The Yankees will play the second game of their three-game series against the Athletics today at Yankee Stadium, as Phil Hughes gets the ball for his sixth start of the season.
Hughes is still looking for his first win of the season, but after two rough starts to open April, he has steadily improved and pitched well enough to win in his last three outings – all no-decisions against the D-backs, Rays and Blue Jays.
“I just think his stuff in each start has gotten a little bit better,” Joe Girardi said. “The location of his fastball, his offspeed to me has gotten better. He’s pitched well enough to win his last couple of games, (but) we haven’t scored a lot of runs.”
Here’s the Yankees’ lineup they’ll be sending out against old friend Bartolo Colon:
Brett Gardner CF, Robinson Cano 2B, Vernon Wells LF, Travis Hafner DH, Ichiro Suzuki RF, Chris Nelson 3B, Lyle Overbay 1B, Eduardo Nunez SS, Chris Stewart C, Phil Hughes RHP.
David Phelps gets the ball tonight for his first start of the season after making six relief appearances, and as the Yankees try to win two of three from the Houston Astros, Phelps will try to continue proving that he is capable of handling both a starting role as well as coming out of the bullpen.
“It’s a good opportunity,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve loved what he’s done over the last couple of years that we’ve had him. Whether it’s been in the rotation or in the bullpen, we think he’s really learned a lot and progressed well. But it’s a good opportunity for him to get in the rotation.”
Girardi said that the Yankees can expect to squeeze about 90 pitches from Phelps tonight.
“I think it’s important that we get as much as we can out of him as far as innings because that always helps the bullpen,” Girardi said. “So it would be helpful.”
Other than Vidal Nuno, who pitched three scoreless innings in his big league debut, there weren’t many people in the Yankees’ clubhouse who had anything good to say about Monday’s 9-1 loss to the Astros.
They’ll try for better results tonight as Hiroki Kuroda (3-1, 2.79) and Phil Humber (0-5, 7.99) link up in a 7:05 p.m. ET contest here at Yankee Stadium.
Injuries are, once again, the story of the day around the Yankees – Kevin Youkilis went on the disabled list with a back strain and GM Brian Cashman said it was “a mistake” to allow Youkilis to play on Saturday against the Blue Jays. With Youkilis out, the Yanks have recalled infielder Corban Joseph from Triple-A; he’ll be in line to make his big league debut, asked to back up at second base, third base and first base.
Joe Girardi’s pregame chat also included injury updates, with Curtis Granderson (still taking BP, could soon advance to Minor League games) and Mark Teixeira (still taking only dry swings, unlikely to return in May) among them. It was last week that Girardi was asked, following the hits to Ivan Nova and Francisco Cervelli, if he was ready to shake his fist at the baseball injury gods. In case you’re wondering, he still isn’t at that point.
“There’s not a whole lot I can do about it, in a sense,” Girardi said. “I can’t really worry about it. You have to go put a lineup up today and just concentrate on the game today. That’s what I try to do.”
If you’re Austin Romine, strapping on the catching gear for your first big league start of the season, it has to be a reassuring sight to see Andy Pettitte’s name listed on the lineup card. Romine said he takes pride in going over the scouting reports with a fine-tooth comb, and I have no doubt he’ll be prepared with a back story for every one of the Astros’ hitters.
But still, Pettitte knows what his game plan should be and certainly is comfortable taking the wheel. With the Yankees trusting Romine and Pettitte to figure out the pitch-calling without any interference from the bench, Pettitte’s savvy is a nice fail-safe to have.
“Andy is pretty good about taking other players under his wing and letting them know what he wants to do,” Joe Girardi said. “He’s not going to get flustered out there if they don’t get in a rhythm right away. I think for that it works pretty well.”
Romine said that he spent the weekend catching guys in the bullpen after he was called up on Saturday, including getting re-acquainted with Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda. As of a few hours before game time, Romine said he wasn’t feeling any butterflies as he prepared to get behind the plate in a Major League game for the first time since Sept. 2011.
“No, actually I’m really excited. I thought there would be some,” Romine said. “I’m sure when the game starts I’ll be a little more excited than normal. I’m really excited to get out there and take hold of this opportunity.”
The Yankees have shown some resiliency of late, as they did last night in last night’s exciting comeback to topple David Price, Fernando Rodney and the Rays. They’ll try to parlay that into taking two of three in the series tonight at Tropicana Field, as Andy Pettitte heads to the hill for a New York team that is pleasing their manager.
“They’ve done a good job coming back in games during the course of this stretch,” Joe Girardi said. “After getting off to a little bit of a slow start they’ve bounced back very well, so I’m pleased with that.”
Ichiro Suzuki played a key role in the rally last night, singling and scoring the tying run in the eighth inning against Price and then lacing a two-run single to center field in the ninth. For his efforts, and also because the Yanks’ lineup doesn’t have Kevin Youkilis and Vernon Wells tonight, Ichiro has been bumped to the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
Girardi said that, as the Yankees prepare to face right-hander Alex Cobb, there can be a carryover effect from a rally like the one they had in the late innings last night.
“I think it gives you confidence when you’re behind in a game that your guys are going to figure it out if your pitcher can just hold them down, give us a chance to win a game,” Girardi said. “I think it builds character, and they’re good wins. They’re hard fought wins. It’s good for the spirit of a club.”
Pettitte is making his fourth start of the season, and outside of a brief setback with some back spasms, he has looked absolutely vintage. He’s 3-0 with a 2.01 ERA and is trying to win his first four starts of a season for the first time in his career.
