David Phelps is on the mound tonight for the Yanks, looking to bounce back from the worst start of his career last time out, when he threw 31 pitches and recorded just one out in a 9-4 loss to the Mets.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that once Phelps gets through the first inning, he’s usually pretty good, and there’s no exact explanation for why a pitcher struggles to settle into a ballgame.
“I think it’s a pitcher’s thing. There’s a lot of pitchers that are like that,” Girardi said. “I think it’s just getting a feel for the mound, a feel for what you’ve got out there, because a lot of times what they have in the bullpen doesn’t come out necessarily in the game.”
Lyle Overbay will make his second big league start tonight in right field, as Brett Gardner picks up a day off against Indians lefty Scott Kazmir. Girardi said that he has watched Overbay a little bit in batting practice and was pleasantly surprised by his defensive proficiency.
“Arm strength wasn’t a concern of mine. You look at routes,” Girardi said. “I talked to Topper (coach Rob Thomson) about it, Topper thought he did a pretty good job in the little bit that he’d seen him do it.”
There’s good news to report on Michael Pineda, who has been scheduled to make his first Minor League rehabilitation start on Saturday for Class-A Tampa.
And it wouldn’t be a Yankees update without a new injury. Eduardo Nunez felt more discomfort in his oblique while swinging a bat on Tuesday in Tampa, so the Yankees will just have to wait longer for his return.
“It’s kind of how the year has went, in a sense,” Girardi said. “We thought we’d get him back after a week of sitting him down. He wasn’t ready to go. Obliques are hard. They’re hard muscles to heal sometimes. You can feel pretty good just doing everyday stuff but when you have to do that rotation, it hurts. That’s what he’s going through.”
The next four days will be filled with action between the Yankees and Mets, as the revised home-and-home version of the Subway Series kicks off tonight at Citi Field. It’s difficult to believe that it has been 17 years since these two crosstown rivals first met in a game that counted.
While the Subway Series probably won’t ever equal the intensity of the 2000 World Series, Joe Girardi – who was there for the first meeting back in June ’97 as an active player – thinks that Yankees-Mets is still quite worthwhile.
“I enjoy it. I think it’s great for the city and fun for the players,” Girardi said. “It’s something different and there’s obviously emotion in it. Probably the game that I remember the most was Tex scoring from first on the pop-up to second base, more than any game. It was a crazy night. But I enjoy it.”
Girardi is, of course, referring to the June 2009 game where Luis Castillo dropped an Alex Rodriguez pop-up in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mark Teixeira ran hard all the way from first base, scoring the winning run and stunning the Mets. The funny thing about that paragraph is, none of those players are active and in uniform here tonight.
Mariano Rivera continued his “Mo-Ment of Thanks” tour tonight in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, meeting with 18 longtime Mets season ticket holders and employees. One question he was asked — did he think, even for a split second, that Mike Piazza’s deep fly ball in Game 5 of the World Series was going to leave Shea Stadium? Rivera shook his head.
“As a pitcher, you know,” Rivera said, laughing.
Here are the pitching probables for the series:
Mon., 5/27 at New York-NL
RHP Phil Hughes (2-3, 5.51) vs. LHP Jonathon Niese (3-5, 4.80)
7:10 p.m. YES/MLB Net.
Tue., 5/28 at New York-NL
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (6-3, 2.67) vs. RHP Matt Harvey (5-0, 1.93)
7:10 p.m. MY9 / ESPN
Wed., 5/29 vs. New York-NL
RHP David Phelps (3-2, 3.96) vs. RHP Jeremy Hefner (0-5, 4.76)
7:05 p.m. YES
Thur., 5/30 vs. New York-NL
LHP Vidal Nuno (1-1, 1.93) vs. RHP Dillon Gee (2-6, 6.34)
7:05 p.m. YES / MLB Net.
Getting ready for first pitch here at Tropicana Field, as Vidal Nuno and Matt Moore link up in the pitching matchup under the oatmeal-colored roof. Here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know this afternoon:
READY TO MEET THE METS: The Yankees have announced their probable pitchers for the upcoming home-and-home Subway Series, with both Hiroki Kuroda and David Phelps included after their respective injury scares.
Kuroda said that he still feels some soreness in his right calf, which was struck by a liner in his last start on Wednesday against the Orioles, but he expects to start opposite Mets right-hander Matt Harvey on Tuesday at Citi Field. Kuroda tested the calf in a bullpen session on Saturday and said he was able to complete the full session.
“There’s a little tightness,” Kuroda said through an interpreter. “It’s not zero. It’s not like I don’t feel anything, but I’ll be OK.”
Phelps had his right forearm in a compression wrap and said it was sore on Saturday, one day after he was struck by a Ben Zobrist line drive in the eighth inning of his start against the Rays. He said that he will try to throw a bullpen on Sunday and is listed as the Yanks’ probable starter for Wednesday against the Mets at Yankee Stadium, starting opposite Jeremy Hefner.
