Heading into Masahiro Tanaka’s first big league start in more than a month, Joe Girardi said he would look for two things: command and sharpness of pitches.
Well, Tanaka walked no one and got through the seventh inning on 78 pitches. He struck out nine and got only one two outs on true fly balls into the outfield. As a bonus, his velocity regularly reached into the mid-90s, topping out at 96 mph for the first time this season.
“We’ll take him anytime we can get him,” Andrew Miller said. “I know he’s been battling a little forearm or elbow stuff, or whatever, but when he’s been on the mound he’s been incredible. We want him out there as often as possible, and we want him for the long haul. To have a guy on a pitch count go out and give us seven innings is really, really impressive. He’s the star of the game, for sure.”
Tanaka’s first pitch was a 92-mph fastball, and it was clobbered well over the fence but foul. Tanaka went on to strike out the leadoff hitter on three pitches, which was a sign of things to come. Two more strikeouts in the second inning. Two more in the third. A strikeout to end the fourth, another to end the fifth, and another to end the seventh. All three hits Tanaka allowed came in the third inning when the Mariners scored their only run. After that, he retired the final 13 batters he faced.
“I would have to agree, I think it was the best outing I’ve had this year so far,” Tanaka said. “… It was a good outing, but it’s just one outing. I can’t be too high about that. Right now, maybe I’ll celebrate today, but starting tomorrow I’ll look forward to my next outing and work on my stuff.”
Obviously health will be a lingering concern for a player with a known elbow issue, but this was pretty substantial proof that Tanaka can be plenty effective as long as the elbow doesn’t blow out completely. His offspeed pitches were effective, and Tanaka’s four-seamer was so good that he was willing to throw it up in the zone to finish off hitters. Tanaka had been trying to work mostly down in the zone with two-seamers early in the season, but he said that two starts before going on the DL he starting thinking more about going up in the zone to get outs. He did that effectively today.
“I’m not so sure I expected (that velocity) the first time out,” Girardi said. “Velocity has been a huge topic for him. We talked about his average velocity has been there. In April, a lot of times you don’t see guys’ (full) velocity. You just don’t. Part of it has to do with that stinky weather that we play in, but I was a little surprised.”
Tanaka’s explanation for finally reaching the mid 90s: “I think maybe (because) we’re a little bit deeper in the season. Warming up a little, maybe that has to do with it.”
Maybe a few weeks off helped him. Maybe he simply needed to build up arm strength after a relatively light spring training. Maybe this was simply a really good day. Whatever it was, the Yankees got their ace back this afternoon, and he looked as good as ever.
“If we’re going to go where we want to go this year,” Mark Teixeira said. “We need guys like Tanaka to be healthy and be in our starting rotation. Hopefully that’s what we’re going to have the rest of the year.”
• Andrew Miller had to work for his 17th save. He came in with a runner on, then a hit a batter, walked a guy on four pitches and fell behind 3-0. Miller came back to get a strikeout and a ground ball to get out of that eighth-inning jam before pitching a scoreless ninth. “He’s got a toughness to him,” Girardi said. “In that situation, it’s a tough situation. Bases loaded, 3-0 on a hitter, and to be able to get out of it, it just shows you that he has a lot of ability and believes in himself.”
• Miller on his outing: “I wasn’t missing by a lot. But I was missing consistently in one spot. And that’s kind of a tough thing, because you’re trying to come up with a fix and things keep going in the same direction. I was able to slow things down, and get back in the zone eventually. He chased a 3-2 slider, which is a pitch I throw a lot of times, but with the bases loaded there, if he lays off of that, it might be a different story. But fortunately that happened and got out of it.”
• Girardi said he didn’t want to use Dellin Betances after back-to-back outings. He wound up going to Chris Capuano to start the eighth inning. It was Capuano’s first relief appearance of the year, and it came in a two-run game. Says a lot about the state of the Yankees’ pen beyond Betances and Miller. “They had lefties coming up, and you force their hand to make a change, and Cap’s done it in the bullpen before,” Giradri said, explaining the decision to use Capuano in that spot.
