the league leader in RBI really miss the cut?
Associated Press photo
The Yankees are prepared to carry a six-man rotation for at least a few days.
Ivan Nova will be activated from the disabled list to start on Wednesday. Adam Warren will take his turn on Thursday, followed by the rest of the usual starters. Joe Girardi said, for now, the team prefers to carry the extra starter to give everyone an extra day of rest, but at some point — some point soon — they will cut back to a typical five-man rotation.
“The one thing that we have after this long streak is we have some off days (in early July),” Girardi said. “I wouldn’t anticipate us doing it after we get home from Anaheim.”
A six-man rotation will carry the Yankees through the end of June. On July 1, they’ll basically have to decide whether to have Warren start on an extra day or rest or to pitch Nathan Eovaldi on four days of rest. Scheduled off days mean the Yankees wouldn’t have to pitch anyone else on four days rest until the day before the All-Star break.
How the rotation adjusts in the next week or so is an issue for another day. For now, the Yankees have decided Nova is ready, so they’re taking him off the disabled list a little more than 13 month after Tommy John surgery. His last Triple-A rehab start wasn’t particularly overwhelming — 5 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 4 K — but the Yankees believe that if Nova is healthy and pitching well, he can help them.
“To be honest, I wasn’t trying to show myself anything,” Nova said. “I was just getting ready. Trying to get my arm healthy and in good shape. I know exactly what I have to do when I go to the mound. Even knowing that you don’t get the results that you want, that stuff happens in the game. I was working hard, getting my arm back and in good shape.”
The Yankees have significant workload concerns throughout their rotation — Warren has basically matched his workload for the past two seasons — so adding Nova could be a boost, but there’s always a wild card element for a pitcher coming back from Tommy John. They’re physically able to pitch a year after surgery, but many say they don’t really feel 100 percent until two years after. Nova was prone to ups and downs even before the surgery, but the Yankees see him as a boost for their often worn-thin pitching staff.
“I don’t think you can ever make too much of what a Major League hitter or pitcher is doing in a minor league situation because it’s just different,” Girardi said. “We just feel that he’s ready to go. No matter how he does Wednesday, I don’t think you could say he wasn’t ready or he was ready. It’s just kind of a feel that we’re using, and we feel that it’s probably important that we inject this sixth starter in right now, in a sense, and that’s why we’re going to do it. … We know what he’s capable of doing, and he’s fairly rested in a sense, so it could mean a lot to our rotation.”
• Mark Teixeira had an MRI on his sore neck, but results weren’t available pregame. The Yankees are hoping this is only a short-term issue that will be reasonably corrected by another day off (he had one last week because of the same issue). “I don’t know if it’s ever really went away completely,” Girardi said. “It’s been going on for about 10 days now. We’ll continue to evaluate, I’m just going to give him a day today.”
• Against a right-handed pitcher, the Yankees have lefty Garrett Jones to easily step into first base. But they face a lefty — Cole Hamels — on Wednesday. “My thought is that Tex will be in there Wednesday,” Girardi said.
• Not that these things are related, but the Yankees minor league affiliates have officially announced that Aaron Judge has been promoted to Triple-A.
• Closer Andrew Miller expects to play catch on Wednesday. That’s just the start of a long-toss program, so he would still be several days away from throwing a bullpen, which would leave him even more days away from coming off the disabled list. As a reliever, though, his arm-strength-building process should be much quicker than it was with Masahiro Tanaka.
• Not much of an update on Jacoby Ellsbury: “He’s going to run the bases again, he’s going to take normal BP with us and go through normal BP,” Girardi said. No word on when he’ll take his next step.
• The Yankees have their go-to guys for the late innings — Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Chasen Shreve — and they have Chris Capuano as their long man, then they have three relatively unproven right-handers in Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow and Diego Moreno. Rumbelow and Moreno were just called up today. “Pinder’s the most experienced of my (new) right-handers,” Girardi said. “And it’s just trying to get a feel for the other two as quick as I can. You’d like to put them in a situation where it’s not necessarily high-leverage right away, but sometimes you’re not afforded that.”
