Yankees postgame: Starved for runs • 07.09.13
It looks like that 29-run eruption in Minnesota was just a mirage, accomplished against bad pitching. The Yankees have just 11 runs to show for their last five games and only three in their three straight home losses. They became the final AL team to drop three in a row at home after this 3-1 loss to the Royals.
“We have not scored a ton of runs all year long,” Joe Girardi said. “As I said when we left spring training, we were going to have to win a lot of close games … That’s what we’re going through.”
The Yankees wasted a complete game from CC Sabathia, who allowed three runs and seven hits. The Yankees managed just six hits. Sabathia is looking forward to the injured hitters coming back. Derek Jeter is the closest right now.
“The guys in here that have been called up to step up have done a good job, but it’s hard to replace those guys,” Sabathia said.
Travis Hafner struck out three times and walked in his four plate appearances. He’s 13 for his last 58 and down to .217 overall.
“Getting some of the guys who have been hurt back will be a big help, but I think the guys that are here can swing the bat better — obviously myself,” Hafner said.
Sabathia obviously would’ve had to pitch a shutout to win. He rued the inside fastballs that David Lough and Billy Butler hit for solo homers.
“Two big mistakes,” Sabathia said.
There is practically no margin for error with this offense in the state it’s in right now.
Ivan Nova gets the ball Wednesday night. Wade Davis, who’s 4-7 with a 5.42 ERA, will start for Kansas City.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Yankees pregame: Waiting on the Captain • 07.09.13
Derek Jeter isn’t scheduled to play today in Triple-A, but Joe Girardi still won’t rule him out for the weekend series against the Twins.
Travis Hafner is 13 for his last 55, but Girardi is sticking with him at DH.
“It’s hard to put your finger on exactly why he’s struggling, but he is and we need him to hit and that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “We need this guy to hit so we’re doing everything we can to get him going.”
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.”
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
Curtis Granderson is back in pinstripes after five Triple-A rehab games. He will wear padding in tonight’s return vs. Seattle — on his right elbow, his twice broken right hand and, of course, the right forearm that was broken during the first at-bat of his first exhibition game. More interesting than the hitting stuff is the fielding stuff. Granderson is in left for this game.
“I’m ready to play,” Granderson said. “It doesn’t matter where it happens to be. I’ve said that before. Joe (Girardi) knew that before. So did (Rob) Thomson. I got a chance to work in right, center and left in the minor leagues. So I’m ready as I can for that. Obviously Yankee Stadium and all the big-league stadiums are going to be another challenge as well. But we go out there there today and take the first step.
“The main thing I’ve got to do is just go out there and get balls off the bat. You can’t mirror game-like swings and game-like intensity until you’re actually out there in it. I’ll get a chance to talk to Vernon Wells, who has been playing exceptionally out there. I’ll get a chance to talk to Brett Gardner, who has played a lot out there.”
Girardi didn’t spell out how he was going to use his four outfielders, but you would think that Granderson would mostly play left and move to center or right when Brett Gardner or Ichiro Suzuki has a day off. He could also get some DH at-bats, especially if Travis Hafner is down for a while. Yes, another injury. The oft-injured Hafner’s right shoulder has been sore, so he’s going to get an MRI. He’s expected to miss at least a couple of games. Vernon Wells had been playing left, but he’s the DH tonight. He’s also still a good outfielder, fine in left. Ichiro can play right or left (or even center), but he has an arm more suited for right.
“I don’t think it hurts to give a guy a day off here and there, spread it around a little bit,” Girardi said. “Grandy, you can’t expect him to go seven, eight days in a row right out of the chute. I think that would be unfair to him. Get him kind of back into playing every day. But they’re all going to play a lot. That’s the bottom line.”
Girardi said Hafner’s shoulder has “been bothering him for a little bit. He’s managed it and he’s played through it. He’s been fairly productive for us. But we’re just taking some precautionary things to see where he’s at and make sure we’re not missing anything.”
Girardi wouldn’t comment on talk that third baseman David Adams will be called up from Triple-A tomorrow when he’s eligible (after being released at the end of spring training).
