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Jacoby Ellsbury enjoying results out of leadoff spot

Good evening from Detroit’s Comerica Park, where the Yankees will try to bounce back after last night’s 5-2 loss to the Tigers, hoping to get another roll started after Rick Porcello squelched their five-game winning streak. Shane Greene and David Price comprise tonight’s pitching matchup, with first pitch set for 7:08 p.m. ET. We should have a pleasant night for baseball – temperatures in the mid-70s and no threat of rain. Here’s a peek at the early notes:

Jacoby EllsburyJacoby Ellsbury has found one of his best hot streaks of the season, but the Yankees centerfielder won’t connect the dots between those good recent swings and a return to the leadoff spot.

With Brett Gardner hobbled by a sore right ankle, Ellsbury batted leadoff for the fourth time in five games on Wednesday, entering play against the Tigers enjoying a 15-for-34 (.441) clip at the plate.

“He’s done a good job there, and there was never a question what kind of job he would do in that spot,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Gardy did a great job. It was just, I put him there because Gardy was hurt, and he’s done a good job.”

Ellsbury, who has hit three homers in the Yankees’ last two games, said that he was also feeling comfortable hitting third and hasn’t felt much different since coming back to the top of the lineup.

“I think that first at-bat may be the only one, trying to see how the pitcher throws that day, see what he has,” Ellsbury said. “But after that first one as the leadoff hitter, you’re kind of in the flow of the game. It doesn’t really affect you.”

“He’s a great player that’s going to have really good streaks,” Girardi said. “You could say since I put him in the leadoff spot he’s hitting for more power. It’s a small sample, so I don’t make too much of it.”

Gardner returned to New York’s lineup on Wednesday, batting eighth. Girardi said that he wanted to see how Gardner came through on-field batting practice before locking in his batting order, noting that Gardner has struggled against Tigers lefty David Price (2-for-20).

Girardi also said that he wanted to find a way to get Brian McCann’s bat in the lineup, even with Francisco Cervelli catching right-hander Shane Greene. McCann entered play on Wednesday with five hits in 12 at-bats (.417) against Price, including three homers.

“Sometimes you just see some guys better than you do others,” Girardi said.

Chris Young,  Curtis GrandersonThe Yankees have signed outfielder Chris Young to a Minor League contract, general manager Brian Cashman confirmed on Wednesday.

Young, 30, was released by the Mets last week after hitting just .205 with eight homers and a .630 OPS in 88 games. Young had signed a one-year, $7.25 million deal with the Mets and could see time with the Yankees after rosters expand in September.

“Obviously it’s a guy that’s had some success in his career,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s a very good outfielder, it’s a guy who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. We’re going to see what we have.”

The Yankees currently have three left-handed hitting outfielders on the roster in Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki. Young, who has also seen big league time with the D-backs and Athletics over the last nine seasons, has not played since Aug. 7.

Masahiro TanakaMasahiro Tanaka’s next hurdle will come in the form of three simulated innings off the mound at Comerica Park on Thursday morning, and if he gets through that session with no issues, the right-hander’s return will seem much more plausible.

Manager Joe Girardi said that Tanaka is scheduled to throw about 45 pitches in the simulated game, and he could be two sessions away from a big league return; the team would need Tanaka to build his stamina to the area of 75-90 pitches before deeming him ready.

“You obviously feel better that it’s going to happen, but I still talk about the intensity of a Major League game compared to a Minor League game or a simulated game,” Girardi said. “Those are the hurdles that you have to go through.”

It is likely that the Yankees would need to create Tanaka’s next outing, as the Minor League schedule ends on Monday and only Class-A Tampa is within striking distance of seeing playoff action. Girardi said that he is remaining cautiously optimistic as Tanaka aims to avoid Tommy John surgery.

“As long as you’re having steps in the right direction, it’s working,” Girardi said. “That doesn’t mean that it’s a guarantee. If you have a setback, it probably means surgery. It’s not like rehabbing a hamstring or something like that where you can have a setback and, ‘OK, we’ve got to sit him down.’ If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”

The Yankees announced on Wednesday that they have pledged $100,000 to the ALS Association, in recognition of those who bravely live with ALS, those who have passed away from the condition and those around the world who have taken part in the Ice Bucket Challenge in an effort to raise awareness and funding to find a cure.

