The Yankees took note of Ramon Flores’ potential this spring, impressed by a fluid left-handed stroke that seemed to send the ball a long way with ease. Those good impressions helped promote the rookie to a big league clubhouse for the first time on Saturday.
Flores was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace Slade Heathcott, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 2 strain of his right quadriceps. Flores immediately appeared in the Yanks’ lineup on Saturday against the A’s, batting seventh and playing left field.
“I’m feel I’m still dreaming,” Flores said. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up and say, ‘Oh, I’m here in the Major Leagues!’ It’s been seven years in the Minors, working very hard to get here.”
The 23-year-old Flores, a product of Venezuela, had been on a recent tear with the RailRiders, going 15-for-44 (.341) in his last 11 games there. Overall, Flores was batting .294 (47-for-160) with four homers and 15 RBIs in 42 games.
“I think his ceiling is pretty high, offensively and defensively,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You can move him around a little bit defensively, but I’ll probably focus on left mostly. Just to give us good at-bats, I think that’s the important thing, and I really believe he has the ability to do that.”
With Flores slotted in left field, Girardi shifted Brett Gardner to center field, where he is expected to play while Jacoby Ellsbury mends a sprained right knee. Chris Young could also see reps in center field.
“I feel comfortable in center. I feel more comfortable there than I do in left field,” Gardner said. “I’ve obviously played left field every day and I’m becoming more comfortable over there, but I feel perfectly normal going back to center field.”
Flores said that he was in the middle of batting practice with the RailRiders when he was informed of his call-up. After spending the night in a Philadelphia hotel, Flores flew direct to the West Coast on Saturday morning, getting to the Coliseum around 11:30 a.m. PT.
With 23 walks against 28 strikeouts at Triple-A this year, Flores said that his plate discipline could help him to succeed against big league pitching.
“What I like to do at home plate is look for a very good pitch to try to connect,” Flores said. “I think that’s what helped distinguish me in the Minor Leagues, because I have a lot of patience and I try to wait for the right pitch. I just try to enjoy the game.”
The Yankees have shown patience with Stephen Drew, searching for deeper numbers to show that his stat line doesn’t agree with his ability. As he was sent to the bench on Saturday, he continues to be puzzled by the trouble in hitting his weight.
Drew yielded second base to Jose Pirela on Saturday against the A’s, offered a day to clear his head in the midst of an 0-for-19 and 1-for-26 skid that has dropped the 32-year-old’s season average to .158.
“I’d like to be doing better up there at the plate,” Drew said. “I’ve got to also just trust my talent and know it’s a matter of time. I’ve had some good at-bats, and the past three days have been frustrating.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi defended Drew after his hitless performance in Friday’s 6-2 loss to the Athletics, saying, “It just doesn’t seem that he gets the rewards that he should when he hits the ball hard.”
One day later, Girardi said that Drew will continue to get opportunities to turn his season around, unwilling to announce any decisions about future playing time at second base. He did allow that there is a possibility that Pirela could earn more reps.
“Anyone can earn playing time,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line in this game, and that’s the way it’s always been. Have we made a position swing? No, not necessarily.”
The Yanks gave Drew a one-year, $5 million contract this past offseason, gambling that his sub-Mendoza line performance of 2014 was a fluke tied to his missing Spring Training while sitting out in a contract dispute with the Red Sox.
Drew enjoyed a more normal spring this year, remaining injury-free while fine-tuning his work at second base and helping to tutor shortstop Didi Gregorius, but the offensive results have not appeared.
Not surprisingly, Drew’s batting average and on-base percentage (.226) are the worst among all qualified big league second basemen; only the Braves’ Jace Peterson (.300) and the Phillies’ Chase Utley (.295) have lower slugging percentages than Drew (.303).
“It’s not the end of the year for me,” Drew said. “People can boo or whatever, the 25 guys that are here are what matters, and winning games is what matters for me.”
OAKLAND — Masahiro Tanaka will be activated from the disabled list to start on Wednesday against the Mariners in Seattle, manager Joe Girardi said.
Tanaka made two Minor League rehab starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and has joined the team in California. Girardi said the Yankees expect Tanaka to be ready to throw approximately 80 pitches.
Additionally, outfielder Slade Heathcott has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 strain of his right quadriceps and will be placed on the disabled list. Ramon Flores will join the Yankees Saturday from Triple-A.
OAKLAND — Yankees outfielder Slade Heathcott was scratched from Thursday’s lineup against the Athletics due to a sore right quadriceps.
Heathcott was replaced in center field by Chris Young, who will bat eighth against Oakland right-hander Kendall Graveman.
Heathcott is hitting .353 (6-for-17) with one home run and three RBIs in six big league games this season.
Good afternoon/evening from the o.Co Coliseum. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happening as the Yankees kick off this four-game series against the Athletics:
Tanaka is en route to meet the club following his second Minor League rehabilitation start on Wednesday at Pawtucket for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and could be slotted to start on Tuesday or Wednesday against the Mariners in Seattle.
“He’s flying here tonight. We’ll evaluate him tomorrow,” Girardi said. “Today he felt fine; we’ll make sure he’s OK. We’ll have a heart-to-heart talk with him, how he feels about where he’s at. Hopefully he can make a start in Seattle.”
Tanaka, 26, has been on the disabled list since April 27 with tendinitis in his right wrist and a strained forearm. He threw 62 pitches in Wednesday’s start, permitting three eared runs and four hits over three innings, and reported no physical issues.
Girardi said that the Yankees’ reports indicated that Tanaka’s slider was good, and that he did not throw many splitters, he made some mistakes with his fastball and split against Pawtucket. Girardi said that Tanaka could be expected to throw about 80 pitches against the Mariners.
“You want him to feel good, number one,” Girardi said. “Number two, you want him to feel comfortable with his stuff, that he feels that he’s ready to go. You don’t want someone going out there if they don’t quite feel that they’re ready to go. In a perfect world, he would start somewhere in Seattle.”
In other injury updates, Girardi said that right-hander Chris Martin (right elbow tendinitis) threw in the bullpen on Wednesday and will join Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday for a rehab game.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) threw in an Extended Spring Training game on Thursday in Tampa, Fla., and Girardi said that Nova will probably have one more Extended Spring outing before beginning a rehab assignment.
“Knock on wood, we’re getting healthier,” Girardi said. “We just have to keep the guys here healthy.”
Tanaka’s velocity was a topic of discussion during yesterday’s rehab start, but Girardi said there was no reason to be alarmed by radar gun readings in the mid-80s.
“Those were splits that didn’t have probably a lot of movement,” he said. “His fastball, if you want to know, averaged 91.0. His fastball in his last big-league start, since people love this stuff, was 90.9. He’s throwing harder now.”
The Yankees won’t go to a six-man rotation to accommodate Tanaka’s return, and Girardi said that he hasn’t decided who will be bumped. Adam Warren and Chris Capuano are the likeliest candidates, but Warren in particular has made that a tough decision.
“Let’s just see what happens. There are a lot of things that can happen between now and Tuesday or Wednesday,” Girardi said.
No real update to pass along on Jacoby Ellsbury, who is continuing to rehab his right knee sprain and has not resumed baseball activities.
“It’s not a surgical thing and we don’t believe it’s a 60-day DL thing,” Girardi said. “We believe it’s probably more than 15 [days], but it really depends on how he responds. With the type of player he is, maybe it takes a few days longer than if it was a slow guy that didn’t rely on his legs.”