The Captain’s last stand

Derek Jeter describes himself as a “creature of habit,” something that has helped him navigate two decades in the big leagues, and so he stayed true to that philosophy on Thursday while commuting to his final game at Yankee Stadium.

Yes, as Jeter said, he drives his own vehicle from his current West Village apartment – don’t believe everything you see in television commercials – and yes, even the retiring Yankees captain hits traffic while traveling from Manhattan to the Bronx.

“A little bit,” Jeter said. “I took pretty much the same route.”

Jeter said that he did not closely follow the weather forecast in advance of Thursday’s game against the Orioles, but he is obviously aware of the wet conditions; his need for windshield wipers would have told him that much.

“My feelings are, I hope the rain stops,” Jeter said. “That’s basically it. Everybody’s talking about how much it’s supposed to rain, so I hope the weather cooperates and we can play.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he expects the Yankees and Major League Baseball will do everything possible to get the game in as scheduled. Yankee Stadium gates opened on time at 4 p.m. ET, but batting practice was cancelled for both clubs.

“I would suggest you make some plans, because I think we’re going to be here a while,” Girardi said.

Girardi said that he had not landed upon a concrete decision on how to script a moment for Jeter’s Stadium exit. The idea to involve Jeter and Andy Pettitte in last year’s memorable Mariano Rivera pitching change struck during that game, and Girardi seemed to be hoping for similar inspiration on Thursday.

“I’m just going to kind of let it go; just let it go through and take its course,” Girardi said. “Just see what happens.”

Jeter said that he allowed someone else to handle his numerous ticket requests for Thursday’s game, trying to keep his focus between the white lines.

“I’ve got family and friends [coming], but they come a lot anyway,” Jeter said. “My mom’s got a big family, so I don’t know how many tickets. I stayed away from it. It’s too much to think about.”

Jeter said he would prefer to wait until after the game to attempt describing his feelings about his final evening wearing the pinstripes.

“It’s tough for me to start getting emotional and sentimental before I’ve got to play,” Jeter said. “So let me play the game first. I’ll let you know how I felt about it afterwards.”

Girardi said that he planned to speak with Jeter about his plans for the final three games of the season at Fenway Park in Boston. Jeter said that a quick conversation did take place with Girardi, but did not reveal specifics about the weekend ahead.

“I’m not thinking about Boston,” Jeter said. “Right now I’m thinking about today. Let’s just go through today first, then I can give you what our plan is for Boston.”

Pregame briefing: Last home series for Derek Jeter

Hello from Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees and Orioles will play the first game of their four-game series this evening at 7:05 p.m. ET. The Yankees are still mathematically alive, so this series has meaning, but it looked as though it might carry a whole lot more a month or two ago when the Yanks were talking about mounting a run for the division crown. The Orioles can clinch home field advantage in the AL Division Series tonight, so that’s something.

You can watch on YES or listen on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM.

Other updates from the Yankees clubhouse:

  • The Yankees have claimed outfielder Eurys Perez on waivers from the Nationals, and he’ll be with the team tomorrow. Perez gives the Yanks another bench player who can play all three outfield spots and pinch-run, which could come in handy since Jacoby Ellsbury’s hamstring is keeping him out of action. Girardi said that Ellsbury still has some blood at the top of the hamstring, so he’s unable to run.
  • The Yanks designated left-hander Josh Outman for assignment in a corresponding move; on his way out the door to make room for Perez. Outman stopped by Derek Jeter’s locker and asked for three autographed baseballs.
  • Jose Pirela will make his Major League debut tonight as the Yankees’ designated hitter, meaning the Yankees will have used 57 different players in 2014. That shatters the club record of 56, which was set all the way back in 2013… and that tells you a lot about these last two years. If Perez gets in, they’d have used 58.
  • Masahiro Tanaka was “all smiles” today, according to Girardi, and that means he is on track to pitch Saturday against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
  • Mark Teixeira (right wrist) had a cortisone injection, his third of the year, and hopes to be in the lineup tomorrow against Baltimore.
  • Carlos Beltran (elbow) is still feeling discomfort and probably isn’t available tonight.
  • CC Sabathia (right knee) played catch on Monday, the first time he has done so since having knee surgery in July … at least, officially. Sabathia admitted he has been playing catch and tossing around a football recently out of boredom, but at least now he doesn’t have to sneak around.

