Good evening from Detroit’s Comerica Park, where the Yankees will try to bounce back after last night’s 5-2 loss to the Tigers, hoping to get another roll started after Rick Porcello squelched their five-game winning streak. Shane Greene and David Price comprise tonight’s pitching matchup, with first pitch set for 7:08 p.m. ET. We should have a pleasant night for baseball – temperatures in the mid-70s and no threat of rain. Here’s a peek at the early notes:
Jacoby Ellsbury has found one of his best hot streaks of the season, but the Yankees centerfielder won’t connect the dots between those good recent swings and a return to the leadoff spot.
With Brett Gardner hobbled by a sore right ankle, Ellsbury batted leadoff for the fourth time in five games on Wednesday, entering play against the Tigers enjoying a 15-for-34 (.441) clip at the plate.
“He’s done a good job there, and there was never a question what kind of job he would do in that spot,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Gardy did a great job. It was just, I put him there because Gardy was hurt, and he’s done a good job.”
Ellsbury, who has hit three homers in the Yankees’ last two games, said that he was also feeling comfortable hitting third and hasn’t felt much different since coming back to the top of the lineup.
“I think that first at-bat may be the only one, trying to see how the pitcher throws that day, see what he has,” Ellsbury said. “But after that first one as the leadoff hitter, you’re kind of in the flow of the game. It doesn’t really affect you.”
“He’s a great player that’s going to have really good streaks,” Girardi said. “You could say since I put him in the leadoff spot he’s hitting for more power. It’s a small sample, so I don’t make too much of it.”
Gardner returned to New York’s lineup on Wednesday, batting eighth. Girardi said that he wanted to see how Gardner came through on-field batting practice before locking in his batting order, noting that Gardner has struggled against Tigers lefty David Price (2-for-20).
Girardi also said that he wanted to find a way to get Brian McCann’s bat in the lineup, even with Francisco Cervelli catching right-hander Shane Greene. McCann entered play on Wednesday with five hits in 12 at-bats (.417) against Price, including three homers.
“Sometimes you just see some guys better than you do others,” Girardi said.
The Yankees have signed outfielder Chris Young to a Minor League contract, general manager Brian Cashman confirmed on Wednesday.
Young, 30, was released by the Mets last week after hitting just .205 with eight homers and a .630 OPS in 88 games. Young had signed a one-year, $7.25 million deal with the Mets and could see time with the Yankees after rosters expand in September.
“Obviously it’s a guy that’s had some success in his career,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s a very good outfielder, it’s a guy who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. We’re going to see what we have.”
The Yankees currently have three left-handed hitting outfielders on the roster in Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki. Young, who has also seen big league time with the D-backs and Athletics over the last nine seasons, has not played since Aug. 7.
Masahiro Tanaka’s next hurdle will come in the form of three simulated innings off the mound at Comerica Park on Thursday morning, and if he gets through that session with no issues, the right-hander’s return will seem much more plausible.
Manager Joe Girardi said that Tanaka is scheduled to throw about 45 pitches in the simulated game, and he could be two sessions away from a big league return; the team would need Tanaka to build his stamina to the area of 75-90 pitches before deeming him ready.
“You obviously feel better that it’s going to happen, but I still talk about the intensity of a Major League game compared to a Minor League game or a simulated game,” Girardi said. “Those are the hurdles that you have to go through.”
It is likely that the Yankees would need to create Tanaka’s next outing, as the Minor League schedule ends on Monday and only Class-A Tampa is within striking distance of seeing playoff action. Girardi said that he is remaining cautiously optimistic as Tanaka aims to avoid Tommy John surgery.
“As long as you’re having steps in the right direction, it’s working,” Girardi said. “That doesn’t mean that it’s a guarantee. If you have a setback, it probably means surgery. It’s not like rehabbing a hamstring or something like that where you can have a setback and, ‘OK, we’ve got to sit him down.’ If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”
The Yankees announced on Wednesday that they have pledged $100,000 to the ALS Association, in recognition of those who bravely live with ALS, those who have passed away from the condition and those around the world who have taken part in the Ice Bucket Challenge in an effort to raise awareness and funding to find a cure.
In support of the Yankees’ donation, manager Joe Girardi participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday afternoon. Girardi said that he lost an uncle to ALS in April of this year.
