Pregame briefing: Masahiro Tanaka returns

Masahiro TanakaHello from Yankee Stadium, where the Yankees and Blue Jays will play the finale of their weekend series this afternoon at 1:05 p.m. ET. The Yankees are clinging to faint hopes in the postseason race, but they’ll be getting a good look at their 2015 plans when Masahiro Tanaka heads to the mound to make his first start since July 8 in Cleveland, having rehabbed a partial tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament.

The Yankees are curious about what they’ll have in Tanaka, and seeing him under big league conditions against the Blue Jays (and, if all goes well, probably the Red Sox at Fenway Park) could tell them a lot about if he can be counted on.

“I think it’s important for us as an organization and for him to see what we have moving forward, so I’ve been looking forward to this day,” Joe Girardi said.

There aren’t too many sure things in the ’15 rotation right now, so if Tanaka looks like he did in the first half, maybe that tempers the urgency to throw wheelbarrows of cash at guys like Jon Lester or Max Scherzer this winter.

You can watch on YES or listen on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM.

Other updates from the Yankees clubhouse:

  • Derek Jeter could play in all of the Yankees’ remaining games, Girardi said, especially now that he is swinging the bat well. Jeter is DHing this afternoon and comes in with three straight multi-hit games, one shy of his longest stretch of the season. Jeter is 6-for-13 with two runs, a double, a homer and two RBIs on his final regular season homestand.
  • Carlos Beltran (bone spur in right elbow) said that he has been encouraged to wait until after the season to have surgery. The recovery time is approximately 12 weeks, so in theory, waiting another week or so shouldn’t have much impact on his availability for Spring Training. He will have the surgery, that’s 100 percent, but perhaps he could help off the bench as a pinch-hitter in the last games of the year.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury (right hamstring strain) still hopes to get back on the field this year. He spent all day yesterday icing and said that he is working on a plan with the Yanks’ trainers. Girardi said that Ellsbury could probably pinch-hit before playing center field, but he’s probably not available today.
  • Mark Teixeira (right wrist tendinitis) will see a doctor after today’s game and said that he will ask about getting a third cortisone injection. Girardi said that Teixeira is not a player for him today.
  • Chaz Roe was designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Tanaka, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list.

Pregame briefing: “I’ve told our guys, just go out and play”

Here are the highlights from Joe Girardi’s pregame session with the media as the Yankees prepare to play the final game of a three-game series at Tropicana Field, Derek Jeter’s last career game in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.

Girardi touched upon last night’s benches-clearing incident, which was prompted when Derek Jeter was hit by a Steve Geltz pitch in the eighth inning. Jeter is the fifth Yankees hitter to be drilled in the last five meetings between New York and Tampa Bay, including a 97 mph fastball that sent Chase Headley to the hospital. 

Will we have any fireworks tonight? We’ll have to wait and see, but Girardi said that he is hoping cooler heads prevail…

Carryover from last night’s incident?: “I know I’ve told our guys just go out and play. I told Brandon McCarthy just go out and pitch. What’s happened happened. We move on. And that’s what happens in the game of baseball, it can be a takeout slide, It can be a lot of different things. Then the day turns, and it’s a different day.”

Want to retract last night’s comments?: “No, I don’t. I think we had a right to get upset, just because of what’s happened in the last four games against them. Obviously the thing that sets you off the most was the way that Chase was hit. It’s scary. That can ruin someone’s career. We see the blood that went down his neck – this is not external, it’s internal. There’s a lot of drainage there, and it’s a reminder every day what happened. It’s scary for the player, it’s scary for his teammates and family and everyone involved.”

Joe Maddon’s comment that Chase Headley got ‘grazed': “I don’t think Joe understood how hard he got hit. I think maybe he misunderstood because of Chase’s toughness, how hard he actually got hit. Like I said, you move on.”

Pitchers making hitters back off the plate: “There’s been a lot of balls that are awful high, that’s what bothers me. When a guy gets hit in the rear end, that doesn’t bother me. There was a ball up by Gardy’s head the other day too, and those bother me. I got hit in the face. And I haven’t forgotten. You do have to pitch inside. And I encourage our guys to pitch inside, but you always remind them, it has to be down. It has to be down.”

Carlos Beltran attending to family matter in New York: “He’s still attending his family matter, I told him to take care of it, when we have you, we have you.”

Mark Teixeira’s return to the lineup: “He declared himself ready. I just told him, let me when you’re ready to go. And he said he was ready.”

