Yankees remodeled infield in place for 2015 • 12.15.14
The Yankees have significantly overhauled the infield in the past six months. Here’s a look at the four regular infielders from last year (plus their primary backups) along with the players projected to play each position next season. Is the Yankees 2015 infield going to be better than it was in 2014?
2014: Mark Teixeira (Kelly Johnson for 23 games)
2015: Mark Teixeira
Just like the catcher position, the Yankees are committed at first base, and they have to hope for better production from the guy who’s already in place. The Yankees — and Teixeira — believe that healthy and a normal offseason will be significant factors in keeping Teixeira’s power production relatively high. He slugged .474 through the end of June last season (a pretty high number in the current climate) but he slugged just .324 after July 1. Last year the Yankees didn’t have a real backup at the position. It seems Alex Rodriguez could play that backup role this year.
2014: Brian Roberts (Stephen Drew for 31 games)
2015: Martin Prado
Although there was a lot of mixing and matching at second base, it was Roberts who spent more time at the position than any other Yankee last season (Prado, Ryan and Solarte also had double-digit starts at second). In theory, Prado’s a solid bet to outperform Roberts’ .237/.300/.360 slash line. He hit .282/.321/.412 last season and has slugged below .400 only once since becoming a big league regular. If Prado can’t hit beyond Roberts’ numbers, Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela are waiting as young alternatives.
2014: Derek Jeter (Brendan Ryan for 19 games)
2015: Didi Gregorius
Although Gregorius hasn’t been much of a hitter in the big leagues, his .653 OPS last season was better than Jeter’s .617, and Gregorius is also considered a much better defensive player. The Yankees could try to get even more of an offensive boost by platooning Gregorius (who’s struggled against lefties) with right-handed-hitting Ryan, another good glove, questionable bat shortstop. By the way, kind of amazing just how many games 40-year-old Jeter was able to play last year.
2014: Yangervis Solarte (Chase Headley for 49 games, Kelly Johnson for 33)
2015: Chase Headley
Third base was supposed to be Johnson’s job last season, but he lost it to Solarte, who was eventually traded for Headley. As it turned out, Solarte had the most starts at third, but even he barely started a third of the games there. Headley surged after the trade to New York, and that came after Solarte’s numbers had seriously dragged following his standout first month and a half. In theory, Headley is a better defender and potentially a better hitter than what the Yankees had last season, but Headley’s also had back issues and he’s rarely hit for much power.
Associated Press photo
Looking for a re-do on the Yankees roster • 11.08.14
Last winter, the Yankees added nearly a half-billion dollars in new contracts, but they refused to give a 10-year deal to their best player. The Yankees reluctance with Robinson Cano seemed to be a clear attempt to avoid repeating past mistakes (specifically, an attempt to avoid the pitfalls of one other decade-long contract).
Of all the current regrets on the roster, I think it’s a safe bet that Alex Rodriguez’s contract is the one the Yankees would most like to void if they could. Three more years at basically $20 million a year for a guy who might be a non-factor on the field? That’s pretty bad, and that’s before factoring in all of the off-the-field problems. Total mess.
But if the Yankees could magically get out of one other current obligation, which would it be?
I’m going to assume the Yankees feel good about the Brett Gardner extension, considering he’s coming off a strong season and looks like a relative bargain. They also probably don’t have much regret about two more years and $22 million left on Martin Prado’s deal, if only because it’s a relatively small contract that isn’t going to cripple their payroll. The Brendan Ryan contract also is not the sort of thing that creates many payroll problems.
So, of the other multi-year contracts on the Yankees roster — non-Rodriguez division — which are you second guessing most?
Contract: Five years, $122 million (plus a vesting option)
What’s left: Two years (plus the vesting option)
This is the triple crown of contract concerns: Age, performance and injury. And that vesting option is based on shoulder injury, not a knee or elbow injury, so that option could vest despite the current concerns. Pitchers are always risky investments, and while there was very little doubt the Yankees would extend Sabathia back in 2011. He was good again in 2012, but the contract has been a problem ever since. If Sabathia can become a steady middle-of-the-rotation arm for the remaining years, the Yankees will surely be happy with that production at this point. The rotation now belongs to Tanaka and Michael Pineda.