• With Danny Burawa and Jose De Paula each making their Major League debuts on Sunday, the Yankees have now used 20 pitchers in June, their most pitchers ever in a calendar month (excluding September). Could climb past that very soon with Rumbelow and Moreno. “Because of some of our concerns about the length that we get, we kind of rotate people in and out here a lot,” Girardi said. “And it doesn’t mean we don’t believe in them; we’re doing it to protect the arms of everyone.”
Associated Press photos
A few random thoughts on the way home • 06.04.15
I doubt there are very many baseball writers who list Oakland as their favorite road city, but I love it out there. My sister moved just outside of Oakland in my second year on the beat, and so last weekend will be one of my favorites of the year. Got to read a bunch of books to my nephew, and for the first time got to hold my little niece. For me, Oakland was the best part of the road trip, even if it was one of the low points of the season for the Yankees.
That dismal Athletics series gave way to a terrific Mariners series, though, and now the Yankees are starting this off day having won seven of their past 10 games overall. They looked pretty good again in Seattle. They pitched well, made some huge plays in the field and got huge hits — huge home runs, even — when they needed them.
Here are a few relatively random thoughts roughly a third of the way through the season.
• Masahiro Tanaka was incredible yesterday. At some point, he was making it look so easy that I think I failed to appreciate it until I looked at the box score at the end of the sixth inning. The guy is really, really good, torn elbow and all. With Michael Pineda outpitching King Felix on Monday, and Tanaka delivering his gem on Wednesday, the bookends of the Seattle series provided plenty of evidence that the Yankees need only make the playoffs to have some shot of making a run at a title. At their very best, Tanaka and Pineda are about as good as any 1-2 combination in the game. With no dominant team in the bullpen, why couldn’t a healthy Yankees roster get to the World Series? The trick, of course, is actually being healthy come October.
• As a whole, the Yankees have been wildly unpredictable this season, and that trend has carried over to several individual players. But there do seem to be five exceptions to that rule: Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller have been healthy and steady pretty much all season. There have been a few hiccups here and there — those are inevitable — but for the most part, the Yankees have been able to count on those five. And those five might explain why there have been more good moments than bad. Three of the top four hitters in the lineup, and the last two-plus innings of a close game. Those five guys help the Yankees win a lot of games.
• In the past few weeks, Girardi really seemed to be giving David Carpenter every opportunity to get his season turned around. He was pitching a little more often than he did back in April, got into a couple of tied games. In retrospect, it seems like a kind of sink-or-swim test, and when Carpenter gave up that RBI double on Tuesday night, he’d officially sunk. If Carpenter had gotten that out, I wonder if he might have stuck around a little longer.
• Along those same lines, I wonder if Girardi is doing something similar with Stephen Drew. After a couple of days off to clear his head and tweak some things, I wonder if Drew gets another week or so of everyday at-bats to see if he can right the ship before Brendan Ryan is ready. If Drew can get something going, then he’ll stick around and Jose Pirela will be optioned. If Drew continues to fall flat, then maybe Pirela gets a real opportunity, Ryan becomes the backup middle infielder, and Drew follows Carpenter into DFA limbo. Right now, I’d say the smart money is on Drew staying and Pirela going, but then again, I didn’t expect the Yankees to actually DFA Carpenter, so what do I know?
• When the Yankees finally add a right-handed reliever to their bullpen — which has to be inevitable, right? — my guess would be Jose Ramirez. That’s as much a gut feeling as it is an educated guess. Ramirez just seems to have the right combination of big league experience, raw stuff and Triple-A numbers. He’s pitched well lately, could go two or three innings if necessary, and Girardi’s familiar with him. If I had to guess which reliever could be called up in the next couple of weeks, I’d pick Ramirez. Who goes down or gets DFA to make room for him, I don’t know.
• Unless someone gets hurt, Garrett Jones is never going to play a huge role on this team. But he does have a role to play, and it really seems that he’s learning how to play it. The Yankees absolutely have to keep Rodriguez and Teixeira healthy and productive, so it will be helpful to pick and choose some opportunities to rest them. Jones should factor heavily into making that happen. If he can hit for power while getting only occasional at-bats — like he did the past two days in Seattle — he’ll help this team even in a limited role.