In support of the Yankees’ donation, manager Joe Girardi participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday afternoon. Girardi said that he lost an uncle to ALS in April of this year.

“Obviously, it’s been on my mind,” Girardi said.

In his video, Girardi invited Patrick Quinn of Westchester, N.Y. and Anthony Senerchia of Pelham, N.Y. to be the team’s guests for a future Yankees home game. Quinn and Senerchia were among the first to participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Girardi also challenged this year’s Monument Park inductees to take the challenge; Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill and Joe Torre. Torre participated recently in a group event outside MLB’s New York offices, helping raise $16,700 for ALS research.

“I think this is a really good thing that’s been started here and is bringing a lot of attention to ALS,” Girardi said. “It’s a horrific disease in what it does to people. Hopefully all these things that people are doing to raise money finds a cure.”

Shawn Kelley’s horse head: “I’ve got to wear it until we don’t win any more”

The Tigers just announced that tonight’s game will not start on time. No estimated start time has been given First pitch is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET, so while we wait out the rain delay, here’s a peek into what’s cooking for tonight’s notebook:


Photo: @yankeespr

The Yankees’ newest good luck charm arrived special delivery, when Shawn Kelley’s travels around the Internet led him to stumble across a frightening rubber horse head. He laughed, then forked over his credit card information.

Placing the horse head atop his uniform, Kelley surprised his teammates last Thursday by sprinting onto the outfield grass for stretch. The bulging eyeballs, the flaring nostrils and furry mane had the Yankees howling, and it all coincided with the start of a five-game winning streak.

“I just thought they were fun,” Kelley said. “I just decided to wear it out for stretch that day, and we won that game, so — you know baseball. I’ve got to wear it until we don’t win any more.”

The purchase that might be helping to turn around the Yankees’ season was delivered by, Kelley said, where the masks are currently selling for under $20 plus shipping.

“You’ve seen those things for a while, popping up in the crowd somewhere,” Kelley said. “I actually saw somebody one time on water skis with one on. I always laugh. I think it’s funny when I see somebody with a horse head on. I giggle. I thought, ‘You know what? I’m going to get one.’ Just for fun.”

Kelley said that the rubber mask, which the team is calling “Seabiscuit,” can get very hot, and that the visibility leaves something to be desired.

“I can’t see, that’s the only thing,” Kelley said. “I have to look out the nostrils and I can’t see really good. I just heard everybody giggle. I need like a GoPro [camera] on it.”

Brett Gardner said that his bruised right ankle is showing signs of improvement, and the Yankees outfielder is moving closer to returning to the lineup.

Gardner said that he planned to test his ankle on Tuesday by running for the first time since he sustained the injury on a foul ball on Saturday against the White Sox.

“I don’t have any idea how it’s going to feel, but I know it feels a whole lot better than it did yesterday,” Gardner said.

Gardner hit in the cages for a second consecutive day, having also taken swings on Monday in Kansas City. He had wanted to run the bases during batting practice, but rain forced the Yankees and Tigers to do their hitting in the underground cages at Comerica Park.

“He’ll try to get out there,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “My concern was he said he felt better but he needed to run. Gardy’s pretty tough and Gardy’s played through a lot, which made me believe that it’s probably not 100 percent, which it might not be for a while.

“This extra day will probably do us some good. My concern is that he favors it or that he gets out there and he can’t run, and then I’ve got to make a change. It can just really mess things up.”

Derek Jeter has been spending more time as a designated hitter of late, and while the retiring Yankees captain would prefer to be wearing his glove out to shortstop, he has been satisfied with staying in the lineup.

Tuesday marked Jeter’s fourth DH assignment of August, coming after he had been asked to DH only four times in the first four months of the season. Jeter points out that though he hasn’t done it much during his career, he did serve as the Yanks’ DH 25 times in 2012.

“Because of injuries, Carlos [Beltran] had to DH, so I haven’t really thought about it,” Jeter said. “My job is to come here and when I’m in the lineup, play. I like to play every day. I like to play shortstop every day. Everyone is aware of that, but I get it.

