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Tanaka impressive in 1st post-injury start

Masahiro Tanaka did not walk off the mound Sunday grabbing his right elbow, which was the best development of the day for him and the Yankees. Making his first start in 10 weeks after being treated for a partially-torn ligament in his elbow, Tanaka showed no ill effects of the injury and gave the Yankees encouragement about his status for next season.

The only negative aspect of the Japanese righthander’s outing was that he failed to go at least six innings for the first time in 19 starts. Manager Joe Girardi made the move to the bullpen after 5 1/3 innings. Tanaka was on a tight pitch count considering the circumstances, so when Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground single to right field against the shift on Tanaka’s 70th pitch the skipper felt he had seen enough, most of which was good.

“Pretty darn good,” Girardi said, then referring to catcher Brian McCann added, “Mac said his stuff was the same [as before he got hurt]. Now we’ve got to get him ready to start Saturday [at Boston]. His first pitch was 92 [mph]. I don’t think I was prepared for that. We haven’t had a lot of good news lately, so this was welcomed.”

Tanaka got off to a shaky start as he allowed hits to the first two Toronto hitters, but the run that scored on a double play proved the only one he would allow. He was touched for five hits and again displayed superb control by not walking a batter (he did hit one) and had four strikeouts. His splitter was on target as eight of the 16 outs he recorded came on ground balls.

“Overall, I was satisfied,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I wanted to check how well the elbow responded. I was able to go pretty strong. I was relieved. Gradually, as the game went on I stopped worrying about it.”

When Tanaka did walk off the mound, he did so with a 2-1 lead. The Yankees tied the score in the bottom of the first on the first of two McCann home runs in the game and went ahead in the fifth on a homer by Brett Gardner, his 17th this season and No. 15,000 in franchise history. Both bombs were off Toronto’s hard-throwing starter, Drew Hutchison, who could not get through the fifth inning.

The Yankees attacked the Blue Jays’ bullpen in the seventh. Back-to-back doubles by Gardner and Derek Jeter off Todd Redmond accounted for one run, and McCann knocked in two more by greeting lefthander Daniel Morris with his second homer of the game and 22nd of the season.

Jeter kept up his torrid home stand with his fourth straight two-hit game, the first Yankees player 40 or older to do that and the first in the majors since the Braves’ Chipper Jones in 2012. DJ is 8-for-17 (.471) with three runs, two doubles, one home run, three RBI and a stolen base on the home stand.

A strong candidate for both Cy Young Award and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award consideration in the American League before he got hurt, Tanaka improved his record to 13-4 with a 2.47 ERA and to 6-1 with a 1.69 ERA in seven day-game starts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tanaka is one of four pitchers to have made his first post All-Star Game appearance in September after being named to an All-Star squad that season, joining the Indians’ Ray Narleski in 1956, the Astros’ Joaquin Andujar in 1977 and the Red Sox’ Clay Buchholz in 2013.

Gardner clocks Yanks’ 15,000th homer

Ordinarily you might think Brett Gardner would be one of the last players on the Yankees who would have hit an historic home run. Gardner was known primarily as a singles hitter with occasional pop, but this year the outfielder has displayed much more muscle at the plate.

Gardner, who has had his struggles lately while coming back from an abdominal injury, swung his way into the franchise record book in the fifth inning Sunday when he connected on a 3-2 fastball from Blue Jays righthander Drew Hutchison for a home run to right field that unlocked a 1-1 score.

It was the 17th home run of the year for Gardner, whose previous career high for homers in a season was eight in 2013. Even more importantly, Gardner’s blow off 94-mph heat was the Yankees’ 15,000th home run, the most in major-league history. The Yanks had gotten to 14,999 in the first inning on a solo homer to right by Brian McCann.

Gardner joins the list of Yankees with milestone homers:

1,000: Bob Muesel, off Boston’s Paul Zahniser in a 4-2 victory Sept. 2, 1925 at Yankee Stadium.

5,000: Mickey Mantle, off the Tigers’ Billy Hoeft in a 10-8 loss Aug. 8, 1954 at Detroit.

10,000: Claudell Washington, off Minnesota’s Jeff Reardon in a 7-6 victory April 20, 1988 at Minneapolis.

The Elias Sports Bureau reports that the Yankees are the only team in major-league history with more than 14,000 home runs. The Giants are second, more than 1,000 homers behind.

Yanks lose on another historic day for Jeter

The Yankees hit their first bump in Derek Jeter’s final home stand Saturday with a disappointing, 6-3 loss to Toronto that further destroyed their already very slim hopes for a playoff berth. The Yankees failed to take advantage of another Royals loss and remained 4 ½ games behind for the second wild-card slot with eight games remaining, a steeply uphill climb.

After five solid innings, Chris Capuano came apart in the sixth and lost a 2-1 lead as the Blue Jays filled the bases with none out and struck for three runs on a two-run double by Danny Valencia and a sacrifice fly by John Mayberry Jr. Chase Whitley finished that inning with no further damage but gave up an opposite-field home run to Jose Bautista (No. 34) leading off the seventh.

The Yankees banged out 11 hits, but only two were for extra bases and they stranded 11 runners, five of them in scoring position. Brian McCann and Francisco Cervelli had RBI singles, and Jeter knocked in the third run with a double in the ninth. The Captain scored on McCann’s hit in the third, which pushed him into eighth place on the career runs list with 1,920, one more than former teammate Alex Rodriguez.

Jeter also played in his 2,671st game at shortstop. He already held the record for games at that position, but Saturday’s game meant he had played more games at any single position in major league history. Jeter is having a strong home stand with six hits in 13 at-bats (.462) with two runs, one double, one home run and two RBI.

The Yankees remain a battered bunch physically. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has a mild right hamstring strain that kept him out of Saturday’s game and likely a few more, although he expressed hope that he could return before season’s end. First baseman Mark Teixeira came out of the game for a pinch hitter (Brendan Ryan) in the fifth inning because of soreness in his surgical right wrist.

One player apparently getting healthier is pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who will start Sunday’s series finale and test his right elbow that has been treated for a partial ligament tear and has kept him on the disabled list since July 9.

Gates will open an hour earlier for last 3 night games

The Yankees will open the gates at Yankee Stadium one hour earlier for the final three 7:05 p.m. regular season home games. Gates will open at 4 p.m. to all ticketed fans Monday, Sept. 22; Tuesday, Sept. 23; and Thursday, Sept. 25, against the Orioles.

The early gate openings will give ticketed fans the chance to watch Yankees batting practice during the team’s final home series of the regular season. Gates will open at 11 a.m. for the Orioles-Yankees day game Wednesday, Sept. 24, because the Yanks are not scheduled to take batting practice prior to the game.

Fans who choose to watch BP and infield workouts from a seat other than their own may remain until 45 minutes after the gates open or until the fans with tickets for those seats arrive. At that time, fans will be asked to return to their seats.

Only fans with Yankees Premium tickets may access their respective Yankees Premium areas (i.e., tickets for the Legends Suite, Champions Suite, Field MVP Outdoor Suite Boxes, Delta SKY360° Suite, SAP Suite Level suites or Jim Beam Suite). On certain game days, the Yankees may elect not to take batting practice, infield workouts or both.

So far, so good on Jeter’s last stand

Derek Jeter’s final homestand is off to a promising start for the Yankees, who beat the Blue Jays for the second straight night and capitalized on their usual spanking of Mark Buehrle. The Yanks’ dominance over the workhorse lefthander has covered a decade and shows no sign of letting up.

The Yankees stung Buehrle for five runs and eight hits and two walks in six innings to post their 12th consecutive winning decision against him. Buehrle has not defeated the Yankees since April 10, 2004 with the White Sox. His overall record against the Bombers is 1-14 with a 6.21 ERA in 120 1/3 innings, including 1-8 with a 5.94 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

This has been a see-saw season for Buehrle. Remember, his record was 10-1 in early June. Friday night’s loss dropped his record for the season to 12-10. Four of those losses have been to the Yankees. Hiroki Kuroda continued his strong second half with 6 2/3 sturdy innings and ran his record to 11-9.

Jeter delighted the Stadium crowd of 40,059 with two singles and had fans on their feet with a flyout to the warning track in left field in the seventh inning.

There was a downside to the game, however, as Jacoby Ellsbury was forced out of the game and may be sidelined for an indefinite period because of a strained right hamstring.