Yankees leave ample April behind • 05.01.13
Welcome to May. The Yankees finished April at 16-10 after Tuesday night’s 7-4 win over Houston. They also finished with nine players on the disabled list.
In other words, they have no complaints with the record after the first month. No one should, considering all the injuries.
“I think our guys did a very good job, especially with the start we had, 1-4,” Joe Girardi said.
The pitching has been good. The offense has done just enough. The homer total has been running first in the AL. And the new guys have pitched in well.
“They brought in really good dudes, a lot of veteran guys, good character guys,” said one of the new guys, Travis Hafner. “The clubhouse has been great. Everyone gets along well.”
One of the old guys has begun to heat up. Ichiro Suzuki is batting .407 over his last seven games.
But the Yankees could use Eduardo Nunez to start hitting consistently, too.
“It would be great because he’s done a wonderful job defensively the first month for us, just great,” Girardi said.
The shortstop has his first three-hit game Tuesday night since April 4. He had three hits over his previous six games combined. Two of his three hits in the win over Houston were doubles, one more extra-base hit than he had the entire season. He raised his average from .169 to .203.
“We really believe that this kid is going to hit,” Girardi said. “To get him going, with the speed that he has, creates problems for the defense, for the pitchers, it would help us a lot.”
Here’s the link to my story on the April finale and the contributions by Hiroki Kuroda and Hafner so far. Also, here’s a link to my Yankees notebook with items on the mistake made by playing Kevin Youkilis Saturday and the lack of depth in the infield, plus on new rookie infielder Corban Joseph and some injury updates. And finally here’s a link to my feature story of the day. It’s on new lefty Vidal Nuno and his path from the independent Frontier League to the Bronx. Thanks for reading everyone. I’ll be back with you Sunday.
Hiroki Kuroda somehow managed to last seven innings and 108 pitches after throwing 67 in the first three. He has great survival skills.
The 38-year-old righty stranded seven Astros in the first three innings.
“Today, like my last outing, my balance was off mechanically,” Kuroda said. “My release point was off, too.”
But Larry Rothschild made a suggestion — work from the stretch all the time. Kuroda doesn’t like doing that, but he followed what he was told. And he retired 14 of his last 15 batters. He ended up allowing no runs, four hits and four walks, and he fanned eight. So after this 7-4 win, his April looked like this: six starts, 4-1, 2.25 ERA.
Travis Hafner’s April looked like this: .318, six homers, 17 RBI, 21 hits. The RBI and hit totals were his best in a calendar month since September 2007.
“I think swing-wise, it’s gotten a little more consistent as the season has gone on,” Hafner said. “It’s been great playing here. I’m really enjoying it.”
Joe Girardi is enjoying the view of his new 35-year-old DH: “You just see that his approach is good. He has been great in that four-hole for us. With all the people that we have out, he’s really done a good job in our lineup.”
Ichiro Suzuki is helping out in the lineup again. He went 3 for 5 and is batting .407 (11 for 27) in his last seven games. This run has boosted his average 68 points, from .200 to .268.
Eduardo Nunez started the night at .169, but he had three hits to move to .203. It marked his first multihit game since April 4. He had two doubles, one more than his extra-base hit total for the season coming in.
Mariano Rivera had his best April ever for saves, going 10 for 10 after getting the final out in this game. Does he really have to retire?
Yankees postgame: Train keeps rolling • 04.17.13
The Yankees have now won three straight and seven of eight after this come-from-behind 4-3 win over Arizona. They’re 8-5 after the 1-4 start and despite all those marquee-name injuries.
“It’s early, but we’ve got a pretty good team,” CC Sabathia said. “The guys filling in are doing a great job.”
Travis Hafner would be one of those guys. After sitting around for two-plus hours, he sent up that pinch solo shot in the eighth. He’s now hitting .342 with four homers and eight RBI in 12 games.
“I’ve been swinging the bat pretty well,” Hafner said. “I’m having a great time.”
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson did believe what he just saw from Hafner, hitting that first-pitch, 96 mph fastball from David Hernandez.
“He’s hit a lot out like that,” Gibson said. “Obviously, not a good spot to throw it.”
