Joe Girardi made a change at the top of the order today, just not the change so many have been suggesting. Jacoby Ellsbury is back in the leadoff spot, Brett Gardner is batting third for the first time, and Derek Jeter is still right in between them as the No. 2 hitter.
“For the first four months of the year, he was probably one of our most consistent hitters,” Girardi said. “One of the three most consistent hitters in our club. I consider us kind of to be in playoff mode right now, for us, because we obviously need to win games. Throughout his career, he’s been clutch in the playoffs, and we’re leaving him there. He’s a hot topic always just because of who he is, but there’s other issues that we have in our club that we have to get better at as well.”
Is there pressure to keep Jeter in that spot for his final month?
“No, not necessarily,” Girardi said. “… If I had eight other guys hitting .300, it probably wouldn’t be difficult (to move him down). When you look up and down at our numbers, we’ve had a number of guys that have had tough years. Years that we wouldn’t have projected. So (if) I move him, who am I going to put there? That’s my question. Who you going to move there that’s been more consistent during the course of the season. We haven’t hit collectively as a team, and to single him out is not fair. … (Rank) 13 out of 15 in runs scored. That’s not all Derek’s fault. That’s collectively we haven’t hit.”
Of course, it’s hard to know how much of Girardi’s persistence with Jeter is because of external pressure — because of who Jeter is and what his final season means — and how much is because of the disappointing hitters around him. The Yankees really haven’t had many consistent alternatives. Martin Prado is hot right now, but his first few weeks with the team were underwhelming. Gardner is coming off a bad month. Mark Teixeira is coming off a terrible month.
“(Jeter) could hit .600 and if the other guys don’t produce around him and through the lineup, then it’s not going to matter what he hits,” Girardi said. “So, as I said, it’s going to have to be a collection of all these guys that can swing the bat extremely well. And if one guy’s not, the other guy picks him up. That’s the bottom line.”
• Masahiro Tanaka has been examined by Dr. Chris Ahmad, who diagnosed him with nothing more than arm fatigue. “Every manual test that they did came out really well,” Girardi said. “They just said he had some arm fatigue. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen sometime this week and hopefully he’s ready to do it.” Tanaka played catch today and apparently had no issues.
• For those confused by the move: Putting Tanaka on the 60-day doesn’t really mean much. Those moves are always retroactive, and he’s missed close to 60 days already. He could still come back this season.
• David Phelps threw a 25-pitch bullpen this afternoon (fastballs and changeups), and he’s scheduled for a 35-pitch bullpen on Friday (all of his pitches). Phelps said he expects to throw a simulated game on Sunday, and that might be the final step toward getting him off the disabled list and into the bullpen. “I know that we’ve been going kind of conservative with it just to make sure everything comes back,” Phelps said. “All of the steps have been good along the way, so it shouldn’t be too long.”
• Of the Yankees eight September call-ups, five are relievers. Two of those — Whitley and Mitchell — are basically long men. “Obviously pitching is always important this time of year,” Girardi said. “It gives you more options, with a doubleheader coming up eventually here.”
• Why John Ryan Murphy but not Austin Romine? “The organization made the decision to go with (Murphy),” Girardi said. “Obviously I don’t get to see either one of them play a lot. So they went with Murphy.”
• Not much of a surprise that Chris Young got a call-up. I have to imagine that was a condition of any contract he was looking to sign after being released. “(He’s) been pretty productive in his career off left-handers,” Girardi said.
• If there’s a surprise among the call-ups, it’s certainly Antoan Richardson. “Speed off the bench,” Girardi said. Richardson played with Atlanta a little bit in 2011. He was 26-for-27 stealing bases with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he also had a .380 on-base percentage. Kind of a custom-made September call-up, just wasn’t sure the Yankees would actually make the move to get him on the 40-man.
• Zoilo Almonte was designated for assignment after leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in home runs and RBI this season. After Almonte struggled in New York last season, Girardi just never seemed to have much faith in his ability to hit big league right-handers the way he did in Triple-A. His splits are so extreme that, despite being a switch hitter, he’s likely a platoon player at best. Last year might have been his opportunity to show something, but he hit .236/.274/.302 (vRHP .250/.296/.342).
• Why Gardner batting third? “He’s probably been as good against right-handers as anyone in our lineup,” Girardi said. “I left Jake in the one hole. My concern in switching the guys when they both were going well was that they’re both going well, why move them. So I put Jake in the one hole when Gardy got hurt and he did extremely well. I’ll leave him there and just put Gardy third.”
• On Ellsbury’s health: “I saw him run on Sunday, which, I was really encouraged,” Girardi said. “He said he felt better yesterday and felt better today and that’s why I have him in center. In saying that, I told him, look, if you feel that it’s an issue out there you’ve got to let me know. If you feel you need to DH a day, you have to let me know.”
