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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.”

Yankees Notebook for Sept. 9

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Last game: Royals 1, Yankees 0 — yes, there was a game on Derek Jeter Day, although I can’t imagine the details of anything that happened after Shane Greene’s first pitch will be closely chronicled years from now.

Here’s a quick rundown of our Jeter coverage, in case you missed it: in addition to the ceremony, I wrote about the relationship between Jeter and Michael Jordan, as well as Chase Headley’s call to have the captain take the field alone. The Royals were honored to be involved too.

We had three columnists on site. Richard Justice thought it was a worthy tribute. Marty Noble thought Jordan’s presence spoke volumes. Barry (Buddy) Bloom compared it to Mickey Mantle Day in ’69.

Postseason picture: It’s not pretty. With 21 games remaining on the schedule, the Yankees (73-68) open play tonight five games behind the Mariners (79-64) for the second Wild Card, also needing to jump the Tigers (79-65) and Indians (74-68). They’d have to go 16-5 to get to 89 wins, which would give them a pretty fair shot at sneaking in.

Baseball Prospectus gives the Yankees a 0.9% chance of winning the Wild Card and a 0.2% chance of catching the Orioles. Baltimore owns a double-digit lead in the American League East for the first time since 1979, when Ken Singleton was manning right field for Earl Weaver’s club.

Headlines

One bit of news came out of yesterday, the last scheduled off-day of the year for the Yankees: the 2015 schedule has been released. You can circle April 6, 2015 on the calendar; that’s when the Yankees — with Alex Rodriguez at third base? — will host the Blue Jays in the first of 162.

It’s also interesting to me that we’ll have an April-September Subway Series, as the Mets and Yankees go back to six games (the Yanks are playing the National League East this year). Meaningful September games at Citi Field? Could be. 

Yankees Inbox

I’m going to attempt to resurface the popular Yankees Inbox in somewhat limited fashion on this blog, which I think can help supplement the daily coverage you see on the higher-traffic Yankees.com site. Maybe I can field a question or two per day until the offseason, when we’ll bring it back in full force. Here’s a question that popped in this week; feel free to send your own to bryan.hoch@mlb.com with the subject line, ‘Yankees Inbox.’

“David Robertson has had a good first season as a closer, but he will likely command a hefty price tag as a free agent. But Betances as been downright nasty, so is he being considered as a possible closer? Would the Yankees let Robertson walk a la John Wetteland and make Betances the closer?” - Ben B., New London, Conn.

If you’re asking my opinion, the Yankees should be doing what they can to make sure that Robertson stays put for a while; I keep pointing to the fact that you hardly hear anyone talking about, ‘Well, if Mo was here…’ That’s not easy, replacing a legend, but Robertson has pretty seamlessly stepped into the closer’s role. The bullpen has been a terrific strength this season and is a major reason why the Yankees have been able to hang around on the fringes of the postseason race so long. Could Betances close? Yeah, probably. But at this point, he is such a great weapon to have for three or more outs in the seventh and eighth innings; why dismantle that? Robertson seems to be intent upon testing the free agency waters, and he should. I don’t get the sense that Robertson especially wants to leave (of course, at this point last year, I thought the Yanks and Robinson Cano would find a way to work it out). At the very least, the Yankees should make Robertson a qualifying offer, then I would follow that up with a multi-year proposal.

They said it

“It’s obviously not the easiest path that we’ve built for ourselves, but we’re going to keep fighting. We’ve got to take care of our own business, win games and win series. That’s all we can focus on. You wish it were a different circumstance, but it’s not. We’re going to have to play extremely well from here on out. We’re capable of doing it, we’ve just got to come out and put it together.” - Chase Headley

“I think we’re aware (of the challenge). But we just have to go out and win games. You can’t scoreboard-watch when you have three teams in front of you. You just have to win games, which makes it almost simpler for us because we can forget about all the outside distractions and try to win every game we can.” - Mark Teixeira

Up next

The Rays come to town for a three-game series that opens tonight. Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.78) is on the mound for New York, Chris Archer (8-8, 3.60) goes for Tampa Bay. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. Here’s the game preview.

Beat the Streak

I’m going with Jacoby Ellsbury, who is 8-for-12 (.667) lifetime vs. Archer. Current streak is at two.