• When the Yankees were protecting players from the Rule 5 draft, I wasn’t sure Mason Williams was necessary (and if I’d known Slade Heathcott was going to play the way he did in March and April, I certainly would have thought Wililams was unnecessary). But beginning with a strong showing in big league camp, Williams has proven me wrong. I’ve always really liked the guy personally, and now he’s putting up numbers that make it a lot easier to believe in him professionally. Speed and defense have never been a question, but after finally putting up big Double-A numbers, Williams has jumped to Triple-A, taken over the leadoff spot and hit .315/.373/.444 with two stolen bases, six extra-base hits and more walks than strikeouts. It’s only a 13-game sample at the highest level of the minors, but it’s a tremendous sign for a guy who’s always had a world of talent and athleticism, just hadn’t put it all together against advanced competition.
• Am I crazy for starting to believe in Didi Gregorius? Sure, he fell down on Tuesday night, and he continues to occasionally make some bad choices in the field, but he’s also made some spectacular plays in the past week or so (that play up the middle yesterday was incredible). He’s also started to hit a little bit, with a few more line drives and eight hits in his past six games. He’s always going to be a bottom-of-the-order hitter, but he doesn’t have to always be a .220 hitter. And some of those overly aggressive mistakes might fade away with time. I always thought he was worth a shot, and lately he’s actually showing signs of earning his playing time.
• Speaking of which, Ryan’s first two Triple-A rehab games were played at second base and third base. I’m sure he’ll get a turn at shortstop eventually, but the Yankees seem to be prioritizing him as a backup at other positions. To me that suggests Gregorius is going to keep getting most of the shortstop at-bats without falling into a straight platoon when Ryan returns. If that were the plan, surely Ryan would be playing mostly shortstop in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. If Ryan is moving around, then Gregorius isn’t going to be losing a ton of playing time at short. Or maybe I’m reading way too much into two games of a rehab assignment.
• Teixeira is certainly putting up all-star numbers, but I’m not sure he’s going to be an all-star player. He deserves it, but first base is always a crowded position, and right now the American League has Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Abreu. Not that all of those guys are putting up Teixeira-level numbers, but they’ve been good and productive. Either Cabrera or Hosmer will be the starter, and both Pujols and Fielder will surely get support on the players’ ballots. I think Teixeira would be a fine all-star pick, but I won’t be at all surprised if he doesn’t make it. As good as Teixeira’s been in his career, he’s only been an all-star twice.
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Heading into Masahiro Tanaka’s first big league start in more than a month, Joe Girardi said he would look for two things: command and sharpness of pitches.
Well, Tanaka walked no one and got through the seventh inning on 78 pitches. He struck out nine and got only one two outs on true fly balls into the outfield. As a bonus, his velocity regularly reached into the mid-90s, topping out at 96 mph for the first time this season.
“We’ll take him anytime we can get him,” Andrew Miller said. “I know he’s been battling a little forearm or elbow stuff, or whatever, but when he’s been on the mound he’s been incredible. We want him out there as often as possible, and we want him for the long haul. To have a guy on a pitch count go out and give us seven innings is really, really impressive. He’s the star of the game, for sure.”
Tanaka’s first pitch was a 92-mph fastball, and it was clobbered well over the fence but foul. Tanaka went on to strike out the leadoff hitter on three pitches, which was a sign of things to come. Two more strikeouts in the second inning. Two more in the third. A strikeout to end the fourth, another to end the fifth, and another to end the seventh. All three hits Tanaka allowed came in the third inning when the Mariners scored their only run. After that, he retired the final 13 batters he faced.
“I would have to agree, I think it was the best outing I’ve had this year so far,” Tanaka said. “… It was a good outing, but it’s just one outing. I can’t be too high about that. Right now, maybe I’ll celebrate today, but starting tomorrow I’ll look forward to my next outing and work on my stuff.”
Obviously health will be a lingering concern for a player with a known elbow issue, but this was pretty substantial proof that Tanaka can be plenty effective as long as the elbow doesn’t blow out completely. His offspeed pitches were effective, and Tanaka’s four-seamer was so good that he was willing to throw it up in the zone to finish off hitters. Tanaka had been trying to work mostly down in the zone with two-seamers early in the season, but he said that two starts before going on the DL he starting thinking more about going up in the zone to get outs. He did that effectively today.
