Results tagged ‘ Joe Torre ’

One Bad Pitch In One Bad Inning Dooms CC, Yanks

GAME 11

RED SOX 4, YANKEES 2

There is nothing in baseball more frustrating for a pitcher than to be in total command of a game and to have it all fall apart in the blink of an eye with one bad pitch in one bad inning. But that is exactly what happened to CC Sabathia on Friday.

Entering the sixth inning with a 1-0 lead, Jonny Gomes led off with a home run and four batters later Sabathia’s former teammate Grady Sizemore blasted a hanging slider for a three-run blast as Boston downed New York in front of a paid crowd of 44,121 at Yankee Stadium.

The game featured a pitcher’s duel between the two team’s aces.

Up until the sixth, Sabathia (1-2) had shut out the Red Sox on just one hit with two walks and six strikeouts. Left-hander Jon Lester (1-2) was just about as good. But he was victimized by a home run to leadoff the second inning by Alfonso Soriano.

If not for the “OBI” (one bad inning) Sabathia’s fate might have been different.

Gomes tied it with a long blast over the scoreboard in right, his first home run of the season.

One out later, David Ortiz was tied up on an inside pitch and rolled a swinging-bunt single near third base and against the shift the Yankees employ against him. Mike Napoli then laced a single up the middle and set the stage for Sizemore’s game-changing homer.

Sabathia ended up being charged with four runs on six hits and two walks and he struck out a season-high nine in seven innings.

Lester struggled in the seventh after he had retired the first two batters.

Ichiro Suzuki singled and Brian Roberts drew a walk after two close pitches home-plate umpire James Hoye called balls. Lester became visibly angry at the calls and Kelley Johnson ended Lester’s evening by stroking an RBI single to right that scored Suzuki.

Lester yielded two runs on six hits and two walks while fanning six batters in 6 2/3 innings.

Relievers Junichi Tazawa and Edward Mujica retired the final seven batters to preserve Lester’s first victory of the season. Mujica pitched a perfect ninth to earn his first save.

The loss dropped the Yankees’ season record to 5-6. The Red Sox have the same mark.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Soriano was 2-for-4 in the game including his second home run of the season. After his 0-for-17 start, Soriano has at least one hit in five of his past six games and is 8-for-21 (.381) with two home runs and three RBIs in that span.
  • Despite the fact Sabathia lost the game give the big left-hander some credit for perhaps turning a corner in which he is learning to pitch with diminished velocity. For the first five innings, he had the Red Sox flailing at his change-ups and sliders. “I look at it as one pitch  -  the slider he left up to Sizemore was the real difference in the game,” manager Joe Girardi said told reporters. “Besides that, I thought he had really good command and threw the ball well.”
  • Johnson was 0-for-14 in his career against Lester when he delivered his two-out RBI single that chased the left-hander from the game. Johnson is hitting just .258 but he has two homers and six RBIs and all six of them have come in his past six games.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The injury to Mark Teixeira forced Girardi into some odd lineup choices on Friday. He benched left-handed hitters Brett Gardner and Brian McCann, he used Derek Jeter in the leadoff spot and he had Francisco Cervelli batting fifth.  Until Teixeira returns, the Yankees are going to have a much weaker lineup against lefties.
  • Carlos Beltran entered the game on a pretty good roll with a four-game hitting streak. But he could not solve Lester. He killed a rally in the third inning by bouncing into a force play, stranding two runners. He also stranded Jacoby Ellsbury at second with one out by watching strike three on a 3-2 pitch. He ended up 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out of the infield.
  • Rookie sensation Yangervis Solarte is starting to fall back to Earth as pitchers are now giving him a steady diet of breaking pitches. Solarte was 0-for-4 in the game and he is hitless in his past nine at-bats to drop his batting average to .343.

BOMBER BANTER

The MLB Network and NESN showed Michael Pineda with what appeared to be pine tar on his pitching hand on Thursday and it stirred a lot of bellowing out of Boston (as one would expect anytime they lose). However, Joe Torre, baseball’s executive vice president of operations, told reporters that the right-hander will not face suspension. Because the Red Sox did have the umpires check Pineda’s hand there is nothing that can be done. Torre did say he would talk to the Yankees about the incident. Pineda claimed it was not pine tar on his hand; it was dirt.  . . .  The Yankees expect Teixeira to return from the disabled list before the end of April, however, backup infielder Brendan Ryan may be out for an extended period of time. Teixeira is progressing well recovering from a strained right hamstring. Ryan, who has a pinched nerve in his cervical spine, missed most all of spring training and he only begun some very light baseball-related activities.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend series with the Red Sox on Saturday.

The Yankees will send Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 2.92 ERA) to the hill. Kuroda gave up just two runs on eight hits and struck four in 6 1/3 innings in defeating the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 on Monday.

The Red Sox will counter with veteran right-hander John Lackey (2-0, 1.38 ERA). Lackey shut out the Rangers on five hits and two walks in seven innings on Monday to keep his record perfect this season. He is 1-1 with a 7.64 ERA in three starts at the new Yankee Stadium.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports 1 and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees’ Post-Rivera Bullpen Still Looks Talented

This season’s ninth innings are going to seem very strange for the New York Yankees.

For the first time since 1997 the team will not have the benefit of the greatest closer in baseball history.

Mariano Rivera was the gold standard of the modern era one-inning closer and won’t it be odd not hearing “Enter Sandman” reverberate throughout the Yankee Stadium?

Rivera leaves taking his major-league 652 saves and career ERA of 2.21. He also removes the security blanket that managers Joe Torre and Joe Girardi had that made them so successful. Opponents will enter the 2014 season extremely happy that No. 42 will not be in the Yankees’ bullpen.

The question is who will take Mo’s place?

Though no promises have been made, David Robertson will have the opportunity to fill the biggest shoes in baseball.

Robertson, 28, like Rivera, is a product of the Yankees’ minor-league system and he has been Rivera’s set-up man for the past three seasons.

In four full seasons and parts  of a fifth, Robertson has compiled a 21-14 record with a sparkling 2.76 ERA. Last season, Robertson was 5-1 with 2.04 ERA and superbly set up Rivera in his final season.

The big question is can the former University of Alabama closer handle the job at the major-league level. Robertson has a mere eight saves in 18 chances in the majors.

When handed the role in 2012 when Rivera injured his knee early in the season, Robertson faltered and was replaced by Rafael Soriano. That experience leaves enough doubt about him heading into the new season.

But Robertson has the goods to close. He can bring a low- to mid-90s fastball, a cutter he learned from the master Rivera and a knee-buckling curveball. The only question is can he keep his pitch counts down to get through a clean ninth inning consistently?

Rivera’s lifetime WHIP (Walks and Hits to Innings Pitched) was 1.00, which is excellent. Robertson is sporting a career WHIP of 1.25, which is not great for a reliever. However, his WHIPs over the past three seasons have been 1.13, 1.17 and 1.04.

The 1.04 WHIP from last season is a career low. That is closer material. So Robertson stands as the No. 1 candidate as of today.