Positive reviews on Masahiro Tanaka’s return

It would be fair to say that Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild is cautiously optimistic after Masahiro Tanaka threw 5 1/3 innings of one-run, five-hit ball against the Blue Jays this afternoon, making his first appearance on a big league mound since July 8.

The Yankees will keep their fingers crossed that Tanaka doesn’t report any discomfort tomorrow or on Saturday, when he’s scheduled to start against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. As of right now, this was a very encouraging sign for what Tanaka could mean for a 2015 rotation that just doesn’t have a whole lot of certainty right now.

“He mixed his pitches well and just went after people the way that you’re used to seeing him do,” Rothschild said. “It just tells you what kind of competitor he is, to be able to come out today and do what he did.”

On what Rothschild liked best:
“Just his presence. It didn’t bother him that he hadn’t been out there in a while. He has complete confidence in what he’s doing and then everything else follows suit, the command of the pitches, the ability to dissect the hitter when he needs to. He has a great feel for when to make pitches and what pitches to make at the right time.”

On Tanaka’s command:
“He made good pitches early in counts. The first inning, the fastball was a little sprayed, they were in the zone but not where he wanted them. After he settled down, he made some really good pitches.”

On this start offering peace of mind:
“It’s a step in the right direction. Are we going to know fully until five years down the road? Probably not. It tells you that due diligence as far as the games and everything, it’s good to see that he comes through and has nothing afterwards. There’s a lot of pitchers in baseball that have probably similar things that are asymptomatic. It’s possible that he can get through this for quite a while. It’s possible that it comes up and bites him and that’s it. We’re hopeful that it’s the earlier scenario and he’s going to be fine and have a nice long career with no problems.”

On if Tanaka needs another MRI:
“Absolutely not. I think you start analyzing every little bit, it doesn’t do any good. If he’s going to be OK, he’ll be OK. If not, we’ll know and he’s going to feel it and we’ll go from there.”

On when Tanaka looked right:
“His warmups were really good. The sim games, the last one, the warmups were OK. Today there was a difference and you could see it right away in the force with which he threw the ball and the quickness to his arm, all of the things that you saw before he went on the DL. Warming up today, you could see it.”

On adrenaline fueling this start:
“I think a lot of it. I think also the sim games he kind of paced himself just to stick his toe in the water and see what it’s going to be like. As he felt that it was going to be OK he pushed it a little bit more. You could see the last inning of the last sim game, he pushed the envelope a lot. He had no problem with that. Today he just continued that.”

On if Tanaka compared to earlier this season:
“Yeah, it was very similar. It’s hard to tell if he was rusty at all, really. He has a really good way of composing himself and handling situations. Just like he did the first game of the year where he gave up the home run in the first inning and went about his business the rest of the day and wound up pitching well.”

Pregame briefing: Masahiro Tanaka returns

Masahiro TanakaHello from Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees and Blue Jays will play the finale of their weekend series this afternoon at 1:05 p.m. ET. The Yankees are clinging to faint hopes in the postseason race, but they’ll be getting a good look at their 2015 plans when Masahiro Tanaka heads to the mound to make his first start since July 8 in Cleveland, having rehabbed a partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament.

The Yankees are curious about what they’ll have in Tanaka, and seeing him under big league conditions against the Blue Jays (and, if all goes well, probably the Red Sox at Fenway Park) could tell them a lot about if he can be counted on.

“I think it’s important for us as an organization and for him to see what we have moving forward, so I’ve been looking forward to this day,” Joe Girardi said.

There aren’t too many sure things in the ’15 rotation right now, so if Tanaka looks like he did in the first half, maybe that tempers the urgency to throw wheelbarrows of cash at guys like Jon Lester or Max Scherzer this winter.

You can watch on YES or listen on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM.

Other updates from the Yankees clubhouse:

  • Derek Jeter could play in all of the Yankees’ remaining games, Girardi said, especially now that he is swinging the bat well. Jeter is DHing this afternoon and comes in with three straight multi-hit games, one shy of his longest stretch of the season. Jeter is 6-for-13 with two runs, a double, a homer and two RBIs on his final regular season homestand.
  • Carlos Beltran (bone spur in right elbow) said that he has been encouraged to wait until after the season to have surgery. The recovery time is approximately 12 weeks, so in theory, waiting another week or so shouldn’t have much impact on his availability for Spring Training. He will have the surgery, that’s 100 percent, but perhaps he could help off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the last games of the year.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury (right hamstring strain) still hopes to get back on the field this year. He spent all day yesterday icing and said that he is working on a plan with the Yanks’ trainers. Girardi said that Ellsbury could probably pinch-hit before playing center field, but he’s probably not available today.
  • Mark Teixeira (right wrist tendinitis) will see a doctor after today’s game and said that he will ask about getting a third cortisone injection. Girardi said that Teixeira is not a player for him today.
  • Chaz Roe was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Tanaka, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list.

