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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.

What’s next for A-Rod? Maybe 3,000 hits this summer

Alex RodriguezNow that Alex Rodriguez’s 660th home run is in the record books, Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes that the slugger will be able to enjoy the relief of any pressure surrounding the looming achievement.

Rodriguez tied Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list on Friday with his eighth-inning, pinch-hit home run off the Red Sox’s Junichi Tazawa in the Yanks’ 3-2 win at Fenway Park. Babe Ruth (714) is 54 homers away in third place.

“My guess is, [the pressure] is off and he won’t be answering questions, ‘When is he going to hit it?,’ which is nice,” Girardi said. “The next one is pretty far away, so he should be able to get down to normal business now.”

Girardi said that he was told that Rodriguez seemed to be emotional after the homer. Given the turbulence of Rodriguez’s recent history, including last year’s season-long suspension, Girardi said that he believes Rodriguez’s feelings are genuine.

“To me, the way I look at it is, I think he just appreciates being back on the field so much and the opportunities that he has had in his career,” Girardi said. “Sometimes you want players to take a second and reflect.

“The one thing I always said about Derek (Jeter), I hope he takes time to enjoy what he’s going through. Sometimes when you’re going through it, it doesn’t always seem like so much fun, even if it’s an accomplishment.”

With his next homer, Rodriguez will take sole possession of fourth place from Mays, turning some attention to his countdown for 3,000 hits. Rodriguez entered play on Saturday just 44 hits shy, with 2,956 in his 21-year career.

“I still think that he’ll be asked a lot about it,” Girardi said. “There aren’t a lot of people in the big leagues that have had 3,000 hits, so he’ll be asked a lot about it. I’m sure he’ll think plenty about it, but we also have some time until we get there.”

Jeter was the most recent player to join the 3,000 hit club, homering off David Price on July 9, 2011.


In the first on-the-record comments by a Yankees official regarding Alex Rodriguez’s home run bonuses, general manager Brian Cashman said that the team has the right – but not the obligation – to pay a $6 million bonus for the slugger’s 660th home run.

Because the Yankees believe that the marketing value of Rodriguez’s home run was tainted by his past performance-enhancing drug use and last season’s suspension, the team is choosing not to designate Rodriguez’s 660th homer as a ‘milestone,’ thus denying Rodriguez that payout.

“We have the right but not the obligation, in quotes, and it’s as simple as that,” Cashman said. “If we choose to pursue something, we’ll choose to pursue it. If we choose not to, it’s our right not to. In both cases, we’re honoring the contract.”

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 – if Rodriguez tied Mays, Babe Ruth (714), Henry Aaron (755), Barry Bonds (762), plus another if Rodriguez set the all-time home run record.

“We’re going to follow the contract as we follow all contracts, so there is no dispute, from our perspective,” Cashman said. “We’re going to honor our responsibilities of the contract how it’s been reported, I’m going to turn the page and kick it to people above me.

“And what the contract actually says are two different things. We have the right but not the obligation to do something, and that’s it. And it’s not (if) you do this, you get that.”

Asked about the bonus payout on Friday, Rodriguez replied: “You know, I’m so in the moment right now. I’m really grateful to be playing baseball. Those things will take care of themselves.”

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.

“The great thing about contracts is that if there are any disputes, there’s mechanisms for anybody who has a misunderstanding or a misinterpretation,” Cashman said. “There are procedures in place to have people determine if there is some misunderstanding. I don’t think that we believe there’s any misunderstanding. I think it’s pretty clear.”


Mark TeixeiraMark Teixeira was back in the lineup Saturday after being hit by a pitch on the right wrist during Friday’s game.

“I talked to Tex about, if he felt that he couldn’t play today, make sure that he texted me in the morning,” Girardi said. “And he assured me today that he’d be able to play. Last night he felt OK. I think he’s OK. I didn’t get a text.”


Esmil Rogers is usually the Yankees’ long reliever, but Girardi went to him last night in the seventh inning. He can serve as a swingman in that way, Girardi said.

“I think he gives us the ability to use him that way just because of the stuff that he has,” Girardi said. “I felt that, when I brought him in yesterday, depending on how the inning was going to go, that I would use him for up to five hitters probably and then go to (Justin) Wilson after that. But sometimes you have to be careful in close games in those situations, because he was my long guy yesterday. I rolled the dice a little bit, and it worked.”