Gibson also wasn’t thrilled with lefty reliever Tony Sipp’s fastball away to Brett Gardner with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh. That resulted in the tying two-run single.
“The ball is up and out over the plate, and give the guy some credit; he hit where he should have,” Gibson said.
Gardner was happier, saying, “With two outs and the bases loaded, it’s kind of all on you. It feels good to be able to come through.”
Sabathia threw 31 pitches in the two-run first, then threw just 77 over the next seven.
“I think he just battled through it,” Joe Girardi said. “We’ve seen CC do that a number of times where maybe he doesn’t have his ‘A’ stuff and he finds a way to keep you in the game and doesn’t give up big innings. There’s a lot that can be learned for how he goes about his business.”
I’ll have more from Girardi on Sabathia’s diminished velocity in my morning post.
Hafner helping Yankees • 04.13.13
Yes, it’s early. But Travis Hafner has been productive for the Yankees so far as the DH against righties, helping to make up for half an All-Star team that’s on the disabled list right now.
“You always want to get off to a good start,” Hafner said. “It’s important for the season. With some guys out of the lineup who are normally middle-part-of-the-order hitters, it’s important. Really, everybody has picked up the slack. A lot of guys have swung the bats really well. You just want to contribute and help the team win.”
The 35-year-old lefty hitter, who left Cleveland after 10 years and signed on Feb. 1 for one year and $2 million plus bonuses, is at .310 (9 for 29) with two homers, six RBI and five walks.
“He has fit in great,” Joe Girardi said. “He has brought stability to the middle of our order, a guy that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, a guy that’s selective, that has long counts, that’s going to really work a pitcher and grind out his at-bat.”
A perfect example came in the decisive seventh-inning rally in Friday night’s 5-2 win over the Orioles. The Yankees had runners at the corners and two outs in a 2-2 game. Hafner worked the count full against lefty reliever Troy Patton before getting drilled in the left thigh. Vernon Wells followed against Pedro Strop with a fly to deep center that Adam Jones dropped for a three-run error.
The Yankees will have to hope Hafner stays healthy, something he struggled to do with the Indians, especially the last five years.
“I like the role that I’m in,” Hafner said. “I think it’ll help keep me really fresh and hopefully be able to continue to contribute.”
This is a link to my full feature story today on Hafner.
Hafner signing official; Canzler designated • 02.01.13
The Travis Hafner signing is official, and to make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees have designated Russ Canzler for assignment. Here’s the announcement.
The New York Yankees today announced they signed designated hitter Travis Hafner to a one-year Major League contract.
Hafner, 35, is a career .278 (1054-for-3796) batter with 588 runs, 242 doubles, 201 home runs and 694 RBI in 1,101 games over 11 seasons with Texas (2002) and Cleveland (2003-12). Among current active American Leaguers, he ranks sixth with a .381 career on-base percentage and an average of 7.92 plate appearances per walk.
He appeared in 66 games with Cleveland in 2012, batting .228 (50-for-219) with six doubles, 12 home runs and 34 RBI, also drawing 32 walks. The left-handed batter hit .241 (38-for-158) with eight home runs off right-handed pitchers. After batting .295 (18-for-61) in April, Hafner endured two stints on the disabled list from May 24–July 4 (underwent right knee surgery) and August 6–September 19 (lower back inflammation).
Hafner is tied for fourth among active players with 12 grand slams. He owns a .286 lifetime average against AL East pitching, his highest against any AL division.
Originally selected by the Texas Rangers in the 31st round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft, Hafner was acquired by Cleveland in December 2002 in exchange for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese. He owns the Indians’ all-time club record among designated hitters for home runs (200) and RBI (688).
In order to make room on the 40-man roster, OF Russ Canzler was designated for assignment.
Associated Press photo
Yankees on the verge of deal with Hafner • 01.31.13
The Yankees are close enough to a deal with Travis Hafner that it could be announced later today or tomorrow. Sources have indicated that the deal is in place, just waiting for the contract language to be agreed upon. The Yankees plan to use Hafner as a platoon designated hitter, strictly playing against right-handers. No dollar figure has been confirmed, though it’s believed to be close to the one-year, $1.1 million given to Raul Ibanez around this time last winter.