The LoHud Yankees Blog

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


Yankees postgame: Nova deserves old job back07.05.13

Ivan NovaThere’s no room at the moment for Ivan Nova, and yet doesn’t it seem like it’s time to make room again in the rotation? He has been excellent since he has been back from the minors, especially in this 3-2 win over the Orioles, his first career complete game. And it came with just three hits and one walk allowed, plus 11 strikeouts.

Nova would seem to have more of an upside than David Phelps, especially if the 26-year-old righty has indeed found his old consistency that abandoned him a year ago.

The Yankees could give him a start again with just nine games to go until the All-Star break. Eventually, though, they may have to make a decision. Plus, they have such a short bench with 13 pitchers here.

Joe Girardi said: “I’m not sure exactly how we’ll do it, but he’ll probably start again.”

Nova said he had everything working, including that mid-90s fastball, some changeups and again that great curveball.

“His curveball was about as good as I’ve seen a curveball from anyone,” Vernon Wells said.

Nova was told along the way by a couple of teammates that the Yankees were going to win this game, and he believed it, too.

“I never thought we were going to lose,” Nova said. “I was positive the whole night.”

It took Baltimore’s shaky closer to help shake out a couple of runs in the ninth. Jim Johnson blew his sixth save in 35 chances and dropped to 2-7. His ERA rose to 4.02. One of the two runs in the ninth was unearned thanks to Johnson’s error on Brett Gardner’s bunt. But David Adams helped as well, opening the ninth with a single. And Wells helped with his ground single to left to touch off the celebration.

The Yankees not only won their season-high-tying fifth straight despite struggling offensively again, but they snapped their five-game losing streak against the Orioles, improving to 4-6 against them.

“That team over there has had our number,” Wells said. “They’ve played well against us even in the games that we’ve won. … We were just able to come through late (tonight). But we need to win games like that. We haven’t done it enough. We were doing it early in the season. Hopefully we can get back to doing that.”

Hiroki Kuroda felt good after his bullpen session and will be slotted back into the rotation if his hip flexor feels the same Saturday.

Eduardo Nunez went 3 for 3 with a walk and an RBI in his rehab game with Trenton against Reading. Besides Derek Jeter and Michael Pineda being scheduled for rehab work Saturday night with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against visiting Lehigh Valley, Alex Rodriguez is scheduled for a rehab game Saturday night with Single-A Tampa against the Brevard County Manatees at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla.

Photo by The Associated Press.

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What should the Yankees do?06.28.13

Robinson CanoSo what should the Yankees do about their offense? I think they’re going to need more than their injured hitters back after the All-Star break in order to be serious about this season. They didn’t have enough offense last October.

They could use the outside help now.  The team is just 12-18 over the last 30 games, going from 30-18 to 42-36. The production from the fill-ins was good enough earlier in the season, but it just hasn’t been steady enough the last month or so. The staff can’t afford to make too many mistakes. And the Yankees can’t always count on running into bad pitching.

“I think we’ve shown that with the guys that are in this lineup, especially early on in the year, we were able to do enough to win games,” Vernon Wells said after Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the Rangers capped a 4-5 homestand. “We just haven’t done that consistently lately.”

The Yankees have been shut out three times this month and seven times overall. They’ve been shut out four times at home already, the most in five years. Derek Holland two-hit them Thursday when they wasted a quality start by Phil Hughes. They had two baserunners to show for their last 20 plate appearances, both on walks. Holland had to throw just 92 pitches. The game was over in just 2:24. (Here’s a link to my story about it.)

Lyle Overbay said the Yankees haven’t been grinding out at-bats lately.

“I think we get into trying to do too much and then it kind of snowballs a little bit,” Overbay said. “We’re not going to be as consistent maybe, but if we get those timely hits, we can be effective. We’re not doing that right now.”

The previous lefty to shut the Yankees out on two hits or less in the Bronx was Matt Young of the Mariners. That was 30 years ago. The Yankees have dropped three in a row and four of the last five when a lefty has started. The bottom three in the order against Holland were rookie David Adams (now batting .179), journeyman Alberto Gonzalez (.188) and rookie Austin Romine (.150). They combined to go 1 for 8.

