Nuno rewards Girardi’s faith with strong outing

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.

Nuno’s on the mound; Girardi explains why

It would be accurate to say that Joe Girardi has become frustrated with having to defend his decision to give the ball to Vidal Nuno tonight in the opener of a three-game series against the Red Sox.

It was suggested during this afternoon’s pre-game press conference that Girardi could have used Thursday’s off-day to skip Nuno and have Masahiro Tanaka start the series opener, in both a nod to Nuno’s recent struggles (0-2 with an 11.57 ERA in his last two starts) and his poor record at Yankee Stadium (0-4, 6.14 ERA).

Girardi bristled a bit at the question — “I’m going to say this the last time today. The last time, because I’ve answered this question 10 times. I’m not irritated, but I don’t understand” — and then laid out his thinking, providing a good synopsis of the Yankees’ current rotation picture:

“Tanaka is a guy, the most he’s thrown is 226 innings. He’s on pace to throw 226 innings. He’s been a guy that’s used to pitching every seven days. I’ve been asked over the last, I don’t know, eight months, a hundred times, do you think Kuroda got tired? Hmm. Do you think Kuroda got tired? Huh. I have a guy in Chase Whitley that’s made 20 starts in his career. Most he’s ever thrown in a year is 95 innings. David Phelps is not a guy that’s been a starter every year, so it’s about five guys.

“It’s not about Tanaka. If I move Tanaka up today, he makes six starts in 30 days, every five days. What starter does that? We don’t play more than 20 days in a row. No starters do that because it’s physically too tough, so when you have a chance to give a guy an extra day, you do. He’s going to make four starts. Three on everyday rest. So are some of the other guys. I have to be careful. It’s a long season. And if I start him today or tomorrow, he still makes the same number of starts before the All-Star break. So I’m going to say last, this is about five guys, it’s not about one guy. Question answered.”

And there you go. Nuno & Brandon Workman will be on the mound, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET. You can watch on YES and the MLB Network.

 

RED SOXBrock Holt RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Jonny Gomes LF
A.J. Pierzynski C
Xander Bogaerts 3B
Stephen Drew SS
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Brandon Workman RHP (1-0, 2.88)

YANKEESBrett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran DH
Brian McCann C
Brian Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Kelly Johnson 3B

Vidal Nuno LHP (1-4, 5.88)

Here come the Red Sox

A big three game series kicks off tonight in the Bronx. Here are the pitching matchups we’ll be seeing as the Yankees and Red Sox renew acquaintances:

Friday
LHP Vidal Nuno (1-4, 5.88) vs. RHP Brandon Workman (1-0, 2.88)
7:05 p.m., YES and MLB Network

Saturday
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (11-2, 2.11) vs. LHP Jon Lester (8-7, 3.14)
7:15 p.m., FOX

Sunday
RHP Chase Whitley (3-1, 4.07) vs. RHP John Lackey (8-5, 3.45)
8:05 p.m., ESPN

We’ll have more from Yankee Stadium later this afternoon.

Here is the Yankees lineup:

Gardner 7 Jeter 6 Ellsbury 8 Teixeira 3 Beltran DH McCann 2 Roberts 4 Ichiro 9 Johnson 5 Nuno LHP

Happy birthday, Derek Jeter

Derek JeterIt’s officially time to wish Derek Jeter a happy 40th birthday, and he should be in a good mood after the Yankees snapped a four-game losing streak last night.

With the team off tonight, the stars have aligned for Jeter to celebrate the big milestone in grand style. Our invite seems to have been lost in the mail, but we’d expect nothing less than a big bash to remember — not that you’ll ever squeeze the details out of him.

“I’m pretty sure some family and friends will do something,” he said yesterday, “like they do for every one of my birthdays and their birthdays.”

It wouldn’t be accurate to say that the Yankees captain has been looking forward to this day. In fact, one reason that Jeter was so thrilled with Ichiro Suzuki’s arrival a couple of years ago was that he could point over to the speedy outfielder’s locker and identify the oldest player on the team.