• Any thought of just sending Tanaka out for the eighth? He was at 78 pitches and could have gone up to 85. “No, just because we had talked about 80-85 pitches, but we were expecting that in six innings,” Girardi said. “The extra up-down situation, we thought it was enough. Believe me, I would have loved to.”
• This was the seventh time in his career that Tanaka struck out at least nine batters. First time he’d done it this season.
• This was the first time in Tanaka’s career that he pitched in a major league game to anyone other than Brian McCann. “We were basically on the same page for the most part,” John Ryan Murphy said. “There was a handful of pitches that he shook off, like any other pitcher. … It’s a little uncomfortable going in the second inning, because I didn’t do all the pregame scouting reports and that stuff with him and Larry, but as soon as I knew I was going in I talked to him and (translator) Shingo. We got on the same page, simple as that.”
• Second game in a row that Garrett Jones hit a game-winning home run. He’s homered in back-to-back games. Before this, he’d homered once all year. “Just relaxing,” he said. “Going in there just letting it go, being loose, and try to contribute. I’ve been feeling good at the plate and just trying to stay relaxed, let it fly. Got some pitches to hit and put a good swing. When I’m in there, just trying to make the most of it.”
Another home run for Mark Teixeira, who’s already at 16 homers and 41 RBI. This was his 19th career home run at Safeco Field, the most ever hit here by an opposing player. “Every day is different,” Teixeira said. “It really is. You get a couple of good pitches to hit, hit right-handed, hit left-handed, tomorrow is a day off and then Friday is a new day. I feel good physically.”
• For the second time in less than a week since joining the big league team, Ramon Flores threw out a runner at the plate.
• Final word goes to Murphy on Tanaka: “He was incredible. Everything was for strikes. He threw all of his pitches. The thing that he does so well is on both sides of the plate, the ball can go sideways both ways and go straight down. Everything was working today. Makes it really hard on the other hitters. It showed today.”
Associated Press photos
Game 53: Yankees at Mariners • 06.03.15
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 3.22)
Tanaka vs. Mariners
Logan Morrison 1B
Austin Jackson CF
Robinson Cano 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Seth Smith RF
Brad Miller SS
Dustin Ackley LF
Mike Zunino C
RHP Taijuan Walker (2-5, 6.18)
Walker vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 3:40 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: Predictably cloudy, but the roof is open.
UMPIRES: HP Will Little, 1B Phil Cuzzi, 2B Tony Randazzo, 3B Mike DiMuro
DON’T YA KNOW: Collectively, the current Mariners have hit just .188 in a handful of at-bats against Tanaka. Only one currently Mariners player has ever homered off Tanaka. It’s Robinson Cano.
FIRST TIMERS: Mariners starter Walker has only faced one current Yankee in a big league at-bat. That one Yankee is Chris Young, who’s not in the lineup. Otherwise, new experience for everyone.
ON THIS DATE: Lots of Lou Gehrig moments — good and bad — happened in early June. On June 3, 1932, Gehrig hit four home runs and barely missed a fifth in a 20-13 Yankees win at Philadelphia. Tony Lazzeri hit for the cycle that game, and the Yankees had 50 total bases. Fifty!
UPDATE, 3:53 p.m.: Tanaka works a 1-2-3 top of the first. His first pitch was crushed, but foul, and he went on to strike out the leadoff hitter on three pitches.
UPDATE, 3:54 p.m.: Leadoff home run by Teixeira in the second inning. His 16th of the year.
UPDATE, 4:00 p.m.: Murphy now catching for the Yankees. That can’t be good.
UPDATE, 4:04 p.m.: Wowza. That’s a heck of a play by Didi up the middle.
UPDATE, 4:29 p.m.: Triple and double in the third inning have tied the game at 1, but Tanaka stopped the damage right there largely because Ramon Flores made another great throw from left field to get another out at the plate. Flores showed up less than a week ago and he’s already thrown out two guys at home.