The Yankees still could sign a closer before spring training opens. But that is not looking likely.

The best closer on the market, Grant Balfour of the Oakland Athletics, signed a two-year deal with his former team the Tampa Bay Rays. Former Rays closer Fernando Rodney, 36, was excellent in 2012 but regressed in 2013 with 37 saves and 3.38 ERA and a high WHIP of 1.34.

In addition, the Yankees have already spent a lot of money on free agents this offseason. Can they afford to add more?

A more likely scenario would be a trade packaging some players in return for an experienced bullpen pitcher who can set up and close out games. Stay tuned.

The Yankee bullpen also will be without some other familiar names in 2014.

The Colorado Rockies signed left-hander Boone Logan to a three-year deal. The Detroit Tigers signed right-hander Joba Chamberlain to a one-year deal.

The Yankees did sign veteran left-hander Matt Thornton, 37, from the Boston Red Sox. Thornton has some heavy mileage on him but he provides the team a quality left-hander who has had experience as a set-up man and closer.

Thornton has a career record of 32-42 with a 3.53 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP and 23 career saves. He was 0-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 60 games with the Chicago White Sox and the Red Sox last season. He will essentially replace Logan as the team’s main left-hander.

The Yankees also have a holdover in right-hander Shawn Kelley, 29, who was 4-2 with a 4.39 ERA in 57 games with the Yankees last season. The former Seattle Mariner essentially made Chamberlain obsolete after recording 71 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings with his devastating slider.

Kelley and Thornton are likely to be Girardi’s main seventh and eighth inning options this season.

The Yankees also have high hopes for right-hander Preston Claiborne, 26, who was impressive in the early stages of his rookie season.

Called up in May, Claiborne did not issue a walk in his first nine appearances. On July 28, Claiborne was 0-1 with a 2.06 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 29 games. However, the wheels came off the wagon quickly and he was 0-1 with a 8.80 ERA in his last 15 games.

The Yankees still believe the big Texan nicknamed “Little Joba” can pitch as he did in his first 29 games in the major leagues. As long as Claiborne is attacking the strike zone to get ahead he can be a huge weapon for Girardi this season. Claiborne has a very high ceiling and spring training will determine just how far he can go in 2014.

Speaking of high ceilings, the reliever to watch this spring will be left-handed specialist Cesar Cabral, 25.

A Rule 5 draft pick in 2011, Cabral was competing for a job with the Yankees in 2012 when he suffered a fracture of his left elbow in his final appearance of spring training and he missed the entire 2012 season.

His rehab also extended into 2013. In 30 games in three stops in the minors, Cabral was 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA. But he had 43 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings. He was called up to the majors when the rosters expanded on Sept. 1 and he made his major-league debut on Sept. 2.

Cabral ended up 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA in eight late-season games, striking out six in 3 2/3 innings. Lefties hit .125 off him.

It looks as if the Yankees have found a gem in the young lefty. Cabral enters 2014 as almost a shoo-in to make the team to give the team a lefty specialist they have lacked since Clay Rapada injured his arm in spring training last season. Mark my words, Cabral is something special.

The other two spots in the bullpen are up for grabs. But the Yankees have a lot of options to fill those spots.

Should Michael Pineda claim a  spot in the starting rotation and join CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda, one obvious choice to fill out the bullpen is David Phelps.

Phelps, 27, has served as reliever and spot starter for the past two seasons.

In two seasons he is 10-9 with a 4.11 ERA in 55 games (23 starts). His ERA is inflated because he been less successful as a starting pitcher the past two seasons. Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild would like to see Phelps resume his role in the bullpen because of his versatility and effectiveness.

Phelps does not possess a crackling fastball but he does have extreme confidence in his stuff. He throws strikes and his control is excellent.

Along with Phelps, the Yankees used rookie right-hander Adam Warren as a long reliever and spot starter last season. Warren, 26, responded with a 3-2 record and a 3.39 ERA in 34 games (two of them starts).

Warren enters spring training in the running for the No. 5 spot in the rotation but could very well end up as the long man out of the bullpen again. Unlike Phelps though, Warren has a mid-90s fastball and he has been better as a starter.

The same can be said for 26-year-old left-hander Vidal Nuno.

Nuno won the James P. Dawson Award in 2013 for being the most impressive rookie in spring training. He then went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before making his major-league debut as a reliever in last April.

He was 1-2 with a 2.25 ERA in five games (three starts) before a strained left groin sustained on May 30 shelved him for the rest of the season.

Nuno is a soft-tosser but he has exceptional control. His ability to fool hitters with his breaking stuff makes him a good possibility as a No. 5 starter if he is impressive again this spring. He also could become a third lefty as a long man in the bullpen.

At the very least, Nuno could return to Scranton and be ready for fill in as a starter or reliever for the Yankees should they need to replace an injured pitcher. Nuno is an excellent insurance policy for Girardi.

One very intriguing bullpen possibility for the Yankees is former top prospect starter Dellin Betances, 25.

The 6-foot-8, 260-pound right-hander flamed out as a starter in 2012 when he recorded a 6-9 record and 6.44 ERA with 99 walks in 113 1/3 innings at two minor-league stops. The Yankees made him a reliever in 2013 and he was much better.

Betances was 6-4 with a 2.68 ERA and 108 strikeouts in 84 innings at Scranton. He cut his walks to just 42.

He was called up in September and had a 10.00 ERA in six games late in the season. But the Yankees believe he has potential to be a dominant reliever in the major leagues is he continues to harness his control. He has mid-90s fastball and his power curve is getting better.

Betances enters this spring as a dark-horse bullpen candidate with the tools to become an excellent reliever someday and perhaps a future closer.

The same can be said of right-hander Mark Montgomery, 23, the team’s current No. 11 prospect.

Montgomery has a 93-mile-per-hour fastball but his biggest weapon is a drop-off-the-table slider that has shot him through the minor-league ranks.

In 2012 he struck out 13.8 batters per nine innings as he advanced through Double-A Trenton. He also led the organization in saves. Last season, Montgomery was 2-3 with a 3.38 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 40 innings at Scranton.

He will get an opportunity to show his progress this spring but he likely will start the season in Scranton. The Yankees still see him as a future setup man or closer. He may get his shot sometime in 2014.

Another minor-leaguer worth watching this spring is 24-year-old right-hander Chase Whitley, who spent most of last season at Scranton.

Whitley was 3-2 with a 3.06 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 67 2/3 innings in 29 games. The Alabama native also showed some ability as a starter late in the season.

In five late-season starts, Whitley was 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA. The Yankees will evaluate him this spring and determine what role he might be best suited. But his solid numbers in the minors indicate he is on track to make the major leagues in a few years.

One interesting aspect of the candidates I have mentioned so far is that seven of them (Robertson, Claiborne, Phelps, Warren, Betances, Montgomery and Whitley) were originally drafted by the Yankees. Two others (Cabral and Nuno) are products of the team’s minor-league system.

The other two candidates (Thornton and Kelley) were signed as a free agent and via a trade, respectively.