A-Rod riding the bench as Yanks arrive at Fenway

Alex RodriguezAlex Rodriguez walked up Fenway Park’s ancient dugout runway on Friday afternoon and spotted a clear spot on the bench, asking a bystander if that was for him. Told that it was, he pushed through a crowd of reporters and took that seat, where he would begin the Yankees’ first trip to Boston of the season.

With Yankees manager Joe Girardi sending out a lefty-dominant lineup against Red Sox right-hander Justin Masterson, Rodriguez’s chase to tie Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list remains paused for at least a few more innings.

“I think in the course of 162 games, Joe is being very diligent about spreading it out,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes it’s tempting to play 10 in a row or 12 in a row – I know I want to, perhaps Joe sometimes may want me to – but he’s much smarter than me, so I trust him.”

Rodriguez said that Girardi sent him a text message about the lineup before the team arrived at Fenway on Friday afternoon. Rodriguez has 659 career homers, one shy of Mays’ lifetime total of 660.

“He’ll wait one day, but I do want to get it out of the way,” Girardi said. “As much as a player you try not to think about it, it’s impossible. The sooner we get it out of the way, the better.”


In 302 at-bats at Fenway Park as a Yankee, A-Rod has hit 14 homers (one for every 21.6 at-bats). Overall, in his career with the Yankees, Rodriguez has averaged one homer for every 15.6 at-bats).

“Fenway’s one of my favorite places to play,” Rodriguez said. “I started my career here when I was 18 years old. It was the first time I put on a big league uniform. I had my parents here, my mother, my brother and my sister. So I have some very fond memories. Say whatever you want about Boston; Fenway and the Boston fans have a great appreciation and love for history.”


Jose PirelaJose Pirela has joined Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and went 1-for-4 with a RBI and a walk against Charlotte on Thursday. He was a candidate to join the big league team earlier this week, but Masahiro Tanaka‘s injury allowed the Yankees to recall infielder Gregorio Petit from Triple-A instead.

Returning from a concussion sustained by colliding with the center-field wall during a March 22 Spring Training game, Pirela is just 2-for-18 in the Minors.

“I think he is doing better,” Girardi said. “It’s something that we have discussed about what we might possibly do with him or not do with him, but obviously I think at-bats are important. He was out a month. You’ve got to get him some at-bats and some real game situations playing different positions.”

Girardi said that infielder Brendan Ryan (right calf strain) batted in an Extended Spring Training game on Friday in Tampa, where the Yankees have scheduled left-hander Chris Capuano (right quadriceps strain) to throw four innings or 60 pitches on Saturday for Class-A Tampa.

“Everything that he’s doing is going in the right direction,” Girardi said. “You think about 60, 75, 90 (pitches) and then you go from there.”

Right-hander Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery rehab) will throw one inning or 20 pitches in an Intrasquad game. Right-hander Jared Burton (oblique) is also scheduled to throw an Intrasquad inning.


Didi GregoriusAfter a shaky beginning to his tenure as Derek Jeter‘s successor, both defensively and offensively, the Yankees believe they are seeing some encouraging signs from shortstop Didi Gregorius.

Gregorius has quietly strung together eight hits in his last 29 at-bats (.275) entering Friday’s series opener against the Red Sox at Fenway Park and has appeared to slow the game down in the field, where he has been drilling with infield coach Joe Espada.

“His first order of business is defense, and I think we’re starting to see what he can do,” Girardi said. “He’s made some really nice plays, and that’s encouraging. I think he’s going to be productive.

“As a hitter, I’m not saying he’s going to hit 30 home runs, but I think he’s going to do all right swinging the bat. And that has gotten better the last week or so, so just continue to go in the right direction.”


Andrew MillerHere’s a great Andrew Miller stat, courtesy of MLB Network:

Miller last allowed a hit off a slider on August 22. Since then opponents are 0-for-41 with 32 strikeouts against the 167 sliders Miller has spun. They have missed 50 times out of 79 swings during that time frame (63.3% miss percentage).

As you know, Miller is eight for eight in save opportunities. He has not allowed a run while striking out 20 in 11 1/3 innings as a Yankee.

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