Hello from Cleveland’s Progressive Field, where the Yankees and Indians are set to open a four-game series this evening. Here are the quick hits from this evening’s notebook:
Carlos Beltran was held out of the Yankees’ lineup on Monday after the switch-hitter reported mild swelling in the back of his right knee, according to manager Joe Girardi.
Beltran is scheduled to be seen by the Indians’ team doctor at Progressive Field on Monday, but Girardi said that the Yankees have not planned any other tests.
“We’re going to give him a day off. I’ll find out later on if he’s available to pinch-hit,” Girardi said. “He’ll see their doctor today and see what they think. Not a lot, but just a little bit.”
Beltran has eight hits in his last 30 at-bats, raising his average to .216 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs in 61 games.
“He’s been swinging the bat better,” Girardi said. “Obviously, he’s a switch-hitter that we put between our lefties and has power. He’s a run producer. It is something that we’ll miss tonight. Hopefully we get him back in there tomorrow.”
For Derek Jeter, return visits to the facility now known as Progressive Field will always produce memories of Opening Day 1996, which teammate David Cone would later refer to as Jeter’s “coming-out party.”
Jeter hit his first Major League home run, a fifth-inning solo homer off the Indians’ Dennis Martinez, and contributed a sharp catch on an Omar Vizquel pop-up in the Yankees’ 7-1 victory that afternoon.
“Your first Opening Day is pretty memorable, pretty special,” Jeter said. “I was excited for that day. We got snowed out the day before, so we had to wait a while; it seemed like we had to wait forever to get that first one underway.”
Earlier this year, Jeter said that he ranks that April 2, 1996 contest as one of his two favorite Opening Days; the other was the Yankees’ 1996 home opener, better remembered as the Andy Pettitte snow game against the Royals.
“I like playing here. I like this stadium,” Jeter said. “I’ve always liked coming here and playing. We’ve had some great battles with some really, really good Cleveland teams. They beat us in ’97, we came back and beat them in ’98. I enjoy coming here. It’s a nice stadium and the fans have always been great.”
When Dellin Betances reported to Spring Training, the Yankees had hoped that the hard-throwing right-hander would be able to put it all together, but it was a late March outing against the Blue Jays that made Joe Girardi really believe it was happening.
As Girardi recalled on Monday, a March 23 outing at George M. Steinbrenner Field made the Yanks’ coaches take notice. Betances entered with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, leaving them that way by striking out Jose Bautista looking and getting Edwin Encarnacion to fly out to left field.
“He came in the bases loaded and was dominant,” Girardi said. “I thought, ‘You know what, maybe it’s clicking.’ … You could see that there was deception there and they didn’t see the ball real well off of him.”
Betances was named as one of the Yankees’ three All-Stars on Sunday, joining Derek Jeter and Masahiro Tanaka. He has a 1.61 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 37 appearances, and was selected to the squad by the player vote.
“It’s crazy, man,” Betances said. “I worked hard this offseason, had a lot of guys that helped me. I just felt ready coming into the spring. My job was to make the team, but now to be here on this day, to be an All-Star this year, I’m honored.”
Right-hander Brandon McCarthy, who was acquired in a trade from the D-backs on Sunday in exchange for left-hander Vidal Nuno, is expected to join the Yankees on Tuesday. McCarthy is scheduled to make his Yankees debut against the Indians on Wednesday.
Girardi said that he believes closer David Robertson (2.93 ERA in 26 appearances, 21-for-23 in save opportunities) deserved to be selected as an All-Star, and Girardi hopes that there is still time for that to happen.
“Obviously there’s always people that have to bow out,” he said. “I’ve said it all along; if you like people that strike people out in key situations, he’s pretty good at it. You take away his one outing against Minnesota, his numbers are as good as anyone’s in baseball. And from a strikeout ratio, even better.”
Right-hander Michael Pineda has progressed to playing catch at 90 feet. The Yankees hope to have him throw from a mound by the end of this week, with a mid-August return to the big leagues standing as his best-case scenario.
Kevin Long emerged from the coaches’ room after Wednesday’s 6-3 loss to the Rays, prepared to face the music after the Yankees’ season-high fifth straight loss and their ninth in the last 11 games.
The Yankees were just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday, and though situational hitting has been one of their major concerns of the summer, it has been more difficult than anticipated to make progress in that department.
