Yankees notes: Claiborne continuing impressive run

SEATTLE — Preston Claiborne has yet to issue a walk in his Major League career, a streak he kept alive in the eighth inning on Friday when he responded to a three-ball count by hitting the Mariners’ Kelly Shoppach with a pitch.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he was reminded of an old story about Stan Williams, a pitcher who admitted to hitting batters with three-ball counts because his contracts with the Dodgers in the late 1950s and early 1960s had walk-related incentives.

Claiborne, obviously, has no such clauses in his Yankees deal. The rookie laughed and said that there was no such trickery at play in keeping that 13-appearance, 18 1/3 inning string alive.

“A few people have asked me that,” Claiborne said, with a wide grin. “No, I was just trying to get a ground ball. I just threw a two-seamer and it sailed on me. I’m sticking to it.”

The hit batsman did little to dull the terrific start to Claiborne’s big league career. The 25-year-old is proving that he can handle the pressure situations of the late innings, compiling an 0.49 ERA with 14 strikeouts – and, of course, no walks – out of New York’s bullpen.

“As a bullpen guy, as a reliever, I’d always try to come out and blow it by guys,” Claiborne said. “Sometimes I’d get punished for it, leaving balls up or whatever. I realized, pitching at the knee – you always look at all the examples of guys over the years, Hall of Famers who actually pitch and don’t just try and blow gas. Those are the guys that have success.

“I think my coming along and pounding the strike zone as much as I have is just testament to my upbringing within the organization because guys who throw strikes, they get results and they move up. If you walk guys, you won’t have success.”

Since 1916, Claiborne is the only Yankees pitcher not to allow a walk over his first 13 career outings. Girardi said that he has been impressed by Claiborne’s consistency and courage in throwing 3-2 changeups and 3-2 sliders.

“I know people have talked about his walks, but he’s not worried about that little thing: ‘I haven’t walked anyone,'” Girardi said. “He’s trying to get hitters out. Back-to-back, he’s been good. He really hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s been really good.”

Girardi believes Wells will come out of slump

SEATTLE — The reality of Vernon Wells’ offensive production, as manager Joe Girardi sees it, is likely somewhere in the middle of his scorching April and his recent struggles at the plate.

Wells got off to a hot start with the Yankees but has gone ice-cold, owning just four hits in his last 53 at-bats (.075).

“I think his timing’s a little off,” Girardi said. “It seems when he does hit a ball hard, they catch it. He’s struggling right now. We believe he’s going to come out of it. There’s no doubt he’s going to come out of it, but I just think he’s out in front of balls a little bit and it’s causing some issues.”

Girardi said that he still considers Wells an everyday player in the Yankees’ lineup, though Lyle Overbay’s transition from first base to right field has given him more options with how to align his outfield.

“I still consider Vernon an everyday player,” Girardi said. “Might I spell him with a day off with Overbay? Yeah, but I still consider Vernon an everyday player.”

Bombers bits

– Yankees left-hander Vidal Nuno was removed from his start on Friday at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre witha groin injury, according to manager Joe Girardi, who said that Nuno is expected to be placed on the Minor League disabled list.

– Kevin Youkilis entered play on Saturday having reached base safely in all 20 games that he has started in his career at Safeco Field. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that matches David Ortiz of the Red Sox for the longest streak of reaching base in consecutive starts at Safeco Field.

– Earlier this week, All-Star selections were made in the Class-A Florida State League and Class-A South Atlantic League. Catcher Gary Sanchez and right-hander Shane Greene were selected from Class-A Tampa, while Class-A Charleston is represented by four players: right-hander Rafael DePaula, right-hander Gabe Encinas, left-hander Dietrich Enns and catcher Peter O’Brien.

– On this date in 1969, Mickey Mantle Day was celebrated at Yankee Stadium as Mantle’s No. 7 jersey was retired and a plaque was unveiled in his honor. The Yanks then swept a doubleheader from the White Sox by scores of 3-1 and 11-2.

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