Contract: Eight years, $180 million
What’s left: Two years
I’ve written before that if you go back to that 2008 offseason, Teixeira was exactly the kind of player worth a long-term investment. He was consistent, he was terrific on both offense and defense, there was little indication he’d ever have to abandon his position, and he was — perhaps most importantly — always healthy. One great years, though, and things started to slide in a big way. To me, Teixeira is the strongest example of why all long-term contracts are giant risks. If he hits for power like he did the first three months of 2014, and carries that through a full season, Teixeira can still be plenty productive for the Yankees. There are a lot of red flags at the moment, though.
Contract: Three years, $45 million
What’s left: Two years
This is a relatively short and relatively inexpensive contract, but because of Beltran’s age and overwhelming unproductive season, I think the Yankees would back out of his deal before they’d back out of some others. Losing Beltran might open right field for a free agent like Melky Cabrera or Nelson Cruz. This isn’t a contract that’s going to cripple the Yankees payroll for an extended period of time, but it’s a contract that looked bad just two months into its first season.
Contract: Five years, $85 million (plus a club option)
What’s left: Four years (plus the club option)
Even after a brutal first season in New York, I’m not sure the Yankees would be desperate to get out of this contract. After another year like this year, it might be a different story, but McCann seemed to show some signs of significant improvement late in the year. He also helped get a strong season out of a patchwork pitching staff, and I think that has to count for something. That said, the fact the Yankees are deep in upper-level catching prospects means they have some young and cheap alternatives behind the plate. I doubt the Yankees are too bothered by the McCann deal at the moment, but that first year certainly didn’t go as planned.
Contract: Seven years, $153 million (plus a club option)
What’s left: Six years (plus the club option)
In his first year after coming from the Red Sox to the Yankees, Ellsbury’s performance was more or less in keeping with his past production. He hit the second-most home runs of his career, put up a slash line pretty close to his career numbers, and more or less provided the same speed and defense that the Yankees had seen from afar. The only immediate regret in the Ellsbury contract is that there are so many years left. Any contract of this length is worth second guessing. Which brings us to…
Contract: Seven years, $155 million
What’s left: Six years (with a player opt out after 2017)
My guess is that the Yankees don’t regret this deal. Yes, Tanaka’s elbow could go out at any moment, but that’s basically true of any pitcher. Bigger risk with Tanaka, obviously, but they also signed a legitimate front-line starter who’s Japanese numbers carried over to the big leagues. That’s a big deal, and a young ace is nearly impossible to find. Even with the injury risk, that’s a guy worth signing for big money. That said, this is a lot of money and a lot of years for a guy who broke down midway through his first season.
Associated Press photos
This season, we all got a glimpse into Mark Teixeira’s personality — and possibly into his post-playing career — through the YES Network’s goofy but funny Foul Territory series. While Teixeira has a few years left on his Yankees contract, he seems to have some interest in pursuing some sort of broadcasting at some point, and tomorrow morning, he’s going to get another taste of the industry. For you morning radio listeners out there, Teixeira is going to be on Mike and Mike on Wednesday morning. I can weirdly remember listening to Mike and Mike during some early mornings driving a tractor many, many years ago. But I’m sure most folks have the same memory. Anyway, here’s the quick press release with details, including a pretty funny quote from Teixeira.
New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira will serve as a special in-studio contributor during ESPN Audio’s Mike & Mike on Wednesday, Oct. 22, from 6 – 10 a.m. Teixeira, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic will discuss Game One of the World Series, the Yankees and other sports news of the day.
“As a regular listener of Mike & Mike, I’m excited to join the Mikes to irrationally overreact to all of the day’s sports stories,” said Teixeira. “But seriously, I am very honored to join the show and can’t wait to have some fun.”
Teixeira began his Major League Baseball career in 2003 with the Texas Rangers and has spent the last six seasons with the Yankees. Mike & Mike is broadcast nationally from 6 – 10 a.m., Monday – Friday, on ESPN Radio, espnradio.com, ESPN Radio app, Sirius XM and simulcast on ESPN2.
Associated Press photo
To be bullish on Mark Teixeira this offseason is to assume that last year’s wrist surgery was more than a health problem, it was a conditioning problem.
“I’ll only take about a week off this year, and get right back into strengthening,” Teixeira said late last month. “My upper-body strengthening (last winter) really didn’t start full time until January. Like I’ve told you guys a number of times, I definitely need to get stronger — my whole upper body, but definitely the wrist.”
There were two problems with Teixeira this season. The first was his health. While he went on the disabled list only once for a hamstring injury, he also needed three cortisone shots for his wrist and missed time for a variety of ailments including back, thumb, knee and groin issues. He once admitted needing a day off because of fatigue, something players rarely admit.