“You’re always focused on trying to do the little things, trying to score runs and trying to move runners and trying to get guys in,” Long said. “So that’s always a focus.”
Here is a rundown of the group interview that Long conducted in the Yankees’ clubhouse:
On the current issues with the Yankees’ hitters: “You’re obviously not scoring runs and you’re going to put some pressure on yourself. You’re going to try to do a little bit more. The guys are certainly well aware of what’s going on and they’re putting forth as much effort as they can. Just sometimes things don’t go the way you want them or you planned them.”
On being surprised by this, given the names in the lineup: “Yeah, it’s a little surprising. Certainly. You expect some of these guys in this lineup to perform, and at the end of the day and at the end of the year, you hope that those numbers are going to be where they should. I can tell you that they’re doing everything in their power to try to correct it. I’m doing everything in my power to try to correct it, and we’re just going to stay at it. There’s no simple formula. The work is positive and we’re working in the right directions. It’s just been tough.
What can a hitting coach do in this situation?: “You certainly can’t yell, scream or do any of that. It’s more about just staying the course and keep looking at video or maybe working on their swing or tee work, or doing flips or doing extra BP, all those things that you would normally do. Certainly that is something that we’ve really focused on and even you get away from that sometimes and you just see the ball. That’s all Beltran’s doing these last four games, and he’s been really good the last four games, so if he can continue to swing the way he has the last four. It looks like Brian McCann made a positive move today. You have to look at those things and you have to try to move forward on those, because we can’t get anything back that has already happened.”
On Yangervis Solarte needing to make adjustments: “When Solarte was swinging the bat well, he was very aggressive and he was swinging with authority. He’s just a little bit inbetween and a little bit unsure. We looked at his video and he’s a little hard to his front side and he’s just a little tentative. We’ll just stay at that.”
“I don’t think they’re pitching him any differently. He has taken some walks and for the most part swung at good pitches, but I’m sure he’s feeling it, just like a veteran would. He’s a rookie so someone like that will probably put a little more pressure on himself than maybe a veteran would.”
Encouraging signs from the rest of the lineup?: “Obviously, the top three have been pretty good all year, Jeet, Gardner and Ellsbury have swung the bat well. Ichiro has been pretty consistent all year. Teixeira has hit some home runs, driven in some runs. I think the biggest two we’re talking about is if McCann can do what he did today and Beltran — that’s four good games in a row where he’s really had good quality at-bats.
“We’ve kind of changed his routine and changed what he’s done as a DH to try to help that process become really active with him inbetween innings. Walking around, talking about things instead of just sitting in the video room and maybe thinking about an at-bat. So that’s been one adjustment that I think has moved in a positive way for us. So again I just hope that he continues on what he’s doing and McCann today was very positive.”
On Brett Gardner hitting for more power: “Gardy’s made adjustments every year he’s been in this league. He’s basically picked up where he left off last year. He’s an extremely confident individual who continues to get better and better, he’s a very aggressive hitter in the zone. He’s not late. He attacks fastballs and he doesn’t miss them. I think the consistencies of his mechanics in his swing have enabled him to this little power surge that we’ve seen.”
Ever think that maybe this is just what you have?: “It’s about winning games, and we need to do whatever we can to win games. Obviously offense has been an issue all season. These guys understand it, I understand it. We’ve got to turn it around somehow and you’ve got to believe the guys that are in the room, they’re the only guys that can turn it around. Again it’s not from lack of effort, it’s not from not wanting to do it, it’s just one of those things where we need these extra 80 games for guys to prove themselves. McCann is on a mission, Beltran is on a mission. Everybody needs to pick it up a little bit, including the Gardners, including the Ellsburys, and then these guys that have underperformed — they need to pick it up as well.”
On his early expectations for this offense: “I don’t know — obviously more than what we’ve done. Are we capable of scoring 4-5 runs a game? I would say so. Even when we had the powerful offenses, I would think four runs a game was kind of that mark that you shoot for. Jeet said it a bunch of times: let’s win innings, try to score every inning. You start there instead of trying to maybe put up a four spot or five spot all in one inning.”
