Results tagged ‘ Michael Pineda ’

Yanks trust Nova to kick off pivotal Sox series

Ivan NovaIt’s the beginning of an 11-game obstacle course that could very well determine if the Yankees have a chance at the postseason or not. Is this the most important stretch of the season? Sure feels like it.

Here are the early notes as the Yankees (75-64) and Red Sox (84-57) prepare to meet here at Yankee Stadium, with right-handers Ivan Nova and Jake Peavy matching up for the 7:05 p.m. ET start:

Who would the Yankees rather have on the mound than Nova, the reigning American League Pitcher of the Month? Nova went undefeated in six August starts, going 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA, and now he’ll look to continue that success into September.

“When you’re throwing the baseball like he is, you probably should feel some confidence out there,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s getting his strikeouts when he needs them, he’s getting a lot of ground ball outs, and that’s important in a park like this when you’re playing a team like this.”

Asked to expand on what Nova is doing differently than he was last season, Girardi responded:

“He learned to command his fastball down in the zone. Not worrying so much about hitting corners, but just having it down in the zone with movement. I think that has been really, really important to him. I also think the consistency of his curveball came back when he started throwing it a lot more, and he’s thrown his changeup a little bit as well. Maybe not 20 percent of the time or 30 percent of the time, but he has thrown it and gotten strikes, and it’s just another look when you’re going through a lineup the second, third or fourth time.”

The Yankees have been saying for days that they do not expect there to be any carryover from the last time these two clubs met, when right-hander Ryan Dempster earned a five-game suspension by intentionally throwing at Alex Rodriguez.

Those Sunday night events fired up the Yankees, who have gone 12-5 since the drilling. Yet for those expecting Nova to throw at David Ortiz or something along those lines, there might be disappointment. These games are so important to the Yankees that winning will likely be the main priority.

“No. We’re not looking to [retaliate],” Robinson Cano said. “We’re just going to go out there [tonight], play the game the right way that we have always been, and what’s in the past we’re going to keep in the past.”

OK. OK. What else would you have expected him to say? Stay tuned, but it doesn’t sound like Major League Baseball or the umpires plan on getting involved pre-game.

A few injury updates to pass along: Zoilo Almonte (ankle) is playing seven innings tonight for Double-A Trenton in their playoff game and is the most likely player to rejoin the big league club this month. Travis Hafner has done one simulated game, while Kevin Youkilis is only taking dry swings and is “the least probable” of the aforementioned three players to return in 2013.

Also, David Phelps and Michael Pineda are up to the bullpen stage, but it doesn’t sound like either one is coming back this year. Phelps might be back as a reliever in late September but that’s sounding more like a long shot, and the Yankees have been pretty mum on Pineda’s progress.

One last thought from Girardi:

“The big thing is you have to continue to play well. And as you look at it, we have a chance to control our own destiny, because we’re really three behind them in the loss column, and we have three games with. We have to play well. That’s the bottom line. So I don’t think you can get too caught up in what they’re doing, because there are other teams that are around us as well.”

My Beat The Streak pick tonight: Robinson Cano, who gets the honors for a second straight night after he went 3-for-4 against the White Sox last night. Cano is 3-for-7 vs. Peavy. My streak is at five, halfway to my season-high of 10.

Thursday’s camp notes: Youk “always a Red Sock”

Kevin Youkilis, David OrtizIt’s probably not the best way to endear yourself to a new fan base, but hey, let’s at least give Kevin Youkilis some points for honesty.

The new Yankee and former Red Sox third baseman briefly stopped by George M. Steinbrenner this afternoon to check out his locker assignment and drop off a few items, spotting his No. 36 jersey hanging alongside a few pairs of pinstriped pants.

This is the new reality for Youkilis, who is clean-shaven to satisfy team regulations and sounded like a Yankee when he said that he’s just here to “go out there every day and play hard and try to win a World Series.”

Oh, but nothing in the fine print of his one-year, $12 million deal with the Yankees mandated that he must put his Red Sox history through the shredder, and so Youkilis made it clear that part of him will always belong in Boston.

“To negate all the years I played for the Boston Red Sox and all the tradition, you look at all the stuff I have piled up at my house and to say I’d just throw it out the window — it’s not true,” Youkilis said. “I’ll always be a Red Sock.”

That quote won’t win Youkilis many friends among a fan base that, judging by early Internet reaction, seems to be unconvinced about his addition. But here’s what might win them over: if Youkilis is healthy and productive for New York, the same blue-collar qualities that made Youkilis such a frustrating opponent over the years are exactly what Yankees fans have been asking for.

Think about it — how many times have we heard the talk-radio rants that the Yankees need more players with Paul O’Neill’s brand of intensity, the unbridled fury it takes to assault a bat rack or water cooler without a second thought about the millions watching at home? Youkilis can be that guy. In other words…

“I’ll never be Alex Rodriguez,” Youkilis said. “I mean, Alex Rodriguez is one of the best hitters of all-time. I’m not going to be that same guy. But I can be a good Major League player who can help the team win, and that’s all you’ve got to do.”

