The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Pregame notes: Nova being activated; six-man rotation for now06.22.15

Ivan Nova

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• 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

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A few random thoughts on the way home06.04.15

Mark Teixeira

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• 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.

Stephen Drew, Brett Gardner, Garrett Jones• 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.

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “We’ll take him anytime we can get him”06.03.15

Masahiro Tanaka

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.”

Masahiro TanakaTanaka’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.”

Brian McCann• 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.”

Garrett Jones• Miller is the first pitcher to ever convert his first 17 save opportunities with the Yankees.

• 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

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Teixeira looking like a “really good player” again06.02.15

Mark Teixeira

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.

TeixeiraWhile 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

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Postgame notes: “We just played really good ball”06.02.15

Joe Girardi

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.

Michael Pineda• 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.”

Mark Teixeira• 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

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Teixeira: “It’s not even in our minds now to run guys over”05.14.15

Mark Teixeira, Bobby WilsonThis is the second year of Major League Baseball’s rule about blocking the plate, and while it seems to have done a good job of protecting catchers, it’s still causing confusion for almost everyone else.

Last night, it was Mark Teixeira who came charging down the third-base line, saw a catcher in his path, and decided to take the safe route. He slid toward the outside of the plate and was tagged out.

“Two years ago, absolutely I would have run the catcher over,” Teixeira said. “I’ve run over plenty of catchers in my career. If you slide into a guy who is blocking the plate, you can break your ankle and ruin your career, so the only way to protect yourself and try to be safe is to lower your shoulder. That’s been taken away, so the only thing you can do is try to jump around him.”

In the past, Teixeira actually had run over that very catcher. It was Bobby Wilson behind the plate for the Rays. That’s the same guy Teixeira sent to the hospital five years ago.

“I don’t think anyone has been run over since the rule,” Teixeira said. “That’s why we have the rule. We have the rule so no catchers get run over. That’s the way it is. It takes away our options as runners. If you run a guy over and you’re not supposed to, they’re going to send the Wells Report after you or something. You can’t do it. You cannot run a guy over anymore, and that’s fine. We’ve got to protect catchers. I understand. But that’s the way it is.”

No one seems overly upset about it. There was a little more outrage early last season, but at this point it seems accepted that players simply have to slide as if there’s always some sort of “lane” to the plate. The Yankees challenged the rule last night just because it was the tying run and seemed worth a shot.

“I think there’s probably more confusion on the base runner’s part than the catchers part,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Catchers just continue to do what they’ve always done.”

In the case of last night’s play, Wilson set up just inside the third-base line. As the throw came from center field he adjusted and let momentum carry him into Teixeira’s path. Teixeira slid feet-first and slapped the plate, but he had clearly been tagged before he got there.

“(The rule) is very vague,” Teixeira said. “Did he have the ball? Did the throw take him? Whatever. I had to go around him. … It’s not even in our minds now to run guys over. Can’t do it. Can’t do it.”

Associated Press photo

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Postgame notes: “It was good to get this one”05.11.15

CC Sabathia

Only two active pitchers have more career wins than CC Sabathia. He’s won playoff games and season openers. He’s won shutouts and blowouts. He’s won near no-hitters, and he’s won sloppy starts when the offense bailed him out. Sabathia’s won more than 200 times, and until this season, he never had to wait long for his next one.

“He’s one of the best pitchers of our era,” Brian McCann said. “I don’t know if he even thinks about it. He goes out there and competes hard. I’m glad to get him a win tonight, for sure.”

SabathiaCareer win No. 209 doesn’t change Sabathia’s resume very much. It does move him from 101st into a tie for 97th all-time — into the top 100 is pretty good — but this win isn’t a nice round number to be celebrated. It was a long time coming, though, and Sabathia might have gotten there weeks ago had the Yankees scored more than four runs in any of his previous starts. The lineup scored 11 runs tonight, after scoring 13 runs combined in the previous six games Sabathia pitched.

“Our boys did what they needed to do with CC,” manager Joe Girardi said. “They got him a lead, and allowed him just to go to work.”

Yes, he allowed those two home runs in the seventh inning. And, yes, the first inning got off to a brutal start with the back-to-back walks and the hard-hit double. But from the end of the first inning through the start of the seventh, Sabathia was as good as he’s been all season. After those first two batters, he didn’t walk anyone else. He struck out nine, and said the key was locating his fastball, especially inside to righties. The Rays were laying off his changeup, so he had to find other ways to get outs, and he did that.