“Obviously, it’s been on my mind,” Girardi said.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 27, 2014
In his video, Girardi invited Patrick Quinn of Westchester, N.Y. and Anthony Senerchia of Pelham, N.Y. to be the team’s guests for a future Yankees home game. Quinn and Senerchia were among the first to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Girardi also challenged this year’s Monument Park inductees to take the challenge; Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill and Joe Torre. Torre participated recently in a group event outside MLB’s New York offices, helping raise $16,700 for ALS research.
“I think this is a really good thing that’s been started here and is bringing a lot of attention to ALS,” Girardi said. “It’s a horrific disease in what it does to people. Hopefully all these things that people are doing to raise money finds a cure.”
The Tigers just announced that tonight’s game will not start on time. No estimated start time has been given First pitch is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET, so while we wait out the rain delay, here’s a peek into what’s cooking for tonight’s yankees.com notebook:
The Yankees’ newest good luck charm arrived special delivery, when Shawn Kelley’s travels around the Internet led him to stumble across a frightening rubber horse head. He laughed, then forked over his credit card information.
Placing the horse head atop his uniform, Kelley surprised his teammates last Thursday by sprinting onto the outfield grass for stretch. The bulging eyeballs, the flaring nostrils and furry mane had the Yankees howling, and it all coincided with the start of a five-game winning streak.
“I just thought they were fun,” Kelley said. “I just decided to wear it out for stretch that day, and we won that game, so — you know baseball. I’ve got to wear it until we don’t win any more.”
The purchase that might be helping to turn around the Yankees’ season was delivered by Amazon.com, Kelley said, where the masks are currently selling for under $20 plus shipping.
“You’ve seen those things for a while, popping up in the crowd somewhere,” Kelley said. “I actually saw somebody one time on water skis with one on. I always laugh. I think it’s funny when I see somebody with a horse head on. I giggle. I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to get one.’ Just for fun.”
Kelley said that the rubber mask, which the team is calling “Seabiscuit,” can get very hot, and that the visibility leaves something to be desired.
“I can’t see, that’s the only thing,” Kelley said. “I have to look out the nostrils and I can’t see really good. I just heard everybody giggle. I need like a GoPro [camera] on it.”
Brett Gardner said that his bruised right ankle is showing signs of improvement, and the Yankees outfielder is moving closer to returning to the lineup.
Gardner said that he planned to test his ankle on Tuesday by running for the first time since he sustained the injury on a foul ball on Saturday against the White Sox.
“I don’t have any idea how it’s going to feel, but I know it feels a whole lot better than it did yesterday,” Gardner said.
Gardner hit in the cages for a second consecutive day, having also taken swings on Monday in Kansas City. He had wanted to run the bases during batting practice, but rain forced the Yankees and Tigers to do their hitting in the underground cages at Comerica Park.
“He’ll try to get out there,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “My concern was he said he felt better but he needed to run. 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.”
Derek Jeter has been spending more time as a designated hitter of late, and while the retiring Yankees captain would prefer to be wearing his glove out to shortstop, he has been satisfied with staying in the lineup.
Tuesday marked Jeter’s fourth DH assignment of August, coming after he had been asked to DH only four times in the first four months of the season. Jeter points out that though he hasn’t done it much during his career, he did serve as the Yanks’ DH 25 times in 2012.
“Because of injuries, Carlos [Beltran] had to DH, so I haven’t really thought about it,” Jeter said. “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.”
Girardi said that the lengthy stretches without an off-day, as well as upcoming matchups against left-handed pitching in which Jeter will be expected to play, factored into his thinking.
“We have a lot of lefties coming up the next five days after today where he’s going to play, so try to give him a little blow when I can,” Girardi said. “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.”
Jeter’s numbers have sagged of late. After batting .277 through the first four months of the season, he entered play on Tuesday batting just .209 (18-for-86) in August, with a .227 on-base percentage and a .267 slugging percentage. Jeter’s last extra-base hit was a double on Aug. 11.
Girardi said that he does not believe there are any physical concerns with Jeter, but suggested that Beltran’s return to part-time outfield duty may allow the Yankees to have Jeter serve as the DH more often.
“I’m in the mode that I’m just taking it day by day, but with Carlos being able to go into the outfield once in a while, it gives me more flexibility to do this,” Girardi said.
Seven Yankees prospects have been added to the preliminary rosters for this year’s Arizona Fall League, which were released on Tuesday.
Right-handers Caleb Cotham, Branden Pinder and Alex Smith, infielders Greg Bird and Eric Jagielo, and outfielders Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge have all been selected to play this fall with the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Four of the seven players are currently ranked among the club’s Top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com: Jagielo (No. 3), Judge (No. 5), Bird (No. 11) and Austin (No. 15). Jagielo and Judge were first-round selections by the Yankees in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
In addition, the Yankees will be sending Class-A Tampa hitting coach P.J. Pilittere to Scottsdale, where he will serve in the same capacity. There is also a roster spot reserved for a Yankees catcher to be announced.
