The Yankees and the Rays will open a three-game series tonight here at Yankee Stadium, with right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.78) getting the start for New York opposite right-hander Chris Archer (8-8, 3.60). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET; Yankees TV is on MY9 and Yankees radio is on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM.
New York has won three of its last five games; the Yankees are 4-6 in their last 10 games. Tonight marks Derek Jeter’s 2,730th game with the Yankees, tying Mel Ott of the Giants for eighth place all-time among players who have played all of their games with one team.
Here are the highlights from manager Joe Girardi’s pregame session with the media:
Brett Gardner out of the lineup for a third straight game…
“He has an abdominal strain. We’re not sure exactly when we’ll get him back. He does feel better. He’ll see the doctor again tonight and then we’ll try to make some decisions on when he’ll start doing some baseball activities.”
Starting to get concerned that you may not get him back?
“I’m not sure when we’ll get him back. It is a concern of mine. We’ll continue to talk to the doctors, measure how he feels and how he’s improving and go from there.”
Martin Prado hamstring update…
“There’s concern about him playing on that, where he could really make it worse in his hamstring to where it becomes a serious issue. It’s still bothering him. Even though I told him to guard it – and he did a good job – there’s concern.”
Feel anything more after last game?
“No, it’s the same. But there’s concern.”
The lineup without Gardner and Prado…
“It’s different. It’s definitely different, but I’ve always said it’s an opportunity for someone to step up. They’re going to have to.”
Brian McCann’s second half…
“I’ve definitely seen an improvement. Sometimes guys get off to slow starts and I think here it can be magnitude. It can become a little bit more, you try to do too much and try to validate everything. The second half, I think he’s been more productive. Part of it is probably being used to his surroundings and knowing what to expect. He’s played pretty well.”
Masahiro Tanaka simulated game – three innings, 45 pitches…
“I thought he was better than Detroit. I thought his stuff was sharper, I thought there was more velocity, I thought there was better command. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. His next step would be another bullpen and prepare him for another start.”
Simulated game next?
“We’re not sure. It could be that, or you could send him to instructional league. We could do either one. … It won’t be a big-league game yet.”
Could the turn after that be a big league game?
“I think that’s possible to look at, yeah.”
Worried that Tanaka could have a setback later on, jeopardizing 2015?
“I think that’s always something you have to think about a little bit, once a guy has had an issue one time – could it be that it comes about again? Yeah, I think you have to worry about that. If he pitched in a big league game or two and felt good, you wouldn’t do surgery on a guy that felt good, that’s the bottom line. Our hope is that we get through this and that he’s a pitcher for us next year. That doesn’t mean that something couldn’t arise down the road, but that could happen to any of our pitchers.”
Is there more scrutiny on Tanaka because of who he is?
“I think any time that you go through something, you’re probably subject to a little bit more than the next guy. But look how many guys had it this year. I don’t know any of them who had an issue before. I know Nova had an issue a couple of years ago where he had to come out of the playoff game, but how many years did he go? He went a couple of years before it happened. For us to operate on a guy that we feel is healthy, it would be silly.”
Have you thought about how to manage Tanaka next spring?
“Carefully. I think you just have to see how he’s doing. The plan is you’re going to go to him every five days, but you have a built in off-day usually. Any time you can give him the extra day, obviously we’ll give him the extra day if he gets through this. It makes it difficult to start skipping people all the time; it’s difficult. It messes up your roster a lot of times, but if we have to, we will.”
Does it seem important to Tanaka to pitch again this season?
“I think so. I think he wants to feel that he can go home and have a normal offseason and he can be healthy and come back. I do believe it’s important to him.”
Reassured that Tanaka reported his soreness and didn’t keep throwing?
“This is one injury that I have not really seen a guy be able to hide. When they feel it, they grab it. I think if he feels it, he’s going to end up grabbing his arm and you’re going to know about it.”
Rosters have expanded to a maximum of 40 players, and the Yankees have announced the following roster moves:
· Recalled C John Ryan Murphy, RHP Preston Claiborne, RHP Bryan Mitchell and RHP Chase Whitley from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
· Selected LHP Rich Hill and OF Chris Young to the active roster from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
· Signed OF Antoan Richardson and RHP Chaz Roe to Major League contracts and select them to the active roster from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
· Recalled OF Slade Heathcott from Double-A Trenton and transfer him to the 60-day disabled list (right knee surgery).
· Transferred RHP Masahiro Tanaka to the 60-day disabled list.
· Released RHP Matt Daley.
· Designated OF Zoilo Almonte for assignment.
The frustration in the Yankees’ clubhouse bubbled over on Thursday morning as several position players held an informal meeting, challenging themselves to pick up the production with less than seven weeks remaining in the regular season.