The Blue Jays had given Buehrle a 2-0 lead by the time he took the mound, thanks to Edwin Encarnacion’s two-run home run off the left field foul pole in the top of the first inning. The Yanks cut the margin in half in the bottom half on a double by Ellsbury and singles by Jeter and Brian McCann, but a bigger rally was snuffed when Mark Teixeira grounded into a double play.

Ellsbury thrust Kuroda and the Yankees into the lead in the third inning by following a leadoff single by Ichiro Suzuki with his 16th home run. Ellsbury got his third RBI of the game in the Yankees’ two-run fourth. Batting with the bases loaded and one out, the center fielder beat the play at first base to avoid being doubled up as a run scored. A second run immediately followed on an errant throw to first base by Jose Reyes.

Ellsbury remained on the bases the rest of the inning but did not come onto the field for the fifth inning. He was to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam later in the evening.

Kuroda overcame the first-inning homer by Encarnacion and pitched well for the most part into the seventh. The Blue Jays got an unearned run in the fifth. Reyes singled, stole second and continued to third on a throwing error by McCann. Jose Bautista notched his 100th RBI of the season on a grounder to third base.

Bautista had another RBI situation in the seventh when he came up with two out and runners on second and third. Kuroda, who gave up a single to Anthony Gose and a double by Reyes with two down, was replaced by lefthander Josh Outman, who got ahead 0-2 in the count against Bautista before walking him to fill the bases.

Esmil Rogers then came in against the dangerous Encarnacion and retired him on a grounder to shortstop. The Yanks’ bullpen came through again in the eighth. Adam Lind led off with a single and was balked to second.

Dioner Navarro put a scare into the crowd with a fly ball to right field that Suzuki caught on the warning track. Lind crossed to third but was stranded as Adam Warren took over and struck out Danny Valencia and Munenori Kawasaki. Warren followed that with a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.

Meanwhile, the Royals were losing, which meant the Yankees might have cut the deficit in the wild-card standings to four games with nine to play.

CC is Yanks’ Clemente Award nominee for 2014

CC Sabathia was honored before Friday night’s game against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium as the Yankees’ nominee among the 30 finalists for the 2014 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. The award has been presented since 1971 to a player who represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.

Each major league club nominates one player to be considered for the Clemente Award in an effort to pay tribute to the Hall of Famer’s achievements and character by recognizing current players who understand the value of helping others. Wednesday marked the 13th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente’s legacy and to officially recognize officially award nominees and to honor his legacy. The 15-time All-Star right fielder died in a plane crash New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The award was known as the Commissioner’s Award in 1971 and ’72.

Earning his second nomination for the Clemente Award, Sabathia, a 2011 nominee as well, along with his wife, Amber, established the “PitCCh In” Foundation in 2009. The foundation is committed to the care and needs of inner-city children, while helping to raise self-esteem through sports activities and education. Since 2009, “PitCCh In” has given more than 15,500 youngsters new backpacks filled with back-to-school essentials in Sabathia’s hometown of Vallejo, Calif.

Each December since 2011, Sabathia has hosted an annual party for 52 members of the Madison Square Boys & Girls Columbus Clubhouse at the MLB Fan Cave. This past January, Sabathia hosted a “PitCCh In” Foundation ProCamps event for more than 200 children, held on CC Sabathia Field at Vallejo High School.

Last off-season, Sabathia also hosted low-income Vallejo teens for a day of bowling and a shopping spree at Nike Town; took part in the 25th Tampa Holiday Concert, where he and his wife read to more than 1,000 children; and held at Central Park the third annual CC Challenge fundraising event, an adventurous three-hour scavenger hunt modeled after The Amazing Race. Most recently, CC helped local children ease back into the school year by visiting P.S. 73 in the Bronx Sept. 5, handing out new backpacks, participating in a question-and-answer session and signing autographs.

Fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the national Roberto Clemente Award recipient by visiting ChevyBaseball.com, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media, to vote for one of the 30 club nominees. Voting ends Sunday, Oct. 6, and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2014 World Series where the national winner of the award will be announced.

The winner of the fan vote will receive one vote among those cast by the selection panel of dignitaries, which includes commissioner Bud Selig; MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred; MLB Goodwill Ambassador Vera Clemente, Roberto’s widow; and representatives from Chevrolet, MLB Network, MLB.com, ESPN, FOX Sports and TBS, among others.