Robinson Cano was protected in the order by Wells, who played right and struck out all three times, leaving him 11 for his last 93. Cano is down to .276, although he sounded pleased that at least he has been taking more walks.

“We don’t have our main guys,” Cano said. “I’ve just got to go out there and try to take advantage if I get one pitch. … I’m not trying to chase pitches and not trying to do too much.”

Rookie Zoilo Almonte is 0 for 10 in his last three starts in place of Wells in left after going 6 for 10 in his first three starts. Adams is 1 for his last 24. Overbay is batting .258 against righties and .186 against lefties, so a righty bat to platoon with him wouldn’t hurt, especially now that Mark Teixeira isn’t coming back until next year.

The team average is down to .238. There are still 17 games left until the All-Star break, seven games against the Twins, six against the Orioles and four against the Royals. There’s still almost a month until the nonwaiver trade deadline.

When Derek Jeter returns, he will be coming off a twice-broken ankle. He just turned 39 Wednesday. Alex Rodriguez, who had been on the decline, will turn 38 next month. He, of course, is, coming off his second hip operation. There have been conflicting reports about his return. The latest had A-Rod questioning when he would come back this season or if he would come back this season. The MLB Biogenesis investigation and a possible suspension are also hanging over him.

There was a report from csnphilly.com earlier this week that the Yankees have thought about Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz, now in the last year of his deal. So is Philadelphia’s Michael Young, who would be more expensive and more appealing. It would figure the Yankees would only want an expiring contract since their goal is to be below $189 million next season.

What should they do?

Photo by The Associated Press.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 231 Comments →

Yankees pregame: A-Rod soap opera continues; big start for Hughes; much more06.27.13

Phil HughesAlex Rodriguez, according to the New York Post, told the Yankees yesterday his hip isn’t ready for rehab games. The Daily News had him allegedly planning to start playing rehab games, then claim he physically can’t play and retire before a possible 100-game MLB suspension comes, so he could get his full 4 1/2 seasons of money owed to him.

“A couple of conflicting reports from sources,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s why I always say for me, when a player gets here, he gets here. When he’s ready, he’s ready. But everything that I understand, he’s been making progress and moved better day after day. So it sounds like things are pretty good.”

The erratic Phil Hughes gets the start today in the series finale against the Rangers.

“I’m not saying he’s pitching for a spot,” Girardi said.

But Hughes hasn’t pitched well in three of his last four starts and has gone 1-4 with a 5.86 ERA over his last seven starts. He’s 3-6 with a 5.09 ERA in 14 starts overall.

Girardi did say this start is “important. This is a guy who we need to be consistent for us and get on a roll like he’s capable of doing. It starts with his fastball command and using his other pitches.”

Ivan Nova pitched pretty well in his spot start Sunday and Michael Pineda has been pitching very well in his rehab starts, albeit against Single-A and Double-A hitters. Could that be in the back of Hughes’ mind? Could he be feeling any extra pressure for this start?

“I’m not sure,” Girardi said. “I think guys are aware of what’s going on around them. I’m not so sure when you get out on the mound, you start thinking about that. I think you think about making your pitches. Usually when you get on the field, you’re able to block everything out. It could be in someone’s thought process off the field.”

There’s no plan yet on what to do with Nova, according to Girardi. But by keeping him around, the Yankees are going with a shorter bench for the time being.

“It’s something that we’re going to have to look at and see if there’s someone who we think can help us that we can add,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. Is there someone who we think can help? We had Thomas Neal here. The minimum a guy has to be down is 10 days, and I’m not saying he’d be the guy that we would call up. Right now, a lot of players are on the DL and we’ll just have to see.”

Joba Chamberlain has given up at least one run in five of his last seven outings,, including two in two-thirds of an inning last night.

“I thought he threw pretty well before he got hurt,” Girardi said. “He just really hasn’t gotten on track for us. We’ve got to find a way to do it. Whatever it takes, we’ll try to do it.”