Players from the Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Pirates and Giants organizations will comprise the Scorpions roster, and the 32-game Arizona Fall League schedule begins on Oct. 7.
Masahiro Tanaka threw a bullpen on Tuesday at Comerica Park in preparation for his simulated game on Thursday, the next checkpoint of his rehab progression. Tanaka is aiming to return to the big league mound in mid to late September.
Mark Teixeira returned to the Yankees’ lineup on Tuesday after sitting out Monday’s game at Kansas City with tightness in his left hamstring.
“I think you’re always going to watch it a little bit,” manager Joe 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.”
On this date in 1960, the Yankees hit five home runs in a 7-6 victory over the Indians, including Yogi Berra’s 11th inning blast off Bobby Locke to win it. It was Berra’s second homer of the day; Elston Howard, Mickey Mantle and Moose Skowron also went deep.
Derek Jeter is well into the last third of what will be his final Major League season, and in case you were wondering, the Yankees captain has not felt the need to second-guess his decision.
“I think you just realize it. I don’t know if there’s necessarily a magic formula that tells you it’s time to retire,” Jeter said. “I just felt like this was the right time for me. I’ve done it long enough, I look forward to doing other things, so I decided this was going to be my last year.”
Jeter participated in a Spanish-language press conference on Friday at Yankee Stadium, touching upon many of the themes that have accompanied his last campaign. He said that the multiple standing ovations he has received at road stadiums have created his most treasured memories of the season so far.
“That’s been awesome. It’s been overwhelming for me,” Jeter said. “It’s not something that I expected. The way the fans have treated me everywhere I’ve gone has been above and beyond my wildest dreams.
“Especially when we’ve gone to some of these stadiums where I’m used to being booed, to have them cheering for you — that’s definitely the memories that I’ll take from this last season.”
As the Yankees fight to gain entry into the postseason, entering play on Friday trailing the Tigers by four games for the second Wild Card, Jeter’s personal focus has not changed.
“I want to win. That’s it. It doesn’t get any more complicated from that,” he said. “When you’re playing, you want to win. That’s the mindset I’ve always had, that’s the mindset I’ll have until my last game. I enjoy competing and when you compete you want to win. That’s the last thing I want to do.”
Jeter once again reiterated that he hopes to be part of an ownership group in his post-playing days, and that he would have no interest in being a manager, coach or general manager. Jeter also said that he does not expect to feel any pangs of regret when the Yankees take the field without him next spring.
“How am I going to feel when the team is in Spring Training in Tampa? I’m going to feel good,” Jeter said. “I won’t have to get up, I won’t have to work out, I won’t have to go to sleep at a particular hour. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Carlos Beltran was scheduled to resume swinging the bat on Friday as the Yankees hope to have him available for their lineup this weekend.
“He’s going to try to take some swings today,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We hope it works and then we get him in a game. It wouldn’t happen today, but he’s going to take some swings today.”
Beltran had a cortisone injection in his troublesome right elbow on Wednesday, his third cortisone shot of the year. This is likely a last-ditch effort to keep Beltran active; he has said that the elbow has a bone spur that will require surgery after the season.
Due in large part to the injury, which first started bothering Beltran in May, the slugger’s first season in pinstripes has been underwhelming. Beltran has batted .233 with 14 home runs and 45 RBIs in 90 games this year, his first under a three-year, $45 million deal.
Girardi applauded his players for holding an impromptu hitters’ meeting before Thursday’s 3-0 win over the Astros. According to Chase Headley, the theme of the meeting was that “enough is enough” and the offense needs to show more life.
“I’ve said all along, these guys have worked hard and they’re trying to figure it out,” Girardi said. “Whatever it takes, it takes. They’re going to do whatever it takes to try to get better and try to be more productive. I am all for that.”
Yankees right-hander David Robertson rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.
Robertson’s next strikeout will give him 500 for his career, surpassing David Cone as the fastest pitcher in franchise history to reach that plateau, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Cone had 500 strikeouts in his first 486 1/3 Yankees innings; Robertson has pitched 376 career innings.
On this date in 1996, the Yankees claimed infielder Luis Sojo off waivers from the Mariners. Sojo would go on to win four World Series with the Yankees (’96, 1998, 1999 and 2000), and also appeared in the 2001 Fall Classic.