“I’m not so sure I expected (that velocity) the first time out,” Girardi said. “Velocity has been a huge topic for him. We talked about his average velocity has been there. In April, a lot of times you don’t see guys’ (full) velocity. You just don’t. Part of it has to do with that stinky weather that we play in, but I was a little surprised.”
Tanaka’s explanation for finally reaching the mid 90s: “I think maybe (because) we’re a little bit deeper in the season. Warming up a little, maybe that has to do with it.”
Maybe a few weeks off helped him. Maybe he simply needed to build up arm strength after a relatively light spring training. Maybe this was simply a really good day. Whatever it was, the Yankees got their ace back this afternoon, and he looked as good as ever.
“If we’re going to go where we want to go this year,” Mark Teixeira said. “We need guys like Tanaka to be healthy and be in our starting rotation. Hopefully that’s what we’re going to have the rest of the year.”
• Andrew Miller had to work for his 17th save. He came in with a runner on, then a hit a batter, walked a guy on four pitches and fell behind 3-0. Miller came back to get a strikeout and a ground ball to get out of that eighth-inning jam before pitching a scoreless ninth. “He’s got a toughness to him,” Girardi said. “In that situation, it’s a tough situation. Bases loaded, 3-0 on a hitter, and to be able to get out of it, it just shows you that he has a lot of ability and believes in himself.”
• Miller on his outing: “I wasn’t missing by a lot. But I was missing consistently in one spot. And that’s kind of a tough thing, because you’re trying to come up with a fix and things keep going in the same direction. I was able to slow things down, and get back in the zone eventually. He chased a 3-2 slider, which is a pitch I throw a lot of times, but with the bases loaded there, if he lays off of that, it might be a different story. But fortunately that happened and got out of it.”
• Girardi said he didn’t want to use Dellin Betances after back-to-back outings. He wound up going to Chris Capuano to start the eighth inning. It was Capuano’s first relief appearance of the year, and it came in a two-run game. Says a lot about the state of the Yankees’ pen beyond Betances and Miller. “They had lefties coming up, and you force their hand to make a change, and Cap’s done it in the bullpen before,” Giradri said, explaining the decision to use Capuano in that spot.
• Any thought of just sending Tanaka out for the eighth? He was at 78 pitches and could have gone up to 85. “No, just because we had talked about 80-85 pitches, but we were expecting that in six innings,” Girardi said. “The extra up-down situation, we thought it was enough. Believe me, I would have loved to.”
• This was the seventh time in his career that Tanaka struck out at least nine batters. First time he’d done it this season.
• This was the first time in Tanaka’s career that he pitched in a major league game to anyone other than Brian McCann. “We were basically on the same page for the most part,” John Ryan Murphy said. “There was a handful of pitches that he shook off, like any other pitcher. … It’s a little uncomfortable going in the second inning, because I didn’t do all the pregame scouting reports and that stuff with him and Larry, but as soon as I knew I was going in I talked to him and (translator) Shingo. We got on the same page, simple as that.”
• Second game in a row that Garrett Jones hit a game-winning home run. He’s homered in back-to-back games. Before this, he’d homered once all year. “Just relaxing,” he said. “Going in there just letting it go, being loose, and try to contribute. I’ve been feeling good at the plate and just trying to stay relaxed, let it fly. Got some pitches to hit and put a good swing. When I’m in there, just trying to make the most of it.”
Another home run for Mark Teixeira, who’s already at 16 homers and 41 RBI. This was his 19th career home run at Safeco Field, the most ever hit here by an opposing player. “Every day is different,” Teixeira said. “It really is. You get a couple of good pitches to hit, hit right-handed, hit left-handed, tomorrow is a day off and then Friday is a new day. I feel good physically.”
• For the second time in less than a week since joining the big league team, Ramon Flores threw out a runner at the plate.
• Final word goes to Murphy on Tanaka: “He was incredible. Everything was for strikes. He threw all of his pitches. The thing that he does so well is on both sides of the plate, the ball can go sideways both ways and go straight down. Everything was working today. Makes it really hard on the other hitters. It showed today.”
Associated Press photos
Felix Hernandez is one of the great pitchers of this generation. He’s dominant. He’s consistent. In his career, he’s held Major League hitters to less than a .240 batting average.