“The walks were just me being erratic early,” Sabathia said. “I came out with my fastball. I felt pretty good, my body felt good, so I had to ease into the game and tell myself to let the ball go.”

“It was bothering me more that we hadn’t won games I’d started, or tried to keep us in games, or keep us close to win games,” Sabathia said. “That’s my biggest concern is always just trying to help the team. I think wins will come, and it was good to get this one.”

When it was all over, Sabathia’s line wasn’t overwhelming — three earned runs, an ERA still above 5.00, even Sabathia said he came out of the game kicking himself for those late runs more than celebrating the first win — but the end result was positive, and there was a long stretch in there when Sabathia looked awfully sharp and tough to hit.

The lineup did the heavy lifting, but Sabathia did his part to earn the win and end the drought.

“It was bothering me more that we hadn’t won games I’d started, or tried to keep us in games, or keep us close to win games,” he said. “That’s my biggest concern is always just trying to help the team. I think wins will come, and it was good to get this one.”

Alex Rodriguez• Might have noticed Alex Rodriguez favoring his left leg a little bit after stealing second base in the ninth inning. He said his left hamstring was a little tight, but both Rodriguez and Girardi said they expect him to be back in the lineup tomorrow. It’s basically the same tightness he was dealing with a few days ago. “Just a little sore on that last run,” Rodriguez said.

• By the way, I called that a steal, but the official scorer actually changed it to defensive indifference.

• Five home runs was the most for the Yankees in a single game since May 17, 2014. It also matches the most homers hit by any team in a single game this season. This was the third time the Yankees scored at least 11 runs this season, and the fifth time they had at least 14 hits.

• Carlos Beltran has homered in back-to-back games — his first two home runs of the season — making this the eighth time this season a Yankees player has gone deep in consecutive games. No other team has done that more than seven time this season.

• With Beltran hitting second, the Yankees top four hitters each had a home run today and combined to go 9-for-19 with seven RBI. “I just think our guys were looking for a ball in their zone,” Girardi said. “They got it, and they hit it.”

• Specifically, Girardi seemed really impressed by Mark Teixeira’s ninth-inning home run. It kept the Yankees from getting Andrew Miller warmed up, and it went to the opposite field, which Giradri took as a good sign. “That’s big,” Girardi said. “That just tells me he’s really healthy when he’s able to do that, and he’s hit a couple of home runs like that this year. Those are important runs. You don’t have to get Miller up again tonight, and that’s nice.”

Brian McCann, Steven Souza Jr.• Another moment Girardi pointed out — and one that clearly stood out as an early turning point — was Didi Gregorius making the strong relay throw in the first inning to get Steven Souza out at the plate. Without that relay throw (and without Gardner doing a good job getting to the ball quickly to start the play) the Rays would have already scored two runs, had just one out and had solid hitters coming to the plate with a runner in scoring position. Gregorius said he thought all along he had a shot at getting the out. “I saw that he went all the way back to second because he thought Gardy caught it,” Gregorius said. “So, yeah. I was peeking.”

• Weirder play by Gregorius to end the game after a hard-hit fly ball hit one of the catwalks and fell into play. It was a live ball that it seemed Gardner was going to catch in the corner. Instead, Gregorius caught it in shallow left field. “I was running to the left field corner to catch it and the ball disappeared,” Gardner said. “Before it hit (the catwalk), I thought there was a good chance that it was going to hit it. I was going to catch it, it was just a matter of if it hit the catwalk or not. I completely lost it for two or three seconds, and then I saw it falling down. I don’t know why, but Didi was standing right there underneath it, looking for it, like he knew it was going to happen. Great heads up play on his part.”

Chase Headley• McCann on Sabathia: “His two-seamer and four-seamer were really working tonight. He had the hitters off-balance and he mixed in some great changeups and threw some great back-door sliders. Once he settled down after the first, he had some really good movement in the zone.”

• Sabathia tied Vida Blue for the 25th-most wins all-time by a left-handed pitcher. This was his 92nd win as a Yankee, moving him into a tie with Tommy John for 20th on the franchise’s all-time list.

• Headley had four RBI for the first time since September 9, 2012. He hit his 10th Yankees home run, but only his second Yankees home run on the road. … This was Gardner’s second home run with at least two runners on base this season. He had just one of those last year, which was a grand slam. … Teixeira tied his career-high with four hits, something he hadn’t done since 2012.

