The Yankees recalled infielder Zelous Wheeler from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and immediately slotted him as the designated hitter for Thursday’s series finale against the Astros.
Wheeler, 27, has batted .267 with two home runs and three RBIs in 16 games with New York this season.
The Yankees needed another position player because of Carlos Beltran’s recurring right elbow injury; Beltran received a cortisone injection in the elbow on Wednesday and is unlikely to play before Saturday.
“With Carlos being an uncertainty for a day or two, we felt that we could use the extra bat,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We’re seeing a lot of lefties, so we brought him up.”
With Beltran out on Wednesday, Girardi had only Francisco Cervelli and Brendan Ryan available on the bench. In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees optioned right-hander Chase Whitley to Triple-A; Whitley is 4-3 with a 5.43 ERA in 19 big league games (12 starts) this year.
There is frustration in the Yankees’ clubhouse and has been for some time, Girardi said, but the manager continues to believe that the players in his lineup are good enough to turn it around.
“The effort is there every day,” Girardi said. “Yesterday, we had seven or eight guys hitting early trying to figure this out and get going. So I will be optimistic as long as they continue to prepare correctly and they work hard.”
Girardi has struggled to come up with an underlying cause for the problems with runners in scoring position. The Yankees were a combined 2-for-17 in the first two games of the Astros series and have batted .248 in those situations all year, ranking 10th in the American League.
“I look at it as guys being able to take the same approach, the same at-bat, relax when there’s runners on, when there’s not runners on,” Girardi said. “I haven’t seen anything that tells me that they’re squeezing the bat or trying too hard.”
Catcher Brian McCann agreed with that, saying that he did not see signs of pressing.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I just think we’re not getting it done.”
So if that’s the case and the results still aren’t coming, what is left for a manager to do?
“You keep running guys out there and believe it’s going to change,” Girardi said. “Eventually it’s going to be right and it’s going to be consistent over a long period.”
Masahiro Tanaka is scheduled to throw live batting practice on Saturday. Girardi said that his expectation is the session will take place at Yankee Stadium.
David Phelps, currently on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation, will work back to the club as a reliever. Phelps is scheduled to play catch again on Thursday and expects to be throwing off a mound within the next week.
“I think at this stage, we’re going day-by-day,” Phelps said. “We’ll hopefully amp it up when we get through this week. I took two weeks off, it’s not like I’ll be on the mound this weekend.”
On this date in 1988, the Yankees dedicated Monument Park plaques to former catchers Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra. On this date in 2013, Ichiro Suzuki recorded his 4,000th professional hit (including 1,278 in Japan) with a first-inning single off the Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey.
Some way to celebrate Joe Girardi bobblehead night, huh?
Depending on your viewpoint, there was a fairly interesting and/or entertaining exchange between Girardi and a writer near the tail end of tonight’s postgame press conference, involving Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury. After the loss, the Yanks’ seventh in nine games, Kevin Kernan of the New York Post asked if Girardi was having any thoughts of shifting lineups.
“Well, we’ve talked about this before,” Girardi replied. “What would you like me to do?”
Kernan quickly replied that he’d do some things differently, pointing out that Ellsbury seems to be miscast as a No. 3 hitter.
“So then what do I do?” Girardi replied. “Gardy’s been pretty good in the 1-slot, Ellsbury’s done a pretty good job in the 3 slot. We’ve been forced to do it because of some of the things that have happened physically here. You can think about putting him 1, but then where do you put Gardy?”
“You could think about doing that. Then where are you going to put Jeet?” Girardi said. “Those three guys have probably been our most consistent hitters all year long. You definitely don’t want lefties back to back.”
So, Girardi confirmed, he’s not thinking about mixing things up as far as the lineup is concerned. If you want to see Gardner and Ellsbury hit back-to-back, it sounds like that’s something we can talk about in 2015. Jeter has been seeing a little more time as the designated hitter lately, but he’s securely locked into that two-spot.
(By the way, Jeter went 2-for-4 with a walk tonight. Oh, and they had essentially a one-man bench with Brendan Ryan as the only playable non-catcher.)
It’s fun to write out alternate lineups, and there has definitely been a fair share of turnover in the Yankee orders this year – by necessity more than choice, but all the same, they’ve tried different formulas. You look at the names in this lineup and it’s a mystery why it hasn’t turned around by now; this isn’t a small sample size, preseason football is already on the tube.
Really, here is Girardi’s bottom line, and it came from the first question in the press conference: “We’ve got to find a way to score more than two runs. It’s hard to win when you only score two runs.” Yep, I’d agree with that. They’re now five games behind the Tigers for the second Wild Card with 38 games left to play. The math is against them in more ways than one.
Masahiro Tanaka’s rehab is going so well, he feels comfortable describing his progress without the help of a translator.
“Good,” Tanaka told a group of reporters in English. “Better.”
Tanaka returned to his normal interview protocol for the details of today’s session, but the right-hander is clearly excited about his situation. Tanaka threw 35 pitches in the Yankee Stadium bullpen, a mix of fastballs, curveballs and sliders. He also snapped off five splitters, which is fairly significant considering the torque that Tanaka’s signature pitch requires.