“He’s such a competitor,” Girardi said. “It’s kind of like Derek [Jeter], in a sense. Nothing really ever surprises you because we’ve seen him do it for such a long time and he’s such a competitor. If you look at one thing he’s really done well, he’s really given us distance. Maybe you don’t quite expect the distance that we’ve gotten out of him in the games, but I did expect him to pitch well.”
Kevin Youkilis is tethered to a table in the trainer’s room at Tropicana Field, his lower back keeping him from making a difference in the Yankees’ lineup. Mark Teixeira is on the bench but unable to make contact with baseballs as he tries to repair his right wrist. We’d imagine Derek Jeter is doing whatever world-famous professional athletes do on a Tuesday night in Charlotte, N.C.
All this means that the Yankees lineup they’ve got going for Phil Hughes against David Price tonight … leaves something to be desired. Joe Girardi believes they’ll find a way to get it done because it’s baseball and anything can happen on any given night, but it doesn’t look all that wonderful on paper. Girardi acknowledged tonight that he’d love to have Youkilis in the lineup, and while he’s at it, he wants the switch-hitting Teixeira and the right-handed Jeter back as well.
“You feel it a lot. You definitely feel it a lot because of what they’ve done against left-handers in their careers,” Girardi said. “A leadoff hitter and a middle-of-the-order hitter, you’ve got those two guys out, that’s something substantial.”
The good news for the Yankees is that Youkilis is expected to return on Thursday, when the Yankees come back to New York and open a series at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks haven’t done much against left-handed pitching this year – their .190 team batting average (42-for-221) is tied for the lowest in the American League and second only to the Pirates’ .169 mark – but Girardi is hopeful that it’s still just a small sample size.
“We haven’t seen that many lefties. I still think it’s a small sample,” Girardi said. “We’ve had some people out of the lineup too, which is a problem, but I think our guys are going to hit better against left-handers. Some of the right-handers, I think are going to hit better against the left-handers.”
The Yankees and the Blue Jays are scheduled for their first meeting of the season this weekend up at Rogers Centre, and – not counting their Spring Training battles – the three-game showdown will offer the reassembled Yanks lineup their first up-close look at the Toronto squad, a club that was picked by many to run away with the American League East after leading the division in winter noise.
“We know they’re a team in our division and they’ve been a club that before their additions were tough to me,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “They have a lot of guys that hit the ball out of the ballpark, they added some speed and some defense, and they’ve added to their rotation. And the additions to the rotation is experienced guys; it’s not a bunch of young kids. I am curious to see what they look like.”
Here are the probable starters for the weekend series, with the corresponding links to previews and lineup information when available:
The Yankees are 3-0 this season in series finales, a record they’ll try to improve tonight as the Yanks and Orioles wrap up their three-game weekend set here at Yankee Stadium.
Robinson Cano is back in the No. 3 spot in the lineup as the Yanks face left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, with Vernon Wells bumped up to the No. 2 spot. Ben Francisco is also taking over for Travis Hafner in the DH spot, stepping into his role as the DH against lefties, but Girardi said he had to keep Lyle Overbay at first base in the lineup because Eduardo Nunez isn’t ready to return from his wrist injury.
If Nunez was in the lineup, Girardi said he would’ve shifted Kevin Youkilis to first base and played Jayson Nix at third base. Hiroki Kuroda is on the hill for the Yanks in tonight’s 8:05 p.m. game, televised on ESPN.
The triple play that the Yankees turned last night was, depending on who you talked to, a thing of beauty, an incredible rarity or a display of poor baserunning by the Orioles.
Actually, maybe it was all three. You just don’t see the old 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 very often — this was the first one in Major League history. It was the Yankees’ first triple play at home 1968, when they turned one at the old Yankee Stadium against the Twins (Dooley Womack to Bobby Cox to Mickey Mantle, hit by Johnny Roseboro). The Yankees also turned one back in 2010 at Oakland (Alex Rodriguez to Robinson Cano to Nick Johnson on a grounder hit by Kurt Suzuki).
Even Joe Girardi’s kids appreciated the rarity of last night’s events, the Yankees manager said.
“I haven’t looked at it on replay. I saw it live so I do remember what happened,” Girardi said. “It’s interesting. My kids commented on it. My son [Dante] said it was awesome when I got home and then my daughter [Lena] said something, my six year old: ‘The triple out was really cool, Dad.’ So, I thought that was kind of neat. They knew that it was a rare occurrence and you’re not going to see it every day.”
Phil Hughes and Jason Hammel are today’s starting pitchers for the 4:05 p.m. ET game between New York and Baltimore, the second game of a six-game homestand.
Based upon the weather information the Yankees were getting last night, Joe Girardi seemed to think there was no way that there would be baseball tonight at Progressive Field.
Guess what? The skies seem to be clearing over Cleveland, so Phil Hughes and Zach McAllister may get to pitch tonight as the Yanks and Indians wrap up a four-game series that was shaved to three games by last night’s rainout.
It’s raining, but the Indians say the game is scheduled to start at approximately 8:30 p.m. ET.
Hughes is feeling better after battling a stomach virus yesterday and should be able to get on the mound; if not, Ivan Nova is on call out of the bullpen.
The forecast still isn’t wonderful, but it’s improving, and we’ll keep you posted if they’re able to get on the field. Girardi said that his feeling is “once the rain starts, it’s probably not going to stop,” so we’ll see what happens.
- A few notes to pass along — Curtis Granderson posted a photo to his Facebook page showing that the brace has been removed from his right wrist and that he has been cleared for non-baseball activities. Girardi said that Granderson resumed throwing on Thursday. … Mark Teixeira will have his right wrist looked at by Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser on Friday in New York and believes he’ll be cleared to start swinging a fungo bat. … Derek Jeter had the day off down at the Yanks’ training complex.