The frustration in the Yankees’ clubhouse bubbled over on Thursday morning as several position players held an informal meeting, challenging themselves to pick up the production with less than seven weeks remaining in the regular season.
“We talked about it before the game, that we needed to come out with a little more energy, and hopefully some emotion and play the way that we’re capable of playing,” Chase Headley said after the Yankees’ 3-0 victory over the Astros. “We understand that we’re a lot better offensively than we’ve shown.
“That was kind of the point, to come out with a little bit of fire and hopefully put some runs on the board. … Some of the position players got together and said, ‘Enough is enough, and let’s go.'”
The Yankees produced a three-run second inning against Houston’s Dallas Keuchel, which was enough support as Brandon McCarthy hurled a four-hit shutout. The chat wasn’t a cure-all, but the results were slightly better: in nine games since a 10-run outburst against the Indians on Aug. 8, the Yankees had averaged 2.22 runs per game.
“We just had a little meeting this morning and talked about some things, kind of cleared the air,” Brett Gardner said. “A lot of guys talked. It was good. Hopefully a game like today kind of gets us going a little bit and we can carry that momentum over into the weekend.”
Gardner said that the meeting could be a turning point for the Yankees, who have lost seven of their last 10 games and trail the Tigers by four games for the second Wild Card.
“I don’t think it ever hurts. At this point, we’re trying to mix things up a little bit,” Gardner said. “What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working, so hopefully we can take this momentum, carry it over into the weekend and play some better baseball.”
Headley said that the Yankees are feeling a sense of urgency, but not because of the Wild Card race. Coming off two losses to the sub-.500 Astros and with the White Sox due in town, the reality is that if they do not win their games, there will be no point to continue scoreboard-watching.
“It was just, let’s get on the same page and let’s go,” Headley said. “I know everybody wants to win, everybody’s working, everybody’s doing the right things. You need that little extra sometimes and I think sometimes those little discussions – I don’t know if you’d really call it a meeting – but getting those guys together and getting guys on the same page can go a long ways.”
Before Thursday’s game, manager Joe Girardi said that he continues to believe that the players in his lineup are good enough to turn the season around.
“The effort is there every day,” Girardi said. “[Wednesday] 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.”
The Yankees recalled infielder Zelous Wheeler from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and immediately slotted him as the designated hitter for Thursday’s series finale against the Astros.
Wheeler, 27, has batted .267 with two home runs and three RBIs in 16 games with New York this season.
The Yankees needed another position player because of Carlos Beltran’s recurring right elbow injury; Beltran received a cortisone injection in the elbow on Wednesday and is unlikely to play before Saturday.
“With Carlos being an uncertainty for a day or two, we felt that we could use the extra bat,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’re seeing a lot of lefties, so we brought him up.”
With Beltran out on Wednesday, Girardi had only Francisco Cervelli and Brendan Ryan available on the bench. In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees optioned right-hander Chase Whitley to Triple-A; Whitley is 4-3 with a 5.43 ERA in 19 big league games (12 starts) this year.
There is frustration in the Yankees’ clubhouse and has been for some time, Girardi said, but the manager continues to believe that the players in his lineup are good enough to turn it around.
“The effort is there every day,” Girardi said. “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.”
Girardi has struggled to come up with an underlying cause for the problems with runners in scoring position. The Yankees were a combined 2-for-17 in the first two games of the Astros series and have batted .248 in those situations all year, ranking 10th in the American League.
“I look at it as guys being able to take the same approach, the same at-bat, relax when there’s runners on, when there’s not runners on,” Girardi said. “I haven’t seen anything that tells me that they’re squeezing the bat or trying too hard.”
Catcher Brian McCann agreed with that, saying that he did not see signs of pressing.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I just think we’re not getting it done.”
So if that’s the case and the results still aren’t coming, what is left for a manager to 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.”
Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw live batting practice on Saturday. Girardi said that his expectation is the session will take place at Yankee Stadium.
David Phelps, currently on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation, will work back to the club as a reliever. Phelps is scheduled to play catch again on Thursday and expects to be throwing off a mound within the next week.
“I think at this stage, we’re going day-by-day,” Phelps said. “We’ll hopefully amp it up when we get through this week. I took two weeks off, it’s not like I’ll be on the mound this weekend.”
On this date in 1988, the Yankees dedicated Monument Park plaques to former catchers Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. On this date in 2013, Ichiro Suzuki recorded his 4,000th professional hit (including 1,278 in Japan) with a first-inning single off the Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey.