Pregame briefing: Yankees vs. Rays

The Yankees and the Rays will open a three-game series tonight here at Yankee Stadium, with right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.78) getting the start for New York opposite right-hander Chris Archer (8-8, 3.60). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET; Yankees TV is on MY9 and Yankees radio is on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM.

New York has won three of its last five games; the Yankees are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Tonight marks Derek Jeter’s 2,730th game with the Yankees, tying Mel Ott of the Giants for eighth place all-time among players who have played all of their games with one team. 

Here are the highlights from manager Joe Girardi’s pregame session with the media:

Brett Gardner out of the lineup for a third straight game…

“He has an abdominal strain. We’re not sure exactly when we’ll get him back. He does feel better. He’ll see the doctor again tonight and then we’ll try to make some decisions on when he’ll start doing some baseball activities.”

Starting to get concerned that you may not get him back?

“I’m not sure when we’ll get him back. It is a concern of mine. We’ll continue to talk to the doctors, measure how he feels and how he’s improving and go from there.”

Martin Prado hamstring update…

“There’s concern about him playing on that, where he could really make it worse in his hamstring to where it becomes a serious issue. It’s still bothering him. Even though I told him to guard it – and he did a good job – there’s concern.”

Feel anything more after last game?

“No, it’s the same. But there’s concern.”

The lineup without Gardner and Prado…

“It’s different. It’s definitely different, but I’ve always said it’s an opportunity for someone to step up. They’re going to have to.”

Brian McCann’s second half…

“I’ve definitely seen an improvement. Sometimes guys get off to slow starts and I think here it can be magnitude. It can become a little bit more, you try to do too much and try to validate everything. The second half, I think he’s been more productive. Part of it is probably being used to his surroundings and knowing what to expect. He’s played pretty well.”

Masahiro Tanaka simulated game – three innings, 45 pitches…

“I thought he was better than Detroit. I thought his stuff was sharper, I thought there was more velocity, I thought there was better command. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. His next step would be another bullpen and prepare him for another start.”

Simulated game next?

“We’re not sure. It could be that, or you could send him to instructional league. We could do either one. … It won’t be a big-league game yet.”

Could the turn after that be a big league game?

“I think that’s possible to look at, yeah.”

Worried that Tanaka could have a setback later on, jeopardizing 2015?

“I think that’s always something you have to think about a little bit, once a guy has had an issue one time – could it be that it comes about again? Yeah, I think you have to worry about that. If he pitched in a big league game or two and felt good, you wouldn’t do surgery on a guy that felt good, that’s the bottom line. Our hope is that we get through this and that he’s a pitcher for us next year. That doesn’t mean that something couldn’t arise down the road, but that could happen to any of our pitchers.”

Is there more scrutiny on Tanaka because of who he is?

“I think any time that you go through something, you’re probably subject to a little bit more than the next guy. But look how many guys had it this year. I don’t know any of them who had an issue before. I know Nova had an issue a couple of years ago where he had to come out of the playoff game, but how many years did he go? He went a couple of years before it happened. For us to operate on a guy that we feel is healthy, it would be silly.”

Have you thought about how to manage Tanaka next spring?

“Carefully. I think you just have to see how he’s doing. The plan is you’re going to go to him every five days, but you have a built in off-day usually. Any time you can give him the extra day, obviously we’ll give him the extra day if he gets through this. It makes it difficult to start skipping people all the time; it’s difficult. It messes up your roster a lot of times, but if we have to, we will.”

Does it seem important to Tanaka to pitch again this season?

“I think so. I think he wants to feel that he can go home and have a normal offseason and he can be healthy and come back. I do believe it’s important to him.”

Reassured that Tanaka reported his soreness and didn’t keep throwing?

“This is one injury that I have not really seen a guy be able to hide. When they feel it, they grab it. I think if he feels it, he’s going to end up grabbing his arm and you’re going to know about it.”

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