Mark Teixeira, Dellin Betances thrilled to be AL All-Stars

New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira scoops up a ball on a short hop hit by Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier during the seventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 4, 2015, in New York. The Yankees won 3-2. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

NEW YORK — During his two previous trips to the All-Star Game, Mark Teixeira’s favorite part was the clubhouse chatter prior to the actual exhibition, when the best in the business share anecdotes about their experiences and routines. He wasn’t sure those conversations would ever include him again.

After two seasons largely lost to injury, Teixeira’s health has returned, with his repaired right wrist permitting him to club doubles and homers with regularity. The Yankees slugger is heading to Cincinnati as a reserve for the July 14 Midsummer Classic, joined by Bombers reliever Dellin Betances and perhaps Final Vote candidate Brett Gardner.

“I think this is probably my most special of all,” Teixeira said. “I mean, I’ll always remember my first one. I didn’t know if I’d ever make it back to an All-Star Game. But just putting in the work and the dedication of saying, ‘OK, if I get healthy I know I can be the player I was in the past.’ That hard work paying off means a lot.”

Teixeira, who also represented the American League in 2005 and 2009, entered play on Tuesday leading the AL with 59 RBIs, ranking among the league leaders in slugging percentage (.532, seventh), walks (44, tied for fourth) and isolated power (.289, second). His 20 first-half homers were the most by a Yankee since 2012.

“I knew what I had to do to get healthy again, get stronger and get back to being physically where I wanted to be,” Teixeira said. “You don’t forget how to play the game. I’ve kind of always remembered how to hit, remembered how to play defense. Those things don’t leave you, but getting strong again was the big thing.”

Tabbed as an All-Star for the second successive season, Betances said that he might be more chatty in the clubhouse this year. As a first-time representative in 2014 at Minnesota’s Target Field, Betances kept his head down and listened while the AL celebrated Derek Jeter’s final appearance, but Betances might play a more key role for the squad in ’15.

“Anytime you get picked, especially by your peers, guys you play against, it’s exciting,” Betances said. “I’ve worked hard and just to be here playing with the Yankees is already a great feeling. When you get selected for the second time, it’s kind of surreal, to be honest with you.”

Royals manager Ned Yost has said that his working plan is to give the ball to Betances for the seventh inning. After not being called upon in the game at Target Field, Betances said that assignment sounds great to him, and that he looks at the selection as just one more rung in his career ladder.

“I’m never going to be satisfied, and continue to work hard,” Betances said. “It took me a long time to get up here. Obviously, the second time means a lot to me and my family, but I’ve got to continue to work hard. There’s other goals that I want to accomplish as a player. For us to get back to the playoffs is something that I’ve been focusing on more, as a team goal.”

Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez “obviously disappointed” by All-Star snub

New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez hits a sixth-inning, solo, home run in a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sunday, July 5, 2015.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez hoped a trip to Cincinnati would be a cherry on top of an eventful first half that has already seen him return from suspension to pass Willie Mays on the all-time home run list, collect his 3,000th hit and 2,000th RBI, but the Yankees slugger will instead watch the All-Star Game on television. 

“I’m obviously disappointed,” Rodriguez said. “It would have been fun to go out and represent the American League, that’s for sure. But I know that while serving the suspension, the time off was very good for me. I hope the four days will be, too.”

Rodriguez finished fifth among AL designated hitters in the fan vote and was not voted in as a reserve by his peers. Royals manager Ned Yost, who is piloting the AL squad, said that he gave consideration to carrying Rodriguez but preferred a player with more positional flexibility.

“We talked about A-Rod a lot,” Yost said on ESPN. “You look back at this five-man vote and we have three infielders, two outfielders, and we felt that it was important that we don’t — we have Brock Holt that can play anywhere in the infield, but any other position we have a starter and a backup.

“In the outfield we have three starters and three backups. So I just felt very strongly that if we could get another infielder or another outfielder out of that five-man vote it would help us. That’s what went in that decision.”

Rodriguez entered play on Tuesday ranked among the AL leaders in OPS (.902, eighth), on-base percentage (.390, sixth) and walks (44, tied for fourth), batting .284 with 16 home runs and 47 RBIs. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he thinks Rodriguez deserved a nod.