Mark Teixeira has hit .303 with six home runs against him.
How does anyone explain that?
“Felix is really good,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “But so is Mark. I mean, Mark is a really good player.”
The first two months of this season have been a reminder of that.
While much of the attention has been focused on Alex Rodriguez’s return, Stephen Drew’s struggles, Masahiro Tanaka’s injuries, and the overwhelming dominance of Dellin Betances, Teixeira has somewhat quietly become an elite run producer again. Here we are, on the morning of June 2, and Teixeira already has 15 home runs. He’s hitting just .241, but that’s come with a .358 on-base percentage and more walks than strikeouts. His 39 RBIs are tied for fourth-most in baseball, and the most in the American League.
“I’m just very thankful,” Teixeira said. “I’m very thankful for the health and I just hope that continues. The first two months have been so far, so good. I want to continue it.”
If Teixeira can maintain this .566 slugging percenage, it would be the second-highest of his career, even higher than his standout 2009 season when he finished second in MVP voting. Almost exactly two years removed from season-ending wrist surgery, Teixeira’s been able to stay on the field for the second-most plate appearances on the roster. He hasn’t had the nagging issues that hounded him last season.
“He’s been tremendous,” Chase Headley said. “He’s getting on base, he’s driving in runs and he has hit a lot of home runs for us. He’s been great. He’s been huge in the middle of our lineup and obviously with him and (Rodriguez) swinging the bat the way they are and (Brian McCann) coming around, I think we’ve got a pretty good middle of the lineup going now.”
For the past month or so, the Yankees have been able to add Carlos Beltran to that middle-of-the-order list. From A-Rod to Teixiera to McCann to Beltran, the Yankees have some run producers experiencing at bit of a resurgence.
Now the trick with all of them is to keep it going.
“Nothing really surprises me, good or bad, in baseball,” Teixeira said. “There are some weird stats out there this early. It’s still early. Fifty games into the season, you see some weird stats. For me, if I stay healthy, I know what the numbers are going to look like at the end of the year.”
Associated Press photo
Early on, this game was more of the same. Just the familiar Yankees looking hopeless against a good starting pitcher. The game was scoreless, but after three innings, it was hard to have much confidence that the Yankees were against going to win, much less win in an impressive manner.
But they chipped away in the fourth inning, loaded the bases in the fifth, and then Mark Teixeira delivered the big blow with a grand slam. Just like that, the team that just lost three of four in Oakland, was on its way to a fairly lopsided win against Felix Hernandez.
“It felt big,” Teixeira said. “The way Michael was pitching, we didn’t know how many we needed. Any time you can score seven runs off Felix Hernandez, you take it. It doesn’t happen very much. That was a good team effort today. We just played really good ball.”
And when the Yankees play really good ball, they actually look like a really good team.
The Yankees have scored in double digits four times this season. Those were games started by David Price, Clay Buchholz, Alex Colome and Jeremy Guthrie — not all superstars, but certainly not all no-name bums. Those games were two of the worst of Price’s and Guthrie’s careers, and it’s still Colome’s only loss of the season. The Yankees have also beaten Jacob deGrom this year, they’ve scored six runs against Gio Gonzalez, and they’ve been the only team to do any sort of real damage against Chris Young.
They’ve also looked thoroughly hopeless against Erasmo Ramirez.
“It’s hard to figure out,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s just, it’s a long season. Things don’t make sense a lot of times. For whatever reason, I don’t really know, but it happens.”
The Yankees looked hopeless again in the first three innings against Hernandez. He needed just six pitches to get through the first inning, nine to get through the second, and six more to get through the third. Then, all of a sudden, Hernandez allowed five base runners on 31 pitches in the fourth. And the fifth inning was even worse.
“I think when you’re facing a guy like that, you really have to grind (at-bats) out,” Chase Headley said. “I thought we had a lot of good at-bats that preceded the big blow. The stuff looked good. I thought the ball was moving. Honestly, I thought we just did a good job of laying off some tough pitches. That was the difference.”
As they’ve done several times this season, the Yankees looked like a really impressive team in those fourth and fifth innings. They showed patience and power at the plate, Michael Pineda was pitching well — five strikeouts in his half of those innings — and they built a big league against one of the game’s truly elite pitchers.
