In praise of Yankees pitching • 05.20.13
Coincidence? We think not. And tonight’s starter thinks not.
“We’ve been pitching great,” CC Sabathia said. “It’s fun to watch. We knew that coming into the year, for us to have a good year, it was going to depend on our pitching. And so far we’ve been pretty good. Hopefully we can keep that up.
“Our bullpen is the strongest point of our team, so we need to keep these guys fresh. The starters need to pitch better and go deeper into games and try to keep the guys fresh.”
Sabathia will take the mound at 4-3 with a 3.19 ERA through nine starts.
Here’s a link to my feature story today on the latest newcomer to this team, Reid Brignac, who was going to start at short yesterday before the game against the Blue Jays got rained out. And here’s a link to my notebook article with an item on the rainout’s impact on the rotation, plus updates on Mark Teixeira, Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli. Chad will be back with you later in the day.
Photo by The Associated Press.
Romine catching on • 05.19.13
There was that forgettable first start April 29 against the Astros at Yankee Stadium. Andy Pettitte lost his cutter in the first inning and Romine struggled to get on the same page with him. The Yankees ended up losing 9-1.
But the 24-year-0ld rookie catcher has taken some steps forward back there since then. Good thing, too. Because Cervelli’s primary replacement, Chris Stewart, hurt his groin Thursday night and has been only available in a pinch. It sounded like Stewart won’t be starting the first two games in Baltimore. So Romine, who has guided the pitchers to a 2.25 ERA during his 60 innings, will get more time.
“I think he’s gotten in a better rhythm with our pitchers,” Girardi said. “He has a better understanding. He’s been able to watch them a couple of times. He’s gotten back there with I think almost everybody at this point. So I think he’s just getting more comfortable.
“It’s always tough when you come in the middle of the season as a catcher, and especially when you’re a young catcher, to feel like you know exactly what they want to do. That can be difficult. It could be a day when the guy doesn’t have everything, and that even makes it harder. But I think he’s adjusted really, really well.”
Romine is also 3 for 6 at the plate over the last two games after starting out 1 for 16.
Photo by The Associated Press.
It’s still raining … • 05.19.13
“I’m not very intense before I pitch,” Sabathia said. “Either way, I wasn’t really worried about it. I was sitting on the couch, and they told me it was canceled. So I played catch. I’ll be fine.”
So the Yankees will fly on to Baltimore this afternoon.
“They’ve got a team that can go to the playoffs again,” Robinson Cano said.
Sabathia will start Monday night against the Orioles, followed by Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda. Vidal Nuno was originally going to start Monday night or Tuesday night, but he will be skipped and work out of the bullpen for a few days. After Thursday’s off day, David Phelps is set to start Friday night at Tampa Bay.
As far as today’s ticket situation, fans with paid tickets can use them when the game is made up or exchange them for any regular-season game, subject to availability (and there seems to be availability this season). Complimentary tickets are only good for the makeup date, which hasn’t been announced.
Photo by The Associated Press.
The newest new guy is here. Joe Girardi has Reid Brignac in his lineup (although it’s raining right now at 11:30). He’s down to play short and bat eighth. He arrived in town last night after being acquired Saturday from the Rockies, who had designated him for assignment after he batted .250 with a homer and six RBI in 29 games. Brignac said he was a little disappointed and upset when the Rockies dumped him and excited when the Yankees picked him up.
“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions,” Brignac said.
Brignac is 27 and he knows this division rather well, having been with the Rays for all or parts of the last five seasons, primarily parts. He gives the Yankees a lefty-hitting option at short. He can also play third, second and the outfield.
“Just to be a very good shortstop out there when he plays and to add offensively,” Girardi said of his expectations. “I’ve seen him have some big days. I’ve seen him have some good years. I think there’s some good talent there. So we’re going to see what he can do.
“I think he’s a really good defender. I think he’s got a little pop in his bat. This ballpark might play well for that.”
Chris Stewart is available in an absolutely-need-you situation after tweaking his groin rounding third on Thursday night, but he still won’t be starting behind the plate for at least a few days.
“I have told him that tomorrow maybe we’ll start some tee and toss and see where he’s at in that situation, moving around,” Girardi said. “He’s still a guy who I would not hesitate to put in there if I had to, but I figured if you can get one more day in a sense, where it gives you almost 36 hours, let’s take it, take advantage of it. I don’t know if he would play Tuesday, but I want to know that he’s better so we could make a decision. He does feel better; he told me.”
Girardi said Kevin Youkilis is making progress in rehab from his back problem, hitting off a tee and against soft tosses and taking grounders. Girardi also said the news on Mark Teixeira’s comeback from his wrist problem is good.
“He’s been taking BP,” Girardi said. “He’s doing actually really well. We’re encouraged by what he’s doing. There has to be probably a next step here pretty quick where he starts to see some live BP or some simulated games.”
Yankees bullpen throws zeroes • 05.15.13
After Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Mariners (my story on their 11th comeback win and surviving a King Felix start), the relievers hadn’t given up a run over their last nine games, covering 23 2/3 innings. Their combined ERA for May is 0.77 (three earned runs in 35 innings). The group has 36 strikeouts and seven walks to show for this stretch.
“It’s unbelievable,” CC Sabathia said. “We knew coming into the season that would be one of the strong points on the team. They haven’t disappointed.”