“I understand it. We’ve had a long stretch here. I think we only have a couple of more days off and then we have another long stretch at the end of the year.”

Girardi said that the lengthy stretches without an off-day, as well as upcoming matchups against left-handed pitching in which Jeter will be expected to play, factored into his thinking.

“We have a lot of lefties coming up the next five days after today where he’s going to play, so try to give him a little blow when I can,” Girardi said. “And I thought today was probably a good day. Two plane flights in two days, and as I said, we have day games after night games, so we’re going to need him in there a lot.”

Jeter’s numbers have sagged of late. After batting .277 through the first four months of the season, he entered play on Tuesday batting just .209 (18-for-86) in August, with a .227 on-base percentage and a .267 slugging percentage. Jeter’s last extra-base hit was a double on Aug. 11.

Girardi said that he does not believe there are any physical concerns with Jeter, but suggested that Beltran’s return to part-time outfield duty may allow the Yankees to have Jeter serve as the DH more often.

“I’m in the mode that I’m just taking it day by day, but with Carlos being able to go into the outfield once in a while, it gives me more flexibility to do this,” Girardi said.

Seven Yankees prospects have been added to the preliminary rosters for this year’s Arizona Fall League, which were released on Tuesday.

Right-handers Caleb Cotham, Branden Pinder and Alex Smith, infielders Greg Bird and Eric Jagielo, and outfielders Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge have all been selected to play this fall with the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Four of the seven players are currently ranked among the club’s Top 20 prospects, according to Jagielo (No. 3), Judge (No. 5), Bird (No. 11) and Austin (No. 15). Jagielo and Judge were first-round selections by the Yankees in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

In addition, the Yankees will be sending Class-A Tampa hitting coach P.J. Pilittere to Scottsdale, where he will serve in the same capacity. There is also a roster spot reserved for a Yankees catcher to be announced.

Players from the Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Pirates and Giants organizations will comprise the Scorpions roster, and the 32-game Arizona Fall League schedule begins on Oct. 7.

Masahiro Tanaka threw a bullpen on Tuesday at Comerica Park in preparation for his simulated game on Thursday, the next checkpoint of his rehab progression. Tanaka is aiming to return to the big league mound in mid to late September.

Mark Teixeira returned to the Yankees’ lineup on Tuesday after sitting out Monday’s game at Kansas City with tightness in his left hamstring.

“I think you’re always going to watch it a little bit,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I think the day off probably helped, and we just tell him to play smart. I mean, he did play smart the couple of days that he had it, so he’s just going to have to continue to do that.”

On this date in 1960, the Yankees hit five home runs in a 7-6 victory over the Indians, including Yogi Berra’s 11th inning blast off Bobby Locke to win it. It was Berra’s second homer of the day; Elston Howard, Mickey Mantle and Moose Skowron also went deep.

Day 10: Tanaka’s sim game, MLBPA meeting and more

Adam Berry here in Tampa, filling in once more for Bryan Hoch. For more updates from Yankees camp, check out or follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

 There wasn’t much activity to be seen Monday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, but it was still a busy day for the Yankees. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka threw simulated games on a back field starting at 8:30 a.m., the players held their meeting with representatives from the Major League Baseball Players Association and manager Joe Girardi looked forward to Tuesday’s unofficial Spring Training opener.

Look for much more coming on later today, but here’s a quick rundown on Day 10 at GMS Field.

TANAKA IMPRESSES: Tanaka once again drew a huge crowd when he got on the mound to pitch his simulated game, and he left everyone — from Girardi and catcher Francisco Cervelli to hitters Dean Anna, Scott Sizemore and Zelous Wheeler — singing his praises. Girardi was particularly impressed with Tanaka’s slider on Monday, while Cervelli spoke about the number of offerings Tanaka brings to the table. Tanaka, meanwhile, said he’s “pretty much ready to throw in a game.”

