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Shake it up, shave it off: Goodbye, “Stache Squad”

New York Yankees' Brett Gardner shakes hands with on-deck batter Carlos Beltran after scoring on a single by Brian McCann off Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Nathan Karns during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The fun of the Yankees’ so-called “Stache Squad” evaporated somewhere on the charter flight between Kansas City and Washington, with five losses in six games suggesting that someone should break out the razors.

Most of the Yankees were clean-shaven as they reported to Nationals Park on Tuesday, with Brett Gardner, Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann, Stephen Drew and Dellin Betances among those saying goodbye to their once-lucky soup-strainers.

“It wasn’t going to last forever,” Gardner said. “Just a couple of guys talked about, maybe it was time. Maybe we’ll start another one back at some point.”

Gardner was the ringleader of the Yanks’ mustache craze, which found its roots in a three-game sweep of the Rays at Tropicana Field from April 17-19.

Since 1973, the Yankees have had a well-known facial hair policy that only permits hair above the lip. Pushing it to the limit, the Yankees won 18 of their next 24 games, grabbing possession of first place in the American League East.

“We had fun with it while it lasted,” Teixeira said.

There could be a few more players grabbing the after-shave. Andrew Miller, Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka were among those clinging to the mustaches on Tuesday afternoon, but the clock seemed to be nearing midnight for those too.

“I’m not going to be the only one,” Miller said.


Tanaka will begin his Minor League rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday, an outing in which the Yankees right-hander is expected to throw three innings or 45 pitches.

Tanaka threw 29 pitches in a bullpen session on Monday at Nationals Park and reported no issues. He has been on the disabled list since April 29 with right wrist tendinitis and a right forearm strain, and will face Durham at 6:35 p.m. ET.

“Very much looking forward to it,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “Good progress. Should be OK.”

Because Tanaka is throwing only 45 pitches on Thursday, it appears likely that he will need more than one rehab start. Girardi has said the Yankees would like Tanaka to be ready to throw at least 90 pitches in a big league game, and pitchers typically add about 15 pitches per outing.

“Let’s just go a start at a time,” Girardi said. “We know that we have to build him back up some. He has not been out that long, so he’ll go three and 45 and then we’ll decide what’s next.”


Should there be an opportunity for Chasen Shreve to face Bryce Harper this week, you might see a couple of smiles exchanged. That would be a rare reaction for the Nationals slugger to get from an opposing pitcher, considering his recent offensive tear.

The Yankees left-hander said that he has known Harper back to their high school years, when Harper was already smearing on eye black and wowing scouts, then earning national attention as he landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16.

“The first time I met him, it was in a scout tournament and we were playing on the same team,” Shreve said. “He came from football practice to one of our practices. He had the cutoff sleeves and the big face paint. I met him, he was a really nice guy. I thought he was more of a football player than a baseball player. When he played, he was just unreal. He played hard; he’s always played hard.”

Shreve and Harper teamed as a battery for one season with the College of Southern Nevada — “He was a good catcher; great arm,” Shreve said — and watching from afar, Shreve said that he believes Harper has been able to handle the hype that surrounded him from a young age.

“Everything you see bad about him just gets magnified that much more,” Shreve said. “I remember we were playing at CSN and they kept picking over (to first base) and just smacking the crap out of his helmet, just hitting him in the helmet like three times in a row.

“Then he ended up hitting a home run and points in their dugout, and it got blown up that he did it for no reason. It always happened like that. Everything got magnified, no matter what he did. I think he has handled it well. You can’t be perfect.”


Teixeira was in the lineup after being hit on the right big toe by a pitch Sunday. He joked, “I might have the red light a little more than usual at first base.”


Alex Rodriguez is on the bench for the first of two games against the Nats, which will be played with National League rules. Girardi said that he’d like to get A-Rod at least one at-bat per game, but he isn’t strongly considering playing him in the field.

“I’m sure he’d much rather be in there than having all this time off, but he understands the situation,” Girardi said. “It is what it is. We’ll go day by day. That’s what happens when you become a DH. It becomes harder to get in games when you’re in a National League park.”


This might have been tough to believe just a few weeks ago, but Girardi said he had a difficult time taking Carlos Beltran out of the lineup to play Chris Young against left-hander Gio Gonzalez.

“He’s been playing well and he’s been swinging well,” Girardi said. “You get in a situation where you’re coming off an off day, your two guys at the top have done a great job against left-handers, Chris Young has done a great job against left-handers. But Carlos has been playing extremely well. In this long run, these two days might not hurt him, but it was hard to take him out today.”


Chase Whitley had Tommy John surgery today in New York. Dr. Chris Ahmad performed the surgery, with an expected recovery time of 12 to 18 months.

“It all went well,” Girardi said. “The way I understood it, there were only a few fibers left, so maybe he had a couple pitches left and it would have been completely gone. It was the right choice on his part.”

