Support the ‘stache: Brett Gardner sparks hairy situation

Mark Teixeira, Brett GardnerThe fuel for the Yankees’ recent winning streak can be traced to a moment of inspiration in a bathroom mirror at Tropicana Field. At least, that’s how Brett Gardner tells the story.

Gardner is leading the charge behind a sprouting band of mustaches in the Yankees’ clubhouse, most of which have been permitted to take root while the team has reeled off seven wins in eight games going into Saturday’s Subway Series game against the Mets.

“It’s been going a little longer than you would think,” Gardner said. “It takes me a while to get it going, but ever since Tampa we’ve just been playing good. I kind of stuck with it and some other guys followed suit.”

Gardner has convinced Dellin Betances, Jacoby Ellsbury, Chase Headley, Garrett Jones, Brian McCann, Esmil Rogers and Mark Teixeira, among others, to grow some facial hair as a show of team unity. The Yankees’ long-standing policy permits growth above the lip.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of thought behind it, to be honest,” said Gardner, who said that his is the result of eight days’ growth. “We can’t grow beards, but we can grow a mustache. CC (Sabathia) is like four years ahead of everybody.”

Mark TeixeiraMost of the results have been patchy; Teixeira chuckled and said that his is coming in slowly but surely, while Gardner said that Rogers has produced the best results. Of his thin growth, Ellsbury said, “I’m just trying to stay warm.”

The Yankees agreed that Betances’ mustache was the weakest so far; suffice it to say, it will not remind anyone of Jason Giambi’s 2008 ‘Support the ‘Stache’ All-Star Final Vote campaign anytime soon.

“I have no facial hair; I’m still a baby,” said Betances, 27. “I’ve never tried to grow a mustache. Mine is the worst one.”

Gardner said that he is trying to convince Alex Rodriguez to join the mustache club, and asked reporters to apply some pressure. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Gardner has tried to rope him in as well.

“I thought about it,” Girardi said. “He has asked me about it, so we’ll see. I have to answer to someone at home.”

Joe Girardi on Carlos Beltran: “I know he’s frustrated”

Carlos BeltranThe second season with the Yankees has, to Carlos Beltran’s chagrin, started with much the same feeling as the first.

Beltran went 0-for-3 with a walk in Friday’s Subway Series opener against the Mets, dropping his batting average to .173 through 14 games, and manager Joe Girardi said that he believes the 38-year-old Beltran is capable of more than he has shown.

“I know he’s frustrated. He had a couple of big hits the other day [in Detroit],” Girardi said. “It’s been a little bit harder left-handed for him, but I really believe he’s going to get going; I do. He probably needs a break here and there and it’ll start happening for him.”

Girardi opted to start Chris Young, who is batting .357 with four homers and nine RBIs, on Saturday against Mets right-hander Matt Harvey.

The Yankees envisioned using the switch-hitting Beltran regularly as their No. 3 hitter and right fielder, but it is possible that if Beltran continues to struggle, Young could eat into his playing time.

“With him swinging so well, we’re looking for ways,” Girardi said of Young.

Beltran has said that his surgically repaired right elbow is not giving him any problems, having had a bone spur removed last September that painfully hindered his first season in pinstripes. Beltran has also been affected by two bouts with illness, one in Spring Training and one last week when the Yankees were in St. Petersburg.

“I’m sure it hasn’t helped. I thought he was still somewhat weak in Detroit,” Girardi said. “At the end of the road trip it was still [there], a little bit, the chest cold. I think he’s better now. But he’s really important to our offense and we have to get him going.”

All aboard! First-place Yanks, Mets ride Subway tonight

Alex Rodriguez, Terry CollinsThis Subway Series is a battle of winners: this marks the first time that the Mets and Yankees have gone head-to-head with each club owning at least a share of first place in their respective divisions, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“Definitely, I think it’s great for the city,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “You look at the Mets and they’ve won 11 in a row and had a perfect homestand. Obviously it’s very exciting over there. And then the way we’ve played the last seven games to go out on this road trip, we’re excited about what we’re doing. I think it’s really good for the city.”

This showdown will come with a new generation of players. For the first time, neither roster will include a player who was active for that first Yankees-Mets game in 1997. These teams split four games in 2014, with each team winning two games in the opponents’ ballpark.

