The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

Yankees postgame: King hurts back; Hafner MRI results; Yankees keep winning05.15.13

Curtis GrandersonThe Yankees have won two straight and seven of eight after this 4-3 win. This was their 11th comeback win.

But it helped that Felix Hernandez left after six and they could get to work against the Mariners’ bullpen. It turned out that King Felix tweaked his back in the sixth when he fielded a comebacker and turned and got a force at second. He also took a knee in the calf when he obstructed Lyle Overbay’s path to first in the fourth. The back apparently isn’t a new thing.

“He’s had on and off issues with it, some stiffness back there from time to time,” manager Eric Wedge said. “But he’s managed it well. … I’m hoping that he’s fine, and I think he will be fine.”

That sounds like the outlook for Travis Hafner as well. He underwent an MRI on his sore right shoulder, which he said stems from being hit by a pitch on the last homestand. Joe Girardi said it’s just tendinitis. Hafner called it “probably the best-case scenario.”

“It’s good,” Hafner said. “It just kind of showed some inflammation in the shoulder. I got an injection in it, and hopefully that clears it up and it should be good to go in a couple of days.”

The Yankees have been doing fine without their injured guys, although they got one back with Curtis Granderson’s return for this game. This first-place team is now 25-14.

“I still think we have a lot of really good players, maybe not the names we’re used to having here, but guys who have had big years,” Girardi said. “This group has worked really hard.”

Lyle Overbay

Overbay had another nice game outside of an error that led to an unearned run. He contributed an RBI double in the sixth and the go-ahead sac fly to cap the three-run seventh. He has five go-ahead RBI, tied for second best on the team with Vernon Wells, one behind Hafner.

“He’s had so many big hits and RBI for us,” Girardi said. “… I feel good about when he’s at the plate.”

Back to the obstruction: Overbay would’ve been out at first even without it, but crew chief Jerry Layne said, “Any time the runner is obstructed before first, the ball is dead. He’s awarded first, and any runner that could be forced is awarded (his base).”

CC Sabathia gave up 10 hits but just the three runs, and he struck out 10 in 6 1/3.

“I wanted to minimize the damage and keep the game close enough and give us a chance to win,” Sabathia said.

Granderson went 0 for 3, but he also had a big walk in the decisive rally. And everything went well in left. It was his first regular-season start out there since Oct. 2, 2005, with the Tigers at Minnesota.

Robinson Cano had the tying two-run double. It was the 345th double of his career, which meant he passed Mickey Mantle for solo possession of eighth on the Yankees’ all-time list.

Photos by The Associated Press

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 424 Comments →

Yankees postgame: What’s up with Pettitte?05.05.13

Andy PettitteAndy Pettitte was frustrated after this 5-4 loss to the A’s. The 40-year-old lefty began the season with four straight quality starts. But now he has had two off outings in a row.

This one came with four runs, four hits and four walks allowed in five innings, plus he hit a batter. He served up two homers. There were 100 pitches, just 57 for strikes.

“It’s a struggle,” Pettitte said. “The issue is everything. Everything I’ve got to do as a starting pitcher, I’m not able to do right now. … My release point is floating around a little bit. … It’s been a long, long time since I haven’t had a feeling for my pitches.”

Pettitte is good at being brutally frank when it comes to self-assessments.

“My cutter is nonexistent right now,” Pettitte said.

Joe Girardi said he wasn’t going to make a big deal out of two bad starts. Pettitte is just hoping to find a steady release point in a hurry.

“I wish I could tell you something hurt,” Pettitte said. “But I feel good.”

So did Preston Claiborne. The 25-year-old righty looked great in his major-league debut, throwing two perfect innings.

“This was a big game, the biggest one so far of my life,” Claiborne said. “I knew that when I took the mound, it was just playing baseball again.  So I tried to keep that in mind and went out there and tried to just execute pitches as best I could.”

Vernon Wells didn’t execute with two on and two outs in the last of the ninth, going down swinging against Grant Balfour.

“It was shaping up to be one of those memorable Yankee Stadium moments,” Wells said. “I didn’t come through. I’ll have to wait for next time for that moment to happen.”

Eduardo Nunez is day-to-day after leaving with tightness in the front of his left rib cage. An MRI came back negative. Girardi wasn’t sure that he would have the shortstop for Tuesday night’s series opener in Colorado.

Robinson Cano went 2 for 4 with an intentional walk and now has 1,499 career hits.

Cody Eppley cleared waivers and was outrighted to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.