Associated Press photos
Not saying this was inevitable, but it’s certainly hard to be stunned by the news coming out of Toronto today.
After yesterday’s 49-pitch simulated game, Masahiro Tanaka is experiencing some “general soreness” in his right arm and will fly back to New York. The Yankees said there is no doctor’s appointment scheduled, and Tanaka said he’s going back to New York to do some strengthening exercises in hopes of still returning this season. He said there’s no real pain, mostly just soreness in the forearm and, really, throughout the arm.
So what to make of all this? Here are a few things:
1. We might know the full truth already. Tanaka took three weeks off, he’s been trying to build arm strength all over again, and it would make perfect sense that his arm might feel a bit tired and sore because of the throwing program. Yesterday was the most strenuous step so far, so it’s not shocking he might be a little more sore than usual.
2. That said, it’s still kind of weird that he’s going back to New York. I’m sure the facilities at Yankee Stadium are better than the facilities at Rogers Centre, but it’s still a pretty significant red flag. If he’s sore — and if he’s not going to see a doctor — why not stay with the Yankees training staff in Toronto? Could be that Tanaka really does feel more comfortable in New York, it just seems unusual to have a player leave the team when there are supposedly no tests planned.
3. To the Yankees credit, they’ve always acknowledged that this is an uncertain road for Tanaka. At the advice of multiple orthopedic specialists, he’s trying to rehab a mild tear of his elbow ligament. We all know — and the Yankees have admitted — that this is not a foolproof plan. It’s either going to work and Tanaka will avoid surgery (for now), or it’s not going to work and Tanaka will have cost himself a few months on the back end. Again, today’s setback might have nothing to do with the elbow ligament, but it raises some suspicions because everyone — including the Yankees — is already a little uncertain about whether this protocol is actually going to work.
4. If this really is “general soreness” without any specific problem within the elbow, then it shouldn’t significantly change the rehab protocol, correct? General soreness should be an expected and accepted part of the process when a player is re-building arm strength. I would think that general soreness only delays the return, it doesn’t stop it completely. What would stop the return completely would surely be an issue within the elbow itself. Just because the Yankees are saying Tanaka doesn’t have an elbow issue today, doesn’t mean he won’t have one tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next day.
5. The late-season and potential playoff implications go without saying. One significant upside to the Yankees sneaking into the playoffs was the idea that they would have a legitimate ace to headline their rotation — and possibly to start a wild card game — should they qualify. With Tanaka’s return more uncertain than ever, those best-case scenarios aren’t so shiny.
Associated Press photo
Masahiro Tanaka threw 49 pitches spread across three simulated innings this morning. His control wasn’t great, but Tanaka said he felt none of the pain he was experiencing last month when he landed on the disabled list.
“I’m looking more at health than anything else and making sure he’s not staying away from things,” Joe Girardi said. “He did not, so I was pleased. … It’s one thing to do a game like this and (another thing) to get in a real game. I understand that’s going to be a little bit different, but I didn’t see him favoring anything, and that’s a good sign.”
The only hitter Tanaka faced was Brendan Ryan, who even took several at-bats — and two swings — left-handed to give Tanaka various looks.
“It feels like the velocity is there,” Ryan said. “Some of them are a little bit up or whatever, but that speaks to just being off for a little while. I don’t expect him to be pinpoint or anything like that. Just nice to see him throwing without any pain, from what we understand. He threw some really good sliders. That I didn’t quite expect. … He could go out there and get outs right now just on stuff alone.”
Girardi said he’s not entirely sure what’s next for Tanaka, but barring a setback he’ll throw some sort of game — either a sim game or a rehab game or some sort of intrasquad game — early next week, either on four days or five days rest. The Yankees haven’t had a gun on Tanaka, so it’s hard to say whether he’s throwing with as much strength as the Yankees would expect when he’s 100 percent healthy. At some point, they’ll check his velocity, but Girardi said that’s not a focus or a concern at this point. Tanaka will have to throw at least two more “games” before being activated.
Does he expect to be just as good as before when he returns?
“Can’t really say until I actually step on a mound in a game,” Tanaka said. “But right now all I’m trying to do is get myself back to the best shape possible. … I think that being cautious is better than being more excited.”
• Francisco Cervelli is out of the lineup but said he feels fine after taking last night’s foul tip. If you saw the video, you know it wasn’t a particularly comfortable situation for Cervelli. And he said the video didn’t lie. That foul ball got him pretty good.
• Carlos Beltran returns to the DH role after back-to-back games in right field. “I have not seen him today, but I asked him last night how he felt and he said he felt fine,” Girardi said.