UPDATE, 4:35 p.m.: Two-run homer by Garrett Jones puts the Yankees back in front 3-1 in the fourth.
UPDATE, 5:00 p.m.: Sore right foot for McCann. He’s going to get an MRI in New York tomorrow. Could be anything.
UPDATE, 5:07 p.m.: Six innings for Tanaka. Still at 71 pitches. Could go back out there for the seventh, but Capuano is warming. Yes, Capuano.
His Opening Day start had been a disappointment. His second start wasn’t particularly good, but it was a win. His third start spanned seven scoreless innings. Fourth start, six and a third with three hits. His fifth start…
Well, his fifth start has been more than a month in the making. This afternoon in Seattle, Tanaka will finally return from the disabled list to start the Yankees’ series finale in Seattle.
“We expect him to pitch like he did his last couple of outings,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Obviously he’s not quite as built up as he was before he got hurt, but just to do what all of our other guys do: give us a chance to win, hold teams down and pitch like you’re capable of. We saw him pitching well before he got hurt. (Today)’s a new day, and we’ll see what happens.”
Tanaka’s scheduled for 80-85 pitches. His last rehab start wasn’t overly impressive, but with Tanaka, the question is never one of talent or ability. It’s all about healthy and durability. How long can he postpone Tommy John surgery? How many month-long DL stints are in his future? How long will this stint in the rotation last?
“When the season started, I didn’t have any issues,” Tanaka said. “I was healthy, and right now I feel healthy as well.”
Despite the spotty results in his final tune-up — just poor command, Tanaka said, easily fixed with proper mechanics — the Yankees say they were encouraged. His fastball velocity was roughly the same as before the injury, and his slider was sharp. That’s the team’s scouting report. The results before he went on the disabled list were also encouraging.
But, again, it’s about health. And while Tanaka has said since spring training that his elbow feels fine, it’s hard not to think the strained forearm and sore wrist — the two injuries that technically sent him to the disabled list in late April — weren’t somehow related to the torn elbow ligament he rehabbed last season.
“I know there are going to always be questions about his elbow because of what he went through,” Girardi said. “But every doctor has said don’t operate now and just go pitch. … Health is just too hard to predict. You see healthy guys (get hurt) like Chase Whitley, who had never had a problem before. It happens. I think will all your starters, you’re more apt to keep your fingers cross than to expect it.”
Set different expectations because of the injuries?
“Not really,” Girardi said. “Because we see the stuff. We see it there. I know there’s been a ton made of his velocity, but his velocity is the same average as last year. It comes down to making pitches. We still expect a lot from him.”
Associated Press photo
Best I could tell from watching on television, Masahiro Tanaka looked every bit like a big league starter facing a minor league lineup tonight.
Making his first rehab start since going on the disabled list late last month, Tanaka cruised through three scoreless innings with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He struck out two, walked none and showed no signs to trouble in either his forearm or his elbow.
The Yankees have not said what’s next for their injured ace, but he will presumably make at least one or two more minor league starts before rejoining the big league rotation.
“I can’t really say right now,” Tanaka told reporters, including Donnie Collins, who passed along a few quotes. “I’ll have to wait and see how it feels tomorrow. Obviously, we get to see our trainer in New York, our manager, coaches and discuss to see what the next step will be.”
All signs were positive through the first step.
Scheduled for three innings or 45 pitches, Tanaka needed 41 pitches to get through three scoreless. He allowed one double and one single but otherwise worked quickly and easily, mixing all of his pitches with a fastball sitting at 91 mph and topping out at 92 on the stadium radar gun.
“I felt pretty good out there,” Tanaka said. “I was able to use all my pitches. I felt pretty good. … Not necessarily different than how I usually go into a game. I was looking to obviously pitch all my pitches with force, and I was able to do that tonight.”
