Some way to celebrate Joe Girardi bobblehead night, huh?
Depending on your viewpoint, there was a fairly interesting and/or entertaining exchange between Girardi and a writer near the tail end of tonight’s postgame press conference, involving Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury. After the loss, the Yanks’ seventh in nine games, Kevin Kernan of the New York Post asked if Girardi was having any thoughts of shifting lineups.
“Well, we’ve talked about this before,” Girardi replied. “What would you like me to do?”
Kernan quickly replied that he’d do some things differently, pointing out that Ellsbury seems to be miscast as a No. 3 hitter.
“So then what do I do?” Girardi replied. “Gardy’s been pretty good in the 1-slot, Ellsbury’s done a pretty good job in the 3 slot. We’ve been forced to do it because of some of the things that have happened physically here. You can think about putting him 1, but then where do you put Gardy?”
“You could think about doing that. Then where are you going to put Jeet?” Girardi said. “Those three guys have probably been our most consistent hitters all year long. You definitely don’t want lefties back to back.”
So, Girardi confirmed, he’s not thinking about mixing things up as far as the lineup is concerned. If you want to see Gardner and Ellsbury hit back-to-back, it sounds like that’s something we can talk about in 2015. Jeter has been seeing a little more time as the designated hitter lately, but he’s securely locked into that two-spot.
(By the way, Jeter went 2-for-4 with a walk tonight. Oh, and they had essentially a one-man bench with Brendan Ryan as the only playable non-catcher.)
It’s fun to write out alternate lineups, and there has definitely been a fair share of turnover in the Yankee orders this year – by necessity more than choice, but all the same, they’ve tried different formulas. You look at the names in this lineup and it’s a mystery why it hasn’t turned around by now; this isn’t a small sample size, preseason football is already on the tube.
Really, here is Girardi’s bottom line, and it came from the first question in the press conference: “We’ve got to find a way to score more than two runs. It’s hard to win when you only score two runs.” Yep, I’d agree with that. They’re now five games behind the Tigers for the second Wild Card with 38 games left to play. The math is against them in more ways than one.
Masahiro Tanaka’s rehab is going so well, he feels comfortable describing his progress without the help of a translator.
“Good,” Tanaka told a group of reporters in English. “Better.”
Tanaka returned to his normal interview protocol for the details of today’s session, but the right-hander is clearly excited about his situation. Tanaka threw 35 pitches in the Yankee Stadium bullpen, a mix of fastballs, curveballs and sliders. He also snapped off five splitters, which is fairly significant considering the torque that Tanaka’s signature pitch requires.
“It went well, but it was actually my first time throwing breaking balls – something other than fastballs – in the bullpen, so I felt it was a little bit rusty,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I’ll have to brush that up a little bit.”
Manager Joe Girardi said that the Yankees have no plans to ask Tanaka for another MRI, checking on the progress of his right ulnar collateral ligament tear. As long as Tanaka continues to feel no discomfort, they will continue his program, which could soon advance to live batting practice, then simulated games and possibly Minor League games. Their hope is to get him on the big league mound in September.
“The fact that he felt good today was encouraging,” Girardi said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow; obviously that’s really important. But he was able to throw his curveball, his slider and his split; I watched it and he looked pretty good.”
Carlos Beltran was in the original Yankees lineup tonight, but it never made it off of Joe Girardi’s desk. Beltran informed the club that he is having more issues with discomfort in his right elbow, and he has been scheduled to see team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad tonight.
Beltran has been dealing with this issue since May, and swinging the bat will occasionally create a sensation in the elbow. This situation is different because it continued overnight, Girardi said.
“I took him out of the lineup, he’ll see the doctor and we’ll find out what’s going on,” Girardi said. “I’m sure it’s much of the same of what he had going on before, but for whatever reason it was a little worse today in a sense that he still felt it whereas other times he didn’t.”
Girardi said that it is too early to call this a major setback, and hopes that Beltran can return to the lineup in a day or two. Girardi also said that he doesn’t draw a link between Beltran’s return to outfield duty and the recurrence of the injury.
“No, because he’s felt it on swings, not in the outfield,” Girardi said. “He didn’t really have a lot of action in the outfield, so he didn’t really have to make any throws or anything like that. It seems to be more from a swing than from throwing.”