Yankees players who have received the Clemente Award were Ron Guidry in 1984, Don Baylor in 1985 and Derek Jeter in 2009. Others who played for the Yankees but won the award while with other clubs were Phil Niekro with the Braves in 1980, Dave Winfield with the Twins in 1994, Al Leiter with the Mets in 2000 and Carlos Beltran with the Cardinals last year. Leiter’s broadcast partner in the YES Network booth, Ken Singleton, won the award in 1982 with the Orioles.

Among the other winners are Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, Rod Carew, Gary Carter, Cal Ripken Jr., Barry Larkin, Ozzie Smith, Kirby Puckett and Tony Gwynn.

Jeter was right to wait to celebrate

There is no use trying to avoid what is going on with the Yankees these closing days of the season. A playoff berth remains a mathematical possibility but only by the slimmest of margins. Yanks manager Joe Girardi said at the start of the recent trip to Baltimore and St. Petersburg, Fla., that the Yankees needed to win every game, and they proceeded to lost five of seven.

They returned to Yankee Stadium Thursday night to begin their final homestand of the season. Despite the dire circumstances of the Yanks’ position in the standings, the Stadium had a buzz to it in the crowd that was by no means capacity but was nevertheless enthusiastic.

Perhaps the reason could have something to do with the person playing shortstop for the Yankees. This is Derek Jeter’s last hurrah at the Stadium, and that may be enough to keep the folks in the seats keeping the faith.

The Captain did not disappoint the faithful, either. Coming off a dreadful trip during which he had a hitless string stretch to 28 at-bats, Jeter got the crowd cheering in the first inning when he beat out a grounder to deep shortstop for a single. The assembled got to roar their approval five innings later when DJ ripped a 3-1 knuckleball from R.A. Dickey to right field for a home run, the cap’s first dinger in 158 at-bats since Aug. 1 at Boston.

As fiercely as the crowd reacted to the blow, Jeter declined to take a curtain call, which is typical of him. The homer made the score 2-0 Yankees with too much baseball left in the game to celebrate at that point. He did not go into the dumps when he was 0-for-28, so he was not going to do any flips for hitting his first home run in six weeks. Never too high, never too low; that defines the Captain.

Indeed, the game was not over by any means. Dellin Betances preserved the shutout work by Shane Greene by getting the final out of the seventh, but Shawn Kelley gave up a game-tying home run to Jose Bautista on a 0-2 pitch with two out in the eighth.

Kelley hung his head as Bautista circled the bases on his 33rd homer of the season as well the pitcher should have. After fouling off a 94-mph fastball back to the screen on 0-1, Bautista made a gesture indicating he just missed a pitch he should have creamed. Kelley threw the same pitch on the next delivery to the same spot, and this time Bautista did not miss it but powered into the left field seats.

After Jeter flied out leading off the home eighth, quite a few fans headed for the exits assuming that he would not bat again. They missed a dramatic finish as the Yankees won, 3-2, on a walk-off error.

Chris Young, who seems to be in the middle of what good things the Yankees have done recently, led off the inning against Aaron Sanchez with a single to center. Antoan Richardson ran for Young and promptly stole second base.

With the count 3-0, Brett Gardner surprised the crowd, not to mention Girardi, by attempting to bunt. He fouled off the pitch and the next one as well as the count went full. Gardy tried one more and dropped a two-strike bunt for a sacrifice to get Richardson to third base. Gardner, bunting on his own, told Girardi in the dugout that Sanchez’s ball was running so much he did not think he could pull him.

The Blue Jays brought the infield in and got what they wanted when Chase Headley hit a ground ball to the right side, but first baseman Aaron Lind let the ball get by him that gave the Yankees another day of hope. They gained a game on the Athletics for the second wild-card spot but still trail by five games with 10 to play.

The ‘right’ thing to do at the time

Sometimes you have to be creative against a knuckleball pitcher. Or sometimes you have to do something to ease the frustration. It may have been a little of both for Yankees third baseman Chase Headley against the Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey in the fifth inning of Thursday night’s game at Yankee Stadium.