Tanaka’s first pitch came in at 91 mph, and it was lifted for a routine out to center field. His entire outing wouldn’t be quite that easy, but it didn’t get much harder. After the second batter of the game doubled, Tanaka retired the next seven in a row. The first inning took him just 12 pitches, and the second inning required only 10.
It seemed Tanaka would fall far short of 45 pitches at the end of three innings, but after a two-out single in the third, he fell behind 3-0 against former big leaguer Jake Elmore, who had doubled earlier in the game. Tanaka worked to even the count before getting Elmore to fly out to end the inning and end his outing.
Did he feel any pain?
“No,” Tanaka said. “Not at all.”
Check Donnie’s blog postgame for more from the RailRiders clubhouse, including — assuming he talks to reporters, which I’m sure he will — comments from Austin Romine, who was behind the plate for Tanaka.
Associated Press photos
It could be a matter of days before Ivan Nova is ready to begin a legitimate rehab assignment.
After throwing 47 pitches in an extended spring training start on Monday, Nova will get stretched out a little bit more this weekend before the Yankees settle on what exactly he’ll do next.
“They were really pleased with how he did,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I think he’s got one more down there, on Saturday, and we’ll go from there.”
When Nova does official begin a rehab assignment, it won’t necessarily take a step back to a pitch count resembling the start of spring training. Girardi said these extended-spring starts were designed to get him stretched out so that he could throw more pitches once he got into real games.
“He won’t have to go back to like 15 or 20 (pitches),” Girardi said. “This just allows us, in a sense, to build him up with more starts. When you’re coming off what he is, you want to make sure the command is there, so he should be able to give you a couple starts with a substantial amount of pitches. Whereas if you just did the 30 days (of a rehab assignment), you’d get one at 90.”
A few more injury updates:
He’s making a rehab start tonight with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Scheduled for three innings or 45 pitches, it seems Tanaka will need at least two more minor league starts before the Yankees would consider him stretched out enough to rejoin the big league rotation.
“It’s a decision that we’ll make after each start when we feel that he’s ready to go,” Girardi said. “I’m not going to put a number on it.”
So far, the Yankees have said only that Ellsbury has a sprained ligament on the outside of his right knee. They haven’t given a grade or any other clue about the severity. Even Ellsbury himself claims not to know for sure. Ellsbury will meet with Dr. Chris Ahmad on Friday, at which point the team will presumably provide at least a few more details.
“This is not doom and gloom,” Girardi said. “It’s just hard to predict. We want him to see our doctors. This is a guy who’s running all over the place. He’ll be ready when he’s ready and hopefully it won’t be too long.”
Hit by a pitch to the hand way back on May 5, Petit still hasn’t even started hitting. He was diagnosed with a bone bruise and no break, but there’s still pain more than two weeks later.
“Hand’s still sore,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you get hit on those bones, and they don’t break, but that bone bruise, they’re painful.”
Friday will be two weeks since Martin last pitched. He’s been on the disabled list with right elbow tendonitis, but he’s been playing catch and is close to doing something more substantial. He’d become a fairly trusted reliever before the injury, so he could help solidify those middle innings.
“I think he’s supposed to throw maybe a bullpen at the end of the week,” Girardi said. “Saturday or Sunday.”
Having injured his calf in spring training, Ryan has now been through two setbacks, most recently for some level of heat exhaustion. The plan is for him to begin playing extended spring training games this week (he was actually supposed to start playing yesterday, but Girardi wasn’t sure whether that happened). At this point, it seems he’ll need a rather lengthy rehab. It’s been a long time since those spring training at-bats.
“He’s got to get some at-bats,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t had consistent at-bats, so he’s got to get some at-bats.”
Associated Press photo
Masahiro Tanaka will make a rehab start with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday. He will be scheduled for just 45 pitches, meaning this will be the first of multiple outings before Tanaka’s activated from the disabled list.