Jacoby Ellsbury DHing: “This guy’s been playing with an ankle sprain for a month or three weeks or two weeks, whatever it’s been. On the turf it’s probably even rougher, so I figured I’d give him a DH day.”

Derek Jeter pressing?: “I don’t know if it’s so much his career (as) where he wants to be — back to the playoffs. I think that’s the No. 1 goal in his mind. I don’t think he would say there’s possibly this many games left. I think Jeet is going to fight to the end. That’s who he is. That’s who he’s always been. I think that’s the frustrating part.”

Upcoming homestand will be all about Jeter: “I think there’s going to be that no matter what. He’s meant just so much to this organization in the way he’s represented it, what he’s been on the field, and that way he’s represented it off the field. I think when you look at a Derek Jeter when you’re a parent of a young child, they think, I want to be that guy. Twenty years in the big leagues. Played hard every day. Never got in trouble. He just did things the right way. That’s what you want, and that’s what he’s done. And I think fans are really appreciative of that. They haven’t read things where he’s been in trouble or accused of things. He just hasn’t done it.”

Orioles win the American League East: “They played great. They played better than all of us, and they went out and earned it. They do a lot of things right. I know they don’t have that fancy name who you would declare an ace, but their pitching is really good. Their starters are really, really good, and they’ve pitched well. Their bullpen is good. They play great defense. They hit home runs. They run the bases. And I think you have to give a lot of credit to the two guys who filled in for Wieters. They did a really good job. I think sometimes people get worried when you lose a guy like that that’s been such a staple there. Those guys did a really good job.”

Yankees Notebook for Sept. 11

Last game: Yankees 8, Rays 5. This had to be the unlikeliest win of the year, as the Yankees trailed by four runs before their first turn at-bat. Chris Capuano managed to get just one out – a first inning extended by Mark Teixeira’s misplay of a pop-up, but the Yankees rallied for their biggest comeback win of the season, erasing a deficit of four or more runs for the first time all year. Brian McCann homered and drove in three runs, Chris Young also went deep as part of a three-hit performance and Teixeira legged out a go-ahead ‘triple.’ The bullpen was splendid, holding the Rays to a run over 8 2/3 innings. It was basically a micro version of the comeback the Yankees would need to pull off over the next three weeks.

Postseason picture: With 19 games remaining on the schedule, the Yankees (74-69) open play tonight 4 1/2 games behind the Tigers (80-66) for the second Wild Card. They’d have to go 15-4 to get to 89 wins. Baseball Prospectus gives the Yankees a 1.3% chance of winning the Wild Card.

Headlines

If you’ve got tickets for this weekend’s games against the Blue Jays in the Bronx, there’s a good chance Masahiro Tanaka might be on the mound. Tanaka will pitch in an Instructional League game on Monday in Tampa, Fla., and if that goes well, the Yankees are ready to let him try his stuff against a big league lineup.

It has been inevitable that Carlos Beltran will need surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow, and after Beltran was scratched from last night’s lineup with discomfort, it looks like his season may be over. They’ll give it a day or two to see if the elbow calms down on its own, but Beltran has already had three cortisone shots – a fourth is not an option. If this is the end of the year for Beltran, a strong April turned into a disappointing first season in pinstripes – .236 batting average, 15 homers and 49 RBIs in 106 games.

They said it

“I’m certainly not going to forget it. I’m upset about it. But the team did a great job to come back and actually win that game. You do, as a player, you do have to put those behind you and get ready for your next one.” – Chris Capuano

“We know we can’t waste any innings and tonight I felt like we put together great at bats from the first inning on to the eighth.” – Brian McCann

“Down 4-0, sometimes four runs is all they need to win, but we’ve had that plenty of times. There’s no panic and we slowly got the job done as the game went on.” – Mark Teixeira

“It was amazing. We have a resilient group of guys out there and I think the main thing is for the pitching staff to be able to come up and throw seven zeroes on the board for us, just to give us the opportunity to get ourselves back in the game. It was huge for us. We battled our way, one run here, one run there, and next thing you know we’re back in the game.” – Chris Young

Up next

The Rays and Yankees play the final game of their three game series tonight. Michael Pineda (3-4, 1.80) goes for the Yankees; Alex Cobb (9-7, 2.83) for the Rays. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. Here’s the game preview.

Beat the Streak

I’m going with Mark Teixeira, who is 4-for-9 lifetime vs. Cobb. Current streak is at four after McCann homered last night.

