Election day in the Yankees clubhouse • 11.04.14
It’s election day, so let’s have some fun with that!
I’m not going to say that I hope you all voted today. I’ll say instead that I hope you got yourself educated on the issues, really looked into the candidates and the possibilities, and then voted. That’s the way to take the responsibility seriously.
This blog post is one way to not take it seriously.
Remember being a senior in high school and voting on class personalities? If not, I’m sure you at least understand the reference. It’s not like voting for a senator or voting for an amendment. It’s done with a sense of having a good time, and that’s what this blog post is about. Here are a few suggestions for the leading candidates for various class superlatives on the current Yankees roster.
Most Likely to Succeed – Jacoby Ellsbury
With good reason, we focus a lot on the uncertainty of the Yankees current roster (and we’re going to focus on it again in a few sentences), but it’s interesting to do the opposite. What’s the most reliable piece heading into next season? I’d argue it’s Ellsbury, who more or less lived up to expectation in his first season with the Yankees. Factoring in track record, injury concerns, age, and everything else, I’d say Ellsbury is as reliable as it gets for next season.
Least Certain to Succeed – Masahiro Tanaka
Not least likely to succeed, just least certain. There can be no doubt about Tanaka’s talent – the first half of his rookie year proved his stuff can be plenty effective against major league hitters – but we also know that his elbow ligament was slightly torn last season. We know he can succeed, just can’t be certain he’ll have a successful 2015.
Class President – CC Sabathia
It will probably be several years before we see another Yankees captain, and the current roster really has no one quite like Derek Jeter in terms of clear clubhouse leadership. Recognizing that reality — acknowledging there’s no natural fit for team captain — who carries all those qualities you think of in a Class President? I think Sabathia fits best. He’s most certainly respected, he’s incredibly well liked, and he’s been around almost as long as anyone in the room.
Class Clown – Brendan Ryan
This is not intended as a joke about Ryan’s talent or impact. This is intended literally to point out that he’s a bit of a goofball. In a clubhouse full of veterans, where the word stoic is far more applicable than silly, Ryan is a breath of fresh air. He was in good spirits despite rarely playing last season, and there were days he literally went bounding through the locker room laughing like a little kid. As long as it doesn’t cross the line from amusing to annoying, I tend to think a clubhouse needs a guy like that.
Teacher’s Pet – Martin Prado
Honestly, I’m kind of guessing here, but doesn’t Prado seem like exactly the kind of guy a manager could fall in love with? Willing and able to play anywhere in the field. Willing and able to hit basically anywhere in the lineup. Willing (and sometimes able) to play hurt. Does all of that with a real sense of professionalism. With good reason, I could see Prado becoming a Joe Girardi favorite.
Greatest Overachiever – Brett Gardner
Walk-on in college. Labeled a fourth outfielder throughout the minor leagues. Relegated to platoon playing time when he got to the big leagues. Even Gardner’s believers seemed to always acknowledge that he might not actually become an everyday guy, yet this season he landed a multi-year deal and led the Yankees in WAR (according to Baseball Reference; FanGraphs had him second). That’s defying expectation in a big way.
Greatest Underachiever – Brian McCann
At this point, I’m just piling on against a player who I still believe could be a really nice hitter next season (he was awfully good in September). But, the thing with McCann’s disappointing season is that it can’t be blamed on injury or age. Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Brian Roberts and Alfonso Soriano had some excuses in place. McCann never really had one — and to his credit, he never made one — for his disappointing year.
Most Anticipated – Michael Pineda
If we’re looking ahead to next year, then Rob Refsnyder might fit in this spot. If we’re looking beyond next year, then maybe Luis Severino or Aaron Judge. If we’re looking back to last year, then it’s surely Tanaka. But as a combination — last season, next season, and beyond — the anticipation of Pineda is difficult to overlook. The Yankees waited years to finally get him on the field, and they still haven’t seen what he can do in a full season.
Mr. Nice Guy – Adam Warren
Here’s the thing: If Adam reads this and sees a “Mr. Nice Guy” category, he’ll know that he’s going to win it. So will every one of his teammates. It’s not that there are a bunch of jerks in that room — Francisco Cervelli? Incredibly nice guy. Zelous Wheeler? Impossible to dislike. CC Sabathia? Ivan Nova? Brett Gardner? All invited to any dinner I’m attending. — but Warren’s a really, genuinely, nice guy. I don’t know how else to describe him. By the way, Chase Whitley might have been the choice here, but he’s made fun of Missouri football too many times. Total jerk, that guy.
Least Popular – Alex Rodriguez
I know, I know, this one is too easy. But who else fits this description, and what other distinction best fits this player? Rodriguez has gone beyond a lightning rod. At this point, he’s simply a cautionary tale about bad contracts, and performance enhancing drugs, and poor public relations decisions. Rodriguez will probably be booed a lot next year, but if he hits, I bet he’ll be cheered again.