“It’s a decision that we’ll make after each start when we feel that he’s ready to go,” Joe Girardi said. “I’m not going to put a number on it. Let’s just see how he does with 45 and decide what’s next after that.”
The Yankees won’t say how many starts they expect Tanaka to make in the minor leagues, but pitchers in this situation typically build up 15 pitches at a time. That suggests one start at 45 pitches, one at 60 and one at 75 before the Yankees would seem likely to even consider activating Tanaka. It’s pretty common for them to prefer going one more step and getting a pitcher to 90 pitches before taking him off the disabled list.
Would they really move at a faster pace with a guy like Tanaka?
“Let’s just go a start at a time,” Girardi said. “We know that we have to build him back up some. He has not been out that long, so he’ll go three and 45 and then we’ll decide what’s next.”
Tanaka said he feels encouraged. Ever since the forearm and wrist injuries that put him on the disabled list late last month, the Yankees’ ace has progress as planned. He threw another bullpen on Monday and came through it with no problems.
“Good progress,” Tanaka said. “Should be OK (on Thursday). … Can’t really tell (how many starts will be necessary). It’s something I’ll discuss with the pitching coach and the manager.”
Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild have moved cautiously with Tanaka since spring training. There’s little reason to think they’ll sudden accelerate things at this point. If they’re starting at 45 pitches, then it seems they’re banking on at least three rehab starts, maybe four.
• Mark Teixeira’s toe feels fine, so he’s back in the lineup at first base, basically wiping out any chance of Alex Rodriguez starting tonight. “You can think about (playing him),” Girardi said. “But he hasn’t play a whole lot of field. (Chase Headley) just hit a three-run homer off a left-hander. I went with the guys that we’ve been running out there every day.”
• Of course, Rodriguez will be a go-to pinch hitter off the bench. “I’ll try to get him at-bats,” Girardi said. “I think that’s important to keep him going.”
• Also no Carlos Beltran in today’s lineup. That means the two guys who have spent the most time in the No. 3 spot in the batting order this season are on the bench tonight. “(Beltran)’s been playing well and he’s been swinging well,” Girardi said. “You get in a situation where you’re coming off an off day, your two guys at the top have done a great job against left-handers, Chris Young has done a great job against left-handers. But Carlos has been playing extremely well. In this long run, these two days might not hurt him, but it was hard to take him out today.”
• Chase Whitley had Tommy John surgery earlier today. Girardi said it went well, and there was basically no choice but to have the surgery. “The way I understood it, there were only a few fibers left,” Girardi said. “So maybe he had a couple pitches left and it would have been completely gone. It was the right choice on his part.”
• Brendan Ryan is supposed to resume playing games in Tampa tomorrow.
• When Chasen Shreve was in high school, he played on a travel team with Bryce Harper. The two remain pretty good friends and go golfing regularly in the offseason. “I thought he was more of a football player than a baseball player,” Shreve said. “When he played, he was just unreal. He played hard; he’s always played hard.”
• Shreve said he’s faced Harper only once. It was a minor league game a few years ago and Harper popped to shortstop. If Shreve faces him these next two days? “I don’t know how I’m going to react,” Shreve said. “I think we’re both going to smile.”
• One thing that struck me about Shreve talking about Harper: Shreve clearly likes him. In no way did this feel like a guy who felt he had to say nice things about a guy he knew growing up. It’s obvious Shreve really likes him and is happy for him.
Associated Press photos
The Yankees announced today that Masahiro Tanaka threw a 29-pitch bullpen at National Park in D.C. The emailed announcement included no mention of any issues, so I have to assume he came through it just fine.
Expectation is that Tanaka will begin a rehab assignment this week, probably on Thursday. Both Trenton and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre are home on Thursday, and each has a TBA listed for that day’s starting pitcher, so the Yankees could send Tanaka to either top affiliate.
Last week, pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he didn’t know whether Tanaka would need one or more minor league starts before being activated.