“Every player is different,” Steinbrenner said. “He obviously had a pretty major surgery. He’s going to have his feelings. We try to address a player’s feelings, but sometimes we feel like we need that player, so we’re going to be a little bit more forceful, if you will, in trying to get that player to play. But we were in a situation this year where things were tough, and we needed everybody to contribute as much as possible, but we certainly don’t want to hurt anybody either. We need to continue to listen to Mark and be cognizant of what he’s going through.”
Again, pretty unusual to hear an owner talk about trying to get a player to play, but it all goes back to the second problem with Teixeira’s season: he seemed to lack his typical strength and durability. That’s related to health, certainly, but it’s also a separate issue. Even when he was healthy enough to be on the field, Teixeira’s production dragged through the course of the year. Here are Teixeira’s slugging percentages for each individual month:
Only 19 players slugged better than .482 this season, and only 25 slugged better than .469, so those first-half slugging percentages were pretty good. By the end of the year, though, Teixeira was driving the ball like one of the least powerful hitters in baseball. That’s a problem for a guy who no longer hits for average and needs to hit home runs to remain a true run producer.
Speaking to Dan Barbarisi yesterday, Teixeira addressed Steinbrenner’s comments — “I’d love to play 150 games,” he said, “but if that’s the risk of hurting yourself, and hurting the team, maybe you do have to back off” — and said he’s already doing light workouts and plans to hit the weights heavily in a couple of weeks.
Teixeira believes a typical offseason — when he’s no longer recovering from surgery and can simply train his body to be at full strength — will make all the difference. He believes it will make him healthier, but that it was also make him stronger and more durable. Five years ago, he’d never had to worry about those two things. Now it’s one of the most pressing issues facing him and the Yankees.
“We’re past the rehab point,” Teixeira said. “We need to get into the strengthening point. The strength will help the inflammation stay out of there. Hopefully the little things in my legs that happened this year (will go away). I just need to get stronger from top to bottom.”
Associated Press photo
State of the organization: First base • 10.07.14
Yesterday we looked behind the plate, today we move 90 feet up the line to first base where the Yankees are locked into a long-term contract with a former MVP candidate who’s most recently struggled to stay both healthy and productive. If there’s a bright side it’s this: The level of first base productivity in the minor leagues was actually very good this year, and there could be alternatives in place sooner rather than later.
Signed through 2016
During that offseason spending spree of 2008, the Yankees really broke the bank for Teixeira. They’d already signed CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, and they’d traded for Nick Swisher, but getting Teixeira was a legitimate game-changer. He arrived in New York with a resume of durability and consistency, and he delivered that first season with near-MVP production. Gold Glove. Silver Slugger. He was exactly what the Yankees hoped he would be, and as far as long-term gambles go, Teixeira seemed relatively safe. He’d always been healthy. He’d always been productive. There was little reason to think he’d ever need to move away from his position. Six years into an eight-year contract, though, Teixeira is about as uncertain as they come. His production has dipped considerably — even his power began to lag in the second half of this year — and he’s admitted that he’s unlikely to be a 150-game player any more. Yankees have to hope that a healthy offseason restores some of his strength and durability for the final two years of his deal.
On the verge
Eighth-round picks are not insignificant, but even as the Yankees eighth-rounder in 2010, Roller has never generated much prospect attention. What he has done is hit, and hit, and hit. A left-hander with power, Roller just had the best season of his career, and he did it in the upper levels. Between Double-A and Triple-A he hit .300/.391/.550 (he destroyed the Eastern League for a month, then hit .283/.378/.497 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). Roller is a bad defensive player, even at first base, but he can hit. And given the offensive decline across baseball, Roller’s one standout tool is becoming harder and harder to ignore. “Understanding scarcity is important,” Mark Newman said. “That which is scarce is valuable, and you have hard time finding these dudes.” First basemen are rarely picked up in the Rule 5 draft, and the Yankees could try to pass Roller through again. Assuming they don’t lose him, Roller should return to Triple-A as the most obvious and immediate Teixeira alternative.