Pregame briefing: Yankees vs. Rays (Game 143)

The Yankees and the Rays will continue their three-game series tonight here at Yankee Stadium, with left-hander Chris Capuano (2-3, 4.46) getting the start for New York opposite right-hander Jake Odorizzi (10-11, 3.84). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET; Yankees TV is on YES and Yankees radio is on WFAN 660 AM/101.9 FM.

New York has lost four of seven games on this homestand. Carlos Beltran was scratched from tonight’s lineup around 5:30 p.m. ET with soreness in his right elbow.

Here are the highlights from manager Joe Girardi’s pregame session with the media:

How do you keep your optimism against the bleak playoff odds?

“It’s happened before. It’s very difficult, but it’s happened before. You can only control the things you can control, so go control them. And then worry about where you fall later.”

Pitching for Baltimore series…

Brandon McCarthy in Friday’s first game, TBA in second game (could be a bullpen game with Chase Whitley, Esmil Rogers, Bryan Mitchell, etc.). Shane Greene on Saturday, Hiroki Kuroda on Sunday night.

Brett Gardner update…

“He has the abdominal strain. He’ll be out a few more days at least because that can become something that’s fairly serious. We’re giving him a few more days and we’ll go from there.”

“There’s always concern because of how hard these guys play and the way they play, and speed’s a huge part of their game. Sometimes when you have that type of speed, you’re subject to some injuries. Obviously if you’re a base stealer, you’re going to be subject to more hand injuries and those sort of things. Yeah, it’s a concern, but he has not missed a whole lot of games this year, and he really has played a whole season. He has not been on the DL. I don’t think, if this was (in the middle of) the regular season, I don’t think this would probably be a DL. Not at this point.”

David Phelps update…

“Our hope is to bring him back maybe when we go to Baltimore. He’ll throw a bullpen today. He threw a simulated game, and our hope is to bring him back in Baltimore. He would be in the bullpen, a guy that I could use an inning, inning-plus, then I’d have to give him some days off after that.”

Martin Prado update…

“I don’t want him to do too much running, as I told him. I said, ‘Go through BP, take some BP, see how you feel and we’ll go from there. As I said yesterday, there’s a concern there. I don’t think he’s ready to go, but we’re going to let him take some BP.”

“Our feeling is we’ll get him back, it’s just not today. It’s going to take a few days.”

Masahiro Tanaka update…

“He will throw a bullpen again Friday. He felt pretty good today. He’ll throw in a game Monday in Tampa at the minor-league facility.”

More on last night’s play with Stephen Drew/Rule 7.13…

“I think, to me, the confusion comes for the base runner. I don’t think catchers have changed a whole lot. The confusion comes for the base runner where they’re encouraged to slide. And I understand that, and I’ve said all along I think the intent of the rule is a really good idea, but you worry. You worry about them getting hurt now. And I think that’s the hard part. That’s why I’ve said, let’s go back to the way it was, and if a guy goes out of his way to run over a catcher, you’re suspended.”

Have you told your runners to knock the catcher over?

“If that’s your only choice to score the run. That was allowed last week, two weeks ago. Guys knew that. If that’s your only choice, and you feel that you can knock the ball loose, we’re playing for something. That’s the confusion of the rule. You’re encouraging them to slide, but you also want your guys to play all out and get to a playoff spot. So what do you do?”

How is that different?

“It’s not different. It’s not different. And I’ve told our players, it’s not different. If the guy’s blocking the plate, you’re allowed to run him over. The only thing that was different, in a sense, was if he’s not blocking the plate, don’t run him over, because you are subject to being suspended. The rule, in a sense, for the base runners has not changed. But then again, they’ve been encouraged, we want you all to slide. That’s what the rule was originally going to be, you almost had to slide. But then that became confusing. It will be interesting to see what happens this winter. I’m curious.”

More notes –

Derek Jeter has played in 2,730 games with the Yankees, tied for eighth place on the all-time list of players who have played all of their games with one team…with tonight’s game, he will surpass the Giants’ Mel Ott for sole possession of eighth place all time. 

Over their last six games (since 9/3), Yankees relievers have tossed 20.2 scoreless innings (7H, 3BB, 25K)…marks the longest scoreless stretch by Yankees relievers since a span of 28.0IP from 5/5-15/13 (credit: Elias Sports Bureau). … In their last 17G (since 8/22), have produced a 1.20 ERA (52.2IP, 7ER) and held opponents to a .166 batting average (30-for-181, 12BB, 65K).

Since 8/1, Ichiro Suzuki is batting .342 (25-for-73), the third-highest mark in the AL in that span (min. 70AB).