They said it: Notable quotes from Derek Jeter Day

A collection of quotes from the invited guests for today’s Derek Jeter Day festivities at Yankee Stadium:

Joe Torre, former manager and current Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations for Major League Baseball

“I think it’s a great tribute. I think the fans, you can’t get enough of showing appreciation for players like him. Of course Mo, the same thing goes for Mo. It’s a little bit different with Mo, because he comes in… I saw him walking down the hall and thought it was a little early for him to be here. The fact that he’s a regular player, it’s probably uneasy. I think it’s a great idea based on the fact that players like Jeter don’t come down the pike very often. Whether you want to draw people, I think it just gives people the opportunity whether they’re Yankees fans or not, it gives baseball people a chance to appreciate what this young man has done his whole career. I’m happy to be here and I made sure that I was going to be here because it’s too important not to be here for me.”

“I had no idea (in 1996). I knew he was a first round pick, that’s about it. I was a National League guy my whole life and never really paid a lot of attention to the American League. I was told he was going to be my shortstop and I saw him being interviewed right after I had mentioned that to the media. They asked him the same question and he said ‘I’m going to get an opportunity to play shortstop.’ I knew right away that was impressive to me, that he didn’t feel he’d earned anything and he was going to go out there and try to do that. He was just that guy. The one thing I did do after his rookie year, he wins Rookie of the Year and we win the World Series, New York City, I remember calling him in – I think it was in Toronto early in the season the following year, just to — single, good looking, Rookie of the Year, champ. I just wanted to make sure that he wasn’t taking anything for granted. We had a very short conversation. I never asked him that question again, just to make sure the priorities were lined up in the right way.”

Jorge Posada, former Yankees catcher and ‘Core Four’ member

“It’s tough to see him go. I always watch the Yankees play, but he has kept me a little closer to see how he’s doing. Getting hits, did the team win? It’s tough because you go back with him for so long. You want him to finish strong. I told him, ‘September has always been a good month for you, so go out there and do what you do and help the team get to where they need to be.’ He’s going to try everything and I think the team is going to try everything. It’s tough, because I feel for him. At the end of the day, he wants to go to the playoffs. He wants the team to get there. Tough losses like they had Friday, those hurt a lot. They stay with you a little bit longer. I just think … towards the end it’s going to be tougher for him. That last homestand here is going to be tough saying goodbye and probably those three games in Boston, you know that’s it. It’s going to be tough. It would be easier if he gets to the playoffs because obviously he’d have something to look forward to.”

Mariano Rivera, all-time saves leader

“You guys saw the outside. We saw the inside. You never see the bumps and bruises that he has. Once he comes to the training room and he has to fix what he needs to fix but at the same time, when 6:45 comes, he’s ready to play. Those are the guys that you want to be on your side. Those are the players that you have to take them out of the lineup because if you ask them, they will never say I won’t play today because I don’t feel good. That’s the type of player that he is.”

Paul O’Neill, former Yankees outfielder, current YES Network analyst

“I grew up in the Midwest with the Cincinnati Reds during the Big Red machine, where I would get up with the paper every day. I grew up with that generation who were Reds fans. There’s a whole ton of kids out there sporting No. 2 jerseys that are going to be Derek Jeter fans who are taking their kids to the ballparks and remember the days of Derek Jeter. In that sense, yes, it’s the end of an era — you close the book on all the World Series and an unbelievable career. But to think of what he accomplished, and how he did it, it’s unbelievable, and that’s the happy part of the story.”

Tim Raines, former Yankees outfielder

“It’s going to be weird not to see No. 2 out on the field. And especially for me because I enjoyed watching him myself. Even as a player, when I played with him and he was a young guy, I enjoyed watching him play. I was in left field so I watched his back for a few years. Just the things that he did – he’s one of the most clutch players that I’ve ever seen in sports, not just baseball. When it came down to getting a big hit, making a big play, whatever it came down to, Derek Jeter had his hand on it. Having a chance to watch him for three years and his career flourish is something I’ll always remember.”

Tino Martinez, former Yankees first baseman

“I’d have to say (Jeter’s legacy is) the same as DiMaggio, Mantle, all those guys. They finished their careers, the legacies they had, and a whole new chapter began and that’s what’s going to happen here. He’s the face of the Yankees, the face of MLB, what he’s done this year. It’s a whole new beginning for the New York Yankees as far as new leadership, new attitude, to continue doing what Derek and the teams we’ve had started and finished. Hopefully, Derek has been such a great role model and leader to these guys that they’ll carry forward what he’s brought to this team for 20 years.”