• After the game, Rodriguez was outside the Yankees clubhouse meeting and signing items for the couple who caught his home run ball tonight. “They wanted to give me the ball back,” he said. “They wanted a little trade and they wanted to meet me, so it was my pleasure to meet them.”

• Final word goes to Headley: “It was great. (Sabathia)’s pitched a lot better than his record shows, and anytime you have some run support it makes a pitcher’s job a lot easier, so we were happy to finally put some runs on the board for him. Now hopefully we got that first win out of the way, he can get rolling. … He’s awesome. He’s as big a leader as we have on this team. He loves to have a good time. He’s a competitor. We love him in here, so it was great to finally see him get that first win.”

Associated Press photos

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Postgame notes: “He’s been as good as anyone we’ve got”05.05.15

Yankees Blue Jays Baseball

On the day Masahiro Tanaka went on the disabled list, Joe Girardi said he didn’t want any of his starting pitchers to try to fill those shoes. Girardi simply wanted his pitchers to be the best versions of themselves.

Fact is, on any given night, the best version of Pineda just might be the best Yankees starting pitcher even when Tanaka’s healthy. If the title of ace is up for grabs, Pineda made a strong case with tonight’s performance.

“He’s doing the job, and that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “It’s what we saw last year from him. He’s been as good as anyone we’ve got.”

Honestly, Pineda could have been better. Not because he didn’t pitch a complete game, but because he didn’t have his complete arsenal in the early innings. It took Pineda a while to find his slider, which accounts for some of those early base runners and hard-hit balls out of the gate. It was only after he found the slider and finished off his three-pitch mix that Pineda was truly dominant in the later innings.

“He’s a big-time pitcher,” Jacoby Ellsbury said. “If you don’t have one of your pitches, it’s a game of adjustments, not only from the offense’s side, but from a pitcher’s side. If you can go in there knowing one pitch isn’t working for you and find a way to get outs, that’s very impressive.”

With the slider, Pineda breezed through his final 10 batters. He didn’t seem to be slowing down. Instead, he seemed to be finding his stride. Girardi said he didn’t want to push Pineda past 101 pitches — he still remembers those shoulder problems of the past three seasons — but Girardi recalled the old saying that hitters have to get to a starting pitcher early or they won’t get to him at all. Once Pineda had his slider working, the Blue Jays had no chance.

“He pounds the zone with three pitches, and he knows exactly where they’re going,” Brian McCann said. “So you can throw the 3-1 slider. You can do a lot more to pound the zone. It’s impressive to have the command he has, with the stuff he has. … You can go wherever you want. You can attack hitters’ weaknesses. It’s not, because he can’t find the zone you have to call a fastball. You don’t have to. You see how the game goes, but it’s a lot easier to call a game when a guy knows where it’s going.”

Pineda said he’s not worried about the label of staff ace, but his ERA is down to 2.97 and he’s been the winning pitcher in four of his six starts. He’s pitched into the eighth inning twice and through the eighth inning once. Tonight he shutdown the highest-scoring offense in baseball.

“He’s a top of the rotation starter,” McCann said. “We’re not big on saying this guy’s an ace, that guy’s an ace. We’ve got five guys who compete every single night, and we’re glad he’s at the top of our rotation.”

Yankees Blue Jays Baseball• Chase Headley didn’t come in for ninth-inning defense because his back was bothering him after last night’s diving play at third base. Headley said it’s no big deal and isn’t the same as the back issue that lingered with him in San Diego. Girardi said he expects Headley to play tomorrow. “Just sore,” Headley said.

• Gregorio Petit had a fluoroscope done on his hand after tonight’s game. That early test came back negative — it’s sort of like an X-ray — and Girardi said the team might do more tests tomorrow. Petit was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning and had to leave the game. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Girardi said. “If we have to X-ray it, we’ll X-ray it.”

• Worth noting that Petit’s injury could make the move simple for activating Jose Pirela tomorrow. “We’ll wait and see what we’ve got tomorrow (before announcing a move),” Girardi said.

• Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits tonight and now has 18 hits in his past 35 at-bats. “It’s hard to imagine you could be hotter than he is,” Girardi said. “He’s been unbelievable at the top of the order.”

• Ellsbury on his absurd hot streak: “You just go out there each and every day, try to put quality at-bats together and get on base for guys to drive me in. It obviously gives you a lot of confidence going each at-bat, each game. Just trying to keep it going as long as possible.”