MLBPA MEETING: Representatives from the MLBPA held their annual meeting with the Yankees in the home clubhouse Monday morning, and executive director Tony Clark spoke with the media for about 20 minutes afterward. Alex Rodriguez was a popular topic of conversation during the media scrum, as you can imagine, but Clark said A-Rod is once again a member in good standing with the Players Association now that he’s dropped his lawsuit. “The page has been turned,” Clark said. “… He will serve the penalty that he’s been given by the arbitrator. He will come back in Spring Training ready to go, wherever that happens to be. He’s under contract to the Yankees. I would expect him to be in camp with the Yankees. Am I concerned about anything beyond that? No.”

BAILEY ARRIVES: Reliever Andrew Bailey showed up in the Yankees clubhouse Monday morning. He said he’s throwing from 120 feet and is seven months into a 12-month rehab process following shoulder surgery. As for signing with the Yankees, Bailey said, “I think it’s a good opportunity for me, and obviously if I get back to being myself, helping this team win another championship is what it’s about.”

GARDNER DEAL OFFICIAL: Brett Gardner and general manager Brian Cashman spent plenty of time discussing Gardner’s four-year, $52 million extension on Sunday, but the Yankees officially announced the deal Monday afternoon. Like Cashman, Girardi said he was excited to lock up the dynamic outfielder. “I like what he brings to the table, offensively, defensively and just his clubhouse presence,” Girardi said. “I like it. The way he plays the game, he’s a grinder.”

FSU PREVIEW: The Yankees took a bus Monday morning to their yearly team-bonding experience, a pool tournament. Before that, though, Girardi looked forward to Tuesday’s game against the Florida State Seminoles. Vidal Nuno will start, as Girardi said Sunday, but he couldn’t say off the top of his head who will pitch after that. As for the position players, expect to see Gardner, Cervelli and Kelly Johnson.

Girardi’s also looking forward to seeing one opposing player Tuesday afternoon: Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback/outfielder/reliever Jameis Winston. “Obviously he’s extremely athletic. When you watch him play the game of football, he’s got a great arm,” Girardi said. “He’s pretty mature for his age, as an athlete and what he had to go through and handle, and I’m excited to see him.”

That’s it for now, but stay tuned to today for more on each of those items. Bryan Hoch will be back in the driver’s seat tomorrow for all your Yankees news and updates.

Day 9, Part 2: Gardner, Jeter, starters and much more

Adam Berry here in Tampa, filling in for Bryan Hoch. For more updates from Yankees camp, check out or follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

It turned out to be quite an eventful day at George M. Steinbrenner Field, starting with Michael Pineda’s live BP session at 9 a.m. and ending late in the afternoon, after the news that Brett Gardner was on the verge of signing a four-year, $52 million extension with a club option for the 2019 season.

GARDY TIME: You can read all about Gardner’s extension here, but here’s an interesting answer from GM Brian Cashman that didn’t make the story, when a reporter asked about whether this extension — and Jacoby Ellsbury’s seven-year, $153 million deal — represents a new focus on defense for the Bronx Bombers.

“It’s hard to ignore what that combination can bring to the table with their speed and defense and their offensive capabilities. It creates an exciting dynamic,” Cashman said. “If you’re on the offensive side, they’re going to put pressure on the defense and get on base a lot. It’s a good move for us. It’s a move we’re very comfortable making and we’re excited he feels the same way. His character and makeup are really good, really strong.

“He’s made himself into something very special. I know Derek talked about in his press conference about how people doubted him along the way, and he has physical attributes that stand out a lot easier than a littler guy like Brett. The history of where he was, he wasn’t a perennial high school All-American or a No. 1 pick out of high school; this is a guy that had to fight and claw for everything and prove himself every step of the way. He’s continued to do it at the pro ranks and climb the ladder.

“I remember Gary Denbo in the Florida State League was like, ‘This guy is going to play center field for the Yankees one day.’ I also remember hearing scouts outside the organization say, ‘That guy will never play center field in New York.’ To some degree, because of other signings, he hasn’t had a chance to play center as much as he would have, but he’s made himself into a tremendous Major League player, and he’s got a mental toughness that we love. He’s been a great teammate, and we look forward to him performing and being all that he’s been the last few years for us going forward.”