• Apparently there was some talk that the Yankees might bring Tanaka back as a reliever in an effort to get him back sooner. Girardi said there’s no chance of that. “No, I don’t think so,” he said. “I think we consider him a starter, and he’ll be a starter.”
• Why was Ryan batting left-handed? Turns out, both he and Stephen Drew mess around with switch hitting in the cage. Ryan said Drew has a pretty decent right-handed swing, so Ryan’s been countering with his left-handed swing. He took two hacks today left-handed. One was a swing and miss. The other was a hit, or as Ryan called it, an “Ichiro knock.”
• Highlight of the morning: Third-base coach Rob Thomson was wearing a t-shirt that said NO RE59ECT, a direct reference to the Derek Jeter RE2PECT logo. Hilarious.
Associated Press photos
Assuming the rain goes away, tonight will be Derek Jeter’s eighth start at designated hitter this season. He’s still a long way from his single-season career high — 25 DH games in in 2012 — but it seems significant that four of those turns at designated hitter have come in his past nine games.
Now that Carlos Beltran is available to play some right field, it’s clear that Joe Girardi is taking advantage of the opportunity to get Jeter a half day off now and then. Perhaps it’s strictly a rest issue. Perhaps it has a lot to do with Stephen Drew’s glove.
“I’m in the mode that I’m just taking it day by day,” Girardi said. “But with Carlos being able to go into the outfield once in a while, it gives me more flexibility to do this. … We’ve had some long stretches. We have a lot of lefties coming up the next five days after today where he’s going to play (probably at shortstop), so try to give him a little blow when I can. And I thought today was probably a good day. Two plane flights in two days, and as I said, we have day games after night games, so we’re going to need him in there a lot.”
Obviously Jeter prefers playing the field, but he said he understands the DH days, and he seems to embrace them — even when he’s had so many these past couple of weeks.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve done it,” Jeter said. “What, three or four times this year? I think a couple of years ago, in 2012, I may have done it 20 or 30-something times. Because of injuries, Carlos had to DH, so I haven’t really thought about it. My job is to come here, and when I’m in the lineup, play. I like to play every day. I like to play shortstop every day. Everyone is aware of that. But I get it. I understand it. We’ve had a long stretch here. I think we only have a couple of more days off, and then we have another long stretch at the end of the year. So, I don’t know what his plans are. My job is to play.’
Late last season, we saw Girardi use Mariano Rivera a little more heavily, making sure to get every last bit out of the retiring closer. Would he do the same with the retiring shortstop, running him out there with very little rest down the stretch?
“I don’t think I can play him much more than I’ve played him,” Girardi said. “He’s played in all but about 10 games maybe, maybe a few more than that, but there was a time when he missed three because his leg was bothering him. But when you get in these long stretches, these 13-game stretches, I’ve usually given him on day off. And that might be all he gets in this.”
• Brett Gardner was hoping to run today, which he sees as the final test for his sore ankle. If he can run today, he thinks he should be available in some capacity tonight. Gardner didn’t run at all the past two days. “Hopefully that goes well and I’ll be available to play tonight,” he said.
• Here’s Girardi on his approach to the Gardner injury: “My concern was: he said he felt better but he needed to run,” Girardi said. “Gardy’s pretty tough, and Gardy’s played through a lot, which made me believe that it’s probably not 100 percent, which it might not be for a while. This extra day will probably do us some good. My concern is that he favors it, or that he gets out there and he can’t run, and then I’ve got to make a change. It can just really mess things up.”
• Not much concern about Mark Teixeira’s hamstring. “I think you’re always going to watch it a little bit,” Girardi said. “I think the day off probably helped, and we just tell him to play smart. I mean, he did play smart the couple of days that he had it, so he’s just going to have to continue to do that.”
• Masahiro Tanaka threw today, and as long as he still feels fine tomorrow, he’ll remain on track to throw a simulated game on Thursday.
• Initial Arizona Fall League rosters were announced this afternoon. The Yankees are sending RF Aaron Judge, 3B Eric Jagielo, OF/IF Tyler Austin and 1B Greg Bird. They’re also sending pitchers Caleb Cotham, Branden Pinder and Alex Smith. There remains a TBA spot on the roster listed as a Yankees catcher. Pretty interesting group of position players. I actually thought Ramon Flores might go, but I guess not. Jagielo seemed like a near lock in my mind after missing so much time. Bird and Austin make a lot of sense too.
• On the current Yankees momentum: “I think they feel pretty good about themselves,” Girardi said. “But the thing about baseball is you’ve got to go do it every day. It starts with your starting pitcher that night, and I don’t know how you could for any more (than) what Brandon McCarthy has done, but we need him to continue to pitch like this.”