Life of the Party – Dellin Betances
Not in the usual sense. Betances isn’t the life of the party because he’s an over-the-top personality (he’s actually pretty subdued for the most part). He’s the life of the party because he was surely the best thing about last season, and he’s one of the absolute bright spots heading into next season. If you want to look at the roster and find an undeniably good thing, a young success story like Betances — who’s not tied to a bad contract, who’s still in his 20s, who came up through the minor league system, who still has an exciting future — is about as good as it gets for the Yankees right now. The life of the party brings excitement when things get dull, and that’s certainly what Betances is doing.
Associated Press photos
What to do about second base? • 10.27.14
The Yankees really don’t have a problem at second base. They have a perfectly capable big league option in place with Martin Prado, and they have on-the-verge second base prospects in Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela. They’re set in the short term, and they have some hope for the long term.
None of these guys is Robinson Cano, but the options aren’t bad.
Problem is, what happens at second base is connected to what happens at third base, and so there’s still a bit of uncertainty. Move Prado to third and second base becomes all about potential and nothing about proven experience.
So what to do about second base?
1. Make third base a separate issue
This means, essentially, committing to Prado as the Opening Day second baseman. Pirela could still play his way into a bench role, and Refsnyder could force a change if he rakes in spring training (or in the first month or so back at Triple-A) but the Yankees could essentially approach this offseason with Prado locked in at second base, making the third base uncertainty a separate issue. If the second base situation is what it is – with Prado and the two young guys – then there’s little else to discuss at the position.
2. Commit to one of the young guys
Essentially, do nothing at either second base or third base. The roster stays as it is, but instead of Prado being penciled in at second base, he’s penciled in at third base. Alex Rodriguez is the regular designated hitter, and the Yankees commit to either Refsnyder or Pirela playing second base on Opening Day. It would essentially let them spend money elsewhere, but would force some level of belief and patience through inevitable growing pains.
3. Prepare to mix and match
Don’t commit to anything at either second base or third base. Simply try to find three options for two infield positions: Rodriguez, Prado and someone else. That likely means signing some sort of veteran second baseman – maybe a Mark Ellis type – to add an experienced option just in case Refsnyder and Pirela each fall flat. Mixing and matching would not require the kind of contract that absolutely has to be in the lineup, but it would likely involve some sort of free agent who has experience.
4. Focus on a second base upgrade
Maybe Chase Headley is too expensive for a defense-first player. Maybe Pablo Sandoval is too expensive, period. Maybe there’s not a great third-base option out there, so instead of focusing on third base a position of uncertainty, the Yankees decide that Prado is the third baseman, Rodriguez is the DH, and they go looking for help at second. That could mean finding a low-cost veteran to compete with Pirela and Refsnyder – perhaps that’s all the market will allow – but it would surely mean a more concentrated effort to do more. For example: how readily available and viable is Chase Utley? Essentially, instead of signing a new third baseman, the Yankees commit resources toward a regular second baseman.
Associated Press photos
State of the organization: Second base • 10.08.14
Moving around the diamond in our look at the state of the Yankees organization, we settle into second base where the Yankees made a massive decision last winter to pass on the 10-year deal it would take to sign Robinson Cano. Recognizing that Cano was the team’s best short-term fit, the team instead made a long-term decision to avoid a potential repeat of the Alex Rodriguez contract. Passing on Cano has left uncertainty but also opportunity at the position.
Signed through 2016
For now, Prado projects as the Opening Day second baseman, but that’s hardly a sure thing. In fact, it’s Prado’s ability to play so many other positions that makes him a nice fit for this current Yankees roster. If the lineup is full uncertainty, it’s nice to have a guy who can plug a lot of holes, and that’s Prado. In a perfect world, Alex Rodriguez will be able to play third base, Carlos Beltran will be able to play right field, and second base will belong to Prado until one of the young guys is ready to take over. But if Rodriguez isn’t moving well in spring training — and if the Yankees haven’t signed a go-to backup — then Prado could shift to third base. If Beltran suffers some sort of setback and can’t handle right field, then Prado could become an outfield regular (which is the way the Yankees planned to use him this season when they acquired him at the trade deadline). Through most of his career, Prado has hit for a strong average while showing a decent amount of power, especially for a middle infielder, and he’s clearly going to play regularly. If it’s not at second base, it will be somewhere.