Although the Yankees’ position players in the minors are progressing slowly. The same can’t be said for the starters and relievers they have been developing the past few seasons. That is a testament to the scouting department and general manager Brian Cashman.

The Yankees need to continue that development as they move forward.

The biggest testimony to that progress will be if Robertson seamlessly settles in as the team’s closer. He may be replacing a huge legend. But if anyone can do it, it  is Robertson.

A lot is riding on Robertson;s right arm and the Yankees are very hopeful he can meet the challenge.

 

A-Rod Again Reaches Half Of His Norms At Third

The New York Yankees have reached the end of the regular season as champions of the American League East and they have the best record in the league. It was not easy but they are now ready for the playoffs. It is time to look at the players that got them there and give them grades for the season.

THIRD BASE – ALEX RODRIGUEZ (18 HRs, 57 RBIs, .272 BA)

It’s always something.

With Alex Rodriguez it always seems some injury comes up that interrupts his season and rolls him down a highway that is a few exits past his MVP seasons. This pattern has been going since his monster season in 2007 when he played in 158 games and hit 54 home runs, drove in 156 runs and hit .314.

For the past five seasons Rodriguez’s totals have been gradually slipping. The home run totals dropping from 35 to 30 to 30 to 16 and 18 this season. The RBI totals sinking from 103 to 100 to 125 to 62 and now just 57. The batting averages dipping from .302 to .286 to.270 to .276 to .272 this season.

This is not your father’s Alex Rodriguez. The once most-feared hitter in baseball has turned into Scott Brosius before our very eyes and it is pretty to safe to say that age 37 that the vintage A-Rod is not coming back.

After suffering through seasons cut short by a serious hip injury to his injury-plagued 2011 campaign shortened to 99 games because of knee and thumb injuries, this season was supposed to be a big comeback season for Rodriguez.

But after languishing through a terrible first half in which he hit just 13 home runs, drove in a mere 36 runs and hit .266, Rodriguez was struck on the left hand by pitch thrown by Felix Hernandez of the Mariners in Seattle on July 24. A broken bone in the hand shelved him until Sept. 3.

So from the midpoint of the season, Rodriguesz contributed five home runs and 21 RBIs.

A look inside the numbers shows just how far A-Rod’s star has fallen:

  • With the bases empty he hit .300.
  • With runners in scoring position he hit .230.
  • With the bases loaded he hit .200.

His 18 home runs are just two more than he hit in 99 games last season and yet he still hits in the middle of the order as if he was the A-Rod of 2007.

The fact the Yankees are on the hook to pay this large albatross through the 2017 season is quite troubling. When that contract was signed, the Yankees were envisioning Rodriguez becoming the all-time home run champion in pinstripes.

But with Rodriguez stuck on 647 career homers and seemingly unable to hit 20 in a season, he will be lucky to reach 700, much less make to 763 to pass Barry Bonds.

The qustion is how long will the Yankees to allow Rodriguez to underperform for the money his is making and how much he is hurting the Yankees in every game with his strikeouts, weak popups and routine fly balls? Can they afford to keep him? Or are they paying so much for him that they can’t get rid of him?

All I know is what I see and I just see a very sad shell of a player who might be succumbing to aftereffects of performance enhancing drugs. So I do not feel sorry for him. But I do feel sorry for the Yankees being roped into this deal that will hamper their ability to pare salary ahead of the 2014 season.

Rodriguez is also turning into a liability in the field, too.

He made eight errors this season, which sounds OK until you find out he started only 81 games at the position. That total also does not account for the balls that got past him because his surgically repaired hip has robbed him of his lateral quickness. It also does not account for the slow dribblers he was unable to charge fast enough to get the runner at first.

His cannon arm is still there but it can be erratic.

Nope, any way you slice it, A-Rod is just not A-Rod anymore. The sooner Yankee fans realize that the sooner they can stop praying for that game-winning homer in the playoffs. If the Yankees are lucky he will single in a big run with a runner in scoring position.

So don’t get your hopes up for a great postseason for A-Rod. It might turn out like all the ones he produced before his epic postseason in 2009, which brought title No. 27 back to the Bronx. The 28th will have to come some other way.

MIDSEASON GRADE: D

SECOND-HALF GRADE: I

OVERALL GRADE: D

BACKUP - ERIC CHAVEZ (16 HRs, 37 RBIs, .281 BA)

I have already discussed Chavez in my post about Mark Teixeira.

Because of Rodriguez’s injury, Chavez was the primary backup at third base and he started 50 games there. If Chavez were a younger player and capable of playing every day, he would have either replaced Rodriguez outright or, at the very least, be the lefty part of a platoon at the position.

Of course, that is if A-Rod was not A-Rod and he was not getting paid big bucks.

Chavez was the better fielder here and you can make a case that he was a more productive hitter. He hit 16 home runs in 278 at-bats. A-Rod hit 18 in 463.

If it were me, I might even consider moving Rodriguez the DH spot and starting Chavez at third against right-handers in the playoffs. It just makes good sense.

MIDSEASON GRADE: B

SECOND HALF GRADE: B+

OVERALL GRADE: B

The Yankees also played Jayson Nix, Casey McGehee and Eduardo Nunez at third base this season. With Nix out of the early part of the playoffs with an injury, Chavez will be the primary backup and Nunez will not play here unless it is an emergency.

McGehee will not make the postseason roster.

In the minor leagues the Yankees have a slick-fielding third baseman in Brandon Laird. But Laird, 25, had a mediocre season with the bat at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting just .254 with 15 home runs and 77 RBIs.

With Rodriguez blocking his path to the majors, Laird has to hope he can find an opportunity with another organization. He has some value as a potential corner infield backup because he play first base also.

The Yankees do have a potential star in last year’s first draft pick Dante Bichette Jr., who spent the season at Class-A Charleston.

Bichette, 20, has a long way to go after hitting .248 with three home runs and 46 RBIs. This was after a season in which he was the MVP of the Gulf Coast League in 2011. But he is still young and the Yankees love his bloodlines to former Rockies outfielder Dante Bichette.

He looks to be a keeper for now.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: C-

It is rare when you are talking about a three-time MVP being worse than the player who backs him up. But that is what we are dealing with in Rodriguez. Out of loyalty, his past track record and to keep the peace, manager Joe Girardi has refused to take A-Rod out of the middle of the order.

Fine. I understand that. But one would hope if A-Rod falls flat on his face this October that he will have the courage to do it next season.

There is only so much you can take. Seeing him swing through fastballs he used to crush and pop up pitches he used to hit hard over the fence is just frustrating to watch game after game.

Opposing scouts, managers and pitchers already see what Girardi has refused to admit. Maybe it is because of what happened to Joe Torre after he batted Rodriguez seventh in the 2007 playoffs against the Detroit Tigers. Torre lost his job.

Perhaps Girardi sees a similar fate for him if he does it and the team loses a playoff series. Just don’t be surprised if Rodriguez hits .125 and leaves a lot of runners on base this postseason.

 

Perhaps Hughes The Key To Yankees Minus Rivera

As weeks go you would have to say this week for the New York Yankees was not a good one and that is putting it mildly. It was disastrous.