Although he was technically a catcher when the Yankees drafted him back in 2011, no one seemed surprised to see Bird move to first base almost immediately. He was never a sure thing to stick behind the plate, and given the Yankees catching depth, first base actually seemed to be an easier path to the big leagues. Since then, Bird has provided hope that he might have enough bat for the position. The left-handed hitter with a good and patient approach at the plate, Bird hit 20 home runs in his first full season, and he hit 14 this season while playing just 102 games because of injury. Seven of those home runs came during his 27-game promotion to Double-A Trenton, where Bird hit .253/.379/.558 in his first real test against upper-level pitching (granted, small sample size). For any player limited to first base defensively, there are huge offensive expectations. Bird’s been pretty steady so far, and he’ll spend all of next season at 22 years old with a real chance of getting to Triple-A by the end of the year. The timing could work out so that Bird is a ready replacement by the time Teixeira’s contract is coming to an end.
Deeper in the system
Just like in 2010 when they used an eight-round pick to sign first baseman Roller, the Yankees used their 2014 eighth-round selection on Spencer. The first line of Baseball America’s draft scouting report said: “Spencer is simply a hitting machine,” and he showed that in his first year of pro ball. Assigned to short-season Staten Island, Spencer hit .364/.389/.444, leading the league in batting average by a giant margin. He hit a whopping .410/.429/.520 through 100 at-bats in the month of August. One problem: While he’s hit a lot of doubles, Spencer did not hit a home run this year and hit just one homer during this three-year college career. That will almost certainly have to change if he’s going to stay at first base where true power is important. Slightly more traditional first-base production came from undrafted Mike Ford, who hit .292/.383/.458 with 13 homers between Low-A and High-A (might have hit more home runs had he not missed time with an injury). Undrafted guys don’t often generate much attention, but Ford had good numbers at Princeton and then crushed the ball in the Cape Cod League, which led the Yankees to sign him. “He was killing it in the Cape last year,” Newman said. “Last year, after 100 at-bats there, he had an OPS of 1.100 in the Cape, so we thought, why not? He can hit.”
A right-handed, versatile alternative
This is not a bad thing, but it’s worth noting that all of the minor league first basemen listed above have one thing in common: They’re all left-handed hitters. Roller, Bird, Ford and Spencer — the guys who could very well be the Opening Day first basemen for each full-season affiliate next year — are all lefties. One right-handed option to keep in mind is Tyler Austin, who’s a right fielder by trade but could certainly enter the first base discussion if he’s able to build off his strong finish to this season. More important than being right-handed, he also has some defensive flexibility. Austin’s played first base, third base and right field, and as long as Teixeira is around, the Yankees might not have room on their roster for another pure first baseman (which would rule out Roller and Bird the next two seasons). Austin, on the other hand, could emerge as a four-corners guy who could fill-in at first base whenever Teixeira needs a day off. He’s not strictly a first baseman, but Austin could be a first-base option sooner than any true first baseman in the system.
Associated Press photo
Bud Selig is at Yankee Stadium today, and he’s going to address the media in just a few minutes so I need to head back down to the press conference room in just a few minutes. A few quick pregame notes before I head downstairs.
• Mark Teixeira had his latest cortisone injection on Sunday, and he’s back in the lineup tonight. “I’ve gone through all the basic tests, and it seems to have taken,” Teixeira said. “Unless something crazy happens during BP, I should be fine.”
• Teixeira said he usually takes a full month off when the offseason starts. This year, he’s planning to take maybe a week before beginning regular offseason workouts. “Get right back into strengthening,” he said. “My upper body strengthening really didn’t start full time until January (last offseason). Like I’ve told you guys a number of times, I definitely need to get stronger, my whole upper body, but definitely the wrist. … We’re past the rehab point. We need to get into the strengthening point. The strength will help the inflammation stay out of there. Hopefully the little things in my legs that happened this year, I just need to get stronger from top to bottom, but especially the wrist.”
• No baseball activities for either Carlos Beltran or Jacoby Ellsbury today, though Ellsbury will do some light exercises just to see how he responds. Girardi acknowledged that the way he treats those two going forward will likely depend on whether the Yankees stay in the mathematical playoff race. “That’s probably fair to say,” Girardi said. “My guess is, we wouldn’t push it (if the team were eliminated).”
• Is Derek Jeter going to play all three games in Boston this weekend? “My plan is to play him,” Girardi said. “Obviously if things happen and we are eliminated, then obviously I’ll talk to him on a daily basis. My plan is to play him, but I’m going to talk to him and see what he physically needs and what he mentally wants. … My guess is, he’s going to want to play every day.”