On the verge
Really, there are two second basemen who qualify as “on the verge” of winning a big league job. The bigger name, and arguably the safer bet, is Rob Refsnyder, but he fits best in the next category. So we’ll use Pirela in this spot. Despite his standout season in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre — hit .305/.351/.441 and made the postseason All-Star team — the Yankees initially held off on giving Pirela a September call-up. It wasn’t until Prado with down with a season-ending appendectomy that Pirela got to make his big league debut, and it seems telling that he was the Yankees starting second baseman for each of those final three games in Boston. The Yankees big league staff got a chance to see him at the position before heading into the winter. Pirela does not have a great defensive reputation, but he does have plenty of defensive flexibility. He’s played every position except catcher and pitcher, and while he would be more of an emergency option at shortstop or center field, he seems at least passable at second, third, first and the outfield corners. He’s on the 40-man roster now, which suggests the Yankees intend to keep him and give him a look in spring training. Could be a utility man off the bench, or he could play his way into more regular playing time if he carries this year’s offensive success to the next level.
Of the Yankees top position prospects, Refsnyder is the one most immediately in the discussion for a big league job. Aaron Judge, Eric Jagielo, Greg Bird and Gary Sanchez aren’t ready to compete for jobs this spring, John Ryan Murphy is blocked at his position, and it’s hard to call Slade Heathcott or Mason Williams a top position prospect at this point. Refsnyder, though, has moved quickly, and he spent most of this year hitting .300/.389/.456 in Triple-A. His bat was impressive enough that the Yankees began to prepare him for a possible outfield job until trade deadline reinforcements let Refsnyder continue to get reps at second base, where the team has been impressed by his improvement. So far Refsnyder has lived up to his billing as an advanced hitter, and he seems to impress everyone around him with his work ethic and maturity. When the Yankees decide Refsnyder is ready, there may be no easing-in process. He could very well show up in New York — either on Opening Day or soon after — already holding the keys to the second base job.
Deeper in the system
A second-round draft pick out of a California high school, Katoh was drafted a year and a half ago, and he’s just now — on this very day, actually — turning 20 years old. He’s young, and his first full season of pro ball seemed to show some of that youthful inexperience along with some of the tools that made the Yankees draft him so highly in the first place. Katoh’s overall slash line in Charleston wasn’t overly impressive (.222/.345/.326) but the on-base percentage stands out. He struck out a whopping 142 times, but he also walked 71 times. And he showed improvement, hitting .190/.302/.315 in the first half before hitting .251/.382/.337 in the second half. “He’s a good defender,” Mark Newman said. “He can run. He can play. He’s smart. He’s got the kind of approach at the plate that’s going to allow him to get on base. It was a big jump for him.” That’s true. A full season at Low-A is pretty aggressive for a 19 year old. Katoh’s performance was a sign of what he could be, with proof that he’s not there yet. Even so, he’s clearly ahead of Angelo Gumbs and Anderson Feliz among organizational second base prospects, and he’s still a step ahead of 2014 draftee Ty McFarland (who had a solid debut in Staten Island) and versatile Dominican Junior Valera (who had a nice U.S. debut in rookie ball).
A game of adjustments
Cano’s first year of pro ball, he played shortstop and third base. Pirela was primarily a shortstop through Double-A. Refsnyder was an outfielder in college. Point is, predicting long-term second basemen is often tough when looking through a minor league system. At this point it seems safe to assume Refsnyder is a second baseman barring a surprising twist of fate — or a complete inability to do the job in New York — but as long as we’re looking at the state of the entire organization, it’s worth recognizing that the long-term future of second base could depend on a young kid who’s never played the position at this point. Shortstop prospect Abe Avelino, for example. Just this year, the Yankees spent heavily on young international free agents, and many of them were infielders who currently profile at shortstop — guys like Wilkerman Garcia, Diego Castillo, Hyo-Jun Park — but their position could certainly change as they get older. The biggest name of that bunch is Jorge Mateo, an incredibly toolsy young shortstop out of the Dominican Republic. Expectation is that he can stay at short, but circumstances and opportunity may dictate that he’s eventually part of the second base conversation. Think about what happened with Manny Machado moving off shortstop for a while in Baltimore. It happens.
Associated Press photo
After yesterday’s five innings against low-level minor leaguers, Masahiro Tanaka complained of no unusual pain or discomfort today and will step back into the Yankees rotation on Sunday. It’s entirely possible the game will be completely meaningless in the standings, but it will be Tanaka’s most significant test of an elbow ligament that was found to be slightly torn in early July.
“More than anything, I want to see if my body is able to go fully on a major-league mound; pitch on the mound,” Tanaka said. “That’s by far, (more than) anything, most important to me. Also, the fact that, to be able to contribute in the team’s win would be something important to me too.”
Joe Girardi made it clear that Tanaka will pitch Sunday even if the Yankees are mathematically eliminated at that point.
“Obviously he’s got to throw his bullpen again, which I don’t suspect will be a problem, but he’s got to do that,” Girardi said. “… He’s pitching if he’s OK.”
Roughly 70-75 pitches, Girardi said. It seems likely Tanaka would make one more start as long as Sunday goes as hoped.
