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.”
NEW YORK — Slade Heathcott spotted his name in a Major League lineup for the first time on Friday, drawing the start in center field as the Yankees opened a three-game series with the Rangers.
Heathcott made his big league debut on Wednesday as a pinch-runner, having been summoned from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace the injured Jacoby Ellsbury on the active roster.
“We’re looking for quality at-bats and to play defense, is what we’re looking for from him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s getting an opportunity to start tonight and I’m kind of excited for him.”
The Yankees’ first-round selection (29th overall) in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, the 24-year-old Heathcott was batting .285 (43-for-151) with 16 runs, four doubles, two triples, a homer and 17 RBIs in 37 games for the RailRiders, appearing at all three outfield positions.
“I started off kind of decent, got going pretty well,” Heathcott said. “Lately I kind of cooled off a little bit, but [it was] more of just realizing I need to get back to the basics. Keep it to that and not try to do too much, don’t try to force things and try to make things happen. Just let the game come to me.”
As Heathcott said earlier this week, his road to the big leagues has been anything but uneventful. His progress was stalled by two surgeries on his right knee, two procedures on his left shoulder as well as a stint in rehab for alcohol abuse.
Despite being removed from the 40-man roster this past winter, Heathcott impressed the Yanks this spring, hitting .333 (11-for-33) as a non-roster invitee, and Girardi said that he sensed increased maturity in Heathcott’s game.
“This spring, he was healthy,” Girardi said. “I had a talk with him about how the most important thing was to stay healthy and to get at-bats. Over the period we’ve had him, he has been hurt about half the time and has not been able to show what kind of talent he has on a consistent basis. The important thing is, he has been healthy and he has played well.”
WASHINGTON — Jacoby Ellsbury has been a catalyst atop the Yankees’ lineup all season, but they will continue without his services for at least two weeks after the outfielder sustained a right knee sprain in Tuesday’s 8-6, 10-inning loss to the Nationals on Tuesday.
Ellsbury left the game in the fourth inning after tweaking the knee swinging at a changeup from the Nats’ Gio Gonzalez. Ellsbury worked a walk but appeared to favor the knee while running the bases, and did not return to play defense in the bottom half of the inning.
“It’s not what you want,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “If we are going to lose him for some time, somebody’s got to step up. That’s the bottom line. It’s part of the game.”
Ellsbury left Nationals Park before the end of the game to have an MRI performed. The Yankees plan to select outfielder Slade Heathcott to the 40-man roster and have him take Ellsbury’s spot on the active roster.
Heathcott, 24, was batting .280 (42-for-150) with one home run and 17 RBIs in 36 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after putting together a strong spring in big league camp.
The 31-year-old Ellsbury is hitting .324 (48-for-148) with one homer, six RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 37 games.
“Jacoby is our leadoff guy, gets on base and kind of gets things started,” Yankees catcher Brian McCann said. “We’re hoping for the best. I’m not sure what the news is, but we’re hoping for the best.”
Girardi said that he was not sure if he would move Brett Gardner from left field to center field in the event that Ellsbury misses an extended period of time.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Girardi said. “You’ve got to see what it is. It’s possible that we might do that. I think you kind of wait to see what it is before you make a whole lot of changes.”
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.”