The loss of the greatest closer to ever walk the planet is a pretty steep price to pay for any team. But it was just the tip of the iceberg.

It all started on April 29 when Nick Swisher left a game against the Tigers in the bottom of the third inning with a strained hamstring. At the time Brett Gardner was on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right elbow he sustained making a diving catch on a ball on April 17.

Swisher has been unable to play since and Gardner, who was expected to return on Thursday, had his return delayed for four days.

That means the Yankees have been playing Andruw Jones, Raul Ibanez, Eduardo Nunez and now Jayson Nix in the outfield in place of their two injured starters.

That has led some pretty bad outfield play in the past week, especially by “Eduardo Scissorhands” in left-field against the Orioles.

Though the Yankees may have had some laughs when Nunez slipped and slid his way through his first start in left on Monday, it was no laughing matter the next night when he allowed a fly ball off the bat of Nick Johnson fall and two runs to score.

It was initially scored as a two-base error. But MLB Vice President of Baseball Operations Joe Torre on Friday reversed the call into a double. However, whether it was scored an error or a double, it still cost the Yankees two runs in three-run inning that ended up in a 7-1 defeat. The point is that the ball should have been caught and it wasn’t.

This outfield roulette the Yankees are playing does not even take into account how the offense has been hurt by losing Gardner and Swisher for this long a period of time.

At the time of his injury, Gardner was hitting .321. Swisher was even better. He was hitting .284 with six home runs and he was leading the American League in RBIs with 23. You can’t expect to replace 67 percent of your starting outfield with older veterans and young neophytes and expect the offense and defense to be there. Just ask the Boston Red Sox.

The loss of Gardner has allowed manager Joe Girardi to use his platoon designated hitters, Jones and Ibanez, in the field and give Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez half-days off as the DH. That means Scissorhands plays shortstop and Eric Chavez plays third base.

Nunez promptly goes into a 0-for-19 slide this week and the preciously delicate exoskeleton and inner body linings and muscles of Chavez again reared its ugly head – literally – on Wednesday night.

Chavez dove for a ball off the bat of J.J. Hardy and his head slammed the infield dirt at Yankee Stadium pretty hard. The next thing you know Chavez is on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion. If this anything like the fractured bone in his foot he injured at about the same time last season, we should see Chavez back in a Yankee uniform during the 2016 Yankee Old-Timers’ Day celebration and I hope Eric brings a football helmet and pads to play in the game.

This does not even address the starting pitching problems Girardi is already faced and with which he is still dealing.

While CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda seem to be settling into their roles as the ace and No.2  starter of the staff, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia seem to be playing a contest amongst themselves of who could give up the most hits and runs in the shortest stretch of innings.

Well, Garcia won that contest hands down and he was banished to the bullpen and rookie David Phelps made his first major-league start on Thursday.

This was not the way it was supposed to be with Andy Pettitte on the verge of coming back and when the Yankees were counting on getting Michael Pineda back from his sore right shoulder problems in May. Now Pineda is lost for the season with shoulder surgery and Pettitte can’t get back to the Yankees soon enough to suit Yankee fans.

The loss of Mariano Rivera makes it even harder to decipher.

For now, it looks as if David Robertson and Rafael Soriano will share the closer’s role. But with Joba Chamberlain still recovering from both Tommy John and Chuckie Cheez ankle surgeries the bullpen suddenly looks a whole lot thinner than it did before Mo collapsed in pain on the Kauffman Stadium warning track on Thursday.

Perhaps there could be a silver lining if Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman are open to see their way clear of this mess. Some good could come of it if they play it correctly.

First, they have to allow Phelps to continue to pitch in the rotation and give him a chance to show what he can do. It is only fair they do that to what looks to be a promising 25-year-old right-hander. Nova’s 15-game winning streak is over but he certainly is capable of pitching better than he did this week. So you have to continue to roll with him.

But when Pettitte returns you have to make a move to take one person out of the rotation and there is no better candidate than Hughes.

If you look at the period of time Hughes was most successful it was when he was the setup man for Rivera during the Yankees second-half push to the playoffs and the world championship in 2009. His bullpen numbers were even better than Rivera’s numbers that season.

In 2010, he was needed as a starter and he won 18 games. However, after the second half of 2010 it was obvious he was not the same pitcher he was before the All-Star break that season. His year-long struggles with weakness in his right shoulder in 2011 bore that out.

So far in 2012, Hughes has not struggled with velocity. He is back to throwing an average of 92 mph and getting up to 94 and 95 with ease. But he also has been victimized by the longball and he is carrying a 1-4 record with a 7.48 ERA after five starts.

In the past the presence of Robertson, Soriano and Chamberlain made it impossible for Hughes to shift back to the bullpen. But with Soriano and Robertson sharing the eighth and ninth innings and Chamberlain likely out for the season it would seem to make sense to try Hughes in the seventh inning role that Chamberlain, Robertson and lately Soriano have made so vital.

I do understand that once you shift Hughes to that role there is no shifting him back to a starting role. But if Phelps eventually falters you can always give Garcia another try and there also is a number options that can made through trades and signing of free agents.

I have heard Roy Oswalt’s name and I hope that is all I hear about him because he has a chronic back condition that makes him risky. However, the Yankees have a farm system rich enough to be able to make trades to acquire 2013 free-agents-to-be like Matt Cain of the Giants and Cole Hamels of the Phillies. Cashman has this option in his back pocket through the end of July and he will have plenty of time to evaluate the need for that trade by that time.

The Yankees also are looking at having former Mariners closer David Aardsma to add to the bullpen. He could perhaps also take the seventh inning role if he is healthy. But I think they need to keep Hughes in mind as a potential player in the bullpen because I still believe he can shine there.

For one thing he can shelve his awful secondary pitches like his change-up and concentrate on his fastball, curve and cutter. His velocity should also move up to the 97 mph mark he used to throw and that wll cover for a lot of mistakes in his location he makes as a starter.

We will see how it plays out but the Yankees just need to get Swisher and Gardner back on the field and hopefully Robinson Cano will stop hitting like Luis Sojo in time for the Yankees make a run at the 2012 playoffs.

They may as well try because they are now finding there are much lower expectations on this team now.

 

Yankees Ready To Bring Ibanez, Chavez Into Fold

With A.J. Burnett just a physical and a commissioner’s approval away from a trade to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the New York Yankees already have agreements to sign Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez.

The Yankees attempted to acquire Pirates outfielder/first baseman Garrett Jones, Indians DH/first baseman Travis Hafner and Angels outfielder Bobby Abreu in separate deals for Burnett. However, the Pirate and Indian deals were rejected and Burnett exercised his limited no-trade clause to scuttle the Angel proposal.

So the Yankees accepted two minor leaguers and $13 million from the Pirates for Burnett and they plan to use the money they are saving on the two years and $33 million left on Bunrett’s contract to sign Ibanez and Chavez.

Ibanez, 39, hit .245 with 20 home runs and 84 RBIs with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011. Ibanez is expected to share the DH duties with outfielder Andruw Jones.