A switch-hitter, Headley chose to bat right-handed against the right-handed Dickey with two down in the fifth. Batting his customary left-handed against Dickey in the third, Headley flied out to center field.

I remember that Bernie Williams occasionally batted right-handed against the Red Sox’ righty knuckler, Tim Wakefield. Bernie told me it gave him a different perspective because he could see the ball out of Wakefield’s hand better. That, and because as a left-handed batter he had little success against him.

Headley was able to get on base with a walk and eventually scored the first run of the game. Stephen Drew, a left-handed batter, then ripped a double into the right-fielder corner. Jose Bautista made a lazar of a relay to first baseman Adam Lind, who then threw a curveball to the plate that was up the line as Headley reached the plate.

Yankees Magazine celebrates Jeter’s career

Thursday night marked the beginning of Derek Jeter’s last homestand as his appearance at Yankee Stadium has been reduced to eight games — four against the Blue Jays through Sunday and four against the Orioles next week.

Fans attending any of these games should purchase a copy of the Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine, a 128-page look at the various aspects of this remarkable 20-year career in the major leagues of a player who now holds some of the most important records in franchise history, including most games and most hits.

The Yankees Magazine staff outdid itself with this issue. Nathan Maciborski starts things off with a review of the Captain’s career, and the YES Network’s Jack Curry ends it with an appreciation of Jeter’s impact throughout the world. In between there are comments from Hall of Famers in all sports and Yankees teammates and executives about Jeter.

Jon Schwartz wrote a fine profile of Dick Groch, the scout who signed Jeter. There is a special centerfold highlighting the important hits of Jeter’s career, edited by Kristina Dodge. Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News contributed a story about Jeter’s memories of Fenway Park, hostile territory where DJ had some of his biggest moments.

Alfred Santasiere III had a sit-down with Jeet and “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks, and conducted question-and-answer sessions with two other Hall of Fame shortstops, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith. Also featured is Santasiere’s article from three years ago about Jeter’s return to his hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich.

Santasiere also did an exclusive interview with Derek’s parents, Charles and Dorothy Jeter, who comment separately about the special incidents in their son’s life and career.

And then there are the pictures — hundreds of them from staff photographers Ariele Goldman Hecht and Matt Ziegler, plus an array of photos from Derek Jeter Day Sept. 7 from contributing photographer Tom DiPace.

There are plenty of memories Yankees fans can take away from Derek Jeter’s career. Many of them are encased in this issue, which will be available at Stadium souvenir shops throughout the homestand.

Appendectomy shelves Prado for rest of season

As if their offense wasn’t in bad enough shape, the Yankees have lost one of their most productive hitters for the rest of the season. Martin Prado underwent an emergency appendectomy Tuesday morning in Tampa and was placed on the 60-day disabled list. The Yankees called up utility infielder Jose Pirela from Triple A Scranton/Wilke-Barre to take Prado’s place on the roster.

Replacing Prado at bat and in the field will be difficult. The native Venezuelan, who will turn 31 next month, has been one of the few bright spots in the Yankees’ tepid lineup since he was acquired in a July 31 trade from the Diamondbacks for minor-league catcher Peter O’Brien. Despite playing with a strained left hamstring most of the past two weeks, Prado batted .316 with seven home runs, 16 RBI and an .877 OPS in 37 games and 133 at-bats with the Yankees. Over his past 24 games, Prado hit .389 with six homers and 14 RBI in 90 at-bats.

In addition, Prado demonstrated tremendous versatility as a starter at second base, third base, left field and right field. He had one of the Yankees’ six hits in Monday night’s 1-0 loss to the Rays at St. Petersburg, the second time the Yanks have been shut out in five games on the trip and the 10th time this season.

It also marked the second straight walk-off loss following Sunday night’s 3-2 defeat at Baltimore. Monday night, Shawn Kelley loaded the bases in the ninth inning on two hits and a walk and lost the game on a two-out single by Ben Zobrist. The evening of futility took 3 hours, 28 minutes, which made it the longest 1-0, nine-inning game in major league history.

The Yankees’ fleeting playoff hopes continued to sputter. In the chase for the second wild-card berth, the Yanks trail the Royals by six games, the Mariners by four, the Blue Jays by one and are tied with the Indians.

Pirela, 24, batted .305 with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases for SWB.

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