Brett Gardner isn’t starting today. He has a cold.

“But it’s more I’m just giving him a day because he’s played every day,” Girardi said.

So Vernon Wells is in the lineup, but he’s in right. Ichiro Suzuki is in center. Wells appears to have lost the regular left-field job after that 9-for-90 slump. Zoilo Almonte is starting in left for the sixth straight game. The rookie is 7 for 19 with three walks, two doubles, a homer and four RBI in seven games on the homestand.

“We’re running ‘Z’ out there,” Girardi said. “We’ll continue to do that, continue to watch how he’s doing. But he’s done pretty well.

“(Wells) has been ready to play every day. He’s ready to pinch hit. He’s worked very hard. I think he’s dealt with it very professionally.”

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Yankees postgame: Nothing to see here06.19.13

Robinson CanoThe second game of this doubleheader against the Dodgers won’t be included in the Yankees’ highlight video. Phil Hughes wasn’t good again. And the offense was nearly nonexistent again, like it was before the finale of the road trip and the first game of this doubleheader. It added up to a 6-0 loss, leaving the Yankees at 39-32.

The offense managed three singles, all off starter Chris Capuano, who worked six. Two were infield hits. Robinson Cano was the only one to reach the outfield with a hit and he got thrown out trying to stretch it. That was in the fourth, and it was the Yankees’ final hit. They had just one baserunner to show for their last 18 trips to the plate — Jayson Nix getting drilled by Brandon League in the ninth.

Lyle Overbay, who had one of the infield hits, said the lefty Capuano kept the ball down, mixed his pitches and had the Yankees off balance.

“We couldn’t get anything going,” Overbay said.

The erratic Hughes had his second straight substandard start. He gave up four singles to start the game, down 2-0 just like that. He allowed five runs and 10 hits over six.

“I really didn’t have good control in the first inning,” Hughes said. “From then on, it was a struggle to find any sort of rhythm.”

Back to the offense, Vernon Wells went 0 for 7 in the doubleheader, leaving him at a nearly unfathomable 9 for his last 87. It’s hard to remember his fast start now. Zoilo Almonte made his major-league debut, grounding out as a pinch hitter in  the ninth.

The Yankees were blanked for the sixth time this season. They have dropped six of their last eight overall. With the split, they are 14-1-18 in twinbills since 2000.

Photo by The Associated Press.

 

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Yankees postgame/pregame: Ichiro heating up06.19.13

Lyle Overbay, Ichiro SuzukiIchiro Suzuki kept showing up in the picture in the 6-4 win over the Dodgers in Game 1. Three hits, a solo homer, three RBI, an outstanding catch.

“He’s been playing extremely well for us,” Joe Girardi said after Suzuki lifted his average to .274, having gone 10 for 22 over his last four games. “He has the ability to get really, really hot.”

Suzuki served a soft two-run single into left in the seventh, the decisive hit since it gave the Yankees a 6-2 lead.

“He puts it in the perfect spot,” Lyle Overbay said. “It’s an art.”

So is this the start of an extended hot streak for Suzuki?

“I have no idea,” Suzuki said through his interpreter. “Maybe you can ask a fortune teller or somebody in New York can tell you.”

Hiroki Kuroda allowed two runs and eight hits over 6 2/3 to snap a three-game losing streak, doing it against his old team. He said through his interpreter that he enjoyed catching up with Clayton Kershaw yesterday.

“Once the game started, I didn’t really focus too much on who I was facing,” Kuroda said. “I was trying … to contribute for the win.”

The Yankees got their first look at what all the fuss is about, Yasiel Puig. The L.A. rookie got thrown out trying to stretch one single into a double, but did make it the next time he tried. Mariano Rivera got him looking to end the game.

“He’s an aggressive player,” Girardi said. “He has tools.”

Phil Hughes and Chris Capuano will be the pitching matchup in the second game. Girardi said before the first game that Zoilo Almonte would probably get to start in the night game, but Suzuki is starting in left and Thomas Neal is in right. Vernon Wells is the DH. He went 0 for 4 in the opener, leaving him in a 9-for-84 slide.