Here’s some more of Thursday’s notes and quotes from Tampa:

  • Newly acquired right-hander Shawn Kelley is expected to join the team shortly after being traded by the Mariners on Wednesday evening. Kelley is a power arm with a plus slider and figures to compete with Cody Eppley for a bullpen role. He has a Minor League option remaining, so he could also start the year at Triple-A.
  • Don’t leave the lights on for Alex Rodriguez here in Tampa; Brian Cashman said that A-Rod will not join the Yankees at any time this spring. He’s supposed to arrive in New York tomorrow from Miami to continue his rehab, so it sounds like the earliest anyone might see him around the ballpark is April 1 against the Red Sox.
  • As we discussed earlier on the blog, Michael Pineda has progressed to throwing full mound sessions and the Yankees are optimistic that he could be helping at the big league level in late May or June. A lot can happen between now and then, and setbacks are an expected part of the process, but he’s on track so far. Pineda will start throwing to hitters in March, but isn’t expected to pitch in any Spring Training games.
  • Dellin Betances took a step backward last season, but the Yankees haven’t given up hope on the hulking right-hander, hoping that a good showing in the Arizona Fall League can right his ship. Cashman said that the power, physicality and stuff are all there for Betances. One glaring problem has been fastball command, which is why Betances found himself demoted to Double-A Trenton last year.
  • Ivan Nova said he doesn’t know why his strikeout rate jumped to 8.1 per nine innings last season after he posted 5.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 2011. He said he was just trying to pitch his game, not worrying about strikeouts. The number that still bothered Nova was his 5.02 ERA; the Yankees have scored him plenty of runs, but that’s too many to ask.
  • Funny note from Girardi, who was recounting the uncomfortable moment he had to tell Nova that they were leaving him off the playoff rosters last year: “It’s not like he flipped my desk over or I felt threatened, but I could see the disappointment. I have a pretty big desk.”

Pineda drops 20 pounds, could help Yanks in June

Michael PinedaThere’s a little bit less of Michael Pineda in Yankees camp this spring. He said that he weighed in at 260 pounds, down from 280 a year ago, and that his rehab is going well.

“Everything is doing well. Everything has been good,” Pineda said. “I’m feeling very excited, I’m feeling good. My shoulder is stronger right now.”

Pineda just started throwing off a full mound and is not expected to pitch in a game this spring, but he’ll start facing hitters next month under controlled conditions. The best case scenario that the Yankees are tossing out is that Pineda could be a realistic big league option in June.

“He’s had no setbacks, he’s worked hard and it’s a very serious surgery he’s coming back from,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters. “No guarantees, but so far we’re cautiously optimistic.”

Pineda said that he is confident that he will be able to return as the same power pitcher he was with the Mariners and regrets showing up out of shape for his first spring as a Yankee.

“I won’t make this mistake anymore,” he said.

Spring is here: Yankees pitchers and catchers report

George M. Steinbrenner Field

George M. Steinbrenner Field is open for business, and while we’re still waiting to hear the first official crack of the bat, these words should be enough to warm your afternoon wherever you are — Yankees pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa today.

CC Sabathia meets the media in the Yankees dugout on Tuesday.

CC Sabathia meets the media in the Yankees dugout on Tuesday.

The players went through the usual gauntlet of physical tests and checked out their locker assignments – with 84 names on the invited list, the Yankees have had to build a few new ones in the clubhouse – before heading out for the day. The real work begins tomorrow, with the first official workout for pitchers and catchers.

“Everybody talked about the guys that we didn’t sign, but talk about the guys we have coming back,” Yankees ace CC Sabathia said. “Hiro (Hiroki Kuroda) coming back, Andy (Pettitte) coming back, we’ll get Mo (Mariano Rivera) back for a full year. I think we already had the pieces here in place to compete and try to win a championship. We’ll just go with what we’ve got.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi held his first press conference of the spring, and the big news was again about Alex Rodriguez, as Girardi revealed that A-Rod will not be reporting to camp with the Yankees’ position players.

Instead, Rodriguez will be continuing his rehab in New York, which should limit some of the potential distractions that were expected to go along with MLB’s investigation of the Biogenesis case.

Girardi said that he believes the Yankees “could win 95 games and get to the World Series,” and said that “if other clubs want to think we’re vulnerable, that’s OK, but I love the character in that room and the way they find ways to win games.”

Want video? You got it.