Yankees encouraged by Masahiro Tanaka’s bullpen session

TanakaST. PETERSBURG — The Yankees deemed Masahiro Tanaka’s return to the mound to be a success, as the right-hander threw 30 pitches and used his full repertoire in the Tropicana Field bullpen prior to Tuesday’s game against the Rays.

The pitches were Tanaka’s first off a hill since he was placed on the disabled list April 29 with a strained right forearm and tendinitis in his right wrist.

“It felt good, coming out really good from my hand,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “Happy about it.”

“He looked fine. It was a good progression,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “He threw all his pitches, had no problems. We’ll see how he is tomorrow.”

Tanaka will have at least one more side session before being cleared for rehab starts, and manager Joe Girardi said that they will wait to see how he feels Wednesday. General manager Brian Cashman has said that Tanaka could be making big league starts in early June, but Tanaka is unsure of his time frame.

“I’ve got to see how I do in my first rehab start,” Tanaka said. “I’ll probably get a feel for where I’m at once I throw that first start. Obviously I have to see how the coaches, manager, see how I do. It kind of all depends on that.”

Also on Tuesday, right-hander Ivan Nova threw 33 pitches, broken into three innings, during an Extended Spring outing in Tampa, Fla. with manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild in attendance. Nova is recovering from Tommy John surgery conducted last April and is expected back this summer.

“He got through the three innings fine,” Rothschild said. “The velocity was good. The location was good, which is unusual for a guy coming back at this point. He spun the ball well; some good curveballs. It’s just building up the stamina now and making sure you get through all the paces. We’re not going to rush it.”

Left-hander Chris Capuano is scheduled to throw 85 to 90 pitches Tuesday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Norfolk and could be close to big league ready.

“He should be, depending on functionality,” Rothschild said. “He’s got to be ready to get people out here and have command of the pitches that you need to get by here.”

Girardi said it is still too early to think about how Capuano, Nova and Tanaka will rejoin the rotation.

“I don’t think you really worry too much about it until you have to make a decision about what you’re going to do because other things can creep up,” Girardi said. “As I’ve said before, sometimes you can waste a lot of energy doing that.”

A-Rod hits homer No. 661, passes Willie Mays

New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez takes a curtain call after hitting his 661st home run and surpassing Willie Mays on the all-time home runs list in the third inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Thursday, May 7, 2015.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez takes a curtain call after hitting his 661st home run and surpassing Willie Mays on the all-time home runs list in the third inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Thursday, May 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez hit the 661st home run of his career on Thursday evening, surpassing Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list.

Rodriguez sent an 83-mph changeup from Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman over the center field fence in the third inning for a solo home run that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead. The home run was Rodriguez’s seventh of the season.

The Yankees acknowledged the achievement with a brief message on the center-field scoreboard, noting that it was Rodriguez’s 661st homer and that he now stands alone in fourth place. Mays (660) is now fifth on the all-time list.

Rodriguez was summoned from the Yankees dugout for a curtain call, which he acknowledged with a two-handed salute. According to Statcast, Rodriguez’s homer had a ball exit speed of 108 mph and traveled 441 feet, with a launch angle of 23 degrees.

Tillman has had trouble with Rodriguez in the past. Rodriguez entered the night 5-for-10 with three homers against Tillman, and Rodriguez nearly cleared the right-field wall in the first inning with a ball that Delmon Young brought back with a leaping grab for a sacrifice fly.

Masahiro Tanaka resumes throwing with 50 tosses

The Yankees will open a four-game series with the Orioles tonight at Yankee Stadium. Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is making his sixth start of the season, with right-hander Chris Tillman on the mound for Baltimore. This is a quick homestand for the Yanks, who will then hit the road to see the Rays, Royals and Nationals.

Here are the quick updates from the Yankees clubhouse:


Masahiro TanakaMasahiro Tanaka made 50 throws at 60 feet this afternoon, his first activity since being placed on the disabled list with a right forearm strain and right wrist tendinitis.

“He’ll throw again tomorrow and then we’ll just continue to progress to where we stretch it out, it becomes long toss, then it becomes flat ground and then it becomes a bullpen,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Tanaka did not speak to reporters today, but he is expected to do so tomorrow. Girardi said that he feels that the Yankees have enough pitching to get by until Tanaka’s expected return in June, noting that Ivan Nova and Chris Capuano are on the mend as well. Capuano is scheduled to throw five innings tonight for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“It would be great to get Tanaka back in the timetable they talked about earlier,” Girardi said. “Then it just gives us a lot more depth, which I think is important over the course of a long season.”



New York Yankees' Stephen Drew fields a grounder from the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, May 5, 2015, in Toronto. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

Why keep running Stephen Drew (.167) out there? Girardi was asked that question and alluded that there is more than meets the eye with the second baseman, who is coming off a 2-for-18 road trip.

“We look at the at-bats. Obviously, we look really deep into it,” Girardi said. “It’s not just what the average is, and his hits have been productive. I know he’s had a little rough go of it the last 20 at-bats, but I mean, that happens to a lot of hitters. But I told you before that, I thought he hit the ball much harder than what he had, the luck that he had had. He lined out again last night. We’re going to keep running him out there.”