“I’m not sure,” Rothschild said. “We have to see how he is and if he’s rusty. If we think that he’ll need it, then we’ll do (more than one). If we think he’s OK, then we’ll figure it out from there.”
Associated Press photo
Jorge Posada doesn’t think Alex Rodriguez belongs in the Hall of Fame, and he seems unhappy that A-Rod beat him for the MVP award a dozen years ago.
“You know, the only thing that I can think is 2003,” Posada said during a interview with CBS This Morning. “You know, I was close to the MVP. Didn’t happen. Alex won the MVP and, you know, I think second was either Carlos Delgado or David Ortiz, I don’t remember. But, I was almost there. You know what could’ve happened if, you know, it’s tough. It’s really tough.”
All of this, of course, is because of Rodriguez’s use of performance enhancing drugs. Posada made his comments while promoting his new book.
“I think the guys that need to be in the Hall of Fame need to be a player that played with no controversy,” Posada said.
During the interview, Posada acknowledged he had never discussed any of this with Rodriguez, and in the Yankees’ clubhouse this afternoon, Rodriguez took the high road in responding to Posada’s criticism.
“I consider Jorgie a friend,” Rodriguez said. “… I have nothing bad to say about Jorgie. I have nothing but good things to say about Jorgie. He was a great player and a good teammate and we won a championship in ’09 together.”
For the most part, Rodriguez seems to have been embraced by many players throughout the league, and his current teammates seem to have accepted him with no problems.
“I’ve been so humbled by the response I’ve gotten, not only from my current teammates but from former teammates,” Rodriguez said. “The support that I’ve had is overwhelming and I just feel extremely grateful.”
Posada will be at Yankee Stadium later this season to have his number retired. Rodriguez said he will not find that inevitable encounter to be awkward.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Jorge is a friend. We’ll keep it simple. Keep it light.”
The video above is from this morning’s interview.
• Stephen Drew said that, in his entire life, he has never played third base in a game. He took some ground balls at the position yesterday, and now he’s starting there in a big league game. “I kind of know my role,” Drew said. “Yeah, it’s something new, but at the same time just trust my hands and my feet and go from there. That’s all you can really do. I’m not going to go over there and start stressing that I haven’t played. It’s just more reaction and hopefully I can do my job there.”
• Joe Girardi said he no longer considers Rodriguez to be a true backup at either third base or first base. He might play the field occasionally, but the Yankees want him to be a full-time designated hitter. “I’m thinking we’ll play him a lot more if we can DH him,” Girardi said.
• Rodriguez said he’s on board with being a full-time DH going forward. “I’m totally on board with whatever Joe wants,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve said that from Day 1. Whatever Joe wants. I played third base in the ninth inning the other day and was pretty nervous about that. That was pretty alarming. Whatever Joe wants, I can do.”
• Jose Pirela actually has some third base experience, but the Yankees clearly don’t like him at the position. Asked why he’s using Drew at third ahead of Pirela, Girardi said only: “We just felt that Stephen will make the adjustment easier than Jose.”
• Rodriguez said his sore left hamstring feels better today. Obviously he’s been able to play through the issue. Doesn’t seem to be a huge issue, but Girardi said he was especially hesitant to use Rodriguez at third while the hamstring is even a mild issue.
• Chase Headley doesn’t have a specific injury, Girardi said, but he’s taken a beating lately with diving plays and such. “He’s just beat up,” Girardi said. “All the diving that he does. He just kind of physically could use a day, so we decided to do it today.”
• Masahiro Tanaka will throw another bullpen on Friday.
• The Yankees are still deciding whether to have Chris Capuano make another rehab start or activate him in a few days to rejoin the rotation. Two off days next week really takes some of the urgency away. The rotation is about to get extra rest regardless. “We just kind of touched on (discussing Capuano’s play) today,” Girardi said. “I talked to Cash. I talked to Larry some. Obviously we want to see how he feels physically and have a chance to talk to him. We’ve got to make a decision. It’s not urgent that we make it today or tomorrow, but we’ll probably have him throw a side tomorrow and have him be on line depending on what we do.”