• On the importance of three games against a team that’s also in the mix for the second wild card: “You’ve got to win the series. It’s extremely important. We know they’re a very good team, and we’re facing a good pitcher tonight who didn’t give up too many runs against us the last time. But Brandon pitched really well. You’ve got to win games.”
Associated Press photos
The video above is from this morning’s live batting practice — felt more like a sim game — when Masahiro Tanaka threw 35 pitches to Brendan Ryan and Zelous Wheeler. He threw 20 pitches announcing what’s coming, then sat for a while, then threw another 15. He was mixing all of his pitches, including splitfingers that Wheeler said looked exactly like what he saw when facing Tanaka during spring training.
“I thought it was a good progression,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “As long as he’s healthy, his stuff’s in the right direction, being able to throw 35 pitches and do full warmups and everything. We’ll see how he comes in tomorrow, but he feels good afterwards so that’s a good sign.”
Seems telling that when Tanaka talked about the session, he made no real mention of his elbow. He talked all about his stuff — whether he was hitting his spots, how he felt about his breaking balls. It’s pretty clear that Tanaka feels healthy, and at this point he’s simply getting ready to pitch in a game again.
“I’m not saving anything when I throw each pitch,” he said.
Tanaka said he wasn’t hitting his spots quite like he’s used to, and his offspeed stuff was a bit rusty, but he feels healthy. He said he’ll pay attention to his elbow, and he’ll naturally think about it, but he’s letting his pitches go without holding back.
“I thought (his strength and stamina) was good for the time off he’s had,” Rothschild said. “Overall I thought it was pretty good. It wasn’t where it was before he got hurt, but I didn’t expect it to be. This is another step in the progression so we’ll just keep going with it.”
The Yankees have not announced a timetable for Tanaka’s return, and they’re even vague on what the next step would be.
“He’s going to have to make some rehab starts (eventually),” Joe Girardi said. “I’m not exactly sure how we’re going to be able to do it as we build him up because you’re going to run out of minor league season, but we’ll be creative enough to do whatever we have to do to get him ready.”
• Carlos Beltran is back in the lineup after missing three days because of a cortisone shot in his sore elbow. Beltran hit tee and toss yesterday, and Girardi said the results were so encouraging he considered pinch hitting Beltran last night. So the team feels pretty secure in thinking he’ll be able to play today.
• Three straight left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup? “Gardy is a guy who really works the count and Jake’s on and has a chance to do some things,” Girardi said. “They sent their left-handed reliever out, so I don’t have to worry about stacking lefties today.”
• Derek Jeter out of the lineup for a day game after a night game. “Just a day off,” Girardi said.
• What’s next for Tanaka? “We’ll talk about it, what we think the next step is,” Girardi said. “If it’s more of a BP session, another BP session or treat it more like a simulated game. Big thing is we’ll see how he feels tomorrow and then we’ll make a decision.”
• Any chance of asking Tanaka to throw fewer splitfingers when he comes back in an effort to save the elbow? “He’s got to pitch the way he’s going to pitch,” Girardi said. “if you’re going to really try to change everything, you’re not going to get the same guy. Let’s just see what we have as we move forward.”
• The number 6 is painted into foul territory as the Yankees prepare to honor Joe Torre with a pregame ceremony. “Joe’s demeanor was always the same during the course of a game, during good times, bad times,” Girardi said. “That’s my personality normally, but I saw the importance of it from Joe, that your mood doesn’t change as long as the effort is good every day. I’ve often talked about Joe’s ability to make people believe that everything was going to be OK all the time, no matter what we were going through and we went through a lot in the years that he was here, on and off the field and those are the things I tried to take the most from Joe.”
Associated Press photo
Just an observation: Joe Girardi no longer seems upset or disappointed when he hears questions about whether the Yankees offense is ever going to get any better this season. Girardi still strongly backs his team, shows nothing but confidence in them, but it’s as if every answer comes with an unspoken line: “But I can understand why you’re asking.”
Most of today’s pregame press conference was all about whether the Yankees really are good enough to make a playoff run in these final five weeks or so.
Does Girardi ever think that his team just might not be good enough?
“No, I don’t, because I know how hard it is to play this game,” he said. “Obviously we’re judged on the results. I look at the effort. And I know the results are very important because, if the effort is not there, there is no chance of having results. The effort is there everyday. I talked about it yesterday. We (had) seven or eight guys hitting early trying to figure this out and get going, so I will be optimistic as long as they continue to prepare correctly and they work hard.”
To which Michael Kay made this point: If they’re prepared, and they’re focused, and they’re approaching everything the right way, is there a chance they just aren’t good enough?