Chavez, 34, hit .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs with the Yankees last season. Chavez is expected to return to his role from last season as a backup at first and third base.

If Heyman’s report is correct the Yankees have chosen to sign Ibanez instead of former Yankee outfielder Johnny Damon, who said he would a “perfect fit” for the Yankees’ left-handed DH role.

But Yankees general manager Brian Cashman basically told him to peddle his talents elsewhere. Why?

I think I can answer that question by going back to spring training in 2007. The Yankees had come off a crushing loss to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series. In that series, Gary Sheffield was benched and Alex Rodriguez was dropped to the No. 8 spot by then-manager Joe Torre. In the offseason, right-handed starter Cory Lidle died when the small plane he was piloting crashed into a building in New York.

Damon left the Yankees for a period of time during the exhibition season in 2007 to go to his home in Orlando, FL, to contemplate retirement. After a few days, Damon returned to the team and he went on to have a subpar season in which he was hobbled by leg injuries. He hit .270 with only 12 home runs and 63 RBIs.

In Torre’s book “The Yankee Years” he said that teammates thought Damon’s play in 2007 showed “a lack of commitment.” Torre even quoted one player as saying “Let’s get rid of him. The guys can’t stand him.”

So when Damon’s contract expired after the 2009 season, they basically allowed Damon to walk as a free agent and they never made an effort to re-sign him. As cover, Cashman cited financial constraints as the reason Damon was not retained. But it seems clear now that the Yankees had no desire to bring Damon back because of the clubhouse turmoil he created.

Those old wounds have obviously not healed in 2012 and thus Damon was never seriously considered by Cashman.

NOT OKIE DOKEY

Left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima failed a physical with the Yankees and he will not report to spring training with the club.

Okajima, 36, signed a minor-league contract with the Yankees in December with an invitation to make the team if he could bounce back after two subpar seasons with the Red Sox.

But WFAN reported this weekend that Okajima was released from his contract and he would not participate in any workouts with the Yankees in Tampa, FL.

Okajima fell out of favor with the Red Sox after seven appearances in 2011 in which he was 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA in 8 1/3 innings. He spent the rest of the season as Triple-A Pawtucket before being released by the Red Sox despite a 2.29 ERA in 34 appearances spanning 51 innings.

The Yankees saw Okajima as a potential lefty specialist for the bullpen to tandem with fellow left-hander Boone Logan, who has been miscast in the role for the past two seasons.

Okajima signed with the Red Sox in 2007 out of Japan. He was 17-8 with six saves and a 3.11 ERA in 261 appearances, holding left-handed hitters to a .218 batting average.

With Okajima out of the picture, the Yankees’ search for a second left-hander will come down to a battle between 23-year-old Rule 5 draftee Cesar Cabral, who was selected by the Kansas City Royals from the Red Sox and sent to the Yankees for financial considerations in December, and Clay Rapada, who was signed to a minor-league deal this weekend.

Rapada, 30, was released by the Baltimore Orioles this week. Rapada was 2-0 with a 6.06 ERA in 32 appearances for the Orioles last season. He is 5-0 with a 5.13 ERA in 78 major-league appearances with the Orioles, Rangers, Tigers and Cubs.

He has held left-handers to a .153 batting average in his career, including an .090 mark the past two seasons.

Cabral was a combined 3-4 with a 2.95 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 55 innings with a Class-A Salem and Double-A Portland. If Cabral does not make the major-league roster he will have to be offered back to the Red Sox for $25,000.

PINEDA THE PINATA

Newly acquired right-hander Michael Pineda reported to the Yankees camp 10 pounds overweight and drew the ire of the team’s coaches and front office.

Pineda is listed at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds. The former Mariner showed up weighing 270 pounds and even Pineda admitted that he needed to lose 10 pounds during spring training.

Pineda, 23, was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA for a offensively weak Mariner team in 2011, his rookie season. He was packaged along with 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos in a trade with the Yankees for catcher Jesus Montero and right-handed pitcher Hector Noesi.

Pineda is being counted upon to join a revamped – and hopefully improved – rotation that already includes ace left-hander CC Sabathia and second-year right-hander Ivan Nova. The Yankees also signed former Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million contract.

With the trade of Burnett, right-hander Phil Hughes and right-hander Freddy Garcia will battle for the team’s No. 5 spot in spring training.

Pineda said he felt good after a bullpen session on Friday and that pitching coach Larry Rothschild is already working on a new grip for his change-up. Pineda largely threw just a fastball and slider in his rookie season.

 

One Last ‘Hip-Hip, Jorge’ For A Very Classy Yankee

Every spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field those of us in Section 205 would see No. 20 in Yankee pinstripes striding toward the plate. At that point we would train our eyes toward a longtime Yankee fan with full-flowing mustache rise from his seat and yell at the top of his lungs “Hip, Hip” and the surrounding crowd of regulars in the section would reply with a raucous “Jor-ge,” which he and the rest us would repeat two more times before every home at-bat.

It was not just a token cheer stolen from our brethren in the Bronx. No, it was a absolute homage to one of the very best catchers in Yankee history. It was done with love and great admiration.

But it has been a foregone conclusion this winter that the ritual of Section 205 would no longer be carried out in 2012. There was a chance the cheer might have rang out if Jorge Posada chose, at age 40, to continue his career in another uniform. But, alas, that will not happen either.

According to an anonymous source reported by WFAN in New York, Posada has elected not play another game and retire as a Yankee after 17 years and 1,574 games behind the plate. Only Bill Dickey (1,708) and Yogi Berra (1,695) played in more games catching for the Yankees.

In hearing the news, my first reaction is sadness, of course. Posada won five World Series titles and was part of the famous “Core Four” along with Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, which is now down to the “Flair Pair” of Jeter and Rivera.

From 1996 through 2001, the New York Yankees won four world championships and Posada was in the middle of just about every one of them, though he was somewhat overshadowed by Paul O’Neill, Bernie Williams, Jeter, Rivera, manager Joe Torre.

But history speaks for itself and Posada hit .273. He is seventh on the Yankees’ all-time list with 379 doubles and 936 walks, eighth with 279 home runs and 11th with 1,065 RBIs. There is no doubt that Posada, a converted second baseman in the minors, was a major cog in Yankee teams that made the playoffs in every season he played for them except 2008.

Posada was greatly disappointed with his final season.

He came to spring training for the first time as non-factor as a catcher. Russell Martin was signed as the new starter and rookies Jesus Montero and Austin Romine were being groomed as replacements. Posada’s catching gear collected dust as he tried to adapt as the team’s switch-hitting designated hitter.

Unfortunately Posada got off to a slow start, particularly against left-handers and lost that part of his duties early in the season. Then on May 14, Posada spotted his name in the No. 9 spot in the batting order in a game against the Boston Red Sox and pride would not allow him to participate in that game.

By September, Posada was also being phased out of the lineup altogether. However, when he was given chances to play in the final few weeks, Posada began to consistently reach base on hits and walks. On Sept. 21, Posada stroked a two-run game-winning single against the Tampa Bay Rays that clinched the American League East title for the Yankees.