“I do; I do,” Girardi said. “But every year there’s going to be players that are deserving that aren’t chosen just because of the way it’s done. I’ve been a big proponent of increasing the roster, but that hasn’t happened. I think you could make a great case for Brian McCann. It’s hard for me to figure out why he’s not there with the year that he’s had. Sometimes it works that way.”

Rodriguez’s past performance-enhancing drug use surely was a factor in some of the voting, but two other players with ties to the Biogenesis case, the Mariners’ Nelson Cruz and the Cardinals’ Jhonny Peralta, were named All-Stars.

Cruz is the AL’s starting DH via the fan vote, while Prince Fielder of the Rangers was tabbed as the AL’s backup DH. That left no room for Rodriguez, in Yost’s view.

“I think the fans made a very wise choice and I think Yost had a very difficult decision,” Rodriguez said. “You can’t go wrong with Prince. He’s had a phenomenal year and he’s also a big comeback story, so I’m happy for Prince.”

Though it might have contributed to him spending the All-Star break in Miami rather than Cincinnati, Rodriguez lauded Girardi’s decision to use him as a full-time designated hitter, saying that it has helped to keep his bat and body fresh through the first half.

“I knew I was a long shot. I gave myself a long-shot hope,” Rodriguez said. “There are so many great players in the American League and I’m only a DH. For a long time, I was at shortstop and third base and there were multiple ways of getting in. I’ll be watching, I’ll be cheering and I hope we get home-field advantage.”

Brett Gardner isn’t interested in gimmicks for the AL Final Vote

New York Yankees' Brett Gardner hits an RBI single in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Yankee Stadium in New York, Wednesday, June 24, 2015.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

NEW YORK — The brainstorming sessions started in the Yankees’ offices shortly after Brett Gardner was named as one of the five candidates for the American League Final Vote on Tuesday, with officials tossing around some creative ways in which the outfielder could campaign for a ticket to Cincinnati.

Gardner had a front-row seat to watch Nick Swisher’s over-the-top push to the All-Star Game in 2010, and though it was ultimately successful, it’s also not a recipe to fit all personalities. Gardner would prefer to let his numbers do the talking as he looks for his first career All-Star selection.

“You guys know me. I’m more of a low-key guy,” Gardner said. “I know the team’s going to do their part and hopefully some of my teammates step up. I don’t even have a Twitter account. I know they’re going to try to get me some votes. I’m going to focus on playing, helping us win games, and we’ll see how it turns out on Friday.”

Gardner hopes to join Swisher and Hideki Matsui (2004) among Yankees players who have made it to the All-Star Game via the Final Vote ballot. He has been given the Twitter hashtag #VoteGardy, but for now, the promotional rubber bald caps – just one of the team’s rejected ideas to pump the vote – will remain in storage.

Gimmicks may not be necessary. The 31-year-old Gardner is tied for third in the Majors with 60 runs cored, ranks fourth in the AL with 15 steals, is tied for fifth with 21 doubles and ranks ninth with a .373 on-base percentage. Entering play on Tuesday, he was the only AL player batting at least .295 with nine homers and 15 steals.

“I voted last night,” Yanks’ All-Star reliever Dellin Betances said. “Whatever we’ve got to do to get him in, he’s done a hell of a job. Obviously Jacoby (Ellsbury) went down for a while and he’s been in the leadoff spot doing everything he can, playing every day, stealing bases, robbing base hits, starting things up for the rest of the lineup. He’s done it all. I think we’ve got to get him in somehow.”

“I hope the New York fans come out. I would love to see Gardy make it,” Yanks’ All-Star first baseman Mark Teixeira said. “It would be really cool to have him with me there, and with Dellin, to represent the Yankees. So hopefully Yankee fans will come out to support him.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he believes Gardner is a deserving All-Star, and that it is “refreshing” to see his on-field performance to comprise his entire candidacy.

“This is a guy that wants nothing to do with self-promoting himself, making the All-Star team,” Girardi said. “He’s not going to be a part of a campaign, he’s just going to go out and play; go out and help us try to win.”

Some were surprised that Gardner was in a situation where he needed to lobby for more votes – his numbers compare favorably to the AL’s starting left fielder, Alex Gordon of the Royals. Gardner said that he hopes the Yankees’ widespread fan base and the New York media spotlight will help his cause.