“Even if it’s short, if I’m able to go out there and have a strong outing, it’ll give me some good confidence (that the elbow has healed),” Tanaka said.
• No surprise that Martin Prado is out of the lineup, but it was a mild surprise that Mark Teixeira’s not in there. It’s hit right wrist again. Girardi said it was bothering him the final game of last week’s home stand, but now it’s significant enough to keep him out of the lineup. “I told him, come see me when you’re ready to go again,” Girardi said.
• Girardi gave absolutely no indication that Teixeira will miss the rest of the season, but it seems worth wondering if that’s possible. “You’re hoping when you have the surgery (last year) that you’re healthy and you can play every day,” Girardi said. “But for whatever reason, it’s lingered with him. Maybe the offseason will help and he’ll get through it and we won’t have that problem. That’s my hope for next year.”
• As for Prado, he had the appendectomy this morning. “He had a stomach ache all day yesterday and played through it,” Girardi said. “He went right from here to (the hospital) to have the tests and they determined that he needed to have surgery.”
• To add similar defensive flexibility, the Yankees have called up Jose Pirela, but he hasn’t played since the end of the Triple-A season two weeks ago. “We’ll try to get him in there,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t done much for two weeks. We’ll work him out a couple of days, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t just throw him in there one day.”
• Girardi said Francisco Cervelli got full medical clearance last night, but Girardi waited until today to get Cervelli back on the field. This is Cervelli’s first game action since those migraines earlier this month.
• This is another Michael Pineda start. He’s faced 102 consecutive batters without allowing a walk or a hit-by-pitch. He hasn’t walked anyone since August 20.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees offense took another hit today when Martin Prado was placed on the 60-day disabled list after undergoing an appendectomy this morning. Prado had been one of the few offensive high points down the stretch, but he won’t play again until next season.
Prado was sent to the 60-day so that the Yankees could open a roster spot for utility man Jose Pirela, who was called up and added to the active roster. He’s expected to be with the team tonight at Tropicana Field. Pirela was arguably Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s most valuable player this season hitting .305/.351/.441 while playing all over the field (he basically capable of playing the same spots Prado can play).
It seems entirely possible, if not likely, that giving Pirela a late September call-up sets the stage for him staying on the 40-man through the winter and trying to win a big league bench spot next season. He’s versatile and has a recent history of hitting in the upper levels and in winter ball.
Twenty innings. One run. Let’s add today to the long list of potential low points for the Yankees offense this season. Riding a wave of momentum after back-to-back emotional wins at home, the Yankees lineup flat-lined again today. They nearly squeezed a win out of this mess, which is fairly remarkable, but they ultimately earned their doubleheader sweep. They earned it the same way they’ve earned so many losses this season: by simply not hitting.
“It’s hard to win when you only score one run in (20) innings,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought we had a pretty decent shot to win the first game when we scored the one run, but tonight we didn’t do anything off Norris. He’s got good stuff, and he’s been tough on us before, but you’ve got to score runs.”
The end of that quote is the new state of the Yankees. On nights they can’t score, teams never want to dismiss the performance of the opposing pitcher, but it seems the Yankees are sick of tipping their caps. There are plenty of good pitchers out there, but night after night, the one constant is this group of Yankees hitters. And they just keep having nights like this one.
“We have to go on a run,” Jacoby Ellsbury said. “That’s the only way to put it. We want to make it interesting. We still have a chance. All we can do is go out there and give everything we have, play good baseball. Obviously we have to get hot and we have to play very good baseball, but there’s still a chance. That’s what we have to hold out for.”
Hold out all you want, but the Yankees are now five games out with 16 to play. There are four teams ahead of them in that race for the second wild card. It might not be a death sentence, but it’s awfully close. Mathematically, they’re still in it. Realistically? After what they showed these past 20 innings? That seems to be a different story.
“I don’t care when you lose two games in a row, it’s frustrating,” Girardi said. “Especially after the last two wins that we had. Yeah, we’re beat up, but that’s no excuse. You’ve got to find a way.”
• Chase Headley was in the Yankees clubhouse postgame. He has two stitches and actually looks alright considering what happened last night. Tests have come back clean so far, but he’s going to do some more tests tomorrow just to be certain. He said he doesn’t expect to play tomorrow, but it seems like the Yankees could get him back sooner than later.
• Carlos Beltran said he took about 20 light swings in the cage, just some soft toss. His elbow feels a little bit better, he said, but this wasn’t much of a workout. His situation is still uncertain to say the least.
• Francisco Cervelli is with the team in Baltimore. He said his headaches have gone away. He feels good and feels like he could play at this point.
• Martin Prado didn’t start the second game, but it seems likely he’ll play tomorrow. “You can see he’s not 100 percent, and you hate to try to have a guy wind it back up again (after playing in the afternoon game),” Girardi said. “There’s concern about him hurting it worse and it being a long-term problem and having some real issues with it. He’s a gamer, and I put him out there to pinch hit, and he hit the ball well. He did it as well last night. So my plan is to play him again tomorrow.”