“We talked about it before the game, that we needed to come out with a little more energy, and hopefully some emotion and play the way that we’re capable of playing,” Chase Headley said after the Yankees’ 3-0 victory over the Astros. “We understand that we’re a lot better offensively than we’ve shown.
“That was kind of the point, to come out with a little bit of fire and hopefully put some runs on the board. … Some of the position players got together and said, ‘Enough is enough, and let’s go.’”
The Yankees produced a three-run second inning against Houston’s Dallas Keuchel, which was enough support as Brandon McCarthy hurled a four-hit shutout. The chat wasn’t a cure-all, but the results were slightly better: in nine games since a 10-run outburst against the Indians on Aug. 8, the Yankees had averaged 2.22 runs per game.
“We just had a little meeting this morning and talked about some things, kind of cleared the air,” Brett Gardner said. “A lot of guys talked. It was good. Hopefully a game like today kind of gets us going a little bit and we can carry that momentum over into the weekend.”
Gardner said that the meeting could be a turning point for the Yankees, who have lost seven of their last 10 games and trail the Tigers by four games for the second Wild Card.
“I don’t think it ever hurts. At this point, we’re trying to mix things up a little bit,” Gardner said. “What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working, so hopefully we can take this momentum, carry it over into the weekend and play some better baseball.”
Headley said that the Yankees are feeling a sense of urgency, but not because of the Wild Card race. Coming off two losses to the sub-.500 Astros and with the White Sox due in town, the reality is that if they do not win their games, there will be no point to continue scoreboard-watching.
“It was just, let’s get on the same page and let’s go,” Headley said. “I know everybody wants to win, everybody’s working, everybody’s doing the right things. You need that little extra sometimes and I think sometimes those little discussions – I don’t know if you’d really call it a meeting – but getting those guys together and getting guys on the same page can go a long ways.”
Before Thursday’s game, manager Joe Girardi said that he continues to believe that the players in his lineup are good enough to turn the season around.
“The effort is there every day,” Girardi said. “[Wednesday] we had seven or eight guys hitting early trying to figure this out and get going. So I will be optimistic as long as they continue to prepare correctly and they work hard.”
The Yankees recalled infielder Zelous Wheeler from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and immediately slotted him as the designated hitter for Thursday’s series finale against the Astros.
Wheeler, 27, has batted .267 with two home runs and three RBIs in 16 games with New York this season.
The Yankees needed another position player because of Carlos Beltran’s recurring right elbow injury; Beltran received a cortisone injection in the elbow on Wednesday and is unlikely to play before Saturday.
“With Carlos being an uncertainty for a day or two, we felt that we could use the extra bat,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’re seeing a lot of lefties, so we brought him up.”
With Beltran out on Wednesday, Girardi had only Francisco Cervelli and Brendan Ryan available on the bench. In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees optioned right-hander Chase Whitley to Triple-A; Whitley is 4-3 with a 5.43 ERA in 19 big league games (12 starts) this year.
There is frustration in the Yankees’ clubhouse and has been for some time, Girardi said, but the manager continues to believe that the players in his lineup are good enough to turn it around.
“The effort is there every day,” Girardi said. “Yesterday, we had seven or eight guys hitting early trying to figure this out and get going. So I will be optimistic as long as they continue to prepare correctly and they work hard.”
Girardi has struggled to come up with an underlying cause for the problems with runners in scoring position. The Yankees were a combined 2-for-17 in the first two games of the Astros series and have batted .248 in those situations all year, ranking 10th in the American League.
“I look at it as guys being able to take the same approach, the same at-bat, relax when there’s runners on, when there’s not runners on,” Girardi said. “I haven’t seen anything that tells me that they’re squeezing the bat or trying too hard.”
Catcher Brian McCann agreed with that, saying that he did not see signs of pressing.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I just think we’re not getting it done.”
So if that’s the case and the results still aren’t coming, what is left for a manager to do?
“You keep running guys out there and believe it’s going to change,” Girardi said. “Eventually it’s going to be right and it’s going to be consistent over a long period.”
Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw live batting practice on Saturday. Girardi said that his expectation is the session will take place at Yankee Stadium.
David Phelps, currently on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation, will work back to the club as a reliever. Phelps is scheduled to play catch again on Thursday and expects to be throwing off a mound within the next week.
“I think at this stage, we’re going day-by-day,” Phelps said. “We’ll hopefully amp it up when we get through this week. I took two weeks off, it’s not like I’ll be on the mound this weekend.”
On this date in 1988, the Yankees dedicated Monument Park plaques to former catchers Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. On this date in 2013, Ichiro Suzuki recorded his 4,000th professional hit (including 1,278 in Japan) with a first-inning single off the Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey.
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.