Shawn Kelley came in for Sabathia Tuesday night with runners at the corners and one gone in the seventh. Strikeout. Line out. Inning over. The righty has fanned seven of the last nine batters he has faced. He owns 25 Ks in 15 1/3 innings this season.
Mariano Rivera came on for the ninth. Fly ball. Fly ball. K. Game over. The 43-year-old greatest-of-all-time closer is off to a 16-for-16 start on saves after 39 games. It’s the fewest number of team games he has needed to reach 16 saves. The latest save made him 35 for his last 35 at home and 17 for 17 at home against Seattle in his career.
Overall, the Yankees are now 8-2 in one-run games.
“I think winning those games are extremely important,” Joe Girardi said. “Those games can have a real effect when you start losing them.
“Our bullpen has done a great job for us this year. We’ve had a lot of close games. Mo has 16 saves already. That’s quite a pace that he’s on. We haven’t had to use him in games where we’re not winning because he’s got so many opportunities. The ones that you’re ahead, you need to win. If you want to play in the month of October, you have to win those games.”
Photo by The Associated Press.
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
Game 39: Yankees vs. Mariners • 05.14.13
1. Brett Gardner CF
2. Robinson Cano 2B
3. Vernon Wells DH
4. Curtis Granderson LF
5. Lyle Overbay 1B
6. Jayson Nix SS
7. Ichiro Suzuki RF
8. Chris Nelson 3B
9. Austin Romine C
CC Sabathia LHP
1. Michael Saunders CF
2. Jason Bay LF
3. Kyle Seager 3B
4. Kendrys Morales 1B
5. Michael Morse RF
6. Kelly Shoppach C
7. Raul Ibanez DH
8. Robert Andino 2B
9. Brendan Ryan SS
Felix Hernandez RHP
Umpires: Jerry Layne HP, Alan Porter 1B, Greg Gibson 2B, Hunter Wendelstedt 3B
TV/radio: YES/WCBS 880
Weather: clear, cool
Hail King Felix: Hernandez is 4-0 with a 0.71 ERA over his last five starts, fanning 40 and walking three. He’s 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA in five starts at the new Stadium. He owns a 2.06 ERA in seven starts overall in the Bronx. He’s 96-24 with a 2.89 ERA in 157 career starts when Seattle scores at least two runs for him. The Mariners have scored one run or less in 89 of his 246 starts.
Update, 7:14: 1-2-3 first with two Ks for Sabathia. Wonder how many hits there will be for both sides tonight with these starters.
Update, 7:23: Nice welcome-back ovation for Granderson, then he grounds weakly into a 6-6-3 double play.
Update, 7:30: Overbay flips to Sabathia when he should’ve kept it himself. Ibanez is safe, first and third, two outs.
Update, 7:31: Sabathia gets Andino looking to escape.
Update, 7:37: 1-2-3 second for Hernandez, two Ks, including Ichiro looking at a 93 mph fastball.
Update, 7:47: Seager makes it 1-0 with a double, unearned run thanks to Overbay getting his hand in the way of his glove for an error on a grounder. Heading to the bottom of the third.
Update, 7:58: Hernandez pitches out of a bad spot, runner on third with one out, fans Gardner and Cano. He is tough.
Update, 8:11: Sabathia gets out of bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fourth. Saunders swings and misses on a 90 mph fastball.
Update, 8:22: Hernandez takes a knee to the right calf from Overbay when both Hernandez and Morales cover first. Hernandez is OK and Overbay is given first even though he was thrown out by a lot. Hernandez given an error on the obstruction. So first and second, one out in the fourth.
Update, 8:31: Again, Hernandez gets tough with men on base. Fans Nix looking, gets Ichiro swinging.
Update, 8:39: Two-out double in the Seattle fifth, but Sabathia keeps it at 1-0.
Update, 8:45: Romine double-play ball erases Nelson after a lead-off single. 1-0 Seattle after five.
Update, 8:50: That looked familiar. Ibanez two-run HR to right, 3-0 Seattle.
Update, 9:01: 10 Ks now for Sabathia in his six innings.
Update, 9:09: Hernandez looked like he was hurting after fielding a Granderson dribbler back to him, but he stays in. Overbay follows with an RBI double to the right-field corner.
Update, 9:16: Ichiro leaves two on, flies to deep center, 3-1 after six.
Update, 9:23: Sabathia is done with runners on the corner and one out in the seventh. He gave up 10 hits and struck out 10. Shawn Kelley comes on.
Update, 9:33: Hernandez is done, one run, five hits allowed. Righty Yoervis Medina takes the ball for the seventh.
Update, 9:39: One out and Nelson on second after a single and a wild pitch. Charlie Furbush comes on.
Update, 9:48: Cano ties it with a two-run double, 3-3.
Update, 9:57: Overbay sac fly for the lead.
Update, 10:01: David Robertson on for the eighth. Yankees came in 3-13 when trailing after six.
Update, 10:15: First and second, no outs, and Robertson gets out of it.
Update, 10:21: Rivera for the ninth.
Update, 10:29: Rivera 16 for 16 on saves. Yankees win, 4-3.
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).
“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
Yankees postgame: What’s up with Pettitte? • 05.05.13
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.