• New outfielder Eury Perez is here today. Not in the lineup, but he was in the clubhouse and on the lineup sheet. I assume he’s available off the bench.
• If Masahiro Tanaka is starting Saturday and Michael Pineda is starting Sunday, it seems this will likely be Brandon McCarthy’s final start unless the Yankees advance to a wild card game. He’s been a terrific second-half addition heading into free agency. “For the most part, he has brought out the same stuff almost every game and has gotten deep into games,” Girardi said. “And his sinker has been outstanding. He’s gotten a ton of ground balls. There’s a lot of times when you’ll see guys when they don’t have their A stuff and they have to battle through it, but his stuff has been consistent for the whole time that we’ve had him, for the most part.”
Associated Press photo
Yesterday was the big test for Masahiro Tanaka, but it wasn’t until this afternoon that the Yankees got a final grade on his long-awaited return to the rotation. It was important not only that he pitch well, but that he feel good the day after.
“He was all smiles today, which was good,” Joe Girardi said. “He was doing his normal routine that he would do after any other start, so it’s all good news.”
Yesterday’s game was encouraging. So was today’s catch. Tanaka remains on track to start again on Saturday. These last few steps are all about testing Tanaka’s elbow as much as possible heading into the offseason. There’s no way to be 100 percent certain his ligament will hold up, the more steps he gets through, the better. Today was another small one.
“Just the fact that I was able to throw yesterday and the fact I’m feeling good today (is encouraging),” Tanaka said. “Having the start coming up on Saturday, if I come out from that strong, then obviously that’s a positive. From where I am right now, I should be able to have a good offseason of training that I want to do, and I should be good to go for next season.”
CC Sabathia also played catch today — his first official throwing session since knee surgery — which was another small but encouraging step for a Yankees rotation facing quite a bit of uncertainty heading into this offseason.
“And I think you can add another guy in there; Nova’s rehab has went extremely well,” Girardi said. “He has had zero setbacks and has progressed very, very well. Obviously CC has done well after this new knee surgery and we’re pleased about that. These guys play a very important role. Pitching is a huge part and when you have pitching you can stay in most games and have an opportunity to win them. When you get distance from your starters, your bullpen stays more rested and you can use them a little more different. It would be big for us.”
• Mark Teixeira got a third cortisone injection for his sore right wrist. He got it yesterday and said this injection was in a slightly different spot — “The first two shots were kind of inside the tendon sheath and this is outside the tendon sheath,” he said — and the hope is that he’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow. Why get a third injection at this point? “You never want to end the season hurt,” he said. “You want to finish the season. Every game you can’t play, you make a lot out of it, but realistically, to take a couple days off and get it taken care of, play the last five or six games whatever it might be — it’s worth it.”
• Can Teixeira ever be a 150-game player again? “As many games as hopefully I can,” he said. “I never want to say I am going to play 150 games-plus again because, who knows? You never know what is going to happen. I know my wrist is going to be healthier next year. It’s going to be stronger. That’s all I can say because I’ll have that full offseason of working out and strengthening and not necessarily rehabbing.”
• Sabathia said he wants to build up to throwing a bullpen, then he’ll shut down and have a relatively normal offseason. He did 20 throws at 60 feet today. “We’re trying not to make it that much (different from a normal offseason),” Sabathia said. “I’ll come up here a few times a week, but as far as workouts and stuff, it should be a normal winter.”
• Maybe we already knew this and I just forgot about it, but Sabathia said today that he got a second stem-cell injection last month. “I haven’t (had an knee pain), not since I went back out there for (another) stem cell,” Sabathia said. “I think that was the end of August. It feels great. I haven’t had any problems in the workouts.”
• First time playing catch today? “I’ve kinda been throwing the football a little bit, and throwing at home,” Sabathia said. “So it feels good to come out here and not have to hide and throw.”
• The Yankees claimed OF Eury Perez off waivers and opened a roster spot by designating Josh Outman. “We acquired a young center fielder, left fielder, plays all over, from the Washington Nationals,” Girardi said. “With some of the nicked up position players we had, we felt it was probably in our best interest to (DFA) a pitcher. Outman had done a pretty good job for us. He’s a situational lefty, which are kind of difficult to use this time of year because every time you send a lefty to face a lefty, they put a right hander up because they have so many players. It becomes more difficult to use them.”
• Girardi said Carlos Beltran’s elbow is still bothering him. No update on Jacoby Ellsbury’s hamstring.