Anyone else like the chances for Alex Rodriguez‘s 661st home run tonight? Rodriguez is a .500 hitter and has a 1.400 slugging percentage against Tillman, homering three times in 10 at-bats.


The Yankees are not planning to use a sixth starter this turn through the rotation. Adam Warren, Chase Whitley and Michael Pineda are listed as the probable starters for the final three games of the Orioles series, so CC Sabathia is tentatively scheduled to take the ball Monday against the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Baltimore will start Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris in the final three games of this series.


Brett Gardner (stiff neck) “felt much better today,” Girardi said. Gardner sat out last night’s series finale at Rogers Centre.

A-Rod: $6 million bonus talk is “family business”

Hello from Boston, where the Yankees are trying for their first sweep of a series of three games or more at Fenway Park since August 2006, when the Yankees swept the Sox in five games. The Yankees did sweep the Red Sox in two games in April 2012. First pitch tonight is at 8:05 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Alex RodriguezAlex Rodriguez sidestepped questions concerning his contract language and the potential $6 million in bonus payments related to his 660th home run this weekend, calling it “family business” that should not be discussed publicly.

“I’m just happy to be playing baseball. [That’s] family business,” Rodriguez said on Sunday. “That’s nowhere near where my energy is these days. My energy is playing the game tonight. Just baseball.”

Rodriguez tied Willie Mays (660) for fourth place on the home run list with his eighth-inning, pinch-hit homer off Junichi Tazawa in Friday’s 3-2 Yankees victory over the Red Sox.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said on Saturday that the team has “the right, but not the obligation,” to award a bonus to Rodriguez if they determine certain milestones he reaches are “commercially marketable” in the career home runs chase.

Rodriguez’s 10-year, $275 million deal signed in 2007 contained a marketing agreement that is separate from his player contract. It stated that the Yankees had the right to designate a “milestone” — valued at $6 million for each occurrence — if Rodriguez tied Mays, Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762), plus another if Rodriguez set the home run record.

Cashman and Rodriguez both have said that the team is going about the business of competing on the field, together, and that a process is in place to settle any dispute related to the marketing relationship. Rodriguez said that the bonus does not present a distraction for him.

“Not at all,” he said. “My energy from Spring Training has been all about baseball.”

If Rodriguez disagrees with the decision, he has the right to have the case heard by an arbitrator. The Major League Baseball Players Association has said that they are prepared to step in on Rodriguez’s behalf if the bonus payment is withheld by the Yankees.

“I’ve been in a good place for a while now and it’s just fun to be playing baseball,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve learned my lesson.”


Brendan RyanThe Yankees will continue without the services of infielder Brendan Ryan, who tweaked a hamstring while running in Florida and will be forced to sit for at least another week.

Ryan was envisioned as the Yankees’ backup shortstop, but sustained a right calf strain during Spring Training and has not played in the Majors this season. He was participating in Extended Spring Training games in Tampa, Fla.

With Ryan sidelined, infielder Gregorio Petit could stick on the big league roster, or the Yankees could summon infielder Jose Pirela from his Minor League rehab assignment at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Petit has six hits in 30 at-bats (.200) for New York, with three doubles and five RBIs. Pirela went 4-for-5 with three doubles, an RBI and three runs scored for the RailRiders on Sunday and is 11-for-19 (.579) with a home run, four doubles and four RBIs during his stint with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“I would say he’s probably ready to go,” manager Joe Girardi said of Pirela. “We wanted to get him a few more at-bats when we had that luxury of calling Petit back, and now we’ve got to make a decision of what we want to do.”

In another rehab update, left-hander Chris Capuano pitched four innings with an unearned run for Class-A Tampa on Saturday, marking his first Minor League rehab start as he returns from a Grade 2 right quadriceps strain. Capuano permitted two hits, striking out four without a walk.


Carlos BeltranGirardi’s take on sitting the sizzling Chris Young in favor of Carlos Beltran, who comes into the night hitting .181 with no homers and eight RBIs:

“It’s difficult. But we believe Carlos is a big part of our offense. Chris had two hits yesterday again, but Carlos had two hits Friday night, too. I hope they get two hits every other day the rest of the year.”

Beltran has four hits in his last 28 at-bats.


Could the Yankees ask more than three outs from Andrew Miller tonight, after Dellin Betances was used in a save situation during Saturday’s matinee?

“I’ll see. I’ll talk to him,” Girardi said. “It’s not something you want to do a lot, but if I felt the situation called for it, and he felt OK, I might consider it.”


David Carpenter seems to have gotten lost in the bullpen shuffle after entering the season as the likely replacement for Shawn Kelley‘s old role. Here’s how Girardi explained that:

“His time is going to come. We know that. The other guys have pitched so well, we’ve kind of went with it. That can go in phases. His time is going to come.’


The Yankees have won twelve out of their past 15 games since starting the season 3-6. They are looking to win their sixth straight road game for the first time since June of 2012 when they won seven straight on the road.

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