Yankees catcher Brian McCann was activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list on Sunday, starting behind the plate for the team’s series finale against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
McCann sustained the concussion when he was hit in the mask by a foul tip in an Aug. 8 game against the Indians in New York. Manager Joe Girardi said that it was nice to have McCann’s bat back in the lineup.
“It makes it deeper, and obviously it’s a guy that has power,” Girardi said. “It’s really good to be able to put him back there because any time someone goes through something like he went through, we’re always concerned. But he feels good and he’s back in there.”
Catcher Austin Romine was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to create room for McCann, who has batted .238 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs in 103 games this season.
Masahiro Tanaka played catch on Sunday at Tropicana Field and reported no issues, one day after throwing 25 fastballs off a bullpen mound.
“Real encouraged,” Girardi said. “That was the first thing I asked; ‘How does he feel today?’ The fact he went out and played his long toss tells me he feels good. And we’ll continue to go forward.”
Girardi said that Tanaka is scheduled to throw another bullpen next week, and will be allowed to spin some curveballs in that session. The Yankees are targeting a September return to the big league mound for the 25-year-old rookie.
“He’s had no twinges or anything,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “You stay optimistic until you know otherwise. We’ll just keep progressing the program as it’s set up and just go from there.”
Rothschild compared the intensity of Saturday’s session to the first day of Spring Training, and said that he was watching Tanaka’s facial expressions to see if he was trying to hide any discomfort. Tanaka’s mechanics in the bullpen looked smooth, he said.
“It is what it is. You just take it a step at a time and progress with it,” Rothschild said. “Would I rather have him had three, four or five starts right now? Yeah. These things crop up; as we’ve seen this year in baseball too often. You’re just not going to know until he gets through it all and he’s in games. Even then, you have to keep an eye on it.”
Serving as the designated hitter is not Derek Jeter’s favorite assignment in the lineup, but it’s still preferable to a full day off for the Yankees captain.
Jeter was in the lineup as New York’s DH for a second straight day on Sunday, with Stephen Drew filling in at shortstop. Carlos Beltran played a second game in right field, moving Martin Prado to second base.
“I don’t DH much,” Jeter said. “You go in the cage between at-bats. That’s about it. It’s not something that I do a lot of. To be honest with you, I’m not sure how people do it. I just run out of things to do.”
This marks Jeter’s sixth game of the year as a DH, and the 63rd of his career.
“I’m not thinking too much of it,” Girardi said. “I figure it’s a chance to do it. Turf can be rough on people. We’re going to get into another long stretch, so I chose to do it that way.”
Girardi said that having Beltran as an outfield option will increase the flexibility in assigning DH days, though he still will play Prado often in right field. There were days that Girardi wanted to give Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury DH days but wasn’t able to.
“Now that we’ve got Carlos in the outfield, we could rotate the DH a little bit more,” Girardi said. “I’ll still DH Carlos plenty, but felt it was a chance to give Jeet a week where he could catch up.”
David Robertson has converted 20 straight save opportunities since June 5, the longest active streak in the Majors. He is the fifth pitcher in Yankees history to convert 20 or more in a row, joining Mariano Rivera, John Wetteland, Dave Righetti and Goose Gossage. Rivera owns the franchise record with 36 straight saves converted in 2009.
On this date in 1976, Graig Nettles hit a ninth-inning home run on the first pitch from the Rangers’ Tommy Boggs, giving the Yankees a 2-1 walk-off victory at Yankee Stadium. Doyle Alexander pitched a complete game for the Bombers.
Carlos Beltran said that he was given no better than a 50-50 chance of playing the outfield again this season, but that coin flip has worked out in the Yankees’ favor. The veteran will play right field on Saturday, his first appearance there since May 11.
“I’m happy, of course,” Beltran said. “We have been looking forward for this, trying to put my arm in condition to be back in the outfield. It really took a while … right now, I just feel like it’s time.”
Beltran has a bone spur in his right elbow that will require surgery after the season, but the 37-year-old said that he has been throwing without discomfort.
The Yankees have been playing Martin Prado in right field since his July 31 acquisition from the D-backs, with Beltran limited to designated hitter duties. Beltran’s return to outfield play will increase manager Joe Girardi’s flexibility in putting together lineups.
“You can get more right-handed hitters in there today [against left-hander Drew Smyly],” Girardi said. “You get in long stretches and you can give other guys a DH day. We’ve got some long stretches coming up.”