Associated Press photo
Masahiro Tanaka threw a 30-pitch bullpen this afternoon. He threw all of his pitches, said his forearm and wrist felt fine, and he’ll wait until tomorrow to decide what’s next in his return from a mild strain and light tendonitis. There’s a little bit of video above catching some of the final pitches from the session.
“Didn’t feel anything,” Tanaka said. “But just want to see how I feel tomorrow and make sure I’m OK. … I don’t feel I need to go back to what I’ve been doing in spring training. When I was on the mound, I felt good on there so I shouldn’t be too far from me coming back.”
Tanaka indicated that he expects to make at least rehab start, but he said he’s really not sure how many he’ll need, and he’s not sure when that process will start.
“I’ve got to see how I do in my first rehab start,” Tanaka said. “Probably get a feel for where I’m at once I throw that first start. Obviously I have to see how the coaches, manager, see how I do. It kind of all depends on that.”
Any plan to adjust which pitches he throws and how often he throws them in the wake of this latest injury?
“Never thought about that,” Tanaka said.
The Yankees’ ace takes his turn this afternoon, and everyone knows it except — perhaps — the man himself.
With Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list and CC Sabathia still looking for his first win, the Yankees No. 1 starter is clearly Michael Pineda. Joe Girardi talks ofter about a team’s ace being whoever is starting on any given day, and that’s a nice idea, but there’s something to be said for a true powerhouse at the top of the rotation.
And after years of waiting for him to get healthy, the Yankees seem to have that in Pineda.
“I think when you look at your starters, you think about how it relates to the bullpen in a sense and how deep they’re going to go into games,” Girardi said. “And he’s one of those guys, who, because he throws so many strikes, and gets ahead in the count, he can go deep into games and you don’t use your bullpen as much. I think people always put those things together as, that’s an ace of the staff, too. Do I think different (on days Pineda pitches)? Yeah, I think sometimes you’re going to get a little more length, but you’re still going to need your bullpen.”
Sabathia has always talked about his responsibility as a veteran rotation leader, and surely Tanaka can’t help but notice the attention and expectation that he carries each time he’s on the mound, but Pineda takes a different attitude. He comes across as a carefree guy, basically the same attitude this year that he had last season when he opened as the No. 5.
“My guess is he doesn’t really think much about it,” Girardi said. “My guess is he just goes out there every fifth day, does his job, loves to compete, has fun, entertains us with some of the things he does out there. My guess, and I have not heard him talk about it – but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t – is that he doesn’t think about it.”
• Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup after sitting out yesterday with some leg tightness. Would Girardi prefer his 39-year-old just stop at second next time he has a chance to stretch for a triple? “If you can get there, you want a guy to get there, since there are so many other ways to score from third base,” Girardi said. “But I would tell him just to hit the ball over the fence.”
• Tanaka played long toss again today. Seemed to have no issues.
• One day after both Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller were unavailable because of workload, the Yankees would like another game when they don’t need to use their bullpen too much. Only Chasen Shreve and David Carpenter had to pitch out of the pen yesterday. “We were able to get some of the guys a day off yesterday,” Girardi said. “But it’d be nice to get them another day off today.”
• There have been some positive signs with Pineda’s velocity lately. He’s been average up around 93 mph the past two times out — close to 94 mph last time — after sitting closer to 90-91 his first few starts. “I think some of that has to do with weather,” Girardi said. “Some of the days he’s pitched, have not been ideal conditions, and I think as you see the weather warm up — he pitched in a dome the last time – you’ll see the velocity come with it.”
• I was off the first two home Sundays this season. I’d kind of forgotten how quiet these days are pregame. Very few players in the clubhouse before batting practice. Nothing unusual going on during BP. Today there are a lot of pink shirts being worn, but otherwise, it’s just another slow Sunday morning at the stadium.
Associated Press photos