Yankees Notebook for Sept. 10

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Last game: Rays 4, Yankees 3. Hiroki Kuroda turned in his shortest start of the season, and the decisive play in the game turned out to be a fifth-inning tag at home plate in which Stephen Drew was called out on a tag by catcher Ryan Hanigan.

At the Yankees’ urging, the umpires reviewed the call for a possible violation of Rule 7.13, which MLB had clarified earlier in the day via a memorandum sent to all 30 clubs. The call on the field was confirmed, Drew was out, and the Yankees went quietly the rest of the way against the Rays bullpen as the one-run lead held up.

My very quick take on that: Third-base coach Rob Thomson put the blame on himself for sending Drew in that situation, and he’s right, it was a terrible send. Now, Rule 7.13 or not, the throw was coming directly to home plate from left field, so I’m not sure where you’d want Hanigan to set up. It’s a clean baseball play that has worked that way for more than a century, and not to oversimplify it, but … Drew never touched home plate. He should be out, same way he’d have been in 2013, or in tee-ball, Little League or whatever level you want to talk about.

Joe Girardi said that he told his players to run the catcher over in the future. Mark Teixeira was pleased that the home plate collision rule seems to be going back to the way it was in ’13 and prior.

Postseason picture: With 20 games remaining on the schedule, the Yankees (73-69) open play tonight 5 1/2 games behind the Royals (79-64) and Tigers (80-65) for the second Wild Card, also needing to jump the Mariners, Blue Jays and Indians. They’d have to go 16-4 to get to 89 wins. Baseball Prospectus gives the Yankees a 0.7% chance of winning the Wild Card.

Headlines

Masahiro Tanaka threw 45 pitches in a simulated game yesterday at Yankee Stadium, and the organization seems to be getting excited about the idea that Tanaka will be able to return to make at least one start this season. It may not mean much in the standings by then, the way things are looking, but it’d be good for Tanaka’s peace of mind as he heads back to Japan for what the Yankees hope is a normal offseason. If you can’t count on Tanaka to be in the Opening Day rotation for 2015, you’d rather know that for planning purposes now.

The Yankees are adding an Appalachian League affiliate for 2015; say hello to the Pulaski Yankees. Brian Cashman and Reggie Jackson were in Virginia yesterday for the announcement. The Yankees haven’t decided if the Pulaski team will replace one of their two Gulf Coast League clubs or if it’ll be in addition to them. The Appy League could be a good landing spot for prospects who come out of the Draft from high school.

There is no timetable for Brett Gardner (abdominal strain) and Martin Prado (hamstring strain) return to the lineup.

Jamal Collier was at the Yogi Berra Museum for the unveiling of an exhibit honoring Pete Frates, one of the driving forces behind the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Derek Jeter played in his 2,730th career game, tying the New York Giants’ Mel Ott for eighth place all time among Major Leaguers who played all of their games with one team…also ties Ott for the most games by any player for a New York Major League Baseball team (credit: Elias).

They said it

“If I had to do it again, I’d probably do it the other way because of the outcome. It’s over and done with and can’t do [anything] about it, but like I said, just looking at the review, it was kind of hard. As a runner, in your mind, you can tell that what I saw was, there’s nowhere to go. The only other alternative was just old school way, knock him out.” – Stephen Drew

“Just a bad send. Just an error on my judgment. I take full responsibility for it. We’re all accountable around here. It just wasn’t a good decision. Nobody out, the middle of the lineup coming to the plate, I’ve got to stop him right there. I thought the outfielder was going a little bit further to the line, he came up and squared up pretty quick. I should’ve stopped him.” – Rob Thomson

“They sent out a memo today that you basically can [block the plate] if you have the ball in plenty of time. That’s been in the rule book forever, but you almost have to encourage the runner to run him over there and that’s what they’re trying to get away from. I wish they would just say it’s back to normal and if you go out of your way to run the catcher over, you’re suspended. You know, I almost feel like you have to instruct your runners to run the guy over because every advantage is almost to the catcher now.” – Joe Girardi

“We are in a crucial time right now, we are in must-win situations, and the fact that I couldn’t contribute is disappointing.” – Hiroki Kuroda

Up next

The Rays and Yankees play the second game of their three game series tonight. The scheduled starters are Chris Capuano (1-2, 4.40) for the Yankees and Jake Odorizzi (10-11, 3.84) for the Rays. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. ET. Here’s the game preview.

Beat the Streak

I’m going with Brian McCann, who is 3-for-5 lifetime vs. Odorizzi. Current streak is at three after Jacoby Ellsbury homered last night.

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