Jeter detests talking about his age, but he has flashed some good humor in recent weeks. At the conclusion of the series in Oakland, a Bay Area reporter tried to force in a question about the A’s pitching staff, asking Jeter how it compared to the Barry Zito/Tim Hudson/Mark Mulder rotations that his Yankees faced “earlier in the century.” Jeter tried, but couldn’t contain a laugh.

“You lost me at century,” he said.

Fortunately, that hasn’t been true for the Yankees. The bulk of Jeter’s baseball story has already been written; the final chapter started this spring when Jeter sat down and personally pored over each sentence of a surprise retirement announcement that would appear on the Facebook page of his Turn 2 Foundation.

After missing most of last season due to injuries, it was fair to have questions about how Jeter would hold up in this age 40 season, a rare age for a shortstop to still be playing his original position — or playing at all. The Yankees’ fears were calmed when Jeter seemed to be running without issue, and though he has had some lapses in this final season, Joe Girardi has stuck with Jeter at the top of the lineup. He has rewarded that faith by hitting .321 (18-for-56) with three doubles, a homer and five RBIs in his last 14 games.

“You don’t see people play until they’re 40,” Girardi said. “If they are, it’s usually in a different league. It’s pretty remarkable, the career he’s had and what he’s been able to do. I tip my cap to him.”

This also more or less marks the halfway point of Jeter’s final run (don’t call it a farewell tour, he hates that, because in his view it implies the Yankees aren’t still trying to win). 78 games in the books, 84 more to go in the regular season, and who knows about the postseason at this point? Certainly, nothing is guaranteed.

Jeter has already revealed some of his plans for the post-baseball years — he’d like to start a family, dabble in book publishing, take the summer vacation that he never could, and keep dreaming about a place in the owner’s box of a big league team. He wants to call the shots, applying some (but not all) of the tactics that he saw under George Steinbrenner’s rule.

For now, Jeter’s focus is on finishing the rest of the season on a strong note. He got a hit in his final game as a 30-something, and when the Yankees get back on the field Friday night against the Red Sox, surely he’ll expect to do the same as a 40-year-old. It’s just a number, isn’t it?

“My mindset is to treat it no differently than any other age,” you said. “That’s just how I cope with it. If you sit around and start talking about how you’re getting older, then I think mentally you cause yourself some problems. For me, I don’t think about it. … I played 159 games two years ago. My job is to be ready to play every day.”

What it’s really like to cover the Yankees

This is my eighth season covering the Yankees for MLB.com, and I have been extremely blessed to experience some unforgettable things. I was there for the closing of the old Yankee Stadium, the opening of the new one, the end of the Joe Torre era and the beginning of the Joe Girardi one, a World Series championship, playoff games, All-Star Games… it’s been a terrific run so far. I’ve had the opportunity to meet interesting people and see many different places — this year, the Yankees’ trip to Milwaukee crossed off current stadium No. 30 for me.

I’m often told that I have the best job in the world, and it’s difficult for me to disagree. I certainly wouldn’t trade with anyone. That said, there are also parts of the job that people probably don’t think much about — maybe it’s the stresses of meeting deadline, going up against great competition, extra assignments, off-day stories, sweating out extra innings to make a flight, hearing that 4 a.m. wakeup call after your head hit the pillow at 1:48, or the horrifying realization that you live out of a suitcase for half the year. (I think about the movie ‘Up in the Air‘ a lot.)

The world has also changed in those eight years, thanks in large part to Twitter and other social media. When I started covering the Yanks in ’07, speed was still king, but in those days it was about getting a blog post up faster than your competition. It was a minute-to-minute world then; now it’s a second-to-second typing contest. When people talk about being in a 24/7 news cycle, I think that’s understating the case. Having a scoop at 3 p.m. and holding it for the next day’s paper? That must have happened in a different universe.

This is all a long way of introducing the fact that I’ll be meeting up with a few familiar faces on Thursday, June 26 to talk about all of it. I’ve been invited to participate in a panel discussion about “The Art and Science of Sports Journalism: Covering the New York Yankees” at the Port Chester-Rye Brook Public Library at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Below, you’ll find a flyer with all of the important details. If you’re interested in covering professional sports or love talking about the Yankees, I’ll look forward to meeting you. And if you’re just a fan of refreshments, that’s cool too.

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