Associated Press photos
Pregame notes: “I need to get stronger” • 09.17.14
These are Mark Teixeira’s numbers this season.
First half: .241/.341/.464 with 17 home runs in 73 games
Second half: .179/.283/.298 with four home runs in 42 games
“I need to get stronger,” he said. “This second half has been brutal. I just hit a wall. I need to get a lot stronger, so this offseason is going to be important for that because I’m definitely not where I want to be physically.”
Teixiera doesn’t blame the second-half slide on his lingering wrist soreness. Not exactly, anyway. He looks back to an offseason spent rehabbing instead of working out. He couldn’t lift the way he normally does. Couldn’t go through baseball drills the way he’s used to. And while he opened the season with a strong month of April — .862 OPS that month — his numbers have steadily decreased each month after that, with his slugging percentage in particularly showing a steady and significant decline.
“I didn’t have a normal offseason,” he said. “That’s tough, but it is what it is. I had to rehab all offseason, but the wrist is structurally sound, and from all indications it shouldn’t be a problem next year.”
After sitting out last night because of lingering wrist soreness, Teixeira is back in the Yankees lineup lineup tonight. He’s had two cortisone shots this year, and doctors won’t let him get another, but Teixeira said that every examination has shown his wrist to be structurally undamaged. It’s just sore from time to time.
“That’s what was expected all year,” Teixeira said. “I was fully expecting to have some bumps. This season, I can’t really be that disappointed with the wrist. When it’s flared up, we’ve dealt with it. Take a few days off here and there, get a shot here and there when you need it. But it’s structurally sound. That’s the most important thing. If it gets sore every now and then, you deal with it.”
• Determining whether Teixeira can become a productive hitter again seems like a far bigger issue in the big picture, but here and now, there’s still no issue generating more pregame buzz than last night’s hit-by-pitch and ensuing anger on both sides. “I know I’ve told our guys just go out and play,” Joe Girardi said. “I told Brandon McCarthy, just go out and pitch. What’s happened, happened. We move on. And that’s what happens in the game of baseball. It can be a takeout slide, It can be a lot of different things. Then the day turns, and it’s a different day.”
• Maybe that’s true, but Chase Headley was clearly frustrated with Joe Maddon’s postgame comments from last night. Maddon said that Headley had been “grazed” in New York on Thursday. That’s a pretty poor word choice after a guy took a mid-90s fastball to the chin. Headley said he understands that sometimes a phrase comes out wrong in an interview. “I’m just going to hope that that’s what happened,” Headley said. “That it was a poor choice of words, because that certainly wasn’t the case. I was pretty lucky, the way that it turned out, but I don’t think that it’s fair to be minimized or kind of downplayed in how this all went. … If Evan Longoria got hit like that, or Ben Zobrist or one of their guys, he wouldn’t use that term.”
• Headley said a teammate sent him the comments last night. “I can tell you what the doctor said and what I went through,” Headley said. “I think that speaks for itself. … (The doctor) said it was a miracle that my jaw didn’t shatter. That’s his term.”
• For whatever it’s worth, Headley looked alright when he rejoined the Yankees on Friday, but he’s looked progressively worse since then. There’s now bruising all over his chin and neck due to all the internal damage. Girardi said that blood is starting to collect in Headley’s chest. It’s not a great situation, even if he’s playing through it. “I don’t think Joe understood how hard he got hit,” Girardi said. “I think maybe he misunderstood because of Chase’s toughness, how hard he actually got hit.”
• Remember back in April when Cesar Cabral pitched here at Tropicana Field, faced six batters and hit three of them? That was pretty ugly, too. As Dan Barbarisi pointed out on Twitter today, in the past five years, the Rays have actually been hit by pitches more times than the Yankees in their head-to-head games. That includes this season, when the Yankees have been hit seven times and the Rays have been hit eight times. Girardi, though, stressed that it’s not the number of hit-by-pitches, it’s the location that has him most upset. He feels the Rays have hit the Yankees too high.
• Carlos Beltran is still away from the team. “He’s still attending his family matter,” Girardi said. “I told him to take care of it. When we have you, we have you.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury is getting another turn at DH to rest his ankle. “This guy’s been playing with an ankle sprain for a month or three weeks or two weeks, whatever it’s been,” Girardi said. “On the turf it’s probably even rougher, so I figured I’d give him a DH day.”