Pregame briefing: “I’ve told our guys, just go out and play”

Here are the highlights from Joe Girardi’s pregame session with the media as the Yankees prepare to play the final game of a three-game series at Tropicana Field, Derek Jeter’s last career game in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.

Girardi touched upon last night’s benches-clearing incident, which was prompted when Derek Jeter was hit by a Steve Geltz pitch in the eighth inning. Jeter is the fifth Yankees hitter to be drilled in the last five meetings between New York and Tampa Bay, including a 97 mph fastball that sent Chase Headley to the hospital. 

Will we have any fireworks tonight? We’ll have to wait and see, but Girardi said that he is hoping cooler heads prevail…

Carryover from last night’s incident?: “I know I’ve told our guys just go out and play. I told Brandon McCarthy just go out and pitch. What’s happened happened. We move on. And that’s what happens in the game of baseball, it can be a takeout slide, It can be a lot of different things. Then the day turns, and it’s a different day.”

Want to retract last night’s comments?: “No, I don’t. I think we had a right to get upset, just because of what’s happened in the last four games against them. Obviously the thing that sets you off the most was the way that Chase was hit. It’s scary. That can ruin someone’s career. We see the blood that went down his neck – this is not external, it’s internal. There’s a lot of drainage there, and it’s a reminder every day what happened. It’s scary for the player, it’s scary for his teammates and family and everyone involved.”

Joe Maddon’s comment that Chase Headley got ‘grazed': “I don’t think Joe understood how hard he got hit. I think maybe he misunderstood because of Chase’s toughness, how hard he actually got hit. Like I said, you move on.”

Pitchers making hitters back off the plate: “There’s been a lot of balls that are awful high, that’s what bothers me. When a guy gets hit in the rear end, that doesn’t bother me. There was a ball up by Gardy’s head the other day too, and those bother me. I got hit in the face. And I haven’t forgotten. You do have to pitch inside. And I encourage our guys to pitch inside, but you always remind them, it has to be down. It has to be down.”

Carlos Beltran attending to family matter in New York: “He’s still attending his family matter, I told him to take care of it, when we have you, we have you.”

Mark Teixeira’s return to the lineup: “He declared himself ready. I just told him, let me when you’re ready to go. And he said he was ready.”

Jacoby Ellsbury DHing: “This guy’s been playing with an ankle sprain for a month or three weeks or two weeks, whatever it’s been. On the turf it’s probably even rougher, so I figured I’d give him a DH day.”

Derek Jeter pressing?: “I don’t know if it’s so much his career (as) where he wants to be — back to the playoffs. I think that’s the No. 1 goal in his mind. I don’t think he would say there’s possibly this many games left. I think Jeet is going to fight to the end. That’s who he is. That’s who he’s always been. I think that’s the frustrating part.”

Upcoming homestand will be all about Jeter: “I think there’s going to be that no matter what. He’s meant just so much to this organization in the way he’s represented it, what he’s been on the field, and that way he’s represented it off the field. I think when you look at a Derek Jeter when you’re a parent of a young child, they think, I want to be that guy. Twenty years in the big leagues. Played hard every day. Never got in trouble. He just did things the right way. That’s what you want, and that’s what he’s done. And I think fans are really appreciative of that. They haven’t read things where he’s been in trouble or accused of things. He just hasn’t done it.”

Orioles win the American League East: “They played great. They played better than all of us, and they went out and earned it. They do a lot of things right. I know they don’t have that fancy name who you would declare an ace, but their pitching is really good. Their starters are really, really good, and they’ve pitched well. Their bullpen is good. They play great defense. They hit home runs. They run the bases. And I think you have to give a lot of credit to the two guys who filled in for Wieters. They did a really good job. I think sometimes people get worried when you lose a guy like that that’s been such a staple there. Those guys did a really good job.”

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