• After missing yesterday with a sore lat, Mark Teixeira returned tonight to make some nice plays in the field and hit his team-leading 10th home run of the season. “You deal with bumps and bruises all year,” Teixeira said. “Yesterday, Joe thought it was a good day for me to take off and let it rest. It feels a little better today.”

Yankees Blue Jays Baseball• Tonight’s home run moved Teixeira into a tie with Carlos Beltran for the fourth-most home runs by a switch hitter. Both have 373. “It’s great to be able to play with a guy like Carlos,” Teixeira said. “I’ve played with Carlos, Chipper Jones and Lance Berkman, three of the best switch-hitters of our generation. It’s been a lot of fun playing with those guys. Hopefully we’ll be battling on that list for the next couple years.”

• This game seemed well in hand with a 6-0 lead in the ninth, but David Carpenter’s brutal night forced the Yankees to bring Andrew Miller in for a one-out save. Miller needed just nine pitches for his 11th save of the season. “It’s not what you want to do, but we had to,” Girardi said. “And we won the game, and that’s the most important thing.”

• Carpenter hasn’t been used very much this season, and he certainly hasn’t been used in many high-leverage situations. Tonight he was hit hard and hit often allowing three runs while getting just two outs. He gave up one home run and just missed two others. “Just missed location,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. He’s a guy that relies on location even though he throws hard. You still have to locate, and he missed location.”

• Girardi had the bullpen up at the end of the seventh, but he said that was precautionary. “Just in case (Pineda) got into a long inning and some long at-bats,” Girardi said. “You don’t want to put him out there too long. We’ve talked about Michael, you know. Michael came off a serious shoulder injury and has not thrown 200 innings, so we’re going to watch him a little bit.”

• We’ll give the final word to McCann about Pineda: “I felt like he was tough from the first pitch. He creates such tough angles for hitters, that it’s hard to square him up. And it’s hard to do it consecutive at-bats. That’s why he doesn’t give up big innings. That’s why he pitches deep into ballgames. He’s just got really good stuff and knows what he’s doing.”

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: Pirela joins the team without being activated05.05.15

Jose Pirela

Weird to see a player show up without being added to the active roster, but that’s exactly what’s happened with Jose Pirela. He’s still technically on the disabled list — so he can be with the team — but his rehab assignment has ended, and the Yankees plan to activate him tomorrow.

“It’s kind of strange,” Joe Girardi said. “But we felt that we’ll fly him in today, have him hit, get him on the turf and feel what it’s like.”

Makes perfect sense that the Yankees want Pirela active for tomorrow’s game against a lefty, but it does seem a bit odd that he’s not playing tonight considering the Yankees are having Gregorio Petit start at third base. Pirela’s played that position, and in theory could have played there tonight. Maybe the Yankees want to keep Pirela at second base? Maybe someone other than Petit is coming off the roster tomorrow? Maybe the team wants to make sure certain players get through today healthy before making a decision.

“Let us get through today and then we’ll go from there,” Girardi said. “I know you guys are trying to figure out what the move is, but we’ll make it tomorrow. Something could change it today. That’s why you don’t do it.”

Pirela’s been terrific in his past few games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but Girardi indicated that he still expects Stephen Drew to get regular playing time despite his .149 batting average.

“I still think he’s hit the ball better than the numbers indicate,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t had a lot of luck, and he’s had some really big hits for us. I know he’s a better hitter than what the average shows. I know that.”

So is there a chance for Pirela to become more than just a right-handed platoon player?

“I’ll go day-by-day,” Girardi said. “Until he’s reinstated, until we start seeing what we have, I don’t think it does us a lot of good to speculate.”

Mark Teixeira• Last night’s lineup and late-inning defense make a little more sense now. Turns out, Mark Teixeira has been dealing with a lat issue that made him available only in an extreme situation last night. “We talked about possibly giving him Sunday off (as well),” Girardi said. “I said, ‘If you need more than one day you’ve got to let me know.’ He came in today and said he was fine.”

• Girardi said he was going to let Teixeira pinch hit last night if it were a one-run game, or presumably if Teixeira could have come to the plate as the tying run, but the team didn’t put anyone on base in the ninth. “He’s been able to manage it,” Girardi said. “You try to get him a day off to see if you can get it to calm down and get it healed. He’s been getting treatment for the last few days, and hopefully it’s gone, it’s behind us, but we’ll see.”

• Healthy day off for Chase Headley, Girardi said. “He’s almost played every game,” Girardi said. “We felt he needed a day today.”