Playing a hunch, manager Joe Girardi used Posada in the A.L. Division Series against the Detroit Tigers and Posada responded by hitting .429 (6 for-14) in the series.

But Posda knew that with his four-year $52 million contract coming to an end in 2011 that he would never play for the Yankees again. If he wanted to continue to play it would have to be in a foreign uniform. Posada even began working out on Nov. 1 in anticipation of some offers to play with other teams.

They came. Posada considered them.

But, in the end, Posada realized perhaps it was time to end his career, a grand career at that, as a New York Yankee.

There are those who claim Posada is not worthy of the Hall of Fame. But when you look at the numbers he compiled, you can make a pretty good case for the gritty veteran from Santurce, Puerto Rico.

Posada’s 246 home runs as a catcher are only second to Berra’s 306 on the club’s all-time list. Of the 13 catchers that are currently in Cooperstown, only Berra has better career numbers in all three categories of batting average, home runs and RBIs.

Those numbers are for those who will vote in five years to chew on. But Posada can make a compelling case for joining that group.

He already joins a great lineage of former Yankee greats at catcher, which includes Berra, Dickey and Thurman Munson. His star may not burn as bright as those three but his star certainly burns bright enough to have his number retired somewhere down the road.

Posada apparently will make his decision final in about two weeks. But it won’t take Yankee fans that long to agree that he was certainly one of the classiest leaders of one of the Yankees’ most successful string of teams in their history.

Yogi will always be No. 1 in Yankee hearts but will we never forget what Jorge did in his 17 seasons with the Yankees.

OK. Section 205. One last time and let’s hear it loud and proud: “Hip, Hip, Jorge! Hip-Hip, Jorge! Hip-Hip, Jorge!”

Nationals Fooling Themselves With 7-Year Offer To Lee

ORLANDO, FL  –  Since when did the Washington Nationals think they could compete in the same arena as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox?
They already splashed into the deep end of the free-agent pool by reeling in the “Catch of the Day” in Jayson Werth before the Winter Meetings in Orlando, FL, began.
Today they decided to widen their fishing nets for Cliff Lee with an offer of seven years. However, no matter how creative the Nationals can get with dollars and length of contract, I doubt seriously if Lee will bite.
Lee has tasted the big stage twice in the past two seasons with the Phillies and the Rangers. In both cases he was so close but lost to the Yankees and Giants.
Sure he can take a seven-year, $140 million deal and live with the Nationals. But what guarantee does Lee have reaching the playoffs with the Nationals? With the Phillies in the same division and the Braves and Mets around it would seem the Nationals have a long way to go before making a breakthrough.
Werth, notwithstanding, the Nationals lack a competitive lineup, rotation and bullpen to be serious contenders in the short term. For Lee, that speaks volumes. I doubt the lure of an extra year will change his desire to pitch for a contender that he can count on making the playoffs.
So look for the Yankees, who are offering six years, and the Rangers, who are holding firm on five, as the major players in this drama. In these deep ends of the free-agent pools in which the Nationals have decided to swim, when it comes to Lee they will get blown out of the water.
Here is another prediction: Werth will flop in a bigger ballpark and with all the focus on him instead of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins.
JETER JABS  . . .  Things got a little testy this afternoon in Tampa, FL, as the Yankees announced the signing of Derek Jeter. Make no mistake, this press conference was not a “lovey-dovey” affair. Yankee co-chairman Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman were not smiling.
The reason is because Jeter was playing the good soldier who took a pay cut to stay with the Yankees in public. But privately Jeter is very unhappy with the way the Yankees leaked their offer and Jeter’s demands.
Jeter was also not happy with Cashman’s pronouncement the contract was a “fair offer” or his advice to Derek to “test the market.”
Jeter’s comment “I would be lying to you if I said I was not angry” raised a more than a few eyebrow in the room. Though Jeter refused to name anyone, it was clear his jab was aimed at the media shills of Cashman and the Steinbrenners who made the dirty laundry too public for The Captain’s taste.
At one time, I believed that would remain loyal to the Yankees and they would remain loyal to him. Down the road I saw the Yankees offering Jeter a personal services contract extending after his career and possibly an offer to coach or manage when his career was over.
That would have made sense given what Jeter means to the Yankees and their fans. Think about this: If you are a Yankee fan who is 45 years old or less, Derek Jeter is your Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig.
To see the team captain and the face of the franchise being treated like Johnny Damon was last season is just distasteful and unnecessarily cruel. Yeah, the Yankees had “leverage” in negotiations because Jeter never wanted to even seek an offer from another team.
But just because you have leverage does not mean you have to use it.
Perhaps Derek should have a chat with his old mentor Joe Torre for perspective on handling an organization that seems to preach class and doing things the right way but does the exact opposite when it suits their wallets.
Oh the stories Joe could tell.
GONZO FOR ADRIAN  . . .  It is very lucky for the Boston Red Sox that they are able to staff the San Diego Padres with stooges who used to work for them in order to get Adrian Gonzalez at a cut-rate price.
However, the Red Sox allowed their team to collapse last season beyond a point where any one player can make much of a difference. 
They still have holes that have to be addressed. Werth is off the market and Carl Crawford is very unlikely to play for an organization that booed its best Afro-American player (Jim Rice) unmercifully for the decade he played with the team.
Crawford is not a fool and he is also not happy with the way Red Sox fans treated him at Fenway Park and Tropicana Field. They yelled racial slurs at him from the bleachers. He knows just donning a Red Sox uniform will not change their views.
Why did the Celtic fans cheer Brian Scalabrine louder than for Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett? Hmmm!
They Red Sox also have issues now than Victor Martinez has decided to leave. They also have to address whether Jonathan Papelbon is their “fair-haired” boy after they so publicly courted Mariano Rivera.
Jacoby Ellsbury has to bounce back, Marco Scutaro has to prove he is not a stiff and they seem to be stuck with aging has-beens like David Ortiz and J.D. Drew. I am not convinced a starting staff that includes an ailing Josh Beckett, an overachieving John Lackey and an overrated Daisuke Matsuzaka is going anywhere.
There is always Tim Wakefield around to abuse in the bullpen or fill in as a starter.
Maybe the Padres can help by providing more talent. But, other than Gonzalez and free-agent closer Heath Bell, it appears the Padres have already tanked their hopes in 2011 in order to restock their pals in Boston.
Maybe the Padres should change their name to Pawtucket. It would be fitting.