• Although his command was obviously bad, David Phelps said he felt physically fine in his first appearance in more than a month. “It doesn’t have anything to do with being rusty,” he said. “Regardless of how long you take off, throwing strikes shouldn’t be a problem. … Was pulling sliders off the plate all night, finally throw one and the guy hits it hard. It’s just frustrating.”
• Better night on the mound for rookie Bryan Mitchell who gave up two runs through five innings in his first big league start. “My main goal tonight was to put us in a chance to win,” Mitchell said. “Obviously the two runs hurt, but it’s just one of those days I would have liked to have been better. … Yeah, it obviously is (good enough to have a chance to win), but without those two runs obviously we have a better chance.”
• Girardi on Mitchell: “He did OK. He hasn’t started a game in a while. He threw a bunch of pitches the other day on Sunday, and he got in some tough counts, but held the damage to a minimum. Obviously he gave us a chance to win. … It was good to see him pitch in a start. I’ve only seen him pitch really out of relief. He has the ability to have people swing and miss, and he has the ability to get out of innings. He did some little things. He held runners. He’s a work in progress, but it was good for him to get a start.”
• The Yankees intentionally paired Mitchell with Austin Romine, who’d caught him in Triple-A. “That definitely helped,” Mitchell said. “Made me a lot more comfortable because we have a similar plan to what we’ve been doing during the season (in Triple-A), so I liked that going into it.”
• After missing the past six games with a lower abdominal strain, Brett Gardner returned to the lineup, reached base twice and stole a bag. He’s hitting .348 with five extra-base hits in his past six games.
• Chris Young had another hit in the nightcap. He’s hitting .429 with five runs, three doubles, three home runs and eight RBI since joining the Yankees on September 2.
• The Orioles swept a doubleheader against the Yankes for the first time since September 24, 1984 in Baltimore.
• Final word to Girardi: “It’s no fun, but other teams are having problems in front of us that we’re trying to catch. We’re probably three or four hits from winning eight out of our last 10. If you get those hits and three or four pitches as well, it’s different. It makes a big difference. We need to win a lot, and I’ve said that a lot. We’re capable of doing it.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi’s pregame media session was basically just a medical report. It’s September, rosters are expanded, and the Yankees will actually have a pretty limited bench today because of the recent string of injuries.
“We called up eight people, and I’m not so sure we have enough guys to run out there,” Girardi said. “It’s unfortunate we’ve kind of been hit with some injuries, multiple guys, bang, bang, bang. But, as I said, you still put players out there, you still play the game, and you see things that happen like they did last night. Guys have to step up.”
Here are the basic updates:
Pitch to the face
After last night’s hit by pitch, Headley stayed behind in New York so that he can be tested for a concussion.
“The tests came out good last night,” Girardi said. “No fractures. He had to get a couple of stitches. He’ll see the neurologist today and then determine what’s next. Hopefully he can join us fairly quickly.”
Girardi said it’s possible Headley will join the team this weekend in Baltimore, but he might not necessarily play this weekend.
“He’s sore,” Girardi said. “He was pretty sore last night, so I’m not sure what we’ll have.”
Although he hasn’t done much in the past week, Gardner said he’s going to try to run and hit today. If that goes well, Girardi said he’s hoping to have Gardner in the lineup for Game 2.
“I’ll go through some of the things they want me to go through and see how it feels,” Gardner said.
Most of the discomfort comes when Gardner runs, he said. He’s not too worried about swinging, but obviously a lot of his game is based on running.
Elbow bone spur
Still no clarity on whether Beltran will be able to play again this season.
“I think he was going to try to do something today if he can and it felt OK,” Girardi said. “(He’s going to) try to take some swings.”
After last night’s pinch hit home run, Prado is in the starting lineup for the first time since Sunday. But Girardi cautioned that Prado’s not out of the woods yet. Last night wasn’t taken as proof that he’s over it.
“I think we have to watch him,” Girardi said. “There’s some concern still with that hamstring. We’re going to have to watch him.”
Activated off the disabled list this morning, Phelps will be available out of the bullpen for the doubleheader.
“I think 25-30 pitches is safe to say,” Girardi said. “You’d have to see if he threw an inning how he did before you sent him back out there. Give him a chance to build up a little bit. My inkling would be you use him an inning, maybe try to build him up that way, but sometimes you’re not afforded that luxury.”
• Brian Mitchell will start Game 2. The Yankees had him throw a 50-pitch sim game a few days ago to stay sharp for this start. “He’s used to starting, so I don’t think 80 to 90 pitches is out of the realm for him,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he would prefer not to use any pitchers in both games, but he left open the possibility of using a lefty and possibly Dave Robertson in both ends of the doubleheader. “I’ll have to see,” he said.