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Cano making statement for new deal04.27.13

Robinson Cano has heated up in a hurry in this contract year.

After beginning 3 for 23 with no extra-base hits or RBI over the Yankees’ first six games, Cano has hit .385 over his last 16, going 26 for 68 with seven doubles, seven homers, 17 RBI and 14 runs scored. The second baseman is at .319 overall and has yet to make an error in 22 games.

He looks back at his World Baseball Classic run with the champion Dominican Republic as an important element in all this.

“I would say it helped a lot,” Cano said. “… You have to just go out there and play from the first inning to the last and play every game like it’s the last game.”

Cano has batted second 11 times and third 11 times. He doesn’t care where he hits, though.

“I don’t want to be the guy that will be a distraction,” Cano said. “I just go out there and just be happy to be in this lineup and wear this uniform.”

But will he be wearing this uniform after this season? I’ll guess yes. But how many years would you go on a new deal for Cano knowing he turns 31 in October and knowing what has happened with A-Rod’s too-long contract?

Also, here’s the link to my story on Ivan Nova and Francisco Cervelli getting hurt last night against the Blue Jays.

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Yankees postgame: Kuroda perseveres; Wells and Cano continue to hit04.25.13

Hiroki Kuroda didn’t look good the first two innings of this 5-3 win, three runs, six hits allowed.

“All I thought was just hang in there pitch by pitch and hopefully I would be able to overcome this adversity,” he said.

Who could have predicted Kuroda wouldn’t allow another run or hit to the Blue Jays over the next four innings of his six-inning outing?

“It says a lot because he didn’t really have a whole lot tonight,” Joe Girardi said. “… He didn’t have his sinker. He didn’t have his good off speed for the most part. He seemed to find his slider at the end of the third and found a way to gut it through six innings without giving up any more runs after the second. … This might be his best performance of the year.”

Vernon Wells continues to perform against his old team as well as against Mark Buehrle. Wells launched the comeback with a solo shot over the center-field fence in the second.  He’s now batting .480 (24 for 50) with three homers lifetime vs. Buehrle and .421 (8 for 19) with three homers vs. the Blue Jays this season. He’s at .293 with six homers and 10 RBI in 19 games with the Yankees.

“Vernon’s a good player,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “Always has been. He’s got new life going over there. He’s a very intelligent guy and you know he’s motivated. Something about playing in Yankee Stadium for the Yankees. This place brings out the best in people or you hear about it if you don’t.”

Robinson Cano hit the go-ahead three-run homer. He’s streaking, now batting .391 (25 for 64) with six doubles, seven homers, 17 RBI and 13 runs scored over his last 15 games.

“This is probably as good as he’s started that I can really remember,” Girardi said.

Something strange happened in the seventh. Ben Francisco was called out on a throw to first, but the umpires met and reversed the call. Gibbons got ejected after arguing the decision.

“… They said he bobbled it,” Gibbons said, talking about first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. “My big concern was that there was no appeal by the other side.”

Jeff Kellogg, the second base umpire and crew chief, said: “My sense (was) the ball was resting on the ground and his glove was around the top of the ball. … Our thought process is we’re going to try to get the plays right.”

The reversal/hit raised Francisco’s average to .103 (3 for 29).

Jayson Nix went 2 for 3, his third multihit game in the last five and fourth overall. He also turned in golden glove work at third.

Francisco Cervelli hit his third homer, one short of his career high from two years ago.

The Yankees are now 11-5 after the 1-4 start.


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Yankees pregame: Cano No. 2; Kuroda still a ?04.04.13

Brian Heyman here joining the season in progress.

So Robinson Cano is batting second in the series finale against the Red Sox, after Brett Gardner and before Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner.

“Just to try to break up some of the left-handers we have,” Joe Girardi said. “We decided to take a look at this … just to try to make it not so easy on the other teams.”

Cano has seen the Red Sox play a shift. Girardi said it’s the first time he has seen it against him.

“Robby’s a guy who can hit the ball the other way,” Girardi said. “We’ll how it works it out.”

Hiroki Kuroda said he wouldn’t do any long-tossing today to test that bruised right middle finger, the one that got hit by the Shane Victorino line drive Tuesday night.

“I spoke to the trainer,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “He suggested I shouldn’t throw today so I can try to throw my bullpen tomorrow.”

Girardi said Kuroda is still scheduled to make his next start, and that’s Kuroda’s intent. But he also said he won’t know until after that bullpen session in Detroit.

“I have to say it doesn’t feel normal,” Kuroda said. “I feel a little discomfort.”