Associated Press photos
After yesterday’s five innings against low-level minor leaguers, Masahiro Tanaka complained of no unusual pain or discomfort today and will step back into the Yankees rotation on Sunday. It’s entirely possible the game will be completely meaningless in the standings, but it will be Tanaka’s most significant test of an elbow ligament that was found to be slightly torn in early July.
“More than anything, I want to see if my body is able to go fully on a major-league mound; pitch on the mound,” Tanaka said. “That’s by far, (more than) anything, most important to me. Also, the fact that, to be able to contribute in the team’s win would be something important to me too.”
Joe Girardi made it clear that Tanaka will pitch Sunday even if the Yankees are mathematically eliminated at that point.
“Obviously he’s got to throw his bullpen again, which I don’t suspect will be a problem, but he’s got to do that,” Girardi said. “… He’s pitching if he’s OK.”
Roughly 70-75 pitches, Girardi said. It seems likely Tanaka would make one more start as long as Sunday goes as hoped.
“Even if it’s short, if I’m able to go out there and have a strong outing, it’ll give me some good confidence (that the elbow has healed),” Tanaka said.
• No surprise that Martin Prado is out of the lineup, but it was a mild surprise that Mark Teixeira’s not in there. It’s hit right wrist again. Girardi said it was bothering him the final game of last week’s home stand, but now it’s significant enough to keep him out of the lineup. “I told him, come see me when you’re ready to go again,” Girardi said.
• Girardi gave absolutely no indication that Teixeira will miss the rest of the season, but it seems worth wondering if that’s possible. “You’re hoping when you have the surgery (last year) that you’re healthy and you can play every day,” Girardi said. “But for whatever reason, it’s lingered with him. Maybe the offseason will help and he’ll get through it and we won’t have that problem. That’s my hope for next year.”
• As for Prado, he had the appendectomy this morning. “He had a stomach ache all day yesterday and played through it,” Girardi said. “He went right from here to (the hospital) to have the tests and they determined that he needed to have surgery.”
• To add similar defensive flexibility, the Yankees have called up Jose Pirela, but he hasn’t played since the end of the Triple-A season two weeks ago. “We’ll try to get him in there,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t done much for two weeks. We’ll work him out a couple of days, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t just throw him in there one day.”
• Girardi said Francisco Cervelli got full medical clearance last night, but Girardi waited until today to get Cervelli back on the field. This is Cervelli’s first game action since those migraines earlier this month.
• This is another Michael Pineda start. He’s faced 102 consecutive batters without allowing a walk or a hit-by-pitch. He hasn’t walked anyone since August 20.
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: “You never really lose hope” • 09.05.14
From the outside, this really looked like a new low for the Yankees underwhelming offense. They’d come up with one hit since the third inning, their best chance to score had been doubled off first base, and Koji Uehara was jogging in from the bullpen with a one-run lead in the ninth. To start this month of must-win games, the Yankees were three outs away from losing two of three against a last-place team.
But to hear Chase Headley tell the story, that sense of impending doom was strictly from the outside looking in.
“I think there’s enough confidence in (the dugout), and there’s enough guys who’ve done it before, that you never really lose hope,” Headley said. “You expect each and every day that you come on that field that it’s going to turn around, and hopefully we’re on that way. I feel like we’ve swung the bats better lately. Even some tough outs and balls that we hit at people, it seems to be getting better so hopefully we continue on that trend, but there’s never any give up or any it can’t happen. There’s just too good of players on this team, too good of offensive weapons for this not to happen.”
Mark Teixeira hit his first home run since August 17, then Headley walked off with his fourth homer since coming over from San Diego.
“(The dugout) erupted,” Teixeira said. “It’s been an up and down season for all of us. When you can win a game like that, win a series in that fashion, it just doesn’t happen very much. You don’t hit two home runs off one of the best closers in baseball very much. That was a fun dugout.”
One win doesn’t change the situation. The Yankees are still on the outside looking in. They still face a bunch of must-win games, and there are still a bunch of teams ahead of them, but for at least one night the Yankees kept all hope from disappearing completely.
“We’re very confident, I can tell you that much,” Headley said. “The guys in the clubhouse believe it’s going to happen. It hasn’t happened yet, but we expect it to happen. Obviously walk-off wins, late-inning comebacks, that kind of win gives you some momentum. Having said that, you can’t just rely on that. You have to come out every day and play the game on the field. Hopefully we can build on this, but we expect it to happen. We’re going with the expectations that we’re going to go on a run, we’re going to get it done. The confidence, the belief, the effort, that’s all going to be there. So we’re just going to keep going.”