• Orioles 1B/3B Chris Davis has been suspended 25 games after testing positive for an amphetamine. Davis released a statement in which he admitted using Adderall, something he apparently had permission to use in the past but not this year. The suspension will keep him out of the lineup through eight playoff games, assuming the Orioles go that far. “It’s disappointing any time a guy is suspended,” Girardi said. “I don’t know the details of it. You hate to see it in our game.”
• The Yankees flew to Baltimore after last night’s game. They got in late and had a late report time for today’s doubleheader. A lot of guys still hadn’t arrived when the clubhouse closed to media at 11:30. I don’t believe either team took batting practice today. Not all that unusual for a doubleheader, and certainly not in the Yankees situation.
Associated Press photo
Pregame notes: “It didn’t work out well” • 09.10.14
This weekend, it seemed Martin Prado was basically through the woods. He wasn’t moving especially well, but he returned to the lineup with three hits on Saturday, played a full game again on Sunday, and it seemed his left hamstring injury was at least healed enough to make him regular again.
But he’s since had three days off, which suggests he’s either more badly hurt than originally believed, or it’s simply no longer worth taking the risk of putting him in the lineup.
“As he went through the weekend, what we saw, there was concern,” Joe Girardi said. “There’s still concern. It’s just talking to the training staff and the doctors, their thoughts.”
Here are Prado’s thoughts:
“To be honest with you, the way I see it, I tried to play when the team needs me to play,” Prado said. “But at the same time, I don’t want to miss four or five weeks or six weeks, a month, after this season if we clinch or not. I don’t want to spend that time waiting for my legs to heal because I can use that time to get ready for next season. The way I see it, I tried to play like that, and it didn’t work out well. That being said, I have to worry about my health and not push back and make that worse.”
Prado said his hamstring “didn’t feel right” after playing in those two weekend games. He was tight and unable to move at 100 percent. Prado was planning to take batting practice today, but it’s not likely he’ll be available even as a pinch hitter.
“I don’t want him to do too much running, as I told him,” Girardi said. “I said, ‘Go through BP, take some BP, see how you feel and we’ll go from there.’ As I said yesterday, there’s a concern there. I don’t think he’s ready to go, but we’re going to let him take some BP.”
• Obviously there’s also some lingering concern about Brett Gardner’s abdominal issue. When he had something similar earlier this season, Gardner missed just one game. This time, he hasn’t played since Friday. “He’ll be out a few more days at least because that can become something that’s fairly serious,” Girardi said. “We’re giving him a few more days and we’ll go from there.”
• Masahiro Tanaka will throw a bullpen on Friday and he’ll pitch in some sort of game at the Yankees minor league complex in Tampa on Monday. The Yankees will be in Tampa for a Rays series that day, so it makes sense to send him to the complex.
• David Phelps has a bullpen today and seems likely to be activated on Friday. “Our hope is to bring him back maybe when we go to Baltimore,” Girardi said. “He threw a simulated game, and our hope is to bring him back in Baltimore. He would be in the bullpen, a guy that I could use an inning, inning-plus, then I’d have to give him some days off after that.”
• Brandon McCarthy will start the first game of Friday’s doubleheader. The second game’s starter will depend on who’s available. Girardi mentioned Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley and Esmil Rogers as possibilities. “We could use a bullpen day if we have to,” Girardi said.
• Francisco Cervelli took batting practice on the field today. He’s been out with severe headaches.
• How does Girardi approach these final 20 games knowing most of baseball considers the Yankees to be realistically out of the playoff race? “It’s happened before,” he said. “It’s very difficult, but it’s happened before. You can only control the things you can control, so go control them. And then worry about where you fall later.”
Associated Press photos
There’s a chance Masahiro Tanaka has just one more hurdle to clear before rejoining the Yankees rotation.
Tanaka pitched a three-inning, 45-pitch simulated game this afternoon and declared his arm stronger and healthier than it was two weeks ago in Detroit. He’ll next throw a typical between-starts bullpen before pitching either another simulated game with the Yankees or possibly an instructional league game in Tampa (presumably on Sunday).
After that, a big league start is a legitimate option.
“I think that’s possible to look at, yeah,” Joe Girardi said.
Last time Tanaka threw a simulated game – August 28 at Comerica Park – he complained the next day about soreness and fatigue. That’s when Tanaka’s throwing program was temporarily suspended, creating real doubt about whether he would return this season. Today there seems to be far more hope than doubt.
“Definitely I was throwing stronger, harder than in Detroit,” Tanaka said. “Not overly worried (that it will be sore tomorrow). A bit concerned just because of what happened in Detroit, but when I was throwing, it was completely sort of different. A different feel than what I was feeling in Detroit versus today, so I think I’ll be OK tomorrow.”