“He’ll figure it out,” Girardi said.

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Photo by The Associated Press.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 41 Comments →

Yankees postgame: A-Rod the lightning rod again06.05.13

Alex RodriguezThe postgame talk after this 4-3 Yankees win over the Indians was about performances and performance-enhancing drugs.

The ESPN news flash had spread that MLB plans to suspend about 20 players. One of them, Alex Rodriguez, could be facing a 100-game suspension in relation to allegedly purchasing PEDs from the now-closed anti-aging clinic in south Florida. Why he would do that after having to admit previously that he had used while with the Rangers is beyond me. He has denied this latest claim.

Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli are also among those on the list.

“I always worry about my players,” Joe Girardi said. “And I worry about the game. … If you care about the game, you care about how it’s affected. I think we all hoped we kind of got through it. But obviously we’re not through it yet.”

The steroid era lives on.

Vernon Wells didn’t think this subject would be a distraction to the Yankees. He’s hoping the steroid era will die one day.

“We’ve done so much as a group to rid ourselves of conversations like this, stepping outside of our agreement and making changes in the middle of it,” Vernon Wells said. “We’ll continue to make strides to clean the game up. … I know I’ll never be a part of this conversation.”

Joba Chamberlain said: “Major League Baseball is going to do its thing and we’re going to go out and play.”

As for David Phelps’ performance, it was sure better than the last start when he got one out and was charged with five runs against the Mets.

“I’ve been chomping at the bit since the last outing,” Phelps said.

His fastball command came and went in this start. But it was there when he needed it. Phelps threw 102 pitches and allowed just one infield hit to go with four walks and seven Ks in six innings.

“He kind of ran the game,” Terry Francona said. “He mixed everything up and we didn’t have anything to show for it. We made him work. We took our walks. We couldn’t push any runs across. It’s rare that you see getting one hit and look up and see a bunch of pitches like that. He did a very good job of not giving in, mixing things up, elevating and cutting.”

Photo by The Associated Press.

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 33 Comments →

Yankees pregame: Welcome back, Grandy; and of course, there’s another injury05.14.13

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).

 

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Vernon Wells: Yankees’ injury situation ‘out of control’05.06.13

Eduardo Nunez, Derek Jeter, Kevin LongThe Yankees’ injury epidemic keeps getting worse.

“It’s starting to get out of control now,” Vernon Wells said. “At first I was like, ‘OK a few injuries. It’s normal.’ And each week, something new.

“It’s not what you want obviously. But we’re not going to make excuses. We’ve still got to go out and win games no matter who’s in the lineup or who’s on the mound.”

They are doing well to cope despite 10 guys on the DL, sitting at 18-12 after Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the A’s. There’s going to be an All-Star lineup rehabbing today at the minor-league complex in Tampa.

Eduardo Nunez at least had his MRI come back negative after he came out of the series finale with tightness in the front of his left rib cage. The shortstop said he felt something up with his stomach in the first inning. He thought it had to do with food. Then it was bothering him to swing and throw, so Joe Girardi pulled him after four. Nunez is day-to-day and may not be good to go yet Tuesday night in Colorado.

Nunez was feeling down after he got back to the Stadium from New York Presbyterian. This is his chance to play with Derek Jeter down for at least the first half of the season. Nunez had already missed a pair of  games on two occasions after getting hit by pitches.

“I feel bad for myself,” Nunez said. “This is an opportunity for me. … There’s nothing I can do.”

Andy Pettitte felt rather helpless to fix his release point problems Sunday. Here’s the link to my story detailing his struggle for the second straight start (complete with video I shot of Girardi talking about his lack of concern about it at the moment) and the other happenings in Sunday’s game. And here’s a link to my story on Curtis Granderson possibly not heading back to center after all, plus an update on David Robertson.

Associated Press photo

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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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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.

 

Posted by: Brian Heyman - Posted in Miscwith 185 Comments →

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