“Nothing that I wasn’t expecting,” Phelps said. “I slept pretty good last night. I woke up, it was just a little stiff, a little sore. We’ll get treatment done and be ready to go in five days.”
GRANDY SHELVED: The Yankees officially placed Curtis Granderson on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, recalling Brennan Boesch from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace him on the active roster.
Boesch, 28, was batting just .179 (5-for-28) at Triple-A, but Joe Girardi said the Yankees were looking for a left-handed hitter with experience to take Granderson’s roster spot. Boesch had been excited about going down to the Minors to get regular at-bats, but Girardi said he’ll work Boesch into the mix here as the Yanks play 17 games in a row.
NEW ARM: The Yankees claimed left-hander David Huff off waivers from the Indians on Saturday. Huff, 28, made three relief appearances for Cleveland this season, allowing five earned runs in three innings.
If his name sounds familiar, it’s because Huff was struck in the head by an Alex Rodriguez line drive on May 29, 2010 while pitching for the Tribe at Yankee Stadium. Huff will have 72 hours to join the Yanks; not sure exactly how he fits in. The move was announced after Girardi’s session with the media.
ANDY FEELS DANDY: Andy Pettitte said that he felt good after throwing a bullpen on Saturday at Tropicana Field and expects to come off the disabled list when he is eligible on June 1.
RO KNOWS NUNO: Catcher Austin Romine got the start behind the plate on Saturday because of his familiarity with left-hander Vidal Nuno, manager Joe Girardi said. Chris Stewart is expected to be behind the plate on Sunday to catch CC Sabathia.
CHAIN LINK BASEBALL: Mark Teixeira (right wrist) had five at-bats in a Gulf Coast League game on Saturday in Tampa, Fla. and felt good, while Kevin Youkilis (back) played three innings and also felt fine.
Also on Saturday, right-hander Joba Chamberlain (oblique) threw two innings and 24 pitches on Saturday. The effort was not without incident, as Chamberlain took a one-hopper off his right calf, but Girardi said that Chamberlain had no issues. His next outing could come at the big league level.
Phil Hughes said that he had a few sleepless nights after the worst start of his professional career, a nightmarish outing last time out against the Mariners in which he surrendered seven runs and was not able to escape the first inning.
“You lay in bed and you think about things; what could have gone differently for you and what you could have done better,” Hughes said. “It’s tough. It’s tough any way you slice it. I’m looking forward to taking the ball [tonight] and hopefully getting back on a good streak.”
Hughes said that he found in his bullpen that he was on the side of the ball a little bit, which was causing his fastball to run back over the middle of the plate. Hughes tends to pitch up in the zone anyway – he’s a fly ball pitcher and that lends itself to home runs at times – so he really must hit the corners to be effective.
“It’s all fastball command, really,” Hughes said. “The days that I’ve had good command of my fastball, I’ve been able to work everything off that. Those have been the good ones. The bad ones, I’m falling behind and trying to figure something out.
“When the fastball is there and I’m locating it, I have a good chance to be good that day. If not, I think I need to do a better job of recognizing that earlier and throwing more off-speed pitches to try to counter-balance that.”
Miguel Gonzalez has the starting nod for the Orioles, and the action gets underway tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Vernon Wells has enjoyed some success in his career against Orioles starter Freddy Garcia, going 7-for-16 (.438) with a homer and three RBIs, but manager Joe Girardi said he was willing to table those numbers because he believes Wells could use back-to-back days off after last night’s rainout.
“It just allows me to get Vernon a couple days off,” Girardi said. “I’m going to have to do some rotating a little bit with these guys. Anytime you can get an older guy two days off in a sense, it’s helpful. He played every day in that last long stretch that we had. He’s played a lot over the last 30 days. I figured it might just help him.”
Girardi has no concerns about CC Sabathia being ready tonight after being pushed back a day by rain.
“If you get two or three extra days, you worry a little bit,” he said. “He’s had extra days before. Hopefully it makes him a little bit stronger. These guys have been going at it pretty hard and we’re going to have another long stretch after this. It’s not such a bad thing.”
Speaking of time off, Girardi wonders if sitting out for most of 2012 might have made Mariano Rivera more effective.
“The big difference is he’s had a lot of save opportunities,” Girardi said. “He’s on pace to be in 70 games which is not totally unusual for a reliever. You can say, and I’m a big believer, an arm only has so many bullets in it. Sometimes a year off is not the worst thing in the world.”
Injury updates from Tampa: Mark Teixeira went 1-for-2 with a double and walk in a simulated game … Kevin Youkilis is taking batting practice and ground balls and could be activated when the Yankees return to New York … Alex Rodriguez is taking ground balls but is still being talked about as returning after the All-Star break … Eduardo Nunez is taking dry swings and ground balls … Ivan Nova threw 3 2/3 innings in a simulated game. … Derek Jeter is out of his walking boot but isn’t doing much else.
Here in Baltimore, Chris Stewart hit off a tee and felt OK, but Girardi doesn’t think he’s ready to get in a game yet. He’s just an emergency catcher tonight behind Austin Romine, who is making his third straight start.
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.”