On drastic changes: “Oh, we’ve done all kinds of stuff. You always make adjustments and always make changes. Nobody here probably even saw what Brian McCann did today. If you just look at his stance, look for a toe tap today and see if you see one. That’s one of those things where if you look at video, you can say see, ‘Whoa, he did make an adjustment.’ You’ll see those adjustments from guys as they go along. They’ll continue to make those adjustments to try to help themselves be more consistent.”
Exactly what everyone would have predicted, right? Vidal Nuno pitched 5 2/3 innings of scoreless, two-hit ball, and the Yankees got home runs from Kelly Johnson, Brett Gardner and Brian McCann, defeating the Red Sox 6-0 on Friday night.
Nuno said after the game that he needed the boost, proving that his stuff can still work against big league lineups after he was hammered his last two times out by the Athletics and Orioles.
“Every day has been tough lately, just knowing that my command wasn’t there,” Nuno said. “I’ve been working on it. Pretty much, it’s a confidence booster tonight, to show that I can still belong here and attack these guys. With my stuff, I can win games.”
This was Nuno’s first career victory at Yankee Stadium, a place where he’d been dreadful this year. As Red Sox manager John Farrell said candidly after the game, Boston thought they’d have a good shot against Nuno, but it wasn’t to be.
Joe Girardi, who had bristled when asked about his rotation earlier in the afternoon, was asked after the game what it is about Nuno that inspires confidence:
“He fights. It’s not a guy that throws 95, not a guy with a wipeout slider. it’s a guy that just goes out and competes and finds a way to get it done. He’s beaten a lot of the odds in a sense where he’s had to start over and come back and work his way up. He throws strikes, you know that he’s going to throw strikes, you know that he doesn’t get intimidated by a situation. I like that about him. He’s very even keeled but he gives you everything he’s got every time he goes out.”
Johnson (by the way, that homer snapped an 84 at-bat drought for him) shared his view on Nuno’s performance:
“When he’s on, he’s as comfortable and easy to play behind as anybody on this team. He works really fast. He gets the ball (and throws it). The ball was popping out of his hand really good, sharp.”
Here are some other assorted notes and quotes:
- Start the clock: CC Sabathia will pitch in his first Minor League rehab game tonight for Class-A Tampa against Dunedin. Sabathia is expected to need at least three rehab starts, so you’re probably looking at after the All-Star break at the earliest.
- Comeback trail: Michael Pineda will play catch on Saturday in Tampa, but it’ll be a long road back. He’s basically starting Spring Training over, so don’t look for Pineda to be in the Bronx until August.
- Age is just a number: Derek Jeter, still in the lead to be in the American League’s starting lineup for the All-Star Game, singled twice in his first game as a 40-year-old. The first of those was a classic “Jeterian” inside-out hit lashed to right field.
- Whoops: Dellin Betances slipped while delivering a pitch in the seventh inning last night, but he was fine. Girardi and head athletic trainer Steve Donohue came out to check on the right-hander, who resumed his outing.
- Thank you: David Robertson’s “High Socks for Hope” charity received a $10,000 donation last night.
- Your call: This is kind of interesting - Nuno said that he didn’t shake off catcher Brian McCann once last night. Nuno prefers to let his catchers call the game, placing complete trust in them so he can focus on executing his pitches. McCann said that Nuno stayed out of hitters counts and kept the ball in the yard; when he does that, he can win.
Masahiro Tanaka and Jon Lester are on the mound tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET in game two of the three-game weekend series.
A Monument Park plaque dedication honoring Rich “Goose” Gossage will highlight the June 22 Old-Timers’ Day festivities at Yankee Stadium, and nearly 50 former Yankees are scheduled to be in attendance, the team announced on Tuesday.
Gossage’s plaque will recognize his Hall of Fame career and will be unveiled one day after the Yankees celebrate the career of slugging first baseman Tino Martinez, who will have a Monument Park plaque installed on June 21.
Gossage was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008 and played in parts of seven seasons with the Yankees (1978-83, ’89), winning a World Series with the team in 1978.
Martinez, who played in seven seasons with New York (1996-2001, ’05), and helped to lead the team to four World Series victories during that time (1996, ’98-2000), will also be in attendance for Old-Timers’ Day.
In addition to Gossage, the Old-Timers are headlined by Hall-of-Famers Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Rickey Henderson and Reggie Jackson, as well as Joe Torre, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in July.
