Some odds and ends from today’s Jeff Pentland conference call:
On Alex Rodriguez
“I’ve seen Alex for a long time. I saw him in his first professional games in the instructional league. He’s been a tremendous talent over the years. I’m looking forward to being around him and being with him. Him and I have talked over the years, just hi and hello kind of conversations, but I have a great deal of respect for his career and what he’s done, so, you know, I have a great deal of respect for him. I hope he has a successful season and I’ll be there for him.”
On Carlos Beltran
“I had Carlos when he was a little younger (in Kansas City), but him and I had a great rapport and I’m sure that will continue. He was a tremendous athlete. Obviously he’s not 25 anymore, but there’s plenty left in him, and his experience and his knowledge of hitting, he’s been in New York before. We just got to keep him healthy.”
On Mark Teixeira
“You’ve got to remember, I’m not a young guy, so I’ve seen most of these guys probably. Mark Teixeira was certainly a plus player in Texas, and he has been with the Yankees. I think you said it best; if we can keep him injury-free, and he needs any adjustments, we’ll be there for him. I’ve talked to him briefly when he was with the Rangers, kind of like a ‘hello, how are you’ kind of deal. I’m looking forward to spending time with him and being around him. I have an open mind. Whatever happened in the past means nothing to me. We’ll start anew, and from what I understand, he’s had some wrist injuries. Injury is part of this game. Hopefully we can keep him healthy.”
On Didi Gregorius
“I saw Didi a lot when I was with the Dodgers. I was there when they brought him up, and he started out very well, but just like most young hitters, they figure him out eventually. He’s an incredibly athletic player, he’s got a huge future, and I’m very excited that he’s a Yankee. I always thought there’s a lot (of ability) in there. We’ve got to get it out, and we’ve got to work it, but the problem with younger players, you’ve got to be a little bit more patient. I think this guy has a big upside.”
On assistant hitting coach Alan Cockrell
“Obviously hitting coaches have their own circle; we’re kind of like a fraternity. And we have spoken more than a few times. I don’t there will be any problems among the two of us, it’s just our ability to deal with the players. … The job has just gotten huge. The technical ability of video and TVs and statistics, it’s just become overwhelming. As hitting coaches, we have to weed out information to give the hitters a simple approach. When you’re sitting in there against 95 (mph), your brain can’t do a whole lot. It kind of has to be focused on the ball. Walks and staying in the strike zone and the information on pitchers, it’s not so much mechanical or technical side of it from a hitting standpoint, it’s gathering all the information, putting together good plans and good information, (to build) a simplistic, easy plan for a hitter to understand and go up there with somewhat of an empty mind. Most of your great athletes, they don’t think a lot. They have the information in the back of their mind, but they’re basically on the attack.”
On having been a pitcher for part of his playing career
“I’ve been asked that question all my life. I was very good at pitching, I just hated it. The days that I played, there wasn’t a lot of money in, so we basically did what we wanted, and I loved to hit. Hitting was a little bit harder for me, and if you look at me, I’m not a gigantic guy, and I’m left-handed so I was very limited in the positions I could play. But I was born with a good arm. … Most of the communication and talk I have is with pitchers because I have to know pitchers to attack them, and pitchers have to know hitters to get them out. I have been with Larry (Rothschild) before, and Larry is as good as it gets, so we talk a lot. It might be about opposing hitters, or it might be about opposing pitchers. We have always had a great relationship, but there’s a bond there just because of what our jobs are.”
Associated Press photo
I believe I was 13 years old when Steven Spielberg made Jurassic Park, and because I was 13 years old, I absolutely loved it. The dinosaurs were cool — dinosaurs are always cool — Jeff Goldblum laid out the movie’s central message with a not-so-subtle line:
“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
I thought of that line because among the challenges for new Yankees hitting coach Jeff Pentland — among the challenges for any hitting coach, really — is the question of how to handle defensive shifts that have become commonplace throughout baseball. Is it possible to teach a shift-susceptible player to go the other way? And if it can be done, should it be done?
“That’s the rub,” Pentland said this morning. “Do you change them, or do you let them keep doing it? The only thing I try to tell them is, if we’re going to do anything, let’s do it in Spring Training. Once the season starts, it’s very difficult to even think about changing swings. You’re always tinkering and fine tuning, and you’ve got older guys (so) you’re not inventing the wheel here. You’re not making wholesale changes. If I tried to do that, they’d shut me out in a heartbeat. These guys have been around, they know what they’re doing and they know how successful they’ve been. You’d be surprised how open-minded most of them are. I’ve got my work cut out for me as far as them getting to know me and trust me. Then we go from there. If we’re not making any adjustments at all, then I’m not doing my job.”
For the Yankees, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann stand out as key middle-of-the-order run producers who tend to pull the ball. Teams shift against them, and those shifts have cost them hits. The question is whether it’s worthwhile for these guys to go the other way more often, potentially raising their batting averages, but perhaps taking away the pull power that made them All-Star sluggers in the first place.
On the right is a Brooks Baseball chart of McCann’s career spray angles. Little surprise that he’s shown an obvious tendency to hit groundballs to the right side — that’s why teams are shifting in the first place — but the chart also shows that last season he showed a significant uptick in balls hit the other way. He seemed adjust to the shift by hitting more groundballs up the middle and to the opposite field.
The result was the worst offensive season of his career.
“As far as hitting the ball the other way, that’s something I’ve definitely done going into spring training,” McCann told MLB Network earlier this offseason. “And then a month into the season you look up and you sacrifice power and driving the baseball. Or at least I do. That’s the line I have to walk. I’ve hit a certain way for a long, long time.”
Here’s what Teixeira told Dan Barbarisi about beating the shift:
“You beat the shift by hitting line drives,” Teixeira said. “Don’t hit ground balls. If you hit a slow ground ball in the hole, you don’t deserve a hit. It’s a rollover. With line drives, yeah, every now and then you hit a line drive at somebody, but that’s baseball.”
There are obvious benefits to changing an approach and beating the shift, but it may be that the next generation of players — the guys who have faced shifts throughout the minor leagues — are better equipped to make those changes. Veteran guys like Teixiera and McCann got to the big leagues by hitting a certain way, and making a drastic change in the name of adding a few singles could do as much harm as good.
“We’ll talk about it,” Pentland said. “The player has to buy in, No. 1. We’ve got four or five weeks of spring training, and obviously I’m going to pick their minds. The shift becomes almost a mental block sometimes. It’s not only the Yankees, it’s a lot of teams that are going through that situation. You can’t completely change players, but we certainly could talk about it and work on it and make them understand. Sometimes you’ve got to think more in the middle of the diamond rather than focus on so much pull. But obviously that’s something between me and the player.”
Associated Press photo
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