Mark Teixeira is still shooting for a May 1 return.

“I hope it’s a possibility,” Girardi said. “He’ll have to go through some spring training. … I don’t want to rush him.”

Tuesday night, Vernon Wells hit a three-run homer and had his first three-hit game since last Aug. 11 when he was with the Angels.

“He’s swinging the bat well,” Girardi said. “In left field, he looks comfortable. He looks like he’s relishing his time here.”

It’s only the third game, but Girardi thinks this is an important game after the Yankees dropped the first two of the season.

“I don’t think anyone wants it to go too far,” Girardi said.

David Aardsma was released. The reliever had been designated for assignment last Friday.

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Tuesday notes: Another opportunity for Nunez02.19.13

It’s going to be a while before Derek Jeter is ready to play in games, and that means playing time for someone else. Most notably, it means playing time for Eduardo Nunez.

“I can’t kill him,” Joe Girardi said. “I can’t play him nine innings every day, but he’s going to play a substantial amount.”

Nunez and Jeter went through shortstop drills together again today, and the Yankees plan to keep Nunez at short this spring, and there’s little doubt that the Yankees idea of letting Jeter DH against lefties in the regular season leaves a legitimate opportunity for Nunez to get big league playing time again.

“I want Jeter to be healthy again and play how he plays,” Nunez said. “But for now, it’s my opportunity to show I can play every day and show I can play defense. I can do different things than people think I can do. … I feel great right now. My confidence is (high). I know what I can do. I know what kind of player I can be, and that I can be right now.”

Girardi said the Yankees will look for consistency out of Nunez, and that should come as little surprise. Nunez has shown flashes of being a valuable big leaguer — most recently, he played well during his short time playing in Jeter’s place during the ALCS — but his defensive lapses are well documented.

“He has to earn it,” Girardi said. “We’ve got to toy with some different options, but we liked what he did at the end of last year. We know he provides a lot of excitement. Our plans are probably to keep him at short for the most part — we did talk about that — but he does have to earn it.”

Girardi said there’s a chance the Yankees could carry both Nunez and Jayson Nix, but it would leave the Yankees without a left-handed pinch hitter, which they’d like to have. Ultimately, Girardi repeated his familiar promise to carry the best players to make up the best team. Nunez will have a chance to put himself in that group.

“Jeter’s a Gold Glove,” Nunez said. “Cano’s a Gold Glove. (So are) Teixeira and A-Rod. You don’t see too many errors from these guys. When they come to me, I make an error, it’s a big thing. … It was a little bit in my mind, frustration for that, but I thank Jeter, thank A-Rod (and) thank Cano. They talked to me a lot and teach me how to fix that.”

• Here’s Girardi explaining the Phil Hughes injury: “It’s upper back, up here by his shoulder blades, so we’ll see how he is in a couple of days. The good thing is he was ahead of where he probably would normally be at this time, which helps. … You’re usually more concerned about the lower lingering. But until it’s gone, it’s going to linger. That’s like a Yogi-ism.”

• Despite being ahead of most of the other big league pitchers, Hughes was not in consideration to start Saturday’s spring opener even before the injury.

• Austin Romine said he’s more or less stopped thinking about his back. He doesn’t really notice it any more. Bascially a week into spring training and Romine’s had no problems so far. He’s very optimistic that he’s gotten past the problem.

• Haven’t heard much about Michael Pineda lately. He said today that his shoulder still feels good, but he’s not scheduled for another bullpen until Friday.

• David Phelps gets the opening start on Saturday, and although Girardi didn’t talk about it today, he’s always made it clear in the past that early spring outings don’t carry a lot of weight. I can’t imagine Phelps is going to feel that way. This is what he said earlier in camp: “I pushed myself a little more in the offseason so my arm is ready a little quicker during spring training because I’m trying to make an impression.”

• Speaking of making an impression, I didn’t see it, but there was some buzz today about Ichiro Suzuki’s behind-the-back catch during outfield drills. I asked Brett Gardner to describe it and Gardner started laughing. “That’s my fault,” he said. “I told him to do it.” Gardner said that Ichiro has a variety of behind-the-back catches that he’ll do every once in while when the team is shagging fly balls. Gardner wanted to see a few today, and Ichiro was up to the task. Girardi said he didn’t see Ichiro do it today, but “I’ve seen him do it before,” Girardi said.

• Mark Teixeira’s last day in Yankees camp is March 2. Robinson Cano’s last day is March 3. After that, those two will join their World Baseball Classic teams to prepare for the tournament.