“It went well, but it was actually my first time throwing breaking balls – something other than fastballs – in the bullpen, so I felt it was a little bit rusty,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “I’ll have to brush that up a little bit.”
Manager Joe Girardi said that the Yankees have no plans to ask Tanaka for another MRI, checking on the progress of his right ulnar collateral ligament tear. As long as Tanaka continues to feel no discomfort, they will continue his program, which could soon advance to live batting practice, then simulated games and possibly Minor League games. Their hope is to get him on the big league mound in September.
“The fact that he felt good today was encouraging,” Girardi said. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow; obviously that’s really important. But he was able to throw his curveball, his slider and his split; I watched it and he looked pretty good.”
Carlos Beltran was in the original Yankees lineup tonight, but it never made it off of Joe Girardi’s desk. Beltran informed the club that he is having more issues with discomfort in his right elbow, and he has been scheduled to see team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad tonight.
Beltran has been dealing with this issue since May, and swinging the bat will occasionally create a sensation in the elbow. This situation is different because it continued overnight, Girardi said.
“I took him out of the lineup, he’ll see the doctor and we’ll find out what’s going on,” Girardi said. “I’m sure it’s much of the same of what he had going on before, but for whatever reason it was a little worse today in a sense that he still felt it whereas other times he didn’t.”
Girardi said that it is too early to call this a major setback, and hopes that Beltran can return to the lineup in a day or two. Girardi also said that he doesn’t draw a link between Beltran’s return to outfield duty and the recurrence of the injury.
“No, because he’s felt it on swings, not in the outfield,” Girardi said. “He didn’t really have a lot of action in the outfield, so he didn’t really have to make any throws or anything like that. It seems to be more from a swing than from throwing.”
Yankees catcher Brian McCann was activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list on Sunday, starting behind the plate for the team’s series finale against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
McCann sustained the concussion when he was hit in the mask by a foul tip in an Aug. 8 game against the Indians in New York. Manager Joe Girardi said that it was nice to have McCann’s bat back in the lineup.
“It makes it deeper, and obviously it’s a guy that has power,” Girardi said. “It’s really good to be able to put him back there because any time someone goes through something like he went through, we’re always concerned. But he feels good and he’s back in there.”
Catcher Austin Romine was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to create room for McCann, who has batted .238 with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs in 103 games this season.
Masahiro Tanaka played catch on Sunday at Tropicana Field and reported no issues, one day after throwing 25 fastballs off a bullpen mound.
“Real encouraged,” Girardi said. “That was the first thing I asked; ‘How does he feel today?’ The fact he went out and played his long toss tells me he feels good. And we’ll continue to go forward.”
Girardi said that Tanaka is scheduled to throw another bullpen next week, and will be allowed to spin some curveballs in that session. The Yankees are targeting a September return to the big league mound for the 25-year-old rookie.
“He’s had no twinges or anything,” pitching coach Larry Rothschild said. “You stay optimistic until you know otherwise. We’ll just keep progressing the program as it’s set up and just go from there.”
Rothschild compared the intensity of Saturday’s session to the first day of Spring Training, and said that he was watching Tanaka’s facial expressions to see if he was trying to hide any discomfort. Tanaka’s mechanics in the bullpen looked smooth, he said.
“It is what it is. You just take it a step at a time and progress with it,” Rothschild said. “Would I rather have him had three, four or five starts right now? Yeah. These things crop up; as we’ve seen this year in baseball too often. You’re just not going to know until he gets through it all and he’s in games. Even then, you have to keep an eye on it.”
Serving as the designated hitter is not Derek Jeter’s favorite assignment in the lineup, but it’s still preferable to a full day off for the Yankees captain.
Jeter was in the lineup as New York’s DH for a second straight day on Sunday, with Stephen Drew filling in at shortstop. Carlos Beltran played a second game in right field, moving Martin Prado to second base.
“I don’t DH much,” Jeter said. “You go in the cage between at-bats. That’s about it. It’s not something that I do a lot of. To be honest with you, I’m not sure how people do it. I just run out of things to do.”
This marks Jeter’s sixth game of the year as a DH, and the 63rd of his career.
“I’m not thinking too much of it,” Girardi said. “I figure it’s a chance to do it. Turf can be rough on people. We’re going to get into another long stretch, so I chose to do it that way.”
Girardi said that having Beltran as an outfield option will increase the flexibility in assigning DH days, though he still will play Prado often in right field. There were days that Girardi wanted to give Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury DH days but wasn’t able to.
“Now that we’ve got Carlos in the outfield, we could rotate the DH a little bit more,” Girardi said. “I’ll still DH Carlos plenty, but felt it was a chance to give Jeet a week where he could catch up.”
David Robertson has converted 20 straight save opportunities since June 5, the longest active streak in the Majors. He is the fifth pitcher in Yankees history to convert 20 or more in a row, joining Mariano Rivera, John Wetteland, Dave Righetti and Goose Gossage. Rivera owns the franchise record with 36 straight saves converted in 2009.
On this date in 1976, Graig Nettles hit a ninth-inning home run on the first pitch from the Rangers’ Tommy Boggs, giving the Yankees a 2-1 walk-off victory at Yankee Stadium. Doyle Alexander pitched a complete game for the Bombers.