• Why not let Alex Rodriguez play third? “I really didn’t want to do it just because of the turf and I’d like to keep him at DH as much as possible,” Girardi said.

• Dellin Betances is not available today. He’s pitched three of the past four, and Girardi doesn’t want guys to pitch four of five. He didn’t completely rule it out, but it’s pretty clear using Betances would be a kind of last resort at best.

• Girardi said he’s pretty sure Chris Capuano is making a rehab appearance with Double-A Trenton on Thursday. Capuano will pitch somewhere that day. Girardi thinks it will be Trenton.

• Jared Burton is off the disabled list. He was assigned to High-A Tampa today. Seems likely to end up with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre eventually.

• Chris Young will play tomorrow against the lefty, Girardi said. The Yankees have been encouraged by Carlos Beltran’s at-bats lately.

Associated Press photos

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Pregame notes: “Get down to normal business now”05.02.15

Alex Rodriguez

Less than 24 hours after last night’s pinch-hit, game-winning, milestone home run, Alex Rodriguez is back in his usual spot in the Yankees’ lineup, batting third as the starting designated hitter. Now the race to No. 661 begins.

“I don’t know if it’ll mean more (than 660),” Rodriguez said. “This whole thing has been kind of like a dream. … I’m just here to play baseball. Anytime you’re sandwiched between Willie Mays and Babe Ruth it’s special. But I’m really just enjoying playing baseball, as much as I have in a long time.”

Rodriguez said yesterday afternoon that he’d been hoping to tie Mays at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, but honestly, if he’d done it at home, the whole thing would have been wrapped up in whatever the Yankees did or did not do to acknowledge the milestone. On the road, at Fenway, off the bench, to break a tie and win a game — No. 660 was all about an in-the-moment situation when Rodriguez got aggressive and delivered a win.

“My guess is, (the pressure) is off, in a sense,” Joe Girardi said. “And he won’t be answering questions, ‘When is he going to hit it?’ which is nice. The next (milestone) is pretty far away, so he should be able to get down to normal business now.”

The next A-Rod milestone isn’t necessarily a home run. He’s 44 hits away from 3,000.

“That’s probably another one we’ll have to worry about a little bit,” Girardi said. “But we still have a little time before we get there. At least we can not worry about that quite yet.”

Mark Teixeira• Mark Teixeira was hit by a pitch in the right wrist last night, but he’s back in the lineup today. “He assured me today that he’d be able to play,” Girardi said.

• That’s the same wrist that required surgery back in 2013 and that seemed to occasionally bother Teixeira last season, but Girardi said he wasn’t worried about any sort of connection causing extra problems. “I think the weakness is gone,” Girardi said. “If it would have happened last year, I think I would have been more concerned than this year.”

• On that same pitch, the ball hit off Teixeira and wound up breaking a knuckle in catcher Ryan Hanigan’s hand. He was put on the disabled list today. Brutal. “That’s pretty strange,” Girardi said. “I’ve seen balls ricochet and hit catchers, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen somebody break his hand like that. It seems that Hanigan is going to have to have surgery, and that’s pretty serious stuff and extremely unfortunate. That’s a strange play. You see ricochets a lot, but I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one that bad.”

• With Hanigan out, the Red Sox have called up highly touted catching prospect Blake Swihart, a switch-hitter who’s in the lineup this afternoon. The kid’s being thrown right into the fire.

• Esmil Rogers has been terrific in a long relief role this season, and last night, Girardi decided to use him in short relief in the seventh inning. It was a bit of a risk, but it paid off when Rogers delivered a scoreless seventh and actually picked up his first win. “I think he gives us the ability to use him that way just because of the stuff that he has,” Girardi said. “I felt that, when I brought him in yesterday, depending on how the inning was going to go, that I would use him for up to five hitters probably and then go to Wilson after that. But sometimes you have to be careful in close games in those situations, because he was my long guy yesterday. I rolled the dice a little bit, and it worked.”

• Nathan Eovaldi is making his fifth start of the year. He’s been pretty solid, but he’s also pitched more than 5.1 innings only once. “We saw him do it in Detroit,” Girardi said. “Some of it depends on how good his breaking ball is on those certain days. He’s a work in progress. I’ve said it a number of times. He’s 25 years old. He’s still a young starting pitcher that has good stuff and is still developing his skill as a starting pitcher. We’re pretty encouraged by what we’ve seen so far from him, so I think he’ll get better as the year goes on.”

Associated Press photos

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