For Better Or Worse, Steinbrenner Brought Life To Yankees

My first George Steinbrenner memory is when he bought the New York Yankees.
Steinbrenner struck me as a young and brash owner who would be more “hands-on” than the CBS group that ran them into the ground.
I just did not realize how much hands-on he would be. The Billy Martin hiring in 1976 and the turbulence of that 1977 season with Reggie, Munson, Martin and Stenbrenner feuding through the press up until the Yankees had won their first championship since 1962.
They repeated in 1978, beating the Dodgers again. But the managerial merry-go-round had just begun. Martin in, Martin out, Martin in, Martin out.
Lemon, Howser, Berra Green, Showalter, etc. It just never stopped. 
Free agents came and good prospects were traded away.
There is no doubt that the same drive that Steinbrenner instilled in the club in the good years (1977-1978) also fueled the dark period of 1979-1994.
People always gave me a hard time because I loved the Yankees. They said I loved the Yankees simply because they were the best team. I was a front-runner, they said. But I would tell them that my love of the Yankees began with Mickey Mantle.
I also rooted for them from 1963 to 1976, despite the fact they did not win a championship. I also rooted for them from 1979 through 1995 even though they did not win a championship. So I would tell them: How could be a front-runner when I was a Yankee fan through the two longest championship droughts in their history?
That is the Steinbrenner legacy too. Not just the championships he won and the tradition he helped restore to the Yankees. He also was part of those long droughts, too. I seethed with anger when the Yankees traded away Doug Drabek for Rick Rhoden. I felt the same way when Jose Rijo was dealt to Oakland for Tim Belcher.
Fans are still scratching their heads over the Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps trade.
That was largely the reason why the Yankees were so bad from 1982 to 1994. But the real revelation of the Steinbrenner era came in 1995. The team suddenly was allowing minor league stars like Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada to develop and grow within the organization.
For some reason those players were not traded as the their predecessors were — usually for aging veterans with little left in the tank. The Yankees also realized that free-agent pitchers like Jimmy Key, David Cone, David Wells and Roger Clemens could help.
Though the New York media ripped him before he ever managed a game, Joe Torre was hired the manager of this new core of young and talented players. A deal was struck to send Roberto Kelly to the Reds for Paul O’Neill and the core had their fiery leader.
From 1996 until the present day, the Yankees have won the American East in every season except 2008. The Yankees have remained competitive and made the playoffs in every year except 2008.
They won four championships in five seasons from 1996 through 2000. Torre was the toast of New York back then.
But when the team started losing playoff series to the Angels and Indians and the World Series to the Marlins and Diamondbacks the fans who never knew the long years of drought turned on him. Eventually the front office did, too.
Though I still think letting Torre go was a mistake, I understand the reason why it had to happen. Now Joe Girardi has the reins and he has won No. 27. The team has a new collection of talented stars like Teixeira and Sabathia and young stars like Cano.
But there also remains Jeter and Rivera and Posada and Pettitte. The bridge from the past to the future. Young stars like Phil Hughes and Brett Gardner joined the team from the minor-league system. Will they be the core of the next great team 10 years from now?
Then there is the new stadium and its grandeur and grace borrowed from the Old Lady across the street. While Ruth gives way to Jeter and Ford gives way to Pettitte, there is George Steinbrenner.
For good or for bad, the Yankees grew from the moment Steinbrenner bought them to now. The fan base, the TV network, the cache’ of the Yankee brand is all due to him. His vision is now complete and his legacy has passed on to sons Hal and Hank.
So the Steinbrenner family is expected now to carry on that tradition. That same drive that forced Steinbrenner to take the reins in 1973 will live on with every decision they make. 
The one time I was able to see George in person came at an exhibition game in West Palm Beach in 1980. He was walking from his box out of the stadium and fans were pouring towards him begging for autographs. Smiling broadly, Steinbrenner basked in all the adoration proudly.
Knowing that he takes his rest today with 27 banners for the Yankees and seven to his credit, he knows that his team is in great hands. I am just hoping that George does not get too riled in heaven and he tries to fire Moses.
I would think he would have a problem selling that one to the media in heaven.
We love you, George. Thank you for giving us our Yankees back!

Yankees’ Miracle Victory Over Dodgers Has Many Heroes

GAME 75
YANKEES 8, DODGERS 6

                        “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”
                                                          – Yogi Berra

It wasn’t just Alex Rodriguez’s one-out single or
Curtis Granderson’s magnificent battle to draw a walk to load the bases or David Huffman’s bases-loaded two-run single or even Colin Curtis’ 10-pitch at-bat to tie the game on a infield grounder.
It was the team as a whole and the New York Yankees proved to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday night that they have a team with dogged resolve.
Down 6-2 in the top of the ninth inning with Dodgers’ closer Jonathan Broxton on the mound the Yankees rallied for four runs to tie the game and make a hero out Robinson Cano in the 10th inning.
Cano, who was 0-for-11 in his career against Dodger left-hander George Sherrill, laced a 0-1 pitch into the left-centerfield pavilion with Alex Rodriguez on base to give the Yankees an 8-6 come-from-behind victory over the incredulous Dodgers and manager Joe Torre.
Mariano Rivera (2-1) pitched two scoreless innings in relief to earn the victory. Ramon Troncoso (1-2) was saddled with the hard-luck loss as the Yankees took the three-game series 2-1 and ended their road trip at 4-2.
With the victory the Yankees raised their season record to 47-28 and maintained their two-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Tampa Bay Rays are three games out. Meanwhile, the Dodgers, who have lost eight their last 10 games, are now 40-35 and fading in the National League West.
Rodriguez probably said it best after the game: “It took 25 guys, and the bullpen did a really nice job, and great at-bats late in the game.”
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • Games like this only grow the MVP credentials for Cano. Cano was 0-for-3 in the game until the ninth inning when he doubled in Rodriguez to make the score 6-3. His two-run home run in the ninth gave the Yankees their 8-6 margin of victory. Cano now has a team-leading 15 home runs and he is second to Rodriguez in RBIs with 53. By the way he also leads the majors with a .359 average. Despite being charged with an error in the game, Cano has committed only two errors all season.
  • Rodriguez also wrapped up a series of which he can be proud. If he wanted to show Torre up he did. Rodriguez was 5-for-13 (.385) with two home runs and four RBIs. In Sunday’s game he was 2-for-5 with a two-run homer in the sixth inning and he scored three runs. Rodriguez raised his batting average to .285 over the weekend.
  • You can’t say enpough about the ninth-inning at-bats off Broxton by rookies Chad Huffman and Colin Curtis. Huffman laced a 1-1 pitch into right-field to score Cano and Jorge Posada to make the score 6-5. Curtis fouled off four consecutive 3-2 offerings before grounding a ball to James Loney at first base. Loney stepped on the bag to retire Curtis for the second out but Granderson scored the tying run from third base.
  • Rivera, even at age 40, proves he is still the best closer in baseball. For the second time on the road trip, Rivera pitched two innings to nail down a victory. Rivera gave up just one hit and fanned three in lowering his season ERA to 0.92. 
THE NEGATIVES