Throughout this process, Tanaka has always sounded like a guy who knew his stuff wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues. But today, his tone was different.
“I do (feel ready),” he said. “But I’d probably build up a little bit more pitches before actually going into a competitive game.”
Girardi said he thought Tanaka was better in every way compared to the Detroit sim game. He said the velocity was better, command was better, and the offspeed pitches were sharper. Tanaka faced Chris Young, Antoan Richardson, Zelous Wheeler and Austin Romine.
“Really good,” Young said. “I’m not really sure how the (velocity) is supposed to look or anything like that, but I know his split-finger was just as good as ever and his breaking ball was just as good as I’ve ever seen it. I had the opportunity to face him earlier this year (with the Mets) so I knew what I was getting myself into standing in the box. He looked amazing. He didn’t give up a hit, and we’re all out there trying, for sure. We’re not just standing in. We’re trying to have competitive at-bats and give him as much of a real game situation that you can. He was locked in and made some great pitches.”
• When Brett Gardner had an abdominal issue in Cleveland earlier this year, he missed just one game. This time, he’s missed three games already. “He has an abdominal strain,” Girardi said. “We’re not sure exactly when we’ll get him back. He does feel better. He’ll see the doctor again tonight and then we’ll try to make some decisions on when he’ll start doing some baseball activities. … I’m not sure when we’ll get him back. It is a concern of mine. We’ll continue to talk to the doctors, measure how he feels and how he’s improving and go from there.”
• Gardner’s been perhaps the Yankees most consistent hitter this season. Their hottest hitter of late has been Martin Prado, and Prado’s also out of the lineup. His hamstring is still bothering him. “There’s concern about him playing on that, where he could really make it worse in his hamstring to where it becomes a serious issue,” Girardi said. “It’s still bothering him. Even though I told him to guard it — and he did a good job — there’s concern.”
• Girardi said there was no real setback from Prado playing the previous two games, it just hasn’t gotten better. “It’s the same,” Girardi said. “But there’s concern.”
• David Phelps will throw a side on Wednesday and it seems entirely possible — if not likely — that he’ll be activated for Friday’s double header. “Everything feels great,” Phelps said. Although he could be activated Friday (that’s purely my own speculation based on the timing of his side), Phelps said he’s not expecting to start one of those games.
• I only saw him for a moment as he was walking through the clubhouse, but Francisco Cervelli is definitely back with the Yankees. I never saw him in the clubhouse during those games when he was shutdown with the recurring headaches. The fact he was around today would seem to be a good sign.
• Although he’s gotten into three games and taken one at-bat, this will be Young’s first start since coming to the Yankees. “Not too many people know I’m over here yet,” Young said. “A few people still think I’m with the Mets. I don’t think the word’s gotten around town yet. Tonight I could change that.”
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Postgame notes: “Go back to Jeter’s prime” • 09.06.14
As I type this, there are No. 2 flags already flying over Yankee Stadium, and there’s some sort of crew in center field no doubt beginning to setup whatever the Yankees have planned for Derek Jeter tomorrow. There’s no one in this stadium or in this game who doesn’t know the significance of Jeter’s name, which means Brandon McCarthy was well aware of just how hefty a comparison he was making after tonight’s win against the Royals.
Martin Prado had returned from a hamstring injury to deliver three hits, two of them doubles and each of them in an inning when the Yankees scored. He’s been blistering hot for about three weeks now, and if the Yankees actually make a run into the postseason, it will surely be in no small part because of Prado’s arrival.
“Hitters like that, the biggest compliment you can give is that they’re just a pain in the (butt),” McCarthy said. “Go back to Jeter’s prime, that’s exactly (what Prado’s doing). He’s not knocking balls 20 rows deep. He’s not just driving the ball all over. But they’re just always on pitches. They’re hard to get out. It’s just line drive after line drive after line drive, and the weeks that those start to fall, it’s easy for a lineup to just kind of carry on his momentum.”
Since August 16, Prado has hit .403 with four home runs, 14 runs and 11 RBI. After slugging just .370 in Arizona, Prado has slugged .527 since coming to the Yankees at the trade deadline. He’s hitting .469 with eight RBI in his past eight games at Yankee Stadium.
No one would suggest he’s having a Jeter-like career, but in this little stretch, McCarthy sees a little of the captain in a guy who was his teammate in Arizona and now again in New York.
“It’s been awesome to see him back where he wants to be and where everyone wants to see him these last few weeks,” McCarthy said. “He’s really just starting to hit the ball well. Everything that I remember from Prado toward the end of last season and in Atlanta, today was just kind of an extension of that. Just come right in after missing a few days and just don’t skip a beat and just carry the team.”