• Game-tying and game-winning home runs in the ninth inning tend to overshadow a lot of things. In this case, they overshadowed a terrific night for the Yankees bullpen, which pitched 4.2 scoreless innings without using either Dellin Betances or Dave Robertson. “I think games like this when we’re called on to give a lot of innings, we try to take the team on our back and say we’re going to keep the Red Sox there and allow the offense to come back,” Adam Warren said. “And that’s what we did. We’re just going out there and trying to put zeroes.”
• Warren got arguably the biggest outs by retiring three straight in the ninth inning to strand a pair of runners that were on base strictly because of his own mistakes. “With (Allen) Craig I just let the fastball get away and hit him,” Warren said. “Then I expected the bunt and just bobbled it first and kind of panicked after that instead of staying under control. Just trying to get ahead of guys once that happened, and trying to get outs, especially on the ground.”
• Interesting choice by Joe Girardi to trust Rich Hill — who was sent down just a few days ago — against David Ortiz in the fifth. Hill did the job with a big strikeout against a guy who’d homered in his previous two at-bats. “He’s just a really different look, being a sidearmer,” Girardi said. “Ortiz is a great hitter, but anytime you can give a hitter different looks, it’s beneficial. You talk about bullpens, you want different looks in your bullpen, so they’re not used to seeing the same guys. When Rich Hill is right, he’s really tough on left handers.”
• Costly mistake for Antoan Richardson. In his Yankees debut, Richardson was a seventh-inning pinch runner and wound up doubled off first base on a fly ball to center. He was running on the pitch, which complicated matters, but his mistake came in not picking up the ball soon enough. “I’ve got to peek a little earlier,” Richardson said. “I picked it up almost a step before I got to second base, and that’s just a little bit too late. … I think any time the ball gets into the outfield in the air you should be able to get back if you’re running on the pitch. If I execute the way I’m supposed to, I think I get back.”
• Girardi on Richardson: “We brought him here to steal bases. That’s why he’s here. The big thing is, you’ve got to peek. When you’re a baserunner, you have more than one responsibility than just running the bases. You’ve got to see where the ball’s hit. And it’s important that baserunners do that.”
• Teixeira on his at-bat against Uehara: “It’s funny how baseball works. Until two strikes, I was trying to hit a home run. Once I got to two strikes, his split is so good, if you try to pull a split and he throws it, you’re probably going to miss it or roll over it. I’m trying to hit a line drive to left there, actually. He hung a split in the middle of the plate, and because of that, I stayed on it and put a good swing on it.”
• Headley on his at-bat against Uehara: “You’ve got to try to get him up and he’s got the great split (with) good separation on the fastball and the split velocity-wise, so you really have to get him up in the zone. I felt like I was seeing him pretty good. He threw me a good fastball down and away in a hitter’s count, and I took it because it wasn’t what I was looking for. When it finally got to 3-2, I got a pitch I could handle and that was the at-bat.”
• Chris Capuano on the two Ortiz home runs: “The guy is a Hall of Famer. You’ve got to be tight with your location when you’re making pitches to him. I made two loose pitches, a fastball that came over the middle and kind of a hanging slider. He hammered it. He’s a good hitter. He does that.”
• This was Headley’s third career walk-off home run, and it was his second walk-off since coming to the Yankees. His first came in his game with the team. “I actually knew everybody’s name this time,” he said.
• It was the Yankees sixth walk-off of the season and their third via home run (also Carlos Beltran in June and Brian McCann in August). It was the team’s 34th come-from-behind win of the season, and by coming back from three runs they matched their largest comeback of the season.
• Derek Jeter got his 540th career double tying his childhood hero Dave Winfield and Joe Medwich for 32nd place on baseball’s all-time list. He hit the ball pretty hard three times tonight. “That (double) was crushed,” Teixeira said. “He just missed one in his first at-bat; that ball was crushed. It’s a good sign. Like I said, all bets are off in September. Derek might hit six or seven home runs this month. We’d like that. You just never know, because baseball is a weird game.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “I think this team has fought all year long. We’ve went through a lot of tough losses. We’ve went through a lot of tough things and this team has never given up. Extra-inning wins and ninth-inning wins, it’s who this group is. There’s a lot of character in that room and at times we’ve had a lot of things that haven’t went right for us, but they’ve never stopped fighting.”
Associated Press photos