  • Andy Pettitte lost his composure but it was not because of his pitching. Pettitte basically misplayed two sacrifice bunts. In the third inning on a bunt by Dodgers’ starter Clayton Kershaw, Pettitte threw wide of Rodriguez at third base trying to get Reed Johnson. Later in the same inning, Pettitte fielded a bunt by Ronnie Belliard and threw the ball into him at first base, though Cano was charged with the error for dropping the throw. That cost the Yankees three runs in the inning.
  • Pettitte also was not pressed much by the Dodgers’ power hitters. It was the singles hitters like Johnson, who doubled twice and Belliard who homered off Pettite in the fourth inning. The Yankees were down 5-0 largely due to the errors, Johnson’s two leadoff doubles and Belliard’s home run.
  • The Yankees could do nothing with Kershaw in the first seven innings. Other than Rodriguez’s two-run homer, the Yankees could not put a rally together on the 22-year-old left-hander. He walked none and struck out five. 
  • Joba Chamberlain got into trouble in the eighth inning when allowed pesky Jamey Carroll to get on with an infield hit with two outs. Carroll stole second and scored on a Rafaell Furcal double to make it 6-2 heading to the ninth inning.
DIAMOND NOTES

Brett Gardner was removed from the game in the fourth inning after he was hit on the right forearm by a pitch from Kershaw in the third inning.  No X-rays were taken but Gardner is scheduled to visit team doctor Chris Ahmad on Monday to determine the severity of the injury. Gardner was replaced in the field by Chad Huffman, who later keyed the Yankees come-from-behind victory with a two-run single in the ninth inning.  . . .  The Yankees expect to have pitching coach Dave Eiland back in the dugout for Tuesday’s game. Eiland left the Yankees for personal reasons on June 4 and Mike Harkey has been the acting pitching coach. Considering the pitching woes of A.J. Burnett the Yankees will be pleased to have Eiland back.  . . .  Rodriguez and Torre finally exchanged pleasantries before Sunday’s game. Torre put his arm around his former third baseman and Rodriguez smiled as they greeted each other. Rodriguez said to reporters that he chose to say hello to Tore in order to not let things fester between the two. Torre apparently rankled Rodriguez with comments he made about the All-Star in his book. Rodriguez also seems to be still angered by Torre’s decision to bat him eighth in a playoff game against the Tigers in 2006.
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees come home to open a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners that will begin on Tuesday night.
The Yankees will open the series with right-hander Phil Hughes (10-1, 3.17 ERA). Hughes, who had his last start skipped, will be shooting for his sixth straight victory.  IN his last five starts, Hughes is 5-0 with a 3.86 ERA. Hughes is 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA in four appearances against the Mariners.
The Mariners will counter with veteran left-hander Cliff Lee (6-3, 2.39 ERA). Lee has a streak of 37 consecutive innings without having given up a walk.  He has 76 strikeouts and four walks in his last 11 starts. Of course, the Yankees last saw him in the World Series, where he won Game 1 and Game 5 for the Phillies, the only two games the Phillies won in the series.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast locally by MY9.

A-Rod Settles Score With Torre As CC, Yanks Beat Dodgers

GAME 73
YANKEES 2, DODGERS 1

When it came to renewing acquaintances with former manager Joe Torre, Alex Rodriguez may have taken the fifth. But on Friday night at Dodger Stadium he let his bat do the talking.

Rodriguez doubled and scored the Yankees’ first run in the second inning and hit his 593rd career home run in the sixth inning to boost CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees over the Torre-led Los Angeles Dodgers 2-1.

Sabathia (9-3) silenced the Dodgers’ bats by giving up only four singles and three walks in eight innings of work. He struck out seven batters in notching his fifth straight victory. Mariano Rivera struck out the side in the ninth inning to post his 17th save in 18 chances and his eighth in a row.

Vicente Padilla (1-2), who drew the Yankees and his teammates’ ire last June by throwing at a number of Yankee hitters, did it again Friday by hitting Robinson Cano with a pitch in the fourth inning. Sabathia retaliated by hitting Padilla with a pitch in the fifth inning. Both benches were warned and there were no further incidents.

With the victory the Yankees raised their season record to a season-high 19 games over .500 at 46-27. They also, by virtue of the Tampa Bays Rays being no-hit by Edwin Jackson of Arizona and the Boston Red Sox’ 5-4 loss to the Giants,  have taken a three-game lead in the A.L. East. The Dodgers continue there June swoon and now are 39-34.

YANKEE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia was in command of the Dodgers all night, despite three walks in the first three innings. The first walk to Rafael Furcal was costly because he stole second and reached third on a groundout. Manny Ramirez then drove him in with a two-out single. After the third walk in the third inning, Sabathia retired 13 of the last 16 batters he faced with only one ball even making the outfield.
  • Rodriguez showed signs in Arizona that he was breaking out of his June funk and he continued that trend at Chavez Ravine.  Rodriguez stroked a lined double to right-field off Padilla in the second inning and then ripped a first-pitch fastball halfway up the left-field pavilion in the sixth inning. The 2-for-4 night raised his batting average to .283 and he now has the team lead in RBIs with 51.
  • Jorge Posada is also showing signs of shaking a mild slump with an RBI single in the second inning. He also lined out hard to center and then was robbed of a double off the wall by center-field
    er Matt Kemp in the sixth inning. 
  • Derek Jeter celebrated his reunion with his former manager he still calls “Mr. T” with a 2-for-5 night. Jeter is still struggling with his aveage, which is now at just .281.
  • Rivera, coming off a two-inning effort in which he loaded the bases with no outs in the 10th on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks only to retire the next three batters, showed no ill effects from that outing on Friday. He needed only 18 pitches to strike out Ramirez, Kemp and James Loney in succession.
THE NEGATIVES

  • Curtis Granderson had an off-night after his huge 10th inning home run to lead the Yankees over the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
  • Brett Gardner also took an 0-for-4 collar and he was struck out twice by Padilla. Gardner did not seem to realize that National League pitchers really bear down on No. 8 hitters with two outs because the pitcher is up next and they want start the inning off with the pitcher batting. Gardner obliged Padilla in his first two at-bats by striking out swinging.
  • Nick Swisher was also 0-for-4 and was called out on strikes once. Swisher and a number of Yankees hitters were unable to do much with Padilla’s 52 mph lollipop curve he kept dropping into the strike zone. He made the Yankees look bad.
DIAMOND NOTES

A.J. Burnett pronounced himself ready to go on Saturday after a productive bullpen session on Wednesday in Arizona. Bench coach Tony Pena joined manager Joe Girardi and acting pitching coach Mike Harkey to see if Burnett might be tipping his pitches. Burnett said he believes he is “flying open” too early on his delivery and showing the batter what might be coming.  . . .  With a strikeout he recorded on Wednesday night in Arizona, Rivera took over ninth place on the all-time Yankee strikeout list over Al Downing with 1,029.  . . .  Gardner began play Friday second in the majors with a June on-base percentage of .476. 
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees will head into the second game of their series with their old rivals in Los Angeles with Burnett (6-6, 4.83 ERA) on the mound. Burnett is 0-4 with a 10.35 ERA in his last four starts. He is struggling mightily with his command. Burnett is 3-2 with a 2.45 ERA in seven career starts against the Dodgers but he has not faced them since 2005.
His will be opposed by right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (6-5, 3.06 ERA). Kuroda is coming off two consecutive quality starts. But he lost his last game against the Boston Red Sox because he got no run support. He has not faced the Yankees before.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.