Here are some of the other quick hits from Girardi’s session with the press:

  • Girardi is not concerned about the health of Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera. He is, however, curious how the Yankees will find their designated hitter against right-handed pitching. Eduardo Nunez, Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera appear to be the early options.
  • Girardi called the spring “a test” for Francisco Cervelli, who must block out the distraction of the Biogenesis investigation while also competing for the Opening Day catcher job.
  • Austin Romine should be able to help the Yankees at some point during the season, Girardi said, but he doesn’t know exactly when. Romine said that he intends to make the roster out of Spring Training, but the Yankees have him ticketed for Triple-A right now.
  • Girardi said Cervelli, Stewart and Romine should be able to be as good as Russell Martin was defensively.
  • Michael Pineda is throwing in camp, but Girardi said he doesn’t expect to see him in a game this spring. The Yankees have been saying that Pineda’s best case scenario is to pitch in the big leagues by May or June.
  • Girardi said he’s not worried about his lame duck status as the Yankees’ manager, saying that he’s only concerned with the next 162 games and getting to the World Series. The Yankees will likely hold off until after the season to open contract talks with Girardi.

Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild talks Mo, Pineda, CC, Kuroda, Pettitte

Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild appeared on the MLB Network Radio channel on SiriusXM on Friday, joining hosts Jim Duquette and Jeff Joyce. Here are some highlights:

On Michael Pineda:

Host/Jeff Joyce:  “What is his status and is he a guy you are expecting or hopeful that will be healthy for you this season?”

Larry Rothschild:  “With elbows it is a lot more predictable and you can expect.  With shoulders, really, I think you take him off the radar screen, bring him back as the injury allows.  But I don’t think we can count on him for next year at all.  And hopefully he comes back and it’s a great addition but if you count on him and think he’s going to be back by a certain point you have a pretty high percentage of being disappointed with that.  So I think you’re better off just approaching it that he’s not going to be back next year.  And if things go right – and he certainly could come back and be able to pitch, I wouldn’t doubt that at all – but for us to count on him, I think, would be a mistake.”

On Mariano Rivera:

Rothschild:  “At the very end of the season I didn’t even think about it.  I thought for sure he’s coming back because of the rehab he’s done and everything he’s done leading up right until the very end of the season.  Really, when I got home I heard that now there’s talk that he may not come back and may retire.  But I don’t know.  I would bet anything that he’s coming back.  But I have not talked to him.  I’ve kind of left him on his own because I think it’s a decision he has to make.  I will probably talk to him in the next week or 10 days or so.  But there are no parameters.  Cash will handle that part of it as far as when he’s going to come back, when the decision is made if he’s not, and we’ll go from there.”

On CC Sabathia:

Joyce:  “Has there been talk about lightening the load a little bit during the regular season based on the load that he’s taken on over the last five, six, seven years?”

Rothschild:  “Yeah, Joe and I talked about it even going back to last year.  This year we talked about it even more.  Not only lightening the load but the pitch total during the game because he’s a guy that almost thrives on working the pitch totals and when he doesn’t have them it has an effect leading into the next start.  Unlike a lot of guys where if they get a little more rest they’re more effective, he works more and throws more pitches he seems to get on rolls a lot quicker.  And what happened, I think, part of this year is he didn’t do it.  We didn’t let him get to that point.  And then with the groin at one point and the elbow at the other we just never got to that point until towards the end and then he got on another roll when he did throw the pitches.  So it’s kind of a Catch-22 with him.  We do have to watch it and we’re going to probably have to watch a few guys on this staff.  We’re aware of it and back off.  When he had a chance to pitch with extra rest we did that.  In the past he would pitch on the fifth day almost all the time.”

On Hiroki Kuroda:

Host/Jim Duquette:  “Do you think there’s a high percentage chance he comes back to you guys?”

Rothschild:  “I think there’s a high percentage chance that if he plays in the States he plays with the Yankees.  I think he enjoyed the experience.  I think his decision, to some degree, is going to be: Is this the year for him to go back to Japan?  He feels like he has a debt to the team in Japan that he played for, that he would like to pitch, I think, another year for them before he retires.  Whenever that comes about I think when he thinks he’s ready to do that that’s what he’s going to do.  And if he’s not then I think we have a good chance to re-sign him and he’ll play for us or, you know, possibly the Dodgers.  I don’t know.  But I know he enjoyed New York and I think if he’s going to play in the States we’re going to have a pretty good shot at bringing him back.”

On Andy Pettitte:

Duquette:  “Do you think he wants to come back to the Yanks?”

Rothschild:  “Yeah, I do.  But I think it’s a decision that when you get home, at the end of the year I would have told you, ‘Yes, absolutely.’  And now I think he still will but, you know, you just don’t know at this time of year.  I think it is his decision again and he’ll sit down with the family and I think the family is pretty much on board with it so, yeah, I think the fires are still there.  It was a freak thing, getting hit with the ball and the fracture of the bone this year.  Can he hold up for 36 starts?  I’m more comfortable thinking a little bit less than that. … I think effectively, if we’re smart about it, he’s going to be more effective with a few less starts than trying to push it through to 32 or 35, whatever it might be, and keep him fresher as long as we can.”

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