“I don’t believe that,” Girardi said.
So what do you do?
“You keep running guys out there and believe it’s going to change,” Girardi said. “Eventually it’s going to be right and it’s going to be consistent over a long period.”
At this point, the Yankees are far enough behind teams that they’re going to need some help along the way. They can’t simply sweep three games against Detroit next week and climb into the wild card lead. It’s not a comfortable position, but the Yankees — Girardi included — seem well aware that they put themselves in this spot.
“It becomes a concern when you get down to the last three, four weeks of the season,” Girardi said. “But it’s a concern now. But my bigger concern is us, not the other teams. Because if we don’t win, it doesn’t matter what the other teams do in front of us. My focus is still our club, and if we play really good baseball down the stretch, we have a shot.”
• Zelous Wheeler is up and Chase Whitley has been optioned to Triple-A. Without Carlos Beltran for a few days, the Yankees were going to be down to a two-man bench, so they added Whitley who can play some infield and outfield. The Yankees also face a left-handed pitcher today, and lefties on Friday and Sunday. So a right-handed bat is a solid fit. “With Carlos being an uncertainty for a day or two, we felt that we could use the extra bat,” Girardi said.
• The Yankees had been carrying eight relievers since the trade deadline, so this basically puts their roster back to the typical alignment. Whitley will likely go down until September, and then return when rosters expand. I don’t think he’ll even burn an option. Pretty sure a player has to stay down for 20 days to burn one.
• Beltran said yesterday that he hopes to play on Friday. Girardi made that sound like a real long shot. “I think you’ll start to have a pretty good idea by Saturday where we’re headed with this, if we can get him back fairly quickly,” Girardi said.
• Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to face hitters on Saturday. Should be a live batting practice session (or perhaps a sim game, which is more or less the same thing). “Our plan is that it will probably be here, but we’ve got figure out who to face,” Girardi said.
• The plan for David Phelps? “Until he starts throwing bullpens, I’m not ready to put a timetable out,” Girardi said. “Obviously we felt we could get him back much quicker (making him a reliever). You don’t need to build him up nearly as much. Right now I believe he’s going to play catch again today. I’ve got to talk to Stevie to see when the first time he has him off a mound and then you’ll have a better idea.”
Associated Press photos
Here’s the way Joe Girardi explained the Carlos Beltran situation:
Apparently Beltran’s elbow bothers him from time to time when he swings. Nothing extreme, just enough to feel that there’s something not quite right — which everyone knows to be the case — and then it goes away. He’s felt it before and stayed in games without much concern. Last night it happened again, but this time Beltran was still feeling something the morning after.
“He said it grabbed a little bit last night on one of the swings,” Girardi said. “He went through the rest of the game, but today he woke up and he felt it. Obviously that’s a little worse than it’s been at any other point during when he’s been playing and playing pretty well. I’m not really sure what it means. Hopefully it’s just a day or two.”
Beltran was originally at designated hitter, Derek Jeter at shortstop, Stephen Drew at second base and Martin Prado in right field. When Beltran was scratched, the lineup shuffled to the one you’ve already seen.
Is there concern that Beltran playing the field is what caused this lingering discomfort?
“No, because he’s felt it on swings, not in the outfield,” Girardi said. “He didn’t really have a lot of action in the outfield, so he didn’t really have to make any throws or anything like that. It seems to be more from a swing than from throwing.”
Girardi said it’s too early to know what this means for the future of using Beltran in the outfield. It seems too early to say even what it means for the immediate future of using him in the lineup. Dr. Chris Ahmad will check the elbow tonight.
“He’ll see the doctor and we’ll find out what’s going on,” Girardi said. “I’m sure it’s much of the same of what he had going on before, but for whatever reason it was a little worse today in a sense that he still felt it whereas other times he didn’t.”
• Masahiro Tanaka threw a 35-pitch bullpen today, and it included breaking balls. Using one-word English answers in the beginning of a group interview at his locker, Tanaka said that the bullpen was “good” and “better” than last time.
• This was the first time since the injury that Tanaka threw something other than fastballs off a mound. He threw his breaking balls, including five splitters. “I felt (the offspeed stuff) was a little bit rusty,” Tanaka said. “I’ll have to brush that up a little bit.”
• No official word on what’s next for Tanaka. The next step would be live batting practice, but Tanaka might throw another bullpen before he faces hitters. “I don’t really have a realistic timeframe because I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves,” Girardi said. “But the next step would be throwing BP, then a simulated game, then obviously a rehab game. The fact that he felt good today was encouraging. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow; obviously that’s really important. But he was able to throw his curveball, his slider and his split; I watched it and he looked pretty good.”