This was, in so many ways, the Yankees at their best. The previous four games were, at times, the Yankees at their worst.
“It only takes a couple of good at-bats and fortunes change,” Headley said.
• Asked which was more impressive, the offensive outburst against Hernandez or the first six innings from Pineda, Girardi debated for a while before saying the offense was perhaps a little more impressive tonight. But Pineda really was very, very good. The seventh inning got away from him, but through six innings Pineda kept the Mariners scoreless with ninth strikeouts. “Tonight, everything is working good,” Pineda siad. “I had really good power today, and my changeup was working well, my slider too. … I’m trying to attack the hitters, and pitch my game.”
• Girardi said he was actually a little bit worried about Pineda coming into this game. Although it’s been more than three years since the trade, this was actually Pineda’s first time pitching back in Seattle as a member of the Yankees. “I think he handled it pretty well,” Girardi said. “I always worry about those type of things when guys come back to face their old team for the first time, but I think he handled it really well.”
• Pineda on pitching back at Safeco Field: “I’m very excited today for this game, I’m very happy to be here again and pitching in Safeco field. I’m happy tonight. … It’s good, you know? I had really good focus today, and tried to do the best on the mound.”
• Any extra meaning to beating Hernandez, who had been kind of a mentor in Seattle? “It’s a great game for me today,” Pineda said. “My first year in the majors, I stayed around Felix and learned a lot from him. Tonight, pitching versus him, it’s a really good game.”
• There’s a retractable roof here in Seattle, but it was open for a little bit of rain just as Hernandez started having some trouble. He seemed to be having some trouble with the mound, but Hernandez said that wasn’t the cause of his struggles. “I was just kicking dirt out of my cleats,” Hernandez said. “But it’s not that. It was just one of those days. It was on me.”
• Strong outing by Justin Wilson to strand two runners and get the Yankees out of the seventh without further damage. The Mariners could have pulled back into the game at that point, but Wilson shut them down. “He’s got a great arm,” Girardi said. “We’ve kind of put him in our seventh inning slot a little bit, and he did a really good job today the way he came in and he gets the strikeout and then the double play. I mean, that’s huge. And he’s facing right-handed hitters. It doesn’t matter for Willy. We don’t look at Willy as a left-handed specialist. We look at both, and again he did the job.”
• The grand slam was the ninth of Teixeira’s career. It was also his sixth career home run against Hernandez. Teixeira is a career .303 hitters with four doubles, 13 RBI and nine walks in 66 career at-bats against Hernandez. “I think it’s a lot of luck,” Teixeira said. “He’s a great pitcher. I’ve faced him so much, there’s very few guys that for 10-plus years you face on a regular basis. He’s one of them. I’ve just gotten a couple good pitches to hit.”
• Last Yankees player to hit a grand slam in Seattle was Bernie Williams on May 16, 2005 against J.J. Putz.
• Teixeira’s six home runs against Hernandez are his second-most against any pitcher. He’s hit seven off Bruce Chen. No hitter has more career home runs against Hernandez. Current Mariners right fielder Nelson Cruz has gone deep on King Felix five times.
• Brett Gardner had a hit, a walk and two runs scored. Since 2013, Gardner has a hit in 11 of 14 games against the Mariners hitting .321 with seven runs, five walks and six stolen bases in those games. During that stretch he’s hit .393 with four doubles in eight games at Safeco Field.
• Several Yankees said basically the same thing about Hernandez: “His stuff moves so much, I think that’s what got him into trouble a little bit. His stuff was moving so much, it was tough to control and he walked a few guys. Give our hitters credit; they didn’t swing at the bad pitches when he threw them. We made the adjustments. It’s not because he didn’t have his stuff tonight; it was just moving so much.”
• Final word goes to Headley: “It’s great. If (Hernandez) is not the best in the game, he’s right there with the best in the game. When you’re playing a guy like him, you”ve just got to go out there and really try to grind, and scratch a couple of runs across. You feel pretty good and then obviously we got the big blow. Those things don’t happen very often with that type of pitcher. It’s a good win for us coming off a couple of tough games in Oakland.”
Associated Press photos