Michael Pineda (2-0, 5.00) will try for his third consecutive victory tonight, taking on the Mets’ Jacob deGrom (2-1, 0.93). It’s going to be a chilly night in the Bronx, with game-time temperatures expected to be in the high 30s. Here are some quick hits as we get ready for the first of three:

  • Bernie Williams, Jean AftermanBernie Williams announced his retirement (finally!) in a press conference tonight. Accompanied by GM Brian Cashman and assistant GM Jean Afterman, Williams signed a Minor League contract with the Class-A Staten Island Yankees, paused for a few seconds, then put pen to paper on his MLB retirement papers. Williams’ last game was in October 2006, and his next stop is enshrinement in Monument Park on May 24.
  • Looking at the top five hitters in the Mets lineup, which has lefties in Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy, Girardi said that it is possible he could reverse his eighth and ninth inning bullpen alignment. Thus far, Andrew Miller is 6-for-6 in save chances, while Dellin Betances has been working in the seventh and eighth innings. Miller and Betances have combined to throw 16 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run.
  • Chris Young isn’t in the lineup tonight, but he was among the most popular people on the field during batting practice. Young’s time with the Mets was a disappointment, as much for him as for the team, but he has found a new home here in the Bronx. “It was a fresh start and that’s all you can attribute it to,” he said. “A few balls dropped my way and I got some opportunities to play on a consistent basis. I was able to find my way a little bit.”
  • Happy 38th birthday, Carlos Beltran. He’s a .241 hitter with two homers in 13 games on his birthday.
  • The meaning of the Subway Series, according to Girardi: “I think it’s bragging rights for an evening and then it’s bragging rights for an entire offseason. I know fans for both clubs. I know people who are friends of mine are Mets fans, and I have to listen to them, so it’s really important to me, too.”

Here are the lineups:

METS (13-3)
Curtis Granderson rf
Juan Lagares cf
Lucas Duda 1b
Michael Cuddyer dh
Daniel Murphy 2b
Eric Campbell 3b
Wilmer Flores ss
Kevin Plawecki c
Kirk Nieuwenhuis lf

Jacob deGrom rhp

YANKEES (9-7)
Jacoby Ellsbury cf
Brett Gardner lf
Alex Rodriguez dh
Mark Teixeira 1b
Brian McCann c
Carlos Beltran rf
Chase Headley 3b
Stephen Drew 2b
Didi Gregorius ss

Michael Pineda rhp

Next stop for Yankees: The Subway Series

When the schedule first was released last season, I will admit to circling this weekend’s Yankees-Mets tilt and thinking, ‘Really? April is much too early for the Subway Series.’ Shows what I know: it turns out, this is actually the perfect time for the Yankees and the Mets to meet head to head. Good job, schedule-makers!

If a few of these past Subway showdowns are any indication, we could be in for some wild fun this weekend:

The Yankees are hot, coming back off a long road trip having won six of their last seven games, including taking three of four from a very strong Tigers club in Detroit. The Mets are even hotter, having tied a franchise record with 11 consecutive victories — something they haven’t done 1990, the days of Straw & Doc.

You’re going to hear a lot this weekend about the Yankees trying to maintain their hold on the city, the Mets trying to rip it away. There might be some truth to that. You can make the case that, with their own expectations now sky-high, the Mets have more to lose this weekend than the Yankees do. Anthony DiComo has more on MLB.com.

Power arms, anyone? Michael Pineda and Jacob DeGrom will be on the mound tonight, CC Sabathia and Matt Harvey go at it on Saturday afternoon and the Sunday night matchup pits Nathan Eovaldi against Jonathan Niese. See you at the ballpark.

Call it a career: Bernie Williams to formally retire

Bernie WilliamsEven though he played his final Major League game in 2006, having jumped into a successful music career and twice appeared on Hall of Fame ballots, Bernie Williams always enjoyed ribbing his former teammates with the running joke that he had still not officially retired from baseball.  

Now, as the Yankees embrace their post-‘Core Four’ era — a group that should properly include Williams, if only someone had coined a catchy nickname that rhymed with ‘five’ — Williams is ready to formally sign his retirement papers. The ceremony will take place on Friday evening at Yankee Stadium.

Williams will be joined by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman at the event. The Yankees will unveil a logo related to the retirement of Williams’ No. 51 and his Monument Park plaque dedication, which will take place on May 24 prior to the Yankees’ game against the Rangers.

Additionally on Friday ─ in an on-field ceremony at approximately 6:45 p.m. ─ the Hard Rock Cafe will debut a souvenir pin that honors Williams. Fifteen percent of net sales from the pins will go to Hillside Food Outreach (www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org).

A four-time World Series winner, five-time American League All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner who is the Yankees’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), Williams will also throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game vs. the Mets.

Williams played his entire 16-year Major League career with the Yankees (1991-2006), batting .297 in 2,076 games. In franchise history, the former centerfielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits (2,336), sixth in games played and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257).

In franchise history, the former centerfielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits (2,336), sixth in games played and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257).  

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