• Random conversation of the day was with new outfielder Thomas Neal. If a handshake is any indication of a man’s strength, Neal just might be a 40-homer guy. I’m not sure how he uses a cell phone without crushing it. Seriously, Neal said he got some interest from the Yankees pretty soon after being designated for assignment, but he took some time making his decision on where to sign. He decided the Yankees were the best fit, with the potential for a real opportunity.

• Matt Diaz tried to convince me to write a story about his son’s tee-ball team. Seriously. He thinks that group has a real shot this year.

Associated Press photos

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 15 Comments →

Best case, worst case: Second base01.24.13

For the Yankees best player, the best-case scenario is so high that he just might price himself out of the Yankees future plans. It’s the position that brings short-term security and long-term uncertainty.

Best-case scenario
Dollars and sense
At age 30, coming off three straight seasons finishing top six in MVP voting, Robinson Cano’s best-case scenario has something to do with being the best player in the American League. He’s a Gold Glove defender, a Silver Slugger hitter and a legitimate MVP candidate in his prime. Improve with runners in scoring position, move past last year’s struggles against lefties, and Cano could legitimately have the best season of any hitter in the American League.

But if we’re talking about the best-case scenario for the next 12 months, it’s all about what happens in November and December. Cano is a homegrown force; a middle-of-the-order slugger who plays a defensive position more accustomed to No. 8 hitters without much pop. He’s been durable and, until last year, had a pretty good track record in the playoffs. If the Yankees could lock him into a reasonable long-term contract — good luck with that — they could have second base figured out through the end of the decade. Might be impossible given his open-market value, but finding a way to fit Cano into the Yankees financial plans would be ideal.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to have Corban Joseph and David Adams repeat last year’s offensive results. Joseph showed surprising power last season, and Adams finally moved beyond a lingering ankle injury to restore his prospect status. In a best-case scenario, those two could become offensive second base options almost immediately (and certainly by next year if Cano prices himself out of the Yankees plans). There’s also Angelo Gumbs to consider. Long touted for his athleticism and potential — a good mix of speed and power, especially for a middle infielder — an injury free season could solidify his status as the Yankees top infield prospect.

Worst-case scenario
Small numbers and a big number
Two signs of trouble from Cano’s 2012 season: .239/.309/.337 vLHP and .207/.333/.379 with two outs and runners in scoring position. Make no mistake, Cano was terrific last season, but his struggles against lefties were surprising, and he was especially bad in RISP situations early in the season. It’s silly to think Cano will suddenly have a terrible year at the plate — he could slump quite a bit and still have an OPS well above .850 — but it’s possible that he could put up terrific overall numbers while still experiencing a handful of situational struggles that keep him from being as productive as those overall numbers suggest.

But, of course, even a down season from Cano won’t keep him from demanding — and getting — a huge contract from someone in the offseason. Cano could take a mild step back this season, and still price himself well outside of the Yankees spending plans. Or, perhaps it’s an even worse scenario to have the Yankees cave to his demands and give an Alex Rodriguez-sized contract that eventually blows up into an Alex Rodriguez-sized disaster.

The willingness to cave to Cano might grow more likely if Joseph and Adams take a step back. Joseph never hit more than six homers in a season before he hit 16 last year. What happens if his power slips in his first full-season attempt at Triple-A? Adams’ strong Double-A season wasn’t quite a full season — limited to 86 games — and he still hasn’t faced a single Triple-A pitch. If those Double-A numbers don’t translate and Joseph takes a step back, the Yankees won’t have a fallback plan at second. Add in another injury for Gumbs, and a sloppy infield adjustment for Rob Refsnyder, and the Yankees could be left without Cano and without an in-house replacement on the horizon.

Associated Press photos

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Yankees postgame: Phelps impresses but Lester rules08.18.12

David Phelps continued to make a positive impression despite taking this 4-1 loss to the Red Sox. The rookie went a career-high 6 2/3 and gave up just three runs and seven hits. He struck out seven and walked none in what will likely be his final start before CC Sabathia comes off the DL. Joe Girardi said he hopes that will be Friday night in Cleveland.

But Phelps can still be an asset in the bullpen. He’s 3-4 with a 2.69 ERA in 24 outings overall. In his five starts, including two since Sabathia went down with his elbow problem, Phelps is 1-1 with a 2.92 ERA. Someone will have to go to make room for Sabathia, but Phelps is pitching better than Joba Chamberlain and Cody Eppley right now.