• Tanaka said he was not worried about the elbow during the bullpen, and he feels pretty confident that the health problems are behind him. “Absolutely,” he said. “I feel that I’ve gotten the health; the elbow is fine now. I’m more looking towards playing in a game now. But that said, even that said, I think I do have to be cautious about the elbow.”
• Seems weird, but apparently there’s no plan to have Tanaka have another MRI. As long as he feels good, he will apparently keep pitching. “With this type of injury, it’s either going to work or it’s not going to work,” Girardi said. “It’s not something like you’re waiting for the inflammation to go away or something like that. It’s either going to work or it’s not going to work.”
• Still no exact plan for David Phelps. “No, we have not (made a decision),” Girardi said. “Cash, Stevie and myself are going to sit down with the doctor and figure out what is the best plan for him to get him back, or what needs to be done next.” Yankees are apparently still deciding whether it’s best to bring Phelps back as a starter (which will take more time) or as a reliever (which could happen quite a bit sooner).
• Any concern about Stephen Drew’s offensive numbers since the trade deadline? “He’s got, what, eight or nine RBIs since he’s been here in the games that he’s played?” Girardi said. “His average maybe is not (good), but he’s had some production for us.” Someone get this quote to Brian Kenny!
Associated Press photos
David Phelps played catch yesterday. He also got a precautionary MRI and will meet with team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad later tonight. Phelps said he’s been told he could be back in roughly three weeks, but that time table really depends on how the Yankees choose to use him down the stretch.
Is it worth waiting to get him back in the rotation, or is it better to move more quickly and put him in the bullpen?
“You hate to say anything because my fear is that it will change tomorrow,” Joe Girardi said. “Right now our starters are throwing well, and our relievers have really been pretty good too. I think what you look at is, let’s see what the doctors says today. And then if we feel that we need him as a starter, how long does that take in the doctor and Stevie (Donohue)’s eyes? And how long would it take to get him back as a reliever. Then you go from there.”
Phelps was pitching awfully well before that start in Boston that sent him to the disabled list. He had a 3.29 ERA in nine starts before the Boston game, and even that ERA would have been below 3.00 if not for one bad inning in Texas. A few bad games, and one rough stretch, have inflated Phelps’ season numbers, but he was emerging as one of the Yankees most reliable starters before he got hurt.
He’s missed just two weeks, which doesn’t seem like a huge problem — and the injury seems more focused at the bottom of his triceps, not necessarily in the usual elbow ligament — but the Yankees are a cautious bunch, and so it’s not likely Phelps will be rushed back under any circumstances.
“It’s been well over a week since I felt anything, which is good news,” Phelps said. “What we’re doing is working. We have to wait and see what (Dr. Ahmad) says, and then hopefully move forward. … They’ve talked three weeks potentially. It all depends. We want to make sure everything goes smooth just so we don’t have a setback at this point in the season. I think it might be a little bit more careful than trying to rush things. I don’t think it should take that long. It’s only been two weeks. Hopefully it will go faster than that.”
Seems like a guy who should be able to help in one role or another.
“How we use him probably depends on how long it takes him to get back,” Girardi said. “Obviously we feel it’s important he sees the doctor today and we go from there. He’s hasn’t been off that long to where if he’s a start obviously it will take longer. If he’s a bullpen guy it doesn’t take as long.”
• Random note on Derek Jeter: The scoring has been changed on the hit that originally moved him into a tie with Honus Wagner on the all-time hits list. That hit is now an error, which means Jeter did not tie Wagner on August 8, he actually tied him on August 9 and passed him on August 11. The Yankees actually kept each ball (apparently just in case that August 8 hit was changed to an error) so Jeter has the new milestone baseballs, just in case you were worried. “If it was the last hit I ever got, then it would be a story,” Jeter said. “This one? We got the ball, so (it’s not a big deal).”
• Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw another bullpen tomorrow.
• Speaking of Jeter, he’s back at shortstop and Stephen Drew is on the bench. Drew hasn’t hit much since coming to the Yankees, and the team seems happy with Martin Prado’s ability to play second base, so tonight Prado and Ichiro Suzuki are in the lineup. Girardi said the lineup could change quite a bit from night to night. “It’s something that I’ll look at, and with Carlos (Beltran) able to play the outfield, I think it helps us,” Girardi said. “It’s also important, too, that we give Carlos his DH days as well. Prado gives us a lot of flexibility. He played a very good second base the other day and we’ll play him there today.”
• By the way, Girardi didn’t rule out the idea of DHing either Francisco Cervelli or Brian McCann from time to time. Cervelli has been a pretty productive hitter this season. “We’ve talked about that,” Girardi said. “We have. You run the risk that, if sometimes one gets nicked up during the game, then you’ve got to move him. It’s something that – is there a possibility you’ll see us do that? Yes.”