JETER RUNS: You can read more about the Captain in today’s Yankees notebook, which should be up on soon, but the plan is to have Derek Jeter make his final Spring Training debut on Thursday against the Pirates at GMS Field. Jeter ran the bases during Sunday’s drills, and I shot this short Instagram video to prove it. I’m not going to win any awards for cinematography.

TANAKA SIGNS: No, no, not another extension. He’s all set on that front. But Masahiro Tanaka did sign autographs for a large number of fans who lined up from next to the Yankees’ dugout all the way up around the concourse. Here’s a photo of him signing for one young fan.

WAIT AND SEE: There’s an updated version of this morning’s story on Andrew Bailey here. The short version: The Yankees aren’t really expecting much, if anything, out of the former A’s and Red Sox closer this year. If he can pitch, it won’t be until August or September. If he can’t, it wasn’t a huge investment.

STARTERS SET: Manager Joe Girardi named his first four Spring Training starters on Sunday. Vidal Nuno will take the ball for the Yankees’ Spring Training opener against Florida State University on Tuesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Ivan Nova will get the start Wednesday against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla. David Phelps is scheduled to start Thursday’s game against the Pirates at Steinbrenner Field, and Adam Warren will take the mound Friday against the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Fla.

REPLAY: Girardi took part in a 2 1/2-hour meeting in Clearwater, Fla., on Saturday to discuss the expanded replay system and its rules, joining representatives from the Phillies, Blue Jays and Major League Baseball. There’s a lot more on that meeting, and Girardi’s thoughts on the new system, in today’s notebook, but here’s the manager’s initial take.

“Let me go through it a couple times to see how I feel about it. The thing is, unless you’re really 100 percent sure, you don’t really want to waste it. Some plays are so close and people are going to have opinions on plays that are so close and you really can’t tell,” Girardi said. “It opens [managers] up to more that we’re going to have to answer for. But I think it gives our game the opportunity to have more things decided on the field, which I think is a good thing. It’ll make it more interesting.”

Day 9: Bailey signing ‘welcome,’ Pineda throws BP

Adam Berry here in Tampa, filling in for Bryan Hoch. For more updates from Yankees camp, check out or follow me on Twitter @adamdberry.

In case you missed it last night, the Yankees have agreed to sign former A’s and Red Sox reliever Andrew Bailey to a Minor League deal. Bailey isn’t expected to be ready until midseason or so after undergoing shoulder surgery, but if he can stay healthy and pitch like he did for Oakland from 2009-11, he could provide another useful late-inning option for the Yankees.

“It would mean a lot; he’s a great arm. He has a lot of experience, had some good years with Oakland and some good years with Boston until he got injured,” David Robertson said. “He has a lot of experience, so any help in the bullpen is welcome.”

Robertson said he wasn’t threatened by the Yankees signing another reliever with experience closing out games. He also noted how relief roles tend to change and evolve over the course of the season, so it’s hard to tell what Bailey’s job will be by the time he’s healthy enough to pitch in the Majors.

“I look at it as helping the bullpen as a whole. Technically, I haven’t been given the closer job, so I’m just a reliever,” Robertson said. “Whatever is going to make our team stronger and help us get back to the playoffs, that works for me. I’m not going to be mad or annoyed or anything about it right now.”

Elsewhere at George M. Steinbrenner Field this morning, right-hander Michael Pineda threw his first live batting practice session of the spring. Pineda threw to catcher John Ryan Murphy and said he’s feeling “great” and that he’s just trying to get ready to pitch in games.

Murphy said Pineda had “really good” command this morning but added, “I don’t think he’s where he thinks he should be yet, but overall he was pretty good.” Murphy also said Pineda’s been focusing a lot more on his changeup, a third pitch to complement his fastball and breaking ball, and it looked pretty good today as well.

It seemed like Pineda was working a little faster than usual, at least compared to when I saw him rehabbing down here in Tampa, and he may have been a little jumpy. Murphy said pitching coach Larry Rothschild mentioned the same thing and guessed it’s just because Pineda was excited or anxious for his first live BP session.

Still, Murphy said, even now you can see Pineda’s front-line ability every time he throws a pitch.

“He’s got the electric stuff. He’s got a chance to be a high-end guy,” Murphy said. “You can see his potential every pitch.”


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