Current YES Network broadcasters David Cone, John Flaherty and Paul O’Neill will also participate.
Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, who won a World Series title with the Yankees in 2009, will make their Old-Timers’ Day debuts along with John “The Count” Montefusco, who helped the club produce three seasons of at least 90 wins from 1983-86.
Joining the Hall-of-Famers and former Yankees on the baselines will be the widows of six legendary Yankees -Maggie Coleman, widow of Jerry Coleman; Arlene Howard, widow of Elston Howard; Helen Hunter, widow of Jim “Catfish” Hunter; Jill Martin, widow of Billy Martin; Diana Munson, widow of Thurman Munson; and Kay Murcer, widow of Bobby Murcer.
Ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. with the traditional Old-Timers’ game to follow, both of which will be aired on the YES Network. The Yankees will then host the Orioles at 2:05 p.m., also airing on YES. Gates will open to ticket-holding guests at 10:00 a.m. and fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 11:15 a.m. for the festivities.
The plaques for Martinez and Gossage mark the first stage of this year’s announced Monument Park additions. O’Neill’s ceremony will take place on Aug. 9, and Torre will take his place in Monument Park on Aug. 23, with his uniform No. 6 set to be retired.
List of those Scheduled to Attend
(*Denotes First-Time Old-Timer)
Jesse Barfield, Yogi Berra, Brian Boehringer, Scott Bradley, Dr. Bobby Brown, Maggie Coleman (Widow), David Cone, Johnny Damon*, Bucky Dent, Al Downing, Brian Doyle, John Flaherty, Whitey Ford, Jake Gibbs, Joe Girardi, Rich “Goose” Gossage, Ron Guidry, Charlie Hayes, Rickey Henderson, Orlando Hernandez, Arlene Howard (Widow), Helen Hunter (Widow), Reggie Jackson, Scott Kamieniecki, Pat Kelly, Don Larsen, Graeme Lloyd, Hector Lopez, Jill Martin (Widow), Tino Martinez, Hideki Matsui*, Lee Mazzilli, Stump Merrill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan (Trainer), John Montefusco*, Diana Munson (Widow), Kay Murcer (Widow), Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Joe Pepitone, Andy Phillips, Willie Randolph, Bobby Richardson, Mickey Rivers, Joe Torre, David Wells, Roy White
It’s raining here in Tampa, and the Yankees’ bus to Clearwater has been delayed until 11:15 a.m. Today’s game against the Phillies appears to be in jeopardy of a washout, which means we’ll have to scrap any plans of seeing Masahiro Tanaka’s first spring start, the spring debuts of Mark Teixeira and Alfonso Soriano, and another day of the Derek Jeter watch.
Update 12:15 p.m. ET: OK, so I’m in Clearwater. Just before pulling into the stadium complex, I got an emergency text message telling me there were tornado warnings in the area and that I should seek shelter immediately. There are lakes in the outfield. Other than that, “I’d keep playing. I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite a while.“
Here’s the view that the Yankees had of their dugout at Bright House Field, courtesy of traveling secretary Ben Tuliebitz:
— Ben Tuliebitz (@travelingsec) March 6, 2014
In the meantime, let’s roll the clock back to yesterday’s Yankees coverage:
What we learned: Mark Teixeira didn’t feel like he got enough swings during David Herndon’s sim game yesterday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Teixeira has had a tough time getting work in this week; there were no pitchers available Tuesday, he only got three swings yesterday and today Mother Nature isn’t cooperating. Lucky for Tex that it’s so early in camp. Then again, considering he injured his wrist by overuse, a light schedule isn’t the worst thing in the world.
What we wrote:
- Rays 5, Yankees 4: Betances lights-out, Warren solid vs. Rays (…rough spring so far for Robert Coello, wearing Joba Chamberlain’s old No. 62)
- Tanaka to face top of Phillies’ order in first start (…weather permitting)
- After dealing with illness, Soriano set to debut (…weather permitting)
- Ex-starter Betances could earn job in Yanks’ bullpen (…just keep throwing strikes)
- El Duque joins Yanks as Minors pitching instructor
And since you’re already here, and I probably won’t get a chance to post this video again, let’s all do the El Duque.
They said it: “I thought I was going to get a lot more work the last few days, but I do what I am told.” – Mark Teixeira