• Adam Warren has not looked sharp in his most recent outings — he has a 9.82 ERA and .621 opponents slugging percentage his past nine times out — but the Yankees haven’t used him in a week. Girardi said it just kind of happened that way, but there certainly seemed to be times when Shawn Kelley was coming into situations that Warren might have pitched if he weren’t struggling. “The situation just didn’t dictate (bringing him in),” Girardi said. “I don’t think the days off hurt him. And I think he should feel pretty strong and rested now, which is a good thing for us.”
• Tiger Woods is here today. So that’s something.
• Six games at home against teams with losing records. This should be an opportunity to pad the Yankees record. “You have to win series,” Girardi said. “You have to win games. It gets to the point where there’s not a lot of room for error. These are very important games.”
Associated Press photos
Here’s what Derek Jeter said last night about being a designated hitter:
“I don’t DH much. You go in the cage between at-bats. That’s about it. It’s not something that I do a lot of. To be honest with you, I’m not sure how people do it. I just run out of things to do. Fortunately, I think (Saturday) might be my second time this year. I don’t do it that often.”
Well, now Jeter’s the DH for a second day in a row, and with Carlos Beltran cleared to play the outfield — and with two awfully good defensive shortstops on the roster — there’s a chance Jeter will see even more DH days down the stretch.
“I don’t know,” Joe Girardi said. “I’ve talked about, now that we’ve got Carlos in the outfield, we could rotate the DH a little bit more. I’ll still DH Carlos plenty, but felt it was a chance to give Jeet a week where he could catch up.”
When the Yankees kick off next week’s home stand, Jeter’s past six days will have included three days off plus two days at designated hitter. That’s a pretty good amount of rest for a 40-year-old shortstop, and while Girardi wouldn’t commit to just how often Jeter will DH in the future — he said he’ll rotate the DH days, and that Beltran will stick get quite a few of them — the roster does seem pretty well designed for Jeter to get at least occasional days — if not regular days — out of the infield.
“Not thinking too much of it,” Girardi said. “Figure it’s a chance to do it (these two days). Turf can be rough on people. We’re going to get into another long stretch, so I chose to do it that way.”
• One day after his 25-pitch bullpen, Masahiro Tanaka played catch today and seems perfectly fine. “He felt good,” Girardi said. “He played catch today, so he’s scheduled for another bullpen next week. I’m not sure what day. Next bullpen he’ll start to spin some stuff.”
• By the way, saying Tanaka is going to “spin some stuff” doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll start throwing splitters next week. “I’m not sure if he’ll throw a split,” Girardi said. “They talked about him spinning some curveballs. I’m not sure exactly if he’s going to throw a slider or what else he’s going to throw. We want him to spin some on some flat ground before he does it off a mound.”
• As expected, Brian McCann is off the disabled list and back at catcher. He missed slightly more than a week because of a concussion. Seems fine now. “It makes (the lineup) deeper, and obviously it’s a guy that has power,” Girardi said. “It’s really good to be able to put him back there because, any time someone goes through something like he went through, we’re always concerned. But he feels good and he’s back in there.”
• Austin Romine has been optioned back to Triple-A.
• Did having Beltran limited to DH keep Girardi from resting key players the past few months? “It worked out,” Girardi said. “Thinking of guys I might have DHed a little bit — I might have given Gardy one DH day in there, and Ellsbury one DH day in there, but not a whole lot.”
• Girardi said he would “absolutely” play Martin Prado in right field again.
• Hiroki Kuroda didn’t get through the fifth inning his last time out. “He didn’t really have a very good split that day, I didn’t think,” Girardi said. “That’s an important pitch for him.”
Associated Press photos
Pregame notes: “I just feel like it’s time” • 08.16.14
Carlos Beltran last played right field on May 11. It was one day later, on May 12, that Beltran felt sudden pain in his right elbow, which led to the discovery of a bone spur, which led to the Yankees decision to keep him out of the field for several months.
But he’s been playing catch for a while now, and the tightness that had developed in his forearm has subsided, and so the Yankees feel ready to get him back into right field. Beltran prefers playing out there, he feels confident that he’s healthy, and getting Beltran in the field opens the DH spot for other regulars to get a bit of a rest from time to time.
“I just feel like it’s time,” Beltran said. “Right now I’ve been throwing and I don’t feel nothing. It’s good.”
There’s some risk here — Beltran has been a productive hitter since the All-Star break, and a setback would be a real blow to an offense that can’t afford to lose much — but Beltran said he’s convinced his elbow is up to making throws, and Joe Girardi said he doesn’t feel much need to pay extra attention to Beltran on defense.