The Yankees told Prado to take it easy today. He was healthy enough to play, but they didn’t want him to push it. That’s why he wasn’t moving very well around the bases. He was trying to do just enough to get the job done without taking the risk of further injury. For a player on this kind of roll — a player evoking at least one comparison to Jeter in his prime — even playing at 70 or 80 percent was enough to make a difference.
“It’s been killing me just to see everybody grind it out up there every single day and knowing that we got a pretty good chance to do something special here,” Prado said. “So I put myself in a spot where I’m just going up there (and play). I’m a guy to always go 100 percent, but in this case I got to just play a little bit smart. … I’m in a stage where I can not tell you if I’m 70 percent, 80 percent, but the way I’m playing right now, it feels normal.”
Although Joe Girardi was trying to load the lineup with right-handed hitters to face Danny Duffy, Gardner was actually sidelined and unavailable because of a recurrence of that lower abdominal pain that bothered him in Cleveland earlier this season. He missed only one game in Cleveland and he’s hoping for the same in this situation.
“Yesterday during the game I didn’t really feel right,” he said. “Same thing maybe a couple months ago in Cleveland something going on like lower abdominal area. I don’t really know exactly what’s going on, but (there is) tightness. Something I feel if I push it I’m going to make it worse. I don’t feel like I’m 100 percent, so hopefully I’ll come in feeling better tomorrow, but right now I don’t have any test scheduled. Just got some treatment today and that’s it.”
Gardner said there wasn’t one particular play when he felt it happen, it was just bothering him yesterday and he finally said something about it after the game.
• If the Yankees make the postseason, would they owe the Kevin Towers a playoff share? Not only is Prado on a roll, but McCarthy has been outstanding. The guy who had a 5.01 ERA in Arizona now has a 2.79 ERA since coming to the Yankees. The team has won seven of his 11 starts. “It’s nice just to contribute,” McCarthy said. “I spent the first half of the season being a hindrance on an organization, and that’s something that doesn’t sit well. To come somewhere where there’s a playoff race going on and you’re a positive influence and something that’s helping the team, that’s really all you can ask for when you’re playing.”
• McCarthy went 6.2 innings with six hits, one walk and four strikeouts. He got huge outs when he needed them but seemed mostly unimpressed with his stuff. “Battled,” he said. “Wasn’t really sharp, but I felt like Murphy did a good job getting me through it and making sure that I could kind of keep going deeper in the game and make those runs that they gave me early hold up.”
• Speaking of John Ryan Murphy, he’d never caught McCarthy outside of one bullpen. He based most of his decisions on what he’d learned from Francisco Cervelli, Brian McCann and Larry Rothschild. “As far as game planning, I got with Cervi and Mac, Larry and all them,” Murphy said. “As far as pitch-calling, I kind of just read that off the way his bullpen goes before the game.”
• Girardi on Murphy: “It’s not like he saw (McCarthy) in spring training or anything like that, so it is impressive. He had a great day for us, getting us started with a double in his first at-bat. Did a great job with McCarthy. Swung the bat extremely well. Kept the one inning going when they throw ball away and we get a run. He had a really impressive day.”
• With nine wins, McCarthy has actually matched a career high. Six of those have come with the Yankees, only three with Arizona. This was his first win since the complete-game shutout on August 21.
• Having stacked the lineup with right-handers, Girardi’s plan kind of backfired when Duffy only lasted one pitch. “You figure you stay with (the lineup) a little bit, and then at a point you’re going to make some changes,” Girardi said. “I went through it twice, in a sense, and then I decided to make the changes, because if you make the changes too early, then you can get stacked left handers, I’m worried about Prado a little bit, how he’s going to make it through the game, so I had to be somewhat careful. I knew I didn’t have Gardy. So get through it twice and see where we’re at.”
• Of course, it’s worth noting that Duffy has been extremely good this season. He entered with a 2.42 ERA, so the Yankees went from facing one of the game’s better left-handers this season to facing a bunch of relievers. “My initial reaction is, you set your lineup up against a lefty and now they’re bringing in a righty,” Girardi said. “I’m like, OK. I started thinking about when do you turning it over, making your moves. But we took advantage of it today. Duffy’s been throwing the ball as well as anyone since about the middle of June.”
• Mark Teixeira got his 1,500th career hit in the American League. He has another 174 in the National League.
• Derek Jeter recorded his 40th RBI with a sacrifice fly in the third inning. He has now recorded 40-plus RBI in 18 seasons, surpassing Mickey Mantle for the most 40-plus RBI seasons in franchise history.
• Final word to McCarthy, speaking about himself and Prado coming over from Arizona: “For us and Chase (Headley) and the guys that came over, you’re getting out of situations where teams were out of it early. You weren’t playing as well as you wanted to play, and that kind of weighs on you. To come somewhere where you’re thrust into a playoff race, and for all of us to kind of get back to where we’d like to be, playing well, I think it’s a weight off all of our shoulders.”
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