Michael Jordan, NBA legend and Jeter friend

“He’s prepared for this. He chose to step away from the game on his own. I think there are a lot of things out there that he hasn’t experienced yet. He hasn’t gotten married yet, hasn’t had kids. These are all different challenges that he’s probably looking forward to. I’ve heard him talk about possibly owning a team. I think he has a clean slate at his own disposal. He has a great reputation; financially, he’s put himself in a good position. His knowledge of the game is strong. He’s going to sit down with his family and pick his next step. I promise you he’s going to give it the same type of effort as he did for the game of baseball. I wish him the best.”

Dave Winfield, Hall of Fame outfielder and Jeter’s boyhood idol

“He was the most inquisitive, the most interested in the game, he knew the history, and he just wanted to be all he could be. I can look now 20 years later, he’s achieved everything and more that he ever envisioned. The Yankees were blessed to have drafted him, for him to play for this team and he was equally as blessed to play here. He is a baseball player, an employee, just a good person to be in an organization. He is going to leave a legacy that every other athlete is going to try to emulate. I’m happy for him. He’s leaving the game on the right note. He’s to be respected. He’s accomplished a lot. I’m happy for him and glad to know him as I do.”

Cal Ripken Jr., iron man shortstop and Hall of Famer

“When I think of Derek, Derek is a true professional. He’s a professional in the sense that out there on the field, he competes. … He’s well-respected all across the league for a good reason; he plays the game the right way and handles himself beautifully. Off the field, he’s a true professional. It still amazes me that, many times with all the ups and downs of one’s career, between the good times and the bad times, that in this market which is very difficult from a media standpoint, Derek always says the right thing. He always handles himself marvelously through all of those things. Ultimately that’s an indication of who is, from his parents, and also an indication of who he is as a person. I respect that a lot.”

Derek Jeter: “I’ve had the greatest job in the world”

“It’s kind of hard to believe that 20 seasons have gone by so quickly. There’s so many people I want to thank, and I’ll get that opportunity to do that over the next few weeks, both publicly and privately. But I want to take a brief moment to thank the Steinbrenner family, to Mr. George Steinbrenner, for giving me the opportunity to play my entire career for the only organization I’ve ever wanted to play for.

“I want to thank my family and friends, who are all over. Thanks for all the love and support throughout the years, through the good times and more importantly, through the tough times. Thank you very much.

“My managers, coaches, trainers, teammates, both current and former, I’ve been blessed to play with the best and I wouldn’t want to compete without any of your guys. So thank you very much.

“Lastly, most importantly, I want to thank you – the fans. Anyone that’s here today, anyone that’s at home watching, anyone that’s ever been here over the course or watched during the last 20 seasons, thank you very much. You guys have all watched me grow up over the last 20 years; I’ve watched you too. Some of you guys are getting old too. But I want to thank you for helping me feel like a kid the past 20 years.

“In my opinion, I’ve had the greatest job in the world. I’ve got a chance to be the shortstop of the New York Yankees, and there’s only one of those. I always felt that my job was to try to provide joy and entertainment for you guys, but it can’t compare to what you’ve brought me. So for that, thank you very much. Now I’ve loved what I’ve done, I love what I do, but more importantly I love doing it for you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much…

And we’ve got a game to play.”

.

The day Jerry Seinfeld introduced Derek Jeter

As we get ready for the Derek Jeter day festivities here at Yankee Stadium, this is a fun tidbit to pass along, courtesy of our friend Dom Amore.

On June 2, 1995, Jeter’s first game at Yankee Stadium, Jerry Seinfeld was at the ballpark for the contest against the Angels. Bob Sheppard, the legendary public address announcer, allowed Seinfeld to take the microphone and announce the starting lineups, impersonating Sheppard with lines like: “Batting fourth, the designated hitter, which I don’t agree with, No. 44, Chili Davis, No. 44.” (Here’s Amore’s original 1995 clip from the Hartford Courant.

So even though Jeter has said that he will always come up to the Sheppard recording, Sheppard was actually not the first person to announce him at Yankee Stadium — Jerry Seinfeld was. 

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