“I feel that he’s healthy, and that it shouldn’t be an issue,” Girardi said. “They can test him (on the bases). His arm’s fine. He’s thrown. This an aggressive club anyway, so I don’t think they’re going to play any different.”
The Yankees have several long stretches late in the season, and the DH spot will surely be used to give players a half day off from time to time. Girardi wouldn’t commit to whether he considers Beltran to be the everyday right fielder or still a regular DH going forward. Surely he’ll get at least some DH days.
“Just wait to see how it goes,” Girardi said. “Let’s go day by day. I don’t want to make a decision too quickly here. Let’s just go day by day.”
Beltran is hitting .299 with five home runs and 17 RBI since the All-Star break. It seems little coincidence that his improved production has come as he’s grown more confident that the elbow and forearm are healthy.
“I guess in the back of my mind sometimes I get caught up a little bit protecting it,” Beltran said. “Especially, I don’t know, (when) it’s kind of sore a little bit, my forearm. But at the end of the day, I just have to come and prepare myself and try to do the best I can. Once the game starts, I try not to think about it, but during batting practice and cage work and things like that I try to be smart and try not to do much.”
• Brian McCann has not been activated. There’s no medical concern, the Yankees just want him to go through at least one more day of baseball drills. “I just felt that he was kind of lethargic (during drills yesterday),” Girardi said. “I think what happens is that when you are used to doing something every day for five, six months, and then you’re not able to do anything for five days, we’ve got to make sure because I don’t want to put him in there too soon and you get the foul tip and lose him for a long period of time.”
• It’s possible McCann will come off the disabled list tomorrow, but Girardi said that’s not a sure thing. Could wait until Tuesday.
• Worth noting that the Yankees wanted to play a bunch of right-handers against Drew Smyly anyway, and Francisco Cervelli has been catching Shane Greene regularly. Even so, Girardi said the determining factor on McCann had much more to do with wanting to get him more swings and work on the field. “It was more our feeling that he wasn’t quite ready to go,” Girardi said.
• Going right-handed is part of the reason today is Beltran’s return to right field. Putting him out there lets the Yankees sit both Stephen Drew and Ichiro Suzuki. “Try to get as many right-handed hitters in there against Smyly as possible,” Girardi said. “He’s been very tough against left-handers this year – and the last couple of years – and it’s one way of doing it.”
• After today’s bullpen, Masahiro Tanaka will stay with the Yankees when they leave Tampa. He’s not going to stay behind to do work at the complex. No word yet on when exactly he’ll throw his next bullpen, but he’s expected to throw some real breaking balls at that point. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow and then design the next few days,” Larry Rothschild said. “I don’t like to get ahead in the schedule with the rehabs. We have an idea of what he’ll do, but first we’ll see how he comes in.”
• What was Rothschild watching for in the bullpen today? “More facial expressions to see if he’s trying to hide something, which I don’t think he’s going to, but you never know,” Rothschild said. “You watch his delivery to make sure he’s not forcing anything. The most important part early in this is that he stays smooth and finishes his pitches so we don’t tweak anything. He’s had some time off, so it’s not only going to be the elbow. You have to watch everything.”
• Everyone involved indicates the Yankees are planning to bring Tanaka back this season regardless of where they are in the standings. Even if they’re out of it by the time Tanaka’s ready to pitch again, it’s still likely he’ll come off the disabled list to make a few starts. “I think it’s important that we know that he’s healthy,” Girardi said. “And I think the only way you’re going to find out is if you get him in games.”
• Tanaka on the possibility of coming back to a team that’s no longer in the race: “I think it’s important for the team to fight until the end of the season, so for me, if it would be possible, I’d like to contribute until the end of the season.”
• By the way, David Phelps is scheduled to be re-examined on Monday, which will be two weeks since his upper elbow/lower triceps issue. It’s entirely possible he’ll start playing catch that day as well.
• As Mark Newman said in this morning’s blog post, indications are that Andrew Bailey is not going to pitch at all for the Yankees this season. Girardi said Bailey’s had a few setbacks in his recovery from shoulder surgery, and he doesn’t expect to see him this season. Maybe next season.
• Girardi responding to last night’s Kevin Long comment about morale being low: “You’re always going to look down when you don’t score runs,” Girardi said. “That’s the nature of the game. Guys are frustrated. I’ve said that guys are frustrated because they know that they’re capable of doing more. We want to play in October, and when you lose, you should be frustrated. You shouldn’t just blow it off. Every day is a new day, and things can change very quickly in a clubhouse. You can get on a roll, and that’s what we need to do.”
Associated Press photos