Though his season stats are not up to expectations, Beltran has seen a jump in his numbers recently, which coincides with the improvement in his elbow. In 26 games since the All-Star break, Beltran posted a split line of .299/.355/.495, with five homers and 17 RBIs.
“I guess in the back of my mind sometimes I get caught up a little bit protecting it,” Beltran said. “At the end of the day, I just have to come and prepare myself and try to do the best I can. Once the game starts, I try not to think about it, but during batting practice and cage work and things like that I try to be smart and try not to do much.”
Beltran said that since his elbow issue is not a secret, he would expect the aggressive Rays to test his arm on Saturday.
“I’ve been playing catch and I’ve been throwing to the bases – second base, for the most part,” Beltran said. “I’ve been making throws where I feel like if that happened in the game, I could do that. It feels fine.”
Masahiro Tanaka threw 25 fastballs off a bullpen mound on Saturday morning at Tropicana Field, reporting no discomfort, and the Yankees right-hander is eager to begin snapping off breaking pitches in his next session.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction, so I feel good about that,” Tanaka said through an interpreter.
Tanaka is trying to avoid surgery to repair a partial tear in his right ulnar collateral ligament. Tanaka said that regardless of the Yankees’ position in the standings, he would want to come back and make a handful of September starts to gauge his progress.
“I think it’s important for the team to fight until the end of the season, so for me, if it would be possible, I’d like to contribute until the end of the season,” Tanaka said.
The Yankees are on board with that idea. Looking ahead to 2015, there is a great deal of uncertainty in their starting rotation, and it would be useful to know if Tanaka can realistically be counted upon.
“I think it’s important that we know that he’s healthy, and I think the only way you’re going to find out is if you get him in games,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Tanaka will travel with the team after Sunday’s series finale, continuing his rehab in New York. He has been an observer for the Yankees’ recent skid.
“Everybody’s doing their best to try to get a W, obviously,” Tanaka said. “So if I get a chance to come back, I’ll be on the same page with everybody else.”
The morale level has fallen in the Yankees’ dugout during their recent slide, according to hitting coach Kevin Long, who believes that several of the team’s players are pressing for results that aren’t coming.
“We need to get back to where we’re feeling good,” Long said. “That was only five or six days ago. These guys are going through a tough time. We’re going through a tough time. I only know one way to get out of this, and that’s to keep fighting, keep working, keep grinding, and I know the guys in this room will do that.”
New York has managed seven runs during the five-game skid, hitting .173 (28-for-161) overall and .064 (2-for-31) with runners in scoring position. They’ve struck out 46 times against eight walks.
“You’re always going to look down when you don’t score runs,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s the nature of the game. Guys are frustrated. I’ve said that guys are frustrated because they know that they’re capable of doing more. We want to play in October, and when you lose, you should be frustrated. You shouldn’t just blow it off.”
Long said that the Yankees’ goal is to be scoring five or six runs a game, which obviously they have not come close to achieving.
”Sometimes the pitching doesn’t allow you do that,” Long said. “Sometimes there’s days when I feel like we really should and we don’t do it. Against a Corey Kluber or [Alex Cobb], it’s understandable that the runs are going to be down.
”Not to throw Chris Tillman under the bus, but he didn’t have his best stuff [on Aug. 13]. That’s a guy where you want to capitalize and take advantage of it…. Some of those other guys we should be able to get to.”
Catcher Brian McCann (concussion) was eligible to be activated from the seven-day disabled list on Saturday, but the Yankees have decided to give him at least one more day to continue workouts.
Manager Joe Girardi said that he thought McCann looked “kind of lethargic” going through catching drills and batting practice on Friday, which was likely related to resting for several days after sustaining the concussion in an Aug. 8 game against the Indians.
Right-hander David Phelps (inflammation in right elbow) is scheduled to resume throwing during the Yankees’ upcoming homestand. Phelps has been on the disabled list since Aug. 4.
Right-hander Andrew Bailey (recovery from right shoulder surgery) has had setbacks while rehabbing in Tampa, Fla. and is not expected to be able to help at the big league level this year, Girardi said. Bailey signed a Minor League deal with the Yanks in February.
On this date in 1948, Babe Ruth passed away at the age of 53. Ruth’s body was laid in state at the entrance of Yankee Stadium for the next two days. On this date in 2006, the Yankees broke ground on the construction of the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.