“We like what he does,” Girardi said about Phelps. “He’s a guy that’s somewhat of a swing guy for us. If we need him to start, he can start. If we need him to give us an inning in the bullpen, a couple of innings in the bullpen, he can do that. If we need him to give long relief, he can do that.

“He’s a valuable guy on your team because he can do so many different things, and he’s had success in all areas.”

Phelps was done in by an opposite-field, two-run homer in the first by Adrian Gonzalez.

“It was right where we wanted it,” Phelps said. “The ball was down and off the plate. … It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Jon Lester’s inconsistency has been problematic for Boston, but the Yankees managed just five hits off the lefty. He’s still only 7-10 with a 5.03 after back-to-back starts with one run allowed.

“When you look up at the numbers, you kind of step back because you know that’s not the type of pitcher he really is,” said Nick Swisher, who had two of his three hits off Lester. “Tonight you got the best Jon Lester that we’ve seen in a while.”

The Yankees finished 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“It’s hard to win a game when you do that,” Girardi said.

Curtis Granderson seems to be breaking out of his slump, coming through with a homer and two hits for the second consecutive game. Both homers were off left-handers. He has hit 11 of his 32 off lefties.

Derek Jeter lost his 13-game hitting streak. He batted .367 over that stretch.

Robinson Cano is struggling right now. He went hitless for the fourth consecutive game with an at-bat, his worst stretch since a four-game hitless run in 2008. His career high is five straight. That was in 2005.

The Yankees need to come up with an answer for Pedro Ciriaco. He had a four-hit game against them at Fenway last month and he went 4 for 4 in this game. He’s batting .517 against them in seven games, going 15 for 29. He’s batting .276 in 28 games against other teams.

“He’s on fire against us,” Phelps said. “It’s one of those things.”

Sunday night baseball on ESPN with feature a pitching matchup between Hiroki Kuroda, who has been very good, and Josh Beckett, who has not.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 30 Comments →

Yankees pregame: Granderson gets a rest07.18.12

Brian Heyman here for Chad today at Yankee Stadium for this homestand finale. This is game six of 13 straight coming out of the break. Curtis Granderson had started 89 of the first 90 games, 88 of them in center. But Joe Girardi picked today to sit him at the start with lefty Ricky Romero going for the Blue Jays.

“If I’m going to take a day off for him, I’m going to do (it against) a left-hander,” Joe Girardi said. “I think on the road trip we’re going to see six out of seven right-handers, so I just chose today.”

The Yankees have scored at least three runs in 41 straight games, becoming just the third team in the Live Ball Era to do that in a single season, joining the 1994 Cleveland Indians and the 1930 Philadelphia Athletics.

“It’s still amazing,” Girardi said. “You expect them to score runs with this club and the home runs we hit. But there are going to be days when pitchers throw the ball extremely well and runs are tough to come by. But our guys have done a good job of just finding a way in some of those tough games to scratch some runs across.”

Robinson Cano will try to extend his career-high hitting streak to 21 games. The 20-game run is the longest active streak in the majors. Derek Jeter is the last Yankee to have a longer streak in a single season at 25 games in 2006. It’s the longest by a Yankees regular second baseman since Joe Gordon’s 29-game streak in 1942. Cano is batting .405 with six homers and 20 RBI in this stretch. He has delivered at least two hits in 11 of the 20 games.

“I’m excited about it now,” Girardi said. “I mean, 20-game hit streak, it means that he’s being productive. As far as how far it goes, I really haven’t thought too much about that. I think all of us expect Robbie to put good at-bats every day. When he does that, he’s going to get his base hits. So him hitting in 20-straight games doesn’t really surprise me.”

Girardi doesn’t see the streak being a burden to Cano at this time.

“I think he’s pretty carefree,” Girardi said. “I don’t think he would focus on it yet. If it got to be way up there, I think every player, no matter how carefree you are, you’d focus on it a little bit because you’d be asked questions. But right now I don’t think he thinks much about it.”

Girardi said Joba Chamberlain’s next rehab outing should be Friday. Girardi had no update on Brett Gardner’s MRI results. And Mariano Rivera rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 29 Comments →

Yankees get three starters in All-Star Game07.01.12

The starting lineups are out for July 10 in Kansas City. Derek Jeter is now a 13-time All-Star, although he bowed out last year. Robinson Cano will be at second for the third straight year. He’s a four-time pick. Curtis Granderson is a three-time All-Star and will start for the second straight year. CC Sabathia was picked for the sixth time, but he’s on the DL.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 53 Comments →

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