“I do play for the Yankees. That’s got to count for something, right?” Gardner said. “That’s just the way I want it and like it, and is kind of the way I’ve always been. I’m not going to change who I am for this Final Vote deal for these couple days.

“I’m just happy; honored to be a part of it, happy to be mentioned alongside all these great players. If it works out I’d obviously enjoy going to Cincinnati next week and being a part of it.”

CC Sabathia trying to get the Yankees back on track

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia (52) delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins at Yankee Stadium in New York, Thursday, June 18, 2015.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Hello once again on what promises to be a stormy evening here at Yankee Stadium. We should have a thunder and lightning show at some point tonight, but so far everything is on schedule. CC Sabathia and Sean O’Sullivan comprise the pitching matchup as the Yankees try to bounce back from a couple of rough ones against the Tigers and Phillies.

Here are the quick hits you need to know:

Manager Joe Girardi spoke a bit during his press conference about Sabathia’s ongoing adjustments:

“I think he’s adjusted better than he did maybe at the beginning of last year. I still think that every day going out there, it’s a learning process for him in learning how to pitch different. He’s incorporated his two-seamer to right-handers, something he did this year and something he never had to do. It’s picking the right times go use it. I still think he’s adjusting, but I think he understands who he is better than he did a year ago.”

Sabathia is unbeaten in his last four starts, going 1-0 with a 4.37 ERA (22.2 IP, 11 ER).  He has 23 strikeouts and only three walks in that stretch.

Mitchell gives the Yankees an extra long reliever in case they need one, since Ivan Nova is starting tomorrow and Chris Capuano had to be summoned in relief yesterday due to Michael Pineda’s clunker.

Mark Teixeira (stiff neck) is “not quite ready” to play, according to Girardi, though the Yankees hope to have him back in the lineup tomorrow. Girardi said that he is not sure if Teixeira could be used as a pinch-hitter tonight. Teixeira said that he senses some improvement after yesterday’s cortisone injection:

“It’s been an issue for two weeks now. That’s too long, That’s why we got an MRI. Usually if you have a stiff neck, some spasms, they go away after a couple days. After two weeks, you want to get an MRI. It showed some irritation in the joint, so we got it fixed.”

Andrew Miller (left forearm flexor muscle strain) is scheduled to play catch tomorrow.

Brett Gardner is batting .565 (13-23 AB) with three homers over his last five games.

Brian McCann has homered in back-to-back games and is batting .360 (18-50 AB) with 12 RBIs over his last 13 games.

Girardi’s thoughts on Cole Hamels, who starts Wednesday for the Phillies:

“Obviously the challenge is great in facing Cole Hamels. He’s an outstanding pitcher and he’s been an outstanding pitcher for a long time. There’s been a lot of talk about him since the offseason; ‘How many more starts does he have in a Philadelphia uniform?’ Nobody knows. I don’t really get too caught up in it. Could he end up in our division? I guess. There are six divisions he could end up in, so I guess the chances are he could end up in ours. But I’m curious to see him pitch tomorrow.”

Brian McCann feeling better, returns to lineup

Brian McCannNEW YORK — Brian McCann hopes that a new pair of orthotics will help ward off a painful arch condition and allow him to stick in the Yankees’ lineup.

McCann gave the thumbs-up to get back behind the plate on Friday after catching a side session in the bullpen, testing out his new gear. McCann had an MRI taken on Thursday in New York after being forced to leave Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Mariners in Seattle.

“It only flared up when I caught,” McCann said. “Walking around, it didn’t flare up, but once I got in my squat and moved around — that’s what we’ve been waiting for today. I went out there and it didn’t flare up.”

McCann said that he was worried the condition might have been something that forced him to the disabled list, so Friday’s developments were welcome news for him and the Yankees. McCann said that he has worn the same orthotics for about three years and it was time to get them updated.

“You hope that the orthotics correct the problem,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “From time to time — kind of like a pair of glasses, in a sense – your prescription changes a little bit. And I think a lot of it has to do with being a catcher and being in the position that he’’s in (with) his feet.”

McCann is batting .248 with eight homers and 33 RBIs this season.

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